Saturday, July 28, 2007

An anti-journalistic talking shop for the privileged class

Ever since I was libeled in its pages by a wealthy, college-dwelling professional dissembler (York University Professor Justin Podur) and a convicted criminal and perjurer (Patrick Elie), and then denied the right of response, I have always thought that one had about as much chance reasoning with the crowd that populates the internet publication ZNet as one did of reasoning with a barnyard animal, though no doubt the barnyard animal would be less pernicious by nature. This is, after all, a website that has made a gospel out of verbally lauding deniers of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (refusing to print critiques in response and ignoring evidence and tesimonials to the contrary), fawning over Caribbean despots and killers (again, ignoring evidence upon evidence) and a whole host of other unsavory types, pretty much refining the template for armchair radicalism in the service of attacking genuinely progressive, democratic movements the world over. A recent article by Shirley Pate would seem a case in point.

The article, which consists of an attack on director Asger Leth’s film Ghosts of Cité Soleil , is interesting chiefly because it seems fairly obvious that author Pate has not seen the film in question, though that doesn’t stop her from declaring that the its mission is to show that “supporters of (former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand) Aristide are violence-prone sub-humans who, because of their overwhelming majority and continued demand for the return of Aristide, must be contained and then eliminated.”

I have not seen Ghosts of Cité Soleil , and so can’t pass any judgment on it, though I did know its two main protagonists, James “Billy” Petit-Frere and Winston “Tupac” Jean-Bart, with the former being a close personal friend of mine of long-standing before his murder in 2005. Having watched the Aristide government arm and organize street gangs between 2001 and 2004, I can certainly say that some of the political militants portrayed in the film were capable of real violence, though, as always, the story is a bit more complex than Pate and ZNet would have readers believe. Over the three years of Aristide’s second term in office, gunmen in Haiti’s slums were alternately courted and killed by Haitian political elements, chiefly thought not exclusively by political and police officials of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political party, the dance between the two becoming one of extreme mutual circumspection over time. There were some bright, highly motivated people among the political militants who could have been of great use to any government that wanted to change Haitian society into a more equitable and just place, but, unfortunately, as so many actors in Haiti that had come before them, Aristide and the Fanmi Lavalas party were simply not interested in that.

Similarly, as René Préval was elected as Haiti's president in February 2006 with 51.5 percent of the vote at the head of the Lespwa coalition of political parties, and March Bazin, the official candidate of Fanmi Lavalas, received 0.68% of the vote in that 35-candidate race, one wonders on what basis Pate describes Fanmi Lavalas partisans as an “overwhelming majority.” Undermining Préval seems to be the task at hand for the handful of activists in North America that appear to long for a return to the days of Aristide in Haiti.

The last article of Pate’s that crossed my radar was also published on ZNet, an ugly attack on the progressive journalist Jane Regan who, along with the Haitian photographer Daniel Morel, has done as much as anyone ever has to help document the Haitian people’s struggle for a more just and decent society, free from predatory politicians, foreign manipulation and economic desperation.

In her attack on Regan, Pate, referring to the inferno of bloodshed that was consuming Haiti at the time, wrote that “we must acknowledge that resistance may involve violence.” Perhaps she was alluding to the kidnapping, torture and murder of Haitian journalist and poet Jacques Roche, the beheading of political activist Weber Adrien or the murder of at least one Police Nationale d'Haïti (PNH) officer every five days between September 2004 and September 2005. It’s hard to tell. The gangs themselves, and the police who would summarily execute scores, probably hundreds, of young men they suspected of being gang-affiliated, did a good job of making life in Haiti’s capital a living hell for it’s residents for many months. Fortunately, with Préval, Haiti seems to be finally pulling itself out of the morass.

At any rate, ZNet, whose founder Michael Albert more-or-less epitomizes the image of what I have heard termed the full-belly revolutionary (as applied to the Palestinian group Fatah, in one case), will no doubt continue to prevaricate, misinform and mislead its readers from the safety and comfort of first-world countries such as the United States, Canada and England, then shutting down debate when its writers are caught out, as has happened in the past.

One can only hope that on issues such as Haiti, the genuinely concerned public will have the insight to glean their news from more reliable sources, such as Haiti’s AlterPresse news service. I recently wrote of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp that I found it to be a shrill, anti-journalistic, cheerleading machine, and I must say I find the same to be very much the case with ZNet, though from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. With sources such as AlterPresse, where Haitians are finally allowed to be able to speak in their own voices, Haiti’s story will hopefully no longer be written solely by affluent foreigners attempting to live out fantasies of radicalism (safely insulated from any danger) but rather from those who live Haiti’s story every day.

1 comment:

Sutton said...

Careful, Michael. I noticed a lot of "thought crimes" in this piece. The Z-Net soviet will not be pleased.