Maybe it’s the algorithms doing me a favour, but in the past week I’ve noticed a sudden up-swerve in the left-leaning media I subscribe to in terms of their coverage of atrocities against the Kurds – above and beyond what I can explain by citing the recent up-swerve in violence against the Kurds. There have been peaks and troughs in this violence over the past few decades, albeit without corresponding peaks in coverage. Why the concern now?
Ditto when it comes to violence perpetuated against Syrians by Russia. Until now, if you’d been watching only moderately left-leaning mainstream press, you’d think that America was the only one guilty of this, or at least the prime culprit. If you were silly enough to consider RT a serious news outlet rather than a propaganda machine engaging in social-media-driven entryism, you’d probably go further. But Russia has been pretty damn bloody though the whole affair.
I can remember as a nascently political kid in the late 1980s, the view that the welfare of the Kurds and Iraqi people was a left-wing concern – and that Saddam was a right-wing dictator responsible for their deprivations. Of course, it helped that the US was chummy with Saddam for a while.
Then when the US decided that Iraq was the enemy instead of an ally, the Saddam-is-a-right-wing narrative was at least de-emphasized. Some supposed lefties got quite cozy with Ba’athism themselves. And you didn’t have to travel too far in the far left to find some loudly ideating goose proclaiming that Saddam was secular and left.
“Yeah, okay, the Kurds are being killed, but if we want to help them, first we have to win against the True Enemy, and to do that we’ve got to act as if the Kurds aren’t a concern! Asserting the worth of the Kurdish cause and defeating the right at the same time? Too hard! So shhhhh! We’ll get back to them once we’ve won, honest.”
”Oh, and if you don’t remain silent, I’ll have to suggestively question whether you’re progressive at all.”
Now I’m not suggesting we bomb the fuck out of anything. Like a lot of people, I marched against the second Gulf War in 2003 and have only really since changed my stance in terms of the particular details – shedding some of the waffle about hegemony and adopting an even more somber utilitarianism.
And I’m not suggesting that the right’s purported concern for the Kurds over the last few decades hasn’t been largely hypocritical. Clearly Trump has now effectively declared that he never cared (as if this wasn’t clear before, nor clear concerning many of his Republican predecessors). Not that this should ever have been needed to license left-wing concern in the first place, which again seems too widely to be the case.
What I am suggesting is this: The welfare of people in the Middle East, this welfare’s status as a left-wing priority, and the merits of any given editorial policy on the topic, aren’t contingent on what either America or the right purport to think about the matter. The Kurds, and the lives of everyone living in the Middle East, have worth entirely independent of what any part of the left’s declared political enemies happen to be thinking on any given day. We shouldn’t just be noting what The Baddies(tm) say, simply saying the opposite when the opportunity arises, and then referring to deaths on the ground as confirmation after the fact.
This knee-jerk contrarianism that’s been running through parts of the left for as long as I’ve been paying attention betrays a callous disregard for some truly fucked-over people, and it’s heart-breaking. Moreover it’s contrary to what and who the left in the most simple of terms is supposed to stand for: the downtrodden.
- The Kurds have always been worthy of our concern.
- Saddam was always a right-wing dictator, and Iraqis his victims, for as
long as he reigned.
- George Galloway has always been a numpty.
- None of the above has been more or less true depending on the US
or the right’s position on the Middle East.
Political tribalism dressed up as incisiveness may help an advertiser sell consumer tidbits to discerning wankers, but it makes for poorer news. Meanwhile, people continue die for no good reason, popinjays posture and pontificate, journalists continue to convince themselves that they’re triangulating for a good cause rather than for self-interest, or indeed that they’re not triangulating at all, and media consumers and credulous sorts in the grass roots get a warped view of it all.
It’s too fucking sad.