Monday, January 19, 2015

Lift Up Your Voice! Even When It Is Met By Insidious Repression

RIP Aaron Swartz, hounded to death by federal prosecutors in the U.S. for the crime of  information sharing.
Source: Wikipedia
Bloggers everywhere find an outlet by self-publishing in cyberspace. Some muse about food or cosmetics, parenthood or gardening, music or art -- the list is endless. Several of us nerdy types pour out our thoughts on social injustice in these violent times. Dr. Alice Rothchild told me she blogs to stay sane after trips to confront Israeli racism and oppression. Bruce Gagnon blogs to stay sane as he confronts the behemoth of military spending. Falguni Sheth blogs between academic duties on "a range of topics: contemporary politics, race, terrorism, miscegenation, feminism, philosophy, and whatever else captivates my attention."  Shay Stewart-Bouley blogs to reflect on her experience as a black woman in (very white) Maine. William Hessian blogs to spread the subversive message that creativity is life and spreads contagiously wherever he and one or more friends find themselves.

Then comes blogger Raif Badawi, publicly beaten for blogging by officials in Saudi Arabia, brutal dictators who are U.S. allies and very good buddies of our own ruling class for decades now.

If, like me, you would have to read his blog in translation, here is a digest from The Guardian of some of his more controversial posts (with links to the original posts in Arabic). For instance:
As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.
Badawi's second round of public punishment has apparently been delayed due to the international outcry. Westerners have taken him up as a cause célèbre and indeed it is absurd to think the man deserves to be brutally punished for simply promoting his ideas via blogging.

Because it is so satisfying and so convenient to be indignant when Muslim countries suppress human rights. And no one seems to notice when bastions of "freedom" like the U.S. imprison Muslims who have harmed no one but are kept incommunicado even from their young children and families in special Communications Management Units (CMUs) that are part of the modern day gulag of the planet's last mighty empire.

Besides, the Saudis behead people! A woman, just the other day! Like ISIS -- what barbarians! Who would do such a ghastly thing and seem to brag about it to the world?

Also, it is extremely important to focus debate about free speech in the West on instances of brutal suppression rather than addressing the radical topic of information control by ruling elites.

As long as I can post to my blog I must have free speech, right? 

Never mind that if I post about, say, my objection to military recruiting among children, I'm up against a $2 billion annual budget drawn from my taxes that recruiters use to flood children with messages, freebies, and presence that is ubiquitous on "entertainment" channels where kids presumably just want to be kids. Add to that Hollywood's endless funds to promote and glamorize U.S. warmongering -- as for instance in heavily advertised and promoted box office blockbuster American Sniper, and you can see why my blog isn't much of a threat to the powers that be.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate when it is convenient to create a three day weekend in the U.S., was famous for his words. Information control has cherry picked his speeches for decades now to present a sanitized and safely historical version of the civil rights movement. But you can find MLK's real words for yourself:

"Beyond Vietnam--A Time to Break Silence," Riverside Church, New York. Delivered April 4, 1967.
"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
But denial of justice in extrajudicial killing of young men of color and the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has risen up in response are calling on folks to stop using just words and start disrupting business as usual. 

From the website Popular Resistance, "Reclaim MLK Protests Begin On Rev. King's Real Birthday."

Write all the blogs posts you like, say the Western powers, as long as you don't disrupt commerce. 

Here's part of the statement released by the group that shut down Interstate 93 last week:
And so, for four and a half hours, we disrupt access from the predominantly white, wealthy suburbs to Boston’s city center. “Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.” – Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

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