National Propaganda Radio

Free Palestine

MPBN falsely equates the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement with “anti-Semitism.”

A recent edition of Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN)’s lunch-time call-in show, Maine Calling, dealt with the topic of the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Maine and throughout the nation.

The topic is no doubt worthy of timely, intellectual discourse. Donald Trump and members of his administration frequently deride Jews alongside Muslims, immigrants, women and other oppressed groups—though their slights against Jews tend to be more subtle compared to those directed at other groups.

Trump, for instance, seemed to go out of his way to omit the Jews from his list of victims to be honored on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, back in January. More recently, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, in an ignorant attempt to portray Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as worse than Hitler, falsely claimed the latter “never used chemical weapons” against his enemies.

Sadly, host, Jennifer Rooks and her three bourgeois guests seemed more interested in using the hour to promote Zionist views that falsely equate the growing anti-imperialist, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement with “anti-Semitism.”

According to guest, Abraham Peck, a history professor at the University of Southern Maine and Bates College, BDS has created an unsafe environment for Jewish students on college campuses. He then proceeds to describe the BDS movement using a series of “weasel words” (“seems like,” “what is seen as,” etc.)

BDS, Peck says, “essentially seeks to punish the state of Israel for what is seen as Israel’s unfair, illegitimate occupation of the West Bank and also its relationship to Gaza.”

Peck goes on to baselessly claim BDS activists have greeted Jewish students with “anti-Semitic chants, Nazi symbols, and swastikas on their doors …”

But if Israel’s illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is “seen as” “unfair,” and “illegitimate,” that is because a majority of human rights groups and international organizations have determined it to be such.

Furthermore, the aim of BDS is not so much to “punish” the state of Israel, as to advocate for justice for Israel’s victims—the people of Palestine. Indeed, this warped inversion of the purpose of international law suggests that it is Israel—not the people of the occupied territories—who is the true victim in this conflict.

As for Peck’s ludicrous charge that BDS activists routinely incorporate “anti-Semitic chants, Nazi symbols, and swastikas” in their demonstrations, all I can say is this is news to me. Peck is either deliberately making false claims about the movement, or is confusing its actions with those of campus Neo-Nazi groups—which have proliferated since Trump’s election.

Curiously, Rooks and her guests have virtually nothing to say about the latter groups, which represent a real anti-Semitic threat to Jewish students throughout the country. Instead, they remain fixated on BDS.

Rabbi Erica Asch, of Temple Beth El in Augusta, concurs with Peck lamenting the Jewish students who may have to “go through a barricade of students chanting at them about Israel,” in order to seek out “services for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.”

How this scenario differs from, say clients of Planned Parenthood in Portland, who must pass through a barricade of right-wing anti-choice zealots in order to enter the door, Rabbi Asch does not explain. This is in no way an endorsement of those “pro-life” (read: pro-birth) activists, who stand outside Planned Parenthood every Friday, and harass and shame the women who enter. It is merely to point out that, for better or worse, free speech cuts both ways.

Asch, echoing the current liberal obsession with “safe spaces,” asserts Jewish students should “not have to think about Israel” if they do not want to.

Well, college students are certainly free to think about or ignore whichever social, political, or international issues they care to. That is one of the great things about college. But the very presence of BDS on college campuses is not, in of itself, an example of anti-Semitism—nor, for that matter, does it mean universities have suddenly become a hostile environment for Jewish students.

But the real coup de grace comes when the pundits are confronted by a caller who asks whether one who voices disagreement with Israel’s foreign policy is automatically an “anti-Semite.” Asch’s conflicting answer is quite telling.

She says:

I would say absolutely not. I mean … you only have to look at what goes on in Israel amongst Israelis to know that voicing disagreement with Israeli policy is not anti-Semitic. In fact, I think that many Israelis view that as patriotic.

… I think that the difficulty is when that turns into either a criticism of Jews in general, a singling out of Israel on the world stage as the only actor that commits human rights abuses when we see many, many other countries are also doing this, or a time when people are really questioning the legitimacy of Israel, couched in words like, “Well, it should be one state,” which we know will ultimately lead to the end of the Jewish democratic state of Israel.

So I would say, absolutely it’s okay to criticize Israel. But there is a point at which that crosses the line and becomes an unacceptable form of speech and denying the right of the Jewish State to exist.

In other words, the balance between legitimate criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and outright hatred of the Jewish people is a sort of slippery-slope, in which the former can quite easily lead to the latter. This, incidentally, is the same tactic supporters of Hillary Clinton used to silence valid criticism of her record or neoliberal platform: Equate legitimate political disagreement with outright sexism.

The fact is, opposition to Israel’s apartheid regime, and abject hatred of Jewish people are two highly disparate things. There is very little ambiguity separating the two. And the implication that the two groups—BDS activists, and Neo-Nazis—frequently travel in the same circles can be immediately dismissed by anyone who has spent any time with BDS activists or the left in general. Indeed, the liberal practice of “calling-out” perceived incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia and the like within leftist groups is so prevalent, an actual anti-Semite would have a difficult time getting anywhere near a BDS rally.

(I am going to leave aside Asch’s straw man argument that Israel should not be “singled out” for war crimes and human rights abuses since other nations throughout the world engage in similar behavior. No doubt, other nations—including the United States—engage in horrific human rights abuses. But very few of them approach the apartheid-style colonialism that characterizes the state of Israel. As for the equally vapid claim that BDS activists often “couch their language” in a call for a one-state solution, there is really only one side in the Israel-Palestine conflict that routinely calls for a one-state solution, and it is not the Palestinians or the BDS movement. It is the Israeli government.)

But Asch’s implication—that there is little, rhetorically, separating the BDS movement and full-blown anti-Semitism—seems to be shared by the panelists. And there is no BDS advocate or representative to counter the other panelists’ lies and Zionist propaganda.

This sort of one-sided coverage of BDS—or of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general–is certainly not unique among the corporate media networks. But one would expect NPR/MPBN to at least attempt to offer a more nuanced perspective on the topic.

Sadly, one would be wrong.

The fact is that NPR, despite its reputation as a bellwether of objective reporting, and informed, robust perspectives, fails to truly differentiate its approach to news-coverage from that of the corporate news outlets. Case in point, a popular NPR evening show is called Marketplace, but there is no comparable show offering a labor perspective. Yet, despite this clear oversight—itself indicative of a clear ideological bias—the right routinely informs us that the media are “liberal.”

As the media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), has long observed through meticulous studies of NPR’s coverage, the network largely draws from the same narrow, elite circle of mostly white and male talking heads. In questioning to what extent the public is actually represented on public radio, FAIR concluded in a 2004 report that NPR “relies on the same elite and influential sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, and falls short of reflecting the diversity of the American public.”

Indeed, the right-wing billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch are frequent contributors to NPR, and have, in recent years, exerted significant influence on the network’s news and editorial decisions. In a time when liberals are so quick to denounce the Trump administration’s use of so-called “alternative facts,” it is discouraging to see so many in the capitalist media employ their own blatant disregard for the truth.

If MPBN wants to host a debate on the merits–or, indeed, the perceived ideological orientation–of the BDS movement, then it should do just that.

But such a debate should necessarily entail, 1) including a spokesperson or advocate for BDS and, 2) not presenting the debate under the misleading, generic headline, “Anti-Semitism.” Rather, a more appropriate and direct show title would be, “Is BDS anti-Semitic?” or something to that effect.

This is yet another example of why socialists need their own media outlets.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

Advertisements

Ignore the GOP’s Lies: The Pentagon is Not Broke

Fighter Jet

During a recent interview on NBC’s Meet the Press,  Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins reiterated one of the biggest lies about Barack Obama’s presidency.

When host, Chuck Todd asked Collins if there is “any part of [President Donald Trump’s] budget you support?” she responded:

“Yes. I do think that we need an increase [in spending] for our veterans and an increase in military spending because readiness has really suffered.”

For context, the majority of Collins’ six-and-a-half minute interview was devoted to the president’s proposed health care bill which, as of this writing, is DOA. These remarks were her sole reference to military-spending.

Yet, the statement, minor though it may be, is extremely significant.

The notion that military readiness has “really suffered” due to Obama’s budgetary policies has been widely repeated by congressional Republicans, Trump, and the corporate media. The GOP maintain Obama “depleted” military funding, leaving the U.S. woefully under-prepared—if not, in fact, completely unprepared—to adequately respond to a foreign attack.

Trump alluded to this notion of a “weakened” military during his March 1 address to Congress.

“I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” Trump said of his proposed $54 billion military-spending budget.

This oft-repeated talking point that the military suffers from a lack of “readiness,” corresponds with the equally false narrative that Obama was “weak” on matters of foreign policy—too eager to engage in “wimpy diplomacy,” and “negotiations,” rather than military force.

But this baseless narrative ignores the fact that both military spending and the use of military force increased under Obama. Indeed, Obama—who received the Nobel Peace Prize less than a year into his presidency—proved to be more of a warmonger than George “I’m a War president!” Bush.

Under Obama, the U.S. escalated the war in Afghanistan, down-scaled—but did not end, entirely—the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, and engaged in covert drone bombing campaigns in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Syria. Perhaps most unnerving was the Obama administration’s penchant for relying on unmanned predator drones which can be controlled from thousands of miles away, and its codification into law of extrajudicial targeted assassinations.

The latter tactic claimed the lives of at least two U.S. citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abulrahman al-Awlaki.

Obama even maintained a not-so-secret “kill list” of suspected terrorists targeted for death, for Christ’s sake! Perhaps Republicans are just jealous a black man got to engage in all the really deranged, ultra-violent stuff, while Cheney and Rumsfeld had to settle for merely waterboarding people.

The fact is Obama was hardly the peacenik Republicans—along with their subservient echo-chamber in the corporate media–constantly portray him as. Likewise, the claim that Obama “depleted” the military of funding, leaving it in a “weakened” state, is downright laughable.

Contrary to the GOP’s rhetoric, the United States still maintains the largest, strongest, most expensive military force in the world.

As Branko Marcetic writes in a March 6 piece for Jacobin titled, “The Lie of ‘Rebuilding’ the Military”:

The US military has a vastly larger airforce, navy, and number of aircraft carriers than any of its closest rivals. While it commands less manpower than China and India, its nuclear stockpile—a mind-boggling 6,970 warheads—is second only to Russia. The massive three hundred held by France in third place looks piddling by comparison. According to a 2015 Credit Suisse report, all of this and more means the United States far outmatches any other country in terms of military strength.

As Marcetic notes, maintaining an absurdly massive military of this size does not come cheap. The Pentagon ate up $622 billion of the federal budget in 2016, alone. Fifty-four percent of our federal tax dollars go to military spending. And much of this money is wasted on outdated, Cold War-era weapons and fighter jets the Pentagon has no need for—a fact that, curiously, goes unnoticed by “fiscally conservative” Republicans who constantly harp about the need for the government to “get its fiscal house in order.”

(And while we are on the topic, can we mention the hypocrisy of claiming to want to “shrink the size of government,” while lavishing the military–which, last time I checked, is part of the executive branch of the federal government–with billions of dollars?)

Contrary to what the talking heads on “liberal” NPR insist, the largest portion of the federal budget is devoted to the misleadingly-titled category, “Defense”—not so-called “entitlement” programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

But military-spending is so sacrosanct among both political parties it is almost never brought up in budgetary debates. Instead, we are told immigrants, refugees, public school teachers and their “cadillac-style” retirement benefits, and the earned-income programs won through hard-fought working-class struggle are to blame for our nation’s budgetary woes.

This is the perverse genius of the so-called “austerity” policies the global capitalist elites have pushed in Europe and the U.S. since the Great Recession: Socialize the costs and privatize the profits. And during Obama’s presidency those profits continued to soar for weapons manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics, which owns Bath Iron Works, one of the largest employers in Maine.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, is eyeing deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is now headed by climate change denier, Scott Pruitt. Also on the chopping block is funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the State Department, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and most federal regulatory industries.

Turns out Americans should have heeded President Dwight Eisenhower’s outgoing warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex,” after all.

“As millions of Americans struggle with inadequate health care, low wages, deteriorating public services and uncertainty about their futures as the wage gap between the wealthy elite and the working poor widens,” famed consumer advocate and ertswhile independent presidential candidate, Ralph Nader wrote back in 2013, “billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars are pouring into the coffers of the Department of Defense ever year.”

All of this makes clear the left’s urgent need to revive the beleaguered anti-war movement, which largely remained dormant during Obama’s presidency. As Maine anti-war activist, blogger, and professional organizer, Bruce Gagnon told me in a 2015 interview, “Liberal Democrats are reluctant to challenge the president when he’s ‘their guy.'”

“It’s a real hypocrisy,” Gagnon added. “And it’s a real problem for maintaining an active anti-war movement.”

Perhaps the fact that it is now a Republican carrying out these disastrous wars will reinvigorate the anti-war left. The mass opposition to Trump’s racist campaigns against Muslims and immigrants is certainly an encouraging sign. Socialists must tap into this growing movement, while also making the broader connections between the global refugee crisis and U.S. imperialism.

But our first task must be to offer a forceful rebuke to the bourgeois falsehood that the military needs “rebuilding.” Quite the reverse, we should be investing less money in killing people, and more on infrastructure, good-paying jobs, renewable energy programs, health care, and our public schools.

“Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations,” Vladimir Lenin wrote in his 1917 essay, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, “… all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Manufacturing Consent

propaganda

The Trump White House ratcheted up its escalating war on journalists on Wednesday, when the president’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, in a rare moment of actually speaking to the press, repeatedly called the news media the “opposition party.”

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Bannon, the former owner of the white supremacist trash news-site, Breitbart News, told the New York Times.

Bannon added,

“I want you to quote this: The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

“You’re the opposition party,” Bannon repeated to the Times’ reporter. “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

Well, he is correct on one count, at least: The Democratic Party is not the opposition party. Not at all.

Trump’s self-declared “running war” with the U.S. news media was a hallmark of his presidential campaign. In the recent squabble over the size of his pitifully under-attended inauguration ceremony, Trump called journalists, “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

During a Jan. 11 press conference at Trump Tower in New York, Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, flippantly telling him, “Not you. Your organization is terrible.”

The then-president-elect proceeded to blast CNN as “fake news,” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”

Now, as president, Trump and his administration are continuing to push an authoritarian, anti-fact agenda by not only remaining openly hostile toward the media and reporters, but by constantly insisting the news they disseminate is not factual, but is rather, “fake news.”

The irony of a millionaire celebrity like Trump (who received hundreds of hours of free media coverage on the campaign trail, which arguably contributed to his winning the election) biting the veritable hand that feeds him aside, distrust of the “elite” news media is a major common trait among Trump’s supporters.

And, frankly, I can’t say that I blame them for distrusting the media.

While the notion that the corporate media maintain an overwhelmingly “liberal” bias is patently absurd (and has been widely debunked by numerous analyses), there is, nonetheless, good reason to be skeptical of the major media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

These are the same institutions that uncritically accepted the Bush administration’s lies justifying the Iraq war. They failed to foresee the 2008 housing crisis and the subsequent Great Recession, despite warnings from prominent economists. They unanimously championed the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that gambled with customers’ money and sent the global economy into a tailspin.

And now they are passively echoing the CIA’s completely unverified claims that Russia covertly influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, thus raising the specter of a new Cold War between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

With a track record like this, who wouldn’t distrust the media?

“What is typically presented as news analysis,” Amy Goodman writes in the introduction to her 2009 essay compilation, Breaking the Sound Barrier, “is, for the most part, a small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. While they may appear to differ, they are quibbling over how quickly the bombs should be dropped, not asking whether they should be dropped at all.”

And the problem is not limited to Fox News —though they are a big part of it. “Liberal” outlets like MSNBC, the New York Times, and NPR do just as much lying, spinning, and obfuscating as the unapologetically corporate networks. (Right-wing billionaire, David Koch, even sits on the board of NPR.)

In an actual democracy, the media act as a vital check on corporate and governmental abuses of power. The press serves as a vigilant “watchdog,” entrusted to alert readers to government malfeasance, and to speak truth to power. The role of the press, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

But we do not live in a true democracy. We live under capitalism. Though widely viewed as synonymous, the two systems are, in fact, highly incompatible.

News under capitalism is little more than a commodity. Nike sells sneakers. Starbucks sells coffee. The Wall Street Journal sells “news.”

Six corporations own and control 90 percent of the print and television media Americans get their news from. As such, the major media outlets do more to obsequiously kowtow to the ruling power elites and parrot their lies, than to challenge them. They are more lap-dogs than watchdogs.

(Still think the media are “liberal”? Try comparing the size of the “Business” section in your local daily newspaper, to the size of the “Labor” section. Oh wait … There is no “Labor” section!)

And the rise of celebrity journalists like Anderson Cooper (average earnings: $11 million), Rachel Maddow ($7 million), Bill O’ Reilly ($17 million), Megyn Kelly ($6 million), and Katie Couric ($10 million) has only further removed the news-reporting profession from the concerns of working class people.

These pseudo-journalists place a premium on maintaining their access to officials in power. But that access only comes to reporters who are obedient, non-confrontational, and generally tow the corporate-party line.

“US establishment journalism is anything but an outsider force,” writes Glenn Greenwald in his book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.

It is wholly integrated into the nation’s dominant political power. Culturally, emotionally, and socioeconomically, they are one and the same. Rich, famous, insider journalists do not want to subvert the status quo that so lavishly rewards them. Like all courtiers, they are eager to defend the system that vests them with their privileges and contemptuous of anyone who challenges that system.

This cozy relationship between the press and the state was perfectly encapsulated during the 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner, when then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove launched into a seemingly impromptu rap (dubbing himself, “MC Rove”), while Meet the Press host, David Gregory, danced awkwardly behind him.

It is a painful, eye-rolling sight, to be certain. But it is one that proves it is not merely Hollywood–the right’s second-favorite political punching-bag–that is “out of touch” with working class Americans.

Indeed, it is for good reason that investigative reporters like Goodman and Seymour Hersh are not invited to the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. True journalists are hated and despised by the bourgeois power elite.

While Bannon likely intended his “opposition party” label as an insult, it is actually an accurate description of what, ideally, journalism should be.

All of this is to acknowledge that just as the working class in this country has no real political party, it also has no media that accurately speaks to working people’s daily lived experience. The corporate owned and controlled media serve to reinforce society’s ruling ideas–which, as Marx and Engels understood, are the “ideas of the ruling class.”

For this reason, socialists have a long tradition of writing, printing, and circulating their own newspapers, produced by and for the working class. These papers–like the International Socialist Organization’s monthly publication, Socialist Worker–aim to both spread socialist ideas, and empower readers with local and national news of the latest strikes, protests, walk-outs, and anti-war rallies.

These explicitly left-wing newspapers are in keeping with Jello Biafra’s mantra, “Don’t hate the media. Become the media.”

Finally, it is important to note that Trump’s “running war” with the media is, in fact, nothing new. It started under Barack Obama.

While Obama never explicitly targeted the entire media industry as Trump has, he did wage a vicious war on investigative journalists and whistleblowers. Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act (the same law socialist leader, Eugene Debs, was imprisoned under, in 1918) than all previous administrations combined.

I realize liberals do not like to hear these inconvenient truths about their Nobel Peace Prize-winning president’s legacy. But it is crucial we understand that the policies Trump is already pursuing have not materialized in a vacuum. The neoliberal policies presented by the “lesser evil” Democrats inevitably pave the way for the “greater evil” of President Trump and the radical right.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed,” George Orwell wrote. “Everything else is public relations.”

 

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.