amw (amw) wrote,

thinking about my own reactions

Something i am finding more interesting the older i get is how people frame current events based on their background. Over the past year or so, i have started recognizing my own filter, and why i often don't perceive things the same as some of my peers who are ostensibly on the same side.

A great example is Wednesday's brief occupation of the Capitol building in DC. Predictably, all the "law and order" Never Trumpers practically popped a blood vessel trashing the tepid response of the police, who ended up needing to retreat and call for backup to handle a threat that literally everyone saw coming. Equally predictably, all the "white supremacy" types have dusted off their BLM op-eds to explain why this, yet again, shows that America is a nation racist to its very core, and really Trump and all of his supporters, but also the police, make all their decisions because of white resentment.

Everyone has put their own spin on these events which in practice didn't really move the needle on anything. Trump is still the president. Biden will still be the next one. The stock market is still doing great. People are still dying from corona.

My favorite take so far has been in City Journal, which is a neoliberal publication:

My own reaction, of course, is biased by my own background. I am starting to understand that i perceive a lot of what is going inside America through the lens of how it affects the idea of America, as we understand it overseas. Perhaps it's because i'm a third culture kid, but perhaps that's just the sort of politics that i am especially interested in.

The first thought whenever i see violent demonstrations in the US is about how the Russian or Chinese media will report on the story. It's no accident that RT (Russian state media) has reporters on the ground in every major protest in every G7 country. They're a useful source for frontline reporting, but also their choice to spend a disproportionate amount of time reporting on civil unrest is clearly politically motivated. It's useful for actual authoritarian nations to paint America and its democratic allies as failing states. It's important for them to gather propaganda footage that can show that democratic states are frightening, terrifying, violence-ridden places to live. That point was driven home for me in China, where the government used the more violent side of the Hong Kong protests to make their case that the spirit of the Chinese people itself was under direct attack from subversive forces and therefore a harsh crackdown was required.

Every time we set fire to a car in a protest in the west, authoritarian leaders say "you see, this is what happens to law-abiding citizens in a country who let their free speech advocates run rampant". Every time the police smack down a protestor in the west, authoritarian leaders say "you see, this is what happens in these western countries that call us authoritarian, you never see police here hitting hard-working civilians on the head" (never mind the fact that in authoritarian countries people are regularly disappeared and media reporting on civil unrest is completely suppressed anyway). Any kind of political violence can and will be spun as a condemnation of democracy itself.

So, this bunch of jackasses who went on a march to take back the vote they believed was stolen... They overwhelmed a pathetically under-powered security cordon, and then occupied the Capitol for a couple hours taking photos and raging against a cabal of sinister deep state operatives that doesn't actually exist. And then they went home. Some people got arrested. One person got shot. It's not a nothingburger, but i don't see it as some thwarted terrorist attack. This was no organized militia. The SolarWinds hack (to pick just one recent example) was a security breach with far more frightening consequences. But this event may have a more deleterious effect on the reputation of America and the west. Not because it was a serious coup attempt, but because American politicans and media elites were so rattled by seeing a bunch of plebs desecrating their "most hallowed temple of democracy" that they're treating it like it was. That kind of response makes America look weak and hypocritical to countries outside of the western bubble.

And yet. This is me - with my detached, upper-middle class, third culture kid, foreign privilege - looking in from the outside. Of course Americans who are very tied to their political identity as Americans feel personally attacked. Of course they feel terrorized. Of course anti-Trumpers feel vindicated. Of course people who got teargassed 5 minutes into their protest against police brutality are annoyed that these idiots were able to maraud about largely unopposed for a couple hours. I get it. I know i'm not experiencing it the same way.

But, yeah. It's how my brain works, it's my background. For a couple days i have been frustrated by this coverage which seems to be taking such a sensationalist view on what to me came across as a fairly minor domestic disruption. But today i have kinda cooled down on being annoyed at how narrowly my usual sources are reporting on it, because i understand that everyone needs to be able to report from their own point of view. I mean, that's the real thing that differentiates us from authoritarian states. It's not that we don't have any propaganda outlets, or that we have a mythical unbiased media, it's that people actually do get to share their personal takes without being shut down.

For me, when this stuff happens, i really do feel like i missed my calling in international relations or foreign intelligence or something. Like, this is stuff i get really passionate about. I'm fascinated by how events impact the way different nations or different cultures perceive one another. I find myself less interested in the actual event and more in the fall-out, the narrative that is built around it. If i could ever actually care about being a citizen of one country in particular, i think it would be thrilling to be an analyst or operative working for a government agency. Whether strategizing or detecting and countering active measures, how cool would that be? Getting paid to read the news? Sign me up! Unfortunately i am not ideologically motivated enough to be valuable to any state actor. Maybe if there was actually a shadowy globalist Illuminati, then i'd work for them!

Or maybe i already am? Muahahaha!

I think i should go play Deus Ex again.

Anyway, TLDR, watch TV, write blogs, don't keep schtum or you're letting the terrorists win.
Tags: news, politics

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