Departing from a recently established tradition I did no March reads post. Here I make early April amends. Unusually, these four reads all come from the one source: Information Clearing House. I start with Paul Craig Roberts.
It’s a sign of our sharply polarised times that many former establishment figures, some of them on the Right, are doing what our ‘liberal’ media have signally failed to do. Gamekeepers turned poacher, they challenge mainstream narratives not on those important but secondary matters where democracy tolerates – needs, for ideological purposes, to tolerate – difference. Rather, they target aspects of class rule not up for negotiation, such as ‘our’ wars on the middle east.
Former Reagan appointee and Wall Street Journal editor Paul Craig Roberts is one such voice. Variously quoted by me over the past few years, I find his piece yesterday especially refreshing for its housing of three syllables (without ifs, buts or howevers) many of us find hard to utter – especially right now, where there seems a surfeit of unwarranted ‘certainty’:
I … Don’t … Know …
My Take on Covid-19 “Conspiracy Theories” (730 words)
Let’s begin by calling [CV-19] conspiracy theories alternative explanations. What they have in common is distrust of the authorities and official explanations. This is the fault of the authorities and media, not of those with alternative explanations. If the public had confidence in the authorities, there’d be no scope for alternative explanations. By not being up front, by politicizing the virus against Trump and against China, by taking so long to acknowledge the seriousness of the threat while doing nothing to prepare, the authorities have harmed public trust in them.
Trust was already thin. The lies about Washington’s wars – “WMDs,” “Iranian nukes,” “Assad’s use of chemical weapons” – and the Russiagate hoax, have undermined the credibility of Washington and the US print and TV media …
… Capitalism with an inadequate public sector has exposed us to both health and economic failure. These are all legitimate points to be made. However, the purpose of some alternative explanations seems to be to attract attention to a website or podcast … [while] others produce division [and so] can be just as debilitating and irresponsible as the authorities’ prevarications.
Speaking of conspiracy theories – some of which, we do well to remember, prove accurate – here’s Pepe Escobar in what is unquestionably the scariest of these four picks.
Cited in several of my posts, this Brazilian journalist is always worth a read. Ever well informed, his bold style, breadth of sweep and excitable tone can raise eyebrows – mine included – but I consider him an important voice on global realpolitik.
Ground Control to Planet Lockdown: This Is Only a Test (2400 words)
… As it stands, the sustainability of the complex Eurasian integration project has not been substantially compromised. As the EU has provided the whole planet with a graphic demonstration of its cluelessness and helplessness, everyday the Russia-China strategic partnership gets stronger – increasingly investing in soft power and advancing a pan-Eurasia dialogue which includes, crucially, medical help.
Facing this, the EU’s top diplomat, Joseph Borrell, sounds helpless:
“There is a global battle of narratives, with timing a crucial factor. […] China has brought down new infections to single figures – and it is now sending equipment and doctors to Europe, as others do as well.1 China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the U.S., it is a responsible and reliable partner. In the battle of narratives we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU (…) We must be aware there is a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity’. Armed with facts, we need to defend Europe against its detractors.”
That takes us to really explosive territory. A critique of the Planet Lockdown strategy inevitably raises serious questions pointing to a controlled demolition of the global economy. What is already in stark effect are myriad declinations of martial law, severe social media policing in Ministry of Truth mode, and the return of strict border controls.
Since Pepe has referred us, through the words of a hapless Mr Borell, to China’s aid to EU states abandoned by Brussels, and since I attached a footnote on gallant Cuba, I’ll turn to those two nations by way of a timely tribute from Danny Haiphong
China and Cuba’s Medical Internationalism: a Shining Example … (1650 words)
… Americans are bombarded with anti-communist and racist talking points which depict China and Cuba as “authoritarian” states that kill, torture, and repress their people. Corporate media portray Cuba and China as backward stereotypes worthy only of the imperial targets placed on their backs. Most people residing in the U.S. are either unaware of their government’s imperialist war crimes or find themselves too distracted to fight the U.S. sanctions against Cuba or the dangerous military provocations that successive U.S. presidential administrations have waged against China. The COVID-19 pandemic currently wreaking havoc on the U.S. and the West challenges the very legitimacy of the imperialist narrative against China and Cuba for the sheer fact that these maligned nations have been able to organize a heroic campaign of global solidarity to control the spread of the disease.
China was the first country to report an outbreak of COVID-19 in late December and the city of Wuhan has been under near total lockdown since January 23rd. After two months of aggressive measures to contain the virus, Wuhan and the rest of China are now reporting zero new domestic cases for consecutive days. This has allowed China to send its expertise and resources all over the world to fight the spread of the virus …
… Cuba is no stranger to the concept of medical internationalism. Nearly thirty thousand Cuban doctors are deployed all over the world to provide healthcare free of cost to the most oppressed nations across the planet. Cuba also trains a staggering number of doctors from abroad free of cost at its Latin American School of Medicine. Cuba offered medical and humanitarian assistance to the United States during Hurricane Katrina despite being crippled by a U.S.-imposed embargo that only worsened over the course of successive U.S. administrations. Now Cuba is at the forefront of assisting the nations most imperiled by COVID-19. Cuba has sent fifty-two doctors to Italy. Similar contingents have also been sent to Suriname, Grenada, Jamaica and thirty three other nations.
U.S. imperialism is the structural antithesis of social solidarity. While Cuba and China are demonized as pariah states, the U.S.’ actual pariah state continues its policy of endless war amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Venezuela, Iran, and over thirty other nations risk massive economic and social catastrophe from the pandemic as a result of US commitment to isolating their economies. Many countries around the world were already living through an imperial nightmare prior to the emergence of COVID-19. Over 70 percent of people in Yemen lack access to clean water, food, and adequate healthcare as a result of the ongoing US-Saudi war on their country. Palestinians in Gaza find themselves in a very similar situation as they continue to suffer from the impact of Israel’s colonial siege.
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus (1500 words)
My fourth piece, from a Jonathan Cook up there with Caitlin Johnstone as one of my favourite bloggers, effects a shift in tone and focus. In a reminder that our perceptions of the world are not our own, that “our attention rarely belongs to us; it is the plaything of others”,2 he begins with this …
Things often look the way they do because someone claiming authority tells us they look that way. If that sounds too cynical, pause for a moment and reflect on what seemed most important to you just a year ago, or even a few weeks ago.
Then, you may have been thinking that Russian interference in western politics was a vitally important issue and something that we needed to invest much of our emotional and political energy in countering. Or maybe a few weeks ago you felt that everything would be fine if we could just get Donald Trump out of the White House.
Or maybe you imagined that Brexit was the panacea to Britain’s problems – or, conversely, that it would bring about the UK’s downfall.
Still feel that way?
After all, much as we might want to (and doubtless some will try), we can’t really blame Vladimir Putin, or Russian troll farms spending a few thousand dollars on Facebook advertising, for the coronavirus pandemic.
Much as we might want to, we can’t really blame Trump for the catastrophic condition of the privatized American health care system, totally ill-equipped and unprepared for a nationwide health emergency …
… and ends with this:
The virus is one small warning – one among many – that we have been living out of sync with the natural world we share with other life. Our need to control and dominate, our need to acquire, our need for security, our need to conquer death – they have crowded out all else. We have followed those who promised quick, easy solutions, those who refused to compromise, those who conveyed authority, those who spread fear, those who hated.
If only we could redirect our gaze, if we could seize back control of our attention for a moment, we might understand that we are being plagued not just by a virus but by our fear, our hate, our hunger, our selfishness.
The evidence is there in the fires, the floods and the disease, in the insects that have disappeared, in the polluted seas, in the stripping of the planet’s ancient lungs, its forests, in the melting ice-caps.
The big picture is hiding in plain sight, no longer obscured by issues like Russia and Brexit but now only by the most microscopic germ, marking the thin boundary between life and death.
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