Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Log 457 Jan 27 2015: Brilliant Israeli dissident scares this columnist to death with two lectures on the irreducible lunacy of the Western world’s unflinching support for the aggressive Israeli state

English: Palestinian territories (West Bank an...
English: Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) showing Israel's 1948 and 1967 borders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: The postage stamp of United Nations, ...
English: The postage stamp of United Nations, Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (1981): ( Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jeff Halper
Jeff Halper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Montreal we have had a visit from Jeff Halper, head of the  Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, who gave two remarkable lectures on succeeding nights. He said on the second night that he did not speak the language of hope, but of struggle, and the material he produced for a Montreal audience --- probably 80 per cent made up of “the choir” of those who agreed with him, as he said ---- did not make any concessions to those who might be looking for a quick fix to the Israeli-Palestine imbroglio.
Although I acknowledge the courage,  persistence and goodwill of those in Israel who oppose the present suicidal course of their government, nevertheless I had a feeling in the back of my mind that Halper might be expected to produce a slightly anodyne version of the facts.  I should have known better. He gave it to us, straight, in a manner that the media which is constantly dealing with this issue never does.
For Halper, the two-state solution around which all international attitudes towards the issue are built, is long-since dead and buried. In fact, it has never been a possibility for the simple reason that, from the outset, Israel has refused to acknowledge it as a possibility and has done everything it could to pre-empt and kill it. Ironically, Halper sees the two-state solution as “super pro-Israeli”, because it envisaged that Israel, with a minority of the population of the whole area of Palestine, should get 78 per cent of the land. Nevertheless, Israel has never, from the beginning, accepted or recognized the Palestinians as a people --- even the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens are referred to as “Arabs”, to indicate that they have no original homeland they might hanker after.  Even the Oslo accords could look forward to the Palestinians having effective control over only 38 per cent of that 22 per cent of the land allocated to them after 1948. And the current state of that eight per cent of the land on which Palestinians now live is that it has been hopelessly fragmented and controlled by 600 Israeli checkpoints that restrict the movement of the people who live there to such an extent that he cited the case of a 21-year-old born in Bethlehem, within walking distance of Jerusalem, who had never in his life been to Jerusalem, a young man who could see the Mediterranean but had never visited it.  Halper gave a figure that tells the other part of this story, the success of Israel in getting rid of the Palestinians over the decades: in 1962, 250,000 Palestinians were living in the Jordan valley, part of the so-called West Bank; now there are only 50,000 left.
Halper argued that the language used about the issue is out of date.  In fact, there already exists one state, controlled by Israel from the sea to the Jordan river.  There is one government, he said, one state, one system of water, one electrical system, one hydro system, and so on.   “We should not be talking about Occupation of the West Bank,” he said. “What it is today is one state, an apartheid state, with the two major elements, that one people is set up over the other, and that they have established a regime of permanent institutional domination.”  Accepting that this is so, he says, “we now have to make it into a democratic state.”  He acknowledges that is not going to be easy. After all, 95 per cent of Israelis favoured the brutal onslaught lasr year on Gaza. When this is the mind-set of the dominant people, it is going to take a cataclysm to change their minds.
Halper believes that the collapse of the apartheid state must happen eventually, and he is concerned that “we, on the left” have nothing to suggest to replace it. He bases his ideas about a possible solution on a proposal for a binational state, established by a regional Middle Eastern agreement, followed by a confederal government that would be carefully established through six stages, each of which must be accepted by both sides if the whole thing is to work. First, a balance must be struck between collective rights (self-determination) and individual rights (democracy). This would be a tough one for the Palestinians to swallow, he acknowledges, because it suggests some limit on sovereignty. Second, the agreement must conform to human rights and international law. Third, the right of return of the refugees must be recognized (a tough one for the Israelis to swallow). Fourth the state must be economically viable. Fifth, it must address the security concerns of Palestine, Israel and the whole region. Sixth, ultimately this agreement must be regional in scope, and he defined the region as comprising at least Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. He suggested such a state should have two houses of Parliament, one elected on communal lines, the other by direct election of the people, and there should be a revolving three member executive head of state, comprising Palestinians, Israelis and the electorate in general.
 He produced a cunning alternative understanding of BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction, the global anti-Israel campaign that he supports) but which could also stand, he said,  for Binational Democratic  State.
This was the second of his two lectures: the first, dealing with Israel’s immense role in “Global Pacification”, was altogether more alarming. Halper is in the process of writing a book about the Israeli military, a subject he says he is not expert in, but which evidently fills his head at this time. He presented Israel as an almost totally militarized state, whose universities operate as high-tech research and resource centres for military aggrandizement, but one of its major functions is to “export the Occupation.”  Israel is armed veritably to the teeth, he says.  It has 10 of its own spy satellites, which explains the high level of its intelligence about Palestinian movements, and it has invented all sorts of nasty little vehicles and machines to maximize  control over populations. In fact, Israel’s influence over policing methods used in many other countries --- Halper suggests it is exporting military equipment to 185 countries --- is so great that he says we should not refer to “the militarization” of North American police forces, but rather to their “Israelization.”   Just this week has come over my e-mail a piece detailing how Israel is supplying all sorts of oppressive weapons to arm the Mexican border with the US, for example.
I did not keep detailed notes of this address, so I do not want to imply that he said actual words that he might not have said. However, I did come away with an overall impression that was extremely alarming.  Given Israel’s behaviour in ruthlessly opposing any rights for Palestinians ever since foundation of its state, and right through the so-called Peace Process in its many rebirths,  during which it has paid lip-service to wanting peace while resolutely refusing every attempt to make peace, and putting this together with its insane level of military preparedness, which it has shown every disposition to use, it would seem to be clear that if ever the day should arrive when the Israel’s existence is threatened, they would be quite ready to bring the whole Middle East down in flames. And would be, without any doubt, perfectly capable of doing it.
In this perspective, it would seem that the decision to implant this European-type state in land already occupied by another people could be seen as possibly the most disastrous single policy decision ever made by the international community, a mistake second only to the actions of the United
States and other powerful supporters in thereafter building up Israel’s military capacity to such a degree.
Against this nightmarish idea, Halper seems to pose the suggestion that the world should recognize his new apartheid state for what it is, and get together to ensure that its future should be more democratic than its present has turned out to be.
He recognises that Israel has pulled off an amazing stunt, that is, of persuading the world that it is the victim in a situation in which they are, in fact, the dominant and oppressing power, a triumph of what he calls the “framing” of the issue.
I will end with this paragraph from a book written by Halper  called Obstacles to Peace: Re-framing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which deals with this vital issue of how the conflict is framed, and brilliantly suns up what seems like the irreducible problem posed by this issue:

“How have officials of successive Israeli governments and their spokespeople succeeded in ‘selling’ their country’s heavy-handed control over millions of people deprived of their lands and rights as somehow justifiable? How do they convince not only its own people but also otherwise liberal people abroad --- political leaders, journalists, academics and much of the Diaspora Jewish community, not to mention the ‘man on the street’ --- to support policies which are manifestly unjust, which plainly violate international law and fundamental human rights and which serve to destabilize relations between the West and the entire Muslim world? How do they succeed in casting Palestinian resistance as base ‘terrorism’ while casting Israel, one of the world’s strongest military powers and one of its longest standing Occupying Powers, as a mere victim?”

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Log 456 Jan 19 2015: Viewpoint from the passing decades gives a perspective on human prospects that cannot be really optimistic

English: Young Saudi Arabian woman wearing Isl...
English: Young Saudi Arabian woman wearing Islamic clothing, as required by Sharia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Looking south from Top of the Rock, N...
New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
George W Bush and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabi...
George W Bush and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia holding hands s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 As one sits and watches the decades roll by, it is sometimes hard to realize how quickly the world is changing, compared with when one was young. For me, the major change in the world is that now the wealth-owners, who were always prominent, are totally dominant, running not only all major businesses, but also virtually all governments.
A show on AlJazeera this week loaned emphasis to what I have I mind. It is about the extraordinary transformation in North Dakota, which, when I lived a few miles north of it in Winnipeg in the 1950s, was a sleepy kind of place growing wheat and other grains. Now it is a centre of oil production, the 200 wells it had a few years ago having become 8,000, all of them engaged in fracking --- the process for extracting oil out of shale, that has almost overnight made the United States once again the world’s biggest oil producer, as it used to be generations ago.
The AlJ story was, however, about the inhuman conditions suffered by the many thousands of workers in this oil field they call The Bakken. Many men, as many as 40, have died in accidents, and thousands of others have been injured, or have fallen ill from being exposed to dangerously poisonous substances. For example huge trucks laden with salt water, and containing a vital mixture of inflammable gases, have been worked upon by welders who are expected to work punishingly long hours,  and many of whom are suffering from the inevitable damage to their persons.
This is the real face of capitalism as it has always operated when left alone to do its stuff. A representative of OSHA, the federal agency of Occupational Safety and Health, admitted there was little he could do to regulate the behaviour of these companies, he just doesn’t have the resources.  With nine inspectors for the whole state his very presence there makes a mockery of the work done forty years ago of a man like Anthony Mazzocci, of the Oil and Chemical Workers Union, who took up the challenge of workers’ health, and campaigned heroically to get government legislation to take care of it. (In Canada, Stephen Lewis, as a member of the Ontario legislature, performed equivalent  work to get better regulations established in his province. Saskatchewan, which had had the benefit of a democratic socialist government for many years, had established such regulations years before,  and was the standard-bearer for North America, in the field of workers’ health. I know this, because I made a series of films on the subject for the National Film Board in the 1970s.)
This is just an example that has crossed my ken in recent days. The larger world picture is also constantly before us. Just his morning on television there is reported a statement by Oxfam than if matters continue as they are going for another year, by 2016, one per cent of the world’s people will own  more than the other 99 per cent per cent of the entire world’s wealth. In other words they will own more than 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, a figure that has risen from 44 per cent in 2009.  This was unimaginable in the days of my youth, when, an earnest young socialist,  I naively believed that no one on earth should be allowed to earn more than $5,000 a year. I notice that this idea of maximum and minimum incomes is slowly coming back into favour among some people who are concerned, as I have always been, with the equality of opportunity, that should be shared by everyone.
Governments are always involved in doing something, responding to emergencies, for example, as they have been doing since the United States, for many years free of terrorist attacks, was bombed on September 11 in the year 2001. President George W. Bush immediately, as a reflex action, said those who were not with the United States in its self-declared war on terrorism were in favor of the terrorists.
And since then, unimaginable profits have been made by the biggest American companies as they have absorbed the vast expenditures made in this vain attempt to kill off terrorism.  One hardly need say the effort has had only this one result, that of enriching the already wealthy. Because as a measure designed to kill off terrorism, it has been a colossal failure, has, in fact, simply created more terrorists, and has, along the way, provided arms and materiel for the most aggressive of the dozens of terrorist groups that have been spawned by this approach.
In this, also, one observes the result that the only ideology the effort has fed --- apart from reinforcing the ideology of the super-rich --- is that of the lunatic extremist Muslim fundamentalists. Admittedly, this has come about probably because the US president of the time appears to have been close to an idiot. For example, although the big 9/11 attack on the US was carried out by Saudi Arabian nationals, he chose to attack and destroy Iraq which was not harbouring those responsible for the attack. With the breakdown of society in that country, the opposed factions of Islam, Shia and Sunni, have fallen upon each other, and this has become the dominant struggle throughout the Arab world, with the people rising in mostly fruitless revolutions, and dictators reinforcing their ruthless grip on some countries (Egypt and Saudi Arabia --- two of the major allies of the United States, being the prime example.) Meantime the US continues to insist that it is advancing democracy in the world, while supporting almost without question such delinquent states as those mentioned above, plus Israel.
There can be little doubt that the problems of the Middle East can be traced back to the continuing effort of the Western powers to implant a Jewish homeland in a country that was already occupied by another, long-resident people. With the massive  support that has made Israel by far the dominant military power in the region, this relationship has become something like the tail wagging the dog. The United States, which is supposed to be governed by reason, supports Israel so unquestioningly as to accept such obviously deleterious  actions towards a solution of the problem, as the building of thousands of  houses and apartments, occupied by an estimated 500,000 Jewish people, many of them religious fanatics, in the very land that the original residents occupied. To say that this makes an acceptable solution between the two sides less and less likely as the years pass, is to put it mildly. Thus Israel, which once  earned the respect of a war-weary, guilt-ridden world, has developed into a full-blown apartheid state, in many respects, as some say, worse than that of the inventors of apartheid, the white-supremacy fanatics of South Africa.
I think the above are the only terms in which a reasonable person can describe the current global situation. I remember many years ago reviewing a book on global hunger by a geographer from the University of Manitoba, who made the prescient remark that any nation that sought to equalize the way of life even of its own citizens could expect to have to confront the opposition in one form or another of the United States. By this time the list of nations is as long as your arm in which the United States has interfered, either with direct military action, or with financial support for overthrow of an elected government, or in many other ways.
As someone who has worked in the media through many decades, I am particularly interested in how the wealth-owners have managed to use their control of newspapers, radio and television, in general the system for distributing information, in their own interest everywhere. And how, of course, they are always trying to destroy the publicly-owned media in various countries. In Canada they are well on the way to destroying the CBC, which was set up by a Conservative government of the 1930s as a defence against our powerful neighbour. But wealth-owners are always more loyal to their wealth than their country, as Dr. George Grant, another conservative but a profound thinker, observed in his 1950s book, Lament for a Nation.
Of course, in addition to the concentration of wealth there are other important factors that have influenced change. Technology is high among these. Conservative-minded people believe implicitly that our major global problems will be solved by technical solutions: we will keep inventing new instruments that will somehow magically make the emission of CO2 disappear and thus solve the looming problem of global warming, with its drastic effects, already under way, on growth patterns and styles of life both for humans and for animals, plants and other creatures. It has always seemed to me that one need only visit Toronto and travel across it by the overcrowded 401 highway (and then multiply that effect by the tens of thousands of cities of Toronto’s size around the world), to realize that the battle to save the global environment is almost inevitably lost. The only hope surely is that the Earth being a resilient old soul, it will find feedback mechanisms that stave off the worse effects of this problem, and somehow restore the natural equilibrium, although even to suggest such a thing seems to me to be more in the realm of magic than of fact.
I have mentioned before, and make no apology for mentioning it again, that the late Professor Bruce Trigger, of McGill University, one of the world’s leading archaeologists, gave a lecture in the 1980s in which he considered the future in the light of the archaeological record. He divided history into its well-known archaeological periods the latest being, he said, one in which technology has been in control, and the major human problem, he said, is now to find the way to bring technology back into human  control.  He gave good reasons for believing that our present set-up of nation states is incapable of confronting a problem on such a scale --- something that is confirmed every day of the year,  I would think --- and concluded that if we are to meet that challenge we will need the same qualities as were those of the paleolithic hunters of the distant past: forebearance, tolerance, co-operation, and so on.  .

Although there are occasional signs that humans have learned a lesson or two --- the coming together in peace of the European nations after engaging in centuries of war is one of them --- there are many more areas in which our bitter past experiences seem to have taught us not a thing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Log 456 Jan 11 2015: Stevan Dedijer, son of a Black Hand assassin, Princeton graduate, Communist apparatchik, physicist and true Renaissance man --- with thanks to his son Jevto, of Montreal for lending me his autobiography

Marshal Tito during the Second World War in Yu...
Marshal Tito during the Second World War in Yugoslavia, May 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cleveland Tower, Princeton University, Old Gra...
Princeton University, where the Serbian youth got his education in the early 1930s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seldom happens that I sit down with the intention of writing something, and yet with little idea of what I want to say. That is the state I am in at the moment: I want to write something about a book I have read about the life of a remarkable man of our time, Stevan Dedijer, born in Sarajevo in 1911, died in Dubrovnik  at the age of 92, but a man of such wide-ranging curiosity and talents as to enable  it to be said of him that his life and experience forms “a chronicle of the 20th century.” 
The book in the form of an autobiography, is called  Stevan Dedijer --- My Life of Curiosity and Insights, has been edited by his third wife, Carin, a Swede, and their son  Miki, and I have it on the authority of those who knew Stevan that he was, as they say nowadays, “a one-off”, a positive, optimistic, genial person who kept changing horses (again, as the saying goes), throughout his life.
Stevan Dedijer as an American soldier, 1944

He came from a peasant background in Bosnia but his father was already a person of note as a core member of the so-called Black Hand, the group which assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, whose death precipitated the First World War in which tens of millions of people lost their lives. The father was never home during that war, and died in Switzerland of the Spanish flu when Stevan was just seven, so he had little influence on the boy’s life. The child’s early precocity earned him the support of a wealthy American  woman with a Serbian husband, and she arranged for him to be educated from the age of 12, in Italy, and later in the United States, right up to Princeton university.
He was 23 on graduation from Princeton, and after rejecting  a job offered by an industrialist, he decided  “to renounce all personal interests for a cause”. He returned to the United States after a visit to Serbia in 1934, where he rejected the offer of a good job from an industrialist (who paid his fare back), and thereafter he scrabbled along by selling his blood for $50, and living in five-dollar-a-night rooms, until  two years later he joined the Yugoslav Communist party, and became editor of a Serbian newspaper in Pittsburgh at $10 a week, working under the direction of a man who was a member of the Comintern, the international Communist organization, who had entered the US illegally. Not until he was 85 did it ever occur to him to ask himself: “How did I change physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally …. in a world dominated by half a dozen colonial empires and the rising Communist Soviet Russia based on Marx’s doctrine and the rise of fascist powers demanding a re-division of the world even by a new world war?” He remarks throughout the book on this apparent lack of self-awareness.
There seems always to have been an intense toughness to this Princeton-educated young man. He married a Party member, the first of three wives,  who eventually confessed she had fallen in love with and become pregnant by, another Communist. When he next  met his rival, Dedijer jabbed a cigar into the man’s cheek, and said, “Disappear from Pittsburgh or I will kill you.” Dedijer comments in the book: “I was surprised and could not believe what I had just done… He just stared at me and walked off. Next morning I found that he had left for New York.” 
In April 1941 the Nazi invaded and took over Yugoslavia, where the Croatian fascists began to kill Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats. When Serbs and Croats in Pittsburgh began to fight each other in saloons,  Dedijer wrote to Elliott Roosevelt drawing attention to these enmities, and received a letter in reply, written by FDR, calling for the unity of all foreign-born Americans against the Axis powers. Dedijer published this letter in his newspaper, and other Communist supported journals picked  it up. It is to his credit that when Yugoslav was breaking up in the 1990s into warring mini-states, he opposed the aggressions of his people, the Serbs, blamed it all on Serbian vice-president Milosovic, and continued to live in Dubrovnik, among the Croats.  
Before that war was launched in 1991, however, he underwent many remarkable adventures. He was asked by  a University of Texas professor who hailed from the neighbouring Bosnian village, to join the Office of Strategic Services, the famous OSS, founded a few months before by the legendary Bill Donovan. He was told by a Communist party representative that he was very likely to be sent to Europe on the same ship as a correspondent of Life magazine who was the son of the leader of the Serbian Democratic Party.  Dedijer was told that he should “find an occasion to throw him into the Atlantic.” In the event, he never took the ship, but “from this I learned how easy it is to find fanatical individuals, as I was at that time, to commit terrorist acts, from assassinations, to blowing up dozens of human beings, or even more serious ones as is happening now in all parts of the world.”
For the OSS he was given rigorous training, determined to be the best among his peers, and one day, he was told to wait at the back entrance to the camp for a truck. He was approached by an officer who told him, “You are now dismissed from the OSS. If you tell anybody what you have learned you will go to jail for many years. Climb in that truck and get the hell out of here.” Evidently, they had learned he was a Communist.
He volunteered in the United States army, was sent to Europe, where he was one of three soldiers
assigned to be bodyguard to the commander of the 101st Airborne division, General Maxwell Taylor. The division apparently had to hang on in the pivotal Belgian city of Bastogne to forestall the last desperate advance of the German army and when that battle was won he asked to be transferred to aid the Partisan army headed by Tito in Yugoslavia.   This was just after the Americans, who had supported the fascist-supporting Chetniks of Mihailovitch, finally realized  that only Tito was fighting the Germans.
Back in his home country he discovered that his brother Vladimir had become a leader of the Communist party, and he himself was assigned by one of Tito’s closest associates, Milovan Djilas, later jailed by Tito for ten years, to become  editor of the leading Party newspaper. He says he heard about many people disappearing in Yugoslavia, and was often approached by wives desperate for news of their husbands, and later in life he was told his brother had estimated the number of people killed by Tito in revenge killings at 195,000.  He comments: “Nothing of this appeared in the newspapers I edited.” Gradually it was borne in on him that state-owned enterprises were inefficient, at least in Yugoslavia, and after a stint in which he was supposed to try to improve Tito’s image in New York, he realized that the leading Party personalities were riven with rivalries. He had expected they would all be comrades, discussing the nation’s problems frankly in comradeship, but he found even senior members were afraid of Tito.
Physics had always been a major interest, and when Tito decided Yugoslavia  needed a nuclear bomb, Dedijer was asked to head the effort. He soon found that those in charge of this advanced science didn’t know what they were doing; but his blunt statement of the facts did not sit well with the authorities and gradually he was sidelined, eventually removed from his position, and then his passport was taken from him. For six years he lived by translating books for Pergamon Press, the English firm founded by Robert Maxwell. Thirteen times he was refused a renewal of his passport, but contacts he had made with physicists in Denmark and Sweden eventually enabled him to leave Yugoslavia.
He was given a post with Lund University in Sweden, and he began to be aware that with his inquiring mind, his broad knowledge of so many subjects, he had begun to touch on what he called a new discipline, that is, something he called social intelligence.
So far as I can understand it, this is no more than a recognition that a vast amount  of information exists, so profound in its scope as to make old-fashioned spying obsolete.  This may sound like recognizing the obvious (I got a sense that he was also in a mild way, a bit of a con man: later he was a consultant for both Saudi Arabia and the PLO), but Dedijer was able to parlay it (to use an American expression) into a genuine discipline to such an extent that he is today recognized as the founder of this new academic subject.
Looking at it now, one is struck by an immense irony: today, more than ever before, intelligence is held more secretively against the scientific chest than ever before, and is guarded by huge government institutions who feel the need to control every utterance made by anyone, anywhere,  as Edward Snowdon’s leaks from American sources have  demonstrated.
I was struck by two other ironies towards the end of Dedijer’s account of his fascinating life: at the age of 70 he undertook to become a parachute jumper again, with the aim of holding 50 jumps a year. After only seven jumps he so severely damaged himself that he had to give it all up (an ironic comment on the athleticism of which he was so proud). Secondly, and more to the point, though priding himself on being at the centre of global intelligence, his reaction of shock, horror and disbelief in face of the brutal breakup of his native country, Yugoslavia, an event that took him totally by surprise although it had been foreseen in a CIA study, seems at odds with his own view of himself as standing at the centre of global intelligence.

Nevertheless, this book about this remarkable man’s life contains an immense amount of information about our modern world which justifies its sub-title as “a chronicle of the twentieth century.” That can surely be said of very few individuals.

Friday, January 9, 2015

My Log 455 Jan 9 2015: The Charlie Hebdo attack: one that goes way beyond the usual claptrap from the oligarchy about freedom of expression

When mainstream media organs get their knickers in a twist about challenges to the freedom of the press, I usually dismss it as hypocritical claptrap.
Based on my years working for the press, I have reached the conclusion that the proprietors of privately-owned media organs have, as a primary objective, to make money, followed by relentless pursuit of their own invariably right-wing political objectives, followed by the need to employ senior staffers obedient to their vested interests, with, as a corollary of that some concern about the quality of their employees, and bringing up a lagging last, a minimal concern about freedom of expression.
Basically, I have never believed that people who run, for example, newspapers that themselves do not practise freedom of expression for their own staff, can be honestly concerned with freedom of expression for society in general.
This, on the whole, negative view of the press, was richly confirmed when years ago I reviewed Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s ground-breaking book Manufacturing Consent, which laid out the above cited mechanisms in painful detail.
The argument presented therein was doubly confirmed after the attack on the
World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, and George W Bush’s invention of the so-called war on terror, which, at immense expense to everyone, has plunged the world into one war after another, all with melancholy results.
I say all this in explanation of my reactions to the outcry on television about the attack on the Paris satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo (which I hasten to say I had never heard of). I tended towards the assumption  that it was a regrettable event that I would rather judge without what I have come to think of as “the claptrap” reaction from that huge network of wealth-owners who dictate the nature of our information systems.
Until, that is, I saw the superb edition of La Presse published on Thursday, the day after the event.  This, with its generous reproduction of cartoons published by the attacked magazine, photos and brief histories of the cartoonists who were slain by the terrorists, and moving, though measured commentaries from the La Presse columnists and editorialists,  brought home to me that here was a thoroughly detestable event in which anarchist-minded  people of immense talent, extraordinary humour and persistent courage were hunted down and slain by disgusting religious fundamentalist fanatics who, when they burst into the editorial offices, actually asked which was the editor before shooting him to death, along with senior members of his staff.
If ever there was an onslaught on freedom of expression, this was it. The people chosen to be removed were commenting on the very edge of what is acceptable in polite circles, had made similar comments about every religion and its leaders, and had not shrunk from putting themselves in danger by keeping on with their attacks on the indefensible rubbish pedalled by religions that had always attracted their sharp humour and veiled disgust.
La Presse has followed up with another fine detailed account of the affair in today’s newspaper, and I think they deserve great praise for the way they have handled the event, which seems to have really caught them by the throat, as it were, since their world-view is French.
Of course, since it was media people who were cut down, it seems almost inevitable that the media would overplay their coverage of the event: yet, all reservations aside, the attackers made this into a battle between those who believe in free expression, and those who believe that only those who agree with them should be free to express their opinions, when they shouted that they had killed Charb (the editor and one of the cartoonists on the magazine), and that they had avenged the Prophet.
God Almighty, one might say, not wishing to invoke the non-existent deity, are we all to be held accountable to some Prophet in whom we do not believe?

Never, surely.