Monday, 31 October 2011

Time for diplomatic sanctions on #Syria

In a brave and important move that has been as yet barely
acknowledged in the press in this country, the Libyan
Transitional National Council last week shut the Syrian
embassy in Tripoli down, and recognised the Syrian National
Council (which has recently unified virtually all the non-violent
anti-Assad Syrian Opposition behind its banner) as the
government-in-waiting of Syria.*

This is an exciting development, an intelligent move. It ought to
be copied by Britain.

For one of the things that the Syrian protesters now most want
(they mostly DON'T want foreign military intervention) is
precisely this: serious diplomatic sanctions against Syria, to
delegitimise the Assad regime in the eyes of the world. We
should support the Syrian democracy-protesters; we can easily give them what they want.

Let's close the Syrian embassy in Britain (unless it is prepared
to declare independence from its capital, as some Libyan embassies did
during the uprising there), and recognise the SNC as the only
legitimate government of Syria. Assad doesn't govern Syria any
more. He merely tries (and mostly, due to the extraordinary
bravery of the bulk of the people, fails) to terrorise it.

The great advantage of diplomatic sanctions moreover, besides being free, is that they won't hurt the "person in
the street" in Syria. This is a win-win.
 
To sum up: Imposing such diplomatic sanctions on Syria is the least that
this country can do, to back up the heroic Syrian democracy-
protesters.

Friday, 28 October 2011

New scientific report by Green scientist proves that enriched uranium weapons were used in Fallujah and that they are having serious effects now

This scientific report by Professor Chris Busby which has just come out shows by hair sample analysis that enriched uranium weapons were used in the attack on Fallujah, where birth defect and cancer rates are rocketing:
 
 
In this article, Busby talks about the attempts to stop his report being finished, and to stop it being published:
 
 
DU weapons are wrong, as I've argued previously here and on Liberal Conspiracy. They should not be used on humanitarian missions such as in Libya, because they are anti-human and inhumane.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Plan B vs. Plan C

Why I won't be attending the launch-conference for Compass's 'Plan B' event, this weekend.

 

I got an invite from Gavin Hayes and Neal Lawson to attend the launch-Conference this Saturday (tomorrow) for Compass's 'Plan B'. Now, I'm a big fan of Compass. It has been for some time the only real sign of life in Labour. Its full opening up to members of other Parties earlier this year was a genuinely exciting moment in British politics, a key moment in the possible realignment of the Left: http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2011/03/compass-greens-join-up.html . I am one of the co-ordinators of the effort to get together Greens who are in Compass, to ensure that there are lots of us and that we think together within the Green Party: http://www.facebook.com/notes/rupert-read/announcing-compass-greens/10150290565828687 . I have been since its beginning a member of Compass's 'Sustainability Panel', which seeks to green-validate Compass's publications. In this capacity, I have seen successive drafts of Plan B.

These drafts have greatly improved as time has gone on. Plan B is a document which makes an effort to take account of the sustainability revolution.

But nevertheless, I cannot sign up to Plan B and I wouldn't feel at home at a conference launching and celebrating it.

This is because, despite the improvements to it, Plan B is still seeking a "model for growth". That is yesterday's language, yesterday's aim. 'Plan B' won't be worth having unless it seeks prosperity without growth.

This isn't just about playing with words. Plan B is, to put it plainly, a strategy to restart economic growth. That just isn't compatible with ecologism.
'Green [economic] growth' is an oxymoron. Growthism – a commitment to growth without end -- is the ideology of the cancer cell. (And we know how that ends…)
If there is to be a Green New Deal, and a rebalancing of the economy, then there is a need for a commensurate REDUCTION in other economic activities. And attention needs to be paid to determining a long-term sustainable level of economic activity, which will probably require (considerable) further reductions. These things are not in Plan B.


Some may respond by saying that in theory there could be green economic growth. What is laid out very nicely in Jonathon Porritt's book, CAPITALISM AS IF THE WORLD MATTERS, is how there is no historical precedent for absolute decoupling between growth in economic activity and environmental impacts. Porritt is hardly a radical g/Green. If even Porritt, who wants to be business-friendly, shows that there is no 'evidence-based' reason to believe that green growth is feasible, then we should all take note.

This point is so important that it is worth restating and elaborating on a little. Porritt would prefer to break the correlation between emissions and growth; he wants, as Plan B does, a kinder gentler greener capitalism. But what he states clearly and supports extensively with stats is this: that, while the relative carbon and ecological-footprint intensity of economic activity can be reduced, there is simply no evidence that the absolute intensity thereof can be reduced, without a reduction (or at the very least a stabilisation) of overall economic activity.

 

A further question: what is 'green growth' growth of? Presumably not GDP, which none of us really believes in. So: what? Maybe growth in ISEW (The 'Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare', a leading proposed replacement for GDP) etc.?; but that, of course, doesn't require growth in economic activity. So it is entirely misleading to call growth in ISEW 'green [economic] growth'.
No-one has ever satisfactorily explained what 'green growth' is growth 
in, or of. 

 

Yes indeed, we need to insulate buildings; we need renewables; we need targeted public transport investment; we need new homes; we need more teachers and care workers. We need targeted increases in economic activity, in certain areas. But we need serious decreases in economic activity, in other areas. The message of 'green growth' provides governments and polluters with a tacit excuse to carry on economic/extractive/destructive business-as-usual, with a green veneer overlaid on top of it.

Yes indeed, we need to move beyond GDP as a measure. But it is playing into the hands of those who are completely unserious about transforming our economy and society in the direction of sustainability, to simply turn the latter point into an excuse for saying that there are no limits to growth, provided such growth is 'green'. There are very real limits to growth, and we have breached them already in many cases. Unless you believe that growth can be 'angelized', then you must accept the logic of zero-growth or of decroissance.
Incidentally, R'sR readers may be interested to see that Saral Sarkar has made a particularly topical case in this direction, recently: http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2011/09/economic-crash-resulted-from-limits-to.html . His new book is highly recommended.

To briefly summarise it: Saral Sarkar's case is basically that the limits to growth have caused the world's economy to grind to a slow halt, and thus indirectly caused the financial mayhem we are living through.

Sarkar argues that this is a crisis of the limits to growth because environmental limits have reduced profitability. Profitability in real-world investments has fallen, because of increasing costs of extraction, increasing pollution-effects, etc., and this has systematically biased or turned the economy to become a bubble economy based around parasitism (financialism).

Why may this lead to collapse? For various reasons, including because of the unprecedented nature and scale of the deleveraging now in progress.


If we are going to have more of what we need, then we don't need the chimera of growth. We need to REDISTRIBUTE. 'Growth', of green or whatever hue, is basically an excuse for not making more serious efforts to have a more egalitarian and sane society.

 

So: Plan B is clearly better than Plan A; but I don't see how it is good enough to pass a sustainability test, a test of green economics.
 
And actually, even the remark that 'Plan B is clearly better than Plan A' needs qualification. If Plan A results in stalled economic growth, that might end up being better, sustainability-wise, than if Plan B succeeded in resuming economic growth (which it almost certainly won't, btw - see below). The counter-intuitive logic here is that same as that which applies clearly to the historical case of the U.S. over the last 20 plus years: the Clinton administration's environmental regulations etc. were slightly better than either Bush's, but 
the totality of the evidence suggests that the Clinton administration was on balance even worse for 'the environment' than the Bush administration. Why? Because Clinton managed the economy 'better'. I.e. There was more economic growth under Clinton. And there is a direct correlation between economic growth and environmental destruction. [That explains why most environmental indicators, 'surprisingly', deteriorated MORE under Clinton than under Bush.]

 

As I've already allowed, above, there is clearly a need for more rather than less economic activity in some areas of the economy. But: An increase in (e.g.) renewable energy systems requires a compensatory reduction in (e.g.) oil or nuclear. You can't just add 'green growth' to our existing economy -- without making it if anything even less sustainable (Because, and this is crucial to Sarkar's case, we need to acknowledge clearly that even free energy ('renewable' energy) has very significant resource and pollution inputs/implications. There are no free lunches in a genuinely green economy.)

As Herman Daly (and Aubrey Meyer) have shown, the only alternative to such zero-growthism is to believe that economic growth can be 'angelized': that it can carry on indefinitely while throughput of materials (which, clearly, in fact, needs to fall) does not rise. This is about as plausible as a perpetual motion machine.

 

The Green New Deal is mentioned positively in Plan B. But there are two readings of the Green New Deal, as laid out in my piece on this in the Compass 'red-green' dialogue ebook:http://clients.squareeye.net/uploads/compass/documents/COM_Good_Society_Green_Society_04.pdf 
Plan B's reading seems close to the 'green stimulus' reading of the Green New Deal. Such Green Keynesianism by itself is not something that genuine g/Greens can or should endorse.

I am all in favour of a Green New Deal as part of a transition to a genuinely sustainable economy, and as a Depression-prevention device. What I disagree with is only the chimera of 'green growth'. Obama, Cameron, Clegg -- and Compass -- all love the idea of 'green growth'; it makes for great political rhetoric. It's like apple pie and motherhood, given the current hegemonic forces and discourses in our society. But, following Herman Daly and the other leading ecological economists, I would simply point out that there is zero reason for believing that in the real world it is possible - and zero extant examples of it (and here once more I am in Porritt's debt). (N.b. Once again, to be clear: I am talking about growth across the whole of society, not just about individual cherry-picked sectors.)

Now let's tie these thoughts to the latest stage of the unprecedented economic crisis that we are living through. Last month's actions and predictions by the Federal Reserve, 'Operation Twist', mark an important change in the world financial and economic crisis. Basically, the Fed is finally accepting that we are quite likely to be entering a prolonged recession, more likely perhaps a Depression. Even perhaps, I would add, a permanent Depression. And 'the markets' have realised this. That is, I believe, the huge significance of the massive drop in silver and copper prices that followed the Fed's intervention:

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-26/commodities-drop-as-silver-slumps-on-europe-debt.html

"Morgan Stanley attributed silver's drop to growing concerns about industrial usage and the "high retail component of the investor base"…

Three-month delivery copper fell 4 percent to $7,067 a ton, taking this year's loss to 26 percent, after earlier today touching $6,800, the lowest level in more than a year. The contract lost 15 percent last week.

"Copper is clearly in a downward trend as investors see no improvement in the macro environment, only deterioration," Zhang Zhenghua, an analyst at Minmetals Futures Co., said today by phone from Shanghai."

 

In other words: silver and copper, which (unlike gold) are still bought primarily as genuine commodities for their actual use (speculative and 'savings' use of silver is still well under 50% of its use), have plummeted in price because manufacturers think that they are not going to need much silver or copper in the next several years. Because they finally have woken up to realise that we are not going to have net economic growth.

 

The mania for economic growth, combined with the elite's determination not to take proper control over banking and not to make the banksters pay for this crisis, and combined of course with financialisation itself, has unleashed a disaster. A disaster that could probably have been prevented by a genuine Green New Deal. Now, we are in the midst of a growing sovereign debt crisis, because the banks' losses have been socialised. That crisis shows no sign of ending. And on the verge of a massive corporate debt crisis: balance sheets are going to unravel, as plans that were made on the basis of predictions of expansion are reined in. The de-leveraging will continue to unwind and probably escalate, as expectations fall. (See http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/nicole-m-foss )

 

The actions taken to try to deal with these escalating crises without taking power from the bunch of bankers who have ruined the world economy are putting fiat currencies themselves at risk. 'Quantitative easing' has further enriched elites without putting more money into the hands of the populace at large: A Citizen's Income should have been used instead, with the newly printed money. Money itself is finally starting to come into question. As yet more QE happens in Britain, we stand finely balanced between runaway deflation and runaway inflation.

 

Why is QE being tried? In a desperate bid for growth, through a zero-sum-game of export-led 'strategies', in the context of an unwillingness to take banking into social/public control. Most roads now lead back to growth-mania as increasingly the cause of our troubles.

 

This huge ongoing disaster was caused in part by the limits to growth (see Sarkar's work) and the unwillingness of governments and peoples to face up to them. The level of denial about this is astonishing; governments seem prepared to trash everything on the unrealisable altar of their desperate bid to restart economic growth. Thus we are getting the environmentally-trashing economics of 3rd world 'development' – and of the destruction of the countryside envisaged under the new planning laws that the Coalition government are bringing in in Britain.

 

If growth seems like the only game in town, then it isn't surprising that good folk such as Compass look for a greener version of it. We need to acknowledge why Compass et al plump for a green stimulus / green growth etc. package. They do so because, in our current system, they feel that that is the only way to deliver employment. 

In the ecologically-limited post-growth world that we are entering/in, we have no option but to look at different models for employment, and for sustaining ourselves. There are models showing that zero growth needn't mean unemployment (Peter Victor, Managing without Growth (http://www.pvictor.com/MWG/About_the_Book.html ), and to some extent Tim Jackson's Prosperity without growth.) More work remains to be done in this area. (www.GreenHousethinktank.org is seeking / will seek to do some of it.)

 

So: What is to be done?

What is needed is a strategy to deal with all of this that does not fantasise a way out via a return to growth.

 

We need to put finance back on the leash, swiftly: Vickers, for instance, represents too little, too late, and too slow: http://www.greenhousethinktank.org/files/greenhouse/publications/Banking_summary1.pdf (See also http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2011/01/the-peoples-bank/ & http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/rupert-read/2009/07/14/the-bank-of-britain-a-proposal : this proposal, that I initiated, has since become Green Party policy. It stands diametrically opposed to the obscenity of allowing the banks to return to the private sector, at this delicately-balanced moment in human history).

 

We need a Green New Deal not as a 'stimulus' but as a transition to a dynamic equilibrium economy: See again my piece on this in http://clients.squareeye.net/uploads/compass/documents/COM_Good_Society_Green_Society_04.pdf .

 

We need to go beyond Jackson's (excellent) challenge to growth, and redefine prosperity through the idea of a REconomy: cradle-to-cradle processes incentivised, rationing not just of carbon but also of other virgin resource use (so an overall supply side resilience is secured), and, alongside this, rethinking how we incentivise appropriate technologies that match positive human-scale behaviour-change.

 

We need simultaneously to put in place a broader series of measures that will build resilience in the event, now probably likely, of the kind of vast crash and Depression indicated above. For instance, local currencies.

 

We need to warn people in plain terms that growthism, banksterism, and enormous gambles with our collective future have put the world on the edge of an unknown precipice. We need to talk about the risk of a Depression such as the world has never seen before; of an end to money as we know. There is far more than the Euro now at stake.

 

We don't need Plan B. We need Plan C. The creation of a constant (no-growth, dynamic-equilibrium) economy.

 

 

 

[Thanks to Alexis Rowell, Jules Peck, Peter Lipman, and my colleagues at Green House (www.GreenHousethinktank.org ) for input into this article.]
 

 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Diplomatic sanctions now against Assad

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Keep The NHS Public

Debating the future of the NHS with Simon Wright outside his office, Friday 21st Oct.

The Green Party has been actively campaigning across the country in order to keep the NHS public. The party is concerned about plans to remove from the Secretary of State for Health the obligation to ensure that health services are provided across the country and to place the responsibility on GPs to buy health care services for the NHS, often from private companies.

The purpose of this protest, organised by the Norwich branch of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign, is to highlight the support that local Conservative and LibDem MPs, including Simon Wright, have given to the plans and to call on them to reconsider. Mr Wright recently voted for the reforms in a crucial Commons vote. The proposals are currently being considered by the House of Lords.



Saturday, 22 October 2011

Medialens under the lens, over Syria and Libya: Becoming the new Dave Sparts?

I have long been an active supporter of Medialens (http://www.medialens.org/ ). Like many others, I have supported them with money, time, tips, and I have been proud to have done so. For they have done very important groundbreaking work over the years challenging the inanities and distortions of the 'mainstream' media. They have for example written important critiques of mainstream media coverage of dangerous climate change, of Iraq Body Count, of the corporate nature of most of our media, and much more besides. They have held the corporate media to account time and again. They ought to be saluted for all of that.


It is therefore with a sense of deep regret (as well as of some foreboding) that I have finally to write to address the ways in which, lately, some of the wheels seem to be coming off their wagon.

An early warning sign perhaps was their long-running spat with George Monbiot, over the Rwandan genocide and the terrible atrocities in Bosnia: http://www.monbiot.com/2011/08/04/media-cleanse/. But things have taken a further and more serious turn with their dogmatic opposition to the last resort of intervention now, as with Libya, and to any serious criticism of and serious attitude to brutal regimes, such as Syria's.

I found Medialens's opposition to UN involvement in the Libya situation (http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=644:to-avert-a-bloodbath-libya-and-the-press-part-1&catid=24:alerts-2011&Itemid=68 ) very troubling. Like various others on the Left, such as John Pilger and 'Moronwatch', their attitude seems to have been one of 'My enemy's enemy is my friend'. Medialens and Pilger have found themselves forced to ignore the overwhelming evidence that the Libyan revolutionaries, when their backs were against the wall and they were being threatened with massacre by Gaddafi (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/gaddafi-vows-no-mercy-in-attack-on-benghaz/764322/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/17/gaddafi-benghazi-libya-news_n_837245.html ), backed intervention under the responsibility to protect (though not by ground troops): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/12/libya-benghazi-gaddafi-revolution. It is very likely that the UN-backed, internationally-legal action in Libya saved Benghazi from a bloodbath.

Certainly, this is view is held by the Libyans who I know personally. One Benghazian who had been on the streets there in February said to me (on his return from there to England) that he didn't care why the West was thinking of intervening to stop Gaddafi from attacking Benghazi, but simply that they had to intervene, to stop a revolution-crushing bloodbath. This was a man who had stood shoulder to shoulder with me in the campaign to stop the West attacking Iraq in 2003. Because the two situations are profoundly different.

It is perfectly respectable to be against Western wars or Western proxy wars, or to take up an absolutist position of non-violence. What is hard to respect are the following two attitudes: (1) The pretence that there can never be a justification for last resort military interventions (as we should plainly have done to stop the Rwanda genocide, for instance), and that there are no relevant distinguishing features between, say, the internationally-illegal lies-based war on Iraq and the UN-backed NATO operation in Libya, which occurred in response to indigenous calls for help; and (2) The use of cherry-picked sources to support such pretences. The latter crucially undermines the organisation which does the cherry-picking.

What finally prompted me to write this article was the latest, deeply-dismaying 'media alert' from Medialens, focussing on Syria: http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=648:targeting-syria-the-bad-news-for-the-guardian&catid=24:alerts-2011&Itemid=68. In this alert, Medialens blatantly cherry-pick their sources. They begin by quoting Michel Chossudovsky, who argues, shamefully, that "The ultimate objective of the Syria protest movement, through media lies and fabrications, is to create divisions within Syrian society".

This is classic blaming-the-victim propaganda. Why are Medialens, in citing positively such pro-Assad statements in effect shifting -- from supporting the oppressed to supporting the oppressors?.

Chossudovsky, while well-respected as an academic within his area, is evidently an unreliable individual in this context, someone who (when it suits his argument, and Medialens's) cites Israeli news sources with known biases on the subject of Syria uncritically, someone who wildly alleges Mossad plots to foment rebellion in Daraa (the place where the Syrian uprising began, in response to horrendous government torture of children in Daraa), and so forth. He is the kind of source who Medialens would delight – quite rightly – in rubbishing, if he were uncritically citing (say) Israeli and media propaganda in relation to the Israel-Palestine 'peace process'.

Contrary to Medialens' rather bizarre stand on Syria there exists carefully collected data that conveys how the Syrian revolt started in Daraa (see International Crisis Group reports on Syria which also draw on sources within the government, security and party apparatus: http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/crisiswatch-database.aspx?CountryIDs={1341CC4D-F195-4B82-A9B9-0411818FDB03} ).

Given that Syrian protestors are still being killed every day it is in fact astounding that the take up of arms is not actually on a much wider scale. The International Crisis Group reports do not shy away from acknowledging that there are gradually-growing elements of an armed insurgency in Syria and for the growth in agent provocateurs of all colours. However, it is clear from the daily footage coming out of Syria via social media sites and Facebook groups over the past months that, remarkably, most protests are still peaceful. Whilst it is hard to verify content on social networking sites it is clear that the overriding narrative is one of peaceful protest and that some prominent and experienced activists have a known record by now for providing pretty reliable information on this. So whilst elements of the Left debate how they can continue to align with or apologise for the Syrian regime, based on its support of Hamas and Hizbollah and its opposition to Israeli expansionism, etc., they are blind to the great intellectual and political shifts taking place in the region. The crisis engulfing the region's historically Left-friendly dictatorships is a crisis that I hope will allow those on the Left unequivocally to condemn a regime for murdering its civilians whether or not that regime is against Israeli foreign policy (rather than to condemn peaceful democracy protesters for "creating divisions within Syrian society".) Ideals of Arab unity should not and do not include embracing the murder of innocent protestors!

This should all be obvious.

Medialens meanwhile quote Jeremy Salt approvingly, as follows: 'There is no doubt…that armed groups operating from behind the screen of the demonstrations have no interest in reform. They want to destroy the government.' What is most suspect about this remark is the implication that there is some prospect in Syria under Assad of 'reform'. While the Syrian demonstrators first called for 'reform', they have now overwhelmingly come to back the overthrow of the government: because it is clear that the real reforms needed are not taking place and the regime has committed grave crimes against humanity. It is clear, in other words, that the Assad government is unreformable. So there is no longer anything contentious about wanting to destroy the Assad government. The only question is how long it will be possible to go on seeking to do so non-violently (http://americansyrians.com/syria/post/Syrian-Revolution-The-most-unflinchingly-non-violent-revolution-in-history.aspx), when the government meets every demonstration that it can with live fire and the most hideous torture known to humankind. It is extraordinary how the discipline of this movement of non-violent resistance has stood up under the most extraordinary provocation (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/21/syria-women-unrest-repression ); the Assad regime makes Mubarak look like a softie, by comparison. It is deeply-dismaying therefore that Medialens are willing to paint the Syrian protesters as American or Israeli stooges.

There is some arms smuggling into Syria, although the evidence suggests that this is mostly small-scale, and is taking place mainly along long-established smuggling routes over the Lebanese border. Most of those seeking smuggled arms may well be simply heads of families anxious to defend themselves, in a situation of growing uncertainty. Medialens say that they are trying to draw attention to the armed element of the Syrian opposition which they say is having a veil drawn over it by the Western media. But the truth of the matter appears to be that the armed element of the Syrian opposition is even now only a relatively small element of it. Most of it is defecting soldiers, as reported here by the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/14/syria-protesters-defections-security-forces . Do Medialens think it is somehow not right to encourage soldiers to defect to the opposition? Do they think that soldiers who do so will not or should not take their arms with them? When they will certainly be killed or tortured if they are captured by the government.

By distorting what is happening in Syria – by giving credence to the ravings of the likes of Chossudovsky, and ignoring the voices of the Syrian activists who are still the mainspring of the movement – Medialens is performing a gross disservice to us all, and above all to the Syrians getting killed everyday.

I showed a colleague of mine, Odai Al-Zoubi (http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/odai-alzoubi ) -- a Syrian democracy protester who was on the streets of his country this summer engaged in peaceful demonstrations, taking the risk every day of being beaten, tortured, killed (Friends of his who did the same have been tortured) – the Medialens material on Syria (http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=648:targeting-syria-the-bad-news-for-the-guardian&catid=24:alerts-2011&Itemid=68 ). This was his response:

"The easy way is to see the world is in a black-white dichotomy. 'Everything America supports is wrong.' I believe that that attitude is lazy.

The left can't deal with the Arab Spring. Being green or Marxist or leftist means for them being anti-american. That's it. Nothing more.
Behind this is a racist attitude, suggesting that there is no successful authentic revolution anywhere in the world. If America supports the revolution, then the revolution is condemned. If America opposes the revolution, then it is praised. I am almost desperate with the left. For them, no one can do anything in the world without the help of America. Those who claim to be anti-american are the people who destroy everything in our understanding of the world, in order to be anti-american. Tacitly, they worship America. They believe that it controls the world...And they don't understand that the farmers in Daraa don't give a shit whether America supports them or opposes them. The people in Daraa understand the world more than the leftists. They do things...
Moreover, the dogmatic leftists are immoral. They don't stress that so many people were and are being tortured in Syria. Since Syria is anti-american, everything is fine.
The future of the left is doomed if they don't try to open their eyes. The Arab Spring should make them think outside the American / anti-american binary."

Such a voice surely deserves to be taken seriously. I wonder what Medialens would make of it? And why such voices never appear in their alerts on Syria, Libya, etc.

My colleague Dr. Phil Hutchinson, like me a long-time admirer and supporter of Medialens, has commented as follows:

"Let me try out an analogy: Notice how shopping, the act of, is in origins an act that is undertaken to serve a goal: buying things one needs. Later, under certain socio-economic conditions, it becomes an end in itself for many people. To shop is to enjoy oneself. People run up debts not because they need more stuff necessarily or because they think they need more stuff, or even because they will get pleasure from more stuff but because they have become addicted to the activity of shopping. I think there is an analogue in left politics: MediaLens have an insight, they have had many, but then they lose sight of that insight, and become addicted to a set of freefloating procedures. They are supposed to be about media-bias which they expose using the Chomskian 'propaganda model', but they are increasingly just parroting substantive moral or political claims of folks they like. They've stopped being a lens on the media and started being a propaganda-machine themselves, more like an unfunny Michael Moore than like the MediaLens of 5 years ago.

"One of the problems of the 'propaganda model' is it can be used to uncover anything you want to uncover. It needs to be used by people who keep themselves honest and in check."

It is not too late for Medialens to reconsider their dogmatic blanket opposition to Western action in relation to the Arab Spring. Caroline Lucas MP, Leader of my Party (the Greens), voted against supporting Britain's role in the UN-backed action in Libya. But she at least had the good grace afterward to say this: http://brightonhovegreencampaigns.blogspot.com/2011/08/green-leader-calls-on-uk-to-stop.html . It would be good to hear similar statements from Medialens.

Or would it? As Hutchinson remarks, things have reached a strange pass when the prime way that an organisation allegedly dedicated to hunting down bias in the mainstream media becomes known is not for its work in this capacity but rather for its own substantive political/moral position on conflicts in Bosnia, Libya, Syria, etc. . This point does rather suggest that Medialens needs to refocus its work: back onto the very necessary task of critiquing the corporate media for their biases, and away from (getting out of its depth in) attempts to analyse the precise nature of the historical and contemporary details of events that are the subjects of news stories. Medialens would be well-advised, in particular, to stop cherry-picking their sources in relation to Syria. They should bin Chossudovsky et al, and pay closer attention instead to groups like the International Crisis Group, which (unlike the sources Medialens rely on) has excellent on-the-ground sources in Syria.

If Medialens persist in low-quality work (i.e. in using unreliable / cherry-picked sources) which tacitly rubbishes the Syrian revolution, then they will join the company of John Pilger, 'Stop the War' and others who have failed to understand the new dynamic of the Arab Spring and the way that external powers, whatever their motivations, have done something on balance good by intervening in Libya and ending Gaddafi's mass-murderous regime, and need now (as Turkey is) to be actively considering their options in relation to the horrifying situation in Syria. The Syrian protesters were dismayed that the UN failed recently to act. (By contrast, it is encouraging that the UN have at least now made an unequicoval statement on Yemen, calling for Saleh to go: http://www.euronews.net/2011/10/22/un-security-council-calls-on-yemen-s-saleh-to-go/ .) There is a dire need for some form of action – perhaps an international solidarity movement, of people prepared to travel to Syria to put themselves on the line beside the revolutionaries? – to seek now to help the Syrian people.

I earnestly hope that Medialens will step back from the brink, and stop smearing the (heroic) Syrian revolutionaries by quoting nonsense from hopeless sources. Otherwise, they will join Pilger, John Rees et al in becoming nothing more nor less than the new Dave Sparts, mere dogmatic opponents of anything and everything that the 'imperialist' powers say and do, and tacit apologists in the process for Gaddafi, Assad, and other thugs who were/are every bit as much war-criminals as Bush and Blair.



[[N.B. This is a corrected version of a piece just published under my name on Left Foot Forward. Unfortunately, the version that they published was a mostly uncorrected early draft. And the title they imposed on the piece was not mine, and I have objected to it strenuously. So: I disown the version they published. Here is the actual piece.]]

Friday, 21 October 2011

Leading Greens Support ‘Keep our NHS Public’ Campaigners

East of England Green Party Co-ordinator, Rupert Read, and Green Party Deputy Leader, Adrian Ramsay, will join local health campaigners opposing the privatisation of the National Health Service and will protest outside the office of Liberal Democrat MP Simon Wright (Norwich South) at 5pm on Friday 21st October (2 Douro Place).

 

Last month, Adrian Ramsay used his party conference speech to attack the Government's proposed reforms of the NHS and called on the Conservatives and LibDems to reconsider their proposals.

 

He stated: "The private companies will bid for the services that are easiest to run – they won't bid for the expensive services that don't make any profit. The NHS will be left with those services that are essential to people's health but don't make profits. Far from this helping the public finances, it will place more financial strain on the NHS." 

 

The Green Party has been actively campaigning across the country in order to keep the NHS public. The party is concerned about plans to remove from the Secretary of State for Health the obligation to ensure that health services are provided across the country and to place the responsibility on GPs to buy health care services for the NHS, often from private companies.

 

The purpose of this protest, organised by the Norwich branch of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign, is to highlight the support that local Conservative and LibDem MPs, including Simon Wright, have given to the plans and to call on them to reconsider. Mr Wright recently voted for the reforms in a crucial Commons vote. The proposals are currently being considered by the House of Lords.

 

 


About Norwich Green Party

·      It has 15 Norwich City Councillors (Labour 18, Lib-Dems 4 Tories 2)

·      It has 7 Norfolk County Councillors serving 7 of the 13 Norwich county wards.

·      In the 2009 European election, the Green Party secured more votes than any other party in the Norwich City Council area, gaining 25%.

·      In the 2010 General Election, the Green Party doubled its vote share in the Norwich South constituency to 15% - comfortably the second highest Green vote in the country. In the party's strongest constituency, Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas was elected as the first Green MP.

 

ENDS.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Listen to my talk on 'therapy'

I spoke at U. of London on Wittgenstein and philosophical liberation, last week. Here is the talk: http://rupertread.fastmail.co.uk/Talk%20on%20therapy%20in%20London (Warning: this is a very big file)
Let me know what you think!

Monday, 10 October 2011

film as philosophy: the festival

A weekend of introduced screenings and open discussions manchester metropolitan university, cheshire faculty all screenings and discussions will be held in the crewe lecture theatre, unless otherwise stated.


FRIDAY NOVEMBER 25TH
1500
stefano ciammaroni [mmu]
the shining [stanley kubrick, 1980] this screening to take place in couzens-0-01

1830
emma bell [brighton]
inception [christopher nolan, 2010]


SATURDAY NOVEMBER 26TH
1000
jenny chamarette [cambridge]
demain on déménage (tomorrow we move) [chantal akerman, 2004]

1430
catherine Constable [warwick]
bombshell [victor flemming, 1933]

1830
rupert read [uea]
never let me go [mark romanek, 2010]


SUNDAY NOVEMBER 27TH
1030
tom greaves [uea]
man on wire [james marsh, 2008]

1430
david sorfa [ljmu]
stranger than fiction [mark forster, 2006]


Free. All welcome. For more info, contact phil hutchinson:
p.hutchinson@mmu.ac.uk

Friday, 7 October 2011

Wittgenstein's 'therapeutic' conception of philosophy: as a challenge to standard understandings of what knowledge must be

I am speaking on #Wittgenstein this coming Wednesday, at the Institute of Education, in London (Bedford Street), at 5.30. Maybe see you there.
 
 In this talk, I will explore the way in which a Wittgensteinian 'therapeutic' (liberatory) vision of philosophy changes radically our understanding of what kind of knowledge, if any, a philosopher has, what kind of 'expertise' she has. But this is not even a matter of interest narrowly to philosophers. If affects every discipline which, as Winch would have it, shares or inherits any of philosophy's character. Examples include education, economics, and 'social science' in general.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

6 theses on Structure & Agency

Check out my newest philosophy blogpost: http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=3288

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What HS2 will cost #Norwich

Concerned about the cost to us all of the govt's high-speed London-Brham rail boondoggle? Me too. For more, see here: http://www.highspeedrail.org.uk/hs2cost/
1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: October 2011 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.