Are we seeing the rise of a new antiglobalization movement? Or is some other international movement forming up in 2011?
Let’s try a few datapoints, then see what scenario they might suggest:
- Tunisians drive their established president from power. Economic problems are cited as major cause.
- Popular protests, sustained over time and against a series of oppressive moves, drive Egypt’s president from power. Some see food prices as a leading cause; others cite labor unrest and union-organized rebellion.
- WikiLeaks apparently targets a major financial institution, after causing a global stir with Cablegate. Then security firms compete to offer Bank of America defensive and suppressive measures.
- Antigovernment protesters are battling police in Algeria and Yemen.
We could see this combination of stories as a regional or Arab movement, a tide sweeping northern Africa and points nearby via multiple forms of electronic media. But what if it’s something larger?
Crossing the Atlantic, Balloon Juice finds a pattern in American politics:
there is in fact a class war going on, and it is the rich and powerful who are waging it. Anyone who does anything that empowers the little people or that threatens the wealth and power of the plutocracy must be destroyed. There is a reason for these clowns going after Think Progress and unions, just like there is a reason they are targeting wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald, Planned Parenthood, and Acorn.
This echoes similar charges of American plutocracy from others, echoing since the financial storm of 2008: Bob Herbert (recently), Matt “vampire squid” Taibbi, Robert Reich, Simon Johnson and James Kwak. The argument goes that America is split into a plutocratic elite or financial oligarchy, supported by a very large, docile population. One governor’s decision to end state union’s negotiating role while “alerting” the National Guard could be seen as part of this model.
Just for a moment, combine the two concepts above. Imagine them as two wings of the same bird, hinged somewhere in the media-cross Atlantic, currents of popular opposition to a powerful elite. It’s not a stretch to find connections, especially in this age of globalization, from migratory populations to rapid exchanges by media.
Scenario: we’re watching the rise of antiglobalization 2.0. As with antiglobalization 1.0, the target is not other nations’ populations, but the economic elite viewed as managing and exploiting them. The language used by the populations and their champions is familiar, a mix of postcolonialism, late Marxism, light nationalism, and various populisms.
If this is happening, it can’t be dismissed as a flash in the pan. The Great Recession is now entering its third year, with impacts across multiple nations ranging from significant to deep. Antiglobalization 2.0 – call it A2 – its targets have been in power for years or decades, depending on which model we bear in mind. The series of Arab uprisings look like a sudden thing, a classic Black Swan, and could well be the flashpoint for a larger project, like the 1999 protests were for modern antiglobalization’s first incarnation.
The 2003 antiwar protests could be seen as an early stage of A2, after the war on terror helped suppress antiglobalization then. Remember “The Second Superpower Rears Its Beautiful Head“? A new power arising in the streets, connected across national borders by new media, resisting the actions of global power: sounds familiar enough to be an antecedent.
If this is happening, we should be seeing energetic attempts to link each local movement to others. If it has actual impact, then this A2 should trigger interlinked opposition, at least on the media level. We should see protesters demonized as international terrorists, al-Qaeda allies, copyright infringers, anarchists, etc.
…and maybe it’s not happening. This post could easily be an exercise in apophenia, imagining patterns cohering together over a reality of separate, unique, and underpowered local movements. Linking rhetoric in the US to actuality in Cairo is too assymetrical or fantastic.
What do you think? A2 or mirage?