Like the autocratic governments he criticizes, Stephen Zunes' tolerance of free speech stops at criticism of himself. Yesterday, he asked WordPress.Com, which hosts my blog, What's Left, to shut me down over critical comments I made in my September 4 post, "The War Over South Ossetia." This is indeed strange behavior for a critic of autocracies who celebrates pro-democracy movements against governments that allegedly limit civil and political liberties, including advocacy rights.
Anyone visiting my blog on Saturday would have been presented with the following message: This blog has been suspended or archived for violation of the terms of service.
When I asked WordPress why I had been shut down, WordPress lifted the suspension and sent this explanation:
Your blog is posting information about a certain individual who writes for antiwar.com. The information identifies him and makes wrong statements about who he works for.
If you can fully prove what you write then you are welcome to do so. If not you cannot do this. While some allegations or opinions of people can be published without a problem - we are not restricting free speech - publishing information which could lead to harm is something we do take action on.
Can you help by editing the post(s) concerned?
I replied to Mark that same day.
It's difficult to be sure that by making the edits you request that I will address the complaint, because I can't be sure who says I've made wrong statements about who he works for and therefore I can't be sure which edits are called for. I can only guess.
My guess is that the complainant is Stephen Zunes. He recently wrote an article for antiwar.com (and you say the individual writes for antiwar.com) and he complained elsewhere about a September 4 post of mine, and not that I've made a wrong statement about who he works for, but that I've made a wrong statement about the nature of the organization an associate of his is the head of.
The statement does not reflect my own opinion, but is documented in the academic literature. The statement -- that the organization Freedom House, is interlocked with the CIA -- is documented in Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Pantheon Books, New York, 1988, p. 28.
Assuming the Zunes' complaint led to my blog being suspended, and inasmuch as the references to Zunes in the post are incidental, I've removed them. I trust this satisfies your concerns.
Mark from WordPress replied:
It's always difficult for us when someone does state that actual harm could come to them and we do what we can to check. We are not out to stifle any criticisms, just hopefully remove the parts that were causing the problem.
You are correct in who you said it was.
Stephen Zunes left a comment on my War over South Ossetia article on theIn These New Times
web site, where the article had been re-posted. He did not leave a comment on my WordPress blog.
"Gowans falsely claims in his article that I believe that Georgian president Saakashvili is a "great democrat." I never said such a thing. In fact, I am highly critical of Saakashvili (see my article http://www.antiwar.com/zunes/?articleid=13332) and have written about his authoritarian tendencies, as well as U.S. support for the Georgian government and the U.S. role in the recent war.
More seriously, Stephen Gowans accuses me of being an associate of someone who heads an organization that is interlocked with the CIA. In reality, I am not an associate of anyone who heads any organization which has any connections with the CIA. Anyone familiar with the scholarly work, my political writings, and my activism know that I would never do such a thing."
The comment appears in the original athttp://inthesenewtimes.com/2008/09/05/the-war-over-south-ossetia/#comments
Regarding Zunes' complaint:
Zunes is academic advisor to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. The Center is headed by Peter Ackerman. Peter Ackerman is also the head of Freedom House. According to Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, "Freedom House, which dates back to the early 1940s, has had interlocks with AIM, the World Anticommunist League, Resistance International and U.S. government bodies such as Radio Free Europe and the CIA, and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the government and international right wing."
On innumerable occasions, Zunes has celebrated the Rose Revolution, and other US-sponsored and manipulated movements that have cleared the way for the rise to power of US proxies. In the opening paragraphs of his February 17, 2008 Z-Net article, "Nonviolent Action and Pro-Democracy Struggles," he refers to these movements as "popular nonviolent civil insurrections" to topple "corrupt and autocratic regimes," and makes specific mention of the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the ouster of Milosevic in Serbia.
Significantly, all three swept Russian-aligned leaders out of power, and installed US clients who have imposed neo-liberal policies and moved to re-orient their economies and militaries toward the US. All three received financial and other backing from government agencies, wealthy individuals and ruling class think tanks in the West, including from Freedom House. At least two of the leaders installed as a result of these "popular nonviolent civil insurrections" have trampled on political and civil liberties and violated their own laws to pursue US ruling class interests.
While celebrating the Rose Revolution as a popular nonviolent civil insurrection to oust an autocratic and corrupt government, Zunes now claims to be critical of Saakashvili. Perhaps he is. But it is as impossible to separate Saakashvili from the Rose Revolution as it is to separate Lenin from the Bolshevik Revolution. Zunes' celebrating the Rose Revolution, while saying he is critical of Saakashvili, is like celebrating unprotected sex with prostitutes and intravenous drug users and then deploring HIV infection. Indeed, therein is the essential character of Zunes' disingenuousness. He acts as a cheerleader for a process which brings champions of US ruling class interests to power, and then deplores the outcome. Either he is incapable of following a causal chain, or his game is to bamboozle others into believing that the "popular nonviolent uprisings" he and his friends champion are not part of the apparatus of US imperialism, but are spontaneous uprisings against autocracy. Spontaneous and home-grown they are not.
Significantly, in the same opening paragraphs of the abovementioned Z-Net article, Zunes accuses the governments of Zimbabwe, Iran, Belarus, and Myanmar – all targets of Washington's regime change program – as "disingenuously" claiming that "popular nonviolent civil insurrections of the kind that toppled" governments "in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine" are somehow part of an effort by the" US government "to instigate 'soft coups' against governments deemed hostile to American interests and replace them by more compliant regimes."
In keeping with Zunes' own modus operandi, the leaders of these countries might reply that Zunes has made false allegations, since he cannot know whether their fears of a US soft coup are disingenuous or not, without knowing their minds, and without knowing what evidence they have of a soft coup in the making.
The evidence is not lean. The history of US relations with these countries; Washington's stated intentions to seek to change the governments of all four; the richly documented involvement of "nonviolent prodemocracy" activists in training insurrectionists; and the interconnections among nonviolent prodemocracy advocates, US ruling class think tanks, and US government agencies, all point to fears of soft coups being justified. To offer a single example: In April of 2007, the US State Department acknowledged that it was working with Zimbabwean prodemocracy advocates to overthrow the Mugabe government. Harare's pointing to this is not disingenuousness and demagogy; it's reality.
While Zunes wraps himself in the flags of "democracy" and "anti-authoritarianism" his behavior doesn't seem to be particularly democratic or anti-authoritarian. I know of no one who relies so desperately on appeals to authority to make his case as Zunes does. When he wanted to stifle criticism of color revolution guru, Gene Sharp -- and shutting down offending WordPress blogs wasn't an option -- he enlisted Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn to sign a letter in defense of Sharp. For Zunes this obviated the drudgery of putting together something like a coherent fact-based defense of Sharp, and obviated Zunes' readers from having to think for themselves. Instead, they were invited to let Chomksy and Zinn do their thinking for them. This hardly strikes me as being consistent with the anti-authoritarian canon.
As regards Zunes' commitment to democracy, you can decide for yourself whether the "popular insurrections" in Georgia, Ukraine and Serbia -- which Zunes celebrates -- have led to any advance in the project of democracy in those countries, conceived either in liberal, Marxist or classical terms. On the contrary, the outcome of these US-sponsored and manipulated insurrections has been uniformly negative for the people, and uniformly positive for the US ruling class. But, given who's funding these insurrections, that should come as no surprise.