Category Archives: Media

The world is waiting for the Democrats to become political

In today’s New York Times Paul Krugman (a really sensible voice, otherwise) for the nth time is convincing the already convinced that the Republican party is repulsive (which one must agree with). But there is something important missing.
A readers comment to NYT:

If the tactics used by liberal media are intended to promote the Democratic party in any way, it’s really puzzling. It’s main components seem to be the daily bashing of Trump, GOP and Russia.

If I were a Trump voter constantly called stupid, it wouldn’t make me run to the Democrats. And if Russian meddling was a real threat (it isn’t, listen to Noam Chomsky and many other sober people) I would certainly stick to GOP, where there are even more foreign policy hawks.

One thing clearly missing is positive marketing of a political program. What will the Democratic party do to win over Trump voters and the rest of the middle class, suffering from 30+ years of neoliberal destruction? And even encourage half of the electorate that doesn’t vote?

If I, as a foreigner, would give some impertinent advise it would be to focus on politics. There is a new wave of progressives emerging, some labeling themselves socialists (like the natural talent Alexandria Ocasio Cortez). In Europe they would barely qualify as social democrats, and their political programs are embraced here by most conservative parties.

The progressives offer real solutions to the problems people are struggling with, but the Democratic party establishment is hooked up to the donor class in a system built by legalized corruption. It’s not tenable in the long run.

An advice from a social democratic country: reconnect to the politics of FDR, your best president ever. Become more European!

False information in serious media is poisonous

Western propaganda about the despicable Communist hordes during the first Cold War was a no-brainer. There was no Internet; the Russian language was understood by no one but a few pundits, who used their skills to pick detached sentences from Russian media out of context to create the correct misimpression. The demonization went on as if Stalin never died.

Today it’s hard to even fathom such a propaganda-friendly environment. Technology has change the world radically. Now the Internet is a potent tool for enlightened, intelligent progressives to reach out to interested listeners and viewers globally. Measured against all the fact-based and rational information online, much of mainstream media products appear as propagandist demagoguery.

It’s hardly surprising that our self-sufficient media have painted a picture in which “fake news” and “disinformation” are characteristic of the Internet. They find the claim easy to “prove” by citing some knuckleheads or conspiracy theorists, of which there certainly are a few. (Spam is everywhere but is easily disclosed even by young teenagers.)

But the real purpose of defaming Internet is the threat from innumerable, informative sites, often free of charge at that. Already the media carriers – printed paper and fixed TV schedules – are rapidly becoming outdated. The young generation stick to their laptops for most of their communication and media consumption. What already has started to happen is that corporations move their advertising from the old to the new media, which will increase the pressure on newspapers and old-time television.

It could seem as if traditional media have the upper hand in the combat against dissident truths. People tend to believe the same old faces, backed by huge recourses with which to produce impressive presentations – on the surface. And some people certainly are sincere conservatives, though often against their own real interests.

But when corporate media slowly is pressured into the Internet world the level field may perhaps be leveled for the dissident sources. Propaganda lies don’t live forever and truths can’t be suppressed forever. Progressives just have to keep on working and never give up. Enlightenment, knowledge and truths will prevail, though it may take some time.

It took the Catholic Church 400 years to accept Galilei’s description of the solar system. Our corporate, conservative careerists are not that persevering. We just have to keep on grinding to separate the truths from the lies.

Liberals attack populists – after creating them

There is a war going on against liberalism, asserts my newspaper today, reviewing a book (The Shipwrecked mind) by a US historian (Mark Lilla). The attackers are the “neo-reactionary” right-wing populists, including Putin and radical Islamists, who all “have a contempt for liberal values”.

There’s just one hitch: liberalism is in itself to a large extent responsible for propagating the right-wing populist movements.

Today’s liberalism is perplexed and ostensibly unable to understand what happens. Its pundits mostly confuse surface with content, thus wasting energy and media space on futile “analysis”. (But it would be somewhat premature to conclude that their pseudo analysis is purely unintentional.)

The Trump phenomenon sparked the latent interest in right wing populism and extremism in liberal media., whose prime tactics has been to condemn the leaders and supporters of these movements (which has had the anticipated effect of instead strengthening them).

Well-intentioned liberal writers and thinkers try to teach the uncultured the importance of accepting immigrants, gays, feminists, colored people and other deviant individuals. They also devote their didactic skills to avert online abuse in the form of hate comments, fake news and deceptive information from “enemies”.

All this will lead nowhere, and I presume intelligent liberals are aware of that, and the reasons are obvious. Right wing extremism doesn’t come from nowhere, it has real roots in the real world. Apart from the fact that humans have some innate tendencies to xenophobia and racism, it normally requires real grievances for people to abandon what they know is good behavior. Those grievances are today created by neoliberalism.

There is consequently a need for abolishing dysfunctional manifestations of the capitalist societies, and that is something liberals won’t do. Their very function in our societies is to defend and protect the established order and its masters. They are assigned to herding in the more mild-mannered citizens, while real conservatives take care of the more hard-core (and religious) part of the population.

The 1970s can in many ways be regarded as the peak of western capitalism. Economic growth had been record high since the war, and the growth was distributed quite equally between labor and capital. Ordinary workers in North America and (northern) Europe could live comfortable lives, their organizations were usually strong and there was a sense of parity in the social fabric.

Temporarily baffled by the popular and democratic break-through these years, the owners of the world eventually realized that they had the economic power, that overrides other forms of power, and launched a counterattack on all fronts: think tanks, media, politicians etc. Soon the right-wing tide drenched all resistance. Liberals (and even Social Democrats) betrayed their constituencies and removed obstacles to unfettered capitalism by means of deregulation, privatization, cutting of social spending and much more.

Neoliberalism put its gloomy hand over the lives of ordinary people, while those who didn’t need more money got perversely rich. That’s in one sentence the basic motivation behind right-wing populism. Liberals denied people the means to oppose this detrimental development by refusing to respond to the grievances in any other way than to enhance them. The only answers people got were from crackpots who told them to blame immigrants, minorities, gays, liberals, anti-Americans and all the rest.

Why the liberals chose this way is no mystery. They serve their masters by sheer instinct, and that decides their highest priority: oppose everything “left” that breeds from the moral insight that we should care for each other through solidarity, welfare and preservation of the common good at large.

We have been through this before, most notably in Weimar Germany in the 1930s. The liberals of that time helped the Nazis to power with the expectation that Hitler would take care of the communists. We know how it ended. Our liberals are again playing with fire, and for the moment we don’t know how it will end.

Fake environmental protection, continued

Environmental problems is an important field for fake news, as noted in my previous post. For journalists and reporters in most media, environment is on top of the agenda, for good and for bad, as it turns out. The subject as such has the advantage of being a benevolent cause, at the same time a legitimate means to aggravate the audience, something media actors seem to value highly.

And many times media is on the right track, to their credit. The climate hazard is something they mostly get right, for instance. Now and then they also target air pollution around the world, a disaster that claims millions of premature deaths. But all too many times media take mythical, populist and science denying positions. And it’s striking how unidirectional mainstream media around the world are on these issues. A serious problem is that dissident media usually are even more on the mystical path regarding the environment.

If one asks a Swede what he or she does to protect the environment, the first thing a large majority will mention is “sopsortering”, which is to sort different fractions of domestic waste into separate trash cans and deliver to a special container park (which in rural districts may be located quite remote). Those fractions can be newspapers, other kinds of paper, plastic, metal cans, colored glass and colorless glass. (More special waste, like paint, solvents, electronic waste etcetera, must even in large cities be delivered by car to a central waste facility, which in those cases is motivated.)

The ideological superstition behind this giant quasi operation is that recirculation must result in new material of the same kind. Dirty and mixed plastic waste must thus be recycled into smelly, bad quality plastic bags, while premium petroleum very well may be burned in ovens, vehicles or anywhere. Same with short and worn cellulose fibers in recycled paper that must be used for production of very low grade paper, while premium, virginal fibers very well may be burned in stoves and even in large power stations.

Real experts on waste deem this recirculation as having no value for environmental protection whatsoever. Still it is considered by the population as their main effort to save the environment. It’s heartbreaking, and media is playing along, naturally, making no effort to enlighten people. Experts mention as a small example that it is twice as costly to make glass from recycled material than from virginal raw material (not including the considerable costs in time and transportation for recycling, that is paid by citizens). These costs can be directly translated into damage to the environment.

The most environmental-friendly way to handle waste consisting of paper, plastic, wood and other combustible materials is to burn it in a specially designed incineration plants with premium flue gas cleaning. Then the waste can be transformed to useful electricity and heat. (Glass is by the way perfect to improve slag formation during incineration.)

When passing a border between two municipalities in Sweden one usually reads a sign saying “Engine idling max. 2 min.”. It’s a local prescription, and there are 290 municipalities in the country, all of them obviously having decided the same thing. Of all possible prescriptions to put on thousands of signs one can think of innumerable ones significantly more relevant for environmental protection (“Driving max. 20 min.” would have been one.) But this is the kind of sham operations so common when it comes to environment. And no one reacts, least of all media.

Air quality in cities has become a main issue lately. When media reports on that here, car traffic is always mentioned as a main cause. It’s more seldom revealed that small scale wood burning (in our cozy stoves) often is equally guilty of this problem. But that kind of burning has by the ignorant been designated as environmentally friendly and is gently saved from exposure. This is the way media works with its ideologically motivated deception.

The real large scale deception by media is of course on political issues, on which western corporate media mostly is patronizing, self-sufficient and bullying, and yet unable to understand why people have less and less trust in them. To undress media is an educational process that has gained momentum, and which will be an important part of a progressive enlightenment.

Fake news as an old media speciality

“Fake news” is on every editor’s mind these days, and one could say that it’s about time, because there’s very much more to it than hits the eye today. It runs back in human history, probably till the very beginning, that people have lived in a world where myth, saga and intuitive senses of evidence have ruled, parallel to rationality and empirical facts. We are told that the Enlightenment marks the turning point at which reason and logic became the real hallmarks of human development. Would that it were.

We will probably never get rid of irrational spirituality, sometimes perhaps for benign reasons, but sometimes for unnecessarily stupid ones. Earnest media have double identities on this question, by both taking their enlightening task seriously but also nurturing specific myths and prejudice that has become “official truths”. Media have in any way a crucial role in forming the prevailing narrative.

There are innumerable examples, so let’s start with the toughest one: nuclear energy. We have just passed the 6th anniversary of one of the most tragic peacetime catastrophes that has ever hit Japan, the tsunami of 2011, which in most media now is renamed “The Fukushima disaster”. It’s indeed a remarkable disaster in which not a single individual has been injured, let alone killed. The real disaster – the tsunami itself – is repressed, and the almost 20,000 human beings that it killed seems forgotten.

The consequences of the Fukushima reactor breakdown, such as evacuations and decontaminations activities, were largely exaggerated due to public pressure, intensified by media and ordered by sensitive politicians. An important fact for perspective: there are areas on earth where people have lived for thousands of years with ten times higher radiation levels than those in the evacuated areas in Japan (look up “Ramsar”, for instance) and with no adverse health effects.

Already 25 years earlier the world had endured a similar event, Chernobyl, without media and others learning anything. More than a hundred of the world’s foremost experts on the subject made a deep and thorough study under UN auspices. Its findings contradict almost everything that had grown into the official narrative. They concluded that the damage on society, including the premature deaths among the public, was mainly a consequence of misguided actions by authorities, including unnecessary evacuations (reference: UNSCEAR 2000).

(One of the few Russians we like – Svetlana Alexievich – received the Nobel Prize in Literature, mainly for her reportage books. One of these covered the Chernobyl events and consisted of interviews with numerous people involved in the accident. A short review: it’s hard to find one single claimed fact in the book that is even close to true.)

Opposition to nuclear energy has become a journalistic faith, not surprisingly. It’s the perfect issue for keeping audiences alarmed at a convenient level, at the same time presenting a low probability that someone gets to call the cards. It’s likewise with other environmental issues suitable for alarmism. Organic products of all kinds are highest fashion here, as elsewhere in “enlightened” countries. And indeed, it sounds a natural thing.

About once a year my newspaper admits space for some scholars from our University of Agriculture to explain that organic farming has very little or nothing to do with environmental protection or health improvement (but the more to price increases). On some parameters, it may be slightly better than traditional farming, but on others it is clearly inferior. Among the former one finds the low level of pesticide residues, which on the other hand is an illusory victory. The pesticide risk we face is namely wildly exaggerated. The total amount of such chemicals we get through food in an entire year pose the same cancer risk as one single cup of coffee.

There’s more to this issue, but already too long, it’s time for an intermission…

Media has created their own favorite enemy – Trump

It’s almost entertaining to experience the western media frenzy about the lies and deceptions by their main enemy Donald Trump. The man has the guts to stand up against Media! That’s not just a breach of etiquette but a challenge against a power that is not used to being challenged. At least not by politicians.

Corporate media is (or perhaps used to be) the conductor for the charades called US presidential elections, in which two candidates who mainly agrees on all important issues, differing only on superficialities, perform a media show devoid of substance. It is thus a matter of life and death for election campaigns to be on good terms with media, not least in order to stay clear of public scandals, something that’s usually crucial for the outcome.

This betrayal of real democracy by media is not limited to elections, and certainly not to the United States. Corporate media is constantly making politics a shallow spectacle in which the most important issues are put aside, paving the way for empty rhetoric, personal image and style, thus defining the boundaries for what’s fit for politicians to say. This is spiced with brainless propaganda to defame the official enemy states and their leadership. By this the hacks have been elevated to power, in a way (or in their own eyes) above politicians.

It goes without saying that search for truth is not a media hallmark, as is not high ethical standards overall. In the ambition to gain deniability media mostly avoid outright lies. But more efficient than straight lies are insinuations, spreading of rumors and, above all, suppressing and censoring important facts that are detrimental for the prescribed ideology.

Up comes then this self-sufficient man who breaks all rules and challenges the media right on. Journalists and reporters don’t see that he just holds up a distorting mirror in which they may look at themselves (and laugh in despair). After betraying the ordinary US citizens for decades by withholding the truth about a system that consequently has worked to deteriorate living conditions for the majority, with the goal of funneling obscene wealth to a tiny minority, the media and the entire establishment has lost every shred of credibility.

And they created Donald Trump (just as mini-Trumps have multiplied in most of Europe and elsewhere.) By downgrading truth, reason and rationality in treating politics, media has opened a highway for the absurd parts of the Trump ideology. Citizens are lured to promote a semi-fascist to power, a man who will start by depriving millions of his voters of their health insurance (and give that money to the rich) and presumably go on in the same direction.

We have seen it all before, and that one ended in a global war with 50 million people killed. When will they ever learn…

Dedication to achieve an unsustainable world

Making Scott Pruitt head of the Environmental Protection Agency is equivalent to making Sam Harris an Archbishop.

This willful ignorance, bordering to devoted stupidity, is a threat to the whole world (giving me the right to opinions in these Swedish postcards). But is the difference between extreme right-wing populism and ordinary right-wing politics a difference in kind or just in grade?

There can be no doubt that the last 35 years of neoliberalism, aimed specifically at enriching a miniscule minority at the expense of the large majority of ordinary employees, have paved the way thoroughly for any kind of revolt. That this revolt in the US took the shape of right-wing populism is certainly not surprising. The same tendencies are apparent in Europe too.

The entire US establishment in politics and media (including the liberals) has done everything to obscure the real reasons behind people’s grievances, and overlook the neoliberal mechanisms. This establishment has not given the people any comprehensible explanations, thus opening the floodgates for the stupid answers from extreme right-wing outlets: “your problems stem from others taking your money: the government, the immigrants, the lazy, the liberals – let’s get rid of them”.

The complacency against this fascist-leaning propaganda is nothing but logical. If I were a multi-billionaire I would gladly give room for such ideas, rather than tolerating progressive thought, which really would be a threat to my wealth. In the US it seems as if the established liberals in politics and media feel equally threatened by the real progressives. (It took some conspiratorial actions by DNC to keep Bernie Sanders away from power.)

United States harbor the most cultured people with the sharpest brains, and in politics they usually are dissidents. As such they are effectively barred from communication with the bulk of the population. It’s nothing surprising about that either, as those with economic power owns and controls the “free” media. But the progressive movements behind the scene are lively and bright. As seen by the Sanders successful case the possibilities for enlightened and organized young people to break through the iron curtain erected by the handymen for the economic power are encouraging.

Maybe we first must endure La politique du pire, as the French say, meaning that we are forced to let horrendous politics destroy everything before something entirely new can emerge from the rubble. That optimism in the long run makes it perhaps easier to live through the day ahead without crumbling from all the absurdities.

There is a threat to western media, a well deserved one

The infamous list of 200 treacherous websites has reignited the “information war” narrative (the list is by some suspected to originate from immature Ukrainian hackers). But that war is in reality not about Russia, it’s about us. It’s about our insidious propaganda served with arrogance as if it were truisms. It’s our self-righteous presumption that “the others” are biased, but we (by mere definition) are not, since we always represent the objective reality. And it’s this loathsome conceit propagated in mainstream media all over the western world, almost verbatim identical everywhere.

To be fair, there are honest and skillful journalists and reporters, and there are independent media outlets. But for the core of mainstream media the judgement above is quite valid uniformly. And that observation is certainly no innovation; Herman & Chomsky wrote the standard work on the topic some 20 years ago.

But why take the side of Russia? I don’t think I’m alone in opposing the western narrative without having any specific affiliation with Russia. It’s undoubtedly an interesting and multifaceted country which we know much too little about. But there are traits in the Russian ethos, such as a kind of roughness and emotionality, in which I wouldn’t fit in very well.

The reason to fiercely oppose the western anti-Russian propaganda is not just that it’s unfair, ignorant and often plain stupid, but above all that it threatens to create a development that ultimately may lead to the obliteration of humanity. The very thought that the distorted narrative poured over us by our media with such irresponsible nonchalance might bring us ever closer to the final nuclear shoot-out is just unbearable.

During the first Cold War there was no interest in finding out the Russian points of view at all. Had there been any interest, there was no Internet to do it with anyway. The only picture we had was formed by the unanimous Anti-Communist canon, not subject to objections. Today the scenario is totally different.

Editorial writers in our petrified MSM are themselves evidences to this by getting tantrums about “Putin’s information war”, conducted through media outlets like RT and others. With this our MSM probably reach just the most ignorant or apologetic among their audiences, but they completely miss the informed and conscious ones. And that’s a serious neglect since RT’s posts on Youtube have been visited more than 3 billion times, far more than any other TV-broadcasting news outlet has achieved.

So, they are shooting their own feet point blank. They provide RT and its colleagues with the most effective marketing efforts – for free. People have computers and it takes a few seconds to get to RT.com. And there, probably to their surprise, they will find that “Putin’s information army” is a Foreign Legion, manned mostly by an enlightened crew of US and western European citizens. They’ll have to look hard to find a single Russian reporter.

But, alas, we have the talk show host Sophie Shevardnadze, granddaughter of a former Soviet Foreign Minister. Sounds Russian enough. Well, she’s of Georgian descent (a country nowadays induced by the West to become an enemy to Russia), moved to Paris at age 10, then on to USA where she studied at both Boston and New York University, speaks idiomatic American English. So much for Russia there.

What people curious of RT certainly find are some well substantiated news that never appear in their domestic media (of course there is also a small share of “local” Russian material, easy to skip for anyone who wishes). And they can listen to numerous western scholars, pundits, journalists and other experts talking about issues and taking standpoints ignored or suppressed at home. That’s the basis for RT’s success and for the new “Red Scare” in our domains. It’s in a way a popular revolution against western corporate media which for at least a century have been using their dominance to manufacture consent in a way that serves economic power, the only indisputable power in our societies.

US Election – Swedish media

Since media here overflows with coverage of the circus called the US Presidential Election a postcard from Sweden can’t escape that issue. The fact that the charade is more farcical than usual doesn’t prevent our media from treating it with subservient sincerity, although every enlightened person knows that the outcome is irrelevant for the real policy executed by the next president. It’s just two factions of the same Business Party competing, and the only thing entertaining is the fight itself.

We all remember Barack Obama in 2008. In his victory speech – indeed a rhetoric masterpiece – he appeared as an almost socialist savior who intended to redress every injustice and restore peace in the world. And we know what happened. He kicked off his tenure by bailing out some of the richest crooks in the country with §700 billion and (thus) helped them evade prison sentences. He didn’t fill Guantanamo with new unwanted people, instead he sent drones to kill them in their homes on the other side of the globe (thereby ridiculing the Norwegian Peace Price Committee).

Such issues are handled with kid gloves by our media, eager to bolster Big Brother. Our apologetic and protective attitude towards USA is obnoxious to the brink of suffocation. To have at least some fresh air and rational critique one has to turn to the New York Times, then you’ll understand!

Despite numerous and daily articles and reports on the US election it’s telling how such a central concept in US policy as Citizens United is treated by our main media: namely not at all. Searching the archive of our most important paper yields a few hits where this democratic abnormity is mentioned in passing, without explanation. It’s as if they want to spare their audiences the insight that the leading democracy in the world is nothing of the sort, just a genuine plutocracy.

It’s true that two (what’s called) populist candidates, one to the right and one to the left, have advanced fairly far in the process this time, indicating that people’s voice has some relevance after all. But it was unavoidable that Bernie Sanders were to be outmaneuvered one way or the other (and that was secured by DNC itself). The infamous “pussy grabber” to the right has come a step further, though he seems to stop there. Should he become president – God and the world forbid – he will be forced to implement the basic Business Party policy with just some minor modification.

There is no alternative.

Except that there really is! Real alternatives!

Western disinformation about disinformation

MSB – the Swedish mini-equivalent of Homeland Security – today came up with an additional reason for its existence: the importance to counter the “large increase of disinformation from Russia and ISIS”. Someone in that bureaucracy has discovered social media and found a lot of trolls out there. Surely they have also read about the Russian “troll-factory” in St. Petersburg. (One day they may perhaps find out that there are numerous trolls, fanatics and lunatics from millions of sources on the web, not just from Russia.)

One particularly dear example of disinformation is an allegedly fake letter from the Swedish Defense Minister regarding a weapons deal by which a Swedish company were to sell an artillery system to Ukraine. The letter circulated on Twitter and elsewhere and was said to emanate from Russia (no specific evidence attached).

If this was a deliberate disinformation operation the subject seems a little odd. To sell weapons to Ukraine is not a violation of any international law, it just doesn’t comply with a domestic Swedish policy principle not to sell weapons to countries in war (a principle not followed very meticulously in the past). One could certainly think of much more harmful subjects for anyone taking the trouble of faking a letter with the Ministry’s original letterhead and a copied signature…

Anyway, blaming Russia for offensive web activities seems to be a universal key for many who need to escape embarrassing situations, the DNC emails being the most recent case. Instead of apologizing to Bernie Sanders for its indecent and unethical actions against his campaign, DNC rushed to blame the incriminating leaks on Russia. The same procedure was of course practiced for the awkward Clinton emails.

Our most important newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, has extended their disinformation charges against Russia to also include, among others, RT (formerly Russia Today), the most viewed TV news channel on YouTube. The tactics used for this purpose is for instance to list some of the craziest stuff found on the web, and then mention RT, Sputnik News or other Russian sources in the same context, insinuating that these news outlets have something to do with the worst lunatics. That’s the kind of disinformation that self-righteous western media can indulge in without even scenting the self-contradiction.

As millions of viewers have decided by “voting”, RT is an interesting news channel, notably for presenting news and videos that never appear in the remarkably unidirectional western media outlets, which sometimes looks as if they are printed in the same machine or produced in the same studio.

It appears as if the western business run societies feel some kind of need to bid up the conflict level against Russia. Is war the aim? In that case the well-dressed western decision-makers are worse than the worst lunatic trolls on the web.