Boris Johnson and the £350 Million: Positions, pandering and relations between politicians and media

Boris Johnson Mayor
(Image sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

Boris Johnson; what a character… That’s probably the simplest way to describe the UK’s current Foreign Secretary. For many years he’s been in the spotlight, his time as the mayor of London being one example, though recently this has often been for the wrong reasons; last year he was one of the spearheads behind the leave campaign and while he wasn’t quite as vitriolic as Nigel Farage, Johnson still gained infamy for his use of a bright red bus with the slogan: “We send £350 Million a week to the EU; let’s spend that money instead on the NHS”. Of course, we know that this trick worked and Boris hoped this would propel him towards a leadership position, which instead went to Theresa May. Dishonesty and its openness have drastically increased in the UK since last year’s referendum; a willingness to twist facts and get the result you want, in turn gaining a higher ability to impose your personal interests on everyone else.

Vote Leave Bus
(Image credited to ITV.com)

Recently, to the dismay of many, the “£350 Million” claim emerged again. Johnson took on his duties, visiting Donald Trump in New York only to then shirk them by repeating a lie using a newspaper as a bulwark for his endless schemes to become the leader of the Conservatives. His face was plastered on the front page with the headline: “I’ll secure the £350 Million for the NHS” followed by a 4000-word article outlining his plan for Brexit and telling people to believe in Britain, another empty phrase to pander to the nationalists and the ignorant. If the lie managed to trick common Britons into voting for Brexit last year, why not do it again to make it look like he’s standing up for Britain as a country? The UK Statistics Authority expressed their disappointment at the repeated use of the figure and James O’Brien, a popular political commentator might have said it best: “As Foreign Secretary, Johnson’s latest lie is an abuse of one of the Great Offices of State. That would’ve been a very serious matter once”. Some have called for Johnson’s resignation or sacking; I can’t help but feel the same.

Boris Johnson Headlines

Johnson’s veering off to the side to write a self-promoting article speaks volumes of how the press plays a significant role in political procedure. The papers hold UK politicians to account but often they’re known to throw their support behind a specific party in the election; the Daily Telegraph in Boris Johnson’s case is no different. Media ownership by rich moguls is a big problem in the UK and this facilitates a medium where a pompous self-interest takes centre stage. Since Johnson repeated the false £350 million claim, the Telegraph has followed up with further articles showing fellow politician Michael Gove throwing his support into the mix; they spread the slogan without questioning it, common people read and move towards believing them; with such a massive disconnect with politics in the UK, this is how it usually goes. In return, many politicians find themselves working for newspapers, the most recent of which being George Osborne becoming the editor of the Evening Standard and Nick Clegg joining the i Paper as a columnist.

FCO UK
(Image credited to LinkedIn.com)

Nowadays I find myself in a somewhat similar position; writing this blog and expressing my individual opinions with a journalism degree under my belt while pursuing a planned career in international affairs, particularly through the UK’s Civil Service. I’m of the opinion that you check your biases at the door when working for this sector; what would happen if I suddenly leaked some information to the press or wrote an article bigging myself up while working to undermine my superiors? I’d probably be sacked immediately, no questions asked. This comes back to my previous post on leadership where a lack of accountability has allowed the higher-ups to get away with breaking the rules set out by democratic institutions. In my opinion, the rules and ethical conduct of country branches should travel all the way to the top, ensuring accountability is maintained and that neglect of position and responsibility is cut down. As for Boris Johnson, he’s likely to keep his job, despite the frustration from commentators, with Theresa May apparently working to rein him in so as not to look to wobbly. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but he’s sure to be discredited further if continues to spread falsehoods.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

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Leaders, their actions and how rhetoric reflects on the people they represent

G20 Leaders
(Image credited to Country Digest)

What does it mean to lead a country in the 21st Century? While for the most part we’ve moved past the dictators and conquerors of eras past, there are still many cases throughout the world where the few are being catered to while the many are either being pushed down or worse, tricked into following the wrong stories or ideas. The United States continues to have problems with its leadership, striking a nerve over the past couple of weeks.

Charlottesville Counter Protest
(Image credited to Wikimedia Commons)

Recently President Donald Trump hit headlines (for the 200th time this year? I’ve lost count…) on his refusal to condemn the toxic surge of white supremacists in Charlottesville, before going on to equate Nazism with the counter-protesters (Some of whom are violent themselves) standing against it. A shameful move, but the impact it had on the society at large is arguably even worse. Trump’s actions continue to damage America, but it’s also a damning example of a leadership problem that exacerbates rather than working to solve societal problems. Some of his more unsavoury supporters go along with his dismissal of the media as saboteurs and while the mainstream hasn’t been wholly balanced across presidencies, Trump should expect to be scrutinised because without coverage there is little knowledge or awareness of what leaders currently stand for. This in turn not only generates a collection of opinions on a leader but also creates a ripple effect on common people. On the one hand, leaders mislead the people to maintain their own positions or on the other, they give themselves so much status and power that citizens cannot hope to hold them to account.

What Trump says and does, not to mention every leader in the modern world, carries a real societal consequence. Consider the way President Duterte is encouraging the killing of drug dealers in the Philippines, the way Hugo Chavez planted blame on democratic institutions such as the media and courts to trick the Venezuelan people into supporting an erosion of democracy and accountability. Or look at the way President Erdogan has bent Turkey to his will over the past year and the less drastic but nevertheless infamous phrase from UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove in the Brexit campaign: “People in this country have had enough of experts”, practically proclaiming that people should deny the facts even when they are right in front of them. But Trump’s refusal to condemn hateful groups stands as one of most telling attitudes of leadership today.

He refuses to openly condemn white supremacists because it’s unhelpful towards his own self-centred goals; he wouldn’t dare anger his most ardent fans when they’re the most important group towards keeping his floundering presidency alive. They keep the likes flowing on social media and the hate running through the minds of thousands. Keep them beholding to his wildly divisive presidency and they won’t see the real problems at the very top of management. Operating within his own self-interest is the name of the game and this attitude is very damaging to the society he represents. The same also goes for fact as it is twisted and skewed to manipulate people.

White Supremacists
(Image credited to Pinterest)

Not only are people more emboldened to go out and march for a disgraceful cause, it also feeds and enhances their superiority complexes; they believe in their disgusting beliefs with a greater passion and take bolder steps to defend it. Typically, I have believed that there is good and bad in every person, but Nazism is evil, no matter which way you frame it. Having demonised themselves throughout World War II, the fact that there are people getting behind this cause shames those who fought and died over seventy years ago. We’ve reached the point where individuals are defending Nazism, a movement that committed genocide. It should never be given a platform to spread but the way America’s leader has handled the problem only amplifies this.

How you choose to represent the people and lead reflects the amount of responsibility resting on your shoulders; the people spot you so much in the media and in society that they typically form an opinion or reaction from it. Leaders should set an example to follow, not bring popularity to the worst aspects of society while turning a blind eye to behaviours that should have died out decades ago. They say that once an idea comes about, it never truly dies; efforts must be made, especially from leaders to promote and shape progressive ideas and work to shut out hateful ones, but right now that’s not on the agenda as accountability erodes and greater control is enacted either through misdirection or placing one’s self above others. The same also goes for corruption; instead of facing ramifications, it is instead swept under the rug and many unethical decisions that directly affect common citizens are hidden away behind closed doors, leaving the media, mainstream or otherwise to scrape out the details.

Free Press March
(Image credited to Common Dreams)

Indeed, no leader or the country they represent has ever been completely spotless which brings us to the official definition of the word: “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” Surely now is the time to refine that statement by adding on at the end: “with good grace, ethics and accountability”. We have the modern systems to include the people in political procedure including NGOs and some efforts from the UN but more of an effort needs to be made to raise awareness of leader’s deeds and how they are held to account. UNA-UK, an organisation working to build a bridge between the UK and the UN has suggested some measures to bring more accountability regarding the sustainable development goals, which speaks volumes of greater issues. If you have stonewalling and deflections at the highest levels of governance then the world’s problems will be very difficult to solve; therefore, leadership and ethical conduct are becoming increasingly important as world issues affect more and more people.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

The Youth Assembly at the United Nations 2017: A Reflection

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From August 7th to 12th I journeyed to New York for the 20th Youth Assembly at the United Nations, an event which brings together a vast collection of people aged between 16 and 28. Most applicants were chosen based on their individual initiatives and their contributions to society at large. I took part in the event with five other team members under Global Young Voices, who served as a media partner. After posting the event around a few times on social media, I thought I’d share a bit more of it here.

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Heading to New Jersey for the first part of the event, I found that Fairleigh Dickson University (We were based on the Florham Campus) was the birthplace of Global Young Voices. Two members of the team attended the university on study abroad and came up with the media outlet between them; from here FDU threw in their support, which in turn both grew GYV and allowed us to attend the Assembly. A sort of prologue to the Youth Assembly took place at the university called “Sustainable Ventures for Sustainable Development” (SVSD) which interestingly, was made up of mostly African, Chinese and Middle-Eastern groups and their initiatives.

Hope for Oppotunity Interview

Two of the first people I interviewed at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Suaad and Juwahar were from Dubai and had received some recognition for their initiative: “Hope for Opportunity” which aims to promote Saudi Arabian assistance in the refugee crisis. I was struck by how positive and uplifting they were; they understood the kind of injustices in the world yet they believed in their ideas and wanted to take them to the next level. That’s the same thing I can say about each of the delegates who attended the session; they all had such great ambitions and a powerful resolve that brought everyone together as a community. The speakers and panellists at the session would only continue to build these bridges.

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From here, we and the delegates who attended the SVSD moved to New York and UN Headquarters. The opening ceremony featured a range of speakers and saw the GYV set about covering the sessions. There was a wide variety here from Microsoft showing up to teach coding and how robotics can shape the addressing of world issues, a media panel featuring GYV’s founders Edy and Camilla and plenty of other inspirational stories. I remember one speaker in a climate change session receiving a standing ovation after her impassioned speech on living in a United States with difficulties accepting and tackling the very real issue. Throughout the week I did a variety of tasks from collecting images, taking notes of each session and presenting each interview (Live or otherwise) to go up on the GYV website; the latter I thought went very well as I brought a relaxed presence to the delegates who each took it in turns to answer questions. The only real downside was that all the work we did over the four days meant we had little time to explore the city which was probably a little disappointing for those who hadn’t visited New York before. Personally I’ve visited the Big Apple three times over the years, the last being in 2012 where I passed through on a school ski trip.

Stories Across Borders Session

The main goal of the trip though was to run our own session at the UN Assembly; entitled “A Society for All: Stories across Borders, the goal of which was to grant more exposure to initiatives while also building delegate’s confidence in delivering their ideas to others. In the lead-up to the session I was introduced to Ceylin Sener, a sixteen-year-old from Turkey who was chosen to present her initiative, the “Humans First Club”, a group which has assisted Alzheimer’s patients and taken education to children in underdeveloped rural communities. Ceylin, along with three other speakers each gave a ten-minute speech in the style of a TED talk. We all worked together very well and I thought Ceylin really rose to the challenge of delivering that ten-minute speech. The event was my first time mentoring another person and when it came to feedback, I felt I was quite precise with tips. But to improve I feel I could have gone the extra mile by practicing with Ceylin alongside the presentation slides more; there were also a few gaps when it came to presenting on the day such as when and who would change the slides throughout the speech. Despite these gripes, each of the four speeches got some great reactions from the audience, a full house who took up the entire conference room; all ten of us are sure to keep in touch long after the Assembly.

GYV Team with Mentees
The GYV team, along with our speakers

All in all, the Youth Assembly was a fantastic event and a real honour to attend as both a citizen of the UK and a member of Global Young Voices. Looking back on an event as big as this really hammers home the importance of many things; networking and collaborating with others, the kind of passion and commitment that can take you to the heights of world leadership (Which some delegates were singled out for in the closing ceremony) and of course the notion that if we all work together by pooling initiatives together then real positive change will come about. I especially enjoyed how the event was a blend of media and governance, bringing the two experiences together.

I’d like to thank many different people; my two colleagues at the Cooperative store who covered an entire week’s worth of shifts, my parents for supporting me in these opportunities, the FDU staff for accommodating us and assisting with equipment, and finally the Global Young Voices team for allowing me to come along and everyone I met and spoke to during the week; you were all amazing people and I’m hoping we’ll be able to attend again in the future.

You can find more of our coverage, including interviews, write-ups and videos on the Global Young Voices website at: http://www.globalyoungvoices.com/the-youth-assembly-at-the-united-nations

America’s Syria strikes: Influencers, deflections and the media band-wagon

Chemical Attacks UN Discussion
Image credited to nytimes.com

In April 2017, a sarin attack slammed into Khan Sheikhoun in Syria; 80 people, many of them children, lost their lives in horrific images that quickly spread worldwide. In response to this, President Donald Trump, quickly pinning the blame on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, authorised the US navy to launch 59 tomahawk missiles (each costing about a million dollars each) at Assad’s air force bases. From here Trump is now openly intervening in Syria and more recently said that NATO has regained its relevance, his first major U-turns since coming to power in January. His decision to hit Syria is extremely dubious for not consulting congress first and the fact that the cost of a tomahawk missile could have easily gone towards other sectors including education and infrastructure. On top of all that, we had no idea who carried out the chemical attack, but now there’s plenty of evidence that points to the American government’s point of view being a fabrication, a sham to justify the further use of more powerful and expensive weapons that do nothing but exacerbate current conflicts and give more fuel to companies consumed by a lust for profits. Appearing on the BBC, Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria said that Trump had just “given jihadis a thousand reasons to stage fake flag operations”; it’s baffling that we still don’t get that dropping more bombs creates more terrorists. Ironically it was the Bolivian representative Sacha Llorenti who called out the United States for its actions and demanded further accountability and investigation at the UN itself.

US Tomahawk Missile
Image credited to nbcnews.com

The decision itself raise many questions about America’s newest president; what does he really stand for? Are the Syria strikes proof that he panders to the war profiteering business or is it a distraction to break off from his apparent collusion with Russia? In either case, it’s extremely hypocritical that Trump is more than willing to react when an atrocity occurs by dropping more bombs but fails at actually helping refugee children caught up in the horrendous attack. They say that weapons used to be manufactured to fight wars, now wars are manufactured to make weapons; it’s very telling that Raytheon’s stocks (The company who builds the tomahawk missiles) went up right after they were launched by the US Department of defence. Whether Trump himself profits from this remains unknown.

Battle lines in the Syrian conflict remain incredibly one-sided with the United States and Russia placing their own interests into the conflict with their respective allies following behind. Recently I spoke to a fellow student on my course whose family originates from Syria who had a lot to share about recent events. He believed that Assad would not use chemical weapons and risk an international incident when he is close to winning. In turn this is also backed up by other often obscure sources; the UN’s Carla Del Ponte branded investigations as “inconclusive” while pointing to evidence that rebel fighters in Syria may have access to chemical weapons. In addition, further evidence from American MIT scientist Theodore Postol said in a fourteen-page paper that the so-called crater made by the chemical bomb may have been fabricated “Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,”. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.” It all points to a suspicious event that paints a narrative of warfare masquerading as humanitarian intervention.

CNN Chemical Attack Fake News
Image credited to theduran.com

Throughout the week that followed, the mainstream media was utterly complacent to the use of tomahawk missiles; one particularly horrifying quote from Brian Williams of MNSBC remarked: “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: I’m guided by the great beauty of our weapons”. In addition, many articles written about the chemical attack were framed towards assigning blame, rather than considering evidence. What does this say about the media at large? They hound Trump down all the way through the campaign for his bigotry and now suddenly they’re perfectly fine with the use of destructive weapons? World Socialist Web Site sums it up best: “No lie is too great. If the US intelligence agencies declared tomorrow that Putin was responsible for an outbreak of tornadoes or a hurricane striking the US Gulf Coast, by means of a secret Russian program to alter the weather, their claims would be presented as the gospel truth by NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox, while the New York Times would publish a four-page “investigative” report, complete with maps and charts provided by the CIA.” It’s indicative of the way fake news is slowly consuming modern society What better to distract the masses than with a major conflict facing further ignition by the entrance of western players? If anything wars also deliver profit for the media as they can rack up the viewership and social media hits with every nasty event that occurs far from their shores.

MOAB
Image credited to USAF/Getty Images 

Most recently the United States chose to use a MOAB or mother of all bombs to target terrorists; easily the most powerful non-nuclear device ever built, it’s a further escalation of an already raging fire. Just how far can Trump and the United States go? Will the bombs ever stop dropping? As an administration and as a country, they must rethink their attitude and approach now. Pompous use of military muscle can only lead to more conflict and more profiteering at the expense of innocent people.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

Sources (In order of appearance)

2016: A year of nastiness unchained

 

2016 was a difficult year in many ways, there was much in the way of bitterness and little in the way of understanding; what went wrong over the past 365 days could almost be considered a chain reaction of sorts; there was something radical about this year, a point where numerous systems and sensibilities were suddenly thrown out the window in a blind rage. This is something I’ll try to consider and reflect on here, however difficult it may be from a purely UK perspective.

Was it any surprise that the same year white swimmer Brock Turner got a lenient sentence for sexual assault was the one in which a misogynistic, lying billionaire cheated his way to being President? The year itself seemed very backwards in general; Brock Turner’s judge was recently cleared of any misconduct while police brutality remained a serious problem in the United States. The Zika virus broke out at the start of the year in Latin America, India and Africa, prompting several relief efforts. Brussels and Istanbul both suffered horrific terror attacks at the hands of ISIS, delivering further prominence for far-right groups across Europe. President Duterte of the Philippines took a dark turn as he launched a violent war on drugs throughout the islands and Venezuela continued to plummet with rapid inflation ravaging citizens, most of whom can now barely afford food, water and other essentials. The internet saw a rise in fake news as it spread rapidly through Facebook and other sources, casting further doubts and requiring further checks and tensions began to flare between America and China as Donald Trump began to forge his own awkward rulebook as a millionaire president. Rising from the ashes of TTIP, CETA, a trade agreement which would put more power in the hands of corporations has made progress in the EU and Canada, a blemish on an otherwise welcoming and tolerant nation who have taken in over 38,000 Syrian refugees as of December, this year.

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Image credited to Huffington Post UK

When talking about the Western world however, most eyes point to the UK and the United States who both took grossly misguided steps that may well end up destroying the values of openness, acceptability and freedom. The picture above explains better than words what happened to both nations in 2016; two lying conmen, masquerading as anti-establishment standing in a gold-plated lift with smug grins on their faces over how they managed to trick two of the most powerful western nations into voting against their own interests. They really did bring change this year; specifically, they made things worse and both times, events that should have derailed the two conmen had little to no effect. In the UK, MP Jo Cox was murdered by a far right terrorist chanting “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” while in the US, Trump could get away with making vulgar remarks about women and walking free from his criticism of a disabled reporter and countless ethnic minorities. It was blindingly clear that the two cons were disastrous. Britain has been hurled to the back of the queue on the world stage and into a period of uncertainty without any plan or a deal that would leave us better off and the United States has an incredibly misguided and potentially dangerous presidency coming in January 2017. On both sides of the world, the two big votes were fraught with infighting, vitriolic exchanges across social media and many instances that whipped some (not all) people into frenzies of anger and resentment. This often happens with any election but 2016 felt so unhinged and furious in the West that the structure of politics, left and right, looked set to come crashing down; not for reasons of progress but for more efficient division and manipulation of the masses to go down a specific path.

Image result for Brexit Protests
Image credited to Flickr user David B. Young. Labelled for reuse

It all came unravelling rather quickly on both sides of the pond; Nigel Farage has never been in the political arena for anyone other than himself; right from the get-go, his act in appearing to support the common man deluded thousands into believing his lies and frankly we should have expected this. The UK public elected him as an MEP where instead of collaborating, all he ever did was run his mouth off about how much he hated the European Union while receiving a hefty salary for it. 2016 saw him become especially bold in his vile rhetoric, spearheading the propaganda of the leave campaign and coming to a head with an utterly shameful comparison of the Hope Not Hate group to extremism and a subsequent disrespect of Jo Cox’s husband Brendan (Who is still grieving along with his family after their loss). Even now Farage is continuing to be a thorn in progressive UK politics, proclaiming himself the bridge between us and Donald Trump and propping up on division and bigotry. Most recently he felt the need to insult the Archbishop of Canterbury and his message of peace and acceptance, as if a country where division isn’t commonplace won’t be acceptable for him.

This erosion and hacking of Britain’s democracy didn’t stop at the EU referendum; Theresa May’s government passed the snoopers charter into law, perhaps the most extensive surveillance laws in the world; no discussion, no debate, they were simply put through and will come into effect next year. All companies will be required to hold browsing data (Categorised by who, what, when and where) for thousands of people across the UK with public authorities having free rein to access devices. On top of this, the government can demand a backdoor into devices from companies to allow for even more intrusion; consider the notion of all MPs being exempt from the charter and you have an extremely suspicious law coming into effect. Then there was the successful bid for Sky by media mogul Rupert Murdoch; after his last attempt was derailed by the phone hacking scandal in 2011, NewsCorp will now take over the large British broadcaster for £11.2 billion, handing over even more control to corporate media. It doesn’t bode well for public perception (which for years has been manipulated by the tabloid press) and it certainly doesn’t bode well for journalism either as a greater control and agenda is enacted on the media. Some have stated that Sky News won’t turn into Fox News in the States, but it may be worth taking their future coverage with a grain of salt. What could happen next? According to an account in the book: Hack Attack by Nick Davis, Murdoch may wish to steamroll British regulator Ofcom, imposing a complete domination of the UK press without any barriers. That’s worth keeping an eye on.

Image credited to Chicago Tribune

In the United States, things weren’t looking much better; after another horrendous spike in racism and abuse, thoughts turned to President-Elect Donald Trump’s oncoming term. Once again, Trump’s lies quickly came to fruition as his cabinet was filled to burst with the richest millionaires ever seen in a presidential cabinet. Draining the swamp as promised? People will soon learn that what they voted for was a sham. Any hope of the terrible decision being derailed was again quashed, this time by the electoral college, who placed Trump into the White House by passing the 270-vote mark. There’s something baffling about this to me; the electoral college is made up of many educated men and women; surely, they could clearly see that Trump is both unqualified and unfit to lead and yet they put him through all the same. According to an article in The Daily Signal, electors are pledged to support the candidate voted in by the general public; could this be another sign of appeasement, a need to avoid infuriating the masses? Either way, Trump is headed for the Oval Office and his presidency may be a rocky one; lately he has been tossing around the serious topic of nuclear weapons like a game, possibly meaning to rearm America’s stocks rather than disarm; some ties to Russia have also been difficult to swallow.

Then came the 19th of December in which a final flurry of insults was hurled at everyone; Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Turkey, a truck ploughed through a Christmas market in Berlin in another terror attack and Trump received his key to the White House all while Aleppo burned, the world failing to gain any more clarity on the Syrian battle lines. A chaotic close to a dreary year in world affairs and local politics.

Image sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse

Looking back at 2016, I feel that an explosion of anger and hatred was unleashed after being bottled up for years, something which the rich, powerful and the opportunists took advantage of to better achieve their goals of manipulation for personal gain. Yet despite all this, there were still some genuinely positive moments for the year. The Paris Climate Agreement, after being established a year ago, has been coming into its own. This was then followed up by Leonardo Dicaprio’s climate change film: “Before the Flood” which fired back at environmental sceptics. War criminals Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Congo, Radovan Karadžić of the Bosnian-Serb conflict, and Hissène Habré of Chad all faced justice at the hands of the International Criminal Court, Belgrade War Crimes Court and African Union court respectively. Austria rejected far-right nationalism in its presidential electionThe snoopers charter ran into trouble at the EU Courts who said general and indiscriminate retention of emails and electronic governments in illegal, ironically providing further evidence that the Brexit con was extremely short-sighted. The Rio Olympics went relatively well despite Brazil’s economic problems and the later impeachment of President Dilma Rouseff. Over 30,000 Muslims in Hampshire protested the disgusting ideologies of ISIS and students turned out in droves in London to protest tuition fees on November 19th, continuing the pushback against rip-off education costs. Dakota’s controversial oil pipeline hit a major wall as communities of indigenous Americans and their supporters showed the power of protest. The final camp of terrorist group Boko Haram was captured by the Nigerian army, leaving them on the run and Israel’s crimes against Palestine were subjected to a pushback by the UN. A vaccine for the Ebola virus, VSV-EBOV was proven to be effective with a 70-100% success rate. Finally, China has announced that it will aim to completely ban the ivory trade by the end of 2017. As angry as we can get, it’s very reassuring to know that our ingenuity can win out in many cases.

Looking ahead to 2017, what kind of progress can be made? Can we manage to learn from the massive uptake of xenophobia and division? Or will some nations, especially the West, descend into further nastiness? It may well come down to common people, who can’t be blamed for 2016’s missteps as they were horribly misled by the people above them, to make the biggest action against changes that will negatively impact them in the future, not to mention challenge racism, bigotry and those who would cause further damage and division. To close, I think this alternative Christmas message from Brendan Cox suits best; it’s something that everyone should watch and consider as we go into the new year.

(Images in the public domain used for the purposes of review and criticism)

Sources

Brock Turner released from jail after serving only three months of his sexual assault sentence: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brock-turner-released-three-months-sexual-assault-stanford-rape-case-a7222051.html

Brock Turner sexual assault trial Judge Aaron Persky cleared of misconduct: https://mic.com/articles/162780/brock-turner-sexual-assault-trial-judge-aaron-persky-cleared-of-misconduct#.DAAnZPWDI

Zika outbreak: What you need to know: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35370848

Brussels to Istanbul: Two airports, two bloody attacks: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/29/europe/turkey-istanbul-airport-brussels-similarities-elbagir/

Philippines: Death toll in Duterte’s war on drugs: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2016/08/philippines-death-toll-duterte-war-drugs-160825115400719.html

Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/venezuela-on-the-brink-a-journey-through-a-country-in-crisis

2016 Lie of the Year: Fake news: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/dec/13/2016-lie-year-fake-news/

WHAT IS CETA?: http://www.waronwant.org/what-ceta

Jo Cox murder suspect tells court his name is ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/18/thomas-mair-charged-with-of-mp-jo-cox

Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?utm_term=.e4b1a8a3b281

Donald Trump aide Wilbur Ross: ‘Use Brexit to steal UK trade’: http://www.lbc.co.uk/news/world/donald-trump-aide-wilbur-ross-use-brexit-to-s/

Trump fan goes on rant on Delta flight, yells obscenities at Hillary supporters: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-calls-passengers-hillary-b-es-trump-rant-article-1.2889096

Nigel Farage launches scathing attack on Ukip’s ‘low-grade people’: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/09/nigel-farage-scathing-attack-ukip-low-grade-people

Nigel Farage insults Herman van Rompuy, calls EU President a “DAMP RAG”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bypLwI5AQvY&index=22&list=WL

Nigel Farage refuses to apologise for ‘Breaking Point’ poster in final pitch to voters: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-poster-nigel-farage-eu-referendum-live-latest-vote-leave-remain-a7095236.html

Nigel Farage faces threat of legal action over Hope Not Hate accusation: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/20/nigel-farage-accuses-jo-cox-widower-brendan-cox-of-supporting-extremism

Nigel Farage hits out at Archbishop of Canterbury over Christmas message: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/nigel-farage-archbishop-of-canterbury-negative-christmas-message-a7495186.html

What is the IP Bill and how will it affect you?: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ip-bill-law-details-passed

UK’s new Snoopers’ Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/30/investigatory_powers_act_backdoors/

Politicians will escape intrusive spy powers of the Snooper’s Charter: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/politicians-will-escape-intrusive-spy-powers-snoopers-charter-1594320

Sky reaches agreement for 21st Century Fox takeover offer for £11.7bn: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/sky-21st-century-fox-sale-takeover-agreement-reached-rupert-murdoch-a7477011.html

Why we use electoral college, not popular vote: http://dailysignal.com/2016/11/07/why-the-founders-created-the-electoral-college/

Donald Trump declares ‘Let it be a nuclear arms race’ with Russia: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/donald-trump-vladimir-putn-signal-renewal-nuclear-arms-race/

The Russian ambassador’s assassination was no work of art: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/22/assassination-russian-ambassador-turkey-9-11-art

Berlin terror attack: Horrifying dashcam video shows truck speeding into Christmas market: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/berlin-terror-attack-tunisian-suspect-anis-amri-investigated/

Donald Trump Completes Final Lap, Electoral College, to White House: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/us/politics/electoral-college-vote.html?_r=0

The crisis in Aleppo: who’s fighting who and why: http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2016/12/15/aleppo-crisis-war-syria-explained/

Simple Politics: https://www.facebook.com/simplepoliticsuk/posts/1437746876270138:0

Marrakech climate conference: world forging ahead on climate action: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/news/articles/news_2016111801_en

Austria just decisively rejected the far right’s presidential candidate: http://www.vox.com/world/2016/12/4/13833796/austria-presidential-election-2016-hofer-van-der-bellen

EU’s highest court delivers blow to UK snooper’s charter: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/dec/21/eus-highest-court-delivers-blow-to-uk-snoopers-charter

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff removed from office by Senate: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-37237513

More than 30,000 Muslims from across the world meet in the UK to reject Isis and Islamic extremism: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/more-than-30000-ahmadiyya-muslims-from-across-the-world-meet-in-the-uk-to-reject-isis-and-islamic-a7191306.html

Student march: Thousands protest education cuts in central London: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/student-march-thousands-protest-education-cuts-in-central-london-a3399941.html

UN Security Council urges end to Israeli settlements: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/passes-resolution-israeli-settlements-161223192709807.html

We finally have an effective Ebola vaccine. The war on the disease is about to change: http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/22/14039628/rvsv-zebov-ebola-vaccine-trial-effective

China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/asia/china-ivory-ban-elephants.html

Alternative Christmas Message 2016: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/alternative-christmas-message

President-Elect Donald Trump: How, why and what comes next for the United States

November 9th 2016 will be a long remembered day for the world, the moment that American politics lost its mind; the point where millions voted for an unqualified, racist bigoted man to be the leader of the free world. Defying all the polls and the media putting him down (“Brexit times ten” as some are calling it), Donald Trump has won the White House and is set to be inaugurated in January 2017. Hillary Clinton was far from an ideal candidate but at least she held some notions of not regressing, most notably a push towards combating climate change through supporting renewable energy projects and companies.

Why did Trump win? What was it that convinced millions that he had their best interests in mind? Really it was a collection of factors and components, some of which were hardly down to Trump himself. First of all the media attention was concentrated on him beyond reasonable doubt; from beginning to end, Trump’s face was plastered across every TV station and every front page, his unethical behavior being under constant viewing; according to the New York Times, Trump received two billion dollars worth of free media. The likes of Tim Cruz and Jeb Bush had no chance of gaining the Republican nomination when the media wasn’t interested in them. In the eyes of the media Trump was a source for an endless string of stories sure to get some attention and clicks but right from the get-go, the election proved to be very one sided, especially during the nomination process.

bernie-sanders-image

The second strike hit when Bernie Sanders lost the democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, despite his selfless policies and wishes to create a brighter future for everyone. If Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, it’s very possible that he could have bested Trump while also delivering a case for positive change. Sanders seemed very genuine and much like Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, he struck a chord with young people. But according to the media, his campaign did not exist and it was confined to “invisible primary” status; with barely a blemish against Sanders’ name, the 2016 election could have been a landslide in a far more desirable way. On the whole, socialism isn’t a preferable concept in the United States and considering Hillary Clinton’s position in the centre, rather than the left, the odds ended up being stacked against Sanders. In the midst of this selection and the road campaigning, Brexit took place and I feel this is partially responsible for Trump’s win; it gave him momentum to know that the English had “taken their country back” (Though leavers still have no idea who or what they were taking it back from…), not to mention the always hateful Nigel Farage coming over to the States to voice his support.

donald-and-hilary

Lastly when the two chosen candidates were entering the campaign trail, Trump saw fit to endlessly bash his opponent, crafting a carefully built message in the process to indoctrinate Americans, especially aspects of the working and middle class white crowd. The overall sentiment I feel was as follows: “Whatever I say or do, that’s nothing compared to what Hillary has done and will do if she becomes president”. Taking cues from white privilege, nationalism and exploiting anxieties, Donald Trump, as a businessman was able to craft a message that drilled itself into the minds of millions; it went so deep that Hillary’s words were to ring hollow, despite her victories in the primary debates. People eventually disregarded or worse gave in to Trump’s filthy words because they were so helplessly brainwashed by them; the “grab em by the p*ssy” tapes could and should have been the end of his campaign but instead they only rallied more unsavory individuals around him who had been sitting in silence until now.

This “whitelash” and sense of entitlement against the establishment was evident across America. A perspective was taken on by the masses; if a media outlet is supporting Clinton then they were automatically assumed to be bribed or part of the corrupt establishment. The more the media pushed against Trump, the more people vowed to go against it, proclaiming that they were taking control; even when they were being truthful, people chose to disregard it; some became so hell bent on mistrusting anything remotely close to the mainstream that viewed Trump with a reverence unheard of in any election. Combine this with a massive complacency on Hillary’s part and you begin to see why Trump claimed the Oval Office this year.

marine-le-pen-image

If a nationalist can obtain the most powerful position in the world, then there is absolutely no doubt that other far right parties will be spurred more than ever to spread their toxic perspectives. Most recently French far right leader Marine Le Penn celebrated Trump’s victory, proclaiming that their new world was being constructed. What kind of world could this be? One where the far right triumphs all over Europe, seceding from union into isolationism and selfishness? It’s a scary prospect indeed.

donald-and-melania-trump

But all of this fear could be completely unfounded; Trump could get into the Oval Office next year and suddenly do a 180 on much of his hateful rhetoric, or perhaps his drastic policies may need scaling back and thus reduce the damage they might do. Was his campaign all lip service to get him into the most powerful office in the world? Already he has stated that he will not completely scrap Obamacare as he initially promised and will not throw Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran out the window either. Despite his many failures as a businessman though, Trump certainly knows how to get people on his side because of a sly charisma that Clinton just didn’t have; his speeches were uninhibited and vulgar compared to every other candidate in recent memory. This in turn weaponised the populous against his opponent, creating a group that would follow him religiously. This comes back to a point I made in a previous post; “if you are an American who for years “if you are an American citizen who for years has listened to politicians sound sophisticated while accomplishing nothing, you might just be primed for something that is everything they are not”. It’s this kind of approach that has fuelled the rise of post-truth politics and in turn it’s created a nasty collection of borderline evangelicals in the political space.

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When you consider the perspective of some Trump fans, the word “deplorables” doesn’t seem too far-fetched when you look at it in the aftermath of the election; this is a group of individuals who vowed to riot if Trump didn’t win but are now attacking minorities when he has. A fight is beginning in America, one to push back against the racism that holds the country in a tight grip; just like Brexit there have been many horrendous incidents with Twitter users such as Shaun King have been working to document incidents of racism and abuse. As I look back on all the coverage of the negative rhetoric that swept through America it’s hard not to be fearful, especially for those across the pond. The one positive thing I can say about Trump is that his focus on putting the US first may cause them to turn away from the world stage; only then will they be able to look themselves in the mirror and understand the fundamental problems that have infected their nation for years. All that can be done now is waiting until Trump’s eventual inauguration in January; that is if his upcoming time in court doesn’t throw him off the rails…

Sources

  • Why Wall Street loves Hilary: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/why-wall-street-loves-hillary-112782
  • Is Hillary Clinton’s ambitious solar energy goal for the US workable?: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/28/is-hillary-clintons-ambitious-solar-energy-goal-for-the-us-workable
  • $2 Billion worth of free media for Donald Trump: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html?_r=0
  • ‘Mr. Brexit’ Nigel Farage Speaks at Donald Trump Rally in Jackson, MS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj4K9fr_WgY
  • How Donald Trump made hate intersectional: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/how-trump-made-hate-intersectional.html
  • Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html
  • America and Britain Are Being Hit by the Same ‘Whitelash’: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/america-and-britain-are-being-hit-by-the-same-whitelash
  • Marine Le Pen: Donald Trump has shown how we can ‘build a new world’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/13/marine-le-pen-donald-trump-has-shown-how-we-can-build-a-new-world/

  • After campaigning against Obamacare, Donald Trump wants to keep two major provisions: https://mic.com/articles/159253/after-campaigning-against-obamacare-donald-trump-wants-to-keep-two-major-provisions?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social#.8Jg9YJsyo
  • Trump Just Announced He Will Not Cancel Obama’s Iran Peace Deal: http://occupydemocrats.com/2016/11/12/trump-just-announced-will-not-cancel-obamas-iran-peace-deal/

  • In Context: Hillary Clinton and the ‘basket of deplorables’: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/sep/11/context-hillary-clinton-basket-deplorables/

  • Shaun King’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/ShaunKing
  • BEFORE TAKING THE WHITE HOUSE, TRUMP DUE IN COURT OVER FRAUD: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/11/donald-trump-university-lawsuit

(All images sourced from Google, labelled for reuse)

 

 

Black or White? The glaring issue in the discussion of world issues

 

As with any point in history, the world has some issues to grapple with, but in 2016 in particular I’ve noticed an especially ugly trend that’s creeping about; black or white. There is hardly any room for a middle ground to satisfy both sides, no room for a happy medium in-between; it must be one extreme or another; keep it simple and the people will remain riled up and they too eventually become susceptible to easy influence.

Military use is a prime suspect in when choosing one extreme over another and when looking back at the strategies in the Middle East, it’s all too easy to point fingers. Bush’s military strategy for Iraq and the War on Terror was hackneyed, charging in with reckless abandon. Applying military intervention without careful thought led to the Iraq War and in turn the deaths of thousands of people. The trend has continued somewhat with the constant airstrikes and drone attacks sent by President Obama to the Middle East and of course Trump, paying no regard to the damage and civilian casualties caused, said he would “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” thus amplifying and furthering the issue of terrorist radicalisation. Looking at the awful comments below the video supporting his wretched morals leaves me shocked at the lengths people sink to.

trump

Now Trump is going to the other extreme; the possibility that America won’t help out its NATO allies at all. He said that the financial contributions from the likes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be reviewed; in other words, if they aren’t paying enough, then they don’t deserve America’s help, according to his statements. It’s an unbelievably selfish and self-centered move from the Republican candidate whose focus is entirely geared towards putting himself first while also driving a wedge between Americans and anyone who isn’t from their country. Cutting off bonds to other countries can only lead to more conflict and a greater leaning towards a gross nationalism that is sweeping through politics today.

Division is a trend that has never burned more strongly in the modern western world and with this the notion of a careful approach is quickly tossed aside; we already had the infighting in the UK over the EU Referendum. The anti-immigrant rhetoric was an incredibly toxic aspect of the campaigns; all too often I’ve seen countless comments that categorise the influx of refugees as the importing of terrorists with no thought paid to the victims fleeing conflict (Many of which we in the West created).

burkini

Simply put, it’s indoctrination on both sides as resentment against immigrants is free to run wild in the West and this treatment reflects outwards on the people; recently in France, a demeaning Burkini ban came into play and a restaurant refused to serve Muslims because in the eyes of the chef: “All Muslims are terrorists”. This theme of paranoia runs rampant in today’s world to the point that individuals grow so narrow-minded in their attitudes. The same trend of indoctrination is occurring in the States; a video in which Trump supporters literally attempt to cover up a protester with a “No racism, no hate” sign at the Republican National Convention emerged earlier this year. This is the attitude posed in the 2016 election; you’re either with Trump or you’re against him and if you’re against racism (Judging by the attitudes of those in at the convention) then that automatically makes you an enemy of the campaign. There’s not a single person in that video that stops and thinks about an alternative perspective or questions their precious little idol. It’s a sure sign that fear is winning out when individuals view world affairs with such simplistic abandon.

This kind of extreme leaning also applies to race relations in the United States; to Trump and many Republicans, there is no consideration that maybe not all Muslims are terrorists. Yet again generalisation and stigmatisation sweeps in; either the entire religion is guilty or not at all; there is no middle ground there. No discussion, no debate, just the common people being led blind by a man who preys on fear and emotion, simplifying everything in the process. Blind labelling has given ridiculous ideas further traction, most notably the possibility databases for American Muslims and Syrian refugees, segregating groups off to be constantly monitored. It will undoubtedly fuel further bouts of racism and discrimination; that sends a message that these people are to be treated with suspicion.

Calais Jungle.jpg

And now most recently we’ve had the announcement of a wall, yes a wall, to keep refugees and migrants from coming to the UK from Calais; no doubt a direct result of the Brexit vote several months to appease the selfish racists of the country who fell for the fear-mongering leave campaign. No thought there, not a single consultation of how we could create a balance between taking in refugees while also securing our borders from illegal immigration. If this announcement proves anything, it’s that irrational decisions are slowly becoming the new norm in today’s world. To those who made this horrendous decision I ask what kind of benefit this will bring? I see it doing three main things; adding momentum to Trump’s vile campaign in the United States, add another tool for terrorists to use in their propaganda and create even more sentiment against foreigners.

This flawed perspective on world issues is creating divides and allowing the views of the ignorant and inconsiderate to be pushed to the forefront. There needs to be a better understanding promoted in the world, an attitude that emphasises a middle ground when dealing with difficult issues we all face from the simple civilians to the highest government officials.

Sources

  • “Trump would “bomb the sh*it out of ISIS”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWejiXvd-P8

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

The Chilcot Inquiry: Actions, reactions and consequences

Iraq War

It has taken seven years, 2.6 million spoken words and over ten million pounds, but the UK has reached a relatively definitive conclusion on the Iraq War, its motives and the legality of invasion which took place in 2003. The war itself stands out as a foolish and ultimately highly unethical conflict, one which resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths and plunged the country into further instability. It was also a failure of both the media and intelligence operations to provide a clear picture of whether war was the right course to take.

The prelude to the conflict was marked with heaps of concerns surrounding terrorism. I was six years old when the events of September 11th took place, but I still remember coming home from Primary School and seeing my parents just standing in front of the television, fixated on the horrific events that day. The sentiment towards Muslims and Islam also took a drastic turn, particularly in the United States; 9/11 itself was arguably a substantial catalyst that triggered the widespread Islamophobia that we know today.

Bush Doctrine

There’s no doubt now that in the aftermath a fire raged inside the hearts of thousands, especially in the United States, many of whom were livid at what had happened; realistically there was no way armed force wouldn’t be used in response to such devastation. President Bush launched the War on Terror soon after 9/11 on the 21st of September 2001, vowing to destroy any would-be terrorist organisations. This then lead to the War in Iraq in which the then Ba’ath Party (Led by Saddam Hussein) was accused of harbouring Al-Qaeda by the United States. It was soon suggested by military intelligence in both the UK and the United States that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and this further compelled both President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to launch the invasion, or “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as it was known.

Tony Blair

The problem came when Tony Blair was so insistent on following Bush’s lead, saying “I will be with you whatever”. Already our Prime Minister was pigeon-holing himself into a difficult position as going back on a massive statement like that can be perceived as a sign of weakness. Weakness equals something to exploit and that in turn can be the deciding factor in elections.

Saddam Stature Toppled

For every action, there is a reaction and while the likes of the War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom did remove a tyrant from power, the destabilisation imposed ended up enacting a greater toll on the region. It was eventually revealed that there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and by the time the war came to an end in 2009, around 251,000 violent deaths (According to Iraq Body Count) had occurred, including both civilians and armed combatants. To this day, the now metaphoric “War on Terror” has never truly ended and that may be down to an endless cycle of bombing, occupation and an anger that flairs within the people, making some of them more susceptible to indoctrination by terrorist organisations. 2009’s The Hurt Locker taps into many aspects of the Iraq War but the one moment that always sticks out to me is towards the end where a group of Iraqi children throw rocks at an American Humvee as it returns to base. Think about it from their perspective; if a foreign military force comes into your country, subjects you to a new order and stays long after the fighting is over then that’s sure to instill some kind of resentment, something which can eventually lead to terrorism. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator but did the ramifications of invasion outweigh the benefits of removing him from power?

A lack of preparation for post-Saddam Iraq left the country fragmented and open for other terrorist organisations. When looking at the UK’s participation in the Iraq War, the biggest consequence often points to the 7/7 bombings in 2005; joining the conflict the way we did made us a target of terrorists. This could have been avoided if we had taken a step back rather than charging in blindly; even to this day, the UK is still near the top of the Western World hit list for the likes of ISIS and other terror groups. Why? Because in their eyes we’re the ones who messed with their country and now they want some kind of twisted revenge which they view as a holy war. Even today we’re still sending bombers and drones to the Middle-East, bringing destruction to the lives of thousands and to terrorist organisations; this feels cowardly to them and the West can only play into their hands by continuing to authorise this.

Kuwait Oil Fires

One of the lesser areas covered by the Chilcot Report is the oil that flows throughout the Middle East; a widely desirable resource for certain. Was the central aim of the Iraq War to oust a dictator from power and put a democratic government in its place? A deeper underlying reason for invading Iraq exists; according to Stop The War Coalition, Iraq possessed almost a tenth of the world’s oil resources; considering how Saddam Hussein had already destroyed several oil fields in Kuwait in a scorched earth policy towards the end of the Gulf War, it could be argued that we charged in to prevent further losses of the precious spoils.

Iraq War Protests

Now that the Chilcot inquiry has been released, the masses now shift to what will happen next. Will Tony Blair receive some kind of judgement or ramifications for his actions? There are still thousands of protesters calling for him to be punished for going to war so hastily. The vast majority of the blame will be pinned on him as the UK’s leader at the time and so long as he refuses to offer an official apology, the war criminal signs will keep flying in London. But it’s also worth remembering that many other MPs at the time supported him in the decision to go to war. The press, most notably Rupert Murdoch’s papers also fed into the decision, supporting the rationale and promoting the entry of the UK into the invasion; Paul Dacre, a former editor of the Daily Mail was quoted as saying: “I’m not sure that the Blair government – or Tony Blair – would have been able to take the British people to war if it hadn’t been for the implacable support provided by the Murdoch papers. There’s no doubt that came from Mr Murdoch himself”. While the war itself may have passed, the effect it has had on the Middle East undoubtedly sent much of it into a downward trajectory rather than progressive development. The entire affair is still quite a stain on not only the UK, but the Western World as a whole. Perhaps the most shocking part of all is that democracy didn’t influence the overall decision. Blair himself called the protests “Fatuous”, meaning silly and pointless. We invaded a country for dubious reasons, failing to make necessary considerations and ended up dragging a region and its people through the mud; thousands continue to pay the price for that decision to this day.

Sources

(All images labelled for reuse under Google Images)

The Panama Papers leak and the shady background of the power elite

April 2016 has seen a major event occur at the hands of investigative journalism; what some outlets call “the biggest ever data leak”. The Panama papers, revealed by a source named “John Doe” are just one of many dirty secrets almost entirely concentrated towards the rich and powerful within our democratic systems. The leak itself is a fine example of the power journalism has towards exposure and holding individuals to account. At times, these events can bring about change which is often for the better but on other occasions they fail to alter the balance of the elite.

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Last year I had the rare opportunity of meeting Nick Davies while I was in Toronto, the investigative journalist at The Guardian who fought tooth and nail to uncover the infamous UK phone hacking scandal which took place in 2011. He gave everyone a free copy of his book which has proven to be one of the most revealing things I’ve ever read. Hack Attack is an inside look of not only the work that went into exposing scandal, but also a glimpse of the corrupt underworld of the power elite. His closing words in the book were “We did nothing to change the power elite”. It’s a fascinating yet grimly realised statement; is there really no clear way of changing such a pervasive issue with society? Hidden away from prying eyes, the power elite have a private opportunity to shape and manipulate the system for their own benefit.

The process of a leak can be a standout turn of events; we saw how the US government responded when the NSA surveillance program was released to the public, branding Edward Snowden a traitor in the process. The powerful always seek to maintain their positions, no matter the impact it has on common citizens. However on occasion, a leak of this scale can have dire ramifications for those in power. Iceland was fairly prominent during the leak; its Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson stepped aside after it was revealed that him and his family had profited from sheltered offshore money. This resignation came two days after the papers were leaked on the 5th of April 2016.

What worked for Iceland is not so easily accomplished in the UK; the overall message and how it affects progress can drastically differ depending on the country. It’s been about two weeks since we learned our own Prime Minister had benefitted from offshore funds and very little has come of it. The #ResignCameron Twitter trend has mostly vanished and the media outlets which covered the protests in London were few and far between, once again raising questions as to where the loyalty of the big media organisations lies. It appears now that the incident is now behind Mr Cameron who is now turning his attention towards the upcoming EU referendum.

Be that as it may, the findings reveal a potentially damning truth about the Conservative’s motives in UK parliament; why would large corporations such as Google pay the tax they owe when the very people who run the country dodge it themselves? The “party of the rich” as some people call them seems to be far more reasonable an assumption than ever before; keeping the biggest and richest corporations happy allows them to maintain their status, reputation and wealth. The power game is a shadowy business, done almost entirely behind the scenes and often going unnoticed by the general public. Revealing secrets to the public is one thing, but openly challenging the elite is another matter entirely.

A year or two ago, I watched the opening episode of House of Cards Season 2; despite it being entirely fictional and a somewhat exaggerated view of our own society, one particular scene I feel can be quite telling of how powerless we ordinary individuals are against people in power. Lucas (Sebastian Arcelus) is determined to expose the truth about Frank Underwood, but Janine (Constance Zimmer) wants to drop the story altogether, terrified after the politician murdered fellow reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara); “He’s got power, he’s got a lot to lose, and right now he is winning”.

Panama Papers Image 2

As for the Panama Papers leak, the event isn’t quite over yet; Mossack Fonseca is likely still dealing with the fallout over the documents and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) are planning to release even more papers in May 2016. A spark that may ignite further protests and possibly even resignations could be lying up ahead, one that should be watched closely.

(All external images labelled for reuse)

Donald Trump and a frightful approach to political elections

Donald Trump Campaign

The United States Presidential Election for 2016 is quite an anomaly when compared with previous years, most notably with a colourful candidate or two. Of course I’m talking about Donald Trump, the businessman and reality TV actor turned Republican hopeful. At a glance many individuals, particularly those from outside the United States would laugh at his antics and the way his use of grammar sounds like that of an 11 year old. But look past all that and you have a frightening prospect on display, the possibility of the man entering the White House which is becoming less and less far-fetched by the day.

American politics appears to have undergone a degenerative process in the past couple of years as Trump’s cocky and laidback mannerisms lay waste to the usual routines of political manoeuvring and promotion of campaign policies. Political dissatisfaction is one major reason why Trump has grown so popular. People want something wild, something that differs from the norm. The realm of politics is often associated with extended, dry speeches with complex wording that ends up putting people off. As YouTube user Nerdwriter1 brilliantly put it in his video “How Donald Trump answers a question”: “if you are an American citizen who for years has listened to politicians sound sophisticated while accomplishing nothing, you might just be primed for something that is everything they are not”. Politicians have maintained a level of sophistication that alienates many and now comes Trump, a man who quote: “tells it how it is” by using incredibly basic language while often repeating several simplistic words over and over again. What we have is a candidate who presents and talks like no other American politician has before; he has crafted an identity that resonates and stands out, commanding vast amounts of attention from both prospective voters and the media. When you look at Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Trump is unlike anything else seen before; it’s literally impossible to take your eyes off him whenever he delivers a big speech or dramatic rally. The media has fed into this as well, focusing almost all of their attention on Trump because the other Republicans seem dull and uninteresting by comparison. In doing so, they have also granted additional platforms for Donald Trump to spread his highly questionable views with little to slow him down.

Donald Trump Supporters

Democracy encourages freedom of speech, but there have been many points where this has opened up opportunities for promoting hate speech and discrimination. Trump cannot be removed from the presidential race because that would be censorship, but should a line be drawn when a candidate willingly promotes this indecent line of thinking? We’ve seen countless examples of racism, bigotry and incitements of violence at many of Trump’s rallies and yet instead of receiving condemnation, many of his supporters openly welcome and cheer at his statements. The comparisons to Hitler are not without merit; as a dictator, he came to power by poisoning the minds of German citizens against Jews and other ethnic groups and now Trump is doing the exact same thing with Mexicans and Muslims. If it were a common individual spreading hatred of Mexicans and Muslims, they would likely be arrested for inciting hatred; when Donald Trump says it, he gets more attention and most importantly, more support. It’s the complete opposite of what was predicted by numerous political pundits and another way in which Trump has carved his own specific perch in the political system.

Lost amidst all the clamouring over Trump’s straightforward politicising is the fact that his so called policies are practically non-existent. The best he offers is a wall dividing America and Mexico; according to Trump the wall will protect US citizens from the “criminal aliens” (Yes that’s literally what he calls them on his campaign website) from across the border and that Mexico is going to pay for it. Ironically I would compare this kind of idea to the Great Wall of China which was also built as a means of border control centuries ago. The prospect of building a wall is already ludicrous, but the most horrifying statement of all came on March 9th when Trump literally suggested threatening war with Mexico in a bid to strong-arm them into paying for the wall. To quote the man from a recent interview with MSNBC: “When I rejuvenate our military, Mexico’s not going to be playing with us with war”.

The burning question now is what an America under Trump may look like; some shudder at the prospect of having the Republican candidate enter the Oval Office, while others bafflingly place their faith in him, confident in his goal of making America great again. Judging by the large level of support he has received, it’s hard not to feel a little uneasy. Trump is bearing down on the presidential election with little to stand in his way apart from his final Republican rival Ted Cruz. What it all comes down to is that Donald J. Trump is more dangerous to America than all the terrorists and threats he claims to be fighting against; why anyone would even consider supporting him is beyond me. Ultimately it will come down to the American people to make their choice this November; I hope, possibly for the world’s sake, that they make the right one.

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