2
   

Turning PBS into another propaganda tool

 
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jul, 2005 08:20 am
blatham wrote:
I'm terrifically fond of you, but you can be rather arrogant as regards your own notions of how discussions ought properly to proceed and as to what are the topics worthy of, or important to, address. Do you have some metric which weighs the political or educational effects of any discussion any of us have had on any subject?

No, but nimh has an opinion about it, he does have the right to say it, and that is all he needs. A2K is not the American TV market, you are not the FCC -- and even if you were the FCC, it is not yet endowed with the powers you want to bestow upon it so it can roll back conservative TV. As a result, nimh can voice his opinion here whether you're fond of him or not. And that's the way it ought to be.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jul, 2005 10:21 am
thomas

Did you get some impression I was trying to shut nimh up? Perhaps hoping to charm him into obsequiousness through through mentioning my affinity for him?

Of course he or you or anyone can say whatever they wish about anything including me or my posts, at least that is so under my personal rules.

As I said, I think he's got it wrong. There's something going on with political discourse in modern US culture which is making it nearly impossible to engage in detailed and careful and imaginative discourse on almost every aspect of political philosophy. How to navigate within and effect ideas is - in case after case here - clearly not on the paridigm you and I and nimh (and others) are familiar with. We can talk, argue, concede, listen, read further, and love it all. And value it all. Neither of us have a lot of fixed ideas. We like to learn.

As it happens, I've just read a wonderful book, Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant" where the fellow lays out in some detail how the modern conservative PR machine has been as successful as it has been (Luntz, et al) and as counter strategy, he actually makes one recommendation which argues nimh's case re politeness in discourse. Further, other than with brothers and a neighbor kid, I've never been in a fight in 56 years, and I believe that one ought not to speak negatively of another unless he/she is right there to hear it, and I wrote the rule for poltical discourse here (which I violate constantly these days). So, that's to say, it's not as if this idea comes out of the blue. I've simply concluded that it is naive in the present circumstance.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jul, 2005 11:13 am
blatham wrote:
Did you get some impression I was trying to shut nimh up? Perhaps hoping to charm him into obsequiousness through through mentioning my affinity for him?

It sounded like that to me. Glad I was wrong. Sorry.

blatham wrote:
How to navigate within and effect ideas is - in case after case here - clearly not on the paridigm you and I and nimh (and others) are familiar with. We can talk, argue, concede, listen, read further, and love it all. And value it all. Neither of us have a lot of fixed ideas. We like to learn.

Yes -- but remember, that's only because we sold out to the treehuggers, feminazis, and algore.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jul, 2005 12:04 pm
thomas

Thanks for the trust.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 08:21 am
Thanks to Blatham for his courteous and patient response. It's always nice to find, when one has oneself skirted the borders of what is still decent, that the other has taken it in good nature and with understanding. Very reassuring <nods>.

Of course, I'm afraid that admirable courteousness changes little about the chasm that divides us in opinion here. To me, basically, this bit here repeats the largest mistakes of Cold War-era leftists (because yes, they made mistakes too, and I guess I should say "we" there, though I have the excuse of adolescent hubris ;-)):

blatham wrote:
I know there is a fire in Zimbabwe. Another in Darfur. Another with AIDS in Africa and Asia. Another with avian flu. Another with the stripping of the oceans and global warming. Lots of fires. Lots of potential fires. But smack in the center of every one of them - that is, the possible solutions or mitigations of global dilemmas - sits the US, doing almost nothing or making matters worse through obstruction and division and profit-mongering militarism.

This to me seems related to the mindset that had 1980s leftists spend their energy, time and solidarity on the Chile committee, the El Salvador committee and the South Africa campaign, the anti-nuke movement, the anti-NATO actions ... and when someone talked with or about East-German dissidents, there was a bored silence if not an outright frown. Sure its bad over there - we know there's a fire there too - but lets not forget about the main danger we face today! Ronald Reagan's revival of an American empire that promoted dictatorships around the world!

Selective neglect wasn't the only mistake here; perceptions of problems that were real enough were also clouded or distorted by this determined focus. South Africa and the US supported the indeed ruthless Unita guerilla's in Angola? The story was clear: a progressive, besieged revolutionary government, facing the insidious attacks of the bad guys. It was only after the end of the Cold War that progressives here realised that, well - the Angolan government itself had been almost as brutally totalitarian - and the conflict had quite a few other (regional, tribal) dimensions as well, some of them justified. The same misestimations, fuelled by a worldview that did indeed put the US threat "smack in the center" of everything that was observed, were repeated multifold around the world, from Nicaragua to Mozambique.

What I taste in Blatham's take now is a total lack of critical reflection on the lessons that should have been learnt from that time (and that, at least here in Europe, definitely have been discussed at length in the nineties, ad nauseam even).

Basically, the quote I just lifted from Blatham's post could almost literally have been uttered by

nimh wrote:
the people who'd gloss over budding news of Mao's budding misdeeds (not necessarily talking Zimbabwe here), because the real and acute danger to the world surely was McCarthyism


with whom I compared Blatham.

To me, it does represent a loss of sense of proportion. I mean, what does it mean? Is the US "smack in the center" of Mugabe's drive to dispossess opposition-minded ghetto dwellers, turning them into homeless refugees and camp inmates, surrendered to the state's arbitrary, totalitarian grip? Or even "in the center" of a possible solution to that problem? Is the US in the center of the African AIDS crisis, still escalating in the face of the unwillingness of governments like Mbeki's to honestly face up to it? Is it in the center of Putin's increasing authoritarianism, the torture, rapes and lawlessness in Chechnya? Of the thousand, twothousand executions every year in China, of hundreds of peasant rebellions there against corruption and arbitrary dispossession? Of North-Korea's regime, the very worst, famine-struck dictatorship in Asia since Pol Pot? Of Pakistan and India acquirung nukes?

Of course not. There are fires raging in the world now that the US is genuinely to blame for, Iraq most of all. It has a fair share of responsibility for Middle-Eastern totalitarianism in general, too. There are also other places where one would wish that the US would do something about the raging fire. But to therefore declare the US the cause or problem of it, the very center of the issue, is getting something fundamental exactly upside down.

The thing to realise here, after all, of course is that one would wish the US did something about, say, Burma or Zimbabwe, because we would expect the US to do something about such abuses. And we would expect so because the US after all promises, in all its lofty rhetorics, to fight for freedom, democracy and all that.

Nobody, on the other hand, spends his time wishing China would intervene. Nobody does, because its clear that it wouldnt, anyhow - and it never promised to.

So here we have a country that oftentimes creates a sense of frustration, even betrayal, because it promises to work for liberation but then, often, doesnt (or even does the verz opposite) - and there we have a rival that wont even promise anything of the sort. That, in fact, actively supports dictatorial regimes like Burma's or Zimbabwe's quite systematically; that will rush in to help any dictator the US does, eventually, decide to isolate. (There's a very interesting article from The New Republic about the rise of China as a diplomatic power in the Third World, from Asia to Africa to Latin-America, here: HOW CHINA IS CHANGING GLOBAL DIPLOMACY: Cultural Revolution.)

To my mind, that makes the US still the better of the two, rather than the central player of all evil. The same comparison goes for Russia, for example.

I, for one, will nevertheless still spend more time criticizing the US than China. For one, because it is an ally of my home country, so its my responsibility to do so; secondly, because exactly of its promises and rhetorics, the US can be held accountable to loftier values.

I am also very much aware of the paradox there, however: that America attracts criticism exactly because it nominally does hold itself to higher values that other major powers, the EU excepted, wouldn't even bother with. Which in itself is something to be grateful for (all the more so because the US government DOES, undeniably, at times work exactly for such values: take the very praiseworthy role of the US, from diplomatic pressure to training and funding democratic NGO's, journalists, etc, to covert operations and outright war, in the Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, Kosovo).

And it is exactly this paradox that I feel Blatham has lost sight of.

Furthermore - and no less problematically - the immediate instinct to relate any topic, whatsoever, that comes up to the assumed central role of the US fudges and cloaks the all too independent responsibility of other players.

There's several things going on here. First off, the question of direct responsibility. By turning any conversation of "fires" around the world to the focus of potential American responsibility - or ignoring the issue altogether if such a focus is not easily made! - other all too independently important factors are quickly glossed over - to the benefit of local, corrupt, egomaniac tyrants. For folks like Mugabe, every mention of the role of the US (or in his case, the UK) is a handy little opportunity to deflect from his own, primary responsibility.

By extension, this leads to a flawed understanding of the situation on the part of the observer with that urge. See the example of Angola. The role of local cultural problems and of local political oppositions that may not necessarily easily align with the conservative/liberal axe is not perceived or instinctively belittled. This is, in fact, the liberal equivalent of Bush's crusader world view, of "us versus them" and "freedom-loving Americans versus crazed Muslim extremists"; it reduces local complexities into a black and white directly derived from our own political landscape. It is its mirror image, with comparable problems in the analysis of local situations that results. We end up with BBB explaining Ahmadinejad's election victory as the Iranians thumbing their nose at Bush <rolls eyes>.

There is an element of exasperating arrogance in this, as much as there is in Bush's crusaderism. Whether we look at Nepal or at Bolivia, its all about us. It just must be. As if those peoples are not well able to develop their own, intricate abuses, totalitarianisms, conflicts. A sensible mind would identify any various elements at play, including foreign meddling by different powers. Bush's MoveOn mirror image would say: "See! It's the Bushites messing up again!" A kind of inverted expression of national megalomania.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 09:24 am
OK, I finally edited that post above. Added a whole set of extra remarks by the bottom end. And that China link, too.
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 09:32 am
Thank God and nimh for the editing. This is what is so maddening to me and people like me, who know very well the US has mussed gloves--but will not tolerate the one-sided evaluation of the muss and not the positive--or more importantly the rightful accusations against real players who are not influenced, paid or directed in any way by the US.

Fairness. Shouldn't be too much to ask.

Everything doesn't begin and end with George Bush or the US.

Nimh's lovely, forceful edits:

Furthermore - and no less problematically - the immediate instinct to relate any topic, whatsoever, that comes up to the assumed central role of the US fudges and cloaks the all too independent responsibility of other players.

To my mind, that makes the US still the better of the two, rather than the central player of all evil. The same comparison goes for Russia, for example.

There's several things going on here. First off, the question of direct responsibility. By turning any conversation of "fires" around the world to the focus of potential American responsibility - or ignoring the issue altogether if such a focus is not easily made!other all too independently important factors are quickly glossed over - to the benefit of local, corrupt, egomaniac tyrants. For folks like Mugabe, every mention of the role of the US (or in his case, the UK) is a handy little opportunity to deflect from his own, primary responsibility

We end up with BBB explaining Ahmadinejad's election victory as the Iranians thumbing their nose at Bush <rolls eyes>.

<sighs contentedly>


<and rolls eyes>
0 Replies
 
rayban1
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 09:41 am
Nimh

Thanks for your fair minded examination of the situation......it is even more pertinent and gratifying when the message comes from a member of the European community.
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 10:55 am
He's probably gone off to do the Hari-Kari, now having elicited agreement by such as us.

No doubt the Usual Suspects have taken turns dragging him off to the woodshed.

Chin up, nimh. We're not always wrong.

<pirate smile>
0 Replies
 
rayban1
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 11:23 am
Lash wrote:
He's probably gone off to do the Hari-Kari, now having elicited agreement by such as us.


Gee.....I hope not. We need more fair mindedness around here but I can certainly nod in agreement with your comment and perhaps smile at tad at the irony.
0 Replies
 
Einherjar
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 12:33 pm
I'll chime in in agreement as well. I seem to pretty much always agree with nimh on these issues, though I am not as eloquent in expressing it.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2005 12:36 pm
On a one to ten I give nimh a 5, I would have given a 6 but being from old europe credits a one point minus.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 06:36 am
Dys, I'm devastated!
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 06:40 am
nimh wrote:
Dys, I'm devastated!

NO, you're not!
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 06:52 am
You know, nimh, five points is actually pretty good on Dys's scale -- for someone who doesn't wear a Stetson anyway.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 08:03 am
nimh wrote:
This to me seems related to the mindset that had 1980s leftists spend their energy, time and solidarity on the Chile committee, the El Salvador committee and the South Africa campaign, the anti-nuke movement, the anti-NATO actions ... and when someone talked with or about East-German dissidents, there was a bored silence if not an outright frown. Sure its bad over there - we know there's a fire there too - but lets not forget about the main danger we face today! Ronald Reagan's revival of an American empire that promoted dictatorships around the world!

I do feel I owe a PS to this paragraph here - owe it to, you know - previous generations.

After all, European Socialdemocracy did have a strong and proud tradition of combative anti-communism, especially between the late fourties and the late sixties. The Dutch Labour Party's Eastern Europe bureau isn't named after Alfred Mozer for no reason.

Only in the seventies and eighties did that fall away a bit - but it wasn't so much negated, just had seemed to disappear from sight more. And still there were those who did keep up solid engagement with East-European dissidents, in Holland Mient-Jan Faber of the Inter-Church Peace Council for example. Even if their commitment wasn't always wholly understood by all their followers, they provided a good counterweight to the occasional idiot who actually legitimized some Eastern Bloc regime or other, like in Holland Jan Nagel of the socialist broadcaster VARA notoriously did. (Interestingly, he turned right-wing populist in the nineties.)

To the left of Labour, too, more radical groups like the Pacifist Socialists in Holland scrupulously maintained a consistent principle of equidistance - rejecting both the American and East-European model. This was definitely reflected in the anti-nuke demos of the early 80s too, where I saw plenty of people carrying along banners against the Soviet Union and the US. Even this implication of equivalence between the two I feel was a great mistake, obviously. But still - fellow-travellerdom it was not; fellow-travellers were a distinct minority.

The charge of selective neglect stays, however, as far as I'm concerned. As does the one of an insufficient grasp of the relative proportions (see 'equidistance').

(My father and I have gone through this sooo many times, you dont wanna know ;-))
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 08:04 am
dyslexia wrote:
nimh wrote:
Dys, I'm devastated!

NO, you're not!

Oh yes I am! Heartbroken, I am!

Thomas wrote:
You know, nimh, five points is actually pretty good on Dys's scale -- for someone who doesn't wear a Stetson anyway.

OK, ok ...

<dons Stetson>

Now what?

(Isnt virtual reality great?)
0 Replies
 
rayban1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 08:38 am
Quote:
but lets not forget about the main danger we face today! Ronald Reagan's revival of an American empire that promoted dictatorships around the world!


Since it seems you wrote this and since it seems you actually believe it......I totally misunderstood what you have been telling Blatham.

The PS you added to your last post really "muddied" the water for me. Please clarify.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 09:06 am
rayban1 wrote:
Quote:
but lets not forget about the main danger we face today! Ronald Reagan's revival of an American empire that promoted dictatorships around the world!

Since it seems you wrote this and since it seems you actually believe it......I totally misunderstood what you have been telling Blatham.

The PS you added to your last post really "muddied" the water for me. Please clarify.

Huh?

I was quoting from my earlier post, you realise that, right? Did you remember the context of the initial quote?

OK, let me try clarify.

In my earlier post, I blamed 80s leftists for focusing monomanically on Reagan's threat, and therewith glossing over the (even greater) evil of other parties - or non-Reagan related aspects of the problems/conflicts they did focus on.

Accusing those 80s leftists of exactly that, I mimicked them: "Sure its bad over there - we know there's a fire there too - but lets not forget about the main danger we face today! Ronald Reagan's revival of an American empire that promoted dictatorships around the world!"

That would be exactly the attitude I'm criticizing even here and now, in its new Blathamian appearance.

However, I do think I caricaturized those 80s leftists a bit all too crassly in that piece of mimicry. After all, they were not really some collective of fellow-travellers, which is what I'm afraid I may have implied too much in my original post ("when someone talked with or about East-German dissidents, there was [..] an outright frown").

The valuable work that many Socialdemocrats and other leftists DID do in supporting East-European dissidents, opposing communism, etc, deserved to be pointed out in retort to my all too broad-brush mimickry. Hence my PS.

All my original points re: Blatham still stand; but adding this PS on historical detail was a question of historical veracity; of fairness to folks like, say, my parents.

(See, I can have these heated discussions all by myself. Hey, I had a lot of exercise.)
0 Replies
 
rayban1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2005 09:46 am
Nimh wrote:
That would be exactly the attitude I'm criticizing even here and now, in its new Blathamian appearance.


Wheww......I'm glad you cleared that up.....thanks
0 Replies
 
 

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