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.

Trouble in the Communist “paradise”

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

The suffering of earthquake victims should not mask the authoritarian tendencies of the ruling elite, writes Antony Loewenstein.

The ongoing humanitarian catastrophe after the Sichuan earthquake has revealed a side of China that is rarely glimpsed. After months of controversy over Beijing’s abuses in Tibet and elsewhere – and many Tibetan activists are lamenting the switch of focus – the global community almost seems relieved to be obsessed on something else (though this hasn’t stopped leading actress Zhang Ziyi chastising participants at the recent Cannes Film Festival for knowing little about the disaster.)

Israel has provided aid to victims. Jewish news agency JTA writes: “In a gesture of support, one of the world’s smallest countries is sending aid to the world’s most populous nation in the form of $1.5 million worth of equipment for earthquake relief.”

One American teacher living and working in Beijing wrote in the New York Times: “As tragic as the Sichuan earthquake has been, perhaps it can do some good by helping dispel a widespread myth: that the new generation of Chinese students are materialistic and selfish.” Daniel A. Bell hoped that, “events can dispel another false impression: that young Chinese are xenophobic nationalists who cheer for their country, good or bad.”

Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof expressed a similarly optimistic attitude, though perhaps naively believed that “grass-roots politics” was taking shape in the world’s most populous nation. Although parents who lost children in shoddily constructed schools are demanding action on “tofu” buildings – and bloggers are now harassing corrupt government officials – authoritarian rule is as entrenched as ever.

There is no doubt, however, that China’s rulers, at least briefly, allowed a freer society to be glimpsed and both local and foreign reporters were allowed relatively unfettered access to the disaster zone.

“In the face of such suffering”, writes China’s correspondent for Britain’s Channel 4, Lindsey Hilsum, “it would be heartless and probably over-optimistic to herald the Sichuan earthquake as the beginning of civil society and accountable government in China. And yet, this natural disaster may have done more than years of campaigning by human rights and democracy activists to force the Chinese government to start opening up.”

Realists, however – and my experience tells me that the Chinese Community Party is unlikely to relinquish its grip on power anytime soon – place the regime’s response to the quake in an historical context. Geremie Barme, professor of Chinese history at the Australian National University, says that, “People have responded generously to this vast human tragedy but many are also aware that the Party is zuo xiu, that is ‘putting on a show’ for mass consumption. There’s a tradition reaching back into dynastic times in which power-holders display their virtue through great shows of munificence through disaster relief.”

China’s global, economic power is never far from the surface and Western multinationals have every interest in joining the boom. Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Cisco were recently grilled in Congress over their role in China. Revelations about Cisco were particularly worrying, though unsurprising. Money talks the loudest language of all. Calls for US web companies to cease locating servers in repressive regimes is one, solid suggestion.

As the Olympics begin in just over three months, it remains unclear what restrictions journalists will face during the event. Censorship is rife, with a popular bridge-building website between China’s Muslim population and Han Chinese shut down in mid-May.

None of these issues stopped one of China’s most popular websites, Sina.com, launching an English language version last week. The country’s growth confounds thinkers and critics alike.

After the devastation of the earthquake is long forgotten, the rules of the Chinese game will remain set. Human rights have rarely been a determining factor in capitalist development and Beijing has no desire to change this equation. Mr X, a foreign media entrepreneur based in China, outlined the rules of this (profitable) game:

“Ultimately, to succeed in China, businesses must assume the goals of the Communist Party as their own. One of the first steps into the market for a major multinational is to hire a government-relations director who will interpret China’s policies and articulate the company’s fealty to those policies as its “commitment to China.”

“In fact, conflating the interests of the Chinese Communist Party with the interests of businesses operating in China is what makes China Inc. work. For the last 30 years, China has been building a social system that establishes an identity between business and broader political or social interests.”

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The opposite of Bush?

Joshua Landis, founder of Syria Comment blog, tells the American Conservative what hardline Zionists are currently fretting about:

The anxiety on the part of the Jewish Right is that Obama is the Manchurian candidate, that he has secret sympathy with Muslims, and the whole war of terror which relies on demonizing Islam isn’t going to float. They hear him undoing everything that’s been done under Bush, the idea that Israel’s war with the Palestinians is America’s war with terrorism. They’ve worked hard to cut out any daylight on these issues. And here is Obama trying to put the daylight back in there.”

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The shocking economic future

Professor Joseph Stiglitz, US economist and former senior vice-president of the World Bank asks Naomi Klein, author, a question at the recent Hay literary festival:

Q In The Shock Doctrine, you talk about how free-market fundamentalists use economic crises to impose policies they would not normally be able to put into place. What do you see happening as a result of the current problems in the US? Could this be an exception to your rule? If not, what nefarious policies will result from the current shock to the system we are now facing?

A The Bear Sterns bailout is a pretty classic example of using an economic shock to pass on a significant economic risk to the public while the assets go straight to JP Morgan. We have seen this same pattern – protecting private profits while nationalising debts – many times during other crises. Then there are the bailouts for developers and homebuilders, especially striking in contrast with the laissez-faire attitude towards the more than 2 million Americans who face foreclosure. Meanwhile, Congress’s economic stimulus package contained an estimated $50bn in tax cuts and bonuses for business, roughly one-third of the total.

Yet in the history of shock exploitation, this is all pretty smalltime. What is much more striking to me is how the Bush administration failed in its attempt to use the economic crisis to lock in even more ambitious pro-corporate policies. First, it tried to argue that making the Bush tax cuts permanent was a form of economic stimulus, and that simply didn’t fly. Now treasury secretary Henry Paulson is trying to use this anxious economic moment to whip up panic about the coming crisis in social security – but he still can’t get any traction on the “private accounts” idea.

So I am hopeful that Americans, after seven years of a government that has exploited every crisis for political advantage, are getting wise to the ways of the shock doctors. The real disappointment, though hardly a surprise, is that the Democrats have utterly failed to use the market turmoil to put the logic of market fundamentalism on trial, and demand New Deal-style life-saving measures for those being thrown out of homes and work.

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(Virtually) nothing is hidden

Using the internet to highlight a repressive regime. Tunisia, you’re being watched:

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How to speak to journalists for dummies

After the recent revelations of a Pentagon-led plan to twist US media coverage of the “war on terror”, Wikileaks uncovers a 2006 document titled, “Media is the Battlefield: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures“. Produced for those in the US military, typical statements include:

You do not have to regurgitate the Secretary of Defense’s responses, but you can ensure that your messages are in line and focused on how things are from your foxhole. Military leaders must be aware of what is being said to avoid their comments being taken out of context. For example, if the President said yesterday, “There are indications that foreign fighters are involved in conducting these attacks,” and you say, “We have no indications of foreign fighter involvement,” it would appear that you are not on the same sheet of music. If you knew what the President’s statement was, you could have rephrased your response to more accurately articulate your message.

[…]

The interview itself is all about control. You want it; the reporter wants it. You have to learn how to structure effective answers and control the interview. Do not be question-driven; be message-driven. The trick is to use your messages as guideposts and not repeated phrases. This is where skill, preparation, and experience come in. You should be trying to articulate command messages that will positively influence the outcome of your mission. Use the media as a “nonlethal fire.”

The Bush administration has made the US military just one more outpost in its plans to “democratise” the world.

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Time to find new friends

How Bush and his mates are increasingly irrelevant in the Middle East.

(Though this doesn’t stop many Western NGOs still supporting the worst aspects of Israeli occupation policies.)

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Ditching politeness

Ken Silverstein, Harpers, May 23:

Mark Slouka has a terrific piece in the June issue of the magazine that convincingly argues against political politeness. “In the long term, it is [the] tilt toward deference, this willingness to hold our tongues and sit on our principles, that truly threatens us, even more than the manifold abuses of this administration, because it makes them possible,” he writes.

Slouka recalls the case of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s famous appearance at the U.N. Security Council on the eve of the Iraq invasion, when he made the administration’s case for war even though he knew it to be a crock of shit. Terribly polite of him.

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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.

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How not to find the bad guys

The Australian Federal Police today announced that they have spent $8.2 million on the fruitless investigation into “terror” suspect Mohamed Haneef. Yet another debacle in the never-ending “war on terror.”

Not unlike this alarming case in the UK:

A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the “psychological torture” he endured in custody.

Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.

The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a “prevent agenda” against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.

The brutality and pointlessness of this kind of action will become clearer in years to come. Muslim anger will manifest itself in ways that should surprise none of us. Of course, the US government does know a few things about funding and supporting terrorism.

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US soldiers are starving

Behold the crumbling American occupation of Iraq:

Shiite Cleric al-Sistani forbids Iraqis from selling food to Americans.

Trouble is brewing, according to Juan Cole:

Last I knew, the US military in Iraq does not buy its food from Iraqis but rather imports it, for fear that Iraqi nationalists might poison it. But I’m told US soldiers do buy food and snacks from Shiite shops in Baghdad when out on patrol. So the fatwa would affect the latter but not the former. But if Sistani is laying the grounds for a Gandhi-style non-cooperation movement, he certainly could put a crimp in the American military’s style in Iraq. I can’t imagine US troops could function in the Shiite south or much of Baghdad without Shiite cooperation. Sistani still has a great deal of moral authority, and would be backed by less cautious clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Ayatollah Jawad al-Khalisi.

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Hear the changes coming

Why reform is an urgent call to secular Arabs.

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The world inside the box

The magic of television, courtesy of the internet.

Speaking of which:

The Internet is simply a means of communication, like the telephone, but that has not prevented attempts to demonize it — the latest being the ludicrous claim that the Internet promotes terrorism.

Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is trying to pressure YouTube to pull down videos he does not like, and a recent Senate report and a bill pending in Congress also raise the specter of censorship. It is important for online speech to be protected against these assaults.

Mr. Lieberman recently demanded that YouTube take down hundreds of videos produced by Islamist terrorist organizations or their supporters. YouTube reviewed the videos to determine whether they violated its guidelines, which prohibit hate speech and graphic or gratuitous violence. It took down 80 videos, but left others up. Mr. Lieberman said that was “not enough,” and demanded that more come down.

Web censorship isn’t just something that occurs over “there.” More and more over-zealous Western politicians believe they have the right to dictate what we read and see online.

They don’t.

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