When the GOP Convention comes around there is almost the feeling that America has stepped back in time, not by the technology employed or the showmanship, but the underlying ideas.
Issues that many might think are uncontroversial provoke alarm and worry amongst the GOP, the Pew Research Quiz is just one indicator.
But a deeper whiff of bigotry and reaction clings to GOP events, as TPM reported:
“An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention, a network official confirmed to TPM. “
“There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.”
“A woman swathed in black squares her shoulders and calmly looks into a camera. She holds a Quran. Only a sliver of her face—her eyeglasses—shows. “What happened to me hasn’t happened to anyone, or if it has affected anyone else I do not know,” she says. “But I will speak and let all the people know what [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad and his men are doing.” Over the next four minutes, her breathing grows labored and her voice breaks as she describes how, in May 2011, five men wearing black entered her home on the outskirts of Homs and raped her.
“This is my message to the world,” she says. “Let all the world hear what is happening to us. And I might not be the first one nor the last who was treated in this way.”
The still-unidentified woman posted the video to YouTube on February 11, 2012. It is one of the earliest reports on our live, crowd-sourced map of sexualized violence in Syria. The Women’s Media Center project Women Under Siege has been collecting reports out of Syria for three months, during which time we’ve seen many stories similar to this, in which multiple attackers, usually government forces, are said to gang rape a woman in her home. We have also mapped stories at the extreme edge of nightmares; of teenage girls given shots that immobilize them while their genitals were burned or filled with mice. Government forces and others appear to be carrying out appalling sexualized attacks against women, men, and children in Syria as the conflict there continues. Although we are unable to independently confirm these stories—Syria is simply too dangerous, and our research staff too small—they are consistent both internally and within the news and NGO reports telling similar stories from the Syrian conflict.”
“The UN has issued a damning 102-page report saying that Syrian government forces and Shabiha fighters have carried out numerous war crimes in the country including murder and torture.
They are also blamed for the notorious massacre of 100 civilians, almost half of them children, near the town of Houla in May.
The UN’s independent international commission of inquiry says the violations were the result of “state policy”. It claims President Bashar al-Assad’s “security forces and government” at the highest levels were involved in “gross violation of international human rights”.
The violations include “unlawful killing, indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and acts of sexual violence,” it says. The report paints a bleak picture of events on the ground in Syria, noting the situation inside the country has “deteriorated significantly” since February.
The commission, led by investigator Paulo Pinheiro, reports that Syria’s rebels are guilty of violations including murder, torture and extra-judicial killings. Abuses by anti-government groups are not “of the same gravity, frequency and scale” as those committed by Syrian regime forces and allied Shabiha soldiers, it says.
The UN’s findings were published on another day of carnage inside Syria. Opposition activists said at least 30 people were killed when a Syrian jet bombed a hospital in the northern city of Azaz, close to a strategic Turkish border crossing, which was captured by rebels last month after a fierce battle.”
Copies of the report in English and Arabic can be found at the home page of the UN Human Rights Council.
According to the CS Monitor, supporters of the Syrian dictatorship had hacked into a Reuters’ blog to push propaganda on behalf of Assad’s regime:
“On Friday, Reuters said its “blogging platform” was hacked illegally. The hack involved at least two false stories being posted in favor of the Assad regime. Overnight, hackers managed to seize control of a popular Reuters Twitter account and briefly blasted out propaganda in Reuters’ name to its followers.
According to the news service, the twitter account @ReutersTECH (thanks to Khadijah Britton for pointing this out) was hacked and then renamed to @ReutersME. While the account has since been suspended, a screen cap of the deceptive tweets captures the flavor of internet hacking, complete with sophomoric snark and patently absurd claims.
One says “FSA source confirms heavy losses within their ranks due to the superiority & sheer force of the Syrian army.” (“FSA” stands for the Free Syrian Army, the nominal umbrella for insurgents fighting against Syria’s Baath regime). Another says “FSA source complains that Syrian army ‘broke their back’ in Salah al Deen.” These are the sorts of things that commanders of armies simply don’t say, at least not until after the war is over and their side has lost (while much is uncertain about Syria’s future, the fact that the civil war is set to grind on for a long while yet is clear).
The snark comes in statements targeting the US. One tweet says “Friends all along: Obama signs executive order to release classified info that US never stopped funding Al Qaeda since ’80s” (in fact, the US has never funded Al Qaeda). Another says “Obama takes Al Qaeda off the List of terrorist organizations” and yet another says “Clinton vows to ‘make Egyptian pay a heavy price’ after being humiliated with chants mentioning Monica” (a reference to Bill Clinton’s long affair with a White House intern).
It’s hard to know if this kind of ham-handed propaganda has much impact. It probably doesn’t, though fake news reports have become a popular tool for online propagandists, thanks to the ease with which hoaxes can be set up on the Internet. When a fake story was planted in the press about the Egyptian parliament planning to legalize necrophilia, many of the ignorant ran with it.
Last week Julian Assange pursued his long running feud with the New York Times Bill Keller by having WikiLeaks participate in creating a fake news story under Mr. Keller’s byline. While that didn’t involve a hack, the hoax was elaborate, with a website set up to look just like The New York Times and fake Twitter accounts created to astroturf the tale.
The Syrian civil war, with limited access for journalists but a proliferation of rebels and regime supporters with smart phones and Internet connections, has been a particularly fertile propaganda battlefield. Far too often, unconfirmed claims emerging on Twitter or YouTube are taken as fact, and presumably the pro-Assad hackers were seeking to amplify this phenomenon in recent days.
What good does it do them? It’s hard to imagine much. These kinds of hoaxes are run to the ground fairly quickly and the only people they appear to take in are those inclined to want to believe them in the first place. “
I suppose we should not be terribly surprised by the latest outburst from the Assad regime:
“The Syrian regime has threatened to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first-ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.
Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vowed, however, that Damascus would not use unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement on Monday came as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead, and threats by Israel to invade to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.
Syria’s decision to reveal the long-suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold rebellion that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.”
It seems to be only a matter of time before the fall of Syria’s dictatorship.
I would give Assad 2-3 weeks, he’ll either be evacuated to a despot-friendly country, like Russia, or end up dead in a ditch.
In the West conspiracies have always been popular. They play to a certain irrational desire to simplify events, to explain away complexities and interactions by reference to some controlling force, outside of our view.
That holds true for the JFK assassination, 9/11 and the Twin Towers, even the 7/7 attacks in London.
Syria has become the latest topic among conspiracy cranks, as Julian Borger ably illustrates:
“Tarpley, who Skelton described as a “Bilderberg expert”, is best known for a conspiracy theory book about the September 11 attacks, called 9/11 Synthetic Terrorism Made in USA, blaming a shadowy American security apparatus.
The affected tone of intrigue in Skelton’s piece is grating but it’s also beside the point. Most of the hated “mainstream media” treat the people he singles out as they should be treated, as the mouthpiece of a sprawling, dysfunctional coalition of strange bedfellows – among which the Muslim Brotherhood are probably far more powerful that these would-be American plants.
I did a search for Bassma Kodmani mentions on the Guardian, and got seven hits for this year. But four of those were pieces by Skelton, and another was a wire agency piece on the infighting inside the SNC.
To appreciate how specious Skelton’s approach is, all you have to do is apply it to other situations. In Kosovo, a lot of fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were complete rogues, including smugglers and car thieves. But that did not and does not change the fact Serb forces executed thousands of civilians there. To have focused exclusively on the KLA’s shortcomings would have somewhat missed the point.
Likewise in Bosnia, there were also a lot of crooks in the Bosnian army, and the likes of the Reaganite Jeane Kirkpatrick and Margeret Thatcher advocated tough action on the Bosnian Serbs, as did lots of other people who turned out to be unsavoury or nutcases – but to have obsessed about their politics would have meant you would have missed the genocide.
If you are of a conspiratorial turn of mind you could do a bit of research on me after reading this article and find that I spent more than eight years in Washington (aha!) and about 18 months in Jerusalem (the Mossad connection) and you may well find pictures of me with Ratko Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic, where I maintain I was conducting interviews but which could have had a much more underhand connection.
You would be wasting your time. Even if I had been paid or programmed to falsify everything I write about Syria, my controllers would be powerless to alter people’s perceptions of what is going on there. The news is streaming out by Skype, emails and satellite phones, and in the testimony of refugees. We rely heavily on our correspondents on the ground to gather information directly inside Syria. They do not spend much if any time on the phone to SNC spokespeople in Washington. Likewise most of the reports on the latest butchery in Tremseh came not from the SNC, but from rebels and activists in the area, and are treated for the time being as unconfirmed. “
I had hoped to do many more individual posts, particularly on the issue of a minutes silence at the 2012 Olympic games in memory of the athletes that were murdered in Munich 1972, but instead I present another round-up of news and events.
“They sought to resurrect a lost and ancient tradition, at the centre of which was the high ideal known as the Olympic truce.
The official Olympic website traces this back to Greece in the 9th century BCE, when three rival kings agreed to halt hostilities while the Games were under way: “During the Truce period, the athletes… could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries.”
Today’s International Olympic Committee still proclaims that goal, insisting that it is committed to “protecting” all athletes as well as “searching for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world”.
Forty years ago, the Olympic truce was violated in direct and brutal fashion. At the Munich Games of 1972, 11 athletes discovered they could not, after all, travel in “total safety” and that they would not, after all, be protected.
For Jews again to be killed on German soil was almost too much to bear.
The 11 were members of the team representing Israel. In their quarters in the Olympic village, they were seized by eight Palestinian gunmen disguised as athletes, taken as hostages, and finally killed in a botched rescue effort at a nearby airport. “
Personally, I would have preferred if Freedland had written it for the Guardian directly, but Jennifer Lipman does that and you can imagine what the comments boxes are full of? Disdain and barely concealed contempt for Jews and Israelis.
“Hama Echo pointed me in a direction of a couple of picture of Manaf Tlass which may indicate that this defection is more about saving his own skin than any ideological differences with the Assad regime. In August 2011 the French anti-fascist website Reflex posted an article about members of the far right in France, including Frédéric Chatillon, founding a new website, InfoSyrie, to correct what they stated was the gross misrepresentation of facts by the Western media in the pay of the US and Israel.
The article goes on to describe links between the far right in France and the Alawite and Assad regime members in Syria, and describes a visit arranged by Chatillon for his associates, that include Thierry Meyssan, chairman of the Voltaire Network; Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a anti-Semitic political activist; essayist Alain Soral; Ahmed Moualek, president of La Banlieue S’exprime (LBS); and Marc George to Lebanon, via a 5 day stop over in Syria.
This stop over in Syria is reportedly largely financed by the Tlass family, including hotels, sightseeing and drivers for their far right friends, including this meeting with Manaf Tlass (and other family members) pictured second from the left. “
There’s another antisemitic attack in France (and I don’t expect BBC News or the Guardian to cover it in any significant way) but events in France are extremely worrying:
“A French Jewish teenager, who attends the Toulouse school where Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three children in March, has suffered a violent anti-Semitic attack on a train, French media reports said on Thursday.
The attack on Wednesday took place on a train travelling between Toulouse, which is in the south-west, and the city of Lyon in the south-east, Le Figaro newspaper reported, quoting an interior ministry statement.
“A teenager aged 17 wearing a distinctive religious symbol, who attends Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, was taken to task and insulted by two individuals,” the ministry was quoted as saying.
He was then attacked near the toilets “by the same two individuals, who beat him up,” the statement said, adding that the attack ended when a fellow passenger and train conductors intervened. “
“A group of pastors in Alabama says that they are not racist even though only “white Christians” were invited to their three-day conference, which will include a cross burning and be attended by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members.
Residents in Guin, Alabama became outraged earlier this week after they noticed flyers posted around the town that read, “Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited.” The groups Christian Identity Ministries and the Church of God’s Chosen told WIAT that they just didn’t have the “facilities” to accommodate non-whites.
“We’re seldom ever have been invited to black Muslim events and we never have been invited to NAACP events and we never have been invited to join Jewish synagogues events and stuff,” Christian Identity Ministries Pastor William J. Collier explained.
“It has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of racism or hate or anything like that,” he added. “And anybody who would brand it as that would be a racist and a hater themselves, you know.” “
Finally, if you didn’t know about Higgs Boson then this might help:
“(Reuters) – Syrian government forces are killing civilians in organized attacks on towns and villages that amount to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said on Thursday, citing evidence from over 20 locations in the country’s northwest.
The rights group repeated its call for the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and to impose an arms embargo.
Amnesty’s findings, detailed in a 70-page report, add to reports of massacres elsewhere in Syria as a 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad moves closer to a civil war.
Its researchers visited 23 towns and villages in the Aleppo and Idlib provinces between April and May, conducting interviews with more than 200 people, including many whose relatives had been killed or whose homes had been destroyed.
Amnesty adviser Donatella Rovera told Reuters TV she had found repeated examples of brutality against civilians during two months of unauthorized visits to northwest Syria.
“Wherever I went, in every town, in every village, there was a very similar pattern – soldiers who went in, in very large numbers, for very short but very brutal incursions where they extra-judicially executed young men, burned down their homes. Those who they arrested were then tortured in detention,” she said.
“And that was really repeated in every town and every village that I visited … The bulk, the overwhelming majority of the violations are being committed by the government security forces and their paramilitary militia against the civilian population,” she added. “
Often PR companies are not too choosy as long as their clients pay well.
So it is with those in the business of polishing the image of Assad’s murderous regime, the Indy reports:
“At the very least, it was a case of unfortunate timing.
Vogue magazine invited ridicule and condemnation last year when it printed a glowing profile of the Syrian First Lady in the same month that a violent crackdown on protests in the country began. But the 3,200 fawning words on Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, was just one part of a public relations campaign carried out by Western firms to burnish a friendlier image of the Assad family – the extent of which is still coming to light.
It was later revealed that international PR firm Brown Lloyd James agreed a $5,000-per-month contract in November 2010 to help with the photo shoot and interview, which described the British-born Mrs Assad as the “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies”.
The Vogue interview, headlined “A Rose in the Desert”, was arguably the high point of a public relations blitz designed to make the Assad family appear progressive and accessible. “
“For some journalists, Syria has been one of the least hospitable countries in the Middle East, a place where reporters — if they can get in — are routinely harassed and threatened as they try to uncover the repression that has propped up the Assad government for decades.
For other journalists, Syria has until recently been a country led by the cultivated, English-speaking President Bashar al-Assad who, along with his beautiful British-born wife, Asma, was helping usher in a new era of openness and prosperity.
That second impression is no accident. With the help of high-priced public relations advisers who had worked in the Clinton, Bush and Thatcher administrations, the president and his family have sought over the past five years to portray themselves in the Western media as accessible, progressive and even glamorous.”
Some have sought to make Tonge into a victim, that her rights to freedom of speech somehow curtailed.
They have not been.
Tonge is free to shoot off her mouth where and whenever she wants.
In fact, I wish she would, so we can dissect this polite racism and point out the problems with it.
Tonge is still a member of the Lib Dems. They haven’t kicked her out, just remove the whip, which is a minor inconvenience.
There are broader societal issues involved in this type of racism that we should be discussing. We should be examining the use of polite racism in society, conspiratorial language and why otherwise intelligent people are not sensitive to it.
Why he does that I can’t say. I can understand why Russia Today does it. They are following Russia’s foreign policy support for Bashar Assad’s regime, but why Winstanley would quibble when the Syrian regime are slaughtering the people of Homs on a daily basis, is hard to fathom.
“Navi Pillay expressed fears that the deliberate stirring of sectarian tensions may plunge Syria into civil war. She said there are strong indications of ongoing crimes against humanity and again appealed for President Bashar Assad’s government to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Standing before the 193-member General Assembly, Pillay said tens of thousands of people, including children, have been arrested, more than 18,000 reportedly are still arbitrarily detained, and thousands more are reported missing. Another 25,000 people are estimated to have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, and more than 70,000 are estimated to be internally displaced, she added.
The UN high commissioner for human rights said the use of torture by Syrian security forces is widespread in interrogation and detention facilities, citing information from army defectors. She called reports of sexual violence, particularly the rape of men and boys in places of detention “particularly disturbing.”
The General Assembly is expected to consider a nonbinding resolution similar to the Security Council resolution that Russia and China vetoed on Feb. 4.
The resolution backs an Arab League plan that calls for Assad to hand power to his vice-president and allow creation of a unity government to clear the way for elections. There are no vetoes in the assembly, and diplomats said a vote on the Arab-sponsored resolution could take place late this week.
In her speech, Pillay deplored the ongoing assault on the central city of Homs, which reportedly has killed 300 people in the last 10 days, and said her office has received similar accounts of intensifying assaults and worsening humanitarian situations in Zabadani, Dar’a and al-Rastan.
“The risk of a humanitarian crisis throughout Syria is rising,” she said.
Pillay said credible reports indicate more than 5,400 people were killed last year, including military personnel who refused to shoot civilians. She said it’s been almost impossible to update the death toll in the past two months because of the extreme difficulty in verifying events on the ground, but “we are certain that the number of dead and injured continue to rise every day.”
She accused Syrian security forces and government-backed militias of using a “shoot-to-kill” policy to crush peaceful protests.”
“Bombs fall, bullets fly, cocks crow — and a rainbow appears. The battle in Homs on livestream,” The Post’s Liz Sly wrote on Twitter early Wednesday morning.
It was another day of deadly shelling in Syria, despite declarations from Russia that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “completely committed” to stopping the fight.
While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the international community not to intervene and to allow more time for dialogue with Assad, the city of Homs came under renewed bombardment Wednesday. The BBC reports it’s the “heaviest” yet, as activists say military tanks are rolling in the streets. BBC’s Paul Wood, who has now left Homs after reporting there for the past few days, writes:
Unconfirmed reports claimed that pro-government militiamen known as “shabiha” were going door-to-door and killing indiscriminately.
There are also reports that 18 premature babies died after their incubators failed as a result of power cuts. State TV denied the reports and said Homs hospitals were operating normally.
As many as 100 civilians died in the attacks on Wednesday alone,according to Reuters. Hundreds of amateur videos have been pouring in on YouTube, showing dead bodies, damaged buildings and the grief of family members who have lost their relatives.”