Every time there are crowds of protestors in a foreign land, theres a rush of U.S. commentators hoping to spin your perceptions of the protests purpose and meaningnot so much for or against the protestorsasin favor of the U.S. commentators own political agendas.
Inlast weeks column, I mentioned the odd spectacle ofTheNew YorkTimescorrectly calling (some of)Cubas current wave of protests anti-government while Fox News (and libertarian Anthony Fisher) were uncharacteristically eager to tamp down the implications of the protests, their rough consensus being that the protestsmight be anti-communistbut were not per se anti-government, as if it makes much sense to split hairs about that in a place like communist-run Cuba.
The bland Biden administration initially appeared to endorse the view that the protests were narrow inscopeobjecting to COVID lockdowns, COVIDspread, and shortagesbut the administrationhassince, to its credit, clarified that (some of) the protests are both anti-government and anti-communism and that communismand socialism to bootare failing systems. Good for Biden.
But awave of lefty academics on Twitter was quick to assert that the real meaning of the protests (as supposedly attested by a few flags and placards in the crowds) ispro-communist(at least one big rally has been)and thatthe problem with the current Cuban regime is that it hasntheld true to the principles of the revolution. The tweeters can hope thats true, and you cant blame them for spotting the flags and slogans they prefer, but keep in mind that rebellious crowdsoften express their outrage in the language of the current regime, even ifthey dont particularly want that regimesticking around.It gives them a sort of common language and decreases their odds of getting shot.
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989in China were a jumble of pro-democracy denunciations of the Communist Party and almost-Maoist-sounding accusations that the Party had betrayed the core precepts of Marxism and thus fallen into corruption. Accusations of hypocrisy are powerful stuff for protest purposes, even when the protestorswouldnt necessarily like consistent adherence to the principles being violated. The Tiananmen protestors abutted thoroughly Chinese calls for social democracy to the occasionalU.S.-friendlyStatue of Liberty symbol, and(to the bafflement of some leftists) there have been American flags amidst the Cuban protestors, too.
Confusion on the leftshouldntbe taken as a sweeping endorsement of the U.S. governments policies toward Cuba,either,which at the moment include a wrongheaded triple-whammy of economic blockade, patrol boats preventing refugee emigration, and the occasional very-quiet murmur in favor of military intervention (which coincidentally or not might be made easier by the toppling of the nearbygovernment of Haiti bywhat appear to be fighters trained in Colombia with U.S. aidpartlyduring Haiti-molesting Bill Clintons presidency).None of those policies are libertarian or market-friendly.
If journalism is, as they say, the first draft of history, that first draft is a mess compared to what tends to solidify in the history books years later,isnt it?For now, you can choose among major media telling you the Cuba protests are anti-government, pro-government, anti-communist, pro-communist, anti-U.S.-blockade, or a purely internal matter depending on your political preferences, especially if you steer clear of uncertainty and nuance.
Is the mainstream consensuscoincidentally or not the sort of consensus the moderatesat the U.S. intelligence agencies tend to likethat we want gentle pressure on the Cuban government, not sudden violentupheaval, and forgoodnesssake not so much upheaval that the masses everywherein the worldmight start getting revolutionary ideas?
There have been trickier analytical morasses across the world in the past decade or so,though,including theories galore about what the Arab Spring meant for the future of freedom in that region, whether the Obama administration dropped the ball by not supporting massive Iranian anti-government protests on its watch (Biden and his colleagues being eager at the time towork out an expensive arms control bribe/agreement with the regime), and whether various subsets of the broader Chinese population from Tibet to Taiwan have any hope of making common cause against Beijing. (Given how reluctant people are to make sweeping,abstract anti-Communist arguments today, we may have to make do with little empirical tidbits of what the future could hold such asthe new documentary about unrest in Hong Kong that was unexpectedly unveiled at Cannes.)
The global struggle against communismleaves us with countless tricky strategic, pragmatic questions, from whether the Color Revolutionsof Eastern Europe were authentic (and how much that matters) to whether William Shatners new talkshow on RT (formerly Russia Today),calledI Dont Understand, will make him an unwitting tool of Russian propaganda. Im inclined to think he shouldnt do the showon that channel, butthen, I think PBS should cease to exist, as a matter of anti-governmentprinciple.
The world makes so much more sense if you drop the right/left tribalism and the nationalist tribalism and adopt consistent anti-government principles:End the blockadeof Cuba. End communism. End government of all stripes, everywhere, including here, even if means saying no to some charming,flag-waving social democrat protestors.Stick to property rights, a functioning price system, and no or, if you insist, very littlegovernment.
Along the way, watch for new protest-and-rebellion opportunities. A study suggests two-thirds of Southern Republicans would like to secede from the U.S. Let them go, and encourage others from all factions to follow. Surely,weariness with lockdowns is also turning into a political-spectrum-spanning educational opportunity about the limits of the publics patience with regulation. Does anyone (who is not a pro-government fanatic) relish the thought of an immense government crackdown on, say,bootleg liquor orhomes with peeling paint on their exteriors after all that government has already put us through in the past year and a half?Itshould leave us alone now.
New talk of the U.S. requiring women to register for the draft could somehow turninto just another right vs.left moment, but it wouldmake a lot more senseif it became amoment that united the left (out of anti-militarism), the right (out of anti-feminism), the far right (out of anti-imperialism), libertarians (out of opposition to all coercion), and conventional civil libertarians against government (and particularly against the military-industrial complex).I look forward to all the usual bland intellectuals and media outlets trying to spin that one if it gets out of control, struggling to book the two sides of the issue on the usual TV shows.
Itsenough to make you hope Selective Service triesand if the surprise result is the whole world united against establishment-liberal feminists-for-the-military(Hillary hawks,if you will), so be it. The hippies of old wouldve understood. Even me admitting that and seeing those hippiesas natural allies means a wall of some kind is crumbling.Be rebel girls, notanyonesestablishment weapons.
Todd Seavey is the author ofLibertarianism for Beginnersand is on Twitter at@ToddSeavey.
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