Dec 15, 2008

Modern media myths

1. Religion and culture are two separate things.
Study of any of the more than ten thousand – by a recent count, from the Afghanistan animists to the Zoroastrians – religions in the world reveals that in practice it is not possible to distinguish between the culture and the religion; in practice they are so closely intertwined as to be indistinguishable, and follow certain predictable paths, mainly that the culture remains and selects what it wants from the religion up to and including physical artifacts.

Statues of the goddess Isis with the child Horus in her arms continued to be venerated in Egypt for example even after the adoption of Christianity only now they were called the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. The most militant Christian groups in the USA survive the discovery that their leader consumes large quantities of drugs and hires male prostitutes without changing in the slightest their insistence the Bible and only the Bible is the complete word of God. This does involve, of course, a tactful blindness to passages allowing fathers to sell their daughters into slavery, forbidding usury (charging interest on loans), or a blanket death penalty for homosexuals, but Christian groups survive this with equanimity, as do all the other ten thousand religions.

Not every country enjoys the freedoms of Indonesia, with the largest Moslem population in the world, where everyone is constitutionally (which also means in practice, unlike the USA) allowed to change from any religion, including Islam, to any other religion, as many times as they wish.

A number of tactical moves from one religion to another are taking place particularly in India among the Untouchables, the lowest caste. (See “The Dalits” in February 2008 at

2. Western countries have a free press
Western countries do not have a free press. Their media, not only newspapers, but more importantly radio and TV, are tightly controlled. (See Letter to Coral, in November 2008 at on Bill Maher, for some striking examples.)

It would not be difficult to argue that both Russia, which has just announced the formation of a new political party, dedicated to the dismantling of the Putin power structure on its official channel, RT, and India, where a movement has sprung up asserting that the Mumbai bombings are an inside job engineered by Hindu nationalist extremists bent on fomenting war against Pakistan and seizing the Kashmir, have more open media than western countries. It is instructive to compare both of these with the vaporings of Mr. Gordon Brown in Afghanistan, where the whole question why on earth we are fighting there at all was entirely ignored in favor of heavy condemnation of a fifteen year old suicide bomber, - one would have thought that a place where even fifteen year olds are ready to die in order to kill you would be a good place to get out of - or Mr. Bush’s farewell visit to Iraq, where he had shoes thrown at him. The aim was excellent; President Bush had to duck to avoid each shoe. The Baydan company of Istanbul making that particular shoe has reported a fourfold increase in orders and taken on one hundred extra staff.

It is important not to be confused by items such as the cartoons on the prophet Mohammed published in Denmark. It is certainly possible, with expert guidance, to fabricate ways to enrage selected populations, which the cartoons achieved, but the hollowness of the boast that this makes them free can be exposed by comparison with the Viet Cong in Vietnam. Would cartoons have bothered them? Not in the slightest. Would the Abu Ghraib humiliation of draping a woman’s knickers over the head have humiliated the Viet Cong? Not at all. That only worked on a carefully researched population which regarded the genitalia as the seat of honor. Any Viet Cong would have laughed and blown his nose on the knickers.

The group that hijacked the US government in 2000, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Podhoretz, Kristol, Krauthammer, et al, usually referred to as “the neocons,” or neo conservatives, also control the media, in pursuing the “Bush doctrine,” which is that the USA has the right to attack preemptively any country or area that might in the future be capable of posing a threat to it. The casual announcement by this group that the US asserted “ownership of space” (since the earth is surrounded by space this is equal to claiming ownership of the entire universe) is one of many examples that the neocons are not playing with a full deck.

3. Suicide bombers are distinctively Islamic
Wrong again! By far the most successful, both in numbers and elevation of target, are the Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, always carefully avoided in any discussion of suicide bombers, who actually bagged a sitting Indian prime minister, Rajiv Ghandi.

Two things are noteworthy about this most successful of all suicide bomber groups, the first of which is that they are entirely secular. Their aim is an independent, or at least autonomous, homeland for the Tamil population of Sri Lanka in the north of the island. They have no religious affiliation or interest at all.

The second thing that is noteworthy about the Tamil Tigers is the Tamil culture on the mainland in India, home of the famous Juggernaut, the heavy carriage of the god, under which devout believers threw themselves and were crushed to death to show their devotion. See the connection? If not, go back to Section 1, above.

4. Jewish people are Jewish people
Well, yes and no. Certainly any one is free to enter Judaism, as Jewish folks like Mendelsohn the German composer and friend of Goethe are also free to leave it and become Christian, even if they do not have the luck to live in Indonesia.

The real question is who is a Jew, which has been exercising the Jewish community for some time, and is still a subject of debate. (For the moment, let us leave aside the answer of the rabbi asked that question and his answer “Why, everybody, I suppose.”)

The community of Jewish folks is divided into Sephardi and Ashkenazi. Sephardi Jews are the lineal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Saul, David, and all those familiar biblical characters. Ashkenazi are the descendants of a semi-nomadic Turkic tribe, the Khazars, originating in Eastern Asia, who decided to adopt Judaism between the 8th and 10th centuries AD.

According to news reports Russian archaeologists have recently found the long-lost Jewish (Ashkenazi) capital, Itil, near the Caspian Sea, and the reports state that Christian, Moslem, and pagan communities also existed in Itil and had places of worship there. See Agence France Presse for Wed Sep 3, 12:08 PM ET at

Zionism, and the state of Israel, is heavily Ashkenazi dominated, and Sephardi Jews are marginalized and ignored as far as possible. This is not surprising as Sephardis include anti Zionist groups like Netturei Karta, and generally espouse the traditionally accepted command to the Jewish people to be good and loyal citizens of whatever country they live in, and leave the fate of the Jewish community in the hands of God. Ashkenazis, on the other hand, take the more robust view perhaps brought with them from the plains of eastern Asia that characterize some of the other waves of peoples from that area.

5. Iran’s Ahmedinejad has called for Israel to be wiped off the map
'Wiped off the Map' – The Rumor of the Century -by Arash Norouzi

On Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at the Ministry of Interior conference hall in Tehran, newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a program, reportedly attended by thousands, titled "The World Without Zionism." Large posters surrounding him displayed this title prominently in English, obviously for the benefit of the international press. Below the poster's title was a slick graphic depicting an hour glass containing planet Earth at its top. Two small round orbs representing the United States and Israel are shown falling through the hour glass' narrow neck and crashing to the bottom.

Before we get to the infamous remark, it's important to note that the "quote" in question was itself a quote – they are the words of the late Ayatollah Khomenei, the father of the Islamic Revolution. Although he quoted Khomeini to affirm his own position on Zionism, the actual words belong to Khomeini and not Ahmadinejad. Thus, Ahmadinejad has essentially been credited (or blamed) for a quote that is not only unoriginal, but represents a viewpoint already in place well before he ever took office.

The Actual Quote:
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi:
"Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."
That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word "regime." pronounced just like the English word with an extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem).

So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want "wiped from the map"? The answer is: nothing. That's because the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh" is not contained anywhere in his original Farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's president threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." despite never having uttered the words "map." "wipe out" or even "Israel."

'Wiped off the Map' – The Rumor of the Century

Word by word translation:
Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).

In his speech, Ahmadinejad declares that Zionism is the West's apparatus of political oppression against Muslims. He says the "Zionist regime" was imposed on the Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure domination of the region and its assets. Palestine, he insists, is the frontline of the Islamic world's struggle with American hegemony, and its fate will have repercussions for the entire Middle East.

Ahmadinejad acknowledges that the removal of America's powerful grip on the region via the Zionists may seem unimaginable to some, but reminds the audience that, as Khomeini predicted, other seemingly invincible empires have disappeared and now only exist in history books. He then proceeds to list three such regimes that have collapsed, crumbled or vanished, all within the last 30 years:
(1) The Shah of Iran – the U.S. installed monarch
(2) The Soviet Union
(3) Iran's former arch-enemy, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein

In the first and third examples, Ahmadinejad prefaces their mention with Khomeini's own words foretelling that individual regime's demise. He concludes by referring to Khomeini's unfulfilled wish: "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise." This is the passage that has been isolated, twisted and distorted so famously. By measure of comparison, Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.

6. A corporation is the same thing as an individual human
Oddly enough a US judge delivered a verdict on this very point in 1841, and took the trouble to point out that his decision served as a judicial precedent to be followed in any later legal proceedings, that the rights and privileges conferred on human persons by the constitution could not be applied to corporations or other groups of people, so that the right to be free of search and seizure, for example, the right to bear arms, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances embodied in the various amendments (the Bill of Rights) could apply only to people, never to corporations or groups of people.

Unfortunately for everyone the judgment was circumvented or otherwise ignored and the current situation is that corporations have all the rights intended by the constitution to apply to people, you know, two arms, two legs, body, and head, well, more or less.

When the government of Canada was facing a vote of no confidence in Parliament in December 2008, which it was certain to lose, which event normally results in an election for a new government, it took the unusual step of calling on the representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to dissolve Parliament. Queen Elizabeth is the sovereign of Canada as well as Great Britain, since Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, and her representative was able therefore to grant the request and Parliament was immediately dissolved. No Parliament, but the government is still the government, and has not lost a vote of confidence.

The petition of the Chagossians, the inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, for redress and reversal of their expulsion from their island by the British and placement in refugee camps for fifty years while their island was handed by the British to the US to establish a military base there, was granted by various courts on a number of occasions. When the final appeal to the highest court possible, the House of Lords, against this judgement was also denied, an “Order in Council” was made to deny the Chagossians the right of return to their island.

What was the first thing Mayor Bloomberg of NY did after amending the constitution on term limits to allow him a third term? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his administration wouldn’t send $400 property-tax rebate checks due this month to owners of apartments and houses because the slowing economy threatens to worsen a widening budget gap.” Reneging on your debts and obligations is the first thing you do.

This is the process referred to in the famous expression “You can’t fight City Hall,” meaning that even if your case is clear and legal and correct, the local war lords will invent a law to deny your case if none already exists.

There is however a very serious danger in demonstrating contempt for the law. After all if no one else takes the law seriously, why should you, or anybody else? The successful crowd takeovers in Greece and Thailand and the unsuccessful one in Burma (Myanmar) may be precursors of many more.

And there is a vast range of laws the local warlords have made. The common habit of burying the afterbirth in a child’s birthplace may have a mystical or merely sentimental effect, though harmless in any case, but it will certainly be denied if you have your baby in any western institution under the warlords’ control, since ownership of your own body, like the right to end your life if you choose, is not something the warlords are willing to grant. Foods and drinks you are allowed to consume and at what age, actions you may or may not perform with your lower body, information you are allowed to know about, the list is literally endless.

"Things are in the saddle and ride mankind." Walt Whitman

7. Technology is a modern invention
Quite untrue. Really useful bits of technology, like earthenware pots kept on the terrace that hold deliciously cool water are commonplace, as is the Eskimo igloo built of ice blocks for survival. It is not necessary to know that the slight ooze of water through the earthenware produces a drop in temperature as it evaporates in the heat, nor how the body heat of the occupiers can build up quite a cozy warmth in the igloo to profit from either. “It’s the poor who are the gainers,” says the Daily Reckoning, tougher, more used to deprivation and without investments to lose.

No one expected very much from the G - 20 meeting weekend before last but at least the wrong message might have been avoided. Vague as the statements of the president were, his expectation of "growth" was spectacularly wrong, given the UN description of the current situation, which no one has disputed, "that an entire second planet Earth is required merely to keep our present living standards where they are now." One would hope that the Haitian diet of mud cakes to quell hunger pangs do not become our fate, but "growth" is not on the menu without a second and third planet Earth available to feed the greed.

All informed opinion knows that we have long passed the tipping point for climate change and we can no longer have any effect on what happens in the next fifty years. In addition, for the last eight years a gentleman from the PI (Petroleum Institute) has been editing out all references to climate change in government documents, while the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere has been rising enormously each year, and the Siberian tundra, frozen for the last eleven thousand years, is now melting, releasing large amounts of methane – approximately twenty times as damaging as carbon – into the atmosphere. Below is a report on the conference on global warming at Exeter University. That was in the summer and there’s another in Poznan at the moment. More agonized handwringing, and disasters certain.

“At a high-level academic conference on global warming at Exeter University this summer, climate scientist Kevin Anderson stood before his expert audience and contemplated a strange feeling. He wanted to be wrong. Many of those in the room who knew what he was about to say felt the same. His conclusions had already caused a stir in scientific and political circles. Even committed green campaigners said the implications left them terrified.

“Anderson, an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, was about to send the gloomiest dispatch yet from the frontline of the war against climate change.

“Despite the political rhetoric, the scientific warnings, the media headlines and the corporate promises, he would say, carbon emissions were soaring way out of control - far above even the bleak scenarios considered by last year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern review. The battle against dangerous climate change had been lost, and the world needed to prepare for things to get very, very bad.

"As an academic I wanted to be told that it was a very good piece of work and that the conclusions were sound," Anderson said. "But as a human being I desperately wanted someone to point out a mistake, and to tell me we had got it completely wrong."

“Nobody did. The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as Anderson pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and "dangerously misguided" at worst.” David Adam The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

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