Digital Activism 101

Charis Tsevis
Illustration by Charis Tsevis

Al Gore from:
The Assault On Reason

[…] “Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It’s a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services.

It’s a platform, in other words, for reason.

But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets—through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law. The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet.

The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic.

We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas.” […]

Remembering MLK Jr And His Ministry

martin luther king jr.

From the handling of Katrina to the Sean Bell shooting, it’s a safe bet to say that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he’d still be a busy man. Now, what if he were here and once again dipped into the part of his ministry that really scared the FBI and US government — his take on US foreign policy?

What do you think his perspective would be on the Iraq occupation? Personally speaking, I don’t think he’d acquiesce to it fitting neatly within the context of the War on Terror.

From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” a speech delivered on April 4th, 1967 at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City… with a few alterations:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Iraq. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Iraq.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Iraq, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Baghdad or to the insurgents. It is not addressed to Iran or to Syria.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Iraq. Neither is it an attempt to make the Sadr loyalists or the Sunni insurgents paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Baghdad and the insurgents, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

[…]

Listen to the complete, original speech.

The Haditha Massacre, Media and Patterns of Warfare

haditha map massacre

With the massacre of Haditha already drawing comparisons to the My Lai massacre — where up to 500 unarmed Vietnamese men, women and children were killed in cold blood by American forces — proponents of this war are holding fast against this incident becoming the tipping point of complete anti-war sentiment.

Local blogger, Joe Guarino:

[…] We cannot take these unfortunate events, and then somehow generalize and amplify the Big Message they convey to suggest that the overall war effort is unworthy. We cannot make general assessments of the war in Iraq (or in Vietnam, for that matter) on the basis of tragic events that do not reflect the overall pattern.

The media would be wrong to muster a drumbeat on these stories, but if they do in stereotypical fashion, the public should ignore it.

Unfortunately for Joe and his agenda, the American public will discuss the role this atrocity plays in the overall war effort.

Whether Haditha represents an accurate assessment of the US military’s tactical MO or not, it has marked a clear shift in our collective perception of modern warfare. No longer do we live in a fantasy world of surgically precise operations; we’ve all awoken to the reality that combat-stressed groups of men and women in a war zone are capable of murdering civilians on their own accord.

That 21st century, smart-bomb warfare meme is kaput; we’re now all aware that the US is knee-deep in a grudge match.

But in the end, it truly doesn’t matter if this one incident is indicative of the pattern to the entire war effort or not, because to the Iraqi people — the people on the other end of the gun barrel in any circumstance — it signifies a terrifying escalation of chaos, murder and occupation that cannot be erased with clarifying words.

The Overall Pattern In Iraq

From pg. 39 of the September 2004 Strategic Communication report, by the Defense Science Board—a federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the secretary of defense:

2.3 What is the Problem? Who Are We Dealing With?

The information campaign—or as some still would have it, “the war of ideas” or the struggle for “hearts and minds”—is important to every war effort. In this war it is an essential objective, because the larger goals of U.S. strategy depend on separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists. But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended.

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.

  • Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
  • Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World—but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
  • Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.
  • Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack to broad public support.
  • What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
  • Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic—namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is for Americans—really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they are really just talking to themselves.

Thus the critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim World is not one of “dissemination of information,” or even one of crafting and delivering the message. Rather, it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none; the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam. Inevitably therefore, whatever Americans do and say only serves the party that has both the message and the “loud and clear” channel: the enemy.

That last sentence (with my emphasis) represents the overall pattern that I see in the Iraq war. We’re a 100,000 strong force of monolinguistic, armed men and women on a foreign soil. Our soldiers have little to no training in the local customs of the Iraqi people, and practically no one can verbally communicate with either civilians or the enemy.

Essential building blocks of communication with the Iraqi people—humane, personal connections via idle chat during a convoy exercise, supportive conversation in local establishments, calming direction provided during a house raid—all become lost opportunities to gain a semblance of trust or credibility.

This simple inability to communicate waters the fields of insurgent seeds.

So when an atrocity such as Haditha occurs, the Iraqi people’s understanding of the act can’t be contextualized or messaged into obscurity by our military. Worse even, the sheer brutality of such an incident doesn’t need to be framed or spun by operatives of al Qaeda or the leaders of local insurgents to build a greater resistance to American forces.

The atrocity speaks for itself, with a clarity of message delivered via a deafening tone of dead relatives, neighbors and friends, all never to be seen again.

Iraqi citizens have lived with the fear of a potential Haditha massacre for years now. Their daily lives are filled with various degrees of similar experiences with American forces as we consistently sweep through house after house in the middle of the night, searching for insurgents. A Haditha massacre does only one thing: it confirms their worst fears, leading to more fear and more aggression towards our troops.

No matter what we want to tell ourselves, perception is reality.

The DoD knows we’ll never be able to control the perception of Iraqi’s, so this cry of the right to look at the big picture of the war is a nothing more than panicked attempt to control the perception and reactions of Americans that might question this war effort.

To suggest that the American public should “ignore” the “media mustering a drumbeat on these stories”—these atrocities—in order to protect the overall pattern of the war in Iraq is a failed intellectual position. This incident might only be one data point in the overall pattern of war, but it’s a glaring one; one that exposes more elements going wrong over there than going right.

The Role Of The Media

Iraqi war planners aren’t overly concerned with critical journalism, such as the March 2006 Time magazine exclusive on Haditha, affecting the average American’s take on the state of the war.

Sure, it’s a concern, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

If not managed, the mainstream media can become a major threat to war efforts because it is exists via the same capitalistic infrastructure as the government it supposes to watchdog.

In other words, when media institutions begin climbing onto editorial limbs, foregoing their inherent responsibility to the interests of corporate advertising, it clearly signals a shift in times to American corporations who become placed in a position to make certain decisions they’d rather not have to make:

  • They can remove themselves from media buys that are beginning to serve the reflected will of the consumer (poor PR) or
  • They can keep their advertising in place as a public relations strategy, while implicitly distancing themselves from our government’s effort to wage war

See, the real concern isn’t with the common people in as much as it is with the flow of money, for once the majority of corporations are off the bandwagon of a war effort, its future becomes rather short-lived.

An Example Of The Power Of Media

Lieutenant William Calley—the American officer in charge at the My Lai massacre—faced the scrutiny of the much more centralized, mainstream media of 1970. Advertising legend George Lois provides context to the media exposure of the atrocity at the time by describing the decision and experience of placing Calley on the November, 1970 cover of Esquire magazine:

LieutenantWilliamCalley

“Lieutenant, this picture will show that you’re not afraid as far as your guilt is concerned. The picture will say: ‘Here I am with these kids you’re accusing me of killing. Whether you believe I’m guilty or innocent, at least read about my background and motivations.'” Calley grinned on cue, and we completed the session.

When I sent the finished cover to (Esquire editor, Harold) Hayes he called to let me know that his office staff and Esquire’s masthead bureaucrats were plenty shook up.

“Some detest it and some love it,” he said. “You going to chicken out?” I asked. “Nope,” he said. “We’ll lose advertisers and we’ll lose subscribers. But I have no choice. I’ll never sleep again if I don’t muster the courage to run it.”

The notion that some editors might feel a sense of duty to a global community—and not just to a sovereign position or a bottom line—marks the potential for transforming the media into the greatest, political equalizer on the face of the earth.

In 1970, the attack on the “liberal” media—outlets that didn’t explicitly recognize corporate interests over human interests at every turn—was eerily similar to the conservative banter of today. From Into The Dark: The My Lai Massacre:

[…] On April 1, 1971, just two days after the verdict, Nixon ordered Calley to be placed under house arrest while his appeal worked its way through the courts. “The whole tragic episode was used by the media and the antiwar forces to chip away at our efforts to build public support for our Vietnam objectives,” he wrote.

Across the nation, there were many demonstrations of support for Lt. Calley. The American Legion announced plans that it would try to raise $100,000 for his appeal. Draft board personnel in several cities resigned in groups. Several politicians spoke out in public criticizing the government’s prosecution of the soldiers at My Lai. “I’ve had veterans tell me that if they were in Vietnam now, they would lay down their arms and come home,” Congressman John Rarick told the New York Times.

But prosecutor Aubrey Daniel also did not remain silent. He wrote a highly publicized letter to President Nixon criticizing him for releasing Calley to house arrest: “How shocking it is if so many people across this nation have failed to see the moral issue—that it is unlawful for an American soldier to summarily execute unarmed and unresisting men, women and babies.” […]

In the end, we have to recognize that an atrocity such as Haditha is a symptom of the behavioral patterns of all warfare. To brush it aside as a random act of violence would be to remove the complicit nature of war planners from the equation and lay it squarely on the shoulder of the souls that serve our country, no matter the call to duty.

No One Left Behind

leftbehind

Jonathan Hutson, Talk To Action
The Purpose Driven Life Takers

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission – both a religious mission and a military mission — to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state – especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is “to conduct physical and spiritual warfare”; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

[…]

This game immerses children in present-day New York City — 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, “Praise the Lord,” as they blow infidels away.

The designers intend this game to become the first dominionist warrior game to break through in the popular culture due to its violent scenarios and realistic graphics, lighting, and sound effects. Its creators expect it to earn a rating of T for Teen. How violent is that? That’s the rating shared by Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Chaos Theory, a top selling game in which high-tech gadgets and high-powered weapons – frag grenades, shotguns, assault rifles, and submachine guns — are used to terminate enemies with extreme prejudice.

Could such a violent, dominionist Christian video game really break through to the popular culture? Well, it is based on a series of books that have already set sales records—the blockbuster Left Behind series of 14 novels by writer Jerry B. Jenkins and his visionary collaborator, retired Southern Baptist minister Tim LaHaye. “We hope teenagers like the game,” Mr. LaHaye told the Los Angeles Times. “Our real goal is to have no one left behind.” […]

Freedom of speech and anti-censorship laws exist in this nation to protect our ability to hold civil discourse—even when it’s in the form of twisted, violent, crusading game narratives aimed at our children and marketed through the tenticles of the mega-church.

The redeeming factor behind the development of this specific game, is that the motive of the religous right is on display for the world to see. Too often their hatred becomes cloaked in motive numbing rhetoric—placating tales of Jesus’ love for all humanity as long as humanity devotes itself to Jesus. Over the past 20 years, such rhetoric has masked their intent, allowing them to gain a strong, political foothold in America—specifically with moderate Christians.

So when the religous right’s arrogance is responsible for removing their own metaphorical hoods, we need to gaze into their hateful, soulless eyes and take detailed notes.

The “Up In Arms” Crowd

It’s interesting to note that historically, church groups have been the most active in denouncing hip-hop music and video games for their violent content, arguing that they influence kids to become violent, misogynistic, or even worse, question authority.

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is scheduled to release in October 2006, just four months away. Where are these vocal groups now? Is “bling” and “bitch” rhetoric more deserving of protest than marketing to children a programmed, interactive virtual reality for cleansing non-Christian people from the face of the earth?

Hillary Clinton railed hard against the Hot Coffee mod, a locked, sex scene found in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (a scene that only a slight percentage of geeks even knew existed) in a move that smelled of pandering to the family values crowd. Where is her outrage?

United 93: My Nightmares Suffice, Thank You Very Much

united-93

Associated Press
Theater Pulls Trailer for ‘United 93’

NEW YORK – A New York City movie theater has pulled the trailer for “United 93,” which chronicles in real time the hijacked United Airlines flight that crashed into a Western Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11.

The AMC Loews Lincoln Square 12 theater in Manhattan said it made the decision after viewers complained they found it too upsetting.

“I don’t think people are ready for this,” theater manager Kevin Adjodha said.

“One lady was crying,” Adjodha told Newsweek. “She was saying that we shouldn’t have played the trailer. That this was wrong.”

Universal Studios in Los Angeles, meanwhile, said it would go ahead with plans to show the trailer for the thriller, which is scheduled to open in theaters on April 28.

Adam Fogelson, Universal’s president of marketing, said the trailer would be shown only before R-rated movies or “grown-up” PG-13 ones.

“The film is not sanitized or softened, it’s an honest and real look” at the events of Flight 93, Fogelson told The New York Times in Tuesday editions. “If I sanitized the trailer beyond what’s there, am I suggesting that the experience will be less real than what the movie itself is? We as a company feel comfortable that it is a responsible and fair way to show what’s coming.”

“United 93” is scheduled to make its world premiere on opening night at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan.

The festival, which was created to help lower Manhattan recover economically from the attacks, begins April 25 and runs through May 7.

The trailer begins with images of passengers boarding the plane on a sunny morning, and builds to a disturbing scene that includes actual news video of a plane about to hit one of the World Trade Center towers. It then returns inside Flight 93 as terrorists begin hijacking it and a passenger calls his family to tell them of the impending disaster.

The Families of Flight 93 have said that Universal Pictures will donate 10 percent of the first three days’ grosses to the memorial.

Where to begin? I guess I could start with my absolute disdain for the philathropic smokescreen Universal is attempting with their pathetic 10% donation of the first three days gross (that makes my last 401k plan of a 25% match up to 6% look charitable), but that’s not my major issue.

What assholes decided to make this film? If you’re someone that considers 9/11 to be historically synonymous to Pearl Harbor, how ready do you think America circa 1946 would’ve been for a similar flick? America had already wrapped up WWII (while bombing Japan to hell in the process) yet I’d bet that the raw nerve of December 7, 1941 would’ve been wide open.

Almost five years beyond 9/11 we still (supposedly) can’t even find bin Laden, yet we’ve succeeded in destablizing an entire region — murdering tens of thousands of innocent people in the process while mobilizing the recruitment efforts of the very fundamentalist fervor we’re attempting to “battle.”

We’ve done everything except make a complex global situation less complex, and now the first 9/11 movie is on the horizon for release. We all know what happened on that horrific day, but know absolutely nothing about the seeds that led up to that day. I guess in this world of reality tv and goverment positioning, that doesn’t mean anything.

Personally speaking, I don’t appreciate the attempt to capitalize on my raw nerves and emotions surrounding the event. Then again, it took me more than a year to simply sit through the news footage of the planes crashing into the WTC due to being forced to walk though the rubble of Ground Zero for over a year on my daily commute from Brooklyn to Jersey City, so I might not have the average American’s perspective on this one.

What do you think?

SXSW2006: Bruce Sterling – The State of the World

*Note* Live blogging will miss nuance and won’t be an exact representation of the speaker’s intent.

bruce sterling sxsw 2006

Bruce Sterling isn’t throwing a party this year, but he’s loving the bubble echo of this 2.0 SXSW2006 get together. He says “enjoy it while you can.”

He’s loving flickr and Wikipedia; companies that are completely unlike anything else, opening up their API’s to create platforms, not sites. What a contrast to standard, American business.

Only in America… where dying phone companies lobby the government as if they’re Indian casinos. […] Are people in Washington drinking their own bathwater? The guys in power are so eager to monetize the web, they’re turning America into Banana Republic with rockets.

Get his book: Visionary In Residence

Serbia is absolutely dysfunctional and Sterling has a ringside seat. He’s global, as many more are becoming. His Austin stead collects mail, while he bounces around the world. “National borders are like speed bumps.” America is a state at war. “The dollar is low compared to the Euro, which should be in intensive care.”

Creationism is an intellectual calamity.

al Quada bomb mosques. How many are enough? (we Americans don’t give a fuck about the “near enemy” issue). When the culture war is over—we are within a culture war—one doesn’t get to say “I served on this side.”

We’re on a slider bar between the unthinkable and the unimaginable. We’ve got a fire in a theater, but the exit signs are just a bunch of glowing letters in jumble.

Warren Ellis: “The spread of the possible futures and the people on the ground figuring out how to use them.”

Unimaginable does not mean catastrophic, nor does unthinkable.

The word: Spime – In 2004, Sterling did a speech at SIG-GRAPH and spoke of spime. It’s not a word; it’s a tag. It’s a theory object. William Gibson’s cyberspace is a conceptual realization. We’ll never have that, but the word is now passe.

Spime is a speculative imaginary object:

  • An interactive chip, unique identity, It’s got a tag
  • Local precise positioning system
  • A powerful search engine, auto-Googling object
  • Evolved in cradle to cradle recycling
  • 3D virtual models of objects; a product of CAD cams
  • Rapidly prototyped, it’s a fabject — a laser-centered model

If 21st century objects had these qualities, people would interact in unimaginable ways. Spimes begin and end as data. We want to do it to build an internet of things; engage from the moment of invention to the moment of decay. It’ll feel like auto-magical inventory voo doo. I ask, and I’m told. I Google to find my shoes. This concept needs distributive participation.

The semantic wit is turning into the wetlands of language.

A theory object is a platform of development. The 20th century could not write, think in this way. Theory objects can have permalinks, trackbacks, databases, etc. This is why the legacy media is going down, because legacy people don’t get it.

We need to become the change we want to see. Make no decision out of fear. None! (my emphasis).

Globalization needs to be understood culturally. Leaders are culpable, but the people are complicit. A society that lived in a locked closet and fed on their own illusions (Serbia). How different are we? Evil has a face in the world; people who don’t like people who don’t buy into their parochial bullshit.

But time passes with historical perspective.

Sterling closes by quoting Carl Sandburg. Picture 1937, the age of depression, WWII at the door…:

The people, yes

The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold again and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds.
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.
The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
Is a vast huddle with so many units saying:

“I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
And it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself and maybe for others.
I could read and study
And talk things over
And find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time.”

The people
With the tragic and comic two faced hero and hoodlum
Phantom and gorilla
Twisting to moan with the gargoyle mouth
They buy me and sell me
It’s a game
Sometime I’ll break loose
This old anvil, laughs at many broken hammers
There are men that can’t be bought!
Fire borne or at home with fire
The stars make no noise
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing
Time is a great teacher
Who can live without hope?
In the darkness with a great bundle of grief the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people march:

Where to? What next?

—–

I didn’t finish my live-blog of Bruce Sterling’s brilliant speech; I couldn’t.

In the midst of his swaying through global references of humanity, ubiquitous concepts and reflective precision, Sterling briefly mentioned the humanity of the Serbian people, how they still gather to listen to poets speak and grown men openly weep within their shared language, as if their hearts were still broken.

I felt that.

When Sterling hit the very first line of Carl Sandburg’s poem, he began to weep; I immediately closed my laptop and felt the words of a man in the midst of a depression tumble out of the mouth of a man in the midst of privilege.

Bruce passionately pressed on, as each word struck a newly discovered nerve, setting off a choked up throat, a twist in his chair and freshly drawn tears. And I wept with him.

My last words at SXSW2006

Each of us—the creators and collaborators in this 2.0 revolution of media, communication, services—are the new leaders of this world.

Each of us.

The choices we make will shape our world; from the choice to harness our personal voice to the choice of developing real relationships with our fellow human beings to the choice of creating innovative, enabling worlds of objects in-between…

There is nothing else but choice; don’t think for a moment that there isn’t.

So the next time you come up with a brilliant service idea, try going that extra step to make it just that much more useful for your neighbor… or for that family living on the other side of the tracks… or for that child who was born into a depressed world where jobs are scarce, people are starving, and war is on the horizon. Because this world exists.

Thank you, Bruce.

UPDATE: Full Audio

Why Do “They” Hate Us?

gazaairstrike

If you’re looking for a laundry list of reasons, read this article titled, “Why do they hate us so much?” Otherwise, simply imagine the experience of watching a missile evaporating a car directly in front of you as you prepare to turn into your cul-de-sac, somewhere in Suburbia, USA, sending shrapnel into your 8-year-old child who was waving hello to you from the curb.

Middle East Times
Palestinian militants, children killed in Gaza airstrike
Sakher Abu El Oun

[…] An eight-year-old boy, Raed Al Batsh, and 15-year-old Ahmed Al Sweissi, who were standing in Salaheddin Street at the time, were also killed in the massive explosion.

Another 15-year-old boy died later from his wounds. Eight bystanders, most of them children, were also wounded.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that the military carried out an airstrike targeting a wanted militant from Islamic Jihad.

“A short while ago the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] carried out an aerial attack in Gaza City against a vehicle carrying an Islamic Jihad terrorist,” she said.

Israeli security sources said that Sukar was wanted in connection with Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and bombings against troops before Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last September.

While its larger rival Hamas halted its campaign of anti-Israeli attacks in the past year, Jihad has carried out half a dozen suicide bombings inside Israel and snubbed January’s Palestinian election that was won by Hamas.

Before the air raid, Hamas’ chief parliamentarian, Mahmoud Al Zahar, warned Israel against any military escalation ahead of this month’s Israeli election, threatening that his faction would avenge every drop of Palestinian blood.

“Everyone knows that before every election, crimes are committed [by Israel]. Those looking for success try to make more Palestinians blood spill.

“This time, we say to them that no drop of Palestinian blood will run without riposte,” he told reporters in Gaza City.

The movement, which won by a landslide in January’s Palestinian election and does not recognize Israel, has not claimed an attack in Israel since early 2005, despite carrying out dozens of bloody attacks in previous years.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman vowed that the response to Monday’s “crimes” in Gaza City would strike “at the heart of the Zionist entity”. […]

Now, tell me, honesty, how would you react? What next steps would you make once the grief became tolerable. What would you expect your leaders to do for you?

These aren’t simple questions; they’re steeped in mixed issues of morality and the flawed concept of a righteous battle to end all tyranny (which often turns into a battle against a windmill). Quite honestly, if this were my child, I have no idea if I could simply breathe, let alone answer these questions, but I’ll tell you this much: I can surely understand why a parent, relative, neighbor, etc. would charge that windmill.

The insurgancy in Iraq is a perfect example.

Israel operates like this because we, the United States, allow them to operate like this. Israel will tell you otherwise, but their very existense depends on our financial support, military dominance and political capital. When Washington nods, Israel moves. The ties are deep-seeded.

Yeah, I have a grasp on the big picture of why we have a relationship with Israel, but I don’t care. This type of shit needs to stop. I mean, read the above quote once more. It suggests that this type of military strike is the norm in Israeli political campaigning.

And we bitch about the He Said/She Said negative campaigning in the States?

Until this type of aggression ceases, we’re going to continue to be viewed as a sponsor of state terrorism and innocent lives everywhere will continue to be lost in the crossfire. With great power comes great responsibility, right?

Right?

UPDATE: Nas reports that the news only gets worse:

An Israeli air strike killed Raad Al-Batash, 8, Mahmoud Al-Batash, 15, and Ahmad a-Sweisi, 14, on Monday. Sumiyya Al-Batch, the mother of Raad and Mahmoud, was also wounded. And in a separate incident, two brothers, Allam and Nidal Abu Saud, 14 and 15, were blown to pieces when an undetonated explosive left by the Israeli military in their neighborhood suddenly exploded near them.

Eight other passers-by were wounded in the air strike, most of them children, and Sukar’s aunt, who lives nearby, died of a heart attack when she was told the news of the boys’ deaths.

…a report by Israeli human rights group B’tselem called the attack a war crime [source]

(via The Black Iris of Jordan)

Preventive War

chomsky

Imperial Grand Strategy – Elite Concerns (pg. 39)

Within establishment circles, there has been considerable concerns that “America’s imperial ambition” is a serious threat even to its own population. Their alarm reached new heights as the Bush administration declared itself to be a “revisionist state” that intends to rule the world permanently, becoming, some felt, “a menace to itself and to mankind” under the leadership of “radical nationalists” aiming for “unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority.” Many others within the mainstream spectrum have been appalled by the adventurism and arrogance of the radical nationalists who have regained the power they wielded through the 1980s, but now operate with fewer external constraints.

The concerns are not entirely new. During the Clinton years, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington observed that for much of the world the US is “becoming the rogue superpower, [considered] the single greatest external threat to their societies.” Robert Jervis, then president of the American Political Science Association, warned that “in the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” Like others, they anticipated that coalitions might arise to counterbalance the rogue superpower, with threatening implications.

Several leading figures of the foreign policy elite have pointed out that the potential targets of America’s imperial ambition are not likely to simply await destruction. They “know that the United States can be held at bay only by deterrence,” Kenneth Waltz has written, and that “weapons of mass destruction are the only means to deter the United States.” Washington’s policies are therefore leading to the proliferation of WMD, Waltz concludes, tendencies accelerated by its commitment to dismantle international mechanisms to control the resort to violence. These warnings were reiterated as Bush prepared to attack Iraq: one consequence, according to Steven Miller, is that others “are likely to draw the conclusion that weapons of mass destruction are necessary to deter American intervention.” Another well-known specialist warned that the “general strategy of preventive war” is likely to provide others with “overwhelming incentives to wield weapons of terror and mass destruction” as a deterrent to “the unbrideled use of American power.” Many have noted the likely impetus to Iranian nuclear weapons programs. And “there is no question that the lesson that the North Koreans have learned from Iraq is that it needs a nuclear deterrent,” Selig Harrison commented.

As the year 2002 drew to a close, Washington was teaching an ugly lesson to the world: if you want to defend yourself from us, you had better mimic North Korea and pose a credible military threat, in this case, conventional: artillary aimed at Seoul and at US troops near DMZ. We will enthusiastically march on to attack Iraq, because we know that it is devistated and defenseless; but North Korea, though an even worse tyranny and vastly more dangerous, is not an appropriate target as long as it can cause plenty of harm. The lesson could hardly be more vivid.

Still another concern is the “second superpower,” public opinion. Not only was the “revisionism” of the political leadership without precident; so too was the opposition to it. Comparisons are often drawn to Vietnam. The common query “What happened to the tradition of protest and dissent?” makes clear how effectively the historical record has been cleansed and how little sense there is, in many circles, of the changes in public consciousness over the past four decades. An accurate comparison is revealing: In 1962, public protest was nonexistent, despite the announcement that year that the Kennedy administration was sending the US Air Force to bomb South Vietnam, as well as initiating plans to drive millions of people into what ammounted to concentration camps and launching chemical warfare programs to destroy food crops and ground cover. Protest did not reach any meaningful level until years later, after hundreds of thousands of US troops had been dispatched, densely populated areas had been demolished by saturation bombing, and the aggression had spread to the rest of Indochina. By the time protest became significant, the bitterly anticommunist military historian and Indochina specialist Bernard Fall had warned that “Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity… is threatened with extinction” as “the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size.”

In 2002, fourty years later, in striking contrast, there was largescale, committed, and principled popular protest before the war had been officially launched. Absent the fear and illusion about Iraq that were unique to the US, prewar opposition would probably have reached much the same levels as elsewhere. That reflects a steady increase over these years in unwillingness to tolerate aggression and atrocities, one of many such changes.

The leadership is well aware of these developments. By 1968, fear of the public was so serious that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to consider whether “sufficient forces would be available for civil disorder control” if more troops were sent to Vietnam. The Department of Defense feared that further troop deployments ran the risk of “provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions.” The Reagan administration at first tried to follow Kennedy’s South Vietnam model in Central America but backed down in the face of an unanticipated public reaction that threatened to undermine more important components of the policy agenda, turning instead to clandestine terror — clandestine in the sense that it could be more or less concealed from the general public. When Bush I took office in 1989, public reaction was again very much on the agenda. Incoming administrations typically commission a review of the world situation from the intelligence agencies. These reviews are secret, but in 1989 a passage was leaked concerning “cases where the US confronts much weaker enemies.” The analysts advised that the US must “defeat them decisively and rapidly.” Any other outcome would be “embarrassing” and might “undercut political support,” understood to be thin.

We are no longer in the 1960s, when the population would tolerate a murderous and destructive war for years without visible protest. The activist movements of the past forty years have had a significant civilizing effect in many domains. By now, the only way to attack a much weaker enemy is to construct a propaganda offensive depicting it as an imminent threat or perhaps engaged in genocide, with confidence that the military campaign will scarcely resemble an actual war.

Take a look around. People see the world as they experience it.

Chomsky: Media, Democracy and Indoctrination

noam-radio

I stumbled across the no one’s listening podcast site and their interview with Noam Chomsky yesterday. The interview was entitled, Fake News; a title fitting his perspective on the American media. I have to admit though, after reading most of Noam’s work from the 80’s and 90’s, it was good to hear that he’s optimistic about the future.

The following is a transcript of part of the interview:

Noam: The effect [of the media] on the public isn’t very much studied, but to the extent as it has been, it seems that among the more educated sectors, the indoctrination works more effectively. Among the less educated sectors, the people are more skeptical and cynical.

Irene: Right… so what can we do because now I’m depressed. [nervous laughter]

Noam: I think it’s a very optimistic future, frankly.

Irene: Really? You wrote 90 books…

Noam: Look, very much so. There’s something we know about this country more than any other: we know a lot about public opinion. It’s studied very intensively.

Irene: That it’s fickle?

Noam: But it’s very rarely reported. You can find them, it’s an open society, you can find them. What they show is very remarkable. What they show first of all is that both political parties and the media are far to the right of the general population, on a whole host of issues. And the population is just, you know, disorganized, atomized, and so on. This country ought to be an organizers paradise. And the, that’s why the media and the campaigns keep away from issues. They know that on issues they’re going to lose people.

So therefore you have to portray George Bush as a, look he’s a pampered kid who came from a rich family, went to prep school, an elite university and you have to present him as an ordinary guy, you know, who makes grammatical errors, which I’m sure he’s trained to make, he didn’t talk that way at Yale and a fake Texas twang and he’s off to his ranch to cut brush or something.

That’s like a toothpaste ad. And I think a lot of people know it.

Given the facts about public opinion it means what’s needed is something, you know, not very radical. Let’s become as democratic as say the second largest country in the hemisphere: Brazil. I mean their last election was not between two rich kids who went to the same elite university and joined the same secret society where they’re trained to be members of the upper class and can get into politics cause they have rich families with a lot of connections. I mean people were actually able to vote and elect a president from their own ranks. A man who was a peasant union leader never had a higher education and comes from the population.

They could do it because it’s a functioning democratic society. Tremendous obstacles, you know: repressive state, huge concentration of wealth, much worse obstacles than we have, but they have mass popular movements, they have actual political parties which we don’t have. There’s nothing to stop us from doing that. We have a legacy of freedom which is unparalleled, its been won by struggle over centuries, it was never given, you can use it or you can abandon it.

It’s a choice.

So… I guess the question is who’s ready to begin sacrificing to elicit change?