Pink Floyd feud becomes microcosm of broader war debate

The former members of Pink Floyd have had a long-running and highly public feud ever since Roger Waters, the principal writer of the band’s best-known material, left the group in 1984. His former chief collaborator, lead guitarist David Gilmour, carried on using the band’s name, leading to bitter legal battles. Aside from a couple momentary reunions, the two showed no interest in burying the hatchet, let alone working together again.

Recently the feud exploded, going well beyond the confines of the band and bleeding into issues of geopolitics, war, and peace. On February 6, Gilmour’s wife, writer Polly Samson, tweeted, “Sadly @rogerwaters you are antisemitic to your rotten core. Also a Putin apologist and a lying, thieving, hypocritical, tax-avoiding, lip-synching, misogynistic, sick-with-envy, megalomaniac. Enough of your nonsense.” Shortly after, Gilmour concurred, tweeting, “Every word demonstrably true.”

Samson’s tweet was a shocking, vitriolic series of epithets that paint Waters as a complete and total scumbag. This is no mere difference of opinion. Plenty of people disagree with Waters, but Samson apparently sees him as an irredeemable, worthless human being who contributes nothing but evil to the world.

It’s worth asking what brought her to this venomous string of insults. The personal stuff is difficult for anyone to knowledgeably comment on, but Waters does have a long record of public statements that can shed some light on where she got “Putin apologist” and “antisemitic.”

Roger Waters on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Waters has recently been vocal in his calls for a diplomatic resolution to the war in Ukraine. On February 8, he even addressed the United Nations on the matter. In his impassioned speech, Waters pleaded for an end to all wars, including the one in Ukraine. He also called for a reorientation of global priorities more broadly, speaking for the hungry, the cold, the sick, the oppressed, and the war-torn all the world over.

  • “The invasion of Ukraine by The Russian Federation was illegal. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
  • “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked, so I also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms.”
  • “The only sensible course of action today is to call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.”

Parts of Waters’s speech have been cherrypicked to dismiss him as a pro-Putin propagandist. In particular, his characterization of Russia’s invasion as “provoked” has drawn the most flack.

Saying an attack was “provoked” is not the same as saying it was “justified.” For instance, wondering what provoked Polly Samson to say what she said about Roger Waters isn’t the same thing as justifying her words. Simply trying to understand another’s motivation isn’t apologia. When something happens, thoughtful people ask, “Why?” And in most cases, whether they be interpersonal matters or war and geopolitics, the answers are complex.

It would be convenient if the war in Ukraine was simply a case of irrational, bloodthirsty Russian barbarians waging a war of conquest and the heroic US and NATO sending arms to secure peace. That’s the narrative shared by most establishment media and political figures, and it’s predicated on the perfectly reasonable notion that the invading force is the bad guy.

But Waters acknowledging that the US and NATO have antagonized Russia, particularly around Ukraine, is not the same thing as absolving Putin or acting as his propagandist. Nor is it victim-blaming Ukrainians for their predicament. Waters believes the war in Ukraine is a proxy war, provoked by Western powers, at enormous cost to the Ukrainian people.

And he is calling for a diplomatic resolution before the situation erupts into a nuclear World War III. He’s implored the West, particularly President Biden, to stop fueling the war and inflaming the tensions by pouring money and arms into it. Agree with him or not, those calls for peace don’t sound like the things an unforgivable monster – like the kind Polly Samson depicted in her tweet – would say.

Even today, in concerts, Waters consistently confronts enormous crowds with challenging calls for racial justice, economic security, and peace. He doesn’t have to put himself out there the way he does. Pink Floyd is one of the biggest bands ever and he could easily coast on royalties and reputation. But he can’t help himself because he is passionate, and it does matter to him.

Roger Waters, the alleged antisemite

Samson’s other accusation, which Waters has contended with for years, is that he’s antisemitic. It’s a tough charge to shake, and one that outspoken critics of Israeli policy are often confronted with. Because Waters is forceful with his language, it sometimes comes across as overtly hostile. Critics of Israel must not conflate the state with the Jewish people themselves. By and large, Waters has always been on the right side of that line.

Waters condemns Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, labeling Israel an “apartheid state.” It sounds salacious, but virtually every international human rights organization, including Human Rights Watch, agrees with Waters. He also criticizes the influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington, which some say plays into antisemitic tropes. But Israeli defense lobbies do spend a lot of money in Washington, and Washington does, in turn, send billions of dollars to Israel every year, equipping them with one of the mightiest militaries in the Middle East.

The Anti-Defamation League’s page, Roger Waters In His Own Words, primarily uses Waters’s criticism of Israel and groups like AIPAC as evidence against him. Arguably the most damning thing, perhaps even explicitly antisemitic, was a video Waters played in 2010 concerts that depicted the Star of David and a dollar sign together, which he later stopped using.

A huge part of Waters’s identity comes from losing his father in World War II at the tender age of five months. Waters has been committed to fighting the evils that took his father away from him – war, imperialism, and Nazism chief among them. He has always denied every accusation of antisemitism.

Not just a difference of opinion

As for the personal charges Samson throws – misogynist, liar, thief, hypocrite, tax-avoider, lip-syncing, envious, megalomaniac – only those who know Roger Waters can say. There’s little if anything in his lyrics or public statements to support those accusations. None of us are perfect, but Waters appears, for the most part, to be a fairly dedicated humanist and peacenik.

What’s so sad about this fight, though, is how Samson – and by extension, David Gilmour – employed the lowest of tactics to not only dismiss an ideological opponent, but to dehumanize him, reduce him to beneath contempt. Indeed, this is how many in the neoliberal establishment want to paint their antiwar critics: not just as naïve or wrong, but as villainous, evil, and vile enough, perhaps, to even deserve death.

The War in Ukraine brings out a lot of intense emotion, and with good reason. Any war should. But this war, in particular, has some incredibly unnuanced and aggressive supporters. Until we can break that cycle and that rigidity, it will only escalate.

Fifty years ago, Waters wrote about the folly of Us and Them mentality. Here he is now, being otherized by the partner with whom he recorded some of history’s most impressive and timeless popular music. That music carried a vital message and philosophy, and Waters sticks to it still, offering his perspective and searching for a way out of a deadly war that threatens to engulf the world. For that to prompt such an incredibly vicious tweet from someone so close in his life is incredibly sad.

War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Clusterf*ck

After months of tension and speculation, on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded his neighbor Ukraine. Putin’s troops started in the Russia-friendly separatist region of the country known as the Donbas and have since made their way toward the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, which remains under siege.

The invasion has put the world on high alert. Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia, markets have spiraled, and politicians have begun openly wondering whether the end result of all this will be a nuclear World War III.

No one can predict the future, but to make even an educated guess requires an understanding of Ukrainian/Russian history and US/NATO influence in the region.

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Washington wants you to warm up to the idea of a nuclear war with Russia. Don’t.

As tensions on the border of Russia and Ukraine escalate, the United States is getting more deeply involved. Over the last two weeks, US cargo planes have delivered nearly 600 tons of military equipment to Ukraine. Last week, President Biden announced the deployment of 3,000 US troops to eastern Europe. The United States is pushing toward a nuclear World War III, and American citizens must raise their voices to stop it.

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Donald Trump’s pipeline to Putin

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands at a summit in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.

After his submissive appearance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki last month, President Donald Trump faced some of the most severe and unanimous criticism of his chaotic political career. Members of Trump’s own party called the president “treasonous” and “disgraceful” while commentators speculated that Putin must have serious kompromat on Trump to make him behave so obsequiously. As the media and the FBI connect the dots of Putin and Trump’s relationship, their most obvious common interest in oil goes largely undiscussed. Continue reading

How establishment Republicans learned to stop worrying and love Donald Trump

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Hannity’s sources are now telling him that, yeah, maybe the president did want to obstruct justice by firing the special counsel investigating him. So what? Isn’t that his right?

Late last week, The New York Times reported that President Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating suspected crimes by the Trump campaign, transition, and administration. Mueller was put in place last year after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man previously leading the investigation. Trump’s attorney and White House counsel, Donald McGahn, threatened to resign rather than carry out the June 2017 order to fire Mueller, and Trump backed off.

In a sea of massive Trump scandals, this should be one of the biggest. It’s the clearest indication yet of Trump’s desire to obstruct an investigation into he and his inner circle’s financial ties to Russian oligarchs and, potentially, their cooperation with a campaign of cyber warfare against the American people. That investigation, which Trump continually derides as entirely phony, has already ensnared high-level Trump aides and campaign officials like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page.

Yet Republicans have been mostly mum on the Times report. Senator Lindsey Graham, often a representative for the establishment vanguard against Trump, warned, “if he tried to [fire Mueller], it would be the end of his presidency.” Despite the strong words, no action has been taken. Meanwhile, Trump has enlisted a growing chorus of Republican pundits and politicians to undermine the special counsel and, indeed, just about any institution responsible for holding him accountable. Continue reading

What if climate change is a hoax?

Australia blog about climate change science media coverage : Anti-carbon tax protesters in Canberra

Pro-oil protesters hold signs at a demonstration against taking action on climate change.

The most demanding issue of our time is environmental protection. Over hundreds of years of exploding populations, consumption-driven economies, and carving up the planet for resources, the human species has completely reshaped its humble home world. For decades now, scientists have warned that this behavior, unchecked, could have an ominous consequence. Science has given humanity a simple ultimatum: change our behavior or face nature’s wrath.

This has led to a deep schism. Those who are most heavily invested in the current system fight scientists’ claims aggressively. Corporate giants have spent untold millions on disinformation campaigns and disseminated their propaganda through far-right outlets. They have successfully transformed a scientific and moral issue into a political one.

But for the sake of argument, suppose the denialists are right. If we turn our resources to the fight against climate change and it turns out to be a hoax, what will we have done? Continue reading

Russia collusion among least of Trump’s crimes

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Putin and Trump Matryoshka dolls. Image taken from Politico.

The number one political scandal in Washington, D.C., continues to be President Trump’s campaign and cabinet’s association with Russia. A steady trickle of salacious, but ultimately inconclusive, headlines has dominated the D.C. press ever since the election. Each new testimony and new detail, however minor, is treated like a bombshell. But even if the worst possible scenario between Trump and Russia is confirmed, it will still be among the least of his crimes. Continue reading

A theory: Comey firing proves Bannon is still in charge of the White House

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Steve Bannon is the likeliest administration member to push Trump into full authoritarianism.

Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey because he was leading an investigation into Trump’s Russia connection, whatever that may or may not be. But even as Trump essentially admitted this was the reason in a TV interview, the Trump Administration made one ridiculous excuse after another. First Trump passed the buck to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But when Rosenstein passed the buck back, Trump trolled the world and said Comey was fired because of his mistreatment of Hillary Clinton.

It’s a pitiful naivety that would allow anyone to believe anything Donald Trump says, particularly about this case. What the whole episode really proves, though, is that the rumors of Steve Bannon’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The decision to fire Comey may have been Trump’s, but Bannon’s fingerprints and the fingerprints of the alt-right are all over it. Continue reading

Donald Trump is making bad foreign policy worse

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In the first international crisis of his presidency, Trump is failing as spectacularly as anyone might have guessed.

As many as 70 Syrian men, women and children were killed this week by what is believed to be sarin gas, and another 100 were seriously injured. The atrocity played out on news networks and social media feeds around the world. President Trump seized the opportunity to demonstrate just what kind of a leader he is and will continue to be – by blaming former President Obama. Continue reading

Indulging a fantasy: What comes after Trump’s impeachment?

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The First Lady and the President looking rather dour on the day of Trump’s inauguration.

To say that the first two months of the Trump presidency have been embattled would be an understatement. Several of Trump’s biggest-ticket items, including the border wall with Mexico, the replacement of Obamacare with “something terrific,” and a ban on Muslims entering the country, have been fraught with political peril and popular opposition. If that wasn’t bad enough, the extent of Trump’s connection to Russia is being examined by practically every journalist and investigative body in the federal government.

His presidency may not last long. Predictions about Trump run the full gamut, from early impeachment to a lifelong reign as America’s first Führer. It remains to be seen which will actually happen, but the way things stand now, early impeachment looks to be the odds-on favorite. But Trump’s impeachment will not solve America’s problems. Continue reading