Archive for the ‘The Left’ Category

When Harry Met Hugo

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Harry Belafonte — a man who’s given us great music, a man who put himself on the line during the civil rights era — is one of a number of celebrities to have spent the last several years shilling for the ruthless Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez.

Supporters of Chavez often argue indignantly that the man is no dictator, that he was democratically elected. But look around the world and it’s easy to see: being democratically elected does not mean governing democratically. According to Human Rights Watch, “[T]he [Chavez] government has systematically undermined free expression, workers’ freedom of association, and the ability of human rights groups to function.” HRW’s full 2012 report on Venezuela is here, and it’s grim.

Chavez is also a proud ally of the virulently antisemitic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’s given vocal and even material support to the Assad regime throughout its ongoing slaughter of Syrian civilians.

If any of this disturbs Harry Belafonte, or fellow Chavez dupes such as Sean Penn and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, they’ve yet to indicate it. And yet now, in 2012, we have Belafonte declaring that U.S. capitalism “is taking us to the doorstep of [a] Fourth Reich, I think.” A Fourth Reich.

Chavez runs Venezuela into the ground and backs some of the most heinous regimes in the world, and Belafonte gives him a free pass, even a big thumbs-up. “Viva la revolucion!” But oh, that Obama – better hold that man’s feet to the fire. Better call him out. No criticism is too harsh. Compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany? Why not.

Sorry, but when it comes to democratic advocacy, Belafonte’s credentials are in tatters. Not Obama’s.

Glenn Greenwald and Egypt, continued

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

A quick follow-up on Glenn Greenwald’s blundering comments about the anti-Hillary protests in Egypt:

Indeed, the tomato-throwing protesters were anti-Islamist, not anti-Mubarak. In fact, this report indicates the protesters were riled up by bogus claims regarding the Obama administration’s Egypt policy — claims spouted by hysterical right-wingers in the U.S. including Michele Bachmann and Frank Gaffney.

So Greenwald, rushing to validate anti-American sentiment and project his own views onto the situation, ended up misreading the protests completely.

[Update: More on this, although not touching on Greenwald, from Rachel Maddow. And Robert Mackey.]

Glenn Greenwald thinks he understands Egypt

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Regarding the protests against Hillary Clinton that occurred in Alexandria, Egypt, Glenn Greenwald tweeted this:







And then this:






As if the Arab world is one undifferentiated mass of anger at the U.S.

In fact, this report (hat tip David Toube via FB) on the demonstrations includes the following line:

“The protest appears to have been the result of suspicions that Washington had helped the Muslim Brotherhood win elections in Egypt in the wake of last year’s ouster of president Hosni Mubarak after 18 days of massive street protests.”

In other words, the protesters were not voicing their anger at the U.S. for propping up Mubarak. They were apparently voicing their anger over a perceived U.S. tilt toward the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak’s longtime arch-nemesis. Such is the view of at least this one particular group of Egyptians, and it’s not my intention to comment on it.

But I will say that Greenwald’s Iraq analogy is inapt, and it reveals much about his simplistic Chomsky-ish view of foreign policy. It goes something like this: America has done bad things in country x. Therefore, the people of country x are angry at America. And that’s all that liberal and lefty Americans really need to know about the events unfolding in country x.

PS: Note the placard in the third photo in this story about the demonstrations: “Message to Hillary: Egypt will never be Pakistan.” What does that mean? I’m not exactly sure, but it merits further inquiry. It could mean that Egypt won’t tolerate violations of its sovereignty, as many believe has occurred in Pakistan. Or it could mean Egypt cannot be allowed to be overrun by religious extremists, as has definitely occurred in Pakistan. Again, I’m not sure, but it points to something far more complex than Greenwald is comfortable dealing with.

Nir Rosen, major war monger

Friday, February 18th, 2011

After critiquing Nir Rosen’s shoddy excuse-making for terrorism in January 2009, I paid only slight attention to his work. But on the occasions when I stumbled onto his Twitter feed, I actually had to stop and wonder whether someone had hacked his account. The opinions were so extreme, so loutish, so flagrantly unprofessional, so obviously unbecoming of a Fellow at the NYU Center for Law and Security (no longer), a writer with bylines in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Salon and other highly respected outlets.

But yes, that was Rosen. Now he’s telling us, in the wake of his appalling comments about CBS News correspondent and sexual assault victim Lara Logan, that he’s really not like this. Well, yes, he is like this, as anyone who’s looked at that Twitter feed in the last year would know.

I can only wonder, as others have, why Rosen was able to hold onto his NYU position after linking to Taliban propaganda on the anniversary of 9/11 — and declaring that he agreed with it. Or calling for a punitive bombing of Tel Aviv as far back as April 2002. And it’s Lara Logan, he tells us, who’s the “major war monger.”

Of course, Rosen is not alone in attacking Logan: right-wing nut Debbie Schlussel made an absolutely chilling and deplorable statement as well.

So we’re back to the question I’ve often been asked: Why am I, a person of the left, focusing my anger on Rosen rather than on Schlussel? Because we know what Schlussel is: a hate-spewing figure of the gutter. She stands for for unashamed racism. Yes, she is a menace, and she has not apologized (to my knowledge). Rosen, on the other hand, considers himself “someone who’s devoted his career to defending victims and supporting justice,” as he wrote in one of his many lame apologies. A lot of people believe him.

But Rosen hasn’t done any such thing. He’s devoted his career to offering apologetics for the Taliban, Hezbollah and other so-called “armed resistance” movements. He’s betrayed the victims of those groups, and thus supported injustice, even as he proclaims the opposite. It’s an Orwellian lie, it’s the height of hypocrisy, and it ought to raise the ire of far more people on the left.

Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann’s replacement on MSNBC and host of “The Last Word,” devoted a segment to the Logan fallout the other night and focused entirely on Schlussel. He said nothing about Rosen. Look, it’s the left that prides itself on facing uncomfortable facts and confronting the whole truth. O’Donnell failed. He gave his viewers a partial account and did the public a disservice.

Viva Palestina’s bigotry

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Much attention is focused on Tony Blair as he testifies before the Iraq Inquiry, but I want to say a quick word about Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. A recent convert to Islam, Booth is someone whose politics, like George Galloway’s and Cynthia McKinney’s and Gilad Atzmon’s, can only be properly described as far-right — although all these individuals and their fellow travelers continue to masquerade as progressive.

Via Harry’s Place comes word that Booth will be sharing a bill with Mahathir Mohamed, at a speaking engagement organized by the new Malaysian branch of Viva Palestina (the land-based equivalent of the famously seafaring Free Gaza Movement).

As I’ve noted before, Mahathir, the former Malaysian prime minister and ruthless despot, recently voiced his disappointment that the Holocaust failed to wipe out every Jew. His reading of Jewish history includes the view that “[Jews] had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole Governments to ransom.”

Lauren Booth, in associating herself with Mahathir, is either announcing that she holds the same neo-Nazi views, or that she is stupid and ignorant. Or both, I suppose. And yet on her Wikipedia page, Booth is described as a “human rights activist.”

(Don’t get me started on Wikipedia, which is useless or worse on matters of politics, though this doesn’t stop some from hailing its 10th anniversary with utopian rhetoric that really ought to be embarrassing.)

As habibi at Harry’s notes, Viva Palestina Malaysia has also recycled an article on its website by Michael Collins Piper, a talk-radio host and antisemitic conspiracy theorist who makes Rush Limbaugh look like a hippie.

And it gets better — the link at the bottom of the piece takes you to the website of Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke.

So, Viva Palestina, begun by George Galloway, is a conduit of explicit antisemitism and far-right bigotry and a megaphone for American neo-Nazis and KKK figures. In today’s pro-Palestine movement, all of that is perfectly OK. And if anyone calls you out, just say you’re a “critic of Israel,” that antisemitism charges are always fabrications, and you’re being silenced by the neocon Zionist conspiracy. Plenty of people will back you up.

Assange and Shamir

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

I think it’s safe to say that political activists who compare themselves to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ought to be regarded with a high degree of skepticism. Alas, many on the left regard Julian Assange of WikiLeaks the way he views himself.

Katha Pollitt of The Nation has written this very eloquent piece about the belittling of Assange’s rape charges. She also notes that Israel Shamir, the writer who launched a campaign of falsehood against Assange’s accusers, is a virulent antisemite. And that Shamir published his smears in Counterpunch, edited by Alexander Cockburn, one of the most shameless and dogged purveyors of antisemitism on the far left.

That assessment of Cockburn is mine, not Pollitt’s. The fact that Cockburn still retains his post as a Nation columnist is a scandal in itself, although Pollitt doesn’t make that case.

What Pollitt also doesn’t state is that Israel Shamir works for WikiLeaks, in an official capacity. The photo above shows Assange and Shamir together (Z Word has already remarked on this, as have Harry’s Place and Michael Moynihan).

Israel Shamir, lastly, is an ally of the UK-based saxophonist and polemicist Gilad Atzmon, who routinely denies he is antisemitic despite having argued in plain though inarticulate English that it was the Jews who provoked Hitler.

I have written on Atzmon’s noxious beliefs fairly extensively.

Side note: In early November, Patrick J. of A Blog Supreme commented on Atzmon’s recent recording with Robert Wyatt and Ros Stephen, For the Ghosts Within. I thanked Patrick in the comments, and I’ll do so again here, for kindly referring readers to my argument that Atzmon is an antisemite. My position has not changed.

Update: There are reports that Israel Shamir has funneled WikiLeaks material to the thug regime of Belarus to help facilitate the unfolding crackdown there. Adam Holland has also posted background on this.

Castro’s latest

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Via Jack Shafer’s Twitter feed, this AP story on Fidel Castro’s decision to fill three of the eight scant pages in the party-controlled newspaper Granma with nonsense from 9/11 Truther and Bilderberg conspiracy theorist Daniel Estulin. AP writer Will Weissert does a nice job detailing how Estulin’s work actually draws on the thinking (rather, “thinking”) of the extremist right.

I’m glad to see that the Obama administration is moving to ease travel restrictions to Cuba. And yet I’m still amazed that there are those on the left who continue to admire Castro, this pitiful crackpot, who has long outlawed the very existence of a journalistic culture on the island, preferring to force-feed the Cuban people his own ravings, along with the ravings of fellow loons.

I know, journalism in the U.S. is anything but perfect, but the quick dissemination of news and debate fostered by the Net — and the enormous flux in media and information cultures detailed in this very interesting pair of pieces in Wired (hat tip John Murph) — couldn’t stand in starker contrast to the utterly shriveled, hideous excuse for a media outlet that is Granma. And every other official organ like it elsewhere on the planet.

Read Chris Anderson’s thoughts on iPads and RSS feeds and Pandora and the like. And then recall that the Cuban government took the enormous step of legalizing cell phones in 2008. We thought it was right-wing anticommunists, per William F. Buckley, who “stood astride history, yelling ‘Stop!'” Turns out it’s actually the communists. (Of course, America’s Castro apologists benefit from cutting-edge online communication to get their organizing done.)

By the way, Castro’s not the only one spouting laughable conspiracist rot. Hugo Chávez, we learn in this valuable piece by Christopher Hitchens, believes the moon landing may not have actually happened. But the most amusing part of Hitchens’s account is how deeply, how desperately, Sean Penn wants to believe in Chávez’s political sanity, all evidence to the contrary.

Oliver Stone’s theory

Monday, July 26th, 2010

“Jewish domination of the media.”

I didn’t think my opinion of this huckster could sink any lower. Comments from Norm Geras, Judeosphere, Z Word, Modernity Blog.

Stone has issued an apology. Translation: he’s sorry for revealing to an interviewer that he’s essentially a far rightist, an apologist for dictators, a man without a shred of moral comprehension, an ignoramus who would presume to lecture us all.

It would be interesting to get the reaction of Tariq Ali, one of Stone’s screenwriters and a supposed man of the left.

No place for racists?

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

As much as I applaud the NAACP for calling out rampant racism within the Tea Party movement, the problem is this. The NAACP’s rhetorical strategy is a delicate one; they don’t want to alienate masses of blue-collar whites who might be drawn to the Tea Party’s brand of (I would argue phony) libertarianism. So the NAACP instead insists that the Tea Party must make clear there is “no place for racists” in its movement. But the fact is there is a place for racists in the movement. And there’s no delicate way to say that.

The problem is similar when it comes to antisemitism, the fringe left and the Palestine solidarity movement. Consider, for instance, the attempt of Socialist Worker to slink away from its association with Nazi sympathizer Gilad Atzmon. To his credit, Paul Heideman of Newark wrote in to denounce Atzmon and say that antisemitism “has absolutely no place in our movements.” But yes it does. Antisemitism does have a place in far-left movements at present, and that is because the far left has created a rhetorical culture attractive to antisemites. Just as the Tea Party has created a rhetorical culture attractive to white racists.

Atzmon in America: a follow-up

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Rich Siegel, who is partnering with Gilad Atzmon as described in my previous post, has written me a terse reply. He says that the Atzmon quotes I cite “do not constitute racism or holocaust revisionism. I suggest you read them again.”

Michael Ezra, in the Z Word comments space, has also referred me to this piece of writing, in which Rich Siegel writes sympathetically of Holocaust revisionism: “It seems to me that if holocaust revisionists are wrong, then open dissemination of their views encourages those with opposing views to prove them wrong. And if they are right, all the more reason we should hear about it.” Note that this goes well beyond an argument for free speech. For Siegel, it is an open question whether David Irving and other like-minded hucksters are right or wrong. (Hint: It’s not an open question, and Irving’s Jew-hatred and pro-Nazism are copiously documented.)

Alas, it is not the case, as I’d hoped, that Siegel is deceived about Gilad Atzmon. He is in fact a fellow traveler through and through.

But because Siegel’s denials strike me as part of a larger political strategy to define antisemitism out of existence, allow me, as Siegel has suggested, to read Atzmon’s comments again. I do so at the risk of insulting the intelligence of my readers. But it seems that some in liberal and progressive circles have lost the ability to detect antisemitism even when it’s staring them dead in the face.

First Atzmon quote:

Carpet bombing and total erasure of populated areas that is so trendy amongst Israeli military and politicians (as well as Anglo-Americans) has never been a Nazi tactic or strategy.

Siegel sees no revisionism in this statement. To him, the notion that the Nazis never engaged in carpet bombing or, in a word, genocide, falls within the bounds of legitimate historical comment.

Second Atzmon quote:

One of the things that happened to us was that stupidly we interpreted the Nazi defeat as a vindication of the Jewish ideology and the Jewish people.

Siegel sees no racism in the notion that there’s such a thing as “the Jewish ideology,” or in the idea that a persecuted minority group requires “vindication” — as if the Jews, in the lead-up to the Holocaust, were collectively guilty of something.

But if you share Atzmon’s worldview, then yes, you do believe these things, as a third quote from Atzmon makes clear. I didn’t cite this in yesterday’s post, and I didn’t send it to Siegel for comment, because I’ve only just learned of it. But it puts Atzmon’s overt Hitler apologetics in plain view as perhaps never before:

Jewish texts tend to glaze over the fact that Hitler’s March 28 1933, ordering [sic] a boycott against Jewish stores and goods, was an escalation in direct response to the declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.

There it is: The Jews made Hitler do it. I can think of few political sentiments more chilling and, I would hope, more foreign to the spirit of jazz.