Friday, November 26, 2004


Lies Down Under (Democracy Guerillas)

Conservatives in America complain about bias from the left. The same is true in Australia. But rarely is the anti-American bias as bad as it is in this Sydney Morning Herald article of November 27 (whose editors are still bitter about Latham's loss):

With their websites and stickers, pranks and slogans, the democracy guerillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory - whatever the outcome of the stand-off in Kiev.

Ukraine, traditionally passive in its politics, has been mobilised by the young democracy activists and will never be the same again.

But while the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in Western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US Government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And last year, as US envoy in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, organised a near identical campaign against Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. That one failed.

The experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

The operation - engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience - is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people's elections.

In the centre of Belgrade, there is a dingy office staffed by computer-literate youngsters who call themselves the Centre for Non-Violent Resistance. If you want to know how to beat a regime that controls the mass media, the judges, the courts, the security apparatus and the voting stations, the young Belgrade activists are for hire.

They emerged from the anti-Milosevic student movement, Otpor, meaning resistance. The catchy, single-word branding is important. In Georgia last year, the parallel student movement was Khmara. In Belarus, it was Zubr. In Ukraine, it is Pora, meaning high time. Otpor also had a potent, simple slogan that appeared everywhere in Serbia in 2000 - the words "gotov je" ("he's finished"), a reference to Milosevic. A logo of a black-and-white clenched fist completed the masterful marketing.

In Ukraine, the logo is a ticking clock, signalling that the Kuchma regime's days are numbered.

Stickers, spray-paint and websites are the activists' weapons. Irony and street comedy mocking the regime puncture public fear and enrage the powerful.

US pollsters and consultants are hired to organise focus groups and plot strategy. The usually fractious oppositions have to be united behind one candidate if there is to be any chance of unseating the regime. That leader is selected on pragmatic grounds, even if he or she is anti-American.

The other key element is the "parallel vote tabulation", a counter to the election-rigging tricks of disreputable regimes.

There are professional outside election monitors from bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, but thousands of local election monitors are also trained and paid by Western groups.

Exit polls are critical because they seize the initiative in the propaganda battle, invariably appearing first, receiving wide coverage and putting the onus on the authorities to respond.

And after Kiev?

Keep an eye on Moldova and the authoritarian countries of central Asia.

Heavens! I would think that the United States was anti-Democracy unlike that pseudo-tsar Putin.

As in the post above (written before this one, but dated for the game) states, tradition is important. Yes, I know that the tradition of football does not compare to the tradition of democracy. But the SMH is treating OUR involvement in promoting democracy as somehow evil by listing this leftist rant as a news article.

The Gramscians have clearly taken over at the SMH.

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