Tag Archives: Chris Hedges

The News from Occupy Wall Street

(Via the eternally invaluable Louis Proyect)

John Halle:

Under the Giuliani and Bloomberg regimes the cold precision of the choreography imposed by the NYPD on protests rivals that of the Ballet Russe under Balanchine: since the Feb 15th, 2003 and Republican National Convention protest, the authorities have made use of a highly effective combination of carrots and sticks. Quiet and non-violent-by which is meant non-disruptive protests under the terms set by the authorities are tolerated.  However, those stepping out of line, those who insist that protests do what they are supposed to do, i.e. disrupt business as usual and impose a cost on those primarily benefitting from its operation, are dealt with considerable harshness.

The response of demonstrators over the past few years has been to capitulate to these imposed conditions and thereby, often under the rubric of “non-violence”, allowing protest to become empty rituals. What is necessary now is that demonstrations reclaim their roots as a demonstrations of power, specifically, their ability to disrupt. And while the disruptions effected today, in the larger scheme of things were quite minimal, what a critical mass of the participants seem to implicitly understand is that disruption-the ability to inflict real costs on entrenched capital through unpredictable and spontaneous (i.e unchoreographed) direct action is a necessary condition for the success of any protest. If these protests succeed in growing with this assumption at their core, they have real potential to become truly meaningful. It remains to be seen whether they will do so.

[…]

A description of the remainder of the march requires the trite but, in this context, altogether accurate phrase, “violently dispersed by the police”, though this is, of course, usually applied to various third world dictatorships. One block south the police began to erect a second set of barriers with the purpose of dividing the march into smaller groups, separated by a block or so, arresting those who refused to get out of the street, and who resisted. The arrests were undertaken with considerable brutality which I was a direct witness to, and almost a victim of. The worst which happened to me was to have receive the full brunt of a body which had been slammed with remarkable force by a particularly violent and thuggish cop. Another encounter which I witnessed was worse and somewhat disturbing. A protester who had, I would imagine, prevented the erection of the crowd control barrier, was tackled and set upon by at least seven or eight cops administering a series of blows to all parts of the man’s head and abdomen. I had never seen a display of violence of such intensity and it was quite unnerving. The fact that the target of this display of brutality was black will probably not come as a surprise.

These are some of the events which seem worth reporting here. There were others which a more journalistically inclined (and trained) observer would no doubt relate. Rather than itemizing these I’ll close by mentioning a third reason for why I am somewhat optimistic.  This is personal and even a bit sentimental so those who don’t know me might do well to skip the remainder of this paragraph. At the intersection of West 4th my friend Judd Greenstein who I had called earlier darted in the the crowd next to me. Judd, in addition to being probably the most gifted, passionate and communicative of the younger composers I know, is also one of the finest people-in the most simple and meaningful sense of the term. Pretty much unique in my circle of acquaintances, he is a reliable presence at these sorts of protests, having met up with me a year ago or so at a Wall Street protest following the bank bail outs. More significantly for me, this seemingly random encounter brought back for me one of my most treasured memories. At the Iraq war protest in Feb 2003, I was within a sea of bodies walking southward on the corner of 79th and Amsterdam,  when I spotted within the crowd heading west my father Morris who was then eighty and my mother Rosamond who was now walking slowly having begun to be affected by the Parkinsons disease which would take her life this year. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.  While they are not political activists (certainly less so than my father’s long time friend and colleague Chomsky) their investment in politics is real, though almost exclusively moral-dictated by a simple code which required them to actively protest when their government is enacting atrocities in their name, as it did in Vietnam during my childhood, and as it was about to do in Iraq.  Protest is what every decent person did back then-it was not limited to an activist clique.  There were lots like my parents back then.

Judd attended this demonstration for exactly the same reasons which my parents did nearly half a century ago, and which were defining events of my childhood.  Protest is what decent people do when they are confronted with evil.  Having both witnessed the thuggish crackdown south of Union Square, I was grateful to be able to be able take stock of the situation with him. His presence today was for me a validation of the possibility that there maybe some ultimate hope to be squeezed out of what now appears to be a fairly desperate trajectory into something approximating a police state-at least for those who do what is necessary to make protest meaningful.

Finally, a post-script: I’m writing this as the police prepare for what may be a final-and likely, if today’s events were any guide, intensely brutal assault on the encampment in Zuccati Park. As I have been posting on Facebook, this appears to me to be a Martin Niemoller moment for us-one where they are coming for a marginal clique, one which is the butt of jokes (including my own above) and regarded as absurd and insignificant by all but a few.  Today’s NYT’s coverage of the protestors, predictably contemptuous and dismissive, sets the stage perfectly for this crackdown-and provides grounds for all the right thinking people who are the Times’ primary demographic to avert their eyes.  The few decent people who find out about this may get on the subway and head to Wall Street to bear witness, and maybe even act.  But I can’t say I’m in the least optimistic that anything like this is in the cards-certainly nothing approximating the display of force which we must martial to make a difference. All this is only further confirmation of Niemoller’s dictum: when they come for us there may very well be very few left to speak up.

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Chris Hedges:

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Keith Olbermann:

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Filed under activism, film and video, political repression, protests, urban movements (right to the city)

The Protest They Didn’t Want You to See, The War You Don’t See

Scenes from an antiwar civil disobedience action outside the US White House, organized by Veterans for Peace on December 16:


www.commondreams.org
Black-Out in DC: Pay No Attention to Those Veterans Chained to the White House Fence
by Dave Lindorff

There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough.

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. It was blacked out of the New York Times, blacked out of the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked out in the Los Angeles Times, blacked out of the Wall Street Journal, and even blacked out of the capital’s local daily, the Washington Post.

Making the media cover-up of the protest all the more outrageous was the fact that most news media did report on Friday, the day after the protest, the results of the latest poll of American attitudes towards the Afghanistan War, an ABC/Washington Post Poll which found that 60% of Americans now feel that war has “not been worth it.” That’s a big increase from the 53% who said they opposed the war in July.

Clearly, any honest journalist and editor would see a news link between such a poll result and an anti-war protest at the White House led, for the first time in recent memory, by a veterans organization, the group Veterans for Peace, in which veterans of the nation’s wars actually put themselves on the line to be arrested to protest a current war.

Friday was also the day that most news organizations were reporting on the much touted, but also much over-rated Pentagon report on the “progress” of the American war in Afghanistan–a report that claimed there was progress, but which was immediately contradicted by a CIA report that said the opposite. Again, any honest journalist and editor would see the publication of such a report as an appropriate place to mention the unusual opposition to the war by a group of veterans right outside the president’s office.

And yet, the protest event was completely blacked out by the corporate news media, even as the capital was whited-out by a fast-moving snowstorm that brought traffic almost to a standstill.

If you wanted to know about this protest, you had to go to the internet and read the Huffington Post or to the Socialist Worker, or to this publication (okay, we’re a day late, but I was stuck in traffic yesterday), or to Democracy Now! on the alternative airways.

My old employer, the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, showed how it’s supposed to be done. In an article published Friday about the latest ABC/Washington Post Poll, reporter Simon Mann, after explaining that opposition to the war in the US was rising, then wrote:

“The publication of the review coincided with anti-war protests held across the US, including one in Washington in which people chained themselves to the White House fence, leading to about 100 arrests.”

That’s the way journalism is supposed to work.

Relevant information that puts the days news in some kind of useful context is supposed to be provided to the reader.

Clearly, in the US the corporate media perform a different function. It’s called propaganda. And the handling of this dramatic protest by American veterans against the nation’s current war provides a dramatic illustration of how far the news industry and the journalism profession has fallen.

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John Pilger, The War You Don’t See:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Thanks to The Unrepentant Marxist and Lenin’s Tomb for previously posting these videos.

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Greece: So Close, So Far Away

First, a prime specimen of reactionary brainwashing, on the Russian state channel’s news broadcast:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=361326

Greece is again on strike and for the fourth time this year saying no to its government. In any case, today’s strike will not change anything. Wages in the country have been cut, taxes raised. Moreover, by socialists. And this is happening not only in Greece. R0mania, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain: leftist governments as one are doing what is not at all characteristic for them. The financial crisis has dealt a painful blow to the ideas of European socialism. The principle of “work less, make as much money as everyone else” no longer functions.

Along with the economic crisis, Europe is undergoing a crisis of the socialist idea. Several thousand students rioted in the capital of Slovenia. They threw eggs at the police and broke windows at the parliament because, in order to save money, the ruling socialists are taking away their tax breaks and deprived them of free meals.

On the streets of Bucharest, Romanian trade unions brought 60,000 people plus one sheep to protest the centrist government’s plans to slash the pensions and wages of public sector workers, including those of the police who guard the biggest state palace in the world, built by Ceauşescu. “We have ‘enormous’ salaries,” ironically notes a policeman who took part in the demonstrations. “So the government wants to cut them by a quarter. It would be better if the ministers cut their own pay because theirs is enormous. We work day and night, we work overtime, but these hours are not paid. Police from around the country are here today, and we will come back if that is what it takes,” he promised.

Cutting the budget deficit is a condition of the 20 billion euro loan provided by the IMF. And there is every indication that Romania will see a repeat of the Greek scenario, which in Athens today lead to more demonstrations and everything shutting down. “The policies that Greek society has been confronted with are barbaric,” says a participant in the demonstrations in Athens.

All this is being said to Greek’s leftist government. Headed by hereditary socialist Papandreou, it is following the orders it receives from European and international capital. In the very same way Portugal’s socialist prime minister José Sócrates refuses to turn off this path. “The country needs these measures. They are essential and necessary. When a politician does what he should do and takes measures only to alleviate a difficult situation, people should realize that all the efforts that all the people of Portugal will have to make are absolutely necessary.”

“Those who earn more should have to pay more,” declared José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero when commenting on the decision to raise the income tax for rich people. At that moment the Spanish prime minister was speaking in his capacity as leader of the Socialist Workers Party. But trade unions are threatening him with a general strike all the same because at another press conference the very same Zapatero announced that the wages of public sector workers would be cut.

Socialism, after all, is not the name of a party. It is genuine where the economic conditions exist for it. The right is in power in Sweden, but it has not ceased to be the showcase of European socialism. At the municipal level there, it is now being discussed whether to cut welfare payments to chronic alcoholics who refuse treatment.

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A kind of response to this taxpayer-financed televised malarkey, here is the Vpered Socialist Movement’s preface to an essay by Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond (excerpted below):

It is surprising, but the events now under way in Greece, where hundreds of thousands of workers are demonstrating and striking in order to fight back against the harshest attack on their rights and livelihoods in recent decades, provokes only the slightest interest in Russian society. Kremlin talking heads and experts from the ranks of the liberal opposition gloat in unison as they applaud the liquidation of the last remnants of the European social state and pay their respects to courage of the Greek government, which has decided to take necessary “unpopular measures.” The silent [Russian] majority remains silent as always, assuming that the events in distant Greece have nothing to do with them. In fact, today’s Greece is closer to us than ever before. Since the beginning of this year, the Russian government’s menu practically wholly consists of “unpopular measures” prepared according to Greek recipes. Hence the [new] law that will radically cut subsidies to the public sector, and the transition to a new system of wage payments in the state sector, and the ever more persistent declarations about the need to raise the retirement age. Just as in Greece, working people in Russia are being made to foot the bill to save the banks and corporations. Like the Greeks, we turn out to be the main culprits of overblown budget deficits. We are also Greek workers in the sense that we are forced to pay for a crisis caused by the rich.

Today, as never before, we need to feel solidarity — not because it is a noble and beautiful feeling, but simply because we live in one world. A world that is strikingly insane, cruel, and unjust. A world where only the poor suffer. A world that so needs our will to resistance and protest.

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An excerpt from Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond, “We are all Greek workers”:

The Greek measures overwhelmingly approved by EU governments are an attack on social rights. According to the rules of globalised capitalism applied by these governments, Europe is losing ground in its global competition with the United States and emerging countries. Their solution is to regain competitiveness by attacking the standard of living and social protection won in Europe through decades of mobilisation by the workers’ movement.

This means a never-ending race to the bottom. And to think that they promoted the Maastricht Treaty, the EU Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty as the building blocks of a Europe based on social justice and social welfare! What utter nonsense, when we compare this rhetoric to the bleeding imposed on the Greeks – at 5% interest, no less! The European banks can continue to grow rich on the Greek austerity plan, although they are the ones most responsible for the global economic chaos. There is nothing humanitarian about the “assistance plan” that has been adopted by the National Assembly. By supporting the government, the French Socialist Party has lined up on the side of finance and not the oppressed.

Though incapable of organising solidarity of any kind, the European Union certainly knows how to profit from a people’s misery. Sarkozy and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel have jointly declared that they will rescue the Eurozone by strengthening “budgetary oversight” of states that fail to meet the criteria of the EU Stability Pact. Apparently, in a neoliberal Europe, governments are only allowed to contravene the Stability Pact when they are pumping public money into the banks. Humanity will just have to wait.

Yet, never has there been such an urgent need for a social, ecological and anti-capitalist Europe based on solidarity. None of the current problems can be solved within national borders. We are all Greek workers subject to the same logic. Government debt is the product of 25 years of neoliberalism and tax cuts for the rich – on corporate incomes, capital and shareholder dividends. For 25 years these taxes have been constantly lowered, and yet we are still told that they represent an unbearable burden for employers and the well heeled. No, this crisis is not ours. In Greece, as elsewhere in Europe, we shouldn’t have to pay for it.

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Chris Hedges, “The Greeks Get It”:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

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