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Feudal Japan’s Edo and the US Empire

Feudal Japan’s Edo and the US Empire

Dissident Voice

March 25, 2020

by Hiroyuki Hamada

 

After the warlord period of 15th century, Japan was united by a few families and then by a shogun family.  The period is called the Edo period. They disarmed civilians and established a mild caste system. The country was closed except for a few ports controlled by the central government, travel restrictions were put in place and certain technological developments were prohibited. The Edo period also had an interesting feature called sankinkoutai. It forced regional leaders to march across the country in formal costumes along with their armies in order to alternate their residences between their home regions and the capital of the feudal Japan, Edo.  It also forced leaders’ wives and family members to remain in Edo at all times. It was an elaborate system to keep the hierarchical structure intact.

The reign lasted a few centuries with no conflicts within the country until the US forced Japan to open in order to use its ports for the whaling business. I’ve been suspecting that the aim of some people among the ruling class circle is to establish such a closed hierarchical system which can function in a “sustainable” manner. But, of course, it is not exactly a system of equality and sharing as it would be advertised. The notion of “sustainable” is also very much questionable as we see blatant lies hidden behind carbon trade schemes, nuclear energy, “humanitarian” colonialism rampant in Africa and other areas, and so on.

Detail from a handscroll painting depicting the sankin kôtai procession of the lord of Iyo-Matsuyama han. Date unknown. National Museum of Japanese History

 

I mentioned the special feature, sankinkoutai, since I see an interesting parallel between it and “representative democracy” within the capitalist West today.  Of course, we don’t have such an obvious requirement among us, but similar dynamics occur within our capitalist framework. Our thoughts and activities are always subservient to the moneyed transactions guided by the economic networks. Our economic restrictions can force us to make decisions to do away with our needs—we might abandon our skills, interests, friendships, life styles, philosophies, ideologies, community obligations and so on. In fact, some of us are forced to live on streets, die of treatable illness, and suffer under heavy debt during our struggles. In a way, we surrender our basic needs as hostages to the system just as the Japanese regional leaders had to leave their family members under the watch of the Shogun family. Moreover, the more our thoughts differ from that of neoliberal capitalist framework, the more we must put our efforts into adjusting to it. Some of us might be labeled as “dissidents,” and such a label can create obstacles in our social activities. This functions similar to the fact that Japanese feudal regional leaders who were further away from the capital geographically had to put more efforts in marching across the country, requiring them to expend more resources. In the capitalist system, this occurs economically as well; those who are already oppressed by the economic strife must spend more resources to conform to the draconian measures to survive.

Now, one might wonder why regional leaders had subjected themselves to such an inhumane scheme. The march across the country was considered as a show of strength and authority; it was a proud moment to put on their costume to show off. The populations across the country were forced to respect this process with reverence and awe. There were strict regulations regarding how to treat such marches.

This situation can be compared to our political process: the presidential election in particular, in which our powers and interests are put in the corporate political framework to be shaped, tweaked, and distorted. Sanctioned by capitalist mandates and agendas, political candidates march across the nation while people proudly cheer their favorites. The more complicit with the capitalist framework the candidates are, the more lavish “the marches.” This forces the contents of political discourse to remain within the capitalist framework while marginalizing candidates and their supporters whose ideas are not obedient to it. “Representative democracy” within a capitalist framework can be one of the most powerful ways to install the values, beliefs and norms of the ruling class into minds of the people whose interests can be significantly curtailed by those ideas. All this can be achieved in the name of “democracy,” “free elections,” and so on.

Since people’s minds and their collective mode of operations are deeply indoctrinated to be a part of the capitalist structure, any crisis would strengthen the fundamental integrity of the structure. I heard a Trump supporter saying that “people should be shook up a little.” That’s actually a very appropriate description. When you shake their ground, people will try to hold onto whatever they think is a solid structure. Some of us might, however, try to hold onto a Marxist perspective, for example. That, of course, provokes reactions by those who go along with the capitalist framework because they will feel particularly threatened, sensing that their entire belief system might fall. Examination of facts and contexts during the time of crisis can generate divisions and opportunities to control and moderate opposing views.

Capitalist institutions are dominated by this mentality which might explain the extremely quick mobilization of the draconian restrictions and the demand for more restrictions during the time of “crisis”.  Economic incentives as well as self-preservation within the system force people to engage actively in unquestioning manner.  For example, we have observed concerted efforts in mobilizing media, government agencies, legal system and so on to “combat” “drug issues”, “inner-city violence” and so on which has led to mass incarceration, police killings and “gentrification” of primarily minority communities.  Needless to say, 9/11 has created enormous momentum of colonial wars against middle eastern countries.  No major media outlets or politicians questioned blatant lies surrounding WMD claim against Iraq, for example.  As a result, many countries were destroyed while one out of a hundred people on the planet became refugees.  Draconian regulations became normal, racism and xenophobia among people intensified and the term “global surveillance” became household.

This situation requires further examination since there are a few layers which must be identified.  First, we must recognize that there is an industry that commodifies “dissenting voices”.  The people who engage in this have no intention of examining the exploitive mechanism of capitalist hierarchy.  Some of them typically chose topics of government wrongdoings in contexts of fascist ideologies (jews are taking over the world, for example), space aliens and so on.  The angles are calibrated to keep serious inquiries away but they nonetheless garner major followings.  When certain topics fall into their hands, discussing them can become tediously unproductive as it prompts a label “conspiracy”.  It also contributes in herding dissidents toward fascist ideology while keeping them away from understanding actual social structure.

Second point is related to the first, when the topic enters the realm of “conspiracy”, and when we lose means to confirm facts, many of us experience cognitive dissonance.  The unspoken fear of the system becomes bigger than any of the topics at hand, and some of us shut down our thought process. As a result, we are left with hopelessness, cynicism and complacency.  This is a major tool of the system of extortion.  It makes some of us say “if there is a President who tries to overthrow capitalism, he or she will be assassinated”.  Such a statement illustrates the fact that understanding of violent system, fear and complacency can firmly exist in people’s minds without openly admitting to it.

Third, aside from the unspoken fear toward the destructive system, there is also unspoken recognition that the system is inherently unsustainable to itself and to its environment.  The cultish faith in capitalist framework is upheld by myths of white supremacy, American exceptionalism and most of all by our structural participation to it.   Any cult with an unsustainable trajectory eventually faces its doomsday phase.  It desires a demise of everything, which allows cultists to avoid facing the nature of the cult.  It allows them to fantasize a rebirth.  This in turn allows the system to utilize a catastrophic crisis as a spring board to shift its course while implementing draconian measures to prop itself up.  “The time of survival” normalizes the atrocity of structural violence in reinforcing the hierarchical order, while those with relative social privilege secretly rejoice the arrival of “the end”.

Any of those three dynamics can be actively utilized by those who are determined to manipulate and control the population.

Now, there is another interesting coincidence with the Japanese history.  The title Shogun had been a figurehead status given by the imperial family of Japan long before the Edo period.  Shogun is a short version of Seiitaishogun, which can be translated as Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians. The title indicates the nature of the trajectory more bluntly than the US presidency which is also Commander in Chief — which has engaged in numerous colonial expeditions over the generations. But as I mentioned above, the Edo period was not a time of fighting “barbarians”. It was a time of a closed feudal system and its hierarchy was strictly controlled by its customs and regulations.  The current trajectory of our time prompts one to suspect the inevitable path to be a similar one.

Our thoughts and ideas have been already controlled by capitalist framework for generations.  We knowingly and unknowingly participate in this hostage taking extortion structure.  While shaken by crisis after crisis, we have gone through waves of changes, which have implemented rigid social restrictions against our ability to see through lies and rise above the feudal order of money and violence.

I do understand that the above discussion is very much generalized.  One can certainly argue against validity of the parallel based on historical facts and contexts.  Some might also argue the Edo period to be far more humane on some regards, in terms of how people related to their natural surroundings, or the system being actually sustainable, for instance.  But I believe that my main points still stand as valid and worthy of serious considerations.  Also, it is not my intention to label, demean and demonize policy makers of our time in cynical manner. My intention is to put the matter as a topic of discussion among those who are concerned in a constructive manner.  The comparison was used as a device for us to step back from our time and space in evaluating our species’ path today.

Lastly, as I describe the historical trajectory of the US empire, one can not not examine the nature of the current coronavirus panic “lockdown”. Although the incident is still very much developing some of us have already raised many questions.  This article is from a Chinese state media outlet repeating questions raised by some regarding the origin of the Coronavirus. The questions are serious ones which can easily topple entire official US narratives on the matter and beyond.

If the illness has originated from the US military facility as it has been concluded by some and the US has covered it up and blamed the illness on China, the US didn’t only expose its own citizens to the virus, but it knowingly caused deaths and sufferings among its own people. It erroneously blamed China for not acting fast enough against the situation, while adding the coronavirus deaths to the US annual flu deaths—which is always high due to its dysfunctional healthcare system.

According to the allegations, some elected officials might have even profited from this murderous situation.

Subsequently, it stands to reason to question what has motivated the US to act in such a drastic manner against the virus after knowingly tolerating the deaths being caused by the virus for a few months.

Some points to keep in mind are:

1. A social crisis exacerbates structural violence against an already oppressed population leading to augmentation of ruling class interests.

2. A crisis allows bailout measures for those who are already being served generously by the system.

3. A crisis allows codification of draconian policies to further restrict an already oppressed population.

4. A crisis justifies the existence of the authoritarian system.

5. All of the above are various aspects of capitalist hierarchy to serve itself by harming its own people.

Please also refer to articles by Cory Morningstar on the topic.

When a crisis situation is identified in mobilizing the population, one common technique to contain dissenting voices is the use of false equivalency. For example, in discussing the US imperial war against Syria, one might have said that Russia was bombing just like the US.  However, needless to say, Russia was invited by the Syrian government to fight West-backed al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups in Syria.  The liberation efforts by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies brought back Syrian people to their own communities which were devastated by the US proxy war against Syria.

In the case of coronavirus situation, Chinese government detecting a disease epidemic so that it can allocate sufficient medical care to its people is very different from the US totally ignoring medical threats regularly and suddenly deciding to “care” in aimlessly draconian ways.

This Facebook post by Phil Greaves concisely lays out the difference:

“China:

 

-Lockdowns in only the most affected areas.

-Quarantine and hospital treatment for ALL suspected cases.

-Masks provided for everyone, no “two-meter” bullshit.

-200 million CPC members & volunteers mobilised to serve the elderly & vulnerable with food and medicine.

-ALL wages paid in full for anyone off work due to the virus, for the entire duration.

 

95% production regained after 4 weeks.

 

Britain:

 

-Nationwide house-arrest.

-Shuts down nearly the entire economy, sacks millions of workers, does not guarantee pay for even half of them.

-Gives the banks hundreds of billions.

-Massively reduces healthcare capacity.

-Allows supermarket chains to exploit panic buyers.

 

Economic depression inevitable.”

It is also very different for the Chinese government to regulate circulation of false information in order to implement its policies effectively from the US censoring legitimate questions about its ineffective policies and its active policies to harm its own people and “others”.

The differences in the approach of the two countries toward the peoples across the globe during this time of crisis are also very clear.  While China is reaching out to other countries to help their struggles — sending medical equipment and experts to those countries — the US is actively punishing some of the hardest hit countries with trade sanctions, trade embargo and demonization campaigns against them.

Corona panic incident is yet another milestone in clearly marking inhumanity of the imperial order perpetuated by the western hegemony.

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

Is It Time to Critically Interrogate Nonviolence & Nonviolent Direct Action?

Black Agenda Report

March 15, 2018

By Doug Henwood

time to question nonviolence

Time to question nonviolent direct action as the path to change.

Activism. Democracy. Change through nonviolent direct action. These, Doug Henwood points out, have been fetishes for much of the US left for quite some time, especially that portion of the US left that takes its marching orders from corporate funders. Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institute who passed away at the end of January was regarded as the father of American nonviolent direct action.

I usually write a weekly piece for Black Agenda Report, but this time I’m going to use that space to republish somebody else’s work, easily the most important thing I’ve heard so far this month. It’s an hour long Doug Henwood interview for the weekly radio show Behind The News on KPFA radio. Doug talks with Marcie Smith, who is writing a book on Sharp’s long and problematic career in the service of the US national security apparatus. Smith is an adjunct econ professor at John Jay College. She reveals how Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute which he founded weaponized and deployed nonviolent direct action in the service of successful and unsuccessful US attempts to overthrow the governments of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, China, Myannmar, Iran, Egypt during the Arab Spring, Venezuela, the former Yugoslavia and the Baltic States.

Besides deploying nonviolent direct action to topple governments standing in the way of Uncle Sam’s global empire, Gene Sharp and his funders have mentored a good deal of what some regard as the US left – at least those parts of it under the influence of one-percenter philanthropy – in the tactics and what passes for the philosophy of nonviolent direct action. According to Sharp’s and the Albert Einstein Institute’s peculiar philosophy, property destruction is violence, while the ravages of poverty and deprivation, of economic blockades and lack of medical care just to name a few phenomena, are not. Sharp’s views on the methods and importance of nonviolent direct action are highly influential in such quarters as Moral Monday and the so-called New Poor Peoples Campaign, parts of the environmental movement, and other places. Whether or not we embrace or espouse nonviolent direct action as an occasional tactic or a bedrock and fundamental strategy we owe it to ourselves to understand the origin of this idea, why the national security state promotes it, how and for whom it works and does not work, and why.

It’s time to critically interrogate the fetishes of nonviolence and nonviolent direct action as a path to the world we need to build. This great interview is a good start to that conversation. Here is the link. Click to listen or download it.

 

[You can find Doug Henwood’s Behind the News shows archived for the last several years at http://leftbusinessobserver.com .]

BOLIVIA: “THIS IS A COP OF CLIMATE CHANGE NOT A COP OF CARBON TRADE”

December 4, 2012

Censored News

 
UNBALANCED NEGOTIATIONS AND VERY PARTIAL VISIONS
Bolivia continues the fight against carbon markets, and the bias that prevents the voice of developing countries from being heard

By Plurinational State of Bolivia
Censored News

DOHA, Qatar — 4 December 2012 — During the plenary of Cooperation Actions of Long Term (ACL), or table of financing that summarizes the prospect of this working group, the text of conclusions has been proposed, which supposedly reflect the positions and proposals of countries forming part of the working group.

However the Vice-Chancellor of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Juan Carlos Alurralde said, “The text was imbalanced and did not include the position and proposals of developing countries, since it was not adaptation, transfer of technology, attention to disaster, or financing that were the fundamental agreements in Bali,” said Alurralde.

“Ironically in the document are the mechanisms based on the carbon market, and exclude the proposal uploaded for Bolivia, the mechanism of no market within financing, a topic of great concern for those who support this proposal, countries such as China, Cuba, Egypt, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Iraq, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Sudan, Venezuela and others,” said the Vice Chancellor.

“These had not considered the proposal to not market, by the Facilitator, who is Chilean. This concerned the Vice-Chancellor, since no one wants to think that there is some sort of discrimination or bilateral rematch, to an issue such as the sea that is bilateral.”

“However it is very evident that the facilitator of the ACL has overlooked entirely the proposals to not market, that’s why Bolivia with a very strong position going to trace the theme and raise the formation of working groups that raise profound decisions, and does listen to the voices of the world” pointed out Alurralde.

Regarding the actions to be taken by Bolivia, the Vice Chancellor noted that: “Bolivia has a very strong visible voice and together with the countries that worked on the proposals to not market, will hear criticisms to the head of the ACL group and the respective claim to the facilitator, to organize in working groups that make listening to the voice of our countries to the world and this Conference negotiators, urged the Vice-Chancellor.

BOLIVIA: “THIS IS A COP OF CLIMATE CHANGE NOT A COP OF CARBON TRADE”

UNIDAD MADRE TIERRA Y AGUA / MINISTERIO DE RELACIONES EXTERIORES ESTADO PLURINACIONAL DE BOLIVI
DOHA, Qatar — December 4th

The day of the COP inauguration, a conference about CARBON TRADE took place facilitated by Nicholas Stern. The event had the presence of ministers and other authorities of different countries. Surprisingly the center of the discussion was how to allow developed countries that are not going to be part of the second commitment period of KP to have access to market mechanisms of the same KP that they deny to be applicable to them.

Another central issue was how to solve the crisis of the carbon market. Half of the 100 billion dollars to be provided for climate change by 2020 would come from carbon credits, commented Mr. Stern. The collapse of prices in carbon market is a menace to financial provision for climate change, expressed Stern. A dynamic debate took place in the event in order to bring solutions to the carbon crisis.

This debate is beginning to dominate the agenda of discussion in COP18, pushed by developed countries. Are we going to allow this COP about climate change to become a COP of carbon trade?

That was a question raised by Juan Carlos Alurralde the Vice Chancellor of Bolivia, who was present in the conference. When he took the floor he expressed the following words: “… Carbon markets are not a solution to the climate change crisis… Instead of discussing one of the instruments for supporting mitigation actions, which is carbon markets.; I repeat: ONE of the instruments which effectiveness is still pending of analysis, but from our view is a complete mistake, instead of that, we should discuss the structural elements of a comprehensive response to Climate Change Crisis.
It’s seems that developed countries are more interested in the carbon markets business that in the ultimate goal of this conference which is the structural solutions for this planet and future generations Carbon markets are just business for some but a bad solution for Mother Earth, facilitating developed countries not to make real domestic reductions.

We have to say that at least four realistic predictable risks are linked to the application and generalization of carbon markets: 1. Double counting implying an additional 1,6 Gigatones (GT) to the atmosphere. 2. Non aditionalities with an increase of 0,4 GT Gigatones 3. The use of the carry over which implies 11 GT 4.

The opening of opportunities for creating bilateral trading carbon agreements without accounting for the rules, monitoring and regulation. We came from very far to try to find solutions and alternatives to bring the opportunity to future generations to live with dignity in this planet, and definitely the Carbon market mechanisms are not the solution…”

FLASHBACK: Reporters Without Democracy

Media Watchdog as Democracy Manipulator (Part 4 of 4)

December 16, 2007

[The first two parts of this article firstly investigated Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ‘democratic’ funding ties, and then went on to look at the ‘democratic’ credentials of some of their current and former staff.  The third installment of this article extended this investigation and examined the ‘democratic’ ties of some of the earlier recipients of RSF’s annual Fondation de France Prize, and this concluding part of the article will now continue in this vein and examine the ‘democratic’ ties of some of RSF’s more recent prize winners. Finally, the article will conclude by offering some suggestions for how the issues raised within this article may be acted upon by progressive activists.]

Reporting on ETA

In 2000, Carmen Gurruchaga Basurto, a political reporter for El Mundo, a Madrid-based daily newspaper won the RSF award. Her biography notes that she “writes frequently about the Basque separatist group, ETA.” However, it goes on to note that because “Gurruchaga’s stories have so threatened the terrorist group… since 1984 it has waged a campaign against her, hoping to intimidate her into stopping reporting on their activities.” In 2001, Gurruchaga received awards from two ‘democratically’ connected organizations, Human Rights Watch (from whom she obtained a Hellman/Hammett Grant), and the International Women’s Media Foundation (from whom she was awarded their annual Courage Award).

Regime Change in Iran?

In 2001, Reza Alijani, the editor of Iran-e-Farda – an Iranian newspaper that was banned in 2000 – received RSF’s press freedom award. Although I cannot demonstrate that Alijani has any ‘democratic’ ties, one of his former Iran-e-Farda colleagues, Hojjatoleslam Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari, “was arrested on August 5, 2000 in connection with his participation at an academic and cultural conference held at the Heinrich Boll Institute in Berlin on April 7-9 [2000] entitled ‘Iran after the elections,’ at which political and social reform in Iran were publicly debated”. This is significant because the German political foundations (Stiftungen) are according to Stefan Mair (2000) “without a doubt among the oldest, most experienced and biggest actors in international democracy assistance”. Indeed NED historian David Lowe writes that these Stiftungen provided an “important model for democracy assistance” which helped catalyse the creation of the US’s own democracy promoting organ, the NED.[1]

Armed with this knowledge it is perhaps not so astonishing that the Iranian government would choose to imprison many of the activists who participated in the aforementioned Heinrich Boll conference. Furthermore, it is also predicable that some of the other conference attendees would have ties to the NED and the democracy manipulators: these activists included Akbar Ganji (who in 2000 received an International Press Freedom Award from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, that is, the group that manages the ‘democratically’ linked IFEX network, and after spending six years in prison – after attending the conference – Ganji was awarded Rights and Democracy’s 2007 John Humphrey Freedom Award), Ali Afshari (who was a visiting fellow at the NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies from October 2006 to February 2007), and Mehrangiz Kar (who from 2000 to 2001 held a senior fellowship with the Toda Institute for Global Policy and Peace Research, from October 2001 to August 2002 was a NED Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, in late 2002 served as a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and between September 2005 and June 2006 was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy).

A number of other Iranian journalists – who did not attend the Berlin conference – were also arrested in April 2000, and the two who can be linked to the ‘democracy’ community are Mashallah Shamsolvaezin (who in 2000 then received the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award), [2] and Emadeddin Baqi (who in 2004 was awarded the Civil Courage Prize, and in 1999 co-wrote a series of articles with Akbar Ganji criticizing the government which “galvanized the public and, within one year of their publication, forced the closing by the government of nearly every reform newspaper in the country”).

Environmental ‘Democracy’ for Russia

The 2002 RSF Fondation de France Prize was awarded to Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, who at the time of receiving the award was serving a prison sentence for exposing the dumping of radioactive waste by the Russian fleet in the Sea of Japan, “expos[ing] corruption inside the fleet” and pass[ing] on public information about both issues to Japanese journalists”. Pasko was eventually set free in 2003, and in 2004 he became the editor-in-chief of the Environmental Rights Center’s (otherwise known as Bellona) Environment and Rights Journal – which has been published since February 2002 and is supported by the NED.

Bringing Human Rights to Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Morocco

In 2003 RSF Fondation de France Prize was given to the following individuals and groups, exiled Haitian journalist, Michèle Montas, to the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Daily News, and to the Moroccan journalist, Ali Lmrabet.

In addition, to being a former director of Radio Haiti Inter, the first RSF winner, Michèle Montas, is also a director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights – a group that was initially known as the National Emergency Coalition for Haitian Refugees when it was created in 1982. Two of the better known (now deceased) ‘democracy promoting’ founders of the NCHR are Lane Kirkland (who is a former Rockefeller Foundation trustee, and from 1979 to 1995 served as the president of the AFL-CIO – which is a core NED grantee) and Bayard Rustin (who was a former chairman of the executive committee of Freedom House, and former president of the NED-funded A. Philip Randolph Institute). [3] Other notable former directors of NCHR include Michael H. Posner (who is the president of Human Rights First), Michele D. Pierre-Louis (who is the Executive Director of FOKAL which “is the Open Society Institute foundation in Haiti”), and Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. (who is a former director of the Rockefeller Foundation).

The current executive director of NCHR is Jocelyn McCalla, who has held this position since 1988 (except for a one year break in 2002) and presently serves on Human Right Watch’s ‘democratically’ connected Americas Advisory Board. Other current NCHR directors with ‘democratic’ ties include Mark Handelman (who is a director of the NED-funded International Campaign for Tibet), Max J. Blanchet (who is a director of the Lambi Fund of Haiti which although progressive is a chapter of USAID-funded Partners of the Americas), Muzaffar A. Chishti, (who is the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University School of Law), and Herold Dasque (who is the executive director of the progressive Haitian American United for Progress, but is also connected to Dwa Fanm – a group which has two directors who have previously worked with George Soros’ Open Society Institute).

The second recipient of the 2003 RSF Fondation de France Prize was the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Daily News. This paper was launched by Geoffrey Nyarota in 1999, and it “quickly became the largest selling and most influential newspaper” in Zimbabwe. Therefore, it is significant to note that Nyarota – who “now lives in exile in the United States from where he publishes thezimbabwetimes.com” –was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award in 2001. In addition, the following year he received the World Association of Newspapers Golden Pen of Freedom award, from 2004 to 2005 he served as a fellow at the US-based Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and he is presently a director of the World Press Freedom Committee. [4] (The Daily News closed operations in 2004 after “constant harassment by state monitors” and is now being published by the Amnesty International’s Irish Section.)

The third RSF prize for 2003 was awarded to the Moroccan journalist and editor of Demain magazine, Ali Lmrabet, while he was “serving a three-year jail sentence, in part for publishing cartoons critical of King Mohammed VI”. However, while Lmrabet was sentenced in May that year he was released from prison one month after he received the RSF award (which he obtained in December 2003). Here it is perhaps relevant to note that he is presently a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, although he does not appear to hold any leadership role. This is significant because this association is a member of a broader network known as the International Federation for Human Rights – a group whose work is supported by Rights and Democracy, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Ford Foundation, and the Heinrich Boll Foundation.

Promoting ‘Democracy’ in Algeria, China, and Mexico

Three RSF awards were distributed in 2004. The first recipient of the RSF prize was Algerian journalist Hafnaoui Ghoul, who at the time was a correspondent for the daily paper El Youm and was head of the regional office of the Algerian Human Rights League (LADDH). Ghoul’s affiliation to the latter group is noteworthy because LADDH received their first grant from the NED in 2002, and then received further NED grants in both 2004 and 2005.

The second person to receive a RSF award in 2004 was the “former Beijing University philosophy teacher Liu Xiaobo, who heads the Independent Writers’ Association”. At the time of receiving the award Xiaobo was also the chair of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), whose members include two members of the editorial board of the NED-funded magazine, Beijing Spring, Kuide Chen and Zheng Yi. It is also significant that Louisa Coan Greve (who is the senior program officer for Asia for the NED) congratulated Xiaobo on receiving his RSF prize, and noted that the award “also honors the ICPC itself, and NED is gratified and humbled to be a supporter of those efforts.” [5]

Finally, the third winner of the RSF’s 2004 award was the weekly newspaper Zeta – a Mexican paper which was cofounded by the 1998 RSF award nominiee J. Jesus Blancornelas. Blancornelas is currently Zeta’s editor in chief, and his previous nomination for the RSF prize is no accident, as throughout his career he has been showered with numerous journalism awards, the earliest of which appears to be the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award which he received in 1995. Zeta appears to have quite an affinity with the Committee to Protect Journalists, because in 2007, Zeta’s director, Navarro Bello, was also awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.

A Helping Hand for Somali, Afghanistan, and China

In 2005, Omar Faruk Osman received the RSF award on behalf of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). This is significant because in 2002 Osman was elected as the secretary-general of the Somali Journalists Network (SOJON), which under his guidance was transformed into NUSOJ. This group is linked to the NED in a number of ways. In 2005 they obtained a grant from the NED to train journalists and “nominate journalists as National Press Freedom Protectors to monitor free press abuses”, while in the same year the International Federation of Journalists received a separate grant from the NED to work with them to organize a journalism conference. More recently, in 2006, Osman “was chosen to be a member of the international jury of the RSF Press Freedom Award”.

Other winners of the RSF’s 2005 Fondation de France Press Freedom Award include the Afghanistan-based Tolo TV (which was launched in 2004 with starter funds provided by USAID, and is reported to be the “most popular station in Kabul” boasting of a “81 percent share of the market”), and New York Times contributor, Zhao Yan.

Zhao Yan is a journalist who worked for China Reform Magazine (from 2002 to March 2004), and has also written for the NED-funded Human Rights in China. Yan stopped working for the China Reform Magazine in March 2004 and “the magazine was subsequently shut down by the government in December 2004”. However, just before the magazine closed down Yan was arrested by the Chinese government for allegedly disclosing state secrets, and then kept in prison until September 2007.

Note that the China Reform Magazine is linked, albeit tenuously, to a NED-supported organization through Professor Tiejun Wen, who is based at the Renmin University of China and was formerly the editor-in-chief for China Reform Magazine. The NED link arises through Professor Wen’s employment as the chief-economist of the China Macroeconomics Network, where he is also a member of their expert group of “more than 130 renowned Chinese macroeconomists” known as The Macrochina Economists 100. It is significant that three other members of this elite group of macroeconomists currently work for the Beijing-based Unirule Institute of Economics – an organization that has received four grants from the NED (which were channelled via the Center for International Private Enterprise in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999): these three macroeconomists are the Unirule’s president and co-founder Mao Yushi, their director Sheng Hong, and the Institute’s director-general Zhang Shuguang. [6]

Democracy for Four: Burma, Cuba, Russian, the and Democratic Republic of Congo

In 2006 there were four RSF laureates, the Burmese journalist U Win Tin, the Cuban writer Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (Russia), and the group Journaliste En Danger (Democratic Republic of Congo).

U Win Tin, a former member of the central executive committee of the National League for Democracy (where he acted as their secretary), and a close friend of former RSF awardee San San Nweh, received the 2006 RSF press freedom prize. He has been in prison since 1989 because of his affiliation to Burma’s main opposition party, and while San San Nweh was released from prison in 2001, he still languishes behind bars today. As mentioned previously, in 2001 the World Association of Newspapers awarded U Win Tin its annual press freedom prize.

Another recipient of RSF’s 2006 award was the Cuban cyber-dissident Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, who heads the small Cubanacán Press news agency. As before, RSF support of Cuban dissidents is hardly surprising given the financial support they receive from the NED-funded Center for a Free Cuba, thus it is also not so astonishing that the NED-funded CubaNet media project would publish Guillermo’s work.

The Russian biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta is now most famous for formerly being home to Anna Politkovskaya (the journalist who was murdered in October 2006), a journalist whose work was recently recognized by the NED who awarded her one of their 2007 Democracy Awards. [7] In addition, in September 2007 Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, was given the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.

RSF’s “partner organization” Journaliste En Danger (JED), is a member of the IFEX network, was founded in 1997, and is headed by journalists Donat M’Baya Tshimanga and Tshivis Tshivuadi. In what might be considered a conflict of interest, Tshimanga – who is presently JED’s president – also serves on the RSF’s international jury for their Press Freedom Award (and has done so since at least 2002). Also in 2004, Tshivuadi, who is the secretary general of JED, attended an inter-regional workshop that was convened by the NED-linked Panos Institute. [8]

Ending Media Interference Now

It is very dangerous when press freedom organizations get themselves politically compromised by accepting payment from any government. It is really vital that all such organizations are truly independent.” UK National Union of Journalists

While this article had not demonstrated that RSF receives funding from any government, it has shown how RSF has received funding from the Congressionally funded NED, and it has illustrated how RSF’s work is highly integrated with that of the ‘democracy promoting’ community, much of which is linked to the activities of the NED. Whether RSF is being manipulated to serve as a useful tool of the ‘democracy promoters’, or whether it is itself guiding the media-related priorities of the global ‘democratic’ community is beside the point. What is certain is that RSF’s activities are intimately entwined with those of the NED. The revelations in this article alone therefore provide more than enough reasons for disbanding RSF immediately. However, this is unlikely to happen in the near future given the useful role that RSF currently provides for elite interests determined on promoting low-intensity neoliberal forms of democracy globally.

Undoubtedly future studies will furnish further details concerning RSF’s less than noble ‘democratic’ liaisons, but the question to ask is, will this be enough to close it down permanently, or to even delegitimize their work in the corporate media? Unfortunately, it is all too obvious that such information, without determined action (in the form of grassroots activism) to back it up, will probably not affect the conduct of RSF’s work one iota. This can explained to a large extent by the bipartisan nature (but nonetheless highly political and regressive work) of most ‘democracy promoting’ efforts, which acts to shield their work from critical enquiry. We only have to look to the work of the core NED grantee, the AFL-CIO, to see that ongoing critical reports filed over the past few decades [27] – that have comprehensively documented the AFL-CIO’s involvement in implementing the US’s antidemocratic foreign policies – have had little visible effect on their practices. Indeed, a number of unionists and other activists joined together in the Worker to Worker Solidarity Committee (www.workertoworker.net) have been continuing to campaign to get the AFL-CIO to break any ties it has with the NED. To date, they have been unsuccessful, even though getting the California AFL-CIO State Convention – one-sixth of the entire membership at the time – to unanimously repudiate the AFL-CIO foreign policy program in 2004. At the 2005 National AFL-CIO Convention in Chicago, the AFL-CIO leadership first changed the California resolution to praising their Solidarity Center’s work, and then actively refused to allow anyone to speak on the convention floor in favour of the actual California resolution condemning AFL-CIO foreign policy.

On a more positive note, ideally, the results of this paper will help initiate further critical inquiries into the democracy manipulators colonization of journalism organizations. Yet it is surely an indictment of media scholars and journalists that similar studies have not been conducted years ago. That said, perhaps this judgement is overly harsh, as ignorance concerning antidemocratic funding seems to be a problem of progressive groups’ more generally. Indeed, progressive activists’ seem to have become so fixated on critiquing their ideological opponents that they have neglected to watch the right-ward slide of their would-be-allies. This tactical lapse appears to have left democratic media organizations open to the insidious cooptive assaults waged by those intent on promoting a polyarchal public sphere.

One way to counter the democracy manipulators cynical use of journalism against democracy is for progressive groups to thoroughly investigate the activities of each and every media group working to strengthen the public sphere. This would be a simple project if journalists and media scholars across the world critically examined the work of their local journalism organizations. In this way, a global database might be built up which would enable progressive scholars, activists, and journalists, to lift the rhetorical veil that has so far shielded many media groups’ from criticism. Completion of such studies will then enable keen media reformers to support (and where necessary create new) truly participatory journalism organizations that can effectively challenge the corporate medias’ global hegemony.

 

[Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at Griffith University, Australia. He can be reached at Michael.J.Barker [at] griffith.edu.au. All four parts of this article and some of his other recent articles can be found right here.[

 

Endnotes

[1] By the 1990s Germany’s Stiftungen or party foundations, “had resident representatives in more than 100 countries and field offices in some of them for well over 30 years. Between 1962 and 1997 they handled in total over DM4.5 billion reaching around DM290 million annually by the 1990s. Although in the period before 1990 it is debatable how much can be called democracy support rather than activities primarily intended to meet other purposes  In Pinto-Duschinsky’s words they were ‘powerful instruments not only for promoting democracy, but also for furthering German interests and contacts’.” Stefan Mair, Germany’s Stiftungen and Democracy Assistance: Comparative Advantages, New Challenges, In: Peter J. Burnell (ed.) Democracy assistance: International Co-operation for Democratization (London, Frank Cass: 2000), pp.128-149.

Heinrich Boll representative, Sascha Müller-Kraenner, was also a signatory to a recent letter (dated November 11, 2004) which was sent by the NED to Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez to urge him “to reconsider the prosecution of the leadership of Sumate, as well as the proposal to criminalize democracy assistance from abroad”. Sumate is the Venezuelan group that received assistance from the NED to facilitate the unsuccessful ouster of Chavez in 2002.

[2] Another recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award in 2000 was Steven Gan who at the time was the co-founder and editor of the online publication Malaysiakini, a publication which was launched in 1999 by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (a group that since their founding in 1999 has received annual grants from the NED to support their work in Malaysia).

[3] Also see Tom Barry, ‘The New Crusade of the Democratic Globalists’, International Relations Center, August 3, 2005; Other NCHR leaders in the early 1980s included Father Antoine Adrien, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Ira Gollobin, Vernon Jordan, Rev. Benjamin Hooks, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, and Bishop Paul Moore.

[4] In 2006 Geoffrey Nyaro published the book Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman, and in 2006 he also attended the 7th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees – a conference that was also attended by the NED’s president Carl Gershman.

[5] http://www.cicus.org/news/newsdetail.php?id=3514 Accessed December 2006.

[6] The Unirule Institute president, Mao Yushi, while based at the Unirule Institute between 1996 and 1997 was also an executive officer for the NED-linked Chinese Economists Society, and “[i]n November 2004, Mao was elected by the International Business Review as one of the ten most influential economists in China”. Other well-known ‘democratic’ funders of Unirule’s work include the major liberal philanthropist the Ford Foundation, the Institute for International Economics (whose most ‘democratic’ directors are David Rockefeller and George Soros), “many foreign embassies in Beijing”, and “international public institutions, such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank”. For further analysis of the Unirule Institute’s ‘democratic’ ties see, Michael Barker, Promoting a Low Intensity Public Sphere: American Led Efforts to Promote a ‘Democratic Media’ Environment in China. A paper to presented at the China Media Centre Conference (Brisbane, Australia: Creative Industries Precinct, 5-6 July 2007).

[7] Novaya Gazeta: “The privately-owned newspaper in which the staff holds 51% of the shares, saw two political figures take over 49% of its capital in June 2006. They were the former Soviet president and originator of glasnost (openness), Mikhail Gorbachev, and Alexander Lebedev, wealthy businessman and member of the Duma.”

[8] The Panos Institute received one grant from the NED in 1997, while more recently in September 2007, the NED’s “Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and Panos London launched the Panos Institute’s report entitled At the Heart of Change: The Role of Communication in Sustainable Development.”

BROOKINGS INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES NEXT MOVE IN SYRIA – WAR

May 9, 2012

ESSENTIAL BACKGROUND >> TURKEY PREPARED TO INVOKE ARTICLE 5 REQUESTING NATO INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

After admitting UN peace plan was a ploy, Brookings predictably scraps it and begins promoting expanded military conflict.

by Tony Cartalucci

Land Destroyer

By the US policy think-tank Brookings Institution’s own admission, the Kofi Annan six-point peace plan in Syria was merely a ploy to buy time to reorganize NATO’s ineffective terrorist proxies and provide them the pretext necessary for establishing NATO protected safe havens from which to carry out their terrorism from. In fact, Brookings actually stated in a recent report, “Assessing Options for Regime Change” (emphasis added):

“An alternative is for diplomatic efforts to focus first on how to end the violence and how to gain humanitarian access, as is being done under Annan’s leadership. This may lead to the creation of safe-havens and humanitarian corridors, which would have to be backed by limited military power. This would, of course, fall short of U.S. goals for Syria and could preserve Asad in power. From that starting point, however, it is possible that a broad coalition with the appropriate international mandate could add further coercive action to its efforts.” –page 4, Assessing Options for Regime Change, Brookings Institution.


Image: Also out of the Brookings Institution, Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf),” makes no secret that the humanitarian “responsibility to protect” is but a pretext for long-planned regime change.

As if to alleviate any lingering doubts, NATO’s “Alliance News Blog” has confirmed that the US is committed not to “peace,” but rather to the overthrow of Syria’s government and is “already committed to helping [President Bashar al-Assad] fall,” but is “merely looking for the least violent, lowest cost way to get there.” The April 9, 2012 blog entry features an op-ed titled, “US ‘already committed to helping Assad fall’,” and fully admits that the US is equipping the so-called “Free Syrian Army” which has received weapons, leadership, and cash from the NATO-backed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) terrorists led by notorious mass-murderer Abdul Hakim Belhaj.


Image: NATO’s official “Alliance News Blog proudly reports that the US is already committed to helping “Assad fall” and is simply using the lull in fighting brought on by Kofi Annan’s disingenuous “peace plan” to rearm, reorganize, and redeploy their terrorist proxy forces against Assad. The op-ed featured on NATO’s blog was featured in the LA Times and written by CFR member Doyle McManus

And now, the Brookings Institution itself has predictably declared the Annan “peace deal” a failure and states that the time to “stretch” Syria’s military to the breaking point through expanded foreign-backed unrest has come. In an article titled, “Annan’s Mission Impossible: Why is everyone pretending that the U.N. plan in Syria has a prayer of suceeding?” Brookings Doha Center director Salman Shaikh insults the intelligence of his readership while handing out useful talking points surely to be parroted by the corporate-media over the next few days and weeks. Shaikh depicts the ceasefire’s failure as solely the result of the Syrian government’s belligerence and brutality, while mentioning nothing of the Syrian opposition’s documented and even admitted atrocities.

“Trusted Messengers” (Avaaz) and “Humanitarian Groups” (Amnesty International) Target Russia and China, Endorse the US-NATO Mandate

by Richard Nogueira

Global Research, March 15, 2012

Your content here.ecently “humanitarian” groups such as Amnesty International and Avaaz have been targeting Russia (and China to a lesser extent) in relation to the current Syrian conflict.
The stance does not make much sense in relation to the general missions of these “humanitarian” groups.
A.I., a long standing effective and trusted player, is seen worldwide as an agency of impeccable credentials on human rights.
From seemingly nowhere (?) Avaaz has exploded onto the world-political-activist scene with enormous success (including membership enrollments involving millions of weekly outreach communications).
I described this activity as the state of being “infiltrated with the agenda of Empire” in a previous e-mail.
It is an extremely effective form of propaganda – these are deeply trusted messengers.
The entire effect is similar to how “P”BS is being used to prop up “commercial” network personalities (and mainstream/corp. media agendas), especially in affiliate with CBS and NBC/MSNBC).
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