Liberty & Power: Group Blog
GUEST BLOGGER THANKS & INTRODUCTION
Like previous guest bloggers I'd like to thank David Beito for inviting me and also for creating this high-caliber blog. I don't believe that I've met any of you regular L&Pers in the real world (that I've heard so much about) but I have read and admired a number of your books and articles (enough said), so I feel privileged to be able to share my thoughts with you all. Please feel free to comment on and criticize what I write, as I think conversations and debates are often more useful and entertaining than serial monologues.
Moving right along, I'd like to explain why I've been asked to guest blog. The short answer is that I'm on loan from the Antiwar.com (AWC) blog, which debuted this summer. A couple of years ago I started AWC's letters-to-the-editor section, called Backtalk, and I've run it since. I was also Assistant Managing Editor /Webmaster in '01 & '02. It was a challenging job before the 9/11 attacks, after the attacks it was what my mom calls an AFGO, or Another F-ing Growth Opportunity. I'd like to ramble on a little here and describe the events that brought me to AWC.
I graduated from high school in Massachusetts the '80s, skipped college, moved to San Francisco and played music (no, you never heard any of it) while working at a series of low-paying jobs (visualize High Fidelity, close enough). I read a fair amount but somehow managed to keep from learning anything at all about economics. I was somewhat interested in but repulsed by, and basically uninvolved in, politics (much of the repulsion remains). Then two things pushed me in a different direction, the Kosovo conflict and the Internet.
Unlike every other non-former-Yugoslavian I've ever met, the Kosovo conflict motivated me more than any other foreign war has. I'm not sure exactly why but it might have had something to do with the President's unconstitutional end-run around Congress's war-declaring powers, the US's (and NATO's) violation of the UN Charter (which also seems to have violated the Constitution's requirement that the government honor its treaties), near-conflict with nuclear-armed Russia, and the never-adequately-explained bombing of nuclear-armed China's embassy, among other abominations and all of this in the pivotal postCold War era and directed against a country that (unlike Iraq) no one even pretended was a security threat to the United States. And to top it off, many of my liberal friends and coworkers that opposed Republican wars and, retrospectively, at least, the Vietnam War, thought the Kosovo intervention was a great idea. The Clinton administration had ordered US officials not to use the word "genocide" when hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed, in order to avoid pressure to intervene there, yet we were supposed to believe that a conflict that had killed 1% as many people had to be stopped for humanitarian reasons.
One thing that motivated me to get involved in the antiwar mini-movement was my anger at the US media's propagandizing. For example, I remember walking past a newsstand and seeing a front page photo of Kosovo Albanians being forced onto trains. The headline, if I remember correctly, was "Shades of the Holocaust." What the story actually reported when I read past the front page, however, was that the Albanians had been forcibly evicted from their homes in an area where frequent attacks against government officials had occurred. The train ride had lasted several hours and soft drinks had been provided. Forcible eviction is a terrible thing, and depending on the circumstances might be war crime but what had occurred was not what the references to boxcars and the Holocaust implied.
I started reading everything I could find about Kosovo I once calculated that I'd read well over 1000 articles. From a Yahoo News link I found Antiwar.com and Justin Raimondo's Wartime Diary, a daily proto-blog. (Actually, I recognized Justin's name from his articles in Chronicles magazine, which I'd discovered when I worked at a magazine kiosk, though I wasn't familiar with his work.) I think it was at AWC that I read a column, originally posted on tenc.net, which challenged the reader to find a single Milosevic quote that was overtly racist or hate-inspiring. I looked and looked and never found one. This doesn't prove that Milosevic isn't a war criminal, of course; a leader can kill without saying nasty things in public. Still, if he was the new Hitler, as government and media alleged, he was a Hitler who ran a shrinking country, didn't annex neighbors, and refrained from hate-speech.
AWC intrigued me with its news from around the world and viewpoints from around the political spectrum. It was so obvious but for some reason unusual: people who disagree on less important issues should work together to work on the more important problem of illegitimate and dangerously irresponsible government aggression. (Dangerously irresponsible: it's now pretty clear that US support for jihad in the Balkans and elsewhere led to the compromising of US security domestically.)
A friend of a friend of mine, who was also a union representative where I worked, spoke at an antiwar teach-in within walking distance of my house. As it happened, Justin Raimondo mentioned in his column that he was attending meetings by the group that hosted this event and invited his readers to join him there, so I did.
As I later learned from Justin, who is, surprisingly, an expert on all things commie, the coalition had been founded by a number of Trotskyist groups or grouplets that didn't want to belong to International ANSWER (which is itself a Trotskyist group, I think). A dozen or so people were in a relatively mellow mostly Baby Boomer group that I'm pretty sure was called Socialist Action. Their members struck me as sincere and well meaning, and they seemed to want to include non-communists. There was also a somewhat larger group that also had Socialist in its name, their members were younger and the men in the group struck me as somewhat creepy, cultish and unpleasant.
The coalition was very democratic, every detail was voted on, but the Socialists tended to vote as a bloc, sometimes it was socialist group against socialist group, sometimes socialist groups against non-socialists. The coalition included a number of independents that is, people who weren't in a group but a larger number of independents attended one meeting and didn't return, possibly they were discouraged by the fact that the Socialists tended to drag in their whole agenda. Still, I was encouraged. Justin, the token right-winger, and independents like me were allowed to participate in and even lead various projects, and by the time the crisis ended the Socialists had agreed to invite one or more non-leftist opponents of the war to speak at the next event. I think that if the Kosovo conflict had continued, before long enough independents would have joined that non-extremists would have outvoted extremists, and the coalition would have become more effective. If nothing else, I got a new appreciation for the Judean People's Front skit in Life of Brian.
That's enough about Kosovo. I'll talk about the Internet next time.