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.

What is Google now doing in China?

My following article appears today on ABC Unleashed/The Drum:

Google has threatened to withdraw entirely from China in protest at the authoritarian regime’s oppressive online censorship and continuing attempts by Chinese hackers to gain sensitive information of local human rights workers.

Perhaps most significantly, Google’s Chinse search engine, Google.cn, now allows once banned material to be displayed, such as images of the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. A few people even placed flowers outside the company’s offices in Beijing as a sign of respect and perhaps admiration for the company’s position.

It is a highly unusual move by a multinational with roughly 30 percent market share in an internet market of over 350 million people, the largest in the world. Furthermore, it recognises the increasing pressure placed on the company by Communist officials, including the banning of YouTube, attempts to illegally gain corporate information and persistent efforts by hackers to discover the private details of dissenters on Gmail.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Open Space Institute and an expert on the Chinese Internet, told the New York Times that, “Unless they turn themselves into a Chinese company, Google could not win. The company has clearly put its foot down and said enough is enough.”

A Google spokesman wrote in a blog posting on 12 January:

“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered – combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web – have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”

News reports indicate that the Obama administration has been in negotiations with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco, companies with a long history of assisting Beijing in its censorship program, to implement a far-reaching initiative to help citizens in repressive regimes access banned online information. China is only the worst culprit of this growing trend; Iran is not far behind, especially since last year’s disputed election.

Despite Google’s seemingly brave move, already praised by human rights groups around the world, questions remain whether other large web firms will join them. It should be remembered that the country’s largest search engines, such as Baidu, are Chinese-owned and remain close to the regime. They are unlikely to follow Google’s lead.

The last months have seen cyber wars within China and from the outside heat up considerably. Chinese netizens have pledged to help their Iranian colleagues while government-backed activists from Iran moved to disable Chinese websites.

Chinese writer and blogger Alice Xin Liu argued earlier this month that the banning of increasing numbers of websites by paranoid authorities was both impossible to predict and avoid. She shared the news that officials are threatening to release a “white-list” of approved websites, with foreign websites forced to register before they launched or allowed to continue online.

Although some technology writers are cynical over Google’s latest stance (“More about business than thwarting evil”, says one), the company’s relationship with the Communist regime has never been especially close. It was slammed internationally for agreeing to censorship its search engine in the first place. Google’s global standing plummeted since 2006: “On a business level, that decision to censor…was a net negative,” co-founder Sergey Brin told the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2007.

When I visited China in 2007 during research for my book, The Blogging Revolution, I found widespread mistrust of the company. Although Gmail was regarded as far safer option than Hotmail or Yahoo!, the search engine was regarded as a pale imitation of Chinese equivalents.

The Great Firewall (GFW) is an ingenious system that doesn’t actually block all banned content. Instead, explains leading internet censorship expert Nart Villeneuve, “the GFW doesn’t have to be 100% technically effective, it just has to serve as a reminder to those in China about what content is acceptable and that which should be avoided. The objective is to influence behaviour toward self-censorship, so that most will not actively seek out banned information or the means to bypass controls and access it.”

My own research in China found a remarkable amount of material still existed that could be deemed controversial. Sexual content, political writings and corruption discussions remained available. The last decade has seen an explosion of once-forbidden issues now analysed, challenged and framed in the Chinese blogosphere. Crusading journalism is still possible in today’s China. This is not to deny the pervasive censorship regime but to highlight a more nuanced view of Beijing’s attitude towards its citizens.

The wider context for this story is the economic rise of China; the elephant in the room between Washington and Beijing. America fears a business and political rival and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded this week that China explains its ongoing cyber-attacks against Google and other firms. It was yet another warning from the super-power to the competitor snapping at its heels.

Veteran China watcher James Fallows argues that the significance of Google’s decision is the challenge to China’s “Bush-Cheney era”. China “is on a path at the moment that courts resistance around the world” but is not a threat to American hegemony.

The real agenda behind Google’s decision may never be known but it is unlikely to change in the short-term the Communist Party’s stranglehold on information. If the move forces Western companies to more closely examine their motives and practices in the dictatorship and the collusion that inevitably comes with this process, Google will have recovered a modicum of respect.

2 comments ↪
  • What kind of human right are you ?
    google blocked lots of its service to us , iranian users
    and none of the human right organization doesnt answer to us,
    they just play policy game,
    http://unblockgoogletous.blogspot.com/
    unblock google service to us.
     

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