Why the media doesn’t get Brazil

June 24, 2013

In the largest anti-government demonstrations – dubbed the Tropical Spring – violent clashes broke out as people demanded improved public services and an end to corruption in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. (Losh, 2013)

Is the world going to Hell in a handbasket? The answer probably depends which side of the class divide you stand on. For the world’s wealthy elites the protests in Brazil are another disturbing sign that the ungrateful wretches who survive on meagre table crumbs are restless, once again.

The issue is not so much whether the handbasket is being winched up or down; but rather: Why? If you were to rely only on the mainstream media for an answer you may just end up more confused than when you started.

There’s a mood for change sweeping many parts of the world today, but our understanding of its significance is not increased by most of the media coverage.

Since the Arab Spring of 2010 a wave of revolutionary struggle has erupted across parts of southern Europe and most recently it has spread to Turkey and to Brazil. However, our media tends to treat each of these uprisings as isolated events and attempts to explain them in terms of local and national issues. The global instability of neo-liberal late capitalism is hardly mentioned. Most journalists won’t even acknowledge it. Perhaps it’s too complicated; for some it is certainly too scary to think about.

Further, the news media’s debilitating fixation on the concept of balance means that these globe-shifting outbreaks of protest are reported with an even-handed ignorance. Simplistic explanations like social media equals more democracy are trotted out to give a sheen of analysis to what is actually intellectually threadbare coverage.

Protestors are routinely labelled as inchoerent, rudderless and violent; on the other hand, governments are portrayed as neutral arbiters of calm and order. This is a politically naïve representation that highlights the profound lack of real understanding on the part of journalists on the ground and of their media organisations. Simple vox pops are left to suffice for clear political commentary from the movement’s leaders and a seething mass of individuals ‘rioting’ provides the most telegenic images. It’s easier than trying to translate and understand the political tracts and speeches that inevitably accompany protest marches.

The problem is that most journalists are used to reporting politics as a game of ‘he said, she said’ in which claims and counter-claims are presented to the audience within a framework of parliamentary democracy. But you cannot report revolution within that framework. Revolutions do not follow that MSM script and most reporters, unfortunately, cannot see past their own faces to what is really going on.

Fundamental questions about the role of States and state-sponsored violence are sidelined, ignored or mis-interpreted.The history of social movements and the long-lived experience of people which finally draws them to the streets is underplayed or ignored altogether in favour of the sexy shots and simple sound bite.

It is not good enough.

The rest of this post concentrates on Brazil, but similar arguments can be made about Turkey and also the Arab Spring.

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Mr Eekes’ remarks: The governor-general; patriotism and class war

October 11, 2010

My occassional correspondent,  J W Eekes Esq. sent this missive as a comment on the Henrygate thread. It speaks to the heart of the debate about “Kiwi-ness” with a vigor born of class-consciousness. I thought it well worth elevating.

Many thanks sir. Please regale us with more of your pithy observations.

The problem of the Governor-General

J W Eekes [guest post]

The real problem with the Governor-General isn’t his size or ethnicity. The problem is his membership in the self-serving, bipartisan cohort of judges and lawyers who consider themselves born to rule this country and have done so for decades.

Ruling classes throughout the Anglosphere co-opt whoever and whatever they can to legitimise their hold on power and give the impression of inclusiveness in what is in fact always an elite club governed by inviolable customs and shibboleths.

Satyanand’s ethnicity might be a problem for Henry and his supporters. It’s not for the establishment who long ago accepted him and elevated him to office. What matters to them is membership in the ruling class of our very own good ol’ boys and gals. If anything, Satyanand’s South Asian origin served to make him Helen Clark’s top choice even though it aroused suspicions of tokenism.

The only genius of the ruling class is its ability to pay lip service to lofty terms like meritocracy and public service, while exploiting the vast majority of people and convincing them that jandals, Richie McCaw and the quarter-acre section mean Godzone is something more than a lame concept invented by repressed depressives who clearly never lived or visited anywhere else.

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Iran update #1: Real revolution will not be taking the bus either

June 23, 2009

Mousavi suporters have called for a general strike to begin in Iran today (Tuesday Iran time). This is the way forward. In 1979 it was the industrial working class and in particular the oil workers who led the revolution until it was hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists.

This could be the beginning of a new uprising of working class anger that is secularist and organised. It is, in my view, the most significant working class action since Solidarity in the 1970s and could trigger a wider regional revolt against regimes that have given support to the Iranians over the past few years.

I was talking to an Iranian protester in Auckland yesterday. He was quoting Jean Paul Satre, not the Qu’uran. That is significant too. Secular Iranians don’t want Islamic fundamentalism, but where will their political leadership come from. Hopefull from comrades like these brave Iranian bus workers.

This is a statement the bus drivers’ union issued on the weekend. Full link is at Narcosphere

The Autobus Workers Union of Iran (Sendikaye Sherkat Vahed, in Farsi)

In recent days we have witnessed the passionate presence of millions of women and men, the old and the young, and ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, people who want their government to recognize their most basic right, the right to freely, independently, and transparently elect, a right that in most societies around the world is not only recognized officially but for whose protection no effort is neglected.

In the current situation, we witness threats, arrests, killings, and naked persecution, which threaten to grow in dimension and lead to the shedding of innocent people’s blood thus bringing a rise in popular protests and not in their decline.

Iranian society is facing a deep political and economic crisis. Million-strong protests, which have manifested themselves with a silence that is replete with meaning, have become a pattern that is growing in area and dimension, a growth that demands a response from any responsible person and organization.

The Autobus Workers Union in an announcement issued before the elections declared, “in the absence of the freedom for political parties, our organization is naturally deprived of a social institution that can protect it.”

“Workers of the Autobus Workers Union consider their social involvement and political activity to be the certain right of each member of society and furthermore believe that workers across Iran as long as they submit the platforms of presidential candidates and a practical guarantee about campaign slogans can choose to participate or not participate in elections.”

The fact that the demands of the vast majority of Iranian society go far beyond those of unions is obvious to all, and in the previous years we have emphasized that until the principle of the freedom to organize and to elect is not materialized, any talk of social freedom and labor union rights will be a farce.

Given these facts, the Autobus Workers Union places itself alongside all those who are offering themselves in the struggle to build a free and independent civic society. The union condemns any kind of suppression and threats.

To recognize labor-union and social rights in Iran, the international labor organizations have declared the Fifth of Tir (June 26) the international day of support for imprisoned Iranian workers as well as for the institution of unions in Iran. We want that this day be viewed as more than a day for the demands of labor unions to make it a day for human rights in Iran and to ask all our fellow workers to struggle for the trampled rights of the majority of the people of Iran.

With hope for the spread of justice and freedom,

Autobus Workers Union