Marxism and ecosocialism

I just wanted to share this interesting article written by Hadas Thier of the International Socialist Review. Click the link below and have a read!

The following is based on a presentation at the Socialism 2014 conference, held in Chicago on June 26–29, 2014.

By Hadas Thier

Your News, You Decide: April 25th 2014: Today – BBC, Al Jazeera, CBC News, The New York Times

I am extremely concerned about the accuracy and validity of the news we read, see and here on a daily basis.  The media is constantly manipulated for political or financial gain.  Some of the news is focused on largely irrelevant events; a good example is the Oscar Pistorius case.  Certainly there is no impact on international diplomacy, wars, hunger or democracy.  The whole case is nothing more than a theatrical display, other than the families directly impacted in the case the story should be close to, if not already on the last page, perhaps by the entertainment section?  But alas, it is not..  When I read the news, I want to read something relevant, something that is impacting the lives of people domestically and internationally.  However, it is not only a case of irrelevant stories, there are other issues with the news such as the problem of omission.  We saw it with the Occupy Wall Street movement, where everyone knew it was happening because of social media, yet no news outlets, particularly American, aired the story until several days into the protest. What were the reasons behind not reporting?  Omission and manipulation of the news and media is constantly happening around us whether we know it or not.

And so, because of tactics like omission, exaggeration, and manipulation I have decided to grab the same story off of several news sites and do a quick comparison to see the differences in the stories and let you, the reader, decide for yourself what the news really is. Today, I’ve taken a screenshot (at 1pm PST) of the top headline from each of these sites: BBC News (UK), Al Jazeera (Qatar), CBC News (Canada) and the New York Times (USA). I will summarize and comment on the closest related (hopefully same) story from each site and then analyze the differences to conclude.

BBC News sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to: the Government, Foreign, Interior and Defence ministries of Ukraine; the Government and Foreign Ministry of Russia; pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine ; the Government, Foreign and Defence ministries of Germany; The United States government.

Written by:
BBC News unnamed

Summary and Notes:
The article begins with information from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry regarding the abduction of electoral observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe by pro-Russian separatists in near the town of Sloviansk in the Ukraine.  It is noted that the abducted may actually be members of an unarmed EU military observation team headed by Germany.  The “west” is upset with current buildup of troops and Russian military exercises along the Ukrainian border and as a result, their credit status was downgraded by the credit rating agency Stanley and Poor.  Ukraine is claiming that Russia is trying to start world war three and purposely creating unrest in the EU.

The BBC seems to be very careful with this news coverage.  They leave virtually no comment or analyses of their own.  Almost all of the information is pieced together from the governments’ and ministries involved in the conflict.


Al Jazeera News sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to:  Al Jazeera reporter Hoda Abdel-Hamid; Reuters;  AFP; the Government and Interior ministry of Ukraine; pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine; The OSCE.

Written by:
Al Jazeera News unnamed

Summary and Notes:
This article also notes that according the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, armed separatists seized a bus of international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe close to the town of Slovyansk.  The separatists claim that there is a spy among the group which is the reason for the groups detainment.  They were seized when a problem arose at a checkpoint.  A Ukrainian ministry is currently negotiating their release.  Slovyansk a town of 130,000 has been under separatist control for 2 weeks.  Ukraine alleges that Russia is instigating a third world war.  The Ukrainian military is launching operations to try to regain control of Slovyansk.  And, a Ukrainian helicopter has exploded on the tarmac in the town of Kramatorsk, the source of the explosion has not been confirmed, although officials in Kiev says it was shot by a rocket propelled grenade.

Al Jazeera is cautious in their approach to the story.  However, Al Jazeera does use its own reporter as a reference. Also, at least two other news agencies credited in the article, Reuters and the AFP.  This article leaves our rhetoric and editorial comments. However the amount of sources used could be increased and some of the sources are not mentioned and noted at the bottom of the article as, “Al Jazeera and agencies”.


CBC News sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to: Reuters; The Associated Press; the Government, Defence and Interior Ministries of Ukraine; the Foreign Ministry of Russia; the Foreign Ministry of Sweden.

Written by:
CBC News unnamed

Summary and Notes:
The article also notes that according the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, armed separatists seized a bus of international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe close to the town of Slovyansk.  Sweden is calling for the immediate release of one of the lone Swedish  OSCE inspector among the seized.   The United States is threatening further sanctions, with both Britain and Germany agreeing with them.  The tensions have resulted in the credit rating downgrade of Russia by Stanley and Poor  Russia denies any involvement in separatist activities and has called for armed Russian separatists to lay down their arms.  Ukraine alleges that Russia is instigating a third world war.  There have been clashes and in all parts of the country, and both sides say that any illegal groups and or occupations must end immediately.

The article appears to have some commenting in it.  Not all facts are quoted leaving the origin of some of the material open to question.  Roughly half of the article appears to be paraphrased sources but with no credit or quotes credited.  CBC notes “Thomson Reuters” at the very beginning and at the very ending of the article, however upon searching Reuters Canada and Reuters US  I was unable to find this exact article anywhere other than on CBC’s website.  (I’m not exactly certain as to how the relationship between Reuters and CBC works, so if you know more about this then please message me or leave a comment as I would like to know more about it.)


The New York Times news sources:
The main sources used in the article but not limited to: Reporters for The New York Times (listed below); The Interfax News Agency; the Government, Defence and Interior Ministries of Ukraine;  The government of Russia; The government of the United States of America; The OSCE.

Written by:
The New York Times;  Andrew Higgins (Kiev), C. J. Chivers (Kramatorsk), Alan Cowell (London), and additional contribution by David M. Herszenhorn (Moscow).

Summary and Notes:
The article notes the the Ukraine is ready to block out Russian allies in the town of Solvyansk.  It is reported that military observers from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe were detained by pro Russian separatists.  Although the OSCE claims that it was a separate branch working under the OSCE umbrella that was detained.  Ukraine are labelling any separatist groups as terrorist organizations and are doing everything possible to cut off supplies and blockading their progress.  Soldiers are accumulating on both sides of the border near Solvyansk.  Russia denies having any involvement with the groups operating in the Ukraine.  The United States is threatening sanctions against Russia upon intelligence claiming that Russia is in fact aiding armed pro-Russian separatist groups.  The US claims it has confirmed photographs of Russian military operators working in Ukraine, while Ukraine claims US blackmail and rhetoric.

The New York times article is definitely written with more of a flow and a story feel with emphasis being put on their first hand accounts from their reporters on the ground.  The Times uses a mix of government sources, another agency and primarily from their own reporters, four in fact!  I think is odd that the headline did not mention the abduction, and that the story was so far down the page when other agencies were headlining it.  The validity of the article needs to take into account the reliability and bias, if any, of the reporters on the ground.


I mentioned cautious in a couple of my notes above, when I says cautious I’m referring to the news agencies distancing themselves from sources that are not governments related.

First off I would like to note that BBC, Al Jazeera and CBC news all started their articles almost exactly the same, with comments from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.  All the three agencies also had the incident headlining their front pages as the top story when I observed all the sites at 1pm PST.  The New York Times did not have this as their top story and does not mention the incident in their headline.  The first story on Ukraine was 6 stories down from the first headline.  The detention of the observers is first mentioned the third paragraph and the headline to the article is “Ukraine Says It Will ‘Blockade’ Pro-Russian Militants”.  I find it quite interesting that the American news station has taken quite a different approach to the story, how and where it is headlined in their news.  And most importantly how it is written, which I will address below.

Overall, I feel that the BBC used the most resources in general, but stayed strictly with government quotes, they don’t appear to have any reporters on the ground for first hand accounts.  But I feel that they are trying to stay neutral on the matter even though it’s an agency that falls within the “West”.  Al Jazeera, when compared to the other stories is using a mix of government sources and other news agencies with one reporter account.  Depending on the validity of the new agencies used by Al Jazeera, the story might by slightly more open than the BBC story.  However, they are still fairly neutral on the story.  For this story, both agencies appear to be limiting any biases, which is good.  CBC News from Canada has the least amount of less sources out of the of four.  The CBC article does fails quote all of the paraphrasing, so this could be a little worrying as to who is saying what.  There is also the Thomson Reuters stamp at the beginning and end of the article which I would like to look into.  And then finally there is the New York Times.  The only agency that used four of their own reporters on the ground, two in the Ukraine, one in Russia and one in Britain.  I found that this story was written with the reporters thoughts as well as their analyses.  However they still mixed in government sources as well.  The article was definitely more of an entertaining read, than the other articles and I think thats partly due to it being The New York Times and that four reporters have had input into the story.  When cross-referenced it is plain to see that the only article that has slightly different information is the New York Times, this could be attributed to the reporters on the ground.  Most of the other information that aligns is from various government sources.  I hope this column has helped you take a closer look at the news you read and question the information that you come across..

I will vary the stories and agencies in the coming columns.  If there is a good response, I will look into four different agencies take on one story everyday.  I think it is important for us to open up our minds and decide what is really going on for ourselves rather than just take everything for face value.  I hope to look into articles that might have more variation as well, concerning environmental issues, sustainability and resources.  Thanks for reading and please leave me comments or suggestions if you can below!  (PS, some of the links may change as the sites update their articles.)



The Media Condition and Violence as the Norm

The recent killings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in the United States of America is no doubt a terrible tragedy and complete waste of lives.  Another sad chapter in what seems to be a never-ending American media story of murder, mass killings and suicides.

So, where to begin? Who is to blame?  Can you blame a way of life, is it possible? There are many questions that need to be asked.  How can this continue to happen time and time again? And why?  What perpetuates these heinous acts?  There are several different angles that one could use to interpret these mass American killings or even all murders in the Unites States of America and abroad. Mainly I would like to look at the way the media in the USA, Europe and the developed world use the media and raise some questions about the industries’ motives.  I also want to raise a few questions about the culture and policy of violence in our world.

Could one of the root causes be the deeply ingrained culture of violence in America? A population highly exposed to guns and violent crime through the media, movies, and video games to name but a few avenues.

Arguably it is the peace model versus a military industrial complex model.  An entire system and mindset which is completely interwoven into global policy.  The military industrial complex is probably the number one cause of violence all over the world, be it domestic or international violence.  The industry depends on that.

You could also argue that “Western” media puts a higher value on the lives of people in developed countries more than that of people in underdeveloped countries.  Why else do we not hear about the many lives being lost around the world on a daily basis in underdeveloped countries as much as we hear about the lives of those in the developed?  Do these acts receive such exclusive coverage simply because they take place in a developed country?

We may also want to question the American medias’ handling of the Sandy Hook aftermath, was it necessary to publish the name, make and model every firearm used in the attack?  What purpose does this serve other than free advertising for the gun manufacturers? It is a gun related crime, period.  In a country where you can get almost any type of gun at anytime in anyplace, it is really going to make a difference what make and model firearm the killer used?  (Ironically enough gun sales immediately shot up after the tragedy, so at least the gun companies were able to profit right?)

As you can see, it is easy to get carried away on this topic.  The main concern that I’ve had in the wake of this tragedy is the amount of attention it has been getting versus everything else that is happening in the world.  Not only that, but a story which has dominated the headlines for days on end.  Please do not get me wrong, I am not by any means discounting how terrible Sandy Hook was.  However,  there has been other tragic events taking place in the world during this time that have not been as widely reported.  Why is this the case?  It is as if the developed world, probably more so in North America, which seems to live inside of a type of bubble, shielded from the outside world.  The media in North America, particularly in the United States is a completely agenda driven industry (albeit an industry which will gladly accept your investment with open arms).  So is it a ratings game?  Would the networks benefit from reporting about children starving and dying in Syria everyday, children getting stabbed in China, the C.I.A. getting charged for torture by the European Union, or the polio volunteers who were shot dead in Pakistan? Mmm, I’ll let you decide for yourself.  It seems that the United States’ media wouldn’t consider these stories important enough to report on (although a couple of them did make the small print a day or two later!),  and or there is no immediate demand (i.e higher ratings value) in the other stories.  Besides low shock value to Americans, there is nothing in any of those stories that would seem to fit the agenda of the American news networks (and in some cases, their respective shareholders).  Additionally, those stories may not cause the same level of distraction that something like the Sandy Hook Elementary school may produce.

Just remember there is always news both good and bad all over the world everyday.  Unfortunately, western news reports on violence, disaster or tragedy, and usually regarding events in the developed world (unless it is an event in the underdeveloped world so large that it is unavoidable).  We turn on the television or open the newspaper expecting to see and hear something terrible.  We have been conditioned by the media to expect that the news will be bad, to accept that bad news is the news, and we have.

Diversions in “Western” media are common place, after all, the media is owned by the corporations which run much of the globalized world.  It makes senese that if an event can produce high ratings and or divert attention from undesirable global issues or events, that many companies and even governments may able to benefit in one way or another.

Luckily, we have access to the internet which means we can still proactively seek out other sources of information to make our own minds up about the news we hear.  I really hope that the North American corporate media can take a more balanced view of global events in the future and pop the “bubble”.  I hope that more people take it upon themselves to look outside of the media bubble which has been created in the “West” and to ask more questions about what you see and hear.  As important as domestic news is, it is equally important for all of us to be more conscious about global current events as our world becomes more and more connected.  To make the world a better place for everyone we need to stay informed and educated about all of surroundings not just the ones in front of us.  It is important for us to look outside of the bubble and seek out as many sources as possible and make our own decisions based on these multiple sources of information.

Clearly, I feel that North Americans in particular receive filtered and very specific news coverage.  However,  the fact of the matter is, whether we are in North America or not, the culture of violence is not isolated to certain people or regions.  Globalization has transformed the way our world views violence, and unfortunately it is increasingly accepted as a part of everyday life in our system.  Violent events will continue to occur, because, they always just always just have, right?  Indeed, they will continue if we as a civilization continue to accept it as the norm.  We are living in a world run by an old way of thinking, one based on realist principles, a retributive justice system the need for more.  Until a new generation can create and run governments that are not based on fear, retribution and power we will continue to hear about events like the Norway massacre and Sandy Hook.  An adaptation in how we view and treat our neighbours all over the world is necessary.  What we will allow and what we will expect from our media and governments in the future will depend on our willingness to continually evolve, educate and engage ourselves in the process of shaping our future.  There must be a fundamental change in the way that an entire generation thinks about and views our world.  Difficult? No one said it was going to be easy. Possible? Definitely!



Iranian President Ahmadinejad visits Latin America

Click picture for related article at the Foreign Policy Association

Back in mid January the Iranian president Ahmadinejad made a visit to the Latin American countries Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela in a show of public diplomacy.  This trip was not only for securing business and security relationships, but it also sends a message to the United States and the West that Iran is alive, well and functioning.  The appearance of having allies so close to US soil was surely on the agenda of the Iranian president on his most recent visit to the region.  Crippling sanctions imposed by the US and the EU have left Iran with but little choice but to seek and ensure economic stability and security for their country in other parts of the world.  However, the latest sanctions are no ordinary sanctions since they also come with the threat force with them.  Israel, most notably has let their intentions be known that the “smart” sanctions are only a precursor to what would eventually be inevitable conflict.  Obviously this act of coercion towards Iran from western powers leaves them looking for new strategies in the international community.  Arguably western powers could say that even this visit to Latin America is only compounding Iranian provocations towards the west, in an escalation of aggressive behaviour towards the west.  It seems that if you are with the west, then Iran is deliberately escalating the situation by building a nuclear bomb.  If you are Iran, you are trying to provide nuclear energy for you’re country.  It is a situation which is extremely delicate and probably both sides of the argument have valid and invalid points.  However, in my opinion the US, Israel and Iran are each engaging in this situation from very realist perspectives.  Each  country is acting in it’s own self interest, America for Iran’s oil, Israel for it’s sovereignty and Iran for its nuclear ambitions.

It appears that Iran’s foreign policy is built upon a realist beliefs using a pluralist model of decision making.  However, Iran’s pluralist model of decision making likely does not resemble that of liberal states.  I would imagine Iran has several small contingents of elites and or ministers who would have their input taken into account.  As opposed to having a larger umbrella of groups to contend with such as multinational corporations, interest groups, opposition parties, and of course a massive bureaucracy.  In this way, it seems as though even though a pluralist model exists, it is simply in place to appease certain elites or for consultation.  So it may not be so simple to define after all, Iran in fact, actually appears to be acting based on a Rational model of decision making.  Iran’s leader has identified the pressing issues, made clear cut decisions based on what he and his country needs, and is selecting, for now, the diplomatic routes which seem to make the most sense at this point in time.  Now with the Syrian conflict in full out civil war it will be interesting to see who supports whom and for which reasons.  Over the next few months it will be interesting to observe the shifts in foreign policy decision making as even the slightest alteration in policy could mean the difference between a violent or peaceful outcome. Let’s hope for the latter.

Dialogue for the Greater Good

Jonas Store makes some excellent points in this TED talk.  It only makes sense that the resolution to major international and domestic conflicts will reach a true peace on the heels of meaningful and calculated dialogue.  I would further add to Mr.  Stores thoughts that dialogue between groups and nations must allow for concessions, probably on both sides of the table.  While getting to the table with groups to which we once pushed away is a great feat in itself.  An even greater feat would be for such negotiations to bear fruit.  The “Western powers” (and China) of the world usually enter negotiations with a zero sum stance, rarely allowing for any movement on demands.  The Western powers must be able to agree to variable sum situations which allow for more movement at the table.  So, Jonas’ point of getting to the table with “outlawed” groups or rogue states is very important, but it is also crucial to note the importance of political cooperation for the advancement of diplomacy with such groups and states as well.  Without meaningful dialogue between global players, the earth will continue to be a shifting dune of conflict based on ignorance, stubbornness and centralized state interests based on zero sum mentalities.  Such an alternative approach to International Relations is necessary for the development and implementation of new core concepts in the international community.


Originally posted on langarainternationalrelations:

It seems as though institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank were set up to help countries in need.  Poor countries struggling to pay debts and feed their populations had nowhere to turn to.  Unfortunately, it appears that capitalism and capitalists have infiltrated all aspects of global society, from banking and politics to energy and food.  Even governments considered to be fully democratic are being convinced by the corporate world what they need and that in turn is pitched to the people as what they need.  People are seemingly left with little choice not matter where you live, you are bound to elect a leader influenced by money and corporations telling them what will be good for them.  These leaders try to tell us then what is good for us.  Similarly the IMF is taking extreme advantage of countries in need, slashing public programs, devaluing currency and selling off entire…

View original 257 more words