In Episode 66 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep and a fellow at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who has faced threats of litigation as well as relentless online harassment for his exposés of Russian propaganda and Red-Brown Politics. After his recent piece in the Daily Beast on leftist flirtation with the far right around conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 and the war in Syria, the odious Max Blumenthal quickly retaliated with a piece on his Grayzone website charging in its headline that Reid Ross "works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents." This refers to the fact that former CIA, Homeland Security and NYPD officials are now also researchers with the NCRI. The accusation is hilariously ironic given that Blumenthal himself has shared platforms with former CIA analyst (and now a star of the conspiracy set) Ray McGovern. As well as (of course) avidly cooperating with Russian and Chinese state propaganda efforts.
Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections, and the horrific realities of Russia's client state in Syria, is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. Syria solidarity activists have long been aware of the flood of pro-Assad disinformation on social media. Research from the University of Washington corroborated what activists have observed—it documented four times as many disinformation tweets about the Syrian White Helmets volunteer first-responder group in 2017 compared to factual tweets. In 2016, we saw the same pro-Assad sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated "Leftbook" social media and helped depress the progressive vote. Ten million fewer Democrats voted in 2016 than 2012—a decisive factor in Trump's win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some "left" sites, while Trump's incipient fascism is downplayed.
So, a banner with the phrase "THE JEWS WANT A RACE WAR" was hung from an overpass above the heavily trafficked Interstate 405 in Los Angeles on Aug. 22. As JTA reports, an accompanying banner plugged the perpetrators' website, Goyimtv.com. The site prominently displays a video of their followers standing on the overpass with the banners. Verbiage on the site also reads: "All members of the community and wider society should be treated as equals with the same rights, regardless of their race, age, sex, religion, political beliefs, or any other immutable attribute or self assigned designation UNLESS YOU'RE A JEW or THE SHABBOS EQUIVALENT." This appears to be a reference to the phrase "Shabbos goy," originally meaning a non-Jew who carries out certain tasks that religious Jews are barred from doing on the Sabbath, but now taken up the radical right to mean a dupe of the Jews.
In a truly surreal irony, your trusty CounterVortex chief blogger (me, Bill Weinberg) just got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he's impressed with our website and inviting me to contribute to RT! Can this possibly be real? All I ever do is diss RT—an organ of Russian state propaganda that is openly serving the Putin-Trump agenda. Is this some "gotcha" thing, where Igor (or some imposter?) waits for me to take the bait by responding and then doxes me as a hypocrite? Or do they really think I'd sell out? Or are they just fishing around all lefty and "alternative" seeming websites without actually bothering to pay any attention to the content?
We at CounterVortex are not doubting (nor accepting) Tara Reade's claims of sexual assault by Joe Biden. But it is certainly instructive to note how they are being politically weaponized, and by whom. It is hardly surprising that her accusations are being widely touted by the Kremlin propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik, nor that RT and Fox News are offering nearly identical spin (the Dems and their "loyalist media" are giving Biden a free ride, despite the fact that the claims are all over the headlines). But things got considerably more interesting with the news that a prominent Trump donor has been named as Reade's attorney. This is Douglas Wigdor, who according to AP gave $55,000 in contributions to the Trump campaign in 2016. And of greater interest to followers of Russian propaganda efforts on behalf of Trump is a second attorney named in the story...
In Episode 52 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses CS Lewis' last novel, Till We Have Faces, a reworking of the myth of Eros and Psyche, comparing it to its ancient source material, The Golden Ass of Apuleius. The pagan roots of the novel, as well the influence of Lewis' first real love interest, Joy Davidman, make the work his most richly layered with meaning—and perhaps even unintentionally feminist. Weinberg also decries that the current edition does not include the original engravings by artist Fritz Eichenberg, a radical pacifist associated with the Catholic Worker movement. Listen on SoundCloud.
In Episode 48 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg speaks with Ernie Harburg, co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz? Yip Harburg, Lyricist, and Deena Rosenberg, author of Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. Ernie and Deena are, respectively, son and daughter-in-law of the legendary Yip Harburg, who penned the lyrics to the beloved songs of The Wizard of Oz movie. Born to poverty on the Lower East Side, Yip's breakthrough song was the Depression-era populist anthem "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Known as the social conscience of Broadway and Hollywood, he would be "blacklisted" in the McCarthy era—despite his antipathy to all forms of totalitarianism, fascist or communist. Ernie and Deena and their family are keeping his legacy alive today through the Yip Harburg Foundation and Yip Harburg Lyrics Foundation. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
From anonymous radical-right xenophobes in Britain came the call to make April 3 "Punish a Muslim Day." Letters were sent through the mail to addresses across England, calling for violent attacks on Muslims. The sick mailings assigned a point score for levels of violence from "Verbally abuse a Muslim" (10 points) to "Beat up a Muslim" (100 points) to "Burn or bomb a mosque" (1,000 points) to "Nuke Mecca" (2,500 points) Police were on alert, and women who wear the hijab were advised to stay home. No actual attacks were reported. There were also reports that some of the letters had arrived at New York addresses, causing the city's Muslim community to mobilize and the NYPD to beef up security. (BBC News, WPIX) The Daily News reports that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined multi-faith leaders at a press conference to condemn the threats. His comments there were laudable in intent, but revealing in their wording: "Our message must be just as loud. Not punish a Muslim, let's embrace a Muslim, let's embrace a Christian, let's embrace a person of Jewish faith, let's embrace the diversity that this city has to offer."