A collection clips showing a selection of some just some of the hate-filled lunatics who support U.S President Donald Trump. (Reich Wing Watch)
A collection of clips showing who longtime Republican Senator Ron Paul really is. (Reich Wing Watch)
One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country’s most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president.
A newly formed and, by all appearances, well-funded national security advocacy group, devoted to more hawkish U.S. policies toward Russia and other adversaries, provides the most vivid evidence yet of this alliance. Calling itself the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the group describes itself as “a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative” that “will develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions,” and also “will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.”
It is, in fact, the ultimate union of mainstream Democratic foreign policy officials and the world’s most militant, and militaristic, neocons. The group is led by two longtime Washington foreign policy hands, one from the establishment Democratic wing and the other a key figure among leading GOP neocons.
An extraordinary new Pentagon study has concluded that the U.S.-backed international order established after World War 2 is “fraying” and may even be “collapsing”, leading the United States to lose its position of “primacy” in world affairs.
The solution proposed to protect U.S. power in this new “post-primacy” environment is, however, more of the same: more surveillance, more propaganda (“strategic manipulation of perceptions”) and more military expansionism.
The document concludes that the world has entered a fundamentally new phase of transformation in which U.S. power is in decline, international order is unravelling, and the authority of governments everywhere is crumbling.
Having lost its past status of “pre-eminence”, the U.S. now inhabits a dangerous, unpredictable “post-primacy” world, whose defining feature is “resistance to authority”.
Danger comes not just from great power rivals like Russia and China, both portrayed as rapidly growing threats to American interests, but also from the increasing risk of “Arab Spring”-style events. These will erupt not just in the Middle East, but all over the world, potentially undermining trust in incumbent governments for the foreseeable future.
The report, based on a year-long intensive research process involving consultation with key agencies across the Department of Defense and U.S. Army, calls for the U.S. government to invest in more surveillance, better propaganda through “strategic manipulation” of public opinion, and a “wider and more flexible” U.S. military.
The report was published in June by the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute to evaluate the DoD’s approach to risk assessment at all levels of Pentagon policy planning. The study was supported and sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate; the Joint Staff, J5 (Strategy and Policy Branch); the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development; and the Army Study Program Management Office.
The sequence of events appears to tell a damning story: On June 4, 1940, Nazi Germany shoved the last British troop off the Continent at Dunkirk. Adolf Hitler moved his forces into position for a final cross-Channel invasion and occupation of England. That same month the new British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, dispatched a shadowy figure, Sir William Stephenson—later most famous as the original of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Agent 007—to set up a spy shop for Britain’s MI6 in Midtown Manhattan. A hero of World War One and self-made multi-millionaire, Stephenson was on neutral ground in America, but he and Churchill shared the conviction that nothing was more important to their nation’s chances for survival than winning American support for the war against Hitler. Then, on July 4, 1940, with throngs of holiday visitors at the New York World’s Fair, a time bomb planted in the British Pavilion exploded, instantly killing two New York City policemen and badly mauling five others. Was Stephenson behind the blast in an attempt to frame Nazis and their American sympathizers? Were these officers sacrificed to win American sympathy and draw a reluctant United States into the Second World War?
This past Independence Day marked the seventy-seventh anniversary of the unsolved crime. “It’s a cold case, but still an open case,” New York City Police Lieutenant Bernard Whalen tells me. He has scrutinized the original bombing case files while researching two books he wrote on the history of the NYPD. “There was a massive investigation at the time. The FBI was involved.” No effort was spared—except to get at those he believes were likeliest to have knowledge of the bomb, the security staff of the British Pavilion itself.
Although the United States was officially neutral, in the midst of a world at war, it was fast becoming a shadowy battlefield. New York teemed with spies, political agitators, and foreign agents, many with violence in mind for their enemies, some desperate enough to go to any length to sway American public opinion. While Whalen won’t pin blame on any single possible culprit, he says after his own studies of the case, “You could draw the conclusion that it was an inside job.” At one point the NYPD suspected as much, but were stopped from getting to the bottom of the case.
It had been a good few months for the gang at Musicland Studios. Deep in the bowels of the Arabella High-Rise Building in Munich’s Bogenhausen district, this pan-European collective of players had been a responsible for a string of hits that had turned disco on its head. Led by co-producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, this team had made a major breakthrough with the Donna Summer’s breathy hit ‘Love To Love You Baby’, which crossed over into the pop charts – but not before being banned by Radio 1 for being too sexy.
Donna Summer was one of a clique of itinerant musicians and performers who’d washed up in Munich at a time when the recording industry there was at its most vibrant. Originally a cast member of the hippie musical Hair in Germany, she swiftly established herself as an in-demand session singer. She was a popular part of the studio set-up. “We became good friends,” says Moroder, “She was an incredibly talented singer, who could improvise but was also very disciplined. As a person she was very funny.” According to Bellotte, one of the reasons she was easy to work with was her lack of interest in the recording process. “The whole time that we worked together there was never the slightest bit of friction. We were so lucky, because she wasn’t interested in the productions at all. So she’d come in the studio, usually at four o’clock in the afternoon, and would chat for hours. Then she’d look at her watch and say, ‘Oh I’ve gotta go!’ and she’d go into the studio and mostly sing it in one take – and be gone.”
The sessions for ‘I Remember Yesterday’, Donna’s fifth album, moved swiftly. “Everything happened so fast,” says Bellotte. “Our engineer Jürgen was fast, and the musicians were too. Albums evolved quickly, we never hung around. We were a working team and we just got on with it.” In stark contrast to their American and British label Casablanca Records, which appeared to be entirely fuelled by blizzards of cocaine, there was little excess going on in the Musicland Studios. Two of the team, Bellotte and engineer Jürgen Koppers, were tee-total, while Giorgio drank modest amounts. There were no drugs.
‘I Remember Yesterday’ was yet another concept album, cooked up by Bellotte and inspired by Anthony Powell’s novel A Dance to The Music Of Time (also the LP’s original title). Each song would evoke a different decade’s mood, from 40s swing to the 1960s with the Shirelles and Supremes, 70s funk and contemporary disco before alighting upon the future with the final track: ‘I Feel Love’.
[…] R. Kelly has sold nearly 60 million albums during his 25-year career, and though his relevance is fading somewhat from the heyday of “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Trapped in the Closet,” he remains a major star in high demand for concerts, endorsements, television and radio appearances, and glossy magazine profiles. When he’s not performing, Kelly splits his time between his suburban Atlanta home and Trump Tower in Chicago. Extensive interviews with Mack, Jones, and McGee and a review of legal documents by BuzzFeed News paint a picture of what Kelly’s life offstage is like today.
The women in Kelly’s entourage initially think “This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” said Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant for a year and a half starting in 2013 and has remained in touch with some members of his inner circle. “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”
Jones and McGee both said they lived with Kelly and had sexual relationships with the star at different times over the past five years before leaving. Their documentation of this time is limited, however, as they said Kelly controlled their phone and social media use while they were under his roof, and they were not allowed to take photos with Kelly or of the rooms where they were living.
According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, the women living in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia, “guest house” or his Chicago recording studio last summer included:
- A 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. She had been best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried in 2008. She recently parted ways with Kelly, these sources say.
- A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s scene for seven years.
- A recent arrival, a 19-year-old model who has been photographed in public with Kelly and named on music gossip websites — a rarity among the women in his circle.
- An Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009, when she was 19. (She is now 26.)
- And an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida. Mack said the Florida singer is Kelly’s “favorite — his number-one girl.”
When we first looked at the relationship between politics, film and television at the turn of the 21st century, we accepted the consensus opinion that a small office at the Pentagon had, on request, assisted the production of around 200 movies throughout the history of modern media, with minimal input on the scripts.
How ignorant we were.
More appropriately, how misled we had been.
We have recently acquired 4,000 new pages of documents from the Pentagon and CIA through the Freedom of Information Act. For us, these documents were the final nail in the coffin.
These documents for the first time demonstrate that the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.
The previous best estimate, in a dry academic book way back in 2005, was that the Pentagon had worked on less than 600 films and an unspecified handful of television shows.
The CIA’s role was assumed to be just a dozen or so productions, until very good books by Tricia Jenkins and Simon Willmetts were published in 2016. But even then, they missed or underplayed important cases, including Charlie Wilson’s War and Meet the Parents.
Alongside the massive scale of these operations, our new book National Security Cinema details how US government involvement also includes script rewrites on some of the biggest and most popular films, including James Bond, the Transformers franchise, and movies from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.
Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.
The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says PedroFaria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.
Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.
The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.
In the first interview, Amy Goodman speaks with Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat, co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25). In the second interview, Jaisal Noor speaks with South African activist Patrick Bond, while demonstrators from the G20 protests in Hamburg also provide their views. (Democracy Now!/The Real News)
The British army is specifically targeting young people from working-class backgrounds in a glossy recruitment campaign despite claiming to aim advertising at all socio-economic backgrounds, an internal briefing document seen by the Guardian reveals.
A briefing document on the This Is Belonging campaign spells out that the key audience is 16- to 24-year-old “C2DEs” – marketing speak for the lowest three social and economic groups.
The document also makes it clear that while the campaign is UK-wide, there are “up-weights” to cities in northern England including Manchester and Sheffield and to Birmingham, Belfast and Cardiff.
Army chiefs insist they do not specifically target poorer people from deprived areas, but seek out talented and motivated youngsters of all social classes from across the country. However, the charity Child Soldiers International, which obtained the briefing document, said the strategy set out in them clearly showed this was not true.
UK government arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful, the High Court has ruled, after seeing secret evidence.
The court rejected campaigners’ claims ministers were acting illegally by not suspending weapon sales to the kingdom, which is fighting a war in Yemen.
The UN claims strikes on Houthi rebels caused thousands of civilian deaths.
The government said defence exports would continue to be reviewed but the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said an appeal against the ruling was planned.
The group had claimed the UK has contravened humanitarian law and attacked the refusal of the Secretary of State for International Trade to suspend export licences for the sale or transfer of arms and military equipment.
Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting in London, said the decision to carry on the arms trade was not unlawful.
The judges said “closed material”, which had not been made public for national security reasons, “provides valuable additional support for the conclusion that the decisions taken by the secretary of state not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia were rational”.
[…] Streaming’s impact on the way artists make music goes all the way to the top. Take Chris Brown, whose upcoming album Heartbreak on Full Moonhas 40 tracks, and not because he has so much to say. The famously unscrupulous pop star has found a way to boost his streaming numbers, which in turn inflate sale figures, and will, he hopes, send his album shooting up the charts quicker than it otherwise would.
Even Spotify is reportedly gaming the system by paying producers to produce songs that are then placed on the service’s massively popular playlists under the names of unknown, nonexistent artists. This upfront payment saves the company from writing fat streaming checks that come with that plum playlist placement, but tricks listeners into thinking the artists actually exist and limits the opportunities for real music-makers to make money. Spotify did not respond to questions about the accusation*, but this is not the first time Spotify, which pays minuscule streaming fees, has been accused of bilking artists.
A cynic might look at all of this and shrug his shoulders. Craven opportunism has been a part of the music industry since the first concert ticket was sold. But even if the money-grubbing isn’t new, the manner in which it’s grubbed is. And no matter who’s doing it, the effect is the same: Music is devalued.
Donald Trump was having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 11 when a message arrived mid-meal, courtesy of Pyongyang: North Korea had just tested a new, solid-fuel, intermediate-range ballistic missile, fired from a mobile—and therefore hard-to-detect—launcher. The president pulled out his 1990s flip-phone and discussed this event in front of the various people sitting within earshot. One of these diners, Richard DeAgazio, was suitably agog at the import of this weighty scene, posting the following comment on his Facebook page: “HOLY MOLY!!! It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan.”
Actually, this missile was aimed directly at Mar-a-Lago, figuratively speaking. It was a pointed nod to history that no American media outlet grasped: “Prime Minister Shinzo,” as Trump called him, is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, a former Japanese prime minister whom Abe reveres. Nobusuke was deemed a “Class A” war criminal by the US occupation authorities after World War II, and he ran munitions manufacturing in Manchuria in the 1930s, when Gen. Hideki Tojo was provost marshal there. Kim Il-sung, whom grandson Kim Jong-un likewise reveres, was fighting the Japanese at the same time and in the same place.
As I wrote for this magazine in January 2016, the North Koreans must be astonished to discover that US leaders never seem to grasp the import of their history-related provocations. Even more infuriating is Washington’s implacable refusal ever to investigate our 72-year history of conflict with the North; all of our media appear to live in an eternal present, with each new crisis treated as sui generis. Visiting Seoul in March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserted that North Korea has a history of violating one agreement after another; in fact, President Bill Clinton got it to freeze its plutonium production for eight years (1994–2002) and, in October 2000, had indirectly worked out a deal to buy all of its medium- and long-range missiles. Clinton also signed an agreement with Gen. Jo Myong-rok stating that henceforth, neither country would bear “hostile intent” toward the other.
In light of Friday’s rioting, recent statements made by Hamburg officials ahead of the G-20 seem naive in the extreme. One came from the Hartmut Dudde, the head of operations for the Hamburg police, who said: “If we say here’s where things stop, then that’s where they stop. We will also take action. We’re not going to wait if crimes are being committed.”
Another statement came from his boss, Hamburg Police Chief Ralf Martin Meyer. “We are better prepared than we ever have been,” he boasted in the run-up to the G-20.
And then, of course, there’s the statement from Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz, who promised the city’s residents: “Don’t worry, we can guarantee your safety.”
But on Friday, July 7, none of these sentences applied. Even that morning, a marauding gang was raging through the Hamburg neighborhoods of Ottensen and Altona, setting cars on fire by the dozens. Later in the day, a mob raged for hours in the alternative Schanzenviertel neighborhood, long a hotbed of leftist activity. They broke windows, lit barricades on fire, looted stores and threatened to kill police. Many would later say hyperbolically that it was like “a war zone.” Others described the scene as anarchy — as though the state had receded before the mob.
The question that must now be answered is clear: What went wrong?
This week is the first anniversary of the failed coup against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a coup he has used since to further alienate his opponents. Most recently, on 16 April, he won a referendum to become head of state and head of government simultaneously, emerging as the most unassailable Turkish politician since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk established the secular republic in 1923.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Atatürk shaped Turkey in his own image as a western society. In his Turkey, the state banished religion to the private sphere and discriminated against pious citizens. But since 2003, Erdoğan has dismantled Atatürk’s societal model, flooding political and education systems with rigidly conservative Islam, as well as pivoting Turkey away from Europe and the west.
This is, paradoxically, Erdoğan’s Atatürk side. Of course, Erdoğan does not share his values, just his methods. Just as Atatürk reshaped Turkey, so Erdoğan is building a new country, but one that sees itself as profoundly Islamist in politics and foreign policy – to make it a great power once again.
Erdoğan is an anti-Atatürk Atatürk. As I explain in my book The New Sultan, having grown up in secularist Turkey and faced social exclusion at a young age because of his piety, Erdoğan is motivated by animosity towards Atatürk’s ways. Yet he has dismantled Atatürk’s system by using the very tools that the country’s founding elites provided: state institutions and top-down social engineering.
Poland’s rightwing government is pulling out all the stops for what it sees as its greatest foreign policy achievement to date: a visit to Warsaw today by US president Donald Trump. In what has to be acknowledged as wily diplomacy, the Law and Justice (PiS) government is appealing to the US president’s achilles heel: his vanity, reportedly luring him with promises of adoring crowds, in contrast to the chillier receptions he can expect in western Europe.
The ruling party is bussing in its supporters from all over Poland, encouraging them to take part in a “great patriotic picnic” on the occasion of Trump’s visit. The idea is to make the big man feel as good about himself as possible, which will hopefully benefit Poland in some way, such as a more categorical assertion that Nato would – under US leadership – protect Poland from any aggression from Moscow.
PiS is working hard to tickle Trump’s ego. The party’s leader and Poland’s most important politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, described Trump’s decision to visit Warsaw as a “new success” for Poland. “[Others] envy it, the British are attacking us because of it.” Meanwhile, the defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz, described Trump as “a man who is changing the shape of the world’s political scene”, adding that his “historic” visit would “once and for all, erase [Poland’s] experience of occupation and Soviet enslavement”.
War Machine, the new Netflix original movie starring Brad Pitt playing a disturbingly over-confident General based on Stanley McChrystal, is controversial for all the wrong reasons.
First there was the kerfuffle at Cannes, where Netflix was booed for breaking tradition by submitting films that would be released on laptops instead of theaters. Then there was the casting of Brad Pitt, which some categorized as a colossal misstep. Variety said that the almost surreal comic role should “have gone to John Goodman, or some comparably gifted character actor.” And then there’s the focus of the film itself. Is it an “irrelevant and brash” alpha-male misfire? Or an “assured and nervy black satire” that tries to have it both ways by mocking the war even as it sympathizes too heavily with the officers who wage it?
What gets ignored in all of these various reactions is the reality of the ongoing war itself and how this film relates to it. Sure, it’s novel and interesting that online streaming companies are producing original films. And of course the wisdom of casting a Peter Pan hunk like Brad Pitt as an American general is up for debate. But isn’t the real scandal that there’s an ongoing occupation to critique at all? If the film comes off as brash, it’s because it conveys an irreverent confidence that almost seems to anticipate the media missing the forest for the trees. A major theme of the film is, after all, how mass media fails us on a moral level, always transforming events that require somber moral reflection into superficial sleaze. And so I can’t help but wonder if reviews of War Machine have been so uniformly unfavorable because of the disconnect between the ongoing war and popular culture, and how the film implicates the media in sustaining that rift.
Leave it to Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse to be the voice of reason.
While President Trump is intent on ramping up the caustic rhetoric towards the media, cooler heads, like that of Sasse, are stepping forward and speaking real truth.
“I mean there’s an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust,” Sasse told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And it’s not helpful to call the press ‘the enemy of the American people,’” Sasse added, referring to a past comment by the president. Sasse warned such rhetoric could lead to a new form of “tribalism.”
He’s absolutely right.
Donald Trump is not the first president to get bad coverage from the media. He’s the first to dissolve into a ranting puddle of crazy over it, though.
But 2017 poses the question: Could the same thing happen on the left?
It’s a prospect that deserves more serious attention and debate than it’s gotten this year. The Trump era has given rise to a vast alternative left-wing media infrastructure that operates largely out of the view of casual news consumers, but commands a massive audience and growing influence in liberal America. There are polemical podcasters and partisan click farms; wild-eyed conspiracists and cynical fabulists. Some traffic heavily in rumor and wage campaigns of misinformation; others are merely aggregators and commentators who have carved out a corner of the web for themselves. But taken together, they form a media universe where partisan hysteria is too easily stoked, and fake news can travel at the speed of light.
What follows is an attempt to map the topography of the left’s modern alternative media landscape. It is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it provides a useful start to the kind of exploration and anthropology that’s needed.
Jaisal Noor speaks with historian Gerald Horne about Trump’s latest attack on the media and an alarming new NRA recruitment video. (The Real News)
Has There Been an Overreaction to Trump’s Wrestling Tweet, and Does It Undermine the Media’s Credibility?
Another day another tweet.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump — leader of the free world and guardian of the largest nuclear stockpile on Earth — decided to tweet a silly video of himself “punching” WWE chief Vince McMahon with a CNN logo imposed over McMahon’s face. The tweet was sent forth from Trump’s own @RealDonaldTrump account as well as the official @POTUS ensuring that future generations will be able to peruse it from the Donald Trump Presidential library.
Was it stupid? Yes. Was it detrimental to Trump’s legislative goals? Probably. Was it anything we haven’t seen before? Not really.
On that last point, the media should take a cue. It’s bad enough covering Trump’s daily Twitter frivolity at the expense of real issues, but indulging in an endless feedback loop of overwrought hysteria over Trump promoting “violence” or any other outlandish claims will only undermine all of our credibility to cover the issues going forward.
Going beyond the insanity of the president’s overall behavior — hardly a fresh story — every storyline undergirding the tweet’s relevance to the national conversation has been painfully contrived.
Maybe it will incite violence, as Morning Joe regular Eddie Glaude Jr. suggested on MSNBC today? Maybe it will. But so might violent movies, Rap music, and Grand Theft Auto. Liberals who once abhorred such logic after the mass shooting at Columbine High School, seem all to ready to embrace the anti-free speech claptrap when it comes to a stupid joke by Trump.
And let’s be perfectly clear. It was a joke. It was not a particularly funny joke, or very “presidential,” as we once defined that word, but it was a joke.
In the EU, the chances of being killed by a terrorist in 2016 were just five times greater than being killed by lightning. The chances of being murdered for some other reason were more than 30 times greater than that of being killed by terrorists and the chances of dying in a sporting accident 51 times greater.
Terrorism is frightening: indeed, its aim is to ignite fear. But surrendering to fear is to give terrorists what they want: the sundering of our open societies and the division of the world into believers and “crusader” enemies. We have no reason to give them this victory and must not do so.
It should be noted that 2016 was a relatively bad year for EU terrorism. Robert Muggah, an expert on terrorism, notes that between 2010 and 2014, the average probability of dying at the hands of a terrorist was 0.0018 per 100,000 (0.0000018 per cent). This rose to 0.034 per 100,000 in 2015, then falling to 0.027 in 2016.
This modest rise in the number of European victims of terrorism in recent years has struck fear in the hearts of many Americans: Donald Trump, for one, has milked it ferociously. Yet 15,696 people were murdered in the US in 2015, a rate of 4.88 per 100,000. In the UK, the murder rate was 0.92 per 100,000. That gap is really worth worrying about.
[…] Margaret Atwood has long been Canada’s most famous writer, and current events have polished the oracular sheen of her reputation. With the election of an American President whose campaign trafficked openly in the deprecation of women—and who, on his first working day in office, signed an executive order withdrawing federal funds from overseas women’s-health organizations that offer abortion services—the novel that Atwood dedicated to Mary Webster has reappeared on best-seller lists. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is also about to be serialized on television, in an adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss, that will stream on Hulu. The timing could not be more fortuitous, though many people may wish that it were less so. In a photograph taken the day after the Inauguration, at the Women’s March on Washington, a protester held a sign bearing a slogan that spoke to the moment: “make margaret atwood fiction again.”
If the election of Donald Trump were fiction, Atwood maintains, it would be too implausible to satisfy readers. “There are too many wild cards—you want me to believe that the F.B.I. stood up and said this, and that the guy over at WikiLeaks did that?” she said. “Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, ‘That is never going to happen.’ ” Atwood is a buoyant doomsayer. Like a skilled doctor, she takes evident satisfaction in providing an accurate diagnosis, even when the cultural prognosis is bleak. She attended the Toronto iteration of the Women’s March, wearing a wide-brimmed floppy hat the color of Pepto-Bismol: not so much a pussy hat as the chapeau of a lioness. Among the signs she saw that day, her favorite was one held by a woman close to her own age; it said, “i can’t believe i’m still holding this fucking sign.” Atwood remarked, “After sixty years, why are we doing this again? But, as you know, in any area of life, it’s push and pushback. We have had the pushback, and now we are going to have the push again.”
Unlike many writers, Atwood does not require a particular desk, arranged in a particular way, before she can work. “There’s a good and a bad side to that,” she told me. “If I did have those things, then I would be able to put myself in that fetishistic situation, and the writing would flow into me, because of the magical objects. But I don’t have those, so that doesn’t happen.” The good side is that she can write anywhere, and does so, prolifically. She is equally uninhibited about genre. Atwood’s bibliography runs to about sixty books—novels, poetry, short-story collections, works of criticism, children’s books, and, most recently, a comic-book series about a part-feline, part-avian, part-human superhero called Angel Catbird. She is offhanded about her versatility. “I always wrote more than one type of thing,” she said. “Nobody told me not to.” On one occasion, over tea, she showed me her left hand: it had writing on it. “When all else fails, you do have a surface you can write on,” she said.
On Monday a bold and controversial experiment in Middle Eastern media and politics may be abruptly brought to an end. Al-Jazeera – once heralded as the beacon of free Arab media that broke the hegemony of the western networks and reversed the flow of information from east to west for the first time since the middle ages – faces closing its doors for good.
On 23 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt subjected Qatar to unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions, followed by an aggressive blockade and threats of further action if Qatar fails to meet a list of 13 demands, one of which is to shut down the al-Jazeera network.
If Doha capitulates – and there are no signs it will – it will effectively have lost its sovereignty and become a vassal state of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Yet defying the deadline could lead to regime change in Qatar, or even war.
Whatever happens, it is a credit to al-Jazeera that, 21 years after its launch, it is still so disruptive and challenging to those in power. Few other media outlets can claim to be so influential. But al-Jazeera is not like other broadcasters. It is a unique phenomenon which, since it started broadcasting in 1996, has revolutionised the Arab media, and in 2010 played a major role in bringing about a real political revolution across much of the Arab world.
In the past few years, the Democratic Party’s rank and file have shifted left on major issues. From healthcare to legalization of drugs to taxes, the heart of the party has grown more progressive—and, in many instances, overtly socialist in nature. Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal, up from 39 percent in 2008 and 30 percent in 2001.
In contrast, nominally liberal media—or major media whose editorial line is reliably pro-Democratic—have drifted rightward. On Wednesday, MSNBC announced it had hired torture-supporting, climate-denying, anti-Arab racist Bret Stephens, a recent hire at the New York Times opinion page. Stephens—whose very first article at the Times had to be corrected due to his misunderstanding of basic climate science—will be an “on-air contributor” for both MSNBC and NBC.
This pickup continues a conservative hiring spree at MSNBC, including former George Bush adviser Nicolle Wallace, right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, old-school conservative Washington Postcolumnist George Will, and former Fox News stars Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly (though Van Susteren’s show has already been canceled due to comically low ratings).
Amy Goodman speaks with Naomi Klein, best-selling author and Intercept senior correspondent, about her latest book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. You can watch the full interview over at Democracy Now’s website. (Democracy Now!)
Amy Goodmand and Nermeen Shaikh speak with Duke University historian Nancy MacLean, author of the new book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, about the radical right’s attempt to reshape the role of the federal government—from healthcare to education to housing. (Democracy Now!)
Aaron Maté speaks with Malcolm Byrne of the National Security Archives about the quiet release of long-awaited and long-hidden CIA documents offering key details on how the U.S. and Britain overthrew Iran’s democratic government in 1953. (The Real News)