Sunday 31st of May 2020

Witch's brew


The recipe from the ancient book of Politicus

RECIPE FOR DUMBOCRACY SOUP ALLA CANBERRANEAN Ingredients Find your self a large black cooking pot full of voters gone to water... you will need quite a few sticks of furphy-wood to make a giant bonfire Use matches to start the fire (Porkie-brand matches from the US preferably) A good jar of thick fear jelly (liquid fear extract can do, if jelly is not available, Brownydax brand recommended) A litre of morality, finely sieved for impurity such as fun, sex (especially same sex), ethics, skeptical relativist thoughts and grit. Toad spit from a moribund Kimeus Bizleyii a few spineless offals from Laborus partysoldoutus A few unions chopped up finely... Salt and pepper for taste COOKING: bring the broth to the boil and keep cooking until any solid resistance from the battlers is dissolved. Use bat from the Johnus hendersonus species to make wind by flapping wings to keep fire going. Serve cold or hot according to the weather Make sure everyone eat a portion. Caution: Make sure that NO green stuff, especially of the Bobbii brownsenatus Tasmanian species spoils the broth during cooking.

rattus in the same soup as "aussie tony"...

In the text below, replace "Blair" with "Howard", and "Conservatives" with "Labor", and you get the same gist of the story in Australia... But no-one in the Labor Party, presently in power, would dare re-visit this dark chapter in rabid right-wing Aussie history where the Prime Minster and his minions were lying through their teeth to accommodate the whim — and the warmonger advisors — of the little twit that was masquerading as a president of the United States. Yet eventually when all the dust has not settled, we will need the truth... And see the toon above.

Bush, Blair and Howard lied big time to achieve an illegal war designed to induce "regime change" — not caring much about the dire consequenses — and also "acquiring the oil" as indicated by Mr Greenspan, prizing it from the contracts that the Europeans and the Russians had with Saddam. Yes, let's not forget the OIL...


from Steve Richards

His [Blair] original judgement deserved greater probing. There was no connection between September 11th and Iraq. There were no wider links between al-Qa'ida and Saddam. Yet in the immediate aftermath, the thoughts of President Bush, and therefore those of Blair, turned to Iraq.

Blair's interrogators did not seem especially interested in this sequence. Yet his decision to agree with Bush, that September 11th meant the policy towards Iraq must change, was the only one of significance that he took. After that the US was in charge.

Blair stressed repeatedly yesterday that after September 11th "the mindset in the United States in relation to Iraq changed dramatically ... and mine did too". How convenient that he made the same irrational leap, enabling him to maintain his close alliance with a Republican President. As he put it when questioned about his private meeting with President Bush at Crawford in the spring of 2002: "It is important for a British Prime Minister to establish a strong and close relationship with the President of the United States." Blair followed orthodoxy with a convenient passion. At a later point yesterday Blair added: "In my view and the view of the US we could not take the risk of Saddam reconstituting his WMD." Once more his view accorded precisely with the world's only superpower. It always did.

After Blair had decided that he shared Bush's worldview the rest followed inevitably. He had a case to make and he made it. He was right to point out yesterday that it was the BBC that made the dossier on WMD seem more significant than it was at the time of publication and that in its inaccurate reporting made integrity rather than judgement the issue. Nonetheless Blair inadvertently confirmed he was not especially bothered by the details, but the arguments they conveyed. He was asked if he understood the difference between long-range weapons and battlefield weapons. His response revealed much about his leadership style.

"I didn't focus on it a great deal."

On Iraq if details got in the way he tended to ignore them. But because the Committee focused on his integrity he was not challenged very much on the key question in relation to the dossier: Why was the intelligence so wrong? Instead Blair shifted his case retrospectively to suggest that the war was instigated to prevent Saddam from "reconstituting" his WMD, not an argument made at the time.

The rest of the micro questioning and answers were irrelevant. Blair persuaded Bush to go to the UN, but only in the hope that they would get international backing for military force, which they both believed was almost inevitable. Blair admitted yesterday that "given the UN's record on these matters" a diplomatic solution was never likely, and I sense the best he had hoped for was UN support for war, which would have given him more protection in domestic politics.

But in siding with Bush from the beginning he knew he would get a majority in the Commons, as the Conservative leadership was more gung-ho than him. He knew the cabinet would back him. He was being hailed in most newspapers for his boldness. Hans Blix could have pleaded for more time to hunt for weapons. It did not matter. By the end of 2002 US and British troops were in position and Bush wanted to invade in March 2003. Bush was willing to act without Britain, but Blair was never going to pull back at that point or any point. The troops were there and were not going to return without a conflict having taken place.

Forming a close alliance with Bush must have seemed the least risky course after September 11th, but as Blair said in the most revealing sentence of yesterday's hearing: "It all depends what happens afterwards how people regard your behaviour at the time."

Blair made a misjudgement and followed the consequences with crusading conviction. Future leaders take note: following the orthodox course can lead to even greater unpopularity if the end result is perceived as a deadly mistake.

More from Steve Richards

the constipators of nuz...

The constipated tedium that follows each call, denial and condemnation after another round of fake news and its giddying effects has become daily fare.  Entire episodes with the sanctimonious and the solemn are being created to show up the citizen journalist, the blogger, the self-opinionated masturbator of news, in the hope that some high priest set will reclaim the ground.

That ground, supposedly, is “truth”, a truly big word merely assumed by its advocates.

None of this is to deny that there is something dreary and depressing about accounts that are fabricated.  But this is an age old matter, and one that centres on the old question: Should you trust what is ever published?  

The facility to use language is as much a means of expression as deception. According to George Steiner, humanity’s Babel dilemma – having a multiplicity of languages that seek to confuse rather than clarify – had as much to do with the need to deceive than anything else.  Learn the language, learn the deception.

The modern attempt to evade such deceptions is conventional as much as it is flawed.  It questions the very media that was meant to disseminate accounts at speed and attributes traditional monopolies of truth to a Fourth Estate long in tooth and very much on its sick bed.  The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Financial Times have looked rather haggish at points.

There is a charmingly naïve assumption here: that the old press houses were somehow incapable of deception and censorship.  The influence of media moguls; the cuts and modifications of the editorial boards and government censors, are all historically distant in such arguments. 

All that is Fake is new because – and here an element of snobbery creeps in – it is generated by the vox pops brigade.

That viral freight helped along by social media is being treated as the problem, the medium as dissimulated message. The Four Corners episode which aired on Australia’s national network on Monday is one such example, shrill in its concerns that the fake in news is undermining to democracy and its institutions.  

Its list of interviewed subjects supply us a Who’s Who of sceptics and critics about modern journalism and the dark steed called Fake News.

Claire Wardle, Executive director of First Draft, is one who earns her crust attacking this wave and engaged in the process she regards as “verification training for journalists”.  Her organisation supplies“Training and resources for journalists in an age of disinformation.” 

In her interview with Four Corners, she suggests how: 

we need to worry about fake news. People dismiss it as frivolous. It’s not. I think it’s the biggest crisis that we face as humankind because it is dividing us.  And as we’re divided we’re going to get to a point where democracy is no longer functioning.”

Such a considerable overegging of that pudding is supplemented by other comments. 

Veteran journalist John Carlin makes no secret of his aversion to social media platforms, and their means of getting the message through an intemperate scream rather than a sober debate. 

“What social media does is give more weight and more value to the people who shout loudest.”

But years before the clans of shouters got into the social media bubble, the Murdoch empire, through such trusty emissaries as The Sun, were happy pushing voters with reactionary prods and embellished accounts.

Behind such comments on the fakery of social media news is a paternalistic sneer, one directed against the great unwashed. Sometimes, the sneer targets a specific group, the abominations, the gullible freaks, the marginalised. 

Phil Howard, director of the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford, suggested in February last year that the condition for consuming and gorging the fake in news coverage is limited.

There is an upside to all of this. It appears that only one part of the political spectrum – the far right – is really the target for extremist, sensational and conspiratorial content.  Over social media, moderates and centrists tend not to be as susceptible.”

That is all fine, if you treat terms such as “moderate” and “centrists” as fundamentally immutable and immune to the witch’s brew of conspiracy.  All groups are susceptible, and the artery busting fury at WikiLeaks in exposing the underbelly of the Clinton campaign machine in 2016 all suggested that groups of any political persuasion are very happy to entertain dark pulls and urges.  

Julian Assange, the celebrated truth sayer one day; pilloried Russian agent the next.

Technological reach has also given birth to a vibrant form of citizen journalism, the very sort frowned upon by conventional, often regulated networks.

In 2014, Time noted that “the growth of social media, facilitated by technological advances that allow Internet access even in a war zone, has made detailed, ground-level information on the war available online”.  

Such journalism is praised as fresh and fair when it seems to shed good light on a position; dark, bought and compromised when it does not. The term “fake” is as much tactical as anything else.

But press traditionalists remain wary: the global cutting back of the press corps has led to an increasing reliance on freelancing, leading to such fears as those of John Owen at City University in London: 

news organisations can’t contract out their duty of care and moral responsibility if they choose to air or publish freelancers.”

The battle over what is the fake and authentic in news easily dovetails into regulations of control and limitations on expression. It emboldens the censor and the police version of history. Laws criminalising it have been passed in countries as diverse as Malaysia, France, Germany and Russia.

Some of this is being done with the connivance of the Fourth Estate, keen to accommodate the interests of state. Much information and content, as a result, is being inadvertently blocked.


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