Huffington Post Disses the Jasmine Revolution Redux

A funny thing happened on my way to posting this diary last Sunday. I came in late Saturday night and started it. I did the title and then a bit about the necessity of the Internet and the power of hackers, nothing yet about the HuffPost. I meant to save a draft but apparently I published the diary at almost 3 in the morning and the only mention of HuffPost was in the title.

This meant that few people saw it and those that did said 'huh?' Later on I added the critique of the Huffington Post, but it was too late. It was already off of the front page.

Perhaps that is just as well because it gives me good reason to repeat it and after the heady events of yesterday in Egypt it is a good time to remind people that about a week ago the Huffington Post was featuring such learned opinions about the Jasmine Revolution as:

"What happened in Tunisia most likely will stay in Tunisia"

"Notions of 'spontaneous combustion' -- or "what caught fire here will spread there" -- are, at best, apolitical, ahistorical, naïve fantasies."

Now that those opinions have been ridiculed by the harsh critique of history, we can review what I said of them before all the facts were known.

BTW Shutting down the Internet in times of civil upheaval is a duel edged sword, as I'm sure Mubarak discovered yesterday. He did it to stop activists from communicating and news from getting out but suddenly a whole lot of people couldn't work or use their computers and had nothing better to do than to go out into the streets and join the protests. That goes to the first arguments I made in this post last Sunday about the indispensable nature of the Internet but I won't repeat those arguments now. Instead it's on to how the Huffington Post got it so wrong.

Sun Jan 23, 2011 Even a few months ago, after Anonymous first emerged as a force opposing WikiLeaks censorship, who would have predicted that they would be playing a significant role in a new round of Arab revolts? And who would have predicted the 23 year old rule of Ben Ali was soon to end? Certainly none of these Huffington Post bloggers I am about to critique. We are living in very interesting times.
Tunisia in the movies
Then there is Tunisia. What most Americans know about Tunisia probably comes from the movie Patton. The first scene has the title "Kasserine Pass, Tunisia 1943" but even there, Tunisia was just a place in which western armies fought out their wars. None of the "Tunisians" had speaking roles, if indeed, any real Tunisians were casted in the movie. They just followed the Americans around trying to sell chickens and beg money. They and the buzzards had to be driven off with gun fire.

And none of these so-called foreign policy experts, the ones that are so busy assuring us today that the North African dominoes won't fall, none of them predicted the eminent downfall of Ben Ali.

But that is what happened. So now we have a revolution in Tunisia and revolt in North Africa, and North Africa is the bridge to both the rest of Africa and the rest of the Arab world, two very large populations very badly in need of radical change.

We have this volatile situation and combine it with this Anonymous force of a new type - well that is why I am focused on this like a laser beam - we are watching history being made. We can help to make it!

Now let's take a look at the take that the bloggers highlighted by the Huffington Post have had on this. I'll start with [former] Ambassador Marc Ginsberg. He was U.S. Ambassador to Morocco so we know that he has always been a friend of the people in the region. Frankly I was surprised to see him on the Huffington Post because I usually see him on Fox News. Is this a new 'bipartisanship' at the HuffPost? In his Is Al Jazeera Fueling "Tunisteria"? he accuses Al Jazeera of stirring up all the trouble by "challenging the Arab world's status quo, using events in Tunisia to fuel its favorite political pastime of disgorging its anti-authoritarian editorial bias across all of its media platforms." Oh! The Horror! I think another way of saying "anti-authoritarian" is "pro-democracy" and I thought we supported that. He takes Al Jazeera to task because

baton-swinging policeman clubbing Tunisian demonstrators literally took up the entire first ten minutes of one news broadcast as the emotional reporter cried into his microphone about the unjustness of Arab autocrats.

He prefers the American model were the first 10 minutes can be taken up by Linsey Lohan's latest bust. Note that nowhere in his piece does he discuss the U.S. Media's lack of coverage of events in North Africa. Huffington Post has itself provided little real news about North Africa and I have yet to see a Huffington Post blog that takes the U.S. Media to task for it's lack of coverage.

It sounds to me like Al Jazeera is one of the few news organizations around that still practice the journalist's ethic of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable." And this week we just lost one of the few American shows that does that.

Let me just say as an aside, with all this going on in North Africa, I haven't had time to do my own KO diary, so let me say something here. I have written a number of diaries critical of KO on Countdown only because I felt he was one of the few worth criticizing. One of the few who might listen. I mean with Fox News why bother? I watched Countdown almost every weekday night and it will be missed. I take KO's dismissal as another sign of big Media consolidation and another reason why defending the Internet is so important now. If you want to download KO's last Countdown, here's a link from MSNBC [213 MB ], normally it is up until they post the next show. In this case I don't know.

Now back to Marc Ginsberg at the HuffPost. He wants assure us that there is really nothing new to see here and even though "few Middle East observers would have bet their mortgage that despotic Tunisian ruler Zine el-Abdine Ben Ali would lose his iron grip on Tunisia in a little under a New York minute."

it is woefully premature to pop the champagne corks extolling the eventual certitude of democratic revolution in the Arab world as if Tunisia were a Hungary, a Poland or a Romania and setting the Arab world dominoes in motion. What happened in Tunisia most likely will stay in Tunisia; it was not a revolution as much as a palace coup.

That last makes me wonder if he knows anything about the Generals talk that Paris Match is claiming the scoop on. The rest reveals much more about what he hopes will happen than it does about what might happen. When he says

the real danger is that the military will step in and then rule by martial law until it is able to put a lid on the violence and thus determine the ultimate fate of Tunisia's revolt -- something akin to the role that Turkey's military played several decades ago.

By "danger" he means "hope." Otherwise why does he try to paint a picture of on going violence in Tunisia? Why does he say "As violence and demonstrations continue unabated"? This was on 20/01/11. In the weeks up to Ben Ali's departure 78 people were shot dead in the streets. Since his departure, zero. And now the police are even joining the demonstrator. How does this add up to "violence and demonstrations continue unabated" unless in his mind violence and demonstrations are really the same thing? [Or unless he is trying to promote the same story as the Tunisian TV station arrested for treason above.]{note - this was written before this weeks violence.}

Marc Ginsburg closes out by saying that "I am just as eager as the next person to see the Arab world's transition to a more just and civil society." sure, just so long as the next guy also works at Fox News. Then he tells us what he really hopes for "Let's hope that Al Jazeera's penchant for regional anarchy is tempered by cooler heads." Does that mean "that the military will step in and then rule by martial law?"

Now it doesn't surprise me that Marc Ginsberg would say these things. I wouldn't bother writing this if we were saying it over at Fox News, but he is saying on the Huffington Post! What gives?

Next we will look at James Zogby's piece in yesterday's Huffington Post.

In Reflections on Tunisia yesterday in the Huffington Post, James Zogby, who is President of the Arab American Institute, places himself squarely outside of the struggle that is inviting the participation of all, including other Arabs. While he finds "Events unfolding there [Tunisia] have been both dramatic and inspiring," He has a lot of questions. "What is not clear is the outcome. Where it goes from here remains uncertain. Will the change be progressive and open to full participation, and will women benefit from this revolt? Answers to these and more questions will be coming in the months ahead when we see how this revolution plays out."

Yes, Mr. Zogby, you can watch and cheer from the sidelines, and encourage others to do the same, and "see how this revolution plays out" or you can get involved and do whatever you can to help the people see this thing through to a favorable conclusion. One thing about struggle in the Internet age, distance and even language are no longer a barriers. You and the other critics that take your stance may make light of the efforts of Anonymous all you like but at least they are getting involved in the struggle. And by the accounts of those who are in the struggle, as opposed to those on the sidelines, they are making a difference.

Perhaps it is just as well that Mr. Zogby watch from the sidelines because while those involved in this struggle are putting everything on the line in the hope that it will spread and succeed, he doesn't hold out much hope of that. "Notions of 'spontaneous combustion' -- or "what caught fire here will spread there" -- are, at best, apolitical, ahistorical, naïve fantasies." Can't happen. Not going to happen. Of course the phrase 'spontaneous combustion' is his. The people planning strategy, circulating videos, organizing marches and protests, and cracking websites are not waiting for spontaneous. They are taking action.

Mr. Zogby knows it's all for naught and he's here to tell you why.

"Those who assume that this movement is automatically transferable to other countries, there is no doubt that it is a transformative moment that has inspired many Arabs. But those who force parallels with the fall of the "Iron Curtain" are mistaken. There is no Soviet Empire or occupation army here."

Automatically is another of those words activists have little use for. No one is saying it will happen automatically. And yes, there are many differences between the situation in Europe in 1989 and that in North Africa today. We could write volumes about what is different. That's not important. What is important is what is the same and what is the same is that Europe was entering a revolutionary period in 1989 and North Africa is now. It is a time when enormous, dramatic change is possible if we people struggle for it. This is the lesson that the Tunisian people are teaching us now. We can either "Seize the Time" in the words of Bobby Seale, or we can sit on our hands, watch and do nothing as the Huffington Post would have us do.

Here are the links to my articles at WL Central:
Mubarak Refuses to Step Down!
Egypt is on Fire!
Libya is in Revolt as Gaddafi Worries
Algerians Plan Big Protest Rally for February 9th
Tunisia Protests Continues as a Warrant is Issued for Ben Ali
Tens of Thousands Rally in Yemen, Demand Change
Mubarak Blinks as Egyptian Protests Continue for 3rd Day

Here is a recap of my other DKos dairies on the Internet, North Africa and Anonymous:
Egypt is on Fire!
North African Revolution Continues
Egypt Protests Continue, Tunisia Wants Ben Ali Back
BREAKING: Protesters Plan Massive "Day of Wrath" in Egypt Today
Tunisians Thank Anonymous as North Africa Explodes
Huffington Post Disses the Jasmine Revolution
Tunisia: A Single Tweet Can Start A Prairie Fire!
Anonymous plans Op Swift Assist in Tunisia
Arrested Pirate Party Member Becomes Tunisian Minister
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation
Tunis: This Photo was Taken 66 Minutes Ago
The WikiLeaks Revolution: Anonymous Strikes Tunisia
EMERGENCY: DKos Must Act Now to Protect Tunisian Bloggers!
Free Software & Internet Show Communism is Possible
BREAKING - Digital Sit-Ins: The Internet Strikes Back!
Cyber War Report: New Front Opens Against Internet Coup d'état
Operation PayBack: 1st Cyber War Begins over WikiLeaks
The Internet Takeover: Why Google is Next
BREAKING: Goodbye Internet Freedom as Wikileaks is Taken Down
BREAKING NEWS: Obama Admin Takes Control of Internet Domains!
Things Even Keith Olbermann Won't Cover - UPDATE: VICTORY!!!
Stop Internet Blacklist Bill Now!
Sweet Victory on Internet Censorship: Senate Backs Off!
Internet Engineers tell the Senate to Back Off!
Why is Net Neutrality advocate Free Press MIA?
Obama's Internet Coup d'état
Julian Assange on Threat to Internet Freedom