Aesop

Inbound nephews and nieces of Joe Biden: A return to killing fields

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s as good a moment to laugh at or mourn for the Americans and verify this utterance four years down the line in 2024.

For men like me, it’s a moment of chuckle since the US media is having an orgasm on Good Old Joe and his team even though Georgia, Wisconscin, Arizona and Nevada and 79 critical electoral votes are being challenged.

But then the US media, in the presidential campaign, never raised the little matter of “war and peace” while pitching for Joe Biden and now wouldn’t like the Americans to peek at the dossier of his inbound nieces and nephews.

So, we have Tony Blinken as Secretary of the State who was disappointed that the United States didn’t apply enough force in Syria and advocated that Saudi Arabia be sided with in their bombings in Yemen. He had chortled along with Biden for military action in Libya. Those polite call him Biden’s “alter ego.” Those blunt prefer the phrase of “war-mongering psycho.”

Somehow, this essential on the man misses the US media completely as they harp on his experience, having been a deputy both in the offices of the National Security Advisor (2013-2015) and Secretary of State (2015-2017).

This once aspiring film producer couldn’t have found a better script than his own journey: Jewish parents, father who dominated the world of venture capital, mother a patron of arts, a stepfather who survived the holocaust and became one of the most influential lawyer on the global stage.

Blinken’s access in the ante-chambers of White House was visible as back as on May 1, 2011, peering behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton while the Operation Abbottabad against Osama bin Laden was on ( Blinken in red circle in image below).

Then you have Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, who once wrote to her boss Hillary Clinton that “Al Qaeda is on our side” in Syria. He also was a key player in hyping up the fake allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. He too is all for “American exceptionalism” which is America-in-the-palm-of-military-industrial-complex-again in the post-Trump world.

Then there are nieces. Michele Flournoy who is most likely to be the Secretary of Defense. Janet Yellen, treasury secretary, who is an inflation hawk, unlikely to support large spending on social welfare, and generally means that the rigged US financial system, a private monetary system, is ruling the roost again.

If still unconvinced, they say, follow the money and truth would reveal itself to you.

The two most-common link between most of these nephews and nieces is CNAS (Centre for New American Security) and CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies)—the 2nd and 6th highest recipient of US government and defense-contractor funding.

Who are the top donors to CNAS? Northrop, Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and the Department of Defense. Now Michele Flournoy is co-founder of CNAS. One of her well-documented sleight of hand was in getting the UAE to pay CNAS $250,000 to draft just a report that it must buy American drones. These pilotless birds, US-made, have never stopped ending up in Gulf theocracies, never mind their human rights record or brutal bombings in neighbourhood such as Yemen.

Tony Blinken has been with CSIS, Jake Sullivan with Macro Advisory Partners, run by British spy chiefs, not to say with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, funded by 10 military agencies and defence contractors. Watch out for the names of Avril Haines (top contender for CIA director) and Kathleen Hicks (CSIS) in case their names pop up in your New York Times of Washington Post tomorrow morning.

There is this moral from Aesop’s fable: “A man is known by the company he keeps.” To me, it means the return of GIs boots in the far-flung corners of the world. The US media would never mention that this set cost the United States humiliating defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as in Vietnam. Some three million service members spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan for no gain in the last 19 years. Some $6 trillion dollars of the taxpayers have gone down the drain. Some 515,000 people have been killed, including 260,000 civilians.

So the sacred cow of foreign policy and the golden calves of defence establishment would again be venerated. Those who found Donald Trump an evil incarnate in the last four years, a Hitler reborn, would sing peace hymns in the background to genocides. Meanwhile, you could carry on with your clowns in NYT and Washington Post.

 

 

State and Indian media: The gloves are off; Where are the arbiters?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I am in the middle of writing a book on World History where I show strands where the reality is vastly different to the narrative we have been fed through newspapers and academia. My compass is big, covers all continents, and this endeavour would take up my four years by a modest estimate.

One of the problems I am confronted with is references. Most books I pick have references which appear untrue. For instance, Pyarelal Nayyar, the personal secretary of Mahatma Gandhi mentions an incident from Second Boer War (1899-1902), quoting Natal Mercury where the date is before the event happened. It’s not typo, there are several such instances.

We are not talking of biases here. That is given in most cases. You pick facts and incidents to your liking. My issue is with “creating” those facts and incidents. People in social media, newspapers, TV channels are doing it all the time. These “fakes” are repeated, read or seen by millions and shape people’s opinions—and actions.

This is the background in which I want the present issue of journalists in India being hauled up be seen. Two prominent names, Sudhir Chaudhary and Arnab Goswami, are such. The are perceived to speak the Centre’s line and it has put them in crosshairs of opposition states. In Himachal Pradesh, 14 FIRs have been filed against five reporters. This is likewise in UP, Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan and in many other states. Indian Express is moving heavens on one of their reporters facing action for what Delhi Police believes to be “fake news” on Tablighi Jamaat’s head, Maulana Saad. Is media’s freedom a thing of the past?

There are no clear-cut answers and there would never be. None of us can expound an opinion and say: Yes, that’s it. How can journalism survive if State is the Big Brother watching them all the time? How would State function if media is like an ass in a pottery shop, to borrow a metaphor from Aesop’s fables.

None of us would deny that State is prejudiced; and media is biased. Or that we don’t live in the world of corporate media. Power and money, the two essential evils, are working all the time to grow bigger today than they were yesterday. It could only be at the cost of citizenry, the sheep to be sheared, Where are the arbiters in this toxic, noxious air?

There could be many arbiters but let’s begin with judiciary which has the final word. What do they go by with? Our Constitution doesn’t provide freedom to press as an enshrined Article. Most of it is presumed under Article 19 (1-a). This is the Right to Freedom of speech and expression to individuals. This is Liberty, the root of democracy.  Ideally, media shouldn’t be interpreted from this prism. Unlike individuals, media is a “watchdog” for public interest which gives them privileged access to men and matters.

Yes, there is Press Council Act of 1978. It’s to ensure freedom of press as well as pull up media if untruthful. In essence Press Council is just a talk shop. Most members are hand-picked. Editors’ Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are no better. Their credibility is zilch. In essence, it’s a Big Boys Club who keep public interest out of their rounds of drinks.

Ombudsman, a neutral voice of credibility, was once deemed an important self-regulatory organ, to keep the content truthful. It has been a joke on us for last two decades if not more.

Then there are unseen arbiters, we the readers, the citizens, the suckers. Both the State and media would prefer us to be blindfolded, to be goaded into alleys of their own mischiefs. We don’t get the truth from either; yet we tilt one way or the other. An irony: Those who can’t do without us, have little of our interest on their minds.

The time has come to draw a line in the sand. Ambiguity must give way to well-defined laws. Journalists must follow the time-tested dictums: Present both sides of story; name your source who wish to be quoted or don’t use it at all. I agree it’s not possible in political reporting but don’t let a good story come in the way of a patient’s good who is on a ventilator.

I also know it’s easier said than done: your editors are mostly handpicked by your employers to serve their business or political agenda. That “little journo” on the desk, the sub-editor, also is prone to rejig your story in a manner which could induce a saucy headline and cause you embarrassment next morning. I doubt if there is any reporter who hasn’t muttered a swear to an editor/sub-editor on the final output.

State, on their part, must not allow mischief by press. But it also shouldn’t use the long arm of law to settle personal scores or come down on an investigative story. Mostly, States should limit itself to denying a news or offering a clarification. Or be a mouthful like Trump is to despicable US media. But state action or imprisonment isn’t on. Individuals could evoke defamation suit: Like Sonia Gandhi should have done against Arnab Goswami. It was shameful to involve a state machinery for her personal score.

Press is the breath of democracy: All you need is a strong filter. Putting a lid would suffocate it to death.