Paul Hilder on Fri, 2 Nov 2001 23:42:31 +0100 (CET)

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RE: <nettime> Todd Gitlin: Liberal Activists, Flags, Non-Americans, and Andrew Sullivan

<For those who don't know, in the 2000 US election Todd Gitlin was the main
leftwing voice arguing against Nader, and for the recognition of a
difference between Gore and Bush (however small that difference might be,
and however sceptical about Gore he might have been...)>

Todd has played this painful pro-war tune before, notably over Kosovo. But
the attempt to recuperate America and the flag is something newer for him.
You might want to browse a much finer article of his replying to Edward Said
and Arundhati Roy, called "Dear Non-Americans". Here's the link:

- and an excerpt:
What links Roy and Said is what demarcates anti-Americanism, that peculiar
empire of the one-eyed, from reasoned political opposition to US policies.
Real, not gestural politics must worry about the breadth of the brush; but
anti-Americanism is one of those prejudices that musters evidence to suit a
conclusion already in place. For it, ordinary Americans can never be just
that. They can certainly never just be victims, a status already monopolized
elsewhere. Americans, or ‘the West’, are blithely dehumanized into the
molecules of a structure, what bin Laden calls America’s “vital organs”. As
for their government, its policies amount to a condition, an essence. The
actions of various mass murderers (the Khmer Rouge, Bin Laden) must,
rightly, be “contextualized.” But to the anti-American, American policy
never has “context.” It is.

The presumptive certainty here, the sneeringly sovereign gaze, the casual
contempt for the ordinary humanity of the “other”, are all the more
astonishingly unreflective from writers who elsewhere anatomise sensitively
the duplicities of imaginative colonisation.

He faces the ethical abyss behind much political commentary on the 11th
driven by critique of the US... the strongest of nations can fall victim,
individually and in the whole, to violence and tragedy... and that
victimhood does not dissolve responsibility, but nor does responsibility
dissolve suffering. Without that recognition politics loses its ethical root
and falls into essences. And without it, real change (rather than shouting
across battle lines) becomes harder to contemplate.

"Slavering" US media right-winger Andrew Sullivan picked up on and
circulated "Dear Non-Americans" with approval to his own unique - and
large - audience (9th item):

I'm sure Sullivan read it with some of the nuance still intact. I hope his
readers did. As Brian Holmes said in his blizzard of insight, "it's all
about productive disagreements".


Paul Hilder

-----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of John Armitage
Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2001 12:11 PM
Subject: <nettime> Todd Gitlin: Liberal Activists Finding Themselves
Caught Between a Flag and a Hard Place

[Both enjoyed and bristled with unease while reading this piece on
theUSLeft/anti-war movement from an older 1960s and well known media studies
theorist, Todd Gitlin. John.]
Liberal Activists Finding Themselves Caught Between a Flag and a Hard Place
by Todd Gitlin

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