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.

Government uploads hypocrisy with internet censorship

My following article appears in today’s Melbourne Age:

Before this year’s Beijing Olympic Games, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chastised the Chinese authorities for blocking full access to the internet for the assembled world media: “My attitude to our friends in China is very simple”, he said. “They should have nothing to fear by open digital links with the rest of the world during this important international celebration of sport.”

Although Rudd expressed no concern for the average Chinese web user being unable to view tens of thousands of banned websites, his intervention was nevertheless a welcome call for transparency and greater democracy.

But now the Rudd government is working towards implementing an unworkable filtering process in Australia that suggests a misguided understanding of the internet and worrying tendency to censor an inherently anarchic system.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Radio National’s Media Report recently that the aim of the project is to “protect Australian families and kids from some material that is currently on the net . . . such as child pornography and ultra-violent sites”.

Conroy tried to assure a sceptical interviewer that although the idea had been ALP policy for years, “we are committed to work with the industry to see if it is technically feasible”.

He further claimed that similar kinds of filtering already exist in UK, Sweden, Norway, France and New Zealand and “there has been no detrimental effect on internet speed or performance”.

But Conroy is and ignoring the wider social, moral and political implications of the issue. A number of politicians, including Family First Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon, have advocated blocking online gaming sites and general pornography sites. What next?

It is not hard to imagine a push to block sites that allegedly “support” terrorism. Take Hamas, the democratically elected party in Palestine and yet regarded as a terrorist group by much of the West. For many individuals around the world, myself included, Hamas is not a terrorist entity and should be engaged. But will over-zealous politicians make it illegal to view the organisation’s websites?

This is a feasible scenario, as US Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman this year successfully pressured YouTube owners Google to remove videos from “Islamist terrorist organisations”.

Many in the Australian gay community are equally concerned about the current proposals. The Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE), which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, has called on the Rudd government to guarantee “websites will not be accidentally filtered out purely because they contain the words poof, fag or dyke”.

Technologically, the ability for internet service providers to successfully censor banned websites is arguably impossible. Three of the country’s leading players, Telstra Media’s Justin Milne, iiNet’s Michael Malone and Internode’s Simon Hackett, have all spoken on the record about the difficulties of implementing ISP-level filtering.

Hackett imagines a future where the government mandates a blacklist of IP addresses that by law an ISP is not permitted to serve to a customer. “Two problems with that”, he argues. “One is collateral damage. What if that IP address is a virtual host with 2000 web sites on it and only one of them doesn’t follow the government’s morality? The other (problem) is, what if it’s done by mistake? (What) if the IP address is just straight out wrong? Another obvious (problem) is that the internet is full of anonymous proxies. None of this stuff actually works.”

Numerous programs such as TOR are used by users in repressive nations to communicate anonymously and without detection and are likely to be used by people in Australia.

Perhaps most worryingly, should we feel comfortable with the idea of privately owned ISPs being the gatekeeper of administering the law of permissible and blocked websites? Telstra’s Milne rightly believes it should be the police implementing the rules of the land.

Furthermore, has the government even considered the massive financial burden on ISPs, especially the smaller ones, forced to play the role of Big Brother for Rudd’s obsession with “protecting the children”? It seems clear that the will of small, unrepresentative Christian groups, including the Australian Family Association and the Australian Christian Lobby, are increasingly able to dictate social policy to Rudd ministers with little transparency as to their real role and influence.

The government completed a closed trial of web filtering products at a Telstra laboratory in Tasmania in June. The results were largely negative and found that most filters could not identify illegal or inappropriate content. It is not surprising that many industry insiders fear the government’s moves are little more than populism dressed up as courageous social policy.

Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users’ lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said recently that Rudd’s “model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world.”

This is certainly unnecessary rhetoric – I examine a host of authoritarian regimes in my book The Blogging Revolution, including Iran, and the Islamic Republic’s censorship is far more extreme and life threatening than anything proposed by Rudd. But Jacobs is right to raise the alarm about the path Australia appears to be embracing.

Free speech is never absolute in any Western country but vigorous public debate should be the pre-cursor to any profound shift in freedom of the internet. History teaches us that governments have an unhealthy tendency to ban material deemed inappropriate for groups allegedly exposed. In this day and age, young children are seen as the most vulnerable. Cynicism is the only healthy response.

Antony Loewenstein is the author of The Blogging Revolution, published by Melbourne University Press.

  • Excellent article.

    I've written a similar piece (with more of a gay angle) in this week's Melbourne gay mag, MCV.

    This policy is absurd.

    No doubt the pro-Israel lobby will succeed in having Al-Manar's website blocked, since Indonesia refused to cut the transmission.

    For the record, EFA told me that no country that Conroy mentioned has a mandatory internet filtering system.

    Conroy's ignorance on the matter has truly been exposed. It seems he's taken the fax directly from the ACL and read it to the public.

  • Jacques

    Great article, thanks, we need more like it.

    Just one point: the comment by Colin Jacobs is not necessarily hyperbole. As you quoted, he spoke only of 'technical interference' so nothing life threatening would be included there. I was in Iran in April and it seemed to me to just be URL filtering based on a blacklist and also some 'sensitive' words. For example, I couldn't get to my Virgin credit card online banking, I assume because of the word 'virgin' in the URL. Also blocked all Fairfax papers for some reason and the Oz, but not the Murdoch tabloids. That's evil right there.

    Anyway, my point is, the technical interference in Iran is clumsy and absurd, but according to what I've read about our Govt's tests they are actually trying automatic recognition of content as being 'wrong', an even more absurd idea than the outlawing of certain words – at leas to anyone who has any idea of how badly such recognition will work. The false positives would be incredible.

    So I think the comparison with Iran may be valid. Also, as the previous poster said, I'm quite sure the UK has no invasive policies, and Sweden has some of the reportedly best access to the internet in the world. So what exactly is Conroy talking about here? And if he is lying through his teeth then Iran may be the only country other than China to actually compare!

  • George Berlin

    This minister for broadband is an absolute moron.

    He is pushing this rudd agenda of communistic tendencies on Australia. Lets face it rudd is a closet commi, and as part of his election pitch he positioned it as a fully opt in policy… how quickly the tide turns…

    Thanks for bring it to light Ant. Well done.