FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 4-11
Tax Form Lies
Values and Interests
Sex and Security
WSF in Africa
Social Media Role
Cause of Fiscal Crisis
Gaza in Crisis
Zaps - 04/11
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"Our" Values and Interests Are Actually the Same Thing
The upheavals in the Middle East have created acute problems for establishment officials and pundits, and their discomfiture, squirming, and gyrations have added further pleasure to the shifting political scene. "We" are allegedly strongly in favor of democracy and hostile to one-party rule and repression, but sometimes geopolitical calculations (also called "our interests") override this democratic proclivity. But in reality, the public has nothing to do with making these decisions; the public never voted to seek favorable climates of investment over the entire globe, or to move to a permanent war system, or to keep pumping up the arms business as the civil society cries out in pain. These have been elite decisions, reflecting elite interests and values. The use of "we" and "our" in this context is thus deceptive and trickery.
Furthermore, can democracy be "our" true value if it is so systematically overridden? Is it a true value even at home if the more aggressive quest for a favorable climate of investment in the United States itself has steadily weakened the electoral choices and effective political participation of ordinary citizens and brought with it intensified and savage class warfare? (See my "Toward a Homeland Favorable Climate of Investment," Z Magazine, March 2011.)
Ordinarily, the fact that we have supported dictatorial regimes in the Middle East for many decades on a systematic basis, and have actively participated in the replacement of democratic governments with dictators (e.g., the Shah of Iran) has been taken by the mainstream media as a matter not requiring mention, let alone indignation. But with the Middle Eastern people in revolt, denouncing their dictators and calling for democracy, our long-time support of a string of Middle Eastern (and other) dictators cannot be entirely ignored and kept under the rug.
It did produce a period of oscillation in the case of Egypt, when our leaders were not sure that Hosni Mubarak was finished, so that while they lauded democracy in the abstract and the efforts of people in the streets, Mubarak's merits were still highlighted. Hillary Clinton mentioned her close personal relationship with Mubarak and his wife, and both she and Barack Obama emphasized Mubarak's contribution to "stability" and peace. As his status faded, they were sure that Mubarak still had an important role to play in an "orderly transition" to a democracy that he, with steadfast U.S. support, had fended off for some 30 years. But in the end, which for the Mubarak dictatorship arrived on February 11, 2011, with his political survival impossible without unleashing mass killing, Mubarak was ushered out and "our values" were brought to the fore.
The rapid transformation of word usage in this evolving scene was notable. "Dictator" and "autocracy" became much more heavily used, and "stability" suffered an eclipse as acute instability disturbed the area formerly stabilized by the protected dictator. Word-usage started shifting against Mubarak during the week of January 24-28. In particular on or about January 28, a Friday, by which time massive street demonstrations were taking place in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria, and elsewhere, and the news providers had become fixated on Egypt, especially in the aftermath of rapid events in Tunisia. By January 28, the Mubarak regime went from near zero descriptions as a "dictatorship," to daily descriptions as a "dictatorship." In the case of Tunisia's Ben Ali (who fled Tunis on January 14), the shift was even more dramatic.
In earlier years, the word dictator was also applied to Chilean General Augusto Pinochet much more frequently after he was deposed than during the period when he also was providing "stability" and a favorable climate of investment in Chile. In its obituary to Pinochet, the New York Times even used the words "dictator" and "terror" in the very title (Jonathan Kandell, "Augusto Pinochet, Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile, Dies at 91," Dec. 11, 2006), showing how far this earlier stabilizer and favorite of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Von Hayek, and the U.S. corporate and political establishment had fallen. In earlier years, when such an invidious word was used in the New York Times in reference to Pinochet, it was usually qualified in a context of apologetics, as in Shirley Christian's "Pinochet, a 'Very Peculiar Dictator,' Faces Voters," October 2, 1988—the "peculiarity" being that he was willing to risk a voter repudiation—and with strong intimations by the reporter that Pinochet had become a democrat.
In the Mubarak regime's death throes the Times even had Egypt an "autocracy," with Mubarak having ruled with an "iron hand" ("Egypt's Agonies," ed., NYT, Feb. 4, 2011). But as Mubarak exited, establishment media journalists spent very little time reflecting on the fact that their government and leaders, and they themselves, had given crucial support to the iron-handed autocracy, mainly by looking the other way. Their attention level and indignation at the problematics of the Iran election of 2009 was massive and enough to service the regime-change program of U.S. and Israeli leaders. But their attention to the far more dubious Egyptian elections of 2005 and 2010, or that in Honduras in 2009, was modest and insufficient to arouse the public to concern and action, in the standard pattern of the free press (see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Iran and Honduras in the Propaganda System, Part 2: The 2009 Iranian and Honduran Elections," MRZine, October 24, 2010; see also Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent).
As Mubarak's power sagged, the U.S. establishment worried about an "orderly transition" to a democratic government. This was another Kafkaesque beauty, only slightly obscuring the establishment hope that even if Mubarak was doomed, possibly with enough patience and time, and the help of the U.S.-funded and trained army and further Western money and advisers, the basics of the old regime could be maintained—Mubarackism without Murarak, or a democratic façade covering over the preservation of an obedient client state. An orderly transition to not much transition.
For a brief period the U.S. establishment seemed to hope that foreign intelligence chief Omar Suleiman might take the transitional reins: he was a "close ally of Washington," "deeply distrusting Iran," and having "managed most of Egypt's hottest issues, including dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah and the Sudan" (Michael Slackman, "A Choice Likely to Please the Military, Not the Crowds," NYT, January 30, 2011). While Slackman finds space to mention that Suleiman was a "dapper dresser," his lengthy piece never points out that Suleiman was a torturer and managed Egypt's participation in the "extraordinary rendition" program, notorious for providing exceptionally brutal torture. This role played by Mubarak's Egypt was rarely even mentioned in passing in the mainstream media.
Of great importance to U.S. officials was the preservation of the Egyptian state's friendly relationship with the state of Israel, which had assured "peace." One of the notions disseminated in the media was that Mubarak (and Suleiman as well) was important in advancing the "peace process." We are back in the world of Franz Kafka: the "peace process" is a sick joke, assuredly never bringing peace, but with the pretense of an ongoing "process" providing cover for steady dispossession. And the Egyptian "peace with Israel" meant that, with Egypt neutralized and even positively aiding Israel, Israel was freed to attack Lebanon and make war on and ethnically cleanse Palestinians. This of course rested on U.S. bribery of Mubarak and his military-police and the economic-plundering elite, with disregard for the welfare and opinion of the Egyptian people.
So the threat of democracy imperils this system of corruption and dictatorship and Egyptian support of Israel's war and oppression. This will never do, and we may hope that an "orderly transition" can provide a renewed "stability" that will satisfy "our" values and interests.
Edward S. Herman is an economist, media critic, and author of numerous articles and books. His latest book is The Politics of Genocide (with David Peterson).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.