Here’s part II of a new documentary on the Occupy movement, co-produced by Jordan Flaherty and Sweta Vohra for Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines. (Watch part I here.)
A Call for True Internationalism
by Jason Hickel
The leading tagline of the Occupy Wall Street movement reads: “Protest for World Revolution.” This is an ambitious claim, to be sure. And in most respects it seems to ring quite true: the movement has successfully taken root not only in cities and towns throughout the United States but also in major urban centers around the world. On October 15, Occupy Wall Street’s success inspired a broad wave of coordinated occupations across Europe. I was a founding participant in the one that began in London.
But the Occupy movement has been notably absent outside of North America and Europe. Not for want of trying, of course: in southern Africa, where I am originally from, small groups of committed activists tried to instigate occupations in a few key regional cities, but without much success. In South Africa, a society divided by violent inequalities that proceed directly from neoliberal policy, Occupy managed to attract only a few dozen souls – a poor showing for a country known for one of the highest protest rates in the world.
What accounts for the failure of Occupy to capture the imagination of the global South, which comprises precisely the people whose lives have been most brutally affected by the recent global financial crisis? And in what sense can Occupy claim to be a world revolution if it leaves out – and in some cases even alienates – the vast, non-white majority of humanity?
The following is a the second half of an interview conducted by the new NYTimes eXaminer with PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. Read the first half here.
Q: Did you come away with a lower opinion of Friedman or of the people and institutions that continually give him platforms to spew his idiotic, loathsome views? I find it so telling that, when Friedman did his “suck on this” performance on Charlie Rose, Rose just nods and leans in for the next question instead of calling Friedman out for saying one of the most offensive things ever said on television. Or to put it another way: Do you think the New York Times would allow one of their columnists to consistently dehumanize entire groups of people – to the point of openly calling for civilian deaths in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq – if those people weren’t Arab/Muslim?
Unfortunately, Orientalist dehumanization is institutionalized in US media discourse, the result being that there is no overwhelming public concern when over a million Iraq lives are lost thanks to America’s bellicose projects or when 1400 Palestinians perish in a matter of 22 days at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces.
It is utterly appalling that neither Charlie Rose nor anyone else in the US establishment media took issue with Friedman’s obscene proclamation, and that he was never required by his employer to apologize for it in the interest of maintaining a pretense of objectivity. One can imagine the uproar that would have ensued—and over which Friedman himself would have presided—had, for example, Yasser Arafat instructed Israelis to suck on things, or had Osama bin Laden justified 9/11 with similar terminology. Friedman, on the other hand, is permitted to continue blissfully peddling his contemptuous analyses of the Arab/Muslim world, such as his 2007 assessment—with regard to the US military—that Iraqis “don’t deserve such good people… if they continue to hate each other more than they love their own kids.”
Of course, it is safe to assume that most Iraqis exhibit normal human affection for their offspring, including for those millions of offspring that have been killed, maimed, displaced or otherwise made to suffer as a result of a US military-inflicted sucking, and that the half a million Iraqi children previously killed by US-championed sanctions were probably also loved by their parents.
Even if Charlie Rose et al. fail to comprehend that sucking orders do not qualify as proper journalistic etiquette, they should at least be able to comprehend that Friedman’s argument for why the sucking should occur is in complete defiance of logic. According to Friedman, Iraqis must be made to suck so that the US can effectively combat the “terrorism bubble” that has developed in “that part of the world” and that poses a “fundamental threat to our open society,” something Americans discovered on 9/11. However, this very same Friedman also explains that the real threat to “open, Western, liberal societies today” consists not of “the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables – the boys who did 9/11.” The resulting argument—made by someone who himself criticizes the Bush administration for implying a link between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein—is that war against deterrables whose weapons are not the problem will solve the problem of undeterrables who are the weapons and who by definition cannot be deterred anyway.