In his fascinating, epic monograph on "Iggy," Michael Valpy illustrates the candidate's tendency to make major shifts in his thinking, gaining him a great deal of attention. Not explicitly said, but nonetheless evident from Valpy's account, is that in each case, Ignatieff's turns have been in favour of those in power: Thatcher during the coal strike then, Bush with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and now the ruthless bombing of Lebanon. In the interceding years, surely there have been occasions for controversial, nuanced intellectual stands that turn away from those with money and power. On such occasions, Dr. Ignatieff has been absent. We should endeavor to find out why this is so--that is, if we find the obvious answer to be insufficient.
Dru Oja Jay
In another followup to my article Manufacturing Democracy: The politics of media coverage: Haiti, Ukraine, Georgia, and a recent weblog post, I sent the following letter to the CBC:
It's clear that there is an overwhelming desire for democratic changes in the former Soviet republics, and the energy to back it up.
However, it is equally well established that these democratic movements are being backed by tens of millions dollars by western countries like Canada and the US.
The CBC does a major disservice to its readers by systematically leaving out this fact, even when it is reported on wires (e.g. the AP) that the CBC normally uses.
If the NDP or the Conservative Party was receiving millions in funding from the Swedish government, wouldn't the CBC question their motives and their agenda? I would hope so.
So why doesn't the same standard apply when it's Canada and the US doing the funding?
If other outlets pick it up, I'll send them the letter, too.
[The NDP just sent out an email announcing a new ad campaign against Martin's likely support of National Missile Defense, Star Wars, or whatever you want to call it. Here's my response...]
The NDP's reasons for opposing National Missile Defense/Star Wars:
1. Star Wars is expensive Star Wars could costs as much as $1 trillion. If Canada is asked to pay even 1/100th of the bill - it will mean $10 billion less for medicare, cities, and the environment. (Source: Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation)
2. Star Wars won't make Canada safer Starting the next arms race will do nothing to promote security. Canada's Department of National Defence warns Bush's missile defence plan paves the way for putting weapons into orbit (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 9, 2004).
3. Star Wars doesn't work Star Wars technology has never worked. Last year the New York Times reported that one test missed its target 'by hundreds of miles'. In contrast, there's lots of technology to keep us safe from climate change. Where's the leadership for that?
With all due respect, these aren't the reasons that Star Wars is wrong. In fact, they share many of the assumptions that lead people to think that Star Wars is in fact a good idea.
If Star Wars was not expensive, did make Canada safer, and worked, would it be a good thing? No.
The reason is that, despite its name, NMD is an offensive weapon. Don't take my word for it; read the words of the Project for the New American Century (of which Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush are members). Quoting from "Rebuilding America's Defenses", a PNAC report:
Effective ballistic missile defenses will be the central element in the exercise of American power and the projection of U.S. military forces abroad. Without it, weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be a in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological or other advantages we may enjoy. Even if such enemies are merely able to threaten American allies rather than the United States homeland itself, America's ability to project power will be deeply compromised.
If you condemn NMD for the right reasons--that American Empire, global military dominance, or whatever you want to call it are wrong, and to be resisted instead of helped--then I'll support the NDP's fancy new politics a la Wired magazine.
A debate isn't worth starting unless it's based on all of the reality we have available to us.
dru oja jay
Seeing the request for feedback on the Walrus magazine's web site, I sent them some thoughts on the state of Canadian journalism and what a good national magazine could look like. Excerpts follow.
I got responses from both Steven Johnson and Doug Saunders, which was a bit surprising. My previous experience of writers actually replying to letters critical of them was previously limited to a flustered dismissal from some editor at Shift who had managed to ignore all of the points I made in the letter.
But both more or less agreed. Saunders responded to my letter, saying that he had already written an article about the Pentagon's relationship with Hollywood, and that he was taking a different tack this week.
Johnson also seemed to be fairly forthcoming to my points, though in this case I can't even call myself an amateur, so "points" might be a bit strong.
If Doug Saunders really wanted to argue that Washington and Hollywood are separate entities ("Hollywood. America. More than ever, they aren't the same," Saturday Nov. 23), it's surprising that he didn't at least mention the cozy relationship between movie studios and the Pentagon. According to mainstream news sources (ABC, BBC, USA Today), the Pentagon subsidizes Hollywood's war movies, and in exchange, gets to "negotiate" changes to the scripts and plot of these movies. It doesn't take too much imagination to see that movies, as a result, are much more likely to be pro-USA in significant ways.
A straightforward Google search confirms the worst of it and more, though most mainstream coverage simply notes that this (age old) team-up is likely to produce "better movies".
Of course, once the Pentagon has access to the set and scripts, it seems obvious that studios will simply nix scripts that aren't likely to be Pentagon-approved. So we get more Pearl Harbour and less Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. It seems obvious that--if the subsidies are substantial enough--the influence could easily spill over into other movies, mostly through hollywood execs' desire to not piss off the Pentagon. But then again, there is no reason to believe that the Pentagon won't be so bold as to drop hints about non-war movies anyway. What have they got to lose?
In his article on the US peace movement, Miro Cernetig gets a number of facts wrong (the Asia Pacific Economic Forum happened in Vancouver, not Seattle) and spends most of the article talking about celebrities and the internal shortcomings of the left-wing protest movement.
In his conclusion, Cernetig soberly admonishes the left for being opposed to all us military force, mentioning that "US and British warplanes have been keeping Mr. Hussein away from Iraqi Kurds and Shiites, the fellow citizens he once gassed." If he done even a bit of research, Cernetig would have discovered the fact that the poison gas he refers to was provided by the US, or that those warplanes were the same ones that targeted Iraqi water purification plants, or that UNICEF has estimated the 500,000 Iraqi children under five died as a result of the sanctions and weekly US and British bombing.
If the Globe considers itself to be balanced, I look forward to the day when Marcus Gee is assigned to write about the internal shortcomings of the pro-war movement and celebrity reactions to political developments, while someone with a better grasp of the facts than Cernetig fills up a half page with quotes from prominent left-wing intellectuals (as Gee did for "terrorism experts" this week). But I'm not holding my breath.
Marcus Gee's recent column, "No interim state of Palestine", was not only blatantly inaccurate in ways that are trivial to determine, but made liberal use of racist double standards against the Palestinians.
In her Counterpoint (Saturday, June 8), Margaret Wente remarked that union condemnations of Israel "says suicide bombings have to stop, but doesn't mention who directs them." But the reader is left hanging. Who does direct the suicide bombings? Arafat? Palestinians as a whole? More than likely, it's the same people who usually "direct" suicide bombings: extremist terrorist groups.
I found Marcus Gee's "End the Occupation? Not so easy" (Globe and Mail, March 23) to be variously incoherent and inaccurate. I challenge anyone who pays for this kind of opinion to be published in a national newspaper to explain how Gee's claims make sense within even the most generous standards of interpretation.
To cite one glaring example, Gee says that "the intifada has caused more than 1,500 needless deaths (three fourths of them Palestinian) and crushed any hope of a negotiated end to the occupation." The undeniable implication is that Palestinians caused the death of Palestinians, i.e. they effectively killed each other. Even a cursory examination of the facts reveals this to be not only false, but exactly wrong.
Indeed, most, if not all of the Palestinians Gee cites were killed by Israeli guns, rockets, or bayonets. Many more have been tortured by Israeli forces, under the sanction of the Israeli government. I haven't noted anything that is not well documented and undisputed by those with even the most tenuous grasp of the situation.
I started out writing a response to this thread on weblogging as journalism at kottke.org, but I ended up with yet another articulation of my thoughts on technology and the possibility of positive social change. So here it is for posterity... and your reading pleasure, I guess.
The most recent issue of Shift Magazine features a 5000 word article called why technology is failing us [and how we can fix it], by Chris Turner. The following is my response to the article, in which I rant about environmental reform, oil companies, and hip technology magazines. I'm posting it here for feedback (and quite possibly, amusement) before I send it to the folks at Shift.