29 January 2011

No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus

To the unlearned observer, there is at least a superficial similarity between the 2009 post-election protests in Iran and the recent anti-government uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. There are, of course, various cultural, economic and historical differences between them, but they are all essentially public expressions of popular anger at corrupt, anti-democratic governments. But while the "Green Revolution" became a celebrated cultural touchstone in the American media, which covered it breathlessly if insipidly, the uprisings in Tunisia and, particularly, Egypt have produced a considerably more hesitant reaction from the government and its stenographers in the corporate media.

The reason for this should be obvious. The government of Iran is an official Enemy of the State, while the Mubarak government in Egypt and, to a lesser extent, the Ben Ali government in Tunisia have both been important US allies in the region and received considerable aid from the American government. The Egyptian police and military are now largely supplied with US weapons; telling photographs from the Egypt rebellion show protesters holding up tear gas canisters and other ammunition with "Made in USA" stamped on them. These thorny issues, of course, can't be brought up in the mainstream press, because of the need to preserve the popular belief in the fantasy that the United States always and only supports "freedom and democracy" in the rest of the world, and would never, ever be on the side of a dictator. (Joe Biden, always good for a laugh, insists Mubarak is not a dictator, so I guess that settles that.)

One need not be Noam Chomsky to realize this is bullshit. Anyone with even a moderate interest in American foreign relations will shortly discover that our idealistic principles become fungible with only the slightest provocation. Indeed, the job of Serious foreign policy analysts is to explain to those people who become too curious for their own good why support for strongmen is necessary for important things like Stability! and National Interest! This is also bullshit, but mostly from a mere philosophical standpoint; it is at least closer to the government's actual decision-making process.

Why then, dear readers, are we subjected to the charade of the government and media's public broadcasts maintaining our holy, untainted crusader image when most of us have put aside similarly disprovable fantasies by the time we reach kindergarten? That's a question you'll have to answer for yourself.