Three autumn reads

29 Oct

For reasons too convolutedly tedious to torture you with, my custom of posting, last weekend of the month, a trio of recommended reads fell into abeyance this spring. Shame, that. Several readers have said they liked this feature. I’m not promising to revive it – as regulars know, my form on upholding vows is lamentable – but today’s three do coincide with the last weekend in October, marked in my country by the turning back of clocks to declare autumn, the season of reminiscence and reflection, truly upon us.

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The two most insistent themes of this site are not canoeing and photography. It just looks that way to the casual eye. They are Eurasia rising, and the structural incapacity of all segments – rightwing and ‘liberal’, popular and ‘quality’, generalist and economic/financial – of our media to give us truth on the most pressing issues confronting humanity. Both feature in these reads, while my third subject is Bill Gates: epitome of inequality as dysfunctional as it is obscene, and no less a negation of meaningful democracy than the media business model alluded to in the other two reads.

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Manufacturing Ignorance: Keeping The Public Away From Power (2,665 words)

Everybody who reads my blog with a scintilla of sympathy should subscribe to the Media Lens feed. They might even consider supporting these Stakhanovs with a monthly donation (small in my case, but every little helps).

In this read, its title a nod to the now seminal work by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, the ML duo do what they have done so well for more than twenty years: skewering just how badly served we are by ‘our’ media. As noted above, this is one of my own two major themes.

For all the blinkered sincerity of many journalists and even, at a push, editors, media business models compel them to serve power not truth. But as so many of us do with advertising, my over-educated pals place too much faith in a surface scepticism which woefully underestimates the subliminal power of media – “large corporations selling privileged audiences to other large corporations” – in shaping our perceptions of the world, and the conclusions we draw.

(How do I know? Because folk who when the heat is off assure me Beeb and Guardian can’t be trusted have a way of trotting out – once the latest propaganda blitz is underway on ‘human rights abuses’ in a state targeted by Washington and its junior partners – precisely the empire serving narratives spun by those organs.)

The quote two paragraphs up is from Chomsky, co-author of The Manufacture of Consent. But using diverse examples – eulogies on Colin-the-test-tube Powell … the illusion of democracy … Planet Earth financialised … media complicity in the nightmare ordeal of the most heroic (and most important) whistle-blower of our time – this piece parts with Herman & Chomsky (whom Media Lens admire, though not uncritically) in arguing that it is no longer helpful to speak of a manufactured ‘consent’.

Rather, what those corporate sellers of audiences manufacture are ignorance and confusion.

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Super Imperialism: The economic strategy of American empire (12,618 words)

This is a whopping read, I grant you. But since it’s the transcript of a video interview, and since that interview – all eighty-six minutes and thirty-one seconds of it – is accessed by the same link, you have a choice of media. I tend to favour the written over spoken word but that’s just me, and in this case I did both. Yes, it’s that good.

In footnote 4 of my recent post, A Guardian study in propaganda, I wrote

I apply my standard definition of imperialism as the export of monopoly capital from global north to south, and the repatriation of profits from south to north. As for it being threatened by China’s rise, let me give a key example.

It is the explicit purpose – see footnote 1 of my post of June 13  of IMF and World Bank loans to ‘developing’ countries that repayment terms oblige them to privatise state sectors at fire sale prices snapped up on Wall Street [whereas] The Belt & Road vision of lifting the global south from centuries of impoverishment, informed by a CCP view that rising prosperity for all is good for China too, is reflected in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and similar entities.

Like the major non US imperialisms, with which it has similarities as well as marked differences, China can’t absorb its own surpluses. (Arising as they do from trade with a USA which, since Bretton Woods 1945 and Nixon’s 1973 delinking of dollar from gold, has made both debt and deficit profitable via what France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing called “America’s exorbitant privilege”.)

As with the ‘developed’ world, China’s surplus dollars are recycled through US Treasury bonds. Now it seeks to reduce these holdings, and the attendant exposure. AIIB, and other state-private collaborations like the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, are looking to reinvest elsewhere.

One consequence, as other big economies – with even EU states tempted to jump ship – prepare for a de-dollarised world, is an end to America’s long decades of free-lunching at the expense of creditor economies. Another … is China offering debtor nations in the global south a less punitive alternative to the Chicago School medicine of IMF/ World Bank loans. While the West slumbers on, dreaming its dreams of America’s essential goodness, those of us halfways awake are taking stock of just how far, on past form, USA Inc. will be prepared to go to avert either consequence.

The reliability of corporate media declines in inverse ratio – this is most evident in ‘quality’ and ‘liberal’ media 1 – to the core importance to our rulers of the subject. It follows that nothing they say about China, a greater and more multi-faceted threat to Wall Street and Washington than the Soviet Union ever posed, can be trusted. (For a tiny but by that fact telling example, see the lie about the promotion in China of Dune the movie.)

For more reliable pictures of China, we must look to alternative sources.

In my case these are numerous but, at the level of authoritative and substantive content, none has been more pivotal to my deepening understanding than US economist and debt specialist Michael Hudson.

Interviewing him are two other indefatigable scourges of empire falsehoods, the Grayzone’s Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal.

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Humanity does not need Bill Gates (8,559 words)

… we also see here a problem with “Bill’s brain” that recurs in his climate ideas: Gates believes in new technology as a solution to problems that already have solutions. It’s just that the existing solutions would require the kind of transfer of wealth from rich to poor that he sees as unacceptable. In fact, we can come up with a set of rules about what kinds of solutions to social and economic problems are acceptable to Gates. The rules are:

  1. It has to include Innovation
  2. It should not be “political”
  3. It cannot in any way threaten Bill Gates’ power
  4. It cannot violate intellectual property laws in a way that threatens the profits of large multinational corporations
  5. It is decided upon by Bill Gates rather than ordinary people

Which is as good an overview of my third and final read as any I could give. But the devil really is in the detail in this fascinating indictment. Enlightenment – on the fine-tuned philanthropy of the stinking rich – is a mere eight thousand five hundred and sixty words away. Nay, fewer.

Have yourself a great weekend.

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  1. “… [unreliability] is most evident in ‘quality’ and ‘liberal’ media”. Market forces which oblige this media segment, like all the others, to serve power directly on matters of core importance also oblige it – on pain of losing market share to rivals in the same niche – to tell us the truth on lesser but still important things: even if it embarrasses sections of the ruling class. So lies – including those of omission – on matters vital to the most powerful wings of that class are more noticeable, for those paying attention, in a Guardian or Washington Post than in a Murdoch tabloid or mid-market organ like Rothermere’s Daily Mail.

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