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They Smeared Our Anti-War Rally. Then They Marched Alongside Lockheed Martin.
The hypocrisy of association.
This past February, anti-war organizers had a modest gathering on the steps of the Lincoln memorial to protest against militarism. The Rage Against the War Machine rally as it was called was unique of its kind, as figures from across the political spectrum put aside ideological differences to come together to speak against empire and war. About three thousand people turned out, which is admittedly small compared to antiwar protests in the past. It wasn’t the pictures you see during the Vietnam War protests where bodies are compacted shoulder to shoulder around the entire permitter of the Capitol Reflecting Pool stretching all the way back to the Lincoln monument. Perhaps there wasn’t the same type of publicly or word of mouth enthusiasm behind anti-war events as there once was.
However, there was a general good feeling in the air, it was an unusually beautiful for a winter day, and attendees stood listening intently for several hours to hear anti-war legends like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich speak. The overall tone was respectful, charismatic, and peaceful. It was to my knowledge the largest anti-war rally in the US since the Bush Era protests over the Iraq war, and significant in that it took place under a democratic president. Venders for various small liberty-oriented businesses posted up around the site. During the intermission, musicians with acoustic guitars sang peace ballads. The rally felt like a little kumbaya moment, but with a bit more focus and ideological reprieve. After all, not everyone wants World War III. At least there was some representation for the view that we shouldn't be engaged in proxy conflicts and escalate tensions with global superpowers.
Then everybody went home that night and checked Twitter. The people that didn’t attend the rally wanted to tell us contrary to what we witnessed with our eyes and ears, we actually attended a pro-war, Putin apologist rally, full of proud boys and white supremacists and communists and criminals. Rachael Maddow, perhaps one of the worst propagandists of our time, let us know how “random” and “weird” the event was in a segment on MSNBC. For most of those in attendance, speaking out against a war machine that has killed millions abroad felt like one of the most normal and sensical thing you could do. “A rally, in support of Russia I guess? Given all the Russian flags?” Her lazy coverage was an astounding misrepresentation of the event:
To be clear—and this is evident by those who attended the rally of thousands—there were two Russian flag bearers. Those who wanted to smear the rally showed those two Russian flags photographed in every direction to make it seem overrepresented. But they had their narrative to run with. Even though there were several speakers at the event who condemned the Russian invasion, this was seen as infallible proof that the rally protesting foreign wars was actually a pro-war rally to begin with. It was significant for me because that was the first time I attended an event that the media so directly misrepresented and lied about.
But even before the event took place, some of the smear attacks on the rally worked, and some organizations that are otherwise anti-war would not attend or be associated with the event. They cited political differences or the background of this or that character who was a speaker. One of the saddest moments was when the founding member of the women's anti-war group Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, was removed as a speaker from the rally due to backlash from staffers in her own organization. Even though she personally stressed the need for a left-right alliance to bolster an anti-war movement, association was seen as too risky and against the values of the group. Among the groups that stopped Code Pink’s association was the leadership of Party for Socialism and Liberation, which smeared and attempted to sabotage the Rage Against the War event for it’s inclusion of certain controversial characters.
Which is perplexing that just a few months later we have this:
In the month of LGBT pride in June, groups like Lockheed Martin and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sponsored the pride event in DC. Code Pink was reluctant stand be side-by-side with anti-war speakers on the grounds of political divisions, but had no problem marching with one of the largest defense contractors in the world as long as their sign said “demilitarization” on it. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, also had no problem marching alongside the symbols of war and empire. For those who don’t already know, Lockheed Martin's equipment was used to fight unjust wars built off false pretenses in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other countries, while receiving billions of dollars in revenue from the US government every year. They exemplify the rot in the US war machine that exists today. Additionally, the DHS is notorious for surveilling on American citizens, detaining immigrants, and using force against protesters.
The willingness of Code Pink and the PSL to associate with these groups but not with those at the Rage Against the War Machine rally is the height of hypocrisy, especially since they build their brand around being anti-establishment. Perfect is the enemy of the good in this situation, and no broad collation of different people across the political spectrum will be all ideal. Like anything else, every anti-war movement will have fame-hungry opportunists who take advantage of the moment for their own interests. Any weaknesses in a movement that is truly against the narrative of its ruling party will exploited and use as an opportunity to dismiss and sabotage the entire thing. In hindsight, the smears and attacks on the event may have worked to some extent and hindered the success of the event. If there are more events like Rage Against War held, we can expect more of these tactics. What’s needed for them to be more successful in the future is the groups that share a similar interest to not be so overly cautious about their association for a greater cause.
The attempts at subversion from the cooperate press as well as anti-establishment groups reinforce the need to put aside political differences as much as possible to rally against the greater issues of empire that plague us. Points of view like those expressed at the anti-war rally are seldom heard in the public, which makes the need for them all the more dire. We can be sure that the revolution will never be state-sponsored, and just like the anti-war movements of the past, there will be attempts to undermine and divide it from within because it represents a true threat to the power of the existing institutions. Maybe the guy next to me has a different opinion on gun control, gender neutral bathrooms and taxes, but if he’s willing to stand up against the war machine, that’s good enough for me.
We will not topple corporate power and the war machine alone. There has to be a left-right coalition, which will include people whose opinions are not only unpalatable but even repugnant, or we will remain marginalized and ineffectual. This is a fact of political life. Alliances are built around particular issues, in this case permanent war, which often fall apart when confronting other concerns.
-Chris Hedges [Building a Left-Right Coalition Against War]
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