Thursday, February 09, 2006

Entirely by accident, it seems that the social/political side of this blog is forming into three distinct themes:

1. Orwell Watch.
2. Intellectual property.
3. Imagine it's 1999 again. (I think I first thought of it that way here.)

That's an interesting post by Matthew Yglesias that tries to put today's conflicts in perspective. And I actually haven't finished reading the comments on that thread, which seemed to go back and forth.

But the "Bring it on" War is neither new to the world nor unexpectedly a problem for us. It was a surprise to a lot of people, but it shouldn't be. I first talked about something vaguely like that here, but it shows up elsewhere too. Despite all the talk about jihad and whacko fundementalists and fifth columns, it's very interesting how the current partisan divides and ideological alliances compare to their counterparts when the issue was called "globalization".

I noticed it when I was in France. I remember one specific rally/demonstration/protest against... well, I don't remember what it was against, exactly, but American influence and globalization and corporatism would all have been contenders. (Amusingly enough, I was wearing my Rotary jacket as they came up the street, which is a blue blazer with 30-40 pins on it and an American flag patch on my shoulder. Realistically I was in no danger - it was a rally, not a riot - but still, let's just say I was walking small.) I had heard from lots of people that the decision to build Nantes' sole skyscraper had been contentious and controversial. At this point almost everyone has heard lectures or read pamphlets about how Islam is a religion of peace, but I got that here and there before 9/11 ever happened. Hell, I imagine everyone has similar stories of some kind. And as Yglesias points out, it's funny in a fucked-up way that the US has become a voting bloc on certain social issues with countries like Iran and Somalia - we have our reactionaries too, even though the rising tide is spinning them in a different direction.

Religion and political realism have had some influence on world events, of course. And there's a world of difference between a hundred or so Frenchmen carrying banners down the street and embassies being burned and rioters killed. But even though 9/11 has been used to justify everything from invading Iraq to eavesdropping on vegans, the difference between the rally five years ago and the riots over the past couple months is a difference of degree, not type. Just one more reason, were any needed, to look suspiciously at someone who uses "security" as an excuse.

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