Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Julian Assange, agent of fascism

In Episode 31 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg documents the ugly far-right politics of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and how the 2010 document dump risked the lives of dissidents under authoritarian regimes in places like Zimbabwe—and may have constituted outright collaboration with the repressive dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. An objective reading of the circumstances around the 2016 Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party e-mails reveals Assange as a Kremlin asset and Trump collaborator, an active agent in a Russian-lubricated effort to throw the US elections—part of Putin’s grander design to impose a fascist world order. Weinberg also notes that the ACLU and Committee to Protect Journalists have issued statements warning that the charges against Assange may pose a threat to press freedom. But he argues that even if we must protest his prosecution, we should do so while refraining from glorifying Assange—and, indeed, while forthrightly repudiating him as a dangerous political enemy of all progressive values. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo Libcom.org)

Greater Middle East

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah released

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, was released from prison after serving a five-year term. A prominent blogger and software engineer, he was once described by authorities as “the icon of the revolution” that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He was arrested in November 2013 on charges of organizing an illegal protest. Fattah’s release will not bring him complete freedom, as he will be required to sleep at a police station each night for five years and will be under close police surveillance.

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: fascism and the digital dystopia II

In Episode 25 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg protests that he has now been deprived of phone and Internet access by Verizon for more than two months, and discusses the greater social implications of this dilemma. Donald Trump, who is a fascist by any reasonable definition, has now shut down the federal government and is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to build his border wall. Lack of other net access at this critical moment has forced Weinberg to use a cell phone in order to have any voice as a writer and activist—while cellular technology is itself inherently abetting the descent into fascism. Not only does it create a totalizing propaganda environment, but it is degrading our attention spans, literacy and critical thinking skills. It also creates a totalizing surveillance environment that can ultimately be exploited by government as well as private interests. But we accept it in the name of "convenience" and the illusion of consumer "choice," and few even recognize technological "progress" (note: propaganda word) as something that needs to be resisted. This emerging dystopia combines the worst aspects of George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: we are complicit in the extinguishing of our own freedom because we have been conditioned. Weinberg calls for practical action to slow (at least) the totalizing aspect of this dystopia: keeping alive space for the print world and the meat world, and demanding that Verizon and other service providers maintain landline infrastructure. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)

The Andes

Colombia: ongoing state collaboration with paras?

The dark days of state collaboration with Colombia’s murderous paramilitary groups were recalled with the arrest in New York of Javier Valle Anaya, former sub-director of Bogotá’s Administrative Security Department (DAS), a now-disbanded intelligence agency that was found to be feeding information to the paras. Valle Anaya was detained on an immigration violation, but may face extradition to Colombia, where he is wanted in connection with the 2004 assassination of a human rights activist in Barranquilla. Ironically, the arrest comes just as a new scandal has emerged concerning an illegal network of chuzadas—Colombian slang for eavesdroppers. Retired National Police general Humberto Guatibonza was arrested in Bogotá, charged with running a chuzada ring that spied on labor activists—particularly members of the airline workers union, ACDAC. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Central Asia

China fast expanding detention camp system

With China accused of detaining hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims without trial in its western province of Xinjiang, a BBC investigation analyzed satellite data to determine that the detention camp system in the region is rapidly expanding. Reviewing images from the European Space Agency's Sentinel satellite service, the BBC finds at least 40 such facilities across Xinjiang, half built within last two years—with a big thrust of construction just in the past six months. Among the largest is a "massive, highly secure compound" still being built at Dabancheng, about an hour's drive from the provincial capital, Urumqi. It is enclosed within a two kilometer-long exterior wall punctuated by 16 guard towers. (Photo via UNPO)

Central Asia

China: anti-Islam police state —and Muslim protest

China is denying claims aired by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that up to a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang region. But Beijing appears to be imposing harsh surveillance and restrictions on freedom of worship on Muslims throughout China, even requiring those making the pilgrimage to Mecca to be fitted with GPS tracking devices. Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to. This week saw mass protests in Weizhou, Ningxia province, after authorities attempted to demolish a newly built mosque which they said had not received construction permits. After days of protest, authorities backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (Photo of protest at Weizhou Grand Mosque from Weibo via BBC News)

Central Asia

2008 Tibetan uprising remembered in Queens

Students for a Free Tibet held a 10-year commemoration of the 2008 Tibetan uprising at a hall n the Queens neighborhood of Astoria, New York City. The 2008 uprising, which began in Lhasa in March, continued for weeks and spread across the Tibetan plateau. It was put down at a cost of some 20 lives, by official Chinese figures. But Tibetan rights groups and the government-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, claim that hundreds were "disappeared" in a subsequent wave of repression, with some 200 presumed killed. Guest of honor at the commemoration was Dhondup Wangchen, producer of the 2008 documentary film Leaving Fear Behind, made in the prelude to the uprising, in which ordinary Tibetans spoke of their feelings about China hosting the Summer Olympics. Wangchen was subsequently arrested, convicted of "subversion," and served six years in prison. Upon his release, he fled Tibet and was granted asylum in the United States. He is shown here with his wife, Lhamo Tso, who waged a campaign for his release. (Photo: Rose Tang)

South Asia

China expands Indian Ocean military footprint

In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean.  (Map via CIMSEC)

Southern Cone

‘Lost kingdom’ of Patagonia stands up for Mapuche

The exiled Royal House of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia elected Prince Frederic Luz as the new monarch—claiming dominion over a large area of Chile in the name of the region's Mapuche indigenous inhabitants. Although now dispersed in Britain and France, the Royal House traces its origin to 1860, when Orélie de Tounens was recognized as king by the Mapuche, on his pledge to help them resist Chilean encroachment on their unceded territory. In the 1870s, the territory was finally taken in a genocidal campaign by the Chilean military. De Tounens returned to Europe and campaigned for international recognition of his exiled government. The Royal House still advocates for the rights and sovereignty of the Mapuche today. (Photo: North American Araucanian Royalist Society via CraigsList Philadelphia)

Central Asia

China: sweeps, surveillance in police-state Xinjiang

Thousands of Uighurs, members of the indigenous Muslim and Turkic people of China's far-western Xinjiang region, have been detained in "political education camps," while authorities are placing sophisticated facial-recognition technology even in remote villages to enforce restrictions on residents' movements. DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types are being collected from all residents as a part of the surveillance program. The measures come amid a wave of arrests of Uighur community leaders on charges of "religious extremism." (Photo: Mvslim.com)

New York City

NYPD reaches new deal in surveillance lawsuit

The New York Police Department reached a new settlement providing greater oversight of intelligence-gathering programs, after a federal judge rejected an earlier deal.