The West's magic to hide its hypocrisy

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By TARIK CYRIL AMAR*

The meaning of the term “civil society” changes depending on whether Washington is talking about protests inside or outside the American border.

Western elites and mainstream media are so addicted to double standards that detecting one more is nothing new. These are the people who just gave us the renamed genocide “self-defense”, who abhor spheres of influence except when they are global and belong to Washington (with Brussels as a sidekick), and who insist on the rule of law while threatening the International Criminal Court if he dares to look at them.

However, there is something special about the latest case of Western “values” schizophrenia, this time over the concept of “civil society” in conjunction with two political struggles, one in the USA and the other in the Caucasian nation of Georgia.

In the US, students, teachers and others protest the ongoing Israeli genocide of Palestinians and American participation in that crime. In Georgia, the issue at hand is a proposed law to impose transparency on the vast and unusually powerful NGO sector. Its critics denounce this proposed law as a government power grab and as being somehow “Russian” (the which, spoiler alert, is not).

The very different reactions to these two cases of intense public dispute by political elites and the mainstream media in the West show that, for them, there really are two types of civil society: there is the “vibrant” variety., being“vibrant” a comical and ossified cliché, used by Editorial Board of the newspaper The Washington PostOn Union E statementsuropeia, and by the White House spokesperson, John Kirby, to name just a few. It's almost as if someone sent out a memo about proper terminology. This “vibrant” and good kind of civil society should be celebrated and supported.

And then there is the wrong kind of civil society, which must be shut down. US President Joe Biden has just expressed the essence of this attitude: “We are a civil society and order must prevail". This is obviously a bizarre and mistaken reading of the idea of ​​civil society. Ideally, its main characteristics are autonomy in relation to the State and the ability to establish an effective counterweight and even, if necessary, to offer resistance to it.

Placing emphasis on “order” is either ignorance or dishonesty. In reality, civil society makes no sense, even as an ideal, if it is not granted a substantial degree of freedom to be disorderly. A civil society that is so orderly that it disturbs no one is a fig leaf for forced conformity and – at the very least – incipient authoritarianism.

But let's leave aside the mundane fact that Joe Biden says things that demonstrate ignorance or duplicity. What is more important is that “order”, in its usage, is a transparent euphemism: according to the newspaper The New York Times, in the last two weeks, more than 2.300 protesters were arrested in almost fifty fields Americans. Arrests were often made with graphic brutality. The police used riot gear, stun grenades e rubber bullets. They attacked students and some teachers very violently.

The best-known particular case to date is that of Annelise Orleck, teacher of Dartmouth College. Annelise Orleck is 65 years old and tried to protect students from police violence. In response, she was thrown to the ground in the worst MMA style, placed on her knees by burly police officers who clearly lack elementary decency, and dragged away with cervical trauma, as if she had been in a serious car accident. Ironically (if that's the word), Annelise Orleck is Jewish and at one time used to be the head of her university's Jewish Studies program.

In another extremely disturbing event, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a violent police crackdown – including the use of rubber bullets – was preceded by the vicious attack of so-called “counter-protesters” pro-Israel. In reality, it was a mob intent on inflicting maximum harm on anti-genocide protesters, which an investigation by the New York Times, maintained an almost entirely defensive posture. University security forces and police did not intervene for hours, leaving the “counter-protesters” at ease. This is a pattern that any historian of the rise of fascism in Weimar Germany will recognize: first, the SA mobs of the rising Nazi party had carte blanche to attack the left, then the police also went after that same left.

This is the true face of the “order” that President Joe Biden and many members of the establishment of the West endorse. But only at home. When it comes to the unrest in Georgia, the tone is entirely different. Make no mistake, there has been substantial violence – what Joe Biden would denounce as “chaos” if it happened in America – in Georgia. In fact, although US anti-genocide protesters have not been violent but rather riotous (yes, they are very different things), protesters in Georgia have used genuine violence, e.g. tried to invade parliament.

Nothing remotely comparable has been done by US anti-genocide protesters. As for the invasions and public inconveniences that so agitate the US president, there has been plenty of that in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. By Joe Biden's logic, a protest should not even disrupt or delay a graduation ceremony in campus. What would this imply about blocking a central transit node in the capital?

Don’t get me wrong: Georgian protesters also denounce violent police tactics used against them, and more broadly, the rights or wrongs of their cause, or the bill they reject, are beyond the scope of this article. I believe they are used by the West for a Color Revolution-style geopolitical game, but that is not the point of this text.

The pertinent point here is, once again, the astonishing Western hypocrisy: a West that thinks that trying to storm parliament is part of the existence of a “vibrant” civil society in Georgia cannot mass arrest and brutalize anti-genocide protesters in Georgia. their own campuses. This is also, of course, the message from Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, who has clearly had enough of this nonsense.

In resonant publication on twitter (X), Irakli Kobakhidze energetically opposed the American “false statements” about the controversial bill, as well as, even more importantly, to the US interference in Georgian politics in general. The Prime Minister, in essence and in a very plausible way for the non-naive, denounced Washington's shameful habit of attempting a “Color Revolution” at regular intervals.

Finally, he reminded his American interlocutors “about the brutal repression of the student protest demonstration in New York City.” With this phrase clearly representing the entirety of police repression against young Americans who oppose genocide, Irakli Kobakhidze turned the tables.

And this is, perhaps, the most intriguing conclusion of this new but not unprecedented episode in the long saga of Western double standards. Finding the condemnation and suppression of almost entirely peaceful protests against genocide, while celebrating violent protests against a law regulating NGOs – this is shameful, but it is nothing new. As before, geopolitics prevails over “values”.

But “civil society” used to be a key concept for designing the soft power Western world through, essentially, subversion and manipulation. It was so useful because its ideological charge was so powerful that its mere invocation suffocated resistance. Now, by showing how it handles its own civil society, the West is ruining yet another useful illusion.

*Tarik Cyril Amar, PhD in history from Princeton University, is a professor at Koç University (Istanbul). Author, among other books, of The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv (Cornell University Press).

Translation: Ricardo Kobayaski.

Originally published on the portal RT.


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