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With Progressives Like These, Who Needs Conservatives?

Mint Press News

June 21. 2018

By Jon Jeter

 

A composite image of Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman. Associated Press | MintPress News

NEW YORK — In April, in the days after Western diplomats, aid workers, and reporters yet again accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons against his own people, the renowned foreign correspondent Eva Bartlett found herself watching a video clip of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewing Glenn Greenwald, a co-founder of online news publication The Intercept, who said this:

So obviously, the use of chemical weapons in any instance is horrific. It’s a war crime. It’s heinous. And it ought to be strongly condemned by everybody. I think that it’s — the evidence is quite overwhelming that the perpetrators of the chemical-weapons attack, as well as [the] previous one, is [sic] the Assad government, although in war, there are always lots of reasons to doubt, and we certainly shouldn’t run off and make hasty decisions, until there’s a real investigation, to make the evidence available.”

Bartlett was beside herself. Having spent considerable time reporting on the conflict in Syria, Bartlett tends towards the view that allegations of chemical attacks by Assad are false-flag operations — and ham-handed ones at that — manufactured by the U.S. and its allies in Europe and Israel as a pretext to bomb Syria, reduce it to rubble, and send in Western multinationals to pillage the vanquished country.

Not only does it defy logic that Assad would massacre civilians living in territories under government control — in a war that he is winning in a rout, no less — but the best available evidence is that the rebels bear responsibility for the deployment of any nerve agents since the war began six years ago, if indeed there was such an attack in the first place. In the latest incident, in April, the Trump administration bombed Syria before there was even an investigation to establish that chemical weapons were in fact used in the Damascus suburb where the offensive is alleged to have occurred.

Bartlett and Greenwald have at it

So Bartlett took to social media to voice her concerns with other progressives. Didn’t Goodman and Greenwald understand that the Trump administration wanted to lay waste to Syria in precisely the same manner that the Obama administration had destroyed Libya, the most prosperous country on the African continent? Had it not occurred to the two progressive pundits, that the Trump administration’s allegations of chemical weapons are an unimaginative ruse for war similar to the Bush administration’s baseless accusations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Bartlett told MintPress in a phone interview:

You can’t say that you’re an anti-interventionist and yet support the dubious claims that you have to know will lead to intervention. It’s reckless.”

The Twitter spat that followed was perhaps a Fox News wet dream, as the two progressive journalists sparred publicly. In an exchange that Bartlett posted on Facebook, Greenwald wrote:

She also forgot to include the 20 minutes I spent arguing against intervention of any kind in Syria by the U.S., Israel or NATO. She singled out the one sentence she regarded as blasphemous and spent all day crowing about it. Why? To help Syrians? No, to feel good about herself.”

Bartlett responded:

So you retract your assertion that the Syrian govt is guilty of the alleged and unverified [chemical weapons] attack and all prior?”

Greenwald wrote:

It’s live TV. Sometimes you say things less than ideally. I think the most likely perpetrator of this attack is Syrian Govt. I think evidence is overwhelming for prior attacks. I don’t think one can say “overwhelming” for this attack. I am 100% against Western intervention.”

Bartlett had the last word:

I definitely agree with you that sometimes one says things less than ideally, and have done so myself. However, you have now with luxury of time and thought reiterated your accusations against the Syrian govt. So, thanks for clarifying your position.”

In her Facebook post, she concluded:

Still think he’s an honest journalist? Why so cavalier about Syrian lives…”

Calling out the Right-lightness of the mainstream Left

Across social-media platforms, and progressive convenings that stretch from one end of the Americas to the other, the most radical progressives and activists of color are beginning to question — in increasingly strident terms — the commitment, judgment and even the motivation of  more mainstream leftists — mostly white. There is no single list agreed upon by everyone but the names most often cited include Greenwald; Goodman; former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges; the writers Paul Street and Tim Wise; the founder of the Real News Network, Paul Jay; MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes; and the economist and journalist Doug Henwood, among many others with lesser profiles.

Said Bartlett in a MintPress interview:

They are dangerous in that they are seen as truth-tellers but what they’re actually doing is misleading all these people into believing the Syrian government is responsible for these chemical-weapons attacks. We really don’t know but the best available evidence points to the rebels. They’re regurgitating all this propaganda on Syria and this is the same kind of propaganda that led to the destruction of Libya.”

The critical racial dimension of the Left’s internecine conflict

A longtime Chicano activist in northern California’s Bay Area, Al Osorio said racial tension played a pivotal role in derailing radical progressive movements like Occupy Oakland. While Occupy initially showed some promise when it debuted in the summer of 2011, internecine squabbling, and microaggressions widened the rift between young, white activists and Blacks and Latinos — many of whom, like Osorio, had begun organizing street protests against police brutality and gentrification years earlier. The faction of mostly white anarchists known as the Black Bloc was particularly nettlesome, Osorio said: on the one hand, they weren’t afraid to respond in kind to physically abusive police officers; but on the other hand, their actions in the streets weren’t always defensive.

They would throw rocks and bottles without recognizing their own white privilege. When the police start to respond by drawing down, they get the fuck out and leave black and brown people holding the bag. It’s the kind of thing that ties into our (African-Americans’ and Latinos’) natural distrust. . . because that’s the kind of thing that will get us killed.

Osorio said that at planning meetings, white activists would sometimes peer outside a window and see that one or two black activists owned  luxury cars:

They’d say that was proof that people of color weren’t committed enough, that we were really just bourgeois. Occupy Oakland wasn’t a coalition; it was really a white movement and they don’t know how to talk to our people.”

A storekeeper (right) clashes with Occupy Oakland protesters trying to shut down a coffee shop during May Day protests on, May 1, 2012 in Oakland, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP

A storekeeper (right) clashes with Occupy Oakland protesters trying to shut down a coffee shop in Oakland, Calif., May 1, 2012. Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP

Osorio compared some Bay Area white Leftists to Pete Carroll, the white head coach of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, who angered his black football players when he infamously called a goal-line pass play in the final seconds of the 2015 Super Bowl rather than hand the ball off to the team’s star black running back Marshawn Lynch. The pass was intercepted, the Seahawks lost the game, and several black players later said that Carroll didn’t want the outspoken and popular Lynch to be the game’s hero.

Some of (the whites) are Pete Carroll activists; we may share the same goal but we have a different way of getting there. Ours is with the community and theirs is how they want it done; ours is about life and death, theirs is about ideology.”

The atomization of the political Left largely along racial lines is hardly new. The African-American writer Richard Wright’s classic novel Native Son is principally a scathing critique of white Communists’ failure to address problems unique to Blacks, as is Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, Invisible Man. In the 1960s, black activists with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, purged white members, telling them that the civil-rights and antiwar movements would be better served if whites organized and educated their own first.

Malcolm X famously derided white liberals as posers whose real objectives weren’t significantly different from conservatives — an assessment not terribly far removed from Richard Nixon’s — and Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party excoriated a plan by 800 white activists to provoke a confrontation with Chicago Police in the fall of 1969 as “muddleheaded” and “Custer-istic.” Hampton’s assassination by Chicago police later that year deepened the split between white activists who believed that white men were the vanguard of the New Left, and radicals like Bernardine Dohrn who argued that whites should defer to people of color, who have historically been the engine of liberal democracy in the Americas.

Bartlett, who is white and from Canada, said that the prioritization of white men by commercial media creates an echo chamber:

I suppose it’s to maintain the funding; . . . news and opinion are dominated by access to official sources who are usually white men so most of the people quoted on these things are not in Syria.”

Of her own grassroots reportage which is highly-regarded by many leftists, she said:

I can think of so many Syrians and Palestinians whose voices are far more eloquent than mine but no one listens to them, I guess, because they are not some middle-aged white guy. I remember this very elegant Syrian doctor once and he was crying, saying ‘I’ve been saying these things for years but no one would listen to me.’”

“Identity politics” can be part of the class struggle

Activists of color say that their white liberal critics most commonly use the pejorative “identity politics” to dismiss their particular concerns as lacking a class analysis. One African-American intellectual, Otis Griffin, said that he tangled on Facebook in recent months with white, progressive writer Paul Street, who pilloried Black demands for reparations. Street, Griffin said, said the cost of reparations would be shouldered mainly by working-class whites, when reparations could take many forms — including, say, homeowner relief for black communities targeted by banks — or community control of tax-increment finance districts.

Forrest Palmer, an African-American writer and environmental activist, said Street recently took him to task on Facebook for criticizing another white progressive, the former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, who has criticized radicals’ use of violence, even in self-defense. Said Palmer:

I made some satirical remarks about the hallowed Chris Hedges and Paul Street took umbrage at my saying such revolting things about Hedges … Anyone with a brain could tell that I was being over the top in my comments .. about the useless liberalism at [Hedges’] core.”

Palmer said he later learned that Street unfriended him.

Another frequent critic of so-called identity politics is Doug Henwood, a writer, author and contributing editor to The Nation magazine. A self-proclaimed Marxist, Henwood, who is white, “often rails against the rich and powerful,” said the journalist Michael Yates, but doesn’t walk it like he talks it. He is the co-editor of TLR Analytics, which sells “high-resolution research” to Wall Street money managers for a subscription price of $7,500 annually.

Describing Henwood as a “liberal elitist in radical clothing,” Yates told MintPress:

[Henwood] often speaks and writes about the evils of inequality, yet he is indirectly contributing to it. He has long criticized ‘ultra-leftists’. . .as detrimental to the left project. Thus, he championed Syriza and dismissed those on the left, within and outside Greece, who were critical of Syriza and were appalled at the government’s capitulation to the Germans, the international financial institutions, and the EU governing bodies. He has had former Syriza finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who believed that capitalism had to be saved so that it could be destroyed later, on his radio show [‘Behind the News”’ on WBAI in NYC] some 17 or 18 times.”

Continuing, Yates said:

Henwood favored the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. He is close to Jacobin magazine, which is left-liberal at best, and of course, we have already mentioned The Nation, which is the liberal magazine, par excellence. He has dismissed arguments that a left worth its salt would aggressively oppose the prison system in the U.S. and fight for its abolition .  . . [arguing] that this wouldn’t resonate with the working class. He criticized Angela Davis and others who have been struggling for many years to abolish the prison system . . .[and] for many years has argued what some call the “class first” position. That is, the struggles against racism and patriarchy are divisive and only universal programs that benefit the entire working class should be championed by the left. How exactly, say, a full employment program could ever be effectively undertaken without simultaneously addressing racism he never says. In fact, he often argued that racism was on the decline in the U.S.. . .”

Ajamu Baraka — national organizer for Black Alliance for Peace, and the Green Party’s 2016 nominee for vice-president  — said that a group of nearly 20 mostly-white protesters denounced him, at last month’s Left Forum in New York City, for his opposition to U.S. efforts to overthrow Syrian President Assad. Organized by the “white left,” the protesters, almost entirely white, raised placards urging conferees to boycott Baraka, who is African-American.

He told MintPress:

They characterize me as an ‘Assadist’ when a careful reading of my writing makes that assessment very difficult. We are very clear on the Syrian elites’ ties to neoliberalism and the excesses of the Baath Party but the whole democratic reform movement in Syria got undermined by U.S. Imperialism.”

Continuing he said:

The left has moved so far to the right that they have no memory or understanding that many of us on the left come out of a black revolutionary tradition.

In their mind, they’re always the ones who should be running shit.”

 

[Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”]

Truth UNFILTERED: The Global South Assessment of Western Imperial Actions Against Syria

Truth UNFILTERED: The Global South Assessment of Western Imperial Actions Against Syria

Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz – Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador of Bolivia. United Nations Security Council, April 14. 2018.

Translations of quotes below have been kindly provided by Francisco Nunes [@fcn_84]. The full transcript in English (added April 16, 2018) is below the video within this post.]

Follow Sacha Llorenti on twitter: @SachaLlorenti  

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MR. PRESIDENT.

MY DELEGATION WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE SECRETARY GENERAL FOR HIS PRESENCE AND HIS PARTICIPATION IN THIS MEETING.

BOLIVIA WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION FOR HAVING TAKEN THE INITIATIVE OF CONVENING THIS URGENT MEETING OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

TODAY IS A DARK DAY IN THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNCIL.

THREE PERMANENT MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL HAVE TAKEN THE DECISION TO BREACH THE CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND TAKE MILITARY ACTION AGAINST THE SOVEREIGNTY AND TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF ANOTHER MEMBER STATE OF OUR ORGANIZATION.

BOLIVIA WISHES TO CLEARLY AND CATEGORICALLY EXPRESS ITS CONDEMNATION OF THE USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS OR CHEMICAL SUBSTANCES AS WEAPONS, AS THIS IS UNJUSTIFIABLE AND CRIMINAL WHEREVER IT HAPPENS AND BY WHOMEVER. THEIR USE IS A SERIOUS CRIME AGAINST INTERNATIONAL LAW AND INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY.  THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR COMMITTING SUCH TERRIBLE AND CRIMINAL ACTS MUST BE IDENTIFIED, INVESTIGATED, PROSECUTED AND PUNISHED IN THE MOST RIGOROUS WAY POSSIBLE.

BOLIVIA CONTINUES TO DEMAND A TRANSPARENT AND IMPARTIAL INVESTIGATION TO DETERMINE WHO ARE THE CULPRITS.

BUT, IN ADDITION TO THAT, THE TOPIC OF THIS MEETING IS THE FACT THAT THE THREE PERMANENT MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL AS I SAID HAVE USED FORCE IN BREACH OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER. YOU CANNOT COMBAT THE ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW BY VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL LAW. BOLIVIA IS SURPRISED BY THE FACT THAT THE PERMANENT MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL, GIVEN THAT THEY HAVE A GREATER RESPONSIBILITY FOR MAINTAINING INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY HAVE DECIDED TO BYPASS THE UNITED NATIONS WHEN IT SUITS THEM. THEY DEFEND MULTILATERALISM AS LONG AS IT SERVES THEM AND THEY SIMPLY DISCARD IT. WHEN IT IS NO LONGER IN THEIR INTERESTS, THEY ARE NO LONGER ATTACHED TO MULTILATERALISM .

THIS IS NOT THE ONLY CASE WHERE UNFORTUNATELY UNILATERAL ACTION HAS BEEN USED.  LET’S RECALL, AND WE WILL NEVER TIRE OF RECALLING THE EVENTS IN IRAQ IN 2003 AND IN LIBYA IN 2011. SUCH ACTIONS SHOULD BE AUTHORIZED BY THE SECURITY COUNCIL IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE  UNITED NATIONS CHARTER — ANY UNILATERAL ACTION  COUNTER TO INTERNATIONAL LAW AND COUNTER TO THE VALUES AND PRINCIPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER IS UNACCEPTABLE.  BOLIVIA REJECTS THE USE OF FORCE.  UNILATERAL ACTION NOT ONLY RESPONDS TO THE SPECIFIC INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO CARRY THEM OUT, BUT IN FACT, THERE ARE MEASURES THAT ALLOW ME THE EXPRESSION, ARE IMPERIALIST MEASURES — IT SO HAPPENS THAT EMPIRES AS WE STATED EARLIER CONSIDER THEMSELVES SUPERIOR TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. THEY THINK THEY ARE EXCEPTIONAL.  THEY THINK THEY ARE INDISPENSABLE AND HENCE THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW, ABOVE INTERNATIONAL LAW.

BUT IN FACT, THE INTEREST OF THOSE WHO UNILATERALLY USE FORCE AND VIOLATE THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER IS NOT REALLY TO ADVANCE DEMOCRACY OR ADVANCE FREEDOM OR TO COMBAT THE USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS.  THEIR GOAL IS TO EXPAND THEIR POWER AND EXPAND THEIR DOMINATION.

WHAT WE HAVE WITNESSED OVER THE PAST FEW HOURS IS AN ATTACK AGAINST THE FACT FINDING MISSION  OF THE OPCW WHICH HASN’T EVEN STARTED THE WORK THAT WAS SCHEDULED TO BEGIN TODAY.

THE UNILATERAL ATTACK IS AN ATTACK AGAINST MULTILATERAL ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS THE OPCW.  IT’S AN ATTACK AGAINST THIS COUNCIL AND ITS MAIN DUTY FOR MAINTAINING INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY. IT IS AN ATTACK AGAINST THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER AND IT IS AN ATTACK AGAINST THE ENTIRE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.

I AM WONDERING WHETHER THE PERMANENT MEMBERS WHO USED FORCE JUST A FEW HOURS AGO, HOW MUCH MONEY THEY INVESTED IN ARMING AND TRAINING THE ARMED GROUPS IN SYRIA?

THEY ARE BEHIND (UNINTELLIGIBLE) NATIONAL RESOURCES AND WITH WHAT KIND OF AUTHORITY CAN THEY INVOKE THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER IN OTHER SITUATIONS? THE HISTORY, UNFORTUNATELY,  OF VIOLATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES OF THE CHARTER IS LONG. WE MENTIONED LIBYA, WE MENTIONED IRAQ, BUT THERE ARE MORE RECENT CHAPTERS. IT HAPPENED WITH THE UNILATERAL DECISION REGARDING JERUSALEM. IT IS ANOTHER CLEAR SIGNAL OF A LACK OF RESPECT FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW. WHO ARE THOSE  WHO SELL WEAPONS TO THOSE WHO BOMB CIVILIANS IN YEMEN? WHO ARE THOSE WHO REJECTED THE PARIS AGREEMENT, OF THE CLIMATE AGREEMENT?  WHO ARE THOSE  WHO STEPPED AWAY FROM OTHER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS?  WHO ARE THOSE WHO BUILD WALLS?

BUT, WE ALSO BELIEVE THAT IT IS IMPORTANT TO LOOK AT HISTORY IN THE LONG RUN, OVER THE LONGER PERIODS OF TIME.  WE ARE EXPERIENCING THE CONSEQUENCES IN THE MIDDLE EAST OF THE ACTIONS  THAT ARE PROVOKED BY CERTAIN COLONIALIST POWERS DATING BACK TO A CENTURY OR MORE.

AND THE SAME THING WE ARE EXPERIENCING IN SYRIA, A COMPLETE DISDAIN FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW, IS ALSO SOMETHING THAT WE ARE SEEING WHEN, FOR EXAMPLE, THE UNITED KINGDOM REFUSES TO RETURN THE MALDIVES ISLANDS SOVEREIGNTY TO ARGENTINA OR WHEN THE CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO ISSUE IS NOT RESOLVED. AND WHEN THE ADVISORY OPINION OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE ON THIS TOPIC  IS NOT HEEDED.  IN OTHER WORDS, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A WHOLE RANGE OF POLICIES THAT UNDERMINE INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY.

THE DISTINGUISHED PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES SAYS THAT THE UNITED STATES, HER COUNTRY, IS READY, ‘LOCKED AND LOADED’ SHE SAYS. OF COURSE, WE CLEARLY HEARD HER WORDS WITH A GREAT DEAL OF CONCERN AND A GREAT DEAL OF SADNESS.  WE KNOW THAT THE UNITED STATES HAS AIRCRAFT CARRIERS, THAT THEY HAVE SATELLITES, THAT THEY HAVE “INTELLIGENT MISSILES”, SMART BOMBS AND THEY HAVE A HUGE ARSENAL OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS.  AND, WE ALSO KNOW THAT THEY HAVE NOTHING BUT SCORN FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW.

BUT WE HAVE THIS. WE HAVE THE PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER.  AND, ULTIMATELY AS HISTORY HAS DEMONSTRATED MANY TIMES, ULTIMATELY THESE PRINCIPLES WILL PREVAIL. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

 

The New Humanitarianism: The Imperative to ‘Act’ and to ‘Act Now’

April 14, 2018

 

An Excerpt from the book Celebrity Humanitarianism – The Ideology of Global Charity by Ilan KapoorFirst [2013]

 

‘Ilan Kapoor’s stunning new book exposes the most appealing – and thus most dangerous – sacred cows of contemporary ideology: the humanitarian actor, the billionaire philanthropist, and the NGO. Kapoor shows that it is precisely where we feel most emotionally satisfied that we must be most suspicious. Celebrity Humanitarianism represents a landmark in the critique of ideology and a decisive blow in the struggle against apolitical ethics.’ — Todd McGowan, University of Vermont, USA

 

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an explosion of international NGOs, particularly development and humanitarian ones, leading to the rise of what is termed ‘global civil society’. In large measure, this is due to the ascendancy of neoliberalism, which has seen NGOs fill the many gaps created by government cutbacks and privatization. But in part, it is also the result of the intensification of globalization and the information economy, which has opened up possibilities for greater  borderlessness’. Not content with doing only aid and development work, NGOs have carved out an increasingly more activist and interventionist role for themselves in the global arena. This trend is what has been called ‘the new humanitarianism’.

Central to the new humanitarianism is a security discourse, which divides the world, not so much along the lines of wealth vs. poverty as it used to, but more in terms of stability vs. threat. Mark Duffield argues that the security discourse is constructed on the basis of the metaphor of the ‘borderlands’ (i.e. the Third World), an imagined geographic space of instability, excess, and social breakdown, which poses a threat to the metropolitan areas (2001: 309).

The borderlands are depicted as violent and unpredictable, or at least always a  potential danger; they are the source of many of the problems seen to plague global security, including drug trafficking, terrorism, refugee flows, and corrupt/weak/rogue states.

Accordingly, the point of international intervention is to tame and manage instability. In this scenario, poverty, corruption, and refugee flows are to be feared much more than alleviated. Development and humanitarianism are seen not as problems of reducing inequality or protecting the most vulnerable, but as technologies of security, which function ‘to contain and manage underdevelopment’s destabilizing effects’ (Duffield 2007: ix, 24).

The practical outcome of this new humanitarianism is a significant shift away from respecting national sovereignty and towards external intervention in the Third World: it means neglecting international law, or obeying the ‘higher’ moral law of humanitarianism, under the guise of the ‘responsibility to protect’ (cf. Mamdani 2009: 274; Watson 2011: 5). In other words, new humanitarianism has increasingly become neoimperialism, allowing the West to ‘transform conflicts, decrease violence and set the stage for liberal development’ (Duffield et al. 2001: 269). Not just a Third World country’s foreign policy, but now also its domestic economic or human rights situation is seen as a credible threat (Duffield 2001: 311), recalling colonialism’s ‘civilizing mission’ to eradicate ‘barbaric’ Third World cultural practices such as widow-burning or infanticide. More often than not, the form of external intervention is military, that is, armed intervention parading as humanitarian rescue mission. The post- 9/11 War on Terror has only escalated this trend, enabling the possibility of ‘unending war’ to secure the borderlands (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan) (Duffield 2007: 131). Illustrative of unending war is the following list, compiled by Watson (2011: 4), enumerating the countries for which humanitarianism has been used to justify military intervention in recent years: Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Angola, Mozambique, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Zaire, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

NGOs are firmly enmeshed in this security–humanitarian network. For the past two decades particularly, the private–public linkages between Western states, UN agencies, private firms, militaries, and NGOs has grown. In fact, as Duffield puts it, the securitization of development/humanitarianism ‘has been of central importance for legitimising the growing involvement of non-state actors’ (2001: 312; cf. Watson 2011: 3–4). And NGOs have become not just accomplices in this network, but key players. Mamdani goes so far as to argue that the new humanitarianism is the ‘twin of the War on Terror’ (2009: 274), with groups such as Save Darfur as pivotal facilitators. NGOs have pushed for and capitalized on the vast resources directed at emergency and security operations around the globe. Many such operations (e.g. in Afghanistan, Haiti, Bosnia) have been ambitious and well coordinated, with relief agencies working alongside military or peacekeeping campaigns.

 

Above: Res Publica (Avaaz) calling for a Darfur intervention and criminal indictment. August 3, 2004 screenshot: “Only one thing will stop the killing in Sudan: an immediate international intervention” … “Click here to sign a petition calling for humanitarian intervention Darfur” [WKOG screenshot]

 

The imperative to ‘act’ and to ‘act now’ is central to these NGO campaigns.

To be sure, beginning mainly in the post-World War II era, organizations such as Oxfam, ActionAid, and MSF were created to respond to global crises, ranging from armed conflicts and epidemics to ‘natural’ or man-made disasters. Whether we are talking about the 1949 Palestinian refugee situation, the 1967 Nigerian civil war, the 1984–85 Ethiopian famine, or the more recent 2005 Pakistan earthquake, emergencies have become an opportunity for humanitarian NGOs to function and even expand. Indeed, they have been able to justify and aggrandize themselves based on what Duffield refers to as a ‘permanent emergency regime’ (2007: 25, 47–49, 219). All of them rely on a ‘threaturgency narrative’ to ‘legitimize their functions’ (Watson 2011: 9); it is this narrative that allows them to identify and categorize the disaster (e.g. as an impending famine or a pressing refugee crisis), as well as publicly highlight the humanitarian duty to save lives or assist ‘populations in distress’, as MSF puts it (http://www.msf.org).

One of the most poignant recent examples of the construction of emergency discourse is that of the Save Darfur Coalition, especially during the 2004–7 period. The Coalition relied on highly charged rhetoric to issue its emergency call for international intervention. The first move, as Mamdani underlines (2009: 64–65), was to categorize the conflict in the Darfur region as racially motivated: the government-armed ‘Arab Janjaweed militia’ were reportedly perpetrating violence against ‘black-skinned non-Arabs’. Such stereotyping became pervasive in Western public discourse and was often repeated by the mainstream press, including The Washington Post (Mamdani 2009: 64; cf. Hassan 2010: 98). Mamdani notes (2009: 6) that this ethnicized/racialized framing has its origins in the colonial tradition of racializing the peoples of Sudan for political purposes (i.e. as a divide and rule strategy); it is a framing that, in the contemporary global conjuncture, only served to reinforce the discourse of the War on Terror, demonizing Islam and Arabs, and pressing for immediate counter-terrorist action.

Above: Res Publica (Avaaz) March 8, 2005 screenshot: “Sign a petition below … over 18,000 signatories in the last week!” [WKOG screenshot]

 

The Coalition’s second discursive move was to characterize the Darfur situation as ‘genocide’ (despite evidence to the contrary, as we shall see below). It is the deployment of this culturally and politically charged term that, almost single-handedly, brought together such a large and diverse range of US-based organizations that made up the Coalition (see above), while catching the attention of the media and politicians alike (cf. Save Darfur Coalition 2011). After Save Darfur’s ‘genocide alert’ in 2004, events quickly gathered pace: a student-led divestment campaign was organized, a large Save Darfur Rally To Stop Genocide was held in Washington, DC, and an impassioned plea (by George Clooney) was made to the UN Security Council for international intervention. In 2007, the rhetoric was ratcheted up. The Coalition criticized China for its strong support of the Sudanese government, with a campaign that included taking out full-page advertisements in The New York Times and Mia Farrow denouncing the upcoming Beijing Olympics as the ‘Genocide Olympics’.

The overall effect of this emergency discourse was to exercise tremendous pressure on political leaders in the US and around the world. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified in front of the Senate Relations Committee that genocide was being committed in Darfur. The US Congress agreed, pushing for political and economic sanctions for Sudan. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council referred the Darfur case to the International Criminal Court, sent UN peacekeeping troops to Sudan, and following China’s change of position on the Council in the face of public pressure, established a larger joint UN–African Union peacekeeping mission, with financial support from the US Congress (cf. Flint and de Waal 2008: 181, 280; Haeri 2008: 35–37).

One of the most troubling features of this NGO emergency discourse is its tendency towards militarization and war. The imperative to act ‘now’ tends to provide added impetus and rationale for militarized intervention. We are familiar with NGOs providing relief work in war zones, in which they must sometimes coordinate with warring factions to deliver aid programs. We are also familiar with the use of army troops in non-military crises such as the Asian Tsunami in 2004 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (to keep law and order, or help NGOs distribute food aid). Increasingly, as Watson argues, ‘states and the international community have institutionalized a militarized response through the establishment of specialized military entities such as the United States Foreign Disaster Assistance or the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team’ (2011: 9).

But what is relatively new and noteworthy is the call by humanitarian NGOs for military intervention – a phenomenon described by the paradoxical concept, ‘humanitarian war’. It is a concept that, as Vanessa Pupavec notes, NGOs themselves helped legitimate, especially through their demands for military intervention in the Balkans during the 1990s (2006: 263). Thus, MSF appealed for military action in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, while Save the Children lobbied Western governments for armed intervention in Kosovo in the late 1990s (Pupavec 2006: 255). Since that time, several other similar calls have been made. Of particular note are Oxfam’s demand, in relation to the Darfur situation, for a broader interpretation of the UN Charter on the principle of non-interference to include intervention, and Save Darfur’s outright plea for a no-fly zone and Western military action. In fact, ‘Out of Iraq and Into Darfur’ became a common Save Darfur slogan. Pupavec points out, in this regard, that NGOs were quick to criticize the failure to obtain UN Security Council authorization for military intervention in Iraq, but were only too willing to ignore such authorization when they demanded military  ntervention in Kosovo and Darfur (2006: 266).

Above: Res Publica (Avaaz): “SUCCESS!! – Humanitarian Intervention in Darfur” … “SUCCESS!! – International Criminal Court to Prosecute Architects of Genocide in Darfur” [February 10, 2006 screenshot]

 

If rhetorical demands for action raise the stakes, resulting in the militarization of the new humanitarianism, so do media demands for spectacle. The mediatization of NGO emergency work – that is, the drive not just to act now, but also to be seen to be acting now – adds greater urgency. NGOs may well be responding to save lives, but they are also playing to the global media and public. MSF’s témoignage (witnessing) after all, is about witnessing not just on behalf of disaster victims, but also for the media/public. This recalls our earlier arguments about the entertainmentization of humanitarianism – the pressures to create ‘megaspectacles’, to satisfy seemingly insatiable appetites for suffering, death, and disaster. The militarization of emergency work only supplies further fuel to this fire, aiding and abetting the spectacularization of violence and war. In this regard, Henry Giroux contends that we are witnessing a new phase in the society of the spectacle, that of the ‘spectacle of terrorism’ (2006: 26).

According to him, a ‘visual culture of shock and awe has emerged’, which celebrates violence in the form of night bombing raids, hostage takings, and beheadings, or the destruction of public buildings (2006: 21, 24).

The pressure to create spectacle, then, means that spectacular NGOs are not simply observers or objective relays in delivering humanitarian aid; they are full-fledged actors, identifying emergencies and constructing them for public consumption (cf. Keenan 2002: 5). Add militarization to this mix, and you move from the imperative to act now and be seen to be acting now, to an imperative to be seen to be acting now, militarily if needs be (or preferably?).

The systemic and symbolic violence of spectacular NGOs

Three friends are having a drink at the bar. The first one says, ‘A horrible thing  happened to me. At my travel agency, I wanted to say “A ticket to Pittsburgh!” and I said “A ticket to Pissburgh!”’ The second one replies, ‘That’s nothing. At breakfast, I wanted to say to my partner “Could you pass the sugar, honey?” and what I said was “You dirty fool, you ruined my life!”’ The third one concludes, ‘Wait till you hear what happened to me. After gathering the courage all night, I decided to say to my spouse at breakfast exactly what you said to yours, and I ended up saying “Could you pass me the sugar, honey?”’

(adapted from Žižek 2004b: 61)

Often, the most traumatic situations are not necessarily the outwardly perceptible ones (i.e. the gaffes of the first and second interlocutors in the joke), but the less obvious ones (i.e. the repressed content in the outward politeness of the third). As Paul Taylor suggests, telling are the moments ‘in which nothing of substance is said… in that non-utterance resides all manner of psychologically destructive forces’ (2010: 93).

And so it is with spectacular (humanitarian) NGOs: it is most often in these organizations’ non-utterances that ideological violence is to be found. The spectacle of NGO humanitarianism is revealing not simply for what it shows, but more importantly for the violence it often ignores, takes for granted, or disavows. Žižek distinguishes two types of violence: (i) ‘subjective violence’, which is directly visible and identifiable (e.g. emaciated babies, physical destruction in the wake of a hurricane); and (ii) ‘objective violence’, which is less immediately perceptible (2008a: 1–2). Objective violence is itself made up of ‘systemic violence’, which refers to our often slow yet steady social oppressions  (e.g. gender exclusion, wage discrimination, the daily grind of alienating work), and ‘symbolic violence’, the violence inherent in our systems of representation (e.g. the way in which an image of a starving child can hide as much as it reveals). The crucial point for Žižek is that objective violence is what is required for the ‘normal’ functioning of our social and economic systems. In other words, systemic and symbolic violence is the background against which subjective violence happens: objective violence ‘may be invisible, but it has to be taken into account if one is to make sense of what otherwise seem to be “irrational” explosions of subjective violence’ (Žižek 2008a: 2). Accordingly, I’d like to highlight the systemic and symbolic violence of humanitarian NGOs, violence which serves as backdrop to their spectacle.

The systemic violence of humanitarian NGOs stems, at least in part, from the very nature of their work – short-term emergency operations that attempt to rescue people from immediate danger, but make no attempt to address the broader or underlying causes of such danger. As MSF’s James Orbinsky readily admits, MSF action ‘takes place in the short term’ with limited objectives in the wake of a crisis, ‘but does not itself attempt to solve the crisis’ (2000: 10). The problem is that such an approach is premised on what was earlier denoted as a ‘permanent emergency regime’: rather than working themselves out of a job, NGOs depend (and count) on more and more crises.

They have every interest in global neoliberal capitalism’s continued production of emergencies, which enables and legitimizes their spectacular humanitarianism. In this sense, the NGO-ization of humanitarianism (and development) may have less to do with finding effective solutions to problems than a way of keeping the humanitarian business in business.

True, some humanitarian NGOs do carry out broader ‘development’ programming, alongside their short-term relief and advocacy work. For example, MSF organizes a campaign to make cheaper generic drugs more readily available to Third World countries (cf. http://www.msfaccess.org), and Oxfam runs a host of projects in gender equality, health, and education around the world (cf. Oxfam UK 2011). But as pointed out in Chapters 1 and 2, most of these initiatives are depoliticized; they steer clear of, say, anti-capitalist/anti-racist critique, or unionization of workers (or women), in favour of tamer and nonthreatening areas such as mainstream human/gender rights and education. As Issa Shivji contends, in Sub-Saharan Africa issues of equality and equity are banished to the ‘realm of rights, not development’; that is, rights are a question of NGO ‘advocacy’, ‘not a terrain of people’s struggle’ (2006: 35). Moreover, many NGO development projects (e.g. job training, micro-credit) are ultimately an attempt at integrating subaltern groups into global capital; as James Petras puts it (1999: 432), they help corner ‘a new segment of the poor’ (e.g. young people, marginalized women, landless farmers, the urban poor), binding them to market entrepreneurialism. The result once again is a reaffirmation of the status quo, whose systemic violence is the basis for humanitarianism. And so the cycle continues … (I am not, of course, suggesting that humanitarian advocacy/relief and development should not happen, or that people must not be assisted in disasters; the problem is the significant institutional interests in people’s ongoing suffering or dispossession, and the enormous investments made in addressing the symptoms rather than the cure.)

This myopic and status quo approach is integral to the symbolic politics of humanitarian NGOs, too. The spectacularization of their relief and advocacy work is notable for what it includes as much as what it excludes. There is, first, the tendency (underlined earlier) to ‘sell’ stories and images that are visually and sound-byte friendly. Spectacles involving celebrities, poverty-stricken people, crying   mothers/children, gun-toting soldiers, or war-ravaged landscapes tend to be given priority. Most often, the resulting sensationalized images/stories are serialized and repeated to achieve maximum public and media spread and exposure. As one NGO media person puts it, ‘the misery of the victims of famine, flood, war, and plague must be underlined, perhaps even exaggerated, if [the organization] is to attract sufficient public attention’ (quoted in DeChaine 2002: 361). In this regard, MSF has been criticized for its sensationalized stories, causing some to pejoratively characterize the organization’s press officers as ‘catastrophe babes’, ‘whose motives are said to be driven more by the market than by the crises’ (DeChaine 2002: 360). Such tendencies  illustrate well the symbolic violence noted above, fetishizing and commodifying the outwardly visible (i.e. ‘subjective violence’) in the service of the society of the spectacle.

More often than not, the stories and commodity-images produced by NGOs resort to classic hero narratives, in which the NGO-as-hero/celebrity overcomes adversity (obstacles, enemies, crises) to save hapless victims. All the characters are clearly identifiable: the saviour-heroes are the aid workers, human rights advocates, and volunteer doctors/nurses; the enemies/adversaries are ‘natural’ disasters, or corrupt and authoritarian governments/leaders (e.g. the Janjaweed militia and President Al-Bashir, in the case of the Save Darfur narrative); and the victims are women, children, and dispossessed communities. Robert DeChaine states, for instance, that MSF’s credibility as a humanitarian agency hinges at least in part on ‘its ability to establish a perception of its volunteers as courageous, ideologically pure, morally committed agents of change. They are saviors, champions of the voiceless, who knowingly and willfully face the morally unrighteous enemies of humanity’ (2002: 362).

The creation of victims is key, and the humanitarian spectacle manages to never run out of them. Debrix argues that what transnational humanitarian NGOs such as MSF create when they intervene across state boundaries are ‘spaces of victimhood’, both spatial and symbolic: ‘Under the guise of reaching “victims” the world over, MSF constructs new spaces – humanitarian zones – inside which individuals in distress are identified as “victims”, are sorted out, and become recognisable as generalised examples of human drama’ (1998: 827).  The establishment of refugee camps, famine sanctuaries, and the like, are meant to clearly demarcate these spaces, so that the victims can be triaged, categorized, treated, managed.

The people shepherded into these zones tend to be constructed as passive beneficiaries. Rarely do they have a voice; most often, it is the NGOs that speak and ‘witness’ for them. In the Darfur debacle, for example, there was a notable absence of any articulate Sudanese or indeed Darfurian voices; as Salah Hassan points out, the discourse was dominated by ‘Western celebrity activists, aid workers, and other self-appointed experts and spokespersons, thus reconfiguring the “white man’s burden” in a significant way’ (2010: 97). Faced with such persistent victimization, it should hardly be surprising that NGO saviourheroes have sometimes been received by disaster ‘victims’ with hostility rather than thanks, as in the case, for example, of Somalia in 1992 or Iraq after the 2003 invasion (Watson 2011: 14).

Kate Manzo (2008) underlines how often humanitarian NGOs resort to the use of child iconography (usually close-ups of single children’s faces). Think of the 1960s ‘Biafra child’, the 1980s ‘Ethiopia child’, or the current-day Plan/World Vision/Save the Children poster child. Child imagery has become the face and brand of NGO humanitarianism (cf. Chapter 1). Here too, the child tends to be depicted as victim, with children’s commodity-images deployed to evoke innocence, dependence, suffering (Manzo 2008: 636). Frequently, the child is meant to stand for the Third World, crying out to be helped and saved.  Such paternalism only reproduces colonial tropes of infantalization of the colonies to rationalize Europe’s ‘civilizing mission’.

The production of these black-and-white stories and images, with plainly identifiable heroes, adversaries, and victims, makes for the ideal humanitarian morality tale. Drama and sensationalism permit clear and simplified messaging, enabling the audience to take sides, claim moral indignation at the situation, and feel good about its support for NGO humanitarianism. Mamdani likens this to a kind of pornography, which in the case of Save Darfur yielded a highly moral movement that appealed to people’s self-righteousness rather than political analysis (2009: 56–57; cf. Flint and de Waal 2008; DeChaine 2002: 358–59). Moral campaigns tend towards depoliticization, opting (as we have seen) for short-term, managerial, and emergency/militarized solutions. Pupavec contends that moral advocacy avoids ‘the stresses and  responsibilities of implementing assistance programmes on the ground … In other words, advocacy can in some cases represent a disingenuous flight from responsibility for social problems, rather than deeper engagement with them’ (2006: 266).

The problem with the moral spectacle is precisely that it is less concerned with analysis and understanding than with taking sides and issuing calls to action. Manichean tales simplify, mystify, and ignore the often highly complex politics of emergencies. The focus on the outwardly visible and the spectacular, on special effects and sound-bytes, avoids layered, substantive, and mediaunfriendly investigation. Sensationalized media reports tend to decontextualize and homogenize, telling the story for its universal message, not its specific content: thus, for instance, earthquake ‘victims’ stand as ‘global victims’, so that the disaster ‘is made into the general condition of humankind’ (Debrix 1998: 841, 843). Media/NGO stories tend to linger on the photogenic, privileging physical destruction. In the case of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Watson finds that the disaster was presented in the media as ‘natural’, ‘unpreventable’, ‘indiscriminate’, or ‘random’, when in fact the physical destruction and human suffering had as much to do with human activity and social systems (e.g. use of poor building materials, especially in poorer neighbourhoods): ‘the physical evidence is used to tell a particular story – one that, in essence, speaks for itself in a way that is de-historical and de-political’ (2011: 14–15).

 

Above image from the Avaaz website: “Libya No-Fly Zone: As Libyan government jets drop bombs on the civilian population, the UN Security Council will decide in 48 hours whether to impose a no-fly zone to keep Qaddafi’s warplanes on the ground.” [Emphasis in original]

 

What is left out of the NGO/media stories are the un-photogenic details, the ‘boring’ particulars of the daily grind of people’s lives, the recurring patterns of alienation or marginalization. Historical knowledge is a no-no: ‘spectacular time’ militates against ‘historical time’, because the former must organize information ‘through the media as dramatic events that are quickly displaced and forgotten’ (Stevenson 2010: 162). When there is interest in details, the media usually home in on the personal (i.e. issues of identity, individual tragedy, etc.) or the gory (i.e. violence), rather than broader politics. In the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Watson finds that the media tended to fetishize human-interest stories (e.g. personal and family tragedies), devoid of any social or political context, and to sometimes suggest that ‘victims’ were responsible for their own plight (2011: 14). Moreover, all tsunami ‘victims’ were treated the same, ignoring the fact that local residents and Western tourists were differently impacted, and that local women and children, in particular, were the worst affected: the ‘human-tragedy component served to tie all the human victims together: Westerners and locally affected populations … [thus obliterating] the different sources of vulnerability for the two groups’ (Watson 2011: 14–15). Similarly, in the Hurricane Katrina crisis, Tierney et al. (2006) find that the media focused almost exclusively on issues of looting, poverty, and racial tensions, and had almost nothing to say about recurring state cuts for infrastructure and social services in the worst affected, low-lying, and mainly poor black neighbourhoods. Concentrating on ‘secondary malfunctions’ and ‘subjective violence’ – poverty, crime, corruption, individual trauma – as opposed to the ‘objective violence’ of, say, inequality and broader political economy, is a recurring ideological strategy that we have observed before. ‘Under the guise of exposing global trauma and injustice in spectacular detail, genuine consideration of the key political and economic causes is displaced’ (Taylor 2010: 131).

 

Such tendencies to ignore key details or broader contexts are integral to the types of photos or films produced by NGOs. Invariably, these are either largescale images (i.e. aerial or wide-angle shots) of landscapes and neighbourhoods, or close-ups of individuals and faces. This toggling between the bird’s eye view and the shrunk/miniaturized view, as Jim Igoe argues,

allows for the simultaneous presentation of problems that are so large they demand the attention of the whole of humanity, while identifying specific groups of people who are their perpetrators … Missing from these presentations are the complex and messy connections and relationships that are invisible in both the open-ended vastness of spectacular [landscapes] and the compelling specificity of prosperous villagers. (2010: 382)

It is not just the broader contexts of emergencies that spectacular humanitarianism ignores; it is also that some emergencies tend to be neglected altogether. During the Asian Tsunami, for example, the Western press focused almost exclusively on known tourist locations across the region, overlooking the devastation in ‘lesser-known countries and localities’ (Cottle and Nolan 2007: 879). The other, more telling recent example here is the Congo, where over four million people have died over the last decade, but which has received little attention from the press. Žižek writes in this regard that:

The Congo today has effectively re-emerged as a Conradian ‘heart of darkness’. No one dares to confront it head on. The death of a West Bank Palestinian child, not to mention an Israeli or American, is mediatically worth thousands of times more than the death of a nameless Congolese. (2008a: 3; cf. Mamdani 2009: 63)

The various manifestations of symbolic and systemic violence outlined above are revealing of the ideology of spectacular NGOs. For what is ideology, in the Žižekian sense that we mean it, other than the production of spectacular images and smooth spaces (i.e. humanitarian zones) to cover up the Real (broader political economy, long-term political alternatives, Western complicity)? The glossy photos and sensational headlines help create pure, untarnished, and moral humanitarian fantasies to be commodified and sold. The smooth spaces (refugee camps, etc.) help manufacture artificial humanitarian sanctuaries where ‘victims’ are categorized, controlled, and ultimately served up as advertisements for the likes of MSF, Save Darfur, or Save the Children (cf. Debrix 1998). The NGO/media spectacle helps to unify and stabilize reality, disavowing anything that disturbs the humanitarian dream-fantasy, is discomforting to the public, or threatens the neoliberal global order. Outwardly visible, subjective violence may well be shown, or even fetishized, but that it is symptomatic of a dirty underside, a broader underlying objective violence, is glossed over.

Of course, spectacular NGOs hide behind their faux objectivity and nonpartisan humanitarianism to repudiate any accusations of political ideology. Yet, as we have seen, their very presentation of reality through their stories and images is already an ideological construction of it (cf. Taylor 2010: 83). They create (the public view of ) emergencies and disasters in advance, so that ‘reality’ and the audience’s perception of it are one and the same (cf. Žižek 1994b: 15). Thus, Debord writes, ‘For what is communicated are orders: and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them’ (1990: 6).

 

[Ilan Kapoor is a Professor of Critical Development Studies at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. He teaches in the area of global development and environmental politics, and his research focuses on postcolonial theory and politics, participatory development and democracy, and more recently, ideology critique. He is the author of The Postcolonial Politics of Development (Routledge 2008), and more recently, Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity (Routledge 2013). He is currently writing a book on psychoanalysis and development.”]

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WATCH: The Ideology of Celebrity Humanitarianism

 

Kapuscinski Development Lecture

May 12, 2015

UNHCR Special Envoy actor Angelina Jolie takes part in a news conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

 

“Celebrity charity work is deeply tainted and ideological. Its altruistic pretensions are belied by several accompaniments: its tendency to promote both the celebrity’s brand and the image of the ‘caring’ (Western) nation; its entrenchment in a marketing and promotion machine that helps advance corporate capitalism and rationalizes the very global inequality it seeks to redress; its support to a ‘postdemocratic’ liberal political system that is outwardly democratic and populist, yet, for all intents and purposes, conducted by unaccountable elites; and its use and abuse of the ‘Third World’, making Africa, in particular, a background for First World hero-worship and a dumping ground for humanitarian ideals and fantasies. But what about our own complicity in this ideological work? As audience members and fans, or indeed even as detractors or critics, we too easily carry on our lives, consoled that someone is doing the charity work for us, just as long as we don’t have to.” [Source: Kapuscinski]

Excerpt from “The production and Construction of Celebrity Advocacy in International Development
by Dan Brockington:

“Within British development ngos there has been a questioning of the values promoted by relying on celebrity. Within the academe there is a flourishing body of criticism of the role of celebrity in recreating and reproducing hegemonic capitalist inequality. Kapoor adopts the most radical position, arguing that celebrity is part of the forces which create and produce inequality, and that celebrities might in fact be ‘sadists’ delighting in their position at the top of the pyramid. He further suggests that the only way out of this dilemma is through a Marxist revolution and that following conventional means of tackling poverty (such as supporting ngos) is no solution – it is better to do nothing.”

 

 

[Ilan Kapoor is a Professor of Critical Development Studies at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. He teaches in the area of global development and environmental politics, and his research focuses on postcolonial theory and politics, participatory development and democracy, and more recently, ideology critique. He is the author of The Postcolonial Politics of Development (Routledge 2008), and more recently, Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity (Routledge 2013). He is currently writing a book on psychoanalysis and development.”]

 

Building Movement Politics Means Fighting Democrats

Black Agenda Report

March 29, 2018

By Glen Ford

Building Movement Politics Means Fighting Democrats
 

In the absence of a renewed, grassroots street offensive against the armed occupation of Black communities, there will be no relief from the daily slaughter.”

 

Cops “have the right to shoot us, they get away with it every day,” said a despairing Dawnya Walker, one of 300 community residents that descended on Sacramento, California’s city hall to protest the police killing of Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard . The numbers show that Walker is correct: U.S. police enjoy near-absolute impunity to gun down young Black males without any reasonable fear of punishment. Eight years of a Black, Democratic president in the Oval Office made not the slightest dent in that American reality, despite the re-emergence in 2014 of an incipient social justice movement under the heading of Black Lives Matter.

The youthful insurgency lost momentum — waylaid by the inexorable pull of Democratic Party politics and corporate philanthropy — long before Donald Trump entered the White House and installed a pure Dixiecrat as attorney general. Trumpian malevolence cast an orange chill across Black America. “It has been a long time since any victim was given as much attention as Stephon Clark,” writes Margaret Kimberley, in the current of issue of BAR.

“We are enveloped in a toxic miasma of Russia-hate that, by sheer weight and repetition, has infested every aspect of American political thought.”

There is “movement” afoot in the U.S., but it does not “arc towards justice.” Ever since Trump’s electoral victory, the collective national consciousness has been smothered in a maddening fog of manic, industrial-scale propaganda, spewed non-stop by corporate communications conglomerates working hand-in-glove with the most aggressive elements of the surveillance-intelligence “community” and the bi-partisan War Party. We are enveloped in a toxic miasma of Russia-hate that, by sheer weight and repetition, has infested every aspect of American political thought, distorting and subverting even the most progressive-minded “movements” struggling to find a way towards human dignity under late stage capitalism in a profoundly racist country. Voices for peace and social justice are asphyxiated in the pestilential plume — unless they find their own air.

Damn right, there is a conspiracy — possibly the loudest one in history! — megaphoned by a billionaire-owned media screaming “War, War, War” day and night, fouling the public mind with pure reactionary malice. The duopoly contest has devolved into a dance of death between Donald Trump’s raw white supremacist nationalism and Democratic Party corporate imperial warmongering. Only fools claim there is space for progressive maneuver in the interstices between such forces.

“The Democratic Party remains under the firm control of the Clinton/Obama forces that reinforced mass Black incarceration in the Nineties and militarized the police in this century.”

What is needed is clarity among genuine leftists and serious Black liberationists in the face of rampaging reaction. There is no lesser evil in this house of fear and apocalyptic brinksmanship. The Democrats have colluded in a budget whose gargantuan military outlays will inevitably doom what’s left of the U.S. social safety net — that is, if the human race is not annihilated, beforehand. They have replaced and outshouted the John McCain’s and Lindsay Graham’s of the Republican Party in demonizing, not just Vladimir Putin, but every government and movement in the world that resists U.S. lawlessness and aggression.

The Democratic Party remains under the firm control of the Clinton/Obama forces that reinforced mass Black incarceration in the Nineties and militarized the police at unprecedented levels in this century through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. In the absence of a renewed, grassroots street offensive against the armed occupation of Black communities, there will be no relief from the daily slaughter and the accompanying political evisceration of Black America.

Yes, it is certain that Trump’s very presence encourages the most swinish elements of the police. But it is also true that the Democrats — including Black Democrats — have controlled the city governments that maintain the police state in Black neighborhoods and relentlessly disperse our people through gentrification.

“What is needed is clarity among genuine leftists and serious Black liberationists in the face of rampaging reaction.”

And now it is the Democrats that take the lead in purging the Internet of dissenting political views, under the guise of defending fragile American minds against foreign manipulation. Silicon Valley — the big business sector most supportive of Clinton/Obama Democrats — is thus given license to shape reality in ways that make corporate dictatorship appear both logical and inevitable. Trump’s troglodytes could never finesse such a hijacking of fundamental democratic rights, but the Democrats are pulling it off with alarming speed. There’s nothing “lesser” about this evil.

When the Democrats got their wish, that Trump win the Republican presidential nomination, they became the predominant party of the U.S. ruling class and the most aggressive defenders of empire. Into Hillary Clinton’s campaign “Big Tent” slivered the dregs of the national security state, for whom peaceful coexistence among nations is anathema. Bernie Sanders cannot purge them from their central position in the party. The World Socialist Web Site reports that “an extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.” By WSWS’s count, if the Democrats capture a majority of seats in the House this November, “candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress.”

Such a party is incompatible with any domestic social justice agenda — and a threat to the survival of the species. The Left’s job is to disentangle our people from the political clutches of the ruling class and to build independent people’s organizations. The Republicans are a white people’s problem, but Black activists cannot confront the police, the oligarchs or the warmongers without fighting the Democrats.

 

[BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com]

March for Eight Billion Lives: An Interview with Riva Enteen

 

An Interview with Riva Enteen

March 28, 2018

by Ann Garrison 

March for Eight Billion Lives: An Interview with Riva Enteen
 
“Of course we support the cause of protecting lives, but there is an exceptionalism to believing it only applies to American lives and especially white lives.”

Organizers of the upcoming Women’s March on the Pentagon are calling on the Democratic Party-sponsored Women’s March and March for Our Lives to expand their message to include the eight billion lives on the planet, all of which are imperiled by US weapons and wars. I spoke to Riva Enteen, a former National Lawyers Guild Program Director and a member of the steering committee for the October Women’s March on the Pentagon.

Ann Garrison: Riva, how would you like to see the March for Our Lives message expanded?

Riva Enteen: We must expand the message in two ways. First, we must acknowledge that US wars and domestic gun violence are intertwined. Our military budget is obscene, and the majority of Democrats voted with Republicans to give both Trump and the Pentagon more money than they asked for this year. Three Republican Senators joined the five Democratic Senators who voted against the $700 billion 2018 military budget. This has normalized carrying and using guns, which now include military-grade weapons on our streets. ?

“Gun control should begin at the Pentagon.”

Secondly, we have to be concerned with all lives, from Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School to Yemen. The US military is by far the largest arms dealer in the world, and it’s common knowledge that much of its weaponry ends up with those that our government calls “terrorists” and claims to be fighting. The US calls the terrorists it arms “rebels,” as in Syria, or “friends and allies,” as in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Gun control should begin at the Pentagon.

The endless “War on Terror” emerged after 9-11, which became the excuse for war as a constant, not an aberration. Until we rein in the US’s determination to exert hegemony over the whole world, we will continue to see blood spilled here while, at the same time, our missiles rain down on innocents in the name of specious “humanitarian intervention” and stopping terrorism. There is an irony to the US invoking the term “humanitarian intervention,” as it publicly abandons and scorns international law, bombing civilians and even hospitals.

AG: I counted ninety geographically distinct manifestations of the Democratic Party promoting their participation in the March for Our Lives, and all the march and voter registration logos and banners were blue. Your thoughts on that?

RE: The Democratic Party contained the message and excluded the call for peace, just as they did with the two Women’s Marches. It is counter-intuitive that a women’s march and a students’ march wouldn’t talk about peace, with the US at war in at least seven countries and no end in sight. But the Democrats, who promoted the Women’s Marches and the March for Our Lives, are a pro-war party. Peace is not on their agenda. War is a bi-partisan policy because, according to Wall Street, war is good for business, and that’s who controls our government.

At the beginning of his second term, after the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Obama said that he would address gun control and sounded convincing. A year earlier, in 2011 he had bragged, “In fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners—it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.”

“It is counter-intuitive that a women’s march and a students’ march wouldn’t talk about peace, with the US at war in at least seven countries and no end in sight.”

Attempts to limit the size of gun magazines, expand background checks of gun buyers, and ban gun sales to buyers on terrorism watch lists all failed to pass under Obama, when he had a Democratic House and Senate, from January 2009 to January 2013, and when he had a Democratic Senate, from January 2013 to January 2017.

Stand-your-ground laws, which George Zimmerman successfully used in his defense for killing unarmed Trayvon Martin, have expanded to more states, even though Obama lamented that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.

AG: The March for Our Lives and the Women’s Marches have enormous corporate and celebrity support as well as the Democratic Party’s. They’re able to hire all kinds of staff to work full time on networking and turning out their huge crowds. Can you imagine getting any of that kind of support for the October Women’s March on the Pentagon?

RE: Of course we imagine getting support from all peace-loving people. Unfortunately, most corporations benefit from war so they would not support the cause of peace. We do believe there are celebrities who will step up to the plate and do the right thing, because the stakes are so high. This march commemorates the 1967 March on the Pentagon, which included celebrities such as Norman Mailer getting arrested.

AG: The Pentagon now admittedly has more money than it can figure out how to spend, so its surplus weapons go to militarize the police who are most aggressive in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Anything you’d like to say about that?

RE: Military grade weapons have no place in domestic neighborhoods, not in the hands of police officers, veterans with PTSD, or civilians. People from other countries are shocked at what we allow on our streets. The normalization of killing includes domestic massacres perpetrated with these military-grade weapons.

As to police killings in Black and Brown neighborhoods, it remains open season, just as it did under Obama, even when Black Lives Matter was at its strongest. I guess we can hope a precedent was set by South Carolina cop Michael Slager’s second degree murder conviction for shooting Walter Scott— an unarmed Black man—in the back.

AG: Some March for Our Lives supporters are likely to get defensive and ask whether you’re refusing to support their cause. What would you say to them?

RE: Of course we support the cause of protecting lives, but there is an exceptionalism to believing it only applies to American lives and especially white lives. In a promotional video that Democracy Now played repeatedly during their broadcast of the Washington, DC March for Our Lives, former US soldiers said that they’d learned how to put assault rifles to good purpose in US wars, but didn’t want them aimed at US citizens.

Isn’t it time to stop aiming those guns—and our missiles, fighter jets, and drones—at the rest of the world? My mother was a member of Women Strike for Peace, founded in 1961 with the slogan “Stop the Arms Race, Not the Human Race,” and that has never been more true.

Women, the givers of life, are confronting the Pentagon in Washington, DC, October 20-21. We hope that all peace-loving people will consider this a chance to make a stand for peace. There will be local antiwar actions springing up, as they did during Occupy, so keep your ear to the ground, and watch for updates on our website and our Facebook page .

 

[Riva Enteen is a former Program Director of the National Lawyer’s Guild, and a current member of the steering committee for the Women’s March on the Pentagon, who lives in South Lake Tahoe. She was also chair of the first KPFA Local Station Board. She can be reached at rivaenteen@gmail.com .]

[Ann Garrison is an independent journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. She can be reached at @AnnGarrison or ann@kpfa.org .]

Excerpt from The Big Conservation Lie

Book: The Big Conservation Lie

Author: John Mbaria and Mordecai Ogada

Publisher: Lens & Pens Publishing LLC Auburn WA USA 2017

 

 

The Epiphany

John Mbaria’s Encounter With Unseen Injustice

 

 

She was an unmistakable image of deprivation. The emaciated Samburu woman had thrown across her left shoulder a torn shuka, which left parts of her body exposed. She had braved the sweltering Samburu sun that baked the entire place bringing into being mirages of promise that failed to deliver more than that. As she advanced to the river, the woman attempted an upright position. But her stooped frame refused to yield. Nevertheless, this enabled me to peer into her cracked, multilined face. Her look was distant. Her thin hands held onto a cord with which she had strapped the empty twenty-litre water jerrican. Her entire frame talked of many struggles and probably as many defeats. The woman had emerged from a thick bush across the river, itself part of a natural spread dotted here and there by short, sturdy trees and broken, now and then, by awkward-looking hills. Some of the outcrops had been whitened by excrement from birds of prey. The vast, monotonous terrain extended into the distant horizon, giving packs, herds and flocks, and other residents a veritable abode. Some did not just live and let live; they visited local people’s homesteads with danger and intent.  Across the river was a scene removed from the reality of this unforgiving landscape. Under the watchful eyes of armed rangers, a group of us were happily and noisily climbing a rocky landform that formed part of the river’s embankment.

This was in 2001, and most of us were young, joyful journalists. We had been sponsored to the Shaba Game Reserve, 314 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, by the Sarova Group of Hotels, one of Kenya’s most prominent hotel chains with eight hotels—many of which are carefully stashed in some of Kenya’s most spectacular, most pristine pieces of wilderness. Located in Eastern Kenya, Shaba is where the popular reality TV adventure series Survivor III was shot in August 2001. Before that, the game reserve hosted Joy and George Adamson, the romantic conservationists who gave the world a reality show of life in the bush before they were tragically murdered. Together with its sister reserve, Buffalo Springs, Shaba boasts of seventeen springs that sojourn along subterranean courses from Mount Kenya—one hundred or so kilometres away—and which gush out there to convert part of this dry wasteland into a veritable oasis. Along its northern boundary flows the Ewaso Nyiro River that, together with the springs, has made the entire place a magnet for gerenuks, Grevy’s zebras, reticulated giraffes, lions, leopards, and hundreds of bird species that live side by side with the Samburu people. We were taken there to savour the unmitigated joy of spending time in a purely wild area. We were expected to reciprocate by meeting our brief—flowery feature stories embellished into captivating narratives that could attract and keep guests visiting the hotel and the reserve. Many of us were poorly paid cub reporters who could hardly afford the European cuisine on offer or the joys of partaking of a game drive atop four-wheel-drive fuel guzzlers. With a monthly pay that either equaled or was slightly more than the cost of spending a night in the extremely comfortable and luxurious hotel, we could not but agree to be spoiled for three days and be blinded by freebies. We roamed the area in vans packed with bites, booze, and soda. For lunch and dinner, three-course meals of continental dishes awaited—a veritable feeding frenzy ensued.

While on game drives, we hoped to spot elephants, dung beetles, and everything in between. Part of our exclusive experience included climbing a rocky landform close to the crocodile-infested Ewaso Nyiro River. It was while doing so that I spotted the elderly Samburu woman. Silently—almost in mime—and removed from my world, she was to take me through a host of lessons that dramatically altered my entire outlook on the grand wildlife conservation program Kenya and other countries in Africa have adopted since the dawn of colonialism.

“A conversation with the Samburu elders during a study on pastoralism, 2017” [Source]

For some reason, I found myself thoughtfully watching her every move. She dipped her jerrican into the river, rapidly filling it with the muddy, unpalatable water. The water notwithstanding, this had me thinking. With a load of European food still fresh in my belly, I could afford to summon some imagination. I conjured images of the immense peril the woman had exposed herself to. But what repeatedly danced in my mind was one image in which a four-metre, several-hundred-kilo crocodile emerged from the water, splashed dirty water into her eyes, and in a lightning move, grabbed the woman’s leg with its massive jaws, its saw-like teeth tearing into her flesh, as it then dragged her limp body into the deeper waters. In my mind’s eye, the croc went on to convert her entire existence into some unsightly bloody mess.

Thank God this did not happen. But in the case it had happened, I figured that it would have resulted in several eventualities: A photojournalist would have captured the bloody scene in a single, award-winning shot. The woman would have paid the ultimate price, ending up as yet another sad statistic. Many of us would have filed copious media reports detailing how “another victim met her death” or “I witnessed the worst case of human-wildlife conflict at the banks of Ewaso.” KWS rangers would have been summoned. And with cocked guns, fingers on triggers, eyes strained to the river, and adrenaline pumping into muscles, they would have first shot in the air to rattle any crocs. The rangers would have found it impossible to identify the culprit. Unable to isolate the life-snatching beast from the rest of the gang, they would have shot one of them—an act of appeasement to sorrowful relatives, tit-for-tat killing, justice delivered to a woman so shunned in life. The conservation juggernaut would have rolled on, as ever deceitful and callously removed from the plight of those who suffer the brunt of what it purports to preserve.

Yes, the woman lived that day, not just to take the dirty water home, but probably to go back to the river and risk her life many more times. Maybe she lived only to fall sick or die from the muddy, parasite-infested Ewaso waters. This is not just a possibility. Neither is it a mere probability or likelihood. It is a circumstance that is replicated countless times across most areas bordering Kenya’s twenty-two national parks and twenty-eight national reserves. Many of the people who live with wildlife in Africa meet their deaths, leaving hordes of orphans with no one to wipe their tears. There are hundreds of women—young and old—who have been denied the comfort of travelling through life with their spouses. There are men who must gnash their teeth in pain and immense anger each time they think of their late beloved spouses and children. There are countless more who live without limbs, just as there are many others who endure torn flesh, broken bones, blindness, destitution, and loss of entire livelihoods occasioned by encounters with wild animals.

In this Samburu woman, I saw the embodiment of a community praised for its traditional conservation ethics that spared for the world vast populations of diverse wildlife, a community, however, shunned by the world, even as acres of paper and decades of airtime are expended by many a conservationist and organization to discuss their welfare.

Upon this revelation, I refused to play along, and I made it my career to expose the rot.

~ John Mbaria, 2014

 

+++


 

 

 

Angels & Demons: Otherwise Known as the Conquerors & the Conquered

Revisionist Linguistics

March 31, 2018

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer

 

Michael archangel vanquishing the devil. 1603-06. Au Hans Reichle

The Abraham Lincoln statue, 1879, by Thomas Ball. Park Square, Boston

This opinion piece has been written to accompany the excerpt from the lecture given by Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans on July 5 for the OuiShare Fest Paris 2017.

OuiShare: “Unlocking the potential of creative humans to reinvent how we work and nurture systemic change OuiShare is a global community, a collective of freelancers and, at heart, an incubator of people driven by a set of core values. Founded in January 2012 in Paris, OuiShare rapidly evolved from a dozen enthusiasts to a global community spread across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and is an international leader in the field of collaborative economy, future of cities, future of work.”

From the OuiShare website: Jeremy Heimans: “PURPOSE, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, USA, Jeremy Heimans is a prolific political and social activist. He is CEO & co-founder of Purpose, a social business building global movements trying to change the world, and is also a co-founder of Avaaz.org, one of the largest and most powerful online activist networks in the world. He believes in the power of collective action to tackle the world’s biggest problems.” [Source]

Background

The concept of “new power” has been named by CNN as one of ten ideas that can change the world. “Originally laid out as the Big Idea in Harvard Business Review and subsequent TED talk, new power offers a frame to understand the distributed and participatory models that are rising in business, life and society.” [OuiShareTV]

According to Heimans, “power traditionally functions as a currency, something valuable to which society wants to  cling. The new power, on the other hand, works like a current: it is fluid . While the old forms of power are based on pyramidal forms and a power that goes from “top down”, the new power works in reverse, “as an “upload”. The new models of power are founded and inhabited by the coordination and agency of the masses, without participation these forms of power remain empty. These new models are collaborative platforms that need the active collaboration of their participants to survive.” [Source]

Strengthening Current Power Structures With the Language of New Power

 

What the “new power” model actually represents is capitalism in its most efficient form. Citizens, en masse, are utilized, organized and mobilized to provide social media online content with no monetary compensation for their labour. Although such movements may appear to be “founded and inhabited by the coordination and agency of the masses” (Heimans) – they have been largely created, or co-opted, at or since inception. The “new power” “uploads” to a program designed to compliment or benefit, or reform, problems to be resolved within the confines of the globe’s current power structures.

Never in history have such powerful conglomerates managed to foment and then seize the required labour to create billion dollar platforms and profits – for free, as they do today. Such fervor for the citizenry to bestow their labour to the elites classes is textbook “Brave New World.” Karl Marx’s theory of surplus labour is the “extra labour produced by a worker for his employer, to be put towards capital accumulation.” It could be said (even in jest) that today’s theory of surplus labour “is the extra labour produced by the “prosumer”, the willing participants for the elite classes (via social media), to be put towards cultural appropriation and modification.”

Consider that while Western society criticizes the Bolivian government for legalizing child labour laws in order to protect working Bolivian children, it remains completely ignorant of the fact that the elite global corporatocracy is exploiting labour from their own Western children for free – via social media – on a scale of exploitation not witnessed since slavery – with no protection whatsoever. [1] Hence while child labour is a respected part of Bolivia’s social conscience – the gross exploitation and manipulation of their own children and youth (that enriches corporations as opposed to enriching families) does not even register in our collective consciousness at all.

This direct line to youth via the cell phone surpasses all levels of social engineering on a scale never before imagined much less thought to be achievable. The art of storytelling, exploitation and manipulation, at once consolidated to create a youth populace in the image of superficiality and consumption. The Children of the West have been thrown to the wolves. A gift to our corporate gods.

 

 

As one of ten ideas that can change the world, embraced and highlighted by some of the world’s most powerful and elite  institutions, the false perception of grass roots mobilization seizing power (designed and financed by the oligarchs) is a strategic marketing maneuver designed to create a short-term euphoria that feels like victory. The perceived victory – supposedly achieved via the free labour of millions – is always made malleable to further protect – the identical powers. Hence, it is not “new power”, it is “old power” simply rebranded with more vapid methods of exploitation targeting and manipulating the naïve albeit well-intentioned “millennials”.

According to Heimans (co-founder of Purpose/Avaaz) what societies are experiencing and undergoing  today is “a big war over values”. What is unspoken is whose values Heiman’s New York PR firm pledges allegiance to and is paid to expand: Western values.

Angels & Demons

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

In the realm of behavioural change and the new era of “storytelling”, language is always key and framing is paramount. Heimans repeatedly frames citizens as “consumers” while viewing himself and the corporate oligarchs he serves as those “on the side of the angels. In this particular segment of the lecture, focused exclusively on Syria, Heimans introduces far-right “Trump” values  as “nativist” and “tribalist” that  will “essentially return” society ” to a kind of nativist tribalist world”:

“… so I want to show you this from our own work in Syria so I use this as an example of a pick a positive counterpoint right so if we think of ourselves at the moment as you know kind of big war over values in the world right on the one hand you’ve got the trumps and the brexits who want to essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world…”


[The original lecture, in its entirety can be found here: https://youtu.be/UWgPFGJBx7I]

The old adage goes “The more things change; the more they stay the same”. One of the things that has stayed the same is the utilization of language to manipulate the masses throughout history. Today’s  infusion of propaganda into the Western psyche through mass media is astounding. What is perhaps more stunning, is how words that have been appropriated in the most vulgar manner, that  should have been deemed as abhorrent in the past (and thus rejected) are now being utilized and hence popularized by factions of the elite to give further advantage to those in power.

“It is no accident that the contemporary uses of the term tribe were developed during the 19th-century rise of evolutionary and racist theories to designate alien non-white peoples as inferior or less civilized and as having not yet evolved from a simpler, primal state.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

Revisionist Linguistics & Colonial Narratives

Two  terms that have currently been transformed from ones of indigenous degradation are “nativism” and “tribalism”. These words were at one time used in a slanderous aspect directed at those designated as genetic inferiors due to a non-anglo ethnic background. Today they are being used in a similar fashion, but to denigrate a different adversary along ideological lines and not ethnic ones. This transference of motive has dictated the meaning of these words.

In order to correctly digest the change in climate regarding the minute differences in language, we must first look at the particular terminologies in question, how they are defined and to what degree they are used today in comparison to yesterday.  According to Wikipedia the word “nativism” is defined as the following:

“Nativism is the political policy of promoting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants. However, this is currently more commonly described as an anti-immigrant position.”

In terms of this definition in a general context, the determining factor of what is considered native is the point of contention.  As this terminology has now been procured by many on the alleged leftist side of the aisle, the fact of the matter is that the one thing that has been constant in its usage is the European being the determined native in the argument.

Therefore, that which has been dictated as nativists has remained the same as the focal point (the European), whether it was in comparison to the original inhabitants of the land (the indigenous First Tribe nations) or those that are currently the enemy, the almost exclusive black and brown migrants from the Global South. Therefore, the collective personage of victimization is the European with all other people being seen as invaders in the eyes of the Westerner.  This rationalization is due solely to ethnicity and locality of the European in regards to where he or she wants to stay and what environment is most needed for capitalism. Consider that the modifications and usage of the word native, to “nativist” or “nativism”, thoughtfully and crudely reframed to represent “xenophobic nationalism” is “an almost exclusively American concept that is rarely discussed in Western Europe.”

The Historical Context

 “Nativism is currently gaining traction across the Western world” — What Is a Nativist?, The Atlantic, April 11, 2017

In order to understand the intricacy with which the term native has been appropriated as well as the current movement of nativism, we must look at the history of appropriation regarding native rights. Rights which have been transferred from the first people to those who conquered them. Historically if you look at indigenous tribes, the migratory patterns came about from the necessity to  travel to places which would allow them to survive, have freedom and not be in conflict with those who were in close proximity. The end result of this curiosity and the travel is  the definitive indication of man’s residence as no more or less than any instinctual animal that prizes self-preservation as a form of a survival above all else. Yet in terms of that migratory pattern there were only so many places that were amenable to the survival of man. Man eventually had to accept that like any animal, it couldn’t venture far past certain places on the planet or it would perish. This relationship of life to Earth was no different than any animal found in certain regions of the world and not others. The locale will determine whether or not a particular form of life will flourish or perish. As man is like any other creature, its body acclimates to the environment in which it resides – only to the degree it is physiologically possible.

What was different in regard to the travels of the European from a cultural aspect is that it was done entirely for economic reasons. That is the burgeoning stages of the formation of the capitalist system. The beginning invasion of the European into these vast  foreign lands was done at the behest of trade if necessary and conquering if possible. But as any foreign invader who possessed ulterior motives yet lacked the strength to impose their will, the relationship began as one of charity of  the original people towards the European. Yet, as the Europeans strengthened themselves and moved from a relationship of dependence to equals to eventual dominators of the indigenous, the response from the indigenous went from one of acceptance to anger, to fear, and finally a plea for some form human decency.  Surely a reasonable request considering  they were the original caretakers of the land and even helped the European in their many hours of need.

If we fast forward to the present day, there is a most insidious element regarding the extermination of the indigenous, the original native, by way of genocide or ethnic cleansing: witness the unspoken method of supplanting the native by the Europeans (conquerors) appropriating the terminology that should be descriptive of the dispossessed. The best means of masking heinous atrocities is to scrub the victim from history and disallow him/her/them to speak for themselves. [2] From a philosophical context, this is why it was necessary for the European to exterminate the original native in order to take her/his rightful inhabitance as keeper and defender of the land.

Once this was established, it was then easy to lay the foundation of transitioning roles, from that of a meek interloper to the role of shifting and shaping the narrative as conqueror. A revision of history that erased the extermination preceding the present day circumstances of European domination. This was and continues to be most easily accomplished by dehumanizing the people who at one time resided here. To strip away the humanity of the aggrieved is in essence to place man (i.e. the white anglo-saxon) as rightfully seizing the land away from the native or animal, which has been designated not only as undeserving  inhabitants of the area – but even as detrimental to the land itself. The destruction of the native was no different than the destruction of the buffalo in the mind of the white power structure. The singular caveat being the verbalization of the destruction via the indigenous peoples caused internal consternation for some Europeans at varying degrees. Here we have an offshoot of the economic system colliding with the religious beliefs and social structure of racism. All converge to appoint the Anglo at the top of the hierarchy as the only peoples worthy of protection. To absolve centuries of deplorable crimes committed by the Anglo, their descendants obfuscate the truth by sanitizing and rewriting history.

As time moved on, the eradication of the original peoples made way for the European to write history in their image. The original native was erased and replaced by what has been deemed as the ONLY human:  the white man. Over the years, this transition nefariously evolved into one where the unacknowledged basic human rights of the “savage” (i.e. Indigenous) was eclipsed for the overwhelming protection of “the humans” (ie. White man) who procured the land and continue to control it to this day.  As a result of this, the overwhelming desire that permeates the consciousness of the Western world is for ” the humans” to protect its potential reclaiming by the “savage.” In a historical comparison, the greatest fear of the slaveholder during chattel slavery was always the rise of the slave. This foreboding mindset has permeated into every aspect of the present day Anglo society, inclusive of regions that are predominantly non-anglo (land reformation in South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.).

In reality, the Western mentality of nativism is merely a euphemism for the continued and escalating demand for the  protection of white people’s rights. It is nativism, which has fed the fervor for a wall “protecting” the U.S. from Mexico (described as any non-anglo who comes from south of the U.S. border). It is nativism that nurtures the belief (and fear) that any infusion of non-anglo people to Euro-dominated states is a sure sign of being overtaken by “the savage” – even when the surrounding environment demonstrates no signs of threat. The appropriation of being the native by way of extermination has led the Anglo to incur an abject (if not unconscious) fear: the fear of retribution (although there is no evidence to support this whatsoever).

The truth of the matter is this – “nativism” effectively erases racism. Discrimination and racist hatred of 21st century migrants and refugees is rebranded as conflict due to religious and cultural differences – not colour nor race. Political correctness replaces vulgar reality. Racists have been rebranded into politically correct “nativists” that are simply supporting the wrong political party due to a shortsightedness. No one in power wants to alienate nor offend racists when one day the same racists may tip the needle in your favour on a separate issue. But even more so, no one wants to be seen as an institution or thought-leader seeking support from or appealing to racists. Thus, the term “nativist” will be popularized in a country where racism is on fire.

Revisionist  linguistics is made to re-write history while simultaneously re-wiring our brains and preying upon our fears instilled by imperial, colonial and capitalist forces.

Nativism is racism – made politically correct.

Tribalism

Rebranding ethnicity as tribalism is a deliberate and systematic furthering of cultural denigration – one that by no accident furthers US imperialism and foreign policy. These rebranded pejorative terms have proven to be highly coveted by both media and academia resulting in the terms being more and more an embedded part of the social fabric – propagating the motive and desired effect: the representation (and selling) of Eurocentric and Western ideologies regarding what is and isn’t acceptable. The revamped derogatory terms are utilized by both the faux left and the far right.

“In New York, we term it ethnicity, but in Africa it becomes tribalism.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

The results are threefold. The language

1) further decays Indigenous identity.

2) reintroduces elements of savagery and negative, subconscious colonial connotations reinforced via societal conditioning.

Such an example is the perceptions cultivated in Western children using social cues and constructs via mainstream media, with Disney’s infamous movie Pocahontas being one of many cases. By the age of five, most children in the Western world equate the words “native” and “tribe” with Indigenous peoples.” Indeed this is a Western construct digested by children who are fed by and privy to its tentacles. 3) provides a tool for the expansion of neoliberalism. “Tribalism” according to Heimans et al implies a “disorganized, primitive, and less civilized peoples.” whereas “modern governments” (Anglo governments) are meant to “promote the fulfillment of individuals”. Thus, African and Middle Eastern countries, targets for the expansion of neoliberalism, are by extension, prime targets for the labeling of “tribalism” (i.e evoking fear in the Euro mind) by those with a vested interest in US foreign policy (while foundation money is the oil that turns the cogs in the machine). This is the beauty of social engineering. The ability to reinforce the behavioural economics of hatred (via fear and racism) – in broad daylight, hiding behind a wall of words.

The Descent into Tribalism, The Guardian, August 23, 2006:

“Modern governments, when they try to justify their existence in historical terms, are apt to propose a rough-and-ready anthropology for human development. First came the tribe – savage in instinct, ritualistic in religion and run on the basis of a grunting solidarity; humanity’s first exercise in collectivism. The nation, which takes its place, is for more refined, literate peoples and can call upon scholars and scribes, chroniclers and preachers, who propose common goals for the nation. Organised states, with their bureaucracies, sanitation services and taxation policies, like to think that they exist on a higher plane than either the tribe or the nation. Ethics loom large and morality’s plans acquire a finer focus. Modern governments are meant to promote the fulfillment of individuals, their happiness and ease of life. Savages have become citizens and can look beyond the narrow ambitions of the tribe.”

Instilling Ethnic Fear via the Utilization of Cultural Language

Image result for tribalism kenya

Image: Tribalism is utilized to conjure up images of the “black savage” in foreign (frightening) lands. 

Tribalism in effect has various usages, but all to the same effect. Within the mainstream, it is continuously used in a pejorative context – but viewed as positive or negative depending on the personal beliefs directed at those utilizing the language. Regardless of the person who is using it or whatever the particular ideological thinking, the seemingly benign use of “tribe” (used in reference to small groups, etc.) by extension implies the term “tribal” (used in reference to civil wars, backwardness, barbarism, etc.) and as a result gives the user a free pass for acceptable racist expression.  By continuously intermixing the explicit term “tribalism” and the centuries long socially cultivated subliminal idea of “African” (ie. phenotypical non-anglo) savagery – the ultimate result is fear, which is a more intense emotion and ultimately dominates the meaning, even if it is only on a subconscious level. Although not acknowledged, this subconscious racism hums softly beneath the white supremacist power structures.

Although no people or culture is perfect, there are examples of many that are a complete reversal of the global imposition of Western culture and its foundational principles in a market economy with no emotional investment outside of the worst traits of man, such as greed and avarice. For example, African philosophy in a general context before victimization through colonization and imperialism has historically been strongly associated with tribalism and an intimate feeling of attachment with nature: we’re not here to “have dominion”… We are a part of the Earth, we are dependent  on it… we have ecological responsibilities …. “Nature” is not just a resource…. We are nature.”

To delve further, this ideology is visible in various Indigenous philosophies – philosophies that represent the antithesis of Western consumer culture and therefore a direct hindrance and threat to globalization, to industrialization and, most importantly, to capitalism. This can be equated with the race to kill off paganism to be replaced by both Christianity and Catholicism. Utilizing language, the word tribalism is revamped and utilized to instill fear and further racism (strengthening white supremacy). The word becomes another instrument to decimate surviving/existing cultures – with the goal of replacing such culture with superficial nothingness – a consumer society. These rebranded terms have been the catalyst for the modern day subconscious belief system, where indigenous self-reliance will always be seen as a  threat to neoliberal order. What a “Tribe” represents in Africa could be loosely associated by sought after local ways of living in the western world – such as transition towns, slow town movements and overall movements for relocalization. All these movements are in direct contrast and opposition to globalization and the goals of corporatocracy.

Autonomous communal living based on subsistence agriculture and sharing are the enemy of foreign policy, the IMF, the world bank and essentially everything today’s global elites and corporate superpowers hold dear. In essence, we are being wholly conditioned to automatically perceive/equate non-Western culture as an automatic threat. Further, US and foreign occupations, destabilizations, wars and the rape, pillage and theft of resources (oil, minerals, labour) across the Global South are conveniently blamed on “tribalism’.  Hence – tribalism also provides a free pass to imperialism – while cementing the image of the “un-noble” savage. Tribalism & nativism are recolonization via linguistics.

Note: These characteristics are presented in a general context. We must be cautious not to simplify all cultures as monolithic or even perfect, rather a regional designator that runs current throughout the tradition of these philosophies as a whole.

In countries that fall under the imperial gaze of European and Western states, “tribalist” discourse has effectively crushed critical discussion of ethnicity in all states that are under the auspices and domination of European control, be it internal colonization (the native reservation system) or external imperialism (state control in other continents by way of multinational corporations). In Euro-dominated institutions and landscapes, (see the “Academic Imperialism” lecture by Claude Alvares) those that raise questions concerning ethnicity risk being accused of provocateurs inciting “tribalism” (ie: enticing division within a nation that is supposedly united). The ‘criminalisation of ethnicity’ and the erasure of racism in America via linguistics – must be acknowledged as another dangerous yet effective instrument of soft power.

The Purpose of Purpose

In no uncertain terms, academia and media have strategically and deliberately rebranded/reframed the words native (“nativist”) and tribal (tribalist”) with the most negative of connotations. Academia and NGOs, as highly financed apparatus of the oligarchy reverberates the language through the eco chambers of foundations, think tanks, universities and entities within the non-profit industrial complex, all financed and ultimately controlled by the oligarchs.

Going one step further, the word native is currently in process of being replaced/rebranded into “nativist”, which simultaneously and effectively erases all Indigenous such as the American Indians who continue to  resist an ongoing genocide by Europeans that persists to this day. “Nativists” could be referred to as revisionist linguistics since in its new form, “native” refers to native-born Protestant Americans – the “nativists” of the land – stolen from native tribes.

Sycophants of the establishment are tasked with the popularizing of such terms when it serves their interests. To further those interests, U.S. media has been abuzz in directing this type of subtle terminology, exemplified by current U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration since it came to power. The slander of “tribalism” directed at an enemy has become synonymous with someone being “woke” in leftist circles that are centered in the U.S. but has now reached global levels.

An example of this in the left wing faction of the establishment is an article in The Atlantic entitled “The Tragedy of President Trump’s Tribalism” (November 2, 2017) This article illustrates the shifting of the U.S. linguistic landscape, where what was once acceptable overt racism has now morphed into covertly coded language of acceptability, including that used by academia. With a fair degree of certainty, you can bet that when the world’s most prestigious marketing agencies polled for key words that stir up negative emotions in American constituents – the words native and tribes were both at the top of the list. If not outwardly said, definitely in the mindset of those in power, be it conspicuously or subconsciously.

Revisionist linguistics is made to re-write history while simultaneously re-wiring our brains and preying upon our fears instilled by imperial, colonial and capitalist forces. This is carried out by those on the right side of spectrum as well as those on the faux left.

“… you’ve got the trumps and the brexits who want to essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world and on the other hand you’ve got people who support openness pluralism compassion science etc the challenge for those of us on the side of the angels…” — Jeremy Heimans, Avaaz/Purpose co-founder

As illustrated by the supposed left spectrum, the dogma to be digested from the tenacles of empire is clear. We can “essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world” – or we can join Avaaz, Purpose, Heiman’s et al and the oligarchs they serve are those on the “side of angels” (ie. “ethical” NGOs).

In similar lectures, one such corporation on the side of the “angels” in Heimans warped view is Unilever: “… you know we’re in the business of purpose of trying to figure out how to do mass mobilization of people and we can’t mobilize enough people if we don’t get the help of some of the brands who already on the side of the angels on climate change to reach into their consumer bases technology companies [and] media companies… companies like Unilever…”

Neotribes

Above: NEOTRIBES video promoting through advertising for Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s.  [Source]

Yet, Purpose takes revisionist linguistics to an even more unimaginable level. Consider the marketing of “neo-tribes” by (former) Purpose/Avaaz staff and like-minded digital marketing executives for the purpose of branding, influencing and the marketing of consumer products as well as (Western) ideologies. Here the word of negativity is spun into positivity when applied to themselves (ie. the angels): “As neotribers, let us dream big but also stay rooted in pragmatism.” Rest-assured, “an angel” of a “neo-tribe” can and will employ the words tribes and/or tribalist, as well as native, for those that they forever denigrate and seek to further colonize. It is at the sole discretion the Anglo male, the self-determined and acknowledged bringer of “civilization” to the global non-anglo savage through colonisation and imperialism, whether the words are spun as positive or derogatory, based on their own desires as well as the desired framing for further conditioning of the citizenry.

“Organizations can adapt two network strategies. They can either build their own brand tribe, or reach out to existing consumer tribes. While some people will advocate one way over the other, both should be considered whenever possible. Regardless it’s important for companies to understand how people exercise influence within their tribes when reaching out to them. This will make their initiatives more native and successful… To be truly native and successful you should strive to understand and share as much of tribal culture as possible…Don’t forget. Influencers are tribal influencers. — The 7 Cs of Tribal Influence, Tribaling, Tribal Growth Hacking website, August 27, 2013 (Emphasis added)

In 2016 Alexa Clay presented a lecture titled Neo-Tribes: The Future is Tribal. Clay’s position scaling social innovation at Ashoka Ashoka (Soros) is but one past held position in her very extensive bio. With John Elkington [further reading: Beautiful Delusions] and Maggie de Pree she co-authored the report The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers, sponsored by the Skoll Foundation. Clay belongs to the class of upper echelon in elite activism. In addition to advising the Clinton Foundation, Clay’s voice has been highlighted by the International Monetary Fund. Clay serves on the (all-white) advisory board of Purpose Economy (the Purpose Network, Purpose Companies, Purpose Foundation). Incidentally, the lecture this opinion piece is based on was created for OuiShare and NeoTribes are partnered with Coliga – a part of Tipping Canoe, “an accelerator for consumer driven communities.”

The task of Purpose, Avaaz, 350 and a multitude of NGOs expanding into countries across the middle east and Africa is simple: convert  Middle Eastern values (evoking revionist linguistics such as “nativist” and “tribalist”) into Western values (“openness, pluralism, compassion, science, etc.”). In short, good vs. evil. Indeed, Avaaz has used this very strategy in the past, over and over, to satisfy and fulfill the wishes of empire – and fulfill they do.

 

End Notes:

[1] May 26, 2016: “Teens are spending nearly nine hours a day consuming media. And children ages eight to 12 are spending nearly six hours a day doing the same thing. Let’s say the average teen wakes up at 7 a.m. and goes to bed at 10 p.m. — that means that nine of their 15 waking hours are spent on their phones, computers, or tablets.” [Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/teens-average-phone-screen-usage-2016-5] | January 4, 2017: ” Teens now spend up to nine hours a day on social platforms, while 30% of all time spent online is now allocated to social media interaction. And the majority of that time is on mobile – 60% of social media time spent is facilitated by a mobile device.” [https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic]

[2] “The best means of masking heinous atrocities is to scrub the victim from history and disallow him/her/them to speak for themselves.” This paternalistic blueprint has been in place for centuries if not millennia. A recent example of this is deconstructed in the article “All Eyes On Dakota Access – All Eyes Off Bakken Genocide” which preceded the  Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits investigative series in 2017. A more recent example is identified under the umbrella of the “Reject Kinder Morgan” national campaign in Canada. The latest anti-pipeline campaign in a series that commenced with Stop the Keystone XL (in 2010, see investigative series and timeline) – which permitted (and made obscure) a 21st century crude via rail boom with billionaires such as Warren Buffett (whose family foundation NoVo is a primary funder of TIDES foundations which distributes the anti-pipeline funding) profiting to the tune of billions. Akin to the Standing Rock website, the Indigenous resistance website for the Kinder Morgan campaign promoted by international NGOs such as 350.org and Greenpeace, is actually owned/registered to a 350.org employee. Further, Stand Earth, the rebranded Forest Ethics NGO founded by corporate ally Tzeporah Berman, is hosting the “Protect the Inlet” data.

[These protests have had zero impact on the volume of crude being produced and consumed. Rather, the result has been the phenomenal and exponential growth of the crude via rail industry resulting in the deaths of 47 people in Lac Megantic Quebec in 2013. The pipeline campaigns essentially hid the new burgeoning industry of crude via rail from public view (and more importantly, scrutiny and dissent) while all eyes focused on a single pipeline. At the end of the day, devising a plan based on the fact “crude has no economic value unless run through a refinery” would be the most effective strategy for stopping oil as an energy source, is kept well-hidden.]

 

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LISTEN: Colonialism and Gender Today

kpfa.org

March 27, 2018

Against the Grain

 

 

Can we understand gender relations in today’s neoliberal world without understanding colonialism? As Raka Ray points out, colonialism put in place new understandings about gender and gender relations, many of which continue to affect how people in countries like India think and interact and are governed. Colonialism and its legacies have also influenced how feminists in the Global South and their counterparts in the Global North view and treat each other.

 

 

Exposing Charities in Africa: Hypocrisy, Racism, Objectification

TeleSUR

June 24, 2015

 

 

9

Crimes list:

World Vision

* Last year, World Vision announced its decision to finally stop discriminating and hire LGBTI people. However, after the announcement saw sponsors withdraw donations – apparently more concerned about people’s sexuality than hunger, the decision was reversed and the organization continues to bring homophobia to the African continent.

* Its president, Richard Stearns, studied business administration and began his career doing marketing for several Fortune 500 companies. His wage with World Vision is almost US$400,000 a year. He has blamed poverty as often being a result of “fathers that aren’t around … Boys learn from their fathers what it means to be a good man.”

* Its publicity continues to be children-centered, simplistic, and individualistic. It tells little fairy tales: “In a nearby poverty stricken village … Mona, 11 years old, is teaching her brother a song, because Mona believes it doesn’t take much to live happily … with $39 Canadian dollars we can help people like Mona.” Cameras angle down at big-eyed children with one name and an easily digestible story of suffering, easily cured with money and religion.

* Gospel given with food: The U.S. evangelicals broadcast over their Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Save the Children

* An individualistic approach to a systemic problem. Donors choose the child they want to sponsor from a range of photos. This has many implications for the children, who become competitive with their friends who are chosen for sponsorship. The donor has the power to decide who will be more prosperous.

* In 2013, Save the Children and Britain’s biggest drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline joined hands, with GSK aiming to give the charity 15 million pounds (US$23.6 million). GSK pleaded guilty in 2012 to healthcare fraud, which involved promoting drugs, such as anti-depressants, for unapproved uses. It also fights to protect the patents of its HIV medicine, for example, which was developed using public funds, at the expense of affordable medicine.

* Like World Vision, the CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, also has a business and marketing background. In 2013 she was paid US$407,399.

* In 2014, war criminal Tony Blair was given Save the Children’s Global Legacy Award at a gala dinner in New York. Funnily enough, the year before, former adviser to Tony Blair and current Save The Children chief executive Justin Forsyth was among nine at the charity awarded US$250,000 in bonuses.

* In 2013 a whistleblower accused the charity of self-censoring criticism of energy corporations, such as British Gas, for fear of upsetting existing or future donors.

USAID

* A racist gem from USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, who was quoted in the Boston Globe in 2001 as saying Africans wouldn’t be able to successfully take HIV and AIDS treatment regimes because “Africans do not know what Western time is.” He allegedly said that many people in Africa “have never seen a clock or a watch their entire lives and if you say one o’clock in the afternoon, they do not know what you are talking about.”

* Last year USAID joined with real estate company Rockefeller to launch a US$100 million “climate resilience fund” for Asia and Africa, with the vague aim of making communities more resilient to disasters. The alternative could have been policy that reduces the U.S’s huge contribution to contamination and global warming: but that would affect profits.

Charities … as simple as white people’s individual goodness. They become saviors, while the denial of complexity, the simplistic advertising dehumanize and rob people in Africa of their dignity, agency, intelligence, and power.

* USAID has partnered with Monsanto to promote “biotechnology,” or genetically modified organisms. It launched the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project in 1991 to introduce GM crops, which benefit patent-holding companies like Monsanto and works to create dependence on U.S. corporations’ fertilizers and pesticides. USAID has invested millions in “biotechnology” in countries like Nigeria and Uganda and uses workshops on GMOs and other issues to promote policy change favorable to U.S. corporate interests.

* USAID’s slogan, “from the American people,” should be, “from U.S. corporations,” as it once claimed on its own website, “… the principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80 percent of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms,” Grain.org reported. The USAID site also states that the organization works to promote “democratic” institutions (even though the U.S. is no model of democracy) and to “foster an environment attractive to private investment.” With its bureau for Africa located not there, but in Washington, D.C., Andrew Herscowitz, coordinator of the bureau, describes his position as “facilitating private investment to bring cleaner energy and electricity to millions across Africa.” Apart from the fact that that is another thing that the U.S. itself needs, its also another example of taking advantage of colonialism-caused lack of infrastructure to help companies make profits.

* Many governments find it hard to stand-up to USAID, as it functions as a mouthpiece of the powerful, warmongering U.S. Grassroots organizations, however, are often more willing to resist.

World Food Program

* Despite being the food assistance branch of the United Nations, and allegedly more neutral than some other charities, the WFP has corporate ties, and is problematic in similar ways to other charities

* It cooperates with USAID, Save the Children, and receives significant donations from Monsanto. In 2011 for example, the WFP held a donation drive in which each dollar raised would be matched by a dollar from Monsanto. Monsanto however, contributes to world hunger by making farmers dependent on their seeds and with destructive agricultural practices.

* WFP overlooks the role of big business in exploitation and causing poverty, instead promoting the private sector’s role in the so called elimination of hunger. It is part of the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which was formed in 2012 to facilitate private corporations’ profiting from hunger and as excuse for the rich nations to wash their hands of any responsibility.

* WFP states on its website, “Cause related marketing generates support and awareness for your business … presenting a unique opportunity for companies to simultaneously do well and do good.” Other WFP corporate partners unqualified to fight hunger include Pepsico Foundation (objectifies women and spent US$1.7 million in opposing U.S. citizens’ right to know if food is genetically modified), Bank of America (2008 financial crisis) Yum (parent company of fake food restaurants KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Caterpillar (proud demolisher of Palestinian homes), and Cargill (energy trading, crops and livestock: no self interest here, has had to recall a lot of its meat products for contamination, sued for extreme child exploitation on its cocoa bean plantations).

* Similar images such as this one using victimized, helpless children, and empowering the Western savior – “you can save lives.”

* Kenyan economist James Shikwati argued that WFP food aid was sometimes so big that it made it hard for local farmers to compete.

Clinton Foundation

The Clinton Foundation uses poverty in African countries as a public-relations tool for the families’ politicians and for the celebrities who donate to it. It focuses on health systems, not that Bill Clinton was able to do much for health in his own country: a reoccurring story with many charities. The charity is also used to foster business deals. The Clintons and celebrities conduct fly-by visits through African countries as a kind of ego parade of people pretending to care, with all attention on the “helpers” and none on the people of those countries.

* Earlier this year, the charity came under fire for not declaring tens of millions of dollars in foreign donations and in another unsurprising scandal this year, the Clinton Foundation worked closely with a pharmaceutical company to distribute “drastically substandard” antiretroviral drugs to third world countries that had no chance of helping HIV and AIDs patients, according to a Wall Street analyst.

Get Angry: Global Inequality Should Be Changed, and Charity Isn’t the Way

The thing about aid is that it always comes with conditions (working with businesses, practicing religion, spending money according to the dictates of the charity), it always involves the inequality of a much more powerful giver and a disempowered receiver, and it involves the powerful side thinking it knows better that the receiver about what they need and how to make that happen.

There’s little respect and a lot of condescension, as the boring rich try to show people in the apparently homogenous continent how to make wells, read the bible and make their own shoes. And, largely due to charities, the continent of Africa has become synonymous with poverty, starvation, tragedy – a homogenous blob of a continent of begging skinny children.

Charities simplify everything. They misinform. Solving poverty (which on the continent of Africa was due to the looting, interventions, social and economic colonization, and the constant stealing of local resources by those countries who tend to set up the charities in the first place) is as simple as white people’s individual donations. They become saviors, while the denial of complexity, the simplistic advertising dehumanizes and robs people in Africa of their dignity, agency, intelligence, and power.

Charities become competitive for money and are forced to convince their public they are dealing with the “most needy” and “deserving”. The advertising is never accountable to those people objectified by it.

Charities like the Clinton Foundation don’t deserve a pat on the back for given back a tiny proportion of what was stolen by the U.S. and Europe and their transnationals in the first place. Even less so when using poverty to dodge tax payments. Ultimately, such charities are a convenience for first world governments to outsource their social and political responsibility.

Unlike activist organizations, charities are undemocratic, alienating (donors are very disconnected from affected communities), and work over rather than with those communities. The big picture is the North (U.S, Europe, U.K, Australia, etc) has an undemocratic influence over the economies, resources, culture, and futures of countries in Africa – in addition to such influence through colonization, transnational resource robbing and so on already mentioned.