What an incredibly frustrating week. Today’s video might have bumped up against the pace of events a bit, but I’m still pretty happy with it. The peril of the amount of time it takes to produce a video. When I wrote this last Thursday and Friday, it was still possible to imagine that things might calm down after the arrest of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder. That was not meant to be. What I don’t feel bad about is how focused this video is on the problem of policing in this country. Last night downtown New York City was destroyed, while most of the over 10,000 police making overtime were busy beating up largely peaceful protesters over in Brooklyn. It’s becoming clear to me at least that this country’s police are more interested in their budgets and their rights than they are in keeping our city safe. I’d like to be wrong about that. We’ll see. More to come.
With this blog post, I’d like to continue to complain about something I was harping on in today’s video. In our new media era coverage of international news is just abysmal. Because it gets clicks, you can find exhaustive coverage of every new sound bite in the 2020 US presidential election. But when political earthquakes like this happen, we’re reliant on a staggeringly small range of voices. As I mentioned in the video, many of the New York Times stories written on Bolivia are actually produced in Brazil. That may be where their regional headquarters are but in previous eras there would have been actual correspondents on the ground, or at least competent local stringers that the NYT could have been able to rely upon. But instead we’ve got a guy who certainly knows more than I do, but will be writing about Brazil next week, and maybe Uruguay the week after next.
I am kind of hard on the unthinking coverage of the New York Times and the Washington Post in this video, but that doesn’t mean I am against these organizations. In fact, I think you should all subscribe to them. As biased and incomplete as the stories they tell sometimes are, without them we’d be lost. If the opponents of these resources get their way, then all we’d have to go on in Bolivia would be the reports of the Organization of American States, the US State Department, and the triumphant tweets of US senators. As bad as things are now, that would be even worse. In the 1980s the US media effectively blocked some terrible US policies in Latin America. It’s pretty clear that the media no longer has the strength or capacity to do that. That’s pretty sad.
This video does a good job of laying out how ridiculous the “Democracy is Dying!!!” story is. But what it doesn’t do is lay out why the story gets so much play. The sad fact is that it’s useful to powerful people in the United States. Once again, it all comes back to the US military industrial complex. The wise men of the Pentagon have realized that “Terrorism” is losing its power as a motivating factor. Despite the best efforts of Trump & Co. it’s obvious that general white loser angst has had a much higher body count in the US over the past decade than “Radical Islamic Terrorism”. So we need something else to be scared of to justify our absurd military budgets. That’s why this narrative gets so much play.
The idea is that if “Democracy is Dying”, the world really is “more dangerous than it ever has been” as the Pentagon keeps telling us. I may do a video on this in the coming weeks… I’d be interested to know how much relevance this story has beyond the national security nerd twitter bubbles I frequent. In those circles this “Democracy is Dying” story has become the conventional wisdom. Is that the sense you get where you are at as well? Let me know in the comments.
This video may not strike you as very serious. But seriousness is the whole point. We use Iran to justify a lot of bad behavior. Just a week or so back, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that we’re going to indefinitely hold territory in Syria because we don’t like the fact that Iran has influence in a country it has had influence in for decades. We use the “seriousness” of the Iranian threat to ourselves and Israel to justify stuff. This doesn’t mean we’re actually serious about the Iranian threat.
Because if we were serious about countering Iran, we’d be using every possible opening. We’d have the ability to both deal with them diplomatically, and oppose them militarily in proxy wars, just like the Cold Warriors of Yore. But we don’t. Because nothing about US foreign policy is serious. Other than its consequences for the world. This video is a thought experiment, asking how we’d tread Iran’s president Rouhani if we were truly serious about countering threats from Iran.
I can’t recommend Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland: The Rise of A President and the Fracturing of America enough. Perlstein is a left wing fella, who has set himself the task of documenting the rise of the right in the United States. I have the suspicion that his books get less useful and balanced as he gets closer to the modern day, but the balance in this book between historical detail and rage is perfect. It’s an almost day to day account of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The book was a revelation for me, and set off a long path of reappraisal and research that led in a roundabout way to this video.
We have a certain idea of the 1960s in the US that I refer to in the video. It’s all Woodstock and civil rights and triumphing over Vietnam. What Nixonland helped me to understand was what a godawful shit-show it all was. I hope to get some of that across in this video, and in the process make you feel a bit better about where we are today in the United States.