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WATCH: The Award Winning 2007 Documentary Sultbløffen [The Famine Scam] [Niger, BBC]

“My son, there are people that say things that aren’t true. There are people who organize in order to say things that aren’t true. They do this to save themselves.”

In 2009 award winning journalists Per Christian Magnus, Robert Reinlund, Anne Marie Groth, and TV 2 received the Great Journalist Award for their 2008 documentary Sultbløffen (also known as “The Famine Scam”). The Great Journalist Award is one of Norway’s most prestigious awards for journalism.

In 2005, the BBC alerted the world of a starvation disaster in Niger. Via compelling and emotive TV reports from the region, BBC claimed an estimated 3.6 million Nigerians were impacted.

The Sultbløffen documentary posed sharp questions in the way the Norwegian authorities and aid organizations described the situation in Niger. It was also very critical of the BBC coverage, which led to vehement reactions from the British. The BBC refused TV 2 further use of archive material from BBC’s Niger reports, which made it difficult for TV 2 to distribute the Sultbløffen documentary to other countries.

Regardless of BBC’s attempts to block the film from distribution, the documentary gained international honor for journalism, including third place in the Golden Nymph Awards. The “Golden Nymph” is the most prestigious television award in Europe.

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Further reading:In 2005 a BBC reporter made television reports about a famine in Niger. The international humanitarian organizations reacted quickly with aid. It later came to light that there had never been any famine. How did this situation arise? [“The Famine Scam“]

 

U2’s Bono and The CIA: The Dangers of Celebrity Activists

American Herald Tribune

August 2, 2018

By Thomas C Mountain

 

U2’s Bono picked a Capo Grande from the US intelligence community to run his “One” NGO, choosing Gayle Smith, who as Senior Director of the US National Security Council and Special Advisor to President Barack Obama used to tell the CIA what to do, especially when it came to Africa.

Ms. Smith, also known as “Obama’s Quiet Consigliere”, is infamous for her heart felt eulogy based on over 30 years of friendship at the funeral for Meles Zenawi, today Ethiopia’s “No.1 Most Hated Person”.

Previously head of USAID, known in Cuba as USCIA, Ms. Smith got her start putting time in the front lines for the agency, fresh out of college, spending years as a “journalist” (clergy and journalists are two of the CIA’s favorite covers) in the Horn of Africa of all places.

After years of paying her dues “where diarrhea is a way of life”, she became a favorite of Madeline Albright and was awarded the Chief of Staff position at USAID in 1994 only three years after ending her journalism career. Think about it, “Award Winning Journalist” to day to day control of some 10,000 employees and Billion$ to spend in only 3 years? USAID or USCIA?

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Bono, who recently found himself forced to apologize after his “One” staff in South Africa sued them for sexual harassment, makes sure those that labor for his good causes are well compensated, at least at the top, with Ms. Smith pulling down close to $500,000 a year.

Speaking of ethics Bono’s name turned up in the Panama Papers, hey, the guy hates taxes, who doesn’t?

Of course for NGO’s fighting on the right side, fat salaries and juicy perks are S.O.P. with “overhead” accounting for 50% or more of expenditures.

Gayle Smith has put the CIA and a pretty impressive list of NGO’s on the same page and was the person most responsible for founding the Center for American Progress, whose boss, John Podesta chaired the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. Then there is the Enough Project as in “Enough of the CIA’s Enough Project in Africa” and its mouthpiece, George Clooney, founded by Ms. Smith and infamous for occasionally emitting brays of outrage regarding some crime in Africa, often times over matters long past. Does the name John Prendergast ring a bell?

Ms. Smith’s proved her value to the Clinton Mafia as head of the Africa desk at the National Security Council in 1998-2000 under Tony Lake, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, when the Ethiopian gangster government under Meles Zenawi invaded Eritrea, a crime today’s Ethiopian P.M. has apologized for. Close to 150,000 dead and 40% of Eritreans refugees, Gayle Smith and Tony Lake were out to get newly independent Eritrea on its knees where it belonged and tried to use Ethiopia to do its dirty work. And when war didn’t work they brought on UN Security Council sanctions against Eritrea in 2009 when Ms. Smith returned to the White House as “Barry O’Bomber’s” right hand and saw that Susan Rice was turned loose at the UN to threaten and cajole enough votes at the UN Security Council.

The history of most of the crimes directed by Gayle Smith remain buried deep in the bowels of the US intel community, with yet unknown acts of sabotage and destabilization committed by “humanitarians” working for the USAID in politically troubled spots on the planet.

One thing is for sure that when celebrity activists like Bono and George Clooney get involved in the 3rd World, those supposedly benefiting by their charity had better watch out for celebrity wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing

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*(Bono Vox (U2) Toronto Int. Film Festival 2011 Image credit: Marco Manna/ flickr)

 

 

[Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and  reporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook or  best contact him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.]

Excerpt from The Big Conservation Lie

Book: The Big Conservation Lie

Author: John Mbaria and Mordecai Ogada

Publisher: Lens & Pens Publishing LLC Auburn WA USA 2017

 

 

The Epiphany

John Mbaria’s Encounter With Unseen Injustice

 

 

She was an unmistakable image of deprivation. The emaciated Samburu woman had thrown across her left shoulder a torn shuka, which left parts of her body exposed. She had braved the sweltering Samburu sun that baked the entire place bringing into being mirages of promise that failed to deliver more than that. As she advanced to the river, the woman attempted an upright position. But her stooped frame refused to yield. Nevertheless, this enabled me to peer into her cracked, multilined face. Her look was distant. Her thin hands held onto a cord with which she had strapped the empty twenty-litre water jerrican. Her entire frame talked of many struggles and probably as many defeats. The woman had emerged from a thick bush across the river, itself part of a natural spread dotted here and there by short, sturdy trees and broken, now and then, by awkward-looking hills. Some of the outcrops had been whitened by excrement from birds of prey. The vast, monotonous terrain extended into the distant horizon, giving packs, herds and flocks, and other residents a veritable abode. Some did not just live and let live; they visited local people’s homesteads with danger and intent.  Across the river was a scene removed from the reality of this unforgiving landscape. Under the watchful eyes of armed rangers, a group of us were happily and noisily climbing a rocky landform that formed part of the river’s embankment.

This was in 2001, and most of us were young, joyful journalists. We had been sponsored to the Shaba Game Reserve, 314 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, by the Sarova Group of Hotels, one of Kenya’s most prominent hotel chains with eight hotels—many of which are carefully stashed in some of Kenya’s most spectacular, most pristine pieces of wilderness. Located in Eastern Kenya, Shaba is where the popular reality TV adventure series Survivor III was shot in August 2001. Before that, the game reserve hosted Joy and George Adamson, the romantic conservationists who gave the world a reality show of life in the bush before they were tragically murdered. Together with its sister reserve, Buffalo Springs, Shaba boasts of seventeen springs that sojourn along subterranean courses from Mount Kenya—one hundred or so kilometres away—and which gush out there to convert part of this dry wasteland into a veritable oasis. Along its northern boundary flows the Ewaso Nyiro River that, together with the springs, has made the entire place a magnet for gerenuks, Grevy’s zebras, reticulated giraffes, lions, leopards, and hundreds of bird species that live side by side with the Samburu people. We were taken there to savour the unmitigated joy of spending time in a purely wild area. We were expected to reciprocate by meeting our brief—flowery feature stories embellished into captivating narratives that could attract and keep guests visiting the hotel and the reserve. Many of us were poorly paid cub reporters who could hardly afford the European cuisine on offer or the joys of partaking of a game drive atop four-wheel-drive fuel guzzlers. With a monthly pay that either equaled or was slightly more than the cost of spending a night in the extremely comfortable and luxurious hotel, we could not but agree to be spoiled for three days and be blinded by freebies. We roamed the area in vans packed with bites, booze, and soda. For lunch and dinner, three-course meals of continental dishes awaited—a veritable feeding frenzy ensued.

While on game drives, we hoped to spot elephants, dung beetles, and everything in between. Part of our exclusive experience included climbing a rocky landform close to the crocodile-infested Ewaso Nyiro River. It was while doing so that I spotted the elderly Samburu woman. Silently—almost in mime—and removed from my world, she was to take me through a host of lessons that dramatically altered my entire outlook on the grand wildlife conservation program Kenya and other countries in Africa have adopted since the dawn of colonialism.

“A conversation with the Samburu elders during a study on pastoralism, 2017” [Source]

For some reason, I found myself thoughtfully watching her every move. She dipped her jerrican into the river, rapidly filling it with the muddy, unpalatable water. The water notwithstanding, this had me thinking. With a load of European food still fresh in my belly, I could afford to summon some imagination. I conjured images of the immense peril the woman had exposed herself to. But what repeatedly danced in my mind was one image in which a four-metre, several-hundred-kilo crocodile emerged from the water, splashed dirty water into her eyes, and in a lightning move, grabbed the woman’s leg with its massive jaws, its saw-like teeth tearing into her flesh, as it then dragged her limp body into the deeper waters. In my mind’s eye, the croc went on to convert her entire existence into some unsightly bloody mess.

Thank God this did not happen. But in the case it had happened, I figured that it would have resulted in several eventualities: A photojournalist would have captured the bloody scene in a single, award-winning shot. The woman would have paid the ultimate price, ending up as yet another sad statistic. Many of us would have filed copious media reports detailing how “another victim met her death” or “I witnessed the worst case of human-wildlife conflict at the banks of Ewaso.” KWS rangers would have been summoned. And with cocked guns, fingers on triggers, eyes strained to the river, and adrenaline pumping into muscles, they would have first shot in the air to rattle any crocs. The rangers would have found it impossible to identify the culprit. Unable to isolate the life-snatching beast from the rest of the gang, they would have shot one of them—an act of appeasement to sorrowful relatives, tit-for-tat killing, justice delivered to a woman so shunned in life. The conservation juggernaut would have rolled on, as ever deceitful and callously removed from the plight of those who suffer the brunt of what it purports to preserve.

Yes, the woman lived that day, not just to take the dirty water home, but probably to go back to the river and risk her life many more times. Maybe she lived only to fall sick or die from the muddy, parasite-infested Ewaso waters. This is not just a possibility. Neither is it a mere probability or likelihood. It is a circumstance that is replicated countless times across most areas bordering Kenya’s twenty-two national parks and twenty-eight national reserves. Many of the people who live with wildlife in Africa meet their deaths, leaving hordes of orphans with no one to wipe their tears. There are hundreds of women—young and old—who have been denied the comfort of travelling through life with their spouses. There are men who must gnash their teeth in pain and immense anger each time they think of their late beloved spouses and children. There are countless more who live without limbs, just as there are many others who endure torn flesh, broken bones, blindness, destitution, and loss of entire livelihoods occasioned by encounters with wild animals.

In this Samburu woman, I saw the embodiment of a community praised for its traditional conservation ethics that spared for the world vast populations of diverse wildlife, a community, however, shunned by the world, even as acres of paper and decades of airtime are expended by many a conservationist and organization to discuss their welfare.

Upon this revelation, I refused to play along, and I made it my career to expose the rot.

~ John Mbaria, 2014

 

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Angels & Demons: Otherwise Known as the Conquerors & the Conquered

Revisionist Linguistics

March 31, 2018

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer

 

Michael archangel vanquishing the devil. 1603-06. Au Hans Reichle

The Abraham Lincoln statue, 1879, by Thomas Ball. Park Square, Boston

This opinion piece has been written to accompany the excerpt from the lecture given by Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans on July 5 for the OuiShare Fest Paris 2017.

OuiShare: “Unlocking the potential of creative humans to reinvent how we work and nurture systemic change OuiShare is a global community, a collective of freelancers and, at heart, an incubator of people driven by a set of core values. Founded in January 2012 in Paris, OuiShare rapidly evolved from a dozen enthusiasts to a global community spread across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and is an international leader in the field of collaborative economy, future of cities, future of work.”

From the OuiShare website: Jeremy Heimans: “PURPOSE, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, USA, Jeremy Heimans is a prolific political and social activist. He is CEO & co-founder of Purpose, a social business building global movements trying to change the world, and is also a co-founder of Avaaz.org, one of the largest and most powerful online activist networks in the world. He believes in the power of collective action to tackle the world’s biggest problems.” [Source]

Background

The concept of “new power” has been named by CNN as one of ten ideas that can change the world. “Originally laid out as the Big Idea in Harvard Business Review and subsequent TED talk, new power offers a frame to understand the distributed and participatory models that are rising in business, life and society.” [OuiShareTV]

According to Heimans, “power traditionally functions as a currency, something valuable to which society wants to cling. The new power, on the other hand, works like a current: it is fluid. While the old forms of power are based on pyramidal forms and a power that goes from “top down”, the new power works in reverse, “as an “upload”. The new models of power are founded and inhabited by the coordination and agency of the masses, without participation these forms of power remain empty. These new models are collaborative platforms that need the active collaboration of their participants to survive.” [Source]

Strengthening Current Power Structures With the Language of New Power

 

What the “new power” model actually represents is capitalism in its most efficient form. Citizens, en masse, are utilized, organized and mobilized to provide social media online content – which is then captured and exploited for increased corporate revenues – with no monetary compensation for their labour. Although such movements may appear to be “founded and inhabited by the coordination and agency of the masses” (Heimans) – they have been largely created, or co-opted, at or since inception. The “new power” “uploads” to an existing structure. The structure responds by “downloading” an illusion of capitulation in order to satisfy/empower the masses. Yet, by design, its true triumph is the achievement of the following: 1) creating/accelerating economic growth (i.e. market mechanisms),  2) consolidating added power into the hands of the West, 3)  the further insulating of the elite classes from all/any risk, 4) protecting and expanding the capitalist economic system, and 5) resolving issues only within the confines of the globe’s current power structures.

Never in history have such powerful conglomerates managed to foment and then seize the required labour to create billion dollar platforms and profits – for free, as they do today. Such fervor for the citizenry to bestow their labour to the elites classes is textbook “Brave New World.” Karl Marx’s theory of surplus labour is classically interpreted as the “extra labour produced by a worker for his employer, to be put towards capital accumulation.” It could be said (even in jest) that one good example of surplus labor in modern times is “the extra labour (physical) produced by the “prosumer”, the willing participants for the elite classes (via social media), to be put towards cultural appropriation and modification (in the form of social capital) with no ownership over the means of production (digital platforms).

Consider that while Western society criticizes the Bolivian government for legalizing child labour laws in order to protect working Bolivian children, it remains completely ignorant of the fact that the elite global corporatocracy is exploiting labour from their own Western children for free – via social media – in what we can call postmodern Western domination. A Brave New World model of “soft exploitation” – with no protection from adults whatsoever. [2] Hence while child labour is a respected part of Bolivia’s social conscience – the gross exploitation and manipulation of their own children and youth (that enriches corporations as opposed to enriching families) does not even register in our collective consciousness at all.

This direct line to youth via the cell phone surpasses all levels of social engineering on a scale never before imagined much less thought to be achievable. The art of storytelling, exploitation and manipulation, at once consolidated to create a youth populace in the image of superficiality and consumption. The Children of the West have been thrown to the wolves. A gift to our corporate gods.

 

 

As one of ten ideas that can change the world, embraced and highlighted by some of the world’s most powerful and elite  institutions, the false perception of grass roots mobilization seizing power (designed and financed by the oligarchs) is a strategic marketing maneuver designed to create a short-term euphoria that feels like victory. The perceived victory –achieved via “the deployment of mass participation and peer coordination” (Heimans) – is always made malleable to further protect – the identical powers. Hence, it is not “new power”, it is “old power” simply rebranded with more vapid methods of exploitation targeting and manipulating the target demographic, which is “millennials”.

According to Heimans what societies are experiencing and undergoing today is “a big war over values”. What is unspoken is whose values Heiman’s New York PR firm pledges allegiance to and is paid to expand: Western values.”

Angels & Demons

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

In the realm of behavioural change and the new era of “storytelling”, language is always key and framing is paramount. Heimans repeatedly frames citizens as “consumers” while viewing himself and the corporate oligarchs he serves as those “on the side of the angels. In this particular segment of the lecture, focused exclusively on Syria, Heimans introduces far-right “Trump” values  as “nativist” and “tribalist” that  will “essentially return” society ” to a kind of nativist tribalist world”:

“… so I want to show you this from our own work in Syria so I use this as an example of a pick a positive counterpoint right so if we think of ourselves at the moment as you know kind of big war over values in the world right on the one hand you’ve got the trumps and the brexits who want to essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world…”

[The original lecture, in its entirety can be found here: https://youtu.be/UWgPFGJBx7I]

The old adage goes “The more things change; the more they stay the same”. One of the things that has stayed the same is the utilization of language to manipulate the masses throughout history. Today’s  infusion of propaganda into the Western psyche through mass media is astounding. What is perhaps more stunning, is how words that have been appropriated in the most vulgar manner, that  should have been deemed as abhorrent in the past (and thus rejected) are now being utilized and hence popularized by factions of the elite to give further advantage to those in power.

“It is no accident that the contemporary uses of the term tribe were developed during the 19th-century rise of evolutionary and racist theories to designate alien non-white peoples as inferior or less civilized and as having not yet evolved from a simpler, primal state.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

Revisionist Linguistics & Colonial Narratives

Two  terms that have currently been transformed from ones of indigenous degradation are “nativism” and “tribalism”. These words were at one time used in a slanderous aspect directed at those designated as genetic inferiors due to a non-anglo ethnic background. Today they are being used in a similar fashion, but to denigrate a different adversary along ideological lines and not ethnic ones. This transference of motive has dictated the meaning of these words.

In order to correctly digest the change in climate regarding the minute differences in language, we must first look at the particular terminologies in question, how they are defined and to what degree they are used today in comparison to yesterday.  According to Wikipedia the word “nativism” is defined as the following:

“Nativism is the political policy of promoting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants. However, this is currently more commonly described as an anti-immigrant position.”

In terms of this definition in a general context, the determining factor of what is considered native is the point of contention.  As this terminology has now been procured by many on the alleged leftist side of the aisle, the fact of the matter is that the one thing that has been constant in its usage is the European being the determined native in the argument.

Therefore, that which has been dictated as nativists has remained the same as the focal point (the European), whether it was in comparison to the original inhabitants of the land (the indigenous First Tribe nations) or those that are currently the enemy, the almost exclusive black and brown migrants from the Global South. Therefore, the collective personage of victimization is the European with all other people being seen as invaders in the eyes of the Westerner.  This rationalization is due solely to ethnicity and locality of the European in regards to where he or she wants to stay and what environment is most needed for capitalism. Consider that the modifications and usage of the word native, to “nativist” or “nativism”, thoughtfully and crudely reframed to represent “xenophobic nationalism” is “an almost exclusively American concept that is rarely discussed in Western Europe.”

The Historical Context

 “Nativism is currently gaining traction across the Western world” — What Is a Nativist?, The Atlantic, April 11, 2017

In order to understand the intricacy with which the term native has been appropriated as well as the current movement of nativism, we must look at the history of appropriation regarding native rights. Rights which have been transferred from the first people to those who conquered them. Historically if you look at indigenous tribes, the migratory patterns came about from the necessity to  travel to places which would allow them to survive, have freedom and not be in conflict with those who were in close proximity. The end result of this curiosity and the travel is  the definitive indication of man’s residence as no more or less than any instinctual animal that prizes self-preservation as a form of a survival above all else. Yet in terms of that migratory pattern there were only so many places that were amenable to the survival of man. Man eventually had to accept that like any animal, it couldn’t venture far past certain places on the planet or it would perish. This relationship of life to Earth was no different than any animal found in certain regions of the world and not others. The locale will determine whether or not a particular form of life will flourish or perish. As man is like any other creature, its body acclimates to the environment in which it resides – only to the degree it is physiologically possible.

What was different in regard to the travels of the European from a cultural aspect is that it was done entirely for economic reasons. That is the burgeoning stages of the formation of the capitalist system. The beginning invasion of the European into these vast  foreign lands was done at the behest of trade if necessary and conquering if possible. But as any foreign invader who possessed ulterior motives yet lacked the strength to impose their will, the relationship began as one of charity of  the original people towards the European. Yet, as the Europeans strengthened themselves and moved from a relationship of dependence to equals to eventual dominators of the indigenous, the response from the indigenous went from one of acceptance to anger, to fear, and finally a plea for some form human decency.  Surely a reasonable request considering  they were the original caretakers of the land and even helped the European in their many hours of need.

If we fast forward to the present day, there is a most insidious element regarding the extermination of the indigenous, the original native, by way of genocide or ethnic cleansing: witness the unspoken method of supplanting the native by the Europeans (conquerors) appropriating the terminology that should be descriptive of the dispossessed. The best means of masking heinous atrocities is to scrub the victim from history and disallow him/her/them to speak for themselves. [2] From a philosophical context, this is why it was necessary for the European to exterminate the original native in order to take her/his rightful inhabitance as keeper and defender of the land.

Once this was established, it was then easy to lay the foundation of transitioning roles, from that of a meek interloper to the role of shifting and shaping the narrative as conqueror. A revision of history that erased the extermination preceding the present day circumstances of European domination. This was and continues to be most easily accomplished by dehumanizing the people who at one time resided here. To strip away the humanity of the aggrieved is in essence to place man (i.e. the white anglo-saxon) as rightfully seizing the land away from the native or animal, which has been designated not only as undeserving  inhabitants of the area – but even as detrimental to the land itself. The destruction of the native was no different than the destruction of the buffalo in the mind of the white power structure. The singular caveat being the verbalization of the destruction via the indigenous peoples caused internal consternation for some Europeans at varying degrees. Here we have an offshoot of the economic system colliding with the religious beliefs and social structure of racism. All converge to appoint the Anglo at the top of the hierarchy as the only peoples worthy of protection. To absolve centuries of deplorable crimes committed by the Anglo, their descendants obfuscate the truth by sanitizing and rewriting history.

As time moved on, the eradication of the original peoples made way for the European to write history in their image. The original native was erased and replaced by what has been deemed as the ONLY human:  the white man. Over the years, this transition nefariously evolved into one where the unacknowledged basic human rights of the “savage” (i.e. Indigenous) was eclipsed for the overwhelming protection of “the humans” (ie. White man) who procured the land and continue to control it to this day.  As a result of this, the overwhelming desire that permeates the consciousness of the Western world is for ” the humans” to protect its potential reclaiming by the “savage.” In a historical comparison, the greatest fear of the slaveholder during chattel slavery was always the rise of the slave. This foreboding mindset has permeated into every aspect of the present day Anglo society, inclusive of regions that are predominantly non-anglo (land reformation in South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.).

In reality, the Western mentality of nativism is merely a euphemism for the continued and escalating demand for the  protection of white people’s rights. It is nativism, which has fed the fervor for a wall “protecting” the U.S. from Mexico (described as any non-anglo who comes from south of the U.S. border). It is nativism that nurtures the belief (and fear) that any infusion of non-anglo people to Euro-dominated states is a sure sign of being overtaken by “the savage” – even when the surrounding environment demonstrates no signs of threat. The appropriation of being the native by way of extermination has led the Anglo to incur an abject (if not unconscious) fear: the fear of retribution (although there is no evidence to support this whatsoever).

The truth of the matter is this – “nativism” effectively erases racism. Discrimination and racist hatred of 21st century migrants and refugees is rebranded as conflict due to religious and cultural differences – not colour nor race. Political correctness replaces vulgar reality. Racists have been rebranded into politically correct “nativists” that are simply supporting the wrong political party due to a shortsightedness. No one in power wants to alienate nor offend racists when one day the same racists may tip the needle in your favour on a separate issue. But even more so, no one wants to be seen as an institution or thought-leader seeking support from or appealing to racists. Thus, the term “nativist” will be popularized in a country where racism is on fire.

Revisionist  linguistics is made to re-write history while simultaneously re-wiring our brains and preying upon our fears instilled by imperial, colonial and capitalist forces.

Nativism is racism – made politically correct.

Tribalism

Rebranding ethnicity as tribalism is a deliberate and systematic furthering of cultural denigration – one that by no accident furthers US imperialism and foreign policy. These rebranded pejorative terms have proven to be highly coveted by both media and academia resulting in the terms being more and more an embedded part of the social fabric – propagating the motive and desired effect: the representation (and selling) of Eurocentric and Western ideologies regarding what is and isn’t acceptable. The revamped derogatory terms are utilized by both the faux left and the far right.

“In New York, we term it ethnicity, but in Africa it becomes tribalism.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

The results are threefold. The language

1) further decays Indigenous identity.

2) reintroduces elements of savagery and negative, subconscious colonial connotations reinforced via societal conditioning.

Such an example is the perceptions cultivated in Western children using social cues and constructs via mainstream media, with Disney’s infamous movie Pocahontas being one of many cases. By the age of five, most children in the Western world equate the words “native” and “tribe” with Indigenous peoples.” Indeed this is a Western construct digested by children who are fed by and privy to its tentacles. 3) provides a tool for the expansion of neoliberalism. “Tribalism” according to Heimans et al implies a “disorganized, primitive, and less civilized peoples.” whereas “modern governments” (Anglo governments) are meant to “promote the fulfillment of individuals”. Thus, African and Middle Eastern countries, targets for the expansion of neoliberalism, are by extension, prime targets for the labeling of “tribalism” (i.e evoking fear in the Euro mind) by those with a vested interest in US foreign policy (while foundation money is the oil that turns the cogs in the machine). This is the beauty of social engineering. The ability to reinforce the behavioural economics of hatred (via fear and racism) – in broad daylight, hiding behind a wall of words.

The Descent into Tribalism, The Guardian, August 23, 2006:

“Modern governments, when they try to justify their existence in historical terms, are apt to propose a rough-and-ready anthropology for human development. First came the tribe – savage in instinct, ritualistic in religion and run on the basis of a grunting solidarity; humanity’s first exercise in collectivism. The nation, which takes its place, is for more refined, literate peoples and can call upon scholars and scribes, chroniclers and preachers, who propose common goals for the nation. Organised states, with their bureaucracies, sanitation services and taxation policies, like to think that they exist on a higher plane than either the tribe or the nation. Ethics loom large and morality’s plans acquire a finer focus. Modern governments are meant to promote the fulfillment of individuals, their happiness and ease of life. Savages have become citizens and can look beyond the narrow ambitions of the tribe.”

Instilling Ethnic Fear via the Utilization of Cultural Language

Image result for tribalism kenya

Image: Tribalism is utilized to conjure up images of the “black savage” in foreign (frightening) lands. 

Tribalism in effect has various usages, but all to the same effect. Within the mainstream, it is continuously used in a pejorative context – but viewed as positive or negative depending on the personal beliefs directed at those utilizing the language. Regardless of the person who is using it or whatever the particular ideological thinking, the seemingly benign use of “tribe” (used in reference to small groups, etc.) by extension implies the term “tribal” (used in reference to civil wars, backwardness, barbarism, etc.) and as a result gives the user a free pass for acceptable racist expression.  By continuously intermixing the explicit term “tribalism” and the centuries long socially cultivated subliminal idea of “African” (ie. phenotypical non-anglo) savagery – the ultimate result is fear, which is a more intense emotion and ultimately dominates the meaning, even if it is only on a subconscious level. Although not acknowledged, this subconscious racism hums softly beneath the white supremacist power structures.

Although no people or culture is perfect, there are examples of many that are a complete reversal of the global imposition of Western culture and its foundational principles in a market economy with no emotional investment outside of the worst traits of man, such as greed and avarice. For example, African philosophy in a general context before victimization through colonization and imperialism has historically been strongly associated with tribalism and an intimate feeling of attachment with nature: we’re not here to “have dominion”… We are a part of the Earth, we are dependent  on it… we have ecological responsibilities …. “Nature” is not just a resource…. We are nature.”

To delve further, this ideology is visible in various Indigenous philosophies – philosophies that represent the antithesis of Western consumer culture and therefore a direct hindrance and threat to globalization, to industrialization and, most importantly, to capitalism. This can be equated with the race to kill off paganism to be replaced by both Christianity and Catholicism. Utilizing language, the word tribalism is revamped and utilized to instill fear and further racism (strengthening white supremacy). The word becomes another instrument to decimate surviving/existing cultures – with the goal of replacing such culture with superficial nothingness – a consumer society. These rebranded terms have been the catalyst for the modern day subconscious belief system, where indigenous self-reliance will always be seen as a  threat to neoliberal order. What a “Tribe” represents in Africa could be loosely associated by sought after local ways of living in the western world – such as transition towns, slow town movements and overall movements for relocalization. All these movements are in direct contrast and opposition to globalization and the goals of corporatocracy.

Autonomous communal living based on subsistence agriculture and sharing are the enemy of foreign policy, the IMF, the world bank and essentially everything today’s global elites and corporate superpowers hold dear. In essence, we are being wholly conditioned to automatically perceive/equate non-Western culture as an automatic threat. Further, US and foreign occupations, destabilizations, wars and the rape, pillage and theft of resources (oil, minerals, labour) across the Global South are conveniently blamed on “tribalism’.  Hence – tribalism also provides a free pass to imperialism – while cementing the image of the “un-noble” savage. Tribalism & nativism are recolonization via linguistics.

Note: These characteristics are presented in a general context. We must be cautious not to simplify all cultures as monolithic or even perfect, rather a regional designator that runs current throughout the tradition of these philosophies as a whole.

In countries that fall under the imperial gaze of European and Western states, “tribalist” discourse has effectively crushed critical discussion of ethnicity in all states that are under the auspices and domination of European control, be it internal colonization (the native reservation system) or external imperialism (state control in other continents by way of multinational corporations). In Euro-dominated institutions and landscapes, (see the “Academic Imperialism” lecture by Claude Alvares) those that raise questions concerning ethnicity risk being accused of provocateurs inciting “tribalism” (ie: enticing division within a nation that is supposedly united). The ‘criminalisation of ethnicity’ and the erasure of racism in America via linguistics – must be acknowledged as another dangerous yet effective instrument of soft power.

The Purpose of Purpose

In no uncertain terms, academia and media have strategically and deliberately rebranded/reframed the words native (“nativist”) and tribal (tribalist”) with the most negative of connotations. Academia and NGOs, as highly financed apparatus of the oligarchy reverberates the language through the eco chambers of foundations, think tanks, universities and entities within the non-profit industrial complex, all financed and ultimately controlled by the oligarchs.

Going one step further, the word native is currently in process of being replaced/rebranded into “nativist”, which simultaneously and effectively erases all Indigenous such as the American Indians who continue to  resist an ongoing genocide by Europeans that persists to this day. “Nativists” could be referred to as revisionist linguistics since in its new form, “native” refers to native-born Protestant Americans – the “nativists” of the land – stolen from native tribes.

Sycophants of the establishment are tasked with the popularizing of such terms when it serves their interests. To further those interests, U.S. media has been abuzz in directing this type of subtle terminology, exemplified by current U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration since it came to power. The slander of “tribalism” directed at an enemy has become synonymous with someone being “woke” in leftist circles that are centered in the U.S. but has now reached global levels.

An example of this in the left wing faction of the establishment is an article in The Atlantic entitled “The Tragedy of President Trump’s Tribalism” (November 2, 2017) This article illustrates the shifting of the U.S. linguistic landscape, where what was once acceptable overt racism has now morphed into covertly coded language of acceptability, including that used by academia. With a fair degree of certainty, you can bet that when the world’s most prestigious marketing agencies polled for key words that stir up negative emotions in American constituents – the words native and tribes were both at the top of the list. If not outwardly said, definitely in the mindset of those in power, be it conspicuously or subconsciously.

Revisionist linguistics is made to re-write history while simultaneously re-wiring our brains and preying upon our fears instilled by imperial, colonial and capitalist forces. This is carried out by those on the right side of spectrum as well as those on the faux left.

“… you’ve got the trumps and the brexits who want to essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world and on the other hand you’ve got people who support openness pluralism compassion science etc the challenge for those of us on the side of the angels…” — Jeremy Heimans, Avaaz/Purpose co-founder

As illustrated by the supposed left spectrum, the dogma to be digested from the tenacles of empire is clear. We can “essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world” – or we can join Avaaz, Purpose, Heiman’s et al and the oligarchs they serve are those on the “side of angels” (ie. “ethical” NGOs).

In similar lectures, one such corporation on the side of the “angels” in Heimans warped view is Unilever: “… you know we’re in the business of purpose of trying to figure out how to do mass mobilization of people and we can’t mobilize enough people if we don’t get the help of some of the brands who already on the side of the angels on climate change to reach into their consumer bases technology companies [and] media companies… companies like Unilever…”

Neotribes

Above: NEOTRIBES video promoting through advertising for Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s.  [Source]

Yet, Purpose takes revisionist linguistics to an even more unimaginable level. Consider the marketing of “neo-tribes” by (former) Purpose/Avaaz staff and like-minded digital marketing executives for the purpose of branding, influencing and the marketing of consumer products as well as (Western) ideologies. Here the word of negativity is spun into positivity when applied to themselves (ie. the angels): “As neotribers, let us dream big but also stay rooted in pragmatism.” Rest-assured, “an angel” of a “neo-tribe” can and will employ the words tribes and/or tribalist, as well as native, for those that they forever denigrate and seek to further colonize. It is at the sole discretion the Anglo male, the self-determined and acknowledged bringer of “civilization” to the global non-anglo savage through colonisation and imperialism, whether the words are spun as positive or derogatory, based on their own desires as well as the desired framing for further conditioning of the citizenry.

“Organizations can adapt two network strategies. They can either build their own brand tribe, or reach out to existing consumer tribes. While some people will advocate one way over the other, both should be considered whenever possible. Regardless it’s important for companies to understand how people exercise influence within their tribes when reaching out to them. This will make their initiatives more native and successful… To be truly native and successful you should strive to understand and share as much of tribal culture as possible…Don’t forget. Influencers are tribal influencers. — The 7 Cs of Tribal Influence, Tribaling, Tribal Growth Hacking website, August 27, 2013 (Emphasis added)

In 2016 Alexa Clay presented a lecture titled Neo-Tribes: The Future is Tribal. Clay’s position scaling social innovation at Ashoka Ashoka (Soros) is but one past held position in her very extensive bio. With John Elkington [further reading: Beautiful Delusions] and Maggie de Pree she co-authored the report The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers, sponsored by the Skoll Foundation. Clay belongs to the class of upper echelon in elite activism. In addition to advising the Clinton Foundation, Clay’s voice has been highlighted by the International Monetary Fund. Clay serves on the (all-white) advisory board of Purpose Economy (the Purpose Network, Purpose Companies, Purpose Foundation). Incidentally, the lecture this opinion piece is based on was created for OuiShare and NeoTribes are partnered with Coliga – a part of Tipping Canoe, “an accelerator for consumer driven communities.”

The task of Purpose, Avaaz, 350 and a multitude of NGOs expanding into countries across the middle east and Africa is simple: convert  Middle Eastern values (evoking revionist linguistics such as “nativist” and “tribalist”) into Western values (“openness, pluralism, compassion, science, etc.”). In short, good vs. evil. Indeed, Avaaz has used this very strategy in the past, over and over, to satisfy and fulfill the wishes of empire – and fulfill they do.

 

End Notes:

[1] May 26, 2016: “Teens are spending nearly nine hours a day consuming media. And children ages eight to 12 are spending nearly six hours a day doing the same thing. Let’s say the average teen wakes up at 7 a.m. and goes to bed at 10 p.m. — that means that nine of their 15 waking hours are spent on their phones, computers, or tablets.” [Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/teens-average-phone-screen-usage-2016-5] | January 4, 2017: ” Teens now spend up to nine hours a day on social platforms, while 30% of all time spent online is now allocated to social media interaction. And the majority of that time is on mobile – 60% of social media time spent is facilitated by a mobile device.” [https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic]

[2] “The best means of masking heinous atrocities is to scrub the victim from history and disallow him/her/them to speak for themselves.” This paternalistic blueprint has been in place for centuries if not millennia. A recent example of this is deconstructed in the article “All Eyes On Dakota Access – All Eyes Off Bakken Genocide” which preceded the  Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits investigative series in 2017. A more recent example is identified under the umbrella of the “Reject Kinder Morgan” national campaign in Canada. The latest anti-pipeline campaign in a series that commenced with Stop the Keystone XL (in 2010, see investigative series and timeline) – which permitted (and made obscure) a 21st century crude via rail boom with billionaires such as Warren Buffett (whose family foundation NoVo is a primary funder of TIDES foundations which distributes the anti-pipeline funding) profiting to the tune of billions. Akin to the Standing Rock website, the Indigenous resistance website for the Kinder Morgan campaign promoted by international NGOs such as 350.org and Greenpeace, is actually owned/registered to a 350.org employee. Further, Stand Earth, the rebranded Forest Ethics NGO founded by corporate ally Tzeporah Berman, is hosting the “Protect the Inlet” data.

[These protests have had zero impact on the volume of crude being produced and consumed. Rather, the result has been the phenomenal and exponential growth of the crude via rail industry resulting in the deaths of 47 people in Lac Megantic Quebec in 2013. The pipeline campaigns essentially hid the new burgeoning industry of crude via rail from public view (and more importantly, scrutiny and dissent) while all eyes focused on a single pipeline. At the end of the day, devising a plan based on the fact “crude has no economic value unless run through a refinery” would be the most effective strategy for stopping oil as an energy source, is kept well-hidden.]

 

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity ‘Charity’: A Gift for a Vicious System

Celebrity ‘Charity’: A Gift for a Vicious System

Al Jazeera

December 3, 2017

By Belen Fernandez

Irish rock star Bono talks to pupils at a school near Lesotho’s capital Maseru on May 17, 2006 [Mike Hutching/Reuters]

When movie star George Clooney married human rights lawyer and fashion icon Amal Alamuddin in Venice back in 2014, the Entertainment Tonight website declared that “it was charity that came out as the real winner” of the multimillion-dollar nuptial festivities.

The reason for the alleged win was that proceeds from certain wedding photos were said to be destined for – you guessed it – “charity”, that favourite celebrity pastime that so often translates into massive PR points and saviour-hero credit, not to mention tax breaks.

We non-celebrities have been so conditioned to perceive charity as something unconditionally positive – rather than a commodification and exploitation of faux altruism – that we don’t seem to notice reality’s conspicuous absence from the feel-good world of celeb-philanthropy.

Case in point: reports that rock star Bono’s anti-poverty foundation ONE managed in 2008 to channel a mere 1.2 percent of the funds it raised to the people it purported to be assisting have done nothing to interfere with the man’s portrayal as some sort of messiah for Africa.

In the case of the Clooneys, who now preside over their very own Clooney Foundation for Justice, celebrity worship and Amal-mania have also precluded sound judgement. Objectively speaking, it would seem that “justice” is not really an option in a world in which human rights lawyer-philanthropists by the name of Amal Clooney wear outfits costing $7,803.

The obscenity of inequality

Currently targeted for charitable assistance by the Clooneys’ organisation is the Syrian refugee population of Lebanon, where, the foundation’s website stresses, “refugee children are sent out to work for as little as 2 dollars per day”. Roughly calculating, it would thus take a Syrian refugee child approximately eleven years to accumulate enough funds for the aforementioned outfit (less if accessories are left out).

Fantastically expensive galas, celebrity photo ops with black and brown children in international charity hotspots, and other mainstays of the celebro-philanthropist repertoire do little, in the end, to alleviate poverty, hunger, oppression, and the rest of the global ills that are repeatedly invoked to tug at heartstrings and thereby provoke admiration and/or financial contributions to the cause being peddled.

This is not to suggest, of course, that one must always calculate and justify one’s expenses in terms of Syrian refugee income, but rather to point out that any sort of actual justice in the world would require dismantling the prevailing neoliberal panorama of obscene economic inequality.

In a forthcoming book titled Against Charity, authors Julie Wark and Daniel Raventos offer a meticulous and scathing indictment of the institution of charity as a key component of the neoliberal order – and of the role of celebrity philanthropists in keeping the have-nots in place and the powerful in power.

Celebrities, write Wark and Raventos, “draw attention to social distress but immediately cover it up by giving the impression that something is being done” by the wealthy of the world, who have the money to do things.

But fantastically expensive galas, celebrity photo ops with black and brown children in international charity hotspots, and other mainstays of the celebro-philanthropist repertoire do little, in the end, to alleviate poverty, hunger, oppression, and the rest of the global ills that are repeatedly invoked to tug at heartstrings and thereby provoke admiration and/or financial contributions to the cause being peddled.

Again, were global oppression to somehow magically cease, the “philanthropic” rich and famous would be up a creek – since no arrangement governed by literal justice would allow the obsequiously-celebrated “poverty fighter” Bill Gates to own a house with 24 bathrooms or for the ever-so-charitable David and Victoria Beckham to trademark their children’s names.

Disappearing context

Regarding the function of celebrities within “a system that sees famous people as brands and thus consumer products”, Wark and Raventos note that celebrity “excess” helps sustain the consumerist model by providing glorified examples of over-the-top materialism – while celebrity “beneficence” helps whitewash the brutality of institutionalised socioeconomic disparity.

Meanwhile, the “awareness” that celebrities purport to raise for their respective causes is frequently devoid of the political context necessary to comprehend contemporary causes of human suffering.

Take, for example, actress and philanthropic superstar Angelina Jolie, whose work as Special Envoy for the United Nations refugee agency elicits continuous media prostration before her charitable “radiance“.

Descending upon war-torn nations and refugee camps in characteristic superhuman perfection, Jolie decries earthly injustice – while regularly excising crucial pieces of the puzzle from her lament.

This was the case in a March 2017 speech in Geneva, when Jolie referenced “the conflict in Iraq – the source of so much Iraqi suffering to this day”, and yet proceeded to self-identify as “a proud American” and a believer in the notion that “a strong nation, like a strong person, helps others to rise up and be independent”.

Never mind that the US – a strong nation indeed – happens to have effectively destroyed Iraq, inflicting unquantifiable death and misery upon the Iraqi people.

In Iraq and beyond, in fact, the military and economic policies of the country of which our heroine is so “proud” have contributed to a range of humanitarian crises now abstractly seized upon by Jolie & Co – not least the Saudi-led starvation of Yemen, aided and abetted by none other than the US.

It’s showtime

A recent Vanity Fair cover story on Jolie touches on numerous aspects of the actress’ life, from her new Los Angeles mansion – “listed for around $25 million” – to her cofounding, with British former foreign secretary William Hague, of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in 2012. According to its website, the initiative “aims to raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence … in situations of armed conflict and rally global action to end it”.

This is the same Hague who, in addition to fervently championing the war on Iraq, argued in 2015 that just because Iraq had turned out poorly didn’t mean the west shouldn’t intervene in Syria.

In other words, so much for the prevention of violence.

Wark and Raventos observe that “the demigods of celebrity culture are a symptom of a general moral and ethical malaise in which, as capitalism is foundering in its own morass, mythmaking is essential for keeping the show going”.

If only the curtain would fall – not only on the sideshow of celebrity philanthropy, but on the myth itself.

 

[Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.]

 

The Market of Pain: Corruption & Fetishized Altruism in International Aid

Critical investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa

December 4, 2017

By: Emeizmi Mandagi, University of California – Irvine

 

United Nations website: “In Malawi, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson spotlights efforts to end child marriage.” [Source]

The University of California’s Global Peace and Conflict Studies Colloquium Series recently hosted UC Irvine’s Visiting Researcher Dr. Maria D. Bermudez on November 9, 2017 for a lunch colloquium. Drawing on over 16 years of experience working with international organizations including the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Dr. Bermudez  argued that within international and non-governmental aid organization, there is a fundamental form of corruption due to the culture of impunity in these organizations and in the market of “fetishized altruism.” While corruption in international aid is classically focused on corrupt acts by international workers for private or personal gain, Dr. Bermudez asserted that in fact there is a more fundamental form of corruption in international aid that involves inaccurate descriptions of realities and results for the purpose of demonstrating efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimately gaining leverage in the competitive market of donors and funds.

“The White Man’s Burden (Apologies to Rudyard Kipling)” Judge, 1 Nisan 1899, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Dr. Bermudez opened her talk stating that the United Nation’s budget for international aid in conflict areas is 40 times higher today than it was in 1950. However, the issue is not necessarily the quantity of money but rather the type of money that is coming in today. Dr. Bermudez emphasized that there is a stark difference between approved core funding, and the real expenditure provided by voluntary contributions from private and corporate donors, foundations, and member states. The allocation of this budget is therefore based on what the members of the donor organization desires. This is in line with a critique covered earlier this year by the CIHA blog on “Culture in Aidland,” a talk by Mark Schuller who highlighted that the current reward system is not designed to hold agencies accountable to the recipients of aid, but rather to the donors. Similarly, Dr. Bermudez mentioned that in 2014 alone, 151 countries received more than $127 billion USD of Official Development Assistance (ODA), but such exorbitant amounts of money are difficult to track and understand how the money is achieving desired results (and who is deciding what are the desired results!).

Dr. Bermudez offered the UN as a case study, which she argued is an organization that supports a culture of impunity. As a committee that reports to itself, the structure of the UN is problematic because, despite its best intentions, the organization and its members can easily engage in abuse, corruption, and secrecy as they are usually shielded by diplomatic immunity. There is little to no accountability of members, nor is there proper follow-up on investigations despite the implementation of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) Reports. Instead, the status quo established at inception in 1946 continues to be upheld.

Dr. Bermudez further explained that in the field of international aid, there is a market of “fetishized altruism.” She explained that individuals are drawn to the altruistic and heavily idealized concept of “helping” – for example, helping Africans to get access to clean water by building wells, or advocating for the end of female genital mutilation. International aid agencies adopt particular programmatic goals and approaches informed by such moral justification to “help”. However, this results in an unlimited proliferation of international aid actors. This raises the question of who provides oversight on these aid actors and ensures they do not cause more damage than good. Additionally, who ensures that these aid actors are properly trained and prepared? With such a high number of available aid actors, there is an increasing need for training that informs aid actors of the local cultural customs, social norms, current political environment, and the necessary historical context and background. Such training usually requires a deep commitment to a particular location which is often not the scope and structure of international humanitarian work where scale and global reach are valued. At CIHA Blog, we seek to provide humanitarian actors, scholars and students who work on the African continent with a source of information and resources that can help ground their work and efforts in local contexts and histories.

Dr. Bermudez argued that the inherent structure of international aid organizations itself creates a “market of pain” in its attempts to aid communities. For instance, organizations face the double client dilemma when they compete for aid, because organizations have to meet the demands and expectations of donors rather than the needs of those they supposedly serve. Dr. Bermudez concluded by stating that there is a strong need for monitoring the results of international aid projects rather than focusing on manufacturing data and reports to stay relevant in the international aid sector. She held that there needs to be a shift in what is expected of international aid organizations regarding accountability for corruption, adequate training of international aid actors, a focus on the respective communities receiving aid as opposed to a focus on donors, and the types of solutions and projects implemented.

 

[Maria D. Bermudez is a visiting researcher at UCI. She holds a PhD in International Relations by SciencesPo, Paris, France and brings 16 years of experience working with international cooperation in the field of Human Movements, Forced Migration and Refugees, Human Rights, Post-conflict Institution Building and Rule of Law, in more than 20 conflict or post-conflict countries, for different organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).]

[Emeizmi Mandagi is an Irvine Intern at the University of California.]

 

Thomas Sankara: Africa’s Unsung Inspiration

21st Century Wire

September 5, 2017

by P.D. Lawton

 

Thomas Sankara, a man in his early thirties transformed the world’s poorest country at that time, Upper Volta, into a self-sufficient modern thinking nation in just four years.

This African miracle nation remains little known about in the West because its story contradicts every negative image that has ever been painted of African leadership and African nations. Sankara would prove to the people of Burkina Faso, to other African nations and to the colonial powers what could be achieved in the blink of an eye by Africans under African leaders of integrity.

Upper Volta in 1983 was little more than a French run labour camp for French run Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). This region of West Africa was up until the mid-1800’s part of the ancient Mossi Kingdom, and has always been called ‘The Land of Upright Men’, men of integrity, hence the name Burkina Faso. Spiritually the people of this region are of great significance and still  to this day practice the world`s most ancient belief.

In the August Revolution, Sankara and the military overthrew the CSP (Council for the Salvation of the People) headed by conservative Jean-Baptiste Quedraogo and formed a new government of the National Council of the Revolution (CNR).

Two years later infant mortality had dropped from 280 deaths for every 1000 births to 145, with the aid of Cuban volunteers and a mass vaccination program. School attendance rose, in two years, from 12% to 22%. In just the first year of its implementation, Sankara’s environmental program to halt desertification in this Sahel region, over 10 million trees were planted. Without international aid which was not forthcoming from the World Bank with which to improve infrastructure, Sankara and the population got down and dirty and with their bare hands and laid hundreds of kilometres of railway track to facilitate manganese extraction. This was not done by forced labour at gunpoint, there were no bloodbaths under Sankara who did not believe in war but instead, in ideas. Like Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Sankara got the people of his country to prove to themselves that they could achieve anything they put their minds and hearts into. The previous government were brought before a tribunal and asked to explain to the people of the country why they had misappropriated so much money. This was there only form of punishment and public humiliation. This is on record. One of Sankara’s first acts as president was to slash his ministers’ salaries, starting with his own. He sold the previous government`s fleet of Mercedes and replaced them with little Renault 5’s, which is what he drove. This is a stark contrast to the Kenyan governmental 2003 purchase of $12 million worth of luxury cars. Sankara remained humble and refused to allow his portrait to be displayed across the country, explaining that it was their revolution and that “There are 7 million Thomas Sankaras.” At the time of his assassination his salary in 1987, was $450 a month and he owned one car and four push bikes.

Sankara dissolved all other political parties, seen by him as representative of the colonial powers and open to subversion, just as did Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.

This man was loved by his people. In his attempt to raise the consciousness of the people as a  whole and to do away with colonial and long standing feudal practices within society he abolished all gender regulation, making women the equals of men, appointing many to government positions, allowing them to join the army which they did and proved themselves the equals of male soldiers; and started a National Women’s Day on which all women could stay at home and the men to take their places in going to market for the day`s groceries. Women loved it! Great strides were taken to speak openly against domestic violence and women’s traditionally subordinate role. Thomas Sankara was the first leader in Africa to do this; brave to say the least in an extremely patriarchal culture, and one of the first leaders in the world to promote women’s rights for genuine reasons.

“We must give a job to every woman of this country. We must give every woman the means to earn an honest and decent living.”

 

“Our country produces enough to feed us all. We can even produce more than we need. Unfortunately for lack of organization we still need to beg for food aid. This type of assistance is counter-productive and has kept us thinking that we can only be beggars who need aid. We must put aside this type of aid and succeed in producing more because the one who feeds you usually imposes his will on you. Let us consume what we can control. Some people ask me: But where is imperialism? Just look into your plates; you see imported corn, rice or millet. This is imperialism. No need to look any further… Of course, we encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid. But in general welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us; thus beguiling us and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political and cultural affairs. We choose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being.

Thomas Sankara recognized the western-run pseudo-philanthropic-humanitarian effort for what it is in Africa today. That it is the same as “Debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa,” which he said before the OAU summit in 1987. In his enlightened understanding of economics, he refused all but essential aid and encouraged instead for people to buy produce and products grown or manufactured within Burkina Faso. This policy for the domestic economy`s revival (which happens to be the exact opposite of all World Bank economic policy) created in just 4 years,  a cotton growing, processing and fabric industry that beautifully clothed the entire population as well as exporting. So people would feel pride in modern-traditional clothes, in Burkinabe fashions and look African instead of advertising coke and blue jeans. All government workers, teachers etc. had to wear Burkinabe clothes (this was actually not to everyone`s taste so government workers tended to have a spare outfit at all times in case Sankara called by, they called the traditional clothes the Sankara-is-coming-outfit).

Sankara started a mass housing project and brick factories to build homes so no-one would live in an urban slum but would live with dignity whether in the rural areas or in a city. In 4 years all regions of Burkina Faso were connected by a network of roads. Sankara was the first African leader to encourage people to take up sport or other forms of fitness as “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” And Sankara was the first president to speak about real environmentalism. He started a project to plant a grove in every village, a grove of trees and shrubs to remind people to respect and protect the land. Tens of millions of trees were planted in under 4 years to combat desertification. During all of these programs Sankara got down and dirty; he personally planted hundreds of trees, made bricks and laid stones on railway lines, there were no tasks that he asked people to perform that he wouldn’t do himself. This man was a hero.

Within 4 years Burkina Faso had become self sufficient. The average for the Sahel region is 1700kg of wheat per hectare. In 1986 Burkina Faso was already producing 3900kg of wheat per hectare.

Within Sankara’s understanding of the nature of colonialism and how it had undermined Africans own self-worth and within his understanding of neocolonialism and how subversive force counter-revolutionized people back into accepting western economics; were the reasons for his political, ideological indoctrination of the people. He forced into people’s minds progressive thinking and had them repeat mantras of how they were going to change the future of themselves, each other and their country. These activities were labelled by Western media as communist indoctrination meetings. Sankara also started the Pioneers Movement which trained children under twelve in social responsibility. He knew they would be the county’s future and his efforts were to oppose what he knew would take place in Western-backed counter-revolutionary thought. His ideological training of the adult population was based on a number of de-brainwashing techniques, to instill new positive thinking and confidence, but also as he said:

“…. a soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal.”

He didn’t want Burkina Faso to ever become part of an orchestrated bloodbath run by armed men with no aim, no principles and only gain, which he saw happening across Africa.

Already by 1984 Sankara`s revolution was influencing people across the continent, giving hope and questions to people and giving ground for fear from the imperialist powers.

The final nail in the coffin for this sublime hero of Africa was what he later said at the OAU summit in 1987. He asked the leaders present in the most affable manner to unilaterally reject African debt.” A loan is a gamble, like in a casino “, he explained that while African states remain in debt to the colonial powers they will remain dependents. He put forward an economic solution for Africa that is in complete contrast to World Bank policy and said:

Let’s make sure that the African market belongs to Africans. Let’s produce in Africa, manufacture in Africa and consume in Africa. Let’s produce what we need and consume what we produce.”

 

“The Debt problem needs to be analysed starting from its origins. Those who lent money to us are the same people who colonized us, are the same who so long managed our states and our economies; they in-debted Africa with ‘donations’ of money. We were not involved in the creation of this debt, so we should not pay it. The debt, moreover, is linked to the machinery of neo-colonialism, the colonizers became technical assistants, I would call them technical assassins, and they suggested, recommended to us the financiers, they told us about the financial advantages. That is why we indebted ourselves for decades and renounced the satisfaction of our people`s needs. In today`s shape, controlled and dominated by imperialism, the foreign debt is a well-organized tool of colonial re-conquest: in order to make the African economy a slave of those who were so clever as to give us capital with the obligation of reimbursing them. We are asked to reimburse our debt. But if we do not pay, the capital lenders will not die, if we pay, we will die. We cannot pay, and we don`t want to pay. We are not responsible for the debt burden. We have already paid a lot of the debt. We are asked to co-operate in researching balance mechanisms, balance in favour of those who own the financial institutions and use the power against the peoples. We cannot be accomplices. The Paris Club is there, let’s create the Addis Ababa Club for cancelling our foreign debt. Our Club should say-our debt will not be paid. Don’t think it is a proposal made only by young people like us. Mrs Bruntland said African countries cannot pay, as did Mr Mitterrand and Fidel Castro… we should explain in other conferences that we cannot pay. We must be united, otherwise, individually we will be murdered. Avoiding debt repayment is a condition which will allow us to free resources for our development.”

Source: Asad Ismi, ‘Impoverishing a Continent: The World Bank and the IMF in Africa‘, (2004).

The assembled “open unpatriotic sons of Africa,” bought and paid for by foreign powers and their corporations, refused to hear him and just as he knew would happen if they did not back him in unison, Sankara was not present at the following year’s OAU summit.

Back in Burkina Faso with French Intelligence and the Foccart business network behind them, Blaise Compaore began agitating, telling people that Sankara was holding back from them the prosperity on offer. Compaore and his top military men assassinated Thomas Sankara on the 15 October 1987.

“In a way, great men enlighten people, enlighten their time long after they`ve gone; and I say after their death because its when you`ve lost something that you become aware of its true value. Sankara has become a moral and spiritual reference for us all.”(Jean-Hubert Bazie from Robin Shuffield’s documentary)

Main Source: documentary on YouTube, a film by Robin Shuffield, ‘Thomas Sankara, The Upright Man’. Watch this short impactful film:

 


[Author P.D. Lawton is a native of South Africa and host of African Agenda, and committed to finding African solutions to Africa’s political and socio-economic problems.]

The Big Conservation Lie Exposes Colonial Dynamic at the Heart of Conservation Policy

Ecologist

August 9, 2017

by Lewis Evans

 

 

Mordecai Ogada was sitting in a luxury safari lodge, admiring the view of Kilimanjaro. He could see many of Africa’s most iconic species -giraffe, water buffalo, even a few elephants far in the distance.

As a professional conservationist, with a PhD in carnivore ecology, the sight was both familiar and pleasing. He was being treated like a tourist. Someone came in and offered him a cocktail. Then, one of his white hosts and sponsors, the people whose largesse he was enjoying, said: “We’re going to have to move that Maasai village. It’s spoiling the view for tourists.”

For Dr. Ogada, this was a decisive moment. “I was a qualified black face, put in place to smooth over fifty years of exploitation.”

The Big Conservation Lie is written by people who are actually from one of big conservation’s key target countries. It dismantles many of the environmental movement’s most troubling myths: the pristine wilderness “untouched by human hands” until European arrival; the supposed lack of interest or expertise in wildlife among native conservationists and communities; the idea that brutal poaching would be endemic without foreign intervention, and so on.

A colonial narrative

Ogada and Mbaria sum up the essence of their argument early on: “The wildlife conservation narrative in Kenya, as well as much of Africa, is thoroughly intertwined with colonialism, virulent racism, deliberate exclusion of the natives, veiled bribery, unsurpassed deceit, a conservation cult subscribed to by huge numbers of people in the West, and severe exploitation of the same wilderness conservationists have constantly claimed they are out to preserve.”

To colonisers, Africa is and always has been a “wild and uncontrollable environment” – home to “charismatic” species that can be admired (or shot) from afar. The conventional narrative has generally suggested that only European and American expertise can tame or protect it. The authors argue that this has given western NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) enormous power.

It has also created space for white “saviors” (and the “saviors” are always white), such as George Adamson, Jane Goodall, and Iain Douglas-Hamilton, to step in and be seen to make the decisive difference. There’s no place for Africans in the picture.

Damaging myths

Ogada and Mbaria take aim at some of conservation’s most sacred cows. George Adamson, for example, the white British subject of the 1966 film “Born Free” is exposed as a chancer, a failed businessman who accepted  conservation donations, despite being a trophy hunter with next to no conservation expertise.

Much of the authors’ scorn is reserved for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Though it presents itself as a conservation organisation, the true face of this “service” is revealed. It is composed mostly of retired soldiers and mercenaries, heavily armed and organised much like a militia.

Run for many years by Richard Leakey, a wealthy white Kenyan of British descent, it is accused of corruption, violence, and perpetuating the appropriation of some of Kenya’s most fertile areas by the British colonials and their descendants.

As the authors point out, the KWS receives funding, equipment, and training from western powers, including the United States and Great Britain. This doesn’t stop if from profiting from the land it supposedly exists to protect, through tourism, and even ties to big mining and pharmaceutical companies.

It is revealed to have cut deals with the German corporation Bayer, and some of its most senior figures have themselves been implicated in wildlife crime, including ivory trafficking. Despite this, they and the armed operatives they command are considered “above suspicion” by the Kenyan authorities.

A failure to respect indigenous knowledge

Similarly, they expose the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the best-respected of the big conservation organisations, for having supported a project which involved evicting thousands of Maasai people from forests which they’d been dependent on and managed for millennia.

This is despite the fact that the Loita woodland that they were removed from was largely intact at the time, whereas areas of forest which had been in western hands for decades had badly deteriorated. This is typical of the “externally-defined agenda for social development” which the authors critique, and which often doesn’t involve much effective conservation.

Many western conservation charities, it’s argued, exist primarily to secure publicity for their founders. A recent example is “Space for Giants” – an initiative founded by Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev.

The organisation has released several high profile op-eds and photos showing “action” in the name of conservation, but has, according to the authors, done little on the ground, beyond charging over $5,000 a head (plus mandatory donation) for luxury safari tours.

What a lot of western-initiated conservation boils down to, according to Ogada and Mbaria, is “surveillance of vast areas with huge mineral potential under the guise of wildlife conservation.”

African solutions to Africa’s problems

In place of this neocolonial approach, they advocate closer partnerships with local and tribal communities, respecting and using the extraordinary, but unacknowledged, expertise about the natural world that already exists in large parts of Kenya and the wider world.

There are plenty of Africans working in conservation, but they get very little recognition for their work. Professionals like Dr. Ogada are not only experts in their field, but also provide a different perspective on the deeply flawed western approach to conservation, an approach which has failed, even on its own terms.

Likewise, there are millions of people across Africa who live largely sustainable lives and have plenty of insights to offer, if only western conservationists would be willing to step aside and put them at the forefront of the environmental movement. Only by listening to Africa’s tribal peoples – the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world – will we stand any chance of protecting the natural environment.

“The Big Conservation Lie” is highly recommended for anyone interested in this struggle, or in debunking the pervasive myths that are holding the environmental movement back. It is a bold and important book that deserves your attention.

 

 

[Lewis Evans is a campaigner at Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights. The Big Conservation Lie is available to purchase from Lens & Pens Publications.]

 

AVAAZ: The Globe’s Largest & Most Powerful Behavioural Change Network [Part I]

July 27, 2017

By Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

Avaaz Investigative Report Series 2012 [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VI

 

This series builds on Cory Morningstar’s previous writing and research tracking the connecting lines of networked hegemony that exist between the elite funded NGOs that dominate the non profit industrial complex. Here Morningstar sharpens her focus on key individuals involved in rebranding business-as-usual and a particular Fifth Avenue address to expose the roots of the false narratives favored by the financial elites. Ongoing regime change, climate reformism, financialization of nature and the ‘new economy’ come under Morningstar’s lens making very clear that Avaaz is the propagandizing seat of smart power for those who would have us continue, in sweet delusion, consuming the earth to death. — Australian activist Michael Swifte

 

 

Foreword:

In 2012-2013 I wrote an investigative series titled Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War. I introduced the series began as follows:

“The Ivy League bourgeoisie who sit at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex will one day be known simply as charismatic architects of death. Funded by the ruling class oligarchy, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media. Yet, it appears that global society is paralyzed in a collective hypnosis – rejecting universal social interests, thus rejecting reason, to instead fall in line with the position of the powerful minority that has seized control, a minority that systematically favours corporate interests.

This investigative report examines the key founders of Avaaz, as well as other key sister organizations affiliated with Avaaz who, hand in hand with the Rockefellers, George Soros, Bill Gates and other powerful elites, are meticulously shaping global society by utilizing and building upon strategic psychological marketing, soft power, technology and social media – shaping public consensus, thus acceptance, for the illusory “green economy” and a novel sonata of 21st century colonialism. As we are now living in a world that is beyond dangerous, society must be aware of, be able to critically analyze, and ultimately reject the new onslaught of carefully orchestrated depoliticization, domestication of populace, propaganda and misinformation that is being perpetrated and perpetuated by the corporate elite and the current power structures that support their agenda. The non-profit industrial complex must be understood as a mainspring and the instrument of power, the very support and foundation of imperial domination.”

In 2014 I wrote an article titled SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire. This article focused on the Avaaz sister org. Purpose, a for-profit public relations firm in New York City that specializes in behavioural change for many of the largest corporations and institutions on the planet. Specifically it focused on the campaigns Purpose created to foster public acquiescence (and even demand) for a war on Syria following the complete annihilation of Libya in which Avaaz played a vital role for the elites they serve. From that moment, independent journalist Vanessa Beeley (with much assistance from a handful of journalists and ordinary citizens) dedicated her life to exposing the Purpose creation “the White Helmets”, for what they are: a terrorist group operating under the clandestine cloak of humanitarianism, financed by the UK government and USAID. Other journalists and ordinary citizens pursued the truth against a sea of propaganda created in order to foment yet another illegal war and occupation. Women played an extraordinary role in this struggle against imperialism and hybrid NGOs. The goal was for NATO states to destroy and capture Syria at any and all costs.  The non-profit industrial complex has played a vital role in the efforts to achieve this goal, which have failed, in large part to the courageous Syrian Army.  How many countries have succeeded in staving off the most powerful imperial forces in the planet for 6 years? I would like to think those who pursued the truth – in a now dystopian world where the truth is despised – also contributed to empire’s epic fail.

This new series goes further. This research will demonstrate how Avaaz was not only utilized for empire’s illegal destabilizations, but created to provide such a framework for the “responsibility to protect” – Responsibility to Protect (R2P) serving as the doctrine for war under the guise of humanitarianism. This research will demonstrate that the key co-founders of Avaaz and Purpose – must be considered intelligence for both U.S. and Britain – groomed since Harvard (and perhaps even prior to Harvard). This research identifies Harvard as ground zero for the implementation of imperialist foreign policies – to be achieved via war – under the guise of humanitarianism. And what a guise it is. The most vital purpose of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) has not been to destroy the ecocidal economic system that enslaves us while perpetuating and ensuring infinite wars. Rather, the key purpose of the NPIC is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose from being dismantled. Hence the trillions of dollars pumped into the NPIC by the establishment.

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Avaaz full page ad in the New York Times. June 18, 2015, Avaaz: “In today’s New York Times, a call on President Obama for life-saving action in Syria. Join the campaign for a targeted No Fly Zone here:avaaz.org/safezone

Those at the helm of Avaaz and its sister NGO, Purpose, continue to froth at the mouth for war on Syria. The February 2017 Oscar win for White Helmets (a Purpose creation) demonstrated we have reached a new level of insanity in the West. Also relevant, on April 29, 2017, a second People’s Climate March took place in Washington, D.C. [Full partner list] which will be brought into the fold at a later point in this series.

Today, drowning within a post-modern spectacle, it is past time to revisit who and what institutions are behind today’s manufactured movements. Thus, a fresh look at both Avaaz and Purpose, and their formidable ties to 350.org, is nothing less than imperative.

At a time in which the global economic system continues to teeter close to stall speed, where Earth’s natural resources are to be depleted by the year 2030 which is less than 13 years away (more than enough reason for lunatics to propose colonization of the planet of Mars as an actual viable solution) and where wars over sand and other scarce commodities are a growing reality, the commerce of hatred is a much sought and growing area of expertise. Hate is a hot commodity. Celebrity fetish, an apparent global contagion exported from the West, is being further utilized to manufacture and distribute hate. The behavioral economics of hatred, in the 21st century, has become a fine-tuned art. Perhaps no NGOs (with exception of Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch) are better at manufacturing the supply of hate than Avaaz and its for-profit sister NGO, public relations firm Purpose.

“Culture of Exuberance: the total complex of beliefs and practices associated with the opportunities for expansive life in the Age of Exuberance; a culture founded upon the myth of limitlessness”  — Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change 

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

The recent Oscar award given to the White Helmets documentary is a simple extension of the growing utilization of celebrity to re-brand wars as humanitarian interventions and the manufacturing of movements. Simply put, celebrity is a deliberate creation for the building of acquiescence, to acquire/expand capital and power. Celebrity fetish also serves as a key tool of distraction and the further devolving of whole societies (via the glorifying/marketing of shallowness, excess and narcissism), while many feature-length films and documentaries are behaviour modification instruments created/financed in order to propagate false narratives for a naïve consumer society that aversively upholds white supremacy, one of many Western ideologies driven into the psyche of the collective citizenry. Today, brands, ideologies, and even invasions of sovereign states, achieve authenticity through association. Thus, celebrity has become as vital a tool for empire as the NGO itself. Together they are akin to nuclear fusion.

The Shifting Baseline Syndrome is a concept formulated by Daniel Pauly in 1995. It results in “a drift away from true natural conditions, and as a consequence a change in perception of ecological change varying from generation to generation.” The digital sphere (social media, celebrity) continues to displace our physical sphere (nature, family, community) while the biological becomes more and more irrelevant in the minds of the conditioned. We become empty vessels to be re-made in the image of corporatism. Today’s shifting baseline has not only made nature irrelevant altogether (of value only if we assign monetary value, “fighting” for “clean energy” replacing fighting to protect nature), it has brought us to the brink of complete collective insanity.

As recognized by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, (2016), “new patterns of consumer behavior (increasingly built upon access to mobile networks and data)… The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are.” [Source]

Today’s 21st century powerhouse NGOs have proven successfully that hate can be neutralized, and even be turned into adoration, as demonstrated by Avaaz co-founder, MoveOn.org. In a world of make-believe where lies are preferred over truth, charismatic warmongers of the past (Barack Obama) are embraced while vulgar warmongers in the present (Donald Trump) are crucified among the allegedly “unbiased left”. Branding supersedes reality straight across the board.

In the age of post-modern spectacle and modern-day dystopia, environmentalism and humanitarianism are nothing more than egregious misnomers. In the age of 21st century post-truths –  the capture of the public’s emotions is more than adequate for ensuring truth, logic and reason remain completely irrelevant. Hence, whether it’s selling war or selling the financialization of nature, the art of selling – without ever actually disclosing what it is that you are selling, has become a key strategy for selling the unthinkable. Tapping into hate is today a key marketing ploy for selling everything from “clean energy” (the fossil fuel industry is the enemy rather than parasitic capitalism itself) to payments for ecosystem services (strategically exploit the very real contempt for externalities only to sell the financialization of nature) to illegal invasions, occupations and war (demonize the democratically elected leader of the sovereign state, create falsehoods such as the Syrian army are on a murderous rampage, murdering their own people/families). If you can sell the hate, you can sell the war.

Two Heads of the Same Coin: Avaaz/350.org

But, before we delve into the history of Avaaz in addition to its powerful collaborations and influential allies, it is critical to understand  the incredibly close alliances between many of the most prominent NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex. In many instances the NGOs at the top of the NPIC hierarchy, simply create (or absorb) clone sub-NGOs. They are all essentially one in the same – but utilize different methods to attract different audiences (and cultures) to achieve one shared goal: protection and expansion of the current capitalist economic system. Such is the case of Purpose, which is comprised of/manages The B Team , The Rules and a stream of others. The loyalties and interconnectedness of those at the helm of the empire’s lapdog NGOs are powerful. Thus, you will never witness May Bouve, 350.org’s current executive director, speak out against Avaaz’s push for war on sovereign states in the Middle East, as Bouve herself sits on the board of Res Publica – the co-founding organization of Avaaz. You will never witness Naomi Klein criticize Avaaz nor 350.org (both founding NGOs of GCCA/TckTckTck), for their many crimes against humanity as Klein serves on the board of 350.org, alongside Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel who serves on the 350.org International Advisory Council. The interlocking directorate serves as an insurance policy for ensured and infinite self-censorship. The fact that many of these positions are given/held with no compensation is all the more telling. The lure (and appeal) for the appointee is strictly to gain further access.

Above – Section A. Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees from the 2014 990 form of Res Public (Avaaz/co-founder of Avaaz)

A June 19, 2006 Res Publica job posting (“Senior Staff for Global Version of MoveOn.org”) listed the countries of geopolitical interest that Res Publica’s new NGO (Avaaz) would be focused on. Since this time, many of these countries listed have undergone so-called “coloured revolutions” (Egypt, Tunisia) while others listed by Res Public, are today annihilated (Libya) or under attack (Yemen, Syrian Arab Republic). The starting salary was listed as $60-80,000 per annum plus benefits package. The 2006 description for what would be Avaaz is as follows:

“The organization will begin with 20 full time staff located in 6 countries and a much larger number of volunteers, and will follow an ambitious growth path. It will launch with 700,000 members spread across 148 countries. An Advisory Board for the project comprises politicians, diplomats, activists and celebrities from around the world.”

Of great interest is those who were involved at the inception of Avaaz. At the Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Conference of the parties, which was held in Bali on 14 December 2007, we find the following representatives of the Avaaz foundation on the List of Participants document (p. 5), which include  “Mr. Jonathan Warnow Junior Climate Campaigner, Ms. Gillian May Boeve, Junior Climate Campaigner, Ms. Kelly Blynn, Research Associate and Mr. Jameson Henn,  Research Associate” – all founders of 350.org. [1] [“Observer organizations marked with an asterisk (*) in this document have been provisionally admitted by the subsidiary bodies.”]

From left to right: “Jamie Henn, Communications Director, 350, organizers of the world’s largest climate action on October 24; Ricken Patel, Executive Director, Avaaz, the world’s largest digital campaigning org, with 3.5M supporters; Ben Margolis, Campaigns Director, TckTckTck, an open campaign involving 220+ global NGO partners. At Fresh Air Center facilitated by tcktcktck for bloggers, downtown Copenhagen. 14 December 2009.” flickr, Tcklive

Sustainable Development World Leaders Invited to Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony, April 22, 2016. United Nations, December 10, 2015: Left to right: Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club, Christian O’Rourke, Development Director for Earth Guardians, Ken Berlin, President and CEO of the Climate Reality Project, May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, Chairman The Climate Reality Project, Emma Ruby Sachs, Deputy Director, Avaaz, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International,  Yoca Arditi-Rocha (back row, right of Naidoo) Our Kids Climate, Usha Nair, Climate Leader, Global Gender and Climate Alliance, and Karuna Singh, Director, Earth Day Network India. Flickr

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Richard Branson’s The B Team is Purpose

“And yet, it is obvious that the opportunities that come from addressing climate change are equally staggering. Research by the We Mean Business Coalition shows that returns on low carbon investments average close to 30%, not only in the cleantech sectors but across all sectors in every corner of the world. These investments will drive growth and employment, spur innovation and reduce the risk of climate disruption. The truth is that economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand, and one is impossible without the other.” — Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group and Board Member, *We Mean Business, World Economic Forum, January 22, 2015

[*The founding partners of We Mean Business are Business for Social Responsibility (full membership and associate members list), CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), Ceres, The B Team, The Climate Group (an Avaaz partner), The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG)(TckTckTck partner) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)]

The B Team was incubated by Virgin Unite, the foundation arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which had previously incubated such organizations the Elders and the Carbon War Room. In October, 2012, Branson and Zeitz (ex-CEO of Puma) announced the formation of The B Team. It has since grown to include 23 “leaders” [1] which includes Kathy Calvin (President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation), Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Mary Robinson, Secretary of The Elders and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of the Tata Group, and several others of elite status. [Source] [Full List]  

Although seven co-founders of We Mean Business are identified, We Mean Business is actually a coalition that in 2016 represented 300 corporations:

 “A unified front of leaders came together to demonstrate business demand for progressive climate policy. The B Team joined BSR, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to establish We Mean Business, a network of more than 300 companies working within a common platform to amplify business support for bold climate action and policies.” — The B Team Progress Report June 2013 – June 2016, p. 11 [Source]

Today the We Mean Business coalition represents 590 corporations ($1 trillion US total revenue), and 183 investors (representing $20.7 trillion US in assets under management). [Source: We mean Business website]

In addition to this exponential growth, in June 2017, Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-2016, has joined The B Team.

Here, it is imperative to reflect. The grotesque Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA /TckTckTck) campaign that sabotaged the most vulnerable nations in 2009 at the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen, was a creation of the global advertsing firm Havas Worldwide for the United Nations. The objective of the campaignwas to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” The first two NGOs to sign on to the TckTckTck campaign were 350.org and Avaaz. – two of the founding NGOs of the GCCA (with it’s inception dating back to 2006-2007). With an “overall budget of USD 6.8 million – over 95% of which came from foundation funding – the GCCA was undoubtedly the most well-funded global climate campaign of 2009.” [Source] In 2015, Havas and the United Nations, convening partners of the Earth To Paris Coalition, would again partner with select  NGOs (Avaaz, 350, Ceres, We mean Business, Global Citizen, The World Bank group and The Nature Conservatory to name a few) in order to announce and promote the “Paris agreement”.

“Earth To Paris community — There is reason for celebration. At the COP21 United Nations conference in Paris today, officials from nearly 200 countries reached a new agreement to address the threat of global climate change…The afternoon has been filled with hugs, tears, and standing ovations at Le Bourget…”  — COP21 Coup D’état – A Toast to Our Annihilation, Dec 12, 2015

Life in the champagne circuit: In this photograph taken by AP Images for Avaaz, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center left, accepts the ‘End the War on Drugs’ petition from Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel, center right, accompanied by Richard Branson, right, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, left, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Friday, 3 June 2011

Considering that foundations such as Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, et. al. strategize for the protection/expansion of hegemonic power years and, more often, decades in advance, in addition to the most recent events of 2007-2009 (the creation of GCCA/TckTckTck), one could reasonably hypothesize that the United Nations, in servitude to Annex One Nations, elites and the world’s most powerful corporations, is paramount in the creation of and the fostering of the very NGOs and the liberal left’s beloved “environmental leaders” (whores for imperialism). As this series will demonstrate, those that dominate the NPIC are very deeply embedded in, and very heavily nurtured by, the United Nations. The carefully chosen and groomed sycophants that reside at the helm of the NPIC spoon-feed the citizenry (identified merely as consumers or human capital) exactly what the architects of destruction have longingly prepared for: the perpetual servitude and enslavement of the populace, global in scale. Yet, the necessary acquiescence for such servitude is not given by all. Certainly not the downtrodden, the working class or those that comprise the bottom of the food chain in the global capitalist economic system. The NPIC targets a specific demographic – a privileged, predominantly white, upper/middle-class populace, whose appetite for knowledge has been replaced with an appetite for celebrity fetish and irrelevant prattle.

Further in this series we will explore at length the rebranding of the GCCA/tcktck website which has been redesigned  in the image of Purpose. The new strategy for the “Purpose-esque” re-branding of GCCA is undoubtedly in no small part due to who now serves as  the vice-chair of the GCCA Board of Directors:  Phil Ireland of Purpose Europe, “where he helps shape and implement new progressive movements to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” [bio]

Ireland serves on the board of GetUp. MoveOn, the US version of the Australian GetUp! is a founding NGO of Avaaz.

The “B Team Experts” include the aforementioned John Elkington, Heather Grady, Senior Fellow, Global Philanthropy for Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; Alexander Grashow, Clinton Global Initiative, Jeremy Heimans, co-founder of both Avaaz and Purpose, Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres (350 divestment partner), Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Solutions, David Jones, co-founder of One Young World, former CEO of Havas Worldwide and creator of the TckTckTck campaign.

On February 23, 2017 The B Team announced its further expansion (and theft) into Africa:

“The launch of The B Team in Eastern Africa kicks-off a broader global campaign, in which The B Team will organise regional platforms around the world to increase the number of company leaders who are willing and able to ‘step up” and lead this transition.

 

The announcement comes on the heels of the release of a new report, produced by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, which provides substantial evidence of the massive global economic opportunities that can be unlocked by new business models focused on addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

The commission reports that achieving the SDGs will be worth at least US$1.1 trillion by 2030 for the private sector in Africa, potentially creating more than 85 million new jobs, with affordable housing accounting for more than 13 million of these jobs…

 

Business – which has contributed to many of these ills – is also an indispensable actor in resolving them.

 

The potential prize for business to align their business goals with the SDGs is significant. The Business Commission identified 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” in just four key areas (energy; cities; food and agriculture; health and wellbeing) that could create at least US$12 trillion in business value by 2030 – equivalent to 10 percent of forecast GDP – and generate up to 380 million jobs, mostly in developing countries like ours.”

#BeyondDavis

In the following two paragraphs, the two hyperlinks (purpose.us2.list-manage.com…) make clear that both The B Team and #BeyondDavos (“Copyright © 2015 Purpose, All rights reserved”) are campaigns driven/managed by Purpose:

The B Team unveils ‘Plan B’
The B Team unveiled its highly anticipated ‘Plan B‘ for business – a roadmap for creating companies that benefit people and planet – and invites business leaders ready to take on the challenge to join The B Team.

#BeyondDavos Kicks Off
Over 200 thought leaders from a variety of industries and causes united to kick-off the #BeyondDavos coalition to ensure that critical social, economic and environmental opportunities continue to be discussed after the meeting with concerned leaders around the world.

From the same LinkedIn page [Day 3 (Wednesday) #BeyondDavos Daily, January 22, 2015]:

“Purpose CEO, Jeremy Heimans, says, ‘This is a fresh opportunity to continue sharing and learning about each other’s important social campaigns and how they each are already contributing to the new Sustainable Development Goal conversation.'” [Emphasis added]

Here it is important to note Jeremy Heimans (co-founder of both Avaaz and Purpose) concerted effort to not only promote the sustainable development goals (the financialization/privatization of nature), but to also create/lend legitimacy to the Purpose creations, The Syria Campaign and the White Helmets, a UK/USAID financed NGO that works alongside terrorist groups Al Nusra and ISIS:

“Nobody exemplifies the courage needed to protect fundamental human rights better than Syria’s White Helmets. Today, the #BeyondDavos coalition will host them along with other Syrian activists in a discussion about their critical humanitarian efforts in one of the world’s most deadly conflict zones.” — #BeyondDavos hosts Syria’s courageous White Helmets

 

“The discussion brought together leading voices from the international NGO community, including Dr. Ken Roth from Human Rights Watch; Dr. Annie Sparrow; the Syrian Civil Defence (the “White Helmets”), volunteer rescue workers who have saved more than 12,500 lives from under the rubble of barrel bomb attacks; and experts in the field of public mobilization including Tim Dixon from The Syria Campaign. ” — Purpose website

[Further reading: SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, September 17, 2014]

Above: Excerpt from the book Digital Citizenship and Political Engagement. The Challenge from Online Campaigning and Advocacy Organisations. Chapter six, Entrepreneurial Leadership Styles

Above: Purpose requires storytellers. The art of “storytelling” will be discussed at length further in this report.

From the Purpose website, February 2, 2015: Purpose and Here Now featured in The Guardian:

“In addition to being a participating partner of the #BeyondDavos coalition, a group of leading organizations committed to social impact, including The B Team, Global Citizen, Here Now, Omidyar Network, Purpose, and We Mean Business, Purpose’s senior leadership also added to The Guardian‘s international coverage of the Annual Meeting. Jeremy Heimans, CEO of Purpose, and Paul Hilder, Executive Director of Here Now, were recently featured in a Guardian piece where they discussed the importance of corporate sector commitment towards combating climate change. In Davos, two things were apparent to Jeremy and Paul; 1) The surprising amount of corporations publicly announcing their efforts to curb climate change; 2) How little, if any, participatory involvement they sought from their consumers. In the article, which you can read here, the two advocate for corporations to actively engage their consumer base in this fight, with the hope of simultaneously strengthening their clean-energy message and boosting their respective brands.”

Here it is critical to note that Here Now is a creation of Purpose. Paul Hilder, a co-founder of Avaaz and SumOfUs EU advisory board member, serves as executive director of Here Now. [Hilder background]

Nigel Topping is the CEO of We Mean Business. Topping is Executive Director of CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), “a global NGO which has brought together 655 of the world’s investors, representing assets under management of over $78 trillion, to engage with over 6000 of the largest public corporations on the business implications of climate change.” [Source]

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks as philanthropist Bill Gates looks on during the Global Citizen Concert in Montreal, Quebec, September 17, 2016. / AFP / Geoff Robins

The following address for the #BeyondDavis Coalition on the aforementioned LinkedIn page, has important significance:

Our mailing address is:

Purpose

115 5th Ave

6th Floor

New York, NY 10003

[From the Bloomberg website: “Purpose Global, LLC was incorporated in 2011 and is based in New York, New York. 115 Fifth Avenue. 6th Floor. New York, NY 10003.”]

In May of 2015 the Ford Foundation awarded a 700,000 grant [2] to “The B Team Headquarters Inc.” . The location listed for The B Team Headquarters Inc. is: 115 5th Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003, United States. This is the address belonging to Purpose.

The #BeyondDavis campaign is included in The B Team Progress Report June 2013 – June 2016, (p. 7, “Our Journey”).

On a separate note, the grant is for work toward appointing corporations as the driving force in society [“General support to build partnerships in fostering leaders to help redefine the role of business in society as a driving force for social, human rights, environmental and economic advancements. Geographic Area Served: Asia/East Asia/China; Middle East; North America”] [Source]

In 2016 The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awarded 900,000 grant to The B Team for “[F]or A Project To Promote Norms On Open Contracting, Reduce Tax Loopholes, And Track Sustainable Development Goals Progress.”

From the website:

“This grant supports two streams of their work: first, galvanizing the private sector in support of country-level implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; and second, fostering transparent and responsive governance by promoting global norms and standards on open contracting, open governance, and fair international tax practices.”

To be clear, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is the very mechanism to implement the financialization of nature, global in scale.  [Source]

In the “About the Grantee” section:

Grantee Website

bteam.org/

Address

115 5th Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10003

Again, this information identifies The B Team as the address of Purpose.

The Rockefeller Foundation also identifies The B Team Headquarters as the address of Purpose:  115 5th Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003

https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/grants/b-team-headquarters/

The Rockefeller Foundation address as identified for Purpose to which it granted 1,660,000 in 2016:

The New York State Corporation Search website also identifies The B Team Headquarters as the address of Purpose:

*Further reading on The B Team: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XVI of an Investigative Report] [A Revolution of Capitalism]

The April 26, 2017 article #BornB: A Conversation about Leading Businesses with Purpose reported that The B Teams BornB event was to take place at The B Team headquarters (@thebteamhq):

“We’re heading to #London today for @thebteamhq‘s #BornB event! Stay tuned for live updates!”

The B Team event was streamed live on March 30, 2017 at the offices of Unilever: “More than 100 entrepreneurs from the UK and Europe joined us at the Unilever offices for the conversation and thousands more tuned in online via Facebook Live…”

One might question if The B Team has any real life headquarters, anywhere in the real world, at all. The event highly publized to take place at “The B Team headquarters” took place at the offices of Unilever. Yet, this is hardly a surprise if we take into account that The B Team uses the PR firm Purpose (sister org. of Avaaz) for all grant money and legal correspondence. One can safely speculate that The B Team is fully operated by the public relations firm Purpose, after all, this is just one function of Purpose as a public relations firm. This speculation can be given further assurance by the repetitive language of the word “purpose” that absolutely saturates most all B Team materials. Consider that within the aforementioned article the “buzz word” (according to the B Team) “purpose” appears 33 times in a single post.

“Join The B Team for a Conversation About Purpose-Driven Leadership

 

“#BornB: A Conversation about Leading Businesses with Purpose

 

“We are pleased to present, in partnership with Unilever, a conversation that gets to the heart of what it means to be a purpose-driven business leader. ” — Ethical Markets Website

 

Great to be with creative entrepreneurs exploring purpose-driven models to mitigate risks & secure long-term growth” — March 30, 2017, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

Here, three things are certain. 1) The quintessential goal for both corporations, being assisted by NGOs that comprise the NPIC is to secure long-term growth, 2) that The B Team headquarters in London is actually Unilever (whose CEO Paul Polman is a “B Team leader”), 3) that The B Team headquarters in New York is identified as Purpose. Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Heimans is publicly identified as a B Team expert. Unilever is a key client of Purpose. Here we can use the catch phrase “all for one, one for all” [“Each individual should act for the benefit of the group, and the group should act for the benefit of each individual.”] [Source]

“Under the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever is meeting its ambition of decoupling environmental footprint while increasing its positive social impact. Its sustainable living brands are growing 30% faster than the rest of the business and delivered nearly half its total growth in 2015.” — Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, The B Team Progress Report June 2013 – June 2016, p. 11 [Source]

The Rules – is Purpose

In the October 8, 2015 article, Global Goals – The Party’s Over, The Rules, an NGO with a radical veneer that was founded by Purpose, gives the false impression that they oppose the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG):

“Now we want to go straight to the top of the UN with an open letter telling them that their plans [SDG] do not represent the best interests of the world’s majority. Join Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and others in signing an open letter to the UN and global decision makers below.”

Yet, as disclosed in the aforementioned grant information, The B Team (which is Purpose) received at minimum one grant (700,000) specifically to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Rules also identifies its address as the same one belonging to its founder, Purpose:

 

115 5th Avenue, NY, NY, 10003, USA

Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans and Alnoor Ladha, Executive Director of The Rules, founding partner and the Head of Strategy at Purpose | Image courtesy of The Advertising Age

“Successful social initiatives that create real social impact will need a combination of 20th century top-down persuasion—brands that tell the world their point of view through marketing and communications—with the tools of 21st century engagement: movements that provide the tools for advocacy, social involvement, distributed evangelism and self-organization. We hope these rules are a starting point for a greater dialogue about the role of brands in ushering in a new era of social change.” — Advertising Age, The New Rules for Purpose-Driven Brands, How Marketers Can Survive the Cause-Marketing Bubble, Jeremy Heimans, October 14, 2010

Alnoor Ladha is a founding member and the Executive Director of The Rules (/TR). His work focuses onthe intersection of political organizing, systems thinking, storytelling, technology and the decentralization of power.” Prior to co-founding and directing The Rules, Ladha is a founding partner and the Head of Strategy at Purpose. Ladha serves on the board of Greenpeace USA board where its Executive Director, Annie Leonard, has co-founded Earth Economics – yet another NGO to assist and exploit the global financialization of nature (payment for ecosystem services) now well underway behind closed doors:

“Earth Economics, with the support of our Community Partners and Advisors, maintains the largest, spatially explicit, web-based repository of published and unpublished economic values for ecosystem services. With generous funding from our sponsors, in 2012 Earth Economics began porting our internal database to a web-based service. The Ecosystem Service Valuation Toolkit (EVT) portal was launched at Rio +20 in June 2012. The Researcher’s Library and SERVES were previewed at the ACES Conference in December 2012.”

The elites financing The Rules is par for the course:

“We receive financial support from a variety of sources including through crowdsourcing, the Novo Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the New Venture Fund, the Joffe Charitable Trust (UK), and the Wallace Global Fund. We do not accept money from governments or corporations.” [Source]

Novo Foundation is Warren Buffett, Open Society is George Soros, Joffe Charitable Trust is Oxfam and Order of the British Empire, Wallace Global fund is a product of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Company. To state ” we do not accept money from governments or corporations” is meaningless.  Very few so-called environmental NGOs receive money directly from corporations . This is what foundations were created for.

If you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled. And this they will do, partly by drugs, partly by these new techniques of propaganda. They will do it by passing the sort of rational side of man, and appealing to his subconscious, and his deeper emotions, making him actually love his slavery. I mean I think this is the danger that actually  people may be in some ways, happy, under the new regime. But they will be happy in situations where they oughtn’t to be happy.”  — Aldous Huxley interview by Mike Wallace, May 18, 1958

 

End Notes:

[1] ” As co-founder and executive director of 350.org, May Boeve … When 350.org started in 2008 we were focused on the [2009] UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen.” [Source]

[2] Grant Period: 10/01/14 – 09/30/16, Duration: 24 months

 

Bob Geldof and the Aid Industry: “Do They Know it’s Imperialism?”

Under the Mask of Philanthropy

March 29, 2017

by Michael Barker

[Author Michael Barker published the following article in the activist journal Capitalism Nature Socialism in 2014 (Volume 24, No.1, pp.96-110).]

The central role that celebrities maintain within global society provides a good illustration of the essentially hollow and manipulative nature of contemporary democracies. Corporate elites literally manufacture all-star celebrities, and acting through these malleable figureheads, freely flood the world with imperialist propaganda. Much like the economic forces acting to misguide politicians, institutional pressures ensure that only right-thinking individuals become trusted celebrities. However, the main difference between celebrities and politicians is that the public cannot exert democratic control over celebrities. Bob Geldof is no different in this regard, and as the consummate celebrity-power broker, he stands clear of many contemporaries as a pioneer of celebrity-led imperialism: acting effectively in the service of capital. It is for this reason that this article critically excavates such a largely overlooked history to help unearth an explanatory framework for understanding exactly why the ongoing tragedy of famines will never be solved under a capitalist framework.

Stephanie McMillan industry

Geldof first rose to fame in the 1970s as the lead singer of the Irish band the Boomtown Rats and, having learned how to play the music industry’s game to perfection, went on to become a rare beneficiary of the stifling culture industry. However, that was not enough for Geldof, and at the peak of his musical career he attempted to give something back to the world; call it something akin to musical social responsibility. For Geldof, this time of charitable maturation arrived in 1984 when, having been shocked by a news report about the ongoing famine in Ethiopia, he sought to harness his celebrity power and to direct it toward the challenge of solving global injustice. Such good intentions are all well and good, but seeing that Geldof explicitly set upon this task in a manner that ignored any systematic critique of the politics of exploitation, his actions ending up bolstering the very same unjust capitalist system that created the problem in the first place. In fact, a good case can be made that it is precisely the imperialism-lite of ostensibly good-intentioned liberal elites—whose activities are subsumed under the kind-sounding rhetoric of “philanthropy,” “democracy,” and “human rights”—that has facilitated the institutionalization of neoliberalism.

Celebrities and the Politics of Starvation

In our interconnected world, extended famines do not occur when harvests fail, or because there are too many mouths to feed; quite the opposite, they occur with unfortunate regularity precisely because geopolitical priorities place profit before people. Scrutinizing the case study provided by the Ethiopian famine is important, as not only did it mark Washington’s “first hundred-million dollar commitment to international disaster relief,” but the intervention has also provided a “blueprint for future policymakers to follow”. Thus, to advance a realistic and useful solution to starvation, one needs to look beyond the mainstream media’s propaganda of futility, and strive to examine the role of capital in catalyzing “natural” disasters. Celebrity activists cannot be relied upon in searching for such solutions; as embedded within capitalist networks of power, they tend to be amongst those few individuals least likely to engage in such a rational approach to problem solving.

victorian

Counter to the rational nature of anti-capitalist thought, the latest tried and (media) tested method of addressing capital’s wrong-doings is to harness the angry voice of a celebrity (or better still a group of celebrities) to rant and rave about individual greed. Illustrating this is the latest iteration of a longstanding trend that has seen capitalists harness the power of philanthropy to the extension and consolidation of capitalist relations worldwide. This smokescreen approach to social change channels public attention away from any discussion of meaningful issues, and ensures that capitalists are empowered to “solve” the very same problems they caused in the first place. Geldof is singled out in particular because he took this basic formula for corporate success and then pushed this model for celebrity-led reaction to such an extent that celebrities are now a vital part of the “aid” industry.

Geldof clearly does not interpret his own actions in such a negative way, and seems to believe that the moral suasion of celebrities can force the hands of the very same political and economic elites that sustain their careers. There may be a limited grain of truth in this way of thinking, but it is to state the obvious that a celebrity campaign to expose capitalist injustice is hardly likely to be instigated by corporate-sanctioned celebrities, let alone gain active elite support in corporate circles. Hence, a good case can be made that Geldof’s entire Band Aid/Live Aid phenomenon actually shifted:

the focus of responsibility for the impoverishment of the Third World from western governments to individuals and obscured the workings of multinational corporations and their agents, the IMF and the World Bank. Worse, it made people in the West feel that famine and hunger were endemic to the Third World, to Africa in particular (the dark side of the affluent psyche), and what they gave was as of their bounty, not as some small for what was taken from the of the Third recompense being poor World…. [A] discourse on western imperialism was transmogrified into a discourse on western humanism. [1]

Geldof’s own humanitarian campaign thus exemplified itself as a stereotypical attack on governments and the existing aid industry: the visual problem was identified (famine), blame was then squarely placed on the local (foreign) government, and a “new” uncorrupted form of charity was then promoted. Along with such myths, he also pushed the equally misleading idea that foreign governments allowed the famine to continue because they were apathetic. Geldof’s serviceable response to these “problems” was obvious; he had to force Western governments to care more for distant others and rail against the existing aid industry’s inefficiencies. In both instances, this meant that Geldof dismissed the primary institutional reason for the existence of the aid industry. This is because governments do not donate food out of generosity; rather their food distribution networks are considered to be an integral weapon through which they promote their foreign policies. Critical books that Geldof might have read at the time include Nicole Ball’s World Hunger: A Guide to the Economic and Political Dimensions (1981), Susan George’s How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976), Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty (1981), and Marcus Linear’s Zapping the Third World: The Disaster of Development Aid (1985).

Geldof book

Paradoxically, writing in 1986, Geldof was evidently aware (at the rhetorical level anyway) of the strategic use of aid:

Aid is given in direct proportion to how friendly a government is towards the donor. It is used as threat, blackmail and a carrot. This is wrong …. Aid by and large benefits the donor country as much as the recipient, more so in fact as it stimulates, by trade, the donor’s economy, but leaves the recipient aid-dependent. (Bob Geldof, Is That It?, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986, p.318.)

However, such critical words never informed his actions.

Band Aid Imperialism

Considering the exploitative nature of government food aid, the actions of the glut of “Bloody Do-Gooders” that Geldof brought together under the remit of Band Aid in 1984 certainly need to be viewed in a critical light. [2] Released in December 1984, Band Aid’s humanitarian anthem “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” quickly became the fastest-selling UK single of all time and marked Geldof’s return to the public stage as a born-again humanitarian rabble-rouser. Reflecting on his initial experiences in his autobiography Is That It? (1986), Geldof acknowledged that the result of Band Aid’s fund raising “would be so small in the context of the problem that it would be like putting a tiny plaster on a wound that required twelve stitches” (p.223).

Do They Know It's Christmas

With the benefit of hindsight, I would suggest that this is an extremely bad misdiagnosis. A more accurate description of Band Aid’s work would be to say that they put a plaster over capitalism’s body politics and sutured the public’s eyes shut. Here, Geldof would vehemently disagree as he insists that Band Aid carried out its work without involving itself in regional politics. Such claims, however, are patently false, especially given the fact that he recruited some of Britain’s leading elites to serve as trustees of the charity, the Band Aid Trust, which was set up to distribute the funds raised in the course of his activism. [3]

So how did it all start? If one returns to the initial seven-minute BBC story broadcast on October 24, 1984 that fueled Geldof’s humanitarian impulses, it turns out that the two reporters who filed the report (Mo Amin and Michael Buerk) were working under the auspices of World Vision—a well-publicized, imperialist, evangelical Christian charity. World Vision exists as just one, often overlooked part of imperial counterinsurgency efforts carried out by conservative evangelists who wage “spiritual warfare” upon recalcitrant populations. Little wonder that the television report described Ethiopia as the scene of a “biblical famine,” which was the “closest thing to hell on earth”. Thus, it is appropriate that in the early stages of Geldof’s frantic organizing efforts, the head of World Vision UK, Peter Searle, “kept phoning” Geldof in a bid to influence his activities. Having never heard of World Vision, Geldof recalled that he was “very suspicious” of Searle’s offers of help, but he seems to have been reassured when told that “they were an excellent organization but with roots in the right-wing American evangelical revival.” As Geldof continues: “Later we backed several of their projects” (p.235), [4] but to be more precise, it should be noted that as reported in May 1986, the “largest sum spent so far [by Band Aid] on a single project, dollars 1m, went to the charity World Vision” for their work in the Sudan (“The Band’s Last Big Number/The Future of Band Aid.” The Sunday Times, May 11, 1986).

Lest one forgets, the Cold War was in full swing, and Ethiopia was in the grip of a protracted civil war against rebels of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Geldof thankfully recognized the existence of this war; but when he met the officials of the Ethiopian government’s relief commission, he told them, “It seems to me that your basic problem is one of PR.” He added that while “I may not know anything about famine … I do know a lot about PR.” The narrow solution as viewed through Geldof’s celebrity eyes was that Ethiopia should see the international media as their natural ally because, he continued, “once people in the West appreciate the scale of what is going on here you won’t be able to stop them from helping” (p.249). Geldof’s naivety certainly did not make him receptive to the contrary idea presented by members of the Ethiopian government, that the Western media were part of the problem, and that it had actually consciously acted against the best interests of their country. Further, given Geldof’s gross ignorance about Ethiopian politics, it is no surprise that he missed the fact that the Ethiopian government was deliberately withholding food aid from the “huge areas of Tigray where TPLF guerrillas held sway” because, as their acting foreign minister Tibebu Bekele made clear at the time, “Food is a major element in our strategy against the secessionists”. [5]

William Hogarth the_lottery

One might note that the only aid group active in Ethiopia at the time that challenged the hegemonic imperialist discourse of the famine was Médecins sans frontiers, and for doing so, they were promptly ejected from the country. At that time, the longstanding trend of manipulating humanitarian aid to serve the donor countries’ geostrategic interests is most clearly demonstrated in the provision of aid on the borders of Pakistan-Afghanistan and Honduras-Nicaragua during the 1980s. In the former case, Fiona Terry concludes, “Whether they believed they were neutral or not, NGOs that received US funding either in Pakistan or for cross-border operations were assisting the foreign policy strategy of the US government.” With respect to Honduran “aid,” some NGOs themselves were openly critical about such manipulations, and a report by Catholic Relief Services concluded, “The border relief programs are not designed to meet the long- or short-term interests of the Miskitos, but rather are designed for political purposes as a conduit of aid to the contras”. Interestingly in Ethiopia, Catholic Relief Services appear to have maintained a somewhat antagonistic stance vis-à-vis their role in promoting US foreign policy objectives but, despite rhetorical objections, still retained their prestigious position as the largest recipient of US disaster grants.

It is, therefore, far from surprising that more recent reports demonstrate that some of the relief monies entering Ethiopia were used to buy arms for the rebels via the TPLF’s aid front group, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). The US government was of course well aware of this situation as a now-declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report written in 1985 makes clear. The report observes, “Some funds that insurgent organizations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes”. Geldof, no doubt dismissed such possibilities as belonging to the realm of conspiracy theories, which is perhaps the reason he did not refuse an offer of aid from the shadowy employee of a former CIA agent. As Geldof recounts in his autobiography, the influential CIA agent in question was Miles Copeland, whose philanthropic-minded boss was the longtime Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and whose militaristic background remained unmentioned by Geldof. Thus, Geldof adds, he was informed by Miles Copeland’s son, Stewart Copeland (the drummer in the rock group The Police), that:

Khashoggi was interested in donating some planes for us to use. On the eve of my departure for Ethiopia I met up with Khashoggi’s son who was passing through London. The planes would be for famine relief in the Sudan only, he said, and a meeting would be arranged between me and President Numeiri’s personal adviser, Baha Idris. It all seemed very complex, but the offer for the planes was firm, I was assured. (p.251) [6]

Then, while on his subsequent foray to the Sudan, Geldof had lunch with Andrew Timpson of Save the Children where his briefing provided:

… one enlightening piece of information. Adnan Khashoggi was said to have oil interests in the Sudan and a special relationship with President Numeiri which led him to getting a remarkably good return on his investment. It was said that if anyone could arrange a cease-fire in the civil war which was disrupting development in the oil field which was thought to be the biggest in black Africa, it was he. (p.252)

Alan Hardman

Geldof’s follow-up sentence is increasingly curious, but as far as he is concerned, that is the end of the story as he fails to return to this intriguing subject. He does, however, mention in passing that during the preparations for the Band Aid concert, “all the Band Aid office expenses were being paid for by a Malaysian oil millionaire called Ananda Krishnan” and, contrary to Geldof’s own personal intentions for the project, Krishnan “was interested in turning Band Aid into a permanent institution” (p.266). Such curious humanitarian contacts befit a man with little enthusiasm for challenging the legitimacy of powerful political interests. In Geldof’s own words:

[A]s in England, where I didn’t want to get involved in party politics, so too in Africa. ‘I will shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right to get to the people who need help,’ I would say, when I first asked questions about the political complexion of some local government. That was crucial, for you could become bogged down in the myriad moral uncertainties of dealing with an imperfect political system. (p.318)

Geldof Versus the American Government?

Despite Geldof recognizing the fact that aid is regularly used by powerful governments “as threat, blackmail and a carrot,” in 1985, Band Aid strangely sought to gain the support of the best-organized imperialist aid agency in the world, the US Agency for International Development (AID). No need to worry about such incongruous behavior though, as Geldof would have us believe “the greatest single donor in the world” did not really know what it was doing in terms of coordinating its global operations. Geldof recalls that he “was frightened” that USAID “would have the better of me or have a better grasp of the facts.” “But they didn’t” he continues, “we were all tap dancing” (p.320). [7] This seems most peculiar, and I would argue that this interpretation of events owes more to his naivety than to reality, but either way this false impression certainly gave Geldof the confidence boost he needed to argue for their help. That said, he didn’t have to argue much, as USAID already knew his plans, as he “had stipulated the agenda before” he arrived in America. He recalled, “They knew that we were not prepared to leave without firm undertakings from them that they should match us on a dollar-for-dollar basis on some of our mutually beneficial projects” (p.322). So in the end, it is not surprising that the US State Department came through for Band Aid. The Ethiopian government, on the other hand, was, as Geldof reports, “not delirious to have help from US Aid” (p.323).

usaid-humanitarian-relief

Are we really to believe that it was Band Aid that manipulated the US government and not vice versa? If we just consider the quantitative issue of food aid, the total value of US aid for Ethiopia in fiscal 1983 was around $3 million; this then increased to some $23 million the following year, and then “jumped to more than four times that amount (about $98 million) between October 1 and December 1, 1984.” Given that approximately two-thirds of this last increase was committed after the initial National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcast of the famine in the United States (October 24, 1984), one way of interpreting this change would be to say this boost in aid was due to the change in media coverage and the resulting public outcry. Alternatively, one could just as easily interpret this change as illustrating that the media became more receptive to the issue once the US government signaled that they were increasing, and no longer decreasing, food aid to the region. This latter argument is evidenced by the fact that in March 1984, Senator John Danforth (Republican-Missouri)—who throughout 1984 played an important role in lobbying for famine relief in Ethiopia —successfully introduced a bill (H.J.Res. 493) that provided $90 million in food assistance for emergency food assistance for Africa. This money was not, however, freed up until an earlier bill (H.J.Res. 492), which aimed to provide $150 million to famine-stricken areas in Africa (which the $90 million represented part of) stalled, passing into law in July 1984, but only when proposed amendments to add covert funding for the Contras in Nicaragua had been dropped from the bill (African Famine: Chronology of U.S. Congressional and Executive Branch Action in 1984, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service).

Counter to Geldof’s recommendation to Ethiopian officials that they only needed better PR to get their story out to the global public, US journalists had been attempting to air stories about the famine for some time, but they simply had no takers in the mainstream media. As far as the media were concerned, “It was not ‘new’ news, for the roots of the 1984 disaster lay in conditions known for years before the disaster hit the headlines”. However, by the end of the year, Ethiopia was now considered as being an issue that deserved political attention. One wondered if this was in any way related to ongoing attempts to coerce the Ethiopian government to accept more aid from the West. For example, it is interesting to observe that just after the increase in aid and media attention (in October), Reuters reported on December 1, 1984, how “The Marxist Government of Ethiopia has agreed to move toward a free market policy to improve the country’s agricultural production…” (“Ethiopians Consider Free Market.” The Globe and Mail, December 1, 1984). Thus, extensive economic and diplomatic pressure was clearly being brought to bear on Ethiopia well before the rise in media attention. By way of another example, the Italian government had its own important role to play in ramping up the political pressure, “and the Italian ambassador is generally credited with making it clear to Mengistu in early October 1984 that Ethiopia could not continue to suppress information about the famine, but must publicize it in order to attract Western relief”.

Ethiopia was now the media’s number one story, but during the seemingly endless deluge of one-dimensional coverage, at no point did the mainstream media help the public understand what was happening by making any significant effort to explain the root causes of the famine. One would have been hard-pressed to have heard of the ambitious land reform program—launched in 1975 when the military Marxists (known as the Derg) rose to power—that was “very successful in eliminating large holdings, absentee landlordism and landlessness.” Similarly, there was no talk of how the Derg’s top-down control over their agrarian reform program had the net effect of “lessen[ing] farmer’s incentives for good natural resource management by decreasing both the security of land tenure and the profitability of agriculture”. Factors that combined with the prolonged civil war and the Derg’s massive resettlement program (which was undertaken in the wake of the 1984–1985 famine) exacerbated farmer land insecurity and mismanagement, which depressed agricultural production in Ethiopia’s time of need.

Banksy

Instead of providing historically-informed investigative journalism that explored such issues, the racist media delivered up a nightmarish story about a natural disaster of biblical proportions. This is an outcome that was entirely predictable given the propagandist nature of the mainstream media that was well aligned to celebrate the successes of the imperialist development narratives upon which the nongovernmental (NGO) aid industry operates. Thus, the media and the international aid community simply latched onto well-worn neo-Malthusian environmental degradation narratives to justify ongoing aid in the post-famine period (1985–1990). Likewise, little or no mention has been made of the deleterious effect that the Soviet Union’s policy of disengagement had on the nominally Marxist government.

Such an ill-informed development narrative was supremely useful to imperialist donors as it promoted an intervention in a geostrategically important region which “was narrowly technical, largely bypassed the Ethiopian government, was targeted directly on the rural poor and would be welcomed by the growing environmental lobby in Washington”. With respect to the utility of this massive influx of aid (for the people of Ethiopia), “in retrospect, it is clear that much of this effort was wasted or counterproductive.” It is not coincidental that it was during this golden period of “development” aid that the Derg “moved away from socialist agriculture”.

One might point out that neo-Malthusian arguments drawn upon in Ethiopia are intimately enmeshed with the ideological underpinnings of the mainstream environmental movement, which are especially in line with the environmental lobby in Washington. Indeed, since the 18th century, such specious logic has solidified yeomen service to imperial elites who falsely argue that humans simply cannot cultivate enough food to feed the entire human population. Thus, given Ethiopia’s positioning in the ongoing Cold War, it is appropriate that the leading proponents of neoliberal environmentalism played a major role in justifying the aid communities’ protracted interventions in the region. For example, from late 1984 to mid-1986, the executive coordinator of the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa was none other than , the immensely powerful former oil executive who, over the past four decades, has arguably done more than any other individual to promote the misnomer of sustainable development.

Capitalists for Just Exploitation

Old humanitarian habits die hard and, having already proved their ability to neglect the role of imperial power politics in global affairs, Geldof and his Band Aid friends have continued to act as willing implementers of capitalistic responses to capitalist-bred inequality. However, if one had to choose one Band Aid contributor who best followed Geldof’s own model of leadership on behalf of imperial elites it would have to be Bono, who in 2005 was voted TIME magazine’s Person of the Year alongside the well-known “humanitarian” couple Bill and Melinda Gates. After contributing to the Band Aid single and the Live Aid gig in 1985, Bono had even emulated Geldof’s commitment to the right-wing evangelical charity World Vision, and spent six weeks volunteering at one of their orphanages in Ethiopia. Bono’s overt commitment to Christian missionary work was then put on hold, that is, until 1997 when Jamie Drummond encouraged him to became a spokesperson for a church-based campaign known as Jubilee 2000, a group which was set up to campaign the canceling of Third World debt. Fresh from this spiritual revival, Bono then began spending weekends at the World Bank with his friend Bobby Shriver, who himself was an old colleague of the World Bank’s president, James Wolfensohn, having worked with him within the venture capital division of the Wolfensohn Firm.

Having gained his humanitarian apprenticeship under leading imperialists like Wolfensohn, it is fitting that economist Jeffrey Sachs completed Bono’s education. Bono, like Geldof, was pioneering new ground within the realm of celebrity activism, moving from the former archetypal celebrity-as-fundraiser to the realm of celebrity-as-corporate-lobbyist. With the zeal of a born-again zealot, Bono endeavored to work the circuits of power of the hallowed nonprofit-industrial complex, and in 2002 he turned to Geldof, who helped devise the name DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) to christen his and Bobby Shriver’s new group; this organization flourished with $1 million start-up grants flowing in from the likes of global democracy manipulator George Soros, software businessman Edward W. Scott, Jr., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Once established, DATA recruited like-minded high profile corporate lobbyists, the two main ones being the Democrat AIDS activist /defense contractor lobbyist Tom Sheridan, and Scott Hatch, who formerly ran the National Republican Campaign Committee. Much like Geldof, Bono sees his work as bipartisan, that is, encompassing all political views as long as they stand firmly on the side of capitalism.

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In 2004, Bono extended his activist commitments, and with the backing of Bread for the World, the Better Safer World coalition, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he created “ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History,” which merged with DATA in 2007 and is now known as ONE Campaign. All board members of ONE are leading representatives of the US power elite, but three who exhibit outstanding service to capitalist propaganda are president and CEO Michael Elliott (who most recently served as the editor of TIME International), board chair Tom Freston (who is the former CEO of Viacom and MTV Networks), and Joe Cerrell (who presently works for the Gates Foundation, but formerly served as the vice president of the philanthropy practice at APCO Worldwide and as assistant press secretary to former US Vice President Al Gore). A significant recent addition to ONE’s board of directors is World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is active on the board of Friends Africa where he sits alongside African “friends” like Jeffrey Sachs and the chairman of De Beers, Jonathan Oppenheimer. Yet another especially interesting ONE board member is Helene Gayle, who as a former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now employed as the president of the leading international “aid” outfit, CARE.

Here, it is noteworthy to recall that CARE was formed by Herbert Hoover as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, and since its inception in 1945 has provided a valuable means of promoting imperialism via the strategic provision of food aid. Indeed, as Susan George suggests in her excellent book How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976), Hoover was given the opportunity to form CARE primarily because he had demonstrated his ability to use food aid as a weapon during and after World War I. In fact, she suggests that Hoover was arguably the “first modern politician to look upon food as a frequently more effective means of getting one’s own way than gunboat diplomacy or military intervention”. As recent critical scholarship on the international role of CARE demonstrates, it still serves much the same imperial purpose that it was created to perform.

CARE thus provides a vital training ground for budding “humanitarians”; for instance, many of their former staff are involved in a relatively new venture known as Build Africa—a “charity” working in rural Uganda and Kenya that helps “young people” better themselves through learning about the wonders of “business enterprise.” One particularly significant trustee of Build Africa (who also heads their board of ambassadors/investment bankers) is the investment banker and private equity power broker Mark Florman, the CEO of the British Venture Capital Association. In addition to acting as one of the co-founders of the UK-based Center for Social Justice—a think tank that was set up in 2004 by the former leader of the Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith [8]—Florman worked with Bob Geldof to raise $200 million to launch a private equity fund in 2012, called 8 Miles, with the aid of , which, bluntly put, aims to capitalize on Africa. According to the Financial Times:

Among others that Mr. Geldof has approached for advice on the [] venture is Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born telecoms tycoon turned philanthropist, and Arki Busson, the founder of hedge fund EIM. He has also discussed his plans with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who sits with Mr. Geldof on the Africa Progress Panel, monitoring donor commitments towards increased aid to Africa. [9]

To flesh out the backgrounds of Geldof’s new friends, one might note that Mo Ibrahim was soon to be a board member of the ONE Campaign and is currently chair of the advisory board for an investment firm focused on Africa called Satya Capital; its small portfolio includes Namakwa Diamonds, a mining group whose board members notably include a former executive vice president of the notorious Barrick Gold. In 2004, Ibrahim founded the Mo Ibrahim Foundation “to recognize achievement in African leadership and stimulate debate on good governance across sub-Saharan Africa and the world.” In this context, “good governance” means implementation of neoliberal reforms. [10] Hedge fund tycoon Arki Busson, like Ibrahim, is well-versed in the power of philanthropic propaganda, and on the side of his main business interests he runs an educational charity known as Absolute Return for Kids (ARK), which is one of Britain’s powerful new academy chains that run academies on US charter school lines. In 2007, at ARK’s seventh annual fundraiser, Geldof and Tony Blair were in attendance, so it is suitable that ARK’s patrons include two close associates of Geldof’s. The first is the “human rights” crooner Sir Elton John, and the second is the former World Bank economist Dambisa Moyo.

Moyo is the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (2009), and she lividly expresses her humanitarian commitment through service on the boards of Barclays, SABMiller PLC, and the global independent oil and gas exploration and production company, Lundin Petroleum. [11] With “her total unflinching faith in markets as the ultimate solution and her silence on issues of social justice” Moyo’s book sits comfortably with the ambitions of the “Bono-Bob Geldof-driven development industry that is convinced that the ingredients of lifting the wretched of the earth out of poverty include higher economic growth, liberalised markets, good governance, better-funded NGOs and, most important of all, more aid”.

A Leftist critic of the aid industry (and of Geldof in particular) reminds us:

[t]o understand the Geldof phenomenon, we need to look historically at the role that Africa has played in the European imagination and in global capitalism. Geldof’s crusade and attitude is not new. He is only the latest in a long line of European men whose personal mission has been to transform Africa and Africans. David Livingstone, the celebrity of his day, embarked on a similar crusade in the late 19th century, painting Africa as a land of “evil,” of hopelessness and of child-like humans. His mission was to raise money to pursue his personal ambitions.

In this manner, “Livingstone’s and Geldof’s humanitarianism fits well with the demands of global capitalism as they serve to obscure distinct phases in the exploitation of Africa.

early bob

Close Your Minds and Give Your Money!

Contrary to the pleasant-sounding rhetoric accompanying the entire Band Aid phenomena, Band Aid and its offshoots have always worked closely with imperialist policy agendas. Thus, the Band Aid Trust still exists, with the most recent revival of their formula for deception being the Live8 concert, which was held in 2005, which again relied heavily upon the two most famous celebrity big hitters, Geldof and Bono. While Geldof and Bono’s initial approach to humanitarianism could at best be described as naïve, the power-struck duo are now quite obviously working hand-in-hand with neoliberal elites, not in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. So while the musicians involved in the first Band Aid project might argue that they were unaware of the means by which food aid is tied to imperialism, the same could be not true of the artists who participated in the monumental corporate aid bonanza that was Live8. After all, it was there that Geldof introduced Bill Gates to the millions watching Live8 as “the world’s greatest philanthropist”; George Monbiot appropriately observed, “Geldof and Bono’s campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviours.”

Over the past three decades, the formidable Bono-Geldof tag-team has provided a vital propaganda service to ruling elites. On a broader level too, some argue that their celebrity activism is a natural corollary to the politics of privatization. C. Wright Mills, in his seminal book, The Power Elite (1953), dedicated an entire chapter to celebrities, observing that with the rise of national means of mass communication, “the institutional elite must now compete with and borrow prestige from these professionals in the world of the celebrity.” He thereby outlined the integral function that celebrity lives fulfill vis-à-vis the requirements of managing democracy, noting “the liberal rhetoric—as a cloak for actual power—and the professional celebrity—as a status distraction—do permit the power elite conveniently to keep out of the limelight”. Writing so many years ago, Mills was unsure as to whether the power elite would be content to rest uncelebrated; however, now, under neoliberal regimes of media and social management, the differences between interests of the jet setting crowd and other parts of the power elite have converged. Celebrities become political leaders and politicians become world class “actors,” while the real power behind these media-friendly figureheads remains in the hands of an increasingly concentrated economic elite.

Notes

1 For a musical critique of Live Aid see Chumbawamba’s album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records: Starvation, Charity and Rock & Roll – Lies & Traditions (1986).

2 Geldof’s initial suggestion for Band Aid’s name was “The Bloody Do-Gooders.”

3 Geldof was also involved in the US version of Band Aid which under the organization of Harry Belafonte released the song “We Are the World” in March 1985, which became the fastest-selling American pop single in history. The Band Aid Trust was initially chaired by Lord Gowrie, then Minister for the Arts. Other founding trustees included Lord Harlech, the head of Harlech TV, Michael Grade, the controller of BBC1, Chris Morrison, the manager of Ultravox, Maurice Obserstein, the chairman of the British Phonographic Institute, John Kennedy, a pop industry lawyer, and Midge Ure (Geldof 1986 Geldof, B. 1986. Is That It? London: Sidgwick & Jackson. [Google Scholar], 256).

4 On his first visit to Ethiopia, Geldof bumped into another conservative religious “aid” worker, Mother Teresa (Geldof, Is That It? p.239), who according to Christopher Hitchens “has consoled and supported the rich and powerful, allowing them all manner of indulgence, while preaching obedience and resignation to the poor.”

5 One should look to Ethiopia’s recent past for similar examples that illustrate the political nature of famines. For example, “During the final two years (1973–1975) of the US-supported Haile Selassie regime, some 100,000 Ethiopians died of starvation due to drought. At least half the amount of grain needed to keep those people alive was held in commercial storage facilities within the country. In addition, Emperor Selassie’s National Grain Corporation itself held in storage 17,000 tons of Australian wheat which it refused to distribute. While commercial interests thrived by selling hundreds of tons of Ethiopian grain, beans, and even milk to Western Europe and Saudi Arabia, the Ethiopian government received 150,000 tons of free food from aid donors”.

6 Khashoggi was the arms dealer in the Iran-Contra scandal.

7 “The impact of food aid can only be understood within the context of the broader US aid programme. Two-thirds of the total aid package is security assistance: military aid and cash transfers to governments deemed ‘strategically important’ to the US national interest. So whatever worthwhile may be achieved by feeding some people or supporting some useful development efforts is far outweighed by the propping up of anti-democratic elites and regimes whose policies perpetuate inequality”.

8 It is interesting to note that the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Philippa Stroud, was recently employed by the charity known as Christian Action Research and Education, which is also known as CARE, and whose activities are separate from the aforementioned “aid” agency with the same acronym. The long-serving chair of Christian Action Research and Education is Lyndon Bowring, who is a council member of the conservative Christian group The Evangelical Alliance and a member of the board of reference of the equally zealous Christian Solidarity Worldwide that is very active in promoting “aid” in the Sudan.

9 The “core funding 2008–2010” for the Africa Progress Panel “comes from two sources: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).” Africa Progress Panel, available online at: http://www.africaprogresspanel.org/en/about/, accessed 11 January, 2012.

10 Mo Ibrahim is one of many elite counselors of a group called One Young World, which describes itself as “the premier global forum for young people of leadership calibre.” Bob Geldof is also counted as one of their counselors, and One Young World’s cofounder, marketing executive David Jones boasts of “work[ing] closely” with David Cameron and the Conservative Party in the UK and having been tasked to “create and lead the Tck Tck Tck, Time for Climate Justice Campaign.” For an insightful critique of this latter campaign, see Cory Morningstar’s “Eyes Wide Shut: TckTckTck Expose from Activist Insider.”

11 Lukas Lundin a board member of Lundin Petroleum serves as the chair of Lundin Mining, a corporation whose CEO, Phil Wright, is the former president of Freeport-McMoran’s Tenke Mining.