Tuesday, 25 May 2021

What's the difference between Roman Protasevich and Julian Assange?

Roman Protasevich is a dissident hated by a regime close to the Kremlin. Roman is a hero to the West.

Julian Assange is a publicist hated by Washington. Julian is a villain to the West.

Simples really, if you want to explain the West's latest Moral Outrage du jour. Meanwhile Assange rots in a British high security gaol, convicted of nairy more than a breach of bail.

Friday, 14 May 2021

The IfNotNow Movement

IfNotNow is building a movement of Jews to end Israel’s occupation and transform the American Jewish community.

We are organizing every day to expose the occupation as a moral crisis to American Jews, end the weaponization of antisemitism in our political debate over Israel, and create political space for leaders to stand up for the freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians.

We are building a vibrant and inclusive movement within the American Jewish community, across generations and organizational affiliations. This movement is open to any who seek to shift the American Jewish public and our political leaders towards a hopeful vision for Israelis and Palestinians.

As we were dehumanized by the oppression we faced, we are now dehumanized by that which we are inflicting. The occupation is a daily nightmare for those who live under it and a moral disaster for those who support and administer it. As a movement, we understand the Occupation as Israel’s military rule over Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. We also know that the discrimination and displacement inside Israel's 1948 borders are connected to its rule in those Occupied Territories. This system of violence deprives all Palestinians of civil, political, and economic rights.

Get involved (click here)

Monday, 10 May 2021

We didn't start the fire. Chubby Checker, Psycho, Neonazis in the Ukraine...

Five years ago, Ukraine’s Maidan uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, to the cheers and support of the West. Politicians and analysts in the United States and Europe not only celebrated the uprising as a triumph of democracy, but denied reports of Maidan’s ultranationalism, smearing those who warned about the dark side of the uprising as Moscow puppets and useful idiots. Freedom was on the march in Ukraine.

Today, increasing reports of far-right violence, ultranationalism, and erosion of basic freedoms are giving the lie to the West’s initial euphoria. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, rampant attacks on feminists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators.

These stories of Ukraine’s dark nationalism aren’t coming out of Moscow; they’re being filed by Western media, including US-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and watchdogs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House, which issued a joint report warning that Kiev is losing the monopoly on the use of force in the country as far-right gangs operate with impunity.

Five years after Maidan, the beacon of democracy is looking more like a torchlight march.


“Volunteer Ukrainian Unit Includes Nazis.”—USA Today, March 10, 2015

The DC establishment’s standard defense of Kiev is to point out that Ukraine’s far right has a smaller percentage of seats in the parliament than their counterparts in places like France. That’s a spurious argument: What Ukraine’s far right lacks in polls numbers, it makes up for with things Marine Le Pen could only dream of—paramilitary units and free rein on the streets.

Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces. The Azov Battalion was initially formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patriot of Ukraine. Andriy Biletsky, the gang’s leader who became Azov’s commander, once wrote that Ukraine’s mission is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semite-led Untermenschen.” Biletsky is now a deputy in Ukraine’s parliament.

In the fall of 2014, Azov—which is accused of human-rights abuses, including torture, by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations—was incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard.

While the group officially denies any neo-Nazi connections, Azov’s nature has been confirmed by multiple Western outlets: The New York Times called the battalion “openly neo-Nazi,” while USA Today, The Daily Beast, The Telegraph, and Haaretz documented group members’ proclivity for swastikas, salutes, and other Nazi symbols, and individual fighters have also acknowledged being neo-Nazis.

In January 2018, Azov rolled out its National Druzhina street patrol unit whose members swore personal fealty to Biletsky and pledged to “restore Ukrainian order” to the streets. The Druzhina quickly distinguished itself by carrying out pogroms against the Roma and LGBT organizations and storming a municipal council. Earlier this year, Kiev announced the neo-Nazi unit will be monitoring polls in next month’s presidential election.

In 2017, Congressman Ro Khanna led the effort to ban Azov from receiving U.S. arms and training. But the damage has already been done: The research group Bellingcat proved that Azov had already received access to American grenade launchers, while a Daily Beast investigation showed that US trainers are unable to prevent aid from reaching white supremacists. And Azov itself had proudly posted a video of the unit welcoming NATO representatives.

(Azov isn’t the only far-right formation to get Western affirmation. In December 2014, Amnesty International accused the Dnipro-1 battalion of potential war crimes, including “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.” Six months later, Senator John McCain visited and praised the battalion.)

Particularly concerning is Azov’s campaign to transform Ukraine into a hub for transnational white supremacy. The unit has recruited neo-Nazis from Germany, the UK, Brazil, Sweden, and America; last October, the FBI arrested four California white supremacists who had allegedly received training from Azov. This is a classic example of blowback: US support of radicals abroad ricocheting to hit America.


“Ukrainian police declare admiration for Nazi collaborators”—RFE, February 13, 2019

Speaker of Parliament Andriy Parubiy cofounded and led two neo-Nazi organizations: the Social-National Party of Ukraine (later renamed Svoboda), and Patriot of Ukraine, whose members would eventually form the core of Azov.

Although Parubiy left the far right in the early 2000’s, he hasn’t rejected his past. When asked about it in a 2016 interview, Parubiy replied that his “values” haven’t changed. Parubiy, whose autobiography shows him marching with the neo-Nazi wolfsangel symbol used by Aryan Nations, regularly meets with Washington think tanks and politicians; his neo-Nazi background is ignored or outright denied.

Even more disturbing is the far right’s penetration of law enforcement. Shortly after Maidan, the US equipped and trained the newly founded National Police, in what was intended to be a hallmark program buttressing Ukrainian democracy.

The deputy minister of the Interior—which controls the National Police—is Vadim Troyan, a veteran of Azov and Patriot of Ukraine. In 2014, when Troyan was being considered for police chief of Kiev, Ukrainian Jewish leaders were appalled by his neo-Nazi background. Today, he’s deputy of the department running US-trained law enforcement in the entire nation.

Earlier this month, RFE reported on National Police leadership admiring Stepan Bandera—a Nazi collaborator and Fascist whose troops participated in the Holocaust—on social media.

The fact that Ukraine’s police is peppered with far-right supporters explains why neo-Nazis operate with impunity on the streets.


“Ukrainian extremists celebrate Ukrainian Nazi SS divisions…in the middle of a major Ukrainian city”—Anti-Defamation League Director of European Affairs, April 28, 2018

It’s not just the military and street gangs: Ukraine’s far right has successfully hijacked the post-Maidan government to impose an intolerant and ultranationalist culture over the land.

In 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation making two WWII paramilitaries—the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—heroes of Ukraine, and made it a criminal offense to deny their heroism. The OUN had collaborated with the Nazis and participated in the Holocaust, while the UPA slaughtered thousands of Jews and 70,000-100,000 Poles on their own volition.

The government-funded Ukrainian Institute of National Memory is institutionalizing the whitewashing of Nazi collaborators. Last summer, the Ukrainian parliament featured an exhibit commemorating the OUN’s 1941 proclamation of cooperation with the Third Reich (imagine the French government installing an exhibit celebrating the Vichy state!).

Torchlight marches in honor of OUN/UPA leaders like Roman Shukhevych (a commander in a Third Reich auxiliary battalion) are a regular feature of the new Ukraine. The recuperation even extends to SS Galichina, a Ukrainian division of the Waffen-SS; the director of the Institute of National Memory proclaimed that the SS fighters were “war victims.” The government’s embrace of Bandera is not only deplorable, but also extremely divisive, considering the OUN/UPA are reviled in eastern Ukraine.

Predictably, the celebration of Nazi collaborators has accompanied a rise in outright anti-Semitism.

“Jews Out!” chanted thousands during a January 2017 march honoring OUN leader Bandera. (The next day the police denied hearing anything anti-Semitic.) That summer, a three-day festival celebrating the Nazi collaborator Shukhevych capped off with the firebombing of a synagogue. In November 2017, RFE reported Nazi salutes as 20,000 marched in honor of the UPA. And last April, hundreds marched in L’viv with coordinated Nazi salutes honoring SS Galichina; the march was promoted by the L’viv regional government.

The Holocaust revisionism is a multi-pronged effort, ranging from government-funded seminars, brochures, and board games, to the proliferation of plaques, statues, and streets renamed after butchers of Jews, to far-right children camps, where youth are inculcated with ultranationalist ideology.

Within several years, an entire generation will be indoctrinated to worship Holocaust perpetrators as national heroes.


“No state should be allowed to interfere in the writing of history.”—British historian Antony Beevor, after his award-winning book was banned in Ukraine, The Telegraph, January 23, 2018

Ukraine’s State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting is enforcing the glorification of Ukraine’s new heroes by banning “anti-Ukrainian” literature that goes against the government narrative. This ideological censorship includes acclaimed books by Western authors.

In January 2018, Ukraine made international headlines by banning Stalingrad by award-winning British historian Antony Beevor because of a single paragraph about a Ukrainian unit massacring 90 Jewish children during World War II. In December, Kiev banned The Book Thieves by Swedish author Anders Rydell (which, ironically, is about the Nazis’ suppression of literature) because he mentioned troops loyal to Symon Petliura (an early 20th-century nationalist leader) had slaughtered Jews.

This month, the Ukrainian embassy in Washington exported this intolerance to America by brazenly demanding the United States ban a Russian movie from American theaters. Apparently, the billions Washington invested in promoting democracy in Ukraine have failed to teach Kiev basic concepts of free speech.


“I’m telling you one more time—go to hell, kikes. The Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.”—Security services reserve general Vasily Vovk, May 11, 2017

Unsurprisingly, government-led glorification of Holocaust perpetrators was a green light for other forms of anti-Semitism. The past three years saw an explosion of swastikas and SS runes on city streets, death threats, and vandalism of Holocaust memorials, Jewish centers, cemeteries, tombs, and places of worship, all of which led Israel to take the unusual step of publicly urging Kiev to address the epidemic.

Public officials make anti-Semitic threats with no repercussions. These include: a security services general promising to eliminate the zhidi (a slur equivalent to ‘kikes’); a parliament deputy going off on an anti-Semitic rant on television; a far-right politician lamenting Hitler didn’t finish off the Jews; and an ultranationalist leader vowing to cleanse Odessa of zhidi.

For the first few years after Maidan, Jewish organizations largely refrained from criticizing Ukraine, perhaps in the hope Kiev would address the issue on its own. But by 2018, the increasing frequency of anti-Semitic incidents led Jewish groups to break their silence.

Last year, the Israeli government’s annual report on anti-Semitism heavily featured Ukraine, which had more incidents than all post-Soviet states combined. The World Jewish Congress, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and 57 members of the US Congress all vociferously condemned Kiev’s Nazi glorification and the concomitant anti-Semitism.

Ukrainian Jewish leaders are also speaking out. In 2017, the director of one of Ukraine’s largest Jewish organizations published a New York Times op-ed urging the West to address Kiev’s whitewashing. Last year, 41 Ukrainian Jewish leaders denounced the growth of anti-Semitism. That’s especially telling, given that many Ukrainian Jewish leaders supported the Maidan uprising.

None of these concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way.


“‘They wanted to kill us’: masked neo-fascists strike fear into Ukraine’s Roma.” —The Guardian, August 27, 2018

Ukraine’s far right has resisted carrying out outright attacks on Jews; other vulnerable groups haven’t been so lucky.

Last spring, a lethal wave of anti-Roma pogroms swept through Ukraine, with at least six attacks in two months. Footage from the pogroms evokes the 1930s: Armed thugs attack women and children while razing their camps. At least one man was killed, while others, including a child, were stabbed.

Two gangs behind the attacks—C14 and the National Druzhina—felt comfortable enough to proudly post pogrom videos on social media. That’s not surprising, considering that the National Druzhina is part of Azov, while the neo-Nazi C14 receives government funding for “educational” programs. Last October, C14 leader Serhiy Bondar was welcomed at America House Kyiv, a center run by the US government.

Appeals from international organizations and the US embassy fell on deaf ears: Months after the United Nations demanded Kiev end “systematic persecution” of the Roma, a human-rights group reported C14 were allegedly intimidating Roma in a joint patrol with the Kiev police.


“‘It’s even worse than before’: How the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ Failed LGBT Ukrainians.”—RFE, November 21, 2018

In 2016, after pressure from the US Congress, the Kiev government began providing security for the annual Kiev Pride parade. However, this increasingly looks like a Potemkin affair: two hours of protection, with widespread attacks on LGBT individuals and gatherings during the rest of the year. Nationalist groups have targeted LGBT meetings with impunity, going so far as to shut down an event hosted by Amnesty International as well as assault a Western journalist at a transgender rights rally. Women’s-rights marches have also been targeted, including brazen attacks in March.


“The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Ukrainian law enforcement raid at the Kiev offices of Media Holding Vesti…more than a dozen masked officers ripped open doors with crowbars, seized property, and fired tear gas in the offices.”—The Committee to Protect Journalists, February 9, 2018

In May 2016, Myrotvorets, an ultranationalist website with links to the government, published the personal data of thousands of journalists who had obtained accreditation from Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Myrotvorets labeled the journalists “terrorist collaborators.”

A government-tied website declaring open season on journalists would be dangerous anywhere, but it is especially so in Ukraine, which has a disturbing track record of journalist assassinations. This includes Oles Buzina, gunned down in 2015, and Pavel Sheremet, assassinated by car bomb a year later.

The Myrotvorets doxing was denounced by Western reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and ambassadors from the G7 nations. In response, Kiev officials, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, praised the site: “This is your choice to cooperate with occupying forces,” Avakov told journalists, while posting “I Support Myrotvorets” on Facebook. Myrotvorets remains operational today.

Last fall brought another attack on the media, this time using the courts. The Prosecutor General’s office was granted a warrant to seize records of RFE anti-corruption reporter Natalie Sedletska. An RFE spokeswoman warned that Kiev’s actions created “a chilling atmosphere for journalists,” while parliament deputy Mustafa Nayyem called it “an example of creeping dictatorship.”


“[Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk] also made a personal appeal to Russian-speaking Ukrainians, pledging to support…a special status to the Russian language.”—US Secretary of State John Kerry, April 24, 2014

Ukraine is extraordinarily multilingual: In addition to the millions of Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians, there are areas where Hungarian, Romanian, and other tongues are prevalent. These languages were protected by a 2012 regional-language law.

The post-Maidan government alarmed Russian-speaking Ukrainians by attempting to annul that law. The US State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry sought to assuage fears in 2014 by pledging that Kiev would protect the status of Russian. Those promises came to naught.

A 2017 law mandated that secondary education be conducted strictly in Ukrainian, which infuriated Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. Several regions passed legislation banning the use of Russian in public life. Quotas enforce Ukrainian usage on TV and radio. (This would be akin to Washington forcing Spanish-language media to broadcast mostly in English.)

And in February 2018, Ukraine’s supreme court struck down the 2012 regional language law—the one Kerry promised eastern Ukrainians would stay in effect.

Currently, Kiev is preparing to pass a draconian law that would mandate the use of Ukrainian in most aspects of public life. It’s another example of Kiev alienating millions of its own citizens, while claiming to embrace Western values.


These examples are only a tiny fraction of Ukraine’s slide toward intolerance, but they should be enough to point out the obvious: Washington’s decision to ignore the proliferation of armed neo-Nazi groups in a highly unstable nation only led to them gaining more power.

This easily predictable outcome is in marked contrast to Washington’s enthusiasm over the “Revolution of Dignity.” “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine needs,” proclaimed a New Republic article by historian Anne Applebaum, whose celebration of nationalism came out right around the time that Ukraine green-lighted the formation of white-supremacist paramilitaries. A mere four months after Applebaum’s essay, Newsweek ran an article titled “Ukrainian nationalist volunteers committing ‘ISIS-style’ war crimes.”

In essay after essay, DC foreign-policy heads have denied or celebrated the influence of Ukraine’s far right. (Curiously, the same analysts vociferously denounce rising nationalism in Hungary, Poland, and Italy as highly dangerous.) Perhaps think-tankers deluded themselves into thinking Kiev’s far-right phase would tucker itself out. More likely, they simply embraced DC’s go-to strategy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Either way, the ramifications stretch far beyond Ukraine.

America’s backing of the Maidan uprising, along with the billions DC sinks into post-Maidan Kiev, make it clear: Starting February 2014, Ukraine became Washington’s latest democracy-spreading project. What we permit in Ukraine sends a green light to others.

By tolerating neo-Nazi gangs and battalions, state-led Holocaust distortion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the United States is telling the rest of Europe: “We’re fine with this.” The implications—especially at a time of a global far-right revival—are profoundly disturbing.

Source: The Nation.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Hartlepool: Labour's landcrush

‘Obsessed with the flag’: Labour recriminations begin in Hartlepool

A union jack hangs limply from Labour’s campaign headquarters in Hartlepool. The flag has flown for six weeks over the former vape shop, next to an outlet called We Sell Owt, in the town where Labour fought its most bruising byelection campaign in decades.

As Hartlepool woke up on Friday as the seat of a Conservative MP for the first time in 57 years, Labour figures pointed to the flag as being emblematic of the deep identity crisis behind the party’s shattering loss.

Labour head office was “obsessed with us getting a flag”, said one organiser, bemoaning what they felt was a lack of substance to justify it. “There was no fleshing out what the flag means, or what policies have changed because we’re now patriotic. It was just: bung a flag up.”

A fortnight before polling day, party activists were told to hand out St George’s flag leaflets urging voters to “display this poster with pride in your window”. Labour, a party searching for direction after 11 years out of power, wrapped itself in the flag to try to win back voters who deserted it over Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn. The plan failed.

Labour’s share of the vote plunged to 29% on Thursday, its lowest in almost 100 years, while the Conservatives won a nearly 7,000-strong majority in a north-east England town they recently thought unwinnable. “It’s seismic,” beamed Mike Young, the Conservative deputy leader of Hartlepool borough council, as the ballots piled up for its candidate on Friday morning.

Source: Grauniad.

No sympathy from me, Labour. The assassins of Jeremy Corbyn have no clothes on and it shows!

Zionist Ethnostate: "No Dogs, No Black Jews"

African migrants in limbo as Israel seeks Uganda deportation deal

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel is finalizing a deal to deport thousands of African migrants to Uganda under a new scheme after agreements with Rwanda and the U.N.’s refugee agency to find homes for those expelled fell through.

About 4,000 migrants have left Israel for Rwanda and Uganda since 2013 under a voluntary program but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under pressure from his right-wing voter base to expel thousands more.

In January, Israel started handing out notices to male migrants from Eritrea and Sudan giving them three months to take the voluntary deal with a plane ticket and $3,500 or risk being thrown in jail.

The government said from April it would start forced deportations but rights groups challenged the move and Israel’s Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction to give more time for the petitioners to argue against the plan.

Government representatives told the court on Tuesday that an envoy was in an African country finalizing a deportation deal after an arrangement with Rwanda to take migrants expelled under the new measures fell through.

The representatives did not name the country in court sessions open to the public though Israeli lawmakers have previously said the two countries it was planning to deport migrants to were Rwanda and Uganda.

More & Source: Reuters

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Who was Bartolomé de las Casas?

Bartolomé de las Casas and 500 Years of Racial Injustice

This year marks the 500-year anniversary of the pricking of one man's conscience. Bartolomé de las Casas, sickened by the exploitation and physical degradation of the indigenous peoples in the Spanish colonies of the Caribbean, gave up his extensive land holdings and slaves and traveled to his homeland in Spain in 1515 to petition the Spanish Crown to stop the abuses that European colonists were inflicting upon the natives of the New World.

Las Casas (right) rose to become one of the most influential thinkers of his day. He elaborated his views on slavery and the rights of indigenous peoples in numerous tracts including the extremely popular Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, which was published during his lifetime (c. 1484–1566). Through his actions and writings, Las Casas became an important figure in the development of ideas of what we would now call human rights.

In sixteenth-century Spain, slavery was a widely accepted practice, although increasingly questioned. Spanish law of the time considered all captives of war as potential slaves, yet there were some provisos.

Theologians and philosophers in the School of Salamanca, including the incredibly influential Luis de Vitoria, father of modern international law, restricted this only to include captives of war who were not Catholic. This category included Lutherans, Muslim Turks, Orthodox Slavs, non-Catholic Africans, and native peoples of the New World. In addition, there existed the legal idea, modeled on Muslim laws regarding captured peoples, which allowed non-Catholics to convert instead of becoming slaves.

Despite these legal caveats, Spanish conquerors enslaved large groups of the newly encountered indigenous peoples in the Americas, working many of them to death.

Las Casas arrived in Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in 1502, and soon became a land and slave owner, joining military expeditions against the native peoples and becoming a priest in 1510. However, after Las Casas' participation in the violent and destructive Spanish invasion of Cuba in 1513, he began to view European interference in native affairs as illegal and amoral.

Though his petitions began in May of 1515, they would continue until his death in 1566 as he cajoled, shamed, and begged the Spanish crown to end its practices of violent invasion and enslavement. The Spanish government in return treated Las Casas' pleas with ambivalence, in part because indigenous enslavement was so profitable.

The government was not the only ambivalent actor. Las Casas himself changed his rhetoric over time as he and his argument matured. For instance, he originally advocated the use of African slaves instead of indigenous Americans because Spaniards considered them to be hardier than natives.

In fact, African slaves often did have higher survival rates in the early years of invasion because of their tolerance to European diseases due to Old World exposure. Indigenous peoples died quickly of such Old World illnesses as malaria and smallpox, having no exposure immunity. Europeans in the 16th century had no understanding of inoculation or immunity and assumed that Africans were just naturally better suited for labor, assigning this trait to their race.

In making this argument, Las Casas may have inadvertently provided the Spanish government endorsement of the new idea of slavery based on race, rather than the medieval concept of slavery as the result of war and conquest. Las Casas later advocated that all slavery be abolished, but the burgeoning European empires paid little attention to this moral idea when so much wealth and power was at stake.

Las Casas also later advocated that indigenous groups be allowed self-governance under the Spanish crown. His argument drew upon theologians and moral philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. The Spanish bureaucracy again viewed this through an understanding of Muslim law, which granted non-Muslims the use of their own courts and legal justice system (the protected status known as dhimmi).

Las Casas’ ideas percolated throughout the Spanish legal system, and indigenous peoples were ultimately allowed to adjudicate in inter-indigenous matters. In cases that involved the Spanish government, they could use the court systems with an advocate known as a "protector" who would represent their interests and offer judgements based on traditional indigenous customs, as long as those customs were not deemed "heretical" or against the Catholic faith. Las Casas himself was appointed the first protector.

Until his death, Bartolomé de las Casas, worked tirelessly to prevent the enslavement of all native people and later regretted wholeheartedly his advocacy of African slavery. Indigenous and black activists and protestors for 500 years have taken up his arguments to push for changes to the systems that have made them second-class citizens.

As we look around the world today at the legal and economic situation of many indigenous communities, one wonders what Las Casas would make of it all and how much further we need to go.

Source: Origins.edu

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Exterminate All the Brutes

Exterminate All the Brutes | Raoul Peck’s Statement of Intent | HBO

(For British viewers the series is currently being aired on Sky Documentaries)

Part personal essay, part investigation, the docuseries “Exterminate All the Brutes” is a striking piece of nonfiction work that has the intellectual rigor of an advanced history course, and asks that viewers keep up with its many ideas and horrors over the course of its four hours. Raoul Peck picks and pulls at every connecting fiber throughout history, finding several lines through the ages of how hateful dogma begat public policy, systemic murder, and cultural genocide. If you finish “Exterminate All the Brutes” without re-examining the hundreds of hours spent in history classes, then you didn’t pay attention to Peck’s lesson.

But Peck is not just concerned with the past. Like his dynamic James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” Peck is interested in how our past has come to inform our present. In “Exterminate All the Brutes,” he overlays images of the past over our present to find uncomfortable truths and the stories buried under hundreds of years of colonialism. In shots of gorgeous European architectural wonders that were made possible by brutalizing Black and brown subjects in far-flung colonies, Peck overlays photos of these people to obscure the obscene displays of wealth made possible by their exploitation. He traces back decade and century-long struggles between peoples to old shipping routes, the power over which determined the victor. It’s as if Peck’s taken the New York Times’ "1619 Project," which centers the story of Black people in the U.S. and the ramifications of slavery, and stretched it to a global scale—with largely a focus on western civilization like Europe and its colonies—and a lens that also includes the plight of indigenous people on different continents.

However, using these ideas and tools to reexamine our history are not a recent invention. In both the series’ opening credits and throughout, Peck acknowledges the elders who taught him to question the official story and to look beyond the whitewashed version of what we think we know. He especially draws attention to the works of Sven Lindqvist, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Some of those mentioned in the series he befriended, like Lindqvist, whose book gives the series its name and overall premise. But the personal anecdotes don't stop with Peck’s version of a class reading list. He gets deeply personal about his own experiences and career. He has benefitted from traveling the world and affording a European education, and the experience has allowed him to see the results of past atrocities up close: when going to film school in Berlin and thinking about how Germany systemized the killing of Jews in the Holocaust just decades prior, losing friends in his home country of Haiti to CIA-backed militaries, traveling to Africa as a child and taking photos with statues honoring white conquerors, and profiling world leaders and watching them be betrayed or commit betrayal for the sake of power. These ruminations appear in line with world events, like when Peck switches from a scathing critique of modern-day world leaders to the inspiration behind his 2013 film “Murder in Pacot” and thinking about what drives oppressed people to take desperate actions.

Visually, “Exterminate All the Brutes” is just as powerful as Peck’s reading of semi-hidden chapters of history. With his deep, raspy voice, Peck leads audiences through one historic event after another, breaking down how the dehumanization of a perceived other led to their attempted destruction. He uses every tool in the documentary handbook to make history leap off the page, including animated sequences and historical recreations, which often have a metatextual component that compares the past to the present. One such device is the series’ use of Josh Hartnett, who appears in every episode as a white Everyman whose role changes depending on the story Peck is retelling. Hartnett morphs from an U.S. Army sergeant who exterminates members of a Seminole tribe in 19th century Florida in one scene to a colonizer in the Belgian Congo, taking advantage of his power to enact cruelty. He is the forefather of Charlottesville protestors with tiki torches and of the police whose professional lineage can be traced to slave catchers and who benefits from criminalizing others. Basically, he’s anyone who’s benefitted from a few genetic differences and refuses to see his part in the larger scheme of imperialism, colonization and racial oppression.

As a filmmaker, Peck is well-acquainted with how pop culture can be weaponized against marginalized groups. He points to the mythologized story of the Alamo as a lesson taught by John Wayne and highlights the coded racism in works like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and the Gene Kelly musical “On the Town.” He details cultural figures like The Wizard of Oz writer L. Frank Baum, who once extolled the need to exterminate indigenous tribes for settlers’ safety, and numerous scientists who used their profession to call for the persecution and subjugation of various groups. The title of Lindqvist's book and the series “Exterminate All the Brutes” comes from Heart of Darkness writer Joseph Conrad, who makes numerous appearances throughout the series for his writing on colonialism in Africa. Essentially, there are few corners of western culture that are exempt from colonialism’s legacy. That HBO, part of one of this nation’s bigger media conglomerates, is airing such an uncompromising look at history feels something like a fluke.

Peck also uses music to cast a new light on well-worn images, like layering in Maurice Jarre’s score to “Lawrence of Arabia” over a devastating siege in the Middle East that showcased Europe’s fatal firepower. Instead of valorizing the white conquerors, the music now underscores the narrative with a sense of tragedy. Throughout the series, Peck also utilizes music cues to contrast against expectations. There’s dance music added to archival footage, like the upbeat number that accompanies Eva Braun’s home movies, giving the evil posing for pictures within every frame an eerie sense of banality. While Peck is unafraid to show the harrowing results of genocide, he's not interested in further sexualizing oppressed people, creating a sense that he is restoring some of their dignity taken by force. It is also part of how Peck makes “Exterminate All the Brutes” a work of his own. There’s so much of the director in the series, from his previous films to his childhood home movies, that they are inseparable from the history lessons.

In examining the past, Peck finds that history repeats itself with disgusting regularity. His outrage that humanity has not learned from its past is palpable. With each diagram, flicker of old footage, or modern-day anecdote, Peck underlines the connections between ideologies and its consequences, like how the banner of Manifest Destiny rebranded the act of stealing land and resources from perceived enemies as a kind of God-given right dictated by the color of one’s skin and origins. The docuseries includes a look at Donald Trump and fascism, but Peck finds the brutality of American presidents all throughout the ages, back when this country was still a colony. The way the government treated the indigenous people back then still shapes how our military today treats our perceived enemies abroad, all while co-opting the names of tribes for our weapons.

Peck asks about America, “When exactly was it really great and for whom?” He answers his own question with stacks of evidence against the idea that America could ever consider itself great after all it has done to destroy human life in and out of its borders. The director ends with a sobering thought, that it’s comforting to think that genocide somehow began and ended with Nazi Germany. But Peck isn’t interested in comfort. He dispels that notion, one hour after another, chiseling away at the polite lies passed from generation to generation, in the hopes that we may finally learn something about ourselves and our past.

Source: rogerebert