Corporate factor in Arab ‘revolutions’
By Shahzeb Khan | Dawn ￼
SINCE the Greeks deployed their famed wooden Horse against the Trojans, the great god of deception has found for himself earnest prophets willing to spread its gospel in all nations of the world.
These days, this trans-religious deity seems to hold its sway over the whole world through the internet — Google, facebook, twitter, etc. The great god of deception seems to have infected the very fibers of the internet as well and continues to instigate the internet generation to fall victim to its prophets — or so it seems. Here is some evidence that may enable us to observe the hidden hand of this deity of deception in the recent magical “revolutions” that took place in Tunisia and Egypt and still in progress in several more Arab states.
While reporting about turmoil and rapid mobilization of masses in the Middle East, some facts have conveniently been ignored by the mainstream media. One has been the connection between the recent rise in political activism and its forceful backing by the American establishment and corporate apparatuses.
The seeds of the recent ‘revolutions’, it seems, were planted way back in 2008 when an organisation called Alliance for Youth Movements (AYM) was formed. Its inaugural conference was held in New York. It was an assembly of American futuristic and ‘grass-root’ activists from all over the globe. The AYM website says it is a ‘non-profit’ organization that focuses on “affecting non-violent change through 21st century tools”.
The alliance is funded and sponsored by the US State Department, major American/international corporations and mass media organizations. Last week, the Global Research website described the AYM as “Google’s revolution factory”. Among those who attended its 2008 inaugural summit were State Department staff, Council on Foreign Relation members, former staff of National Security Council of the US, advisers of Department of Homeland Security and innumerable representatives from American Corporations and media organizations such as Facebook and Twitter, AT&T, Google, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and MTV. Others who rubbed shoulders with them were grass-root activists from all several countries. From Egypt, activists of the April 6 Movement, who were later instrumental in initiating and perpetuating anti-Mubarak, protests also participated.
The gathering of these activists was organized by America’s ‘new age visionaries’ to help them “create a greater impact” and bring an end to violence in certain regions. One can easily discern the inherent irony in the situation. The system that is itself responsible for making 20th century the bloodiest century of all by dropping nuclear bombs, by waging wars to protect itself and by devastating almost every nook and corner of the world for the sake of its ‘interests’ wants to “identify, connect and support digital activists” to take a stand against oppression and tyranny. Only Martians would be naïve enough to believe in this claim — or perhaps “activists” entering their twenties, punching keyboards and interacting only through social networking websites.
This is the ‘internet generation’ says Hillary Clinton (see AYM’s website movements.org) and sees as saviours of America’s future (read hegemony). These brilliant youngsters were gathered from all over the globe by the American System to hijack world’s future — to pre-empt a possible post-American human-centric world free of its meddling and exploitation.
Ahmed Maher, who initiated the April 6 movement in Egypt and now a celebrated ‘digital activist’ was a participant in the 2008 conference of AYM. Not just that but he was also instrumental in gathering support for Elbaradei on his return to Egypt in February 2010. With the unconditional backing of the American establishment and world’s most powerful media organizations, the genuine on-ground resentment against Hosny Mubarak was capitalized upon to bring about a regime change. A similar movement caused Ben Ali to flee from Tunisia in January.
America’s bigwigs in the fields of economy, domestic, and foreign policy along with shapers of public opinion are fully supporting AYM and since 2008, annual meetings have been held in New Mexico and London in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The website of Alliance for Youth Movements says its mission is to “help grassroots activists to build their capacity and make a greater impact on the world.” It states unambiguously that it is officially partnered with the US Department of State and Columbia Law School. Jared Cohen, AYM’s co-founder, has been director of Google Ideas and a former State Department planning staff member.
Since 2008, the AYM has yearly held gatherings of activists from all over the world, have trained them how to use Facebook and Twitter to facilitate their campaign against ‘violence’ and ‘injustice.’ Executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter have regularly lectured them and have informed them about the most efficient way of employing their cyber space. In both 2009 and 2010 AYM conferences, Twitter chief and co-founder Jack Dorsey also addressed the attendees.
To understand what kind of ‘training’ the attendees would have undergone, it is necessary to have a look at brief profiles of guest speakers and organizers of the Alliance for Youth Movements. One of the guest speakers was Farah Pandith who works as US Special Representative to the Muslim Communities since 2009. This is how she is introduced on the website. It says “her office is responsible for executing Secretary Clinton’s vision for engagement with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level. She reports directly to the Secretary of State.” She has also served for the National Security Council of the US.
Jared Cohen, another speaker, has worked with Condoleezza Rice as policy planning staffer. In this role, he advised on counter-terrorism and the “war of ideas.” He is currently Google’s director of Ideas.
David Nassar, the Executive Director of AYM has “most recently served as a Vice President for Strategy with Blue State Digital, one of the world’s leading online strategy firms…. In addition he ran programmes in the Middle East strengthening political parties and civic organizations for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.” Another executive of AYM is Sam Graham-Felsen who has previously served as the director of blogging and blog outreach for the Obama campaign. Erin Mazursky, who was the Summit Manager of 2010 session of AYM, has previously served on the Presidential Inaugural Committee for President Obama’s inauguration and was a staff member on President Obama’s general election campaign.
Another was Nora Mariana Salim, Fellows Coordinator for AYM and currently works in Beirut as a marketing and communications consultant for American businesses and non-profit bodies aiming to reach the Arab world. Nora strongly believes that supporting American enterprises in the Middle east — and vice versa — is an important vehicle to cross-cultural dialogue and peace.
The first question that comes to mind is why would the US support movements against dictators it has backed and helped? The answer is very simple: America has a known history of ditching dictators it supported for decades after they outlive their utility. It has also learnt from the past. Iran, for instance, had a similar American-backed ruler before the 1979 revolution. A genuine movement was initiated against the regime, the American influence ended with it, and to-date the world’s mightiest superpower has been unable to regain influence in the post-revolutionary state.
To forestall a similar outcome in the rest of the Middle East the US has facilitated indigenous, initially genuine activists to end their oppressive regimes but has maneuvered the whole enterprise in such a way that the anti-American sentiment must not spread to a level where its corporate interests are threatened.
In the recent anti-government demonstrations, the lack of anti-American sentiment — no flags burnt, no anti-US slogans — is of great significance, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia whose rulers were known US loyalists and were hated for this factor. So, one would not be wrong if he sees American hand in the uprising of the internet generation.
Revolution brings about a basic change in the system, not just reforms. Leaders of these ‘revolutions’ backed by giant multinationals openly advocate minor tweaking of the existing structures.
Woel Ghonim, Director of Marketing, Google Inc., for Middle East and North Africa, and also one of the most prominent leaders of the Egyptian ‘democratic revolution’ recently declared “mission accomplished” on the CNN the night Mubarak fled from Cairo. In response to a question from the anchorperson: “first it was Tunisia, then Egypt, what’s next?” He retorted, “ask Facebook.” Yes, ask Facebook and Twitter too.
The writer is a lecturer in department of English, GC University, Lahore.
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