Beware The Obama Hype: What “Change” In America Really Means

Beware The Obama Hype

What “Change” In America Really Means

By John Pilger

November 12, 2008 “Information Clearinghouse – -My first visit to Texas was in 1968, on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of president John F Kennedy in Dallas. I drove south, following the line of telegraph poles to the small town of Midlothian, where I met Penn Jones Jr, editor of the Midlothian Mirror. Except for his drawl and fine boots, everything about Penn was the antithesis of the Texas stereotype. Having exposed the racists of the John Birch Society, his printing press had been repeatedly firebombed. Week after week, he painstakingly assembled evidence that all but demolished the official version of Kennedy’s murder.

This was journalism as it had been before corporate journalism was invented, before the first schools of journalism were set up and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around those whose “professionalism” and “objectivity” carried an unspoken obligation to ensure that news and opinion were in tune with an establishment consensus, regardless of the truth. Journalists such as Penn Jones, independent of vested power, indefatigable and principled, often reflect ordinary American attitudes, which have seldom conformed to the stereotypes promoted by the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic. Read American Dreams: Lost and Found by the masterly Studs Terkel, who died the other day, or scan the surveys that unerringly attribute enlightened views to a majority who believe that “government should care for those who cannot care for themselves” and are prepared to pay higher taxes for universal health care, who support nuclear disarmament and want their troops out of other people’s countries.

Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the history of the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.

That is the subtext of Barack Obama’s “oratory”. He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those on election night, these other tears will be unseen in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama’s election, which happened not because of the unction that has passed for news reporting from America since 4 November (e.g. “liberal Americans smiled and the world smiled with them”) but for the same reasons that millions of angry emails were sent to the White House and Congress when the “bailout” of Wall Street was revealed, and because most Americans are fed up with war.

Two years ago, this anti-war vote installed a Democratic majority in Congress, only to watch the Democrats hand over more money to George W Bush to continue his blood fest. For his part, the “anti-war” Obama never said the illegal invasion of Iraq was wrong, merely that it was a “mistake”. Thereafter, he voted in to give Bush what he wanted. Yes, Obama’s election is historic, a symbol of great change to many. But it is equally true that the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class. The courageous Martin Luther King recognised this when he linked the human rights of black Americans with the human rights of the Vietnamese, then being slaughtered by a liberal Democratic administration. And he was shot. In striking contrast, a young black major serving in Vietnam, Colin Powell, was used to “investigate” and whitewash the infamous My Lai massacre. As Bush’s secretary of state, Powell was often described as a “liberal” and was considered ideal to lie to the United Nations about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Condaleezza Rice, lauded as a successful black woman, has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice.

Obama’s first two crucial appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues on which they voted. The vice-president- elect, Joe Biden, is a proud warmaker and Zionist. Rahm Emanuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent “neoliberal” devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and impoverishment of millions. He is also an “Israel-first” Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians – an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people’s loathing of the United States and the spawning of jihadism.

No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obamamania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the “Mandela moment”. This is especially marked in Britain, where America’s divine right to “lead” is important to elite British interests. The once respected Observer newspaper, which supported Bush’s war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that “America has restored the world’s faith in its ideals”. These “ideals”, which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.

None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had it been allowed, there might even have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Prior to Blair’s criminal warmaking, ideology was denied by him and his media mystics. “Blair can be a beacon to the world,” declared the Guardian in 1997. “[He is] turning leadership into an art form.”

Today, merely insert “Obama”. As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way – liberal democracy’s shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade. “True democracy,” wrote Penn Jones Jr, the Texas truth-teller, “is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you’re meant to think and keeping your eyes wide open at all times.”

Ten reasons to visit Indonesia

Ten reasons to visit Indonesia

Paul Smith suggests ten reasons, in no particular order, to consider a trip to Indonesia, one of the lesser visited destinations in Asia.

1. TANAH LOT, BALI

About 30km to the west of Bali’s capital Denpasar, Tanah Lot is a special place where Hindu temples sit on outcrops of rock along the volcanic coastline.
The black sand, craggy rocks and white spray from the pounding sea look strangely like Auckland’s west coast beaches but the temples, thought to date from the 15th century, add a mystic feel especially at sunset.
Eating outside dinner at the Melasti Restaurant as the sun goes down is a wonderful experience.
2. CORAL REEF, BUNAKEN
Anyone who snorkels or scuba-dives will enjoy the wonderful coral reef at Bunaken in the province of North Sulawesi.
Boats go out from the mainland each morning for the reef, set just off the palm tree-lined shore of the island.
Hundreds of varieties of fish and marine life can easily be seen in the warm, clear water.
Lunch is available on the island at a basic, sand-floored restaurant.
3. THE FOOD
Meals often start with an excellent soup, often a salty, vegetable broth but sometimes in a more spicy, Thai-style. Main dishes include barbecued fish – skewered and cooked over hot coals with chilli, satay chicken, or beef cooked in a vegetable stock and coconut milk. Green beans cooked in chilli and garlic is a mainstay vegetable dish.
There is a link to Thai food but less in the way of curry as meat is often prepared with an almost dry sauce. You’ll probably need to like chillies because there is some heat in most dishes, though it is not usually overpowering.Dessert leans towards the super-sweet.
4. THE COFFEE
Although the dreaded Nescafe rears its ugly head from time to time, the standard of coffee is usually excellent.
Often made in the filter-style favoured in the US, rather than the espresso-base of New Zealand and Australia, the coffee is usually very smooth and gently invigorating rather than a morning energy bolt.
Coffee beans can be bought direct from plantations in places including Bali for as little as about $3. (Or you can always get some prized luwak coffee beans, which cost about US$55 having been eaten by civet cats and passed through them before being collected.)
5. THE WEATHER
As long as you like it hot and humid, Indonesia’s climate is for you.
Running roughly 5000km along the equator, the country is very warm all year round. Jakarta’s temperatures range from around 23C at night to 31C in the day with a wet season from November to March.
6. SHOPPING IN JAKARTA
Whether you want Western designer goods at the plush Grand Indonesia mall in the city centre, or one of the more traditional mall-cum-markets dotted around the city, shoppers should be happy.
Obvious targets for the credit card are Indonesian-made batik clothing and textiles, while you might just be able to find a new mobile phone at malls which have an entire floor of cellphone stalls one after the other.
Some of the main shopping centres in the city are: Elite Plaza Indonesia, Plaza EX and the Plaza Semanggi in central Jakarta, Taman Anggrek Mall in the west, Kelapa Gading Mall in the east, WTC Mangga Dua in the north, Plaza Senayan and Pondok Indah Mall in the south.
If there is a price displayed it’s probably fixed, but otherwise bargaining is expected.
7. TEMPLE HOPPING IN YOGYAKARTA
Yogyakarta in central Java is one of the historical and religious centres of Indonesia.
The Prambanan and Borobudur temples just outside the city are both Unesco World Heritage sites. The thousands of pieces of volcanic rock they are built from make them an arresting sight.
The Buddhist Borobudur temple is a national icon covering a surface area of 2500 square metres. It was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and restored with Unesco’s help in the 1970s.
An earthquake in 2006 partially destroyed the Hindu Prambanan temple and set back the restoration by several years, but work continues and the site is very much visitable. (A viewing platform at the site collapsed a year later with a tour party of Russians on it, initially sparking fears of another earthquake before it was realised 90 people had been on a structure built for a maximum of 30.)
8. MANADO BISCUIT FACTORY
Almost too surreal for words, the biscuit factory attraction in Manado, North Sulawesi – bizarrely housed in a place called the Merciful Building – has to be checked out.
The crowd of workers who welcome you with big smiles, megaphones and shirts proclaiming “the group the never the sleeps” (I think this translates as “we work 24/7”) are just so Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
They take you down the four floors of the factory (or at least a simulation of what is presumably a real factory somewhere else), explaining how all the biscuits and confectionery are made.
It’s actually quite interesting, and the produce is very good. Funnily enough, you end up at the bottom in the shop where you can then buy to your heart’s content. Which, as the prices are cheap and the taste good, is no bad idea.
9. THE PEOPLE
You can expect a warm welcome wherever you go in Indonesia.
Though the hawkers at tourist sites can become annoying, elsewhere you are likely to be greeted with smiles and genuine friendship.
The governor of the North Sulawesi region even calls his region “The Land of Smiling People” with some justification.
10. SECURITY?
This is the great unknown of Indonesian travel. Following the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 many tourists are understandably wary of visiting.
At the time of writing, the Australian and New Zealand governments are warning against travel because of fears of repercussions following the execution of the Bali bombers.
On the other hand, more than 5m tourists visited Indonesia last year without serious incident. I didn’t see anything to concern me about either terrorism or crime during my visit, but that does not mean dangers do not exist.
* Paul Smith visited Jakarta, Manado, Bali and Yogyakarta courtesy of the Indonesian government.