Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Problem: Corruption hinders Decisive Action against Traffickers


May 26, 2017

Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Problem: Corruption hinders Decisive Action

by Rebecca Schectman

http://www.newmandala.org/malaysia-must-wake-human-trafficking-problem/

 

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This is pure and unadulterated bullshit, coming from Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Laureate.  The Rohingyas are powerless and stateless. But push them in a corner, they will fight back in order to survive. Malaysia is equally to blame for lacking the political will to deal with human trafficking. Our Police Force is incorrigibly corrupt.

On Sunday, 21 May, Rohingya community members, local leaders, and NGOs working on human trafficking gathered at a Rohingya graveyard near Alor Setar, Kedah to commemorate the second anniversary of the discovery of mass graves and trafficking camps at Wang Kelian. I attended the event representing Tenaganita, an organisation that has worked on migrant rights and human trafficking issues in Malaysia since 1991.

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 Some 300 Rohingya gathered at Kampung Kepala Bendang near here today(May 21, 2017)  to pay tribute to the discovery of several mass graves in Perlis, thought to contain bodies of fellow migrants.

Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign and Tenaganita have called on Malaysian authorities to address the corruption that allows Malaysia to be a trafficking hub in the region. At the Wang Kelian memorial, Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid of MAPIM, the Malaysian Consul­tative Council of Islamic Organisation, stated that authorities should work with trafficking survivors to identify the ‘big fish’, the leaders of trafficking syndicates and the corrupt Malaysian officials who allow them to operate. Tenaganita recognises that the camps and bodies found at Wang Kelian are just the tip of the iceberg—currently, the Global Slavery Index estimates 128,800 individuals are trapped in modern day slavery in Malaysia. That’s about 0.4% of Malaysia’s total population, putting Malaysia among some of the least responsive countries to combat human trafficking.

While the trafficking camps and mass graves found two years ago are potent reminders of the deadliness of trafficking, it is also important to note that there are multiple trafficking schemes seen in Malaysia. Beyond forced labour and sex trafficking, Tenaganita has uncovered cases of marriage trafficking, the sale of babies, organ harvesting, child prostitution, and child marriage. Not all trafficking happens across the Malaysia-Thai border. Traffickers often use budget flights to bring men, women, and children into Malaysia for exploitation. Many of Tenaganita’s cases involve women trafficked to Malaysia for forced labour as domestic workers, which counters the stereotype of trafficked women only being victims of sex trafficking. Like refugees and migrant workers, domestic workers are not adequately protected under Malaysian law. Traffickers know this and often exploit people who are eager to come to Malaysia, such as asylum seekers fleeing their countries or women desperate to support their families.

Corruption, inadequate training of enforcement officers, and limited awareness of trafficking dynamics all contribute to the lack of enforcement of Malaysia’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Act (ATIPSOM). Only a fraction of all prosecutions for trafficking crimes result in convictions according to the 2016 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, which states, ‘accountability for traffickers remained disproportionately low compared to the scale of the human trafficking problem in the country’.

Trafficking prevention has not been adequately addressed at the national or regional level. For example, there are no mechanisms for safe repatriation, or the protection of trafficking survivors upon return to their country of origin to ensure they are not re-trafficked. Traffickers nimbly operate across borders—governments and enforcement agencies must also work closely together when prosecuting traffickers, protecting survivors, and preventing trafficking crimes. The newly ratified ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) takes steps in the right direction, but does not incorporate cooperation by civil society organisations like Tenaganita who have been fighting human trafficking for decades.

 

At the graveside memorial, I saw that the lives lost at Wang Kelian had not been forgotten, at least by the Rohingya community and organisations working on the issue. But despite some efforts to enact legislation, the Malaysian government still lacks the political will to address issues that mostly affect non-Malaysian workers, migrants, and refugees, all of whom are acutely vulnerable to trafficking, forced labour, and debt bondage. It is now time for Malaysia to get serious about enforcing existing legislation and especially going after the collusion between authorities at all levels and trafficking syndicates. The horrors of Wang Kelian must not be allowed to continue, whether through the trafficking of refugees across the Thai border or the trafficking of young women into domestic servitude within Malaysian homes. Unless there is a concerted effort to tackle the human trafficking business in the country, Malaysia will continue to be a trafficking destination.

Rebecca Schectman has worked with UNHCR and Tenaganita in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a 2016-17 Luce Scholar. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2016 with a degree in International Relations and Latin American Studies. She has worked on issues ranging from preserving memory of human rights abuses in Argentina to studying citizen feedback platforms in Uganda. Her research interests include migration, forced displacement, development, and human rights.

 

The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide


May 21, 2017

Book Review:

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Newborn babies crushed under the weight of a soldier’s heavy boot. Children having their throats slit as they try to protect their mothers from rape by security forces. Women and girls facing rape or sexual assault and humiliation. The elderly and infirm burnt alive in their homes. 1,000 killed and another 75,000 displaced to Bangladesh. These atrocities were documented in a disturbing February 2017 United Nations report which concluded that they are ‘very likely to amount to crimes against humanity. More recently, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Yanghee Lee has named them ‘definite crimes against humanity’.

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The most recent reports have not emerged in a vacuum. In 2015, the Yale Law School found ‘strong evidence of genocide against the Rohingya’. The same year, the International State Crime Initiative from the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London concluded that genocide was taking place in Myanmar. In 2013, Human Rights Watch identified crimes against the Rohingya which it argued amounted to ethnic cleansing.

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Sheer  hypocrisy of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto Foreign Minister: ASEAN’s Non-Intervention Policy VS Responsibility to Protect(R2P)

National League for Democracy chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, right, and central committee member Win Htein, center. (Photo: Tin Htet Paing / The Irrawaddy)

The government of Myanmar has denied this charge. U Win Htein, a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s now more than one year old National League for Democracy (NLD) government, rejects claims of crimes against humanity, and says this is an internal affair that has been exaggerated. This rhetoric is eerily close to that of the previous governments that the NLD vowed departure from.

Certainly, this is not a popular concern domestically. The Rohingya are not recognised in Myanmar, and are instead called Bengali. Their history in Rakhine State and rights to citizenship are heated issues of contention. While the NLD has appointed several commissions to investigate the situation in Rakhine State, they are lacking either the mandate or capacity to deal with the situation that has arisen since October 2016.

Given this, there is a need for an accessible publication which brings together the complex history and discussion of the increasingly brutal persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar today. Unfortunately, Azeem Ibrahim’s The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide is not that book. Instead it is hastily written and poorly considered, offering an inaccurate rehashing of history, no new arguments and a failure to engage with current debates.

A large section of the book summarises convenient arguments from the contentious debate over the origins of the Muslim community in Rakhine State and the Rohingya ethnic label, despite recognising that the discussion is peripheral. There are numerous factual errors throughout not just this section but the whole book, such as the claim that most rulers of the Arakanese Mrauk U dynasty were Muslim (p. 24). There are other claims which would be significant if any evidence was provided. Rather, unreferenced passages assert that the 1784 Burmese invasion of Arakan was ‘in part as there were so many Muslims in Arakan’ (p. 65); and that the British never used the term ‘Rohingya’ in their records because the administration was in the habit of categorising the population by religion, not ethnicity (p. 31) — the latter simply an untenable statement. Errors such as these are surprising, given the author’s extensive academic qualifications.

Image result for James T Davies is a PhD candidate researching Myanmar at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

There is little discussion of genocide before the reader arrives at the chapter devoted to the topic. Here, we find that the book is not actually arguing that there is genocide underway, but that the Rohingya are ‘on the brink of genocide’ (p. 99).

While invoking the term genocide is sure to attract interest, the discussion is lacking in depth. The 2015 Yale Law School report noted, significantly, that it was difficult to establish intent for genocide on the part of the Myanmar state. However, this book does not engage with this report or the question of intent, despite it being crucial to any allegation of genocide. Instead, outcome appears to be equated with intent. The overwhelming focus on the crime of genocide could perhaps have been substituted with a discussion of other crimes against humanity in relation to the Rohingya, as noted by the UN and others.

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One of the most striking flaws of the book is its failure to consider Rakhine perspectives. This is reflected not only in the considerable confusion and misinformation about contemporary Rakhine political parties (p. 121). The author appears to have spent very little time in either Rakhine State or Yangon, and not to have consulted the Rakhine communities who have long lived alongside the Rohingya. In a chapter devoted to solutions there is little mention of the Rakhine, despite the fact that any resolution must include both communities. Instead, solutions offered refer primarily to international pressure, reflecting the publication’s target audience.

In this respect, the book makes an important point about the failure of the international community to address this issue. Western governments’ vision of what is occurring in Myanmar has been blurred by their ‘indulgence’ of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, the book argues (p. 133). There is a reluctance to pressure her government, which was hailed in the US as a foreign policy success of the Obama administration. Ibrahim pushes back both against the argument that Aung San Suu Kyi is doing her best as well as claims that the plight of the Rohingya is a hiccup to be expected during a difficult transition from military rule to democracy. The book rightly notes that such a perspective flies in the face of evidence that Aung San Suu Kyi has proved herself unwilling to show leadership and to prioritise the Rohingya issue — and that ultimately she must hold responsibility.

Therefore, the book argues, international pressure is going to be crucial for the Rohingya. We are told via a ‘Media Pack’ on Ibrahim’s website that he has an address book to rival a Prime Minister’s. If the book serves to bring attention to this desperate situation, then it may redeem itself somewhat.

Image result for James T Davies is a PhD candidate researching Myanmar at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

James T Davies (pic above) is a PhD candidate researching Myanmar at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. He should write a book on the Rohingyas since he is very critical of Azeem’s attempt to expose the plight of the people of the Rakhine State.–Din Merican

Also READ:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/azeem-ibrahim/who-is-instigating-the-vi_b_7810972.html

Geo-Politics of Environment


March 19, 2017

The Geopolitics of Environment

by Giulio Boccaletti

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/environment-economic-and-geopolitical-challenges-by-giulio-boccaletti-2017-03

Much of the world seems to be on edge. The West’s relationship with Russia, the future of NATO, the Syrian civil war and refugees, rising right-wing populism, the impact of automation, and the United Kingdom’s impending departure from the European Union: all of these topics – and more – have roiled public debate worldwide. But one issue – one might say the most significant of them all – is being ignored or pushed aside: the environment.

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That was the case at this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Beyond a mention of the Paris climate agreement by Chinese President Xi Jinping, topics like climate change and sustainable development didn’t even make it to the main stage. Instead, they were relegated to side meetings that rarely seemed to intersect with current political and economic events.

Allowing environmental issues to fall by the wayside at this time of geopolitical and social instability is a mistake, and not just because this happens to be a critical moment in the fight to manage climate change. Environmental degradation and natural-resource insecurity are undermining our ability to tackle some of the biggest global issues we face.

Environmental insecurity is a major, though often underestimated, contributor to global instability. The UN High Commission on Refugees reports that natural disasters have displaced more than 26 million people per year since 2008 – almost a third of the total number of forcibly displaced people in this time period.

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Even the current refugee crisis has an environmental element. In the years leading up to the war, Syria experienced its most extreme drought in recorded history. That drought, together with unsustainable agricultural practices and poor resource management, contributed to the internal displacement of 1.5 million Syrians and catalyzed political unrest ahead of the 2011 uprising.

The link between environmental and agricultural pressures extends far beyond Syria. Over-reliance on specific geographies for agriculture means that food production can exacerbate environmental problems, or even create new ones. This can pit global consumer interests against local citizen interests, as it has along the Mississippi River, where fertilizer runoff from one of the world’s breadbaskets is contributing to concerns about water quality.

The connection goes both ways, with environmental conditions also shaping agricultural production – and, in turn, the prices of agricultural commodities, which represent about 10% of traded goods worldwide. For example, rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns are already driving up the price of coffee. With the global land area suitable for growing coffee set to contract by up to half by 2050, price pressures will only intensify.

A sudden shift toward trade protectionism could drive up agricultural commodity prices further. Such an increase would affect farm-level household income, favoring some farmers while harming others. End consumers, particularly the poor and vulnerable, would also suffer.

Another reason why the environment should be at the center of economic debates is its role as the world’s single largest employer. Almost a billion people, just under 20% of the world’s labor force, are formally employed in agriculture. Another billion or so are engaged in subsistence farming, and therefore don’t register in formal wage statistics.

Any initiatives to support economic development must support this population’s transition toward higher-productivity activities. This is particularly important at a time when increasingly sophisticated and integrated technology threatens to leapfrog an entire generation of workers in some countries. Efforts to benefit this huge population must focus not only on training and education, but also on new models that allow countries to capitalize on their natural capital – the landscapes, watersheds, and seascapes – without depleting it.

Just as natural-resource insecurity can cause displacement and vulnerability, effective natural-resource management can support conflict resolution and sustainable economic development. On this front, efforts to achieve environmental remediation, to boost the resilience of rural communities, to advance sustainable agricultural production, and to support community-based environmental stewardship have all shown promising results.

Consider the Northern Rangelands Trust, an organization focused on creating community conservancies to enable sustainable and equitable land use in Kenya. NRT has helped pastoralist communities establish effective governance mechanisms for the environment on which they depend, reducing conflict over grazing rights, especially in times of drought.

For many communities, members’ relationship with the landscape in which they live is an integral part of their identity. With effective governance and planning, open dialogue, resource-sharing frameworks, and sufficient investment, including in skills training, these communities can translate this relationship into effective environmental stewardship – and build healthier and more secure societies.

The crises engulfing the modern world are complex. But one thing is clear: the environment is connected to all of them. Solutions will mean little without a healthy world in which to implement them.

 

Chomsky: Trump’s National Security Adviser Wants the U.S. to ‘Go to War with the Whole Islamic World’


December 22, 2016

Chomsky: Trump’s National Security Adviser Wants the U.S. to ‘Go to War with the Whole Islamic World’

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/chomsky-trumps-national-security-advisor-wants-us-go-war-whole-islamic-world

“Trump’s position is “vulgar imperialism masked by a fraudulent concern for the working people and the middle class.”

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In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror of Sri Lanka, Prof. Noam Chomsky spoke on many issues that have pervaded the current political scenario. In the interview, he details the reasons behind the election victory of Donald Trump, his views on the rise of the right wing, and the causes that resulted in the people losing confidence in mainstream political establishments.

Q: It is both a pleasure and a privilege to have you speak for the first time to a Sri Lankan entity, the Daily Mirror. To start off with, during the recent election of Donald Trump, we saw a kind of rise of racism and xenophobia, a phenomenon of right-wing populism that we are seeing across the world, including in Sri Lanka. What are your views on this?

A: There are many factors, but there are some that are pretty common, certainly for the United States and Europe from which I have just returned, incidentally. One factor that is common and which is very significant is the neoiberal program that was instituted globally, roughly around 35 years ago, around 1980 or a little before and picking up afterward. These are programs that were designed in such a way that they marginalize and cast aside a considerable majority of the population.

So in the United States, if you take a look at say the Trump voters, they are not the poorest people. They have homes, they have jobs, and they have small businesses. They may not have the jobs they like, but they are not starving and are not living on $2 a day. These are people who have been stuck for 30 years. Their history and their own image of life and history and the country is, that they have worked hard all their lives, they have done all the right things. They have families, they go to church and they have done everything right just as their parents did. They’ve been moving forward, which they expected to continue: that their children would be better off than they are, but it hasn’t happened. It stopped. As if they are in a line, in which they were moving forward and it stopped.

Ahead of them in the line are people who have just shot up into the stratosphere: that is neoliberalism. It concentrates wealth in tiny sectors. They don’t mind that, because part of the American mythology is that you work hard and you get rewards. It is not what happens but that fits the picture, the mythology. The people behind them are the ones they resent. This is not untypical; scapegoating. Blame your problems on those who are even worse off than you. And their conception is that the federal government is their enemy, which works for the people behind them. That the federal government gives food stamps to people who don’t want to work, that it gives welfare payments to women who drive in rich cars to welfare offices.

(These are) images that Ronald Reagan concocted. Their thinking is that, the federal government is helping to put them in line ahead of me, but nobody is working for me. That picture is all over the West. A large part of it was behind the Brexit vote, in the United States they would blame Mexican immigrants, or Afro Americans, in the U.K. they would blame the Polish immigrants, in France the North Africans and in Austria the Syrian immigrants. The choice of target depends on the society, but the phenomenon is pretty similar. The general nature is pretty similar. There are streaks of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and opposition to gay rights and all sorts of things. And they coalesce when economic and social policies have been designed in such a way which essentially ignores these people and their concerns and doesn’t work for them — and seems to them to work against them.

Q: But don’t you think, Professor, the notion of an isolationist imperial power, a non-intervening imperial interest that Donald Trump has promised, is something positive for countries like Sri Lanka and the third world at large?

A: Isolationist is a very funny word. Take Donald Trump’s recent appointments — the important appointments. The most important appointment is his National Strategy Adviser who is Michael Flynn. He is a radical Islamophobe. He thinks we should go to war with the whole Islamic world. And his view of Islam is not that of a religion, but that it’s a political ideology like fascism, and it is at war with us and that we should destroy it.

Is that isolationism? Donald Trump’s position and that of Paul Ryan and other right-wingers is that we should sharply build up the Pentagon. They talk about our depleted military forces. I mean you don’t know whether to laugh or not. The U.S. spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. It is technologically far more advanced. No other country has hundreds of military bases all over the world, actually forces fighting all over the world. But ‘we are a depleted military force and everybody is about to attack us and we have to build the military more’—is that isolationist? We have to carry out economic war against other countries, is that isolationist? No, of course not.

This is vulgar imperialism masked by a fraudulent concern for the working people and the middle class. Is there any such concern apparent from his cabinet appointments? (They are) straight out of Wall Street and Goldman Sachs. Take a look at the stock market, that tells you how people with power are evaluating his presidency. (It) shot up as soon as he was elected. The financial institutions zoomed.

The world’s biggest coal company, Peabody, which was in bankruptcy had its stock go up by about 50% within days of his election. The military industry, energy industries, pharmaceuticals…they are all going to the sky. Is that an illusion? No, it’s not. That’s the policy, the appeal is not so much the poor, but working people who have suffered, not suffered in the sense of real deep poverty, but suffered in the sense of a loss of status, a loss of dignity, and a loss of hope for the future. In the United States this is combined with an objective fact. That this country is built on extremist white supremacy, comparative measures of white supremacy across the world has put the United States way in the lead, even ahead of white South Africa, and now the white population is becoming a minority.

Q: You bring in two interesting points; one on white supremacy and the other on Islam and Islamophobia. Firstly, this idea of supremacy, we have seen this even in parts of South Asia. If you see the rise of Narendra Modi, it was along the same populist lines and even in post-war Sri Lanka we are seeing these same attitudes swelling up. So it is not something confined to the U.S. What do you think the real reason is for this?

A: Different reasons for different places. In India it’s the rise of Hindu nationalism, which is extremely dangerous. It looks like there is an alliance building up with these xenophobic right-wing forces around the world. If you noticed, the reactions to Trumps election across the world, was great enthusiasm from the ultra-right all over. In fact, his first contact was with Nigel Farage, the leader of the UKIP in England and it went on like that. There are common features, but different factors in different countries. In India, it is the Muslims, in the United States it’s Muslims too. But there were also Mexicans and so on. But I think throughout the world you see a similar failure of mainstream establishment institutions to deal with the people’s real problems.

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Q: Even in Sri Lanka, there is this fear about the Muslims, along the lines of the fear prevailing in the West. Aren’t these fears about the Muslims real?

A: They are not unreal. Hitler’s fears about the Jews under the Nazis were not totally unreal. There were rich Jewish bankers, there were Jewish Bolsheviks. Any propaganda system, no matter how vulgar or disgraceful, can only succeed if there are at least small elements of truth. They may be small. While you are in Boston if you listen to talk radio, the main radio, all very right wing, you will hear people speaking about Syrian refugees and how they are being treated like princes. That they have been given all kinds of money, that they have been given health services, and education—‘all kinds of things that we don’t have the Syrian refugees get.’

How many Syrian refugees are there? A couple of thousand! They probably do get health services, so it is not totally false. But the typical history of scapegoating is to pick vulnerable people and find something that is not totally false about them—because you have to have some element of truth—and then build it up into a colossus which is about to overcome you. I mean there are states in the United States in the Midwest, where the legislature has passed laws banning Shari’a. How likely is Shari’a going to be imposed in Oklahoma? I mean you know it is not zero. You can find a woman somewhere who is wearing a veil, so there is something. But that’s the way it works.

I think in Sri Lanka there is a pretty ugly history after all; I don’t have to recount it. You can find plenty of cases of massive atrocities and crimes and so on. A demagogic leader and the administration which is not working in the interest of the population but in the interest of wealth and power, almost reflexively is going to turn to attacks on the vulnerable with the support of the media and often the intellectual classes, and blow up small elements of truth into a massive attack. The United States is extremely interesting in this respect. It is the most safe and secure country in the world, but it is probably the most frightened country in the world. Do you know any other country where people feel that unless they take a gun to church or a restaurant they might be attacked? I mean, does it happen in Sri Lanka? No! Does it happen anywhere else? But it happens in the United States of America. All over the United States people feel terrified — ‘they are coming after us’, and that goes way back in American history, and it has roots. There are historical roots.

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Q: Going by what you just said Professor, Edward Said, one of your contemporaries, pointed out in the ’80s that Islam has been portrayed by the West as a monolithic entity. That the West ignored the different histories and different cultures and so on. Have the Muslims of today, 30 years on, bought into this propaganda and believe that they are in fact a monolithic entity?

A: Take the U.S. or the British policy toward Islam. It has been highly supportive of the most radical elements of Islam. That is true of the British and it’s true of the Americans after they took over from the British. So who is the leading U.S. ally in the Islamic world? Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most extreme, radical, fundamentalist State in the world. But certainly in the Islamic world. And a missionary state, which uses its huge resources to sponsor its Wahabist extremism through Madrasas and so on. It is the main source of Jihadism. The main ally is that — monolithic. I mean what state power does, and propaganda usually follows, is (to) find what will support a power interest.

In these cases imperial policy. If it happens to be radical Islam that’s fine. At the same time we might be fighting radical Islam somewhere else. The propaganda system would create images of Islamic terror seeking to destroy us when that turns out to be the plausible kind of scapegoating. So 9/11 happened and the Tamil Tigers atrocities happened. You can use those as ways of building up fear, anger, and anxiety to support the tendency to hide under the umbrella of power from these forces about to destroy us. Like Shari’a law in Oklahoma, got to protect ourselves!

Q: You spoke of a new shifting of the world order when you spoke of Nigel Farage and other right-wing elements shifting toward Donald Trump. Is there a shift in the international sphere, like we saw during the Cold War, where the world went into two different sides including the non-aligned? A kind of shift today that is happening, between the right-wing nativists on the one hand and the left-wing internationalist on the other?

A: First of all, I don’t really agree with the conventional version of the Cold War. You take a look at the events of the Cold War. Not what intellectuals talk about, not the ideology. Take a look at the events. The events of the Cold War consisted of violent attacks by the U.S. within its domains — which is most of the world. And Russian, violent attacks its much smaller domain, which was Eastern Europe. That was the Cold War. Each side used the alleged threat of the other as justification for its own internal repression. So the U.S. had to support a terrorist war against Nicaragua because of the Russians, who were not anywhere nearby. The Russians had to invade Hungary because of the Americans. That was the Cold War.

There was, in a way, you could describe it as a kind of tacit compact between the two imperial powers: The huge imperial power of the United States, the smaller imperial power of Russia. Kind of a tacit compact in which each side was authorized to carry out violence and repression in its own domains, for the U.S. this means most of the world, without an actual conflict. Now there was a danger, always, a serious danger that an actual conflict might blow up in which case we’re finished. As soon as there is a major nuclear war, humans are done with. So there was always a fear, if there is a confrontation; but if you look at the events of the Cold War you get a very different picture. And it’s the events that matter, not the words.

Q: But is there a realignment across the world, Professor, between this right-wing populist xenophobic elements and…

A: No, there is left liberal populism too, take the United States.

Q: You gave me a good precursor to the next question. Isn’t the left liberal dead? I know you’ve had your differences with Slavoj Zizek, but as he points out what Clinton personified and is a symbol of is that left liberal position—a coalition which had you and also Alan Dershowitz, which had Occupy Wall Street and Wall Street together. 

A: There is lack of comparison there. Alan Dershowitz speaks for the, it’s kind of a mixture, but the xenophobic extremist right—he is all over the place. The left liberal media, say NPR, he’s on it all the time; right-wing media he is on it all the time.

Then there’s me. Am I on (them)? In fact, when you leave, take a photograph of one of my favourite front pages of a journal. I liked it so much I framed it. It’s the main left liberal journal, American Prospect, and it has a picture of two evil creatures who are threatening American liberalism: one is Dick Cheney and the other is me. That’s the parallel. And it indicates what’s in the mind of American liberals: “We’re being attacked by these monsters on both sides”—one of them who sits in an office and has no access to anything, the other, the guy who controls the biggest military machine in the world and is invading Iraq, those are the two forces.

Same with the rest, Occupy vs. Wall Street, what’s the comparison? Actually, there is a comparison, but not what’s being described. Occupy is very small, it doesn’t begin to compare with Wall Street. But the population does. And a lot of the population supports them (Occupy). In fact, take the U.S. election, in terms of numbers, Clinton won pretty easily. But more interestingly, if you look at younger voters, first of all Clinton won overwhelmingly, but Sanders won even more overwhelmingly. Here is somebody who came out of nowhere, no economic support, no rich supporters, no corporate support, 100% media opposition, basically unknown, talking about socialism, which is a bad word, and overwhelmingly won the youth support. Well, the constituency that supported him does not have money, power, corporate backing, and so on. So they are not considered popular, they are just kind of off the spectrum of discussion, but they are there. And they can change policies.

Q: Professor, since you spoke of the youth, we have watched you speaking about how universities dumb down thinking or intellect. You are a person who, since your early teens, you have questioned the status quo. Do you see that among the youth today? Are the youth questioning the status quo as much as they should?

A: Well, why did an overwhelming majority of young people support Bernie Sanders? That is the answer to your question. Yes, of course they are challenging the status quo. They don’t have wealth, military power, corporate backing, media backing, nor support from intellectuals, but sure, they are challenging the status quo. All the time.

Q: But across the globe, aren’t you also seeing them move toward the nativist nation state concept?

A: You are seeing that, but you are also seeing something like the Sanders phenomenon, Soy Podemos in Spain. I just happened to be in Barcelona, Barcelona is a major city, and the mayor who was just elected is a left-wing activist. These things exist all over Europe. The Corbyn phenomenon in England, the Labour Party elite is bitterly opposed to it, of course the Tories kind of like it, because they want to see the Labour Party collapsing. But, it’s substantial. As soon as Corbyn opened a possibility for people, ordinary people, to participate, the Labour Party shot up. These are real opportunities. Take the Trump voters in the United States, many of them voted for Obama in 2008. Why? If you remember the campaign slogan, it was hope and change and they were voting for hope and change. They didn’t get any hope and they didn’t get any change, so they are disillusioned and now they are voting for someone else who is calling for hope and change.

Q: But don’t you see that happening even in South Asia? That it’s either Trump vs. Corbyn? That the liberal middle ground, for which I use Hillary Clinton as a symbol is losing ground. That you need to pick a side, instead of staying in the center?

A: Everywhere. Everywhere, the mainstream political organizations which are kind of centrist — center left or center right — are diminishing and collapsing. That is true of institutions too. There’s anger at institutions, contempt for them, hatred of them. Not just the political institutions, but the banks, the corporations, just about everything except the military. This, to go back to our original discussion, is a reflection, substantially, of the neoliberal policies of the past generation. It has harmed much of the population, offered nothing to them, given power and prestige to extreme wealth and professional elites who are protected. So, it leads to anger and resentment against the established institutions.

Q: Moving on, has the media changed landscape since you wrote ‘Manufacturing Consent’ in 1989? Is the media manufacturing consent now?

A: Well, we didn’t actually say that media is manufacturing consent; we said that that is what they are trying to do. We discussed the nature of the media. There’s a separate question; to what extent is it effective? And that’s an interesting question, but we didn’t discuss it. They’re still doing it in the same way. In fact, dramatically.

Take November 8, two things of critical significance happened on November 8. One of them was massively reported, the other, which was much more important, received no report – that was the Marrakesh Conference of 200 countries that tried to implement the Paris programs to try to save the human species from destruction. That’s a lot more important than what happened in the U.S. election. And, in fact, it was undermined by the U.S. election. What happened in Morocco is astounding if you look at it; one country was leading the way to try to save civilization from self-destruction. One country was way behind, trying to lead the way toward self-destruction, the first was China, the second was the United States. That is a remarkable spectacle. Did you see a comment on it?

Q: Nothing.

A: That is manufacturing consent.

Q: Finally, you have come to the evening of your life after over half a century of being the epitome of pioneering thought and intellectual discourse. What are your views on religion? And what is your personal belief of life after death?

A: Personally, it means nothing to me, but if it means something to other people, that is fine. As long as they don’t bother others. I don’t ridicule it, I don’t have contempt for it, I have respect for their views, but they are not mine.

Q: And your views on religion, you were born into a Jewish family and raised…

A: Well, remember that Judaism is fundamentally a religion of practice, more than belief. So, say my grandfather, who was basically still living in the 17th century Eastern Europe was ultra religious. But if I had asked him, did you believe in God? He probably wouldn’t have known what I was talking about. Judaism means carrying out the practices. My father was basically secular, but deeply involved in Jewish life. If you go to a New England church on Sunday morning, you would find people who are deeply religious, but not believers. Religion to them means community, associations, helping each other, having some common values and so on. Religion could be all sorts of things. But to me, it doesn’t happen to be a value; if other people do, that is their business.