Immanuel Ness on CounterPunch Radio (Episode 41)

May 18, 2016 at 3:16 PM

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CounterPunch Radio with Immanuel Ness 

This week Eric chats with political scientist Immanuel Ness about his new book Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class, and the implications of the shift in industrial production to the Global South. Eric and Immanuel explore the themes of the book which include the changing nature of labor struggle, in depth analyses of working class resistance in the “Third World,” and how these struggles must shape and inform the discussion of solidarity on the Left, particulalry in the developed world. The conversation also touches on the nature of contemporary imperialism, the evolution of non-western capital as a quasi-alternative to western capital’s hegemony, the role of organized labor, and much much more.

Hillary Clinton’s Race Problem

May 18, 2016 at 12:49 PM

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When Hillary Clinton was endorsed by Will Quigg, a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in California, many observers were skeptical that the statement of support for the presumptive Democratic nominee was genuine.  Indeed, some went so far as to argue that the very public backing of Clinton by a white supremacist of Quigg’s standing was a diversionary tactic designed to either smear Clinton or distract attention from former grand wizard David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump, which the presumptive Republican nominee failed to disavow.  Regardless of whether the support of Clinton was genuine or not, the fact of the matter is that Clinton policies have indeed been unconscionably destructive for Black Americans, and other people of color.

Hillary Clinton was a vocal advocate of her husband’s infamous 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (aka the “Crime Bill”) which disproportionately targeted people of color and led to the rise of the phenomenon that has come to be known as mass incarceration or, as Michelle Alexander famously dubbed it, “The New Jim Crow.”  As Alexander noted in The Nation in February 2016, the Clintons and their odious Crime Bill are responsible for:

  • the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history
  • the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.
  • the idea of a federal “three strikes” law
  • a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes,
  • the mandating of life sentences for some three-time offenders
  • authorizing more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces
  • African Americans constituting 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they’re no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs.
  • A 50% increase in African American incarceration by the year 2000

At the time, Hillary was traveling the country lauding the new bill as a critical piece of legislation to combat the “crime epidemic” and make America safe for middle class whites.  In a blatant display of the sort of racism and white supremacy that could certainly endear her to klansmen like Quigg, Clinton referred to young black males targeted by the Crime Bill as “superpredators,” at once dehumanizing a segment of the population disproportionately impacted by Clinton’s crime policies while also justifying the obviously racist nature of the bill itself.

And while Hillary Clinton can whitewash her record (and that of her husband) when it comes to issues of race and injustice, the inescapable fact is that the “liberal” Clinton presided over the expansion of the for-profit prison industry, the construction of the mass incarceration state, the explosion of life sentences for drug offenders, the expansion of the death penalty, and countless other socially destructive phenomena that continue to ravage Black America to this day.

But beyond the viciously racist crime policies of the Clinton era, Hillary has also scapegoated Black America and other minorities, as well as the working class in general, for the economic crisis precipitated by Wall Street greed.  Who could forget Hillary all but absolving Wall Street of wrongdoing by blaming homeowners “getting in over their heads” when it came to the subprime mortgage market?

It is a well-known fact, documented by mountains of research, that lending practices by Wall Street banks – the same banks who paid Hillary Clinton massive speaking fees – were often racist in nature, and deliberately targeted Black and Latino Americans in a variety of ways. As the New York Times noted in a penetrating 2009 exposé about racist lending practices in New York and the devastating impacts on minority communities, the authors explained that, “Black buyers often enter a separate lending universe: A dozen banks and mortgage companies, almost all of which turned big profits making subprime loans, accounted for half the loans given to the region’s black middle-income borrowers in 2005 and 2006…The N.A.A.C.P. has filed a class-action suit against many of the nation’s largest banks, charging that such lending practices amount to reverse redlining.”

And who was the senator in New York at the time? Mrs. Clinton. And who was taking massive campaign donations and speaking fees from the very same institutions? Mrs. Clinton. One senses a pattern.

And of course who could forget the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which devastated the once vibrant and productive Mexican agriculture sector, forcing Mexican small farmers off their land and into the United States in search of work just to feed their families?  The scourge of “free trade,” proselytized by the Wall Street darling Hillary Clinton, is the central factor driving the migration to the United States, and all the attendant white supremacy and nativism spawned by it.

The narrative of this presidential campaign is being written in the media and on the streets, with Donald Trump being portrayed as a bigot for his overtly racist rhetoric on a number of key issues, particularly immigration.  Even Hillary Clinton has gotten in on the act by implying Trump is a racist on numerous occasions.  And while that may be true, Clinton is herself perhaps one of the most politically successful racists in American politics in the last half century.  Perhaps then it makes sense that Hillary Clinton was a “Goldwater Girl” – a backer of 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater who stood in firm opposition to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act.

Indeed, Hillary’s racism might be more coded than Trump’s. It might sound softer and be veiled in politically palatable language.  But it is perhaps even more vicious because, unlike Trump, Clinton might just be able to get away with it.

Syria: Regime Change Still the Main Course on the US Menu

May 10, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.org provides his commentary (May 7, 2016) on the latest comments from US Secretary of State Kerry regarding the situation in Syria. Draitser explains that US rhetoric is dictated by facts on the ground, and that Washington feels emboldened to discuss regime change with Russia’s engagement having diminished. He notes that the strategy for Syria remains essentially unchanged, with a plan to carve up the country along political lines amenable to US interests in the region. All this and much more in this jam packed short talk.

US Elections, the Washington Consensus, and the Specter of Liberal Imperialism

May 10, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.org in discussion with anti-war activist and leader Cindy Sheehan (May 7, 2016) about the Empire as a system, US elections, and the danger of liberal imperialism both to the US and to the people of the world. Eric and Cindy explore the nature of Empire today, and how it must be stopped. They examine the importance of solidarity with oppressed peoples and the Global South, as well as the danger of thinking that an election will change anything. Lots of other topics addressed in this extended conversation.

Syria, ISIS, and the US-UK Propaganda War

May 9, 2016 at 3:41 PM

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With the war in Syria raging in its fifth year, and the Islamic State wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s clear that the entire region has been made into one large theater of conflict. But the battlefield must not be understood solely as a physical place located on a map; it is equally a social and cultural space where the forces of the US-UK-NATO Empire employ a variety of tactics to influence the course of events and create an outcome amenable to their agenda. And none to greater effect than propaganda.

Indeed, if the ongoing war in Syria, and the conflicts of the post-Arab Spring period generally, have taught us anything, it is the power of propaganda and public relations to shape narratives which in turn impact political events. Given the awesome power of information in the postmodern political landscape, it should come as no surprise that both the US and UK have become world leaders in government-sponsored propaganda masquerading as legitimate, grassroots political and social expression.

London, Washington, and the Power of Manipulation

The Guardian recently revealed how the UK Government’s Research, Information, and Communications Unit (RICU) is involved in surveillance, information dissemination, and promotion of individuals and groups as part of what it describes as an attempt at “attitudinal and behavioral change” among its Muslim youth population. This sort of counter-messaging is nothing new, and has been much discussed for years. However, the Guardian piece actually exposed the much deeper connections between RICU and various grassroots organizations, online campaigns, and social media penetration.

The article outlined the relationship between the UK Government’s RICU and a London-based communications company called Breakthrough Media Network which “has produced dozens of websites, leaflets, videos, films, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and online radio content, with titles such as The Truth about Isis and Help for Syria.” Considering the nature of social media, and the manner in which information (or disinformation) is spread online, it should come as no surprise that a number of the viral videos, popular twitter feeds, and other materials that seemingly align with the anti-Assad line of London and Washington are, in fact, the direct products of a government-sponsored propaganda campaign.

In fact, as the authors of the story noted:

One Ricu initiative, which advertises itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees, has had face-to-face conversations with thousands of students at university freshers’ fairs without any students realising they were engaging with a government programme. That campaign, called Help for Syria, has distributed leaflets to 760,000 homes without the recipients realising they were government communications.

It’s not hard to see what the British Government is trying to do with such efforts; they are an attempt to control the messaging of the war on Syria, and to redirect grassroots anti-war activism to channels deemed acceptable to the political establishment. Imagine for a moment the impact on an 18-year-old college freshman just stepping into the political arena, and immediately encountering seasoned veteran activists who influence his/her thinking on the nature of the war, who the good guys and bad guys are, and what should be done. Now multiply that by thousands and thousands of students. The impact of such efforts is profound.

But it is much more than simply interactions with prospective activists and the creation of propaganda materials; it is also about surveillance and social media penetration. According to the article, “One of Ricu’s primary tasks is to monitor online conversations among what it describes as vulnerable communities. After products are released, Ricu staff monitor ‘key forums’ for online conversations to ‘track shifting narratives,’ one of the documents [obtained by The Guardian] shows.” It is clear that such efforts are really about online penetration, especially via social media.

By monitoring and manipulating in this way, the British Government is able to influence, in a precise and highly targeted way, the narrative about the war on Syria, ISIS, and a host of issues relevant to both its domestic politics and the geopolitical and strategic interests of the British state. Herein lies the nexus between surveillance, propaganda, and politics.

But of course the UK is not alone in this effort, as the US has a similar program with its Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC)

Continue reading the article here