This is how the Dahyeh does the World Cup. Some friends noted the absence of the Iranian flag, which must have been sold out at this particular stand, given the Islamic Republic flag’s high visibility in Dahyeh. Nonetheless, If i was a western journo i would totally write a story on how Iran’s inability to beat Nigeria in this week’s match has led to a rift between Hizbullah and Iran, using this scene from a “Hizbullah stronghold”. I would then ask the juice vendor next to the flags why there is no Iran flag. He would merely shrug his shoulders in response because I am a suspicious looking white man, but i would go on to quote him as a “Hizbullah commander”/”Hizbullah source” depending on how stupid my editor is.
Get your stomachs ready for the latest addition to the mainstream media handbook of terms which have been so drastically redefined as to lose all meaning: Russian “imperialism” vs. western “globalization”. LOL. Talk about distortion of the century meets euphemism of the millenium . I mean even if non-Marxists choose to ignore Lenin’s definition of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, conventional, bourgeois liberal definitions of imperialism refer to economic domination and exploitation as the defining features of imperialism. I vividly recall the text book we studied in history class in my London state-funded school identified natural resources, cheap labour and new markets as the primary motives of imperialism. But according to this new lexicon, imperialism can be reduced to territorial expansion and irredentism, which quite comically renders states like Ethiopia imperialist and more comically still, suggests that the US is anti-imperialist in so far as it rejects Russian territorial expansion. Meanwhile, the US’ military expansion across all corners of the globe via military bases, installations and occupation forces can be chalked up to “globalization”, much like its domination of the world economy. But by all means, lets all stand united in the face of “rampant” Russian imperialism which “threatens the vision for a more global world economy.”
So Erdogan is threatening to ban Facebook and Youtube because of leaked audio recordings which expose his corruption. I really don’t understand why he can’t follow the example of the leaders of other NATO democracies who have also been exposed on audio. I mean, when Victoria Nuland’s audio clip was leaked where she issued directives on the type of puppet Ukrainian regime the US wanted installed, what did the Obama adminstration do? Nothing. It never happened. And when the Paet-Ashton audio was leaked where the former admitted that the snipers who shot at protesters and police were hired by Maidan leaders, what did the EU do? Nothing, because who cares about evidence which contradicts the mainstream narrative of a democractic and peaceful opposition? And when the whole world almost vomited when they heard Kerry audaciously declare “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” as he conveniently brushed under the carpet decades of US invasions and aggression against other countries, was the US remotely embarassed? Of course not because when it comes to the Empire the aphorism “might makes right” becomes “might makes reality itself”. Erdogan has a long way to go before his government becomes a bona fide NATO democracy. He needs to restrain the urge to suppress the truth in favour of a more NATO-friendly approach whereby he simply ignores it and mocks his detractors for being “out of touch with reality.”
I was just reading some of the reactions on Twitter to Hizbullah’s latest statement in which it confirmed that Israel had struck a Hizbullah base in the Bekaa on Monday, while denying the strike had caused any casualties or targeted any weapons’ caches. The problem with dismissing Hizbullah’s threat to respond at “a time and place of its own choosing” as empty rhetoric is part and parcel of the wider problem of all-purpose punditry and the industry of self-styled Hizbullah “experts” . This phenomenon has become all the more acute in the wake of the war on Syria, whereby Western pundits and Arab social media activists, emboldened by the mainstreaming of “citizen journalism”, have become overnight “experts” on Syria, Hizbullah and the Resistance Axis.
As someone who has been studying and writing about Hizbullah for the past 18 years, I have always been particularly wary of the western journalist or pundit who claims to have spoken to Hizbullah officials, let alone Resistance commanders. Not only are such claims usually flagrant lies, but the notion that Hizbullah trusts these people and is so eager to please the white man that its officials will gladly bypass the Hizbullah Media Office (which, incidentally has not granted a single interview to western journalists in years) and divulge the movement’s strategic plans in Syria and Lebanon, is both incredibly condescending and insulting to the intelligence.
I am equally skeptical of western “expert” claims of any special insights on Hizbullah, not least because THEY NEVER GET IT RIGHT. The depth of expert knowledge is not hard to measure, for as in the natural sciences, knowledge in the social sciences is gauged by its predictive value. And the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Western, Israeli , and colonized Arab “experts” just haven’t been able to reliably predict Hizbullah’s future actions. There are many reasons for this intelligence gap but the principal one is that they are outside observers who view Hizbullah from a western-centric lens. Their understanding of concepts like power and interest emanate from a Euro-American dominated political science tradition that is peculiar to western historical experiences.
As one of the more colonial disciplines, Western anthropology introduced the role of the “participant-observer” who both observes and participates in the life of the group she is studying . Despite the scientific and ethical shortcomings of this colonial “going native” approach, it did signal a recognition of the western observer’s limitations in understanding non-western cultures from a geographic and social distance. Unfortunately, today’s epistemic community of academics, policy wonks and journalists are far less cognizant of these limitations than some of their old-school colonialist predecessors.
Any meaningful insights into the mind of Hizbullah will continue to elude all those who do not share its worldview. By that I don’t simply mean the Hizbullah supporter in the abstract sense, but those who view political reality through the same lens, share the same purpose, and are deeply committed to the same cause. Only “committed-observers” can understand Hizbullah and predict its future actions because they do not have to second-guess its intent and motives, or make assumptions about its priorities; they know them because they live them.
They do not view Hizbullah as an organization that is external to them, nor do they support it on a partisan “Team Hizbullah” basis. Hizbullah is synonymous with Resistance which belongs to all its adherents. Supporters of Hariri don’t know the Future Movement in the same way that Hizbullah’s committed-observers know Hizbullah, and that is because the former are not bound by any shared cause, beyond a reactivity to Hizbullah cemented by sectarianism. In this sense, Hizbullah is a culture not a party with card-carrying members. And as a political culture it has its own unique mindset and rationality.
It is precisely this rationality that I invoke whenever I am interviewed by media on Hizbullah. Of course, as an analyst my knowledge of the movement is based on empirical evidence I have observed, but my assessment of Hizbullah’s actions and intentions, my prognostications of its future actions come from this resistance rationality that I share with it. When I am asked “how will Hizbullah respond” I essentially ask myself “how should we [who are committed to the Resistance project] respond?” And I am usually able to provide an accurate response or prediction, not because I possess any superior intellectual abilities, but because I, like many others in Lebanon and beyond, share the Resistance’s priorities and concerns, and my analysis is guided by the same political values and rationality as them. In fact, I am very confident that a committed 18 year old Hizbullah supporter would yield more valuable insights on the movement and offer more reliable predictions of its behavior than a western academic or journalist who claims expert knowledge.
And I am equally confident that if any committed observer is asked “will Hizbullah really respond to Israel’s attacks on Monday?” he or she will tell you that as the first such attack since the end of the July War in 2006, Hizbullah has no choice but to respond, irrespective of how deeply mired it is in the Syrian conflict and in safeguarding Lebanon from terrorist infiltration. It has to respond because confronting Israel will always constitute the larger part of its raison d’etre, even if its mission has expanded over the years. And it will respond because to not respond would upset its doctrine of deterrence and “balance-of-terror” with Israel which it painfully earned after two decades of blood and sacrifice. Hizbullah will respond because there is no precedent of Hizbullah not retaliating for an Israeli attack (I am not including assassinations here) and it is highly unlikely that it would want to set a new precedent for its enemies. We just have to wait and see when and how it will do so, because no matter how committed we are as observers we are not privy to Hizbullah’s military strategy.
If the “Hizbullah stronghold” concept wasn’t bad enough, after today’s Hermil bombing , we can now add “pro-Hizbullah region” (see Lebanon’s Daily Star today) and “Hizbullah town” (the BBC before they amended their headline) to refer to predominantly Shia areas in Lebanon targetted by suicide bombers. Aside from the usual blaming of the victims—the Shia must pay for their support for Hizbullah, the classist undertones of this ShiaVille discourse cannot be discounted. No matter how much national unity and cross-sectarian solidarity the Lebanese attempt to muster with their “we are all Dahyeh” slogans, the media’s classist and borderline racist coverage of attacks on the Dahyeh suburbs or the underdeveloped Shia periphery of Baalbek, only serve to ghettoize the Shia as the witting “thug-life” victims of Hizbullah’s turf wars. It also feeds into that whole Saatchi & Saatchi, neoliberal “I love life” crusade practiced by the “why does Hizbullah have to mess with dem Takfiris in Syria?” camp. This is no less than a revival of the language of internal colonialism when the Dahyeh was known as the “Shia slums of Beirut” and/or “the belt of misery”.
I have been trying to hold back on deconstructing mainstream media reports on Syria and Hizbullah, mainly because it is just too time consuming in light of the constant supply of glaring inaccuracies and fabrications. But this piece in AP today “Car Bomb Hits Hizbullah Stronghold in Lebanon”, was just too much. Excerpts and my commentary below:
"Hezbollah’s participation in the civil war in Syria is highly divisive and unpopular in Lebanon, where many feel it has deviated from its original purpose of fighting Israel and that it has exposed the Shiite community to retaliation."
Note the term “highly unpopular” which falsely indicates that an overwhelming majority of Lebanese oppose Hizbullah’s role in Syria. This connotation is further corroborated by the allusion to Hizbullah’s Shia supporters as turning away from it: “many feel….it has exposed the Shiite community to retaliation.” The first insinuation is misleading as the same polarization and antipathy towards Hizbullah has been in place since February 2005 in the wake of Hariri’s assassination—a good 8 years before the movement’s participation in the Syrian war. The very same March 14 supporters who decried Hizbullah’s alliance with Syria which was initially blamed for the assassination, continue to oppose it today for siding with the Syrian government and fighting alongside it. Nothing new there. Implying that Hizbullah has lost support among its core Shia constituency is a gross fabrication of reality and even lacks the anecdotal “evidence” mainstream media customarily uses as the basis for its Hizbullah narratives.
My argument is based on easily observed indicators such as the massive turnout for the Ashura commemoration it organized this year, as well as the unprecedented number of secular and non-observant Shia who partook in the event and campaigned for it on social media. As a longtime participant observer of the resistance movement and its supporters, I can confidently say that while Hizbullah has lost Arab Sunni support in the region as whole, it has not suffered any loss of Shia support in Lebanon. In fact, one of the unfortunate consequences of the war on Syria is that the Shia have increasingly come to view themselves as an embattled sect facing an existential threat and have rallied in even greater numbers behind Hizbullah for that reason. Moreover, the notion that the Shia feel Hizbullah has “deviated from its original purpose of fighting Israel” is an outright lie as they do not extricate the Saudi-Takfiri onslaught against the Resistance from the US-Israeli Zionist project to eliminate it; Hizbullah’s constituency is very much aware of the Saudi regime’s open alliance with Israel, and of the direct or indirect collusion between the takfiri fighters and the Zionist enemy, as the bombing of the Iranian embassy and Hassan Lakkis’s assassination demonstrate. The downfall of the Syrian government, the defeat of the Syrian Arab Army and the wholesale destruction of Syria are viewed as serving Israel and furthering the Empire’s divide- and- rule strategy. For Hizbullah’s supporters, the loss of Syria and its government not only poses an existential threat to them personally, but to the Resistance and by extension, the Palestinian cause.
"The group’s open support of Assad has enraged Sunnis and left it with no shortage of enemies eager to strike at its strongholds and leadership. Dozens of people have been killed in deadly car bombings claimed by radical Sunni groups."
While it is true that Lebanon’s Sunnis are indeed virulently opposed to Hizbullah’s alliance with the Assad government and the Syrian Army, AP’s attempt to translate this public animosity into Sunni militancy against Hizbullah and the Shia in general (note that the concept of the Hizbullah “stronghold” is information warrior shorthand for Shia civilian areas which have been repeatedly targeted) is nothing less than sectarian agitation. As the author admits herself, the bombings have been the work of “radical” not mainstream Sunni groups; asserting that angry Sunnis have left Hizbullah with no shortage of enemies eager to strike at its strongholds and leadership” suggests that Lebanon’s Sunnis are all potential car and suicide bombers.
"Most recently, on Dec. 4, gunmen assassinated a senior Hezbollah commander, Hassan al-Laqees, in the garage of his building in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut. And last month, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 23 people. An al-Qaida-affiliated group claimed responsibility, saying it was payback for Hezbollah’s support of Assad."
This backgrounder is intended to obfuscate Israel’s continued intelligence war on Hizbullah as it completely ignores the Zionist regime’s very obvious culpability in the Lakkis killing and its highly probable collaboration with the Saudis and their jihadi agents in masterminding the embassy bombing, especially considering it occurred days before the imminent US-Iranian nuclear agreement which both parties were trying to sabotage for months. Also noteworthy is how AP completely ignores the two suicide attacks on Lebanese Army posts in Sidon and Majdalyoun on Sunday night, which, like the Bekaa car/suicide bomb against Hizbullah today, were also carried out by takfiri groups. The failure to contextualize today’s bombing with events that occurred just a day earlier by the same type of perpetrator is not only sloppy journalism or omissive reporting, it is a crude propagandistic attempt to portray takfiri groups in a purely reactive light— Hizbullah is a target solely because of its participation in the Syrian war. If the reader is reminded of the attacks on the Lebanese Army, which is obviously not party to the Syrian war, then Hizbullah cannot be blamed for terrorist acts committed against it and its supporters.
As expected, mainstream media highlighted and sensationalized only one aspect of Nasrallah’s OTV interview, with headlines screaming out “Nasrallah Blames Saudi for Iranian Embassy Blast”, while completely neglecting his far more strategically important denial of Hizbullah’s responsibility for Paul Walker’s car crash last week. I quote from his interview yesterday: ” “If there is an actor who dies in a motorbike crash somewhere in the world, as was reported a few days ago, they blame Hizbullah. I was actually surprised March 14 didn’t blame Hizbullah for this.” Sources say we can expect references to Jay-Z and analogies between the moral logic of “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White and Bashar al-Assad in forthcoming speeches.
The war on Syria has not only exposed the politicization of the western intelligence community, but also the militarization of journalism, American journalists in particular. And I am not talking here about the BBC-coined “journalism of attachment”, which enjoins journalists to abandon the Euro-American paradigm of social science inquiry and with it, all pretenses at “critical distance” , “emotional detachment” and “objectivity”— which, ironically, us natives have always been scolded for lacking—and fully embrace their emotions when reporting news stories. Nor am i referring to the “embedded journalism” that characterized western media coverage of the 2003 Iraq invasion. No, this new trend in US journalism far exceeds the western journalist’s role as participant-observer and his/her default, establishment- friendly position .
Now we have a new phenomenon where the journalist assumes an unabashed role as war mobilizer-observer; his/her role is not merely to sympathize with or popularize the notion of military intervention, but to steal the initiative away from war-weary policy makers by actively agitating for war and rallying the public and military-industrial- complex for military conquest. This journo-warlord-ism can assume various modes of expression, ranging from the warmongering histrionics of establishment shills to the sneaky, underhandedness of so-called anti-establishment lefties’ not-so-secret itching for a US-led invasion of Syria.
An example of the former is Christiane Amanpour’s hysterical outburst on a CNN panel on Syria this week, which made Ad-Dounia Tv ‘s anchors look like paragons of objectivity. Speaking in a language and tone that violates every single standard of professional journalism that methodological imperialists have been shoving down our native throats for the past several decades, and with flagrant disregard for the scores of mainstream media reports (see here, here, here and here) that are now questioning the Obama administration’s flagrantly fabricated chemical weapons charges against the Assad government, a wide-eyed, finger-wagging, impassioned Amanpour exclaimed: ”I can barely contain myself at this point. And as bad as it is to decapitate somebody it is by no means equal, we can’t use this false moral equivalence. The president of the United States and the most moral country in the world, the most moral principles in the world…cannot allow this to go unchecked…. I am so emotional about this.” Lending an even stronger air of self-delusional psychosis to the mix was Reuel Marc Gerecht’s rationale for Assad’s alleged resort to chemical warfare: “There’s a reason why Bashar al-Assad used them, he needed to. If you look at the casualty rates in Syria, the regime is not doing very well.”
Not to be outdone by Gerecht’s and Amanpour’s complete denial of reality and outlandish explanations for Assad’s purported motives, in an article this week, Max Blumethal of “I quit Al-Akhbar because they allow the type of freedom of expression that journalists in my country can only dream of” fame, (recall his diatribe against myself and other al-Akhbar writers here) quips in with this precious insight: “Many residents repeated to me the rumors spreading through the camp that Bashar would douse them in sarin gas as soon as he crushed the last vestiges of internal resistance—a kind of genocidal victory celebration.” Like many others before him, Blumethal seems to be invoking the maniacal, psycho-killer theory given that all vacuous explanations on offer are counter-intuitive and defy basic logic.
In contrast to Amanpour however, Blumenthal belongs to the second category of journo-warlord-ism, which groups liberal and pseudo-leftist imperialists who are basically too cowardly to call for military invasion outright and hence, must resort to equivocation and verbal gymnastics to get their message across: “Indeed, there was not one person I spoke to in Zaatari who did not demand US military intervention at the earliest possible moment. ..Like most Americans, I am staunchly against US strikes, mainly because I believe they could exacerbate an already horrific situation without altering the political reality in any meaningful way. The Obama administration has made clear that its “unbelievably small” strikes would not be not aimed at toppling Assad but only, as Obama said, to send a “shot across the bow.” However, I believe that the refugees trapped in Zaatari deserve to be heard. “
If ever there was an equivocal anti-interventionism this is it: “I am staunchly against US strikes..[but] I believe that the refugees trapped in Zaatari deserve to be heard;” or put differently “I really don’t support military intervention but I am really in favour of military intervention.” More than this, although I am widely recognized as a progressive, anti-Zionist, I will only support a regime-change type of intervention that goes well beyond a limited strike, a full blown invasion no less.
And there you have it comrades, the new breed of journalist as proactive, war mobilizer-observer who emotionally reports his/her subjective reading of “facts” while urging reluctant policy-makers to abandon diplomacy, political dialogue and a peaceful resolution to the conflict in favour of bombing the living hell out of other countries.
I used to mock our resistance media for its weakness in presenting sophisticated counter-hegemonic propaganda, and then I read shit like this and I wonder why I even bother to use terms like “counter-hegemonic”. Mainstream media reports and western officials deserve no more than crude, just STFU type responses from now on. A case in point is this stomach churning report by none other than Der Spiegel, infamous for its role in helping fabricate charges against Hizbullah in the Hariri case. According to this latest leak, German intel was fortuitous enough to have intercepted a call between a Hizbullah official and someone at the Iranian Embassy, whereby the Hizb official blamed Assad for using sarin:
"Schindler also presented an additional clue, one that has not thus far been made public. He said that the BND listened in on a conversation between a high-ranking member of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which supports Assad and provides his regime with military assistance, and the Iranian Embassy. The Hezbollah functionary, Schindler reported, seems to have admitted that poison gas was used. He said that Assad lost his nerves and made a big mistake by ordering the chemical weapons attack." I don’t know why they went to the trouble of paraphrasing when they could have just written this: “Hello Iranian diplomat, I am a high ranking Hizbullah person, and I have chosen to talk to you about a highly sensitive matter which could lead to a regional war, on a regular cell phone line although I could easily have used Hizbullah’s internal, impenetrable, telecom network, which was one of our most powerful weapons during the July War. Anyway, I admit, Assad used sarin gas. Speaking of whom, what’s up with him these days? Looks like he kind of lost it. I hope nobody overheard this conversation because we’re like at the brink of war and shit….” True story.
“The stock phrase employed by western mainstream media that the bomb struck a ‘stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group,’ to quote the Washington Post, belies the fact that the area is dense and residential, and that the victims were civilians. This is akin to describing the September 11th attacks in Manhattan as striking ‘a stronghold of American bankers.’ It may be true symbolically, and also by crude motive of the bombers. But who are the victims and why were they targeted? They were civilians, overwhelmingly from the Shia sect, which make up Hezbollah’s base of support in Lebanon. Curiously, despite the fact that civilians were indiscriminately targeted, U.S. mainstream media did not refer to the bombing as a ‘terrorist attack.’
Reports like this just make me want to face palm myself until I turn blue. So apparently, this entire war has been one big false flag op launched by the Syrian govt. When massacres are committed in Alawite areas, they are committed by the regime to discredit the rebels. When pro-regime figures like Sheikh al-Bouti are assassinated, the culprit is always the regime, which is trying to incriminate the rebels. When universities in government strongholds are shelled, (first Aleppo and now Damascus) it is clearly the work of the regime which is desperately trying to turn the population against the rebels, because it is only logical to assume that the terrorists and thugs are popular in government strongholds like Damascus and areas in Aleppo. The regime is forced to adopt the false flag op as its main modus operandi, a la Mossad and the CIA, because the rebels have been so peaceful and popular among the Syrian people that atrocities must be created to tarnish their otherwise unsullied reputations. And if it was the rebels, then it was surely a “misfire” because all their terrorists attacks and executions which they proudly brandish before the cameras are mere accidents.
Of course this begs the question: if all casualties in Syrian government strongholds were killed by the regime itself, and all regime supporters were assassinated and massacred by the regime, and every atrocity against the regime’s supporters has been a false flag op, then who exactly have the rebels been fighting? It seems the Syrian government has been at war with itself this whole time.
Excerpts from the piece: "Anti-regime activists accused the regime of launching the attack to tarnish the opposition’s image. Elizabeth O’Bagy, who studies the Syrian rebels at the Institute for the Study of War, said it was not possible to determine who was behind the attack, but it appeared to fit the regime’s pattern of escalation. In other aspects of the war, such as the use of airstrikes or Scud missiles, the regime has gone from trying to target rebels to more indiscriminate attacks on civilians, she said. "Because of the fact that it does follow regime behavior, it is more likely to be a regime attack," she said, while acknowledging it could also have been a rebel misfire."
Bet you didn’t know that sectarianism is the new moderation. Note how neither AP nor media which carried this story put quotation marks around the word “moderates”, but are all too eager to do so when referring to “terrorists”. Apparently, when suicide bombs, car bombs, summary executions, beheadings and rape are systematically perpetrated by the rebels against Syrians who don’t support them , then that violence is merely so-called terrorism and warrants quotation marks, especially since the Syrian government refers to it as such. But when the US specifies it is training “largely…Sunnis” to “bolster” the rebels then we must take their secularism and moderation as a given because the US said so. We must cast aside any apprehensions about how fighters selected exclusively from one sect can avoid being sectarian, and ignore the fact that sectarianism and religiosity are not synonymous considering that sectarianism characterizes many non-religious and non-jihadi types too, as the ‘75-‘90 civil war in Lebanon readily demonstrates .
In any case, I am sure the Syrian people will prefer to have their wives raped, their homes looted and their relatives killed at the hands of secular moderate rebels rather than al-Qaeda ones. So nice to have that option now.
Surprise, surprise, mainstream media has launched an incredibly dangerous and irresponsible campaign to depict Mikati’s resignation in sectarian terms. A case in point is this report from Sky News: " He stepped down on Friday in part as a protest over Hezbollah’s refusal to extend the tenure of the country’s police chief, Maj Gen Ashraf Rifi…Mr Rifi, like Mr Mikati, is a Sunni Muslim who is considered a foe by Hezbollah.” As the sentence above insinuates, Hizbullah has a real problem with all things Sunni: Mikati resigned because he is a Sunni; Hizbullah refuses to extend Rifi’s term because he is a Sunni; Hizbullah considers Rifi a foe because he is Sunni. What no western or Arab media will tell you is that the real reason Mikati resigned was not the Rifi extension but ongoing outside pressures from the US, Saudi etc. in order to destabilize Lebanon. Nor will they tell you that Rifi is a “foe” because he heads the Internal Security Forces, which is essentially under Hariri’s control. Nor will they admit that Hariri himself is considered a POLITICAL rival by Hizbullah rather than a sectarian one, just as much a rival for Hizbullah as Hariri’s Shi’a aide, Oqab Saqr. What makes this shitty report particularly absurd is the fact that i also lets it slip that “Hezbollah frequently accusing him [Mikati] of loyalty to the pro-Western opposition.” Now THAT is the real fault line—foreign allegiances and political agendas— rather than sectarian identities.
I was watching some old clips of Chavez supporters discussing why they were going to vote for him in the October elections. Aside from their expected responses about social justice and equality, the underlying theme which resonated widely was how he was “the only one” who cared for their plight and how this was “the first time” any leader did so. In other words, there was a general awareness of injustice and oppression which provided the backdrop for their gratitude. This illustrates the very flawed and shortsighted nature of the dominant western liberal view of Chavez’s popular support— and by extension, the support all oppressed people lend their revolutionary or resistant leaders— as resulting from material “bribery” or fealty paid to a strongman who has enough charisma to captivate an impressionable and ultimately, politically naïve, audience.
Another good example of this is corporate media’s portrayal of the relationship between Nasrallah and Hizbullah’s supporters. In both cases, the mediating role played by political consciousness is completely neglected. Whether it is socio-economic programs and services these leaders provide or charismatic authority, the consequent popular support is mediated by a political identity and consciousness that is driven by a strong sense of justice. Without this political consciousness, social and economic benefits would be seen as just that—largesse bestowed by one leader among many to be traded for votes. Without this political consciousness, charismatic authority would be stripped of all political meaning and find no mass resonance. Neither economic rewards nor leadership skills would translate into “Chavez vive y la lucha sigue” or to “Labyaka ya Nasrallah”. Without political consciousness, neither economic rewards nor leadership skills would instill in people a commitment to the Bolivirian Revolution that Chavez launched or the resistance project that Nasrallah leads.
And it is this political consciousness rather than any material benefit which has forged global solidarity among the oppressed of the world; Hizbullah’s supporters mourn Chavez just as Chavistas identify with Nasrallah. And it is for this reason too that alliances between anti-imperialist states and actors extend to their peoples too, making them acts of genuine political solidarity rather than mere national interests.
The Empire’s attempts to diminish Chavez’s stature are not confined to its absurd reference to his rule as a “dictatorship”, despite Carter’s affirmation that the “Election Process in Venezuela is the Best in the World.” This de-eulogizing campaign carried out by human rights organizations and mainstream media also operates in other, more subtle ways, such as calling him a “self-proclaimed revolutionary” and a “self-styled socialist”, insinuating that objectively speaking, he was neither. Another pervasive technique used to detract from his democratic credentials, is the emphasis on the “cult of personality” he supposedly nurtured in order to cling on to power. This discourse aims not only at presenting the revolutionary leader as a power-crazed demagogue, but also at recasting popular support for his leadership as stemming from the manipulation of irrational impulses rather than his organic relationship with the people. In this manner, the massive outpouring of grief that has overwhelmed Venezuela, is reduced to “raucous” and “militant” street politics in dire need of a civilized, western liberal corrective. Because when masses of people elect a leader from their own ranks to represent their cause, and then shower him with love and praise for remaining true to their cause, this is clearly the anti-thesis of democracy in the western liberal lexicon.