Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Road to Damascus Goes Both Ways

Afshin Rattansi writes:

... Is this just propaganda from a Western press that isn’t free? Is there a playbook for Western journalists in which “Islam” can be swapped for “Socialism in 1930s Spain”, “Communism in Russia”, “Maoism in China”, “Bolivarism in Latin America”, “Non-Aligned Movement in Asia”? It doesn’t matter what it is – just that it is seen as the enemy because that is in the interests of hegemonic Western capital.

Journalists in the West who have fought to tell the truth about 20th/21st century interventions in the developing world – they have destroyed the lives of billions – know what it’s like. Fight against the system, and power will threaten your livelihood. And, more likely than not, you’ll be left with nothing but the ability to say “told you so” after a scale of slaughter is unleashed that not only kills more than ISIS could ever dream of but also catalyses the deluded to carry out atrocities like those in Paris.

There is something suicidal about elite media responses to the Charlie Ebdo massacre. It’s not only that what goes for journalism ignores the fact that the worst slaughters in history – world wars – trace their lineage from secularism. It’s that journalists seem unaware of what questions to ask about the European enlightenment, let alone the French Revolution.

“Liberté, égalité, fraternité” did not so much concern the freedom to publish anti-Semitic or Islamophobic cartoons in Charlie Ebdo magazine. It was about the revolutionary emancipation of the dispossessed. Satire aimed at Marie-Antoinette, not the sans-culottes; the slave-masters of Haiti not the slaves. In due course, the so-called terror at the hands of secular Saint-Just and Robespierre would be as nothing compared to what happened with the ensuing retrenchment of power. Who knows what the Jacobins would have made, a quarter of a millennium on, about rising religious fundamentalism in America and corporations as Gods in Europe? Zhou-en Lai, Communist China’s first premier, had it right – whether he was referring to 1789 or 1968 – when he said it was too early to give his assessment of events in Paris.

But, now, a rotten Western journalism accompanies an entire Western economic crisis. There’s mass austerity because of gigantic, corrupt financial services but no context of the logical need for a complete overhaul of society. The response of the so-called free press has been to write and broadcast as if only sovereign debt ratings rule civic life. Journalism ceases to be free when all mainstream political debate in Western countries centres on pleasing a minuscule percentage of the one percent about deficit reduction. Western journalists appear not to be free to question whether society really is just what gilt-traders tell them.

As for guilt for Western war crimes, there is fear of terrorist attack from “the other.” Fear is what “free” Western journalists use when they cover NATO militarism. And ever greater restrictions on press freedom in NATO countries prevent journalists from talking about something more cataclysmic and eschatological. Recent world events suggest that Western corporations think they have found a way out of the crisis, a kind of final solution. It’s arguably the reductio ad absurdum of the powerful counter-revolutionary forces unleashed by the guillotining of the Jacobins: an out and out, overt, world war.

Lethal, foreign interventions appear on the world scene as if they are the twitches of a dying superpower. No amount of socio-economic strife at home can prevent NATO governments from perceiving military existential threats. Journalists repeat lies and [the great forgetting of] history. Wars are prepared against the great powers of the 21st century. NATO plays war games for attacks on China – and, of course, Russia. A breathless Western journalism about Ukraine allows no dissent so that all developments are seen through the prism of Russian expansionism, not NATO’s. But, they merely posture against Russia, China and India. And in Africa and Latin America, there are signs that they sense the game is already up.

One region – dominated, as it happens, by Islam – remains in focus. It doesn’t matter that Saudi Arabia has been the financial source for ISIS. Fossil fuel profits of the Middle East are paramount. Environmental catastrophe isn’t even an issue. Nor are repeated defeats in Mesopotamia. To explain this to the people, NATO powers require a “free” press of fake stenographer-journalists who repeat what’s leaked to them. It can be fake dossiers, redlines and fake WMD and it’s all in the context of a fundamental misunderstanding of the post-1789 world. ...