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Oh. I thought the Angry Arab was an authority. Never mind.

As for the anecdotes, if you can't link or make a proper reference, they're hearsay.

And I continue to agree the NYT is a lousy, biased paper. But that is not enough to blanket dismiss anything it publishes.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 08:52:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This isn't about the NYT, it's about whether or not the US is capable of, and interested in, running a PR campaign to promote its interests.

Reading around it's clear that the mythology of the Heroic Peace Activist doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

If it stood out on its own, with no context, it might be plausible.

But let's be realistic here.

US foreign policy has a long history of installing, financing, arming and backing dictatorial regimes which back its imperial policies and interests as long as they retain control over their people.

In the past, Republican and Democratic presidents worked closely for over 30 years with the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic; installed the autocratic Diem regime in pre-revolutionary Vietnam in the 1950’s; collaborated with two generations of Somoza family terror regimes in Nicaragua; financed and promoted the military coup in Cuba 1952, Brazil 1964, Chile in 1973, and in Argentina in 1976 and the subsequent repressive regimes. When popular upheavals challenged these US backed dictatorships, and a social as well as political revolution appeared likely to succeed, Washington responded with a three track policy: publicly criticizing the human rights violations and advocating democratic reforms; privately signaling continued support to the ruler; and thirdly, seeking an elite alternative which could substitute for the incumbent and preserve the state apparatus, the economic system and support US strategic imperial interests.

For the US there are no strategic relationships only permanent imperial interests, name preservation of the client state. The dictatorships assume that their relationships with Washington is strategic: hence the shock and dismay when they are sacrificed to save the state apparatus. Fearing revolution, Washington has had reluctant client despots, unwilling to move on, assassinated (Trujillo and Diem). Some are provided sanctuaries abroad (Somoza, Batista),others are pressured into power-sharing (Pinochet) or appointed as visiting scholars to Harvard, Georgetown or some other "prestigious" academic posting.

The Washington calculus on when to reshuffle the regime is based on an estimate of the capacity of the dictator to weather the political uprising, the strength and loyalty of the armed forces and the availability of a pliable replacement. The risk of waiting too long, of sticking with the dictator, is that the uprising radicalizes: the ensuing change sweeps away both the regime and the state apparatus, turning a political uprising into a social revolution. Just such a `miscalculation' occurred in 1959 in the run-up to the Cuban revolution, when Washing stood by Batista and was not able to present a viable pro US alternative coalition linked to the old state apparatus. A similar miscalculation occurred in Nicaragua, when President Carter, while criticizing Somoza, stayed the course, and stood passively by as the regime was overthrown and the revolutionary forces destroyed the US and Israeli trained military, secret police and intelligence apparatus, and went on to nationalize US property and develop an independent foreign policy.

Washington moved with greater initiative, in Latin America in the 1980's.It promoted negotiated electoral transitions which replaced dictators with pliable neo-liberal electoral politicians, who pledged to preserve the existing state apparatus, defend the privileged foreign and domestic elites and back US regional and international policies.

So that's the background. And we're supposed to believe that suddenly the NYT and almost every other media outlet of note have simultaneously discovered an ageing intellectual who just happened to write some books that just happened to find their way to the revolutionaries and just happened to inspire them towards an irresistibly non-violent rush to democracy?

And who is paying for this?

On February 9, Al Jazeera aired an episode in its People and Power series entitled "Egypt: Seeds of Change." The programme offers a revealing behind the scenes look at a core group of activists from the April 6 Youth Movement who played a crucial role in Egypt's nonviolent revolution.

"This is not a spontaneous uprising," reporter Elizabeth Jones stressed. "The revolution has been in the making for three years." The key to its success, we learn, was the instruction April 6 leaders received from veterans of groups like Otpor, the student movement that brought down Serbian president Slododan Milosevic.

Srdja Popovic, a leader of that revolution, we are told, "shared his firsthand experience with April 6." Mohamed Adel, one of the April 6 leaders, describes his training in Serbia in the tactics of nonviolent resistance, including "how to organise and get people out on the streets." He brought back videos and teaching aids to help train the other leaders, who are shown "directing the uprising from the start."

Since the ouster of Milosevic in 2000, Popovic has been busy spreading the gospel of nonviolent warfare. In 2003, he founded the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in Belgrade. By spring 2010, the globe-trotting Serb reportedly had "five revolutions already under his belt." In a Mother Jones puff piece, Nicholas Schmidle writes: "CANVAS got off to an impressive start, training the pro-democracy campaigners in Georgia, Ukraine, and Lebanon who went on to lead the Rose, Orange, and Cedar revolutions, respectively."

But who funds it all? Schmidle, a fellow at the Soros-linked New America Foundation, cites Popovic: "CANVAS is '100 percent independent from any government' and funded entirely by private donors." Yet an LA Times profile of Nini Gogiberidze, a Georgian employee of CANVAS, says the group is funded in part by the near-governmental organisation Freedom House. "Gogiberidze," the Times adds, "is among Georgia's 'velvet' revolutionaries, a group of Western and local activists who make up a robust pro-democracy corps in this Caucasus country--so much of it funded by American philanthropist George Soros that one analyst calls the nation Sorosistan."

CANVAS works closely with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), with which it has shared a number of staff members--including Dr. Stephen Zunes, who has collaborated with CANVAS in training Egyptian activists. Founded in 2002, the ICNC is funded entirely by Peter Ackerman, its founding chair. Ackerman, who chaired the board of Freedom House from September 2005 until January 2009, also indirectly funds CANVAS.

Ackerman's wealth derives mainly from his time at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the Wall Street investment bank that was forced into bankruptcy in February 1990 due to its involvement in illegal activities in the junk bond market. As special projects aide to junk bond king Michael Milken, Ackerman cleaned up. In 1988 alone, he took home a salary of $165 million for his critical role in financing Kohlberg Kravis Roberts's $26 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. But four months before Drexel collapsed into bankruptcy, Ackerman "beat a fortuitously timed retreat" to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. While the "king" was sentenced to 10 years for securities fraud, "the highest-paid of all of Michael R. Milken's minions" emerged as "the big winner" with a fortune of approximately $500 million--prompting one of his former colleagues to complain: "Peter Ackerman is a real Teflon guy."

Having successfully escaped "the stench of Drexel," Ackerman completed what BusinessWeek called "an improbable transformation from junk-bond promoter back to scholar." Prior to his financial exploits, he had written his doctoral thesis under the guidance of Gene Sharp, the Harvard academic whose theories of nonviolent struggle had inspired the velvet revolutionaries. In fact, while he was still working for Milken, Ackerman had been funding Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution. According to the Wall Street Journal, "A large part of ICNC's and Canvas's theoretical arsenal is drawn from Mr. Sharp's writings."

As part of his own contribution to worldwide revolution, Ackerman has helped produce two documentaries on nonviolent conflict and even a regime change video game.

So at the very least the home-grown revolution turns into a deliberately trained one.

But it's deliberately trained in non-violent conflict - as opposed to the more explosive conflict which might lead to social transformation.

This isn't a difficult jigsaw to piece together.

As for the NYT - if it hadn't been quite so obvious in its praise of Sharp, I doubt anyone would have noticed. As it was, from a PR point of view, when you see the same point of view being repeated from multiple sources during a period of heightened emotion you can be damn sure you're being gamed.

Because that's pretty much the textbook definition of a PR campaign. We're not talking about one little story in an obscure journal - we're talking about significant air time for this modest, hitherto undiscovered meek intellectual who just happens not to mention that a former military operative was president of his institute, and that he's funded by an apparently frictionless investment banker who spent significant time at the very non-violent International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Goodness me - what interesting company Mr Sharp keeps.

Meanwhile we still don't know why and how the Muslim Brotherhood were reading Sharp. Supposedly they just happened to find his work online - which is a fine story, and is perfectly believable if you ignore the obvious support efforts the US has been making for the last few years.

(Is the story even true? Where was it sourced originally?)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 09:52:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent post!

I had completely forgotten about Soros and his links to "revolutions" which ended up installing American and in the case of Georgia, Israeli puppets in the name of "democracy".

Also, your research is excellent!

Well done!

by stevesim on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 10:06:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But who would be the target of this campaign? If we were talking about ElBaradei or the Google guy then I'd see the point of a hype campaign, but what is the nefarious plot behind claiming that some of the protesters read some book by an American?
I'd rather suspect that the western press is desperate to write about the Egyptian revolution without knowing much about it. They are just happy to find anything that seems relevant.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 10:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in my opinion, it's to deflect the anger of the Egyptian people at Americans for repressing them for so long in order to maintain the peace with Israel, i.e. to make Americans look like good guys and not the self-serving repressive SOB's we are.
by stevesim on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 11:20:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's a ham-fisted attempt at that, but also - since most US foreign policy is for domestic consumption - to wave the "hey, we're the good guys!' flag at home.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pretend that after 50 years of instituting and supporting some of the most odious, violent and repressive regimes on the planet that the US has any interest at all in peace or democracy.

Clearly, it has none at all. But it's very useful to pretend that it does.

Now that Sharp has been identified as the - reluctant - saviour of Egyptian democracy, no one needs to ask who sponsored Mubarak, who trained his secret police, who supplied military aid, or who kept the country impoverished in the first place.

For many avid readers, the narrative is now full of hope that the rioting African savages can be civilised into modernity after all - but only when gently guided by the wise and mature counsel of a more serious and established intellectual tradition.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 12:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh of course, referring to this one guy is all a cunning capitalist plot to excuse the US government's support for dictators for decades. What rubbish.

It was young Egyptians who mentioned him:

When Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement was struggling to recover from a failed effort in 2005, its leaders tossed around "crazy ideas" about bringing down the government, said Ahmed Maher, a leading strategist. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp while examining the Serbian movement Otpor, which he had influenced.
...

Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist ... said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp's work into Arabic, and that his message of "attacking weaknesses of dictators" stuck with them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17sharp.html

The fact that some of them said they found some of his ideas useful hardly makes him a "saviour of Egyptian democracy" - except in your cartoon world. Another NYT article makes it clear that the organisers were bright, informed people who used net skills to help organise things, but they themselves pay tribute to the majority who risked their lives:


"When I looked around me and I saw all these unfamiliar faces in the protests, and they were more brave than us -- I knew that this was it for the regime," Mr. Maher said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/middleeast/14egypt-tunisia-protests.html

And some already had experience of confronting police:

"The youth of the Muslim Brotherhood played a really big role," Mr. Maher said. "But actually so did the soccer fans" of Egypt's two leading teams. "These are always used to having confrontations with police at the stadiums," he said.

ibid

Also noted is Egyptian pride in their own level of civilisation:

"Eighty-five million people live in Egypt, and less than 1,000 people died in this revolution -- most of them killed by the police," said Mr. Ghonim, the Google executive. "It shows how civilized the Egyptian people are." He added, "Now our nightmare is over. Now it is time to dream."

ibid

Not quite the caricature you try to pass off.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 02:05:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is this like Thomas Friedman's quoting of a taxi driver?
by stevesim on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 02:10:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that supposed to be an intelligent response ?

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 02:27:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ah, the ad hominem attacks commence!

yes, how do I know this woman exists and that the NYT is telling the truth about what she said?

they've lied before and are not above inventing comments from people to support their stories, à la Tom Friedman.

you dismissed my source, and I have a very valid argument to dismiss yours.

by stevesim on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 02:37:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Couldn't you do some elementary checking for yourself - try using Google (if that's not too "white man" for you):

http://daliaziada.blogspot.com/

The NYT is at least not stupid enough to just invent Egyptians and comments by them which could be revealed as inventions.

I didn't just dismiss your source, I showed where he had got things wrong - stupid of him since it's easy to check what the NYT did actually say.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 02:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wow.  you are really on a roll.

they are stupid enough to invent people.  they have done it before.  

by stevesim on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 03:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I think ONE of their reporters was stupid enough to do this, and so was fired.  The fact remains that you could have checked one of the named bloggers and had you done so you'd see she exists.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 03:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This isn't about the NYT, it's about whether or not the US is capable of, and interested in, running a PR campaign to promote its interests.

Who is supposed to be denying that the US is capable running a PR campaign to support it's interests? Nobody here I think.  We were discussing allegations against Gene Sharp after the NYT report.

The rest is is worthy of McCarthy, guilt by association: "Goodness me - what interesting company Mr Sharp keeps."

"who just happens not to mention that a former military operative was president of his institute"

1) that's false, of course Sharp has "mentioned" him:

Sharp's ties to Helvey raise one more important point. Perhaps, if the major proponent of Sharp's work had been an impeccably credentialed lefty rather than a former military man, Sharp's harshest critics wouldn't find him quite so spooky. But his collaboration with Helvey bolsters Sharp's own contention that nonviolent struggle isn't just a feel-good hobby for idealists and pacifists (he's not one himself). It is, instead, an intensely practical way to affect massive political change. "You don't have to be a saint; you don't have to be a mahatma," he tells me. "Ordinary people have done these things."

http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/52417-dictator-slayer/

2) The guy beaten up while peacefully demonstrating at a speech by Clinton the other day is also a "former military operative" and even a CIA analyst, but is now part of Veterans for Peace - clearly must still be a covert CIA guy.

These allegations about Sharp ignore his bio, more telling than Angry Arab's academic record:

 the portrayal of Sharp as a crypto-imperialist just doesn't jibe with his own biography. After getting bachelor's and master's degrees from Ohio State, for example, he refused to serve in the Korean War, and did a prison stint in Connecticut as a result. After getting out, he spent a year and a half as an assistant to A.J. Muste, the pacifist labor and anti-war activist. And, notes USF's Zunes, a number of former Sharp protégés have become vocal critics of America's conduct abroad. "If it weren't for the fact that some people actually believe it," says Zunes of the notion that Sharp is a surrogate for the US government, "it'd be laughable."

ibid

It also ignores the open letter rejecting such allegations against Sharp, signed by such long-time and respected anti-imperialists as Chomsky and Zinn:


A charge made against Sharp by the Iranian government and Hugo Chavez--and echoed by some in this country--is that he acts in cahoots with U.S. officialdom in subverting anti-American governments. This is absurd, since Sharp's work has played a significant role in movements against Israel and Mubarak's Egypt, the two most pro-American countries in the Middle East.

"Rather than being a tool of imperialism, Dr. Sharp's research and writings have inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, human rights, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world," stated a 2008 open letter signed by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, among many others.

Gene Sharp is a global treasure who deserves much more recognition here at home.

Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine

http://www.progressive.org/ap021711.html

 



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 11:38:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
This isn't about the NYT, it's about whether or not the US is capable of, and interested in, running a PR campaign to promote its interests.

Shifting goalposts, some. My comments were clearly about the value of sources and our attitude to them, so, sorry, but for me it was about the NYT. (Or the Angry Arab or any other source). And you don't need to convert me on American PR. Or the NYT's role in it.

I did ask you to support your claim that the NYT wrote "any old nonsense" about Sharp, so thanks for providing some backing. I'm not sure it's conclusive, (there seem to be counter-arguments), but then, I'm not in this discussion to attack or defend Gene Sharp, rather to insist on standards we usually apply round here.

afew:

reports or opinions we are looking at should be judged on their merits. What we know of the source and how seriously we take it obviously enters into that judgement. But blanket dismissal or blanket approval shouldn't.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 21st, 2011 at 12:07:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering that you've just dismissed all my sources your point is - what, exactly?

And no, this is not about the NYT as a paper - this is about the NYT is being used (again) to craft a useful but misleading narrative.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 03:04:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have dismissed all your sources? What are you on about?

And what I was saying, to which you replied, was about the NYT as a source, whether you like it or not.

My point is perfectly clear. Just read.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 03:13:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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