Saturday 18 July 2015

Happy Little Vampires

Vampires exist.

They’re not, of course, the caped and fanged denizens of the night, who sleep in coffins and cannot see themselves in mirrors. They do not have names like Count Dracula, and they do not suck your literal blood dry.

No, they’re much worse than that.

I’m talking about the vampires who rule international capital. Ah yes, you’re nodding. You know precisely who I mean.

But you know something? The vampires could never achieve anything without local help. They need a fifth column on the ground in target nations, helping out.

This fifth column should never be underestimated. Sometimes they have guns and bombs. More frequently they have pens and keyboards, cameras and microphones. I'm talking of paid politicians and media whores whose purpose is to relentlessly promote the international (that is, Western) capitalist project, to attack its opponents, and to "manufacture consent" for turning over the economy to it.

In India, the ultra-right-wing media is a prime example of this. While the old Hindunazis were actually extremely strongly in favour of an autarckic economy (no foreign capital, no foreign ownership of domestic manufacturing or retail, a concept called Swadeshi and a rough analogue of the North Korean Juche, only without socialism) - the current Hindunazis and their Congress opponents are so united in pro-foreign capitalist policies that they usually compete to see who is even more hospitable to the vampires of Wall Street and Brussels. 

In this, of course, they face one very, very significant obstacle. Although the Great Indian Muddle Class is utterly contemptible, without a shred of honour or principle, it's still only a small part of the electorate. And the Indian elections of recent years have repeatedly demonstrated that the Great Indian Muddle Class does not elect governments. It's the rural poor, the working class and the lower middle class – whose interests do not coincide in any manner or fashion with those of the Great Indian Muddle Class – who do. 

That, however, has not stopped the relentless attempts to manufacture consent to make the country free for Western capital. A particular theme in recent days has been praise of Walmart, which still doesn't exist here, partly owing to the opposition of the old-school Hindunazis who still cling to Swadeshi. We're subject to relentless propaganda about how Walmart will make our lives better since, allegedly, "competition will lower costs and benefit the consumer". This is proving a bit of a tough sell for two reasons:

1. The internet age means that the target audience is already aware of Walmart's record elsewhere and

2. The opposition of Indian capitalists like the Reliance group, who already run Walmart-like stores and don't want the competition. These capitalists are the chief source of funds to the main parties, Hindunazi or otherwise, all of whom are, economically speaking, far right; governments can’t afford to annoy them.

It's not just economics, of course. Back in 2003 there was a concerted attempt by paid media whores to manufacture consent for India to send troops to help in the occupation of Iraq. Leading the charge was the ultra-right rag India Today, which pitched the idea that France was about to be kicked out of the Security Council and it was India's chance for a "seat at the high table". India Today's owner-editor, who also routinely passed off Hindunazi mythology as historical "fact", was rewarded with a civilian medal for his trouble, incidentally. 

Another piece of right-wing toilet paper, The Telegraph of Calcutta (which was later to celebrate Saddam Hussein’s hanging with noose-shaped headlines and a full front page article), helpfully pointed out in 2003 that if a “fig leaf” was needed to justify India’s sending troops to Iraq, the United Nation’s call to member states to stabilise the situation there should be more than enough. Even more ingenuously, it said that Indian forces would be put out of harm’s way in a place where they couldn’t possibly have to do any actual Mosul.

Yes, that Mosul, now Iraq headquarters of the Islamic State.

The individual "journalists" and "columnists" weren't far behind in the race for pay offs. One particularly egregious example is a certain Tavleen Singh, a woman so transparently on the take that even India Today got cautious enough not to renew her contract for her weekly column. She’s been known to even plug an astrologer in her column, and before the 2004 tsunami she was going on about how the government is criminally not letting builders construct within a hundred metres of the shoreline, thus wasting valuable real estate. I wonder who paid for that? Anyway, along came the tsunami, swamping everything within a hundred metres of the coast and more, and she promptly fell silent on that topic.

Here is a case which perfectly illustrates how the payoffs work:

Do you remember Enron? It wasn’t just an Amerikastani abomination. It was here as well. In the early 2000s, Enron signed a deal with the Congress party government in the state of Maharashtra to set up a power plant. Part of the deal was that the government was supposed to guarantee a certain amount of power consumption.  If the actual consumption was less than that the government would have to pay Enron the difference. Sweet deal, isn’t it? I wish I could get someone to guarantee me a minimum income each month and pay me the difference if not enough specimens turned up.

Now the Enron power cost about Rs 7.80 per unit (if I remember right) while all other power sources were supplying power at Rs 2.50 or so. According to Enron, this was all right - as soon as everyone was compelled to buy Enron power the per unit cost would fall. The Hindunazi opposition party in Maharashtra - the Shiv Sena - howled about how they'd throw Enron into the Arabian Sea if they came to power. When they did come to power they immediately negotiated an even more pro Enron deal. 

By then this was a major issue and there was pressure on the  central government to step in and kick out Enron, whose power plant still hadn't produced any power but which was already demanding that the state pay it.  At once the media whores like Tavleen Singh began defending Enron.  Apparently if India "reneged" on the deal it would impact on foreign investment etc.  I remember the Singh woman parroting Enron's claim that once its power station began working and everyone was forced to buy its electricity the price would fall to Rs 2 to 3 per unit - without of course giving any proof of how this miracle was supposed to be achieved. I mean, you have a captive market, with a government assured monopoly, with said government paying you for units people don’t consume – what’s your incentive to reduce costs, even assuming you could do it?

In the event, Enron didn’t even try. It never produced anything at all.

Then Enron went belly up in Amerikastan, its chief Kenneth Lay was arrested for fraud and the company was dissolved. Still the Enron owned subsidiary demanded payment for the power it never produced. I think the matter's probably still going rounds in the courts now.

But guess what? The moment Enron ceased being able to pay, the media whores fell silent on the deal. They're still silent on it now. 

I wonder why. 

The Great Big ISIS Movie Extravaganza Part XVII

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

The Lesser Evil

Tonight, boys and girls, I shall explain - in terms anyone, no matter from which country , should be able to understand - why voting for the "lesser evil" is not just mindless idiocy, but is a clear trap:

Let's take this sequence, in which A is (by conventional standards) the least evil and Z represents the maximum evil:


We have, or pretend to ourselves that we have, two options to vote for: X and Y. Let's say X says his policy is A and Y says his policy is B. As the lesser of the two evils, you vote for X, who says he stands for A. Once in power, X actually gives you, in the manner of politicians, C, but you persuade yourself that Y would've given you D, so you were right in voting for X. So next time round, X offers E, Y offers F, and you vote for X because E is better than F. This time X gives you G, while Y foams at the mouth yelling about how without H the world will end. So you of course vote for X again. Right?

Perhaps, along the way, a third potential option appears – someone, let’s call him σ, who loudly reminds everyone that the original choice was between A and B, and you are now getting to choose between P and Q. σ promises to go back to A if you elect him. Whether he’s sincere or not, you’ll reject him without second thought, because you’ve convinced yourself that the choice is between X and Y. In fact, not only will you reject σ, you’ll be furious at him for potentially reducing crucial support from X, without which Y might win.

Suppose, despite all, it looks like σ will actually get substantial support. All X has to do at this stage is throw a few sops around, perhaps even retreat from P to O1/2, and you’ll go right back to voting for him – because he’s the better option than Y, dammit. As for σ, he’s thrown by the wayside, forgotten forever.

And this is the way it continues until you find yourself voting for X, who now stands for W, so as not to have Y, who promises Z.

Am I clear? In order not to have B, you've just ended up voting for W. Because you chose the "lesser evil" instead of using your brains. 

Obviously, in this situation, X and Y will be working together – because their agenda is precisely the same, which is to steer you directly towards Z from A. And since you do exactly as they want you to, they both win and you lose. 

And you will continue to lose as long as you refuse to use common sense. 

That is your lesson for tonight.

You're welcome. 

Image source

Sunday 12 July 2015

Reagan and the Taliban: Deconstructing a Propaganda Image

There’s this meme that's been going around the net, especially among self-styled “liberal” American fora, for a loooong time now. You'll almost certainly have come across it:

Let's take it for granted that Ronald "Regan" is Ronald Reagan.

It’s, of course, meant to drive home the point that Ronald Reagan, the God of the conservative sections of American politicana, was the godfather of the Taliban, and by extension Islamic fundamentalism. It’s a lovely weapon, actually, being almost impossible to refute. I mean, you can see Ron sitting there with the Taliban, right in the White House! You have a direct quote from him praising the Taliban! Who could argue with that?

Nobody from the (conservative) side the propaganda is aimed at, obviously.

They don’t know enough to argue, and aren’t interested in acquiring knowledge about anything.

But, yes, it is propaganda, and like all the best propaganda it mixes some truth with its fiction. And most of it is fiction.

Before we start, let’s get this clear. The photo is not a fake. It shows Ronald Reagan sitting with Islamic fundamentalists from Afghanistan in the White House, though the picture dates from 1983, not 1985; and, yes, Reagan backed those Islamic fundamentalists to the hilt.

That is all the truth in this meme – the photo. Every single thing else about it is false.

First, those are not the Taliban Reagan is talking to. I do believe this may be news to some people, but the Taliban did not even exist in 1985. Those are the Mujahideen in the photo – a disparate collection of murderous, rapacious warlords and killers. They took over Afghanistan in 1991 and immediately began such a brutal civil war among themselves that two years later the Taliban was created by Afghans in Pakistani refugee camps, with Pakistani military backing, to put them down. That’s right, the Taliban was created to fight the Islamic fundamentalists in this photograph, and that was eight years later. By 1996, the Taliban had routed the Mujahideen and seized Kabul – and it was the Democratic Party administration of Bill Clinton which backed it to the full, and continued backing it all the way until 1998 when Mullah Omar granted oil pipeline rights to BRIDAS of Argentina instead of the US’ UNOCAL.

None of this is even a secret. It’s described in excruciating detail in Ahmed Rashid’s Taliban: The Story of the Afghan Warlords[1], but you can read it on the net as well.

It was the Republican Party administration of George W Bush, by the way, which ousted the Taliban in 2001 – and reinstated the Mujahideen, which immediately began the same old corruption and infighting as before.

But you don’t even need this inside knowledge to know that those are not the Taliban. Just look at them. You can see one Afghan Pakol cap and three brown turbans on the men. Where are the Taliban’s signature black turbans? The one black turban in the far right is nothing like the Taliban turban; it's obviously formal wear, on a man who does not have the Taliban's compulsory beard for all men. And then look at that woman. What is she even doing in the White House? And whatever is  she wearing? Why, a traditional Pashtun chador, with her face and hands uncovered. Isn’t one of the charges against the Taliban the fact that they totally shut women off from everything outside the house, and confined them to those blue shuttlecock burqas, with nothing showing? How can this woman be Taliban?   

Any answers?

Secondly, Reagan never said that the Taliban, or for that matter the Mujahideen, were the moral equivalents of anyone, the US’ founding fathers or otherwise. This is another instance where a little bit of fact mixed in the fiction works excellently. Yes, Reagan did make the statement that “these gentlemen are the moral equivalents of our founding fathers.” He totally said that.

Only, he was talking of another murderous gang of fascist killers his administration was backing to the hilt, the Contras in Nicaragua[2]. Not the Mujahideen at all.

What did he say about the Mujahideen? If memory serves, he declared, “I am a Mujahideen”. Which translates as “I am a freedom fighters” (yes, fighters, because Mujahideen is the plural of Mujahid.) Somehow nobody ever brings up this quote. Perhaps because it detracts from the myth that he was behind the Taliban.

The third idea plugged by this meme is the piece de resistance, most of all because it’s not stated at all, merely implied. It’s the clear message that Reagan was responsible for promoting Islamic extremism. Of course Reagan did his bit – did his bit and more, actually. But he was merely following in the footsteps of a long, long series of American presidents, stretching all the way back to the 1930s when that allegedly great so-called liberal Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who also said of the venal dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, “he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”) began the policy of bending over backwards to appease the fundamentalist Wahhabi theocracy of Saudi Arabia[3]. Today, that so-called liberal Democrat, Barack Hussein Obama, continues to bend over backwards to appease the same Wahhabi fundamentalist theocracy in every way possible.

As for Afghanistan, it wasn’t Reagan who began arming, funding and training the Islamic fundamentalists there. Oh no, it was the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter which was responsible – and it wasn’t even in response to the Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan. Carter’s National Security Chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski, openly admitted as early as 1998 that:

“ was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.[4]

There you are.

A little truth, a lot of lies, and a very large number of people who would much rather not know the facts, and there you have the perfect political weapon in the service of pseudoliberal propaganda and hypocrisy.

Fortunately, some of us still have access to the facts, and aren’t shy about pointing them out.