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The New York Times’ Non-Democracy Agenda

Ann Marlowe

The voice of the bien-pensant class cant believe Arabs want freedom


Whose side is the New York Times on?


Syrias Chaos A Test for U.S., reads a front-page headline from yesterdays Times (online, the headline became, Unrest in Syria and Jordan Poses New Test for U.S. Policy). The
headlines implication is that Syria used to be a well run state and
that now it is afflicted by chaos. Its the equivalent of a headline
the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall stating, East Germanys Chaos a Test for U.S.


The news analysis by Mark Landler worries
that deepening chaos in Syria could dash any remaining hopes for a
Middle East peace agreement, several analysts say. Its unclear who
those unnamed analysts are, since the only pundits quoted, Andrew Tabler and Martin Indyk, actually are supportive of the Syrian protests and
skeptical of Mr. Assads usefulness to the US. Mr. Indyk sees an
unusual confluence of our values and interests while Mr. Tabler states
that Syrias brutish but slick-appearing leader, Bashar al-Assad, has
given us nothing, even though weve engaged him on the peace process.


In a reported piece on Syria by Michael Slackman and Liam Stack, we are told that, In
Syria, there have been no widespread calls for President Assads
departure. Its pretty obvious that by the time protesters burn Baath
party offices and take to the streets with machetes, knives, and clubs,
as the article states, they are not exactly giving him a vote of
confidence. And the article reports that pro-government demonstrators
were also out in Damascus, where about 200 people drove around the city
on Saturday evening. I saw a similar demonstration on Syrian state
television early on Friday morning (their time); such spontaneous
events are a feature of dictatorships like Mr. Assads. The cars had
neatly arranged Syrian flags on their hoods and official photos of Mr.
Asssad in their windowsnothing improvised about it. Reporting this
event as though it were of the same nature as the uprising of more than
ten thousand anti-Baath protestors plays into the hands of Mr. Assad and his thugs.


Meanwhile, on the op-ed page of the same newspaper, Thomas Friedman hoped for the emergence of Arab Mandelas. Would he hope for the emergence
of Portuguese Mandelas or Greek Mandelas to help those countries
negotiate their economic crises?Japanese Mandelas to
substitute for the weak leadership of Japans prime minister in
recovering from the recent disasters there? Of course not. But in Mr.
Friedmans universe, Arabs need leaders to get them to do the right
thing, the daily evidence to the contrary of the Arab revolt
notwithstanding. True, the Arab states are less mature politically than
Portugal and Greece, among the more feckless European powers. But the
emphasis on leaders rather than civil society is what has kept the Arab
states less mature. And to some extent, the US has played into this
unfortunate trend by backing dictators who suppress peaceful opponents.


I dont want to be naive about the Arab revolt. The region has a long way to go to developing civil society. In Egypt, which has a more robust
sense of citizenry than most Arab states, and historically has lead the
Arab world in literary and artistic culture, the military has sought to
criminalize the very sorts of protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Recently the Egyptian Army has reinforced the local macho, misogynist
culture, strip-searching women democracy activists and protestors and
jailing and torturing men. A well-known local activist-musician who was a star of the earlier protests, Ramy Esam, was brutally beaten by the police after a March 9th Tahrir Square protest.


But the way the American newspaper of record is reporting on the Arab
revolts, one would never guess that they were restoring the self-respect and hope of millions of people who have just as much a right to freedom as we do.

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