The Arab Spring,10 Years On…

I believe that one of the most important political/cultural/social movements of the last ten years was the Arab Spring. Therefore, I thought it deserved the initial post here at the relaunch of STL. But as I tried to put something together as a coherent argument on something about it, I realized that I am at a loss. The way in which it did not substantially work for the better leaves me lost even after ten years. I have no sure feelings, beliefs, or convictions on the period, or what is now called the “Arab Winter.” I can say I was so hopeful at the time that it almost lent itself to elation, but now I feel nothing but such dense disappointment; almost hopelessness. I have read books, articles, and saw many documentaries and news pieces on this most important set of events, yet I cannot put my finger on any argument to be made. Maybe it’s because I am a Westerner; a Roman Catholic. Maybe it’s because I was not there on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or the destroyed streets of Aleppo, or at the Libyan storm drain where Qaddafi was found and killed. Maybe it is because I do not want to believe something negative. I don’t know. But below is a strategy, something I hope that can salvage the movement using the stories of the those times. Maybe something to look to inspire the future.

Simply put, What happened between the end of 2010 and the end of 2020? My thoughts are scattered below: 

Up until December 2010, the North African country of Tunisia was as typical of an Arab state as it gets: a history of empire and colonialism; a hopeful independence; a state-centered, socialist economy; a slide into dictatorship implemented through secret police (Feldman, 2020). This small, coastal nation on the Mediterranean Sea did not seem out of the ordinary in any way compared to its’ neighbors..

Then on December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself afire to protest against police harassment. He died on January 4, 2011, but not before his gesture went viral, sparking protests against the country’s authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the people’s poor economic situation. Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule ended 10 days later when he fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to be pushed out by popular protests. What happened next across the Arab world, what we now refer to the as the “Arab Spring,” followed something like this:

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years.  Then on February 11, as more than a million took to the streets, Mubarak resigned and handed control to the military.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of Mohammed Morsi was then elected in 2012, but was overthrown the following year by the military led by the general, now president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On February 15, in Bahrain, protesters took over the Pearl Square roundabout in the capital which they renamed “Tahrir Square”, and demanded a constitutional monarchy among other reforms. But their camp was stormed by riot police three days later, killing three people and injuring many.

The same day the Bahrain protests started, the Libyan police used force to break up a sit-in against the government in the second city, Benghazi. The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged to hunt down the “rats” opposing him. The uprising turned into a civil war with French, British and American air forces intervening against Gaddafi. On October 20, 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in his home region of Sirte by rebels who found him hiding in a storm drain. The country is now split between rival eastern and western-based administrations.

On March 6, a dozen teenagers tagged the wall of their school in southern Syria with “Your turn, doctor”, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist. The torture of the youths sparked mainly peaceful protests at first, and calls for democratic reform. But with violent repression by the government, the revolt turned into civil war. Syria’s war also contributed to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) group and renewed conflict in neighboring Iraq, culminating in a genocidal attack on minorities in the north of the country.

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians streamed to the polls for their first free election, in which members of the Ennahdha movement triumph.

On February 27, 2012, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for 33 years, handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, after a year of protests. The Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen also descended into violence following initial protests.

Russia, who with Iran is al-Assad’s biggest ally, started air attacks against Syrian rebels on September 30, 2015, changing the course of the war. After 10 years of fighting, which left 380,000 dead, al-Assad was able to claim significant victories.

Ten years after Tunisia, It all seems for nothing when put together like that, does it not? All those aspirations for a more liberal-democratic pan-Arab region. A Guardian-YouGov poll published on December 17 even finds that a majority of populations of nine countries across the Arab world feel they are living in significantly more unequal society today than before the Arab Spring. And read here about Bouazizi’s legacy in his own country.

But maybe not all is lost. Let’s look at some social movement theory from Han and Wuk Ahn (2020) that may pick up the Arab Spring up from the canvas someday:

“Studies of social movements have benefited from the examination of narratives. Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individual, groups, and/or organizations engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities. Activists use stories to make sense of the reality surrounding them, motivate collective action by forging collective policymaking. Narratives unite participants in social movements and are utilized as tools. To be effective…social movements should not just mobilize financial and human resources, utilize political opportunities, and present solid transition plans but should also adopt effective frames. Narratives provide actors with tools to turn themselves into heroes with a powerfully mobilizing identity when they lack established organizations or coherent ideologies [38]. Narratives translate feelings of shame and individual responsibility into feelings of empowerment, efficacy, and entitlement.”

So maybe the people of the Mid-East will someday be able to launch a new uprising, one taken from the stories of the those contentious politics that have occurred over the last decade. At this point, I admit I really do not know. I feel as if I’m just clinching at straws to pull something positive out of it all, something positive in this Arab Winter.

What do you think? Leave comments below. 

Here is a good video piece from Al-Jazeera I find particularly moving that centers on the professional and amateur reporters who documented the movement. Maybe those reports and films will serve to inspire those of the next Arab Spring, if it ever occurs. 

5 New Images/Graphics for 11/28/2019!

Comrades, Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

Sorry I’m a day late. Here is a link to the new pics over at Google Photos.

Right Here!

STL Photo Propaganda Collection!

Hey Comrades,

Since I’m taking a break at STL until the beginning of 2020, I am going to start up the image gallery posts again. So every Wednesday and Friday I’ll be uploading 5 new images onto a STL Google Photos page to share.

I know that with these posts were very popular in the past and you may have gone back to earlier posts to find the old images and seen the uploaded images already. But this is going to be a whole new project and, therefore, I will not refrain from posting images that have already posted before. It just takes too much time to sort everything.

So I hope you enjoy them and find good use for them. Thank you!

In Solidarity,

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Cf2TbcL1Q4ogNrxh6

A Dialogue: Media Bias

What is the media: The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively.

What is the purpose of the media: To serve as the fifth estate holding our politicians’ and other elites’ feet to the fire in the interest of plebeian citizens by fact checking and reporting the truth when communicating stories and analysis.

What is the media used for: Our mainstream network and cable news outlets, along with countless websites, serve the interests of the 1% by shining the “truth” through a curved capitalist lens.

But how?: Through the overtones and undertones expressed in every word and image.

So the media “message” is politically bent?: Of course. It serves the interest of the rich and powerful who own mass media.

How does it do this? It all looks on the up-an-up to me: Consider Gramsci’s cultural hegemony concept, in it’s best description:

“the ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’ caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production.”

Can we escape this media influence?: Of course not. We politically and culturally swim in it’s soup.

How can we change this?: If we recognize that there is a opaque pane in front of the truth.

Well, how do we get everyone else to see the truth: Organize, Comrade. Organize…

Farewell, Shepard Smith

This was the shocking farewell sign-off by Shepard Smith last Friday at the end of his “Shepard Smith Reporting” program. As a news host at the Right-wing Trump-lackey FOX News network, he dared to go against the grain. Though a sensationalist in journalistic style, he did speak truth to power, or as close to it as it gets in the mainstream media. He was the only one at FOX who ever put Donald Trump’s lies on trial. For example, as taken from the NYT story covering Smith’s departure:


A member of the network’s founding staff in 1996, Mr. Smith became increasingly conspicuous at Fox News for his skepticism on President Trump. “Why is it lie after lie after lie?” Mr. Smith asked during a 2017 newscast; this summer, he deemed the president’s attacks on minority female lawmakers as “misleading and xenophobic.”


In a separate article in the Times, they covered in-fighting between personalities at the self-proclaimed”fair and balanced”news outlet. Smith had even been clashing with FOX talking head Tucker Carlson on air (And now this only leaves poor Juan Williams, best known for his presence on “The Five”, straying from the lock-step behind Trump and his revolting march towards infamy).

Do not get me wrong, there are absolutely no real mainstream Left-wing news outlets here in the U.S. But in the battle that joins liberals and far-leftists together against FOX News, we lost an ally.

Don’t Be Distracted by This Bourgeois Drama!

If you have been paying attention to the mainstream media over the last week or two you know that the usual outlets are running around with their hair on fire over Pres. Trump getting dirt on Joe Biden from the Ukrainian government. Now with all the evidence I have seen and read, it’s almost undeniable that Trump is guilty of what he is accused of.

That said, the GOP is now busy attacking the non-Rupert Murdoch owned media outlets of being part of a larger deep state conspiracy against Trump and the Right-wing, in general. And, of course, the progressives refute this argument saying FOX News and their print and online cronies are serving as “state media” in the service of the present administration.

Now this is a great soap opera for all of us to watch (I am guilty, too). But it’s sucking up all the oxygen in the mass media coverage of the world. What needs to be covered by the mainstream press is even being pushed further to the margins. This infighting between bourgeois puppets should not be covered. The real story is socio-economic status conflicts all but ignored by the bourgeois media.

I know that before this latest row the mainstream press has never given the proper coverage to the issues that really matter. I’m talking about issues from the astronomical prices of prescription drugs here in the U.S. to the effects of neoliberal policies on the Third World.

The essence of my argument is that the mainstream/bourgeois media currently have a godsend in the form of a juicy drama between bourgeois actors in a bourgeois arena. But it would be completely outside of that arena for CNN or MSNBC to cover issues in the interest of the people.

All this media coverage is drama, not important news to us. Don’t let it fool you. Keep your eye on the prize: media serving the interests of the working class. The rest is just games.

6 New STL Images!

Sorry that it’s a day late (capitalism is killing me), but here are 6 new propaganda images for spreading revolution wherever one sees fit.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

Smashing Capitalism, Not Fancy Measures

In the “Broken Capitalism” series being published over at The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/01/broken-capitalism-economy-americans-fix?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other, Heather Boushey argues that the way academics measure economic growth is outdated and doesn’t show the full picture of the wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of us. Here’s her argument:

GDP used to be a good indicator of national income. If GDP rose 2%, most gained 2% across the board. But due to the current economic separation between the 1% and the 99%, simple GDP is no longer a valid measuring tool. Boushey gives us this example:

Take 2014. While aggregate national income grew by 2.3%, after taxes and government transfer programs such as supplemental nutrition assistance, incomes for those in the bottom 90% grew by less than the average – 1.5% – while those in the top 1% saw their income grow by twice the average – about 5%.

She then argues for a new disaggregate measure made up of national income and product accounts with data from surveys and administrative sources to clear the picture. This would not only produce more representative ratios between the rich and poor, but also between race, gender, and age

That’s a great idea, but it does not get to the question of what is to be done.

Boushey offers that better published numbers will make the masses more aware of the economic canyon between those of the top SES and the rest of us:

Better, fairer growth measures are a vital step towards better, fairer growth. A clearer picture of the disconnect between overall growth and worker welfare will force a deeper examination of what’s gone wrong with the capitalist engine

Boushey goes on to argue that these new measures will give more power to the people enabling unions to rise. But that is not what I take issue with here.

I am arguing that better tools for showing the income gap between rich and poor will not fuel the smashing of capitalism. The proletariat is not concerned with new academic information to show how poor they are. What they are concerned with is putting food on the table. This is why “Peace, Land, Bread” was so effective in 1917. Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn’t lay out Marx’s material dialectic to the masses as a way to spark them to action. Not in the slightest. They got down to the brass tacks of what ailed the Russian workers and peasants at the time: the end of participation in WWI, land redistribution, and food for their families.

I am not arguing against Boushey’s proposal of how to better measure the income gap among in American society. Her methods show who is making all the money (the 1%) while the vast majority (the 99%) receive so little. Great! I love it! But don’t fool your bourgeois self into thinking that fancy numbers will serve as a catalyst for real social change, Ms. Boushey. The masses could never understand this measurement with more than a 100 years of educational development and the destruction of media power.

A “clearer picture” of the math of inequality is definitely valuable among the academy. But to the masses, it means very little. They do not understand nor are concerned with such matters. They know they are working harder to make less as they fall further and further behind. This how you fix broken capitalism. Peace, land, bread, not disaggregate GDP measures.

5 New STL Images!

Five new pics for propaganda. Sorry for my late post!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

5 New STL Images!

It’s Friday, more images. Share!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59