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.

Where’s the media guts over Wikileaks?

My following article appears on ABC Unleashed today:

The rolling revelations of the WikiLeaks US embassy cables will continue for months but equally interesting is the reaction of the global media.

Many in the British media establishment, not given advance look at the documents, fumed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and repeated government spin that the release would endanger lives. This is from media groups who claim to believe in press freedom and there is no evidence that any WikiLeaks releases have harmed a soul, something even acknowledged by the US government.

It is expected that governments affected by the leaks would be upset but this week has seen a very clear fault-line expanding between those who endorse an authoritarian mindset towards leakers and others who understand the importance of airing America’s dirty tricks to the world.

Assange makes no secret of wanting to harm the image of the US and lessen American power. Indeed, in an interview this week

“US officials have for 50 years trotted out this line when they are afraid the public is going to see how they really behave”, Assange said.

Ironically, many of the public figures today allegedly worried about US lives being lost are the same people who wholly backed the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and drone attacks in Pakistan.

It’s unsurprising that Fox News-funded Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin both condemn the release (with the latter comparing Assange to Al Qaeda). Bill O’Reilly said the “traitor” who leaked the information to WikiLeaks should be “executed”.

The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, a Jewish neo-conservative who backs endless war in the Middle East, wants Assange silenced and the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer argues for the prosecution of journalistic “collaborators” with WikiLeaks. A senior adviser to Canadian leader Stephen Harper states Assange should be murdered by drone attack.

Predictably, many in the mainstream media have mimicked the Obama administration’s concerns over the leaks.

It was painful on Monday listening to ABC radio’s The World Today grilling a New York Times journalist about his paper’s decision to publish some of the revelations. Virtually every question asked by host Eleanor Hall could have come from the State Department. The contents and implications of the cables were mostly ignored.

The ABC reporter in Washington also heavily featured official perspectives at the expense of real analysis of the release. It’s been left to astute bloggers to articulate the importance of establishment embarrassment at a time when US foreign policy under Obama has mostly continued the pattern set by the Bush administration.

One example is the litany of documents that prove Israel and the US looking to spy on Palestinian officials and gather information such as frequent flyer and credit card numbers. Many in the Israeli press are pleased that the documents prove that US-backed autocrats support the hardline Israeli stance on attacking Iran. Why a supposedly democratic nation like Israel would want to be in bed with one of the most brutal regimes in the world, Saudi Arabia, has gone largely unremarked.

But little of this has surfaced in the corporate press as they’ve been too busy repeating the talking points of outraged officials in Canberra, London and Washington. The reaction of Arab bloggers has also been mostly ignored.

The details of the WikiLeaks story are arguably the most interesting. For example, the New York Times supposedly had to rely on the Guardian for the documents because Assange had been displeased with a recent profile of him in the Times. Editor Bill Keller was keen to negotiate with the White House which documents would not offend American goals.

The Washington Post reports that the Wall Street Journal and CNN, offered the cables but refused, were told by WikiLeaks that they would be liable for $US100,000 if any embargo was broken.

But where is the bravery in the media assessing the fallout of the leaks? Slate’s Jack Shafer calls for the resignation of Hillary Clinton because of the hard evidence that she demanded her foreign-service officials to spy on friend and foe. Here was – in black and white – documentation that shows Washington engaged in a global network of espionage. When Tehran or Beijing acts similarly, it’s called terrorism.

And where are the legal and civil rights lobbies in Australia as growing threats against Assange and his website increase by the day? A handful are speaking out, including Sydney University’s Ben Saul, claiming that Australia’s priority should be asking America about its crimes revealed in the WikiLeaks dump. Few journalists are arguing similarly.

Rupert Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt defends the spying as a necessary price to pay to maintain American hegemony in the world seemingly oblivious to the fact that Washington’s ability to influence the world has irreversibly declined since September 11, 2001, helped by a lessening of fear towards American power.

Indeed, there seems to be a major degree of jealousy within the mainstream media. Why haven’t more of them been leaked key documents? Why did sources rely on WikiLeaks instead of a major news organisation? As Assange told Forbes this week, in lieu of another major leak related to a major US bank in early 2011:

“We’re totally source-dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, ‘Why don’t you release more leaks form the Taliban?’ So I say ‘Hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us’.”

Many journalists and editors would read that and wonder why Taliban dissidents hadn’t contacted them.

Perhaps somebody should examine what the motives of Assange actually are; he’s written a manifesto of sorts years ago.

But professional frustration isn’t the only key issue here. It’s the media’s overly-respectful posture towards authority. There is an overly-suspicious attitude towards people like Assange who refuse to play the traditional media game. He’s an outsider with exclusive information. He hasn’t spent years cultivating contacts inside the media tent. And he doesn’t spend most of his free time socialising with political staffers, editors and insiders.

John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship, reminds journalists of the truth:

“All governments have a legitimate right to protect national security. This should be a specific, and closely scrutinised, area of policy. Most of our secrecy rules are designed merely to protect politicians and officials from embarrassment.”

The Australian media’s performance this week has been mixed at best. There has been a fascination with the Gillard Government’s response and an attempt to mitigate the potential embarrassment for authorities.

The vast bulk of the local reporting – Paul McGeough in Fairfax was a notable exception though he mistakenly claimed the previous WikiLeaks drops on Iraq and Afghanistan were “relatively harmless” – has challenged the reliability of Assange and questioned his sanity and seriousness. A Fairfax video was entitled, ‘Assange reliability under question’ when in fact nobody credibly claimed the cables were falsified.

It’s as if the corporate press can’t quite bring itself to acknowledge the lies told by the US government, fearful of losing access in the process. Instead, many in the Australian press are giving valuable space to the US ambassador in Canberra who unsurprisingly condemns the leaks.

Moreover, one of the key take-away points from the revelations is the US contempt for democracy around the world. Public opinion can be essentially ignored for the perceived greater good; backing Zionist and Arab dictatorships in the name of oil security. We should care that US officials pressured nations not to investigate alleged human rights committed by the US post 9/11.

Interestingly, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) just announced that no part of WikiLeaks remains on the Australian blacklist of banned websites.

All WikiLeaks releases bring up questions of accountability of the organisation itself. This week leading human rights groups expressed concern that activists in repressive regimes, who may have had contact with US embassies, could be named in the cables and threatened.

Pentagon Paper’s leaker Daniel Ellsberg said this week that WikiLeaks had made “mistakes” in the past by inadvertently releasing names and personal details in previous dumps. He also stressed that the Pentagon was prone to exaggerating the threat posed to anyone listed in the documents. Quite simply, there is zero evidence of lives being threatened or lost over any WikiLeaks documents though a Canadian aid worker claims the cables will hurt dissidents in repressive regimes.

The job of real journalists is not to insulate officials or governments from embarrassment but to investigate legitimate stories relevant to the public interest. Note how many reporters are primarily worried about Washington’s loss of information, not the details contained within the files.

Damaging the “national interest” is a principle that should be questioned when policies of the state are deliberately designed to ensure secrecy over state-sponsored terrorism. Transparency and accountability are what WikiLeaks offers. Those who oppose it must be vigorously challenged. with America’s ABC he said that Washington simply wasn’t credible when they claimed the release of documents would hurt individuals.

3 comments ↪
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  • Rob Whiter

    Guts I think not?

    Long gone is real independence in the media world. That all went with the shift to the advertising driven media funding model in the early part of the 20th century. This shift effectively meant the media business of today is firstly an advertising business and 2nd an entertainment business. They are no longer in the information business.

    Just look at who they pay the big bucks too, yep that would be the "presenters" not the journo's!

    That is why this development with WikiLeaks is so galvanizing. Governments of today are not used to dealing with a genuinely independent media as the media businesses of the last 50 years have been rather uninterested in getting involved in anything that might impact negatively on their revenues and this made them very open to influence from government.

    Wikileaks is on the other hand an example of a new breed of genuinely independent media organizations that not only do NOT rely on commercial income to operate BUT they are also trans-nationals. These two factors combine to make this new type of media entity the 1st in perhaps 50 years that cannot be directly influenced by any single government.

    Think of that from a governments point of view especially a western one used to being able to peddle just about any well packaged up selection of half truths to its populace safe in the knowledge that any really difficult questions will not be given real air time or allowed to be inappropriately promoted.

    Scary stuff eh!

     

     

     

     

  • Aiden

    Scary indeed.

    And very well spoken!