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.

How to fight the toxic culture wars and win

My book review appears in the Weekend Australian newspaper with the great headline: “What did you do in the culture wars, daddy-o?:

As soon as Donald Trump unexpectedly won the White House in 2016, commentators and instant experts claimed it was because of economic anxiety. White, working-class Americans voted for the Republican candidate in greater numbers than Hillary Clinton, and the narrative was set: ignorant and insecure voters reportedly had backed the reality TV star because they feared losing their jobs and being discarded by globalisation and free trade. This thesis was only partly true.

In April, Stanford University political scientist Diana Mutz published a study that debunked the myth. “In this election,” she concluded, “education represented group status threat rather than being left behind economically. Those who felt that the hierarchy was being upended — with whites discriminated against more than blacks, Christians discriminated against more than Muslims, and men discriminated against more than women — were most likely to support Trump.”

Australian writer Jeff Sparrow succinctly explains in Trigger Warnings how Trump cleverly skewered his political enemies by appealing to their anger at the elite political and media classes (despite being a member of the elite himself). By damning political correctness without ever describing what it meant, Sparrow explains, Trump convinced his opponents “into calling for decorum, at a time when his supporters wanted to scream their rage”. Trump and his advisers read the mood of the country well and rode it to victory.

Trigger Warnings is a rare book that takes a necessary scalpel to the leftist political persuasion of its author as much as, if not more than, the right-wing agenda he opposes. Near the beginning, Sparrow outlines the bald facts of 21st-century life. With the “world’s eight richest billionaires controlling as much as the poorest half of the planet’s population … a historian of the future might assume that the Left was ascendant: that the injustice under which the planet groaned would be fuelling radical ideas and egalitarian alternatives to the status quo. Such a historian would be wrong.”

What follows is a potted history of how phrases such as “political correctness” and “culture wars” originated and how they have been weaponised today by the Right in ways that largely have trapped the Left, unsure how to respond. Sparrow writes that although right-wingers “portray PC as an Orwellian scheme to end freedom of speech, a deliberate strategy to impose a progressive orthodoxy”, the Left used the term from the 1960s as a gag to mock colleagues who believed in censorship. By the 90s, however, its usage had morphed and the Right claimed that being anti-PC meant “a minority using bureaucratic measures to enforce progressive ideas”.

In a post-Cold War world, where the designated enemy was no longer clear, right-wing politicians and their media cheerleaders correctly believed that by launching multiple culture wars over sexuality, gender, patriotism and morality, the Left would be consumed with these debates instead of challenging neoliberal “reforms” that enriched big business at the expense of ordinary people. It worked in many nations, including Australia, Britain and the US, but there are signs its effectiveness is breaking down.

For example, the electoral appeal of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain is linked to the fact that years of Conservative Party-pushed austerity has led to one-fifth of the population living in poverty. Recent attempts by Theresa May’s government and many in the corporate media to falsely accuse Corbyn and his team of rampant anti-Semitism, a classic “culture war” tactic, has done little to affect his public standing. Whether his popularity leads to assuming power as prime minister remains to be seen.

The strongest sections of Sparrow’s book are his demolition of “smug politics” that have been employed by the Left in the past decades.

For comedians Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah of The Daily Show, any number of performers who populate Netflix and HBO and “new atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, the stupidity of vast swathes of the populace was a given. After all, how else could so many vote for George W. Bush or Trump and watch Fox News?

The political ramifications for showing contempt of the electorate are obvious.

“If progressives couldn’t influence society,” Sparrow argues, “that was the fault of society — or more exactly, the people who were too stupid and too venal to appreciate the objective correctness of progressive ideas.” Left ideas will never thrive in such an environment.

The solution to this malaise is (too briefly) outlined by Sparrow but he argues only radical solutions to present-day problems will work. How else to address the climate change crisis without imagining a zero-emissions future solely with renewable energy sources?

Symbolic gestures pushed by celebrities to switch off the lights just won’t cut it; the Left needs to build mass movements for change, an all-too-uncommon occurrence today.

Likewise with addressing the apartheid-level rates of indigenous Australian incarceration. “If we’re not talking about the need for structural change, we’re simply not acknow­ledging reality,” Sparrow concludes. How to achieve this is easier written than done.

Sparrow doesn’t underestimate the challenges and calls for “liberation”, a word that is almost invisible in the modern age. There are successful examples from which to take inspiration, from the struggles for same-sex equality to supporting the legalisation of marijuana across the US.

“Symbolic redress” won’t suffice to help ordinary people facing serious problems, Sparrow says, and the current path leads only to decades more of circular arguments that will embolden the status quo.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author of Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe.

Trigger Warnings: Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right

By Jeff Sparrow

Scribe, 320pp, $29.99

one comment ↪
  • Kevin Herbert

    You/Sparrow say; ” How else to address the climate change crisis without imagining a zero-emissions future solely with renewable energy sources?”

    I’m interested to understand what is the climate change crisis to which you’re referring, as there’s no credible, peer reviewed scientific data to support such an hypothesis.

    FYI, the IPCC’s rent seeking pseudoscience based on modelling has been dismissed by 70% of the world’s climatologists – I believe it should not be referred to as ‘data’, cos it has no basis in fact.