Sunday, May 01, 2005

historical education 7.22

How to smell a strategy:

Like, OMG! They're all trashing the same straw man, and instead of answering the question! Like, how original is that? (Show me this person who insists some people just can't be free...phssh)

The obnoxious Thomas Friedman just did it again (on CNN's horrendous excuse for a "Book Show", I believe). A caller dares bring up his infamous, seemingly knee-jerk vitriol for "anti-globalization" protestors. Friedhack devotes 2/3 of his response to establishing how all those "old leftists" who "flat-out opposed globalization" (Friedman has a thing for flatness) are "violent" and "dangerously stupid." The ones concerned about how globalization takes place are ok (so long as they worship the same ridiculously utopian free market as Friedman, Inc., one presumes).

From a piece (a sort-of review) on Naomi Klein in N+1:
Even before September 11, many "anti-globalizers" felt that journalists and pundits had tagged them with the wrong name. Here was an international movement if ever there was one: the shared effort of French farmers, Amazonian Indians, American steelworkers, and landless Africans to win a decent and secure livelihood. They protested something that, outside of America, most people called "neoliberalism," after the liberal economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Neoliberals revived the 19th-century faith in the free market as the final arbiter of human affairs, a utopian certainty that had been dampened by the two World Wars and the Great Depression. They insisted that only the invisible hand could distribute goods efficiently or allocate wealth justly, and that therefore all barriers to its perfect operation–such as labor unions, tariffs, or welfare states–needed to be swept aside. When, in the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War, the neoliberal ideology began to sweep the world, its proponents were able to identify it as "globalization," making it sound like an inevitable trend, not a set of political choices. The result was that protestors could easily be painted as provincial xenophobes who yearned for an autarkic past and refused to accept economic reality. After September 11, it appeared that they might be branded as traitors as well. Everything had changed, and it seemed that anticorporate activism–and with it, Naomi Klein–would simply fade away.

Instead, the opposite happened. The anti-globalization movement emerged–for a moment, at least–in a new, broader and deeper form, as the opposition to the war with Iraq. And naomi Klein kept on writing...She has looked for the neoliberalism inside of neoconservatism...

In the months leading up to the 2004 election, it seemed as though the anti-globalization movement was on the verge of disappearing altogether. One of the movement's tenets had been that center-left political parties in the United States, Canada, and Europe, led by men such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, had ceased to advance meaningful alternatives to the hard right, and had instead become the architects of neoliberalism. In the 2004 election, even Naomi Klein offered her tepid endorsement of John Kerry. But after Bush won, she wasted no time in lambasting Kerry for his sloppy campaign, for his whole-hearted concession and simpering call for healing, and for his stubborn support of the war, which allowed the president's fantasies about events on the ground in Iraq to dominate public discussion through the summer and fall.

The sporadic, flickering nature of the opposition to the war makes it appear, in this winter moment after Bush's reelection, as though resistance has vanished altogether. And yet Klein's work, her patient documenting of the anticorporate movement of the 1990s, gives reason for hope. The war, like the spread of neoliberalism around the globe over the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, has been bloody and painful, yet the men and women in charge of our politics are sustained by their apocalyptic, evangelical faith that great good will come of it in the end. Living in the comfort of their homes far away from the conflict, they have an abiding confidence that over time, the violence, economic weakness, and hunger of the present will all be redeemed through the transporting force of economic growth. It as as though any pain in the present must be endured for the sake of the glorious hereafter...

Many other political writers have trembled before the onset of war, the entry of the United States into a new era of potentially endless military conflict. As in the early days of the Cold War––and even before that, during the march toward World War I––a certain class of liberal intellectuals has found himself ineluctably drawn to the state and to power. Naomi Klein, by contrast, has faced her historical moment bravely. She has worked to understand the war in its relation to the broader political questions of our day: the unrivaled power of business, the decline of social democracy. In so doing, she has done credit not only to herself but to the political movement her work initially described, and to the rebellions––past and future––to which her career is inextricably bound.

––Kim Phillips-Fein, N+1

Note: The video archives at Free Speech TV include some protest coverage. In all fairness, these clips could probably be used as support for either or both of the following propositions (unfortunately such productions tend toward the sentimental and sensational):

a) The revisionist history of N+1 is perhaps a bit optimistic
b) Thomas Friedman is still a rent-a-pundit dickhead

Having attended a dozen or so large protests during the last few years, I've personally observed nothing but what could only honestly be described as an overwhelming majority of reasonable, articulate and peaceful citizens with quite legitimate concerns. Of course some outrage may be legitimate as well, given the reality.

Or, in the words of today's NYTimes (placed, ever so discreetly, next to the obituaries): Oooooh, protestors! How Quaint.

More on Naomi Klein here.

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