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.

The Left should oppose repression

I’ve spent most of my professional life skewering the unhinged tendencies of the Right (not least debunking its support for Israeli violence). Sadly, some on the Left are equally ideological and blind to their own propaganda.

Western support for Cuba remains fairly strong on the Left, despite the vast evidence that Fidel Castro ran a police state for half a century. His brother, Raul, sadly continues to intimidate dissidents. Many of these people, despite the rantings of die-hard Castro supporters, are not on the US payroll, simply asking for true democratic reform.

An article in this week’s Green Left Weekly is a classic case of unthinking Cuban propaganda masquerading as analysis. The writer, Sydney academic Tim Anderson, claims – and has done so for years against anybody who mouths any criticisms of the Cuban regime, including my good self – that my forthcoming book, on the internet in repressive regimes, is really a front for a US-funded campaign to destabilise Washington’s enemies:

Australian journalist Anthony [sic] Loewenstein paid a brief visit to Cuba and announced that Cuban dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe had been jailed for simply “opposing the Castro regime”. In fact, Espinosa Chepe had done this for many years, on various internet sites.

What led to his arrest and conviction in 2003 was taking several thousand US dollars from US government programs authorised under the Helms Burton Act, designed to overthrow the Cuban constitution.

Loewenstein has a blogger project (and pending book) almost identical to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) “internet freedom” campaign against Cuba. The US Government specifically funds RSF for anti-Cuban campaigns through the “Centre for a Free Cuba” and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The NED says it “works with a number of groups that support the work of independent journalists and other media within Cuba … to foster free press and promote an independent civil society in Cuba”. However the NED has been linked to the US-backed 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela and the 2004 coup in Haiti.

While the RSF targets 15 countries in its “internet freedom” campaign, Loewenstein is preparing a book on six of these: Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and China. The US Government has current economic sanctions (for different reasons) against Cuba, Iran and Syria, and maintained sanctions against China for 50 years.

If one is looking at threats against “independent journalists”, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) those countries with the highest numbers of journalists killed are: Iraq, Algeria, Russia, Colombia and the Philippines — three of these being US allies.

Let me try and understand the logic here (without laughing too hard.) Reporters Without Borders runs some campaigns against designated US enemies (though also bravely defends oppressed journalists the world over.) I visited many countries on an RSF list and therefore, by definition, my work is suspect and really an attempt to undermine the nations and individuals standing up to American aggression. The anti-intellectualism and ignorance of the case is startling (and is based on not even reading my book, which isn’t out until September). I visited the countries I did because internet repression is pervasive in their societies, dissent is changing as a result and US involvement is often problematic.

I’ve been accused in the past of taking money from the US to fund my overseas travels last year (and yes, the CIA wires money to me weekly). There is a strain of the Left that argues only public solidarity with US “enemies” is appropriate to show a unified front to the world.

The problem is, for me as a human being and journalist, many of the nations in my book commit gross human rights abuses and remaining silent is neither moral nor legitimate. One either believes in human rights or you don’t. You either support the rights of individuals to live in freedom, read a free press and meet without fear or favour or you don’t. It’s possible to do all this and still slam US foreign policy, the crazy US embargo against Cuba and campaign strongly (as my new book does consistently) against foreign meddling in non-Western nations.

7 comments ↪
  • Michael Slezak

    Hey there Mr A,

    I've gotta say, I was rather surprised by both the tone and content of this blog post. We can chat later about it in more detail, but right now I just thought I'd point out a few things you say which are really most problematic.

    1. You conclude your blog entry with "The problem is, for me as a human being and journalist, many of the nations in my book commit gross human rights abuses and remaining silent is neither moral nor legitimate." That's a gross overstatement. There are plenty of "gross human rights abuses" that you have remained silent on. Choosing which to talk about and which to remain silent on is, unfortunately, a practical necessity imposed on us by the enormous number of human rights violations occurring today. I'm not going to condemn you for remaining silent on the human rights abuses in Russia, Colombia or Turkey (or relatively nice places like New Zealand for that matter). But you should probably be ready to defend the particular choices you made regarding which abuses to be silent on and which to campaign on.

    2. From what I can see of the debate between you and Tim, you should treat it with more respect. I know for a fact that you are well intentioned and I'm sure it would be hurtful to have your intentions questioned the way Tim has. Nevertheless, I'm not surprised that he has such questions and they are ones that you should really respond to carefully and openly. I know you're not funded by the US but it's a relevant point that there are very similar campaigns to yours that are funded by the US. I am aware that Tim may have been making more categorical claims about your supposed links to the US in less public forums and that is pretty disgusting. I'm not trying to defend Tim Anderson. But from what I have read in this blog post and in the comments of the one you link to, Tim Anderson is asking questions that are both not surprising and easily answered.

    3. You characterise the argument in Tim's article as follows: "I visited many countries on an RSF list and therefore, by definition, my work is suspect and really an attempt to undermine the nations and individuals standing up to American aggression." At least on the basis of the article you've quoted in your blog, that's a pretty big mischaracterisation of his view. I know that you are totally aware that bias in the media is generally created not by lying but by careful choices about what stories to tell and what stories not to tell. Thus, a more sympathetic way to read Anderson's argument is that your choice to tell these stories rather than other stories puts you in a similar bag as the rest of the conservative media. I'm sure that this criticism is one that you've come across numerous times while writing this book and one that you can probably respond to.

    4. You really exaggerate "the left's" support for Castro's cuba. Two things about this exaggeration are important. Green Left Weekly is not an accurate representation of "The Left" whatever that phrase means. It is run by one group (the Democratic Socialist Party) and has a particular official stance on Cuba. What they think about Cuba does not reflect what any other left wing person thinks. Secondly, why buy into the silly terminology that lumps everyone in "the left" together? It's ridiculous and rhetorically empty. Why not just criticise the people and publications that you think are problematic? I don't think there's much that I have in common with the Democratic Socialist Party but I would consider myself left wing. Does that put me in "The Left" or outside it?

    On a very general point, I don't know that much about Tim Anderson. What I do know is that he's been a committed activist for a long time and I've read some very good stuff that he's written on East Timor. I also know he is a respected academic. The tone you take in responding to him is not going to win anyone over to your side since it's not obvious that he's said anything stupid and even if he had, it's better to deal with it respectfully.

    I hope all is well and I'll see you soon.

    Cheers,
    Mikey.

  • A friendly howdy to both Antony and Mikey,

    I will limit this to a short number of points for the moment (if need be, and time allows, I'll return for more detail).

    First, Mikey's right – a lot of the left doesn't support Cuba. (Personally, I'd say this is a bad thing, but many would, of course, disagree. Which is the point).

    However (and I'll point out that I'm a member of the DSP – and it's been "Perspective", not "Party" for a number of years now), there is a lot of support for Cuba outside of the ranks of the DSP.

    Obviously you have the CPA, and the (ahem!) Sparts, but there is also a large, and very political, Latin American community who are extremely supportive of Cuba – with good reason, given what Cuba does in germs of international solidarity. There is also a strong base of support within the Greens (also for good reason! Cuba is the only country meeting the criteria for sustainable development – despite the US!) and even in the ALP.

    So, while Antony has perhaps used broad brush-strokes, it's not entirely unjustifiable.

    Secondly, and more importantly, is the matter of Cuba itself. If by now you have decided that I'm a mindless Cuba-phile, feel free to tune out – but I'm hoping that a liberal view of the world such as yours could actually appreciate the complexity of the issue.

    There are indeed problems with freedom of speech in Cuba, as there are with relation to bureaucracy, limits on democracy, corruption, and so on. Been there, seen it. But these must be seen alongside two extremely important things:

    1. The objective limitations imposed on Cuba – through various US attacks (the blockade isn't just a *bad thing* – it causes shortages, which in turn encourage bureaucracy, corruption and other anti-social behaviour). The unfortunate fact is that most (independent) critics of the problems in Cuba ARE on the US payroll. Which also makes it easy to dismiss them. But there are other reasons to do so. This point feeds into the second…

    2. While SOME dissidents aren't, in fact, bringing in the Greenbacks, those that aren't tend to be overwhelmingly critical of not only the very real limitations on civil society in Cuba, but on the system as a whole. Not all, true, but even then there are qualifications to make.

    Their critique needs to be contrasted directly with the criticism coming from pro-socialist, pro-revolution, and (mostly) pro-Fidel perspectives within Cuba – which are both more numerous, and much, much, more realistic and practical in approach, and are given open slather in the media, in communities, and in the democratic mechanisms that exist. Check out the content of many of the "Round Table" debates, or articles in Juventud Rebelde (the Communist Youth paper, of all things). Or the recent campaign on gay marriage led by Raul Castro's daughter.

    Thing is, though, they tend not to bother writing in English, what with their target audience being the Cuban people. By contrast, those that target an outside audience tend to have rather questionable intentions.

    Unfortunately, whether Tim A has been casting baseless aspersions or not, this remains the reality of Cuba. And, given the current balance of power (and ideology) internationally, if you're going to make genuine criticisms of Cuba, you really ought to balance that with the remarkable achievements Cuba has made *despite* such an overwhelmingly onslaught. To do less to basically lend support to the attacks on Cuba (without meaning here to make this a totally either-or situation).

    Once again, try to think of this as a genuine overture to rethink the Cuban situation, rather than the intervention of a Cuba-phile. You don't help Cuba by apologism for the limitations its society faces. But you also don't help it by taking an idealistic position based on western liberal capitalist "democratic" definitions of what 'freedom of speech" is that ignores the reality on the ground.

    All that said (and I'll avoid talking about RSF) I look forward to the book.

    regards,

    Wombo

  • Iranian lefty

    So tell us then who exactly has funded your book and research so we could judge is your similar attitude twoard Cuba and I have to say on Iran is just an accident or not.

  • Michael Slezak

    Hey there Wombo and Ant,

    I agree with most what you've said Wombo. Particularly, I feel that just as it would be rather odd for to speak of the good features of US 'democracy' without mentioning the overwhelming non-democratic features, it's kind of strange to speak about all the undemocratic features of Cuba without placing it in the broader contexts – the historical context, as well as the current global and latin american contexts. Further, we should distinguish 'support for Cuba' from the unthinking, uncritical support that Antony is speaking about. Just as I would support, say, some things about the US, that doesn't mean that I have uncritical or unthinking support for the US (far from it, I might add). Supporting some of the great achievements of Cuba does not automatically equate to uncritical, unthinking support for Cuba. (Actually, I thought Tim Anderson's recent piece on Cuba was, on the most part, very thoughtful.)

    Also, while i'm sure Wombo is right that there are various groups who emphasise the positive aspects of Cuba (although I know of many that focus more on criticising Cuba), I think it is still very unhelpful for Antony to pick a position he sees in a few of them and criticise "the Left" for holding this position. What the DSP thinks is different to what members of the Sydney intellectual left thinks which is different to what Solidarity thinks which is different from what parts of the Latin American community thinks. Criticising 'the left' is incredibly unhelpful and rather uninteresting – the phrase just lacks any content.

    What I would like to see is more substantive and thoughtful debate between people like Antony and Tim. There seems to be some factual disagreement between the two authors and this should be easily sorted out. Also, there are some more general political arguments that could be debated in a more helpful way.

    As you know Antony, I agree with most of the things you say but it's only when we disagree that I feel like speaking up!

    Thanks for the reply Wombo – it was helpful. I'm also looking forward to Antony's book – from the bits i've heard about it sounds very interesting.

    Cheers,
    Mikey.

  • Michael Slezak

    I'm sorry to go on and on but I did just go back and read a piece you wrote, Antony, on a few things which opened with a paragraph about Cuba:

    "Fidel Castro controlled Cuba for nearly half a century. His rule was defined by defiance and dictatorship, brutal repression against dissidents and the management of an immoral American embargo."

    Antony, don't you think that just as it would be wrong, as you rightly point out, to be unthinkingly supportive of Cuba, it's equally wrong to be unthinkingly critical?

    Surely you can agree that this quote somewhat exaggerates what has "defined" Castro's Cuba for the last 50 years. Don't you think there's a few other things that defined his rule? Some of which are quite remarkably better than any other country? Education? Health? The overthrow of a far more brutal dictatorship? Foreign aid? I'm not saying that you shouldn't mention the undeniable and unjustifiable repression but the picture you paint is a little inaccurate… No?

  • Tim

    For a detailed review of Antony's book on blogging, and Cuba, see: http://links.org.au/node/621

  • Pingback: Don’t touch our boy Castro at Antony Loewenstein()