Thursday, August 23, 2007

Activism -- power through words and feet

By Carol Gee

Activism exercises power through what is written or spoken. The words chosen are crucial to making a difference. Change happens when activists speak out powerfully enough about what actions need to be taken. Except for the war in Iraq, few Bush administration initiatives have raised more furor than the recent late night Congressional amendment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Journalists may or may not see themselves as activists. The mainstream press is beginning to be more active in general against the current administration, perhaps taking their cue from the example of the New York Times. That newspaper originally broke the story about the existence of a warrant-less wiretapping program involving American citizens in the fall of 2006. Though I must say that even the Times held that story for a very long time. It has sometimes erred and occasionally blunted its investigative journalism over the years of the Bush administration. But they were more successful than most at keeping us informed. And they have done it again with Risen and Lichtblau's NYT story 8/18/07 , which I featured in one of my recent posts, "More on FISA" at South by Southwest. The NYT article revealed what the opposition to the amended FISA law has been doing following the bill becoming law.

Bloggers often see ourselves as activists. Increasingly the mainstream media find out what readers may be interested in by reading the blogs. Additionally, more and more bloggers work as investigative journalists who actually find and report original news items. At the very least the blogosphere is often responsible for keeping an issue alive in order to mobilize the action necessary to force change. Today I am featuring a links list of significant blogs on the subject of - FISA - who else is watching? :

Back to the war in Iraq, we cannot imagine a much more powerful statement than one made by six soldiers who fought in Iraq, writing their truth on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Soldiers acting as activists penned "The War as We Saw It" (on 8/19/07). Note that these military men would probably bristle at being called activists. To quote from their very courageous editorial:

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

[authors] Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

Activists will be on their feet taking action at the local level during Congress' August recess. Very often utilizing the blogosphere for news and information, supportive voices and new ideas, they will be contacting or visiting their Senators and House members. Activists are organizing and attending protests, and advocating for a change in the direction Congress is taking regarding the Iraq war. The story, "Anti-war activists think global, act local" is from (7/30/07). To quote:

Thwarted so far in Congress from forcing an end to the war in Iraq, anti-war activists are mobilizing to pressure members back home.

. . . Lawmakers will spend a month at home with voters in August, a prime opportunity for anti-war groups to influence them. Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) met recently with representatives from the National League of Cities and the Center for American Progress to talk about local efforts, he said.

"It's the grass roots and the public taking hold of the issue. The push has to come from the bottom up," he said.

Activists cannot operate in a vacuum. It takes all kinds of actions to make a difference. Things as simple as taking the time to comment on a blog post, keeping up with the latest news, watching C-SPAN, noticing when influential members of the mainstream media let lies go unchallenged, doing an internet search when you don't understand something, talking politics to friends and family, or offering support to a burned out blogger - all are small acts of involvement of words and feet in the fight.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share