Thursday, November 20, 2014

American Peace Movement and the New Cold War : Une parole franche

by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.

In this brief essay I present my observations as an attendee of plenary sessions and co-chair of a Workshop in the Massachusetts Peace Action at the MIT campus on Saturday, 8 November. My ‘sample of one’ method to characterize the American peace and anti-nuclear movements might be dismissed as anecdotal evidence were it not for the high visibility and high quality of the event in question.

The keynote speaker for a day dedicated to the principle of ‘A Foreign Policy for All’ was the great American dissident MIT Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky. His well-constructed speech, delivered in a calm and reflective tone, covered the waterfront of wrongs in Americans’ conceptualization of their place in the world, beginning with ‘exceptionalism’ and extending to the bizarre notion that they own the world and any ‘loss’ of some piece of it is a direct challenge to their national security.

Other featured speakers included veteran NY Times journalist and academic Stephen Kinzer, noted journalist and activist on the Israeli occupation Phyllis Bennis and Black affairs – labor activist and writer Bill Fletcher, Jr., all of whom delivered informative presentations with great passion.

The national reputations of these speakers assured the event’s relative popularity. The 300-seat auditorium was filled with a cross section of ages and occupations. To be sure, gray heads predominated, veterans of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the 60’s and ‘70’s, of the SANE and nuclear freeze movements of the ‘80’s. They ran the show, unlike the days of their own training in protest when youth called the shots in the post-1968 world. However, though they were observers rather than leaders, the students from the many universities of the Greater Boston area constituted close to 50% and one workshop was dedicated to recruitment of sympathizers on campus.

The organizers and participants clearly shared an identity as the Progressive Left, with strong anti-corporate, anti-Washington biases. For all that it was unmistakable how very strongly their priorities have been shaped by the narrative coming from the nation’s capital and from the mass media. Put simply, this community of peaceniks is concerned about what CNN and Fox News tells it to be concerned about – whether Ebola or the ISIS threat in Syria and Iraq. In a misguided approach to risk appraisal, it allows itself to panic over Jaws while pooh-poohing the risks inherent in driving automobiles.

Complete story at - American Peace Movement and the New Cold War : Une parole franche

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