Monday, November 16, 2015

"Ne vous laissez pas manipuler"

Dave Zirin in The Nation wrote a sober plea for clear-headedness in the aftermath of the Paris attacks: " 'Ne Vous Laissez Pas Manipuler', AKA #StayWoke". This was what Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tweeted in response to the attacks.

"Ne vous laissez pas manipuler" literally means, "Do not allow yourself to be manipulated", but Zirin finds a hashtag of the Black Lives Matter movement to be closer in spirit: #StayWoke.

To “stay woke” in the aftermath of the Paris attacks is an act of conscious resistance against an ugly tide. ...

As hostages were still messaging for help from inside the Bataclan, pundits with frighteningly vast followings were using dead bodies like quills dipped in blood, as they brayed for total war. They demanded an attack on Muslims: Shia, Sunni, Palestinians, Iranian ... just an undifferentiated mass of innocent people whom Senator Ted Cruz has defined as future casualties to be killed by someone else's children.

Cruz is hardly alone, of course. Amanda Marcotte's piece in Salon warns us of the Republican presidential candidates' simplistic ideas (hardly meriting that term) for how the U.S. should respond to the Paris attacks. Also in Salon, Elias Isquith grimly reminds us that we, the people — you know, the ones who are supposed to hold the U.S. Constitution sacred — are "one attack away" from shredding that Constitution again, returning to the belligerent, paranoid, apocalyptic state of near panic initially triggered by the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Fear demands instant, simple responses. Fear doesn't stop to ask if those responses are smart.

Fear inspires hasty and ill-considered action. Fear inspires us to act like children, hysterically crying out for vengeance.

Fear brings out the worst in us. That's why we can't give in to it. We have to keep our heads.

Politicians and pundits have seized on the attack to further their own ends. We have to use the soft grey thing inside our skulls and filter the commentary and bloviating through our good sense.

To say we (whether the French, the Americans, all of NATO, or some other bunch) must invade and wipe out the IS is, I suppose, gratifying to some, but not to me. Iraq and Afghanistan are bleeding, open wounds Americans created when we met an attack upon us with extraordinarily ill-thought-out invasions. What good will it do to level the territory that calls itself the IS when we know — we know — the fallout will be the creation of more terrorists who will renew the conflict in short order?

Yes, we know that. Afghanistan and especially Iraq proved that. How do you think IS (and al Qaeda and a host of other terrorist groups) have gotten and continue to get recruits?

How can anyone seriously believe it's possible to "wipe out all of them" (whoever "they" are)? In the age of the Internet you can't wipe out an idea no matter how many of its adherents you kill.

How can you say all Syrian refugees must be frozen out by Europe and the U.S., especially the latter, considering we've accepted virtually none and we expect "our European allies" (as we always call them when we want them to do things for us) to bear the whole burden? How will you physically prevent the refugees from crossing borders on land? How will you physically prevent the refugees from landing on the coastline? Will the border nations, Greece in particular, demand NATO land and sea forces to "defend" their shorelines against an "invasion" of refugees?

More to the point, the vast majority of refugees are innocent victims. Since when do we screw innocent bystanders in the name of our own safety?

How can you argue we must help only the Christian Syrians, not the Muslim ones? This is one of Ted Cruz's fatuous ideas; Jeb Bush has also floated it. Either Cruz and Bush think we have mind-reading machines that can detect lies, or they're prepared to believe whatever the refugee is willing to tell them.

Or maybe neither man has given a moment's thought to how he'd do what he urges.

That's why we must.

Look, if you think Cruz or Bush or any of the other Republicans who've sounded off have urged anything that sounds like a good response to the Paris attacks, you're not thinking. What the Republicans have said we should do is simplistic and disconnected from reality.

Simplemindedness is not going to make things better.

Pure military force is not enough.

Just saying "no" to refugees, from Syria or anywhere else, will not keep us safe.

For that matter, accept that we cannot be 100% safe against terrorism. Anybody who tells you we can be if only we do this or that, is either lying or deluded.

We have to be honest about what we can do and what the upsides and downsides are. The situation is complex and messy. Solutions are going to be complex, messy, expensive, time-consuming, and likely partial rather than complete. They're going to involve much more than military force: we're going to have to bring much in the way of "soft power" to bear, too. We'll have to work with unsavory partners. We'll have to accept that what replaces the current chaos in Syria and Iraq may not look like what we, the U.S., want. Again, anybody who promises otherwise is either lying or deluded.

And yet, some politicians and pundits will continue to push for simplistic actions that won't work and/or can't be done. They insist that we must do these things or we're screwed. They're trying to scare you into becoming their followers.

Ne vous laissez pas manipuler. Don't let yourself be manipulated.

Stay woke.

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