Monday, February 21, 2011

Sharia Law for Madison, Communism for Cairo!

From Lenin's Tomb.

It's been entertaining to watch the Right going berserk over the protests in Madison, often the very same right-wingers who support the Tea Party. Someone actually complained somewhere that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker won his election, so now he can do what he wants! Someone else pointed out in reply that Obama and the Democrats won the 2008 election, so why didn't the Teabaggers welcome their every initiative? (The same complaint was made in Korea during the beef-import protests of 2008: they've got the right to vote now, so why are they protesting in the streets?)

Which reminds me, the BBC has a story up this morning that I found interesting but mildly disturbing. It's a celebration of an American academic named Gene Sharp, who has built his career studying methods and tactics of "nonviolent revolution." According to the article, Sharp's booklet From Dictatorship to Democracy, which lists 198 "techniques collated from a forensic study of defiance to tyranny throughout history", has been used by activists from Burma to Serbia to Egypt. Sharp has been accused, the writer sniffs, of being a CIA front; I wouldn't be so sure he's not, though he has one interesting item in his CV: he was jailed "for nine months in 1953-4 for protesting against conscription of young men to fight in Korean War."

What disturbed me about the article was a passing remark that "President Hugo Chavez used his weekly television address to warn the country that Sharp was a threat to the national security of Venezuela." This means that Sharp's methods can be, and perhaps are being used against properly elected governments, not just tyrants. (What disturbed me was the implication, so common in the US mainstream, that Chavez is a tyrant; it doesn't have to be supported, everybody just knows it.) Diana Johnstone wrote a few years ago, "I have written another note on that, pointing out that the United States, with its vast wealth and power, is able to use all methods, those of the powerful and those of the weak, including 'non-violence' (U.S. agents taught 'non-violence' to the well-subsidized 'Otpor' movement in Serbia to get rid of Milosevic... which did not preclude using violent groups as well)." I hope the protesters in Wisconsin are studying From Dictatorship to Democracy. It seems only fair.