Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Your invitation to party with the PM has finally arrived!

...and there's so much to celebrate!

Yes, John HoWARd is throwing a PARTY to celebrate TEN YEARS in office, and YOU, ME and Bob yr Uncle are being invited!

Let's take this opportunity to join together and express to John our collective appreciation and heartfelt thanks!


Where: Westin Hotel, 1 Martin Place, Sydney
When: 6pm
What: $10,000 a head fund-raiser! But don't let that stop you! It certainly ain't stopping the folks at Unions NSW: they're hoping to get 1,000 people outside the hotel by 6pm.


Where: Cranlana, 62 Clendon Rd, Toorak
When: 5pm
What: Party!

Bring whatever you feel might enhance a gathering with the Prime Minister and his corporate ('Aussie battler') mates.

Billing & van Tongeren say "We're outta here"; WA police say "Huh?"

Nationwide hunt for accused neo-Nazi
Paige Taylor
The Australian
February 28, 2006

ACCUSED neo-Nazi leader Jack van Tongeren is again a fugitive, with police launching a nationwide manhunt after the 59-year-old skipped bail.

It has been seven days since Mr van Tongeren, due to face trial next month on charges of conspiring to firebomb Asian restaurants, went missing.

The former Australian Nationalists Movement leader turned himself in 18 months ago after a week hiding in the bush outside of Perth.

Last Monday, he failed to report to police, as required as a condition of his bail.

His former ANM sidekick Matthew Billing skipped bail the same day and police believe the pair are travelling together in a Toyota Hilux.

Mr van Tongeren's lawyer, Geoff Vickridge, told reporters yesterday he was worried about his client's wellbeing.

Others said Mr van Tongeren, who was granted bail just three weeks ago, was fearful about going to prison, had been depressed and was concerned about the health of his mother in Victoria. In a visit to the Perth offices of The Australian on February 15, Mr van Tongeren said he was innocent but had no faith in the justice system.

A former member of Mr van Tongeren's group told The Australian the Vietnam war veteran was a skilled bushman who kept a cool head.

"He will have gone underground for sure - they'll have a hard time finding him," said the former group member, who has given information to the police.

Western Australian acting assistant police commissioner Paul Zanetti complained that Mr van Tongeren had a four-day head start because detectives and state security did not learn until Friday that he had not reported to Cannington police, as he was required to do daily, since February 20.


ANM leader and deputies deny charge of racist arson plot
January 12, 2005

WHITE supremacist leader Jack Van Tongeren and two of his deputies in the neo-Nazi Australian Nationalist Movement denied yesterday they were plotting to reprise the group's racist firebombing campaign against Perth's Asian community.

Van Tongeren, 57, John Anthony Van Blitterswyk, 53, and Matthew Peter Billing, 33, all appeared in the WA District Court to plead not guilty to a charge of conspiring to commit arson.

Appearing in the dock in shackles, Van Tongeren spoke only to plead to the charge that he and his co-accused conspired to firebomb four Chinese restaurants in the Perth suburbs of Willeton, Karawara and Ferndale between June 1 and July 16 last year.

All three men were ordered to appear again in court in June, when a date for their trial will be discussed.

The men also faced court on charges of criminal damage and wilfully destroying property, relating to a poster campaign for the ANM and racist graffiti sprayed on properties all over Perth.

Magistrate Pam Hogan adjourned those charges to June.

Speaking outside court, Billing said he was confident they would be acquitted on the conspiracy charges, saying Van Tongeren posed no threat to the community.

"A lot of you people demonise him but just because he has an alternative viewpoint does not make him dangerous," Billing said.

"The case (against us) is moderate, and they have admitted that, so I can't see it going much further - I have got every belief we will be found not guilty and acquitted."

Van Tongeren was arrested in August last year when an intensive manhunt by WA police ended with his arrest in the heart of the Perth CBD following a tip-off.

Van Blitterswyk and Billing were arrested two weeks later at a rural property in Bindoon, 100km north of Perth.

The court had earlier been told the nub of the prosecution case would be rollover statements from two former ANM recruits, Daniel Klavins and Ian "Monty" Johnson.

Klavins, who has already admitted to spraying racist graffiti in the name of the group, told police van Blitterswyk claimed he would "shoot it out" with anyone who tried to arrest him and intended to "beat Ned Kelly's record of killing policemen".

The arrests came two years after Van Tongeren's release from prison following a 12-year sentence served for organising an anti-Asian campaign, which included the firebombing of five Chinese restaurants.

The Vietnam veteran was convicted of 53 charges including conspiracy to drive Asians from the state, false pretences, breaking, entering and stealing, illegal use, theft, arson, causing an explosion, wilful damage, attempted arson and assault.

Not everyone "loves Ulster"...

...or McDonalds for that matter.

A political analysis of the Dublin riots and why nobody saw them coming, by an anarchist living in Dublin.

Featured on anarkismo.

Saturday saw a major riot in Dublin in response to an attempted Loyalist 'Love Ulster' march through the main street of the capital. For three hours hundreds rioted in the city centre, banks and shops were attacked and looted and cars were set on fire. All the political parties including Sinn Fein have condemned the riots but few have analysed what happened. This article first submitted to indymedia.ie suggests the riot shows that "he who sows misery, harvests anger".


I, like almost everybody I know, didn't predict the events of Saturday. In fact the only person I know who did predict a major riot was a friend of mine who happens to hail from the wee North - in retrospect I should have realised that he had his finger on the pulse, for not only does he have much more experience of sectarian marches, but through his job he knows many of the people who were involved and has an unusual insight and sympathy for those people who most Dubliners write off as 'scumbags' and 'knackers'. This article is an analysis of what happened and why almost everybody got it so wrong. This article is a companion piece to the photo essay which I published yesterday.


I have a lot of experience of protesting and policing, having attended many of the most hyped and heavily policed events that Dublin has seen in the last decade as well as some of the biggest and most volatile international protests that have occurred around the world, both as a participant and a cameraman. From this it is obvious to me that the police were similarly completely surprised by the events of Saturday February 25th in central Dublin.

I also know that the Gardai are more than capable of policing contentious and potentially volatile protests in what would be regarded as a way that is in line with international policing norms. I was there on the Navan road when 3,000 anti-capitalist protestors made the march to Farmleigh on Mayday 2004. On that day there were thousands of police deployed and although the protestors managed to get much closer to the location of the summit than the police would have liked, the state was never in any danger of losing control of the situation. They had deployed thousands of police in riot gear, backed up by water cannon and a massive deployment of surveillance technology and they successfully contained the protestors much as their international colleagues routinely do. Therefore, I do not think that it is conceivable that the complete under-preparedness of the Gardai could possibly be a result of incompetence in terms of their ability to police events - they have proved very successful at containing much bigger protests in the past...

There have been some suggestions that our power-crazed minister for justice or other sinister forces within the 26 county state may have deliberately failed to prepare adequately to police this event in order to further some security or anti-republican agenda. While I'm sure the minister for justice would love to have the power to do this, I'm also certain that he doesn't and that this theory is entirely implausible. Gardai are generally not happy to be sent out under-prepared to face rioters and if there had been any inkling that a riot was likely to ensue, the guards would have been extremely unwilling - to say the least - to be used as target practice in such a scheme, pawns in the minister's power game. As it is the Gardai on the ground were extremely angry and remain so that they were sent out to police a situation without anything like the resources that they would have needed to contain the situation. Furthermore, I talked to the Superintendent who appeared to be in charge of operations on the day and several ordinary Gardai and they all expressed the same opinion - that they had anticipated some 'trouble' but nothing like the rioting that happened and while it is a foolish person who believes anything just because the Gardai say it is so (I remember the stream of lies and smears that the Gardai press office came out with in the run up to Mayday 2004) - these reactions seemed genuine and unscripted.

Therefore, I think it is clear that the Gardai were genuinely taken completely by surprise by the events of the day and I think that the reasons for them being surprised were exactly the same as the reasons that I and almost all of the other political activists whom I know were similarly taken by surprise.

Essentially, our mistake was to assume that political protests need to be organised by somebody. In general this is true and I don't know of any other event that has taken place in Dublin in the last 20 years which happened without being organised or planned by some organisation or other. The riots of central Dublin were an exception to this rule, no organisation planned them and almost nobody saw them coming.

The Gardai intelligence reports in advance of the march would have told them that Sinn Fein were trying as hard as they could to keep their members away from the protest - I believe that they announced that anybody who was seen in the city centre on the day would be banned from their functions for six (6) months and this largely worked, I only saw a single shinner in the city throughout the day and he was obviously there as a sanctioned observer and remained behind police lines (where I also inadvertently found myself). Similarly, the Gardai know that the 32CSM had called off their protest and were not interested in provoking a confrontation. While Republican Sinn Fein did organise a counter-protest, the Gardai pretty much know what their membership has for breakfast and are well aware that they are a tiny organisation based around a small number of traditional republican families who are completely incapable of mobilising more than a few dozen die-hards. The fourth significant Republican group, the IRSP, are virtually non-existent in the south and are incapable of organising anything. Besides the Gardai were well aware of the fact that the march was intended as a provocation, a trap for republicans to fall into and that the various republican groups were intelligent enough to recognise this and avoid falling into it.

The other political current that regularly causes the Gardai security worries in Dublin is the anarchists and the Gardai would have been well aware that the anarchist organisations were not at all interested in stoking the flames of sectarianism. The Gardai read indymedia for their intelligence like the rest of us and they would have been aware that the anarchists were not planning trouble for this march - being more interested in taking the piss out of the bigots than getting into a ruck with them. They knew that neither the WSM nor Organise!, the two formal anarchist organisations in the country, were simply not going to get involved in organising a protest that would be seen as nationalist and sectarian. Thus the Gardai came to the same assesment that I did - no political organisations who were capable of causing trouble were mobilising to oppose the Loyalist march and they were right.

From the long years that I have spent attending and covering protests I recognise a lot of faces from these various groups and they simply weren't involved in the confrontation - those whom I saw were bemusedly observing the whole thing from the sidelines. The people who are claiming that the events were orchestrated by this or that political group are simply liars who are pursuing various agendas and cynically using the riot to attack their political opponents. From the fantasist pathological liars of the Sunday Independent to the PDs, every reactionary in the country will use any such event as this to smear their opponents and they can be safely ignored by anybody who is seeking to understand these events.

So, if it wasn't organised by political groups, how did it happen?


Read more here.

View a great photo-essay of the riot here.

Shopping continues...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Celebrate Ten Years of the Black Star!

The Black Star PA Kolektiv will be celebrating its ten year anniversary this coming Saturday (March 4) @ The Arthouse, 616 Elizabeth St, Melbourne (Phone:(03) 9347 3917). Playing @ the gig will be:

Combat Wombat
Curse ov Dialect
Defiance Report
Straight Jacket Nation

Doors open 8pm. Barricade Books // @ Infoshop & Global Warning muzak distro will have stalls on the night, and you get all this for a measly $10!

See you there!

[Update : I did! Celebrate, that is. Missed the first band; Terror Firma (?) were good; Pisschrist kicked arse; Combat Wombat too; dunno 'bout Curse -- too drunk! Oh and hello to everyone I saw there and ¡viva la estella negra!]

Pies in 2006! (#2)

COLLINGWOOD : 2.8.8 (74)
St. Kilda : 1.9.10 (73)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Burn baby burn?

Recently, left-wing ALP maverick Bob Gould has weighed in on the subject of the DSP/Resistance and the burning of flags. From Bob the (Socialist Movement) Builder's perspective, "It would be easy to dismiss this initiative as a dopey student prank, but as it's clearly sponsored by the new DSP leadership it's rather more than that". (Er, not necessarily Bob. After all, it could be that the new DSP leadership has little more political sophistication than your average "dopey student". But be that as it may...)

Bob reckons that this DSP "initiative" / publicity stunt can be most easily explained by the party's decreasing ability to recruit "dopey students"; a field that Socialist Alternative has apparently come to dominate. (Although where this leaves the International Socialist Organisation is unclear.) Equally obviously, although not to Bob, is the political capital attached to the media attention generated by the DSP/Resistance member formerly known as the radical artist Azlan McLennan, whose last presumably 'primitive' and 'ultraleftist' work, featuring a burning Australian flag, was censored by police.

Speaking of flags, Gould gets it wrong, and Boyle gets it right, when referring to the appeal of the Eureka flag; popularly, but also -- and most significantly -- in the labour movement. According to Bob:

The main proponents of the Eureka flag in Australia in recent times were the Maoists in the 1970s and 1980s, who associated it with an exaggerated Australian nationalism versus US, Russian and British imperialism in whichever order the current Maoist political line then dictated — it changed several times. In those days the DSP quite validly used to polemicise against that sort of Australian nationalism. The Eureka flag has also been used extensively by the same fascists who also from time to time wrap themselves in the existing Australian flag.
Symbolic possession of the Eureka flag has been fought over by both left- and right-wing nationalists. At present, however, it appears to me that the left is winning. The Australian flag is often viewed as an imperial one; the Eureka flag a symbol of rebellion. Its adoption by contemporary left-wing trade unions is certainly more in keeping with its history than its use by the (radical) right. In any case, the Maoists of the 1970s and 1980s have thankfully disappeared up their own (virtual) arseholes; while National Action is dead and buried.

Still, while decrying the "ultraleft adventure" that is flag-burning, Bob's real point is this:
What’s required in current Australian conditions is the maximum united front of the working class and the progressive sections of the middle-class and the labour movement, and the socialist groups to mobilise against the industrial laws of the Howard Government, and to rebuild a movement against the Iraq War, both difficult tasks.
Standard leftist fare, in other words. And personally, I prefer a well-balanced diet.
Although Western leaders pretended to welcome the recent Stalinist collapse as a natural victory for their own system, none of them had seen it coming and they now obviously have no idea what to do about all the problems it poses except to cash in on the situation before it totally falls apart. The monopolistic multinational corporations that proclaim “free enterprise” as a panacea are quite aware that free-market capitalism would long ago have exploded from its own contradictions had it not been saved despite itself by a few New Deal-style pseudosocialist reforms.

Those reforms (public services, social insurance, the eight-hour day, etc.) may have ameliorated some of the more glaring defects of the system, but in no way have they led beyond it. In recent years they have not even kept up with its accelerating crises. The most significant improvements were in any case won only by long and often violent popular struggles that eventually forced the hands of the bureaucrats: the leftist parties and labor unions that pretended to lead those struggles have functioned primarily as safety valves, coopting radical tendencies and greasing the wheels of the social machine.

As the situationists have shown, the bureaucratization of radical movements, which has degraded people into followers constantly “betrayed” by their leaders, is linked to the increasing spectacularization of modern capitalist society, which has degraded people into spectators of a world over which they have no control — a development that has become increasingly glaring, though it is usually only superficially understood.

Taken together, all these considerations point to the conclusion that a liberated society can be created only by the active participation of the people as a whole, not by hierarchical organizations supposedly acting on their behalf. The point is not to choose more honest or “responsive” leaders, but to avoid granting independent power to any leaders whatsoever. Individuals or groups may initiate radical actions, but a substantial and rapidly expanding portion of the population must take part if a movement is to lead to a new society and not simply to a coup installing new rulers.

Thomas found guilty of receiving $3,500, a plane ticket, and having a dodgy visa

Thomas found guilty of receiving Al Qaeda funding
ABC News Online
Sunday, February 26, 2006. 2:57pm (AEDT)

A Victorian man has been found guilty of receiving funds from a terrorist group.

Joseph Terrence Thomas, 32, of Werribee, near Melbourne, was charged with receiving funds from and providing resources to Al Qaeda.

His lawyer told the Victorian Supreme Court there was no evidence Thomas provided himself as a resource while training at the Al Farooq camp in Afghanistan, or that he had agreed to work for Osama bin Laden in Australia.

The jury cleared him of those allegations but found him guilty of receiving a plane ticket home and $US3,500 from the terrorist group.

He was also found guilty of having a Pakistan visa changed to disguise how long he had been in the region.

His lawyer asked that he be allowed to continue his bail until his plea hearing on Thursday, but the request was denied.

The Gospel According to Peter

After careful consideration, polling, the opinions of his advisers, a quick check with a physician and a priest (to confirm that he remains without a beating heart or a living soul) and, last but by no means least, a corruption scandal at the Australian Wheat Board, Australian Treasurer Peter Costello has declared war on Australia's Muslims:

"Vote Liberal or go home!"

Or words to that effect:

"People come to Australia and become Australian citizens because they want to embrace the things this country stands for. We should be proud that people from all over the world come here looking for Australian values - our values - and want to embrace them. Values like economic opportunity, security, democracy, personal freedom, the physical environment and strong physical and social infrastructure."

Apart from demonstrating that our state's principal bean-counter is illiterate -- "the physical environment and strong physical and social infrastructure" aren't moral values Peter -- in the gospel according to Peter, the state is God, the government its Church, and Muslims are the Jews under Roman rule: bearers of an alien culture and religion which threatens to infect its host with illiberalism and anti-democratic notions.

But is Peter Costello really just Pauline Hanson in drag?

Hanson: Libs steal my view
February 24, 2006

FORMER One Nation leader Pauline Hanson says Treasurer Peter Costello's comments that people who come to live in Australia should show loyalty to its values are a vindication of her own views.

Ms Hanson said she was "crucified" and called a racist during her political career.

"I could foresee what was happening to our country," Ms Hanson told ABC Radio.

In a speech last night to the Sydney Institute, the treasurer said people who wanted to live under Islamic sharia law should move to a country where they would feel "more at ease".

He said anyone not prepared to accept Australian values, and who had citizenship of another country, should not remain an Australian citizen.

Ms Hanson called on Mr Costello to follow through with his claims.

"If Peter Costello is wanting to be a future prime minister of this country he needs to take a tough stand on this," she said.

"He needs to deal with it harshly.

"He needs to throw these people out of this country who do not embrace Australia."
But what, precisely, is this 'Australia' to which recent Australian citizens must pledge their undying allegiance to, or fuck off? The values Costello purports to champion -- in essence, liberal democracy -- are hardly uniquely 'Australian'. In reality -- as opposed to the fairy tale world Costello pretends to believe in -- such 'values' have their origins in Western Europe. Historically speaking, one variant or another of the modern, liberal democratic state has been adopted or, largely, imposed upon the rest of the (majority) world since. Further, the degree to which the modern capitalist state is either 'liberal' or 'democratic' has been determined not through the fatuous observations of politicians, but through many centuries of determined struggle; struggle against the kinds of powerful economic and political interests Costello does his best to represent in the Australian Parliament.

A final observation: in addition to its purely formal aspects, Australian citizenship often involves participation in a ceremony or ritual: "The Affirmation of Australian Citizenship is based on the Australian Citizenship Pledge made by new citizens and reads:

As an Australian citizen,
I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people,
Whose democratic beliefs I share,
Whose rights and liberties I respect,
And whose laws I uphold and obey.

And yet, 'ironically', it's Costello's mob that is doing its level best to remove any real content from Australian democracy, to undermine our rights and liberties and to demonise those who object.

Peter needs a clip 'round the ears.

Friday, February 24, 2006

To burn or not to burn, that is the question

OK, so the antiwar movement may not have quite turned out to be the wild-orgasm-of-anarchists-sweeping-across-the-country-like-a-prairie-fire all right-thinking, political moderates such as myself were hoping for, but... Heated debate has erupted on University campuses. Well, kinda.

Yesterday a few people shouted profanities ('Vote Liberal!', 'Join Resistance!'), some people pushed some other people, and fists were well-and-truly clenched. The reason? The authoritarian socialist youth group Resistance is selling 'flag burning kits' (yours for only $5 each), ostensibly in order "to protest against the Federal Government", but more obviously for publicity during 'O' week.

"You want to burn our flag, I want to burn your table," said one man. What response his philosophical enquiry into the nature of desire and retributive notions of justice received is not recorded, unfortunately, in Leigh Lalonde's account of the altercation between students on a University of Queensland campus.

Is burning a table a rational response to burning a flag?


See also:

Tempers flare over flag burning

TEMPERS have flared after youth socialist group Resistance began selling Australian flag burning kits at the University of Queensland (UQ).

Resistance members were jostled and abused by a man who took exception to the group setting up a stall to sell the $5 flag burning kits in the Great Court of the University of Queensland's St Lucia campus today.

Calling himself a "patriot", the man screamed at the group members "who fought for your freedom? You're joking".
Socialist students give out [sic] flag burning kits in Orientation Week
A Queensland member of Resistance, Stella Riethmuller, says the kit was inspired by a Victorian member's artwork which was confiscated from a gallery by police.

But she admits the campaign goes much deeper.

STELLA RIETHMULLER: There's a whole range of issues that, you know, we think are really urgent, like the occupation of Iraq and, you know, locking up refugees and our continued and ongoing oppression of Aboriginal people.
Yeah, we know. But here's to the rebel sound of shit and failure anyway.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"Aunty" Paul & "Uncle" Al

The people at the Danish Consulate & Embassy in Egypt are nice.

Last week, I sent them an email requesting confirmation that the Danish Ambassador to Egypt, Bjarne Sørensen, had indeed read an issue of Al Fagr at the time it was published. I received the following reply:

Dear Mr. Andy,

In reply to your question in email dated 17 February 2006 of how Ambassador Sørensen knew that the cartoons were published in October 2005; the Ambassador saw the 6 cartoons in Al Fagr on 17.10.2005.

Yours sincerely,
Vicki Hamza
A straight-forward answer to a straight-forward question.

So much for 'Uncle Al'. Now for 'Aunty Paul'.

Two weeks ago, Paul Reynolds, 'World Affairs correspondent' for the BBC News website, wrote a piece on blogging for the BBC titled Bloggers: an army of irregulars. Hundreds (if not thousands) of others in the blogosphere have already responded to Reynolds' article, each in their own unique fashion, but what the hell: I gotta bone to pick with Paul, so here are some comments of my own.
For many in the "mainstream media", as bloggers call us, weblogs are at best a nuisance and at worst dangerous. They are seen as the rantings and ravings either of the unbalanced or the tedious. My experience over the past few months has led me to an opposite conclusion. I regard the blogosphere as a source of criticism that must be listened to and as a source of information that can be used. The mainstream media (MSM in the jargon) has to sit up and take notice and develop some policies to meet this challenge. Most big organisations, whether in news or in business, have no policy towards blogs. They might, as the BBC has, develop a policy towards their own employees setting up such sites (no political opinions etc), but they have nobody monitoring the main blogs and have little idea how to respond to any criticism on them.
For many anarchist bloggers, corporate/state control over information flows (which employees of such conglomerations of economic and political power tend to delude themselves constitutes 'the mainstream') tends to function as little more than another mechanism for the reproduction of capitalist ideology. Such ideology is replete with the generally tedious and, by definition, unbalanced rantings and ravings of a literal army of concerned liberals, as well as sadistic reactionaries, and perhaps even one or two points in-between. Nevertheless, the corporate/state media also functions as a source of information that can be used by anarchists (and others!) as more than just a guide to the latest trends in consumption. The BBC's Colombus-like discovery of the blogosphere, and the emerging though necessarily stunted realisation that this new form of media may well have serious repercussions for the corporate/state media industry, is thus useful for the insight it gives, both into the ideological workings of dominant institutions such as the BBC, but also the thinking of the class it serves.

Reynolds' seperates his military analysis into three divisions. First, blogs as alternative source for news and information. Secondly, blogs as social power. Finally, blogs as political polemic.

1) Raw material

This portion is fairly straight-forward: Reynolds the journalist has found blogs a useful source of 'news'. Interestingly, much of the raw material that Reynolds exploits is produced by critical assessment of government and business propaganda. Criticism such as this is, obviously, hardly new (and even more rarely 'news'). What is novel is that the Internet, and blogging, allows individuals who possess such extraordinary talents (which is almost everyone) to make their critiques directly, immediately, and -- crucially -- very cheaply available, and to a theoretically vast audience. In other words, in this model, the forms of mediation of knowledge that the media represents are circumvented, and new flows of information allowed to circulate. In doing so, the Internet is functioning precisely as it was designed to, only instead of military data being circulated between geographically isolated US military installations, a truly vast range of human experience, thought and emotion is circulated between hundreds of millions of 'users' (that is, human beings).

In support of his argument that blogs constitute a useful resource for journalists, Reynolds lists a number of examples, "examples [which] show the collective strength of blogs". One helped him to conclude that "blame should be shared at all levels of government" for the inept handling of emergency relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Another that the Pentagon was lying when it denied the use of white phosphorus as a weapon by the US military in Iraq. Why such a useful resource? And who are these bloggers anyway? According to Reynolds:
They have an army of what Sherlock Holmes called his "Baker Street Irregulars," that is an almost unlimited number of people around the world, many of them expert on the subject under discussion, scouring sources and sending information in to an easily accessible central site which can disseminate it instantly.
Reynolds is here presumably referring to Daily Kos, a 'liberal' Democrat blog. As a model of blogging, it's interesting, but not typical I suspect. As for the remarkable ability of expert liberal bloggers to "scoure... sources and send... information in to an easily accessible central site which can disseminate it instantly"...
On Staying Informed and Intellectual Self-Defense

By Noam Chomsky

There's no way to be informed without devoting effort to the task, whether we have in mind what's happening in the world, physics, major league baseball, or anything else. Understanding doesn't come free. It's true that the task is somewhere between awfully difficult and utterly hopeless for an isolated individual. But it's feasible for anyone who is part of a cooperative community -- and that's true about all of the other cases too. Same holds for "intellectual self-defense." It takes a lot of self-confidence -- perhaps more self-confidence than one ought to have -- to take a position alone because it seems to you right, in opposition to everything you see and hear. There's even evidence about this: under experimental conditions people deny what they know to be true when they are informed that others they have reason to trust are doing so (Solomon Asch's classic experiments in social psychology, which were often held to show that people are conformist and irrational, but can be understood differently, to indicate that people are quite reasonable, and using all the information at hand).

More important than any of this is that a community -- an organization -- can be a basis for action, and while understanding the world may be good for the soul (not meant to be disparaging), it doesn't help anyone else, or oneself very much either for that matter, unless it leads to action. There are also many techniques for penetrating the veil of propaganda that should become second nature in dealing with the output of doctrinal institutions (media, journals of opinion, scholarship). For example, it is quite common for the basic framework of an article or news report to be hopelessly misleading, conforming to doctrinal requirements. But within it one can often discover hints that something else is going on. I often recommend reading the mainstream press beginning with the final paragraphs. That's no joke. The headline, the framing, the initial paragraphs, are designed (consciously -- you learn these things in journalism school) to give the general picture, and the whole story for almost all readers, who aren't going to take the trouble to look at the small print, to think much about it, and to compare it with yesterday's tales. One discovers this all the time.
Of course, another story Reynolds refers to in his article as providing evidence of the useful role of bloggers in verifying stories is that concerning Al Fagr. "I also have to say that bloggers found out that the Danish cartoons were in fact published in an Egyptian newspaper last October. See link to WorldNetDaily on the right." I've written a number of entries on my blog concerning this story (1, 2, 3, 4). In fact, I even wrote to Reynolds asking him for details regarding the BBC's presumed verification of the story. He informed me that the BBC's 'Arabic-speaking Middle East editor checked the story and had even read the text from the newspaper'. When pressed for further information, Reynolds replied that the BBC's 'Arabic-speaking Middle East editor [who had] checked the story and had even read the text from the newspaper' "was not Jeremy Bowen! We established to our satisfaction that the pictures were printed. If you can show this to be wrong, then good luck to you." Which I believe is a semi-polite way of saying 'piss off'.

And all I asked for was some co-operation. Strewth!

2) The Power of Blogs

"The other role of the blogs is to criticise and attack."

Fair enough. Don't claim you never asked for it but.

To begin with, the 'power of blogs' appears confined to 'bringing down' or 'damaging' the reputations, even the livelihoods, of journalists and corporate executives, including VIP 'journalists' such as Dan Rather and executives such as CNN's Eason Jordan. As a result, 'big media should take notice'.

Leaving aside the facts regarding Rather's presumed embarrassment at the "unravelling" of one of his stories on "60 Minutes Wednesday" and Eason Jordan's chagrin at being forced to resign as a result of his having made "some remarks at a discussion in Davos in January 2005 about journalists being possibly targeted by US troops", what does this role of 'criticising' and 'attacking' involve I wonder?

Well, while Reynolds' concern for his colleagues in the US is touching, I'd argue that the power of blogs can only be multiplied if one keeps in mind Sylvester's dancefloor classic "You make me feel mighty real". Less cryptically, bloggers need to keep it real. And by that I mean delving much deeper into the political economy of the mass media, and responding accordingly.

3) Political agendas

"Of course, one has to remember that most blogs have political agendas. Many of them are on the right of the spectrum. But it is not that hard to discount the opinionating and pick out the facts."


This final section of Reynolds' article is in some ways the most problematic. That blogs have political agendas is a basic banality; as banal as stating that one has to remember that Paul Reynolds and the BBC too have a "political agenda" (as almost any student of Politics or Media 101 should be able to inform you). This section also concentrates on outlining the views of three right-wing critics of the BBC, as well as one from the left.


[Medialens criticised
among others, The Independent [British newspaper]: "The Independent is feeling the heat from public criticism of its adverts pushing foreign travel, cars and endless consumerism." In fairness, it also quoted an Independent editor who dismissed such critics as "a curmudgeonly lot of puritans, miseries, killjoys, Stalinists and glooms." So, unlike some sites, it does seek debate."
Ho ho ho.]

In conclusion, Reynolds notes that
I have taken to intervening in some of these sites if and when I am personally criticised and sometimes to defend the BBC in a general way. Otherwise the comments go unanswered. I found that one rapidly develops a very thick skin and I can now understand how politicians can cope with criticism. If the mainstream media does not respond, it will suffer. The same is even truer of businesses, whose products can be disastrously damaged by web-based attacks.
This appears to be the main motivation for Reynolds' article: defence of himself as a journalist and of the BBC as a media organisation from 'attacks' by bloggers. But the last word goes to
Richard Sambrook, head of the BBC World Service and Global News Division... "The BBC should proactively engage with bloggers. This is a new issue for us. Some departments look at blogs, though haphazardly. But it pays dividends. The BBC is a huge impersonal organisation. It needs to come out from under its rock," he says. As for using blogs as a source he says: "The key is careful attribution. It would be a big mistake for the [state/corporate media] to try to match the blogs, but they can teach us lessons about openness and honesty. The [state/corporate media] should concentrate on what it can do - explain, analyse and verify."
"Proactive engagement".

"Careful attribution".

"Openness and honesty".

Explanation. Analysis. Verification.

Or as Reynolds summarises: The 'mainstream media' establishes to their own satisfaction that news stories are credible. If you can show this to be wrong, then good luck to you.

(Now piss off.)
Some things which Orwell experienced at the BBC did eventually prove useful to him when he was able to draw on them for inspiration in the creation of the nightmare bureaucracy of the Ministry of Truth. Compared to this fictional monstrosity, the BBC was as harmless as Orwell implied when he joked that 'its atmosphere is something halfway between a girls' school and a lunatic asylum'. But in his time as one of its employees he learned enough about the workings of large organisations to understand how they can create justifications for meaningless activity, and how they can persuade so many of their workers to take this work seriously. And he was reminded of how stultifying it can be to work in an atmosphere where the threat of censorship is ever present. He felt that way in Burma, of course, where a kind of unofficial censorship was imposed by pressure from the empire builders straining under the loads of their white men's burdens. But it was the routine, institutionalised nature of the censorship at the BBC which Orwell found intriguiging, and depressing.

-- Michael Shelden, Orwell : The Authorised Biography, Heinemann, London, 1991, p.380.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sue Bateman is a bit like a drunken arsehole at a dinner party

Well, she's not exactly a wordsmith now is she?

09-01-2005, 10:38 AM
Re: The reason WN orgs are unsuccessful
For an argument to be debatable it must contain the words and meanings that broaches a decision between the people you would like to influence and or plants the seed for further debate and ongoing communications.
I see.

Translated into English, I think what Sue is struggling, but failing absymally to say, is that it's important to try and make yourself understood. Hence statements have to contain things like "words" and "meanings". Sue also appears to be concerned at the possibility of a hostile reaction to white supremacism by the public, and that the open expression of such unpopular views may even threaten any hope of an "ongoing dialogue" with civil society. As the current candidate for the seat of Victoria Park in Western Australia, and the former State President of the far-right One Nation Party, Sue Bateman is asking members of that society, her local citizens, to represent their views in Parliament. But how should the citizens of Victoria Park view Sue Bateman?
There are colourful words that are used that could still be used constructed with well meaning sentences along with well meaning statements.

Okay [if] other type terms, the blunt language will not cut it with the majority of trash and average persons in the street. And if you want to win then you have to sway their opinions.
Rule #1: When addressing the "majority of trash and average persons in the street", avoid the use of blunt language.

Unfortunately, come election time, obtaining power depends on more than just choosing the right words. Thus the ability of a white supremacist to sway the opinions of the "majority of trash" and "average persons", otherwise known as 'fellow citizens', also depends on their ability to disguise their racism.

Rule #2: When communicating with the public, disguise your true "meanings" by using "colourful", "well-meaning" language (for the simple-minded like Sue, for 'language', read: "words" and "meanings"). For example:
Instead of "Jewish scum" - Jewish religion. Jewish culture. Jewish faith.

A bit like communicating with your best manners at the dinner table.
Here's some more fine words from Stormfront Sue:
09-10-2005, 01:10 AM
Default Re: Momma Bush (Shrub) Speaks On Evacuees.
She was quiet racist and pompous.

Going by the statistics of the white minority in Texas, it was a day at the "Zoo" for her.
And finally, here's some words of warning for the benefit of Australia's communist schoolchildren: beware Sue Bateman kids!
08-30-2005, 03:18 PM
Default Re: Communist spat in my face.
I would have made sure my goozy was a nice drawn, green one and spat back in his face, hair is even better because he can wipe it from his face, hair is a little harder.

I would try a turd in a brown paper bag and put it in his school bag or in his locker. Now that should get his attention.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Aussies bringing a msg of peace, goodwill... denial and stupidity

Recently, two Aussies have been caught doing their level best to change the world, one stupid public appearance at a time. First, accountant Simon Patkin. To the bemusement of a few security guards protecting a local McDonald's restaurant from the hungry (and poor), just prior to the WTO meeting last December in Hong Kong, our globe-trotting number-cruncher "staged a peaceful hour-long protest, which [was] interrupted only by a phone call from his concerned wife. He... hung up signs reading "We love free trade" and "Rationality not rioting", and harangued passers-by."

Onya mate!

A second case is that of Lady Susan Renouf:

Lady Renouf - a former wife of the late New Zealand financier Sir Frank Renouf - has long been an advocate of right-wing views. She arrived at the trial of the British historian on Monday and made her views plain to assembled media, calling for the bodies of "so-called Holocaust victims to be exhumed to see whether they died from typhoid or gas"... Renouf, born plain Michele Mainwaring, was crowned Miss Newcastle in 1968. She acquired her title through being the third wife of Sir Frank Renouf. The marriage ended shortly after Sir Frank discovered her father was not dead as she had claimed but a truck driver from The Entrance, and that she was not the former wife of a Russian count.

Mr. Irving Goes to Jail

Gentleman, scholar and Nazi apologist David Irving has finally been granted his wish for political martyrdom, an Austrian court on Monday sentencing him to three years in jail for denying the Holocaust. Bizarrely, The Guardian reports that "Irving had pleaded guilty to denying the Holocaust in two speeches on a visit to Austria in 1989, but said at the trial that he had later changed his views".

The Guardian has a copy of the indictment which cites copiously from the speeches Irving made in 1989. "There were no extermination camps in the Third Reich," he declared. "Is it not time once and for all to put an end to this fairy tale of the gas chambers." Adolf Hitler "held out his hands to protect the Jews", and knew nothing of the Final Solution. Thirty thousand people were murdered at Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland - as opposed to the accepted figure of 1.5 million. After the war, the Poles fabricated the gas chamber evidence at Auschwitz to match the "fantasies" of survivors. The billions paid in reparations after the war by Germany to the state of Israel were unwarranted. "That is, of course, embarrassing. It was all a huge swindle ... Why does the German people let itself be slandered thus?"
Dunno David, but it looks like it's the Austrians who really don't take kindly to strangers and their slanderous lies. Which is unfortunate, as Deborah Lipstadt points out in relation to the issue of free speech, the law and Holocaust denial:
Lipstadt says the reason she is generally opposed to outlawing Holocaust denial is not because she fails to recognise how deeply offensive it is but because such laws tend to turn cranks into martyrs. "I am not interested in debating with Holocaust deniers," she says. "You wouldn't ask a scientist to debate with someone who thinks the Earth is flat. They are not historians, they are liars. Debating them would be nonsensical. But we also should not allow them to become martyrs. Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue. Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement. Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs."
Well, either that, or send him to jail and ensure that he becomes a fascist pin-up boy.

Oh wait...

Monday, February 20, 2006

My name is Suebdoo2! How do you do?

Today's edition of The Australian contains an article stating that Sue Bateman, One Nation Party (ONP) candidate in the upcoming (March 11, 2006) Victoria Park state by-election in Western Australia, denies that she is a white supremacist and frequenter of the Stormfront website.

This is not the first time Bateman has been accused of being a white supremacist, nor the first time she's denied it. It's also not the first time that she's contested an election for ONP. In fact, in the Victoria Park election of 2005, Sue enjoyed a 4.6% swing against her Party, receiving just 576 votes and coming last of the five candidates who contested the election.

Thus making Suebdoo2 a loser.

This may have come as a surprise to the Australian Christian Lobby, as Suebdoo2's responses to the questionnaire they distributed to candidates prior to the 2005 election suggest that she'd like to be thought of as a 'good Christian'. Thus Suebdoo2:

1) supports the 'right' of adoptive children to both a mother and a father (that is, she opposes gay adoption);
2) attends Church services more than once a fortnight;
3) supports the imposition of Judeo-Christian beliefs in the state education system;
4) supports increased restrictions on access to sexually-explicit materials;
5) supports a ban on the abortion of fetuses older than 22 weeks;
6) opposes drug harm-minimisation programs;
7) supports state funding of Christian missionaries to schools, prisons and other state institutions;
8) supports increased funding to religious businesses ('charities');
9) opposes the introduction of electronic gambling machines to WA and;
10) prefers embryonic to adult stem cell research.

Of course, whether or not the Australian Christian Lobby would support her espousal of and active involvement in neo-fascist politics of the sort that even ONP finds a political liability is another question. (Bateman was stood down from her position as WA ONP State President while her links to Stormfront were 'investigated').

Perhaps someone ought remind Suebdoo2 that telling lies makes baby Jesus cry.

Mate, this ideology wouldn't go "voom" if you put four million volts through it!

'Communism bad, capitalism good' is an old joke. Here's another:

"What's the difference between capitalism and communism?"
"I don't know, what is the difference between capitalism and communism?"
"Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Communism is the reverse."

As if to demonstrate this point, Seamus Milne has recently published an article in The Guardian defending Communism, a task he's completed once before (also in The Guardian, oddly enough). Writing in the September 12, 2002 issue, Milne takes the same line he does in February 2006, and in remarkably similar language:

...the rewriting of history that began in the dying days of the Soviet Union... has intensified since its collapse. It has become almost received wisdom to bracket Stalin and Hitler as twin monsters of the past century - Mao and Pol Pot are sometimes thrown in as an afterthought - and commonplace to equate communism and fascism as the two greatest evils of an unprecedentedly sanguinary era. In some versions, communism is even held to be the more vile and bloodier wickedness. The impact of this cold war victors' version of the past has been to relativise the unique crimes of Nazism, bury those of colonialism and feed the idea that any attempt at radical social change will always lead to suffering, killing and failure.
Three-and-a-half years later, in his most recent article, according to Milne, the song remains the same, only in 2006 the chorus is being led by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly (rather than, in 2002, Kingsley Amis). Thus "Fifteen years after communism was officially pronounced dead, its spectre seems once again to be haunting Europe" as "The battle over history reflects a determination to prove that no political alternative can challenge the new global capitalism". (Actually, I would argue that anarchism is the spectre that has once again been haunting Europe. But be that as it may...)

"No form of anti-communism should be legitimised in the consciousness of the people", states the Communist Party of Greece. Milne appears to agree. His latest article, like the first, represents an attempt to salvage something positive from the wreckage of Communism or, more accurately, Marxism-Leninism. In essence, then, Milne's task is to try and save Bolshevism/Communism from its own disrepute. As such, his article comes dangerously close to being properly considered the work of an apologist for totalitarianism. Below I give ten reasons why.

1) "Last month, the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly voted to condemn the "crimes of totalitarian communist regimes", linking them with Nazism and complaining that communist parties are still "legal and active in some countries"."

If the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly want to pass a motion 'condemning the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes'... so what? They could hardly be expected to pass a motion approving such crimes now could they? So why not condemn them? Well, according to local Communists, "The resolution, titled "Need for International Condemnation of Crimes of Totalitarian Communist Regimes", equated communism with Nazism/fascism, claiming that "communist ideology, wherever and whenever implemented, has always resulted in massive terror, crimes and large-scale violation of human rights" and that this is "a direct result of the class struggle theory". It called on communist parties to renounce their views."

This is bullshit.

Relevant points of the Draft Resolution read:
I. Draft resolution

2. The totalitarian communist regimes which ruled in Central and Eastern Europe in the last century, and which are still in power in several countries in the world, have been, without exception, characterised by massive violations of human rights. The violations have differed depending on the culture, country and the historical period and have included individual and collective assassinations and executions, death in concentration camps, starvation, deportations, torture, slave labour and other forms of mass physical terror.

3. The crimes were justified in the name of the class struggle theory and the principle of dictatorship of the proletariat. The interpretation of both principles legitimised the “elimination” of people who were considered harmful to the construction of a new society and, as such, enemies of the totalitarian communist regimes. A vast number of victims in every country concerned were its own nationals. It was the case particularly of peoples of the former USSR who by far outnumbered other peoples in terms of the number of victims.
The Resolution therefore calls on Communist parties not to 'renounce their views' but to renounce the crimes committed in their name. It does not state that such crimes are the direct result of the 'class struggle theory' (whatever that is) but that "The crimes were justified in the name of the class struggle theory and the principle of dictatorship of the proletariat"; a simple matter of record.

(NB. The CPA has actually merely reproduced an article by a Greek Communist first published in the People's Weekly World, the newspaper of the CPUSA.)

2) "Now Göran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP behind the resolution, wants to go further. Demands that European ministers launch a continent-wide anti-communist campaign - including school textbook revisions, official memorial days and museums - only narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority."

File under: Don't mention the war.

Interestingly, Milne collapses the distinction between espousing 'anti-communism', on the one hand, and supporting a public education campaign regarding the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes, on the other. A moment's thought demonstrates that the two are not synonymous.

3) "The ground has been well laid by a determined rewriting of history since the collapse of the Soviet Union that has sought to portray 20th century communist leaders as monsters equal to or surpassing Hitler in their depravity - and communism and fascism as the two greatest evils of history's bloodiest era."

Yes, well, that's "A Big Question" isn't it? Who's the "Bigger Monster"? Hitler or Stalin? Let's assume that the comparison is erroneous, that Hitler and fascist totalitarianism -- whether Italian, Spanish, or German -- is unquestionably 'worse' than Stalin and Communist totalitarianism.

Does this therefore mean that resolutions condemning "massive violations of human rights [by]... the totalitarian communist regimes which ruled in Central and Eastern Europe in the last century" are invalid? Of course not. Especially when the Resolution in question recognises that "The violations have differed depending on the culture, country and the historical period..."

In summary, people are free to engage in speculation as to which system of tyranny was worse, but there's no good reason that I can see which mandates that others join in.

4) "A clue as to why [attacks on Communism have become more extreme recently] might be... found in the rambling report by Lindblad that led to the Council of Europe declaration. Blaming class struggle and public ownership, he explained that "different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many" and "a sort of nostalgia for communism is still alive"."

This appears to be a deliberate distortion of paragraph 5 of Lindblad's 'Explanatory Memorandum' which accompanied the Resolution. In attempting to explain an alleged "absence of international condemnation" for such crimes, Lindblad writes:
The wish to maintain good relations with some ['communist' countries] may prevent certain politicians from dealing with this difficult subject. Furthermore, many politicians still active today have supported in one way or another former communist regimes. For obvious reasons they would prefer not to deal with the question of responsibility. In many European countries there are communist parties which have not formally condemned the crimes of communism. Last but not least, different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many politicians who fear that condemnation of communist crimes would be identified with the condemnation of communist ideology.
5) "The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a moral and historical nonsense."

Fashionable or not, attempts to understand the relationship between communism and fascism/Nazism are a historical reality; so too, the fact that some -- even 'self-described' communists such as Otto Ruhle -- have compared, if not equated, the two ideologies. And it was through such a comparison that the Marxist Ruhle even concluded in 1939 that The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism:
Russia must be placed first among the new totalitarian states. It was the first to adopt the new state principle. It went furthest in its application. It was the first to establish a constitutional dictatorship, together with the political and administrative terror system which goes with it. Adopting all the features of the total state, it thus became the model for those other countries which were forced to do away with the democratic state system and to change to dictatorial rule. Russia was the example for fascism.
In short, the idea that a revolutionary critique of Bolshevism ('Communism') is 'new' is false, and the failure to acknowledge its existence is revisionism at its most basic.

6) "For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Wajda's Man of Marble and Rybakov's Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination."

Of course, a capitalist apologist might argue that, for all its brutalities and failures, capitalism in North America, western Europe and elsewhere delivers high technology, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompasses genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Fordist era such as Moore's Roger & Me and Klein's No Logo. Its existence provides welfare to millions in the West, boosts nationalist independence movements and provides an effective counterweight to Islamic fundamentalism.

And they, like Milne, would be engaging in apologetics.

7) "It would be easier to take the Council of Europe's condemnation of communist state crimes seriously if it had also seen fit to denounce the far bloodier record of European colonialism - which only finally came to an end in the 1970s."

Of course. But this is 'politics', after all, and it's business-as-usual for one side to accuse the other of crimes -- and for both to be right. So, could the passing of this Resolution be considered a cynical exercise? Yes.

8) "Comparable atrocities were carried out by all European colonialists, but not a word of condemnation from the Council of Europe - nor over the impact of European intervention in the third world since decolonisation. Presumably, European lives count for more... And while there is precious little connection between the ideas of fascism and communism [see 5], there is an intimate link between colonialism and Nazism. The terms lebensraum and konzentrationslager were both first used by the German colonial regime in south-west Africa (now Namibia), which committed genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples and bequeathed its ideas and personnel directly to the Nazi party."

Actually, the British are more often credited with inventing and being the first to implement the modern 'concentration camp' (konzentrationslager) in South Africa in 1900, while the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples took place between 1904 and 1907. Further, the genocide in the Belgian Congo -- conducted by the Belgian, not German, colonial regime under King Leopold II -- is estimated to have involved the deaths of between 7 and 10 million Congolese between the years 1880 and 1920. The fact that the Council has yet to condemn comparable atrocities committed by capitalist powers in the process of their own empire-building is probably hypocritical, but in no way invalidates condemnation of the crimes of totalitarian Communist regimes in Eurasia. Instead, perhaps it merely confirms Orwell's observation that "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them".

9) "No major 20th-century political tradition is without blood on its hands, but battles over history are more about the future than the past. Part of the current enthusiasm in official western circles for dancing on the grave of communism is no doubt about relations with today's Russia and China. But it also reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the new global capitalist order - and that any attempt to find one is bound to lead to suffering and bloodshed."

I've little doubt that "Part of the current enthusiasm in official western circles for dancing on the grave of communism is... about relations with today's Russia and China"; nor do I doubt that this current enthusiasm, such as it is, has much to do with an attempt to (further) establish capitalist hegemony over political discourse. That said, a major 20th-century political tradition with very little blood on its hands, and one which also provides an anti-capitalist, anti-statist alternative to 'the new global capitalist order', is anarchism. And both capitalist and nominally 'communist' regimes are united in their opposition to this, the libertarian alternative to 'Communism'. Unfortunately, serious discussion of the anarchist movement -- like its repression by totalitarian regimes of both the Left (Bolshevism) and the Right (fascism) -- appears to be verboten in this debate.

10) In 2006 Milne concludes that "The particular form of society created by 20th-century communist parties will never be replicated. But there are lessons to be learned from its successes as well as its failures." In 2002 he concluded that "The problem for the left now is not so much that it has failed to face up to its own history, but that it has become paralysed by the burden of it." I say: let the dead bury the dead:
We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For, you must not forget, that we can also build palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least bit afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Burn-A-Flag-For-Lenin Week!

Confronted with a recent and continuing downturn in membership, the youth wing of the neo-Trotskyist Democratic Socialist Perspective appears to have hit upon a brand new (sic) idea to try and reverse the trend (or at least make a few dollars): selling flag-burning kits to University students. Commodification of dissent in the name of Communist dictatorship? "The power is yours" Australia!

Socialists selling flag-burning kits
The Age, (Xavier La Canna) / AAP
February 18, 2006

A socialist youth organisation wants university students nationwide to buy their flag-burning kits next week to show their anger at the federal government. The group, Resistance, said the kits, containing an Australian flag, a lighter, a fire-lighting cube and Resistance pamphlets, would be sold at university orientation week for $5 each... The kit was inspired by the removal by police of a deliberately burned Australian flag from the Trocadero Art Space gallery in Footscray, Melbourne, on January 20... Major-General Bill Crews, national president of the Returned & Services League, condemned the kits. Maj-Gen Crews said the flag should not be a vehicle for protest or demonstration and burning the flag should be a criminal offence. "I find it highly offensive. Not just to our members, but to all decent Australians," he said.

["Some of [Bill's] more recent appointments were as Head of the Defence Centre in Brisbane, Chief of Materiel in Army, and Assistant Chief of the Defence Force for Policy and Strategic Guidance. In 1996, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia for his Army Service. He retired in 1999 as a Major General from the appointment of Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation. Soon after leaving the Army, Bill undertook a business opportunities study with Tenix Defence Systems Pty Ltd., the largest Australian-owned high-technology Defence contractor. This study was to facilitate the Company’s diversification into the command support, information management, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fields."]

...Trocadero Art Space director Michael Brenner said the artwork removed by police last month was returned to [Azlan McLennan], himself a Resistance member, last week and may be reinstalled at the gallery...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Al Fagr

Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times, 'Let's be honest about cartoons', February 11, 2006:

"Then there's the question of why there was no reaction whatsoever when Al Fagr, one of Egypt's largest newspapers[!], published these cartoons on its front page Oct. 17 — that's right, four months ago — during Ramadan. Apparently its editor, Adel Hamouda, isn't as sensitive as his American colleagues."

'Cartoon protest planned for Pretoria', iafrica.com, February 10, 2006:

"According to reports, the images were reproduced in an Egyptian newspaper four months ago, in the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan. Protests there went largely unnoticed by the rest of the Muslim world. Only last month did international Muslim anger surface after rioting in Gaza. Yosra Zahara[?], editor[!] of Al Fajr [sic], said Egyptians held a day of fasting on Thursday in response to the cartoons."

'Protesters torch Danish mission in Beirut, Interior minister resigns (AP)', Khaleej Times Online, February 6, 2006:

"...an independent Egyptian weekly newspaper known for dealing with sensational topics published the upper half of some of the controversial cartoons, omitting any facial representations. Adel Hamoudah, editor of Al Fagr (The Dawn), said he took copies of the cartoons from the Internet for the Tuesday edition and published them as a means of emphasizing their “impudence.” He did not explain, however, why he chose only to print the upper half of the caricatures."

*Note the date of publication of this article: February 6. Note also the dates upon which both "Freedom for Egyptians" and "Rantings of a Sandmonkey" claim to have made their 'discovery': Tuesday, February 7 and Wednesday, February 8, respectively. (Both published their extracts from the paper on February 8.)

*Finally, an article from the Norwegian press -- available here -- supposedly contains confirmation of the story by the Danish ambassador to Egypt.

A translation would be nice!

For more: Man..., three..., I am....

[Update 20/2/06: gray has also kindly translated this article, Muhammed cartoons printed in Egypt: "An Egyptian newspaper printed six of the controversial Muhammed cartoons already in October 2005 in connection with an article that condemned the caricatures and regarded them as an offensive or insulting act against Muslims and Islam. Ritzau was informed of this by the Danish Ambassdor in Egypt, Bjarne Sørensen. As far as he was aware, the printing did not lead to any debate or other reactions in Egypt." After having been snubbed by the BBC, I'm still waiting to hear back from the Danish Embassy in Egypt on this one(!).]

"A congaline of suckholes" for Kerry

Peter McGregor

If John Howard, Kim Beazley and co. are to give Kerry Packer a send-off, why shouldn't we hold our own anti-state, anti-capitalist “dis-memorial” at the same time? After all, it's us, the taxpayers, who are paying for Packer's send-off, not Howard. And state memorial services are supposed to be for people who have made an outstanding contribution to Australia.

Packer, when he wasn't gambling or commodifying sport, spent most of his time avoiding paying tax, despite his huge income. After his death, his own sycophantic media, along with most of the mainstream media, praised his generosity, citing his payment for the installation of respirators in some ambulances. That little gesture cost Packer less than he lost gambling, and much less than he avoided in tax.

Packer's obsession with greed represents so much of what is wrong in our society. So why does Howard want to honour him?

[Kerry Packer loved his country and understood ordinary Australians, Prime Minister John Howard said at the service. "The key to his life and to his great success and the key to the enormous impact he had on the Australian community was his understanding about what made the ordinary bloke tick," he said. "When we saw each other on a regular basis it was always to talk about Australia, to talk about ways in which you, sport, could make it better." Mr Howard's tribute followed the singing of the national anthem and an opening address from one of Mr Packer's closest friends, gay Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones.]

Packer used his media empire to help Howard become prime minister, and to keep him there. The Packer and Murdoch media duopoly continually put a positive spin on Howard's economic policies — policies that have done so much to make the rich richer while the rest of us find our working conditions deteriorating and our rent or mortgage increasing.

Howard repaid the favour by amending the media cross-ownership laws to allow Packer and Murdoch to gobble up smaller media, concentrating almost all of the commercial media in their hands. At the same time, the government cut funding for public media (ABC and SBS). And Howard — like Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Bob Carr and Kim Beazley — actually admire capitalist bullies like Packer, since they have so much in common.

The poster for our “dis-memorial” action is an homage to Chips Mackinolty's poster when Liberal PM Robert Menzies died in 1978 — an image of Menzies with the main text “Pig Iron Bob, dead at last”. The background words on the poster come from letters to the editor in the Sydney Morning Herald: “No need for an elaborate state memorial service for Kerry, when so many politicians could simply gather, as usual, in one of the great man's back pockets”. And the photo? “Nick! Gimme your kidney, Nick!”

While the mainstream media speculates about whether Kerry's son James' ex-wife, Jodhi Meares, and Kerry's “friend”, Julie Trethowan, will attend the memorial service, consider whether Kerry achieved the kind of successful euthanasia that is not available to ordinary Australians?

Just as Hawke declared a public holiday when Australia won the America's Cup, the least Howard can do is make his Packer-dead-day the equal of the Queen's birthday, Australia day, Xmess day and the like. If Howard is to be consistent about Packer's send off being taxpayer funded, and hence open to the public, he must declare February 17 a public holiday. He could include this in his Work Choices legislation!

Only the ruling class mourns its dead heroes. So what can we do? Stop buying Murdoch or Packer newspapers. Stop watching their TV channels. Stop voting for political parties that provide alibis for corporate domination of our lives...

:: As if to confirm the power of the state-corporate nexus Packer championed, the SMH reports that police have arrested six people for the crime of attending Packer's anti-state sponsored dis-memorial: Ms Natasha Lang, 46, a promotions manager of Vaucluse, who came to watch the guests arrive, said: "Kerry Packer was [a] fantastic person. Everyone should take a leaf out of his book. I think the protest was shocking. They've got nothing better to do than complain when we are a positive country and we need to get positive energy happening.''

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Seven years bad luck

Today's Age contains an interesting editorial on the subject of the Federal Government's proposal to alter the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill to make lawful the monitoring of citizen's private communications without i) their knowledge or consent and ii) a magistrate ruling them a suspect in a crime. According to The Age:

ASIO and the police will be given the power to tap the telephones of third parties to the actual suspects under investigation. In other words, people suspected of nothing [sic] will be under surveillance. Police will have the power to keep the tap in place for 45 days. ASIO will get 90 days. The warrant would only be issued by a judge, and only in cases where a person is suspected of a crime that carries a seven-year jail sentence.
The Age's chief concern with the granting of such powers to ASIO and the police is the law's invasiveness and the fact that it flouts the, ah, conventional wisdom that the 'innocent' should go unpunished. As such, the law violates liberal, democratic principles, and The Age, being a liberal broadsheet, rightly condemns it. A more notable feature of The Age's editorial, however, is its presumption that other, equally 'innocent' citizens haven't had their communications monitored, their faces photographed, their meetings recorded, their groups infiltrated, either quasi-legally or illegally. In fact, The Age has reported on such matters more than once in the past: has this too now gone down The Memory Hole?

Finally, The Age editorial also notes that the Australian Attorney-General Seymour Burns -- inspired, no doubt, by his comrades in the UK Labor Party -- has recently announced his intention to (re-)introduce a national ID card. The last time a (Hawke Labour) Government tried to do this they failed. And even if the legislation is passed, it still has to be carried out and, in the face of resistance, enforced...

Q. Did you know that other 'counter-terrorist' legislation carries a seven-year jail sentence?
80.2 Sedition (extracts)

Urging the overthrow of the Constitution or Government
(1) A person commits an offence if the person urges another person to overthrow by force or violence:
(a) the Constitution; or
(b) the Government of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; or
(c) the lawful authority of the Government of the Commonwealth.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.

Urging a person to assist the enemy
(7) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person urges another person to engage in conduct; and
(b) the first-mentioned person intends the conduct to assist, by any means whatever, an organisation or country; and
(c) the organisation or country is:
(i) at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared; and
(ii) specified by Proclamation made for the purpose of paragraph 80.1(1)(e) to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.

Urging a person to assist those engaged in armed hostilities
(8) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person urges another person to engage in conduct; and
(b) the first-mentioned person intends the conduct to assist, by any means whatever, an organisation or country; and
(c) the organisation or country is engaged in armed hostilities against the Australian Defence Force.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.
A summary of the Anti Terrorism Bill (No 2) (2005) may be found here; more general information, including links to the legislation, legal opinion and commentary may be found here; while Chas Savage's love of sedition is tenderly expressed in this (slightly, and oddly, nostalgic) letter to the Australian public.

And remember Eric Blair's words: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act".