The other day, Ari Melber, beady eyes flaming, re-enacted Congress’s grilling of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerman over ‘Russian interference in the 2016 election’, pairing his own questions with Zuckerberg’s videoed responses, condemning him like a religious inquisitor.
The next day I received an e-mail from the self-proclaimed ‘revolutionary theorist’ Micah White, whose book on protests I had reviewed favorably. I could hardly believe that he now accuses himself and the entire American left of inadvertently selling out to the Russians!
While Melber’s tone is aggressive, White’s claim that Russia used an internet repairman to gain access to his computer is paranoid, as is his belief that the pro-Black website an interviewer worked for is — according to an anti-Putin Russian source one of many Russian sights set up to swing the US election. Here is some of White’s ‘evidence’: “The interview with Yan Big was immediately uncomfortable. The phone quality was terrible: it sounded like he was calling interna-tionally through a distant internet connection. He had a strange accent and an unusual way of phrasing questions. He was obviously not a typical American. I rationalized that he must be an African immigrant living in America and that was why he was interested in protesting against racism and police brutality. His attempts at flattery set off more alarm bells. I finished up the interview as quickly as possible and got off the phone.“
Beware of bad phone quality, and let flattery get you nowhere!
“I hinted at the situation by adding a section to my book, The End of Protest, warning activists to beware of front groups. And, above all, I learned to trust my intuition—if someone gave me a tingly sense then I stayed away. That is why I almost ignored the interview request from Yan Big Davis.”
Until recently, American activists would have welcomed help from the international activist community, and in his book, White extolls the virtues of Italy’s Five Star Movement whose support he welcomes. Today, however, many activists are totally ignorant of Vladimir Putin’s political views: the media tells them that he is an ‘authoritarian’, but never specifies what he uses his authority to do, giving the left no tools with which to combat Russophobia. Climbing on the anti-Russian bandwagon, White unabashedly repeats the mantra that Vladimir Putin interfered in our (so-called) democracy. If White is any example, the left can only be accepted by the mainstream if it makes crystal clear that its policies have NOTHING TO DO with any that Vladimir Putin might approve! White continues:
“Yan Big posted the interview on the Black Matters website and for the next few months he emailed me to ask for help promoting protests in America against the continued incarceration of the MOVE 9 and Jerome Skee Smith. I never replied again.”
White doesn’t condemn these campaigns, so why did he withhold his support? Must all political work stop in order for activists to avoid being associated with Russia? Here’s his mea culpa:
“As a revolutionary American activist I’d been on guard against domestic intelligence agencies, not foreign governments, and Russia exploited that posture.” (Frankly, I doubt that Putin even knows that White exists.) …“Russia’s efforts are part of a larger shift in the nature of war in which activists are becoming the pawns of superpowers. We are witnessing the advent of social movement warfare: the deployment of social protest as an effective alternative to conventional military conflict.“
Activists are people who in earlier times would have enlisted in the army? In my book, most are pacifists, so what does White mean?
“Russia’s attempts to foment, stage and manage social protest in Western democracies is a strategic response to allegedly (sic!) American-funded “color revolutions” like the Rose, Orange and Tulip revolutions against Russian-allied governments in Georgia (2003-2004), Ukraine (2004-2005) and Kyrgyzstan (2005) along with, arguably, the Arab Spring (2010-2012) and Euromaidan Revolution (2013-2014).“
Apparently, White never heard of Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, who first distributed cookies on the roiling Maidan, then discussed who would replace the pro-Russian president it deposed in a tapped phone call with the US Ambassador to Ukraine. Not to mention that when a foreign ‘regime’ ‘misbehaves’ the US often takes it out by dropping bombs….)
How could someone with White’s interesting academic credentials arrive at this point? The race riots of the sixties and the anti-war movement of the seventies failed to birth an openly socialist movement. Vietnam war resisters and demonstrators who knew that the Communists there were fighting a French colonial regime, haven’t a clue today about Putin’s Russia. (Those who do know something, either from reading the blogs of Americans living there, or those of political analysts who make it their business to know what’s going on, know that Washington’s accusations haven’t a leg to stand on.)
A hundred years after the Russian Revolution, journalists fearful for their jobs are joined by ‘revolutionaries’ with slick websites who don’t want anything to interfere with their careers. If they have to condemn a Russian President who encourages entrepreneurship while making sure that everyone’s basic needs are met, and implements the basic socialist commitment to resolving differences through negotiations rather than war, so be it! (A week ago, Putin convened a meeting in Astana, the capital of Kyrgystan, between representatives of the Syrian government and delegations from Iran, Russia, Turkey and a U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State, but our press doesn’t care who goes to Moscow or to the capital of one of its allies.
When President Putin decided that the risk of Hillary Clinton becoming president, with her commitment to American hegemony, was too great, he chose peaceful means for combatting that outcome, as opposed to those routinely employed by Washington. He may not have anticipated the extent of Donald Trump’s unsuitability for the job of President, but like any responsible leader, he prefers abetting the enemy’s domestic chaos to allowing World War III to happen. (Even Masha Gessen, in a recent on-line contribution https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/russian-interference-in-the-2016-election-a-cacophony-not-a-conspiracy dismisses the Russian ‘intervention’ as ‘a cacophony not a conspiracy’….)
After more than half a century of anti-nuclear protests, the sadder irony is that politicians and journalists condemn President Trump for wanting to have peaceful relations with the other nuclear superpower! And a special investigator is looking into the shocking possibility that he may have let them know about his intentions even before being elected! The least one can say is that the Melbers and the Whites who cry “The Sky is Falling!”, like the nursery rhyme’s “Chicken Little”, having exchanged independent thinking for a permanent lunch ticket.