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Why can’t we agree on what’s true any more?

We live in a time of political fury and hardening cultural divides. But if there is one thing on which virtually everyone is agreed, it is that the news and information we receive is biased. Every second of every day, someone is complaining about bias, in everything from the latest movie reviews to sports commentary to the BBC’s coverage of Brexit. These complaints and controversies take up a growing share of public discussion.

Much of the outrage that floods social media, occasionally leaking into opinion columns and broadcast interviews, is not simply a reaction to events themselves, but to the way in which they are reported and framed. The “mainstream media” is the principal focal point for this anger. Journalists and broadcasters who purport to be neutral are a constant object of scrutiny and derision, whenever they appear to let their personal views slip. The work of journalists involves an increasing amount of unscripted, real-time discussion, which provides an occasionally troubling window into their thinking.

But this is not simply an anti-journalist sentiment. A similar fury can just as easily descend on a civil servant or independent expert whenever their veneer of neutrality seems to crack, apparently revealing prejudices underneath. Sometimes a report or claim is dismissed as biased or inaccurate for the simple reason that it is unwelcome: to a Brexiter, every bad economic forecast is just another case of the so-called project fear. A sense that the game is rigged now fuels public debate.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/sep/19/why-cant-we-agree-on-whats-true-anymore

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Posted by on October 10, 2019 in Reportages

 

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Will Russia Be Driven From the West?

Two years ago, I asked, “Will Russia Leave the West?” The world’s largest territorial country—sprawling from its major European city St. Petersburg to its vast Far Eastern territories and long border with China—Russia cannot, of course, depart the West geographically. But it can do so politically, economically, and strategically. Indeed, where Russia belongs, where it should seek its identity, security, and future—in the East or in the West—has divided the nation’s policy-makers and intellectual elites for centuries.

https://www.thenation.com/article/will-russia-be-driven-from-the-west/

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in Europe

 

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When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met Greta Thunberg: ‘Hope is contagious’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez enters a boardroom at her constituency office in Queens, New York, after a short delay which, a political aide hopes, hasn’t been caused by a constituent waylaying her in the corridor. (“They can get really excited to meet her.”) Greta Thunberg is in her home in Sweden, her father testing the technology for the video link while the teenager waits in the background. The activists have never met nor spoken but, as two of the most visible climate campaigners in the world, they are keenly aware of each other.Thunberg, now 16, catapulted to fame last year for skipping school every Friday to stand outside the Swedish parliament, protesting against political inaction over the climate crisis and sparking an international movement, the school strike for climate, in which millions of other children followed suit. Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district is, at 29, the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, whose election over a well-funded incumbent in 2018 was a huge upset to politics-as-usual. She has been in office for less than a year, which seems extraordinary given the amount of coverage she has generated. In February, Ocasio-Cortez submitted the Green New Deal to the US House of Representatives, calling for, among other things, the achievement of “net-zero” greenhouse gases within a decade and “a full transition off fossil fuels”, as well as retrofitting all buildings in the US to meet new energy efficient standards.

The Green New Deal, while garnering support from Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, was mocked by speaker Nancy Pelosi (“the green dream or whatever they call it”), and defeated in the Senate by Republicans. Like Thunberg, however, Ocasio-Cortez gives every appearance of being galvanised by opposition, and has the kind of energy that has won her 4.41 million Twitter followers and makes establishment politicians in her path very nervous.

In the course of their conversation, Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg discuss what it is like to be dismissed for their age, how depressed we should be about the future, and what tactics, as an activist, really work. Ocasio-Cortez speaks with her customary snap and brilliance that, held up against the general waffle of political discourse, seems startlingly direct. Thunberg, meanwhile, is phenomenally articulate, well-informed and self-assured, holding her own in conversation with an elected official nearly twice her age and speaking in deliberate, thoughtful English. They are, in some ways, as different as two campaigners can get – the politician working the system with Washington polish, and the teenager in her socks and leggings, working from her bedroom to reach the rest of the world. There is something very moving about the conversation between these young women, a sense of generational rise that, as we know from every precedent from the Renaissance onwards, has the power to ignite movements and change history.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-met-greta-thunberg-hope-contagious-climate

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Reportages

 

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Boris Johnson’s coup is eerily reminiscent of Erdogan’s behaviour in Turkey

Britain is experiencing a slow-moving coup d’etat in which a right-wing government progressively closes down or marginalises effective opposition to its rule. It concentrates power in its own hands by stifling parliament, denouncing its opponents as traitors to the nation, displacing critics in its own ranks, and purging non-partisan civil servants.

Some describe this as “a very British coup”, which gives the operation a warmer and fuzzier feeling than it deserves. It is, in fact, distinctly “un-British” in the sense that the coup makers ignore or manipulate the traditional unwritten rules of British politics over the past 400 years whereby no single faction or institution monopolises authority.

What we are seeing has nothing to do with the British past but a very modern coup in which a demagogic nationalist populist authoritarian leader vaults into power through quasi-democratic means and makes sure that he cannot be removed.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/boris-johnson-prorogation-parliament-erdogan-democracy-turkey-a9086011.html

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Europe, Middle East

 

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Mugabe’s rule led many people to dismiss the concept of nationalism – but that opened the door to something far worse

Robert Mugabe was one of the many leaders who came to power as a national liberator between the 1950s and 1980s, only to establish violent, corrupt and incompetent autocracies. The decades of misrule they inflicted on their countries did much to discredit nationalism as a progressive ideology that could better people’s lives.

Bad though Mugabe was, he was not the worst of the dictators of that era, which included Saddam Hussein, who became absolute ruler of Iraq in 1979, the year before Mugabe was first elected prime minister of Zimbabwe. Both men ruined their countries, denigrating and eliminating opponents as traitors in a supposed ongoing struggle for self-determination.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/robert-mugabe-death-rule-right-wing-populism-nationalism-boris-johnson-a9094901.html

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Africa

 

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La sinistra ovvero l’essere di destra a propria insaputa

Fascista o meno che sia, il pensiero che anima Salvini è comunque schiettamente autoritario e strumentalmente nazionalista. Drammaticamente, proprio a questo pensiero si sono consegnati sia il Movimento 5 stelle sia il Partito democratico, aiutandone e persino anticipandone la costruzione, sebbene in tempi diversi. Ciò rappresenta già oggi un problema almeno quanto potrebbe rappresentarlo Salvini in futuro.

È cosa nota che la Lega sia da sempre abitata da un sentimento di destra, di una destra che si nutre di slogan i quali fino a non molto tempo fa chiunque o quasi avrebbe avuto pudore di pronunciare a mezza bocca, figurarsi urlarli nelle piazze. Basterebbe ricordare lo scandalo che diedero anni fa alcune iniziative di personaggi come Mario Borghezio mai risarcite, almeno nella pancia del partito, da giovanili appartenenze a formazioni di sinistra, e addirittura al Partito comunista, attribuite a certi altri dirigenti leghisti. Che di questo si trattasse, che si avesse a che fare con un partito i cui esponenti se ne andavano armati di disinfettante a sterilizzare i sedili dei treni utilizzati dagli extracomunitari, lo si sapeva come si sapeva di certi slogan razzisti a proposito dei meridionali e delle invocazioni al Vesuvio o all’Etna affinché nettassero la terra. Son tutte circostanze difficilmente derubricabili a forme di goliardia, sebbene adesso molti preferiscano credere che così fosse. Tutto ciò lo sapevano anche i grillini i quali, anche per il suo esser di destra, scelsero proprio il leghista come alleato per andare al governo. Ce lo dimostrano molte circostanze e, più di ogni altra cosa, il contratto di governo.

https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/alessandro-calvi/2019/08/12/italia-politica-sinistra-destra

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in European Union, Uncategorized

 

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The imperial rivalry between the US and China means the left must choose the EU it wants

The US has declared China a “currency manipulator” — which, on the face of it, is like a bear declaring that another bear defecated in the woods. But the formal act of designation is a big deal.

Under a law passed in 1988, when the US first discovered that its global dominance might be under threat from trade competitors, the president is empowered to “initiate negotiations … on an expedited basis” to force China to raise the value of the renminbi against the dollar.

The act includes sanctions such as banning Chinese firms from US contracts, and was described at the time by critics as “the economic equivalent of civilian bombing”. But in truth the economic war between China and the US is already under way, and is wholly framed by Trump’s skewed vision of American geopolitics.

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/north-america/2019/08/imperial-rivalry-between-us-and-china-means-left-must-choose-eu-it-wants

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Asia, Economy, European Union, North America

 

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The Weaponization of National Belonging, from Nazi Germany to Trump

This past week I found myself in Stuttgart, an industrial city in southwest Germany. As I usually do in a European city I haven’t visited before, I went to the local history museum to see how the story of the Second World War is presented. Stuttgart’s museum opened just last year, and its handling of the Nazi era is more circumspect than that of older German memorials. The period from 1933 to 1945 comprises a small set of displays, perhaps ten per cent of the entire exhibition. The tone is neutral.

“After 1933, National Socialism pursued Hitler’s anti-Semitic, racist, and imperialistic ends in Shtuttgart, too,” a caption explains in English. “Despite their Social Democratic past, many citizens endorsed and profited from the new policies.” Only a third of Stuttgart’s residents voted for the Nationalist Socialists, but this was enough to make the party dominant in the city. “In 1933 began the marginalization, persecution, and murder of Jews, political opponents (social democrats and communists), and other groups,” another caption states, using an impersonal construction that makes marginalization, persecution, and murder sound like forces of nature rather than acts of man. Members of Hitler’s party defaced the entrances to Jewish shops and then rallied in the town square.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-weaponization-of-national-belonging-from-nazi-germany-to-trump

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in North America

 

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From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs

Seven years ago the impressionist Rory Bremner complained that politicians had become so boring that few of them were worth mimicking: “They’re quite homogenous and dull these days … It’s as if character is seen as a liability.” Today his profession has the opposite problem: however extreme satire becomes, it struggles to keep pace with reality. The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/26/trump-johnson-nationalists-billionaire-oligarchs

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Yanis Varoufakis: “Never before have we had so much money, yet so little investment in what humanity needs”

Laura Siegler: With the economic rift seemingly still expanding between Southern Europe, on the one hand, and the ‘core’ European countries (Germany, Benelux, France, Scandinavia) on the other, what is the scope for a common environmental agenda of the European left?

Yanis Varoufakis: This question is not just global but also within Europe, because the fragmentation of oligarchy — of capitalism and financialised capitalism — is detrimental to any attack against the climate extinction we are facing. We have a remarkable disconnect, an imbalance, between the amount of liquidity, of money which is available, and the amount of investments — the things the humanity needs. Never before have we had so little investment in what humanity needs, in relation, as a percentage, to the available money. We have the highest amount of savings in the history of capitalism, and the lowest levels of investments, in comparison, especially in the technology of the future that will prevent the climate catastrophe.

https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/yanis-varoufakis-never-money-investment-humanity-needs/

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Economy, European Union

 

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