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.

Christchurch massacre highlights dark ties between Australia and white supremacy

My article in US magazine The Nation:

It was an article with no subtlety, only bile. Australian columnist Andrew Bolt, one of the country’s most prominent right-wing voices and a key employee in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, published a column last August with the headline “The Foreign Invasion.” In it, he argued that “immigration is becoming colonisation, turning this country from a home into a hotel.” Bolt’s column was syndicated in many newspapers throughout Australia; accompanying it was a cartoon with racist caricatures of Asians, Muslims, and other new arrivals.

The racism was blunt, and Bolt’s facts were wildly incorrect—yet it was just one of many examples of the mainstreaming of hate that has become routine in Australia. In the wake of the recent horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, where an Australian man killed at least 50 worshippers at two mosques and live-streamed his violence for the world to see, the increased tolerance for and encouragement of bigotry in the Australian media and in Parliament is finally receiving scrutiny. Examples of such bigotry abound: Prominent TV personalities call for an end to Muslim immigration; a political cartoonist at a Murdoch-owned paper draws tennis star Serena Williams with ape-like features; and the nation has become a regular haunt for some of the United States’ most notorious alt-right figures, who tour and spew bile at the indigenous population. But while white supremacy has been a major strain in Australia’s long history (as well as anti-Muslim hate in more recent years), US-style far-right violent extremism is still relatively rare.

A lack of racial diversity in the media and among political elites goes a long way toward explaining the blinding whiteness of supposedly acceptable commentary on public affairs in Australia. One 2017 study found that “racist reporting is a weekly phenomenon in Australia’s mainstream media,” with hatred commonly directed at immigrants, Muslims, refugees, indigenous Australians, and other minorities.

It’s a model that has been perfected by Murdoch’s Fox News, although other media companies take part too, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the public broadcaster that is the country’s equivalent of the BBC. The racial divide is also reflected in public opinion; in a documentary on free speech that he’s currently putting together, the Pakistani-Australian comedian Sami Shah tweets, almost “every white person interviewed…said their biggest fears were Political Correctness or identity politics. Every poc [person of color] said it was rise of Nazis and hate speech leading to attacks.”

The poison is not just in the media; the far right has also infiltrated one of the country’s major political parties. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has long believed in capitalizing on the electorate’s growing unease over Muslim immigration, and the Senate narrowly voted down a motion last year that said it was “OK to be white” (a meme popularized on 4chan and embraced by the white-nationalist movement). Australian Senator Fraser Anning, who once called for a “final solution” to immigration, said after the attack in Christchurch that “the real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.” According to reporter Paul Sakkal of The Age, Anning, who is close to forming a new political party, says, “We can win seats on social media.”

Yet despite the daily media drumbeat that blames immigrants for crime, the facts prove otherwise: Australian-born citizens are by far the highest number of offenders.

The strain of white supremacy that made the Christchurch attack possible has very deep roots. Australia is a settler-colonial state, and, like other cases of settler colonialism, from Israel-Palestine to the United States, its past is bloody. The vast bulk of the country’s indigenous population was murdered by the invading British after they arrived in the late 1700s. It’s an ugly reality that to this day is still denied by many and defended by others.

Indeed, just recently, a small but vocal political party in the Australian state of New South Wales proposed requiring DNA testing for Aboriginal people who want to claim welfare payments. Much of the media lapped it up, willfully ignoring the scientific challenges of such a test, let alone its racist underpinnings. Indigenous incarceration in some Australian states is higher per capita than it was in apartheid South Africa.

But while the prevalence of racism in Australia unquestionably influenced Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch killer, his ideology was largely borrowed from white-nationalist websites, theorists, and politicians around the world. Tarrant name-checked Donald Trump as an inspiration, as well as Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 people in 2011. Tarrant’s manifesto was titled “The Great Replacement,” most likely a reference to a 2012 book of the same name by French extremist Renaud Camus, who claims that Europe’s white population is being replaced by African and Muslim immigrants.

Revulsion over the Christchurch massacre was widespread in Australia, but I remain unconvinced that the country’s major media companies have any real interest in taking responsibility for their platforming of hate. It will be much easier to shed faux tears and then quickly get back to demanding that Australian Muslims show loyalty to their country (after the Christchurch killings, Murdoch tabloids found a way to try to humanize the murderer). Conservative media and their political mates have fanned the flames of racism for years, so don’t expect them to become self-reflective now. Eradicating this poison will require a sustained grassroots effort.

no comments – be the first ↪

Australian aid to Palestine under attack

My investigation in Australian outlet Crikey:

Australian aid to Palestine has fallen greatly under the Coalition government, partly due to successive Liberal prime ministers believing false allegations of mismanagement and illegality by Palestinians.

The result for Palestinians living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza has been devastating and comes on top of the Trump administration cutting all aid to Palestine early this year (changes that particularly impact women).

The World Vision case

One particular case highlights the rot that’s developed in the Palestinian aid debate. Israel charged a Gaza-based, World Vision employee, Mohammed El Halabi, in 2016 with illegally diverting millions of dollars of aid money to Hamas coffers. The Australian government, having given the Christian charity $5 million for its work over years in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, immediately suspended its support. The Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council was quick to believe the Israeli allegations. The Israeli judge initially told Halabi that he was almost guaranteed of being found guilty.

By the following year, however, both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and World Vision had found no evidence that Halabi was guilty of any crimes. Nonetheless, DFAT did not resume funding to these programs.

Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, had long wanted to nail an international NGO with direct ties to Hamas, aiming to prove that such organisations were helping support the Islamist regime. In late 2018, Israeli forces were caught in Gaza impersonating aid workers, an act that endangered all foreigners working there.

Today, Israel continues to prosecute Halabi despite his denials of wrongdoing. He has refused to take a plea deal, accuses Israel of torturing him in prison, has pled not guilty and no evidence has ever been shown publicly that supports the Israeli claims. Halabi remains incarcerated with no end in sight.

Halabi’s Jerusalem-based lawyer, Maher Hanna, told Crikey that Halabi had been pressured by Israeli officials to admit guilt a long time ago but he had refused, saying that he was innocent. Hanna recently petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court over the slow pace of the trial and urged Halabi to be transferred to house arrest in Haifa. This was refused because the Israeli prosecutor claimed that Halabi was too dangerous. Hanna said that he had never seen another case like this in Israel with such secrecy.

Another Australian aid organisation, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, was also falsely smearedby Israel supporters in 2018 for backing terrorism.

Labor and Palestine

Labor’s Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong told Crikey that if her party won government this year it would increase aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by $20 million. The US cut all funding to UNRWA in 2018, affecting millions of Palestinians under occupation.

Although Wong wouldn’t commit to supporting programs run by World Vision, she said that aid was “vital to the work of countering extremism and promoting peace in the Middle East.” The money would have “appropriate oversights to ensure the funding is being used as intended, to directly support development programs for the Palestinian people.”

The Labor party has pledged to recognise Palestine when it is next in government, though what that means in practice is not clear given both governments that nominally rule over Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas (aside from Israel that exercises control over the entire territory), are dictatorships.

During the recent anniversary of 70 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Australia, both Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten expressed support for the Jewish state. Israel is “a beacon of democracy in the Middle East”, Morrison said. No mention of the recent botched attempt by Canberra to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile in the occupied Jordan Valley, extreme Jewish settlers and their associates in the Israeli army are making life a daily nightmare for Palestinian shepherds. During a recent visit to the area, I witnessed soldiers harassing Palestinians and their sheep by driving a jeep too close to them. One Palestinian man was illegally arrested (and released soon after). Israeli activist Guy Hirschfeld told me that he saw constant collusion between the Israeli army and Zionist settlers. “Change here will have to come from outside [the country]”, Hirschfeld told me.

Antony Loewenstein is a Jerusalem-based, independent investigative journalist who has written for the New York Times, Guardian and many others. 

no comments – be the first ↪

Pakistani TV interview on global refugee crisis

Yesterday I was interviewed by Pakistani TV network Indus News about the global refugee crisis. My segment starts at 13:55:

no comments – be the first ↪

The forgotten Iranian refugees trapped on Nauru

Investigation in the Sydney Morning Herald/Melbourne Age co-written with Saba Vasefi (with more details, photos and letters):

On the first day of the year in Nauru, Iranian refugee Bita* sent a damning letter to the Australian Border Force (ABF) accusing it of “barbarism”. She had been refused resettlement in the United States and demanded an end to being held indefinitely on the Pacific island.

“I’m fed up and I’m not going to beg for settlement in Australia or reunion with my brother [in Australia] any more,” she wrote to the ABF. “Please let me know when would you let me seek asylum in another country which cares about humanitarian [sic].”

The ABF is the government agency responsible for onshore and offshore border control.

Bita, a 30-year-old woman from an Arab minority in Iran, asked the agency why it refused to treat her depression, anxiety attacks, hand pains and sciatica. Was this a way of abusing her, she wondered? “If so, please let me know when you are planning to stop harming and punishing me,” she wrote.

Bita has sent a stream of increasingly anguished correspondence to the ABF for years, pleading for intervention. Medical specialists on Nauru have acknowledged her long mental decline. “There is very little life in her,” one International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) counsellor reported.

Bita was transferred to Nauru in 2014 after fleeing Iran due to state and family violence and travelling by boat from Indonesia to Australia. After more than five years in detention she lives without hope of immediate resettlement.

Testimonies of refugee women on Nauru show an acute situation of untreated illnesses, sexual abuse and degradation.

“To what scripture have you taken oath, that I was bleeding from a dog attack, yet like a bloodthirsty monster you were smelling my blood?” wrote Iranian refugee Sahar* to IHMS this year. “You kept telling me my wounds were not serious … Your oath is to the devil, not to God.”

In 2017 Sahar was attacked by a dog in a Nauruan detention camp. After being bitten, her anxiety worsened. When a recent discussion with IHMS on not being given necessary treatment became heated, she threw a cup of boiling water onto her face and banged her head into a wall. After the incident, doctors decided to give her medication every third day.

“I don’t forgive nor forget,” she wrote to IHMS in early 2019. “I instead will speak up for justice.”

The Morrison government warns resettling refugees from Nauru to New Zealand would risk restarting the people-smuggling trade to Australia. Labor remains committed to offshore processing.

Medecins Sans Frontieres’ clinical psychologist Dr Christine Rufener, who worked with MSF on Nauru until it was expelled last October, says75 per cent of patients had experienced trauma before arriving on Nauru, “so they were already vulnerable. Essentially, a life under indefinite detention almost inherently includes exposure to multiple risk factors for severe, chronic mental illnesses.”

More than 3000 asylum seekers have been sent to Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea since 2012, in the latest iteration of Australia’s offshore processing policy. Long before September 11, 2001, the government used privatised detention facilities to house asylum seekers.

Today about 480 asylum seekers are left on Nauru, including seven children, and roughly 624 refugees are on Manus Island.

Setareh*, Sahar’s sister, is also on Nauru and suffers abdominal pain. “Stomach-related problems started in early 2017 after she took four to five spoons of chilli in reported suicidal attempt,” IHMS psychiatrist Lina Klansek found in December 2018. Setareh “has a history of previous self-harm behaviour such as banging the wall with the head, stabbing with the needle and admits to self-immolate [sic] a day before assessment with a burning spoon”. Setareh says she experienced sexual harassment on Nauru in 2014 and 2017.

In a letter this year to the ABF, Setareh wrote that “through your tax payers money you kept us here for almost 6 years now”. She accused the ABF of deliberately hiding parts of her medical records. “All the wounds I have endured for the last 6 years never would heal even [with] settlement in Australia. Cannot be a compensation for all the hardship I have gone through.”

“Many women have urinated in a bottle or bucket rather than risk the sexual advances and attacks from men by going to the toilet during the night,” Dr Barri Phatarfod, founder and president of Doctors for Refugees, said. “Many children consequently still wet the bed at night well into their teens.”

In response to a series of questions regarding the women in this story, a spokesman for the ABF refused to provide any answers and directed The Age and Sydney Morning Herald to the ABF website.

In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, 56-year-old, Iranian asylum seeker Malikeh, who self-harmed before Christmas, wrote: “I understand that the Christian calendar sees Christmas as a time of joy, love and celebration but this has nothing to do with the punishment of refugees like myself.”

She concluded her letter with an anguished question directed to the Prime Minister. “I would like to know what my continued imprisonment has to do with values and spirit of Christianity?”

Bita, Sahar, Setareh and Malikeh are still on a waiting list for a caseworker and legal help with Australian-based advocacy organisations.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

Saba Vasefi is a Sydney-based, award-winning artist, journalist, filmmaker and poet. 

Antony Loewenstein is a Jerusalem-based independent, investigative journalist and author of Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe.

no comments – be the first ↪

Australian corporate complicity globally

This week the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia released a stunning report on Australian companies behaving badly around the world.

One focus is in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, where my book and film on disaster capitalism examines Rio Tinto’s destructive mining practices, and I’m honoured to have some contributed some photos to the report.

no comments – be the first ↪

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 ↪

What does disaster capitalism really look like in the 21st century?

In the last 7+ years, I’ve been investigating and reporting on disaster capitalism around the world. This culminated in my book, Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe, and the documentary, Disaster Capitalism.

There’s a great, long essay in the US magazine Public Books about disaster capitalism in the modern age, written by US academic Tom Winterbottom, and he assesses the various ways that three writers view the issue: Naomi Klein, George Monbiot and me. Below are some extracts from the essay:

That there are many cases of disaster capitalism is a point made by journalist Antony Loewenstein in his book, Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (2015), and in the 2018 documentary Disaster Capitalism. In these comprehensive and unsettling works, he covers war (in Afghanistan), aid (in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake), and environmental exploitation (in Papua New Guinea). He also cites many other examples of exploitative economic practices—those that aim to make money for corporations or purposefully impoverish citizens—in Greece, the UK, the US, and Australia.

Early on in the book, Loewenstein makes an important terminological point: “Whether we call this disaster capitalism,” he writes, “or just a product of the unavoidable excesses and inequalities of capitalism itself, the end result is still a world ruled by unaccountable markets.” Although Loewenstein neglects to flesh this out, it is a crucial observation: what he sees in disparate locations and contexts is not necessarily produced or predicated by a disaster or extraordinary event. The crisis that Loewenstein documents pervades capitalist societies and lies in actors systematically embracing exploitative and damaging practices in the unfolding of the neoliberal story.

Be it detention centers in the US, relief aid in Haiti, military contractors in Afghanistan, economic sanctions on Greece, complicit corporate-sponsored NGOs in the developing world, or prison systems across much of the Western world, “predatory behavior” does vary “from country to country, but the strategy is the same: exaggerate a threat, man-made or natural, and let loose unaccountable private-sector contractors to exploit it.” Loewenstein frequently uses the term “disaster” seemingly interchangeably with terms like “exploitative,” “crisis,” and “predatory” as descriptors of capitalism. That he settles on no single word is not a weakness, but rather an intriguing diagnosis: capitalism in its current expression and at its worst is all of those things and more.

Once you pry open the terminology a little bit, as Loewenstein implies, one finds that the leverage of “disaster capitalism” now stretches far beyond that which Klein identified. In Loewenstein’s reckoning, there are still the more “traditional” disasters and economic shock therapy “solutions,” and perhaps it is those more obvious shocks that generate the conditions that allow for a particularly nefarious and obvious expression of largely harmful neoliberal capitalism, as is beginning to unfold in Puerto Rico.

In the background, however, a more unsettling picture also emerges, in which those exploitative machinations continue to take hold, progressively and aggressively, even without a disaster or shock. Indeed, after reading Loewenstein’s book, one is left wondering what isn’t impacted by the nefarious tendrils of “disaster” capitalism—education, the aid system, non-profit organizations, the democratic electoral system, privacy, healthcare, big tech, big data, underemployment. Nothing is safe from the imperial reach of a commodified system of capital. Disaster or not, it now seems that capitalism seeks to get into unexplored cracks and expand whether or not we like or even recognize it. A disaster often serves to foreground these ever-present traits. As such, “disaster” may no longer refer to specific shocks or changes in the economic system but rather to the system itself. “Disaster” can serve as a modifier concerning the very nature of capitalism and its development within a broad framework of neoliberalism. That is, it is inherently disastrous and in crisis, not exceptionally.

Klein, Monbiot, and Loewenstein chime with the positive possibility of resolution and change, often by citing cases in which the greedy reach of capitalism has been at least limited: the ongoing fight for Puerto Rico is testament to that. The three authors also ultimately demand—somewhat hopefully, or perhaps hopelessly—a need for modern societies “to view humans as more than just consumers.” Monbiot goes further, pushing for a “regime change,” in which the system is replaced rather than reformed.5 As such, their objective seems not to be “benevolent capitalism” or “sustainable capitalism” but rather “not capitalism.”

no comments – be the first ↪

Holding airlines to account for deporting refugees

I was happy to sign this recent statement and campaign run by the Australasian Centre for  Corporate Responsibility

The position of airlines in respect of participation in forced deportations to danger is clear.

Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights means taking measures to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts. This applies regardless of the size or structure of the business, and over and above local laws.

To discharge their responsibility, airlines should not participate in deportations where there is evidence that the fundamental human rights to an adequate legal process have been denied, as well as where there is a real risk of serious, irreparable harm to an individual.

Relevant international legal and human rights standards in relation to the deportation of asylum seekers include the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Given the inadequacy of Australian law and policy in upholding these standards, airlines should engage a heightened due diligence process in order to determine the potential for contribution to adverse human rights impacts before conducting any deportations as a provider of services to the Australian government.

Contribution to human rights abuses and failure to discharge their international obligations can do damage to a company’s reputation, undermine its social licence to operate, and pose material risks to a company’s financial interests.

Behrouz Boochani,  Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer who has been detained on Manus Island since 2013
Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, Executive Director, The Refugee Advice and Casework Service
Professor Gillian Triggs, former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission
Janet Holmes à Court
Rhyll McMaster, poet and author and great niece of founding CEO of Qantas Sir Fergus McMaster
Father Rod Bower, Archdeacon of the Central Coast
Carrillo Gantner AO, Chairman, Sidney Myer Fund
Jennifer Robinson, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers, London
Adjunct Professor George Newhouse, human rights lawyer, National Justice Project
Shen Narayanasamy, Director No Business in Abuse and GetUp Human Rights Director
Nayuka Gorrie, Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer
Mark Seymour,  rock legend
John Butler,  singer, songwriter, music producer
Margaret Pomeranz AM,  film critic, writer, producer and television personality
Judith Lucy, comedian and radio, television and film actress, author
Kate McCartney, writer, director, performer
Marieke Hardy, writer, broadcaster, television producer
Tom Zubrycki, documentary filmmaker
Holly Throsby, musician, novelist
Margaret Throsby AM, ABC broadcaster
Tony Wheeler AO, publishing entrepreneur, businessman and travel writer, co-founder of the Lonely Planet guidebook company
Michelle de Kretser, novelist
Thomas Keneally AO, Ambassador, Sydney Asylum Seeker Centre, novelist and playwright
Andrew Bovell, writer for theatre, film and television
Benjamin Law, author, broadcaster and TV screenwriter
Christos Tsiolkas, author, playwright, essayist and screen writer
Nigel Westlake, composer (Babe score), performer and conductor
Ana Kokkinos, film and television director and screenwriter
Neil Armfield AO, theatre, film, opera director
Tim Winton, writer
Yassmin Abdel-Magied, author, engineer
Linda Jaivin, author and translator
Anna Krien, journalist, essayist, fiction writer and poet
James Bradley, novelist and critic
Alison Croggon, writer and critic
Mireille Juchau, novelist
Gail Jones, novelist and Professor of Literature
Drusilla Modjeska, writer
Professor Terri-ann White FAHA, director UWA Publishing
Dhakshy Sooriyakumaran, founder YLab, Engineer, strategy Consultant
Van T Rudd, visual artist
Fiona Katauskas, cartoonist, illustrator
Mahmoud Salameh, cartoonist, visual artist
Hoda Afshar, visual artist
Alan Hunt, artist
Jiva Parthipan, artist
Andrew Bradley (Quro), musician, artist
Tim “Tigermoth” Paterson, musician, artist
Andrew Garvie (DJ Katch), musician and record label director, founder of Resin Dogs
Alex Kelly, film maker
Asher Wolf, journalist, human rights defender
Robin de Crespigny, author, filmmaker
Christopher Gordon, composer, Deputy Mayor of the City of Ryde
Archie Law, Chair, Sydney Peace Foundation
Glenn Osboldstone, Lawyers for Forests
Lizzie O’Shea, lawyer and writer

Shankari Chandran, lawyer and writer
Robert Henderson, Economics, Finance and Banking Consultant and formerly chief economist (markets) with National Australia Bank
Raj Thamotheram, founder & chair of Preventable Surprises
Pablo Berrutti, Responsible Investment professional
Simon O’Connor, Responsible Investment professional
Matt McAdam, Responsible Investment professional
Phil Vernon, Managing Director, Australian Ethical Investment
Simon Sheikh, Managing Director, Future Super
Terry Pinnell, Chair Ethical Advisers Co-op
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Michele O’Neill, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
Sam Huggard, Secretary, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
Luke Hilakari, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council
Meredith Hammat, Secretary, UnionsWA
David Smith, National Secretary, Australian Services Union
Tim Kennedy, National Secretary, National Union of Workers
Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary, United Voice
Paul Bastian, National Secretary, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union
Jeanne Rea, National President, National Tertiary Education Union
Michael Thompson, NSW State Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union
Allen Hicks, National Secretary, Electrical Trades Union of Australia
Grant Phillips, Secretary, Newcastle & Northern branch, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union
Graham Smith, Federal Secretary, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union
Mick Nairn, President, Fire Brigade Employees’ Union
Susan Hopgood, Federal Secretary, Australian Education Union
John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation
Annie Butler, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia
Michael O’Connor, National Secretary, Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union
Kate Lee, Executive Officer, Union Aid Abroad, APHEDA
Jacquie Widin, President, SEARCH Foundation
Melissa Parke, former federal member for Fremantle and Minister for International Development
Debbie Stothard, Secretary General and Coordinator, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Associate Professor Justine Nolan, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Professor Denise Bradley AC
Dennis Altman AM FASSA,  Ambassador Human Rights Law Centre, Patron, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia
Professor Brigitta Olubas, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW
Simon Holmes à Court, Senior Advisor, Climate and Energy College, Melbourne University
Dr Shelley Marshall, Senior Research Fellow, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University
Dr Julia Dehm, Lecturer, La Trobe Law School
Dr Alice de Jonge, Senior Lecturer, Monash Business School
Chris Nash, Professor of Journalism (Adjunct), School of Media, Film and Journalism, Faculty of Arts, Monash University
Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist, author and film-maker
Tessa Khan, international human rights lawyer
Rawan Arraf, human rights lawyer
Claire Palmer, barrister
Peter O’Brien, Principal, O’Brien criminal and civil solicitors
Tim Lo Surdo, Democracy in Colour
Ben Oquist, Executive Director, The Australia Institute
Tim Hollo, Executive Director, The Green Institute
Christine Milne, Global Greens Ambassador and former Leader of the Australian Greens
Sophie Black, Head of Publishing, The Wheeler Centre
Elaine Pearson, Australia Director, Human Rights Watch
Claire Mallinson, National Director, Amnesty International Australia
Madeleine Bridgett, barrister and Co-Chair Business and Human Rights Sub-Committee, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
Keren Adams, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Professor Paul Redmond AM, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, CEO, Asylum Seekers’ Resource Centre
Luke Fletcher, Executive Director, Jubilee Australia
Lyn Harrison, CEO, House of Welcome
Frances Rush, CEO, Asylum Seekers Centre Sydney
Carolina Gottardo, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
Phil Glendenning AM, Director, Edmund Rice Centre & President, Refugee Council of Australia
Paul Power, CEO, Refugee Council of Australia
Aran Mylvaganam, Tamil Refugee Council
Brendan Doyle, Secretary, Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group
Margaret Hughes Bennelong Friends of Refugees & Amnesty International Australia
Anthea Vogl, National Convener, Academics for Refugees
Jessie Taylor, President, Liberty Victoria
Dr Safdar Ahmed, Artist and Director, Refugee Art Project
Emeritus Professor Alison Mackinnon, AM, University of South Australia

no comments – be the first ↪

Not welcoming Donald Trump to Australia

Malcolm Turnbull may just have been replaced as Australian Prime Minister by Scott Morrison – a man with blood on his hands over his disgraceful treatment of refugees many years ago – but this publicly-released letter that I’ve signed still stands:

An alliance of organisations and individuals have formed the Unite Against Trump Alliance to begin coordinating a protest against US President Donald Trump when he visits Australia in November. The following statement, initiated by outgoing NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, is being circulated for sign-ons in the lead up to the protests that are being organised across the country including in Cairns, Canberra and Brisbane.

To sign on to the statement, visit the Unite Against Trump Sydney page.

***

Disgracefully, Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Australia. This is likely to occur after the APEC summit in PNG in November.

Donald Trump is a racist, misogynist, lying billionaire who is trying to drag global politics to the far right. His brand of extreme nationalism, Islamophobia, greed, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-LGBTI, anti-union and anti-environment rhetoric and policies are abhorrent to the majority of the Australian public.

The Turnbull government has aligned with Trump’s bigoted and militaristic global agenda at every opportunity. We want to see Australia distanced from Trump’s values. His values do not represent the interests of most people on the planet or the planet itself.

More than ever we need to join together in Australia and across borders to struggle for a world that respects the equal rights and wonderful diversity of humanity, protects our fragile environment and equitably shares the enormous wealth all around us.

We call on Malcolm Turnbull to rescind Trump’s invitation to Australia and for the parliament to prohibit him from speaking if his visit goes ahead.

We pledge that if Trump does visit we will meet him with mass demonstrations to show our opposition to everything his Presidency stands for.

Signed:

Lee Rhiannon — Greens Senator for NSW

David Shoebridge — NSW Greens MLC

Sydney Stop the War Coalition

Imogen Grant — President, University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council

Stephen Smyth — President CFMEU QLD Energy and Mining Division

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) NSW

Professor Raymond Evans — Griffith University

Jeff Sparrow — author and journalist

Antony Loewenstein — author and filmmaker

Stephen Jolly — Yarra Councillor and president of Victorian Socialists

Aran Mvlvaganam, Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson and Finances Sector Union organiser

Michael Thomson, NSW National Tertiary Education Union secretary

Craig McGregor, Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association secretary (VAHPA)

Latin American Social Forum (LASF)

Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor, Moreland City Council, Victoria

Victorian Socialists

Hersha Kadkol — National Ethno-Cultural Officer National Union of Students

Jasmine Duff & Kim Stern — National LGBTI Officers, National Union of Students

Zac Solomon — President UNSW Students’ Representative Council

Stuart Traill — Electricity Supply Industry Coordinator ETU (QLD and NT Branch)

Dr Peter Slezak — academic UNSW

Hanan Dover — Muslim Community Advocate

Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA)

Lucia Sorbera — Senior Lecturer and Chair of Arabic Studies Department University of Sydney Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH)

Sydney University Education Action Group (EAG)

Nick Reimer, academic University of Sydney

University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council

Mark Pace — National Union of Students president

Leonie Hendricks, Retired NSW NMA state secretary

Lisa Milner, academic Southern Cross University

Leonie Hendricks, Queensland Greens/CPSU organiser

Jenny Haines, academic UTS

Jacob Grech, Renegade Activists

Barbara McGrady, Indigenous photojournalist

David Brophy, Academic University of Sydney

Kirra Jackson, Vice President UTS Student Union

Pauline Pants-down

Tim Nelthorpe, NUW organiser

Patricia Cornelius, playwright

Michael Schembri, advocate Finance Sector Union and gay left activist

Grandmothers Against Detention

Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP)

Close The Camps Action Collective

Cathy Peters, Convenor Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine

Michael Brull, writer

Lizzie O’Shea, Social Justice Officer

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

UNSW Education Collective

Palestine Action Group, Sydney (PAG)

one comment ↪

NPR covers the growing trend of offshoring refugees in remote locations

The 21st century sees many nations looking for ways to punish, isolate and deter refugees (while often contributing to the reasons these people are fleeing in the first place through wars and occupations).

I recently published a major investigation in US magazine The Nation on how Australia is inspiring the EU and others over its draconian refugee policies.

NPR in the US has featured this reporting in a story written by Isabella Alexander:

Key parts of Europe’s new plans have a controversial precedent — in Australia.

Antony Loewenstein, a reporter who has spent the past several years investigating Europe’s move toward externalized border controls, revealed in June that officials from individual European countries and the EU had secretly met with Australian officials about their refugee policies.

As part of a complex system established by the Australian government in 2001, migrants and refugees who were imprisoned in privatized detention centers on the Australian mainland were increasingly sent to small Pacific islands that border the country — Manus in Papua New Guinea and the nation of Nauru.

Although access to these centers has been tightly controlled, reactions from the international community have grown louder as news from the inside slowly trickles out — stories of routine abuse, rape and death from beatings or suicide. Australia, which campaigned for three years to gain a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council, received a scathing report from the council during its first week in session in 2017. In a 20-page exposé, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, detailed a system of abuse designed to punish and use migrants as an example to deter future ones.

“It is not because [the refugees] are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers we [have] to deprive them of the product,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a phone call with President Trump in 2017, according to a transcript in The Washington Post. The product he was referring to is their basic right to seek asylum.

According to Loewenstein’s reporting, European officials were looking to adopt a similar practice.

If Australia, a democratic nation signatory to international human rights conventions, has successfully outsourced its processing centers with no concrete outside intervention, what is to stop Europe, which receives significantly more migrants, from doing so?

European leaders have an opportunity to learn from Australia’s human rights failings and avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of establishing similar processing centers outside of the bloc in North Africa.

Read the whole piece.

no comments – be the first ↪

US network The Real News interview on UAE using mercenaries in Yemen

My interview on US network The Real News about the United Arab Emirates using private, military contractors in the horrific war in Yemen and the involvement of Australia and the US:

no comments – be the first ↪

The importance of strong encryption

Today NGO Digital Rights Watch launched an important campaign that I was asked to support. Very happy to:

Today, a global coalition led by civil society and technology experts sent a letter asking the government of Australia to abandon plans to introduce legislation that would undermine strong encryption. The letter calls on government officials to become proponents of digital security and work collaboratively to help law enforcement adapt to the digital era.

In July 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference to announce that the government was drafting legislation that would compel device manufacturers to assist law enforcement in accessing encrypted information. In May of this year, Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor restated the government’s priority to introduce legislation and traveled to the United States to speak with companies based there.

Today’s letter (download here) signed by 76 organisations, companies, and individuals, asks leaders in the government “not to pursue legislation that would undermine tools, policies, and technologies critical to protecting individual rights, safeguarding the economy, and providing security both in Australia and around the world.”

“This is a really important issue for anyone who uses the internet to shop, bank or communicate – so basically everyone. Strong encryption is essential to the modern Australian economy, and it would be a mistake to deliberately weaken it,” said Tim Singleton Norton, chair of Digital Rights Watch.

no comments – be the first ↪