Chaos is the new normal: Trump and Kim PDA in Singapore

June 14, 2018

The mainstream media will now try to normalise Trump’s abnormal behaviour by focusing only on the “optics” of this week’s “historic” Singapore meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un, writes political editor Dr Martin Hirst.

TUESDAY 12 JUNE 2018, will go down in history as the day that a U.S. President sat down with a North Korean dictator to attempt a settlement of a 70-year-old conflict that has bedevilled the world.

It is impossible to say, just 48 hours later, if there will be success, or if there will be nuclear annihilation when the peace efforts crash and burn. But what is clear so far is that the Tangerine Fascist met his “Mini-Me” in the North Korean Supreme Leader.

Chaos is the new normal. Both Donald J Trump and Kim Jong-un are highly unpredictable, we cannot know what either of them will do next. Both of them thrive on chaos and a dangerous delusion of authoritarian narcissism.

However, this might not be immediately obvious. That’s because this simple truth has been forgotten in the rush to celebrate, deify and mythologise the few hours that Trump and Kim spent together this week in Singapore.

I spent a few hours watching coverage of the “historic summit” on Fox News.

There was wall-to-wall gloating and waves of “I told you so” and “fake news media were wrong about him” smarm as the Fox presenters lined up to kick the non-reverential American news media and bow down before Trump.

It was sickening. But, to be fair, the coverage was not much better on the ABC.

What Fox and the ABC shared was an overwhelming desire to normalise Trump’s self-aggrandising and far from normal behaviour.

The “optics” and the “atmospherics” of Singapore were endlessly replayed because there was very little else to actually report right up until Trump’s extraordinary news conference at the end of the day.

It was extraordinary, but unless you watched it, you are unlikely to get the full weirdness of it. It lasted for just over an hour and Trump’s impatience to talk about himself meant that most reporters didn’t even get to finish their questions before Trump talked all over the top of them.

And it was all about Trump.

He lambasted all the previous U.S. administrations who had not been able to handle the North Korea situation. It didn’t matter that Trump’s historical knowledge is negligible, he just kept on repeating the few simple lines he’d managed to practice with his advisors/enablers.

On the whole “peace regime” thing, (former President) Obama couldn’t do it, but Trump could because he’s such a good deal maker. “That’s what I do”, he reminded the assembled journalists — and by extension the entire planet!

Read the rest of this piece at Independent Australia.

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The News Establishment is broken and Michelle Wolf exposes its flaws

May 4, 2018

A comedian made fun of Donald Trump and his inner circle and sections of the liberal U.S. news media wet themselves with anxiety. As political editor Dr Martin Hirst explains, it means the news establishment is losing its grip on reality.

First published on Independent Australia.

YEP. The doyens of the liberal media were upset that a comedian’s monologue might have put Trump’s nose out of joint, or poked fun at his lackeys and enablers.

But, you know, I love it when the backlash suffers a backlash.

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner this year, a comedian – Michelle Wolf – did the usual and customary monologue, in which the incumbent President, those close to him and some of the news media’s high profile “stars” are given a traditional roasting.

The jokes are sometimes a little “off colour”, sometimes not really very funny and nearly always right on target. Occasionally, the comedian oversteps some imaginary line in the sand and ruffles the feathers of America’s media elite.

This year, some members of that exclusive club got their Dolce & Gabbana nickers in one almighty twist.

You see, Michelle Wolf told a couple of fairly lame jokes about Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

This so upset some members of the Fourth Estate that they immediately took to social media to condemn Ms Wolf’s apparent poor taste.

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Among the first to complain on Twitter was the New York Times’ Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman:

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Another prominent female journalist, Mika Brzezinski, weighed in with a tough defence of Huckabee Sanders:

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However, I am not alone in finding it a bit strange that Haberman and Brzezinski – themselves targets of Trump’s insults and personal jibes – rushed to defend the White House in general, and Huckabee Sanders in particular. Trump accused Haberman of being a “third-rate reporter” in the way he’s also attacked many other reporters by name. Even worse, his insults of Brzezinski included dreadful comments about her “bleeding from the face” following a facelift.

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Bombing Syria – to restore “democracy”

April 14, 2018

The bombing campaign and missile attacks on Syria began a few hours ago. Supposedly targeting military sites, there is no word yet on civilian casualties, but its certain there will be plenty. Assad, like most dictators, likes to keep his military bases close to civilian centres and no matter how “smart” Trump’s missiles are, a few will surely miss their targets.

I wrote this before the bombing began, but it is still relevant.

First published on Independent Australia

Neither Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus — long live the Syrian Revolution

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed the world to the edge of a new conflict by threatening a missile attack on Syria. Russia has responded with threats of its own, foreshadowing a new Cold War. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst examines the potential fall-out from the escalating rhetorical duel between rival superpowers.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result (Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0])

THIS WEEK, I was reminded of the life and work of one of my Marxist heroes, Tony Cliff. Cliff was a founding member and leading theorist of the International Socialist Tendency and famously coined the term “state capitalism” to characterise the degraded socialism and despotic regime in the Soviet Union. The politics of Russia have changed, it is now a rampant capitalist oligarchy, but “state capitalism” remains the economic policy of the Putin regime.

Thinking about Tony Cliff also prompted me to note that he would have taken a very firm position on the conflict in Syria and he would have been vehemently opposed to the Trump regime’s threats to rain down ‘nice and new and “smart”‘ missiles on Damascus.

However, Cliff’s opposition to a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime – supposedly in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians in the rebel-held enclave of Houda – would not be based on misguided love for the criminal Assad. Nor would it be based on the mistaken view that Russia is somehow “better” than the United States in terms of the Syria conflict.

(In case you’ve not been paying attention, Russia is committed to propping up the Assad Government while ostensibly fighting Islamic terrorism. In retaliation for Trump’s provocation, Russia threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria.)

Tony Cliff was an International Socialist and, therefore, would not be advocating for taking the side of either of the imperialist powers in their proxy war being fought in Syrian airspace. Understanding Cliff’s background is important here.

Cliff was born Yigael Gluckstein, a stateless Jew from what was then Palestine. He was born in 1917 – coincidentally the first year of the Russian revolution. In his youth, Cliff was a member of the Revolutionary Communist League in Palestine and left for Britain in 1947, effectively exiled for his anti-Zionist political activity.

At the height of the Cold War, when it seemed that the Soviet Union and the United States might actually launch an all-out nuclear strike on each other, the International Socialist Tendency adopted the slogan, ‘Neither Washington, nor Moscow, but international socialism’.

(Image via National Museum of Australia / nma.gov.au)

Today, Tony Cliff would be urging all progressive people to unite behind a similar slogan when it comes to the conflict in Syria. To round out the political message, he would perhaps suggest the following edit:

“Neither, Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus.”

To explain this clearly, a little bit of history is necessary.

The conflict in Syria began with an uprising against Bashar Al-Assad during the ill-fated Arab Spring of 2011. At the heart of the Syrian resistance was a largely secular working class movement which drew strength and inspiration from events in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Syrian revolution grew quickly, and Assad’s response was swift and brutal. He reasoned – as most desperate despots do – that it would be better to destroy large swathes of the nation than see Syria fall into the hands of the rebels.

Assad’s brutality extended to indiscriminate mass murder of civilians through air strikes on some of Syria’s largest cities; the imprisonment and torture (often to death) of his opponents and the deliberate targeting of foreign journalists bravely covering the conflict from behind rebel lines.

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Is Reuters right: Covering Trump is like covering Third World dictators

February 9, 2017

The Reuters news agency says covering Washington DC is now on a par with reporting from dictatorships. Is this the right thing for journalists? Doc Martin reviews the advice being given to reporters facing Donald Trump’s shock doctrine tactics.

IT DIDN’T take long. About ten days. But now it is very clear that the White House is at war with large sections of the American – and, indeed, the global – news media.

Trump incessantly tweets about the “failing” New York Times, this week suggesting it should be sold and its print edition shut down. The White House is also refusing to send Trump “surrogates” to CNN talk shows as a way of bullying the organisation. This tactic seems to be working, CNN has dropped its initial decision not to broadcast Sean Spicer’s press briefings live.

This is a war the news media knew was coming. It’s not like Trump kept his hatred of the New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN secret. He’s been tweeting his bile and outright lies about the media for months now.

Trump’s cultivated hostility to certain sections of the news media – he is very benevolent towards the pro-Trump media – is causing conniptions among executives and editors. It is prompting deep soul-searching and even causing some outlets to reconsider their whole Washington DC news coverage.

Globally-respected journalism academic, Jay Rosen, has told IA that the White House approach to controlling press briefings is

“… as bad as I thought it would be, with ‘the media’ getting blamed for what the White House or Trump screwed up.”

 

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Refugee relocation? “No deal”: Turnbull is a laughing stock at home and abroad

February 3, 2017

I wrote this piece for Independent Australia three days before we heard that Donald Trump had hung up on Malcolm Turnbull, outraged over the “lousy deal” struck by Obama to take refugees from Nauru and Manus Island in exchange for Latin American asylum-seekers in the US.

[Why we would get involved in human trafficking like this is another horror story, for another day. Suffice to say it seems to me to be a revival of the slave trade. Something that decent human beings should condemn as a matter of principle.]

The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) has condemned Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States — unlike our weak PM and his craven cabinet. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports.

Ian Rintoul from the RAC told IA:

Both Labor and Liberal have built their own Mexican wall around Australia; they were guilty of Trump-like policies even before Trump took office.”

Rintoul says the Coalition’s refusal to condemn the ban is even more appalling when you consider the list of global leaders who have voiced their disgust.

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Confessions of a gay, Muslim Trump supporter

January 27, 2017

I have been curious for some time about Trump supporters. We tend to think of them stereotypically as being white, male redneck types, with a few women along for the ride. So, I was a bit surprised to find an openly gay, gun-loving Turkish migrant from a Muslim background who is a loyal and vocal fan of the newly-installed American president.

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Ahmet Demirici has recently graduated with an MA in International Relations and is now looking for work. He is also considering joining the US Army Reserve and says he is unfazed by Vice President Mike Pence’s public statement that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

I have been in touch with Ahmet and he agreed to be interviewed for Independent Australia with the stipulation that he use a pseudonym and is not identified in pictures. He is travelling back to Turkey soon and did not want his sexual identity or political activity to come to the attention of Turkish authorities.

Ahmet told me that his main media sources are the very pro-Trump Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and Fox News. The only non-Trump media he checks out are the Russian network RT, CNN and occasionally Huffington Post.

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Figure 2: Ahmet’s voter ID, he is a registered Republican

IA: Please don’t be offended but I’m really curious. Are you “out” with family & friends? You identify (somewhat) as Muslim, are you religious or observant!

Ahmet: Everyone in my family and friends know, because it’s kind of obvious from my behaviour, but I keep it to myself and remain reserved. So, I’d say I am not publicly out.

I do not engage in most religious demands, like dietary restrictions, prayers, and obviously, sodomy, (kind of out of my control). I just believe in and love God, and hope for salvation through good deeds.

I come from an Islamic background, yes, and my parents and entire family self-identify as Muslim, true. Yet, I’m not one to follow organized religion, especially not one that bans alcohol. So, I’ve been to mosques a few times in my life… but mainly for free food. Turks tend to be pretty secular, that’s one good attribute that sets us apart from the rest.

IA: Lovely, thanks, made me laugh about the sodomy bit.

Ahmet: Yeah, haha. I’d be thrown off a roof in any other Muslim country. Turkey’s a lot more tolerant of sex.

IA: I see from your profile that you were at the Mall for the inauguration and loved Trump’s inaugural speech, can you tell me why?

Ahmet: There were several parts that were met with a roar from the crowd, such as the parts where he said ‘this day is about you’, and ‘this election has transferred power from Washington back to you, the American people’, as well as the part where he promised to ERADICATE Islamic terror from the face of the earth.

These parts sent chills down my spine. You could tell that, having won the national and electoral elections, he meant every word he said. But the part that affected me most was the one that brought tears to my eyes. After quoting the bible, and mentioning that he’d do his best to protect us (he mentioned the military), he stated “we will be protected by God!”. This was just amazing, it was something that had never been said before. It was pure power. The confidence to say such a thing! The audacity! Whether someone believes in a religion or is an atheist, it’s still hard to listen to that phrase without sensing the strength and power of the man who could make such a claim in front of the world. You could tell from his previous speeches that Trump is a dynamic man who is energetic and enthusiastic about making America great, yet now that the elections are far behind us, his words carry much more meaning.

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IA: I can see that you’re still a true believer, I’m curious how you reconcile that with the dissonance in the media over the inaugural numbers and [Trump Advisor] Kellyanne Conway saying that there are ‘alternative facts’.

Ahmet: I’m a believer in the promises that Trump made. Even if he fails, I am confident that he will at least try to appoint a conservative SCOTUS nominee, cut taxes, make peace with Russia, protect our borders and bring back industry to save the working class people, etc etc. seeing CNN’s record, I find it hard to believe their claims, and I’m skeptical of Kellyanne Conway as well. The inaugural numbers should be released by the agency that has them.

IA: How was DeploraBall? I’m sure you had a good time inside, tell me a bit about that and what it was like meeting your heroes and also how you coped with the protestors.

Ahmet: The entry to the Deploraball was perhaps the first time I came in contact with the regressive left, and it was very scary. There was also a lot of media photographing people as they approached the door, and so I hid my face to avoid being recognized in the news (I had only realized that morning that the Deploraball had gained national coverage). I remember looking around me at the people waiting to get in, Asians, a few blacks, lots of older women, and even men in military dress uniforms. I thought it was odd to see so many different people there, after the media made it seem like I was going to some NPI conference.

[IA Note: NPI is Richard Spencer’s white nationalist National Policy Institute.]

The party was fun. The friendliness, the sense of accomplishment and achievement, the speeches and such, everything had a message of hope. There were lots of celebrities there. James O’Keefe agreed to take a photo with me, shook my hand and asked me my name and how I was. I was honoured that he’d spend that time with me. I think he’s a man who deserves being seen as a hero by both right and left, after all of his hard work.

[IA Note: James O’Keefe is a notorious Alt-Right figure behind the Project Veritas group which makes misleading pro-Trump propaganda. He was recently accused of paying people to join anti-Trump protests as part of an ongoing sting operation.]

I was really upset later on once I found out that the riots outside had escalated to violence.

Read the rest of this interview at Independent Australia.

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News from #Trumpistan: who can we trust?

January 27, 2017

LAST WEEK, I reviewed the coverage of #WatersportsGate and the supposed dossier on Trump compiled by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele. I ended by suggesting that it will be hard to filter media coverage of Trump’s presidency because of confusion around what we mean by “fake news”, and because Trump and his associates see no moral boundaries that prevent them from flat out lying.

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If the lie is in danger of being exposed, then don’t admit — just double the efforts at covering your tracks and, when necessary and whenever possible, just keep on lying.

It is clear that this will be the modus operandi of the 45th President and his entourage of bankers, wankers and general ne’er-do-good followers, who are now going to infest the “swamp” in Washington DC.

If you’re keen to follow the twists and turns of the Trump presidency and to see the most reliable news about the goings-on in #Trumpistan, then take note of the following guide to news sources.

I’ve listed a number of pro-Trump sources here too, including the most notorious of them because, while their coverage is likely to be wildly inaccurate at times, they provide some useful clues to the thinking and strategy development in the Trumpian hive mind.

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Mainstream sources — compromised from the start

If you’re a regular reader to IA then you probably have a well-developed scepticism when it comes to the mainstream news media (MSM). There are several good reasons why you should maintain this sceptical approach to MSM coverage of Donald Trump in office.

When it comes to the Australian news media, the two major outlets – Fairfax and News Limited – are compromised, but for different reasons.

Fairfax newspapers and websites are so understaffed and under resourced that they cannot afford much, if any, original coverage of the U.S. any more. We still get the occasional piece by veteran foreign correspondent Paul McGeough, but let’s be honest: his best days are behind him and he will struggle to keep up with the intricacy and detail of American political news even if he were to be full-time in DC. McGeough travels the globe for Fairfax and he won’t have the access to Washington insiders that other media have. So what, if anything, is Fairfax planning to do about this?

It seems that the cheap and cheerful fix for Fairfax is going to be buy-ins from The Washington Post and The New York Times (and maybe a few others). That’s OK, as far as it goes, but it means that the problems inherent in these two solid stalwarts of American journalism will be imported, unfiltered, into the Fairfax coverage.

Why is this a problem? Well, there’s generally a problem (or several) with the way that the American establishment media is going to cover the Trump White House and administration.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia