....LMB: "We [Heart] "Democracy""....

November 07, 2003

A number of blogosphere folks have made mention of Bush's recent speech about democratizing the Middle East. He gave the speech at a gathering commemorating the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy. I'll comment on the speech in a minute, but first let's look at the NED.

Near as I can figure, the NED is a "non-governmental" organization that is completely funded by the U.S. government, yet is not accountable to the government or taxpayers. This money is used to fund political actors in other countries, usually U.S.- and business-friendly political parties, candidates, and labor unions. Who says this? American subversion chronicler William Blum and a Republican Congressman from Texas.

So Bush makes his remarks upon an American committment to Middle Eastern democracy on the anniversary of an organization that meddles in foreign political affairs for U.S. advantage. Sounds... shady.

Bush's speech itself is hard to analyze because it is almost 100% airy rhetoric. He doesn't go more than three words before peppering a sentence with "democracy", "liberty", or "freedom". Given that many U.S. politicians will use "democracy" to refer to regimes who's only democratic institutions are farcical elections, and "freedom" to mean "the ability for foreign investors to extract profit", it's hard to know where to even begin analysis and criticism. Suffice it to say that American politicians know that the American public (and indeed much of the world) hold these concepts in high esteem, and mouthing their corresponding syllables is a good way to sway public opinion to your side, truth or accuracy be damned.

The concrete core of Bush's speech basically calls upon Americans to commit themselves to a decades-long project to bring "democracy" and "freedom" to the Middle East. This is the benevolent face of neoconservative foreign policy, to transform the entire region into U.S.-friendly free markets with nominal democractic features. I can completely support the goal of Middle Eastern democracy, but trust the Bush administration's goals, motives and and strategies about as far as I can throw the White House. This is a problem I run up to again and again regarding Bush policy, that I can agree with their publicly stated goal, but I think that this goal is just a facade to cover up plans to dominate by force for the benefit of the few.

The current lack of democracy in U.S.-occupied Iraq should be a warning sign to the Bush democratization rhetoric. And if that doesn't do it, the decades of U.S. support for Middle Eastern dictatorships (continuing even as we speak) should be like a big shrieking neon warning sign.

Our friend Billmon strains out the most ironic bits out of the speech, the most amazing being this one:

They [successful societies] prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people.

[insert your own snide retort here]

And how did the Arab world respond to this speech?

Bush democracy call draws scorn

Indignant Arabs Say Bush Democracy Speech a Sham

I haven't seen any articles about American response to the speech but I imagine they'd have headlines like "Americans Don't Give a Damn" and "Americans Wish Middle East Would Just Go Away".

Posted by Jake at 10:50 PM | TrackBack (0)

Hmmm...All this talk about democratizing the Middle East...How about opposing all interference into their affairs whether it's the neocon thuggery or the liberal "Let's have the UN involved, so everyone can benefit from imperialism." Any democracy would have to be on the Middle Easterners terms. Pretty much all the rhetoric I hear from politicians, media, etc. involved some sort of meddling.

Posted by: Eric at November 7, 2003 11:44 PM

i care but feel helpless and cannot bear to listen to him or even read the bullshit - rhetoric that comes out of his mouth. so thank you for doing that. i tried to read it, really, but. you express my beliefs quite well. though i would hope to know that democracy is what the middle eastern people want, i don't doubt it probably is. what gw is up to is not about that.

Posted by: barbara at November 8, 2003 03:05 AM

The LA Times did a report about the speech, with a picture of some Arabs in front of a McDonald's. Does Democracy come in a value meal? Can you supersize it? I just find it somehow suspicious that when we take over Iraq in the name of freedom and democracy that a new Burger King opens up over there.

Posted by: Juanito Dolanksi at November 8, 2003 12:47 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

Posted by Jake at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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