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Modi in Washington: Why India Will Not Become a US Ally

India’s recent moves do not mean it is breaking with the BRICS or joining a US alliance against China. It is simply a case of India pursuing its traditional policy of positioning itself between the Great Powers to achieve greatest advantage for itself.

Alexander Mercouris

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Indian Prime Minister Modi’s just completed visit to Washington has reinforced fears that India is evolving into a full-fledged ally of the US.

The grounds for thinking this were ably discussed by my colleague Andrew Korybko in two fine pieces he has written for The Duran.  For those interested in the details of the moves the US and India have been making towards each other, there is no better place to start than those two articles (here and here).

Is India however really abandoning its traditional policy of non-alignment to forge an alliance with Washington that would in effect bury the BRICS arrangement?

I have no doubt that that is what Washington itself believes.  I am sure that in the aftermath of Prime Minister Modi’s visit, Washington’s huge foreign policy establishment is busy congratulating itself on its success in detaching India from Russia and China.  The champagne corks in Langley and Foggy Bottom are no doubt flying as I write this, and I have no doubt that Andrew Korybko has reproduced with absolute accuracy the way the whole India play is looked upon by people inside the Beltway.

However I suspect that from New Delhi things look rather different.  I am quite sure that both the hopes and fears of an Indian alliance with the US are exaggerated.

Before discussing my reasons for saying this, it is necessary to provide some background.

Much of the concern that has been expressed about Prime Minister Modi’s dalliance with Washington derives from a misunderstanding of his background. There was a widespread view before Modi became Prime Minister of India that because the US had previously denied him a visa to travel to the US that somehow meant he was opposed to the US, and this has led to surprise when it turned out that he was not hostile to the US at all, with more than a hint in some quarters of a feeling of betrayal.

In reality the US refusal of a visa simply reflects ignorance of Indian politics and the US propensity to strike poses, in this case in connection to sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002 for which Modi as the state’s chief minister was deemed by the US to be responsible.  The episode of the visa says nothing about Modi’s actual opinions of the US and is irrelevant to his actions as India’s Prime Minister.  Those are rooted in his own political needs and background and in India’s national interests.

Briefly and very crudely, Indian politics since independence have broadly followed one of two traditions: the secular leftist “social democracy” associated with Congress or the more conservative, more right wing and more free market oriented course associated with what is sometimes called the Hindutva nationalist movement.  Very broadly, during the Cold War Indian politicians associated with Congress tended to tilt towards Moscow, whilst more Hindutva oriented politicians tended to be more sympathetic to Washington.

Modi comes from the Hindutva nationalist tradition.  He came to power as leader of the right wing Hindutva oriented BJP after defeating Congress in 2014 in parliamentary elections, and he has positioned himself as a follower of the previous BJP Prime Minister hailing from the Hindutva tradition – Atal Bihari Vajpayee – whose name Modi repeatedly invoked in the speech he made to the US Congress during his US visit.

Modi’s Hindutva background would itself suffice to explain his preference for closer dealings with Washington.  There are however practical reasons that might impel him in that direction anyway – as they did his Congress predecessor Manmohan Singh. 

The first is the forceful demands for a closer alignment with the US from the outspokenly pro-US business community centred on India’s port city of Mumbai (Bombay).  These people form a key component of Modi’s political constituency and he is simply not in a position to disregard them. 

The second is the wish to attract US investment to India in order to sustain India’s programme for rapid economic growth and economic modernisation.  This has been India’s overriding priority ever since the initial steps were taken by Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in the Congress government of the 1990s to liberalise India’s economy.

Given these factors Modi has actually been restrained in his dealings with the US.  It is important to say anyway that these dealings follow an established tradition within India of seeking good relations with the US.

In the late 1970s the leader of what was then the Janata party (the lineal ancestor of today’s BJP) Prime Minister Morarji Desai, was widely suspected of having leaked intelligence information from within the Indian Cabinet to Washington during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.  Whether that was true or not, there is evidence that Henry Kissinger at least considered Morarji Desai to be a US intelligence asset (for a full discussion of this controversial question see the chapter on the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 in Seymour Hersh’s The Price of Power) and he did in fact follow a more friendly policy towards the US – and Pakistan – than the Congress led governments of the period did.

As for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi’s predecessor as BJP leader and Indian prime minister, it was during his period as Prime Minister that the first steps in forming the present US-Indian relationship were taken with the visit in 2000 of US President Clinton – the first visit to India by a US President in 22 years.

The key event in forging the present close relations between the US and India however happened not under Vajpayee – or indeed now under Modi.  It happened during the last period of Congress government, when the US administration of George W. Bush made a sustained and ultimately successful attempt between 2005 and 2008 to forge good relations with India

The key achievement of this period – and the keystone of the whole US-Indian relationship – pointedly referred to as such by Modi in the speech he made to the US Congress during his visit – was the 2008 India-United States Civil Nuclear Agreement, which essentially amounted to recognition by the US of India’s status as a fully-fledged nuclear Great Power.

Suffice to say that the Indian Prime Minister at the time of the India-United States Civil Nuclear Agreement was none other than Manmohan Singh, someone often spoken of as a BRICS loyalist, who represented India at the founding summit of the BRICS group in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in 2009.

It is entirely natural that Modi, like Manmohan Singh before him, would want to build on the relationship with the US forged during the premierships of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.  Doing so after all arguably serves both his own political needs and India’s national interests.  India has no interest in making an enemy of the US and it is entirely natural that it would want to extract the most advantages from the US by maintaining a good relationship with it.

What however of the greater strategic play – does wanting good relations with the US mean India has to align itself with Washington against Beijing and Moscow? 

Before discussing this question it is necessary to say something about the history of India’s relationships with Beijing and Moscow.

India’s relations with China since independence has been complex and difficult.  India’s relations with Russia since independence by contrast have been straightforward and easy.

China and India had very close relations in the 1950s – much closer than today – when it appeared that the two countries’ prime ministers, Zhou Enlai and Jawaharlal Nehru, had forged a close friendship.  Relations however fell apart in the early 1960s over Tibet and disputes over their common border, with a brief but savage war fought between the two countries in 1962 in which Russia sided with India but in which India was comprehensively defeated by China, leaving China occupying much of what had previously been Indian controlled territory. 

Relations between India and China then remained very tense until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 since when they have warned considerably.  During the previous period of tense relations China however forged an alliance with India’s perennial enemy Pakistan, which continues to this day and which adds another layer of conflict to the Indian-Chinese relationship.

With Russia by contrast the relationship has been straightforward and good.  India and Russia have been close friends since India achieved independence from Britain (the Indian ambassador Krishna Menon was the last foreign visitor received by Stalin before his death in 1953). 

In the late 1960s, as Moscow’s own relations with China deteriorated, Russia and India became for a time de facto allies against China and its ally Pakistan, with Russia providing India with critical military assistance which enabled India to win victory in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. 

Since the USSR’s collapse relations between Russia and India have as a result of Russia’s diminished reach and power inevitably become more distant, but they have remained warm.

Given the complex and difficult history of India’s relations with China, and given the huge increase in Chinese power which has taken place since the 1970s, and given the reduction in power of India’s former partner Russia over the same period, and given the fact that Russia has itself drawn closer to China and is now in de facto alliance with it, it is completely understandable that India would want to insure its position against China by strengthening its ties with Washington.  India would surely be doing this even if there were not also compelling economic reasons to do so (see above).

However looked at objectively what is striking is the restraint India has shown in pursuing this objective.  Whilst India has certainly followed the logic of improving its relations with Washington, it has been careful to retain its traditionally good relations with Moscow, and under both Manmohan Singh and Modi it has kept its lines of communication to China open, working successfully alongside China and Russia as a member of the BRICS.

The reason India has pursued this balanced course is actually made clear in Andrew Korybko’s two pieces.  India’s aspirations to be accepted as a Great Power are ultimately incompatible with subordination to Washington – a relationship of subordination to the US being the only type of relationship Washington today seems able to forge with other powers.

Beyond this, India has no more interest in making an enemy of China than it has in making an enemy of the US.  China is far more powerful than India.  India cannot defeat China militarily and recent experience will have taught India that any US commitments to “defend” India from China are to all intents and purposes worthless.  China is also India’s biggest trading partner and – like the US – is a key potential investor in the Indian economy.

From India’s point of view maintaining at least a working relationship with China is therefore overwhelmingly in India’s interests even if for historically fully understandable reasons the relationship with China cannot be conflict free or entirely warm.

All this points to the sort of policy Modi is currently following – and which was followed previously by his two predecessors – Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh: good relations with both Washington and Moscow combined with a certain wariness towards China but with a continued willingness to work with China in India’s national interest through the BRICS group and the various other Chinese led institutions that are now being formed.

Seen in this context it is now possible to read Modi’s speech to the US Congress in the proper way. 

The speech contained all the usual cliches and bromides Americans love: invocations of “freedom”, platitudes about American democracy, flattering reminders of how India is also a democracy, paeans of praise for American enterprise, breathless references to Abraham Lincoln, Norman Borlaug, Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Walt Whitman (as it happens an interesting selection, and one that might beg some questions) and heroic talk of the joint struggle against Islamist terrorism.

It also made no definite promise or commitment to the US whatsoever.  The whole tenor of the speech was a call for US support for India with nothing of substance offered in return.  Importantly, nowhere in the speech is there a single reference to the Logistics Support Agreement discussed at length in his two pieces by Andrew Korybko. 

Whilst the Logistics Support Agreement does have the potential to evolve into the sort of all-encompassing military relationship Andrew Korybko writes about – and that is no doubt how the US envisages it – it is important to say that that can only happen if India approaches it in that way. 

As things stand that is most unlikely.  From the Indian point of view the Logistics Support Agreement should be seen for what it is: an insurance policy India has taken out with the US against China, which India can draw upon if its relations with China ever turn sticky, but which India ultimately only took out because it was pressed do so by the US, who offered it to India for free.

Modi’s visit to the US Congress and his speech there is in fact a regular ritual Indian prime ministers now regularly perform when they visit the US.  Similar speeches have been delivered to the US Congress by previous Indian prime ministers: Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. 

From Modi’s point of view his speech must be counted a success.  Though Modi actually offered nothing the assembled Congressmen – thrilled by Modi’s earnest flattery – lapped his speech up.  The result is that Modi left Washington with Congressional approval for trade concessions and for more arms sales.

Having got what he wanted in Washington, Modi’s next move says everything one needs to know about the true nature of Indian policy.  On returning to New Delhi where – hopefully – US listening devices could no longer hear him, practically the first thing Modi did was to telephone his BRICS partner – President Putin of Russia – presumably over a secure line.

The Kremlin’s brief account of the call suggests a Putin – Modi summit is in the works.  It pointedly also refers to relations between India and Russia as a “privileged strategic partnership” – balancing similar words used in Washington by Modi to describe India’s relationship with the US.

Whilst we cannot know exactly what Modi and Putin said to each other, it is overwhelmingly likely Modi would have given Putin a detailed account of his visit to the US and that that was the purpose of his call.  It is also overwhelmingly likely that a full account of Modi’s conversation with Putin – perhaps even a transcript – will have been sent by the Kremlin to Beijing, and that Modi made the call knowing – and intending – that that would happen.

In summary, India’s moves towards Washington are not the actions of a country that is repositioning itself as an ally of the US pitched against its former partners Russia and China.  Nor are they an attempt by India to play one side off against the other.  Rather they should be seen as what they surely are: the careful manoeuvring of an emerging Great Power as it seeks the maximum advantage for itself in an increasingly fluid international system. 

The Russians and Chinese undoubtedly understand all this especially since – as Modi’s telephone call to Putin shows – the Indians are being careful to keep them informed about what they are doing.

As for the US, obsessed as it has become with its complex games of geopolitical chess, it by contrast almost certainly does not understand what the Indians are up to even though – if the US had a more conventional approach to foreign policy – understanding it would be easy enough. 

That this is so is shown by what happened the last time the US sought to play an emerging Asian Great Power off against one of its rivals.  That was in the 1980s when the US sought to play the “China card” against Moscow – oblivious to the fact that whilst it was doing so the Russians and the Chinese were quietly settling their differences with each other.  In the process the US made a string of unilateral concessions to “win over” China – just as they are doing with India now – including the fatal one of opening up US markets to Chinese goods.  The rest as they say is history.

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The End Of The US Unipolar Moment Is Irreversible

The United States is in the terminal phase of its unipolar moment.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The past weeks have shown how part of the American establishment is weighing the pros and cons of the Trump administration’s strategies around the world. I have a strong feeling that in the coming weeks we will see the destabilizing effects of American politics, especially towards its closest allies.

A disastrous flip of events appears to be on its way, in case Trump were to lose the November midterm elections (the House and Senate elections). If this were to happen, the Trump administration would probably exploit the Russia gate conspiracy claiming that Moscow had now acted in favour of Democrats. Trump could argue that Moscow was disappointed by the lack of progress in softening US sanctions against Russia; indeed, by Trump’s measures against Russia (expulsions, sanctions, property seizures) and its allies (China, Iran and Syria).

Trump would not hesitate to claim Russian interference in the midterms to aid the Democrats, citing intelligence reports. He would say that Russia aims to create chaos in the US by placing roadblocks in the way of attempts to “Make America Great Again” and handing the House and Senate to the Democrats. He would use the electoral defeat to blame his accusers of getting aid from Russia. In doing so, he would be accelerating the implosion of his administration in an all-out war with the establishment. The mainstream media would dismiss Trump’s accusations against the Democrats of collusion with Russia as a conspiracy theory of an unravelling presidency. All this, summed up, would lead to the Democrats having majority in both houses, easily proceeding to the impeachment of Trump.

Italy is piggybacking on the US, operating side by side with Washington to expand its role in North Africa, especially in Libya. However, Rome will have to offer something in return to please Trump. Evidence points to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the quid pro quo, the US encouraging Italy to complete it in order to put pressure on Germany’s North Stream II project and undermine Russian gas deliveries to the EU. I have the impression that the only card available for Italy to play (and which interests Trump) is an endorsement of Washington’s positions on Iran, given that Italy already shares in common with Washington differences with Paris and Berlin on many issues. In this sense, Conte’s words about US intelligence info on the JCPOA paves the way for further decisions:

“”I didn’t take a specific stand. I said we are willing to evaluate the necessity to take more rigorous stances if the (nuclear) accord is shown to be ineffective. We are waiting to have elements of intelligence, Italy would like to evaluate it with its EU partners”

As evidence of Washington’s failed strategy towards Iran, India continues to buy crude oil from Iran, increasing the amount in the last month by 52%. China is also increasing its importation from Iran. Meanwhile, Iran is working with other countries to circumvent the US dollar in order to sustain their mutual trade within a new framework of agreements. Washington is especially disappointment with New Delhi, with American officials continuing to reiterate that India’s intentions align with Washington’s. Since November, with the imposition of counter-sanctions on countries that continue to work with Iran, Washington’s bluff will become evident to everybody, much to the disappointment of the Trump administration.

In the meantime, relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia have almost completely broken down on account of human rights. Ambassadors have been expelled and there is a continuing war of words, with trade between the two countries being brought to a stop. This is the latest example of the divisions manifesting themselves within the Western elites, with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration being in opposition to the likes of France, Germany and Canada.

What is also clear is that the issue of energy is central to Washington’s strategy. Between criticism of the German Nord Stream II and invitations to Italy to finish the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, it is clear that both the Trump administration and the policy makers of the deep state are strongly concerned about what actions allies and enemies could take to overcome the pressure brought to bear by Washington on the issues of energy, Iran, and sanctions. This shows that the US is very fearful of de-dollarization, especially coming from its allies.

Bypassing sanctions with currencies other than US dollar, or creating creative finance structures that bypass the SWIFT payment system, are the only means of maintaining relations between countries in spite of Washington’s sanctions. The US strategy is limited in the short term and certainly harmful in the long term for US Dollar financial hegemony.

That Washington’s allies are even entertaining such possibilities places US financial hegemony at great risk in the long run. This worries the American deep state a great deal, even without Trump, who in any case will not be in charge past 2024 (should he be re-elected in 2020).

One of the points of greatest tension is precisely this strategic difference between the Trump administration and the policy makers in the deep state (AKA Langley and Foggy Bottom). While the former can increase the pressure on allies (through NATO, the JCPOA, TTIP and TPP) to obtain immediate solutions and benefits, the latter must above all consider the effects in the medium and long term, which are often harmful for US interests. The imposition of sanctions on Iran, and the obligation of European allies to comply with this directive, is a prime example.

Another of Washington’s strategies revolves around the price of oil. The United States would have no problem seeing the price of crude oil skyrocket. Secretly, many in the administration hope that Iran will take the first false step by closing the Strait of Hormuz (Teheran will not make this move as things stand now); some even hope that the crisis between Canada and Saudi Arabia will have some impact on the cost of crude oil.

Even trade war and tariffs should be seen as part of Trump’s short-term strategy to demonstrate to his base that something is being done against countries that he thinks are taking advantage of the United States. In reality, Trump knows, or should know, that there is no way of stopping China’s growth, a result of globalization that has been the engine of free-market capitalism, making the western elite richer than ever before. Trump deceives his base with trade wars and tariffs, but in the long run the costs will be borne by American consumers, many of whom are Trump’s voters.

Trump thinks in the very short term, constantly aiming to present himself before his electors with a list of ticked boxes ( Peter Lavelle of Crosstalk gets trademark of this definition), confirming that he is fulfilling his electoral promises. In this way he hopes to win the midterms in November. To succeed in this endeavor, the economy must pick up to a gallop (for now this is happening thanks to a series of tax cuts and the continuous pumping of easy money from the Fed) and he must put pressure on his allies as well as aggressively confront Iran, Russia and China through sanctions, cutting energy supplies and forcing Tehran to negotiate once again the nuclear agreement.

What many analysts struggle with when trying to analyse Donald Trump is that there is no overarching strategy uniting his actions into a coherent policy. Trump acts extemporaneously, often with a very short strategic outlook and for internal political motivations.

Nevertheless, if there is something that worries the deep state, it is the long-term impact of tariffs, trade war, sanctions and impositions on allies; or, to put it most simply, de-dollarization. If there is anything that scares the Trump administration, it is remaining entangled in a destabilizing war with Iran that would lead to the early end of the Trump presidency and destroying its legacy, as Bush’s legacy was destroyed by Iraq.

In all this uncoordinated and inconsistent behaviour, there is the hope of a major rise in the price of oil that would help slow down China’s growth and transform the US shale-gas industry into an ultra-profitable business, further boosting the US economy and allowing Trump to present further evidence to his base of his ability to improve their lives.

The United States is in the terminal phase of its unipolar moment and is struggling to come to terms with the downsizing of its role in the world. Its ruling elite cannot accept the prospect of sharing power, preferring to oppose by all means possible the transition to a world order involving more powers. If this situation is already complex for any superpower enough to manage, a president has been elected who has little regard for compromise and mediation.

Ultimately, in addition to an obvious problem in defining Washington’s role in the world over the next few years, the United States finds itself with a president who is in almost open warfare with an important part of the US establishment. The deep state is still living on the hope of impeaching Trump to halt the loss of US influence, deluding themselves that things can return to how they were at the height of the unipolar moment in the 1990s.

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America’s Lengthening Enemies List

17th years in Afghanistan and America’s list of enemies continues to grow.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick J. Buchanan


Friday, deep into the 17th year of America’s longest war, Taliban forces overran Ghazni, a provincial capital that sits on the highway from Kabul to Kandahar.

The ferocity of the Taliban offensive brought U.S. advisers along with U.S. air power, including a B-1 bomber, into the battle.

“As the casualty toll in Ghazni appeared to soar on Sunday,” The Wall Street Journal reported, “hospitals were spilling over with dead bodies, corpses lay in Ghazni’s streets, and gunfire and shelling were preventing relatives from reaching cemeteries to bury their dead.”

In Yemen Monday, a funeral was held in the town square of Saada for 40 children massacred in an air strike on a school bus by Saudis or the UAE, using U.S.-provided planes and bombs.

“A crime by America and its allies against the children of Yemen,” said a Houthi rebel leader.

Yemen is among the worst humanitarian situations in the world, and in creating that human-rights tragedy, America has played an indispensable role.

The U.S. also has 2,000 troops in Syria. Our control, with our Kurd allies, of that quadrant of Syria east of the Euphrates is almost certain to bring us into eventual conflict with a regime and army insisting that we get out of their country.

As for our relations with Turkey, they have never been worse.

President Erdogan regards our Kurd allies in Syria as collaborators of his own Kurdish-terrorist PKK. He sees us as providing sanctuary for exile cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan says was behind the attempted coup in 2016 in which he and his family were targeted for assassination.

Last week, when the Turkish currency, the lira, went into a tailspin, President Trump piled on, ratcheting up U.S. tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel. If the lira collapses and Turkey cannot meet its debt obligations, Erdogan will lay the blame at the feet of the Americans and Trump.

Which raises a question: How many quarrels, conflicts and wars, and with how many adversaries, can even the mighty United States sustain?

In November, the most severe of U.S. sanctions will be imposed on Iran. Among the purposes of this policy: Force as many nations as possible to boycott Iranian oil and gas, sink its economy, bring down the regime.

Iran has signaled a possible response to its oil and gas being denied access to world markets. This August, Iranian gunboats exercised in the Strait of Hormuz, backing up a regime warning that if Iranian oil cannot get out of the Gulf, the oil of Arab OPEC nations may be bottled up inside as well. Last week, Iran test-fired an anti-ship ballistic missile.

Iran has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional face-to-face talks, unless the U.S. first lifts the sanctions imposed after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.

With no talks, a U.S. propaganda offensive underway, the Iranian rial sinking and the economy sputtering, regular demonstrations against the regime, and new sanctions scheduled for November, it is hard to see how a U.S. collision with Tehran can be avoided.

This holds true as well for Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Last week, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Russia for its alleged role in the nerve-agent poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury.

Though the U.S. had already expelled 60 Russian diplomats for the poisoning, and Russia vehemently denies responsibility — and conclusive evidence has not been made public and the victims have not been heard from — far more severe sanctions are to be added in November.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is warning that such a U.S. move would cross a red line: “If … a ban on bank operations or currency use follows, it will amount to a declaration of economic war. … And it will warrant a response with economic means, political means and, if necessary, other means.”

That the sanctions are biting is undeniable. Like the Turkish lira and Iranian rial, the Russian ruble has been falling and the Russian people are feeling the pain.

Last week also, a U.S. Poseidon reconnaissance plane, observing China’s construction of militarized islets in the South China Sea, was told to “leave immediately and keep out.”

China claims the sea as its national territory.

And North Korea’s Kim Jong Un apparently intends to hold onto his arsenal of nuclear weapons.

“We’re waiting for the North Koreans to begin the process of denuclearization, which they committed to in Singapore and which they’ve not yet done,” John Bolton told CNN last week.

A list of America’s adversaries here would contain the Taliban, the Houthis of Yemen, Bashar Assad of Syria, Erdogan’s Turkey, Iran, North Korea, Russia and China — a pretty full plate.

Are we prepared to see these confrontations through, to assure the capitulation of our adversaries? What do we do if they continue to defy us?

And if it comes to a fight, how many allies will we have in the battles and wars that follow?

Was this the foreign policy America voted for?

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In Private Meeting, Facebook Exec Warns News Outlets to Cooperate or End Up Dying in ‘Hospice’

“Anyone who does care about news needs to understand Facebook as a fundamental threat.”

The Duran

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Via Common Dreams


During a closed-door and off-the-record meeting last week, top Facebook executive Campbell Brown reportedly warned news publishers that refusal to cooperate with the tech behemoth’s efforts to “revitalize journalism” will leave media outlets dying “like in a hospice.”

Reported first by The Australian under a headline which read “Work With Facebook or Die: Zuckerberg,” the social media giant has insisted the comments were taken out of context, even as five individuals who attended the four-hour meeting corroborated what Brown had stated.

“Mark doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes,” Brown reportedly said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “We will help you revitalize journalism… in a few years the reverse looks like I’ll be holding hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”

As The Guardian reported on Monday, Facebook is “vehemently” denying the veracity of the comments as reported by The Australian, referring to its own transcript of the meeting. However, Facebook is refusing to release its transcript and tape of the gathering.

Brown’s warning about the dire prospects for news outlets that don’t get on board with a future in which corporate giants like Facebook are the arbiters of what is and isn’t trustworthy news comes as progressives are raising alarm that Facebook’s entrance into the world of journalism poses a major threat to non-corporate and left-wing news outlets.

As Common Dreams reported in July, progressives’ fears were partly confirmed after Facebook unveiled its first slate of news “segments” as part of its Facebook Watch initiative.

While Facebook claims its initiative is part of an effort to combat “misinformation,” its first series of segments were dominated by such corporate outlets as Fox News and CNN.

Reacting to Brown’s reported assertion that Zuckerberg “doesn’t care about publishers,” Judd Legum, who writes the Popular Information newsletter,argued, “Anyone who does care about news needs to understand Facebook as a fundamental threat.”

“In addition to disputed quote, there are also Facebook’s actions, which are fully consistent with the quote,” Legum added. “We desperately need to develop alternative delivery mechanisms to Facebook.”

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