Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Iran
Persian Gulf

Trump sends more troops to Persian Gulf

In response to the recent escalation in Iraq, President Trump has ordered thousands more US troops to neighboring Kuwait—and hudreds more Marines into Iraq itself. The US and Iran are playing a geo-strategic game for control of Iraq, and the greater region. Both sides are treating the Iraqi people as pawns. As long as ISIS and Sunni jihadists remain a threat, Washington and Tehran can only push things so far. But things could still escalate toward US war with Iran, even if neither side is seeking that outcome. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Syria
Kurdish refugees

‘Ceasefire’ or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

Syria
Rojava

Turkey prepares ‘humanitarian’ genocide of Kurds

Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)

South Asia
Gandhi

Podcast: against Narendra Modi’s Gandhi-exploitation

Amid moves toward mass detention of Muslims in Kashmir and Assam, a growing atmosphere of terror, and persecution of government critcs, India’s arch-reactionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi cynically places an op-ed in the New York Times extolling Mohandas Gandhi on his 150th birthday. In Episode 40 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls this out as Orwellian propaganda, and documents the historical reality: Modi is not the inheritor of the tradition of Gandhi, but that of his assassin. Those who assert that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has fascist roots are factually correct. Progressives in recent years have been rethinking the sanctification of Gandhi, and that is one thing. But Modi should not be allowed to get away with wrapping himself in the legacy of a man who was the antithesis of everything he represents. And US political figures like Tulsi Gabbard who pretend to be progressives while embracing the fascistic Modi must be exposed and repudiated. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.. (Photo via Biography.com)

Iran

Orwellian ironies of US Persian Gulf war moves

Amid alarmingly sketchy accounts of Iranian attacks on Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, Trump has dispacthed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf. An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was also hit by drones, according to the kingdom’s energy ministry. Meanwhile, Iran-backed war crimes and “sectarian cleansing” in Syria and Iraq are safely invisible to the outside world. Well, oil matters; people do not. We already knew that. But adding to the Orwellian nature of it all—the US and Iran are on the same side in Syria and Iraq. De facto in the former (where the US has tilted to Assad, rhetoric notwithstanding), de jure in the latter (where Washington and Tehran alike openly back the Baghdad regime). Let’s hope that Trump’s mutuality of interest with the ayatollahs (however sinister) will compel both sides to retreat from the brink before they blunder into total disaster. As always, US war moves put the civil opposition in Iran in a more difficult position, making it easier for the regime to paint them as pawns of Washington. Any anti-war position must be clear on solidarity with the people of Iran, including in their democracy struggle—emphatically not with the regime. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Planet Watch

Podcast: paradoxes of anarchism and nationalism

In Episode 32 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads from George Orwell’s 1945 essay “Notes on Naitonalsim,” and explains why despite his anarchist politics he is willing to march under the Mexican flag but not “Old Glory,” under the Palestinian flag but not the Israeli, under the Tibetan flag but not that of the People’s Republic of China—and under the Free Syrian flag but not that of the Assad dictatorship. The Free Syrian flag flown by the rebels and opposition is the original flag of an independent Syria, and now represents the struggle to free the country from a one-family dynastic dictatorship massively propped up by foreign powers. Weinberg especially calls out the depraved Max Blumenthal for purveying a version of events in Syria starkly at odds with reality. Weinberg invites listeners to join the Syria Solidarity NYC contingent at New Yorkl’s May Day march, gathering 5 PM at the Sixth Ave. entrance to Central Park. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: SHAML)

Palestine

Escalation in Gaza; Orwell in Golan

Amid a new round of Israeli air-strikes on Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Donald Trump in Washington for the signing of a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. At the joint press conference, Trump said, "We will confront the poison of anti-Semitism." We hope it is unnecessary to point out the perversity of Trump exploiting the threat of anti-Semitism to justify US recognition of an illegal Israeli annexation of Syrian territory. (Image: Ma'an)

Watching the Shadows
Verizon

Podcast: fascism and the digital dystopia II

In Episode 25 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg protests that he has now been deprived of phone and Internet access by Verizon for more than two months, and discusses the greater social implications of this dilemma. Donald Trump, who is a fascist by any reasonable definition, has now shut down the federal government and is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to build his border wall. Lack of other net access at this critical moment has forced Weinberg to use a cell phone in order to have any voice as a writer and activist—while cellular technology is itself inherently abetting the descent into fascism. Not only does it create a totalizing propaganda environment, but it is degrading our attention spans, literacy and critical thinking skills. It also creates a totalizing surveillance environment that can ultimately be exploited by government as well as private interests. But we accept it in the name of "convenience" and the illusion of consumer "choice," and few even recognize technological "progress" (note: propaganda word) as something that needs to be resisted. This emerging dystopia combines the worst aspects of George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: we are complicit in the extinguishing of our own freedom because we have been conditioned. Weinberg calls for practical action to slow (at least) the totalizing aspect of this dystopia: keeping alive space for the print world and the meat world, and demanding that Verizon and other service providers maintain landline infrastructure. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)

North America
neo-Nazis

Podcast: looming fascism and the digital dystopia

In Episode 21 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants in anguish about how he has been forced by market and technological forces beyond his control into the same matrix of digital media that is fast eroding the very concept of truth and lubricating the consolidation of a fascist order in the United States and the world. In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Weinberg documents Trump's complicity and virtual green-lighting of the attack, and calls out his rote condemnation as rank hypocrisy. From the wave of hate unleashed immediately upon his inauguration through the "false flag" theory he floated about the MAGA-bomber, Trump has played to anti-Semitism in barely veiled terms. The doublethink that now lets him get away with his blatantly disingenuous disavowal of the massacre is related to the post-truth environment fundamentally inherent to digital media. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Germ)

Planet Watch

Podcast: The Abolition of (Hu)man(ity)

In Episode Six of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads and discusses selections from CS Lewis' classic work The Abolition of Man, and explores its relevance in light of the contemporary dilemmas posed by biotech and artificial intelligence. Conservative Christian moralist Lewis paradoxically developed a quasi-anarchist critique of technological society, with ideas closely mirroring those of his contemporary George Orwell—despite the fact that the two were on opposite sides of the political divide. But Lewis went beyond even Orwell's dark vision in foreseeing an actual end to humanity itself, as it has been understood for millennia, and its replacement by a conditioned post-humanity stripped of all dignity and reason. Recent technological "advances" have made this possible more literally and completely than Lewis could have imagined. Listen on SoundCloud. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)

East Asia

Xi proves: capitalism, totalitarianism no contradiction

To absolutely nobody's surprise, China's National People's Congress overwhelmingly approved numerous amendments to the country's Constitution, eliminating presidential term limits and effectively enshrining Xi Jinping as the new "paramount leader." But the inevitable invocation of Mao in this context is misleading. As part of the same restructuring now being rubber-stamped by the NPC come further market liberalization and "supply-side" economic reforms. This is economic "neoliberalism" under a system that is completely illiberal where political freedoms and pluralism are concerned. (Photo: chinaworker.info)