Eurocentrism as Terrorism

The War on Terror has been raging since the hegemony of the West was first challenged, says Saswat Pattanayak.

By Saswat Pattanayak

Let’s not romanticize terrorism. Terrorists blew up Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Terrorists organized the White Army to kill over 3 million Russians. Terrorists funded the Nazis and the Fascists, killing nearly 12 million Jews and Communists. Terrorists killed nearly 3 million Koreans in an anticommunist war. Terrorists killed 2 million Vietnamese, half a million Cambodians and Laotians in the name of Cold War. Terrorists killed nearly 200,000 Algerians whom the French colonized. Terrorists infiltrated into Greece and colonized Philippines. Terrorists disrupted lives in Albania and Iran. Terrorists flew into Guatemala and killed Syrians and Costa Ricans. Terrorists targeted Indonesia and Haiti and Ecuador. Terrorists colonized and killed over 8 million people of Congo under Belgian kings. Terrorists introduced death squads in Brazil and went on a rampage in Peru and Dominican Republic. Terrorists threatened Ghana and tortured working poor of Uruguay and killed Che Guevara in Bolivia. Terrorists funded Pinochet in Chile and invaded Grenada. Angola, Zaire, Jamaica, Seychelles, Morocco, Suriname, Nicaragua, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador – terrorists imported their dreaded forms of democracy through murders, rapes and territorial invasions.

All these terrorists have had one religion – Christianity. All of them have had one civilization – Western. All of these terrorists have been upholders of one ideology – Eurocentric colonialism. And they have one common claim – that, they have been fighting terrorism and civilizing the savages, one Thanksgiving at a time.

The so-called “War on Terror” has been going on ever since slavery was challenged by African freedom fighters, feudalism was challenged by the Russian communists, and colonialism was challenged by the nationalists of the Global South. In the latest instance, the War on Terror is a series of targeted attacks on the Arab countries and allies that currently challenge the unipolarity of NATO powers.

Žižek and the spectre of Western Values:

The renewed “war on terror” in the wake of Paris attacks is merely a continuation of the moral argument that the Eurocentric colonialists need to protect the cultural purity of western civilization. Slavoj Žižek’s latest argument decrying the refugees that are threatening the fabrics of “radical western roots” through attacks on the soil of western lands is an intelligent summation of racist justification for colonialism; a nostalgic tribute to the “good old days” when France used to be an apostle of “liberty, equality, fraternity” while it enjoyed brutalizing its colonies (Algeria, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Tahiti, China, Lebanon, Syria).

Advocates of Eurocentrism have not only deemed themselves superior on basis of “Western values” which Žižek pays rich tributes to in his latest essay, they also preempt the possible conjecture, if not an informed critique, that a response/retaliation may be warranted. Take the case of “pitiless” actions of France in Syria, the day after Paris attacks – 10 aircraft dropped 30 bombs hitting among other things, a soccer stadium, a museum and medical facilities and destroying electricity facilities affecting 200,000 people. Most likely, the human casualties in Syria in coming months will not even be counted, let alone mourned.

Just as there were no European tears shed following deaths of 26 in Iraq the very day Paris was attacked. Or, over the killing of 43 in Lebanon the day before, over the deaths of 66 in Pakistan, and of 56 Palestinians, last month. 300,000 have died following the NATO’s “War on Terror” in Syria. Over 4 million Muslims have died world over in the process of reclaiming Western values of liberty and democracy. And there have been no civilized grief over these.

In fact, quite the contrary. Defense expenditures among NATO nations are on an increase. If the United States as leader of the rogue nations spends $1,891 per capita on defence, the allegedly peacenik Norway is not far behind with $1,328 per capita in funding the war on terror. They are able to persist with such military spendings against the interest of working class in those countries, precisely by employing a moral parameter that defines terrorism as the act conducted by the people of Global South, by people not practicing Judeo-Christian faiths.

Scholars like Žižek and Richard Dawkins take pride in rational views, as enlightened Europeans who are clearly not conservative rightwingers. But while at it, they consistently depict the roots of Western civilization to be categorically progressive and advanced. In many ways, they conveniently overlook the subtle contradictions in their preferred narrative by overtly attacking the regressive elements, that are more obvious. A case in point is the way Dawkins refused to acknowledge the slave-owning heritage of his family estate, while attacking Islam as a religion that has produced no Nobel laureates. Likewise, Žižek refuses to attribute centuries of racist wars and genocides to European onslaughts, while riding high on the allegedly “Western legacy” of “egalitarianism and personal freedoms”.

Fanon and the Wretched:

What is the Western legacy that Žižek and Dawkins take pride in? What is this Europe if not a region built upon the sweat and blood of the Third World? As Frantz Fanon wrote on the Violence in the International Context, “Moral reparation for national independence does not fool us and it doesn’t feed us. The wealth of the imperialist nations is also our wealth…Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The riches which are choking it are those plundered from the underdeveloped peoples. The ports of Holland, the docks in Bordeaux and Liverpool owe their importance to the trade and deportation of millions of slaves…..Colonialism and imperialism have not settled their debt to us once they have withdrawn their flag and their police force from our territories. For centuries the capitalists have behaved like real war criminals in the underdeveloped world. Deportation, massacres, forced labor, and slavery were the primary methods used by capitalism to increase its gold and diamond reserves, and establish its wealth and power.”

Fanon is right. Contrary to what Žižek claims, egalitarianism and personal freedoms do not comprise western legacy – their suppression in the name of colonialism is. One cannot rule over and plunder another country for decades if not centuries, and then blame the “backwardness” on the ruled subjects. Has Žižek analyzed the role of French colonialism in treating Algerians and Syrians as little more than animals and forcing them to be refugees in their own lands before equating the issue of terrorism with the issue of “refugee crisis”?

Žižek squarely blames the victims while ridiculing the “anti-Islamophobia” in the following words, “Multiculturalist or anti-colonialist’s defense of different “ways of life” is false. Such defenses cover up the antagonisms within each of these particular ways of life by justifying acts of brutality, sexism and racism as expressions of a particular way of life that we have no right to measure with foreign, i.e. Western values.”

A scholar of Žižek’s repute can indulge in some more word games to create a dialectic therein, but the above postulation as a normative already exists in the mainstream. He merely fuels it by using it as a proposition, no matter what conclusion he derives at the end. For instance, it is already a widespread belief, thanks to the new-age atheists, that Islamic believers are intolerant brutes. This analysis based on Charlie Hebdo shooting is Islamophobic precisely because it does not take into account the hostile pattern in France towards Muslims as a historically gruesome reality. Hebdo incident was a reaction, not an initiation. The denial of Paris massacre of 1961 was for decades not considered an act of Christian terrorism. But come Hebdo, and it was suddenly Islamic terrorism. So much so that 54 people who exercised their free speech rights to defend the attack on Charlie Hebdo were arrested as “apologists for terrorism”.

In India too, we now witness branding of Mani Shankar Iyer, Salman Khurshid, Azam Khan and Shakeel Ahmad as apologists for terrorism, simply for failing to parrot the grand Eurocentric narrative that demands unconditional regrets over acts of terrorists of a specific faith – Islam. Not only one needs to condemn “Islamic terrorism” (Iyer has been criticized for being anti-Islamophobia instead of simply calling Paris attacks as terrorism), but in case of Ahmad’s tweet, one cannot bring in religion into picture to depict a terrorist who is a non-Muslim (Chhota Rajan as a Hindu terrorist is inadmissible because the “Hindu terrorism” is still a misnomer in India, just as “Christian terrorism” finds no usage in Europe/US).

Violence: Whose Prerogative?

As a lazy researcher, Žižek repeats the charges of “brutality, sexism and racism” against the anti-Islamophobes. A closer look at the global situation would reveal that these very features are tools of oppression for the ruling elites precisely everywhere in the world. Žižek does admit to the anti-immigrant racists in power while conceding slightly – but where he fails to discern the all-important distinction is the necessary Marxist critique that is completely absent in his analysis. Who gains from these weapons and who suffers? Islamophobia has been claiming lives world over, just as Eurocentric colonialism had been. Racism/sexism/brutality as state policies are radically different consequential tools compared to those as reactionary mechanisms with the subjects. Anti-colonialism which Žižek mocks, is not an ideology created to profit those who are suffering due to NATO’s Eurocentrism. It is a necessary tool to oppose all too-familiar colonial aggression about which both Fanon and Sarte have extensively written. But it is in no way a shield to protect values of brutality, sexism and racism – whose primary manufacturers and sustainers as such happen to be the former colonial masters.

What are the wars, whether “world war”, “cold war”, or “war on terror” – if not a front to prove who is the bigger champion of brutality, sexism and racism? Imperialist wars in the name of “war on terror” have been notorious in usage of tortures and brutality – sleep deprivation and waterboarding of prisoners; they have wrought nothing if not rapes of women as prized captures, and have achieved nothing if not ethnic cleansing. The “Torture Memos” advising the CIA to use enhanced interrogation techniques that are otherwise illegal, but are permissible under the pretext of “War on Terror” are revealing in this regard. Let alone, “Western values”, where is humanity in all of this?

Selective Humanity

Was any humanity there when Paris attacks happened? This has an expected answer: of course not, because no matter how ghastly the past maybe, nothing can justify the killing of innocent people who are watching a rock concert. However, this type of feel-good assertions are deeply problematic, in that they assume that violence of any sort is just immoral – when it occurs in France or in the United States. When Facebook activated a “Safety Check” button for folks who have relatives in France, to the exclusion of similar buttons for relatives of victims of terrorist attacks in Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq or Yemen, then there is something else to the “humanity” question that we subconsciously overlook.

It points directly to the dehumanization of black and brown people. While flags of many countries went half-mast in many countries to honor those who lost lives in France, and many monuments lit up with colors of French flags, there was no such display of official mournings by these countries when terrorist attacks were occurring in countries like Pakistan and Palestine and Lebanon. What explains this is a climate of extreme racism amidst media and their consumers in the world today, which in turn remains entirely Eurocentric. And this invalidates Žižek’s longing for the missing Eurocentric values. Indeed, the Eurocentric values themselves are central to this crisis, not alien.

The Eurocentric tears are in the backdrop of a denial that the countries worst affected by terror attacks are indeed Muslim countries themselves. According to Global Terrorism Index (GTI), in 2014, 82% of those killed in terror attacks were in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. And ever since the “War on Terror” has been launched, the number of deaths from terrorism has in fact increased five-fold: from 3,361 deaths in 2000 to 17,958 in 2013.

Not only NATO member-states have suffered the least from terror attacks so far, more importantly, they have enabled terror organizations through direct funding and military assistance to “rebels” who have subsequently grown beyond their intended purpose (if at all). If Taliban was enabled by Reagan administration to destabilize the secular fabric of Afghanistan in an effort to contain the Soviets, and Al-Qaeda was funded to destroy Libya’s stability under Obama, it was Bush and subsequently Obama administration which were also responsible for funding the hate that produced ISIS at the first place. Thus far, these outfits have been causing significantly more havoc among the Islamic societies than in the NATO countries. It is to the credit of the Islamic countries that they are not only bravely fighting these terrorists who have been emboldened via foreign fundings, but these societies are also retaining a calm that is infinitely more surprising than it is praiseworthy.

The video clips of women and children on the streets of Baghdad beating their chests and cursing the aerial bombardments in search of the mysterious WMDs are not isolated ones. The Abu Gharib torture and Guantanamo Bay abuses are part and parcel of inhuman foreign policies instituted and indeed continued to this day by the NATO member states, principally led by the United States. To assume that there will be retaliations on part of those we have “othered”, is infinitely more prophetic, than it can ever be justified.

Glorification: Gun, bombs and violence

Gandhi did remind us once: “an eye for an eye only ends up making the world world blind”. And he was right. We are headed that way. But if we must take shelter in Gandhian ideals, then we should be in a position to condemn violence in all its manifestations. It is wrong when people take up arms and aimlessly shoot others. And it is all the more evil when the state uses military force to strategically eliminate innocent people of foreign lands under the pretext of killing a select few terrorists. Violence needs to be treated as bad each time one violates the principle of non-violence. One cannot endorse political parties that retaliate swiftly with drones and indiscriminate shootings and then blame a handful of terrorists for what was coming. One cannot remain indifferent when people are bombed to deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Libya and then get all teary-eyed at Paris shootings.

ISIS has spared none and has been criticized by all sections and people across all religions. Precisely due to this then it is like the inspector who called in; the conscience gone wrong, horribly wrong. ISIS aside, the deaths of innocent beings in Paris still must be looked within the prism of manifestation of reactions. Waterboarding and torture tactics done by NATO folks are equally evil, more so, because they are carried out in the name of taxpayers. As citizens, we partake in the glorification of militarist exhibitionisms. Our violent-prone culture is such that the decorated war hero of Indian origin in Canada is actually being applauded for being a “badass” defence minister because some reports suggest he is expert at torturing enemies. One Putin meme is circulated widely because it shows Putin saying he can send the terrorists to the God. Killing of human lives whether through capital punishment or via cop “encounters” are cheered by enthused citizenry. Indeed, the foremost patriotic song of India that make us emotional has these lines, “Thi khun se lath path kaaya, phir bhee banduk uthaake // Das das ko ek ne maara, phir gir gaye hosh ganvaake”.

Gandhian/Buddhist/Christian values do not distinguish between people as they do between values. What sort of violent world we are building up for the future generations depend on our endorsements of terror tactics or opposition to them, regardless of who is the perpetrator. As long as we use guns and bombs and drones as tools to resolve crisis, both the state and non-state agencies will take the cues and up their games in the contests within the ambit of conventional warfare/terrorism. When police officers can be awarded in India with medals who torture and sexually abuse women prisoners like Soni Sori, then we have a real lack of humane values. Against the backdrop of violence and flaunting of “license to kill”, from Singham to James Bond, our popular culture overflows with justifications for gory violence to end all ills.

A few months ago, one of my articles opposing death penalty for Yakub Memon had invited the wrath of the lynch mob, one member of whom publicly stated on a Facebook page that I should be handed over to the RAW for torturous interrogation so that I can confess to my ties with terrorist groups of Pakistan. The audacity to make such serious remarks in such casual fashion points to the level of normalization in ourselves regarding the acceptance of terror tactics, and any tool of violence as a legitimate measure to win even an argument.

Unsurprisingly and not entirely unrelated to the issue of terrorism in civilized lands, the gun violence in United States does demand special attention. In this year alone, from gun violence, 11,696 have dies so far, and 23,787 have suffered injuries. There have been 293 incidents of mass shootings within last ten months. 627 children (age 0-11) and 2,329 teenagers (age 12-17) have lost their lives so far. Violence has become not just commonplace, but also the preferred method to reach a resolution.

However, not all violences are condemned and therefore gun violence is not taken as seriously within the United States. That is because, unfortunately in the current world, which of the mass shootings are acts of terrorism indeed depends on the religion of the perpetrator than on the nature of shooting. And the spiraling silence around this prejudice, while pitiless responses await innocent civilians outside the zone of NATO member states, should have been disturbing us even all the more. Alas, thanks to an Eurocentric world, we still need an imperialist narrative to define what should be considered to be terrorizing us today.

(Written for Kindle Magazine)

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Assange: Myths, Hypes and Truths

“All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.” (I. F. Stone)

In many ways, Julian Assange is the “Izzy” of new journalism. Like Stone, Assange has not flinched from sharing uncomfortable truths that can embolden the people to fight the power. Stone used to prove why reporters were not supposed to be glorified stenographers; Assange likewise demonstrates how journalists are not meant to be subsumed under patriotic obligations. And like Izzy Stone, since Assange knows the hashish whereabouts, he must meet the shared fate: just as the former was decried as the unAmerican scribe spying for the Soviets, Assange must gracefully accept his disrepute, of being the principal abuser of the Western espionage principles.

The need to analyze Assange vis-a-vis Stone is to pose at least two critical questions. First, are these instances of two brilliant minds serving public causes that of the journalists-turned-spies; or must journalists fundamentally emerge as spies in order to serve the public well? Secondly, are the news not in what is transmitted, but in what is hidden, as the WikiLeaks experience so cleverly substantiates?

“The Harm That Good Men Do”:

Bertrand Russell in his essay by the above title suggested that while good folks attend church regularly, trust the authorities to safeguard the society against the rebels, encourage patriotism and military training; the bad ones skip rituals, hold subversive opinions, and think that to desire peace is to prepare for peace, and not for war. The bad ones maintain “that what is called ‘wrong thinking’ is simply thinking, and what is called ‘right thinking’ is repeating words like a parrot.”

In the sense that journalists are supposed to think, and not to parrot; that they are meant to represent the oppressed and not the elites; that they are to champion the causes of the people for peace and liberty, and not that of the whims of ruling estates to conceal and deceive; journalists are condemned to be the bad people. They cannot help but be bad. Be bad to the ruling structures comprising well-mannered diplomats, bad to the religious preachers and the moralist police, to the smooth politicians and their criminal cronies. Journalists better be as bad as Julian Assange if they must not forget the basic canons: to investigate for objectivity and truth.

Assange and WikiLeaks were always in the quest to investigate. And as part of their journalistic calls, neither soaked in advertising revenues nor submitted to corporate hierarchies, and they never forgot what reporting was all about. As journalists on behalf of the underdogs, they planned to unravel the privileged secrets, and to emerge as the conscientious objectors to the traditions of militarism.

Contrary to widespread claims, there was no news in the headlines they leaked. Yemen’s collaborations with the US were already reported in December 2009 by Barbara Starr in CNN. Iraqi civilian deaths exceeding 150,000 were already reported by Deborah Haynes of The Sunday Times in January 2008. News about “Extraordinary Rendition” by the United States were in the public domain since early 2005. Julian Borger of The Guardian had already reported about the American sanctioning of torture during April 2004. Most of the findings by Assange were already in the print long before his website released the cables. So, what exactly distinguished Assange from the rest of the journalists?

To grasp the breadth of Assange’s activism, it is necessary to go beyond WikiLeaks. It is his lesser known social manifesto that describes his methods, and more importantly, his purposes. For him, investigative journalism as a method is not to interview state secretaries and attend the White House press meets. Because his purpose is not to report to the friendly corporate press about skepticisms and sensational bafflements surrounding individual presidents dazzling their masses with “will he, won’t he” acts of diplomatic overtures. Assange’s motive is to dismantle the present global superstructure, to destroy the invisible governments, to question and uproot the very foundations of the so-called free society of the western world. His purpose is not to produce reports that aim for a Pulitzer Prize or two, and certainly not to syndicate overpaid columns with exclusive contracts as a televised expert on fancy CNN and Fox channels.

Assange’s purpose is to record the scale of injustice and to challenge its fundamental roots: “Everytime we witness an act that we feel to be unjust and do not act we become a party to injustice. Those who are repeatedly passive in the face of injustice soon find their character corroded into servility. Most witnessed acts of injustice are associated with bad governance, since when governance is good, unanswered injustice is rare. By the progressive diminution of a people’s character, the impact of reported, but unanswered injustice is far greater than it may initially seem. Modern communications states through their scale, homogeneity and excesses provide their populace with an unprecedented deluge of witnessed, but seemingly unanswerable injustices.”

Status Quo Rhetoric: Why Iconized Assange Must Be Demonized

In the prioritized rush to judge Assange on official charges ranging from espionage to sexual abuse, the privileged minority across North America and Europe, which boasts of nationalist prides at war conquests has been wishing for the ruling class status-quo to prosper. It is Assange that must be purged, the minority is growing convinced, for in his victory lies the death of the western democracy. In his vindication is the demise of collective faith in revered institutions of politics and law.

No wonder then Sen. Joe Liberman says WikiLeaks has violated the Espionage Act and Democrat Bob Beckel who has previously worked with such pro-peace statesmen as Robert F Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter demands murder of Assange (“A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”). Sarah Palin claims Assange has blood on his hands. Politicians across the parties in America want him finished. Quite predictably, they are as myopic in understanding of war as an instrument of foreign policy as they are in assuming that in eliminating Assange, they would have eliminated the power of information in the age of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks is the Che Guevara of our times. In its death, the icon inspires more. For most people in the world, WikiLeaks continues to remain blocked, restricted and censored. And yet, never before in the world history have so many people come together to express great solidarity with a single entity, a virtually arrested weapon and a grand topical philosophy. Like never before, the most powerful imperialists of the world and the militarist nations they represent have united together merely to shoot down one person on a mission.

Like Che, Assange has a grand vision for the humanity. His is not a protest against a single president or a party. Contrary to popular media claims, Assange is not pitting himself against American power or venting his anti-Americanism. Indeed, he is as hated by the European ruling classes as by the American counterparts. And if his leaks are to be thoroughly analyzed he is likely to be hated by leaders world over. Assange stands for more than what he stands against. He calls for revolutionary shifts in power structure. His tools are the new media. His potential recruits are just about anyone who believes in free flow of information, irrespective of national identities.

Thus, Assange thunders in an essay he wrote for his personal blog, “To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly, for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not.”

Assange’s Canons of Politics and Media: Redefinitions or Reminders?

Assange demands the use of available technologies to dismantle the status quo with an aim for social justice to prevail in this rather unequal world order. What sets him apart from the compromised journalists in corporate boardrooms today is his commitment to the cause of social revolutions and his theorizations of those using available expertise: “The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie…Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance. Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.”

Indeed as history clearly corroborates, terrible tragedies have been carried out because secrets were maintained by the respective territories. Wars are invariably reinforced with secretive agendas. Inversely, no secrecy always implies no wars. To this extent, WikiLeaks has emerged as a paragon of global peace. The consolidated attacks on WikiLeaks and what it stands for should not come as a surprise, because for the power elites of the world, war is the primary source of political sustenance.

However, it is not sufficient to condemn war. It is critical to expose the manners and ways of those that we trust who then lead us into wars. It is not sufficient to report about speculations and official denials as the conventional journalists have been doing for years now. It is pivotal to supply the audience with the authentic documents and unfiltered communications so that people can make sense of their representatives. In the old societies where segregation and lynching, colonialism and slavery were the norms, the ruling class defined the need for certain documents to remain “classified” and “top secret”. In the new world we wish to materialize, our enslaved mentalities no longer should resurface to limit imaginations when it comes to ensure international peace and human dignity.

World leaderships claim that Assange has broken the laws. That might be. Perhaps it is time to reassess these laws. John F Kennedy has been immortalized for claiming that people should ask what they can do for the country. Perhaps it is time to ask instead what the country can do for the people. No country that glories itself through dirty military secrets is worth celebrations, let alone defense. WikiLeaks cables even expose the communal nature of the Hindu-ized Indian military handbooks. In the past, military conducts, secret propaganda handbooks and unaudited budgets were the holy cow topics for journalists, and mediapersons in India were routinely being “trained” by defense personnels about ways to report military behavior. Perhaps, as WikiLeaks ably reminds us, it is time to demystify the holiness elements, following Tehelka investigations, Kashmir curfews and growing militarist presence in the subcontinent.

For the Future: Yet More Assanges!

Assange and WikiLeaks have taken great personal risks to facilitate the process of a worldwide revolution that empowers the citizens hitherto considered ordinary, and the methods of transparency and truth-seeking, hitherto considered criminal in the eyes of the ruling structures. Assange reminds journalists how investigations for the sake of larger good must involve what traditional legal structures considered as “spying”. Because, more importantly he reminds the public sphere that the news is in actively seeking out the truth, not in being presented with one, thereby necessitating leaks which must shame the authorities and empower the subjects.

Jeremy Bentham defined morals as “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”. Aiming to end international suspicions and wars based on diplomatic doublespeak, Assange is thus a man of great morals. Going back to Russell, the philosopher wrote, “A man who acts upon Bentham’s principle will have a much more arduous life than a man who merely obeys conventional precepts. He will necessarily make himself the champion of the oppressed, and so incur the enmity of the great. He will proclaim facts which the powers that be wish to conceal; he will deny falsehoods designed to alienate sympathy from those who need it.”

In a published interview, Julian Assange’s mother Christine who is a progressive activist herself understands the harm the society does by remaining silent in the face of oppression, “What mother wouldn’t fear for her son against the US authorities? I am very concerned. I don’t trust the FBI….My son wants people to know the truth. People have a right to know what is going on, especially if a war is being fought in their name. The people who have committed atrocities should be the ones called to account, not my son.”

As the world unfolds yet another day for us, we must witness how the ruling class systems shield the atrocious and provide protections to the militarist killers in the name of state secrecies. Yet the better news is that for sure, we shall also witness countless Assanges who shall fight the powers, expose the truths and liberate the world from the labyrinth of complicit despair wrought upon by judgmental power brokers who define good people as obedient voters for war-mongering systems.

Julian has an advice for the future Assanges: Do not be concerned about when one is to do good, who defines good, etc. Act in the way you do because to do otherwise would to be at odds with yourself. Being on a path true to your character carries with it a state of flow, where the thoughts about your next step come upon waking, unbidden, but welcome.

Beyond Hope: Audience Reception Realities

Despite the attached hopes, I am also convinced that the most important lesson WikiLeaks provides is that we as a people love reality television shows. And we want our televised heroes to become celebrities who must serve us juicy bits in shiny platters. For free.

Most of us really want Julian Assange to become free. We want his female bedmates to lose their cases. We want all the companies that withdrew support to WikiLeaks to close business. 260,000 cables were not enough. And now 400,000 cables are not enough. We really want WikiLeaks get back in shape and go on providing us billions of more cables. We want it all. For free.

We want the world leaders naked. We wish to see them squabble and fight and kill each other. Those sons of bitches. Those greedy monsters. We want Assange to roll out their graves. All power to WikiLeaks. We want to watch the complete season of WL: Reality Show. For free.

We want the world to transform radically, now that WikiLeaks is our tool. We demand Time Magazine to feature Julian Assange on its cover now that he looks so cool. We want the wars to end, America be shamed, miracles to happen. For free.

Revolution, the Chevrolet Way:

Julian Assange has done his bits. He has been an investigative journalist par excellence. Like I.F. Stone, he has legitimized spying, and for a noble purpose. In many ways he has reminded us where the news does not exist. White House press meets, for instance.

And he is right. The news is in the secrets. But what is even more important to remember is that the secrets should not become the sources of news. Had there been no “classified” documents, there would not have been so much news in this recent uproar. In other words, the current global focus is not about American war-crimes. It is about the sensational disclosure of documents that were supposed to be top secret.

Continuing with iconization of Assange also trivializes what constitutes radical struggles. Revolutions are products of peoples struggles, not of ruling class goofiness. It is crucial to recognize the contributions of Assange in utilization of modern technologies to enable top secret leaks. But to consider this act as revolutionary would be to miss the revolution altogether.
Revolutionary preparations entail thorough and critical analysis of history and its systematic, process-based progressive interpretations. Those who get impressed by event-based flow of anarchic information live with (as Gil-Scot Heron would attest) illusions that revolutions will be broadcast live on television with their chosen corporate sponsors presenting the show.

Vicious is the craving for hobnobbing with the rich linens. Sure, diplomats talk cheap and heads of states excel at doublespeak. But if we did not know of this already so as to be so shocked at WikiLeaks, we must have been truly asleep in the train of history. Where was the degree of our current indignation when Apartheid was continuing in full public light in South Africa, audaciously aided by the western free world? Even after the War that was supposed to end all Wars, we witnessed countries fucking up the Korean War so bad that we could not remain satisfied until we started controlling one part of the country and made a nightmare for the other till this date. Even after the great debacle at Korea and major diplomatic tragedies in Cuba, criminally offensive conducts in Chile, professing aloofness towards Algeria, we marched on to cause irreparable damage to Vietnam for year after year.

Even after Daniel Ellsberg and Pentagon Papers, Watergate scandal and Reaganomics, the leaked documents did not shake us up well enough. Even after McCarthy was mocked and Edgar Hoover was exposed to be a thug, we still remained stoic as ever. Even after Soviet Union died and another artificial enemy in the name of Islam was manufactured, we continued to buy the dope our media officials sold. Even after all the underground press of the 60’s and 70’s were purged to the last bit and all the black panther activists eliminated from functioning by the 80’s, all the peaceniks and war groups rendered powerless by 90’s, we still continued to switch on the television sets to hear President Bush tell us stories about WMD. Where has our collective anger been? Where has been our hatred for the system that is so sickening that it leads us with no free healthcare or education or maternity leave or equal pay across genders and races?

More than Assange’s audacity, what should alert us more is the manner in which the mainstream publications are appropriating him. Corporate media have never hesitated from depicting our heroic nature at Abu Gharib. Likewise, they have been making advertising revenues from WikiLeaks leaks this time around. Just the way they make money from Che Guevara’s legacies and Bob Dylan’s blowing wind. By its very nature, WikiLeaks is sensational, and since it draws the amount of mass interest as witnessed, everyone seems to be happy revenue-wise, so long as information overload helps neutralizing the impacts quite a bit. As a result, New York Times carried front page exclusive section on WikiLeaks release for weeks. CNN carried special slots exclusively devoted to WikiLeaks. Time Magazine logged unto Skype to interview Julian Assange. As if the leaks were not enough, his torn condom also made headlines and earned revenues for the media organizations that don’t devote a single column to highlight how Haiti is now just a garbage dump. Why should the world care about sexual positions Assange prefers, if not only because the media have to make an icon out of the man and feed off his lifestyle?

Beyond WikiLeaks:

As I stated earlier, to understand Julian Assange, it is necessary to go beyond WikiLeaks. This man is a courageous hacktivist, a notable conspiracy theorist and almost fearless as a journalist. He must be praised for what he is and all the relentless works he puts in. But that is where the adulation must end. Iconizing him will only work towards Obamazing him. Problem with this approach is failing to realize that individuals fail all the time due to various factors. He, too, shall fail. His attempts at becoming Time Magazine Person of the Year was a failed stunt. Even a mild Bob Dylan before the peak of his career had famously refused interview to Time Magazine denouncing that publication as a bourgeois trash. Assange must realize his organized efforts must not be confused with moments of fame. His activism must not be confused with attaining celebrity status. His social manifesto about conspiracies must not be confused with hackers’ guide to world revolution.

Assange has claimed that it is important to understand from the radicals who came before us. One major lesson from yesteryears is that we need less of cult figures and more of organized movements. This is what Zapatista Revolutions have been all about, when no one claims to have seen Subcommandante Marcos. Why Che Guevara was an obvious target is not too difficult to guess. Why Soviet experience got confused with Stalin’s eccentricities is not too tough a puzzle. To enable mass movements, it is critical to impart historical contexts and lessons. WikiLeaks and Assange must stop clamoring for support from mainstream press and corporations.

Co-opting of Assange is already taking place. He is already being “approved” as a genius by those very agencies that he apparently is at odds with. If progressive outcome must be expected from WikiLeaks, it shall be necessary to dissociate it from the mainstream fame. It needs to be disapproved by the corporations at the very least. Those who spiritually support WikiLeaks must expect, and not be shocked at Amazon or Ebay or Apple or Visa or Mastercard withdrawing collaborations. Assenge must not find in New York Times and CNN his active partners or in Time Magazine a natural ally. More importantly, WikiLeaks must release the names of corporations and entities that are financially supporting it. An idea that promotes transparency must itself remain transparent, if it needs more support from principled loyalists, potential and existing.

WikiLeaks must bring itself to context. For Daniel Ellsberg to become a hero, it was Randy Kehler who proved to be the inspiration. For Assange to adorn cover pages globally, it took a young Bradley Manning to stand up for truth. WikiLeaks must campaign for Manning and ensure him the best of legal helps. Once WikiLeaks has declared its financial sources and expressed solidarity with its core contributors, the anarchy must stop and organized efforts towards global solidarity against war and poverty should begin.

Information Anarchy:

Contrary to popular opinion, information is not power. It is the biggest cause of powerlessness. Mere information promotes dangerous opinions. Leaking reports and making them available to the public is not enough. And remaining only at that stage is even less useful. The audience is so swamped with political information on a daily basis that it is virtually impossible to help them prioritize. Progressive interpretations of the available information is crucial in providing emancipatory education to the people. In order to trace the true history of people’s struggles that can empower them towards the path of social justice, it is necessary to contextualize the WikiLeaks Papers.

Most released documents pertain to military expansionist trends and manipulative stances taken by ruling elites throughout the world. None of that is unexpected or surprising, and yet as popular polls suggest people appear to be deeply shocked at the WikiLeaks findings. This proves less about the significance of WikiLeaks and more about the status of mass intelligence/intellectual levels in the world today. Most of the impressed population perhaps have no clue about the consistent patterns of colonialism and imperialism since last two centuries. Those who express surprise at WikiLeaks findings perhaps never knew about American military interference in two thirds of the world. Those who express surprise over torture tactics employed by Britain and America perhaps were not keeping in touch with the ways militarist nations function.

Massive brutality and inhuman treatments go together with the progresses of so-called “free” world and those that are suddenly outraged at the WikiLeaks findings perhaps never believed in thousands of progressive publications and protest songs and radical movies over the years. It is fundamentally crucial to interpret WikiLeaks along with necessary historical documents being circulated and published by progressives world over. WikiLeaks must not encourage an Eurocentric tendency among the readers and authenticity of revolutionary needs must not base on corporate media approvals.

Challenging Eurocentrism:

There is also a need to imagine Assange as an overweight bearded black Muslim. Would the press have covered him as kindly as now? Would people have really believed in his released cables and expressed outrage at various nations? In all likelihood, he would have been branded a terrorist and turned over to serve without representation at the renowned Guantanamo Bay. If two white women from Sweden would have claimed being even touched, he would have been convicted of rape charges already. Like Tookie Williams and Mumia Abu Jamal, he would have been sentenced a life, if not a lethal injection. Such is the irony about investigative truths in our world.

WikiLeaks should not have outraged any more than have the speeches of Frederick Douglass, the sociological researches by WEB DuBois, the first-hand accounts of war machinations by Paul Robeson, the fundamentally radical exposure of police brutality as a ruling class tool by Malcolm X, Huey Newton and Angela Davis. All of them and countless more have exposed sinister ways in which American imperialism has functioned over the years through suppressions of press freedom. What is so novel and outrageous about the WikiLeaks discovery that diplomats tell lies? Isn’t telling lies the reason why diplomats are paid, to begin with?

Assange must be acknowledged for his great courage in his role as a journalist. But any illusions regarding the paramount roles any amount of diplomatic cables can cause must be shattered. Like our misplaced faith in Obama, we should not once again now end up nowhere with WikiLeaks as our perceived savior. Informational anarchies devoid of socio-economic histories of oppressed people do not form sufficient conditions for organized revolutionary movements and a lot of online noise does not make a good revolutionary substitute.

(Saswat Pattanayak 2010)

Roman Polanski and Euro-American Privileges

By Saswat Pattanayak

It’s a deceitful media circulation which suggests that the American judiciary is going after Roman Polanski. The truth is it never has. Polanski is a filthy criminal who had raped a child and yet was allowed to let go by the American justice system for over three decades. And this time, he is merely a bone which Switzerland threw at the United States over its UBS catastrophe. As for Polanski, who has visited Zurich several times and never been arrested before, its going to be few wordplays around extradition treaties that will ensure his freedom while, corporate media, hollywood biggies, and opportunist feminists rally in his support.

Roman Polanski is not merely mentally sick, physically brutal, and powerfully abusive, but he is also a rapist of a minor without a sense of repentance. Had he any iota of regrets, he would have surrendered to the legal system on his own, not continued to evade arrests, and make movies, no matter how many awards they win. It is in the content of character, not in the counts of awards, that a person is to be judged. His affairs with his leading ladies should not have bothered us, but his brutal rape of a minor is not an act worthy of kind reviews, let alone of a solidarity march.

But precisely, drawing from his old boys networks, from the euro-centric privileges, from the elite film industries, from the corporate media friends, and from the liberal feminists, Polanski has succeeded in generating unprecedented solidarity today. His support base glorious and powerful beyond any recent recollections. And in it, lies the greatest irony of our times: the justice system in capitalistic societies.
Each country’s administration that let Polanski work on its land is guilty of abetting this criminal. Mainstream media’s claim that European countries are harboring him while American judicial system is seeking him is utterly misleading. Polanski was to be sentenced not only for rape of a minor, but also on charges of sodomy with drugs. During the 70’s when police dogs were being unleashed upon innocent black workers on the streets, when educated youths were being mercilessly shot at for their demands for racial equality, and poor people were being arrested for jaywalking in rich neighborhoods, Polanski was allowed to go shoot in foreign lands even after he pleaded guilty to the rape charges (in order to avoid harsher sentences associated with sodomy with drugs, he just preferred being sentenced as a rapist and as an European-American, get a bail for the rest of his celebrity life).

For more than three decades (32 years, to be precise), this man was not arrested by the American judiciary. He did not even have to abscond, or flee, as the media reports suggest. He remained in public limelight, continued making movies in Britain, France and Poland. The Oscar jury even shamelessly awarded him with the highest prizes. He could easily have been arrested within three weeks of his departure from the United States. Three decades made him mere immortal.

Disproportionately high number of poor people in America are imprisoned for crimes that are not remotely as heinous as Polanski’s. There is scarcely any demand for their unconditional release. And yet, the American elites have all the hearts for this scum of a man – a filmmaker powerful enough to evade law for such long periods. The man who could not have the courage to surrender before due processes of law, but always had the audacity to attend award ceremonies. Now that he is finally being held in Zurich, all kinds of extradition laws are being reviewed to have him released. What is even more interesting are his lawyers’ claims to their Zurich counterparts that they have evidence to suggest the California police were not very keen on his arrest. Following that, the efficient police department of Los Angeles immediately responds by saying they have been looking for Polanski for over thirty years now, and his arrest has nothing to do with diplomatic faux pas over UBS scandal!

How would have been an ordinary man treated while in position of Polanski is an easy guess. California court would not have taken so long to find a rapist, especially one who is visibly present everywhere, giving out interviews, and receiving awards. In place of an European like Polanski, what would have happened to an African-American celebrity had he been convicted of raping a minor, not to talk of drug possession charges accompanying it. It is worth noting that Michael Jackson was acquitted of all charges by the court, and yet he was damned as a pedophile by the media even after his death. No Hollywood elites signed petitions to attack the press or to convince President Obama that Jackson was a true American hero who deserved a tribute. But here is a man already confessed to have raped a child after drugging her and the media are all quoting his famous friends about his deeply troubled personal life!

Not just United States, even United Kingdom could have taken an action on Polanski. It could have easily handed over the criminal to California. But that did not take place. And the French, the self-proclaimed civilized, those that taught the Algerians how to behave as decent law-abiding citizens, of course preferred to twist their own laws when it came to treat a self-confessed rapist. French judicial system, instead of imprisoning a convicted and at-large criminal, decided to play word games of extradition treaties and harbored a pedophile rapist into emerging as a filmmaker of some repute. Not just that, this abominable piece of trash was even heralded as the pride of France, as one of the greatest of its sons! How does a rapist cease becoming one after crossing geographical borders is beyond amazement of human intellect of this century.

The Hollywood, the corporate media as well as renowned feminists have all come together to support Polanski and to demand his immediate release. Such hollow and reactionary are our current progressive movements that the world of films – that imaginative, creative society of free thinking professionals, has lost every sense of self-respect in their unquestioned support lent to a child predator.

Whoopi Goldberg claims she “does not believe, it was a rape-rape”. In her feminist sit-com show, “The View”, she thinks, “he’s sorry. I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society.” Instead of using the opportunity to appeal to women of Hollywood and television industry to come out about the sexual exploitations women have continuously faced in film societies, resulting in phrases such as “casting couch”, and worse, rapes and humiliations by the veteran directors, producers and actors, Ms Goldberg decided to defend a child rapist and assumed he must be feeling sorry!

Debra Winger is also feeling sorry, apparently because according to her, the whole art world is going to suffer in the arrest of Polanski! Even as she knows, Polanski might at the most get a probation, or in the least likelihood, the highest of 16 months in prison. Which world will suffer for one year detention of a convicted rapist can only be left to Winger’s imagination.

Now comes, Peg Yorkin, the renowned feminist and chair of Feminist Majority Foundation, which she co-founded with Eleanor Smeal. Yorkin not only does clearly absolve Polanski, she even reverses the foundations of progressive feminism with her statements to LA Times: “My personal thoughts are let the guy go. It’s bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It’s crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things.”
Its sad, but a true reflection of comfortable feminists throwing around millions of dollars in charitable causes meant to address issues concerning women, but in reality, sympathize with the perpetrator as a victim. Yorkin parrots, what the mainstream media does: Polanski has been through a lot in his personal life. But they do not ponder over for a bit as to how does that anyway relate to the specific criminal act? When no one objected to his winning awards despite his personal life, why would the law not apply to Polanski because of it? The logic of Yorkin, Winger and Goldberg, our contemporary women champions of feminism are victimized by the same sexist structural overarching they are trying to contest.

Not to mention of the powerful males in Hollywood who are busy drafting petitions in support of the rapist claiming that “filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision.” Someone needs to tell them that France is already in Europe, so that mention is redundant, and secondly, “around the world” has no empirical basis. The whole world is not as perverted and manipulative as these signatories: Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, Neil Jordan, Harvey Weinstein, Pedro Almodóvar and Ethan Coen.

The final defense is in the assumption that raping of minors was commonplace in those days and Polanski being a man of his times, his arrest is an unfortunate exception. Such arguments lack validity since in those days, so many black men were being routinely arrested on entirely false charges of rapes. It is true that Hollywood was perhaps the place for the Anglo-American playboys. Woody Allen immediately comes to mind – a privileged liberal who exploited his adopted children and married his stepdaughter, without his image being tarnished in any manner.

What is more distressing is that this trend of relegating the invisibly exploited women by the powerful filmmakers of Hollywood to irrelevance continues to this day. The fact that over a hundred legendary filmmakers come together to suppress the significance of combating sexual exploitation in the world’s wealthiest film industries, speaks of their own contributions in silencing the victims to this day. Be their films be declared hollow, their messages sexist, and their positions unworthy.