Why the “big white boys” of blogging don’t organize protests, but the AfroSpear does.
Yesterday, in the context of the reporting on the “Free the Jena Six” march, a reporter from a national news outlet asked me, “Why has the Afrosphere has been able to mobilize 60,000 people for a march against segregation and injustice, while white bloggers have been unable to do the same thing in their opposition to the Iraq War?”
Thinking about that question, I believe there has been a concerted effort by conservative white people – on the Right and on the Left – to rewrite or ignore the history of the 1960's – particulary the history of Civil Rights Movement and opposition to the Vietnam War – for the purpose of preparing America ideologically to support or at least acquiesce to – instead of strenuously opposing – new military interventions and occupations like the one going on right now in Iraq.
While whites like Markos C.A. Moulisas Zúñiga (DailyKos) tell their supporters that street protests are anachronistic and counter-productive, Blacks simply ignore such talk. We well remember that the only reason we gained the right to sit at white lunch counters and to sit anywhere on the bus is that we were willing to be arrested – over and over again – in order to win those victories and end segregation. Only a radicalized public can successfully oppose determined but wrong-headed policies of the government.
So, why would white anti-war leaders tell their supporters not to engage in protests? In fact, thinkers from across the political spectrum believe that the support – or at least acquiescence of the American people – is necessary to sustained military interventions overseas, while sustained public protests can make such military interventions difficult or impossible. One government military strategic plan announces that:
Engagement abroad rightly depends on the willingness of the American people and the Congress to bear the costs of defending U.S. interests-in dollars, energy and, when there is no alternative, the risk of losing American lives. A NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY FOR A NEW CENTURY
Military strategists and analysts have been particularly concerned since the 1960's and 70's that one of the results of losing the long and domestically bitter Vietnam War is the “Vietnam complex,” wherein rational Americans who can remember the past therefore resist involvement in new wars (like the Iraq War) that clearly risk repeating the Vietnam experience.
The American people rightfully play a central role in how the United States wields its power abroad. The United States cannot long sustain a commitment without the support of the public . . . A NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY FOR A NEW CENTURY
The “Vietnam complex” is a psychological aversion to counter-insurgency wars, based on America's past (Vietnam) experience, that serves as an impediment to new wars, and so the conservatives have been looking for a way to redefine Vietnam War and also redefine the opposition to it. Right wing militarists have been very concerned and distraught that America's negative reaction to the Vietnam war would prevent the public from supporting new wars. In the following quote, apparently in order to rationalize use of military force, an analyst argues that the American public is not so “casualty averse” that it should be an impediment to military action:
Conventional wisdom has it that the United States is unwilling to commit the military power required to influence events, settle disputes, and act as the force for democracy, peace, and economic freedom that our national strategy promulgates. The perception among our enemies and allies alike is that the American public is unwilling to commit to any military operation in which one can expect even a minimal number of casualties. Furthermore, they believe that once an enemy engages the United States, it can force the latter to withdraw from its commitments when American casualties mount.
Because of our casualty aversion, in the eyes of the world, we are becoming “a sawdust superpower.” ( . . . ) In a world without a governing authority, however, our ability to engage and resist those who do not share our vision of freedom and prosperity depends on the instrument of military power. At present, the United States has the most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen; but dictators, terrorists, and allies challenge our status as a superpower, based on the perception that a casualty-averse public limits our ability to wield military power.
Research shows that the public is not an irrational mass calling for immediate withdrawal from military interventions at the first news reports showing American deaths. Instead, the public weighs the expected and actual costs with the benefits and prospects for success and makes a decision with the aid of cues from political leaders.
Public support is not all-encompassing but can be counted on when civilian leadership adequately frames the debate in terms of a positive ends-and-means calculation. The conventional wisdom that the public is casualty-averse is wrong, but civilian policy makers and military elites still act on the mistaken assumption that the public will no longer accept the risks of military action.
By attributing casualty aversion to the public, civilian and military elites have masked their own aversion to casualties and threaten our status as a superpower. Casualty aversion on the part of civilian leaders renders coercive diplomacy ineffective and undermines deterrence. Casualty aversion on the part of senior military leaders becomes a filter that limits bold options and aggressive plans and insidiously destroys the military ethos.
The misinterpretation of public casualty aversion by policy makers and senior military leaders hurts our foreign policy and military credibility. A casualty-aversion myth “is hardly sound footing for American foreign policy”  and military operations. Charles K. Hyde, “Casualty Aversion: Implications for Policy Makers and Senior Military Officers,” Aerospace Power Journal
So, those interested in the projection of US military power clearly view strong demonstrations of public dissent as a obstacle to the projection of American power overseas.
Anti-war protests are one of the most dramatic and potent public manifestations of “casualty aversion,” typically increasing in number and intensity as the risk to American lives and even the loss of life elsewhere increases. Conservative militarists perceive such casualty aversion, manifested most notoriously in anti-war protests, to be one of the principal obstacles to their freely exercising all of the potential might of the US military.
So it was that in 2004 Markos C.A. Moulitsas Zúñiga (MAMZ), who was a conservative Republican himself at least until he voted against President Clinton in 1992, is one of the conservative-minded people who has vehemently opposed direct actions like sit-ins, civil disobedience and marches. Last year, MAMZ told the Berkely Daily Planet newspaper, “The anti-war protests this year were completely useless.” Instead of large protests and direct actions like sit-ins and civil disobedience, MAMZ argued that “Blogs-short for web log-have become the new medium for political activism, and Moulitsas, a soft-spoken army vet, has created a phenomenon that draws up to a million visitors day to dailykos.com.”
So the one white blogger with the largest mailing list steadfastly discourages the anti-war movement from protesting in the ways that they would have done in the 1960's. And he is determined to expand the influence of his opposition to protest marches:
East Bay institute
Moulitsas said he's going to be working over the next year to help build a training institute for activists working in 21st Century online media. “It will be in Berkeley or Oakland, wherever we can find the space.”
The facility will provide training for politicians, activists, organizers and consultants.
“TV and online will become one and the same,” he said, with “blogcast” videos emerging as a new force, and TIVO video recorders set to capture online RSS media feeds starting in the fall.
“We'll also do some old school media training, and teach how to present yourself on camera,” he said.
They're even going to train consultants, the group he and Armstrong single out for scorn for their advice to the Democratic establishment.
“My job is to build the infrastructure for a new progressive movement to emerge,” he said. “I'm working to build a vast left-wing conspiracy to match the right's very powerful political machine. Berkeley Daily Planet
In the midst of such an outrageous and wildly unpopular war as the Iraq War, with polls showing that the American public is utterly fed up, who but the Central Intelligence Agency would actively discourage the public from protesting in the streets? Who but the Central Intelligence Agency would train leaders who didn't believe in protest marches and then set them loose on the anti-war movement? In fact, MAMZ, in a June 2, 2006 speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco acknowledged a “little secret” that, once known, really puts his opposition to anti-war protests into a comprehensible context: Markos spent between one and two years training for his anti-war role at the Washington offices of the Central Intelligence Agency.
[T]he deal with Markos: there are those who continue believing he is Dem. The reality is, he started off as Republican and changed sides roughly around the same time when other Republicans switched sides because they realized the Religious Right successfully infiltrated their Republican Party and were able to exert considerable influence on policy and lawmaking. Instead of fight them off; they have opted to take over the Democratic Party. That is why we are the big tent party.
The central problem is this: there are those in the progressive blogosphere who believe it is wrong to criticize. Nevertheless, if the progressive blogosphere is NOT the place to criticize and rail against Markos and DailyKos, then what is the proper arena? By keeping things inside it will only fester for so long before it finally explodes.
However, there is a double standard. Markos consistently criticizes whomever he elects to criticize, including Democratic politicians and other progressives. For him to try to use his muscle and personal connections to squelch criticism of himself and his opinions is very Orwellian – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” It is not surprising that the chickens came, home to roost. The more Markos and his followers stopped others from challenging his opinions throughout the blogosphere, it was inevitable that revolt against the authoritarian and totalitarian impulses are taking place. Just look below this post on the number of people who are speaking out (courtesy of Wampum). The Word According to Kos, put forth on April 17, 2007 by XicanoPwr
That's one theory, but this much is clear: Those who support US military actions overseas oppose anti-war demonstrations against those actions, and so does Markos C.A. Moulitsas Zúñiga, who opposes anti-war demonstrations and who also admits that he was a Republican in the past, right up until he was trained by the Central Intelligence Agency and then commenced his role at the head of the American white bloggers' “anti-war” movement. When one considers MAMZ's history and CIA training, it becomes more comprehensible why Markos C.A. Moulitsas Zúñiga opposes precisely the sort of direct action public protests that the military fears the most.