SHAKING THE TREE
The Budget & Ecological Crisis
Edward S. Herman
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Same-Sex Marriage And AIDS
The Road to Marriage Equality
Violence in Mexico
Beyond the Tea Party
Resisting Resource Colonialism
Housing and Health
Emerging Labor Responses
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Context Management and Stripping
A basic technique of news and opinion management and propaganda is the manipulation and stripping of context. This often takes the form of an intensive focus on the terrible plight of worthy victims and the villainous behavior of their tormentors, and the downplaying and antiseptic treatment of the condition of unworthy victims, along with ignoring or providing apologetics for their attackers. It sometimes calls for the avoidance of context that challenges a narrative that makes a villain purely villainous and the victims entirely virtuous.
Thus, following 9/11, there were harsh attacks on critics who, while strongly condemning the attacks as major acts of terrorism, insisted on calling attention to the likelihood that the attacks were based on resentment at U.S. foreign policy, not simply evil ideology or hostility to U.S. freedoms. As Christopher Hitchens wrote shortly after 9/11, if the 9/11 terrorists had bombed his neighborhood in Washington DC, “I am quite certain that in such a case the rationalizing left-liberals would still be telling me that my chickens were coming home to roost.” Hitchens acknowledged that the
This distinction is often barely hidden in word usage. A good illustration is the use of “terrorism” versus “retaliation.” In the West, the Israelis have never been terrorists, but only retaliate, although occasionally perhaps a bit disproportionately. But the Palestinians never retaliate, they only terrorize. This has nothing to do with causal sequence, it has to do with political bias. In fact, it regularly reverses the basic causal sequence. It is pointed out by analysts like Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Committee, and hardly biased against Jews and
Another important and currently relevant illustration of word usage aligned with a policy agenda is in the use of “anti-semitism.” In recent years it has been applied to hostility not only to Jews but to
Of course, Arabs are semites, and it is revealing on the alignment of word usage and political power that the phrase “anti-semitism” has long been confined in the West to hostility to Jews (and then
Impermissible Contexts: Srebrenica
A fine example of impermissible context is provided in discussions of the Srebrenica massacre. Like 9/11, this is a case where Western vested interests and passions were raised to a high pitch and any critical context was quickly anathematized. Both cases were politically important to Western policymakers, with 9/11 providing a foundation stone for the “war on terror” (i.e., war on anybody who stands in our way) and Srebrenica showing the potential evils that the West should be prepared to rectify with “humanitarian intervention.” As regards Srebrenica, it quickly became “genocide denial” to question whether “8,000 men and boys” were executed by the Serbs in July 1995, or to put the killings there in the context of a bloody civil war and the aftermath of the slaughter of several thousand Serb civilians by Bosnian Muslim forces using the Srebrenica “safe area” as their military base. The latter set of facts caused UNPROFOR military commander Philippe Morillon to tell the ICTY that those killings were the key to the Serb killings of July 1995. (“Are you saying, then, General, that what happened in 1995 was a direct reaction to what Naser Oric did to the Serbs two years before?... [Morillon] Yes, yes, your honor. I am convinced of that.”) But that would be intolerable context, and you may be sure that this interchange with Morillon has never been quoted by Marlise Simons in the New York Times.
The impermissibility of this sort of context was driven home recently with George Monbiot’s assault in his “Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers” (Guardian,
Thus, two outstanding illustrations of context-stripping are the pretense that all 8,000 of the alleged missing from Srebrenica population were executed rather than killed in combat; and, in parallel, ignoring the large number of Serb civilians killed by Bosnian Muslim forces based on the supposedly disarmed “safe area” of Srebrenica, 1992-July 1995. Monbiot does this stripping with an efficiency probably assisted by sheer ignorance, and the Guardian certified this stripping effort by refusing to publish our replies to Monbiot that gave data and sources on these points.
Monbiot also takes it for granted that the Bosnian Muslim dominated ICMP, whose work has never been made available to the defense or outsiders, is entirely trustworthy. He says that “like Karadzic, the book [my edited volume on The Srebrenica Massacre, Alphabet Soup, 2011] claims that the market massacres were carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs.” Monbiot’s lack of intellectual integrity is on full display here—Karadzic may have said it, but the different contributors to this book in various places cited Boutros Boutros-Ghali (who was himself citing Warren Christopher), Lord David Owen, the British General Sir Michael Rose, the British Joint Intelligence Committee, U.S. Lt. Colonel John Sray, a U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee report, at least 11 “confidential” military and intelligence sources interviewed by the Dutch intelligence expert Cees Wiebes, and the then-chief Balkans correspondent for the New York Times, David Binder. Monbiot pretends that none of these citations exist.
In fact, Monbiot pulls the same dishonest trick in discussing
Impermissible Contexts: The
Commenting on the recent
Avnery wonders whether Yigal Amir, the Israeli murderer of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, acted alone, and he answers that Amir did not: “During the months leading up to Rabin’s murder, a growing hate campaign was orchestrated against him. Almost all the Israeli right-wing groups were competing among themselves to see who could demonize him most effectively.” Baruch Goldstein, murderer of 29 Palestinian worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of
“This creed is now sprouting offshoots all over
“One thing almost all these European and American ultra-Rightist groups have in common is their admiration for
But it is not just on the extreme right that the anti-Islamic alliance with
It was an understandable rage, although pushed to regrettable extremes. The media did perhaps jump the gun in assuming that his operation was another manifestation of Islamic violence, but this is understandable as the West only retaliates, it does not aggress and terrorize.
As Avnery points out in his concluding paragraphs: “It is the beginnings which are critical, when political opportunists realize that arousing fear and hatred is the easiest way to fortune and power, when social misfits become nationalist and religious fanatics, when attacking helpless minorities becomes acceptable as legitimate politics, when funny little men turn into monsters.”
Is that Dr. Goebbels I hear laughing in hell?
Edward S. Herman is an economist, media critic, and author of numerous articles and books. His latest is The Politics of Genocide(with David Peterson).
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.