Marching Season

(Melody)

Inauguration Day draws near, and the fascists think it’s clear:
Get out your guns, at last our day is here!
Now it’s time to fill the streets, with the sounds of marching feet,
And to make a lot of people live in fear.
‘Sieg Heil’ they’ll yell as they march, looking for something to torch.
‘Remember 1933’ they yell.
But now it’s 2017,
And how that ends, we all have seen.
Which is why it’s time to send them back to hell.

 

CHORUS: Oh, you won’t be marching in Montana with your rifles and your flags
For it’s time you learnt: The people won’t lie down.
And we will not endure your taunts,
Or the swastikas you flaunt.
Remember: If you play with fire, you will burn.
So just stop and count the cost, because the battle will be lost.
Soon you’ll envy all the others, safe at home.

So, when Adolf married Eve, tell me: What lesson did he leave?
How to celebrate a fascist honeymoon:
First you go and you get hitched, then you find yourself a ditch,
And you consummate your marriage with a BOOM.
He’s your leader, take his lead,
His example you should heed.
If you don’t, it will hurt more than if you do.
If you want to go unharmed,
Hit the snooze on your alarm
Just say ‘Fuck it’ and your kneecaps will thank you.

(CHORUS)

Here’s to Marek Edelman, and the Bielski Partisans,
To Durruti and the Panthers and the MIR.
They all fought you way back when, and now we’ll fight you once again,
For your bonehead bullshit isn’t wanted here.
Here’s a piece of free advice:
Don’t expect us to be nice,
And do watch out for surprises from above.
All the people in the know,
Say ‘Bring aloe if you go’:
For every Ribbentrop must meet his molotov.

(CHORUS)

Conspiracism: A (Further) Definition

Since the publication of CounterPunch or Suckerpunch?, my Twitter feed has been bombarded with attacks from people who take issue with some aspect or other of my critique of fascist and white-supremacist ideology and ideologues. Many of those who have been offended by the article take me to task for things that really merit no detailed refutation, such as the claim that I equate opposition to US-Israeli crimes with white supremacism. No examples of statements by me that would support such charges are forthcoming, because none exist.

However, much has been made of my use of the concept of conspiracism, and that, I think, does merit some response in order to differentiate between how I am accused of using the term (despite defining it quite explicitly) and how I actually define it. Although those who have attacked my use of the concept have made it clear that they do not do so in the best of faith, some might well be confused by their distortions. As such, I will endeavour below to set out my working definition of conspiracism even more explicitly.

It seems worthwhile to start with what conspiracism is not. Conspiracism is not, first of all, any interpretation or explanation of events that conflicts with an official narrative, even if that interpretation or explanation should ultimately prove false. Nor does the concept of conspiracism extend to all investigation and examination of actual or suspected conspiracies. Conspiracies certainly exist; listing examples is trivial (Watergate, the overthrow of Allende in Chile, COINTELPRO, or the conspiracy of the  US consulate and embassy in Santiago to kill Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, recently demonstrated following a lengthy judicial inquiry in Chile).

In short, then, a hypothesis does not constitute conspiracism merely because it posits the existence of a conspiracy, nor does it become conspiracism simply because it ultimately proves false. These are empirical questions that can only be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Nor does the concept require a person to believe in every conspiracy ‚theory‘ that’s going. Indeed, to require that would be patently absurd, since such ‚theories‘ are often mutually exclusive. A person who believes the Nazi myth about the power of the Rothschild family is no less a conspiracist because she does not buy into controlled demolition. To say otherwise would be akin to calling the pope an atheist because he believes in Catholicism, but not Hinduism.

Rather, conspiracism is a habit of thought, or analytical mode, as I have described it elsewhere. It is a profoundly Manichaean view that sees the plotting of shadowy elites as the motor of human history. It is characterised not so much by specific ‚theories‘ (for conspiracists are a deeply sectarian lot and jealously defend their own beliefs against the proponents of alternate versions), as by a specific style of argument and a highly particular brand of ‚activism‘. From my own observations of, and interactions with, these circles, I have found the following characteristics to be consistent features of the conspiracist worldview:

  • The preference of an individualistic, moralising view of power over any form of class analysis. Conspiracists see the evil of a handful of individuals behind the injustices of capitalism rather than a set of material social relations giving rise to specific classes with specific interests and a specific array of forces between them. This is an essentially conservative worldview where the problem is the venality of the court, rather than monarchy itself. As such, it lends itself to conservative solutions, e.g., replacing those in power rather than abolishing the system that allows them to wield power.
  • Non-falsifiability: There is no evidence that is capable of refuting a conspiracist’s pet narrative. Indeed, the lack of supporting evidence – or the existence of contrary evidence – serves only to prove the awesome power and foresight of the conspirators. An example of this thinking can be seen in the Pentagon Papers, the classified internal record of the US occupation of Indochina. One pet project of US intelligence was to prove that the indigenous peasant resistance in Vietnam was armed, funded, and controlled by Moscow, ‚Peiping‘, or both. After years of evidence gathered in the field showed that the National Liberation Front were only using weapons they had captured from the French and US occupation forces, or had improvised themselves, the intelligence analysts concluded that this proved that Moscow and/or ‚Peiping‘ had such total control that there was no need to issue orders or send weapons.
  • Strict binarism: Either one buys into the particular narrative a conspiracist espouses, or one bust support the ‚official story‘. The possibility that someone might reject both is excluded a priori. This gives conspiracists a perceived monopoly on dissent.
  • No good-faith, informed scepticism: Conspiracism leaves no room for the possibility that someone might consider the available evidence and reach a different conclusion. The conspiracist’s preferred version is a Self-Evident Truth, and anyone who does not see that is either a dupe (’sheeple‘) or – if their counterargument is good – actively working for the enemy. This creates a cult-like solidarity (in the face of an exponentially growing conspiracy) combined with immense in-group pressure not to express any dissent. If you dissent, you must be One Of Them.
  • The absence of concrete proposals: Conspiracists rarely have much in the way of concrete solutions to offer. Mostly, they believe that things will sort themselves out if only the ’sheeple‘ learn ‚the truth‘. Beyond platitudes like ‚WAKE UP‘ or the call to ‚take back America‘ (often paired with the invocation of a past age of goodness and legitimate government), conspiracism offers no real programme of action. Because conspiracism is, however, never short on convenient scapegoats, it provides a fertile ground for fascism and other reactionary ideologies that seek to pre-empt any revolutionary social change, as well as ‚good-faith distraction material‘ (to quote a leaked Booz Allen Hamilton memo on declassification policy) to keep people busy who might otherwise organise in a fashion more threatening to power.

 

CounterPunch or Suckerpunch?

How ‚America’s Best Political Newsletter‘ Mainstreams the Far Right

Introduction

CounterPunch, which bills itself as ‚America’s best political newsletter‘, offering ‚independent investigative journalism‘, tends to figure quite prominently in the reading lists of left-leaning activists, who doubtlessly appreciate its consistent antiwar stance, its critical analysis on US economic and foreign policy and US-sponsored Israeli apartheid, and the regular contributions from such leading Left writers as John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Paul Street, Jeremy Scahill, and Tariq Ali. Indeed, CounterPunch generally tends to be thought of as a Left media outlet. However, in writing for, and sharing articles published on, CP, Leftists are unwittingly helping to promote the agenda of the far right. Continue reading →

General Election 2015: A Post Mortem

The one thing about the pre-election predictions to come true – apart from the utter, and utterly well-deserved, collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland – is that the Tories are back in Downing Street. They did not, however, make it in by either of the two expected mechanisms, i.e., a Labour government continuing and deepening Tory policies, or Ed Miliband offering No. 10 to his Tory comrades in order to avoid dealing with the SNP. No, in the face of Electoral Calculus predictions that there would be a 90 % chance of a hung parliament, and with the votes of 20.8 % of the electorate, they managed an outright majority.

Because the Labour leadership and the dominant media are already imposing their preferred narrative, it is imperative that we work out what really happened, why, and what to do about it before that narrative is inducted into the Order of Received Truths.

Time and again, we find at times like these that Labour are capable of comprehending defeats in only one way: ‚We weren’t right-wing enough to be „electable“. In one recent article in the Guardian, we learn that Labour’s problem is that they didn’t embrace the legacy of Tony Blair (an odd claim, since the only part of the legacy they don’t embrace is the toxic figure of Tony Blair himself). Another version, which went on sale even before this dismal result, is that the Sun, Mail, Times, and Telegraph sabotaged Labour’s chances by making Ed Miliband look like an amalgam of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, and Salvador Allende in disguise (the intended conclusion being that Labour should position themselves so far to the right that Murdoch and his cohorts endorse them as the only way to block the incipient communism of the Conservatives).

These narratives prove only that even the most obvious writing on the wall can be missed by someone who is paid to miss it.

Look at all one has to overlook in order for this version to rise beyond the level of a particularly overdone Frye & Laurie sketch: For one thing, we have to overlook the entire framework in which this campaign was contested – to the extent it can said to have been contested at all! – between Labour and the Tories. To borrow John Kerry’s phrase from his 2004 campaign in the US, this was not about two competing visions of how to run the country, but ‚who is in a position to execute‘. This election did not see Labour actually oppose the policies whose devastating results their house organ, the Mirror, has regularly attacked. Yes, Labour belatedly expressed rhetorical support for the popular demand to abolish the bedroom tax (whilst their councillors pledged to continue evicting those who don’t pay it), but they also pledged to lower the benefit cap outside of London, which would result in families with three or more children losing their housing benefit altogether – effectively the end of social housing. And yes, they pledged to ban ‚exploitative‘ zero-hour contracts, but only for people who manage to stay in the same job for three months (rendering the measure meaningless). Their perfunctory nod to the 80% of Britons who want to see the rail service renationalised was a wasteful tender process in which the public sector would compete with the spivs who have been enriching themselves off of public subsidies for years and provide one of the worst, and most expensive, rail services in Western Europe. On the overall cuts régime that is pervasively misnamed ‚austerity‘, they pledged no cuts in a ‚protected area‘ that did not include such essentials as housing benefit, unemployment benefit, social care, council housing, or tertiary education.

Labour actually echoed Tory positions on workfare, benefit sanctions, and the maintenance of the Trident WMD programme, and in portraying Scottish voters as pernicious interlopers in what supposedly is their own country. On immigration, they might as well have promised to hand the UKBA over to Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin.

Their response to one of the most hated governments in a generation was the political equivalent of a backward defensive.

Labour made no efforts to challenge the Big Lies of the past five years (and indeed of much of the 25 years preceding them). Their statements on unemployment were premised on the idea of unemployed workers as layabouts who just don’t want to take advantage of all the work available, even though there are over two unemployed people for every available job. Their immigration rhetoric was based on scapegoating immigrants for economic problems when the evidence is that immigration actually creates jobs and generates tax revenues.

No rebuke was forthcoming when Rachel ‚Tougher on Benefits than IDS‘ Reeves declared that Labour was not interested in representing those most thoroughly screwed by thirty years of ‚austerity‘ – the unemployed and those on benefit. Given the turnout, is it really implausible that poor people simply took her at her word?

If Eds Miliband and Balls were Pakistani cricketers, they’d have been done for match fixing.

Labour’s perennial journey to the right is conventionally justified by appeals to ‚electability‘. This is a concept that requires unpacking. The most recent British Social Attitudes Report (BSAR), the most comprehensive study of its kind in the UK, provides a worthwhile background for this unpacking. The authors of the 2013 study, the most recent available, found it worth noting at the outset that three decades of short, sharp shock therapy (aka ‚austerity‘) had not succeeded in fundamentally changing the political instincts of the majority. Depending on how the questions were phrased, between 60 and 80 % opposed benefit cuts. Over 80 % considered inequality one of the most pressing problems of the day and agreed that it was the responsibility of government to do something about it, including by direct intervention in the economy. Britain is one of many countries where the majority of the population is significantly to the left of the political class.

Even more notable are the answers of what we might call ‚knowledge questions‘. From these answers, we learn that the vast majority actually believe the dominant – and patently false – stories that benefit fraud is a major problem and that there are jobs for everyone who needs one. This, in itself, is not surprising, since the dominant media have done nothing to correct these official lies, which are promoted not only by the government, but the Labour Party. What is interesting is that these figures mean that there is substantial overlap between people who believe the lies and people who oppose benefit cuts. In other words, they believe the mendacious public rationales for these policies, but oppose the policies these lies are meant to justify.

The Labour leadership are certainly aware of these results. All the major parties employ people whose entire job is to know these things. They know, in other words, that the best bet to win an election against a hated right-wing government is to come out against the signature policies of that government, breaking with their Thatcherite tradition. But they didn’t do that, in the name of ‚electability‘, and now they are talking about becoming even more Tory than the Tories, in the name of ‚electability‘.

‚Electability‘, then, means standing for the exact opposite of what over 60 % of Britons want.

This may seem an odd strategy at first glance, but there are definite advantages that have led alleged ‚centre-left‘ parties from Germany to Chile to adopt it. The underlying premise of this strategy is that voter abstention is beneficial and worth promoting. If there’s no viable alternative going, there’s no need to offer one. If the majority have no electoral home for their left-of-centre instincts, if there is no major party that promises to act in their economic interests, they will increasingly give the polls a miss, allowing the major parties to fight over affluent voters.

The official narrative of the recent general election concentrates on the unexpected Tory majority, and discourages any inquiry going beyond that superficial fact.

Because if we actually look beyond the gross election results that don’t take account of voter turnout, to look at the net results, unfiltered by first past the post and not distorted by the omission of the massive abstentionist contingent, we find that there has been no increase in support for the Tories. Their electoral support amounted to 20.8 %, which closely resembles the proportion of the population with a personal wealth upwards of £ 600,000 a year (17 % according to the Office of National Statistics) (1). We also find that the Greens, who stood on an anti-cuts manifesto, made significant gains that only did not equal seats in Westminster because of the FPTP system. We find that – as even the New York Times noticed – it was the leftmost candidates who made the biggest gains. We also have to ignore what happened in Scotland, where there is an alternative to the cuts regime that has demonstrated that it is serious and responsive to popular pressure. Labour’s biggest defeat was at the hands of a party that positioned itself to the left of them.

It should come as no surprise that we are not being invited to take a closer look at Scotland. We’re meant to blame them for spoiling Labour’s chances and to be offended at their ingratitude towards governments that ignore them until it’s time to collect Scotland’s subsidy to the City, or to patronise them for not supporting Jim Murphy’s Labour or Tommy Sheridan’s SSP.

It has been popular in the dominant narrative to use the word ’nationalist‘ to dismiss what is happening in Scotland, thus avoiding the danger that people in England and Wales might actually learn from it.

All of these efforts to dismiss the developments of recent years in Scotland merely confirm that Scotland is the political story of note in Britain. Scotland is the most dynamic part of the as-yet-United Kingdom. All forms of political participation, electoral and otherwise, are growing rapidly in Scotland whilst they stagnate and decline in England and Wales. It is the Scottish left that has made tangible gains and protected past ones whilst the left in England and Wales are fragmented and slow to mount a fightback.

It is popular in certain sectors of the English left to echo the disgraced former leader of One Nation Labour in declaring that the Scottish independence movement and the post-Vow explosion in support for the SNP is simply ’nationalism‘, because Scottish independence obviously involves the creation of a nation state. With the same intellectual rigour and depth of analysis, one could claim that a dentist who extracts an infected molar has jumped on the pro-tooth gap bandwagon.

Apart from being breathtakingly shallow and ahistorical, the illogic in this analysis lies in its conflation of the means with the end. Rather than ask who in Scotland is supporting independence, why they are dissatisfied with the current situation, and what sort of society they hope to build in an independent Scotland, we get independence = nationalism = bad.

For the sake of the future of the left in England and Wales (and elsewhere), one hopes we might do a bit better than that. Rather than lecturing the Scottish left – which overwhelmingly supported the Yes vote and favoured the SNP in this election on tactical grounds – we should be asking why the Scottish working class is so remarkably politically active whilst an atmosphere of resignation and cynicism prevails in so many of their English and Welsh counterparts.

Independence is not a live issue in Scotland because people there suddenly discovered a fervent love for thistles, haggis, and Saltires. When that was what independence was about – in the early days of the SNP- independence barely registered in Scottish politics because one didn’t need a separate state for those things, and the people for whom those were the most pressing concerns were and are, by and large, satisfied with things as they were. As Tartan Tories, the SNP were a niche vote that didn’t connect with popular interests and aspirations to form a real social movement.

The SNP – and the issue of independence – gained relevance as a shield against the worst depredations of successive Thatcherite governments, a way of ensuring that people in Scotland had at least some political representation in a UK where their votes did not – and do not – count. The increasing support for independence rather than limited autonomy grew from the realisation that only so much could be achieved at the Scottish level as long as the central government was dominated by right-wing votes from England.

In short, what is dismissed as mere ’nationalism‘ is in reality the realisation that, in the existing political configuration, the right-wing hold on politics is unbreakable, by design.

To my mind, the politicisation in Scotland is the result of what might be called a ‚gateway demand‘, a simple demand, easily understood, within reach, that gave working-class people an occasion to deliberate seriously, individually and collectively, about what kind of society they wanted. Independence is merely the most readily available mechanism to make that political transformation feasible. Under other circumstances, it might have been federalism or union with France, but under the existing conditions, it ended up being independence.

And this is why – despite the odd asinine claim to the contrary – the British ruling class was and is terrified of the prospect of the breakup of the UK. Everyone from Labour and the Tories to the Civil Service, major banks, and the BBC, as well as virtually every mass-circulation newspaper in the country joined the scare campaign against independence. The spectre of ordinary people becoming politicised and trying to build a better society is something the ruling class have been trying to eradicate for over a generation (since Thatcher ended the era of co-option), and just as they thought they’d sorted it, it came back to life with a Scottish accent.

It is no coincidence that Scotland is the one place where popular disgust with Unpaid Labour did not help the Tories – it was the one place where there was an alternative that enjoyed mass confidence.

That the real difference between England and Scotland is not a fundamental difference on social and economic policy, but the availability of an alternative, can be seen from the reaction to the leaders‘ debates. After years of being told that the SNP was made up of armour-plated, genetically modified blobs of deep-fried Mars bar capable only of exterminating the English, millions of English voters got their first unfiltered look at the SNP. The result? Nicola Sturgeon was widely hailed as the winner of the debate, and one of the top UK Google searches that night was ‚Can I vote SNP in England?‘

The official narrative of the 2015 general election is a Little England fable about the fundamentally right-wing instincts of the great British public, explaining why the Labour Party must move even farther to the right in order to be ‚electable‘. The moral is that we on the left are expecting too much of the Labour Party, and that our efforts to defend working-class interests against the neoliberal onslaught are not only doomed to fail, but not even wanted by the intended beneficiaries.

We are all meant to go home and resign ourselves to a life of shit jobs and consumerism, where our chief political activity is swearing at David Dimbleby on telly. We’re meant to learn from this exercise that the Scots are just mindless anti-English fanatics of the clan MacSkaro, and certainly not anyone to be taking lessons from on anything but curling.

If this election had, as predicted, resulted in a Labour government, we would be sold the same moral, packaged in a slightly different post-democratic fairy story in the name of ‚realism‘ and ‚electability‘.

Fascinating how ‚realism‘ requires us to ignore so many facts and ‚electability‘ is based on opposing the demands of the majority.

There is, however, another lesson to be learnt, if only we step out of the fantasy world of ‚realism‘ and the rotten borough of ‚electability‘. People throughout Britain don’t just want a left alternative to neoliberal orthodoxy – they are literally dying for it. Where one appears to be within reach, they flock to it. When they see one that is just out of reach (say, just north of Gretna or west of Offa’s Dyke), they envy it. More than thrice as many people opposed this ‚elected‘ government as supported it. And outside the electoral realm, campaigns led by benefit claimants themselves against workfare, benefit sanctions, and (in Scotland) the bedroom tax have actually been able to force Iain Duncan Smith to dial back his attacks on workers, or neutralised them outright.

We might also learn that we may only be one well-posed ‚gateway demand‘ away from seeing the same effervescence in England and Wales that we are seeing in Scotland.

Another worthwhile lesson would be the realisation, one and for all, that the Labour Party is, to borrow Glen Ford’s description of the US Democrats, ‚the more effective evil‘. A strong Labour Party is one of the principal impediments – if not the principal impediment – to independent left politics, because Labour exist only to domesticate popular demands by scaremongering about the Tories. Their outright boycott of any party even slightly to their left (a tactic nicked off Germany’s SPD), is revealing: They know that their survival as an institution depends on being the only alternative to the Conservatives, and they are determined to prevent any alternative going beyond the level of a ‚protest vote‘, Even at the cost of out-and-out throwing elections.

At the same time the likes of Owen Jones – who should know better, given that his parents were in Militant – come out of the woodwork to urge the left to change Labour from within. Why? Because as long as leftists are wasting time and energy trying to persuade a leadership who blithely ignore the conference resolutions of the rank-and-file membership of their party, the left can be contained and weakened. Inevitably, some involved in ‚Operation If We Love Him Enough He’ll Stop Beating Us‘ will be bought out, and many others will be so exhausted by the vain effort that they no longer have any energy for political work of any kind at all. When in government, as Johnny Void pointed out recently, Labour go from standing ’slack-jawed on the sidelines‘ to being one more adversary for those struggling against the depredations of neoliberalism.

Labour’s defeat is not our defeat, and whilst the prospect of five more years of David Cameron is horrifying, we should take solace in the further weakening of the Labour Party. Every defeat they suffer is richly deserved, and reduces their ability to act as a bulwark against the left. There will be a lot of disillusionment with Labour after this defeat, and we need to speak to that disillusionment before the Labour Party are able to turn the page on it with whatever repulsive new leader they thaw out.

Five years of Labour in the nominal opposition is five years in which they have to pretend not to oppose the left, five years in which we’re fighting against people virtually no one is confused about. That, too, is a silver lining of sorts.

 

(1) In an earlier version, this piece erroneously stated that 20.8 % closely resembled the percentage of the population with an income upwards of £ 200,000 a year. The ONS figures represent the most recent available survey.

Love Me, I’m A Liberal Zionist

Adapted from Phil Ochs, Love me I’m a Liberal

Oh, I cried at Sabra and Shatila,
The tears ran down my spine,
And I cried when Rabin was gunned down,
As though I’d lost a father of mine.
Continue reading →

Profiles in Collaboration

Part II of the Series:

A Who’s Who of the „Free Muslims Board

In Part I of this series, we examined the activities of Jon „Yani“ Haigh, a longtime Queensland resident who operates and monitors a network of racist troll groups on Facebook, and Kamal Nawash (for whom Haigh provides a range of web design and programming services) of the „Free Muslim Coalition Against Terror“ , a group that advocates the political repression and surveillance of the US Arab and Muslim communities (related to the Facebook group „Free Muslims“). This, the second part of the series, examines some of the other shady characters who make up the „Free“ Muslims Coalition.

 

The board of the Free Muslims are exactly what you’d expect of a group with the stated purpose of putting a Muslim face on the plethora of repressive measures, human rights violations, and outright war crimes that make up the „war on terror“.

Particularly fitting is the presence on the Board of Ray Hanania, who began his career as a journo in Chicago, covering local and regional politics for the Sun-Times and other print, radio, and TV outlets. During this period, he also hosted call-in radio chatshows on WLS, and appeared regularly on Dick Kay’s City Desk on WMAQ-TV. In 1990, he served as a panellist at the Chicago mayoral debate, which resulted in yet another electoral victory for the Daley clan. Two years later, he delved headfirst into the world of Chicago machine politics, founding the Urban Strategies Group, a full-service PR agency whose clients include Mayor-For-Life Daley himself, various city agencies, aldermen, Democratic committeemen, and „three successful candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives“.

Hanania boasts particular expertise in „crisis management“ for „those with serious public relation [sic] challenges“. One imagines that such expertise was quite useful during his stint providing „basic media training“ to the propaganda agency of Israel’s „Palestinian Authority“. Nor could it have hurt when he was called upon by the U.S. State Department and U.S. „Information“ Agency to „provide media training sessions, meetings and presentations…to foreign media and government officials.“ Continue reading →

Plumbing the Depths of Greta Berlin’s „Secret Group“

Part I of a Series on Racism and Infiltration

In the aftermath of the racist tweet and multiple, contradictory „explanations“ by Greta Berlin, much attention has been focussed on the letter published as an appendix to Larry Derfner’s second article on the subject, in which a number of purported members of the „secret group“ corroborate Berlin’s claim that nothing untoward or anti-Semitic was going on in the group in question. Benjamin Doherty revealed, in successive articles on Electronic Intifada, that a number of the signatories were in fact sockpuppets controlled by one Ofer Engel. Another central figure, however, has largely avoided the spotlight.

Before we proceed, however, it is important to keep in mind that the following is not about any one individual, though a number of individuals will be given their time to shine. No, this is about the Palestinian solidarity movement as a whole: What we are and seek to do as a movement, and those who would hijack us for their own purposes.

Yani Haigh and The Trollpen

Jon "Yani" Haigh: Not One for Subtlety

Jon „Yani“ Haigh: Not One for Subtlety

The final signatory on the „nothing to see here“ letter is a Queensland web designer and photographer by the name of Jon „Yani“ Haigh. He is, in Facebook terminology, the „owner“ of the „secret group“ Any Topic NOT Israel (and a regular in a number of related groups), and operates a number of anonymous and aesthetically nondescript websites, including thebestplans.org and peacearchitects.org.

This article, the first in a series dealing with the activities and associates of Jon „Yani“ Haigh, will seek to provide a brief introduction to Haigh himself, and his close associate Kamal Nawash of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism. In future articles, we will look at other figures on the „Free Muslims“ Board, including the inimitable Ray Hanania, and other organisations and agencies with which Haigh and his associates collaborate.

Jon "Yani" Haigh: Jews suck

Jon „Yani“ Haigh: Jews suck

A recurring theme in his posts is that „Jews suck“, and can only redeem themselves by being baptised Christian, and by boycotting Jewish community institutions and events (along the lines of Herskowitz‘ schul picket). Alternatively, repentant Jews may simply send money to peacearchitects.org. Conflict, unsurprisingly, follows Haigh like the CIA follows Julian Assange.

The same can be said of other regulars of the „secret group“ and affiliated groups, such as fellow signatory Kyle O’Laughlin, who divides his time in Any Topic NOT Israel fairly evenly between complaining that African-American pride is welcomed whilst „White Pride“ is – shockingly enough – considered racist and posting links together with his comrade James Linden Rose on how the KKK and other white supremacist groups are in fact Jewish front groups designed to make white people look bad and thwart Ron Paul’s perennial presidential run.

"KKKyle" O'Laughlin Laments That "White Pride" is Considered Racist

„KKKyle“ O’Laughlin Laments That „White Pride“ is Considered Racist

Whilst the groups Any Topic NOT Israel, Our Land, and Free Muslims all have anodyne descriptions about getting to know each other and coming up with plans for peace, etc., and mission statements banning racism and flaming, the groups themselves bear little resemblance to these noble sentiments. In point of fact, the groups operate as a breeding and training ground for trolls, particularly those (like O’Laughlin, Linden Rose, and Haigh) of the white supremacist variety, mixed together with a few of the more vocal Zionist trolls. There, they engage in their preferred versions of racism, and hurl accusations back and forth about collaboration, snitching, and participation in world conspiracies of one sort or another, with little to no moderation in sight. One does have to wonder what the purpose of creating and administering a network of racist trollpens would be.

Greta Berlin, as luck would have it, is a member in several of these groups, though the exact

James Linden Rose on "Rule By Jew"

James Linden Rose on „Rule By Jew“

circumstances of her joining them will likely remain unclear, given the fog of bullshit that surrounds her and her cohorts‘ descriptions of the groups.

 The Company He Keeps

             Yani Haigh, it must be said, is a rather embarrassing person to have vouch for one’s anti-racist credentials. Indeed, were it not for his signature on the „nothing to see here“ letter and the creepily detailed set of mindmaps with which, by his own account, he monitors over 200 Facebook groups „to track troublemakers“, he would be an annoying boor of little consequence; he would merely be someone to avoid sitting in front of at the Gabba when the footie’s on, but would not merit much attention beyond that.

However, over the course of the past week, facts have emerged to place Haigh’s combination of racist boorishness and meticulous surveillance into a broader context. One of the websites Haigh designed and operates, thebestplans.org, is that of an organisation founded by one Kamal Nawash, Esq., Haigh’s employer and fellow member of the groups in question.

Kamal Nawash is a Palestinian-American lawyer, with an LL.M. from American University’s Washington College of Law.

After a stint as counsel for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), in 2003, apparently with the support of hard-right Republican activist Grover Norquist, Nawash stood for election to a seat in the Virginia state Senate. His Senate run was ultimately unsuccessful due to the general climate of scapegoating and criminalisation of Muslim and Arab life in the US.

Some might be led by such an experience to campaign against racism and bigotry. Not Kamal Nawash. Shortly after his electoral defeat, Nawash founded the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terror (and later, its Facebook counterpart, the group „Free Muslims“), an organisation largely dedicated to providing public relations cover to US government repression of the Arab and Muslim community. One view one finds repeated throughout the autobiographies of the Free Muslims Board members is that it is Muslim ideology – and not, say, decades of murderous US and US-sponsored violence against them and their countries – that is at fault for any problems in the Muslim community and the Middle East.

In 2004, the Free Muslims organised a March Against Terror, which was endorsed by a diverse cross-section of people and organisations dedicated to bigotry against Arabs and Muslims (such as Daniel Pipes), to organisations and people dedicated to more general bigotry (RIGHTALK.com), to fellow alibi Muslims such as Zuhdi Jasser of the „American Islamic Forum for Democracy“, to a wide assortment of right-wing organisations that no one had ever heard of and/or offer no proof that they actually exist (such as the „Government of Free Vietnam“, made up of former officials from the US puppet dictatorship who claim to be the legitimate government on account of having been elected fair and square to the position by four US presidents in a row).

Apparently, Nawash’s March Against Terror (and explicitly in support of Bush) caught a few eyes in Washington, because, in 2005, he was rewarded by the Bush White House with an appointment as US envoy to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Around the same time (2003-2007), Nawash began contributing to FrontPagemag.com, the far-right blog run by Stalinist-turned-fascist David Horowitz, who also operates the neo-McCarthyite campus group CampusWatch and the right-wing private intelligence organisation Discover The Networks. Nawash’s articles include titles such as We Are So Sorry for 9-11, French Riots: A Gift from the Open Borders Lobby, and the KCNA-esque Free Muslims Congratulate President George Bush.

This period in the life of Kamal Nawash has been very helpfully chronicled by none other than Daniel Pipes himself. As of 11 September 2003, Nawash earned a strong blast of scorn from the Pipes for suggesting that the Bush administration’s „anti-terrorism“ (i.e., pro-repression) plan raised concerns about „basic Constitutional rights“:

Of particular interest (given that several 9/11 hijackers used a student cover), is Nawash’s objection to the U.S. government tracking foreign students, protesting (nonsensically) that this step would indicate „a willingness to restrict scientific knowledge and scholarship to certain classes of people and to flout, basically, principles of academic freedom.“ Sounds like this man opposes the war on terrorism; in any case, he sure makes for a strange Republican candidate.

Throughout 2003, Pipes had nothing but contempt for Nawash, who was raising objections to the Clinton-era Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which allows the executive branch unilaterally to ban organisations as „terrorist organisations“, and criminalises anyone associated with them, criticising the designation of Palestinian groups disfavoured by the US regime as „terrorist“, and generally raising fairly mild questions about the human rights implications of the „war on terror“. Of US Senator John Warner (R-VA), who had endorsed Nawash’s candidacy for the Virginia state Senate, Pipes wrote: „Virginians might wish to inform their senior senator that he is, to put it mildly, going out on a limb on this one.“

By 2004, however, another tune began to be blown on the Pipes. In noting Nawash’s formation of the Free Muslims group, Pipes writes:

It sounds good and it has been getting lots of good publicity, but given Nawash’s record on terrorism, as established here (his dismissing the concept, his close ties to a person alleged to fund terrorism), I need to be convinced that this leopard has changed his spots.

By 2005, we find Pipes explicitly endorsing the Free Muslims March Against Terror, particularly chuffed that one Khaleel Mohammed „denounc[ed] CAIR“.

Whilst Pipes begins expressing sceptical endorsement (and Pipes has no other kind of endorsement on offer for Arabs and Muslims), by 2006, some within the exceedingly mild-mannered antidiscrimination group CAIR were expressing concern with Nawash and the way in which his remarks were eagerly snapped up by the likes of Daniel Pipes.

In two short years, Kamal Nawash went, in the mind of racist „smearcaster“ Daniel Pipes, from something akin to the 20th hijacker to one of the Good Muslims. A remarkable transformation, to say the least.

Pipes‘ timeline ends in 2008, but one can imagine that he would see no reason to reconsider his assessment in the light of subsequent events. In 2011, Nawash endorsed the neo-McCarthyite hearings chaired by Rep. Peter King on the „radicalisation of American Muslims“, and condemned the Muslim and Arab-American antidiscrimination organisations for their opposition to King’s efforts to further scapegoat and criminalise the Muslim community. When it was revealed this year that the NYPD had, for years, been carrying out a massive, illegal programme of spying on virtually the entire Muslim community of the Five Boroughs, Nawash, along with representatives of other Muslim astroturf groups organised a joint rally in support of the NYPD spying effort with none other than Rep. King himself.

Looking at this trajectory, one might be excused for speculating that Nawash’s conversion from moderate Republican and defender of Muslim and Arab-American rights to Pipes pet was not entirely free of opportunism.

Opportunism, as we will see as this series progresses, is something of an overarching theme.

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UPDATE: In the twelve hours since this post went live, someone temporarily shut down my Facebook account, and there was an attempt to hack this blog. It appears someone might have succeeded in changing my blog password, thus preventing me getting in. All appears well now, but it does seem that someone is not exactly chuffed to bits that this article was published. They will be positively unecstatic about the subsequent parts of this series.

Meanwhile, Ali Abunimah has published his „final word“ on the debacle that gave rise to this series:

Should I have been more explicit about what I saw? Perhaps, but I had my reasons to take a more restrained approach. I had hoped that by sounding the alarm, and signaling that Berlin’s explanations were not credible, Berlin herself would begin to take the issue seriously, and that the new Free Gaza board would do the same. Sadly that did not happen.

The most dispiriting spectacle over the past two weeks was seeing Berlin disseminating, and a small group of people embellishing, outlandish stories intended to distract and shift the blame on to those who were asking for accountability.

Almost every day, I’ve received emails alleging, among other things, that I am a “Zionist agent,” that I’ve been “conned” by Israel into attacking Berlin so that Israel can steal Gaza’s natural gas, that I am engaged in a “vendetta” because Berlin endorsed a book I didn’t like, and so on. A few of these messages came from people I had previously believed to be reasonable and sensible, which added to the disappointment.

Read the full article here.

Bekah Wolf of Mondoweiss has also come out with a piece very germane to the topic of this series, documenting what some of us had been saying since this began: This wasn’t just one accidental tweet. Alas, Greta Berlin has form.

Some people have come to Greta’s defense, accepting her assertion that this was a technical mistake, that she did not support the content of the video, and that those who have criticized her response to the “mistake” are on a witch hunt. I’d like to acknowledge that the Free Gaza Movement was not synonymous with Greta Berlin; some of my good friends and people I deeply respect were leaders of that movement and their work and commitment should in no way be minimized by this.

Setting aside Greta’s woefully inadequate explanations for the tweet (of which there were several), the fact remains: Greta is an active administrator of a Facebook group that is full of unabashedly anti-Semitic rhetoric and has been called out before by activists for it but has never done anything to challenge or stop it. Since the controversy broke, the “Our Land” group has attempted to cover some of its tracks. The fact that Greta remains an active administrator of a Facebook group that accommodates this kind of bigotry raises serious issues about her commitment to building an anti-racist movement committed to justice and equality. Moreover, her unprincipled, vicious andIslamophobic attacks on the Palestinians who have called her to task for her behavior should alarm all of us who are committed to Palestine solidarity work.

The full article can be found here.