Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’


Semantics that matter

August 21, 2009

The BBC posted an article a couple of days ago about the Hilltop Youth, a group of teenagers who “flout both Israeli and international law and build shacks they hope will eventually become established settlements in the West Bank.”

There is a lot to be unpacked here.  It’s a strange article with bizarrely portrayed characters that legitimizes voices I’d rather not have legitimized.  But for now, I’ll zero in on this:

While the article mentions that these makeshift structures are illegal, the author also calls the activities of the Hilltop Youth activism, not crimes.

Rather than arguing that a Palestinian teenager acting similarly would be characterized as a criminal, I’ll just assert it.  (Stick disagreements in the comments and I’ll respond.)  But the Palestinian comparison aside, I’m left wondering why some illegal, non-violent acts are portrayed as activism and others as crimes.

From most of Greenpeace’s actions to spontaneous protests to political graffiti to makeshift structures, I’m struggling to articulate criteria that could clearly separate crime and activism (again,  I’m only talking about non-violent actions here) other than the decider’s ideology.  Thoughts?



Hillary Clinton on the A-list?

August 13, 2009

Jeffrey Gettleman over at the NYT has been earning some criticism lately.   Perhaps it’s unfair, but I’m going to add mine to the mix.

Like everyone, he can’t resist repeating, one more time, Secretary Clinton’s response when asked to relay what BILL Clinton thinks about Chinese investment in Africa.  For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is anything wrong with her answer, and wish we could exit the echo chamber in which it’s endlessly framed as a mistake.

But back to Gettleman’s article: he acknowledges that Clinton’s aides have been frustrated that this single sound byte has dominated the coverage of the trip and then CONTINUES TO PERPETUATE THE TREND HIMSELF.  His next paragraph reads:

But her evident irritation at the question quickly fueled speculation that Mrs. Clinton felt eclipsed by former President Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea last week, in which he rapidly secured the release of two American journalists who had been sentenced to years of hard labor.

Mr. Gettleman, thank you so much for voicing that rumor.  Also, thank you for taking more time to talk about her “sunken cheeks,” her visible tiredness (mentioned three times for anyone counting), the inadequate emotion and urgency in her language, and her “prickl[iness]” than to discussing the substance of her words—good governance, ending conflict, addressing sexual violence, and women’s rights.

And just in case it wasn’t clear, he ends the article with this:

As one journalist covering her trip put it: “She is a celebrity. We have a celebrity secretary of state. When you have a celebrity, you get celebrity coverage.”

And, it appears, when you’re a woman, you get a woman’s coverage.



Post-manufacturing = post-macho?

August 10, 2009

In Foreign Policy, Reihan Salam posits “The Death of Macho.” Salam’s point, boiled down to its essence, seems to be that the decline of the American manufacturing sector, the crisis discrediting the financial sector (which Salam glibly calls the “he-cession”), and the rise of a service-dominated economy all mean that the lofty power of men is about to come crashing down.

My initial reaction was: what a bunch of nonsense. But the whole article is worth reading. I haven’t quite figured out what I think about it.

Flying Whale