narcasse: Sebastian Flyte.  Brideshead Revisited (2008) (hybrid)
[personal profile] narcasse
Rather after the fact I’ve been seeing lots of reposts of a preachy piece about the Iranian elections and while the situation is a complex one, not least of all because all the outside interference is ramping up the paranoia in Tehran, there was something about that particular piece that consistently rubbed me the wrong way.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first and simply scrolled past. If I want critical updates on the situation in Iran I don’t look for them on Livejournal after all so it’s no loss that I don’t stop to read said piece every damn time it pops up. That’s not to say I criticise anyone on my flist who's felt the need to post it, you do what you feel you have to do after all. In fact its not even the message I’ve got too much of an issue with, mostly because I haven’t had the urge to read the thing in its entirety so I’m not entirely sure what the point of reposting it is other than to acknowledge that you know there’s been an election in Iran. There was a political mess in Thailand a little while ago leading to Thaksin Shinawatra going into self-imposed exile and facing charges of corruption but I didn’t see many frantic LJ posts about it, Ban Ki-moon has been failing all over the place and nobody mentions his name and so on. So already I’m a little cynical about the virtue of reposing this piece on LJ. I’m probably also biased because if you’re not aware of this sort of thing already and have to rely on LJ as your primary source of information about it you’re a fucking idiot anyway. The weight of the US propaganda machine being thrown behind proceedings doesn’t help matters either but that’s veering away from my current point and really is more a matter for actual political analysis.

The issue itself aside it’s the delivery of the message to ‘raise awareness’ that’s irritating me. In fact I’d like to know who that repost is really highlighting the situation to so that I can apply a much needed boot to the head because if you’re relying on a casual journaling site for your world news there really is something wrong with you. You don’t even have to pick up a broadsheet, or a selection to balance out the bias or cross-compare between NHK, CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC and EuroNews on the TV. You can sit quite happily at your computer and google the news headlines that way. This isn’t an event that’s flown under the media radar so there’s no shortage of information. So with that in mind we can safely say that this repost isn’t raising awareness. In fact it reminds me of a gay rights repost that went around a few years ago which seemed to only serve the purpose of alleviating the guilt of people who couldn’t be arsed to do anything in reality by allowing them to post a few lines saying that they supported said rights. Brilliant, you made a post on LJ. Maybe a few years down the line it might actually cross your mind to stop telling your gay friends to out themselves to everyone just so that you can feel brave for being friends with a gay person.

So the message isn’t about raising awareness. It might in part be about expressing solidarity while doing shit all to genuinely help or not, depending. It might even be about slowing down Iranian security services as they search for dissenters because no matter how fast you are at following the trail it’s going to slow you down if every second hit is just some random LJer reposing the same spiel. In fact purpose-wise I like that latter proposition as the reason why this repost is happening because then it would actually serve a purpose of some kind rather than being a random stab in the dark for no particular reason. If that’s the case then fine, as I’ve said before, you do what you have to do but, which really is the point I’m trying to make, if said repost is meant to humanise the situation and raise awareness though that humanisation then it’s not only failing generally but also alienating a good portion of the audience it might reach.

If you are reading this right now, you have more luxury than someone in Iran could ever hope for right now. If you are watching TV or a video on youtube, updating your status on Facebook, Tweeting, or even texting your friend, you are lucky. If you are safe in your home, and were able to sleep last night without the sounds of screaming from the rooftops, you need to know and understand what is happening to people just like you in Iran right now.

So the opening paragraph runs. It’s blatantly an attempt to humanise the situation by telling the reader that they are lucky they’re so shallow and white and privileged and have never known anything at all about civil unrest, political dissention, violence, suffering or anything else that has never happened anywhere else in the world ever before. In fact because the reader is evidently cocooned by their white privilege they don’t know anything about the rest of the non-Western world because bad things only happen there because those folks had the misfortune of not being born white Westerners. Bad things only happen outside the West, ever and only to POC. And of course if you’re a POC in the West you think you’re white anyway and you’ve turned your back on your heritage, country and integrity so you wouldn’t know a single thing about suffering in your homeland or anywhere else either.

I’m fully aware that the above paragraph is meant to illustrate privileges that some people might take for granted but it’s so patronising that I can’t take it seriously. It presumes that the reader is a moral cripple and has never had any empathy or experience of anything beyond some white American teen stereotype. Perhaps then there’s my real issue: that I like to believe that not all white Westerners are the morally bankrupt scum of humanity. I like to believe that all people have at least a touch of empathy and understanding regarding the fact that there are terrible things in the world and that those things happen to fellow human beings. I don’t want to believe that anybody is so wrapped up in their own privilege that they don’t realise that they have the privilege of ignorance in the first place. But maybe I’m wrong and there really are such morally bankrupt individuals in existence, people who don’t care, don’t empathise and don’t want to hear about the world around them up to the point where it’s going to take a repost of some simplistic drivel on a casual journaling site to make them realise that there is a world out there where things aren’t the same as they are for them. So maybe the message does get out there and for a few seconds some privileged fuckwit thinks that there may be disconcerting things occurring beyond their frame of vision but I somehow doubt that the message sticks. In fact in many ways considering this reminds me of the business of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother which is white privilege fantasy at its finest. Because white folks always have the means to make a difference and put things right and if those darn POC weren’t so lazy they could be just like white folks too.

Thus, as far as this repost goes it’s too steeped in privilege for me to relate to it and too full of self-satisfaction at having actually done nothing of use for me to respect it. I sincerely hope that anybody who reposts it has actually done something about their expressed opinion but I’m well aware that having reposted said piece they’re more likely to sit on their behinds and pat themselves on the back over having ‘done something’. Because really at the end of the day all this thing is is the extension of gesture politics to the masses.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-22 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
while you do have a point about Lj-posts to not be enough to get informed about such complicate matters, seems that in this particular cases, communication via internet is having an important role in not silencing the things that are happening in Iran right now. I don't know if changing timezone and location is really effective as the posters says in slowing down the iranian security services on twitter, or if this should count as something, surely is not enough to feel 'brave' or anything, but it's a little something anyone could do, so why not, as far as you are conscious of the purpose of it?
But if I understood your post right, it's more the 'wrap' than the instructions that bothered you, and that's fine, even though I don't think that the purpose of the original post was self-glorification or the raise of an awareness that should come from more qualified sources.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-22 02:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Communication via the internet is one thing but reposting something on LJ that doesn’t seem to have an identifiable purpose is another. Re-tweeting proxy addresses or setting your location to Tehran have obvious purposes regardless of how effective they are: posting ‘omg, there’s an election in Iran’ on LJ doesn’t seem to aim to accomplish anything at all.

The whole thing reeks of self-aggrandising ‘awareness’ where people can opt out of actually caring about a situation because they’ve posted something publicly to register that they have some smidgen of compassion. They’ve made the gesture, not a useful gesture mind and now they can carry on with their youtube watching, Facebook updating, Twittering, texting lives. In which case that opening paragraph really was spot on because the ones who are reposting this for exactly that reason are the dregs of humanity, whose idea of showing solidarity probably consists of going out and eating some falafel.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-22 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Re-tweeting proxy addresses or setting your location to Tehran have obvious purposes regardless of how effective they are

But, see, this was the whole point of the reposting, at least to me, like to say to people "so there is this very simple thing you can do, just opening another of your browser window, to help those who are trying to make the news break through" - and now you have insinuate the doubth into my mind that I should have better skip the images and quotes and just posted the link from wordpress with the instructions. More concise and immune to the pathetic downfalls you pointed out.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-25 11:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I didn't see the wordpress link in that post at all because after a glance at the first two photos I just clicked back. The first time I saw that post I may have scrolled down and glanced at the other photos but that was it; after the first paragraph I wasn't really expecting it to contain anything of actual use.

I have seen the wordpress link but if my only exposure to it had been via that repost I would have missed it entirely.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-25 11:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
that's why I was starting to doubt the utility of photos and such. It worked in catching my attention the first time I saw it, and this way I found the wordpress link, but with the spread of repost, one might have the same reaction of yours and just skip it, missing the somehow usefull contents, while a more 'concentrate' message might have worked better.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-22 04:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In broad generality, I totally agree with you. The pious handwringing, it gets old fast.

But having said that, I need to offer up a defense of at least some of my fellow U.S. journallers. It is certainly true that we have the same access to the net as anyone else, and in most cases more so: those of us who're invested in following the news have the resources to do it, and make a point of doing it.

However. It does require that we make a special effort, because our mass news media are effectively worthless. I'm old enough to remember a time when this wasn't the case, and I was raised by people who believed that following the (real) news was important; I remain both committed and interested. This isn't necessarily true for most of the folks on LJ. I have friends who've never known a time when our newspapers, newsmagazines, or radio or television news actually reported anything of importance, or bothered to do so accurately. If world events, or politics, aren't either parts of their jobs or a kind of fandom, it's shockingly easy for them to be unaware of even the most important events.

The Iranian elections are a case in point. I've been keeping half an eye out since before the elections, because I am weird by American standards. The day when the serious protests began in Tehran, when it became clear that something remarkable was happening there, you couldn't find coverage even on our supposedly dedicated news television channels, and our papers had nothing.

So at least some of the re-posters on LJ are probably both responding with genuine shock to news that has been invisible to them, and serving some purpose in informing those with similar sensibilities and with similar lack of day-to-day contact with real news that the situation exists, and is kind of a big deal. It's shocking and ghastly that our media environment here is such that this repost might ever be serving a genuine news function for anyone reading it -- but I fear that such is indeed the case.

Which, if you ever wondered, is how we managed to sort of elect George W. Bush. Twice. If we'd had genuine reporting in the mass media here, the kind that existed up through the 80s, I remain convinced that it couldn't have happened.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-25 01:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I keep hearing terrible things about the US media but what I hear is so abhorrent that I keep telling myself that it can’t really be that bad, just for the sake of my sanity. I really ought to stop doing that because I’ve watched the news while in America and as a friend put it they’d rather report on a dog going missing locally than cover international news. There’d been a French plane crash at the time and I remember wanting to watch the news to hear the updates but it just wasn’t covered. It’s just beyond words that really huge things aren’t being reported.

Of course as you point out then if the general public have to make the extra effort to genuinely stay informed that only works if people know that there really are great world events going on out there and how to find out about them. It would explain why plenty of Americans seem to be woefully uninformed and ridiculously self-centred: they really do believe that nothing of interest ever happens outside the US and that the rest of the world hang on their every word. And this would be why the rest of the world hates the US too: America at its worst is typified by stupidity, arrogance and enough weaponry to murder billions. The lack of information also explains why most American’s don’t seem to get that this hatred isn’t veiled jealousy but rather the only pro-active expression the rest of the world has because we’re terrified that the uninformed, insular and down right violent US will one day destroy us all. Nobody trusts the US which really seems to fly right over the head of US policy-makers. I remember reading Kagan’s Paradise and Power which was a horribly simplified idea of how Europe and America could work together. Kagan seemed to see the entire thing as a Victorian marriage of sorts and really seemed to be under the impression that the only reason other nations were hostile to the US was because they coveted the dominant US position on the world stage, and he was an expert on Trans-Atlantic politics apparently so really I ought to stop expecting better.

Having watched a few of Bush’s presidential addresses he genuinely seemed to mean well, he was going to save the world and he honestly wanted to improve things for everyone but unfortunately his idea of improving anyone’s situation meant having them adopt the American lifestyle, state structure etc. It didn’t seem to occur to him that what works for Americans in America might not work for other people in other places and I’d presume that with that attitude he’d never have grasped the idea that America isn’t trusted. America bullies other nations and the impression I always have is that they don’t seem to realise this, that people comply not because the American system is more enlightened than anybody else’s but because they have the means to destroy you if you don’t.


narcasse: Sebastian Flyte.  Brideshead Revisited (2008) (Default)

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