On Lydon’s BBS a while ago, I responded to the posting of an article in the Jewish magazine Forward which stated that at least 2 members of a group of young men who had been seen in an alley “celebrating” while videotaping one of the planes that crashed into the WTC on 9/11 had been identified by the FBI as agents of Mossad. Despite dismissing the report of a “celebration” and the charge in a British newspaper that the incident might show that the Israelis knew ahead of time both the date and target of the attack, anonymous trolls (they’re almost always “anonymous”; we call them “mice” for short) instantly accused me of anti-Semitism for accepting the FBI’s conclusion and then proceeded to call me a series of other foul names for attacking the “celebration” and claiming that Mossad knew ahead of time that the attacks were coming, both of which I had specifically cast doubt on or outright debunked.
The right-wing attack-dogs of the GOP have pioneered the tactic of labeling anyone who criticizes a Bush policy as anti-American or a Sharon policy as anti-Semitic. The jingoist “patriots” of LimbaughLand have cheerfully accepted and spread this nasty strategy for so long that it’s almost an article of faith for them–they now believe their own propaganda. Certainly it functions well in cutting off debate on questionable policies–at least, it does as far as they’re concerned. Once you say something–anything, really–that allows them to call you a traitor, all hopes of rational discussion are over. I mean, what can you say to a traitor? What could he say that you might need to listen to? Nothing. And that’s the name of the game for the Bushies and the radical right wing that supports them: stifle the criticism, cut off the debate.
Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds, the two most influential of the right-wing bloggers, have made this tactic a centerpiece of their approach; Ann Coulter has written a whole book equating Democrats with traitors; and various members of the Bush Administration themselves–most notably Rumsfeld and Cheney–have resorted to the tactic freely and often on national tv whenever questions are raised about their decisions.
So it didn’t surprise any of us when Bush-buddy Blair mimicked the tactics of Junior’s minions and slammed the quarter-million protestors in London by calling them anti-American. Mother Jones reports that:
Blair denounced “resurgent anti-Americanism” and called on Europeans to use Mr. Bush’s trip to drop their caricatured view of United States policy. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw echoed his remarks last week and described criticism of George W Bush’s state visit to Britain as “fashionable anti-Americanism”.
But it apparently came as something of a surprise to the Brits, who aren’t used to this sort of thing. George Monbiot, writing in the Evening Standard (available online at OutlookIndia.com), sounds both bemused by the charge and a trifle angry:
Those of us who oppose George Bush’s policies are often accused of being “anti-American”. It’s an odd charge. No one suggests that people who don’t like Tony Blair are “anti-British”. It seems to be an attempt to discredit us by suggesting that we are motivated not by reasonable political objections, but by an old and visceral contempt for an “upstart nation”.But perhaps the gravest of the charges we can lay against George Bush is that he is himself an anti-American. His style of government stands at odds with everything we were led to believe the United States of America represents. There is first the question of his election. The evidence that the electoral roll in Florida was rigged in order to exclude black voters appears to be compelling. The conduct of his party both during and after that election appears to be a grotesque insult to the nation which invented modern, Jacksonian democracy.
Then there is his assault upon civil liberties. The Patriot Act he pushed through Congress erodes many of the freedoms the American constitution appears to guarantee. In the offshore prison camp of Guantanamo Bay, Bush appears to have built his own Bastille, in which people are jailed indefinitely without charge or trial. George Washington and Thomas Paine must be turning in their graves.
But the greatest of all his offences against American values is his construction of what looks very much like an imperial project. If the US stands for anything in the popular imagination it stands for national sovereignty and self-determination. It tore itself away from a grasping empire – our own – and declared its opposition to all subsequent attempts to bend sovereign peoples to the will of a distant nation. It came to the rescue of its old imperial oppressor when our own sovereignty was threatened by Hitler, and ever since then we have identified America as the champion of those nations which struggle against occupying powers. But now Bush has invaded and conquered a sovereign nation and installed in it a regime scarcely distinguishable from the old European colonial authorities.
What we have been enduring the past couple of years must finally be called by its right name: a Cult of Personality, the “L’etat, c’est moi” religion of “The Leader Can Do No Wrong”. Bush and his supporters have cut through democratic platitudes about govt ruled by the people straight to a Stalinist identification of the Leader as the State. For them the two are synonymous–to criticize one is to criticize the other since they are one and the same.
Monbiot is onto something here: Bush and the Bushies are profoundly anti-American in outlook and actions. The Cult of Personality suits dictatorships just fine but is at root virulently antagonistic to the plurality and diversity of democracy–so antagonistic, in fact, that it is virtually impossible for the two to co-exist. Even DeGaulle eventually learned that.
Monbiot ends his essay with a plea for protestors to “flood the streets”:
This week, Tony Blair will be showing Bush around town much as an imperial prefect might have led the Roman emperor around a newly-acquired domain. We cannot depose this new emperor (it is even doubtful whether his own citizens can do so), but we can show him that his policies, and our government’s submission to them are unwelcome here.It is sometimes easy to forget, in the midst of a furious crowd, that all our liberties were acquired not through polite representation, but by means of insurrection and protest – from the Boston tea party to the demonstrations of the suffragettes. When the governing powers lose sight of the people, protest is often the only means of reminding our leaders that we still exist. It is messy and troublesome, but it is often all we have.
Our purpose is to show the American people that even the people of the nation Bush regards as his closest political ally reject his policies. Nothing could be more damaging to a man whose credibility is already gravely challenged at home. Let us peacefully flood the streets of London on Thursday, not because we hate George Bush’s country, but because we love the values it is supposed to embody.
Reports suggest they’ve followed his advice. May we do likewise when our chance comes.