From the Publisher… Knowledge and Power

by Joe Courter

As the summer of 2013 unfolds, I’m reminded of the Phil Ochs song, “Cops of the World,” which is a pointed criticism of U.S. foreign policy circa 1965.*

Well, the weapons, tactics and geographic locations have changed, but still this nation’s large, self-righteous footprint is all over the world. Another difference, though, is that the rest of the world is noticing, and through information-sharing, beginning to collectively object and in numerous cases resist.

We saw a preview of this on February 15, 2003, when up to 30 million people in over 100 nations around the world demonstrated against the imminent U.S. invasion and war in Iraq. At that time, I remember comments being made that if the U.S. was now that globe’s sole superpower, then the counter-balance must be everybody else.

That is what is driving the U.S. government crazy about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks; it has exposed international meddling and surveillance practices—probably long-running practices—to the light of day. Those exposed practices helped spark the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. What Bradley Manning helped expose was the true face of the war in Iraq, a distant helicopter “lighting up” civilians on the ground with jocular commentary. Edward Snowden is another crack in the facade of this “exceptional” nation, for what he has revealed is not all that new but it was largely unseen and unreported.

Look, the reason the government has been scooping up all this meta-data is because the technology allows them to. Fact is it is easier to scoop it all up and then look for specific things, than it is to target someone away from the whole. It is a fact of modern times, and it’s been with us since pre-2001. Bill Moyers had Larry Lessig on a recent show (5/21/13), and it showed Lessig testifying before Congress about it in 1998!

That they do it is not an issue; what they do with it is, and how we as a nation can guard against even further losses of our civic liberties.

Arrogance and impunity are the hallmarks of a bully, and with our exposed spying, our drones, our internal meddling in other nations for our benefit—the world is starting to resist. They are resisting the draconian austerity measures required by the U.S.-led finance system. In other cases, they have learned how their authoritarian leaders have been propped up by the West, and are overthrowing them. In the short term, this has led to some less-than-good outcomes, as abundant weaponry, political squabbling, and unleashed religious rivalries have created chaotic situations. (Authoritarian governments do have a handle on keeping the peace; Iraq was a high functioning society in 2003 prior to the invasion, even with the sanctions imposed by the U.S.)

We are also seeing Republican State legislatures going after abortion rights, and these bully tactics being met with energized opposition from women and men. We are also seeing organized labor asserting itself; not just in Madison, WI, but by fast food workers, hotel workers, and even Wal-Mart workers. North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” are an impressive, broad-based response to reactionary legislative activity.

Bullies have always existed. When we hear about the resistance to bullying in schools now, its not because bullying has been on the rise; it is because the bullied are organizing and speaking out. Victims of rape, of torture, of environmental degradation, of financial exploitation, are speaking out and organizing. And the bullies know it, and fear it.

* (And please, if you don’t know who Phil Ochs was, find him on YouTube.)

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