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Power Dynamics War Crimes

Free Speech and Hate Speech

False and ridiculous charges are no real problem. It is the unconscionable critics who reveal unwanted truths from whom society must be protected" Noam Chomsky in Deterring Democracy

A False Sense of Self-Righteousness

Intellectuals in the public eye remind us how we should thank our lucky stars for our democratic system with freedom of speech and press. Not only should we cherish this relative freedom, but we should ensure our high standards are met elsewhere through economic or military intervention.

All things considered our model of democracy is largely a farce reduced to occasional opinion polls and popularity contests, while our wonderfully free media is in the hands of a corporate and state bureaucracy. Without advertising revenues or state subsidies, independent outlets do not stand a chance. Nonetheless some journalists committed to the truth and genuine debate have allowed some dissident views to surface through excellent documentaries, reporting and live discussions. When the My Lai massacre appeared on American TV screens, the Vietnam War soon turned into a public relations disaster. This did not stop General Wesley Clark from defending the US Army's record or from directing air strikes over the Balkans 30 years later. However, most off-message views have been neatly confined within a range of legitimate dissent.

Increasingly news reports appeal to the wishful thinking professional classes and armchair activists, horrified by alleged abuses of human rights attributable to inhumane foreign leaders or lower class louts.

Three main objections are raised against free speech:

  1. False or embarrassing allegations may slander otherwise defenceless individuals and stir irrational public contempt.
  2. Some views, especially when expressed in overt language, may offend certain sections of the community.
  3. Some views may challenge the ideological supremacy of the ruling class and incite rebellion.

The first objection may seem tenable at first as the recipients of any media hate campaign know all too well. We might wonder how the press, controlled by corporate interests, chooses which celebs, politicians or foreign leaders to demonise. However, we need not limit freedom of speech to protect defenceless individuals against unjust attacks, merely allow the right of reply and fairer libel laws accessible to all irrespective of financial means, so that newspapers would be forced to compensate the victims of deliberate misinformation. In a civilised society media outlets would stick to the facts that concern us. If we had a diverse media interested in genuine problems affecting millions of ordinary people, we would not be obsessed with the private lives of public figures, but rather debate how the actions of the powerful affect us.

The second objection is very much in vogue and usually applies to remarks or views deemed racist, otherwise xenophobic, sexist or somehow prejudicial to the interests of a given group. To some the current obsession with political correctness may seem a sign of progress. Personally I have never liked remarks and opinions disrespectful of members of other ethnic groups, especially deprived immigrant communities. But a closer look at the facts reveals a different picture as the gap between rich and poor has demonstrably never been greater. Indeed political correctness masks the real intents of politicians, while the focus of media attention is on the choice of words rather than on the repercussions of policies. Moreover, who decides what is racist, xenophobic, sexist or, to use a newly coined term, homophobic? For instance a British anti-nuclear protester was recently charged with incitement to racial hatred for dragging a US flag on the ground during a demonstration against the deployment of the multi-billion dollar Star Wars project (as originally reported in the Independent).

Foreign Office spokespeople dress their briefings up in diplomatic Newspeak. Someone who plants a bomb outside a gay pub killing two people is a dangerous mentally deranged neo-Nazi admirer of both Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin, while the UK government's feeble excuses for violence on a much greater scale over the Balkans and Iraq may only be criticised tactically and former UK support for Iraq is a mere strategic mistake. Yet were we to adopt the lynch mob tactics of the press, we'd brand Tony Blair a rabid racist and send him to the European Court of Human Rights. As Mr Blair's rhetoric is strongly against nominal racism and new concepts such as ethnic cleansing (formerly known as colonisation and mass deportation), we have internalised the notion that New Labour seeks to uphold the human rights of all. The very same government approved export credits for the sale of arms to Indonesia and Turkey, responsible for human rights abuses on a massive scale, and feels it has the moral authority to smear all opponents of aerial bombardments over Iraq and the Balkans as apologists for totalitarian regimes.

On a purely rational level openly xenophobic speech need only worry us if it can attract widespread public support. First we may ask why ordinary people are susceptible to xenophobic propaganda, but it seems elementary that those with a wider reach can more easily sway public opinion, e.g. if a man in a pub tells his mate a horror story about a gypsy who mugged his mother, only his mate knows and can judge for himself whether the story is true or representative of Roma as a whole. However, were widespread media outlets to run stories about gypsies mugging women, it could reinforce deep-seated prejudices and incite ethnic hatred. By contrast, were such propaganda targeted at communities who had lived together peacefully and intermarried for generations, the media might face serious opposition. Xenophobia is not based so much on ignorance as on preconceptions. Over the last century British propaganda has evolved from blatant nationalism, to subtle moral superiority. A hundred years ago our rulers colonised 1/4 of the world's land to civilise inferior cultures and empower the empire, we had a God-given right to enslave other peoples in all but name and to destabilise their governments.

Today the UK intervenes to support the international community's desire to teach a lesson to foreign leaders accused of heinous crimes against humanity and enforce business-friendly democracy. In contrast with the imperial heyday the UK is a faithful lieutenant of a transnational Anglo-American Empire and public relations dictate that imperialist wars be sold on humanitarian grounds.

In the 1990s the media tried to persuade the public that Serbs are bloodthirsty ethnic cleansers. People's experiences in the British Isles could hardly confirm such prejudices as the British actually sided with Serbia against Albania in WW1. As the Croatian Usta�e collaborated with the Nazis, official British propaganda had at least until 1948 been favourable to the Yugoslav cause. In 1916 the Daily Telegraph reported gas vans were deployed in Kosovo to murder Serbs. Even as the conflict broke out after Tito's death, many eminent voices on the BBC spoke of the benefits of a multiethnic federation. Had only politicians associated with the nationalist right on TV ranted about subhuman Serbs, some liberal commentators might might have accused them of racism. Instead morally superior journalists and so-called human rights campaigners exposed the alleged Nazi tendencies of a regime that had bedevilled large sections of the Serb population. Mainstream media reports portrayed Serbs as aggressors and ethnic cleansers, a term that gained currency in the Yugoslav conflict, while Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanian Kosovars were considered victims. The facts paint a very different picture. Good and bad guys were on all sides and the underlying causes of the rekindling of the old ethnic disputes were economic.

If we were momentarily to accept the genetic determinist explanation for ethnic hatred, we could reach some illogical conclusions. Propaganda over the last century has portrayed the Germans first as expansionist huns, although the British had beaten them to it by 200 hundred years or so, and then as willing executioners in the greatest insanity that has ever beset mankind. But who are the English as opposed to the native Celtic and Pictish peoples of the British Isles? Germans, of course. Who are the upper middle class US citizens entrusted with the envious role of world cop? The core of the US's ruling class stems from recent immigrants from the British Isles and mainland Europe. So surely any hereditary markers for xenophobia in Germans are just as likely to surface in their close cousins across the North Sea and Atlantic. The same nonsense is applied to the bloody civil wars between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi.

All forms of xenophobia are clearly not equal. Even compared with the worst verifiable accusations held against Serbs, Israel has been guilty of much more heinous atrocities against Palestinians both in the occupied territories and Southern Lebanon. The only two possible excuses presented are Arab terrorism threatening Israel security and the Shoah. After displacing 780,000 Palestinians in 1948 and forcing 1.5 million Palestinians to crowd into the least fertile patches of land, one need not be surprised at Arab retaliation. Israel is in all but name a ruthless Apartheid state complete with homelands and rigorously enforced segregation of undesirable Palestinians. As for the second excuse, the Serbs were also victims both of Usta�e shootings and maltreatment in concentration camps during the Second World War. Unlike the Israelis, the Yugoslavs attempted to form a federation and bury their differences for nearly 40 years. Journalists may fabricate lies about alleged Serb atrocities without being dubbed xenophobes, but dare not speak out against Zionism for fear of being branded anti-Semites.

The truth is many people regulate their own hatred within the confines of acceptable contempt. Mainstream propaganda encourages us to reserve a healthy dose of hatred for official enemies and demonised groups such as Serb ethnic cleansers, Arab fundamentalists, Hutu extremists, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, homophobes, paedophiles, muggers and nail bombers. Indeed the media often lumps these groups together indiscriminately, e.g. Serbs have been accused of raping Muslim women in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, reinforcing the public perception that Serbs and rapists are of the same ilk. A closer analysis shows that since NATO moved in to Bosnia and Kosovo the sex industry has blossomed supplying NATO personnel and NGO workers with mainly Slavic women.

In May 2000 a group of German teenagers on a school holiday walked along a Cornwall beach. A group of local teenagers and adults chanted "Nazis, Nazis, We won the War" and started throwing stones. If Nazi means someone who condemns others based on their ethnicity or religion, then we might wonder who the real Nazis were in this case.

Another topical case is Edinburgh psychology lecturer Chris Brand who published a book, The G Factor, about the relative intelligence of different racial groups, notably concluding that Black Africans have on average scored lower in IQ tests. While Professor Brand's evidence may seem compelling to many willing believers, he fails to empirically link general intelligence with IQ tests and ignores the Flynn effect, showing how the social environment can raise IQ levels by 15 points per generation, the vast divergence of IQ scores among members of the same racial groups and the reappraisal of the genetic significance of aesthetic racial features. Moreover, IQ tests tend to be culturally biased and one can be trained to achieve higher scores. Self-styled anti-racists rallied behind the Anti-Nazi League's call to ban the book. They succeeded as publisher John Wiley withdrew it. However, The g Factor merely articulated in pseudo-scientific terms what millions had long privately suspected. Banning the book not only affords it more credibility, but denies others the opportunity of challenging its arguments one by one. Indeed Chris Brand's thesis differs little from Charles Darwin's musings on the genetic superiority of the white race, so why not ban his epic work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection? Some religious fundamentalists certainly would ban it citing racism as an excuse for the imposition of Biblical creationism, however modern criticisms of Darwinism based on a more Lamarckian symbiotic evolution may counter Darwin's racist assumptions more convincingly.

So should we ban potentially xenophobic speech? My answer is clearly no, because ethnic prejudice stems not from overt or offensive language, but from generations of subtle propaganda and a sense of cultural and moral superiority.

Case Study: The Suppression of Historical Revisionism

One cannot fail to notice the news media's growing obsession with the Nazi holocaust. Atrocities in Nazi concentration camps and organised shootings on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1944 serve to justify new wars against rogue leaders who have fallen out of favour with the United States, while the purported uniqueness of these events affords the state of Israel special treatment and impunity for its crimes against Palestinians deported from Israel to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights.

Not only were most Germans unaware of the scale of the Shoah, but all the other main powers involved in the Second World War practised and fomented ethnic discrimination in one form or another. At stake are clearly three issues:

  1. Historical exactitude.
  2. Our collective memory of the victims of all horrors of war, exploitation and repression.
  3. The instrumentalisation of past events for which ordinary folk bear no responsibility and the deliberate falsification of the historical record to advance a given geopolitical agenda.

All three issues cry out for free speech and fearless open debate, without which only powerful media outlets and authoritarians can impose their warped view of history.

Since the late 1960s, a flurry of movies, documentaries and books have convinced the European and North American public mind that the Nazi holocaust represents not only a monocausal and systematically planned singularity, but an absolute evil against which all other atrocities should be measured. We may talk of a nuclear holocaust, which befits the core meaning of death by fire, but the capitalised Holocaust always signifies the Nazi judaeocide, more aptly called Shoah after the Hebrew word for disaster. The 1917-18 Armenian genocide that erupted out of a fierce civil war as the Ottoman empire collapsed, US napalming of Vietnamese villages, Allied saturation bombing of central European cities etc. do not qualify for this unique term. The enslavement of Africans with countless millions of unnatural deaths is dismissed as the acts of primitive European colonialists, such as the Portuguese (1), rather than a systematic policy of the greatest empire before the advent of US hegemony.

In NewSpeak historical revisionism means denial, the minimisation of the unparalleled crimes of a past dictator and his willing executioners with the implicit intent of restoring the credibility of Nazism. Of course, if we believe all we read in the mainstream press, such crimes may not be so unparalleled after all. Standard accounts of the 1994 Rwandan bloodbath show the Tutsis as victims and the Hutus as subhuman perpetrators. Likewise no exaggeration seems too great to describe the atrocities attributable to Serbs in the Yugoslav civil war.

On paper historical revisionism is a method to ascertain historical truth through critical examination of factual evidence. This is standard practice in any scientific inquiry. Only by allowing variant and contradictory theses to stand the test of empirical scrutiny can we begin to separate fact from fiction. Preconceived conclusions should be alien to serious historical research and simply replacing one biased account with its antithesis defeats the purpose, which is to correct partisanship. The recent book "Day of Deceit : The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor" by Robert B. Stinnett, claiming President Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the events, is revisionist, but should be analysed on its merits. Likewise it may be hard to deny the World Trade Center attacks occurred or many thousands died, but who did it?, who funded and manipulated the suicide bombers, were there secondary explosions in the Twin Towers? Did senior US and Israeli intelligence personnel know about the attacks beforehand? These too are revisionist questions because they challenge orthodoxy.

The genuine victims of state-perpetrated violence need not fear open debate if we agree that murder, especially systematic murder, is inherently evil. Regrettably historical revisionism is increasingly associated with one issue, the Shoah, but may be applied to the orthodox accounts of any historical event and allow antithetical conclusions.

Numerous orthodox accounts, i.e. reports popularised by the mainstream media, have frequently been proven wrong or fundamentally flawed under closer examination. Claims made about the war over Kosovo are just some of the most recent examples in a long string of war propaganda. Phillip Knightley's updated and revised "The First Casualty of War" is a must read for anyone interested in the veracity of the mainstream media. Do we really believe the Romans conquered most of Western and Southern Europe as well as much of North Africa and the Middle East without slaughtering hundreds of thousands, and subjugating millions in slavery and serfdom? However, much of modern history about the era has been sanitised by Roman accounts of barbaric Germanic, Celtic and Berber tribes.

One key factor in the historiography of any event is Cui bono? Should empirical research ever conclusively refute key tenets of the orthodox version of the mid 20th century Jewish genocide, it may be perfectly legitimate to ask who benefits from the inflated accounts of systematic slaying by industrial means attributable to the Nazis, and consequently to the Germans who let them rule? In this hypothesis a quick answer may be Expansionist Zionism, interpreted as unconditional supporters of an all Jewish State in Israel, the Western Allies and the former Soviet Union, because the unique evil of the Nazis overshadows any crimes attributable to the victors of WW2. While Soviet interpretations emphasised Slav victims (e.g. elevated deaths in Auschwitz to 4 million to include 3 million Slavs), the US emerged from WW2 as the world's main economic power, much richer than the Soviet Union ravaged by the wanton slaughter of WW2, and had the task of resuscitating Western European capitalism within its post-war world order. It faced a stark choice between the Morgenthau plan to convert Germany to an agrarian society and the need to build a strong powerhouse economy fully integrated with the rest of Western Europe and North America. After 3 years of partial deinstrialisation between 1945 and 1948 triggering a mass famine with as many as two million deaths, the Marshal plan rebuilt Germany in America's image and, apart from a few show trials and kangaroo courts, its ruling class remained intact. Ironically the US quite happily funded social democratic governments eager to build a prosperous Europe with some degree of social cohesion via the welfare state. The alternative would have been revolution and civil war. What's more many former Nazi collaborators switched overnight to the Americans. As early as 1943 the CIA hired former SS officers such as Reinhold Gehlen with in-depth knowledge of Eastern Europe to form Pol Gehlen, which later became the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) the German sister organisation of the CIA. This explains at least in part why the Shoah did not acquire its current status until the 1967 six-day war at the same time as the US began to rely heavily on Middle East oil reserves as its own began to dry up. However, there might be some more sinister reasons. Would West Germans, whose constitution theoretically protects freedom of expression, have willingly believed claims that unbeknown to them the Nazis had murdered millions in gas chambers? Thousands had worked and many Germans had actually been interned in Nazi concentration camps, but only a select few had testified to mass gas chambers at the Nuremberg trials. In East Germany they had no choice, Stalinism replaced National Socialism overnight and anti-nazism soon became a state religion.

When German Green Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, attempted in 1999 to persuade his party (who used to oppose NATO and nuclear weapons and favour peaceful solutions to ethnic disputes) of the necessity for air strikes to forestall a genocide, he re-evoked the Shoah in the full knowledge that nobody could dispute any events associated with it or even dare to suggest bombing might make such events more and not less likely. He narrowly won the vote claiming Operation Horseshoe was a masterplan for the final solution of the Albanian problem. A subsequent German report showed the operation was a hoax and no plan existed for the systematic deportation of 90% of Kosovo's population. However, the analogy ends there. The CIA and German BND merely formed a temporary alliance with the KLA. The Albanian mafia may control much of the heroin trade passing through Southeastern Europe, but their influence and strategic importance cannot be compared to that of Israel.

Let us be in no doubt, those who publicly dispute the scale and systematicity of the Shoah have been subjected to intense vilification and associated with the xenophobic right. Indisputably some on the Judaeophobic right sympathise with and manipulate the findings of revisionist research. However, most serious holocaust revisionists are fierce critics of authoritarianism. While many expose and criticise the disproportionate Jewish influence in the mass media and movie business as well as in international finance and American politics, only a minority believe in an international Jewish conspiracy against Gentiles or Goyim as foretold in the rather outlandish, hateful and largely discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Moreover, the East German Stasi and Israeli Mossad have actually set up and manipulated so-called Neo-Nazi grouplets. Even Combat 18 in the UK, allegedly formed as a breakaway from the BNP, was a front for MI5's special operations. The so-called left tends to ignore two essential questions. Should we rely on state-sanctioned truth?

Anti-imperialists tend to dismiss revisionist accounts of Nazi war crimes as wild fantasies of neo-fascists, intent on rehabilitating the honour of the short-lived Third Reich. One valid criticism that may be lodged against some holocaust revisionists is a tendency to make far-fetched claims against Stalinism, claiming that the 6 million figure may be an exaggeration in connection with the Nazi-perpetrated Shoah, but Stalin was responsible for as many as 60 million deaths, figures taken straight from 1950's McCarthyite propaganda. While the former Soviet Union can be indicted with atrocities on a massive scale and economic mismanagement certainly led to millions of deaths, the same could be said of India and Pakistan. Coincidentally many former hardline sympathisers of the former USSR minimise the crimes attributed to the NKVD (later KGB) and Bolshevik Party apparatchiks under Stalin's command, denying Stalin bore any responsibility for the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, and bewail the demonisation campaign against him by the capitalist press and liberal left.

The British Anti-Nazi League started by fighting the racism of the National Front in the late 1970s, but failed to attack head-on the politicians likely to influence the immigration and social policies that most affect ethnic minorities. The National Front benefited from working class disillusionment in the then Labour government, but never stood any realistic chance of gaining a single seat in Parliament. The NF were basically politically incorrect Tories who appealed to the gut instincts of many workers raised on rule Britannia propaganda. No party that challenged the necessity for British participation in the Second World War could ever win without the thorough re-education of the masses, but could urge a halt to immigration from poor countries and even repatriation. After massive Rock Against Racism concerts and Anti-Nazi League demos in 1978 (being an Anti-Nazi in Britain is like declaring one's opposition to Attila the Hun in Rome), what did we get? The 1979 Tory landslide, record unemployment with the demise of unprofitable inefficient manufacturing, tough talk on immigration, followed only two and half years later by a bout of jingoism over the Argentinian invasion of the British Falkland Islands, all dressed up in anti-fascist rhetoric. But what did the ANL really oppose? Free speech on Nazi historiography, the very notion that National Socialist régime had not landed on Earth from Mars, but was entirely comparable to numerous governmental systems world-wide. The main source of anti-fascist information is inevitably Searchlight run by MI5 collaborator and former CPGB member Gerry Gable, whose anti-Nazi antics include planting former British National Party members in anarchist groups and animal liberation fronts, so the press can later smear them with rightwing extremism. For instance in March 1993 the ANL staged a 300 strong demo against the desecration of graves at the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation's Florence Road Cemetery, although the Jewish Chronicle later reported no tombstones had been daubed with swastikas and no gardener was employed to remove such grafitti. For alternative views about MI5 involvement in both extreme right and self-styled anti-fascist groups, visit Lobster Magazine or Paul Cox's Mere Pseud site with insider info from both sides.

French anthropologist and Indochina expert Serge Thion, American writer Bradley Smith of the Campaign for Open Debate On the Holocaust hardly conform to our perception of neo-Nazi thugs, but do not buy the orthodox account and expose Holocaust swindlers and false witnesses. Even English historian David Irving, who has long been target of a concerted press smear campaign but airs his strong anti-immigrant views freely on his Web site, has written at length on verifiable Nazi crimes. Indeed the 1977 edition of Apocalypse 1945, The Destruction of Dresden was not only available in public libraries, but on recommended reading lists compiled by my anti-imperialist History teacher, a bit of balance for William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich . Also recommended was AJP Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War, which suggests the rather heretical conclusion that a bellicose elite within the Anglo-American establishment unleashed the gates of hell by provoking Nazi Germany. In the mid 1990s Raeto West analysed variant revisionist theories and the holocaust promotion industry as an integral part of his site about humanism, bad science and common myths.(NB 27/12/2009: Raeto West's site went offline over 8 years ago and has since joined the white-supremacist BNP, a rather sad end for a disciple of Bertrand Russell.) Another sceptical analysis of interest is New Zealand historian's Joel S. A. Hayward's thesis "An Historical Enquiry into the Development and Significance of Holocaust Revisionism", which the author had to withdraw under enormous pressure. Indeed the latter has since converted to Islam and been appointed Director of the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies.

However, a thorough revision of the received wisdom on the Second World War would go much further. Some revisionist historians fall into the trap of viewing German National Socialism and Anglo-American corporatism as competing ideologies. So within the myth of the uniqueness of Nazi crimes lies the myth of British and American appeasement of Hitler's Germany. Voluminous evidence suggests that British, American and Dutch big business did not appease Nazi Germany at all, but positively encouraged it, bankrolling the German National Socialist Workers Party and continuing production in their subsidiaries right through WW2. The collaboration of many leading Zionists such as Ben Gurion with the Nazi régime and Hermann Göring's professed sympathies with the cause of the Jewish homeland cannot go unnoticed. Neither can we ignore the blatant fact that the Second World War saw the invasion and humiliation of France, the end of the bankrupt British Empire controlled centrally from London, massive destruction, murder and famine in much of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the ultimate defeat and destruction of the US's two main technological rivals, Germany and Japan. Indeed we may even consider if the division of Germany and the erection of the Iron Curtain served the long-term interests of the United States. West Germany bounded by hostile states to the east and integrated in an economic union with its other European neighbours, a military Alliance with the US and dependent on US aid and inward investment, would soon prove a loyal partner and a powerhouse of the post-war boom. The US bailed out Western Europe only after overseeing its destruction.

It may have rationally been in the geopolitical interests of the German government in 1938 to recapture territories lost in the 1918 Treaty of Versailles and to seek the economic domination of Eastern Europe as well as the collaboration of the Low Countries and accommodation with France, whose imperial interests conflicted with the US and British Empires. All-out war with the Soviet Union and Great Britain, which would inevitably draw the US into the fray, would have been highly inadvisable. Indeed in August 1940 Germany sought peace with Churchill's Britain on this basis. When the United States entered the war in December 1941 and especially after the fall of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in February 1943, the Third Reich was doomed. As the Allies landed in Southern Italy in August of the same year, the defeat of the Axis powers was a foregone conclusion. Yet the worst crimes against humanity attributed to the Nazi regime reached their gernocidal climax between mid 1942 and late 1944, while Hitler's overstretched armed forces were battling to defend strategic positions on all fronts. By January 1945 all concentration camps in modern Poland, responsible for the lion share of systematic industrial killing, had been liberated. Would the United States be so dominant today if a united and peaceful Europe counterbalanced its hegemony?

We may also debate whether Nazism, Fascism or Francoism were unique or merely localised means of ensuring the supremacy of corporate and state power. It may seem ironic that many militant anti-Fascists favour the suppression of free speech and restriction of democratic rights to stop the re-emergence of alleged fascists. However, who defines fascism? Should we not talk instead of authoritarianism? Not only did many Nazi collaborators adapt very quickly to the New World Order under US hegemony, but many population control techniques pioneered under the Nazi régime were adopted and remodelled by big business, especially in the advertising and public relations industries. Joseph Goebbels based his WW2 information campaign on British WW1 propaganda. According to Goebbels, Germany didn't invade the Sudetenland, it liberated ethnic Germans persecuted by bloodthirsty Slavic nationalists and it didn't invade the Soviet Union, but liberated Ukrainians from Bolshevik tyranny. By the same token we could claim, Britain didn't conquer and exploit the Indian Subcontinent and half of Africa, but spread civilisation and democracy.

Until Norman Finkelstein, son of survivors of the Treblinka and Majdenek concentration camps, wrote A Nation on Trial and The Holocaust Industry, few analysts considered one truism: The more the mainstream media and entertainment industry push the orthodox version of the Nazi holocaust, the more a radical fringe will disbelieve any of their claims and harbour a growing sense of Judaeophobia. Israel's oppression of Palestinians makes an Anti-Jewish backlash almost inevitable. The purported uniqueness of Jewish suffering explains the hackneyed phrase "racism and Anti-Semitism". Surely, anti-Semitism should apply to prejudice against all Semites and Israel would thus be labelled an anti-Semitic régime. But why not specify Serbophobia, Germanophobia, Russophobia etc.? Why is prejudice against Jews different?

It comes as some comfort that a handful of Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Israel Shahak have attempted to answer this thorny question. Judeaophobia stems not from irrational beliefs in the racial inferiority or superiority of Jews, but rather from resentment against Jewish power and their in-group loyalty. Would a German critic of Nazi abuse of power be called a self-hating German? But Jewish critics of Zionism are frequently denounced as self-hating Jews. Would it be too radical to describe Nazism as German Zionism?

It thus follows that rational debate protects the true victims and exposes hoaxers separating fact from fiction, while exaggerated claims trigger exaggerated counter-claims, hence the Holocaust lobby's insistence that there are no numbers between 0 and six million. Challenging the capitalised Holocaust â„¢ is tantamount to heresy. Instead some of the wilder claims will be inconspicuously dropped, while revisionist historians continue to be ritually condemned. At stake are not the genuine victims of Nazi terror, but the credibility of war propaganda.

Twenty five years after the Vietnam War the chief architects of US atrocities such My-Lai denier Wesley Clark and Iraqi Highway Massacre Denier General Barry McCaffrey (100,000 - 250,000 dead) are not only walking free, but are advising the current US régime on its new military endeavours.

The solution to this dilemma is simple: free speech and fearless open debate. Only then will we know who is lying. I for one will reserve my utter condemnation both for all perpetrators of verifiable atrocities and for all those who manipulate war propaganda for their own purposes. You have lost the argument from the outset, if you refuse to debate an issue, whether it is the big bang theory, global warming, the AIDS=HIV hypothesis or the veracity of alleged atrocities.

Readers are free to make their own minds up. Most orthodox Nazi Holocaust and anti-revisionist information can be accessed from the Nizkor site, but if you're in any doubt take the time to read what dissidents say on the matter.

Why the Shoah Revisionists are Wrong

David Irving once claimed that it's hard to prove a negative, but the same controversial historian has freely admitted voluminous hard evidence of Nazi crimes. The fact that many European governments are actively pursuing and jailing prominent holocaust deniers should ring alarm bells. One may reasonably wonder who's next on the verboten list. 9/11 revisionists, Balkan war revisionists, Saddam Hussein sympathisers, opponents of US, UK and Israeli military operations in the Middle East? So are holocaust revisionists just an easy target or do they actually have a point? With the media beating the drums of war in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it is essential for us to maintain the freedom to challenge the extreme bias and sometimes pure fabrications of our main media outlets. However, by focusing narrowly on the scale of crimes committed by an authoritarian regime over half a century ago, holocaust revisionists risk serving as useful idiots ready to perish in jail purportedly to save the honour of the German people or combat Zionism in the name of Palestine. Were they to focus instead on disinformation about recent events, we might stand a better chance of safeguarding freedom of inquiry in order to guard against the very totalitarian bellicosity that has traditionally presaged mass murder.

The Real Deniers

Wesley Clark General Wesley Clark denied US culpability for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. 30 years later he defended NATO air strikes over the Balkans Lord George Robertson Lord George Robertson denied the widely documented after-effects and deliberate use of depleted uranium both in Iraq and the Balkans. Currently NATO's Secretary General. He also once referred to Serbs as Siberians.
Henry Kissinger Henry Kissinger denied his role in the Vietnam War, 1968-72 bombing of Cambodia, Pinochet's Chilean coup d'état, the 1975-79 massacre in East Timor among other crimes Ariel Sharon Ariel Sharon denied Israeli guilt for the Sabra and Shatila massacre although at the time he was only 200 metres away from the scene. Currently Israeli Prime Minister responsible for human rights in the West Bank and Gaza

If denial of verifiable crimes against humanity is a problem, it should concern us most when the mainstream media denies or downplays atrocities, while dissidents upholding the veracity of such events, are silenced, sidelined or ridiculed. Challenges to official claims should always act as a stimulus for empirical research.

The British Foreign Office has a long history of denial, from its scorched earth policy and concentration camps in the Boer War to the Bengali Famine, bombing of Kenyan Mau Mau freedom fighters, arming of Indonesia while it presided over the slaughter and starvation of as many as 200,000 East Timorese between 1975 and 1979, its support for Turkey and Israel, the media's almost total silence over the massacre of 250,000 retreating Iraqi troops and guest workers fleeing Kuwait after the US and other Allied forces reclaimed the territory for the Kuwaiti royal family and oil multinationals. It took a book by revisionist historian David Irving for the Allies to admit (and subsequently downplay) the scale of the wanton slaughter of civilians during airstrikes over Dresden, while other equally ferocious bombing missions over Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Pforzheim are mere historical footnotes. The post-war famine with as many as 2 million deaths in occupied Germany on top of tens of thousands of German fatalities in Allied and Soviet post-war rehabilitation camps are routinely dismissed as regrettable legacies of Nazism.

When a major newspaper claims 250,000 died in the Vietnam War, how many readers write to complain that the figure excludes Vietnamese victims? Similarly figures for Vietnamese fatalities may vary from 1 million to 3 million. Should we not accuse those who insist on the lower figure of being deniers eager to resume napalming over North Vietnam? In his epic Manufacturing Consent Noam Chomsky distinguishes worthy from unworthy victims. Victims of Pol Pot's massacre between 1975 and 1979 are worthy victims because the US benefited from anti-Communist propaganda that could overshadow its own crimes in the region (US bombing of Cambodia between 1968 and 1975 led to 500,000 to a million deaths), while victims of the East Timor tragedy are unworthy because the US was arming their oppressors. However, subsequent US support for the Khmer Rouge and sanctions against Cambodia after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion, leading to more starvation, make it hard to give reliable statistics for deaths attributable to Pol Pot's government when the US did not back it. The death toll varies from 250,000 to 2.5 million, though most starved. Likewise official anti-Saddam propaganda now includes the Iraqi airforce's 1988 aerial gassing of 5000 Kurds. However, they forget to mention that at the time the Iraqi régime was armed by the US and its allies and deployed US-made chemical weapons. Similar attacks against Kurds by the Turkish armed forces have gone unpunished.

Another topical atrocity was the 1994 Rwandan civil war. The Western media unanimously reported marauding Hutus killing their Tutsi cousins with machetes. In one respect this is much a more serious allegation than those levelled against Germans during WW2. In 1945 most ordinary Germans knew little of events either in concentration camps or on the Eastern Front. Indeed much of what they did know they had learned through German-language Allied broadcasts, rumours and post-war propaganda. Whether hundreds of thousands perished in mass gas chambers or not, most ordinary Germans did not rampage the streets wielding machetes against Jewish neighbours (The total death toll of Kristalnacht was around 90). Lamentably an awful lot of dead bodies laid strewn all over Rwanda by the time Western reporters could return and formerly exiled Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers had recaptured the capital Kigali. Based on verifiable evidence it is much harder to refute the Rwandan massacre than mass gas chambers in Nazi-occupied Poland. However, many thoughtful observers have missed two critical and related factors: economics and environment. What was billed as a systematic genocide was in fact a food riot that quickly turned into a collective frenzy of internecine slaughter.

Journalists and foreign Africanists are unanimous that the West failed to take pre-emptive action against the Rwandan genocide, but too many assume such action need be military. Unconditional economic aid to ensure Rwanda could be self-sufficient in essential foods, writing off the country's debt, the provision of vital health and transport infrastructure etc. would have done much more to help Rwandans overcome their past internecine conflicts than any so-called peace-keeping mission. Also see Michel Chossudovsky's article on the IMF and Rwandan Holocaust

Sanitised Genocides and Ethnic Cleansing

Genocide means the extermination of a people with a distinct cultural heritage either by ruthless colonial expansion or by systematic slaughter. Whether a given massacre qualifies for this term depends largely on its scale and ethnic specificity. By contrast the newly coined term ethnic cleansing means systematic deportation or forced cultural assimilation. Ethnicity begs definition, but usually implies a deep-rooted cultural identity passed through successive generations of a close-knit community. Historically ethnic groups acquire uniform physiognomic traits through many generations of interbreeding. Language, religion, diet, dress code, sexual morality and other customs are cultural characteristics linked to one's ethnic identity. Absolute genocides are thankfully relatively rare events, although the rapid depopulation that followed European colonisation of the Americas, Africa and Australasia succeeded in eradicating indigenous civilisation and annihilating vast swathes of their peoples through war, disease and starvation. At the time of the great European conquests very little prime agricultural land was virgin territory. Who would believe native Australians only inhabited the outback before Dutch and predominantly British colonisation? The Boer War saw the almost complete extermination of the Khoi-Khoi (aka Hottentot) people of the Northern Cape as a result of the British scorched earth policy. Even the world's first war sold on humanitarian grounds, the 1898-99 Spanish-American WAR over the Philippines ended in a brutal massacre.

Most countries in the New World were founded on genocidal colonisation followed by systematic ethnic cleansing. In the first fifteen years of Belgian colonial rule of the Congo under King Leopold the rubber trade's ruthless exploitation of land and inhabitants alike caused the country's population to fall from around 20 million to just 9 million, yet another tragic tale erased from mainstream history books.

The Hidden Democide

Sadly but patently, abject poverty, malnutrition, child labour, unreported internecine and gang warfare are rife. Unedited video footage of armed gangs severing the limbs of a nine-year old boy because he fought for a rival gang intent on control of diamonds is considered unfit for public consumption, while Hollywood churns out movie after movie replete with gratuitous fictional violence. Millions of dollars are spent to simulate terror, while thousands of real pictures of US-perpetrated or funded warfare across the globe would suffice to horrify all but the most callous individuals. Very different standards are set for the relative importance of deaths. Quality newspapers targeted at intellectual readers devote just a few paragraphs to a WHO report estimating that 15 million children die every year from easily preventable diseases on top of 7 million child deaths due to malnutrition, while atrocities that can be blamed on an official enemy are widely publicised. When was the last time we read sensational headlines about real horrors, of which our rulers are guilty?

Headlines you won't read in Murdoch's Press

Online Sun Iraqi Child Exclusive: UK Sanctions Kill 500,000 Iraqi Kids

Oil-hungry control freaks want these kids to die, so evil multinationals can get their greedy hands on the guey black stuff. Sex-crazed Bill Clinton and ballot rigger Blair deny their hideous crimes, but the Sun reveals the horrible truth. Saddam Hussein is their best friend and ten years ago agreed to be Global Demon Number One as long as he could keep his marble palaces. As Blair gears up for his re-election campaign, Iraqi children are dying of leukaemia thanks to depleted uranium strewn over their land by US and UK bombers.

Online Sun Emaciated Children Y2K Shock Horror! 12,000 children starved yesterday

12,000 kids died yesterday because their mums and dads could not make ends meet without work, fertile land or a social safety net to fall back on. Tony Blair said Third World countries need a competitive labour market and more deregulation.

That's right more children starve either due to undernourishment or severe malnutrition every day than NATO claimed the Yugoslavs killed during the Kosovo war. Few of us would be surprised to read "Rock Star Kills Fiancé" or "Serbs Murder More Albanian Kids", "Internet Paedophiles on the Rampage", "Germans Want To Ban British Pint", "Blair Slams Media for Invasion of Privacy", "Don�t Miss Our Pics of Prince Eddie at Nudist Camp" etc.

As the world's population passes the psychological 6 billion barrier, life expectancy in much of Sub-Saharan Africa is falling in the age of computers, mobile phones, suburban off-road cars and supermarkets packed with goodies, 2 billion suffer from malnutrition.

Should we Fear Hate Speech?

The short answer is no, provided we retain the right to challenge it. Some propaganda can be very hateful and even incite frenzies of xenophobia, especially if it comes from the mainstream and builds on generations of subtle indoctrination. Sometimes hatred can be engineered gradually over a few years as in the case of Serbs.

If the Sun could headline "Gotcha!" when the Royal Navy needlessy sank the General Belgrano killing 400 Argentinian sailors in 1982 or condones the bombing of some of the world's poorest in Iraq, the Balkans and now Afghanistan, surely we need not fear irrational outbursts from fringe propagandists. The real danger is mainstream hate speech legitimised by our government and establishment intellectuals. More important who defines hate speech? Is hate speech language that can incite violent attacks or is it propaganda that justifies state terrorism? Increasingly hate speech is a byword for unacceptable opinions and unmentionable controversies.

As Noam Chomsky said in defence of his decision to write a foreword in favour of the free speech of French holocaust revisionist Faurisson "It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers".

The restriction of free speech has always benefited those who control the means of mass communication. No precedents exist for laws passed to ban proven lies, but plenty for laws crafted to stifle debate on issues that may expose the duplicity of the establishment or challenge the founding myths of the ruling class.

Free Speech Links

1) Authoritative estimates place England (and after 1707 Great Britain) a close second in the slave trade.

Categories
All in the Mind

Denying the Effects of Violent Video Games

As a result of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act the UK government has recently given the police new powers to monitor e-mails and web sites. The pretext is to fight terrorism, political extremism and Internet paedophilia as sensationalised in the mainstream media, but the real purpose is to crack down on subversion. Tabloids spread rumours about paedophiles prowling 10 year olds in chat rooms. While such an invasion of privacy will not stop child abuse, it will curtail the free speech of all but powerful corporate and state organs.

By contrast the same media outlets not only sport high-profile advertisements for violent video games such as Tomb Raider, Quake III, Half Life, Soldier of Fortune etc. to name but a few, but hail them as cool pastimes, praise the developers as talented export-oriented entrepreneurs and review accompanying movies as works of art. Meanwhile the corporate PR machine via the computer press is busy proving such games not only appeal to young and old alike, but teach co-ordination skills and help to channel our anger in a safe virtual medium.

Genetic vs Environmental Causes

The video games lobby's chief argument is that other factors such as genetic predisposition to aggression play a much greater role than mass media violence in determining violent outcomes to conflicts. Many like to quote Adrian Rain from the University of Southern California, who has undertaken extensive research into genetic markers for violence in psychopaths. However, in a June 2001 TV debate he did not deny that social factors also play a role in determining how neurologically diverse individuals channel their innate aggressiveness. In all but the most extreme cases people are not born killers. The nature versus nurture debate could be widened to consider the other effects of pervasive media. To what extent does advertising, merchandising and corporate sponsorship encourage the masses to squander hard-earned cash on designer clothes and other superfluous consumer goods that will soon be superseded anyway? Would advertisers be wasting billions of dollars, euros or pounds to persuade us to buy more if purely genetic factors determined prodigality too? Violent media may not change our natural propensity to aggression, but they can channel our natural urges for revenge, communicate with our subconscience and justify violence as a means of conflict resolution.

Video Violence Threat is just a Media Scare

A classic tactic employed by lobbyists ever since the American free speech movement of the 1960s is to dismiss a problem as a mere mass media scare. In recent years global warming, the ill-effects of factory farming (e.g. BSE, foot and moth disease, salmonella, E-coli, overuse of antibiotics in animal husbandy weakening our immune system), the big-business-friendly corruption of most world governments, the imminent end of the oil age, the mass extinction of many large wild animal species outside zoos etc. have all been dismissed by various lobbies as media scares. Ironically they have a point. Mass circulation newspapers and popular TV channels in countries with nominal democratic institutions repeatedly launch scare campaigns, which are later revealed as either unfounded or taken out of context e.g. paedophilia is nothing new and its apparent rise may owe more to children's exposure to media and peer pressure that promote sexual promiscuity among young teens as well as early onset puberty. However, only 40 years ago the establishment ritually condemned all sexual practices out of wedlock as buggery. Everyone knows the way in which children discover their sexuality will affect an important part of their adult lives, but any attacks on media's role in teenagers is almost off-limits, so public anger is simply channelled against paedophiles, convenient scapegoats for society's ills. So intent is the government on curtailing personal liberties in the cybernetic age that is now offence to own digital paedophile imagery, as according to the government someone who would pay to view such picture may abuse children. Indeed such an assumption may have some truth in it, but without proof of sexually motivated physical contact with children, conviction under this law would like arresting Playboy subscriber for rape - offering the magazine as the sole piece of evidence. As many owners of e-mail accounts are aware without prudent spam filtering measures, one's hard drive can fill with explicit pornography, including kiddy porn, in no time simply by clicking on an HTML-enabled e-mail. By the same logic someone who pays to engage interactively in a simulation of a mass murder might want to reenact the scenario in real life against perceived enemies. Luckily most know that they would never get away with such wild fantasies, until they find themselves in a new position of power over defenceless individuals, e.g. in a war zone or in counter-insurgency operations. However, the former group don't have a multibillion dollar industry behind them yet.

Let's take a look at another analogy. If global warming is caused by a massive rise in human depredation of the earth's resources over the last century, then major multinationals stand to lose billions as we lower consumption. The best counterclaim the oil lobby can make is dismiss global warming scientists as green fascists intent on denying ordinary working people the right to drive gas guzzlers on multilane highways. Likewise if violent video games do adversely influence kids' behaviour, the entertainment industry will be held responsible for destabilising communities. In the same way as some lobbyists claim ecstasy is a relatively harmless recreational drug, they claim Quake III Arena is just fun. If you read computer magazines you've probably encountered the well-rehearsed line "I play violent video games, but I don't feel like killing someone afterwards".

That's because everyone knows murder is morally reprehensibe, but can be strategically justifed in self-defence or to fight a greater evil. Brainwashed youngsters do not consider themselves potential killers, just liberators or protagonists in an exciting adventure that bears little semblance to real life situations. Be honest! Outside the makebelieve world of Hollywood movies, how many Lara Crofts successfully fight off enemies single-handedly at gunpoint while flaunting their sexual prowess?

Re-enforcing Self-righteous War Propaganda

Video-games come in two varieties: Glorified violence and liberating force. In the first genre à la Tomb Raider, gamers play sexy or muscular role models ready to fight off evil or unwtiting rivals. In the second genre à la Wing Commander, gamers play their heroic role in the battle against murderous enemies, reinforcing mainstream war propaganda. Both forms cheapen life and stress the self-righteous may murder with impunity. Gaming is also a highly addictive lifestyle and is actively promoted by the same corporate machine that brought neoliberal governments such as New Labour to power. European age certificates are meaningless. Theoretically recommended for 15+, Tomb Raider is advertised on kids TV and played by six and seven year olds. Even children's shows on the BBC offer Play Station ® consoles as prizes. Anyone who thinks 8 to 10 year kids will play The Tweenies and Winnie The Pooh on their consoles, or be contented with Colin McCrae's Rally or Driver 2 are seriously mistaken. Besides even many racing games contain elements of violence and promote a high-consumption lifestyle with minimal effort and maximal thrills.

Meanwhile the devious youth press spreads rumours that the government plans to ban such games and thus crush a multibillion-dollar industry. Such logic is perverse. Not surprisingly the same Labour government is quietly deregulating the gambling industry, something else that may appeal to vast swathes of the public. We'll see entertainment complexes with 24-hour casinos and virtual shooting ranges. We need not worry much about the free speech of violent game developers, they can hire the best PR firms and lobbyists in the world, nor will the current government stop anything that not only earns billions but also plays a key role in conditioning millions of future adults.

The current ethos is anything that seems fun and boosts business must be good, unless officialdom deems it politically incorrect. With the right marketing the games industry could effortlessly sell virtual rape games or simulations of Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory with graphic detail of wanton butchery. Indeed such games have already been developed. With the release of Flashpoint Kosovo and Operation Desert Storm, computer games are reinforcing media-fed misconceptions. If killing Serbs is okay, it only takes a small leap of imagination to slaughter minority groups in one's own backyard. A seven-year old Tomb Raider fan could soon be saving the Western world from the yellow peril by nuking Shanghai, petrol-bombing alleged paedophiles or sinking ships carrying desperate Afghan asylum seekers. Freedom is no longer seen as the universal right to nourishment, clean water, shelter, peace, education and gainful employment, it is freedom to protect one's living standard from the marauding masses, whoever they may be.

The intellectuals behind the current neoliberal governments of Western Europe and North America know these self-evident facts only too well. Neoliberalism has a liberal attitude to corporate power and people's freedom to indulge corporate-sponsored activities, but a restrictive attitude to ideas that may challenge corporate hegemony. As a result emotive epithets like fascist or Stalinist are liberally employed to describe opponents of NATO bombing over Kosovo, as such a pacifist stance would have allegedly given Demon Milosevic a green light to execute a systematic genocide. All well-meaning individuals had to back the good guys, in this case NATO, against the forces of evil personified in the late 1990s by the mass media's caricature of Serb nationalists. In the current propaganda offensive against the perpetrators of the horrific terror attacks killing thousands in Manhattan and Washington DC, the new bad guys are Islamic suicide pilots trained on Microsoft Flight Simulator, which featured the World Trade Center.

Opium of The Masses

After a lone gunman entered a Scottish nursery school in Dunblane and shot dead 16 toddlers in April 1997, the UK government proceeded to ban handguns in marked contrast with gun laws in most American states. Handguns are designed to kill, no doubt about that, but may also serve as the ultimate defence against armed intruders, whether burglars, gangsters or police officers raiding the wrong house. However, firearms have not disappeared from British TV screens, computer simulations of gun battles are forever more realistic and criminals have encountered few obstacles in importing weapons. Despite a media frenzy the frequency of armed robberies and street shootings actually continued to rise in the first two years after the handgun ban, as have police the deployment of firearms and the shooting of unarmed citizens.

While making ordinary citizens less able to defend themselves in an increasingly atomised world, the root causes of violence have actually worsened: More violence on more TV channels at any time, more shoot-'em-up video games and a greater social and educational divide.

The last factor is usually overlooked, but Play Stations, X-Boxes Nintendo Gamecubes and Gameboys are clearly aimed at the mass market. Leading kids titles such as Buzz Lightyear, Dexter's Laboratory or Power Puff Girls are often based on cartoons with proven antisocial effects, i.e. they actively encourage teasing, bullying and attacking baddies or weirdoes, whoever they may be. As a result the main role of the police is now to contain the masses adversely effected by the wares distrubuted by the corporate machine, whose interests the police are also required to defend. As big business promotes the scourges of booze, drugs, late night discos and video violence, the forces of law and order sweep up the mess.

Sowing the Seeds Of Hatred

While we should not dismiss the disruptive effects violent video-games have on many vulnerable minds, they play a greater role in re-enforcing existing prejudices and triggering ingrained aggressive responses. They effects may in some respects be likened to addictive and hallucinogenic drugs. The big question is whether violent video-games merely reflect society's warped values or amplify the agressive side of human nature i.e. are they incidental or causal? Their effects are greatest on teenagers and young adults raised on violent media from an early age. It is the combination of passive TV violence, rampant consumerism, neighbourhood and school violence and interactive electronic violence in the absence of dependable role models that is most lethal. By contrast the effects are probably limited on adults deprived of violent electronic media in their formative years.

The gaming lobby maintains that sex and violence have always aroused intense interest. Only the medium has changed. Literary portrayals of gratuitous violence can be both gruesome and educational. Even documentaries and movies may highlight the horrors of war, persecution, slavery or gangland fighting, but may also glorify the aggression of one side or demonise the other side to justify a given political agenda. The same can equally apply to the print media, but the reader's experience is never the same as a passive viewer's or an interactive gamer's. In truth only in recent decades have most people had so much leisure time to devote to such trivial pursuits and 3 to 4 generations ago few had time to read or the means to listen to the radio. For most of human history we learned about violence the hard way in real-life situations. Knowing how and when to fight was a matter of life or death. Today street violence is greatest in unequal societies, where the poor enviously watch the opulence of the consumerist classes. What will happen when the Quake II and Doom generation join the jobless masses in a future recession? Will they seek to rebuild their local communities, stay at home addicted to their aging game consoles or reenact their fantasies on the streets?

Is Censorship the Answer?

Censorship has always benefited the ruling classes. Time and again the surest way to guarantee the cult status of many books, films or video games has been to ban them, assuming a little prior publicity. Corporate lobbies like to talk of regulation, in the full knowledge that big business can always buy its way through hundreds of loopholes. Having popularised violent video-games through multimillion dollar advertising campaigns with Tomb Raider featured on the back of cereal packets, the gaming industry, almost inextricably linked to the movie and TV business, would seek new devious means to distribute its wares if tighter controls were introduced, while the state would be delighted to apply new restrictions to clamp down on dissent e.g. video footage of real violence perpetrated by a superpower or friendly militias could be banned.

Not only is censorship both impractical and counterproductive, it is also only conceivable because our consumerist society plays on people's basest instincts, but as usual we need to attack the root causes. In the short term we may need to campaign to stop schools or libraries distributing such poisonous games, but the emphasis should be on raising awareness of the harmful effects that exposure to violent propaganda has on young kids. However, in the long run we should strive to replace the greed and mindless self-indulgence of today's consumerist society with peaceful, playful and constructive activities in a socially coherent and sharing community. Sport offers a much better outlet for our pent-up frustrations. Parents of shy kids may be better advised to enrol them in karate lessons, teaching practical self-defence and co-ordination skills, than let them undergo premature military brainwashing.