Friday, February 10, 2017

Why Muslims should never have to apologize for terrorism

Omar Alnatour in this piece highlights 5 major reasons why Muslims should never have to apologize for terrorism because they are always being blamed for things they have absolutely no control over.

Source: https://www.naij.com/1087619-opinion-why-muslims-apologize-terrorism.html

Date: February 10, 2017



Picture this: You wake up in the morning to hear your wife screaming at you because it’s pouring rain outside. She hates the rain and now her day is ruined because of you. You go downstairs only to hear your children yell at you because they broke the toaster. They can’t have waffles now and it’s all your fault. On the way to work, you stop and fill up gas only to hear everyone at the gas station curse you out because gas prices have risen. You arrive at work only to see all your coworkers gathered around your desk demanding that you apologize for the printer being jammed. On the way home from work, everyone on the highway screams at you because they are upset with the rush hour traffic.

Quite a ridiculous scenario, right? Can you imagine always being blamed for things that you have absolutely no control over? Can you imagine always being asked to apologize for these things? Can you imagine being hated whether or not you do apologize? This is what being a Muslim in America today feels like.

I am a proud American, raised in Texas. I’m a college student. I’m a humanitarian. I’m an aspiring physician. I’m someone who hopes to revolutionize access to medicine and healthcare in the United States and in war-torn countries across the world. I also am a M-u-s-l-i-m, one of over 1.6 billion who are blamed whenever an act of terrorism occurs as if we are nothing more than this 6-letter word hijacked by those who wrongly use our religion to justify their heinous crimes.

As a Muslim American who continually strives to do everything I can for the betterment of my community and this nation, I am tired of being asked to apologize and condemn terrorism that I have absolutely nothing to do with.

Here are five reasons why Muslims should never have to apologize for terrorism:

1) It’s ridiculous to ask us to apologize.

As a practicing Muslim, I know that my religion teaches peace. I am so certain of this fact that I will award anyone $10,000 if they can find me a verse in the Quran that says it’s ok to kill innocent people or to commit acts of terror. This is an open offer that will never expire.

I also know that Muslims, as a religious group, are not terrorists. I have factually proved this. I also have factually proved that you are more likely to be struck by lightening, crushed to death by a couch, or killed by a toddler, than to be killed by a Muslim.

This being said, why should I have to apologize for a violence that I have no connection to? A violence my religion blatantly stands against.

Ask yourself: Should car manufacturers have to apologize when drunk drivers kill people using their vehicles? Should you be required to apologize to the police if your sibling gets a speeding ticket because you share the same last name? Should every single gun owner in America have to apologize whenever someone is killed by a firearm? Should weathermen have to apologize for cloudy days? Should pharmacists have to apologize for your allergies? Should I have to apologize for the typos of another writer?

Unless you can find that $10,000 verse or unless you blatantly hear a Muslim explicitly supporting terrorism, please understand that asking us, both individually and collectively, to apologize for terrorism would be just as ridiculous as the questions above.

2) It should be obvious by now that Muslims condemn terrorism.

By now, it should be very clear that Muslims condemn terrorism. All it takes is a simple Google search of any terrorist attack to find the plethora of Muslims publicly condemning it. Try it out. For example, here are over 40 examples of Muslims condemning the Charlie Hebdo attacks. And here is an example of how Muslims all across the world condemned the Paris attacks.

Muslims condemn terrorism, we always have. This is a fact. And just as I shouldn’t have to reassure you each morning that the sky is still blue, Muslims should not have to reassure you that we still condemn terrorism every single time a terrorist attack occurs.

And frankly, if you don’t already believe that Muslims condemn terrorism by now, then no apology or repeated broken-record condemnation from any Muslim or Muslim organization will help cure your intolerant hatred.

3) Muslims are at the very forefront of combating terrorism.

The only thing more ridiculous than asking people to apologize for something they have no connection to is to make people apologize for something they are working so hard to combat.

Muslims want to defeat terrorism just as much as any other American, if not more. This is why we have Muslim women like Niloofar Rahmani and Kubra Khademi who are at the very frontlines fighting terrorists. This is why millions of Muslim youth are taking a stand against ISIS. This is why tons of Muslim groups and scholars repeatedly issue statements condemning ISIS, many even being killed by ISIS for doing so.

This is why more than 120 Muslim scholars from around the world joined together to write an open letter to ISIS, denouncing them as un-Islamic by using Islamic terms. This is why Muslims are being killed by ISIS for publicly opposing this terrorist group’s persecution of Christians.

For the same reasons that firemen don’t apologize for fires and doctors don’t apologize for heart disease, Muslims should not be expected or asked to apologize for something they are working so hard to combat.

4) Muslims are the largest victims of terrorism.

According to the Counter Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Al-Qaeda kills over seven times more Muslims than non-Muslims. According to the UN, Muslims are the largest victims of ISIS. According to the State Department, Muslims are the largest victims of terrorism in general. No matter where you look, you will find that the strongest association between Muslims and terrorism is one in which Muslims are victims of it.

There is a sad irony in how Muslims are the largest victims of terrorism yet also receive the most hatred for it. Just as it would be wrong to blame African Americans for slavery, starving children for world hunger, and toddlers for school shootings, it is equally wrong to blame Muslims for terrorism when we are always the victims of it.

Want me to call the leader of ISIS and tell him to stop committing terror? Give me his contact information; I’d be happy to. Any Muslim would. But just know that the conversation would begin with us, ISIS’s largest victims, telling him to stop hijacking our religion to justify killing Muslims who actually follow it.

5) If we have to apologize for terrorism, then so should everyone else.

This last point is especially important. Why are Muslims the only group that are required to apologize for and condemn the actions of criminals that associate with their group?

To put things into perspective, ask yourself: Why aren’t all white males asked to apologize for the slavery that white males endorsed less than two centuries ago? The slavery in which one third of slaves were Muslims. Why aren’t all Buddhists asked to apologize for the radical Buddhist monks in Mynammar that are violently attacking Muslims? Why aren’t all policemen asked to apologize for the racist cops that are dropping the bodies of unarmed blacks like leaves in the autumn?

You must understand that just as you are detached from the heinous crimes mentioned above, I am just as detached from the terrorism that so many keep trying to link me with for no other reason than me being a Muslim.

You must understand that by asking me whether I condemn terrorism, you are questioning my humanity.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review of Monia Mazigh's "Hope Has Two Daughters"



Novel written by Monia Mazigh
Translated by Fred A. Reed
Published by House of Anansi Press, 2017
Sold in Ottawa at Octopus Books


Reviewed by S N Smith -- Feb 9, 2017

********


I am a big believer in the power of fiction to convey important messages and even compel people into positive action. Fiction can communicate things that non-fiction lacks the ability to. The inward passions, motivations, fears, hopes, sorrow, disillusionment, joy, and a host of other human emotions, can be painted on the pages of a well written novel. And those emotions are experienced within a particular context, and when we understand that context we then understand where these emotions are coming from and that they don't exist in a vacuum. Not everyone, of course, reacts the same way to the events around them, and many people are riddled with a host of contradictions and shortcomings which are not always easy to decipher. Fiction, I believe, has the power to highlight this in a more effective way than non-fiction can. For non-fiction tends to stick to the facts of what we know or, if the historical imagination is exercised, it is still done so within limits, and thus we don't always get a full picture of the impact of events on the lives of people, especially individuals.

And this brings me to Monia Mazigh's latest novel, Hope has Two Daughters, a line which comes from Augustine of Hippo, also a North African, which says, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

And this sentence, I feel, captures what Mazigh seeks to achieve in her novel. 

This is a story of the awakening of a political consciousness and how when it is brought to the fore of one's thinking or world view there is no going back. The world, as we thought is was, no longer exists and it is impossible to live with the delusion despite how others seek to dissuade or discourage us. The wall -- the wall of delusion -- that has protected us, comes tumbling down and now we see what we failed to see before and are forced to move out of the safe space we have carved for ourselves. Even the fear that previously held us firmly in its grip has to let go or we become stripped of our very humanity and can not longer live with ourselves. This does not mean that the fear does not exist, only that it no longer has power over us. You will see this process taking place in the lives of the characters in Mazigh's novel. 

Two main characters -- mother and daughter -- and two major political events in Tunisia, 26 years apart, shape their respective political destinies. The scales fall from their eyes and it is as if they have emerged from Plato's cave for the very first time and now they see the light of the sun and thus can no longer re-enter that cave. It is almost like they experience some kind of release, as when Nadia, the mother, says: "But the couscous revolt had transformed me, had made me had made me a new person." (pg 200) 

This novel is also about the price that people sometimes have to pay when they speak truth to power, and that price can be very heavy and painful, and sometimes even deadly. In this novel Nadia is forced into exile from her native country while Mounir is imprisoned for 7 years. But in the backdrop of all this we know many people in Tunisia perished for speaking truth to power. 

This book will move you to tears in places. But this is not the purpose of Mazigh's writings. She wants to inform her readers of the painful choices people are forced to make and that despite the many hardships that accompany the political activist, the price is worth it because a life lived in the cause of struggle for the rights of others is a life well lived and places one on the right side of history.

Mazigh possesses the moral authority to write this novel, as anyone who knows her personal biography can attest, and thus her words are not just empty rhetoric or arm-chair sociology, but born out of personal struggle -- her own anger and courage -- and yet emerging from that suffering as a voice of freedom and passion for those who will follow after her.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Exponential Growth of Disinformation

Role of Powerful Private Interests and the Necessity to Build Our Own Organizations and Media

by 

Sam Heaton*

Sept 16, 2016


One of the serious problems that faces the people's movement for empowerment today is the exponential growth of disinformation that takes advantage of modern communications technology and social media. No sooner have these advances been made than powerful private interests, the state and its agents in the ranks of the people have worked out how to dominate and wield the technology in their interests.


For example, with the rise of big social media monopolies such as Facebook and Twitter, the ruling elite has promoted social media and platforms such as Wikipedia as great democratizing factors and say that there is now a "level playing field." In traditional print and other media, they say, maybe there was a concentration of power, but now we have overcome that.

In analyzing this phenomenon like any phenomenon one important issue is to work out what is the spin and the counter-spin and what stand favours the people and their political movement.

In this case the spin and counter-spin over whether social media are "good" or "bad" diverts from the serious issue that the workers, women and youth must build their own organizations and media to inform their peers and give voice to their independent politics.

This is a necessity which has faced the working class since it began to organize as a class in itself and for itself in the nineteenth century, distinct from the political parties of the bourgeoisie.

This necessity has become even more acute with the rise of big media monopolies in the period of monopoly capitalism and still more with the domination of the social media landscape by the concentrated power of a handful of platforms valued in the billions.

On August 26 the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) celebrated the 46th anniversary of the Party press and on September 1 the 36th anniversary of the Mass Party and non-Party Press. The Party and non-Party press are indispensable ingredients in the building of the movement of the working class for its own emancipation and powerful weapons for the class to organize in defence of its own interests.

To strengthen and consolidate the two kinds of press is a component part of the work CPC(M-L) has undertaken during this period of retreat of revolution in which the working class is engaged in a trial of strength with the bourgeoisie, with the Party at its disposal.

CPC(M-L) has paid serious attention in recent years to consolidating the mass Party press by developing groups of writers and disseminators. Across the country this press is known for providing the working class with the information and analysis it requires as a fighting force and for giving pride of place to the people's movements.

The mass non-Party press has also gone through a period of transformation, increasing its readership in a manner which succeeds in overcoming the marginalization of the working class and vulnerable sections of the people.

At this time CPC(M-L) is putting in place the arrangements required to consolidate these victories and to pay close attention to dealing with problems posed by social media and developing the new journalism in today's context.

In a situation characterized by the acceleration of war preparations and more and more aggressive disruption targeting the political movements the need is not only to combat disinformation in a systematic, professional manner but most importantly assist people in how to view the situation for purposes of solving problems facing the movement and the class.

In this regard, no matter the medium, the mass Party and non-Party press have the key advantage over the bourgeois press because both are forward-looking, working to open the path for the progress of society. For this reason, this press has a future just as the working class has a future and so does its vanguard.

That reality is the basis for how to discuss social media and the issues surrounding it. Although the use of social media by parties of the rich to gain electoral advantage and the wielding of social media as a weapon of U.S. imperialism against sovereign states have been well-documented, the use of social media by state agencies to directly interfere with progressive and anti-imperialist political movements is less well studied.

It is necessary to pay attention to all three aspects and call on Canadians to oppose these counterrevolutionary activities as an organized force. Most important is the question of how to use social media to inform and unite the people's forces in action.

"Campaign Engagement" and "Digital Diplomacy"

In what are referred to as "advanced democracies" social media is supposed to "[extend] political and campaign communication, [expand] opportunities for democratic engagement, [alter] traditional political margins and hierarchies, and [make] democracy more accessible."[1]

The Brookings Institution, a U.S. imperialist think-tank, highlights the "direct advantages in using social media to improve campaign engagement and reinvigorate American democracy. For instance, social media increased the public responsiveness and accountability of both parties."[2]

The main examples of how social media has improved "campaign engagement" and made democracy "more accessible" are the election of Barack Obama in the U.S. in 2008, that of Angela Merkel in Germany in 2009, and most recently the coming to power of the Trudeau Liberal government in Canada.

The manipulation of social media by electoral campaigns is not only said to save time and money but is an integral part of collecting the private information of as wide a section of the population as possible in party databases for targeting.

Elections Canada in June 2016 released its figures for central political party expenditures in the October 19, 2015 federal election. Of the cartel parties the Liberal Party reportedly spent $43 million, the Conservative Party nearly $42 milion, the NDP almost $30 million. The Liberals far exceeded other parties in social media expenditures, spending almost $9 million versus less than $2 million by the Conservatives.

Trudeau's campaign purchased permanent front-page ad space on Twitter, sponsoring the hashtag #elxn42 (referring to the 42nd general election) making it a permanent fixture of the website with his name attached. In other words, Trudeau's campaign paid for him to be branded on Twitter as the person associated with the election.

One newspaper noted, "Users who click on the trending topic from the Canada Trends section of their feed or who search for it through the Twitter search bar see a promoted tweet from Justin Trudeau that features a 15-second video ad." Tom Pitfield, Justin Trudeau's digital strategist and now President of the neo-liberal think-tank Canada 2020 said, "...digital had the greatest ROI (return on investment) ... We focused on it as a strategic advantage."

Trudeau's top advisor Gerald Butts told media, "The game is about how do you talk to people in a way that they are going to tell you what they really think and that you are going to have reliable information on which to base your campaign plan." In other words, how do you get as much personal information about people as possible which can be deployed to manipulate them in your favour.

The method perfected by Obama, Merkel and Trudeau is to give the appearance that the leader is directly communicating with the people or even that this communication is two-way.

In the case of the Trudeau Liberals, the data-collection function of social media has been streamlined into the party constitution to the extent that "joining" the party is effectively a social media exercise in which one fills out boxes on the Liberal website.

The category of "member" has been abolished and instead everyone who signs up on the party website is put into the database of Liberals to be cross-referenced to the federal electors' list and form part of a Liberal army ready to be mobilized. What the Liberal Party referred to as a "top-down" or "hierarchical" structure has been replaced by what is supposed to be a direct relationship with the leader.

The "left-wing" spin is that the "emerging digital community and social relations" on social media platforms are characterized as "decentralized, democratic, heterogeneous, fluid, open, informal, and in many ways self-governing. In particular, the ease with which individuals can generate and share content via social media is seen by some as indicative of a more democratic and egalitarian society.

"Social networking Web sites and services provide 'radical public spheres' that constitute new forums for the development and expressions of political citizenship, forums that are less subject to elite control."

Spokespersons of the imperialist ruling elite say much the same thing about the role of social media in countries branded as enemies of the U.S. and un-free societies.

In "representative democracies" the triumph of social media is said to be the greater ability of citizens to interact with their governments and of political parties of the rich to mobilize people against their own interests. Social media is brandished to give a greater appearance of legitimacy to governments of the rich.

However in countries branded "enemies," "rogue states," "human rights violators" and the like, social media is supposed to assist people in opposing the state, overthrowing governments and even engaging directly with the imperialist powers to coordinate the undermining of authorities.

In neo-liberal parlance it is said this leads to "a more active, critical, and politicized citizenry, where citizens are no longer passive receivers of state-oriented media."

Far from these activities coming from the people themselves, they are organized at the highest levels of the U.S. imperialist state. For example, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a "private, non-profit" CIA front founded by Ronald Reagan to sponsor pro-U.S. groups around the world, runs a "Center for International Media Assistance" (CIMA).

The CIMA "works to support efforts of independent journalists and media and their effectiveness in developing countries" and "believes that independent media is critical in the world today." The CIMA says, "social media has changed how traditional journalists gather information and has empowered individuals to join the conversation. This is particularly powerful in developing countries seeking to gain truth and promote justice."[3]

The "U.S. Institute of Peace" -- which, despite its name, is an arm of the U.S. government created at the same time as the NED and wholly funded by Congress -- concluded in a recent study that "Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have played major roles in episodes of contentious politics as activist tools in replacing authoritarian regimes and in promoting freedom and democracy."[4]

These techniques have been formalized in a practice called "digital diplomacy," a hallmark of the Obama doctrine also referred to as "direct diplomacy" and "public diplomacy." In "digital diplomacy" the U.S. State Department and NATO deal directly with the citizens of various countries and with NGOs to do their bidding and completely bypass sovereign governments. In other words, it is a form of cyber-warfare.

The "advantages" of "digital diplomacy" are said to be, first, a "relatively cost-effective way to develop connections with foreign publics... Second, digital diplomacy also extends the reach of diplomatic staff... Digital diplomacy is typically considered a form of public diplomacy, which seeks to engage foreign publics, rather than just political elites within a nation. Finally, digital diplomacy allows diplomatic staff to better monitor public opinion toward a foreign government, political leaders, and policies, in ways similar to the manner in which corporations use social media to monitor public opinion."[5]

Digital diplomacy is also the extension into the Foreign Service and international affairs of the direct involvement in government of privileged private interests such as Google, Twitter and Facebook.

In June 2013 NATO academic Roland Paris, who went on to serve as Justin Trudeau's head foreign policy advisor for the first six months of his government, discussed "how far Canada had fallen behind its closest allies in the use of social media tools. The United States and Britain recognized the importance of digital diplomacy years ago, encouraging their ambassadors and missions to engage directly through social media with the public and policy leaders of other countries," he said.

Canada's then-Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird in February 2014 visited the headquarters of Google and Twitter in Silicon Valley, California and mapped out how "digital diplomacy" will be added to the arsenal of the Canadian government against targeted countries.

Baird stated, "Using social media and insights from big-data analytics, we can engage in direct diplomacy, not just elite diplomacy. Social media mapping exercises at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada have helped us to reach out to civic actors who seek to bring about positive social and political change in the countries they live in."

The Islamic Republic of Iran was a main target for Canada's "digital diplomacy" under the Harper government in its project with the University of Toronto Munk School called "Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran."

During the 2011 war against Libya, NATO agents on the ground even used Twitter and Facebook to provide coordinates for the bombing runs that devastated the country.

Canada's foreign affairs department, called Global Affairs Canada, maintains a Special Representative to the Syrian Opposition based in Turkey, one of whose main jobs is digital diplomacy. Robin Wettlaufer has served in the position since March 2014.

Trek, the UBC alumni publication, said Wettlaufer "typifies the next generation of Foreign Service Officers and a new kind of diplomacy that focuses on new partners and approaches.' Wettlaufer said, "We connect in many different ways with the Opposition, the whole host of parties opposed to the Assad regime, including through social media. Our objective is to expand our networks, to understand the different dynamics, to amplify the voices of democracy..."

State Disruption Tactics to Attack the 
Political Movements and Sovereign Countries

The concepts discussed above are well documented. For instance the three-volume Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics published in 2014 has essays on all of these practices and subjects. However state disruptions practices using social media are not mentioned in such literature, but are no less important.

The significance is underscored by the new situation of a Liberal government in Canada and contending sections of the U.S. ruling elite coalescing around the election of Hillary Clinton as U.S. war president. Both have the aim of blocking resistance movements of the people, especially their political mobilization in defence of rights and against war and aggression.

The Trudeau Liberals are accelerating the anti-social offensive to abolish any state arrangements standing in the way of making the monopolies competitive on global markets and are putting Canada further at the disposal of the U.S. striving for domination.

Their success on these fronts requires the depoliticization of the polity so that the resistance of the people is rendered ineffective, and this is what the Liberals' efforts are directed towards.

In this regard think-tanks advising the U.S. government have devised methods to wage disinformation campaigns against anyone the U.S. administration feels is undermining government positions.

One tactic is to smash any unity of the people around a principle or goal and to sow doubt about their collective consciousness.

A theorist of these methods is Cass R. Sunstein, who served for a number of years as the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for the Obama administration. In 2008 as a University of Chicago professor Sunstein co-authored a paper advising the U.S. government on how to undermine and discredit its opponents online using a concept called "cognitive diversity."

The paper is nominally aimed at those spreading what Sunstein calls "conspiracy theories" but refers to any "group polarization," i.e., resistance or principled conviction. Sunstein argues that "group polarization" is irrational but that it is "particularly likely, and particularly pronounced, when people have a shared sense of identity and are connected by bonds of solidarity."

Sunstein writes, "These are circumstances in which arguments by outsiders, unconnected with the group, will lack much credibility, and fail to have much of an effect in reducing polarization."

Sunstein's solution is to "suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories."

"They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity." "Cognitive diversity" is a cheap word for disinformation.

Sunstein goes right to the point. "We suggest a role for government efforts, and agents, in introducing such diversity. Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action."[6]

Sunstein is also the author of a book called Nudge based on the premise that "humans are not always capable of making decisions in their own best interests" and should be "nudged" by authorities towards correct decisions.

Documents obtained through the Edward Snowden leaks describe intelligence methods in more detail with the example of the British Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the Government Communications Headquarters and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada's electronic spy agency.

These methods are first and foremost the purview of the U.S. political police and farmed out to franchises in the Five Eyes network of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Intercept reported on March 23, 2015:

"According to the Snowden documents, [Canada's Communications Security Establishment] has a range of 'deception techniques' in its toolbox. These include 'false flag' operations to 'create unrest,' and using so-called 'effects' operations to 'alter adversary perception.' A false-flag operation usually means carrying out an attack, but making it look like it was performed by another group -- in this case, likely another government or hacker. Effects operations can involve sending out propaganda across social media or disrupting communications services. The newly revealed documents also reveal that CSE says it can plant a 'honeypot' as part of its deception tactics, possibly a reference to some sort of bait posted online that lures in targets so that they can be hacked or monitored.

"The apparent involvement of CSE in using the deception tactics suggests it is operating in the same area as a secretive British unit known as JTRIG, a division of the country's eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Last year, The Intercept published documents from Snowden showing that the JTRIG unit uses a range of effects operations to manipulate information online, such as by rigging the outcome of online polls, sending out fake messages on Facebook across entire countries, and posting negative information about targets online to damage their reputations."[7]

Glenn Greenwald notes, "Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable."[8]

Today these methods are evident in the activities of the powerful private interests aligned with U.S. imperialism that dominate social media. This includes not only the sections of the international financial oligarchy and firms that already dominated traditional media and now dominate online platforms but the creation of "viral" content and sophisticated manipulation of users targeting political movements and resisting countries.

Powerful Private Interests

Online networks are now no less saturated with private advertising than newspapers, television and public space. Individuals are targeted based on social media firms and private companies surveilling their consumption habits, web searches, private conversations over e-mail and other platforms and even what is picked up by the microphones in their computers and phones.

As in the case of traditional media the extent to which individuals can be reached through the official channels of the social media monopolies now depends on ability to pay.

Twitter and Facebook are themselves now valued at $10 billion and more than $300 billion, respectively.

The U.S. imperialists highly value Twitter and Facebook and have nurtured their growth as weapons to subvert the resistance of the people. These platforms are used by the U.S. imperialists to spread gossip, rumours and disinformation in small, unchallengeable and unverifiable chunks of words and video.

These platforms also spread celebrity worship of leading figures of U.S. imperialist culture aimed at attacking the thought material of the peoples of the world and wrecking public opinion. As U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama has been regularly given a special position by Facebook and Twitter to promote his own celebrity and undermine opposition to imperialist war.

Case Study: Venezuela and Buzzfeed

Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan people's staunch resistance to imperialist attacks have been targets of online disruption activities since the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998. These activities have intensified along with the economic war unleashed by U.S. imperialism and the Venezuelan oligarchy and successive attempts to destabilize the country and stage counterrevolutionary coups d'etat.

During attempts to destabilize the country and create the conditions for a coup and foreign intervention in 2013 and 2014 images were widely circulated by shady forces showing horrible scenes of police violence and unrest. They were accompanied by fraudulent stories claiming that a popular uprising was taking place against the Venezuelan government and the people were facing brutal repression.

These images turned out to be scenes from Chile, Egypt, Mexico and other countries and after images went "viral" several imperialist news outlets were forced to issue retractions. In 2014 when all was said and done 43 people had lost their lives to street violence organized by counterrevolutionary forces along with widespread damage to public facilities.

However, the disruption techniques have increased in sophistication each time the Venezuelan people defeat attempts to smash their anti-imperialist nation-building project. On top of the constant barrage of falsehoods about Venezuela in monopoly-owned newspapers and from state agencies like the CBC, the most vicious attacks are coming from websites specializing in viral social media content and giving the appearance of being edgy and left-of-centre.

One example is Buzzfeed, a "social news and entertainment company" which has pioneered the use of manipulating readers to achieve the maximum number of "clicks" and shares of mostly trite and superficial content. This is known as "click-bait." In 2015 Buzzfeed received a $200 million investment from NBCUniversal and the site has been valued at over $1 billion.

The website closely aligns itself with the positions of the U.S. government. A June 30, 2016 study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that 99 per cent of Buzzfeed's coverage of the Obama administration was positive and only one critical story out of 100 could be found, a story that pointed out the U.S. government had not met its target for resettling Syrian refugees.

Most of the company's revenue comes from its unit called Buzzfeed Creative, which creates branded, paid-for advertisements which are disguised as regular Buzzfeed news content. One tech analyst says Buzzfeed's future "depends on convincing us that ads aren't ads." It likewise depends on convincing readers that disinformation is news.

The magazine Wired writes, "If there is a science to BuzzFeed's content strategy, it is built on obsessive measurement. The data-science team uses machine learning to predict which stories might spread; the design team keeps iterating the user interface through A/B testing and analytics."

Its content and titles are designed based on formulas to receive the maximum number of clicks and shares.

When Buzzfeed promoted the idea that an "uprising" was taking place in Venezuela, it stated that Venezuela's problems stemmed from the government nationalizing the oil industry and taking it out of the hands of giant foreign monopolies.

The website has published a number of disinformation items recently with "click-bait" titles such as "How Much Do You Really Know About What is Happening in Venezuela," "What Is Going On In Venezuela?" and "Venezuela Opened Its Border And The Rush Of Hungry People Was Nuts."

Buzzfeed has since 2013 promoted a Norwegian-Venezuelan figure called Thor Halvorssen who runs two phoney "human rights groups," the Oslo Freedom Forum and the Human Rights Foundation.

Halvorssen is the son of Thor Halvorssen Hellum, a CIA informant who helped fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Halvorssen's aunt is a former state oil executive found to have funnelled state money to Venezuela's "Popular Will" political party.

The Popular Will party was founded by Leopoldo López, who is serving a jail sentence for inciting deadly violence during the U.S.-backed protests against the Venezuelan government in 2014. López is also the first cousin of Halvorssen and has been featured at Halvorssen's "Freedom Forum."

U.S. Journalist Ken Silverstein says, "One of Halvorssen's alleged specialties is falsely editing Wikipedia pages and inserting bogus charges to smear his clients' enemies."

One Buzzfeed correspondent flew to Oslo in 2013 to write a flattering portrait of Halvorssen as a "human rights activist." He has been the subject of several other Buzzfeed articles since that time and Buzzfeed has even featured his "Human Rights Foundation" in videos attacking Cuba.

The three-minute video "What Is Going On in Venezuela" was produced by Buzzfeed's new "Pero Like" page, which produces content targeted at English-speaking people with Latin American backgrounds. It was published on August 2 and by August 11 had 29 million views.

The video features an unidentified man speaking English giving a dramatic performance. He says there is a crisis in Venezuela, caused by a government which for 18 years "fed the country hatred."

He speaks about the crime rate and the minimum wage and (falsely) insinuates that the people are going hungry. All of it is devoid of any context and presents a nightmare scenario. Your mother, your sister or your uncle can all be killed at any moment, he says, and suggests that this has to do with the "hatred" created by the government.

"They" asked for money, his family delivered the money, and "they" still shot him, the man says. He then tells a story about his mother being held up in a robbery at gunpoint. He says that in 2008 Venezuela was voted the happiest country in the world, "despite the situation."

In conclusion he says, "I think that the most important thing we can do is raise awareness. Let the whole world know. 'Cause, if everybody knows, then maybe we can make a difference." In other words, share, share, share and create the pretext that "something must be done" in Venezuela.

The man in the video is Alejandro Toro, a professional actor and reality TV contestant born in Miami, Florida who spent most of his life in Venezuela. He is supposed to be giving the inside perspective of a Venezuelan but the authors of the video did not seem to want to identify him.

As much as the disinformation video says precisely nothing about "what is going on in Venezuela" it also targets for destruction the esteem in which the peoples of the world hold Venezuela, its Bolivarian Revolution and the memory of Hugo Chávez. It is precisely to sow doubt in the manner of Cass Sunstein to block the movement from coming to the defence of Venezuela's sovereignty and opposing disinformation.

Conclusions

The techniques outlined are all examples of the use of social media by powerful private interests to split the people and undermine their political movements. We think there is an urgent need today to work out how to use social media to inform and unite the people's forces.

To do so requires organizations that carry out such an aim consciously and base their work on maximum ideological and political mobilization. It means professionalizing our work by involving all those who recognize this urgent necessity. One urgent task is to bring the production of audio and video content of the mass Party and non-Party press in conformity with the needs of the times.

We think that it is time for the daughters and sons of the working people to come forward to build the institutions needed by the people to raise their ideological and political level and unite them  in action. On the anniversaries of the mass Party and non-Party Press CPC(M-L) is implementing a plan to strengthen the Party's technical base solidly based on its greatest asset, the human factor/social consciousness. By mobilizing its material asset, the working class and broad masses of the people, and its spiritual asset, Contemporary Marxist-Leninist Thought as its guide to action, it is sure to succeed. 
Notes 

1. Kerric Harvey, Ed. Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics. SAGE Publications, 2014. Vol. 1, pp. 183.

2. Ibid. pp. 190.

3. Ibid. pp. 249.

4. Ibid. pp. 308.

5. Ibid. pp. 391.

6. Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, Conspiracy Theories (January 15, 2008).

7. Ryan Gallagher, "Documents Reveal Canada's Secret Hacking Tactics." The Intercept, March 23, 2015.

8. Glenn Greenwald, "How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations." The Intercept, February 24, 2014.

*(The above presentation was delivered at the Seminar on the National and International Situation organized by the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) at the University of Ottawa on August 14, 2016.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Trial of Former Prison Guard Obscures Real Story of Nazi War Criminals: Canada -- Near Blissful Refuge for Nazis


- Dougal MacDonald - June 25, 2016


A great hullabaloo is being made by the ruling circles and their monopoly media about the trial and conviction of a single former concentration camp guard who worked at Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. The former guard, a member of the Nazi SS, was convicted on June 16 in a German court and sentenced to five years in prison as an accessory to the murder of 170,000 Jewish prisoners during 1943-44. No one expects he will spend a single day in prison due to the long appeal process and the fact that he is 94 years old.

This whole charade helps conceal the truth about the fate of Nazi and fascist war criminals. In reality, due to the active intervention of the U.S., U.K., Canada and various European states, including the Vatican, tens of thousands of war criminals were protected, hidden, given new identities, brought both openly and secretly to countries like Canada as legitimate immigrants, and hired by governments and private industry, even though their backgrounds were well-known in official circles. A huge number were brought into countries like Canada directly following the Second World War, while others who took up Nazi and fascist causes following the war (and who were even trained by Second World War war criminals through organizations such as the World Anti-Communist League) were brought in after, later perpetrating hideous crimes in countries such as Guatemala in the interests of U.S. imperialism.

A special system of escape routes called "ratlines" was set up for Nazis and fascists fleeing Europe after the defeat of the Hitlerites. A prominent role in facilitating those escapes was played by the Vatican. The escape routes mainly led toward havens in South America, particularly Argentina and Paraguay, but destinations also included the U.S. and Canada. Not only individuals but whole groups of Nazis were openly brought in, often for specific purposes. Here are a few examples. The entire Nazi spy agency, still led by General Reinhard Gehlen, was hired to work for U.S. intelligence. Gehlen derived much of his intelligence from torturing Soviet prisoners of war. The U.S. government's Operation Paperclip brought about 1,500 Nazi scientists and engineers to work on the U.S. missile program.[1] Similarly, Canada's post-war Operation Matchbox brought Nazi scientists and engineers to Canada. In 1950, Canada admitted 2,000 members of the 14th Volunteer Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, aka the Galicia Division, largely comprised of Ukrainians who served with Nazi police battalions and death squads. In November 1997, the Jerusalem Post published a series of articles calling Canada "a near blissful refuge" for Nazis.

Overall, Canada provided a safe haven for thousands of Nazi war criminals, even after thousands of Canadians sacrificed their lives fighting Nazism. Beginning with the Mackenzie King Liberals, successive Canadian governments have protected war criminals, hidden them in Canada as "deported persons," and claimed that they were actually legitimate patriots of their countries of origin who just "opposed communism." This kind of statement reveals the underlying reason that so many Nazi war criminals were protected, which was that as soon as the Second World War ended, the so-called wartime allies of the Soviet Union began rebuilding Germany as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, the country which had done the most and suffered the most to defeat the Hitlerites. Today, reconstructed Germany is the strongest country in Europe, with its economy once again led by the very same monopolies that backed the Hitlerites and were given a mere slap on the wrist at the Nuremburg trials. One typical example of a Nazi war criminal who escaped to Canada was Latvian collaborator Alfred Valdmanis. Valdmanis served as special assistant to Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schact and became Latvian Minister of Finance under the pro-Nazi Ulmanis government where he helped deport Jews to concentration camps and form the Nazi-commanded Latvian Waffen SS to fight the Soviet Union. Valdmanis moved to Canada in 1949 and became an advisor to the Canadian Department of Immigration, where he called for 20,000 Waffen SS members to be admitted to Canada. In 1950 he became Newfoundland's Director-General for Economic Development where, true to his Nazi roots, he negotiated a number of economic projects with German monopolies that had backed the Nazis such as Krupp and Hoechst. In 1951 he was accused of being a war criminal but denied the charges and was never arrested or tried for war crimes.

Another example of a Nazi war criminal who found a safe haven in Canada was SS Rottenführer Helmut Rauca who came to Canada in 1950. He acquired Canadian citizenship just six years later. On October 29, 1941, Rauca selected over 11,000 men, women, and children at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania, and ordered their execution, the largest mass murder of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War. Evidence against Rauca was overwhelming, yet he lived peacefully in Toronto until 1982 when the public outcry forced the Canadian government to deport him to Frankfurt, Germany. He died the following year before he could be brought to trial.[2] The cases of Valdanis and Rauca represent the reality of the complete lack of consequences for the many war criminals of their ilk who have found a cosy niche under government protection in Canada.

It should be noted that the current posturing about "bringing war criminals to justice" is not unique, including in Canada. At times through the years, in order to try to pacify the people's outrage at the ruling circles' blatant collaboration with Nazis and fascists, Canadian governments have also pretended to take a strong stand against Nazi war criminals. One major example is the Mulroney government's Deschenes Commission which carried out an investigation in 1985-86, after the public outcry that followed a claim that Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele might be somewhere in Canada. The result was a complete whitewash. Although thousands of names were submitted to the Deschenes Commission by citizens and citizen groups and millions of dollars were spent on the investigation, in the end the Commission reported it had found prima facie evidence against only 20 individuals, of which exactly zero were ever successfully prosecuted. Most of the documentation compiled by the Commission is still secret and inaccessible to independent researchers.

Since the publicity about the trial and conviction of the former Nazi war criminal in Germany has nothing to do with rooting out war criminals, what is it really about? In essence, the whole charade is supposed to convince people that those who perpetrate war crimes will someday be brought to justice, as well as imply that the era of the Nazis is gone and that only a few creaky old men remain who pose no threat to anyone and should be allowed to die in peace. Meanwhile, under this facade, the modern-day Nazis are reorganizing, especially in Ukraine and the Baltic Republics. In Ukraine, they hold positions in government and seats in the Parliament, and command their own private armies. This is no surprise since during the Second World War the Nazi-funded criminal groups Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) posed as "patriots" in order to massacre Jews, Russians and Poles. In the Baltic states, Nazis and neo-Nazis hold annual parades to commemorate the crimes their predecessors committed during the Second World War. In other European countries, such criminals organize "nationalist" parties that spread violence, racism and anti-immigrant propaganda.

The trial and conviction on June 16 of the former Nazi war criminal is also a ploy to divert attention from the fact that the world's biggest war criminals are now the U.S. imperialists and their allies such as Israel. The U.S., which took up the mantle of the Hitlerites following the Second World War, routinely commits war crimes around the world, including invasions of other countries, use of weapons of mass destruction, killing of civilians, targeted assassinations, organization of coups d'état, financing of fascist and racist groups, and the list goes on. The U.S. also protects its war criminal allies such as Israel, ensuring that they too are never held to account for their crimes against the world's people. At the same time, across the globe people are both openly denouncing U.S. crimes and actively fighting back against U.S. domination. In the end, the U.S. war criminals will suffer the same fate as their role models, the Hitlerite Nazis, a resounding and final defeat at the hands of the world's people.

Notes: 

1. For more information, see Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America, by Annie Jacobsen (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2014).

2. For more information, see War Criminal on Trial: The Rauca Case, by Sol Littman (Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1983).