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Netwar in the Big Apple: Wall Street versus the Indigenous Peoples Movement
By Jay Taber
July 29, 2014
Architects of the Final Solution
In the run-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September at UN headquarters in New York, propaganda will inundate the infosphere, lending an atmosphere of pandemonium, and leaving many hopeless about the prospects for conflict resolution between Indigenous nations and modern states. For a few, though, widespread hopelessness within the Indigenous Peoples Movement, the human rights movement and the environmental movement is good.
For ubercapitalists like Bill Gates and their sycophants like William Jefferson Clinton — who promote the false hope of neoliberal globalization — terminating the collective ownership of Indigenous nations, in exchange for totalitarian corporate control of the planet’s resources, is a dream coming true. As architects of the final solution, they — along with the World Bank, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations — view the UN Millenium Development Goals as a blueprint for annihilation of the world’s Indigenous societies.
Crushing the Indigenous Peoples Movement is a crucial step in realizing their dream.
Principles of Psywar
With the advent of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Indigenous Peoples Movement required the linking of national, regional, and local movement resources through a process of dialogue and integration. The involvement of moral authorities and civil society organizations helped to assure the proper movement emphasis on moral sanction, central to constructing new relationships between nations and states. But moral sanction alone is insufficient to constrain reactionary political violence and official repression. That will require continuous research, analysis, and investigation — the civil society equivalent of wartime intelligence operations — in order to weather the psychological warfare associated with the disease of dominion.
Psychological warfare, according to Paul Linebarger of the School of Advanced International Studies, is a continuous process not controlled by laws, usages, and customs of war — covert, often disguised as the voice of institutions and media — a non-violent persuasion waged before, during, and after war.
Most countries, notes Linebarger, suffer from ideological confusion—an instability of basic beliefs. “In states anxious to promote a fixed mentality, the entire population lives under conditions approximating the psychological side of war. Allegiance in war,” says Linebarger, “is a matter of ideology, not of opinion.” Coordinated propaganda machines, he observes, include psywar, public relations, general news, and public education. “Psywar,” he warns, “has in private media facilities, in an open society, a constantly refreshed source of new material that, when selectively censored, can prevent non-governmental materials from circulating.”
Mainstream Media and the Corporate Agenda
Mainstream media, when it mentions conflicts between Indigenous nations and modern states, portrays these conflicts as challenges to be resolved by assimilating Indigenous cultures into market systems. Extinguishing tribal sovereignty, annihilating tribal resources, coercing tribal leaders, and implementing the final solution; this is the corporate agenda mainstream media supports.
When these conflicts cannot be ignored, mainstream media looks for compromised NGOs to speak for Indigenous Peoples, thereby marginalizing Indigenous intellectuals, diplomats, and governing authorities—a mass communications tactic examined under the concept of Netwar. While mainstream media informs, it does not make information comprehensible; what it leaves out is essential to knowledge that allows readers to form their own judgment, rather than consume corporate distortions and state propaganda.
A Free Authentic Life
As Kalle Lasn, publisher of Adbusters Magazine said when interviewed in the July 2001 issue of The Sun, “It’s impossible to live a free authentic life in America today …Our emotions, personalities, and core values have become programmed.” Lasn, a former advertising executive for thirty years, understands the power of propaganda as advertising. He also understands the keys to undermining this corrupting influence—persistent ridicule, and appeals to conscience.
Antonio Gramsci, writing in Prison Notebooks, observes that, “Civil society operates without ‘sanctions’ or compulsory ‘obligations’, but nevertheless exerts a collective pressure and obtains objective results in the form of an evolution of customs, ways of thinking and acting, and morality. The eclipse of a way of living and thinking cannot take place without a crisis.” Civil society today, I would argue, exists in a perpetual state of crisis — some fabricated and some real — that, with the advent of alternative media, desktop publishing, and Internet communication, offers an unprecedented opportunity to begin this eclipse.
As Gramsci observed from prison in 1930s Fascist Italy, “If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e. is no longer leading but only dominant, exercising coercive force alone, this means the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies and no longer believe what they used to [thus] the exercise of force to prevent new ideologies from imposing themselves leads to skepticism and a new arrangement—a new culture.” If the Indigenous Peoples Movement is to succeed in creating a new culture based on mutual respect, the ways of thinking of the old culture must be strategically challenged.
Theater of War
In doing graduate research for the thesis included in my second book, I developed a curricular proposal that incorporated the study of psychological warfare as a key component of effective social activism. The more I observe discussion online about social conflict now taking place on the Internet and public airwaves, the more I realize how widespread and entrenched the misunderstanding of the nature of this conflict is, and in turn how important it is for those engaged in this war of ideas to acquaint themselves with at least the basic principles if not tactics of psywar. For those unable to access the classic texts on this topic — Psychological Warfare by Paul Linebarger, and The Science of Coercion by Christopher Simpson — I’ll try to recall them here.
For starters, there are two things to always keep in mind: the target audience, and the purpose of the message. In a theater of war — physical or psychological — there are combatants and non-combatants and at least two sides, as well as many interests. In communicating social transformation, psywar will be employed at different times and in different ways depending on the audience targeted and what the message transmitter is attempting to affect.
In recruiting the uninvolved or uncommitted, the message might convey an urgent threat, a righteous cause, a juicy opportunity, or a chance for revenge. In retaining the involved, a message would likely include an appeal to pride and expectations of victory. In undermining the resolve of the enemy, messages generally try to create doubts about all the above.
Counter-power in the Network Society
One area often overlooked by novices to psychological warfare, however, is the use of messages crafted and delivered for the purpose of preventing the enemy from effectively mobilizing audiences potentially supportive of its views, goals, and objectives. These strategically-developed messages — sometimes overt, sometimes covert — are those most-commonly associated with gray and black ops, white being forthright, gray misleading, and black counterfeit.
Understanding these techniques of mass communication — deployed in abundance in politics, campaigns, and advertising today — is essential for those who care about where the world is heading, even if in the end they decide to avoid the field of social conflict themselves. Once educated on the topic, they can at least refrain from unwittingly undermining those with whom they agree. Manuel Castells, in his paper Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society, has a lot more to say on this.
The first principle of psywar is never repeat the talking points of your enemy. The second principle is to deny them a platform to misinform. To offer a platform, out of some misguided sense of evenhandedness, is to further the credibility and legitimacy of those who undermine our movements.
Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness is based on five components: ownership of media, fabrication of news, integration of advertising with state propaganda, financing of foundations and brokerages, and co-option of NGOs and grassroots groups. While many well-meaning people are channeled into the latter by the concerted collaboration of all the former, the corporate agenda that determines the policies, practices and projects of these NGOs is anything but benign.
Indeed, the distractions, distortions and deceit promoted by the scoundrels, malefactors and curs — working on behalf of Wall Street villains — to mesmerize the naive in order to lead them astray, pose a lethal threat to Indigenous Peoples and their desperate movement of liberation. Pretending otherwise, in order to coddle the credulous, accomplishes nothing noble. Indeed, it only perpetuates misperceptions that urgently need to be shattered.
September 20-26 2014, in New York City, the Wall Street/NGO convergence around climate change, Indigenous Peoples human rights, and corporate derivative philanthropy, promises to be one of the super spectacles of the decade. Shining a light on that shadowy affair is something that simply has to be done. Unfortunately, there is no painless way of doing that, for it is way past time for an awakening.
Fantasies about Political Power
Fantasies about political power, however, are hard to break. People want to believe that activism led by Wall Street stooges, funded by Wall Street derivatives, and promoted by Wall Street media is revolutionary. Where do they get such ideas?
If you want to stop the environmental destruction from mining Tar Sands bitumen, Powder River Basin coal, and Bakken Shale oil, you stop fossil fuel export. You don’t do XL protests at the White House, organize fossil fuel divestment on college campuses, or hold a climate change march in New York.
These ineffective strategies are great for making Wall Street titans like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates even more obscenely wealthy, but they do nothing for improving the environment. Yet, because activism is based on feeling good — as opposed to doing good — Americans are routinely led by Wall Street’s pied pipers into endless (and meaningless) “movements.”
Making Americans feel good about losing strategies is the main objective of Wall Street-funded NGO pooh-bahs. Keeping Americans distracted with pointless projects dissipates the energies of well-intentioned youth, creating cynicism and hopelessness over time. Meanwhile, Wall Street titans make money from fossil fuel consumption and pollution, hand over fist.
The fact they colonize Indigenous territories by capitalizing on this pollution via REDD & carbon “credits” that accelerate the displacement of Indigenous peoples – seizing the planet’s final remaining rich & diverse rainforests in the process – is lost in the mist.
There are many ways to reduce energy dependence, increase energy conservation, and disconnect energy security from militarism. None of them are supported by Wall Street.
Bedlam in Gotham
Bedlam in Gotham, by all accounts, is going to be a three-ring circus:
- September 20-21 People’s Climate Change March
- September 22-23 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
- September 24-26 World Summit on Indigenous Philanthropy
All the Ford and Rockefeller PR puppets from the non-profit industrial complex will be swarming for media attention to keep those grants flowing. A players program in advance would be immensely helpful.
When the pandemonium is in full swing, it will be difficult for consumers to sort out the noise from the information, let alone knowledge, intelligence or understanding. Once the spell is broken, though, consciousness could cascade. Since there’s no way to predict or force that, keeping a counter-narrative presence is the only way of giving them a chance of coming out of the consumer coma and becoming citizens again.
Continuing our discussion on co-option, I should note that Naomi Klein – as a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation-funded 350.org — functions as an emissary to co-opt Indigenous activist/intellectuals like Arthur Manuel and Leanne Simpson. Having branded herself as part of the eco-avant-garde, Klein’s diplomacy is part of the mission of Wall Street NGOs to assimilate Indigenous thought leaders into the corporate fold.
Manuel, as a Seventh Generation Fund/Ford Foundation-sponsored activist in 2013 — appointed by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to coordinate the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus — collaborated with UN Global Coordinating Group leader Debra Harry in an attempt to exclude tribal governing authorities from participating in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and later joined Harry in a fraudulent attempt to cover up their mischief. Manuel, the son of one of CWIS’s founders (where I am an associate scholar), is an articulate and intelligent Indigenous advocate. He has since apparently parted company with NAIPC, but his betrayal of trust remains a black mark on his record.
Simpson seems to have more integrity than Manuel, and I hope she does not get seduced by the insidious forces of Wall Street. The NGOs corrupted by UN flattery and foundation funds are responsible for much of the turmoil taking place behind the scenes of the media spectacle in which 350.org’s Bill McKibben is a star, and promise to be a problem in the lead up to the WCIP in New York come September.
In many respects, Klein and McKibben are like the church missionaries that initially helped subdue the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the US. Instead of the religion of Christianity, however, they proselytize on behalf of the faith in corporate philanthropy, all the while posing as pious champions of the environment, colonized and downtrodden. This is psychological warfare at its most repugnant.
A Culture of Imbeciles
Guy Debord, author of The Society of the Spectacle, once remarked, “There are two parallel counterrevolutionary confusionist tactics: the partial cooption of new values, and a deliberately anticultural industrially facilitated production, the latter being a natural continuation of the imbecilization of young people begun in their schools and families. We have arrived at a stage of ideological absence in which advertising has become the only active factor, overriding any preexisting critical judgment or transforming such judgment into a mere conditioned reflex.”
I thought of this remark when reading that 350.org — the pied piper of pious poseurs— are promoters of the upcoming climate change march in New York City. Parade of imbeciles would perhaps be a better description.
Four plus decades later, Debord’s 1967 treatise Society of the Spectacle remains one of the most profound analyses of modern humanity. Oblivious to the deepening separation of industrial civilization from reality, even scholars of ongoing social disintegration rarely mention Debord’s penetrating insights and ideas. As another generation of state-educated children lose the capacity to think for themselves, keeping the intellectual fires burning remains a formidable task.
Producing fantasy in Hollywood and Washington is by now such a prescribed art, that the psychological warfare conducted 24/7 against the minds of all Americans has become child’s play. Few even question their fantasies as such. NGOs like 350.org tap into these fantasies about political power, perpetuate and capitalize on them. Pooh-Bahs of the non-profit industrial complex, like McKibben, become their Messiahs.
Absent coherent analysis based on research, social networks become part of the spectacle. As political researchers know, little of progressive activism is based on research and analysis, and much is based on preconceptions or what is fundable. As any astute observer can see, dependence limits strategies.
Debord’s remarks on the early development of a culture of imbeciles illustrate that revolutions like the one led by 350.org become exercises in silliness. The fact that media brain-damaged Americans are incapable of withdrawing themselves from the spectacle’s spell, is cause for considerable worry.
Allowing oneself to be herded from panicked horror to panicked horror does nothing to end the cycle of destruction; for that one needs to keep one’s cool, and to devise means of disrupting the seamless spectacle that shadows us through our daily lives. Only then, can the awakening begin.
Perpetuating systematic fraud on a global scale requires active support by academia, media, and commerce. Indoctrination through education, information and advertising thus bolster official propaganda in a circular reinforcement of the distorted world view required for institutionalized fraud to continue unchallenged.
As a closed loop system designed to prevent penetration of independent ideas, perspectives or analysis, this totalitarian cover-up of crimes against humanity — exercised to sustain the system — remains all-encompassing, until some unmediated event or thought breaks through. And when that happens, all sectors of the loop scramble to attack the intruder, rapidly responding to explain away the cognitive dissonance, introduced by the momentary glimpse of reality.
In my comment on the 350.org-led college campus fossil fuel divestment campaign, I noted that divestment won’t change a thing environmentally. It will only change ownership of some shares from public institutions to private ones–like the banks we bailed out with our tax dollars. Given the money to be made on the booming fossil fuel industry, I’m sure the banks will be delighted to acquire these shares, and in turn leave the public with no voice at future shareholder meetings.
Moral theatrics like this divestment campaign might make activists and students feel virtuous, but they do nothing for the environment, human rights or democracy. They bring big bucks into the coffers of NGOs like 350.org, but they do not change public policy. Nor do they influence corporate behavior, other than in public relations and marketing. I guess that’s why corporate foundations fund NGOs that promote such nonsense.
As of last summer, students on 300 campuses across the US were organizing fossil fuel divestment campaigns. That’s a lot of wasted energy, especially when we need that energy to change the political and economic system that awards fraud and punishes honesty.
As Cory Morningstar observed in her article on 350.org’s divestment tour, launched by Bill McKibben, “Such sophisticated public relations campaigns as this one are quite genius in a multitude of ways. Cloaked under the guise of tackling the root causes of the global climate crisis, such campaigns change nothing. Rather, they ensure the populace is participating in what it has been convinced is meaningful action – and nothing more.” As noted in her article, all market investing is about exploiting people and dismantling ecosystems. If students want to save the planet, they should start organizing for political power to change the market system, not rally to switch investments from one exploiting portfolio to another.
Given the influence such high profile campaigns have on the naive, one might return to the simple maxim of follow the money for guidance. In the case of McKibben and 350.org, one has to ask why such capitalist titans as Rockefeller would fund an NGO that might threaten the power of the oligarchy they symbolize. As Morningstar illustrates, the answer is they don’t.
Fording the River
The omnipresent Ford Foundation is an ideological supporter of the World Bank (a mega co-developer of dams, mining and plantations in Indigenous territories), and a UN Millenium Development Goals supporter — along with Bill Gates and Bill Clinton — who do the same. Co-opting Indigenous peoples is a key objective of their neoliberal privatization project. Taking money from Ford Foundation is thus equivalent to taking money from Shell Oil, Rio Tinto or Monsanto.
Ford Foundation is known for funding NGOs promoting civil rights, while simultaneously supporting the state and corporate neglect of Indigenous human rights. Civil rights do not conflict with capitalism, while human rights do.
Anti-Indian organizations in the US believe tribal governments should be abolished, and work toward that end. Their main argument is that civil rights guarantee equality under domestic law, ignoring the fact that international law recognizes the human rights of Indigenous nations to make their own laws.
Protecting their territories and properties requires Indigenous nations to invoke international law and treaties that supersede domestic civil law. By undermining the implementation of Indigenous human rights law, Ford Foundation arguably abets racism and religious bigotry against Indigenous peoples.
As Indigenous nations and modern states prepare for the upcoming UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, corporations like Shell Oil and foundations like Ford are spreading money around to co-opt Indigenous activists and NGOs. While this bribery ensures Indigenous NGOs will be in attendance at the UN event, these partnerships and dependencies ensure they will not challenge the capitalist system in anything but moral theatrics.
Indeed, some of the recipients of Ford Foundation money have already demonstrated a willingness to attack Indigenous governing authorities in order to protect their state-approved, foundation-funded privileges at the UN. Ford Foundation funded brokerages include International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, and the Seventh Generation Fund.
Because Ford Foundation funds academic institutions or NGOs or conferences does not mean that anyone working at these institutions or NGOs or attending their conferences supports neoliberal philosophy. What Ford tries to do is shape public opinion in favor of neoliberalism; supporting capitalist-oriented humanitarianism is essential to that psychological warfare.
Competing with systematic deception by following the rules established by and for the high criminals themselves is ridiculous; that is why Debord and Lasn urged subverting spectacle and jamming culture as crucial to free thought. Just offering an alternative point of view is not enough.
Given the total war attitude of those attempting to maintain their unearned privileges obtained by the supreme fraud, we who are not governing authorities can set aside for the time being any notions of diplomacy and concentrate on winning the war. There will be plenty of time to negotiate when we have the strength to make our threat to autocracy real.
Dependence Limits Strategies
George Manuel, chief of the National Indian Brotherhood (known today as the Assembly of First Nations), once remarked, “Assimilation is annihilation.” As president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples from 1975-1981, Manuel’s work was foundational to the Indigenous Peoples Movement we see today.
Assimilation of indigenous peoples by corporations, church and state is facilitated by creating financial and psychological dependence. As Chief Manuel’s partner in forming the Center for World Indigenous Studies in 1984, Rudolph C. Ryser once noted that “Dependence limits strategies.”
Indeed, dependence on corporations and billionaire philanthropies has corrupted Indigenous leaders, and compromised Indigenous activism. Something Public Good Project has exposed in its coverage of the indigenous non-profit industrial complex.
One of the assimilated Indigenous NGOs exposed by IC Magazine is First Peoples Worldwide, a non-profit funded in part by Shell Oil. A non-profit whose role in this theatre of the absurd is to help corporations assimilate Indigenous leaders, by creating dependence that leads to cultural annihilation.
Featured frequently at Indian Country Today, First Peoples Worldwide propaganda posing as news is meant to psychologically undermine the Indigenous Peoples Movement that Chief Manuel and Dr. Ryser helped create, and to introduce non-sequiturs like Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as though they are valid concepts. As Wrong Kind of Green reports in the evolution of CSR, corporations have never acted for the benefit of society, and it is the current threat to the legitimacy of the corporation that CSR seeks to counteract.
Degrees of Evil
Mind games of the non-profit industrial complex aren’t hard to decipher; the gullible simply have to decide they no longer want to be coddled by bromides, no longer treated as infantile consumers of spectacle. Once they reach the point of being skeptical, the charades of capitalist activism come clearly into view.
Spectacle celebrities like Naomi Klein, while raising valid (albeit hypocritical) criticism of the complex, count on infantile consumers to maintain their activist credentials. Serving as proxies for consumer rage, yet asking nothing serious of them as citizens, makes these capitalist activists popular and profitable PR puppets. (I especially love Ms. No Logo‘s logos.)
When Klein cuddled up to the apparently assimilated Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel on the celebrity panel at the Idle No More conference, she was branding Manuel with the approval of the heavyweight philanthropies behind her. Manuel, already co-opted by Ford Foundation through the Seventh Generation Fund, has wisely chosen not to sell out directly like Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide.
Using philanthropic cutouts to maintain plausible deniability of co-optation, while strategically clever, however, is not immune from exposure by those willing to look. Once those masquerading as agents for change are revealed, non-profits like 350 dot org are seen for what they really are—extensions of Wall Street.
While these charades might seem harmless to naive consumers of the non-profit spectacle, they unfortunately interfere with the ability of authentic activists and Indigenous governing authorities to successfully challenge Wall Street and the modern states it has corrupted. When PR puppets — Indigenous or otherwise — dominate social media, the infantile, the skeptical, and the naive albeit well-intentioned youth are all led astray.
Chutzpah personified would be Naomi Klein — board member of 350 dot org — talking about Big Green opportunism. I guess that’s why elites like Rockefeller fund it.
As for scams, it’s hard to imagine a more losing strategy than the 350 dot org fossil fuel divestment campaign. Shifting university shares in oil companies to Wall Street is hardly going to improve corporate behavior.
Theatre of the Absurd
Bankrolling Indigenous cultural events, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, and Indigenous NGOs might be good business for corporate criminals like Shell Oil, but Indigenous self-determination grants take us into the theatre of the absurd.
While this phenomenon is not surprising, given the idea comes from the preeminent corporate social responsibility darling — Shell Oil partner First Peoples Worldwide — the fact it isn’t rejected outright by anyone with intelligence and integrity shows how far down the road we have gone on the corporate collaboration model.
As corporate brokers like Rebecca Adamson promote this and other methods of assimilating Indigenous peoples into the corporate system, it would be wise to remember the maxim, “Dependence limits strategies.”
While corrupting Indigenous governing authorities and Indigenous NGOs is the raison d’etre of First Peoples Worldwide, similar to the roles played by McKibben and Klein, the role of Indigenous thought leaders like Adamson is more akin to Christian missionaries who played a similar function in converting Indigenous peoples on behalf of corporate states in the 16th Century.
I guess that’s what one might call coming full circle.
Corporate Social Responsibility
As the one-month countdown to the glorious UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples begins, corporate acolytes like First Peoples Worldwide will be graciously blessed with development derivatives lovingly laundered through philanthropic foundations like Ford, Gates and Soros. Spreading such altruistic largesse around to enlighten ungrateful naysayers and ill-mannered critics of Indigenous helping-hand policies by such selfless entities as FPW benefactor Shell Oil, after all, has to be handled with care.
While First Peoples Worldwide and other special helpers labor overtime to share the gospel with Indigenous NGOs and to convert Indigenous governing authorities, the corporate social responsibility theme needs to be promoted with confidence. As a sign of its devotion as unrivaled CSR evangelical, FPW chumminess on Twitter is especially heartwarming. Last summer, when FPW shared its Proud to be Indigenous campaign bromides on list serves during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, I felt an uplifting spirit unfulfilled since the I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke TV sing-along ads of my impressionable youth.
As part of this merciful enlightenment, no doubt enjoyed by so many, the CSR theme — brought to us by benevolences like Shell Oil — generously saturates the infosphere, until even the most cynical and hardened souls among us erupt into fits of neoliberal ecstasy. As the World Bank and Wall Street lay loving hands on this righteous revival, Indigenous missionaries like First Peoples Worldwide’s Rebecca Adamson could go into convulsions of holy rapture.
Here Come the COPPs
As I noted in regard to the credibility issue haunting the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, these Indigenous lobbyists at the UN have grown so accustomed to the prestige of hobnobbing with UN bureaucrats and diplomats that they have lost sight of what is at stake in the UN process. While Indigenous governing authorities struggle to democratize the UN — which has marginalized them, simultaneously with providing a play pen for Indigenous NGOs at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues — the UN bureaucracy has been busy creating the illusion of inclusion.
To wit, the secretariat for the Permanent Forum in Spring 2013 announced the UNPFII Twelfth Session, May 20-31 in New York, will include a “dialogue” with the World Bank. As perhaps the most hostile of UN agencies to the Indigenous Peoples Movement and the implementation of Indigenous sovereignty under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the World Bank generated bags of bromides for the Indigenous patsies to use in press releases to impress their foundation funders. How to posture around this topic and others consumed the Indigenous Global Caucus (a.k.a. COPPs–charlatans, opportunists and pious poseurs) that met May 18 and 19 at UN Plaza.
The only potential bright spot in the secretariat announcement was the May 22 meeting with Indigenous journalists to “strategize” on the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, also held at UN Headquarters in New York. Somehow, though, I don’t think the UN staff had journalists at IC Magazine in mind.
Grandstanding by First Peoples Worldwide — in the form of the “Proud to be Indigenous” campaign — reminded us that corporate-financed NGO promises are, as always, Too Good to be True. As I noted in March 2013, the corporate buy-in promoted by FPW’s president, Rebecca Adamson, is valuable brokering to her backers like Shell Oil. While her poverty-pimping brokerage might attract compromised or corrupt tribal leaders, it also undermines the Indigenous Peoples Movement. As the leading exponent of Indigenous assimilation, First Peoples Worldwide might be able to co-opt their NAIPC friends, but the grassroots activists know a COPP when they see one.
Implementing Indigenous Human Rights
There are several aspects of the UN human rights agenda that contribute to the invisibility of Indigenous rights enshrined in the 2007 UN Declaration. First and foremost of the obstacles to implementing the rights of Indigenous peoples, has been the refusal of the UN to recognize Indigenous nations as political entities worthy of participation in UN decision-making. If the governing authorities of Indigenous nations remain excluded from UN diplomatic processes, Indigenous peoples will remain marginalized from discussions on world issues. As noted at IC, this exclusionary obstacle at the UN has been challenged by 72 American Indian tribes, its removal deemed essential to resolving grievances and eliminating violence against indigenous nations.
As I observed in Making it Happen, democratizing the international community cannot be limited to the international institutions created by modern states. As Indigenous nations assert their human rights of self-determination and self-governance, new institutions are required. Something my colleague Rudolph C. Ryser addresses in his 2012 book, Indigenous Nations and Modern States.
As I wrote in Obstacles to Peace, the UN was formed by (and functions to serve the interests of) modern states, not Indigenous nations. Looking at Israel — a state created by the UN — and its ongoing human rights abuses toward the Indigenous peoples of Palestine, we can see how the UN has actually been an obstacle to peaceful political development. By acceding to American demands for crippling economic sanctions against Palestine, the UN has undermined their ability to manage their own affairs, in turn creating the desperation and humanitarian crisis to which cynical NGOs often cater. In another example, the UN — at U.S. urging — approved the Indonesian annexation of West Papua over the protest of Papuan Indigenous peoples, leading to the current human rights abuses there. As Dr. Ryser remarked, by reinforcing the illusion that the UN can or will relieve the pain from the violence of colonialism, “The UN Human Rights Council stands as one of the significant obstacles to dynamic political development in the Fourth World.”
Given the U.S. influence as a permanent UN Security Council member, and as one of four UN member states to oppose the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is fanciful to think the UN will ever be able to deliver on full human rights implementation for Indigenous nations. That can only happen in a neutral setting, where the diplomatic missions of Indigenous nations and modern states come together on an equal footing, to resolve grievances and to negotiate a more democratic, inclusive future.
As I noted in Public Relations Puppets, since the UN General Assembly declaration in 2007, the UN bureaucracy — in order to provide cover for the REDD Ponzi scheme of carbon-market trading by transnational corporations and investment banks — actively excluded Indigenous nations delegates from participating in climate change talks. In Poznan, Copenhagen and Cancun, the UN repeatedly found new ways to silence Indigenous peoples. As I wrote, dispelling the notion of the UN as an honest broker is critical to understanding the need for new institutions that aren’t controlled by states and markets. As Dr. Ryser stated, “The UN promises to permanently lock these nations into a cage of political subjugation.”
With the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples just around the corner, mainstream media will be falling all over itself to help the UN and its member states continue excluding Indigenous nations from meaningful participation in world affairs. Breaking the chains of their subjugation requires ending the silence.
[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, and a featured columnist at IC Magazine. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]