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Turkey and Russia after the coup attempt: friends, not allies

Turkey’s ongoing rapprochement with Russia will intensify following the failed coup attempt. However it is very unlikely to lead to Turkey formally quitting NATO.

Alexander Mercouris

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The pending summit between President Erdogan of Turkey and President Putin of Russia is increasing speculation of an eastward pivot by Turkey away from its traditional alliance with the US towards Russia and the Eurasian powers.

This speculation is undoubtedly correct for the short term.  However it remains far from clear how far that pivot will go and how successful it will be.

Turkey and Russia have had a complex relationship.  Before the First World War tsarist Russia and Ottoman Turkey were traditional enemies fighting a long succession of wars against each other.  However since the establishment of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1922 relations have alternated between short periods of friendship and longer periods of hostility.

Kemal himself for most of the period of his rule maintained very close and friendly relations with Russia.  Indeed in the 1920s and early 1930s the USSR and Turkey were often thought of as allies.  Relations however began to deteriorate towards the end of Kemal’s life and following the end of the Second World War Turkey aligned itself decisively with the West and against the USSR by joining NATO. 

In the late 1970s Bulent Ecevit, during one of his brief periods in office as Prime Minister of Turkey, visited Moscow in a way that appeared to signal an attempt to achieve a sustained improvement in relations.  The attempt – if such it was – was short-lived, and the two countries shortly after once again began to distance themselves from each other.

Relations however improved again following the coming to power in 2002 of Erdogan’s AKP party and for a time appeared to become very close.  However there was a sharp deterioration in relations at the end of last year, when the two countries fell out because of their conflicting positions in the Syrian war and following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian SU24 aircraft near the Turkish – Syrian border.  Relations remained extremely tense until just a few weeks ago when Erdogan (to most people’s surprise) suddenly apologised for the SU24 shoot-down.  Relations have since improved, and following the recent coup attempt there has been a dramatic improvement.

This history should however serve as a warning against any idea that the two countries are natural allies or friends.  On the contrary the fact that for most of their history – including their recent history – they have been enemies, all but confirms the opposite.  It is significant that the only two periods when relations between Turkey and Russia have been close have both been periods when Turkey has had unusually strong leaders: Kemal and Erdogan.  At all other times, when the political situation in Turkey has been more normal, relations have gone back to being bad. 

That suggests that a state of conflict with Russia, rather than friendship with Russia, is Turkey’s natural or default position.  That in itself must call into doubt the prospects of a sustained friendship between the two states.

What chance however is there for a decisive pro-Russian pivot by Turkey whilst Erdogan remains in power?

The first point to say is that such a pivot would for the first time in the history of Russian – Turkish relations make economic sense.  Trade links between the two countries have burgeoned in recent years with Russia becoming a major investor in the Turkish economy and a key exporter to Turkey of energy and manufactured goods.  Turkey for its part until the recent short period of bad relations had become a major destination of Russian tourists and was becoming an important exporter of agricultural and other goods to Russia.  Russia was also becoming an important market for Turkish businesses.  To those who believe that good political relations follow trade (actually a highly debatable proposition that finds little support in historical experience) conditions for sustainably good relations between Turkey and Russia have never been better.

It is also true that Turkey has become increasingly disillusioned with the West. 

Turkey has had an association agreement with the EU since 1963.  It formally applied to join the EU in 1987.  It has however since then and to its growing frustration been obliged to witness a string of former Communist East European states, all of whom applied to join the EU after Turkey, being admitted to the EU ahead of Turkey, with Turkey constantly being put back to the end of the queue.  Turkey has so far not even managed to gain for its citizens visa free access to the EU. Some EU politicians have even recently taken to saying that they will never agree to Turkey joining the EU. 

In the meantime, as part of this seemingly endless accession process, the Turks have had to endure the usual lectures and demands for “reform” from the EU.  Not all of these reforms are popular or make much sense in Turkey.  Erdogan himself has also had to endure the indignity of being constantly mocked and ridiculed in Europe and of being patronised by EU politicians in ways he must find infuriating.  By contrast the Russians – even when they have been angry with him – have always treated Erdogan with respect as the leader of a great nation and state.

Unsurprisingly some sections of Turkish society have become increasingly disenchanted with this never-ending quest for EU membership and in recent years doubts have increasingly been voiced about whether it is even worth pursuing.  Turkey’s recent economic boom – which has shown that Turkey is perfectly able to prosper outside the EU – and the crisis in the Eurozone have meant that for the first time in decades there is a nationalist case for not joining the EU which in Turkey is gaining an increasing hearing.

Beyond Turkey’s disappointment with the EU there is also deepening frustration and anger with the way Turkey feels it has been treated by the US.  This centres on US treatment of Turkey during the Syrian conflict. 

Prior to the start of the conflict Turkey had built up close and very friendly relations with Syria, with Erdogan forging a strong personal bond with Syria’s President Assad.  Though it is not well remembered today, when the protests against Assad’s government in Syria began in 2011 the Turks were initially very reluctant to become involved.  Turkey was however strongly pressed to do so by the US and its other Western allies, with the result that Turkey rapidly became the chief base and staging post for Syrian rebels entering Syria to take part in the war there.

Turkey made this commitment under the impression – and assurance from its allies – that Assad’s government in Syria would quickly fall.  To Turkey’s dismay that has not only failed to happen but as the conflict in Syria has dragged on it has spread to Turkey itself.  Turkey is now the target of numerous jihadi terrorist attacks on its own soil, its large Alevi minority, which sympathises with President Assad, is deeply unhappy about the war, and a painfully negotiated settlement of the Kurdish issue with the Kurds has unravelled as Turkey has become increasingly concerned at the emergence of autonomous Kurdish controlled territories within Syria along the Turkish border.  To add insult to injury the US – Turkey’s NATO ally – has allied itself with some of these Kurdish forces in Syria despite warnings from the Turkish authorities that they are closely linked the Kurdish groups fighting the Turkish army in Turkey. 

Last but not least the conflict in Syria led to a major falling out last year between Turkey and Russia.  Not only did Turkey and Russia apparently come close this winter to an armed clash – with credible rumours the Russians threatened the Turks with nuclear weapons – but over the course of the crisis Turkey’s economic links to Russia came close to falling apart and Erdogan had to endure the personal humiliation of having the Russians publicly accuse members of his own family of illegal links to Daesh.

Not only has the Syrian conflict been a disaster for Turkey.  It has also brought home to the Turks how little the US ultimately cares about them.  It is known that Erdogan was bitterly angry, and felt personally betrayed, when US President Obama at the last moment called off the bombing strikes on Syria he had announced following the Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013.  Even more serious and unnerving for the Turks was the very tepid support Turkey got from the US and its NATO allies during the crisis in relations with Russia this winter following the shooting down of the SU24, with some German officials actually publicly blaming Turkey for the incident.

The Turks therefore already had good reasons to be angry with the US and the West before the recent coup attempt.  However that coup attempt has now made the Turks angrier still.

As I have recently written, it is unlikely the US was involved in the recent coup attempt.  The claim that it must have been involved because some of the F16 fighters involved in the coup took off from the giant air base at Incirlik is by the way wrong.  Whilst Incirlik is a US base, it is also a Turkish air force base.  The US does not control what the Turkish air force does there and is not in a position to prevent Turkish air force fighters taking off from a Turkish air force base in Turkey.

The important thing however – as I have also pointed out – is not whether the US was actually involved in the coup or not.  It is that Erdogan and public opinion in Turkey believe it was.  It is that belief which is now governing their actions and which is leading to a further sharp deterioration in relations between Turkey and the US.

The suspicions of US involvement in the coup meanwhile contrasts with clearcut Russian and Iranian opposition to it.  As I have said previously, the rumours the coup failed because of a Russian tip-off are almost certainly true.  Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek is incidentally just the latest in a long line of Russian and Turkish officials who have been given an opportunity to deny that there was a tip-off but have failed to do so.  When asked to comment about the tip-off a few days ago he stuck to what is clearly now the agreed line, which is that he didn’t know anything about it, but then went on to talk immediately of Russia’s clearcut support for Turkey.  His exact words – as reported by TASS – were as follows:

I have no information on this matter, but I’d like to note that the next day after the coup attempt the most serious backing was provided by Russia that emphasised its support to the legitimate government of Turkey. We highly value the phone call of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This support was very strong.”

(bold italics added)

It can therefore be taken as read that over the course of the next few weeks the Russians and the Turks will move much closer to each other.  Turkish anger with the US over the coup and gratitude to Russia will accelerate and intensify a process of Turkish – Russian rapprochement which was already underway before the coup.

How far however, will it go?

I would warn against over-high expectations.  Economic links will surely strengthen.  There is talk of a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, and that must now be a real possibility.  The Turk Stream gas pipeline project will surely be revived.  The Turks will lessen their support for the rebels in Syria (the state of the Turkish army following the coup anyway allows for nothing else).  There is even talk that they might join with the Russian military in joint operations against Daesh. It is by no means impossible that we could see a joint Russian-Turkish position for a Syrian settlement starting to form, with Turkey to some degree replacing the US as Russia’s main interlocutor in the negotiations to end the Syrian conflict.  Lastly Turkey could move closer towards some of the Eurasian institutions that are being created such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (in which it already has observer status) and the Eurasian Economic Union, and it might even take some initial steps towards joining them.  However actual membership of these organisations would be seen as incompatible with Turkey’s NATO’s membership, and I therefore doubt things will go that far (see below).

Simultaneously the Turks are likely to take more steps to distance themselves from the US.  They may continue for example their ongoing harassment of US personnel at the base in Incirlik.  It is not inconceivable that they might even start to float demands for the base to be closed, or for US nuclear weapons to be removed from there.  They might even revive an incendiary proposal that was briefly floated for a few days shortly before the coup of the Russians using the base to conduct operations in Syria.  The US was understandably enough horrified by this proposal, and succeeded in blocking it.  If it is now revived it will trigger serious alarm and anger in Washington.

However I doubt that Turkey will take any immediate steps to expel the US from Incirlik or to withdraw from NATO or to abandon its links to the EU.  Quite apart from the fact that taking such steps would reverse an alignment that is now 70 years old and which still has considerable support within Turkey itself, it would also antagonise the US, which would certainly at that point come to see Erdogan and his government as enemies.  I doubt that Erdogan will want that, regardless of how angry with the US he currently is.

The ongoing Russian – Turkish rapprochement will continue and will intensify.  I doubt however that there will be any formal reversal of alliances and I am sure the Russians don’t expect it.  Since their priority now must be to keep Erdogan in power as a potential partner, they might even advise against it if they feel that doing it might threaten Erdogan’s position by calling down on him the wrath of the US.

However the fact of that rapprochement will certainly have an immediate impact on the international situation, especially in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.  It might even complicate NATO operations in the Black Sea, and lead to resistance from Turkey to any more anti-Russian posturing by NATO such as we saw recently at the NATO summit in Warsaw, something that might become increasingly important if (as seems likely) Hillary Clinton is the next US President.  The Russians will surely feel that that is quite enough for the time being.

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Rise of the Western Dissidents

The only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. He is far from alone.

The Duran

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Authored by Allum Bokhari via Breitbart:


We’re used to Russian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, Iranian dissidents, and Saudi Arabian dissidents. But those who rightly believe the west is superior to authoritarian regimes must now contend with a troubling trend — the rise of the western dissident.

Chief among them is Julian Assange, who for a half-decade has been forced to live in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has claimed political asylum since 2011. Assange claimed that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face charges over his work at WikiLeaks if he left the embassy, and was routinely mocked as paranoid for doing so.

This week, we learned that Assange was right and his critics were wrong. Thanks to a clerical error by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, reporters were able to confirm the existence of sealed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Because the charges are sealed and the evidence is unknown, it’s impossible to say if the case has merit. But it likely relates to WikiLeaks’ release of unredacted diplomatic cables in 2011, which forced the U.S. to relocate several of its foreign sources.

Some allegations are more serious. While he was alive, neoconservative Senator John McCain maintained that leaks provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, which included the diplomatic cables, caused U.S sources to be murdered.

Those who see Assange as a villain will end the story here. What is typically left out is that WikiLeaks originally released the diplomatic cables in piecemeal form, with names redacted to prevent loss of life and minimize harm.

It was only after a Guardian journalist’s error led to the full unredacted cables leaking to third parties on the web that WikiLeaks published them as well — and not before Assange attempted to warn the office of Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State.

In other words, WikiLeaks behaved precisely as any responsible publisher handling sensitive material should, redacting information that could cause harm. The redactions only stopped when they became pointless. Assange is unlikely to have won more than a dozen journalism awards if he were completely reckless in his publications.

The Pentagon later admitted under oath that they could not find any instances of individuals being killed as a result of being named in Manning’s leaks to WikiLeaks, contradicting Sen. McCain’s allegations.

At worst, Assange and WikiLeaks can be accused of negligence, not deliberate recklessness, in the way it handled sensitive material. But as Breitbart Tech reporter Lucas Nolan points out, a far stronger case can be made against Hillary Clinton for the way she handled State Department emails — yet we see no criminal charges against her.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. In that, he is far from alone.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, western governments targeted all manner of individuals associated with Assange and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, including Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, and The Guardian newspaper.

This was the early growth period of the internet, when the web had become a truly popular medium but had yet to be censored by pliant social media corporations. It was a time of profound unease at the power of the internet to undermine authority, both through the dissemination of information as in the case of WikiLeaks and Snowden, and in the new mobilization of political forces, as in the case of Occupy Wall Street and the SOPA/PIPA protests. Heavy-handed crackdowns against individuals and groups that were seen, rightly or wrongly, as symbols of the web’s early anarchic tendencies, like Kim DotcomAaron SwartzAnonymous, and LulzSec, were not uncommon.

These days, however, a new class of western dissident has emerged — the populist dissident.

Populist Dissidents

Who would have thought that the highest court in Europe, home of the enlightenment, would uphold a case in which a woman was prosecuted for blasphemy against Islam?

Who would have thought that Britain, the birthplace of liberalism and the free press, would ban an independent journalist from its shores for satirizing the same religion?

Who would have thought that Germany, whose living memory of the totalitarian Stasi is just three decades old, would put its largest opposition party under surveillance?

Just a few years ago, all three would sound far-fetched. But cases like these have become common as elites in virtually every western country mount a panicked attempt to contain the rise of populism (the goal, in the words of a Google executive, is to render it a “hiccup”in history’s march towards progress).

Look at the case of Tommy Robinson, the British critic of Islam who was dragged through Britain’s courts on fuzzy contempt-of-court charges. Sentenced to an astonishing thirteen-month imprisonment, Robinson was eventually freed after a successful appeal and now awaits a final trial before Britain’s Attorney General. Shaky charges that have been successfully appealed were exploited to persecute a British citizen who was inconvenient to the establishment. And there’s still a further trial to come.

Then again, Britain is a country that routinely bans foreign politicians and media figures from the country for being too right-wing. Michael SavageGeert WildersLauren SouthernPamela Geller, and Robert Spencer all enjoy this dubious distinction. Theresa May, who was responsible for internal affairs and immigration when Spencer and Geller were banned, is now the Prime Minister.

But it’s not just Britain. Not only has Trump’s White House, supposedly an ally of populists, failed to publicly intervene on behalf of the American citizens banned from the U.K. for expressing populist viewpoints, but it hasn’t even investigated allegations that far-left Antifa activists were able to stop conservative Rebel Media personality Jack Buckbyfrom entering the country by spreading false criminal allegations.

Julian Assange, a left-libertarian may share little ideological ground with right-wing critics of Islam. But they all share at least one thing: persecution by western states coupled with anti-establishment political speech or activities. They are also targets of the security establishment — Assange because of leaks that have exposed their secrets, and the populists because they refuse to censor themselves to avoid angering Muslims. (The UK justified its attempted ban of Geert Wilders by arguing that his presence in the country could lead to “inter-faith violence.”)

We also see attacks on free speech, with governments and politicians across the west pressuring Silicon Valley to suppress its critics. An unaccountable, unelected elite can sweep away a person’s livelihood in minutes, and cut their political message off from millions of American citizens. As I wrote in my column two weeks ago, the overarching trend is the gradual destruction or delegitimization of every tool, digital or otherwise, that non-elites use to express their preferences. Does that sound like a free society, or a controlled one?

You don’t have to agree with any of the individuals or groups listed above to see that surveilling political parties, blocking journalists from entering countries, jailing critics of religion, upholding blasphemy laws and censoring the net is the behavior of authoritarian nations, not liberal democracies. Yet this is the disturbing pattern we now see in the west.

Worse, foreign authoritarian regimes now provide safe harbor for western dissidents, in the same way that the west does for foreign dissidents. Edward Snowden, accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, has for years resided safely in Russia, a country that persecutes and even kills its own journalists. Before that, he sought refuge in Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region” of the People’s Republic of China, an even more terrifyingly totalitarian state.

Will there now be a quid pro quo, with Russia and other authoritarian regimes protecting our dissidents while the west protects theirs? Or will western countries remain true to their liberal traditions, and stop its alarming attempts to surveil, suppress, and persecute a growing number of its own citizens? On present trends, a dark and dystopian future seems to loom on the horizon.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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Zuckerberg’s “War Face” Has Driven Key Executives Away, Stoked Tension With Sandberg

About a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathered around 50 of his key executives and told them that the company was at war – more specifically, under siege from lawmakers, investors and angry users over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and Russian influence on the platform.

Zuckerberg, according to the Wall Street Journal, told his top lieutenants during that June meeting that while executives can move more slowly and methodically on key decisions during “peacetime,” he would be acting more decisively going forward, said people familiar with the remarks.

The result? Tension which has boiled over to the point where several key executives have left the country – as well as friction between Zuckerberg and longtime COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to “make progress faster” on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg also at times has expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year.

On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks. –WSJ

One Facebook employee at the Friday session asked if the company could mitigate leaks by publishing internal reports on how frequently offenders are found and fired. While Zuckerberg said that Facebook does fire leakers, the root cause is “bad morale” thanks to negative press coverage.

And while the WSJ notes Zuckerberg has taken on ambitious annual goals, such as learning Mandarin and reading 25 books, this year his biggest challenge is fixing Facebook through his tougher management style, according to a person familiar with his thinking (so says the WSJ). Perhaps the Facebook CEO hired a drill sergeant to coach him on bringing out his inner-Alpha?

According to the Journal, Zuckerberg and Sandberg have had confrontations over his new management style, after she had long been afforded considerable autonomy over the company’s teams which handle communications and policy.

This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed private data on Facebook users and used it for political research, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Ms. Sandberg later confided in friends that the exchange rattled her, and she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

Mr. Zuckerberg also has told Ms. Sandberg she should have been more aggressive in allocating resources to review troublesome content on the site, said one person familiar with the matter, a problem that the company still struggles to fix. –WSJ

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg seems to be pleased of late with internal improvements, telling reporters last week that Sandberg is a “very important partner to me, and continues to be, and will continue to be.”

Privately, Zuckerberg has told executives that some of the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal was just “hysteria,” to which Facebook simply didn’t mount an effective response.

Clash of the tech titans

Zuckerberg famously has butted heads with the co-founders of photo-sharing app Instagram, over his desire to share user location data on the main Facebook platform in order to help better target ads. The now-resigned Instagram founders strongly opposed the idea, and abruptly left the company in September.

The founders of WhatsApp similarly bailed on Facebook after disagreements over how to best extract revenue from the messaging service, according to people familiar with the matter.

And most recently, was the departure of Oculus VR co-founder Brendan Iribe, who was forced out by Zuckerberg in part due to a disagreement over the future of the virtual-reality handset, the people said. The decision to leave was reportedly “mutual.”

All told, about a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018. In May, Facebook announced a major reshuffling of top product executives in a way that helped free up Mr. Zuckerberg to oversee a broader portfolio within the company.

This turmoil at the top of Facebook has made it difficult for the company to execute on some product decisions and shore up employee morale, which has been sinking over the last year along with the stock price, which has fallen 36% since its peak. Many employees are frustrated by the bad press and constant reorganizations, including of the security team, which can disrupt their work, according to current and former employees. –WSJ

Doing whatever it takes

Facebook has come under fire recently – most notably after a New York Times report that the company used GOP operatives to smear the company’s detractors and promote negative news about competitors Google and Apple.

When the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal broke – the resultant rebukes from Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google executives sent Zuckerberg ballistic. The Facebook CEO “later ordered his management team to use only Android phones —arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s,” according to the Times.

Facebook then went on the offensive against the fellow tech giants.

On the advice of Joel Kaplan – a well-connected Republican friend, Bush administration official, and former Harvard classmate of Sandberg, Facebook began to go after Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Facebook has responded, initially saying they didn’t put out “fake news” against their competitors, and they had no idea what their marketing department was doing. On Friday, however, Sandberg said she took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.

Facebook has tried to move forward following its various scandals; spearheading efforts to reign in data harvesting, and looking for someone to oversee its corporate, external and legal affairs.

Hopefully whoever is ultimately in charge of oversight won’t be scared away by Zuckerberg’s war face.

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The “Resistance” Struggles To Justify Support For Trump’s Prosecution Of Assange

When you find yourself supporting conflicting principles, it’s a sure sign that you were never guided by principle to begin with.

The Duran

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com:


Ever since suspicions were confirmed that the Trump administration is indeed working to prosecute and imprison WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing authentic documents, the so-called “Resistance” has been struggling to explain exactly why it is so enthusiastically supportive of that agenda. And when I say struggling, I am being very, very generous.

When news broke that a court document copy-paste error had inadvertently exposed the fact that the Trump administration is pursuing an agenda which experts of diverse political persuasions agree would have devastating effects on the freedom of the press, #Resistance pundit and DC think tank operative Neera Tanden responded by tweeting, “Never mess with karma”. As of this writing if you do a Twitter search for the words “Assange” and “karma” together, you will come up with countless Democratic Party loyalists using that concept to justify their support for a Trump administration assault on the press that is infinitely more dangerous than the president being mean to Jim Acosta.

The trouble with that of course is that “karma”, as far as observable reality is concerned, is not an actual thing. It’s a Hindu religious concept that is supported by no more factual evidence than the Roman Catholic claim that a priest literally turns bread and wine into the body and blood of a Nazarene carpenter who died thousands of years ago. A Democratic pundit using the concept of “karma” to justify enthusiastic support for Trump’s fascistic attack on press freedoms is exactly the same as a Republican pundit using “God wills it” to justify the existence of poverty, and it is just as intellectually honest.

But it’s also the best argument these people have got.

I mean, think about it. There’s really no other way you can justify supporting a Trump administration agenda — an administration you claim to oppose — in a prosecution with legal implications that are severely detrimental to the free press, which you claim to support.

The only way to justify it is with some vague, abstract notion that Assange is just “getting what he deserves” since the 2016 WikiLeaks publications of Democratic Party likely contributed to Trump’s electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, and the only way to reify that vague, abstract notion is with an appeal to some imaginary metaphysical principle, i.e. karma.

But, again, that is not a thing. There is no invisible eight-armed deity floating around behind the scenes arbitrating and distributing the consequences of WikiLeaks drops, and there is no rational argument that the Trump administration prosecuting Assange is desirable because Assange “deserves” it. The fact of the matter is that these people are supporting Trump’s fascism in the most toxic ways possible, they are utterly incapable of defending that support with any intellectual honesty, and the self-proclaimed “Resistance” would be more aptly named “the Assistance”.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald described this phenomenon as follows:

But the grand irony is that many Democrats will side with the Trump DOJ over the Obama DOJ. Their emotional, personal contempt for Assange  – due to their belief that he helped defeat Hillary Clinton: the gravest crime  –  easily outweighs any concerns about the threats posed to press freedoms by the Trump administration’s attempts to criminalize the publication of documents.

This reflects the broader irony of the Trump era for Democrats. While they claim out of one side of their mouth to find the Trump administration’s authoritarianism and press freedom attacks so repellent, they use the other side of their mouth to parrot the authoritarian mentality of Jeff Sessions and Mike Pompeo that anyone who published documents harmful to Hillary or which have been deemed “classified” by the U.S. Government ought to go to prison.

…It is this utterly craven and authoritarian mentality that is about to put Democrats of all sorts in bed with the most extremist and dangerous of the Trump faction as they unite to create precedents under which the publication of information — long held sacrosanct by anyone caring about press freedoms — can now be legally punished.

And indeed this is exactly what has been happening. Check out the joyous celebrations in online comments sections from when the news broke that the Trump administration has brought sealed charges upon Assange (herehere, or here for example) for a taste of where the “blue wave” zeitgeist is at right now. Their hatred for Assange has overpowered not only their hatred for Trump, but the most important ways in which they are meant to be resisting him.

When you find yourself supporting conflicting principles, it’s a sure sign that you were never guided by principle to begin with.

And this is really the lesson we can take from all this. The noxious strain of American liberalism which promotes Russia conspiracy theories, supports the prosecution of government transparency advocates, and only attacks Trump as an idea rather than actually resisting his actual policies was never about any principle of any kind. There were preexisting agendas against Russia, alternative media, WikiLeaks, and government transparency long before Trump took office, and all of those agendas have been systematically advanced by the powerful using the “us vs them” herd mentality of the McResistance. These people aren’t supporting the prosecution of a leak publisher because of their ideological values, they are supporting it because that’s what powerful manipulators want them to do.

Trump’s despicable prosecution of Assange, and corporate liberalism’s full-throated support for it, has fully discredited all of mainstream US politics on both sides of the aisle. Nobody in that hot mess stands for anything. If you’re still looking to Trump or the Democrats to protect you from the rising tide of fascism, the time to make your exit is now.

*  *  *

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