Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June 3: The news vacuum.

There is a story on p. C8 that deserves a close reading - very close. "UNB eyes role in continuing shale gas debate"

Sounds reasonable. Except....

The statement is from the university. Why should the Legilature bureau of Irving News be covering it?

The Dean or Engineering says that few studies exist on the health effects of shale gas.- and those that exist are from the US where conditions could be different. Well - there are a great many studies on othe effect of shale gas. And, I must say, I am confused about the suggestion that conditions in the US being so difference from Canada that what has been proven to be toxic is the US might be as healthy as orange juice in Canada. If he is referring to possible differences in regulations,, then it would be easy enough to determine whether existing studies are based on such differences.

Imagine - we've been testing and drilling for shale gas in this province for almost a dozen years - and the general summary of both sides in this news report is that we don't know much about it, or even what regulations are needed. (Not that we enforce regulations anyway.) What kind of fatheads do we have in government who would permit that. You can get a ticket for being a bit late in your car checkup. But you want to go ahead for a dozen years pumping toxic chemicals into the ground? Hey. Be our guest.

This a a weasely news story, and one that is both wordy and confusing (due to bad structure.) I suspect the confusion is deliberate. It looks as though reassuring action is being taken. But it wasn't us to be confused about it. I think we're being set up to watch a fog of words. And I would not trust the universities to conduct a study on an issue like this.one. I worked in universities too long to trust them. I've seen the universities of New Brunswick sitting on their hands while they watched damage being done to education in this province,and while they watched, for a dozen years, as gas companies ran loose. These universities, like most universities across North America,seem to specialize in kissing up to the corporate world.

Alec Bruce's column opens a small corner of a huge subject. A commission studying the accusation that Canadian military police in Afghanistan turned over prisoners to the US - though knowing they might be tortured. That's illegal.  The commission said it could find evidence of illegality but - it also said the army and the government would let them see much of the evidence.

Look.  Soldiers kill people, including civilians. They torture and murder prisoners. They rape on a mass scale. When you have time check out the story of rape by ALL sides in the closing months of World War Two. You'll find lots of entries if you google Rape World War Two. You'll also find it was encouraged at the highest command levels on ALL sides.

When Japan attacked Nanking, it's soldiers slaughtered and raped on a huge scale. All our newspaper carried big pictures of it. It proved the brutality of the Japanese. Not at all like us.You can still find pictures of the rape on Nanking on google.

Nice, white, Christian boys wouldn't do that. Well, there was that Lieutenant Calley who was convicted of killing 120 defenceless villagers of some 800 slaughtered by soldiers under his command.

Only Calley went to trial. He was pardoned after one night in jail.

A Canadian general once told me of the day he was walking by a river in France, and passed Canadian troops with German prisoners. He later saw the bodies of German soldiers floating in the river - and the Canadian troops with no more prisoners.

Later, he would go public with the story. He was villified by the army; and ignored by the news media.

Goverments cover it up - which is what Alec Bruce's column, very gently, explains.

This is true of all countries and all armies. In World War One, Canadians were notorious (among their allies) for killing prisoners. War does that to people, even to that nice boy down the street. This is not to blame the soldiers, not on either side. It is to blame the way people, almost all people, react in war situations. When we go to war, we inflict mental damage on everybody, including our ourselves. We turn into hysterical racists.  We send humans in inhuman situations and, of course, those humans do inhuman things. You would do it. I would do it.

But governments don't like to talk about that. And that's what Bruce's column is about.

Commentary----well, commentary is supposed to be opinions from well-informed people. And, especially in North America, it can also be propaganda written by dolts. The columns of David Frum spring to mind.

Then you have those commentaries written by Irving press staffwriters like Alan Cochrane. They are  neither well-informed nor propaganda, just intellectual blank spaces. Today, with economies crashing all over the world, Cochrane writes, "Will our youth be prepared for prosperity?"

Stories about Syria continue, all of them talking about how thousands are getting killed, and how we should intervene "for humanitarian reasons". That's related to a point I suggested yesterday about news that doesn't get reported.

Ever read much news about the Congo War? Gee. It killed at least five and a half million people. Women were routinely killed by gang rape that left them to bleed to death. It still happens routinely. People  (mostly children) are still dying from disease, starvation and chaos caused by the war at the rate of 45,000 a month. But don't worry. Areas held by Canadian mining companies are still able to carry on their good work of extracting minerals at low, low cost, and leaving behind toxic waste. (They have the same reputation in Central America.)

That's quite a bit bigger than the case of Syria. Just the numbers of those starving to death is greater than that of those being killed in Syria. So why do we get daily news about Syria but none about Congo? It might be because Syria has strategic advantage for an invasion of Iran. And it might be because Syria and Iran are resisting western control.

Why is Africa in general in such a mess? It might have something to do with the fact that us white Christians have murdered and pillaged and enslaved it on such a grand scale for the last three centuries.

It's hard to get accurate figures on the deaths we have caused. For example, one source reporting Afghanistan counted a war death only if it was witnessed by two journalists working for different news agencies. Not surprisingly, that gave a pretty low count. Others don't count those who die in war because of starvation or because the hospital has been bombed don't count as war dead. Often, those who die only weeks after being wounded are not counted as war dead.

In a vartiation of this theme, all people killed by drone attacks (if they are reported killed at all) by the US are routinely listed as 'militants' - though a great many are civilians, children, even babies.

Congo's horror began  with King Leopold of Belgium just over a century ago when he klled an estimated ten million people outright. How many also died of overwork, beatings, torture, starvation is unknown. This continues to the present day as western companies continue the looting of Congo's resources. Congo has produced enormous wealth. In return, it has received nothing but death by killing, rape, torture, slavery, disease, pollution.

So how come NATO isn't  demanding humanitarian intervention? Because NATO doesn't give a damn.  Its corporate supporters are quite happy with their profits in Congo.

Africa is poor, socially in chaos, poor in education because we want it that way, and we made it that way. The slave trade alone murdered anywhere from 10 million to 60 million people. When western colonial powers pulled out after World War Two, they left an Africa with almost no schools, no hospitals, no institutions. And it left behind mining companies and oil companies to steal whatever was left.

Africa is in poverty and chaos because we put it there. But our news media have rarely told us that.

Norbert likes to read books and write columns about them. He might, then, want to get a copy of  Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis. You should, too.

And all of this only skims the surface of the news that never gets reported.

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