You are mugged in the street by a gang of powerful and well organised thugs who rob you of your money and personal possessions. You are knocked to the ground and subjected to violent blows to your body and head that almost render you unconscious. You notice other citizens observe the assault but they appear too frightened to intervene.
The attackers are big and powerful. They also shout loudly that you deserve to be attacked as they aim further blows at you. There is a look of fear, confusion and apprehension in the faces of those that look on.
The innocent by-standers are consumed with fear of reprisals if they dare to help or raise their voices in protest but they are also confused by the loud claims that you are deserving of this assault and robbery. Some satisfy themselves that their cowardice in failing to intervene on your behalf is justified by the proclamations that you deserve this treatment. You lie in the street battered, bloodied and bruised. You are frightened and sore and your personal dignity has also been undermined. Then one of your attackers offers you a hand to raise you from the ground. He promises you medical assistance and now the people observing this episode are even more confused. The individuals responsible for this violent episode appear to be offering the targeted victim medical help. How can this add up?
Then it becomes clear that the offer of medical attention to treat your open wounds, cuts and bruises is dependent upon you cooperating with a continuation of their theft from you. Only if you give them the pin number to your bank debit card to allow them to empty your account will they call an ambulance. You refuse and begin to fight back despite the overwhelming odds. Some of the observers cannot fathom your futile resistance and call on you to give the attackers the pin number to allow medical help to be summoned. Others realise their silence is cowardly and shout in protest at your treatment and call for the police to be summoned. They are both disappointed and cowered when your brutal attackers who have robbed you turn to those protesting and announce ‘we are the police, we are the forces of law and order’.
This short allegory illustrates almost perfectly international relations between the world’s self-appointed policeman, the United States of America (US), and the rest of the world but particularly smaller countries which ever dare step out of the neo-liberal free market line and consensus and embrace socialist ideas and policies.The principle character in the allegory has been a cast of hundreds over the years but today is Venezuela. Since the democratic election of socialist Hugo Chavez in 1998 and his inauguration as President in 1999 the US has consistently denounced Venezuela’s socialist policies and sought to undermine them economically through the use of sanctions and trading restrictions.
That approach has been pumped up several notches since the economic downturn of 2015 which combined with US sanctions to strangle Venezuela’s economy as oil prices plummeted and reduced the value of its principle export.
The US despises the socialist policies and Bolivarian spirit of revolution and radical wealth re-distribution which Chavez and the Chavismo movement represented and continues to represent under the former bus driver President, Nicholas Maduro, who was re-elected last year with more than 6.2 million votes in a multi-candidate election described as one of the fairest in the world by international election observers. Although decried by countries obedient to the US, who failed to send observers, those elections have been validated by hundreds of independent international observers:
“In reality, Venezuela had free, fair and transparent elections and manages the most sophisticated and accurate voting system in the world. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has a Democracy Program, said, “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” This is consistent with others who have monitored Venezuelan elections. In the recent election, there were 150 international observers from over 30 countries who also noted the advanced nature of the election system and validated the results”.
However fair and free elections which produce results contrary to US neo-liberal consensus are never acceptable as the US only promotes democracy when it suits them to do so. The election of a fascist President in Brazil is acceptable but the election of a socialist in Venezuela is not. International law and respect for national sovereignty is not a principle to the US but an option they can choose whenever it suits their interests. The US is the biggest hypocrite on the planet and deserves the label as the most dangerous Rogue Nation on earth.Those who take America at its word and believe the humanitarian aid and concern for human rights and international law propaganda from the powerful media it controls really stand guilty of short memories, grotesque naivety or wanton ignorance.
There are scores of examples which illustrate the US disregard for international law and national sovereignty when it suits them, far too many to mention in one column. However never forget what the Ronald Reagan administration did in the name of human rights, international law and via ‘humanitarian aid’’ in Nicaragua in the early 1980’s.
The democratically elected socialist leaning government of Nicaragua accused America of illegally funding a brutal terrorist group intent on overthrowing the elected government of Daniel Oretega through acts of terror, extreme violence and deliberate sabotage of the economy. Ortega and the Sandinistas were elected in 1979 much to the displeasure of the US. They proceeded to use the cover of ‘humanitarian aid’ to channel armaments, military vehicles and training worth millions of dollars to a group of mercenaries determined to violently overthrow the Sandinistas. This group was called the Contras. The US support for them was in direct violation of international law and in breach of Nicaragua’s sovereignty as a nation.
After the presentation of evidence to the International Court of Justice, effectively the World’s Court, and despite the deliberate attempts to hinder the uncovering and presentation of evidence the US was found guilty of violating both international law and the principles of humanitarian law by laying mines to destroy ships in the waters surrounding Nicaragua and funding and training an opposition group which dished out terror, torture and violence in its campaign to overthrow the elected government. The investigation exposed the US (via the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)) use of supposed ‘humanitarian aid’ as a cover to transfer the weapons and means of torture to the Contras. The 1986 Judgement is a stark warning to the world of what the US is capable of and is one major reason why Venezuela’s elected government is right to oppose the sham ‘humanitarian aid’ currently presented by the US and world’s Western media as genuine. The Judgement should be read by all concerned with international affairs and how they are really conducted behind the newspaper headlines and massaged news bulletins:
(8) By fourteen votes to one,
Decides that the United States of America, by failing to make known the existence and location of the mines laid by it, referred to in subparagraph (6) hereof, has acted in breach of its obligations under customary international law in this respect; […]
(9) By fourteen votes to one,
Finds that the United States of America, by producing in 1983 a manual entitled Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerillas, and disseminating it to contra forces, has encouraged the commission by them of acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law.
The US was found guilty by the World Court of violating international law and encouraging the brutal Contras of breaching the general principles of humanitarian law and it ordered the US to desist from its illegal actions and pay substantial reparations to Nicaragua. It ruled that the aid channelled to the mercenaries that made up the Contras was military aid not humanitarian and was thus illegal.
For a commentary on this exposure of the darkness at the heart of US international relations and many other bigger and more devastating examples read ‘Rogue States’ by Noam Chomsky.
America’s desire for regime change in Venezuela recognises no international law or respect for national sovereignty. The continued existence of a Chavismo government which conflicts with current US foreign policy objectives in Latin America is all that matters to them. What should be a blessing is a curse for Venezuela. It possesses the largest oil reserves in the world, bigger even than those of Saudi Arabia.
America is not concerned with poverty in Venezuela or human rights. Their only concern is for strategic control over Venezuelan oil reserves and revenues.
Earlier this year John Bolton, US National Security Advisor, effectively admitted why America was proactively supporting an unelected stooge as interim President and keen to provoke an overthrow of the Maduro government when he said:
“It will make a big difference to the US economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce oil capabilities in Venezuela”.
US political hostility towards Venezuela has had negative repercussions for the economy. The introduction of trade restrictions in 2006 were followed by the imposition of international economic sanctions, and then the withdrawal of multinational corporate investments.
The new oil embargo is currently costing the Venezuelan economy $30 million a day while a prohibition on corporations under US jurisdiction from purchasing oil from PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, is denying PDVSA $11 billion in revenuesduring 2019 to date.
The assets of Houston based PDVSA subsidiary, CITGO, with a value of $7 billion, have been frozen in the US. Prior to this most recent escalation, US financial sanctions have already cost the Venezuelan government over $6 billion in lost revenue since August 2017.Moreover, the British government has blocked the transfer of £1.2 billion of Venezuelan gold deposits in the Bank of England in an act of modern day international piracy which should shame them.
Venezuela is now entering its sixth year of economic contraction. The severe economic and financial sanctions by the US and other Western governments are weapons of international warfare and are having a devastating effect upon the economy which faces hyperinflation, collapsing oil prices, a black market economy, and corruption.
Since the beginning of March, electricity blackouts and water shortages have caused new hardships. It is widely suspected this happened due to a targeted cyber-attack on the country’s main electricity generator aimed at inciting popular outrage as part of a destabilisation strategy against Maduro’s government.
After deliberately undermining the Venezuelan economy through the sanctions, trade restrictions and asset seizures leading to severe hardship across the country the US, like the thugs in our allegory at the start, proposes a humanitarian aid programme which has nothing to do with aid and everything to do with further undermining of the elected Maduro government.
This plan is being coordinated by the US appointed puppet Juan Guaido but the Venezuelan government has wisely refused USAID personnel access to the country claiming the aid programme is a cover for foreign intervention to topple the elected President. They have clearly read the ICJ Judgement of 1986.
The Venezuelan government are not the only ones to see through the US humanitarian aid ruse, used so cynically in Nicaragua and elsewhere. Both the United Nations (UN) and international Red Cross have raised serious objections to what they call Washington’s ‘politicised’ aid plan.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said:
“Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military, or other objectives”.
Former UN rapporteur Alfred Maunier de Zayas went even further when he told Al Jazeera that it was justifiable to describe the US aid as a ‘publicity stunt’. He described this aid as a potential Trojan horse comparable to how it was used in Nicaragua in the 1980’s to import contraband and weapons to support the Contras. He said that because the US is the cause of the crisis it is inevitable Maduro will refuse US aid, but accept it from other countries.
De Zayas said pointedly:
“Things will improve (in Venezuela) the moment financial and economic sanctions are lifted, and the moment Venezuela is allowed to trade fairly like other countries”.
In the developing drama that grips Venezuela every socialist, humanitarian and democratic should choose the side of the legally elected Maduro government and reject the illegal interference of Trump’s mad dog warmongers like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. Bolton served under Bush in the run up to the disastrous invasion of March 2003 which resulted in the loss of over one million lives. His manipulation of intelligence to justify the unjustifiable is known and must steadfastly be opposed.
He truly is a shameful individual who deserves to be in a dock at the Hague on trial for international war crimes not on TV supporting illegal US activities in Venezuela.
European aircraft maker Airbus slammed earlier in the day Trump’s plans to introduce tariffs over some EU products as lacking any “legal basis,” adding that US damages estimate was “largely exaggerated.”
US President Donald Trump turned to Twitter on Tuesday to announce that the US was introducing $11 billion worth tariffs on EU products due to the bloc’s subsidies to Airbus.
“The EU has taken advantage of the U.S. on trade for many years. It will soon stop!” Trump noted on Twitter.Commenting on the planned move, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that the US and the EU “cannot allow” a fresh conflict over European plane-maker Airbus.
Airbus, in its turn, said that the latest WTO report would allow the bloc to consider “even greater countermeasures.”
The day before, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released a list of products which might face additional duties. It includes several types of aircraft produced in France, Germany, Spain or the United Kingdom; various foods, including yogurts, fish steaks, wines and cheeses as well as clothes, linen and a large number of other products produced in any EU member state. Washington’s row with Brussels over subsidies to Airbus, a long-time rival of US competitor Boeing, dates back to 2004 when the US first turned to the WTO. In 2011, the WTO claimed that Airbus received $18 billion in subsidies from the EU between 1968 and 2006.
The US argues that the EU subsidies caused a decline in Boeing sales and led to it losing market share in countries across the world.
The EU, for its part, accused the US of providing Boeing with unfair support, including through tax concessions, and dealing with the issue at the WTO. Brussels claims that Washington provided Boeing with more than $5 billion in subsidies between 1989 and 2006.
April 9, 2019
Stone circles conjure up a lost world of mysterious ceremonies, druid astronomers, pagan dances and inquisitive antiquarians. The most famous is Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK, but it is also the most unusual in that it has lintels and trilithons in its design.
Most stone circles are not so glamorous, but given that over one thousand of them dated to between 3500 BC and 1500 BC have been found in the British Isles alone, their construction was evidently an important part of our ancient culture.
Stonehenge is also known for its summer solstice sunrise, and research over the last 60 years has shown that many other circles not only use sky and landscape alignments to mark astronomical events, but also share geometrical forms and measurement systems.
Whoever made these magnificent structures had a deep understanding of engineering, surveying, geometry, metrology, acoustics and astronomy. And they were not an isolated group of builders — as we will see, stone circle building was once a global endeavour.
Gobekli Tepe: Stone Circle Genesis
6,500 years before Stonehenge was constructed, a vast megalithic complex was flourishing near present day Şanliurfa, southeast Turkey. Göbekli Tepe is at least 12,000 years old and its preserved stone circles are the oldest in the world. The ones so far uncovered exhibit impressive degrees of technical and artistic skill.
Like Stonehenge, the monoliths were erected in circular arrangements, and oriented to particular areas of the sky. The world’s first stone circle complex is rewriting history books.
Göbekli Tepe consists of T-shaped pillars up to 20 ft. tall, many decorated with animal reliefs (scorpions, boars, lions, etc) and abstract human forms wearing belts inscribed with enigmatic ‘H’ and ‘U’ shapes.
The taller stones rest in shallow nests on bedrock with small supportive dry-stone walls built in between them. In some enclosures, two central pillars orient towards a holed stone, the largest and oldest of which is 65ft wide.
An enormous 24 ft.-long limestone pillar still sits in the nearby quarry. Over some 3,000 years the circles were filled in with rubble to create mounds, and other circular and oval enclosures built on top. Then, at around 8000 BC, the entire complex was carefully reconstructed and covered up. Interestingly, the oldest rings are not only the largest, but also the most sophisticated.
Like later sites around the world, astronomical alignments are evident. Figures depicted on the Vulture Stone may be the earliest representations of zodiacal and other constellations (including Cygnus). Our earliest surviving buildings therefore seem to be an early observatory built to track precession, the 25,800-year cycle of the pole stars.
Acoustics and Ellipses
It has been noted that the enclosures at Göbekli Tepe are roughly 4 to 3 ratio ellipses. Early stone ellipses seem to have been constructed using Pythagorean triangles and at least 30 examples have been recorded in Britain including Forvie Sands in Aberdeenshire, Postbridge in Devon, and Daviot in the Highlands of Scotland.
The great megalithic ring and mound of Msoura in Morocco is also an ellipse that we will discuss shortly. The 4/3 ratio is the harmonic fourth, one of the great harmonies of acoustics. In his book The Cygnus Key, Andrew Collins suggests the enclosures were designed with this in mind. I
British Stone Circle in Morocco
In Morocco, a remote ring called Msoura sits near Asilah near the northwest coast. Located about 18 miles from the Phoneician ruins of Lixus, it is a huge ellipse of 168 surviving stones of an original 175, the tallest of which is 17ft (5m). Its major axis is 195ft (59.29m) wide by 185ft (56.18m).
A massive, part-excavated tumulus was a later addition that sits in its centre. It encodes similar geometry and metrology to many British stone circles.
“Msoura, incredibly, appears to have been constructed either by the same culture that erected the megalithic sites in France, Britain and Ireland or by one that was intimately connected with them.” II
Unusual cup-marks on the bedrock and on top of some of the oldest pillars at Göbekli Tepe prefigure British cup-marks by thousands of years. This is a tradition that is found throughout the Fertile Crescent, all over the British Isles and in Atlantic Europe.
I recently investigated two American examples, both of which are petroglyph sites in Nevada; the 7,000 BC Grimes Point site and the 12,800 BC Winnemucca site. These are called cupules, which are concave depressions in the rock. Their presence at Göbekli Tepe has triggered many questions, not only as to what their purpose was, but how they relate to those found all over the world.
In 1970, Alexander Thom suggested in a BBC documentary, ‘Cracking the Stone Age Code’:
“…that the cup and ring markings were a method of recording, of writing, and that they may indicate, once we can read them, what a particular stone was for. We have seen the cup and ring markings on the stone at Temple Wood, and that’s on the main stone but we can’t interpret them … yet.” III
He created diagrams and carried out an analysis of over 50 of the cup and ring markings from which he determined a length he termed the Megalithic Inch (MI). IV
David Cowan, author of Ancient Energies of the Earth, believes they were created to manipulate natural telluric currents, to enhance fertility and link one cup-mark site up with another. V
Whatever their purpose, the cup and ring markings are one of the many mysteries of stone circles.
Stone Circles of the Bible
The submerged site of Atlit Yam near Haifa in Israel dates to between 6900 and 6300 BC and is the earliest known evidence for an agro-pastoral-marine subsistence system on the Levantine coast. A stone semicircle containing seven half-ton monoliths was discovered at 8m-12m deep.
The stones have cup marks carved into them and surround a freshwater spring. There is even a potential orientation to the Summer Solstice, and possible alignments to other stars, but these are yet to be fully researched due to their location underwater.
Further inland, dating to between 3000 and 4000 BC, is Rujm el-Hiri – (also known as Gilgal Refaim) – a huge series of concentric circles in the Golan Heights of Israel. It again has an opening in the outer circle that aligns to the Summer Solstice, as well as a burial chamber in the centre with many dolmens in the immediate area.
Once again, the tradition of cup-marks is present at the site. The cup-mark phenomenon continues throughout Europe, some famous examples of which are at Clava Cairns, a bronze-age site in Southern Scotland.
In the Hebrew Bible, there are 39 mentions of Gilgal, a ‘circle of standing stones’. In one account, having miraculously crossed the river Jordan, Joshua orders the Israelites to take twelve large stones from the river bed, one for each tribe, and place them at Gilgal ‘in memory’. Gilgal has been identified with the village of Jiljilia, about 8m north of Bethel.
Armenia is the unlikely location of one of the oldest and most impressive circles. Called Zorats Karer or Karenish by local people, and widely known as Armenia’s Stonehenge, Karahunge has 223 standing stones that vary between 2ft and 9ft tall and weigh up to 10 tons.
Although no cup-marks have been found, eighty stones have circular holes drilled through them, 37 of which are still standing. Its name translates as ‘speaking stones’ and researchers have noted that the holes create sound when the wind is strong. 17 of the stones align to sunrise or sunset at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 to lunar extremes.
Russian prehistorian Professor Paris Herouni, using telescopic methods and the rules of precession, analysed a prominent holed stone oriented north that aligns with Deneb, the brightest star of Cygnus, in c. 5,500 BC.
Early Circles in Portugal
Near Evora is the 8,000-year-old Cromeleque dos Almendres with its rounded granite stones and nearby dolmens. From this 92-stone circle the midwinter sun rises above the 8ft Menhir do Almendres, 1km to the southeast. Again, some of the stones have cup-marks on them.
The site was built in several phases beginning in c. 6000 BC and continuing up to c. 4000 BC.
South American Circles
The ‘Stonehenge of the Amazon’ is located on a hilltop near Calçoene, Amapa, Brazil. Here, 127 blocks of granite, up to 11 ft tall, are spaced at regular intervals around the hill, like a crown. The 100 ft circle is thought to have been constructed by the Amapán people between the 1st and 10th century AD. It has a winter solstice sunrise alignment.
Sillustani, near Lake Titicaca in Peru, is well known for its huge hilltop funerary towers called ‘Chulpas’. On the plains below are several astronomically-aligned stone circles built by the Kolla (a pre-Inca culture) between 100 AD and 1600 AD.
The largest, at 34 ft, is Intiwatana which translates as “to moor the sun”, and traditions in the area say that these were astronomical circles. Once again, cup-marks have been found here, as well as spiral patterns in the rocks.
However, the huge cupules seem to be mortice and tenon joints that linked the stones together, although ‘bosses’ or ‘protrusions’ are a tradition that is found all over Peru, including at Machu Picchu and Cusco. In fact, cultures such as the ancient Egyptians also had ‘protrusions’ like this on some of their megalithic structures and pyramids.
Return to Stonehenge
Further anomalies connect ancient Peruvian sites with Stonehenge. Two monoliths–one of the massive upright sarsens in the main Stonehenge circle and another fallen one–fashion a particular type of ‘scoop’ mark, as though the stone has been softened and an ice cream scoop has taken some of the stone away.
Finally, on the eastern face of the same upright sarsen, a ‘protrusion’ that is badly weathered is of a similar style to those of South America! Coincidence? Possibly. But it would not surprise me if we are looking at ancient cultures that were connected at some point in prehistory.
Coming Full Circle
It goes without saying that these direct similarities between ancient stone circle sites are worthy of further investigation. With so few of them left to study and so few written records of them, it is only the big unmovable stones and the way they have been placed in relation to their respective landscapes that could hold the key to understanding our prehistoric ancestors.
The power of the ancients has come full circle. The prehistoric stone circles represent a golden age of astronomy, mystery and technological prowess, and with the current wave of Megalithomania sweeping the planet, no doubt more will be built, leaving archaeologists and antiquarians of the future as baffled as we are now!
I. Andrew Collins, The Cygnus Key: The Denisovan Legacy, Gobekli Tepe, and the Birth of Egypt. Bear & Co. 2018. p. 195
II. Robert Temple, Egyptian Dawn, Century 2010. p. 379
III. The Spectator, p. 608. 1970.
IV. Systematics: The Journal of the Institute for the comparative study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences, Vol. 6, Number 3, Coombe Spring Press., December 1968
V. David Cowan, Ancient Energies of the Earth: An Extraordinary Journey into the Earth’s Natural Energy System, Thorsons, 1999.
On October 11, I was one of the hundreds of individuals and pages “unperson-ed” from some of the biggest social media platforms in the world.
Poof. Disappeared. Deleted.
The news organization I work for was “unpublished,” along with its more than two million Facebook followers. Hours later, it was also wiped from Twitter. So was my personal Twitter account, along with the accounts of our Twitter handler and our chief creative executive. The double-pronged purge, which was far more extensive on Facebook, created the appearance of at least some level of coordination between the two sites, neither of which had ever suspended or unpublished us before.
“Specifically for?” you might be wondering. Specifically for: nothing, at least according to Twitter.
More than a month later, Twitter responded to my appeal for my personal account (not my news outlet), vaguely suggesting I had engaged in behavior intended to artificially amply or suppress information or manipulate or disrupt Twitter users’ experiences on the platform. I never did that, and if I did, I was unaware of it and received no warning. However, because Twitter provided no examples of this alleged behavior and advised me not to contact them again, I am indefinitely suspended from the platform without any substantive explanation. So is my company.
I started writing for the Anti-Media in September 2014, after one of their journalists interviewed me about a YouTube video I made where I blow-torched my old Obama shirt after coming to terms with the reality that his “hope and change” rhetoric amounted to nothing more than brilliant political doublespeak for “maintaining the status quo.”
Our two founders, Nick Bernabe and Scott Gibson, were, like me, drawn to activism after discovering the Ron Paul revolution. As members of the millennial generation, which came of age in the post-9/11 era, we felt we had good reason to push back against the ever-encroaching political system that has heavily indebted us and increasingly infringed on our rights while expanding its reach and power.
We have spent the last four-plus years growing Anti-Media and working to awaken people from their passive subservience to big government and corporatism. We have done so by offering information that runs counter to the often pro-government narratives of traditional media outlets. I think it’s safe to say people want that information considering the number of followers we amassed before our removal. At our height in 2016 (before our reach began to rapidly decline amid algorithm changes following the election), we were reaching tens of millions of people per week.
Because we have built a dedication to factual reporting without sensationalism into our founding principles—we believe the confirmable truth is bad enough—I assumed we’d be safe from social media bans even when it became clear in August, when controversial commentator Alex Jones was purged, that crackdowns were likely coming. We don’t promote “hate speech,” nor do we spread disinformation, which is why, on the morning of October 11 when Nick first notified me the page had been unpublished, I assumed it was a glitch. (Facebook tends to have a lot of those.)
I didn’t start to worry until I read a couple of reports from mainstream outlets.
Unsurprisingly, the same media we often critique hardly reported on the purge of more than 800 Facebook accounts. Media that did cover it mostly repeated the official statement from the company’s press release, explaining that Facebook had simply taken action to remove “spam” and “fake accounts” that targeted users with the intent of misleading them with “inauthentic” behavior and driving them to ad farms to profit. But we didn’t do any of that, and many other pages, which are political in nature like ours, are also denying they employed such practices.
Along with Anti-Media, where we have been outspoken critics of President Trump and publish articles focused almost exclusively on government corruption, surveillance, the warfare state, police accountability, the failed war on drugs, and market solutions to government-created problems, dozens of pro-freedom libertarian pages were deleted. Pages like “Police the Police,” “Hemp,” and the popular libertarian news page The Free Thought Project, which boasted more than three million followers, were all taken down without warning. A few hours later, the Anti-Media was removed from Twitter, and so was I. It seemed apparent that the reason for my removal was my association with the Anti-Media.
To be fair, left-wing pages and pro-Trump pages were also removed, at least according to reporting from the likes of the LA Times. But as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, who investigated the recent developments in the December 2018 issue of the magazine, observed on Twitter, one common thread seemed less about ideology and more about themes:
Of course, Facebook denies removing any accounts over their content, and it’s safe to presume that at least some of the banned accounts were violating their policies. While the Anti-Media maintains we did not violate those standards with “spam” or by tricking users into visiting ad farms, many pages that have employed similar social media strategies to ours—but more or less toe the mainstream line, like the popular left-wing establishment page Occupy Democrats—remain intact.
According to founder Nick Bernabe, the main administrator of our Facebook page:
Groups within Facebook’s realm of acceptable opinion have long used similar “inauthentic” tactics that the Anti-Media used, namely Occupy Democrats and their consortium of partner pages, which all drove traffic to their website, washingtonpress.com, a liberal clickbait site. Since the October 11 purge, it appears they have discontinued these practices, but their Facebook page, which has 7.5 million followers, is still active.
It’s also worth noting that later in October, Facebook removed the libertarian page Liberty Memes, which had more than half a million followers, this time asserting their content violated community standards. They swiftly removed Liberty Memes 2.0, the page administrators’ attempts to relaunch.
If Anti-Media was engaging in activities that violated their policies, no one told us, and you’d think they probably would have, considering that in July, Facebook assigned us a representative as part of their “Publisher Solutions” program. Through that program, they gave us $500 in free ad credit to help us promote our work. It’s hard to imagine they would do that for an organization in violation of their standards.
In another instance of potentially ill-advised business practices, in the same swath of removals Facebook unpublished Right Wing News, whose administrator claims he had invested $300,000 in advertisements on the platform. It’s worth noting that Right Wing News has been accused of circulating fake news. Anti-Media, however, has not been hit with such allegations—aside from a shoddy piece of journalism published by the Washington Post shortly after the 2016 election, which journalists such as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald quickly debunked, leading the outlet to issue a clarification.
It has been over four months since Anti-Media was banned, and all we can do is wait for Facebook and Twitter to address our appeals, which we filed the day we were removed. However, my personal Twitter account and Scott’s multiple personal Twitter accounts have been confirmed as indefinitely suspended. The justification? One account, @AntiMediaRadio, was allegedly “violating [Twitter] rules against evading permanent suspension,” but it had been inactive for several years (this account was Anti-Media’s original Twitter, but Gibson changed the handle to represent our radio show and made zero tweets following that switch). The other account, @AntiMediaUK, was permanently removed over claims it violated “Twitter Rules against managing multiple Twitter accounts for abusive purposes.”
Our former Twitter handler, Patti Beers, had her suspended account reinstated the same day the LA Times wrote an article about her experience.
When it comes down it, Facebook and Twitter are private companies, and they have every right to curate their users and content as they see fit. They can also partner with whatever organizations they choose.
For example, in May, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-linked think tank, with the express purpose of combating threats to elections and democracy that have apparently emerged as a result of activity on social media. Some members of the independent news circuit have expressed near-certainty that the new partnership is the reason behind our October bans, but this is impossible to prove. While the optics of a powerful group linked to an international governing body conspiring with massive platforms to censor anti-government content may make for a sensational, attention-grabbing narrative, there is no direct evidence that this is the case. If anything, it appears Facebook has partnered with the Council in an effort to add authoritative legitimacy to its post-2016 election efforts to clean up the platform.
Matt Taibbi noted the “official” influence on social media in his recent piece on the October purge (he interviewed me over the phone while working on this investigation):
Facebook recently began working with a comical cross section of shadowy officialdom: meeting with the Foreign Influence Task Force at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security; partnering with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-connected organization featuring at least six former CIA heads on its board; and working with a pair of nonprofits associated with the major political parties, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
Often described by critics as the unofficial lobby group of NATO, the council is a bipartisan rogues’ gallery of senior military leaders, neocons and ex-spies. Former heads of the CIA on its board include Michael Hayden, R. James Woolsey, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell, who was in line to be Hillary Clinton’s CIA chief.
The council is backed financially by weapons-makers like Raytheon, energy titans like Exxon-Mobil and banks like JPMorgan Chase. It also accepts funds from multiple foreign countries, some of them with less-than-sterling reputations for human rights and — notably — press freedoms.
Asked about “the apparent contradiction of advising Facebook on press practices when it is funded by numerous speech-squelching foreign governments,” the council told Rolling Stone that “donors must submit in writing to strict terms.”
Their statement read:
[The] Atlantic Council is accepting the contribution on condition that the Atlantic Council retains intellectual independence and control over any content funded in whole or in part by the contribution.
Taibbi also noted that Facebook recently became one of the Atlantic Council’s biggest donors around the same time it announced their partnership in May. “The social media behemoth could easily have funded its own team of ex-spooks and media experts for the fake-news project,” Taibbi observed.
But Facebook employees have whispered to reporters that the council was brought in so that Facebook could “outsource many of the most sensitive political decisions.” In other words, Facebook wanted someone else to take the political hit for removing pages.
While there is no evidence Facebook is working directly with the board of directors, the company boasted that the Council’s “network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near and long-term.” More directly, Facebook is working with the organization’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to “help prevent abuse while also ensuring people have a voice during elections.”
Twitter, too, has partnered with the Digital Forensic Research Lab, as well as the National Democratic Institute, another think tank. This one is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and funded by the US government and numerous foreign governments.
But connections cannot be conflated with causation, and despite social media companies’ cooperation not only with government-linked organizations but also government agencies themselves, I have no way to prove we were removed for our anti-government views.
Even if we were removed for our views, which is not confirmable, again, Facebook and Twitter are private companies, and private companies didn’t create the problem we’re currently facing. Their behavior is a reflection of a society plagued with an increasingly pervasive mentality of political intolerance, suppression, and authoritarianism.
Facebook and Twitter are unfortunately responding to market demand.
In the wake of the “fake news” and “Russian bot” narratives that emerged after the 2016 election, ‘Democracy is at risk’ emerged as the rallying cry in favor of suppressing and regulating information on these platforms.
Facebook and Twitter have been removing accounts and posts for months, citing political reasons and the need to maintain the integrity of elections. In one example, Facebook removed 32 accounts at the end of July, citing “inauthentic” and “misleading” behavior largely revolving around political discussion. They shared their findings with Congress, the Atlantic Council, and US law enforcement agencies, affirming the growing precedent for government involvement. As Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said:
Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…
In another example of the intersection of social media and government influence, Facebook’s partnership with the Atlantic Council was announced after Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and took a national flogging for his alleged role in handing the presidency to Trump. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, too, testified before Congress. Considering the relentless media narrative claiming that the Russians, exploiting social media, elected Trump, it’s not a stretch to consider the possibility that their purges have been attempts to avoid extensive government intervention.
This is another example of big government’s influence over these platforms’ recent behavior; because of much of the political establishment’s refusal to accept Donald Trump as president, calls for government intervention have grown louder, and Facebook and Twitter’s shifts toward working with government are quite conceivably attempts to show good will toward those in power.
This threat of government crackdowns is very real. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island recently tweeted that “Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself,” also claiming “it is long past time for us to take action.” Given this chronic, looming threat, it is unsurprising these social media platforms feel compelled to take preemptive action to avoid more stringent government control in the future.
In another example of the current political paradigm affecting Facebook and Twitter’s evolving policies, it is worth noting the personal political ideologies of those in charge of Facebook and Twitter. Zuckerberg has historically donated campaign funds to Democrats, as has Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook’s COO. Facebook’s head of cybersecurity is none other than Nathaniel Gleichner, former Director for Cybersecurity Policy on the National Security Council in President Obama’s White House. As a company, Twitter harbors left-wing sentiments to the point where, by some accounts, conservative employees feel intimidated, and CEO Jack Dorsey admitted in September that his platform’s algorithm ‘unfairly filtered 600,000 accounts.’
In yet another disturbing move demonstrating the power of the current big government paradigm, Twitter recently decided to ban users who host hacked materials on the platform, and Facebook may follow suit. For an idea of what might constitute “hacked” materials, think of Wikileaks’ releases of emails from Clinton and her campaign staff that flooded the news cycle in 2016. These leaks have been accused of throwing the election to Trump, and Twitter’s decision to ban users hosting such content shows not only a reaction to Clinton’s loss but also submission to the notion that government authority should never be defied—that the people do not have a right to know what their government does behind closed doors.
Though some of the purged pages have been quick to blame their dissenting points of view as cause for their removal, at this point it is impossible to prove. As our production of original articles remains suspended in light of decreased revenue (independent media as a whole has long been heavily dependent on Facebook for traffic), I’m still hoping against hope that we were accidentally caught up in a well-intended operation and will have our page restored.
What is clear either way, however, is that the actions stem from an overarching influence of government and politics in our day-to-day lives, as well as the population’s fading commitment to free expression.
When the loathed Alex Jones was removed from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms in early August, many cheered because of his use of “hate speech,” which companies should obviously be free to remove. But the lack of foresight and the extreme enthusiasm with which proponents of his purge celebrated the bans were disturbing. Unsurprisingly, there was little outrage surrounding the October 11 purge. On the other side, a recent poll showed nearly half of Republicans believe the president should have the right to shut down news organizations for “bad behavior.” This is hardly in the spirit of America’s founding principles.
“To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1799, “for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.”
Today, on both sides of the political spectrum, many seem more concerned with securing power (for themselves or their favored political faction) than advocating the free flow of information.
At the time of Jones’ removal, I suggested that Americans’ mounting intolerance for differing opinions in their snowballing craving for control of the government would lead to wider purges. I just didn’t think I’d be part of them.
However, considering that suppression of free speech rarely stops with expressions deemed “bad,” the recent imposition of censorship is unsurprising. Though the recent trend of censorship started with Alex Jones, who is undeniably fringe and on many counts detestable, the lack of public resistance indicated there would be tolerance for further bans.
Sure enough, alternative media has become the next target in the expanding wave of silencing speech. Martin Niemöller, a former German soldier who spent seven years in a concentration camp after his support for the Nazi regime turned to opposition, famously recalled his refusal to speak up for victimized groups. “First they came for the socialists—and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist,” he said, going on to reference trade unionists and Jews. “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me,” he concluded. A variation of that sentiment has emerged amid the recent bouts of censorship: “First they came for the journalists. We don’t know what happened after that.”
While these private companies may be working with government-linked organizations in their increasingly systemic removals of political content, the deeper problem is not ‘private companies imposing censorship’ but the far-reaching effects that the public’s adherence to the current political paradigm has on creating demand for such censorship. It’s not just the government and government-linked groups—it’s the people who believe in them.
As platforms like Twitter and Facebook continue to respond to the Russia narrative, which is ultimately a product of intolerance of Trump and the Republicans’ current control over political system (in favor, of course, of the Left’s control of the system), it becomes ever more apparent that they are simply responding to the political climate—not the other way around.
As Bernabe said, “If these actions go unchecked, we’ll be ushering in a new era of privatized censorship by companies fearing political backlash in an effort to protect the state.”
It is evident that the recent behavior of these private companies cannot be separated from our current political climate. Facebook and Twitter may be private companies that can do what they like, but in the free market, consumers are also free to express their preferences, and I’m hoping that some may choose to disapprove of the recent purges.
Former Smallville actress Allison Mack wept in a Brooklyn federal courtroom on Monday as she pleaded guilty to charges that she manipulated women into becoming sex slaves for the leader of a purported self-help group tied to the Clintons.
The 36-year-old Mack apologized to the women who prosecutors say were exploited by the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, within the “inner sanctum” of his NXIVM self-help business known as “dominus obsequious sororium” – Latin for “master over the slave women.”
Mack allegedly occupied the second-most-senior position in the group.
“I believed Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people, and I was wrong,” Mack told the judge as she pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. “I know I can and will be a better person,” she added. Her sentencing was set for September 11.
Mack allegedly procured women for Raniere – who required that prospective “slaves” upload compromising collateral into a Dropbox account. One such recruit-turned-coach was India Oxenberg – daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, who met with prosecutors in New York in late 2017 to present evidence against Raniere.
Mack’s guilty plea will mean she doesn’t have to stand trial with Raniere, wealthy Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, and another NXIVM inner circle member, Kathy Russell – all of whom have pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Most recently, Raniere was accused of having sex with children and producing kiddie porn, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Raniere, 58, is accused of having a child “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing one or more visual depictions of such conduct, which visual depictions were produced and transmitted,” reads a new indictment released Wednesday.
Raniere’s co-defendants, “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman and Kathy Russell were allegedly aware of his predilection for predation, and even facilitated it, according to prosecutors, who have now charged them for that conduct under a racketeering count.
His co-defendants “were aware of and facilitated Raniere’s sexual relationships with two underage victims: (1) a fifteen-year-old girl who was employed by Nancy Salzman and who – ten years later – became Raniere’s first-line ‘slave’ in DOS,” the filing reads. –New York Post
Both Mack and Bromfman sought a separate trial in the wake of the pedophilia charges.
After being run out of Arkansas in the early ’90s by then-Governor Bill Clinton’s attorney general on charges of fraud and business deception, Raniere and NXIVM executives emerged a decade later only to donate $29,900 to Hillary Clinton’s 2006 presidential campaign a decade later. At least three NXIVM officials are (or were) “invitation-only” members of the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the New York Post.
As we noted in late March, while NXIVM describes itself as a self-help business that has helped thousands of people “reach their potential” through various courses, the women’s-only “inner sanctum” led by Raniere is known as ‘DOS’, which whistleblower Frank Parlato said stands for “dominus obsequious sororium” – Latin for “master over the slave women”. Once they are a member – or “slave” – they are allegedly encouraged to recruit new women into their “slave pods”, stop dating, and be on call 24 hours a day after being branded with Raniere’s initials below the hip using a cauterizing iron.
According to a 2010 Vanity Fair report, Clare and her sister Sara Bronfman, who joined NXIVM in 2002, contributed approximately $150 million of their trust fund to NXIVM, while Claire bought 80% of Wakaya island off the coast of Fiji for $47 million in 2016.
[I]n the last six years as much as $150 million was taken out of the Bronfmans’ trusts and bank accounts, including $66 million allegedly used to cover Raniere’s failed bets in the commodities market, $30 million to buy real estate in Los Angeles and around Albany, $11 million for a 22-seat, two-engine Canadair CL-600 jet, and millions more to support a barrage of lawsuits across the country against nxivm’s enemies. Much of it was spent, according to court filings, as Sara and Clare Bronfman allegedly worked to conceal the extent of their spending from their 81-year-old father and the Bronfman-family trustees. –Vanity Fair
The 39-year-old Clare – daughter of late Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman (whose funeral Hillary Clinton spoke at) pleaded not guilty last July to charges of racketeering, money laundering and identity theft for NXIVM – fainted in court last month in response to being asked if she’d secretly retained lawyer Michael Avenatti.
Now that Mack has pleaded guilty, we wonder what the future holds for her co-defendants. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The jury questionnaire covers several topics, including asking candidates for their opinions about “rich individuals” and people who “engage in relationships with multiple sexual partners” and whether they “believe that people under the age of 17 should be able to consent to sex with adults.“”
In a statement on Monday, the Iranian top security council said the designation came as a “reciprocal measure” against US President Donald Trump’s “illegal and unwise” move to blacklist Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.
Trump said in a statement earlier in the day that the Iranian elite forces’ designation “makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”
The SNSC strongly condemned the “illegal and dangerous” move by the US regime against the IRGC and said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran regards this baseless move as a major threat to regional and international peace and security and a blatant violation of the compelling rules of international law and the United Nations Charter.”
It added that CENTCOM has been tasked with implementing terrorist policies of the US government against countries in West Asia, noting that CENTCOM’s effort to impose those policies has endangered Iran’s national security and the lives of both Iranians and non-Iranians, including through participation of the US in the massacre of the Yemeni people and other civilians in the West Asia region.
Iran’s SNSC also warned that the US regime “will be responsible for dangerous consequences” of this adventurist measure.”
Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif proposed that the SNSC should add American forces in West Asia to its list of terrorist groups in the Islamic Republic.
In his letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who also chairs the SNSC, Zarif said given overt and covert support of US military forces in the region for terrorist groups and their direct involvement in terrorist acts, the SNSC should designate American forces as terrorists based on a law titled “Countering America’s Human Rights Violation and Adventurous and Terrorist Actions” passed by the Iranian Parliament in 2017.
The US has already blacklisted dozens of entities and individuals affiliated with the IRGC, but not the entire force.
Syria condemns US designation of IRGC as ‘terrorist’ organization
In a related development on Monday, an official source at Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said Damascus strongly condemned the US government’s designation of the IRGC as a ‘terrorist’ organization, describing it as a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of Iran.
According to Syria’s official SANA news agency, the unnamed official added that the US administration’s “irresponsible step” was part of the declared war launched by the US against Iran.
The Syrian official further noted that Trump’s announcement was meant to meet the interests of the Israeli occupation regime and was in line with the West’s colonial project in the region.
“The US measure is a legion of honor for and recognition of the pioneering role of the IRGC in defending Iran’s sovereignty and its … important role in the resistance front,” the source added.
US attempts to oust the Venezuelan government have been escalated in recent months. Following opposition leader Juan Guaido’sself-proclamation as “interim president” on January 23, which was reportedly orchestrated in Washington, the US foreign policy establishment threw its weight behind what was seen as the “final push” against the Maduro government.
This escalation has seen US officials outright reject all international dialogue initiatives meant to defuse the political crisis, impose successiverounds of sanctions against the Venezuelan economy, and reiterate that all options, including a military intervention, are “on the table.”
These events have drawn a response from Venezuela’s popular Chavista movement, with recurring rallies in support of the government and in defense of national sovereignty. Likewise, international solidarity movements have mobilized to oppose US intervention, denouncing sanctions and supporting dialogue. The letter below is undersigned by more than 40 US groups, including Just Foreign Policy and CEPR, calling on Congress to “stand against immoral, reckless, and illegal policies […] before it’s too late.”
Dear Members of Congress,
We, the undersigned groups, wish to express our grave concern regarding the Trump administration’s dangerous and destructive regime change strategy targeting Venezuela. Broad economic sanctions unilaterally imposed by the administration since August of 2017 have caused great hardship and loss of life for many Venezuelans. The latest round of sanctions announced in January are expected to worsen the current crisis and provoke even greater human suffering throughout the country.
Though many observers have noted that civil war is an increasingly likely prospect, administration officials are vigorously opposing peaceful dialogue between the country’s political actors and have made open threats of military intervention.
We call on you to take a strong, public stand against these immoral, reckless, and illegal policies and to support efforts to advance peaceful dialogue, before it is too late.
We urge you to:
• Oppose economic sanctions:
Although government mismanagement and the fall in global oil prices are to blame for much of Venezuela’s deep crisis, the Trump administration’s economic sanctions — both the August 2017 financial sanctions and the January 2019 sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry — are resulting in billions of dollars of additional lost foreign exchange necessary for essential imports, according to experts and even administration officials like NSC Advisor John Bolton. In the current context these sanctions will inevitably generate greater human suffering, including many deaths from lack of medicine and other essential imports. Unilateral economic sanctions are illegal under the UN Charter and the OAS Charter; and research shows that they are generally ineffective in achieving desired political results.
• Oppose threats of military intervention:
President Trump has reportedly argued for military intervention in Venezuela since early 2017, while he and various other administration officials have repeatedly stated that “all options are on the table” for Venezuela. These threats are absolutely unacceptable, particularly regarding a country that poses no threat to the U.S., and are only increasing the immense political polarization in Venezuela. Members of Congress should firmly denounce these threats and make the adoption of the “Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act” a top priority. They should also commit to invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution in the event that President Trump and his Administration involve the military in any action directed at Venezuela, thereby triggering a debate and vote in Congress to terminate any unauthorized use of force.
• Support dialogue:
U.S. administration officials have rejected the possibility of dialogue and, instead, have pushed for immediate regime change in Venezuela, calling for Venezuela’s armed forces to rebel against the Maduro government. Experts have warned that this strategy could result in a split within the country’s military, with a potentially catastrophic violent outcome. Members of Congress should oppose the administration’s dangerous zero-sum strategy and advocate for peaceful dialogue. The Vatican, the UN Secretary General, Mexico, and Uruguay have all offered to help mediate dialogue and political negotiations to resolve the current crisis peacefully. Congress should support these efforts.
With the recent appointment of convicted Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams as Special Envoy to Venezuela and the increasingly hawkish rhetoric coming from the White House, your support could not come at a more crucial time. There is no moral, legal, or political justification for the collective punishment of the economic sanctions, which target the Venezuelan population. There is no military solution; Venezuela’s crisis must be solved through dialogue and negotiations. Congress should therefore insist on lifting destructive economic sanctions, and taking unauthorized war off the table.
Just Foreign Policy, Demand Progress, Peace Action, American Friends Service Committee, VoteVets, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (USA), Alianza Americas, CASA de Maryland, Franciscan Action Network, Maryknoll Office on Global Concerns, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Historians for Peace and Democracy, Center for International Policy – Americas Program, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) – New Internationalism Project, Code Pink, Roots Action, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Environmentalists against War, Arise for Social Justice, Just Associates (JASS), Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), World Beyond War, Vermont Workers’ Center, ONE DC, Out Now, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, Brooklyn for Peace, The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, One Corea Now, Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA), Nation Time Judicial Research, Western Massachusetts Code Pink, Peace Action Montgomery, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 23, Rochester, NY, Peace Action New York State, Massachusetts Peace Action, Western Massachusetts Venezuela Solidarity Coalition, New Jersey Peace Action, Action Corps NYC.
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.