Christianity: designed to enslave mankind

Jesus gun

THREE years ago, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron declared that the UK is a Christian country “and we should not be afraid to say so.”

He called for a revival of traditional Christian values to counter Britain’s “moral collapse”.

Then last December his successor as Prime Minister, Theresa May called on the nation to take pride in British Christianity.

“Let us take pride in our Christian heritage,” said vicar’s daughter Mrs May in her Christmas message.

Both were re-treading the same political road of former Tory Prime Minister John Major and his ill-fated “Return to Victorian values” of 20 years earlier?

All three seem stuck in a time warp, where they appear out of touch with 21st century reality.

In the 2011 census 59% of residents of England and Wales described themselves as Christian when asked “What is your religion?”

This was down from 72% in 2001… a fall of 13 percentage points in 10 years.

In Scotland, the figure was 54%, down from 65%.

Although the total number of Britons who described themselves as Christian had fallen by more than six million since 2001, the fact Christianity still constitutes a majority is “really, really significant”, said Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod, the highest governing body of the Church of England.

But, Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, says the census question is “flawed” because it assumes the respondent has a religion in the first place.

The 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey reported that 48% of respondents claimed they did not belong to any religion.

The proportion of people who described themselves as belonging to the Church of England was just 20%, down from 40% in 1983.

“Any politician or government that tried to make Christianity and Christian beliefs the foundation of British values or social morality would be building on seriously unstable foundations,” says Mr Copson.

And there lies the nub of it.

For all Christians their holy book the Bible is their foundation.

Most Christians believe the Bible is a direct communication from God to man.

But in reality the Bible is a man-made collection of mythology.

It was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God.

The Bible, as we know it, was voted to be the word of God by a group of poorly educated men during the 4th century.

Constantine the Great (274-337 AD), who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire.

Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.

Emperor Constantine offered the various leaders money to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word of God. The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the “word of God” into existence thereby dismissing any books which created doubt about Jesus being the divine son of God.

They didn’t finish editing the holy scriptures until the Council of Trent when the Catholic Church pronounced the canon closed.

So the real approving editor of the Bible was not God but Constantine.

And thus a Roman Emperor had created a way to use religion to enslave millions of people.

So where does that leave Christianity today?

Most Christians don’t know why they should believe that the Bible is God’s word.

That’s because they’ve been socially and psychologically engineered to assume that it’s a given fact, just like the sky is blue and the grass is green.

That’s why in their normal line of thinking they would never question why they should believe that the Bible is God’s word.

One of the main reasons they don’t question the Bible’s divine inspiration upon their conversion into Christianity is due to the incredible promise of eternal life which they are offered for free just for believing.

Their left brain never stops to analyse what they’ve been preached.

Preachers and evangelists often use sentiment, emotion and touching stories to convert people, rather than reason.

What followers of Christian fundamentalists don’t know and never realize is: nowhere in the Bible does it claim that all 66 books are God’s word or infallible.

The doctrine of Biblical inspiration and infallibility was made up by Christian fundamentalists to create an artificial foundation for their faith.

In fact, many of the authors of the Bible had no idea that their books would be canonized into an “infallible word of God” book.

Even in Paul’s epistles, he made it clear that he was writing personal letters, not dictating infallible words from God.

The doctrine of Biblical infallibility was not a central tenet of Christianity until early in the 20th century when the theory of evolution began to be taught as fact in classrooms.

It was then that the Christians countered with this doctrine.

Not only did it protect Christian tenets from the danger of Darwinist teachings, but it served other purposes as well.

Without the doctrine that the Bible is infallible and that every word of it is of God, it would put question marks on every verse.

Anyone could then pick and choose which parts of it they wanted to be God’s word and which they didn’t, and that would greatly undermine the authority of it.

So this doctrine is necessary to keep the religion intact.

Otherwise, Christians themselves would not be able to feel secure and confident that every verse in the Bible could be trusted.

Now, compare the man-made origins of Christianity and its various dogmas to the simplicity of Deism.

Deism is belief in God based only on reason and the creation itself. It makes no claim to false revelations as all of the “revealed” religions do.

To Deists, proof of the Designer is in the design.

On May 12, 1797 while living in France famous Deist Tom Paine wrote the following letter to a Christian friend who was trying to convert Paine to Christianity: “By what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled.

“It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Muslims calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so.

“The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God.

“This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law. “The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all.

“I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave. “It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so.

“The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No? “Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’t is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor.

“And how do you know Moses was not an impostor? “Yet, it is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.

“That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’ “That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it.

“All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes. “What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it.

The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico.

“This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born 400 years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case. “In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all.

“In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit.

“As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible. “My disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it,” he concluded.

Today, Tom Paine’s views are supported by many highly educated people.

American biblical scholar Joseph Atwill claims the story of Jesus Christ was invented as a system of mind control to enslave those threatening the Roman Empire.

Mr Atwill, who is the author of the book Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, asserts that Christianity did not begin as a religion, but was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify Roman subjects.

His theory is that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and they entirely fabricated the story of Jesus Christ.

Mr Atwill says: “Christianity may be considered a religion, but it was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believed God decreed their slavery.”

Mr Atwill says that acts of insurrection by Jewish sects, who were awaiting the arrival of a so-called ‘warrior Messiah’ in Palestine, were a perpetual problem for the Roman Empire and that after the Empire had exhausted all traditional means of dealing with the problem they resorted to psychological warfare.

“They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system,” he says.

“That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented.

“Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.

“Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history.

“To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East,” he observes.

An interesting observation, when one considers that Theresa May’s 2017 Christmas message of: “Let us take pride in our Christian heritage” was made as she paid tribute the UK’s armed forces!

 

So Who is Frying the BBC Fish?

THERE’S a very strange drama unfolding at the BBC.

It’s a slow burning political thriller in which the final episode has yet to be written.

The latest trailer for this drama was unveiled on Sunday evening when David Cameron’s Conservative government came under unprecedented attack at the BAFTA TV awards, where the BBC swept the board with double wins for the Mark Rylance drama Wolf Hall.

The tone for the evening was set by Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky, who was given a standing ovation by the audience of TV stars and industry executives when he accused the government of trying to “eviscerate” the BBC and Channel 4.

Mr Kosminsky said: “In the week in which our secretary of state John Whittingdale described the disappearance of the BBC as a tempting prospect, I’d like to say a few words in defence of that organisation.

“It’s not their BBC, it’s your BBC. In many ways, the BBC and Channel 4, which they are also attempting to eviscerate, are the envy of the world and we should stand up and fight for it, not let it go by default.

“If we don’t, blink and it will be gone. No more Wolf Halls, no more ground-breaking Dispatches [on Channel 4], just a broadcasting landscape where the only determinate of whether it gets made is whether it lines the pockets of shareholders.

“This is really scary stuff, folks, and not something I thought I would see in my lifetime in this country. All of this is under threat right now, make no mistake. It’s time to stand up and say no to this dangerous nonsense.”

Government proposals to appoint a majority of members on a new BBC board threatened its independence, Mr Kosminsky said, and would turn it into a state broadcaster “a bit like … those bastions of democracy Russia and North Korea”.

He said the government wanted to tell the BBC what programmes to make and when to schedule them.

Mr Rylance later joined in the criticism, saying: “Woe to any government or corporation that tries to get between the British people and their love of a good joke, a true story, a good song, a fact or fiction, good sports commentating, newscasters who can hold themselves together as they tell stories about terrible tragedies in Paris, people who can help you bake cakes.

“We’re a nation of storytellers, were admired around the world for it. Tonight I was struck with the quality of storytelling in the country and I agree with Peter, times are hard.”

Ian Hislop and Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood were among other stars to speak out on behalf of the BBC.

Mr Hislop, accepting the comedy and comedy entertainment award for BBC1’s Have I Got News For You, said: “The BBC have allowed Have I Got News For You to be rude about governments … and rude about the BBC, which is a privilege you are given with public service broadcasting and not on state television.

“I have an idea that John Whittingdale’s ideal show would be the prime minister as host [of Have I Got News For You], the defence secretary and the home secretary as the two team captains.

“It is a ludicrous idea what he is proposing. But I think that like most of the really terrible ideas that this government has come up with, in about three weeks they will decide that they didn’t mean it and they will row back,” he added.

Revel Horwood spoke out after Strictly Come Dancing, which has been criticised by Mr Whittingdale and may be forced out of its primetime slot, beat ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent to the best entertainment prize.

“If they are in charge of anything entertainment-wise, it would be a complete disaster; we don’t want them in charge of any decisions, creatively,” he said.

“The scheduling is created around our audience. It’s a family entertainment show. You’d never schedule it at 1am would you? That would be ridiculous. I would hate to see it move.”

Without giving away too much of the plot of this steamy drama too early, the gnashing of teeth at the BAFTA awards does in some way explain why the BBC’s political reporting has been so biased in favour of the Conservatives.

Blackmail and bullying by the government has taken its toll on a Corporation still reeling from the Jimmy Savile and paedophile revelations about some of its presenters.

And it is there for all to see in red and blue.

Soon after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party last September, the BBC was accused of an ‘anti Corbyn bias’ and challenged with a 61,000 strong petition demanding that they stop using the prefix ‘left-wing’ when reporting on events related to his leadership.

Even before he won a stunning 59.5% of the vote, ensuring the largest democratic mandate of any Labour leader in modern history, Mr Corbyn was subject to what a source from his leadership campaign described as a ‘complete hatchet job’.

Former BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, even wrote to his colleagues over concerns about the Corporation’s bias against Mr Corbyn, and Channel 4’s Michael Crick issued a stunning rebuke to broadcasters referring to non-left MPs as ‘moderates’.

Despite these protestations the BBC’s agenda did not change.

In January this year, Mr Corbyn’s so-called ‘revenge reshuffle’ led to the revelation, that BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Daily Politics presenter Andrew Neil and so-called ‘moderate’ Labour MP Stephen Doughty planned his live resignation on their programme hours before it began.

Despite the fact that a live on-air resignation could be considered dramatic broadcasting, it beggars belief how it is the job of the BBC’s political editor to be of service to an evidently resentful shadow cabinet member intent on weakening the Labour leadership.

A few hours later the producer of the programme bizarrely admitted in a BBC blog that Neil, Kuenssberg and himself manipulated the news to negatively impact Mr Corbyn during Prime Minister’s Questions that week.

In the blog, the producer – Andrew Alexander – admitted that the BBC team were not just reporting the day’s news but trying to influence it:

“We knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact,” he wrote.

“We took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.”

As a fellow journalist of some 30 years standing, I found this admission shocking, but also symptomatic of degraded and biased journalism.

What we are told as ‘fact’ is now a fiction hi-jacked by big business ownership of our media.

These are the same big businesses which support a Conservative government and in turn influence draconian monetarist and capitalist policy at every turn.

Almost 78 per cent of our press and broadcast media is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

The nature of media organisation is set by its owner.

Newspapers and broadcasters exercise power and influence in many ways. And one of their most powerful forms of influence is the ability to effectively set the political agenda for the other media and more widely, in parliament, the workplace, the home and the pub.

So-called editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

And now their sights are firmly set on a privatised BBC.

It seems it is ripe for the taking.

BBC News forms a major department of the Corporation, and for years has received complaints of bias in favour of the Conservative Establishment.

The commentator Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman pointed out the right-wing backgrounds of many BBC presenters and journalists.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones is also of the opinion that the BBC is biased towards the right, owing to numerous key posts being filled by Conservatives.

A study by Cardiff University academics, funded by the BBC Trust, and published in August 2013, examined the BBC’s coverage of a broad range of issues.

One of the findings was the dominance of party political sources.

In coverage of immigration, the EU and religion, these accounted for 49.4% of all source appearances in 2007 and 54.8% in 2012.

The data also showed that the Conservative Party received significantly more airtime than the Labour Party.

In 2012 Conservative leader David Cameron outnumbered Labour leader Ed Miliband in appearances by a factor of nearly four to one (53 to 15), while Conservative cabinet members and ministers outnumbered their Labour counterparts by more than four to one (67 to 15).

Former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, has criticised the BBC as part of a “Westminster conspiracy” to maintain the British political system.

And so the drama unfolds…

Matters moved up a gear this past week when a 38 Degrees petition to sack Ms Kuenssberg, following her outlandishly politically biased reporting on the 5 May elections, was signed by more than 35,000 people in less than five days.

The fact that a very small number of people on social media used abusive and sexist language in calling for the BBC’s first female political editor to go, seemed at first like flotsam on the political wind.

Then suddenly, on Tuesday, 38 Degrees executive director David Babbs announced that the petition had been taken down with the agreement of the person who had posted it.

He said: “I am really concerned that a petition hosted on the 38 Degrees website has been hijacked, and used as a focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter.

“That is totally unacceptable and, with the agreement of the petition starter, we’ve taken the petition down to prevent it being used in this way. There is no place in the 38 Degrees family for sexism or any form of discrimination or hate speech.”

Having both signed and endorsed the petition myself, I was taken aback by this.

I had read many of the comments on the 38 Degrees site, and of the scores of comments I read through, only one was sexist. That one was quite unpleasant, but totally unrepresentative.

It seems astonishing that a tiny and unrepresentative number of people can get a petition scrapped which had been signed by many thousands of genuine people.

The only people who claim to have seen this widespread sexism is 38 Degrees, who have not produced any public evidence of this.

Laura Kuenssberg is the most openly biased journalist I have witnessed on the BBC over the past three decades.

But she is by no means alone. Of course by targeting her we are only drawing attention to a particularly egregious symptom of the terrible disease of a rampantly right wing corporate and state media.

Nobody believes that removing her would solve the problem.

Nobody seriously believes the BBC actually would remove her even if the petition reached a million. It is purely a campaigning tool to highlight the injustice of media control, access and bias.

But behind all of this Game of Thrones is one man, billionaire media mogul and the man behind Sky TV, The Sun newspaper and The Times.

His name rings like that of Rasputin or Goebbels: Rupert Murdoch.

He is the man credited with winning the Conservative Party three General Elections in 1983, 1987 and 1992, and credited with the ascendancy of Tony Blair.

After flirting with Blair’s New Labour for a decade, Murdoch found a comfier bed fellow in David Cameron and became king maker again in 2010 and 2015.

Last June he gave David Cameron’s new Conservative Cabinet his personal stamp of approval, opining that the Prime Minister’s picks for his inner circle were “surprisingly good”.

Four years after the phone hacking scandal, which rocked the media and political establishment and saw the closure of Murdoch’s News of the World, the kingmaker is back at the centre of power in the UK.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of ad group WPP, said of the media mogul: “He certainly hasn’t been diminished. If anything, he has more vim and vigour than ever. He is just as powerful a figure and in the future will be even more so.”

At the start of 2015, the head of the company that controls more than a third of British newspaper assets, as well as 40% of Sky, still faced the possibility of corporate charges on both sides of the Atlantic, while many of his employees faced criminal charges for paying public officials.

While nine journalists were convicted over hacking, none where convicted over corrupt payments to public officials, and Murdoch has seen corporate charges dropped on both sides of the Atlantic.

After splitting the two arms of his media empire into a film/television and publishing businesses, ostensibly to prevent the phone hacking scandal tarnishing his more lucrative 21st Century Fox franchise, Murdoch has watched as both companies have grown in value on the stock exchange. He has also elevated both of his sons, Lachlan and James, into the top jobs at each company over the past year.

Even the decision to close the 168-year-old News of the World has resulted in a far cheaper seven-day operation for The Sun, which, though facing an advertising and circulation decline, is still the UK’s biggest selling tabloid.

He may have spent $500million (£336million) on settling hacking claims, closed a national newspaper and lost several of his staff but, after four years, Rupert Murdoch appears to have emerged a winner.

He is rumoured to be considering a returned offer for the whole of Sky he does not own but his interest in Time Warner, the US media giant behind the Harry Potter films and the CNN news network, suggests he may now have far bigger fish to fry.

And the biggest fish on this side of the water is the BBC.

 

British Secret Services ‘Probably’ Murdered Litvinenko

Litvinenko470

A BRITISH judge thinks that Russian president Vladimir Putin may have ordered the killing of FSB turned MI6 agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Judge Robert Owen’s 300 page report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, published last week, alleges that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “probably” ordered his killing.

Yet evidence is now emerging that our own British secret service MI5 are the more likely murderers of the former double agent.

Litvinenko, a former agent of Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, defected to Britain in 2000 and worked for MI6.

In November 2006, the spy died of acute radiation syndrome in a London hospital.

Ever since, his death has been used as political football in UK-Russia diplomacy.

So, after a judicial inquiry held during a period of unprecedented anti-Russian feeling in the UK, finally we have Judge Owen’s verdict.

Interestingly, much of the evidence presented to him was kept private for “security reasons.”

Judge Owen stated: “There can be no doubt that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun (two former KGB agents) in the Pine Bar of London’s luxury Millennium Hotel on 1 November, 2006.”

“I have further concluded that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin,” he added.

Judge Owen has no actual evidence that Putin ordered Litvinenko’s murder. He is simply offering his own personal opinion.

That didn’t stop our right wing press launching into hysterical overdrive when the judgement was announced.

The Daily Mail, not known for restraint, decided there was a “new cold war.”

“Images reveal how Russian spy was poisoned with polonium in London hotel – as bombshell report reveals Putin DID order his assassination,” the Mail claimed.

The paper centred its coverage on Litvinenko’s claims that Putin was a “paedophile.”

The Sun, also couldn’t grasp the meaning of “probably.”

Their headline screamed, “Alexander Litvinenko was murdered because he accused Putin of being a paedo”.

Russia’s government responded angrily to the accusations.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marina Zakharova said: “It is no surprise that the launch of a public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death coincided with the flaring of tensions in Ukraine. The UK authorities created a dangerous precedent where they used their domestic legal system in a politically laden investigation.”

It is an interesting political paradox.

While our government and judiciary only took 10 years to complete their Litvinenko probe, it’s been 26 years since our own agents “probably” murdered Irish civil rights lawyer, Pat Finucane.

It is suspected that former PM Margaret Thatcher “probably” ordered the killing.

Now, why does David Cameron believe that Marina Litvinenko, a Russian, has more right to an investigation into her husband’s murder than UK citizen Geraldine Finucane?

The hypocrisy is shameful.

We pride ourselves on our justice system.

But we have many examples that fairness is selective and can be influenced by the political issues of the day. The Hillsborough Disaster, Cyril Smith and Greville Janner’s paedophile activities, The Lockerbie Disaster, The Guildford Four and The Birmingham Six all bear testament to that.

So let’s look at the Litvinenko case from a less jaundiced position

Litvinenko defected from Russia to Britain after he was sacked from the Russian FSB for unprofessional misconduct.

He became a British citizen and worked for extensively for MI6.

He was a valuable asset to the British owing to the very public allegations he made and they were able to broadcast for smearing Putin and other Russian government officials with corruption claims.

As a former “Kremlin spy”, the propaganda value that our government and its media allies exploited through Litvinenko was considerable.

But then came an even more valuable propaganda opportunity for the British – Litvinenko’s death.

Who is to say that his British handlers did not bump off the Russian “former spy” with their own supply of radioactive polonium?

And given Litvinenko’s personal umbrage with the Russian government for being sacked from the FSB, he could be relied on by the British to give a plausible-sounding death bed statement imputing Putin for his demise.

Litvinenko’s own father Walter Litvinenko now admits he pursued a smear campaign against the Russian government out of grief, but changed his mind after Aleksandr’s widow revealed his son had been working for British intelligence.

“If I knew back then that my son worked for the MI6, I would not speculate about his death. It would be none of my business. Although I am not 100 per cent sure he did work for them,” he said this week.

He added that if it was true and Aleksandr, once a security officer with the Russian special service FSB, had defected to British intelligence, the Russians may have had a right to kill him as a traitor.

“He might as well have been killed by Russian secret services. They had a right to do it because traitors are to be killed,” he said.

He called his son a victim of a grand spy game.

But he doubts that Andrey Lugovoy, who British police named their chief suspect, had a hand in his death or acted as a government agent.

“The FSB wouldn’t send some dumbhead to spill polonium on himself, to leave traces all over my son. It appears that someone left traces of polonium on Lugovoy intentionally. Polonium traces were found at the stadium, on the road and even on a plane. It’s strange to think that Lugovoy would be such an idiot,” he said.

He says he regrets his participation in the smear campaign against Russia in general and Putin in particular.

Andrey Lugovoy, the businessman Scotland Yard accuses of killing the double agent, also spoke about Litvinenko’s father’s change of heart.

“Litvinenko’s father’s comments reflect what I’ve been saying for more than five years – that Britain’s accusations don’t stand up.”

Lugovoy reiterated sentiments that the British secret services had embarked on a slander campaign in an attempt to “discredit Russia.”

Further, he says Litvinenko’s father’s statements have dealt a significant blow to the UK intelligence community, showing how “they have embarrassed themselves.”

He also drew a connection between the death of Litvinenko and the British Intelligence Services.

“Litvinenko died in November 2006. In March-April, I was openly offered cooperation by MI6 and in order to motivate me somehow, I was denied a visa. That was in May 2006. And after I called Litvinenko – I’ve said this multiple times – I was granted a visa all of a sudden. I have always connected these two events,” Lugovoy recalled.

He stressed that prior to May 2006, he had always received British visas without any problems. “They always gave me visas, and did it with great pleasure before May 2006, when I was denied a visa after MI6 tried recruiting me.”

Litvinenko’s younger brother also believes that MI5 probably committed the murder.

Maxim Litvinenko rejects the findings of Judge Owen’s inquiry into his brother’s death, saying that to blame the Kremlin is ‘ridiculous.’

He says the report was an obvious attempt to ‘put pressure on Russia’ and that British Secret Services had more reason to want Litvinenko dead than Putin.

Maxim said: “I don’t believe for a second that the Russian authorities were involved.

“The sentence is a set-up to provide more bad publicity against the Russian government.

“The Russians had no reason to want Alexander dead,” he added.

‘My brother was not a Russian spy, he was more like a policeman.

“He was in the FSB but he worked against organised crime, murders, arms trafficking, stuff like that.

“He did not know any state secrets or go on any special missions. It is the Western media that have called him a spy.”

His relations with Russia were so stable that Alexander planned to return, his brother claimed, because he didn’t have enough work in London.

“He had already started to get in touch with old friends and would have gone back in due course,” he added.

“My father and I are sure that the Russian authorities are not involved. It’s all a set-up to put pressure on the Russian government.”

He claimed that British authorities had not collaborated with Russian investigators on his brother’s case and cast doubt on whether polonium was really the murder weapon saying he believes it could have been planted to frame the Russians.

“I believe he could have been killed by another poison maybe thallium, which killed him slowly and the polonium was planted afterwards,” he claimed.

“We have always asked for his body to be exhumed so that we can verify the presence of polonium in the body but we have been ignored.

“Now after 10 years any trace would have disappeared anyway so we will never know.”

He also claimed that several other deaths, including the suicide of Boris Berezovsky, the dissident who had initially supported Litvinenko financially, and the murder of the owner of a nightclub where traces of polonium were found, could be linked to his brother’s death.

Judge Owen’s inquiry report is also based on forged evidence, said Kovtun, one of the two Russians suspected of poisoning Litvinenko.

“There had been no doubts Judge Robert Owen would arrive at such conclusions. These rely on forged evidence and the open hearings exposed that. There were no doubts that when the proceedings continue behind closed doors, forged evidence will be used again,” he said.

Kovtun described the pieces of evidence presented to the inquiry as “insane and easily refutable.”

“The witness was giving conflicting testimonies all the time. The case is extremely politicized,” he said.

“Yet I’d hoped for the common sense and courage of Judge Owen. May this decision remain on his conscience.”

In Bed With the Devil: David Cameron and Saudi Arabia

beheading

IRAN is mistrusted by the UK and America. North Korea is the world’s bête noir, ruled by a vicious Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. And the barbaric terrorist acts of Isis, (Daesh) constantly shock the world.

But top of this list of evil should be Saudi Arabia – degenerate, malignant, pitiless, powerful and as dangerous as any of those listed above.

Yet strangely this super oil rich state – currently in negotiations to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan – is a close friend to David Cameron and his Conservative government.

Why?

This strange friendship needs to be examined more closely.

As I revealed in my blog last year: https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/jerusalem-to-riyadh-an-axis-of-evil Saudi Arabia is one end of an axis of evil in the Middle East with its clandestine friend in terror, Israel.

Saudi Arabia systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration.

Meanwhile, Western Governments, including the UK, France and the USA bow to its rulers under the smokescreen that they are our most important “friend” in the region.

Yet Saudi Arabia executes one person every two days.

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was set to be beheaded then crucified for taking part in pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring. He was a teenager then. The crucifixion was set aside last October amid world-wide pressure, but the young man still face the prospect of execution or countless years in jail.

Raif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes.

Just three weeks ago as the world celebrated a New Year, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said it has executed 47 so-called “terrorists”, including Shia religious leader Nimr al-Nimr in one day.

The executions led to protests in dozens of countries.

But here in the UK our prime minister was almost silent over the mass executions by the Sunni kingdom.

His Number 10 spokeswoman simply read out a statement, which said: “The Government has set out its position clearly that we’re opposed to the use of the death penalty under any circumstances.”

The Labour Party, under Jeremy Corbyn, was increasingly critical of Britain’s links with Saudi Arabia.

The shadow human rights minister, Andy Slaughter, condemned the relationship and wrote to the justice secretary, Michael Gove, asking him to confirm that discussions of judicial cooperation were continuing with the Saudis and calling for them to “cease immediately”.

“It is not right that the UK should be actively cooperating with a justice system that shows such flagrant disregard for the most basic human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

But, the pernicious Saudi influence is spreading fast and freely.

Late last year, King Salman offered to build 200 mosques in Germany for recently arrived refugees, many of whom are Muslims. He offered no money for resettlement or basic needs, but Wahhabi mosques, the Trojan horses of the secret Saudi crusade which turns Muslim against Muslim, and undermines modernists.

The late Laurent Murawiec, a French neocon, wrote: “The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadres to foot soldiers, from ideologists to cheerleaders.”

Remember that most of the 9/11 killers were Saudi; so was the al-Qaeda hierarchy.

In the 14 years that have followed 9/11, the Saudis have become more aggressive, more determined to win the culture wars.

They pour money into Islamist organisations and operations, promote punishing doctrines that subjugate women and children, and damn liberal values and democracy.

Recently is was revealed that Saudi Arabia and Israel have been giving unquantifiable aid to ISIS in their bigger war against Iran.

For the past yea,r the Saudis have also been pursuing a cruel bombing campaign in Yemen, that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead.

And all the while David Cameron has been aiding and abetting this slaughter.

Yesterday it was revealed that UK sold Saudi Arabia more than £1 billion of bombs in three months.

Government figures show that the UK sold Saudi Arabia £1,066,216,510 of weapons, including bombs and air-to-air missiles, between July and September 2015.

The arms were sold to Saudi at a time when the kingdom was heavily bombing Yemen, where Riyadh is leading an Arab coalition aimed at pushing back perceived Iran-backed Houthi rebels in order to reinstall the exiled government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including nearly 3,000 civilians.

The international body has reported that more than 80 percent of the country’s 24 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of bombing multiple hospitals in its raids, including several clinics supported by the international charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

But Mr Cameron has defended the UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, describing the kingdom as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.

“Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important for our own security,” he said. “They are opponents of Daesh and the extremism and terror it spreads.

“In terms of our arms exports I think we have some of the most stringent controls anywhere in the world and I’ll always make sure they are properly operated.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that the work done by Saudi Arabia is properly targeted and it’s right that we should do that. We’re working with them and others on behalf of the legitimate government of Yemen.”

Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party’s leader at Westminster, said Mr Cameron should admit to British involvement in Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen – where the UK is also providing arms, training and advice.

“Thousands of civilians have been killed in Yemen, including a large number by the Saudi air force and they’ve done that using British-built planes, with pilots who are trained by British instructors, dropping British-made bombs, who are coordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisors,” Mr Robertson said during Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Isn’t it time for the Prime Minister to admit that Britain is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands of civilians lives and he has not sought parliamentary approval to do this?”

Mr Cameron rejected the suggestion that the UK was taking part in the conflict, but admitted that British advisors had a role in Saudi Arabia.

“Just to be absolutely clear about our role: we’re not a member of the Saudi-led coalition, British military personnel are not directly involved in the Saudi-led coalition’s operations, personnel are not  involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations in Yemen or selecting targets and we’re not involved in the Saudi targeting decision making process,” he said.

“But yes – do we provide advice, help and training in order to make sure that countries actually do obey the norms of humanitarian law? Yes we do.”

Meanwhile, international criticism of Saudi Arabia is starting to be heard.

In late December UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said that a “disproportionate” number of attacks of civilians in Yemen had come from the Saudi-led invasion force.

“I have observed with extreme concern the continuation of heavy shelling from the ground and the air in areas with high a concentration of civilians as well as the perpetuation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure – in particular hospitals and schools – by all parties to the conflict, although a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by Coalition Forces,” he said.

Human rights group Amnesty International UK has also accused the Government of ignoring “overwhelming evidence” of civilian targeting by the Saudi Arabian air force.

“Angus Robertson has raised an important point about the UK’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign we’re told involves British advisers actually located in the Saudi ‘control room’,” said Allan Hogarth, the group’s head of Policy and Government Affairs.

“Thousands of Yemeni civilians have already been killed in a barrage of indiscriminate Saudi airstrikes in the country and whatever advice Britain has been giving to the Saudis has apparently done little to prevent this appalling death toll.

“Meanwhile, the UK is selling billions of pounds worth of weapons to the Saudis in the full knowledge of the grave risk that they’ll be used to kill Yemeni civilians.

“Instead of brushing aside Mr Robertson’s questions, the prime minister should immediately suspend export licences for all further UK arms bound for Saudi Arabia and allow a full investigation into allegations of serious breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

In December 2015 Saferworld and Amnesty International accused the British government of breaking international law in its arms sales.

A legal opinion commissioned by the two groups concluded: “Any authorisation by the UK of the transfer of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia… in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end-use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law.”

So why does our ruling establishment acquiesce to the evil that is Saudi Arabia?

We know it is up to no good, but too often evidence is suppressed.

This week, my long time journalist friend Felicity Arbuthnot detailed some of this acquiescence in a detailed expose titled: UK Advisors Working Actively Alongside Bomb Targeters.

She wrote: “According to the Daily Telegraph: “British military advisers are in control rooms assisting the Saudi-led coalition staging bombing raids across Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians, the Saudi Foreign Minister and the Ministry of Defence have confirmed.”

Briefing the Telegraph and other journalists the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said that the UK and other countries in the control centre: ” … are aware of the target lists.”

The “target list” would seem to have included five attacks on schools, disrupting the remaining shreds of normality for 6,500 children. “In some cases the schools were struck more than once, suggesting the strikes were deliberately targeted”, states a report by Amnesty International.

“In October 2015 the Science and Faith School in Beni Hushayash, Sana’a was attacked on four separate occasions within the space of a few weeks. The third strike killed three civilians and wounded more than 10 people.” The only school in the village, it provided education for 1,200 students.

In the village of Hadhran, the Kheir School: “also suffered multiple air strikescausing extensive damage, rendering it unusable.” In the same village two civilian homes and a mosque were bombed, two children were killed, their mother injured, with one man killed and another injured whilst praying in the mosque.

“The director of another school in Hodeidah city, the al-Shaymeh Education Complex for Girls, which catered for some 3,200 students described her horror after the school came under attack twice within a matter of days in August 2015 killing two people. No students were present at the school during the attack, but a man and woman were killed.

“I felt that humanity has ended. I mean, a place of learning, to be hit in this way, without warning… where is humanity … ” she asked.

The al-Asma school in Mansouriya, was destroyed in a bombing in August. However, these horrors barely scrape the surface of the criminal and humanitarian outrage.

Yemen’s Ministry of Education showed Amnesty data revealing more than 1,000 schools inoperable, 254 completely destroyed, 608 partially damaged and 421 being used as shelter by those displaced by the Saudi led, UK assisted onslaught.

The UK is subject to the Arms Trade Treaty which entered in to force on the 24 December 2014 and which Britain has both signed and ratified (2 April 2014) which prohibits arms transfers: ” … if they have knowledge that the arms would be used to commit attacks against civilians, civilian objects or other violations of international humanitarian law.”

Britain “have knowledge that … arms would be used … against civilians or civilian objects” – it is seemingly also helping to plan them, with the US also providing arms and “intelligence.”

The targets for which the UK surely share responsibility also include three medical facilities supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres, the latest on 10 January, a hospital in Saada in the north of the country resulting in six deaths by the 17 January, in which eight were also injured, two critically.

“This is the third severe incident affecting an MSF health facility in Yemen in the last three months. On 27 October, Haydan hospital was destroyed by an airstrike … and on 3 December a health centre in Taiz was also hit”, with nine people wounded.

The exact co-ordinates of the facilities had been given to the Saudi led, British advised coalition, as they had when the US bombed the MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on 3 October 2015.

It seems giving details of humanitarian facilities to trained killers is interpreted as an invitation to become target practice.

Other potential war crimes have included destruction of the Al-Sham water bottling factory, killing 13 workers about to head home from the night shift and: “markets, apartment buildings and refugee camps … eleven people in a mosque.”

Also destroyed last September was formerly one of the country’s largest employers, the ceramics factory, where Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch stated they had found definitive proof a UK made Marconi Cruise Missile used in the destruction.

Amnesty also stated that they had: “found evidence of apparent war crimes in connection with 13 airstrikes around the north-eastern Saada region, which killed about one hundred civilians including fifty nine women and twenty two children.”

Some population centres are so comprehensively decimated that survivors wonder if they are finally safe, since there is nothing left to bomb. 

Justice for so much in the region has been long delayed.”

Maybe, just maybe, this axis of evil is starting to unravel… but while the terror, beheadings and bombings continue, the blood of the innocents is on David Cameron’s hands.

 

Fairness, Compassion and Equality can Finally Overturn the Scourge of Capitalist Greed

WHILE the political pundits in the Westminster village are twisted into knots over Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called ‘Revenge Reshuffle” and BBC duplicity over the resignation of one minor minister, it is time to reset our focus to something much more important.

Put simply, the ongoing scourge of ordinary people by the most arrogant, privileged and right wing government of my lifetime.

For decades our country – and most of Western Europe – has been sleep-walking into a world of personal greed, arrogance and self-importance with totems such as The X Factor, tanning studios, Top Gear, designer clothes labels and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Human kindness, gentleness, peace, society and social justice have been jettisoned for a ‘winner takes all’ mentality and a scapegoating of the homeless, those claiming benefits, Muslims, asylum seekers and the poor in general.

All of this is underpinned by our malicious right wing press who smear and pillory anyone who dares question the status quo or suggest alternatives.

The press barons and their big business buddies are terrified of those alternatives, because they threaten a smug status quo which means that the five richest families in the UK now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.

The combined wealth of the 1,000 richest men and women in Britain has more than doubled in the last 10 years. The wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families now have a combined fortune of £547.126 billion, up from £249.615 billion in 2005, despite the world economy being gripped by a punishing recession over much of the last decade.

Meanwhile, thousands of families survive on the breadline, make weekly use of food banks or starve due to draconian benefits sanctions.

When Cameron’s far right Conservative Party was elected in May this year I genuinely feared for our collective futures.

Here we had the election of a UK government compiled of self-seeking rich elitists who care more about their mansions and banking friends than about people.

And their shopping list for change is truly terrifying as this is unshackled Conservative government promises to:

  • Rip up the Human Rights Act, which underpins our legal system and protects all our basic freedoms and those of persecuted minorities.
  • Spend £100 billion on replacing Trident with new nuclear weapons, which at the push of a button could wipe out millions of lives and pollute our planet for tens of thousands of years.
  • Make £12.8 billion of cuts to welfare, leaving the poorest, the oldest and the weakest in our society facing the bleakest of futures.
  • Begin a phased end to council housing, thus pushing up rents in the private sector and making families homeless. Once again – as under Thatcher – we will see a surge in rough sleeping and begging.
  • Will enact tougher sanctions on migrants, involve the UK in further illegal wars in the Middle East and trigger an increase in racism, terrorism and Islamophobia.
  • Extend zero hours contracts, thus massaging the unemployment figures and leaving thousands of the poorest people without any job security.
  • Legislate for more private schools which will imbed the class system even deeper in our society, rather focus on improving our state schooling system.
  • Escalate and accelerate the privatisation of the NHS, so medical care will depend on wealth rather than need.
  • Redraw constituency boundaries so these same corrupt capitalist elitists stay in power for another 20 more years.

Following Cameron’s election victory I said the Left “must begin now to unify around a leader or leadership we can all trust, organise and start the fightback, or we wave farewell to any hope for a fairer and better future.”

Well the fightback has begun. And I must admit I never thought it possible.

But none of us expected Jeremy Corbyn!

Over last summer this gentle political firebrand packed out meetings and hustings the length and breadth of this country with his simple messages of an end to austerity, an end to nuclear weapons and an end to needless wars over oil in the Middle East and beyond.

His messages caught the hearts and minds of millions:

  1. The UK’s financial deficit should be paid off – but not through spending cuts and not to an arbitrary deadline. Instead, a Corbyn government would fund its reduction via higher taxes for the rich and a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion. “Quantitative easing for people” could be used to invest in housing, energy, transport and digital projects.
  2. Britain’s railways should be renationalised. Energy companies should also be under public ownership. He is “totally opposed” to fracking. However, he says deep-mine coal pits in the north of England could be reopened.
  3. Far more allotments would be good for the UK and councils and builders “should be doing their best to ensure that every new development includes some allotment space”.
  4. Talking to militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah is necessary to win peace in the Middle East. And arms embargo should be imposed on Israel to give Palestinian refugees a “right of return”.
  5. Replacing Trident would be a costly mistake. Jeremy Corbyn believes the project’s £100 billion price tag could be better spent “on our national well-being“.
  6. A National Education Service modelled on the NHS should be established. Under Mr Corbyn, state-funded academies and free schools would be forced to return to local authority control while university tuition fees would be scrapped and replaced with grants. He would look at ending the charitable status of public schools, although he accepts this would be complicated and might not happen immediately.
  7. The air strikes against ISIS in Syria are a crass mistake. Mr Corbyn wants to see “illegal wars” replaced with a “foreign policy that prioritises justice and assistance”. This would ameliorate refugee crises. In turn, the arms trade should be restricted.
  8. Rent controls should be re-introduced, linking private rents to local earnings, and more council houses should be built. Mr Corbyn also believes that council tenants’ right to buy their homes should be extended to private sector renters.
  9. Remaining in the European Union but with changes. Mr Corbyn wants to stay to fight for a “better Europe”. He also opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.
  10. Ireland should be united and returned to Irish rule. Mr Corbyn has long supported British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
  11. Protect trade unions in the face of Conservative plans to overturn almost 100 years of workers’ rights with new legislation.
  12. A national maximum wage should be introduced to cap the salaries of high earners. He would also introduce a windfall tax on former state assets such as the Royal Bank of Scotland.
  13. Every child should have the chance to learn a musical instrument or act on stage. Mr Corbyn’s arts policy also includes directing a greater proportion of funding to local projects, widening access and despite this weeks’ shenanigans, protecting the BBC.
  14. Private Finance Initiative deals with the NHS should be ended by using government funds to buy them out.

All in all, a brave new world indeed and those Corbyn messages are forever true.

And at last we have a political leader who can offer a true progressive alternative and a way forward for us all. So let’s now all unite and spend 2016 fighting together for that better tomorrow.

Fairness, compassion and equality can finally overturn the scourge of capitalist greed.

 

The Loaded Language of the British Press

FOR the majority of the British media, the importance of presenting impartial news coverage is a key objective, but balance is now being questioned with the escalating violence in the Middle East.

As many times before, it is the reporting of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and murders of innocent Palestinians which has come under the closest scrutiny.

The death and destruction – especially the deaths of so many children – has appeared in brutal contrast with the relatively minor impact of the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.

Moreover, Western media has been criticised for failing to cover the conflict in a fair manner and some media outlets, the BBC in particular, appear infused with a pro-Israeli bias.

Often it is down to the language used in such reports, which creates bias and distorts the view of the watcher or reader of the news.

The late Tony Benn said in his inaugural annual lecture in Bristol in 2006 that the BBC refer to the Palestinians as “Militants” but to the Israeli aggressors as the “Israeli Government”. Thus giving legitimacy to the Israeli side against the Palestinians.

Mr Benn said that in reality he believed the reverse was true.

In recent days we have seen the use of language challenged both between politicians and within the press.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron was repeatedly asked to apologise for labelling MPs who might vote against bombing in Syria as “Terrorist Sympathisers”.

It was a failed but oblique attempt to score points against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his historical support for Hamas and the IRA.

Quite an ironic choice of language from Mr Cameron, who once called for Nelson Mandela to be hanged as a terrorist!

During the House of Commons debate on bombing Syria we also witnessed an agreement between the SNP and many Conservative and Labour MPs to refer to ISIS as Daesh. In doing so it would lock away the word Islamist, used by so many of the national press and the BBC to describe terrorist attacks.

Biased use of language, with a nakedly political motive, is clearly poisonous.

Note how the single photograph of a dead Syrian child on a Mediterranean beach in September this year reshaped the way our press reported the Syrian refugee crisis.

The public outcry at that image was so immense that our newspapers started to refer to the hapless refugees by the correct terms rather than the “swarms of migrants” favoured by David Cameron and Nigel Farage.

But sadly that didn’t last and following the Paris attacks of 13 November these self-same Syrian refugees were being labelled migrants and potential terrorists by our press.

UK tabloids like the Murdoch-owned Sun that has compared immigrants to ‘cockroaches’ recall the dark days of the Nazi media attacking those they sought to eliminate, says the UN’s human rights chief.

“The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches,” said UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

He singled out an article by former gameshow contestant turned-commentator Katie Hopkins, published by the Sun, in which she wrote: “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.”

The comment piece was published just hours before a boat containing hundreds of displaced people capsized in the Mediterranean, killing 800.

“This type of language is clearly inflammatory and unacceptable, especially in a national newspaper. The Sun’s editors took an editorial decision to publish this article, and – if it is found in breach of the law – should be held responsible along with the author,” said Zeid.

Zeid said the Hopkins piece was by no means a one off, but rather the result of “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion.”

“This vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press has continued unchallenged under the law for far too long,” he said.

Like the Sun, The Daily Express was also a prime culprit, he said.

“To give just one glimpse of the scale of the problem, back in 2003 the Daily Express ran 22 negative front pages stories about asylum seekers and refugees in a single 31-day period,” he said.

“Asylum seekers and migrants have, day after day, for years on end, been linked to rape, murder, diseases such as HIV and TB, theft, and almost every conceivable crime and misdemeanour imaginable in front-page articles and two-page spreads, in cartoons, editorials, even on the sports pages of almost all the UK’s national tabloid newspapers.”

And the use of language to load news reporting is used often in domestic situations.

The British press regularly use the adjectives “Far Left”, “Hard Left” and “Loony Left” to describe Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party, while referring to more right wing MPs as being “Moderates”.

Never do they seek to define what the word “Moderate” means or ever refer to David Cameron or George Osborne as being “Far Right” or “Hard Right”.

What we are observing is an adjectival degradation.

Every report, coming from inside governments or institutions outside is, if it contains some form of criticism, therefore “damning”, “devastating” or “scathing”.

Warnings, which most of the time were not heeded anyhow, are “stark”, differences of opinion between politicians of the same party are “dramatic splits”, developments are “alarming” – the consumer of the media is confronted with a permanent linguistic overkill.

Ironically, official language is evolving in the opposite direction, it is becoming more sanitised, cautious, bureaucratic and politically correct.

Remember how Tony Blair and his spin doctors rebranded the Labour Party as New Labour and Blair’s Labour as he courted Rupert Murdoch and the so-called Middle England vote in the 1990s.

For marketing and propaganda purposes he even banned the use of the word “socialist” or “socialism” among his MPs.

The final irony is that almost 20 years later the word “Blairite” is now a term of abuse among most Labour Party members and commentators.

Words matter!

 

Paris, Isis, Syria and The Bankruptcy of the Fourth Estate

SINCE the atrocities in Paris three weeks ago, the British press has been on overdrive to give us every twist, turn and snippet on who is to blame and what we “must do” to “protect our freedoms”.

Freedoms, which the same press tell us must be supported by restrictions, MI5 eavesdropping, tightened border controls and censorship once only dreamed of by George Orwell.

As a newspaper journalist for almost 30 years I have grieved deeply at the unbridled spin, sensationalism and political propaganda of the news reporting since Friday 13 November.

The ink is barely dry on the reports of Wednesday’s 10 hour debate in the House of Commons and the decision to bomb Syria, but already the pencils are being sharpened and the keyboards warmed to lead us to the next pre-ordained national conclusions.

I believe we are slowly witnessing a bankruptcy of freedom within our Fourth Estate.

For the uninitiated, the Fourth Estate commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press”.

Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons. In 1841 Carlyle wrote: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

He described the journalists’ role in representing the interests of “the people” in relation to the business and political elites who claim to be doing things in our names.

The intellectuals of the 18th and 19th centuries who gave us the conception of the Fourth Estate as a civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power, also provided the philosophical argument for defining the public citizenry and the nation-state as two separate entities with differing interests.

But my belief is that position has been hi-jacked by corrupt big business ownership of our media.

If we accept the premise of the Fourth Estate, we also have to ask ourselves if the “national” and the “public” interest are the same thing. It might be easy to think that they are, but it would be a mistake.

They exist as ideas, but in reality the nation and the public are not homogeneous.

In a capitalist world both are divided along class lines. In this context, the national interest is about state secrecy and keeping things from us. On the other hand, the public interest is about disclosure and our right to know.

But if we look at who trained and funded the ISIS terrorists and which countries now sustain them to carry out attacks, such as those on Paris and Beirut, the press has not been forthcoming in its reporting. Instead it focuses on Muslims, refugees, border controls, divisions within the Labour Party and the “need” to bomb Syria.

Governments that claim to act in the public interest must face closer scrutiny of their actions. They must be called to account when overstepping the bounds of what citizens will support, or when taking actions that are clearly not in our interests. According to national polls, most British citizens were against bombing Syria, yet that fact was overtaken by another politically led agenda.

The news media – as the tribune of “the people” – must be constantly on guard and alert to actions of the state, particularly when those actions may harm the interests of citizens.

Have they really done that in their reporting about Middle East terrorism, ISIS and the need to bomb Syria? I don’t believe they have.

This separation between the people and the state becomes more important when the economic interests of the powerful so frequently dominate society.

But today, the state is the executive branch of the ruling class and its big business paymasters.

Almost 78 per cent of our press is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

Our newspapers like to paint their own role as heroic – they are the brave defenders of democracy who hold our elected representatives to account.

Watergate is the archetype of this kind of journalism and it does occur now and again in the UK, but it is rare – perhaps the Telegraph’s revelations over MPs’ expenses in 2009 is one of those rare examples.

But too often, far from protecting our democracy, our papers subvert it.

In his Inquiry, Lord Leveson quoted some lines from Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day – Milne: “No matter how imperfect things are, if you’ve got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.” Ruth: “I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.”

In a free press, the nature of the newspapers matter very much.

The nature of a paper is set by its owner. Press barons wield far more power and influence than all but a very few MPs and have, unsurprisingly, used it to further their own interests.

Since 2010, the barons have pushed the highly contentious argument that there is no alternative to Austerity and have largely ignored the stories of the widening social divisions and the swelling numbers at food banks – the 21st century’s soup kitchens.

Newspapers exercise power and influence in many ways. And one of their most powerful forms of influence is the ability to effectively set the political agenda for the other media and more widely, in parliament, the workplace, the home and the pub.

Newspapers put great store by the concept of editorial independence. Sometimes, it is a reality. The Lebedevs, for example, own papers – the Independent and the Evening Standard – which take markedly different political stances.

Too often, however, editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

In my own experience I witnessed this at first hand when Margaret Thatcher’s close friends the Barclay Brothers bought The Scotsman in 1997. Within a few months, the new owners had their own right wing editors, the odious Andrew Neil and his Fleet Street bulldog Martin Clarke installed in the editors’ chairs. It took this vile pair less than a year to transform a newspaper, once the bastion of Scottish broadsheet journalism, into a pale imitation of the Daily Mail.

Rupert Murdoch’s candour at the Leveson Inquiry was revealing. He said that if someone wanted to know his opinion on a subject they should just read the leader in the Sun.

That most newspaper owners should seek to define the political stance taken by their publications is not especially surprising. Newspapers are rarely profitable and it is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that ‘the press barons are in newspapers for power, influence and easy access to the establishment’.

Likewise, the mechanisms through which owners can, and do, interfere with or shape content to promote particular viewpoints are not difficult to identify; they range from directly dictating the line a newspaper should follow on particular issues, to appointing senior staff with a shared political outlook, as well as forms of indirect influence over the ethos of the organisation which may prompt journalists to engage in ‘self-censorship’.

The Sun’s infamous claim following the 1992 general election that ‘It’s the Sun Wot Won it’ is widely known. Yet, in almost half of all general elections since 1918 ‘one newspaper or another has claimed to have swung the result’.

The Fourth Estate is now more powerful than ever, but it is no longer the once heralded “civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power”.

It is shaped by two dominating principles – sensationalism and simplification, the consequence of “hyper commercialisation”.

It has led to ever fiercer ratings and circulation wars, which inevitably leads to what is called “dumbing down”. To succeed, the media industry tries to appeal to the lower instincts of people.

Of course it is one thing to pander to lower instincts. But they have to be there in the first place, and so has the willingness to be pandered to. In the end, people have a choice.

One has to face an unpalatable reality: Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets are giving the people what they want – fun, games and entertainment – which in some ways is more “democratic” than the cultural elites, who tried imposing their values and standards on the masses.

In the “democratic age” news and information have been transformed. The way politics is covered has changed radically.

Papers don’t report news, they present it according to their preferences and prejudices.

The growth of columnists has led to the birth of a Commentariat. It contains a few excellent and analytical minds, but all too often reasonable, balanced voices are drowned out by journalists who seem untainted by facts or deeper knowledge but replace this with gleefully presented prejudices. Look no further than Katie Hopkins or Jan Moir for examples of this type.

A lot of modern political journalism ignores context and complexity, presenting everything in black and white, while the nature of politics most of the time is a balancing act between contradictory interests and demands.

News has thus become more superficial and sensational. The need for images and pictures is greater than ever. Note how the single photograph of a dead Syrian child on a Mediterranean beach in September this year shaped the Western view. For a short time our newspapers referred to the hapless refugees by the correct terms rather than the “swarms of migrants” favoured by David Cameron and Nigel Farage.

But that didn’t last and following the Paris attacks these self-same Syrian refugees were being labelled migrants and potential terrorists by our press.

Sensationalism and oversimplification are affecting the output of all media. There is less room for a balanced approach, for analysis instead of going for the crass headline or extraordinary story. The merciless hunt for weaknesses and inconsistencies of politicians and other public figures has become prevalent.

All this has contributed to change democratic politics for the worse. The electorate has become hostile and distrustful of the media and politicians alike.

Trust has broken down threefold, between people and politicians, media and people, journalists and politicians, with the latter now observing each other with deep distrust and mutual antipathy. A vicious circle has established itself.

The chances of the public receiving the information they need to participate in democracy is declining even more.

Democracy and civil society need informed citizens, otherwise they will have difficulties in surviving. Without a free Fourth Estate, aware of its own power and responsibility, an informed citizenship cannot be sustained.

What our democracies have got today is an electorate which is highly informed about entertainment, consumer goods and celebrities, while being uninterested in and deeply cynical about politics, equipped with short attention spans and a growing tendency to demand instant gratification.

If this trend cannot be reversed the political arena might become even emptier than it is now.