Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Net censorship: the basics

My following article appears in the Amnesty International Australia’s Uncensor campaign about human rights in China:

1996 was dubbed China’s “Year of the Internet.” Only 150,000 people were connected, roughly one in 10,000. The vast majority of the mainland had never seen a computer and there were 17 people for every available phone line.

A computer engineer in his 30s, dubbed Comrade X, told Wired magazine in 1996 that the regime was determined to control the flow of information. “People are used to being wary”, he said, “and the general sense that you are under surveillance acts as a disincentive. The key to controlling the net in China is in managing people, and this is a process that begins the moment you purchase a modem.”

In just over a decade, the Communist country has become the world’s largest internet market with well over 210 million users – adding six million newbies a month – and developed a burgeoning scene that has connected disparate segments of a fractured society.

Gamers in rural areas play with city dwellers. Boys in major cities connect with girls on the other side of the country. Local officials are forced to respond to citizen’s complaints and needs. The web has increased transparency but also allowed authorities to better monitor what its citizens are thinking and writing. There are only a tiny percentage of Chinese actively involved in the political process advocating for democratic change.

The Chinese Community Party, with the assistance of Western internet firms, has established a sophisticated filtering system, known as the “Great Firewall” or the “Golden Shield.” It blocks and censors countless websites from within China and overseas, physically monitoring all information coming in and out of the country. Routers are employed to detect problematic keywords, from Taiwan to Tibet and democracy to Falun Gong. The regime is rumoured to have up to 30,000 individuals checking daily for “harmful information”. The system, however, is not infallible and many web users utilise proxies to circumvent the filtering.

The exact extent of the censorship is impossible to determine but leaks occasionally provide an insight into the mind of the regime’s paranoia. “Working instructions” from a propaganda unit emerged in early 2008 that detailed the requirements to be implemented. Some examples:

  • On the assassination of [Pakistani politician Benazir] Bhutto, only report on the objective occurrences and reactions from various parties, do not associate the event with Pakistan’s internal struggles, or with Pakistani terrorist forces, thus avoiding attracting fire onto ourselves and getting involved in Pakistan’s internal problems.
  • Strengthen positive guidance. Web sites should proactively guide public opinion in a positive way, highlight positive voices and create a pro-NPC online environment.

The vast majority of Chinese web users are interested in downloading films, chatting to boys and girls and playing online games. I discovered during my investigations in China in 2007 that the issue of censorship didn’t greatly bother many citizens. They knew it existed and they found ways around it. Nobody told me they felt repressed or silenced. Although most people I met were aware of filtering employed by the regime, they didn’t really understand how many sites were being blocked. Ignorance was the key driver in their attitudes. Human rights activists viewed the system radically differently, of course, but the average blogger and web user was kept blissfully clueless thanks to a supine state media.

The Western media’s obsession with the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre has clouded the ability of outsiders to cover the undoubted societal advances since that fateful event. Think-tanks are flourishing. Environmentalists are able to launch public campaigns. Local bloggers rally around parents who have had children stolen to work as slaves in brick kilns. Internet majors such as Google are being challenged for their collusion with officials, though CNN was recently caught appeasing Chinese sentiments over its perceived pro-Tibetan stance.

Despite these advances, China’s human rights record remains deeply troubling. Its control over the internet is being copied around the world. The approaching Beijing Olympic Games has revealed the regime’s true colours with leading dissidents arrested and charged on spurious charges of “subverting” the state. Hu Jia is the leading example of this trend and is awaiting sentence soon.

“Why can’t China accept that dissent and argument are part of being a normal country?”, asks leading Hong Kong-based academic and former CNN journalist Rebecca MacKinnon. “Why behave in such an insecure manner that violates international human rights norms, damages China’s international image, and distracts media attention away from the Chinese people’s genuine accomplishments over the past 30 years – as well as from the excitement of the sports competition itself?”

The August Games provide a unique opportunity to highlight China’s inherent contradictions. It is at once desperate to impress a sceptical world that it’s genuine about entering the global conversation on trade, the environment and human rights but conscious that its excesses have the possibility to expose its deeply engrained authoritarianism. Its recent crackdown on Tibetan protestors resulted in international calls to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony in protest.

The regime promised in 2007 to maintain “socialism for 100 years”, dashing any hopes of speedy democratic reforms. Internal dissent, routinely expressed through blogs and online forums, is an encouraging sign that citizens will no longer remain silent in the face of economic and political hardship. The internet may not revolutionise the nation but it will be continue to connect a young population unwilling to accept the doctrines of previous generations.

Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based journalist, blogger and author.

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