Questioning Johnsonism Group.

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Questioning Johnsonism Group.

[Posted By Lara Keller 16/4/20 ]   anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

Articles questioning the nature of the UK Boris Johnson Government and the hard-right of the UK Conservative party (Cummings, Gove, Duncan-Smith etc). [ Questioning Johnsonism Group  ].

Articles 2020:      (4)

4. A Postcard To Dominic.

3. Exposing The Real Hard Right Libertarian Politics Of Dominic Cummings During The Covid-19 Crisis.

2. Cull Cummings The Anger Of An Old Soldier.

1. Cull Dominic Cummings’ Influence.


Exposing The Real Hard Right Libertarian Politics Of Dominic Cummings During The Covid-19 Crisis.

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Exposing The Real Hard Right Libertarian Politics Of Dominic Cummings During The Covid-19 Crisis.

[Posted By Lara Keller 8/4/20 Updated 16/4/20 ]   anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[ Source = Coronavirus diary: Libertarians, Pandemics and Populism. Author: Miles King. 23/3/2020. ]

[Start Extract] 

[Note: Essential article on the real politics of Dominic Cummings beyond the smoke of his populist antics. Article starts describing criticism of people ignoring coronavirus instructions, and where this obsessive individualism comes from….]

“….. The Government, now being run by the likes of Dominic Cummings and his mates from the Vote Leave campaign, who are in turn drawn from a small cabal of activists on the libertarian right – all of whom work for a small group of ‘think tanks’ mostly based in Tufton Street, Westminster. These are the people who have spent the last twenty years quietly plugging away at a narrative, a narrative which finally came to fruition in the Brexit campaign.

The narrative is simple – Government is bad. The state is bad, it is by its very nature oppressive. It inevitably gets in the way of the Natural Order of things. The Natural Order is that everyone is an individual and that individual liberty is more important than anything else. And that the natural collective of individual liberty is enshrined in the Market. Public Spending is bad because it’s Taxpayers Money, being stolen from them by the state. Public services are therefore bad and need to be privatised. The private sector is part of the Natural Order of things and will always do a better job than the public sector. Rich people are rich because they worked harder or deserve to be rich. The poor are either lazy or stupid. Interestingly this point is one of the intersectional points between the Libertarian (or Hard) Right and the Authoritarian or Far Right. The Eugenic theories espoused by the likes of Toby Young and Dominic Cummings seek to provide a pseudo-scientific justification for the argument that ‘the poor are genetically inferior, which is why they will always be poor.’

Everything that gets in the way of the Natural Order must be swept away. This includes Regulation, the Civil Service, The BBC, and anyone who seeks to challenge the narrative of the Natural Order. Money should also have its own liberty, and be free to flow wherever it can. If that means it all ends up in the pockets of multi-billionaires, massive transglobal corporations and offshore tax havens, that is part of the Natural Order.

Naturally multi-billionaires, massive transglobal corporations and offshore tax havens are the places where money also flows from, into the coffers of those Think Tanks in Tufton Street – the Taxpayers Alliance, Policy Exchange, The Institute of Economic Affairs, The Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies, etc etc.

Think back over the past 20 years and there have been some very significant victories by the Libertarian Right

They saw off plans for the UK to join the Euro.

They put a massive hole in the public’s perception of trust in (Westminster) politicians with the expenses scandal.

They cemented the idea that public spending was bad in the media. It’s a basic Libertarian tenet, but it was dressed up as Austerity in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

They saw off electoral reform in the no 2 AV campaign.

They poisoned the mind of the public against the EU resulting in the Brexit win. In doing so they simultaneously exploited the rise of populism across Europe (and more widely) and the opportunities to be gained from weaponising social media as a propaganda tool.

Having created this narrative so successfully, [Dominic] Cummings and his Tufton Street mates seized power in 2019. Let’s face it, with Jeremy Corbyn and his own little cabal running the Labour Party into the ground, and with a pliant media to pump out their slogans, it was, in hindsight, an easy win. The ground was prepared to transform Britain – or perhaps Greater England, as Northern Ireland would need to be sacrificed to have any decent sort of trade deal with both the US and the EU, while Scotland would only become ever more restive – into their dream: the small state, everything privatised, dream. With the clown Johnson as their front man/patsy, the stage was set.

Then came the Coronavirus, like Banquo at Macbeth’s feast. Or Thanos, if you prefer a modern analogy. The natural response from the Natural Order boys (and they are almost all boys), was ‘it’s all part of the natural order, we must let the virus spread through the population so the healthy will survive and everyone will have herd immunity.’ That’s straightforward Social Darwinism, the survival of the richest, who can disappear off to their second homes in the Caribbean or sail out to safe places in their superyachts. Once it became clear that not only would half a million people die in very short order of CV-19, but many others would also die because the NHS had collapsed under the strain, panic set in. The awful truth dawned – The Government would have to Do Something.

Consider what the exquisite messaging that had been deployed by [Dominic] Cummings & His Mates:

Don’t Trust Politicians. They are all self-serving liars.

Take Back Control

Give the People The Power to Decide for Themselves.

The People’s Parliament.

The People’s Budget.

You get the idea. The Libertarians aren’t interested in populism other than as a mean to their ends, which is dismantling state and public power.

Now, the Government was going to have to take control, to start telling people what to do. The messages are simple – wash your hands and keep 2m away from other people. But the messages coming from Johnson and the Government have been disastrous. Firstly they prefer to persuade, the Nudge Unit, another bit of fake science, was tasked with producing messages to persuade, and came up with the Herd Immunity line. Secondly they gave the job to inveterate liar Johnson.

Not surprisingly the messages have failed to get through. Instead we’ve lurched through a series of mishaps and delays, before finally closing pubs and other public gathering places, finally closing schools. Weeks have been wasted.

Instead of a wall to wall public information campaign we have dribs and drabs, a daily press conference with Johnson at the helm, automatically negating any credibility it might have.

But the biggest problem is that, having told the public for years to mistrust politicians, take back control and decide things for themselves, that is exactly what a significant chunk of the public are doing. Can they really be blamed? This, coupled with a traditional ‘I’m alright Jack’ British exceptionalism, will prove, is proving fatal.

Given that in order to be effective, a large section of the public need to act on the key messages (hand washing and social distancing), two paths now offer themselves.

The ‘Herd Immunity’ path is still there. Without a massive behavioural change from the public, the virus will spread, exponentially. The NHS will fall over. Half a million and more will die in a very short time. Mass Graves. Essential workers not at their stations. The fabric of society will be threatened, as food and energy supplies come under pressure. The Army will be on the streets.

The other path is scarier for the Libertarians. It’s a strong state, verging on the authoritarian, as has already happened in France, Spain and Italy. Permission is needed to venture outside your home. Gatherings are banned. Perhaps even the state takes over the media to pump out the necessary messages. The state has already taken over paying people’s wages, or at least made several large steps in that direction. Next will be essential services being brought into state ownership, including the food supply. This is, after all, what happened in the last great national crisis, World War Two.

Which would you prefer?”

[End Extract]

Reactionary European Politics Collection.

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[ Posted by Lara Keller 21/9/18 Updated 15/6/19 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

Collection of articles on dangerous rise of reactionary populism and separatism in the Western European democracies. [or see whole category Reactionary European Politics Collection].

Articles 2018:      (5)

Future of Europe: Can the EU resist a far-Right, nationalist takeover?

Fascist racism in Czech regional elections shows the path to dictatorship.

The far-right influence in pro-Kremlin media and political networks. Author Alexander Reid Ross.

The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections. Author Alexander Reid Ross.

The multipolar spin how fascists operationalize left wing resentment.

Articles 2017:    (4)

Why a history of democracy is no reason for complacency.

Incoherent Moral Hypocrisy of Separatism from Catalonia, Scotland to Singapore.

Mad Logic Of UK Brexit.

Extremist Politics New and Old.

Articles 2016:    (5)

What is wrong with West progressive politics, a 3D approach.

West’s Darkening Hour, Stop The Rout.

West’s Darkening Hour.

Stopping Rise Of Authoritarianism In The West.

The Non-Interveners, Spain & Syria, Geoffrey Grigson.

Articles 2015:    (3)

Le Pen ~ Never Again , Le Pen Plus Jamais.

The Real Nature Of Charlie Hebdo …..

The Dark Side Of “Charlie Hebdo”, Oriana Fallaci and Islamophobia.


Disgraced Academic Prof Tim Anderson, Assad, Kim Jong-Un and the Australian Far-Right.


Disgraced Academic Prof Tim Anderson, Assad, Kim Jong-Un and the Australian Far-Right.

[Posted By Lara Keller 19/3/19 Updated 20/3/19]    anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

Disgraced racist Australian pro-Assad propagandist-academic Prof Tim Anderson tweets that Murdoch’s Media is responsible for the Christchurch Massacre of Muslims, by his fellow countryman, the deranged far-right extremist Brenton Tarrant, whose manifesto is obsessed with an ill informed and paranoid fear of the replacement of White Europeans by Muslim immigrants. Tarrant repeatedly refers to Muslims as violent threatening “invaders”.

This atmosphere of fear has been encouraged by people like Tim Anderson who are part of the non-Western imperialist media, promoting the foreign policies of the authoritarian Russia-Chinese regimes. His propaganda has portrayed the Arab Spring struggles against brutal kleptomaniac dictatorships in Syria and elsewhere, as the illegitimate wars of Islamist Extremists against benign “independent” states.

This is why far-right groups want to hear propagandists like Tim Anderson. His propaganda presents the Assad Regime as a benign regime of semi-westernized “White Arabs” that keep Sunni Muslims under control for their own good. Protecting them from hordes of foreign radicalized Sunni Muslim extremists easily recruited and armed by  the Saudi Monarchy intent on grabbing power through terror.  This is an outrageous racist distortion. It ignores the nature of the web of dictatorships in the Middle East, where the Assad regime has the worst reputation in a field of terrible regimes (being Sunni, Shia or secular makes no difference). This disgusting, insulting rubbish is promoted by a minority of academics, like Anderson who abuse the reputations of the universities that employ them. See Tim Anderson’s Dirty War on Syria for a destruction on his propaganda smearing the Syrian Revolution and exonerating Bashar Assad.

He has promoted his book of apologia for Assad =directly= to far-right and far-left groups. Here he is addressing far-right fruitcakes in 2016 (the full version of his pro-Assad rhetoric is available at (start 50 mins) and second part

He also appeared with well known fascists outside the Russian Consulate when diplomat Andrey Karlov was murdered in Ankara in 2016. In August 2017 he was in North Korea with his fellow dictator apologist “independent journalist(?)” Eva Bartlett. Anderson praised Kim Jong-Un’s resistance to US aggression, while Barlett praised the egalitarian welfare the state provided for North Koreans.

In this propaganda world their are no brutal kleptomaniac dictatorships apart from those linked to the West, where all evil emanates from. Evidence is misused, abused and selected to give an impression that this is true. All these distortions are backed up by “whatabout” the Western elite’s crimes. We know about these, we care, we oppose, and it is ridiculous to imply this lessens the crimes of the other non-Western elites. What all this “whataboutism” means in conclusion, is bugger to all the elites Western or not-Western. Still people in the West are expected to respect people like Anderson’s radical progressive integrity. Call people like Anderson and his followers for what they really are, apologists for dictators who rule to extort by the use of terror. They can no longer hide under the cover of freedom of speech, anti-war, solidarity or egalitarianism. They promote crimes against humanity, and abuse freedom of speech to undermine society. Indeed they use freedom of speech to promote torture.

Battle of Concrete Balloons, Hiding the Arab Spring, Barbican, London, 2012

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Battle of Concrete Balloons, Hiding the Arab Spring, Barbican, London, 2012

[ Posted by Lara Keller 15/3/19 Updated 17/6/19] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents


1. Introduction.
2. Doctored Debate.
3. Selected Panel.
4. Structure Of The Debate.
    4.1. Debate Audio And Video Sources.
5. Chairperson’s Introductory Summary.
6. First Question.
7. Answers To First Question.
8. Second Question.
9. Answers To Second Question.
10. Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.
11. Answers To First Audience Questions.
12. Second Part Of Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.
13. Answers To Second Audience Questions.
14. Conclusion.

1. Introduction.

This document is an analysis of a panel debate held in 2012 in London, called “What happened to the Arab Spring?” A summary of the questions from the chairperson and audience, with the panel’s replies is given. It is intended to be read with the audio or video of the debate as a reference (see 4.1. Debate Audio and Video Sources). The timings given in this document is based on the first of these links, although others seem to be identical. Links are given  and will be updated when necessary to ensure a copy is always available. A commentary on the debate under the title the “Missing Voice” is also given to fill an intentional void in the composition of the panel. The debate was pro-authoritarian PR supplied by a part of the “LM Network”. Apart from warning of the activities of this network, this is also an illustration of the subtle PR of the “debate”. The voices chosen were all antagonistic to effective intervention to support the “Arab Spring”, understood as practical actions in solidarity with a regional movement to create real representative governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), that exploded into a wave of uprisings from 2011 onwards. This “Missing Voice” is based on the work of activists and academics, much of the material was published after 2012. The professional “main stream media” has also been negligent in representing this “missing voice”, because different standards of balance apply to domestic and foreign news. Clearly analysis of this debate is very useful because the debate contains some useful criticisms and views, and a large number of popular misrepresentations which need to be opposed. The notion of concrete balloons comes from the sterile architecture of the venue, and the judgement that the none of the “ideas” expressed in this debate would lift ordinary people from the anchor of repressive elites.

2. Doctored Debate.

A small room in the brutalist concrete monolith of the Barbican Arts Centre in London in the summer of 2012 held a mostly complacently good natured debate on “What happened to the Arab Spring?” The architecture and rather than the words echoed the real world of little over 2000 miles away where breathing people were being tortured to death for demanding a dignity Londoners would unthinkingly expect from their government.

This festival of redbrick university style debates was called grandly “The Battle of Ideas”, effectively organized by the “Academy of Ideas”. A front organization for people from the LM (Living Marxism) network. A group of political extremists from the UK that started as a nasty fringe Trotskyist sect in the 1970s called the Revolutionary Communist Party, and morphed in the mid 1990s into the LM Network. They seemed to have gone a step beyond the recognized merging of communism and fascism (“red-brown” politics) to include libertarianism.

In effect they “apologise for any power, the more corrupt the better”, whether this comes from dictatorships or neo-liberal multi-nationals. The proto-fascist Italian “Futurismo” movement of the early twentieth century would have recognized their core philosophy. Surprisingly the network and its off-shoot front organizations have been successful in attracting attention and money. The “Institute of Ideas” that organized the “Battle of Ideas” festival has even bizarrely attracted corporate funding. (See: 1. Guardian(2000), 2.Standpoint(2012), 3.Useful Summary from critics GMWatch, 4.Left Foot Forward on LM’s star Brendan O’Neill(2013), 5.Powerbase summary from far-left critics , if you are interested in the “LM Network”.)

The debate did not do justice to the struggle for dignity and representative government of the people of the Middle East and North Africa(MENA). A diverse range of opinions were expressed, apart from those of ordinary protesters. This central omission made the debate hollow. I have reintroduced a “missing voice” to the panel to make good this omission.  The debate certainly reinforced the non-intervention line towards these uprisings, which was no doubt the subtle PR intent. This festival had little direct impact on public opinion, but it was attended by journalists looking for ideas for provocative articles.

3. Selected Panel.

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The panel of five was chaired by Dr Tara McCormack, a middle ranking academic in the field of International Relations at the rising “redbrick” Leicester University. She is linked to the “LM Network” and writes regularly for Spiked Magazine and Sputnik News. Since 2012 she has become a notable academic apologist for the Assad genocide in Syria. She has a history of apologizing for war criminals, starting with the Srebrenica massacre in the 1990s and defending Milosevic in the 2000s. In her academic works she argues against the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” and against “Humanitarian Intervention”. (See 1. Wikipedia, 2.London Times(2018), 3. Copies of Times Articles on Assadist Academics(2018) , 4. Leicester Socialist(2018) , 5.Summary of her Assadist and Putin Propaganda(2018) , if you are interested in the reality of Dr Tara McCormack.)

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Two ex-pat Lebanese professionals from privileged backgrounds represented most of the Arab component of the panel. Dr Rania Hafez is a senior lecturer in education from Greenwich University in London. She describes herself as the daughter of a successful building contractor, who eventually left Beirut for good during the Civil War. She self identifies as a “citizen of the world”.

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Nadim Shehadi is a relatively well known academic who specializes in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. He is an associate fellow of Chatam House (Royal Institute of International Affairs). The most qualified to speak on the subject of the debate, but also as he later revealed a perfect fit for the neo-liberal bogey man of the far-left activists.

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There was the panelist Mark Seddon, a journalist and left-wing UK Labour party activist. He was a vigorous opponent of the previous UK Labour government’s enthusiastic involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He studied international relations at university, and adopted an “anti-war except when endorsed by the international community in the form of the UN” position. When editor of the Old Labour Left “Tribune” magazine in the 1990s, he did support the successful Nato bombing in response to Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, although this was done without UN authorization (typically blocked by Russia and China). He joined with right-wingers in the UK to call for a Brexit referendum. The EU (unlike the UN) is evidently the wrong type of international cooperation. His stance on Iraq led to a job as UN correspondent for Al-Jazeera, which he had left before the Arab Spring.

In the years following this debate, from 2014 to 2106 Mark Seddon became a speech writer for the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, and has since disappeared into a communications job with a UN commission. He has written in passing about reform of the notorious “veto-all-action-on-human-right-abuse” UN Security Council. The method he champions appears to be waiting for the permanent members of the Security Council to respond to being asked nicely. A progressive socialist who is moderate in most senses, but with an extremist’s believe in the potential of “diplomacy by reason” with authoritarian regimes, that have little fear of appearing irrational to their suppressed and mislead populations.

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The most interesting panelist was Karl Sharro, a talented Lebanese ex-pat architect based in London, who is also a popular satirist. He was at least the most sympathetic panelist, and probably included for his humour. Karl Sharro made by far the most engaging and informed comments. He was very critical of the quality of leadership in the Arab Spring uprisings. I do not know much about his background, except that reading between the lines, he does not appear to have come from a privileged background. He has a strong believe in self-help, but I doubt his commitment to economic justice.

He strongly dislikes sectarian labels and appears to advocate secularism. He is reported to have come from an Iraqi Christian background, although born in Lebanon. Secularism is not necessarily more progressive than moderate Islamic beliefs. The Assad regime for example poses as secularist although it is highly oppressive, and divides Syrians by provoking sectarian fears. Secularism can also denote an elite wealthy background, which looks down and is often over suspicious of religious groups, especially those of Sunni Muslims.

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The panel was not chosen for its knowledge of the subject of the debate, but as sources of criticism of the Arab Spring and to articulate opposition to Western Intervention. Nadim Shehadi was the obvious exception although his neo-liberalism had the effect of increasing opposition to his comments supporting the “uprisings”.

4. Structure Of The Debate.

The debate lasted an hour. The chairperson introduced a summary of the recent events of the Arab Spring. She proposed a series of questions, followed by questions from the audience. Dr Tara McCormack is listed as chairperson and producer of this event. The panel’s answers are listed chronologically, using times in this recording of the debate, so the text can be compared to the audio or video source.

4.1. Debate Audio and Video Sources:

Source 1 (Battle of Ideas):

Source 2 (Youtube):

Source 3 (

5. Chairperson’s Introductory Summary.

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Summary: Time=0:00_to_3:26 Dr Tara McCormack set the tone immediately by pejoratively adding the epithet “so called” before the “Arab Spring”. She described the events of 2011 in flat tones as the clichéd “1989 moment for the Middle East” and the “spread of democracy”. Then she asked if the “Arab Spring had lived up to its promises”, followed by a description of a string of failures. She described these as, the military in effective power in Egypt, Libya in chaos, oppression in Bahrain and Syria descending into “civil war”.

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[Missing Voice: This shallow introductory summary contrasts the people’s uprisings of the Arab Spring with the lack of short term success in creating democratic governments. This is typical of much of Western media output. The underlying assumption is that this outcome is principally due to flaws in the uprisings themselves. Totally ignoring the active cooperation between the region’s dictatorships to oppose and subvert the Arab Spring. Ignoring the gulf between the advanced military technology available to the dictatorships and those available to the relatively defenseless protesters. Westerners think of democratic revolutions as uprisings involving muskets not jet aircraft and tanks. The use of the term “civil war” to describe the brutal repression of peaceful protests by the Assad regime is clearly partisan. ]

6. First Question.

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Question1 (How understand Arab Spring): Time=3:27_to_4:07 She asked how each panelist understood the events of the Arab Spring. She presented the possible “competing narratives” as “people power”, “decay of old authoritarian regimes” or “imposition of US neoliberal hegemony in the Middle East”?

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[ Missing Voice: The reality of the Arab Spring is ordinary people being sick of an endless future vista of corrupt authoritarian regimes that steal their future, and so have consequently demanded their replacement by good representative governance. This reality is given the shortest throw-away title of “people power” (clearly there are no PR rewards for representing the powerless which is a deep problem). In reality this option should have been phrased by the chairperson as “people power losing ground to military technology”. The correct answer to Question 1 as any former student of bombastic humanities academics would grasp is the longest, the third one (“imposition of US neoliberal hegemony in the Middle East”). ]

7. Answers To First Question.

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=4:08_to_5:27 Mark used the hackneyed Zhou Enlai quote from 1972 on the French Revolution, “It is too early to say.” He said he believed that the Arab Spring has no comparison in terms of significance with the Prague Spring of 1968, or the eventual break up of the Soviet Union in 1989. He claimed there was exaggeration by the Western media about the “Arab Spring”, and this is only the beginning of a long “awakening” process.

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[Missing Voice: Seddon did not acknowledge that the Western media have under reported discontent in the past, and he hinted at the chauvinistic trope that Arabs are not ready for democracy. He took the lack of interest by the Western media in the evidence of discontent, as proof of a lack of evidence. Not well informed opinion. ]

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Nadim Shedadi’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=5:28_to_7:55 Dr McCormack’s tone betrayed hostility when she asked Shedadi this question, that he countered with a joke about being seated on the far-right of the panel. He said he understands the Arab Spring as part of a global movement of discontent and the collapse of “twentieth century politics”. He put himself in the neo-liberal category by saying that the twentieth century was the first time in history when the “state controlled our lives”, and took away our “income, inheritance and freedom”. The state promised life long care that it “cannot now deliver”. He bizarrely included  authoritarian regimes and democracies in this sweeping criticism, and said he believes this idea of state control came from Bismarck and later Keynes.

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[Missing Voice: Shedadi failed completely to recognise the growth of the related ideas of democracy and economic redistribution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His position on the panel as the strongest supporter of the Arab Spring strengthened the illusion of Western far-left extremists, that it is about neo-liberal hegemony (Dr McCormack’s favoured third choice). This avoids the real problem for the far-left with the Arab Spring, which like the 1989 collapse of Soviet Union, involved ordinary people rejecting the unrepresentative authoritarian state (the primrose path to the paradise of these extremists’ egos).

Shedadi’s idea that these dictatorships “cannot now deliver” services to its suppressed peoples, completely ignored the reality that these regimes are involved in mass extortion. They also cannot deliver development for the same set of reasons.

Systematic state corruption is an important factor together with interrelated economic, demographic and climate change factors in creating the state of despair in the region. The recognition that democracy is one of the supporting pillars of good governance, that respects people’s welfare and dignity, is the driver of the Arab Spring. ]

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Rania Hafez’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=7:56_to_10:31

She disagreed with Mark Seddon, and said Arabs have been “awakening culturally” since the beginning twentieth century as colonialism receded. This has ebbed and flowed, recently effected by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and loss of vague “powerful factors” in the region. She criticized the Western media for “projecting fantasies” on to the Middle East about the “Arab Spring”. She said the Arab world is complex and each Middle Eastern country is very different. Dr McCormack then prompted her to say that, she believes the West is looking to the Middle East to live out the revolutions it has not had; motivated by a kind of fashionable substitute for its own anxieties.

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[Missing Voice: Rania Hafez used the embarrassment of Western progressives about their lack of knowledge of the Arab world, to safely display a privileged contempt for ordinary Arabs outside her class. ]

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Karl Sharro’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=10:32_to_13:48 Of all the panel Karl Sharro comes across as the most human and involved. He said “sovereignty” and “self-determination” are “very crucial” to the Arab Spring. The old regimes started to die after 1990 when they sold out their legitimacy. He said that generally we are all lacking a “healthy understanding of political agency” (political freedom). People go out on demonstrations but then want the “world to sort it out”. The Arab Spring protesters want the old order to go, but refuse to take responsibility for this change, which results in a “stalemate”. There is a lack of “ideological clarity” and “self confidence”. They should be saying “we do not want the world to come and help us … but here is our vision and this is how we transform our societies”.

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[Missing Voice: Unsure when Karl Sharro is talking about politics in general or specifically about the Arab Spring. His criticisms could be directed at both Western and Arab protesters demanding change in the worldwide protests of 2011. Terrible events after 2012 in the Middle East – particularly Assad’s political genocide in Syria – have shown the limits of “people power” regardless of “ideological clarity”. The only conclusion I can see now (in 2018-2019) about the “Arab Spring” is that twenty first century revolutions need a clear ideology and sufficient principled practical foreign support (which bodies like the UN are intrinsically unable to provide).

The break up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was (apart from major exceptions of Afghanistan and Yugoslavia) a relatively peaceful process. It could have been different due to the same lack of accountability of these dictatorships. No one expected the more personal dynastic regimes in the Middle East to resort to mass violence. In retrospect they had the same lack of accountability combined with personal fiefdoms to protect. ]

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Second Part of Mark Seddon’s Answer to Question 1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=13:49_to_15:31 He is asked by Dr McCormack to make a clearly positive statement about the “Arab Spring”, after the negative previous answers from the panel. He said the Arab Spring is far more complex than the Prague Spring, or the fall of the Soviet Union. He made a vague comment that different pressures where acting in different Middle East countries. He mentioned failure of the uprising in Algeria in the 1990s. The Arab Spring had some success in Tunisia, Yemen and “to a degree” in Libya. He said the “Arab Spring” is about the “collapse of the old order” and a collapse of “Arab secular nationalism” (like Ba’athism in Iraq and Syria). He said the Arab Spring revolutions have a more “religious element” than those centred around Nasser in the 1950s. He said  these recent revolutions have more potential.

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[Missing Voice: The less successful revolutions, that Mark Seddon described, all had more violent opposition. The so called “Algerian Civil War” in the 1990s involved the previously dictatorial FLN regime losing an election to a moderate Islamic party. The regime then resorted to mass murder and torture to stay in power. The regime got the support of the West by selling the lie they were fighting, rather than encouraging Islamic extremism.

In Libya the West helped to remove Gaddafi in 2011, but gave minimal support in helping the new government supply security to its citizens. This left the field open to extremists funded by Saudi Arabia, UAE and the Egyptian military to wreck the country. This was similar to the chaos produced by the US after the invasion of Iraq. Since this debate in 2012, Yemen has slipped into chaos and mass malnutrition after the Iranian regime started a proxy war, that neighbouring Saudi Arabia joined in with a siege and airstrikes that have absolutely no regard for civilian deaths. Syria has been the victim of a brutal political genocide by the Assad regime backed by Russia (and China).

Tunisia is now battling against acts of terrorism funded by Saudi Arabia, with little economic support from the West. Iraq is in a state of permanent decay under the strains of opposing groups supported by the Saudi and Iranian regimes. Added to this the separatist Iraqi Kurds are being supported by everyone, in particular Israel.

The success of the Arab Spring revolutions has less to do with their intrinsic properties, than the brutality and strength of the reactionary forces (and their backers) who oppose them. Mark Seddon is extremely detached from the reality of anti-dictatorship struggle. ]

8. Second Question.

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Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): Time= 15:32_to_16:18 Dr Tara McCormack wanted to discuss “How people in Arab Countries are always asking for intervention”, and more broadly the role of the West. She also wanted to go back to the problem of “Islamist victories”. She asked “What is the role of the West in the Arab Spring, too much or [even] too little?” She then said that Karl Sharro was suggesting [the danger of going] “back to the old days of serious imperialism, we [West] knew what we were doing, [leading to] no democracy or change.”

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[Missing Voice: Mark Seddon had just used the phrase “religious element” while McCormack uses the more pejorative “Islamist”. McCormack is suggesting that intervention by the West must lead to “serious imperialism”. It is impossible for her to imagine a Western public opinion that favoured the practical and when necessary forceful support for democratic struggles abroad. Western intervention foreign policy has usually been controlled and created by Western elites, and only modified to fit the propaganda given to placate public opinion. A resurgence in believe in the centrality of democratic values will change this. ]

9. Answers To Second Question.

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Nadim Shedadi’s Answer to  Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): time=16:19_to_19:11 He used a small metal spring to illustrate that highly repressive Arab regimes have created a strong opposing reaction. The more you push down on the spring the higher it jumps. Then bizarrely he said Britain was “very repressive” in the 1970s. He said the share of the economy controlled by governments was less than 10% at beginning of the twentieth century, and was 50-60% by the middle of it. “So our lives were taken away from us by the state.”

Sheddi is in favour of intervention in countries like Syria. He said the hang-up about imperialism is outdated, and only exists in radical university departments like the “Madrassa [School] of Oriental African Studies” (SOAS part of London University)”. People in the Middle East want freedom, and “do not want to pass a test to get it”. He said freedom is a human right. People do not have to “deserve it” by having a well organized political program.

People of the Middle East need help from the West and the longer they wait “the worse the transition will be”. Iraqi Ba’ath party should have collapsed as it was nationalist, centralist, socialist and authoritarian. They took everything and gave back nothing. At prompting from McCormack he said [jokingly?] that what is needed is “good old fashioned American Imperialism”.

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[Missing Voice: Nadem Sheddi sounded like a rabid “neo-liberal Western imperialist”. This is exactly the class of people that the Western far-left apologists for brutal dictatorships accuse of “manufacturing” the Arab Spring. He was the panel’s well chosen bogey man.

Both Nadim Sheddi and Karl Sharro slightly missed the point. The people of the Middle East need well organised political programs, not to deserve freedom, but to practically achieve it against a determined well resourced authoritarian opposition. They need Western support, but not of the type that would naturally come from the cynical manipulative Western elites, who traditionally dominate foreign policy. It will have to come from an alliance of Middle Eastern activists, genuine Western progressives and powerful visionary democratic political leaders.

Nadim Sheddi’s vision of a good democratic society was miserably myopic. The freedom to control personal wealth is only one element of many. Equally important is reducing inequality to reasonable levels and providing security. Personal opportunity is important, and therefore so is access to education and a sound national infrastructure. Sheddi describes a type of society that existed in the very limited democracies of the eighteenth century. His views on this are absurd.

McCormack clearly loves his statement. She sarcastically describes Sheddi comment as “old fashioned intervention to help those weak Arabs.” Any unarmed people facing tanks, jets, helicopters, high explosives, chemical weapons and mass torture is weak. This is an attribute of all human flesh. Her attitude is both absurd and deeply inhumane. ]

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Karl Sharro’s Answer to Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): Time=19:12_to_22:34 Dr McCormack sarcastically rephrased the question as “do you want some good old fashioned intervention to help these weak Arabs?” Karl Sharro’s reply dismissed this option with “yeah right”. He saw this kind of intervention as an “abdication of responsibility”. He compared the “Arab Spring” to the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon in 2005. He said the “Cedar Revolution” was an example of “putting all your eggs in the basket of Western oversight and protection” that then lead to failure and capitulation. This revolution was against Syrian dominance, and the corrupt system of traditional sectarian leadership in Lebanon. These leaders got protection from the West and then failed to reform. The West did not have (or want to have) any real clear idea of how Lebanese politics could be reformed, beyond token actions (in a similar vein to their token responses to the “Arab Spring”).

He stated intensely that “ideas like self-determination and sovereignty” are important because they mean “taking responsibility for your own society and future” because no one else will. He said the old empty rhetoric of “ba’athist” nationalism should be rejected, but “cannot abandon idea of self-determination, that is what is so crucial for re-injecting energy into the Arab Spring.”

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[Missing Voice: Karl Sharro said strongly that the West’s problem is failing to respond adequately to uprisings for reform in the Middle East. This contrasts to the far-left in the West who claim that these uprisings are planned by the West, at least when against notionally anti-Western dictatorships. Sharro importantly promoted the reality, importance and value of “political agency” by the peoples of the Middle East demanding reform in their own countries.

Sharro blamed the relative failure of the Cedar Revolution on the passivity and naivety of Lebanese activists . The Lebanese Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990. A fragile balance was then established, with local sectarian leaders and their powerful foreign authoritarian regional backers. Challenging this corrupt system of leadership would mean beating the best efforts of these backers to undermine reform. The Lebanese National Army is weaker than the sectarian militias, in particular Hezbollah.

The Bush administration was in power at the time of the Cedar Revolution, and never had any interest in supporting democracy. The Iraq invasion made this obvious. Like the “Arab Spring” the “Cedar Revolution” itself also needed strong foreign backers committed to democracy. Sharro’s self determination has to realistically be combined with a forceful resourceful back-up from foreign democracies. Not because Arabs are weak, but because the ordinary people of the region are caught in a vice of brutal elitist regimes armed with advanced weapons. Clearly exactly the same applies to the “Arab Spring”. ]

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Rania Hafez’s Answer to Question 2 (Role West in Arab Spring) Time=22:34_to_24:58 In response to Sharro’s previous comment on the Cedar Revolution, she said she had seen the West interfering in Lebanon for decades with no benefit to the people. Also she is British and needed to consider the interests of her “adopted nation”. She said the US approved of Syrian domination of Lebanon, in return for promised support by Syria of the US lead invasion of Iraq in 2003. She said she is Lebanese but also has family in Syria. At this point she got a bit vague and waffles. She said she was disagreeing with Karl Sharro’s previous comment on Western intervention, but was actually saying many of the same things on this issue. She advocated the “pragmatic” approach of balancing interests of the West and the people of the region.

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[Missing Voice: Rania Hafez said very little. I wonder what she meant by the “people of the region”? Does this only include the wealthy, powerful or extremely talented? She appeared to be advocating more of the same in the Middle East, with a more equal partnership between the existing local and foreign elites. She said nothing on Karl Sharro’s strong emphasis on “political reform” in his previous comment. ]

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): Time=24:59_to_27:38 Dr McCormack summed up the options as too much, too little or muddled Western intervention. Mark Seddon said he hates the “lazy Western journalism” that keeps saying “we must do something”. He asked who “we” is meant to mean. He said there is international law and the United Nations. There are a “multitude of [international] organizations who have responsibility to doing certain things when the situation demands of it”.

He went over the history of British intervention in the Middle East from 1918 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He said he also thinks US intervention is bad. He said there is a lot of public goodwill in the West towards the people of the Middle East. There are also many contradictions in the West’s attitude to the Middle East. The contradiction between intervening in Libya, but not intervening in Bahrain. The condemnation by many activists of Palestinians being attacked by Israel, by not also of people being attacked by Assad in Syria. He said to solve these contradictions we need an “international morality and humanity” to protect people “when it is possible”, which is a very “big thing” to attempt to do. This is why “we” have the United Nations and the concept of  “Responsibility to Protect”.

He waffled a bit about history not coming in neat periods of time (confused Karl Sahrro’s with Nadim Shedadi’s comments). Then he said that young people in Middle East have more access to world media than previous generations, and want secular democracies. He said people outside the region “must campaign” for this.

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[Missing Voice: Mark Seddon overstated the cohesion and power of the United Nations again. The problem is that the United Nations are not united, and most of them have little interest in “Responsibility to Protect”, especially the many powerful dictatorships who want to have absolute sovereignty over their subjects. There are a lot of disconnected statements in Mark Seddon’s reply. He is right about ordinary people in the Middle East wanting democracy, and needing support outside the region. The rest added up to nothing more than hot air. ]

10. Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.

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Opening up the Debate: Time=27:39_to_32:56 Dr Tara MacCormack, said she would take 3 or 4 questions, comments or points. Then give the panel the chance to give  their reaction.This procedure would then be repeated until the end of the debate.

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Audience Question (“man in black shirt”)= He said there is a lack organization in the “Arab Spring”. This is strange as there is a model they could take up, which is to become an industrialized country, and get rid of militaristic exploitation. He said this has not happened.

Audience Question (“lady in green jacket”)= She asked whether high food prices were related to “Arab Spring?” She had seen an interesting paper by scientists showing a link between food price spikes and social unrest.

Audience Question (“man in glasses”)= He claimed that in the “Arab Spring” there is a “disavowal of analysis and theory”, which he found “really problematic”. He said instead there is a “normative stance”, which just involves saying “this is what I would like to happen”. He was interested in the “Arab Spring” of 2011 being like the end of the Soviet Union in 1989. He asked if the “Arab Spring” had failed too much to be comparable.

Audience Question (“man pointing at self”)= He said the “Arab Spring” did not work as “some of us would have hoped”. The same thing is happening in the West, with people unhappy with their governments, but a lack of vision meant their protests collapsed. 

Audience Question (“woman”)= She said Dr Rania Hafez was spot on about the Western media creating a fantasy of the “Arab Spring”. She wondered how this effected  people protesting in the Middle East. As an example, she had been “talking to people I know who know quite a bit about Syria, there is some sense, Syrian Opposition acted more quickly than they should have, and tried to do more than they were actually ever going to be able to, taking on the regime at an earlier time than they should have essentially”.

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[Missing Voice: Only one of these questions showed any understanding of the protesters of the “Arab Spring”. He (“man pointing at self”) found a parallel between protests in the Middle East and those in the West in 2011. He said both sets of protesters “lack vision”. This is not surprising as waves of political thought have failed in the Middle East and in the West. Communism, nationalism, neo-liberalism, religious fundamentalism and even anarchism have all failed. There is a global deficit in political vision.

The first question (“man in black shirt”) ignored the reality that they were protesting against exploitation and lack of development. There is something inhumane and patronizing (“lady in green jacket”), in finding “interesting” the assertion that hunger is linked to protest. An apparently far-left questioner (“man in glasses”) wanted the “Arab Spring” to show homage to some kind of Marxist theory. The last question (“woman”) showed the premium given to Western opinions about the Middle East over the views of the protesters. She appeared to give an exaggerated credence to the claims of her friends. I know people who still claim the Assad regime is legitimate based on having friends who have known wealthy ex-pat Syrians, or who have been on privileged visits to Syria before 2011. Essentially they do not know enough to know they do not know enough. ]

11. Answers To First Audience Questions.

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Nadim Shehadi’s Answer to First Audience Questions: Time=32:57_to_35:59 He joked that these are all interesting questions and so he will give one answer. He said there needed to be a “deprogramming program” for people from the “remaining ideas of the twentieth century”. All these questions came from “residuals” of these ideas. He said the “ladies and gentlemen to my left [on the panel]” and the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm see the twentieth century as lasting effectively from 1914 to 1990, because they are looking at “material developments”. When however looking at “ideas” they start many decades earlier, and finish decades later.

He said the world needed to changes its ideas, because attitudes towards the Middle East are based on “twentieth century prejudices”. It is a twentieth century idea that there must be “homogeneous nationalist strong states that control their populations, and nannies them with education and all that, it is based on the fact [that] if do not have that the place falls apart”. This is why “we have the wrong lesson” from Iraq, which was that when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party collapsed the place fell apart. In reality the country was already broken due to oppression and the resulting simmering sectarianism. The Iraqi Ba’ath party spent 30 years killing Kurds, Christians and Shia. We need to leave old ideas behind, and “find a totally different picture”.

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[Missing Voice: Importantly Nadem Shehadi is absolutely right that new ideas are needed. His radical notion on rejecting old “twentieth century” ideas, does not fit the reality that ideas evolve over time, and ideas being “new” does not imply “better”. It is also true, as one questioner stated, that there is a deficit of popular new good ideas in the West and the Middle East.

Nadim Shehadi criticized the “strong state” in an earlier answer, as “taking everything and giving nothing”.  The state providing education he criticized as “nannying” the people. In an earlier answer he seems to approve of a state that takes in taxes no more than 10% of GDP. This exposes his neo-liberal ideas, which belong to the eighteenth rather than the twenty first century.

Clearly citizens need a “strong state”  that has the power to move resources from wealthy elites to ordinary people. Only a “strong state” can guarantee the supply of essential services of food, housing, and medical security to all citizens. Only a “strong state” can ensure the development of adequate justice, infrastructure and education.

To keep the “strong state” from being corrupted there needs to be a balance between private freedom and public responsibility. There needs to an equally “strong democratic mechanism” that gives the citizens control over the country (both the state and private organizations), together with free access to the required information. He was right that narrow “homogeneous nationalism” is a bad idea. It should be replaced by an  “inclusive patriotism” that takes pride in the enactment of the constructive civilized values of a society.

Nadem Shehadi is right that Iraqi society was broken before the invasion of 2003 that ended the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The true nature of Saddam’s regime had largely been ignored by Western media before and after 2003. The same is true of the Assad regime in Syria. Before a “spectacular war” no one is interested, mere information cannot penetrate the iron wall of cultivated incomprehension that surrounds the West. After the war starts, the focus of interest shifts to the West’s involvement in the conflict. The great moral question is then whether this involvement did or could make things better or worse. Opinions differ widely, because they are not grounded in the nature of the embattled regime or the challenges and abilities of those struggling against the regime. When an uprising or intervention goes wrong, there is always a complacent establishment figure to tell us, that they know from experience that the people of this country are so different to us, and all is inevitable and the we are absolved. Plainly this horrific farce has to be ditched and a “totally different picture” of meaningful, and when necessary forceful solidarity created. ]

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Rania Hafez’s Answer to First Audience Questions: Time=36:00_to_38:50 Rania Hafez said that the Western media is presenting a “fantasy” of the “Arab Spring”. The Westernized people who protested in Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011 – after the dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power – created a political party that only got 2% in the Egyptian elections, that the Muslim Brotherhood won. She claimed that Western intervention had accelerated events in Libya, so “no wonder the Syrians thought well great we could start demonstrating and get that result”. So therefore the “Western media’s fantasy” did feed back to “a point” in the “Arab Spring”. She did not have any “empirical signs for that”, but this is “quite clear from the result of the [Egyptian] election”.

She responded to the food price question directly. She admitted that her initial response to the “Arab Spring” had been correct but simplistic. When protests started in Egypt and Tunisa in 2011, she remembered saying “what they really want, is cheaper goods, a bit more respect and to just to carry on with their lives without struggling so much”. She said the “Arab Spring” reminded her about the 1992 Egyptian comedy film “Terrorism and Kebab” (الإرهاب والكباب‎) about a man fighting bureaucracy, whose group of “misfits” holds part of the “ministry of interior” hostage by accident, and when asked for their demands he says “we want kebabs”. She then backtracked and said this comparison sounds odd. and she did not mean that the “people are not capable”. She explained that when people live under oppression there is no civic space to formulate coherent alternatives.

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[Missing Voice: It is unclear if her use of “fantasy” to describe the Western media representation of the “Arab Spring” refers to the strength of feeling behind the uprisings, the nature of the uprisings or both. I think she means both. Her privileged background means she discounts the degree to which ordinary people are humiliated by these dictatorships and yearn for governments that are truly representative.

The popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is based on the network of services it provides to poorer people abandoned by the state. It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood was slow to support the Tahrir Square demonstrations that led to Mubarak’s departure, although they were more influential in protests outside of Cairo. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is not an extremist Islamist organization. It is not  a monolith, and has both conservative and progressive wings. A correct assessment of its history depends on understanding the changing level of persecution it has suffered.

Dr Hafez insinuated that the election of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Mohamed Morsi in January 2012 showed that the “Arab Spring” in Egypt was really a reactionary movement. This interpretation depends on a Western phobia of all Islamic parties, which Dr Hafez as a practicing Muslim must know is wrong.

The  Morsi government tried to govern an Egypt, still under the economic control of the  Mubarak era elite, who engineered a severe economic crisis. Morsi’s authoritarian response led to protests, which the military used as an excuse to oust the government in June 2013.

Under the Mubarak dictatorship Egypt was ruled by two sometimes conflicting self serving elites, the president’s clique (centred on the absurdly misnamed “National Democratic Party”), and the upper level of the military. Mubarak was removed by the military after the 2011 protests. The military then rigged the writing of the new constitution under the transitional government. They and the rest of the Mubarak era elite, created economic chaos to undermine the Morsi government. The military ousted the Morsi government and then fixed the election of General Sisi in 2014. This is the reality of Egyptian politics.

Dr Hafez reference to kebabs was deeply insulting. She suggested that it was not the dictatorial systems of government that needed to be changed, but these dictatorships needed to be make minor concessions to their subjects. This idea conflicts with academic research on public opinion in Egypt, Lebanon and the rest of the Arab World (See Arabs and democracy: an analysis of the findings of the survey of Arab public opinion towards democracy, Youssef M Sawani, 2014, Contemporary Arab Affairs, Vol 7.3  )]

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to First Audience Questions:  Time=38:51_to_41:05 He stated that the difference between the “Arab” Spring and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was that there was no organized killing by the state. He said “this issue of state violence is very important”.

He said we should be looking forward to what this great ferment in Middle East (apart from the issue of its representation in the media) will “mean for the future”. He asked what does this mean for Israel, Iran and “the traditional Western response”. He stated we have moved away from a US dominated world to a multipolar world. He then posed the question what will new superpowers like China do?

In a direct response to the question about lack of analysis in the “Arab Spring” he said in a positive voice that he was in favour of “normative responses” (ie socially accepted moral responses).  At the time of the Spanish Civil War for example, they did not sit around analyzing what to do, but got out there and acted. There was then embarrassed laughter at Mark Seddon’s direct dismissive response to the apparently Marxist questioner.

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[Missing Voice: It is critically important to challenge those  living in the West who refuse to grasp what “organized killing and torture by the state” means in the era of modern military technology. The weapons developed by two world wars and a long Cold War have changed the fundamentals of revolution. A state that can acquire sufficient advanced weaponry can terrorize its own population into submission with a relatively small privileged core of loyalists. George Orwell expressed this incisively in his 1945 essay “You and the Atomic Bomb”:

“And though I have no doubt exceptions can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found generally true: that ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.”

The exception in the case of the Russian Revolution was the ability of the Bolsheviks to take control of an army demoralized by the chaos of the First World War. In the Spanish Civil War twenty years later, a section of the army under Franco were able to overthrow a progressive elected Republican government, because of substantial advanced arms supplies from fascist Germany and Italy. After this defeat there were Trotskyists outside Spain, who continued to claim that a perfect revolutionary movement, would have magically transformed the entire population of ordinary Spaniards into heroic suicidal unconquerable revolutionaries. This kind of unbalanced fantasy politics is always highly destructive and would if unchallenged be ultimately ruinous.

Mark Seddon is also right that it is critically important to consider how a post Cold War ideologically unrestrained Russia and China will impact on the Middle East. In combination they have immense military and economic power. They also do not have any meaningful domestic opposition to the brutality of their foreign policies. The political genocide by the Assad regime in Syria – that the regimes in Russia and China have extensively supported – have not led to any significant domestic “anti-war” protests in these countries. There appears to be no consequences for these regimes in giving unlimited support to genocidal dictatorships. This will change the calculations of existing and emerging dictatorships around the world.

Mark Seddon is right that undervaluing accepted moral responses (“normative”) to situations is a mistake, as they provide the emotional motivation required by all struggles. It is also true that these responses are limited to the “short term” and the “familiar”. This is a serious problem when your enemy is thinking in the long term and co-operating with international allies. ]

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Karl Shaddo’s Answer to First Audience Questions:  Time=41:06_to_44:51 He started with a good sardonic joke, saying Rania’s “demand for kebab” is part of the global protest movement, and reminds him of the streets of UK towns every Saturday Night, and this is “unifying our political visions”.

He said he prefers to call the “Arab Spring” the “Arab Uprisings”. He strongly condemned the lack of political analysis, vision, and organization in these uprisings. The protesters wrongly celebrated their leaderless uprisings in conjunction with the Western Media. These deep flaws meant that “they lost control of the process of transition”.

There were “great moments of heroism”, with 850 people dying and thousands injured in Egypt. He also remembered in the same way, those in Bahrain, Tunisia and Libya. There was an “immense amount of bravery”. These people risking their lives, were “let down by the lack of leadership and a vision [which should have stated] what would you like your life to be like, what would your like your society to be like”. These uprisings needed to be channeled towards a clear destination, and this was the failure of the “Arab Uprisings”.

The “Arab Uprisings” got complicated by “external pressure that distorted the narrative” and “nurtured the sense that someone else would carry the day”. Karl Shaddo said he is an internationalist, and “would love to get to a point where we act as a global community, but there is not a political constituency for that”. The World “cannot leap from the current situation we are in now, to some imaginary form of a global constituency, that does not exist, where we have to trust the US to make the right actions just because they have the biggest guns”.

He said he does approve of the World building up this global constituency for action, but while this is happening, “we have to be careful to maintain the boundaries of political actions within the [national] states. The distortion we have now that is feeding a cycle, is reducing that struggle to a caricature, go on the streets, carry a few slogans in English, and we [West] will come and sort it out, obviously that did not happen, so need to take control of your life. I salute the individual and collective struggle, but lament the lack of leadership.” Audience then enthusiastically clapped.

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[Missing Voice: As noted above there are good reasons for the lack of “political analysis, vision, and organization“. Throughout the world this is a time of recovery from a long era of  waves of failed political practice. The result is a global lack of clear, plausible and popular visions. Karl Sharro is right that a vision is essential to creating large organizations, especially those who are progressive and inclusive.

It was good to hear Karl Shaddo praising the “immense amount of bravery” as unarmed protesters faced the full might of well equipped armies and security organizations practicing systematic torture. He mentions Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and Libya.

He does not mention Syria. In June 2018 the death toll of the Syrian Uprising reached half a million. 85% of these casualties were civilians killed by the Assad Regime. The rest were deaths of combatants on both sides, and civilians killed by anti-Assad opposition (which includes Kurdish groups and the minority of Extremist Islamist groups like Islamic State (ISIL) and Al-Nusra (alias HTS) ). Tens of thousands of Syrians have been tortured to death by the Assad Regime since 2011. The 2014 “Caesar” photographs exposed this reality graphically to the world.  Systematic torture has been a feature of the Assad Regime since its foundation in 1970, after an illegal military coup led by Hafez Assad. Between March 2011 and the formation of the armed opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) in July 2011 the Assad Regime had killed and tortured thousands of peaceful protesters. Before the Cedar Revolution the Assad Regime attempted to control Lebanon by blackmailing the relatives of those it had kidnapped into submission, by threatening to torture their relatives.

Given that Syria is a closely linked neighbour of Lebanon, it is notable that Karl Shaddo who is Lebanese by birth, omitted Syrians in the list of citizenry showing exceptional bravery in this 2012 debate. He strongly dislikes sectarian labels, but they may still be very relevant to his expression of political thought in public. There is a strong Iraqi Christian community in Syria, who fled persecution by the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein. The Assad regime has consciously used minorities to stay in power, by demanding allegiance and fueling sectarian fears, even though its propaganda sells the regime as secularist to the world. Shaddo has an Iraqi Christian background, and so it is reasonable to wonder if he has has pro-Assad family members who might resent being linked to an open critic of the regime.

It is unclear what he means by “external pressure that distorted the narrative” of the Arab Uprisings. He seems to be saying that the attention of the world’s media and the global support from social media, gave the false impression that the “global community” would intervene to pressure regimes not to crackdown on protesters, and so advanced the pace of the protests. He could also be referencing Rania Hafez’s comment that the Arab Uprisings were not as liberal and progressive as they appeared, but were really an opportunity for reactionary Islamists.

Karl Shaddo appeared to assume that there is some plausible method (he termed it  “narrative”) by which people in the countries of the region, can replace oppressive regimes with decent ones by acting totally independently without outside help. He said “we have to be careful to maintain the boundaries of political actions within the [national] states”. In the real world, oppressive states in the region now have security services and militaries with access to advance weaponry, with privileged sections of their populations to operate them. In the real world dictatorships co-operate with foreign powers with imperialist foreign policies. This includes regional powers like the Saudi and Iranian dictatorships, and global powers like Unites States, Russia and China.

Karl Shaddo said he “would love to get to a point where we act as a global community, but there is not a political constituency for that”. This is myopic in the extreme. China is a dictatorship that is becoming an economic power to rival the United States. Russia is a dictatorship capable of producing advanced weaponry on a level with the United States. Foreign policy in the West is dominated by elites. This is possible because ordinary voters engage with domestic policy, but largely ignore foreign policy until a crisis arises. This even applies to the international economic system which has a  huge effect on the scope of domestic policies. Therefore there will never be a political constituency for acting as a global community, unless there is a fundamental reassessment of the importance of international relations by ordinary voters in democratic countries.

A large and growing proportion of the global community is composed of elites from dictatorships, with no link to the interests of the ordinary people they rule. The rest are representatives of democratic governments, with virtually no political pressure to oppose gross human rights abuses in foreign countries. They only have a need for empty short term responses when the media makes a situation the “story of  the day”.

There can only be an effective “global community” when its institutions actually represent the informed opinions of the ordinary citizens of the world. If the old institutions cannot be reformed, then there needs to be new progressive ones.  Representative governments and those who advocate for representative government around the world need to band together.

Karl Shaddo rhetoric confused the westernized components of the social and traditional media of the Arab Uprisings with larger local national campaigns. Western media obviously gives a higher exposure to messages accessible to a Western audience. This may be the reality of Arab Uprisings to this Western audience, but is only a fraction of the reality of the uprisings to local populations.

It is more realistic to acknowledge that activists recognized that Western solidarity was a necessary component of the success of the uprisings, rather than the only or principal component. I do not intend to sound churlish, but those dying and being tortured for demanding their dignity require more than a “salute”. Being human means that something vital is also tormented and dies in us. Solidarity is fundamental. ]

12. Second Part Of Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.

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Second Part of Opening up the Debate: Time=44:52_to_51:39 Dr Tara MacCormack, said she would take more questions, for the panel to consider.

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Audience Question (“Dennis (Hayes?)”): Time=45:22_to_46:35 In a confident avuncular tone he grandly wanted to describe the new depressing anti-human western morality. He claimed rhetorically that this was the morality of people in the West who are incapable of doing anything, incapable of democracy and incapable of organizing their own lives. He said this morality is articulated by John Gray at the London School Economics who says “guerillas do not try to organize their lives so why should we”. He continued that the new Twenty First century Western projection, is that Arabs are incapable of organization, they cannot cope with democracy or modern life. He stated that in the Twentieth Century people believed they could take control of their lives. Without this belief “you cannot have organization or leadership”. He was suspicious of “normative interventions” (based on accepted moral values) because this they are “destroying any possibility of a future for the Arab World”. There was some relatively  enthusiastic clapping.

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[Missing Voice: The audience member was Dennis Hayes, Professor of Education at Derby University in the UK (see Powerbase Biography from far-left critic). He is part of the “LM Network” and founder of “Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF)” (see Powerbase Summary from far-left critic). In true LM Network style he also works for the “The Free Society” campaign, which is run by “Forest” (the tobacco industry front organization, see The Free Society). At the 2012 Battle of Ideas Festival he was chairing a debate on “Genocide denial: should we defend the right to speak evil?” (see Genocide Denial?). The answer according to Dennis and invited panel is of course “yes”.

Professor Hayes statement was little more than academically flavoured rhetoric. It hid the reality that the failure of the unbalanced chauvinistic politics of the Twentieth Century has equally effected the West and the Middle East. People in the Twentieth Century became disillusioned that grand mutually exclusive political ideas could enable them to “take control of their lives” to use Hayes’ words. This is especially true of the so called Middle East (middle to whom?) in the Twentieth Century which has experienced intense waves of upheaval, all promising empowerment and progress: Traditional Monarchy, Nationalism, Communism, Neo-Liberal Economics and Fundamentalist Religion.

It is plainly silly to blame the subsequent suspicion of grand arrogant political schemes on the emergence of social media (Twitter etc). In the real world the lack of future in the Middle East is mainly due to repressive regimes being able to suppress mass decent with advanced weaponry, provided enthusiastically by regional and world superpowers. Hayes indulged in radical “negative chauvinism” towards the West, rather than identifying the real problem of parasitic elites around the globe. Western morality cannot be reduced to the extreme notions of a LSE academic like John Gray.

Professor Hayes was right that leadership and organization is essential, and this depends on a belief that there is a plausible plan by which people can gain their dignity. Hayes was suspicious of the normal morally accepted responses of the West. These involve a combination of the limitations of Western public opinion and the entitled self interest of Western elites who shape foreign policy. Hayes was right that Western public opinion does underestimate the “agency” of the people of the Middle East. It also exaggerates differences, especially around religion. Public opinion naturally demands action in reaction to gross human rights abuses, and thwarted struggles for representative government. It also has a short term attention span based on mass media output. At the same time Western intervention is designed to mollify public opinion, while ensuring narrowly defined Western commercial, diplomatic and security interests are given priority.

Professor Hayes was utterly wrong that Western “normative interventions” would directly destroy any future for the “Arab World” (by which he meant the Middle East). The future was and is being crushed by the advanced weaponry of regimes backed by regional powers and world superpowers. This includes the Iranian and Saudi regimes. This includes the United States, Russia and China. Seen from the vantage point of 2018-2019 it appears that after 2011 Western “non-intervention”  has more often than not been a greater problem than Western “intervention”. This is especially true in Syria where the Assad regime has committed Political Genocide without consequences. In Yemen an illegal siege by the Saudi regime, preventing humanitarian supplies reaching desperate people, could be broken by direct action from the West.

What was and is required are “constructive interventions”, that circumvent the blurred border between the West and the Middle East, that involve practical solidarity that is humanitarian and when necessary forceful. Hayes ignores the strong “normative” reactions of the radical far-left in the West, whose instinctively apologize for fake anti-Western or far-left regimes, and condemn any intervention by the West. A stance often mirrored by the far-right.

It is difficult to see what future Hayes foresaw for the Middle East that Western intervention might destroy. His fellow member of the “LM Network” and chairperson of this debate, Dr Tara McCormack clearly sees the future of the Middle East as dictatorship, mass torture and political genocide. This is evidenced by her subsequent apologia for the Assad Regime in Syria (See Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media , Summary of her Assadist and Putin Propaganda(2018) ). The only people “taking control of their lives” in Professor Hayes’ words, would then be the inflated puffed out, supermen and superwomen of these regimes’ elites. In other words “red-brown” fascists.

An axiom of sociology and its associated branches is that no ethical system
has a privileged position of veracity. However this axiom assumes that the concepts that sociology examines can exist in a vacuum. The very notion of the integrity of human life privileges ethics of dignity (see “Decent Society” by Avishai Margalit  and Archived ). There is a population of radical academics who accept this sociological axiom uncritically and target the values of their own societies for critical demolition. They are free to practice this “negative chauvinism” without contradiction, by just ignoring analysis of the social systems they effectively support by default. The “LM Network” is a self serving network, whose academic members fit this pattern well. ]

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[Back to the questions from the less privileged members of the audience]

Audience Question (“Man 1”):Time=46:39 He asked if the Arab Spring is a single united movement, or separate movements spurred on by each other?

Audience Question (“Man 2, behind Dennis”):Time=47:04 He asked why the “Arab Spring” had great resonance in the West, and what it says about the West? He suggested there seemed to be a restart of history after 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Arab Spring was the first time since 1989 that “people where back in the game”. He asked that if we are to dump the ideas of Twentieth Century, as a member of the panel suggested (Nadim Shehadi), then what are the ideas that will take their place? He stated that new Green ideas were not up to the economic challenge. He also dismissed “self organizing” change and “anti-ideology” ideology in general. The Arab Spring was inspiring and depressing, because it had “failed utterly”.

Audience Question (“Male Volunteer”):Time=48:36 He asked if the “Arab Spring” can be viewed as being due to the decline in secularism, and the increase in support for Islamic parties? He stated that the West would not want to intervene, if this led to an Islamic party being in power. Dr Tara McCormack said this was an important question.

Audience Question (“Posh Man at Front”):Time=49:12 He wanted to come back to the question of whether the Twentieth Century ended in 1989? He stated that the two governments who failed most spectacularly in “Arab Spring” were Egypt and Libya, and both were “detritus of the Cold War”. The Murbarak and Gaddafi regimes only made sense as byproducts of the Cold War struggle between the superpowers. He said the Twentieth Century did end in 1990, but no one told the Arabs until 2011. There was general laughter from the audience at this.

Audience Question (“Woman at Front”):Time=50:14 She stated that the West only  intervenes when there are natural resources like oil. This is why the West did intervene in Libya but not in Syria. She asked if this will be a big problem in the future?

Audience Question (“Woman 2”):Time=50:48 She wondered that if the “Arab Spring” had developed the coherent nature that Karl Sharro described, would the Western media have been so keen to jump on the bandwagon? McCormack dismissed this question casually, and appeared impatient to carry on.

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[Missing Voice= These questions after Professor Hayes’ statement, were all interesting except one (from “Male Volunteer”). The “Arab Spring” was about anger at oppressive unrepresentative governments. Secularism versus Islam is a distraction. The wave of secular authoritarian socialism (call it “communism”) has been in decline since the 1970s, and extreme “Islamism” reached it peak twenty years ago.

There is a whole body of Arab intellectual debate on representative government. Protest movements in different countries, are aware of the “octopus” like network of regional dictatorships (with their superpower backers) that support each other in maintaining oppression. Dictators whose very dominance is an insult to the dignity of those they control. Ordinary people in the West recognized the problem of powerful unresponsive elites, that the “Arab Spring” was challenging.

It is myopic to see the dictatorships of Mubarak in Egypt (that originated in Nasser’s coup of 1952) and Gaddafi in Libya (created by his 1969 coup) as just byproducts of the Cold War. Both Nasser and Gaddafi were charismatic so called “Free (Army) Officers” who were corrupted by power. Both used the Cold War to gain support from the Soviet Union to consolidate power. Nasser’s successors Sadat and Mubarak switched to the United States, while after the collapse of the Soviet Union Gaddafi switched to the West. Nasser was clearly a far more substantial political figure.

As stated earlier, the foreign policy of the West is formed by elites, who are  primarily concerned with resources, commercial advantage, so called “stability and security” and geopolitical containment. The corruption endemic in the so called “friendly regimes” that they support, fuses eventually with their own interests. This chauvinistic strategy – that has extended beyond the end of the Cold War – of Western democracies supporting dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere, has led to a false sense of victory. The West has only succeeded in creating stronger enemies of democracy both abroad and within its own centres of power. The Western radicals who revile their own elites are right. Perversely by also excusing the crimes of the elites of other powers, they neuter their own influence. This leads to the farce where one set of elites justify their actions in relation to the actions of other elites.

There may be no real “New Cold War”, because the old one was never actually won. There is now an “authoritarian fifth column” both in the heart of democratic governments and among their radical critics. This is very dangerous for democracy. ]

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Directing the Panel to Answer Second Audience Questions: Time=51:06_to_53:31  Dr Tara McCormack now invited the panel to answer the second set of questions from the audience. She emphasized the question about the rise of the Islamic parties (from the “Male Volunteer”) , and if this was related to the absence of united secular parties. She asked if the “Muslim Parties” were a kind of default.

13. Answers To Second Audience Questions.

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time=51:40_to_53:22 He questioned putting history into convenient blocks. He implied that the emergence of Fundamentalist Islam goes back to before the Twentieth Century (he may be referring to Muhammad Wahhab’s severe reformed Islam of the Eighteenth Century in Arabia). He linked the collapse of support for “secular nationalist views” with the Cold War policies of the West, who supported the status quo of client states, without knowing who they were supporting. He said a classic example of this blundering was the West’s support for the Mujaheddin against the Soviet Union. He also included the West’s support for “certain forces in Libya (in 2012)” who are hostile to the West. The West has been “essentially blundering around”. He said the questioner (“Posh Man at Front”) was right that Mubarak and Gaddafi took advantage of the “great bipolarity” of the Cold War between the West and the Soviets. Now there was another great bipolarity emerging involving China. He asked what would China be doing over the next ten to twenty years?

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[Missing Voice= The Western elites who form foreign policy are not “blundering” but are more accurately “indifferent” to the dignity of the ordinary people of the countries in which they carelessly intervene. There is also a danger in thinking of an opposition to a regime as being formed of groups having of an immutable character. There is a dynamic which involves having a plausible strategy, and being able to attract powerful committed domestic and foreign backers. There is a relationship between an opposition and its backers, where the nature of the opposition groups and the future of the state can be influenced. The West should have a principled strategy of  promoting the interests and dignity of ordinary people in the countries in which they constructively intervene by forming real “partnerships” with opposition groups.

In Afghanistan the Soviets intervened to prop up a brutal unpopular communist regime. The United States with their Pakistani and Saudi allies were intervening to favour Sunni Afghan groups, in particular the Pashtuns in the South. The Iranians were intervening to support Shia Afghani groups in the West of the country. The traditional structure of the country was based around local neo-feudal elites. This was changed into a country dominated by war lords and religious extremists, and the Islamic mujaheddin groups they controlled. After the Soviets withdrew troops, and despite of continuing Soviet-Russian support, the Afghan Communist Government eventually collapsed in 1992.

The Soviets were effectively defeated in Afghanistan by the mujaheddin and their backers, with a decisive role for advanced weaponry (like “Stinger” anti-aircraft missile). Shallow revisionism by far-left journalists in the West is unconvincing (See Jonathan Steele, UK Guardian, “10 Myths about Afghanistan” for an example of this). The Pashtun dominated Taliban then disastrously seized control.  To remove this Taliban regime and so allow an effective invasion by the West as punishment for 9/11, Western support switched dramatically to the anti-Pashtun mainly Tajiki “Northern Alliance”.

The end result of this is that ordinary Afghanis are no nearer to power through representative government than they were before the beginning of the Civil War. This is not because intervention to support groups opposed to brutal repressive regimes is intrinsically bad, but because of indifferent intervention that encouraged the creation of armed opposition groups with no interest in the welfare of ordinary Afghans. Western foreign policy was narrowly focused on defeating the Soviets and then the Taliban, the future of the country and the interests of ordinary Afghans was effectively ignored. This is not “blundering” in Mark Sedddon’s words, but “gross myopic indifference”. Similar analyses can be applied to the Western interventions in Iraq and Libya. While strong opposition to this in the West is only limited to blinkered radicals – who oppose all intervention rather than condemning bad intervention and promoting good intervention – then this will continue endlessly.

Mark Seddon was right to consider what the end of the Cold War and the rise of China as a superpower, will mean for the future of brutal authoritarian regimes. The Cold War was a battle of geopolitical power tempered by ideology. After the Cold War the rival elites are free from ideological pretenses. Russia is now a country capable of producing advanced weaponry, while China rivals the United States economically.  Existing and emerging brutal authoritarian regimes of any type have a choice of backers. China and Russia in combination are free to back any regimes, whether radical or traditional, with no domestic opposition to genocidal foreign policies. This is the bleak future. It must be recognized that large numbers of radicals in the West have their own “normative” responses which need to be exposed as empty mirages.]

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Dr Rania Hafez’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time=53:23_to_55:51 She stated that clearly all Arab countries are different, gave examples of Libya and Egypt. In Egypt the old regime did not really collapse, the dictator President Mubarak went but the army was really in charge, and just carried on. She believed that the United States quietly intervened, to instruct the army not to commit mass killing of protesters, as Egypt was a client state and must behave within acceptable limits. She said that Gaddafi regime in Libya collapsed because of direct Western intervention. She questioned why the West intervened, and suggested this was due to oil.

She said that clearly “Islamists” have always been there, rather than having risen from nowhere. At beginning of the Egyptian Uprising in Tahrir Square she had a heated argument with a friend. She had said that the Muslim Brotherhood would do well, but her friend said she was stupid, as there was now a new social reality due to the uprising. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections in May 2012 did not surprise her. She was surprised by Tunisia electing an Islamic government, as this is the most secular country in the Middle East. She remembered the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which ignited the rise of the political force called Islamism. This even in secular Lebanon. She added vaguely that this is all complicated and historical.

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[Missing Voice= In Egypt before the uprising the bogusly misnamed “National Democratic Party” led by Presdeint Mubarak shared power with the Army. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) founded in 1928 by the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna was an established part of society, large, well-organized and successful in promoting Islam and providing welfare services to the poor.  The MB were viciously persecuted under Nasser and Sadat, although they were part of the revolution together with Nasser’s “Free Officers” that toppled King Farouk in 1952. This persecution drove MB theorist Sayyid Qutb to extremism, after he was imprisoned and tortured (and later executed in 1966).

Mubarak’s attitude to the MB  oscillated between tolerance and repression. After the 2011 uprising that deposed Mubarak, the army were happy to see the “Freedom and Justice Party” (FJP, political arm of MB) win the elections as they planned to remove it. The economy was dominated by a kleptocracy who were able to prevent the MB under President Morsi from running the country by ensuring economic chaos. In July 2013 (a year after this debate) the MB government was ousted by an army coup, following violent protests against it. MB President Morsi had attempted to govern by decree, suppress derogatory dissent and insert terms in the new constitution to favour Islamists. General Abdel Sisi was then elected in 2014 (and 2018) in an election where meaningful opposition was excluded. The economy then magically improved due to the end of subversion by Egypt’s economic elite, and generous loans from the Saudis-UAE and IMF.

There is a dimension here between upper and middle class secularism, and lower class moderately conservative Islamism. Fear of Islamist electoral victories in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco among wealthier more educated liberal activists was vastly exaggerated. Morsi’s government unnecessarily gave ammunition to its liberal  opponents by failing to adequately condemn incidents of discriminatory statements by some MB members (and even violence by Salifist extremists) against women and the Christian Coptic minority.

General Sisi and the army are now reported as having direct control of a majority of the Egyptian economy, together with an associated indirect network of patronage. Sisi’s regime is stronger than Mubarak’s and just as repressive. Fear of Morsi becoming an Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini, by Egypt’s more privileged educated liberals, has produced a regime dominated by the army’s elite under General Sisi that is far more dangerous and powerful than Mubarak’s. The conservative MB with it’s absence of internal democracy that produced Morsi, together with the Islamophobia of Egypt’s liberal activists have destroyed the Arab Spring in Egypt.

Dr Hafez is wrong to imply that the MB was the problem, as its liberal activist opponents are equally responsible for the wrecking of the Egyptian revolution. She also underestimates the disaster of the army’s ascendancy under General Sisi. This is essentially the old elite continuing in power but strengthened, unified and militarized.

The fear of a reactionary Islamist Ennahda government in Tunisia was hugely exaggerated.  In 1972 inspired by Egypt’s MB  Rachid Ghannouchi founded the “Islamic Group”, which later became the “The Movement of Islamic Tendency (MIT)” and then “Harakat Ennahda” (Renaissance). Ennahda (EH) has an effective internal democracy, with strong internal debates that ensure the cohesion of the party. In represents two important strands of Tunisian society, modernization and Islam. In the October 2011 elections following the overthrow of the dictator Ben-Ali, EH gained more votes than other parties, but still needed to partner with two other secular parties to govern as a Troika coalition. EH’s Hamadi Jebali became Prime Minister. An economic downturn, a huge refugee crisis from the neighbouring Libyan civil war, and growing strength of violent radical Salifists all created a crisis by 2013. Hamadi Jebali resigned and eventually a technocratic government of national unity was formed and the Troika ceded power.

EH did not attempt to remove women’s rights. They fielded an equal number of male and female candidates in their lists in elections from 2011 onwards as required, many EH women took majors roles in the government, in 2017 EH played a major part in pushing through a landmark law against violence to women. Some EH members however have opposed laws to liberalize marriage and inheritance laws.

Dr Hafez’s is wrong to imply that Ennahda(EH) or the Muslim Brotherhood(MB) are a threat to women’s rights on the scale of the Iranian Revolution. EH competed and governed in a multi party pluralistic political environment. MB had more notional power, but had to compete with a shadow government centered on a large powerful army. EH has internal democracy while MB does not. These factors influenced their approach to government.

The nature of Iranian revolution was very different. The “Black Islamist” faction led by Ayatollah Khomeini crushed other Islamist factions after the removal of the brutally repressive US backed dictator Mohammad Reza Shah in 1979. Khomeini was backed by wealthy Iranian land owners and merchants who had lost out under the Shah’s attempts to create a loyal middle class dependent on his patronage.

As to the idea that Iranian Revolution “ignited something”, this ignores a basic reality for ordinary people in the Middle East. Since the WW1 and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the region has experienced waves of upheaval, based on traditional monarchy, nationalism and authoritarian socialism. All these had failed which made space for an Islamist wave. In turn the (long neglected by the world’s media) democratic wave termed the “Arab Spring” that caught the world’s attention in 2011 with a wave of uprisings was decimated. It has been broken by militarized elites that are too powerful, elites that are backed by regional powers and subsequently international powers. Ordinary people who live in Western democracies have done virtually nothing to support this wave.

In Libya the people were unable to overthrow the hated repressive kleptomaniac Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi (“Free Officer”) took power in 1969 in an echo of Nasser over a decade before. This regime over subsequent decades acquired effective advanced weaponry and trained  security forces. After the uprising in 2011 the West enabled the balance to be tipped against Gaddafi, but did little to help the “Libyan National Transitional Council” to create a national security force, or provide basic services to citizens or rebuild the economy. This created a perfect arena for hostile anti-democratic Saudi-UAE backed salafist extremists to create chaos. This is the reality of trying to create democracy in the Twenty First century Middle East. Europeans would have done no better under the same circumstances. Shame not arrogance is the correct response.

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Nadim Shehadi’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time=55:52_to_58:49
Dr Tara McCormack asked Nadim Shehadi if the Islamist parties are part of the old political system, or like “Olivier Roy” [French Political Scientist, whose writings tends to discount hysterical Islamophobic ideas] said are they part of the current lacquered real political system? Nadim Shehadi said it depends when you read “Oliver Roy”. He said Lebanon skipped the Twentieth Century, and was so now ahead of game, because the rest of the region is now dismantling their Twentieth Century government systems. He celebrated the diversity and lack leadership of Arab Spring (including protests of a similar style in Israel and the West). This confusion happens when there are major changes in systems of ideas in the world. It is an atmosphere that changes. He gave the example of the “Renaissance”. He also said all revolutions are doomed to failure, because they never end up where revolutionaries intended (except Marxists who see a grand historical progression). He said there is no great conspiracy by the so called “evil” West. You could say the West intervened in Libya because it has oil, or you could say that as Gaddafi was collaborating with the West they should have protected him. There is a lot of unnecessary self-flagellation by the West.

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[Missing Voice= Nadim Shehadi was giving his thoughts on several of the second batch of audience questions. He evaded Dr Tara McCormack’s question on whether Islamism is part of the old political system or a component of the emerging political systems. This is a meaningless question as “Islamism” is a loose term, that is used to group mainstream Islamic ethics on one end of the scale with violent fundamentalist literalism on the other end. This confusion is used by Islamophobes to condemn all politics influenced by Islam.

Lebanon is stuck with a dysfunctional system that balances the interests of sectarian elites, who are backed by foreign regional powers. The Lebanese people deserve better.

Nadim Shehadi is right that a new system of political ideas is emerging in the world, as the old ones have become clearly ineffective. Nadim Shehadi spoke earlier in this debate of an end to the ideas of the Twentieth Century, an end to the powerful redistributive state, as if the future means returning to the political economy of Eighteenth Century Europe. Clearly a future dominated by neo-conservative ideas is unlikely. New ideas will come from cultures outside Europe, who have a less chauvinistic approach to competing interests, and an acceptance of the importance of  religion when approached rationally.

Revolutions and Wars have been essential to the emergence of democracy in Europe. The French Revolution caused other European autocracies to fear the unrepresented majority of ordinary people, and to reform their regimes to avoid the threat. The British government introduced a system of outdoor poor relief (Speenhamland System, 1795) and an expansion and reform of the franchise (1832 Reform Act) as a direct response to the French Revolution. The competition between European Great Powers meant societies had to be mobilized to create economic and military power, and to fight against competitors. In Britain again, at the close of the First World War in 1918, the franchise was expanded to all men over 21 and women over 30. This was as a result of the terrible carnage of millions ordinary men during the war, the essential work done by women for the war economy and the threat of an imitation of the 1917 Russian Revolution. During the Second World War the Beveridge Report of 1942 was used by Britain to mobilize its war effort, and made Clement Atlee’s 1945 Labour Government – that created a comprehensive welfare system – politically possible.

Globalized free trade appears to be ambivalent to the political rights of citizens of investee countries. On the one hand property rights are important, but on the other voters must be kept away from demanding taxes on profits. The neo-conservative idea that business rather than revolutions and wars will set countries free is bogus. International solidarity by democracies is the best way to defeat the tyranny of repressive governments and chronic underdevelopment. The problem is that it has rarely been applied, because democracy has become a word that feels empty to the ordinary citizens of democracies. This “democratic decline” is becoming an ever more acute problem, as advanced technology means elites in all countries no longer need so many citizens to be workers, soldiers or even enforcers (for their security).

Nadim Shehadi said that revolutions (and my extension wars) have unintended consequences. He should have added that this is because without democratic international solidarity they leave a vacuum in which ordinary people are sidelined and a different tyranny can establish itself. The 1948 Marshall Plan (“European Recovery Program”) was exactly this type of international solidarity, that a reluctant US was forced to give Europe after the Second World War to avoid a Stalinist Communist Europe. Democratic international solidarity that can be forceful when required is the best guarantor of peace. This is rarely applied as democractic leaders prefer myopia and complacency when this is apparently available. Much more self-flagellation by the West is necessary. Gaddafi was brutally repressive and an unreliable ally of the West. Western elites enabled his removal, and then put oil before people, and enabled the unnecessary chaos. ]

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Karl Sharro’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time= 58:50_to_60:08  He asked if the West was likely to support any uprising in the Middle East that led to an Islamic government? He said the West is antagonistic to an Islamic country with advanced technology, where the state pays for transgender operations and there is a huge involvement of women in education. He said this country is Iran. He contrasted this attitude to the West being very friendly to Saudi Arabia, which is quite reactionary and repressive.

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[Missing Voice = The regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran are both dictatorial and highly repressive. One promotes Sunni Fundamentalism and the other Shia Fundamentalism. Both are shameful insults to Islam, and both have achieved this distortion of Islam through the misapplied profits from oil.

Like an old fashioned right-wing South American dictatorship, there are elections in Iran but the elite gets to veto any candidates which may threaten their bloated position. In Iran the veto is held by the Supreme Leader (Shia Cleric, currently Ali Khamenei), and two councils “Assembly of Experts of the Leadership” and “Guardian Council”, all of whose members are ultimately appointed by the Supreme Leader. Just like an old South American dictatorship the Iranian regime also rests on the approval of the army, in particular the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who like the elite of the Egyptian Army control a large slice of the Iranian economy (estimate 30%).

Being gay is illegal in Iran. Punishments range from lashings, imprisonment to death. It is estimated that between 4000 and 6000 people have been executed for being gay since the Iranian Revolution, some in public by being strangled as they are drawn up by a crane. Many gay people are forced to change gender by sexual reassignment surgery they do not want. This is the surgery that the Iranian regime pays for, and which Karl Sharro sees as progressive.

Iran is producing ballistic missiles like the recent “Sejjil” that has a range over 2000 km and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Iran has a uranium enrichment program to support power and medical applications. The “Iran Nuclear Deal” finally agreed in 2015, is supposed to ensure that there is no attempt to produce sufficient weapons grade highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb, in return for removing sanctions (in May 2018 the US under Trump withdrew from it). Continued Iran-North Korea military cooperation, especially in the development of ballistic missiles, may mean that Iran does not need to develop its own nuclear warheads.

Iran has been heavily involved in supporting Assad’s political genocide in Syria. It has sent and supported around 70,000 pro-Assad militia fighters to Syria. It has also equipped and supported Lebanese Hezbollah’s reign of terror in Syria in support of the Assad regime. Iran is also involved in supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. This includes supplying them with missiles they have fired at Saudi Arabia. This civil war has already created mass malnutrition, and is pushing millions of ordinary Yemenis towards starvation.

Reducing inequality remains a key slogan of the Iranian Revolution. The regime succeeded in reducing poverty substantially from the high levels of the brutally corrupt era of the Shah (in 1960s and 1970s Iranians saw oil revenues soar while they became poorer). The regime also managed to drastically improve education opportunities for Iranians. As the regime has matured the slogan has moved from reality to rhetoric. In 2013 for example the official Iranian government statistics reported unemployment at 11% while the reality was closer to 35% (according to Iranian academics like Hossein Raghfar), in a similar way official statistics claimed absolute poverty in 2013 was 8 % when the reality was over 20%. This is a common problem with authoritarian regimes where official statistics can be easily fabricated but are hard to challenge. In 2018 inflation soared and absolute poverty now effects over a third of the population. Unsurprisingly there are now 4.5 million Iranian drug addicts.

Clearly the Iranian regime cannot be blamed for changes in oil prices which are a critical component of the economy. It cannot also be blamed for the exploitive foreign policy of Western elites, which reached a peak in the Iraq-Iran War (the West supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) that lasted 8 years, and by 1988 the war had killed a quarter of a million Iranians. Since then the regime has misspent Iran’s assets in military expenditure to preserve and extend its control across the region. The regime can be blamed for suppressing alternative voices from the beginning of the revolution. Red Islamists (inspired by Ali Shariati) who were an essential part of the revolution were liquidated by Ayatollah Khomeini. It can be blamed for spreading an extremist destructive fundamentalist version of Shia Islam. Unrestricted corruption has created a clique close to the government of multi-millionaires at the expense of ordinary Iranians. National income has declined, expensive destructive foreign adventures and national corruption has increased, while the share left for ordinary Iranians has declined.

This is the Iranian regime that Karl Shaddo praised in 2012. As mentioned before this is perhaps due to his Iraqi Christian heritage which sees Fundamentalist Shia Islam as more tolerant of established Christian communities than fundamentalist Sunni Islam.

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Dr Tara McCormack: Time= 60:09_to_60:36  McCormack wrapped up before going to a debate on Syria in 15 minutes. The audience clapped enthusiastically.

14. Conclusion.

This was a distorted debate that gave the illusion of a fair range of independent views, but was designed to devalue meaningful intervention by Western Democracies in partnership with the Arab Spring. These Battle Of Events “debates” have some influence in London’s journalists. This debate had PR value in prompting the interests of Middle East dictatorships. There was no panel member who promoted a realistic strategy to support the legitimate interests of ordinary people for representative government in the Middle East.

Dr Tara McCormack (and Dr Tara McCormack) was an academic who specialized in criticism of the West, and apologized for the policies of the Russian and Chinese regimes. Rania Hafez was a wealthy ex-pat Lebanese academic with no concern for the interests and dignity of ordinary people in the region. Mark Seddon was a UK socialist with an unrealistic belief in the ability of the United Nations to enable representative government in the Middle East and elsewhere. Karl Sharro was another ex-pat from Lebanon, who had created a career as a successful architect. He rejected international forceful intervention of any kind, and appeared entirely unrealistic about how dictatorships in the region work. He also bizarrely presented Iranian regime propaganda, while also rejecting sectarianism. Nadim Shehadi was another ex-pat Lebanese academic with strong neo-conservative political ideas. He endorsed Western intervention of the type which would not empower ordinary citizens. His political ideas were elitist.

I am not aware that any of the panelists have substantially changed their views since 2012 on the issue of the Arab Spring and the struggle for representative government in the Middle East. Dr Tara McCormack and Denis Hayes appear to have become more blatant anti-Western propagandists.

The Missing Voice from the panel was given in this document. It’s conclusion was that intervention in the form of partnership was necessary in the Middle East, especially form 2011 onwards. The adoption of the arguments that the panelists expressed, and the lack of constructive voices, has created a disaster in the middle East which will undermine democracy in the West.

The last words to think on go to Larbi Sadiki in a hopeful Al-Jazeera article in 2012:

“From Muhammad Ali [C19 Egyptian Pasha] through Nasser to Bourguiba – and from Tantawi to Khair Al-Din Pasha – modernisation has been cemented, if not reduced, to a template of relative Western mimicry. Al-Banna [founder of the Muslim Brotherhood] reopens the Islamic repertoire in search of a brand of modernity that never accepts separate realms for God and for Caesar. ‘Islam is the solution’ as advertised in the standard slogan of the 1970s and 1980s is not an itinerary for fanaticism – as Western academy and security apparatuses have tended to oversimplify.

Rather, the phrase was intended to be a roadmap for organising politics, in which ‘God is great’ levels the playing field among mortals. The sanctity of life is conferred by God and humans cannot deny them to each other.

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Future of Europe: Can the EU resist a far-Right, nationalist takeover?

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Future of Europe: Can the EU resist a far-Right, nationalist takeover?

[Source= , UK Telegraph, by Peter Foster, 10/9/2018, links to the next 5 articles in the series at the end of this article.]

[ Posted by Lara Keller 9/10/18 Updated 19/4/19] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

“With Brexit now less than a year away, the European Union finds itself under assault from a new populist revolution. This six-part series examines the major challenges facing the continent. From immigration to defence, economy to enlargement and, indeed, to the very meaning of democracy itself: ‘The Future of Europe’ is now at stake….”

It could be called the most conservative village in Poland: a clutch of low houses 100 miles north-east of Warsaw, where even the shop and tiny, two-seat hairdressing salon have a crucifix hanging above the door.

People have been settled in Kobylin-Borzymy since the 1400s, but this village in Poland’s old east only gained fame in October 2015 when it voted more overwhelmingly for Poland’s nationalist-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) than anywhere else in the country.

Some 85 per cent of the villagers cast their votes for a party that promised a mixture of cash handouts for the poor and an unapologetic defence of Poland’s “thousand year-old Christian heritage” against a rising tide of liberalism and uncontrolled migration.

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[With anti-immigration populism now spreading north to Sweden and south to Italy, and with neither Warsaw nor Budapest showing any signs of backing down in the East, the EU is in a quandary.]

This, then, is that “other” Europe – monocultural, conservative and deeply Christian – that the multicultural, liberal and secular Europe had assumed would quietly fade away after the Soviet empire crumbled and its satellite states voted to join the EU in 2004.

But history did not “end”, as Francis Fukuyama predicted. Instead over the last decade in Europe it has been reawakened with a vengeance.

First, the 2008 global financial crisis, then the 2011 eurozone debt crisis and finally the 2015 migrant crisis have all worked to drive a wedge into the heart of the European project, reopening an ancient ideological fissure that now threatens to cleave the union from east to west.

Poland’s government is facing a formal investigation in Brussels for failing to uphold the “rule of law” while Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, revels in his role as cheerleader for a new brand of “illiberal democracy” that defends Christian Europe from a Muslim “invasion”.

With anti-immigration populism now spreading north to Sweden and south to Italy, and with neither Warsaw or Budapest showing any signs of backing down, the western half of the European Union is now openly wondering: what shall we do with these turbulent nations?

The great migration divide.

More than the financial crisis, it was the long lines of men, women and children from the Middle East and Africa pouring through the western Balkans in October 2015 and congregating in Budapest’s Keleti railway station that reopened Europe’s east-west divide.

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[Migrants march from Budapest’s Keleti station to the Austrian border in 2015, many were met with violence Credit: AFP/Getty.]

For nationalist leaders such as Mr Orbán [in Hungary], Jaroslaw Kaczyński in Poland and Robert Fico in Slovakia the migrants were a convenient political tool, cast as a menacing physical expression of what separates the two Europes.

There are no migrants or liberals in Kobylin-Borzymy, whose skyline is dominated by a massive twin-towered church, built in 1904, bearing testimony to the enduring political and social power of Catholicism in Poland.

For residents of places like this, it was not just Angela Merkel welcoming Syrian refugees that shocked and concerned them, but the liberal, multiculturalist assumptions that underpinned that decision.

“For us, it just seemed completely unbelievable that Germany would throw open the borders to people who are totally different, from Africa or Syria and Iraq,” says Wojciech Mokowski, the mayor of Kobylin-Borzymy, whose sparse office contains yet another crucifix.

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[Kobylin-Borzymy mayor Wojciech Mokowski reflects many in his constituency in his rejection of multiculturalism Credit: Piotr Malecki for The Telegraph.]

“What did they expect would happen? That people would just mix together? These people, we know they just don’t want to mix.”

That is a view widely shared throughout Eastern and Central Europe, says Bogdan Zielenski, the local PiS district chief, who argues that the EU needs to accept that countries like Poland and Hungary have fundamentally different experiences of multiculturalism than the West.

“This does not mean we are not European,” he adds, “Poland has always looked to Rome, not Constantinople. But we have no colonial past like the Western countries, we just have no experience of this. The EU has to accept the need for diversity”. [LK: see far-right concept multipolarism]

Money doesn’t talk.

That fundamental difference in outlook between East and West persists despite the EU working hard to narrow the economic gap, transferring billions of euros from richer western and northern countries in the form of farm subsidies and structural development funds.

In economic terms, time has certainly not stood still in Kobylin-Borzymy since Poland joined the EU 14 years ago. But in many respects questions of value and national identity have not moved on.

When Western powers tried to force migration quotas on the East in 2015, the rebellion from Warsaw and Budapest allowed politicians to highlight differences on other value questions including gay marriage and abortion, and even – now – the definition of democracy itself.

In Kobylin-Borzymy, the impact of the EU cash is plain to see. Traditional Soviet-era wooden houses are being replaced by modern two-storey concrete homes with brightly coloured roofs, often paid for with money saved by residents who left to work in Sweden, Britain or Germany.

At regular intervals the main street echoes to the thunder of trucks laden with building supplies and milk-tankers doing the rounds of still small, family-owned dairy farms with about 25-30 cows that attract EU subsidies of 25,000 złoty (£5,100) a year.

Even so, villagers and their leaders are adamant that they will not sell their souls (a phrase not used lightly in these parts) for EU cash.

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[Kobylin Borzymy, where voters overwhelmingly backed the PiS (Law & Justice) party during the elections in 2016 Credit: Piotr Malecki.]

“People feel the West is trying to interfere in our internal affairs. They don’t know us, but they want a say over us,” says Leszek Mezynski, 61, local politician and a medium-sized farmer with 25 cows.

“We look up to the West and see how modern it is, but we see it is also without values. So if we have to give up our values to join the West, that leads us down a blind alley. Economy alone is not enough for society to exist.”

An elderly woman tending the flowerbed in front of her farmhouse puts it more bluntly.

“The EU has brought a lot of good, but now they keep picking on our government in Brussels,” says 77-year-old Krystyna Danikowska , who seems to parrot many of the lines she hears on Radio Maryja, a popular Christian radio station on which Polish government ministers appear almost daily.

“Other countries want us to abort babies and have gay marriages, and I pray to God that never happens. We believe in God and the Holy Catholic Church,” she says defiantly.

Poles apart.

Away from Poland’s liberal urban enclaves, there is also a sense that when it comes to values the goalposts have moved since EU accession. In 2004, when Poland voted to join the European Union,  Kobylin-Borzymy was one of only three areas that voted to stay out, for fear of surrendering Poland’s distinct national identity.

As part of its joining papers, Poland signed up to Article 2 of the Treaty for the European Union, which binds EU members to respect democracy, the “rule of law” and concepts such as “pluralism”, “non-discrimination” and “tolerance”.

But the evolving definition of those concepts in an era when Ireland votes 2:1 to legalise abortion, and gay marriage is viewed as a human right puts a keener edge on Europe’s East-West divide.

Hungarian diplomats now speak openly of developing the “Hungarian model” of democracy, the latest phase in the “cultural counter-revolution” that Mr Orbán promised in 2016, while in Poland PiS is seeking to revise the constitution explicitly to “protect” Poland from liberal advances.

As the Bulgarian thinker Ivan Krastev observed in After Europe, the assumption that the European project was on an inexorable path to “ever closer union” now feels like a strange 1990s delusion.

“When we joined the EU, multiculturalism and gay marriage were not on the agenda,” says Mr Mokowski, the Kobylin-Borzymy mayor. “We were told that on these matters the view of the national government would stand above that of the EU. Now that is apparently not so.”

Here to stay.

The notion that Christian Europe is under threat has allowed politicians like Mr Orbán and PiS’s ageing chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczyński, to foster a siege mentality over migration and social values, harnessing those issues as a potent political force.

The language demonising migrants and Jews is deeply discomforting, and reminiscent of the darkest parts of Europe’s recent past.

Mr Kaczyński once warned of migrants carrying “parasites and protozoa”, while Mr Orbán openly peddles anti-Semitic tropes, conjuring images of the “wandering Jew” in his battle with the liberal Hungarian-American financier George Soros.

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[Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban.]

“We are fighting an enemy,” Mr Orbán told one election campaign earlier rally this year, “not straightforward but crafty, not honest but base, not national but international, [one who] does not believe in working but speculates with money, does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”

The language shocks, but the uncomfortable reality for Brussels is that Europe’s new nationalist governments are popular at home because of it, and they are using their political power to further entrench control over the media and the apparatus of state.

At the same time, a growing EU economy fuelled by quantitative easing, coupled with populist economic policies such as Law and Justice’s programme handing parents 500 Polish złoty for every child, are creating mini investment booms that help to ensure re-election.

In Kobylin-Borzymy’s hairdresser’s, the political value of PiS’s “500+” programme is clear. “Now at the end of the month I don’t worry if I am going to run out of money,” says Marlena Sikorska, a mother of two children, aged nine and two. “I can buy nappies or milk or clothes for the kids without borrowing off my mother.”

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[Victor Orban remains popular among the locals in Kobylin-Borzymy’s hairdresser’s Credit: Piotr Malecki.]

It is not a surprise, then, that Mr Orbán won a landslide majority in this year’s parliamentary elections while [Poland’s] PiS, which was the first party in the post-Communist era to win an outright majority, continues to ride high in the polls. There seems little immediate prospect of a return to the social democracy of the 1990s and early 2000s.

What to do?

The question that now faces the founder members of the European project is how to deal with these “illiberal” Eastern democracies whose message, particularly on migration, is starting to resonate more widely across the union.

Until recently it was common to hear senior EU diplomats play down the threat posed by Mr Orbán, describing him as a “pragmatist” whose attacks on Brussels would always be limited by his need to keep investment flowing and protect Hungary’s economy. Not any more.

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[Italy’s Eurosceptic new interior minister Matteo Salvini, has promised to work with Viktor Orban to ‘change the EU’. Credit: Luca Bruno/AP.]

Now, says one senior German foreign ministry official, Mr Orbán appears “determined to export his ideas”, most recently making common cause with Italy’s new populist coalition where Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega party, is pushing hardline anti-immigration policies.

These in turn are backed in Vienna, where the far-Right Freedom Party (FPO) now sits in coalition with Sebastian Kurz’s centre-Right Austrian People’s Party. It is not lost on officials in Brussels that in 2000, when the FPO went into government in Austria for the first time, put sanctions on Vienna and more than 150,000 Austrians took to the streets to protest. Now the FPO enters government with barely a murmur of dissent.

In Sweden, the far-Right Sweden Democrats command 18 per cent of the vote after riding a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, and in Italy the hard-Right Mr Salvini openly makes common cause with Mr Orbán against the liberal Emmanuel Macron.

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[Jimmie Akesson of the Sweden Democrats celebrats after his nationalist party turned the general election on its head. Credit: AFP.]

Even Germany, where the hard-Right Alternative for Germany made major gains in last year’s parliamentary elections, is not immune. The interior minister, Horst Seehofer, from the Christian conservative Bavarian CSU party, openly rebels against Mrs Merkel, echoing the calls in Budapest and Vienna to shut the borders.

Against this backdrop of open division, old Western Europe now faces three choices when dealing with opposition from the east: it can either “confront” it head on, look to “accommodate” it or – in the spirit of the classic EU fudge – it can try to “check” their growing influence and then play for time.


For liberals like Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of ALDE, the main liberal grouping in the European Parliament, the only way to tackle what he says is the “threat” from Poland and Hungary is to confront it head-on.

“The situation in Poland and Hungary is serious and worsening. Those who defend liberal democracy and the rules-based international order have an obligation to speak out against rule of law-backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe,” he says.

The Verhofstadt argument is that without action now against Hungary and Poland, the EU will undermine its own legal foundations by simply appeasing them.

“This is a battle about the character of our society and the EU itself; whether or not we are able to preserve the EU as a space of freedom and democracy, kept together by rule of law, or not,” he says.

The difficulty is that for the residents of places like Kobylin-Borzymy, Mr Verhofstadt’s version of the EU is not their EU. Forcing Western definitions of “tolerance” and “pluralism” on the East risks deepening the divide, not closing it.

Still, Mr Verhofstadt has his supporters in the European Commission. Frans Timmermans, the EU first vice-president, has been leading calls for Poland to be punished under Article 7 for reforms to the legal system that the Commission says undermine the independence of the judiciary.

But Article 7 is a very blunt instrument. It could ultimately lead to Poland being stripped of its EU voting rights, but such a draconian sanction can only be taken by a unanimous vote of member states – which Mr Orbán has already promised will never happen on his watch.

Internally in Brussels, there is therefore political opposition at the highest levels, reportedly including Jean-Claude Juncker himself, against picking what is seen as an unwinnable fight which will only serve to advertise, and not fix, the EU’s divisions.

It is not even clear that there is a two-thirds majority among EU member states for enforcing Article 7 proceedings against Poland, with eastern states uniting in defence of Warsaw, the British likely to abstain and some Baltic states nervous about such an attack on another member’s sovereignty.


A softer approach would be to try to check the ambitions of leaders like Mr Kaczyński and Mr Orbán before they run out of control.

One option is to file more legal cases against policies that break EU law, as in a 2012 case that was taken against the Hungarian government for mandating the early retirement of hundreds of judges, in a move that was widely seen as an assault on the judiciary.

The weakness is that such cases take a long time to mount and are often of limited impact, since governments can pay fines or simply find alternative legal ways of achieving the same goal.

More draconian is the suggestion, backed by some Western capitals, to link the payment of EU funds to good behaviour and the adherence to the “rule of law”.

The problem with this idea, even its supporters acknowledge, is that there is a strong risk it will backfire, handing political ammunition to the likes of Mr Orbán and Mr Kaczyński to stoke up nationalist sentiment.

In Kobylin-Borzymy, the idea of withholding EU funds seems obviously counter-productive. “That will be a big mistake,” says Mr Zielenski, the PiS district chief, “Many people would become disillusioned with the EU and they would go to the arms of even more Right-wing parties, like the League of Polish Families. People will become afraid the EU wants to punish us for being Catholic, too.”


For the French president, Mr Macron, as he outlined in his seminal Sorbonne speech, accommodation might ultimately mean the creation of an inner and outer Europe that enables “the driving ambition of some while allowing others to move ahead at their own speed”.

For liberals and federalists, accepting the idea of an outer Europe would spell the beginning of the end. Learning to live with illiberal democracies would be to accept that the advance of liberal social democratic values is neither inexorable nor axiomatic to EU membership.

But while liberals like Mr Verhofstadt warn that the EU’s “political paradigms” are now shifting away from liberal democracy to nationalist illiberalism, for the populist Right this is a joyous statement of fact, not a cause for alarm.

It is also, liberals warn, being aided and abetted by a grand hypocrisy in the heart of the EU’s own centre-Right political establishment.

The attempt to censure Poland for backsliding on democracy is undermined by the fact that, according to Freedom House’s latest democracy rankings, Hungary (and Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania) score far worse than Poland when it comes to defending democratic norms.

The only difference between Poland and Hungary is that Mr Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party is a member of the powerful centre-Right European People’s Party (EPP) grouping in the European Parliament, which affords him protection from censure.

This piece of hypocrisy is clear even in faraway Kobylin-Borzymy. “The elite sees Poland as a naughty child, but there are other, naughtier children than us in the EU, and they don’t get punished,” says Mr Zielenski, the PiS district chief.

As the EPP splits over whether it is safer to keep Mr Orbán inside the tent or kick him out, Mr Verhofstadt urges the grouping to confront the Orbán cuckoo in their nest.

“Each of the current EPP member parties need to ask themselves whether they want to be part of a decline to illiberalism by continuing to provide political cover for Orbán and his allies, or make a stand before we pass the point of no return,” he says.

Whether that happens will partly be determined by next May’s European elections, which are shaping up to be a battle royale between the liberal forces of Mr Macron’s En Marche party and the conservative wing of the EPP, which includes the CSU [German more conservative “Christian Social Union”] chairman, Mr Seehofer, who has made common cause with Mr Orbán over migration.

Put another way, says Andrew Duff, a former [UK] Liberal Democrat MEP now at the European Policy Centre, the May 2019 European elections will polarise around Mr Macron and Mr Orbán in a battle “for and against liberal democracy and ever-closer union”.

Prosperity and security are key.

That fight will not, of course, be settled in a single round. Europe faces a decade of grinding east-west conflict whose outcome will ultimately be determined by the EU’s wider ability to generate prosperity and deliver security in the face threats from migration, Russian meddling and a crumbling transatlantic alliance, say regional analysts.

For now the illiberal vision of Central and Eastern Europe countries feels in the ascendant, but long-time watchers of such countries, including Otilia Dhand at Teneo Intelligence, caution that democracy has always ebbed and flowed in the east.

In the past, populist movements have tended to collapse under the weight of their own contradictions, over-promising and under-delivering to the point where the voters reject them. For now, she argues, direct East-West confrontation is likely only to feed the siege mentality that sustains them.

The real crunch for Brussels, Ms Dhand predicts, will actually come in the next major economic downturn and whether this time the European Union can play the role of saviour – rather than source – of that crisis when it hits.

“The last three European crises in 2008, 2011 and 2015 have all exported problems to eastern EU countries after initially bringing prosperity and the hope of a better future,” she observes. “Sooner or later they will hit another crisis. They always do. Then old Europe will have its chance.”

Next parts of Europe Future Series in the UK Daily Telegraph:

[The article above is  a copy] 1. Future of Europe: Can the EU resist a far-Right, nationalist takeover?,

2. Future of Europe – defence: can the EU actually protect itself against Russia?, 11/9/18,

3. Future of Europe: EU’s liberals are losing their grip in the struggle to solve its migration crisis, 12/9/18,

4. Future of Europe: Can the EU save a lost generation left fighting for its life in an economic maelstrom?, 13/9/2018,

5. Future of Europe: is the EU’s dream of expansion to the east dead?, 14/9/2018,

6. Future of Europe: Why in Emmanuel Macron the EU has its greatest saviour – and biggest liability?, 15/9/2018,


Fascist racism in Czech regional elections shows the path to dictatorship.

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[ Posted by Lara Keller 6/10/18 ]

Fascist racism in regional elections in struggling regions of the Czech republic revealed by UK’s C4 Far right in Czech Republic: the politicians turning on Roma. They are not only turning on the Roma which is bad enough. The language is vague and is about difference. Speaks of the “rabble”, and the “maladjusted”. Turning people into problematic objects. These objects can then be more easily destroyed, socially by being contained as a threat, or biologically by being murdered, or both. In one poster the “others” also include the “homeless”.

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The highly respected Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit (who works actively against Zionist racism) would see this as contradictory:

“My central claim is that humiliation typically presupposes the humanity of the humiliated. Humiliating behavior rejects the other as nonhuman, but the act of rejection presupposes that it is a person that is being rejected.“ (The Decent Society, Margalit 1998, pp 109)

If only everyone was a philosopher worried by contradiction. Western countries, like the Czech Republic, turning to racism show a possible path to authoritarianism.

  1. Identify sections of the population as surplus, describe them humiliatingly as problematic objects.
  2. Attempt to clean up the problem up, by constraining and humiliating them.
  3. Provoke and facilitate acts of destruction by the so called surplus population.
  4. Justify further oppression in the name of security.
  5. Identify more surplus people.
  6. Repeat………
  7. Install a fully authoritarian government, to protect the. minority from the enraged surplus population.

Some people claim that this process requires a severe mismanaged economic crisis like the Great Depression, or a society that is deeply divided and so can easily provide a ready made detached group of oppressors. The truth appears to be that people can easily be convinced to turn against each other, if they see no economic future, see no effective progressive political leadership and live in modern societies in small isolated groups. The truth appears to be that there are wealthy elites inside democracies and outside them (esp Russia-China) queuing up to turbo charge this decay.

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International Assadists Reference Directory.


International Assadists Reference Directory.

[ Posted by Lara Keller 21/9/18 Updated 16/4/19 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[Expanded from web page by Kester Ratcliff, Original Source =]

[Article on range of Assadist opinion see here.]

A references directory on 171 (?) public figures who have expressed support and/or whitewashed the Assad regime, with examples and references.

The purpose of this list is to facilitate finding the references to see and to show people who genuinely don’t know what is true and who to trust about Syria why the people on this list should not be trusted as sources. I am not expecting anyone to read the whole thing, at least not in one sitting. I suggest you use Ctrl+F on a Windows computer or ⌘+F on a Mac to easily find the name(s) you’re looking for. There may be an online database facility in future.

Each time there’s an incident in Syria which breaks through into international public attention (only nerve toxin gas attacks or >1000 civilians killed in a week seem to trigger 1–2 weeks of international attention now), we get a week or two’s rush of people who have not been paying attention to the daily reporting from Syria before then sharing articles, videos and memes from pro-regime propaganda sources, often without knowing that’s what they are, and we are busy re-finding and copy-pasting the links around to show them why they shouldn’t trust those sources. I hope this reference list will at least make that easier and more efficient next time, because unfortunately there will be a next time, as we have still not done anything to make “never again” a reality.

I decided to spend quite a lot of time in introduction articles defining terms, because otherwise what happens is the other side just call this “propaganda”, as if words have no objective meaning independent of partisanship anymore.

I cut into a separate article my attempt to understand how it happened that so many mostly good people came to believe so much evil bullshit, which I think is more due to authoritarian regimes exploiting the built-in vulnerabilities in the structure, as it has been designed so far, of the social media part of the Public Sphere than it is due to the inherent moral frailties of human nature.

How have so many people become so seriously misled about Syria?
It is tempting but probably untrue to attribute malice to most people who believe narratives about Syria which are…

[ LK: It is important to understand what is meant by Assadist, and anti-Assadist, appreciate the range of opinions these terms cover and how people develop these stances. The original author provides essential prerequisite material on this in four  parts. It is important to realize Assadist is not meant by the author as a term of abuse. This directory could be used to understand why the Assad Regime is so hated, journalists to research sources, provide information on the range of people willing to apologize for a very violent and oppressive dictatorship or to study the variety of pro Assad propaganda and its intended audiences. There is no intention to provide or encourage the access to or inappropriate use of personal information. Content is limited to public sources. ]

Prerequisite material:

I will now continue the rest of the list in alphabetical order by second name. Corporate entity names I’ve alphabetised by the first letter of the first word.


  • shortArrow - CopyDiane Abbott  [id=1-a1]
  • shortArrow - CopySarah Abdallah (also known as ‘Sahouraxo’, formerly aka ‘Jnoubiyeh’ and ‘Muqawamist’) [id=2-a2]
  • shortArrow - CopySarah Abed [id=3-a3]
  • Ali Abuminah [id=4-a4]
  • Mother Agnes [id=5-a5]
  • Nafeez Ahmed [id=6-a6]
  • Tariq Ali [id=7-a7]
  • Louis Allday [id=8-a8]
  • James Allsup [id=9-a9]
  • Kevork Almassian [id=10-a10]
  • Tim Anderson [id=11-a11]
  • Paul Antonopolous [id=12-a12]
  • Andrew Ashdown [id=13-a13]


  • Steve Bannon [id=14-b1]
  • Arron Banks [id=15-b2]
  • Gérard Bapt [id=16-b3]
  • Ajamu Baraka [id=17-b4]
  • Yahya Barakat [id=18-b5]
  • Eva Bartlett [id=19-b6]
  • Thierry Baudet [id=20-b7]
  • Vanessa Beeley [id=21-b8]
  • Jens Bernert [id=22-b9]
  • Richard Black  [id=23-b10]
  • Christian Blex [id=24-b11]
  • Max Blumenthal [id=25-b12]
  • David Bromwich [id=26-b13]
  • Aisling Byrne [id=27-b14]


  • Tucker Carlson [id=28-c1]
  • Mike Cernovich [id=29-c2]
  • Noam Chomsky [id=30-c3]
  • Neil Clark [id=31-c4]
  • Alexander Cockburn [id=32-c5]
  • Patrick Cockburn [id=33-c6]
  • Elizabeth Cocker ‘Lizzie Phelan’ [id=34-c7]
  • Stephen Cohen [id=35-c8]
  • Gerry Condon [id=36-c9]
  • Alistair Crooke [id=37-c10]
  • Jonathan Cook [id=38-c11]
  • shortArrow - CopySheila Coombes [id=39-c12]
  • shortArrow - CopyJeremy Corbyn [id=40-c13]
  • Pierre le Corf [id=41-c14]
  • Alain Corvez [id=42-c15]
  • Ann Coulter [id=43-c16]
  • Baroness Caroline Cox [id=44-c17]


  • Sevim Dagdelen (*1975) [id=45-d1]
  • Clare Daly [id=46-d2]
  • Golden Dawn [id=47-d3]
  • Zlatko Dizdarevic [id=48-d4]
  • Jimmy Dore [id=49-d5]
  • Bob Dreyfuss [id=50-d6]
  • Tom Duggan [id=51-d7]
  • Wierd Duk [id=52-d8]
  • David Duke [id=53-d9]


  • European Solidarity Front for Syria (ESFS) [id=54-e1]
  • Pepe Escobar [id=55-e2]


  • Leith Abou Fadel [id=56-f1]
  • Robert Fisk [id=57-f2]
  • Sara Flounders [id=58-f3]
  • Peter Ford [id=59-f4]
  • Benjamin Fulford [id=60-f5]


  • Tulsi Gabbard [id=61-g1]
  • Uli Gack [id=62-g2]
  • George Galloway [id=63-g3]
  • Tim Gionet ‘Baked Alaska’ [id=64-g4]
  • Marco Glowatzki [id=65-g5]
  • Glenn Greenwald [id=66-g6]
  • Joachim Guilliard [id=67-g7]


  • Declan Hayes [id=68-h1]
  • Tim Hayward [id=69-h2]
  • Patrick Henningsen [id=70-h3]
  • Seymour Hersh [id=71-h4]
  • Peter Hitchens [id=72-h5]
  • Katie Hopkins [id=73-h6]


  • David Icke [id=74-i1]
  • Laura Ingraham [id=75-i2]
  • Robert Inlarkesh [id=76-i3]


  • Ken Jebsen [id=77-j1]
  • Simon Jenkins [id=78-j2]
  • Adam Johnson [id=79-j3]
  • shortArrow - CopyBoris Johnson [id=80-j4]
  • Caitlin Johnston [id=81-j5]
  • Alex Jones [id=82-j6]
  • Owen Jones [id=83-j7]


  • Leila Khaled [id=84-k1]
  • Rania Khalek [id=85-k2]
  • Janice Kortkamp [id=86-k3]
  • Dennis Kucinich [id=87-k4]
  • Harald Kujat (*1942) [id=88-k5]


  • Tomi Lahren [id=89-l1]
  • Joshua Landis [id=90-l2]
  • Adam Larson [id=91-l3]
  • Paul Lauradee [id=92-l4]
  • Carlos Latuff [id=93-l5]
  • Gregory Lauder-Frost [id=94-l6]
  • Régis Le Sommier [id=95-l7]
  • Christian Lindgren [id=96-l8]
  • Joe Lombardo [id=97-l9]
  • Michael Lüders [id=98-l10]


  • Jeff Mackler [id=99-m1]
  • Abby Martin [id=100-m2]
  • Aaron Mate [id=101-m3]
  • shortArrow - CopyTara McCormack [id=102-m4]
  • Ray McGovern [id=103-m5]
  • Gavin McInnes [id=104-m6]
  • Paul McKeigue [id=105-m7]
  • Barbara McKenzie [id=106-m8]
  • Kerry-Anne Mendoza [id=107-m9]
  • Guy Mettan [id=108-m10]
  • Günter Meyer (*1946) [id=109-m11]
  • Thierry Meyssan [id=110-m12]
  • David Miller [id=111-m13]
  • Seumus Milne [id=112-m14]
  • Stefan Molyneux [id=113-m15]
  • Craig Murray [id=114-m16]


  • Sharmine Narwani [id=115-n1]
  • Donna Nassor [id=116-n2]
  • Ben Norton [id=117-n3]
  • Forza Nouva [id=118-n4]
  • Paul Nuttall [id=119-n5]


  • Eoin Ó Murchú [id=120-o1]
  • Ken O’Keefe [id=121-o2]
  • Carla Ortiz [id=122-o3]


  • Marcus Papadopolous [id=123-p1]
  • Robert Parry [id=124-p2]
  • Rand Paul [id=125-p3]
  • Ron Paul [id=126-p4]
  • John Pilger [id=127-p5]
  • Jaap Plaiser [id=128-p6]
  • Jurgen Pohl [id=129-p7]
  • Gareth Porter [id=130-p8]
  • Theodore Postol [id=131-p9]
  • Casa Pound [id=132-p10]
  • Vijay Prashad [id=133-p11]


[No Entries]


  • Michel Raimbaud [id=134-r1]
  • Sami Ramadani [id=135-r2]
  • John Rees [id=136-r3]
  • Paul Craig Roberts [id=137-r4]
  • Piers Robinson [id=138-r5]
  • Dana Rohrabacher [id=139-r6]
  • Kris Roman [id=140-r7]
  • Pierre-Yves Rougeyron [id=141-r8]


  • Susan Sarandon [id=142-s1]
  • MP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser [id=143-s2]
  • Elham Shaheen [id=144-s3]
  • Pearson Sharp [id=145-s4]
  • Fares Shehabi [id=146-s5]
  • Alain Soral [id=147-s6]
  • SOS Chrétiens d’Orient [id=148-s7]
  • Richard Spencer [id=149-s8]
  • Jonathan Steele [id=150-s9]
  • Jill Stein [id=151-s10]
  • Rick Sterling [id=152-s11]
  • Maram Sulsi ‘Partisan Girl’ [id=153-s12]
  • “Swedish Doctors for Human Rights” (SWEDHR)/Marcello Ferranda De Noli [id=154-s13]
  • Le Club Suisse / Swiss Press Club [id=155-s14]


  • Emily Thornberry [id=156-t1]
  • Hans-Thomas Tillschneider [id=157-t2]
  • Jürgen Todenhöfer [id=158-t3]


  • US Peace Council [id=159-u1]


  • Beatrix Von Storch [id=160-v1]
  • Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) [id=161-v2]


  • Sahra Wagenknecht[id=162-w1]
  • Roger Waters [id=163-w2]
  • Paul Joseph Watson [id=164-w3]
  • Ian Wilkie [id=165-w4]
  • Asa Winstanley [id=166-w5]
  • Ann Wright [id=167-w6]


[No Entries]


  • Milo Yiannopolous [id=168-y1]
  • Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Yonan [id=169-y2]


  • Slavoj Zizek [id=170-z1]
  • Zwart Front [id=171-z2]


Ten Point Scale and Common Features of Assadism (By Kester Ratcliff).

assadApologist - Copy

Ten Point Scale of Assadism (By Kester Ratcliff).

[Posted by Lara Keller 17/9/18] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[From web page by Kester Ratcliff, Original Source =]

What it means to identify someone as an ‘Assadist’.

This is a progressive list of relatively less committed gradually through to the most committed Assadist statements. People who only repeat points 1–4 are more likely to be recoverable than people who are assert 4–9. Point 10 is where they clearly cross a legal line from nonfactual and morally repugnant to a criminal act of incitement of a crime against humanity (explained below).

  1. ‘There are no good guys left- there was a civilian uprising in 2011, but there are only Islamist jihadis now.’ (this claim debunked here)
  2. ‘It’s Assad or the Islamist extremists. The Assad regime is secular and the protector of minorities.’ (debunking)
  3. ‘Assad is the legitimate President of Syria, and the Russian and Iranian forces were invited by him so their intervention is legitimate, but any other foreign intervention to limit mass atrocities is illegitimate.’
  4. ‘There was no genuine civilian uprising or revolution, it was a foreign regime change conspiracy. Assad is resisting imperialism.’ (videos)
  5. ‘The Assadi-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian regime’s atrocity crimes are not real but are exaggerated or fictitiously created by Western propaganda.’
  6. Victim blaming — ‘the Syrian revolutionaries and political opposition, civilians and combatants, are to blame for rebelling against legitimate authority and they are ‘terrorists’ for rejecting the government.’
  7. ‘The Assadi-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian regime has not used CWs’ / ‘if they did it was justified’ (the latter is almost exclusively found in Assadist domestic propaganda in Arabic, see examples).
  8. ‘Al Qaeda and ISIS are supported or controlled by the West / by Israel.’
  9. ‘The White Helmets are fake humanitarian aid workers and are associated with / are terrorists.’
  10. ‘The White Helmets are legitimate military targets and should be attacked.’

The distinction between points 9 and 10 is abetment vs. incitement of a crime against humanity. Most Assadists say point 9, very few go as far as 10, but almost all associate themselves with one who does say 10, Vanessa Beeley.

Recently, Bashar al-Assad has also publicly announced in RT that the regime targets the White Helmets as “terrorists” — I think this is military targeting following propaganda, rather than propaganda following military targeting.

In listing these 151(171?) people as Assadists, I am not saying that they are all equivalent. It is not a 0/1 binary, it is a scalar variable. Especially for the milder cases, who might otherwise legitimately complain about being lumped together, I have tried to specify where I think they are on my 1–10 scale. But I think people who only repeat the milder points on the scale of Assadism and frequently associate with the more overt or extreme Assadists play an important role in mainstreaming and legitimising the more extreme people.

Common features (roots?) of all varieties of Assadism.

In my opinion the following four features are common to all varieties of international Assadism, from the far right to far left (the meaning of the distinction ‘right’/ ‘left’ breaks down when it is applied to Assadists).

1. Objectification.

Objectification (Naussbaum, 1995, p.257) of an imagined ‘Other’ group of people, reduced to blocs, moved by the hands of imagined more powerful agents, which are typically more like the self. Such imagination of other people is both expressed and transmitted in linguistic framing metaphors such as ‘chess’ or ‘international players’, i.e. game metaphorical framing of counter-revolutionary and genocidal mass atrocities, in which people are imaginatively reduced to ‘remote-controlled pawns’ (Maher Arar’s term). The form and perhaps the origin of this objectification is the Western-centricism that even when it is anti-Western still renders the Oriental, Arabs and Muslims, as imaginary objects rather than as persons with agency. [LK: The denial of effective agency by powerful external countries is the principal reason for the survival of the illegitimate brutal Assad dictatorship.]

Extract on Western-Centrism (“The Syrian Cause and Anti-Imperialism”):

objectification - Copy

2. Islamophobia / Anti-Muslim prejudice.

International Assadists, as much as I have seen, all share the trait of negative stereotyping of Muslims, or even all brown skinned people, as “jihadis” or “Islamist terrorists”. This is the most prominent common feature of all varieties of international Assadism; in some cases it’s more subtle, but I think it’s always there at least implicitly. Some of the far right Assadists call all brown skinned refugees and other migrants ‘jihadis’ (even Eritrean Christians), yet they are willingly blind to the Shia regimes and militias allied with the Russian regime and international fascist groups. In my observations, hardly anyone who says ‘Islamist’ is clear what even they mean by it; in most uses, it’s a label projected onto people just to demonise them.

The function of such stereotyping, and why it occurs so commonly in populist nationalist groups, is to create an imagined, idealised enemy group to negatively identify themselves against, and to lay the guilt of the internal differences, rivalry and conflicts of their populist nationalist community, which they ideologically presume must be united, onto a scapegoat group to be sacrificed, to take away the guilt of their community’s differences (Girard, 2001).

Leftist Assadists also identify ‘jihadis’ by signs such as — exclaiming ‘God is greater!’ (“Allahu akbar”), showing the one finger gesture of tawhid — testifying to the one-ness of God, having a beard while brown, or having a sticker of the Shahada on a vehicle’s rear windscreen (this was one of Vanessa Beeley’s ‘proofs’ that ‘the White Helmets are Al-Qaeda’), which of course are just signs of being Muslim, not at all particular to extremists or terrorists. I have never seen anyone who was interested negatively in ‘Islamists’ ever even attempt to define exactly what they mean by ‘Islamism’, since the term is more useful to them kept vague. [LK: Secularism inconsistently applied is a feature of far-left mindset]

Example of Islamophobia on Twitter (DR+MW have 1000s of followers):

deplorableRocky - Copy

3. Phobia of “mainstream media” and “experts”.

Assadists as far as I have seen commonly share the Populist strategy of cultivating distrust of the home society’s specialists and institutions, and rejection of ‘mainstream media’ (some Assadists literally call the mainstream media ‘lügenpresse’, echoing Hitler), accompanied by a willing credulity about the sources which are delegitimising the institutions of the home society and an unwillingness to consider whether those criticising are really more trustworthy or are actually even worse.

apologistsGuardian - Copy.jpg

[LK: Interesting their target is the only serious mainstream left-wing newspaper in the UK.]

Attacking the credibility of democratic institutions and specialists also creates an echo chamber — a group who distrust all outsiders, who only believe what members of their own echo chamber tell them, and who collectively attack any source of information that threatens their group identity. The Populist strategy can almost be defined as the process of generating an echo chamber.

Populism and echo chamber generating tactics (including ‘audience segmentation’) and conspiracism are inherently inter-related, because conspiracy theories’ main effect is to persuade the audience to reallocate trust and political authority away from the home society’s institutional specialists and to the new populist leaders (and their geopolitical backers), so almost all populists frequently use conspiracy theories in their legitimation narratives.

As C Thi Nguyen says, it is as difficult to leave or to recover people from a political echo chamber as to leave or to recover people from a religious cult — Escape the echo chamber: First you don’t hear other views, then you can’t trust them, then your personal information network entraps you just like a cult.

4. Authoritarianism.

‘Solidarity’ in Assadist ideology is imagined to mean solidarity with States, not people. Far right and left Assadists (even those who self-identify as anarchists) share an authoritarian and Statist attitude to political relationships — politics is what States do, not the collective decisions and actions of people. When they say ‘Syria’ they invariably mean the Assad regime, not the Syrian people. The only Syrians represented personally in international Assadist narratives are regime spokespersons, or subjected to implicit threats by their Mukhabarat minders to say only what they know is expected. It would be suicidal to say anything unexpected to someone on one of the regime-minded tours without being completely certain that they would not reveal any identifying information which could lead the Mukhabarat to find out who said it. Leila al-Shami develops these points fully in this article — The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots.

The Anti-Israel theme is frequent but not fully common, as far as I have seen. There are some otherwise seemingly centre-right public figures who are, at least – as a stance they must perform for their own political gain – pro-Israel. [LK: All serious anti-Assadists also appear to be anti-Zionists, but not of the rabid anti-Israel sense]

How or why people become useful idiots for violent tyrannical regimes is an hard and intriguing question I’ve struggled with for years. I assume that the difference between a useful idiot and an agent is a slippery scale, not a dichotomy. I think James Bloodworth has done a good and concise job of trying to understand how different types of useful idiots develop, here — Six types of ‘useful idiot’: The Seeker, Uptopian, Power Worshipper, Relativist, Stability-Fetishist and Nostalgist.


The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections. Author Alexander Reid Ross.

Evgeny Prigozhin - Copy

The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections.Author Alexander Reid Ross (21/2/18)

[ Posted by Lara Keller 6/4/18 Updated 21/4/19 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[Source = ]
[Web Archive = ]

[Start Article]

Special counsel Robert Mueller, Jr., indicted 13 agents from the Saint Petersburg based Internet Research Agency last Friday, but the shadowy figures behind the organization remain obscure.

Tracing those involved leads to an intriguing web of far-right paramilitary groups, think tanks and institutes directed by a trans-national, far right network of oligarchs, politicians and media figures.

The Internet Research Agency was founded and led by Evgeny Prigozhin, a catering industry mogul known by some as “Putin’s chef.” Prigozhin met Putin as his financial success through the St. Petersburg gambling business brought increased influence and lucrative state contracts. Two years after conceiving of the Internet Research Agency during the protests of 2011, Prigozhin opened the “Kharkiv news agency” in opposition to the 2013 Euromaidan movement.

Prigozhin is also tied to the conception and funding of a semi-private military company called “Wagner” known to have operated both in Ukraine and Syria under Dmitry Utkin, a man notorious for his “adherence to the aesthetics and ideology of the Third Reich.” Wagner Private Military Company is said to be co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Defense and to have participated in the military occupation of Crimea. The U.S. sanctioned Prigozhin in 2014, stating, “a company with significant ties to him holds a contract to build a military base near the Russian Federation border with Ukraine.”

Analysis by U.S. Strategic Command from 2015, revealed that Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency was an important site in a larger network. Its $1.25 million per month budget and some 80 employees helped its “Translator Project” act as a force multiplier for a host of pro-Kremlin sites, articles, and people linked to syncretic think tanks and institutes bridging far-right interests from Russia to the U.S. as an extension of “hybrid warfare.”

Perhaps most interestingly, the Translator Project allegedly set up fake far-right and left-wing groups like “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist,” “United Muslims of America” and “Heart of Texas,” advertised them, and deceived hundreds of thousands of people into joining them. In one astonishing case, unwitting members of a Russian troll page were led to stage an armed, Islamophobic protest in Houston.

The strategy: managed nationalism and hybrid warfare

A clue as to the strategy of the Internet Research Agency can be found among the leading members under indictment. Around the time their employee Anna Bogacheva allegedly visited the U.S. in 2014 to gather intelligence, she registered a PR firm called IT Debugger with Mikhail Potepkin, a former leader of the violent, far-right youth brigade, Nashi.

Developed along with several other youth brigades linked to the Kremlin during a short period between 2004 and 2005, Nashi formed part of what then-First Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov called “managed nationalism.” Concerned about a possible “Color Revolution” in Russia, Surkov hoped to simulate an opposition movement and keep the public under the Kremlin’s control.

“Managed nationalism” and Surkov’s analysis of “network structures” paved the way for a strategy penned in 2013 by Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces of Russia. Now known as the Gerasimov Doctrine, The New York Times called it “RT, Sputnik, and Russia’s new theory of war.” In Gerasimov’s words, “The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures—applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.”

By the time Hillary Clinton received the official nomination of her party, strategy papers produced by the Kremlin-linked think tank Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) had specifically called on the Kremlin to dedicate such “applied methods” to “a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama,” according to Reuters.

An Elite Club”

Longtime political operator in the Russian far-right, Aleksander Dugin, has worked for most of the past three decades to develop syncretic, left-right cooperation among anti-liberal opposition groups throughout the world. His influence on, and involvement in, “managed nationalism” and the Gerasimov Doctrine is consistent with his agency in the network that influenced the 2016 elections.

Shortly after Gerasimov published his doctrine, Dugin’s efforts came to a head. He sent his associate Georgiy Gavrish a memo listing a number of pro-Russia political leaders on the European far right and left. Intent on making Moscow the “New Rome” of a spiritual empire of federated ethnostates from Dublin to Vladivastok and stretching south to the Indian Ocean, Dugin’s main aspiration lay in consolidating support networks for the Kremlin and developing ideological unity for his “Eurasianist” geopolitics.

Dugin’s efforts produced a “think tank” called Katehon with influential board members including a senior member of Putin’s Yedinaya Rossiya party and Leonid Reshetnikov, then the leader of the RISS. Reshetnikov is infamous for complaining in February 2016 that WWII was “orchestrated” by “the upper crust of the Anglo-Saxon elite” and is believed by officials to have sponsored a coup attempt that October to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

Another member of Katehon’s board, Lyndon LaRouche associate Sergei Glazyev, co-founded the far-right Rodina (Motherland) Party with Dugin, which in 2014 to 2015 led conferences and coordinating groups including members of the racist “alt-right”” and the U.S. left that helped prepare the networks Dugin sought.

At the helm of Katehon’s board sits Dugin’s associate Konstantin Malofeev. Known as the “Orthodox Oligarch” for his far-right political positions and proximity to the Russian Orthodox Church, Malofeev was sanctioned by the U.S. for allegedly bankrolling the pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea where Wagner Company operated. Aleksandr Borodai, the first prime minister of the Donetsk Republic, and Igor Strelkov, its first minister of defense, served as Malofeev’s former PR man and security chief, respectively.

The U.S. connection

Many of the crucial connections between the Katehon network and the Western far-right can be found through their mutual commitments to the anti-LGBQT hate group, World Congress of Families. When Stephen Bannon delivered a speech on the merits of Dugin and fascist occultist Julius Evola in June 2014 to high-level members of the World Congress of Families in the Vatican, he effectively endorsed the guiding “Eurasianist” spirit behind Katehon.

Bannon’s speech came in the middle of a four-year period during which Robert Mercer paid him to work for an anti-Clinton group. Also the primary funder of Breitbart News, Mercer was a member of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP), which supported Trump staunchly during the 2016 elections and is heavily involved in the World Congress of Families.

The CNP has a long history of bridging U.S. and Russian far-right interests, dating back to when its founder Paul Weyrich and executive committee member Robert Kriebel helped launch the career of pro-Russia lobbyist Edward Lozansky — a man who would take a leading role in feeding the troll armies of the far right nearly 30 years later.

Deeply connected to the U.S. far-right, Lozansky founded a dubious think tank eventually named the American University in Moscow “on the same floor as the Heritage Foundation.” Through his organizations, Lozansky has hosted conferences and an annual event known as the World Russia Forum. Featuring speakers like Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions and Dana Rohrabacher, the World Russia Forum and Lozansky’s Russia House enjoy a high profile inside the Beltway of Washington, DC. However, there is a more obscure side to the Russia Forum and its related American University in Moscow.

Lozansky’s syncretic fellows

Lozansky’s American University in Moscow has become a crucial hub for the cultivation of editors and journalists behind key “fake news” sites propagated by the “Translation Project.” The list of “Fellows” at his institution is a rogues gallery of syncretic pro-Kremlin spin doctors:

Other pro-Kremlin Fellows listed by Lozansky’s American University in Moscow, Darren Spinck, James Jatras and Anthony Salvia are partners in pro-Kremlin groups like the American Institute in Ukraine and the PR group, Global Strategic Communications Group, which sold its services to Rodina during a period when Rodina’s deputies signed a petition to ban Jews from Russia and the party was proscribed from the Duma elections for virulently racist campaign ads.

Aside from contributing to Global Independent Analytics with Armstrong, Jatras also served as a witness for the defense at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and is featured on a number of YouTube videos posted by Katehon.

The red-brown creep

Lozansky has a long and extensive relationship with Dugin, hosting him at influential conferences in 2004 and 2005, along with red-brown propagandist Aleksandr Prokhanov, Rodina leader Dmitri Rogozin, and other éminences grises of the U.S. and Russian far-right.

In September 2008, Lozansky joined Dugin for a conference with far-right figures such as fascist creator of the European New Right Alain de Benoist, Duginist Israeli far-right leader Avigdor Eskin and Israel Shamir, a holocaust denying antisemite who would later become the Russian emissary for Wikileaks. Within a few weeks, Dugin and Lozansky appeared together on the TV program “Three Corners” for a discussion on the merits of “soft power.”

“In our world (we are talking about the information space) ideas can also play a bigger role,” Lozansky cautioned, “even more important than guns and missiles.”

A week after the Crimea crisis touched off in April 2014, Lozansky’s heavy frame was hunched over a long conference table across from Dugin in a cramped, stuffy conference room. They were discussing the role of media in the “New Cold War.”

The next September, Lozansky moderated a roundtable discussion at the World Russia Forum to consider a “Proposal to Establish ‘Committee for East – West Accord.’” Co-moderated by American University in Moscow Fellow Gilbert Doctorow, the roundtable featured leading Duginist Andrew Korybko, as well as a number of professors from U.S. and Russian institutions. The U.S. side of the Committee would be spearheaded by professor and contributing editor of The Nation, Stephen F. Cohen, along with an influential board including former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former ambassadors William vanden Heuvel and Jack Matlock.

That month, Cohen’s associate Doctorow helped editor Charles Bausman create the antisemitic website Russia Insider. Soon after, Doctorow joined alternative journalism site Consortium News, which accepts tax-deductible donations for Russia Insider as a fiscal sponsor. Doctorow and Lozansky went on to write three articles together in the Washington Times. Russia Insider features a contact form to get in touch with Lozansky through their website. However, when Hatewatch wrote to Lozansky using Russia Insider’s contact form, we received no response. Within 24 hours, Lozansky’s website,, mysteriously went dark.

An information shell game

While the Kremlin’s propagandists disseminate half-truths, distortions and lies, they rely on sites like Consortium News, Russia Insider, Global Independent Analytics and The Duran to adopt their narratives and “launder” them so that “the original source… is either forgotten or impossible to determine,” according to expert on the far right Anton Shekhovtsov’s latest book, Russia and the Western Far Right. This project utilizes what national security site War on the Rocks calls “‘gray’ measures, which employ less overt outlets controlled by Russia, as well as so-called useful idiots that regurgitate Russian themes and ‘facts’ without necessarily taking direction from Russia or collaborating in a fully informed manner.”

By election season, the network of “less overt” sites had developed behavior patterns and positions spurred on by the troll factory: they supported the illegal Crimea referendum, denied the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and denigrated Syria’s humanitarian White Helmets. They also often operated as connectors to far-right sites like Breitbart News and conspiracy-theory site, Infowars, which crossposted more than 1,000 RT articles between 2014 and 2017 and published two interviews with Dugin last year.

Such apparent unity of action and intent may have also occurred because the “fake news” sites boosted by the Translation Project have significant audience overlap, as well as institutional crossover. For example, the syncretic site 21stCenturyWire crossposts stories from Consortium News and features interviews with its founder, the late Robert Parry. Created by former Infowars associate editor, Patrick Henningsen, 21stCenturyWire’s archived stories trade in antisemitic Soros and Rothschild conspiracy theories and a battery of Kremlin-supported stories maligning the White Helmets in Syria.

Regarding 21stCenturyWire’s stories, analytics engines found “evidence of coordination of timing and messaging around significant events in the news cycle” among “many known pro-Kremlin troll accounts, some of which were closed down as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the US election.” Given its Kremlin support, it is unsurprising that 21stCenturyWire hosts an alt-right podcast called Boiler Room, as well as an interview with Dugin, himself, while publishing Korybko as a “special contributor.”

There are many more similar sites on the web and, despite the indictments of 13 members of the Internet Research Agency, the echo chamber of cutouts, fake profiles, front groups and conspiracy sites that duped hundreds of thousands of people across the political spectrum shows no sign of relenting. In the 48 hours before time of writing, Russia Insider, 21stCenturyWire and Duginist site Fort-Russ were all trending domains and URLs on the Russian “botnet.” Only an informed public will be able to take down the crisis of “fake news” and its illiberal progenitors.

Alexander Reid Ross is a Lecturer in geography at Portland State University. His latest book Against the Fascist Creep was named one of the Portland Mercury’s best books of 2017.

Patrick Simpson and Grant Stern contributed research for this article.

[End Article]