Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mid East Revolt and Parallels

There's been a lot of talk lately about the uprisings in the Middle East.  One of the things I am constantly hearing is that the ruling party is resulting to violence to suppress the people.  The interesting thing about this phrasing is the word "violence".  Whenever the US uses force (be it violence or coercive actions) the media consistently obfuscates the picture when describing the the actions: police never accidently shoot people, the gun misfires or is accidently discharged to no fault of the police officer holding it.

The monopoly on the use of force is the domain of governments worldwide.  I find it telling that the US is quick to condemn the Iranian government for resorting to violence to quell uprisings when our own government is responsible for multiple violent actions against peaceful people.  These actions are justified by the agents of the state that engage in them because they somehow protect everyone from the peaceful people.

To provide contrast, in the Egyptian uprising, numerous acts of violence were perpetrated by the protesters (though more by the pro-government forces), and those were merely reported on as "unfortunate".  When the state engages in these types of incidents, the response is nearly always that the actions were either justified and necessary or "pending investigation".  The actions that trigger the militant response from the state are sometimes civil disobedience.  In the case of Egypt, the protests of the masses brought about the downfall of the ruler with whom they had objections.  If 10 million people marched on Washington demanding reform, would the US government listen to their pleas, or would the batons and tear gas come out to "preserve the peace"?

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