George Packer: red-baiter

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Mar 9 09:41:55 MST 2003

(If I had the time and inclination, I'd do an investigative piece on
Dissent Magazine, the social democratic rag that has supplied many of the
apologetics for the war on Iraq. The day before yesterday, editor Michael
Walzer wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times defending a "small war": In today's magazine,
there is the 3rd nasty attack on the left from one George Packer, who is a
regular contributor to Dissent. If I could only track down an email address
for this rat, I'd give him a piece of my mind.)

NY Times Magazine, Mar. 9, 2003
Smart-Mobbing the War

You can find America's new antiwar movement in a bright yellow room four
floors above the traffic of West 57th Street -- a room so small that its
occupant burns himself on the heat pipe when he turns over in bed and can
commute to his office without touching the floor. Eli Pariser, 22, tall,
bearded, spends long hours every day at his desk hunched over a laptop,
plotting strategy and directing the electronic traffic of an instantaneous
movement that was partly assembled in his computer. During the past three
months it has gathered the numbers that took three years to build during
Vietnam. It may be the fastest-growing protest movement in American history.


Part of the success of the Feb. 15 demonstrations, and of the movement
itself, lies in the simplicity of the message. L.A. Kauffman, a staff
organizer at United for Peace and Justice, the coalition of more than 200
organizations that endorsed the rally, designed leaflets and banners
reading ''The world says no to war.'' The slogan says nothing about oil, or
inspections, or Israel -- or Saddam. ''It's not a paragraph of analysis,''
she points out. ''It's not a lengthy series of demands.'' The simplicity
allows groups that have nothing else in common politically -- that might
even be opponents -- to work together.

Leslie Cagan, a founder of United for Peace and Justice (which is only
fourmonths old) and a veteran antiwar activist, says that in 1991, during
the gulf war, the ideological infighting was much more bruising. The
attitude in this movement, for now, is to submerge political disagreement.
''We all see what a nightmare this war would be,'' she says. ''That's
bigger than any of the differences between us.''

When a group like International Answer -- whose leader, Ramsey Clark, has
defended many of the world's dictators, including Saddam -- calls for a day
of protest on March 15, United for Peace and Justice doesn't base its
decision about whether to join based on the politics of the original
sponsor. A leader of the most mainstream coalition in the movement, Win
Without War, of which is a part, is urging members to
participate in the Answer demonstration.

This strategy of openness is unquestionably the best way to increase
numbers in the short run. But it has its perils, and inevitably it forces
ideological choices even when the movement seeks to avoid them. In the
planning for Feb. 15, for example, a Bay Area coalition of groups refused
to include Michael Lerner, a rabbi and editor of Tikkun magazine, among the
speakers because he had publicly criticized one of the groups,
International Answer, for its anti-Israel views. The coalition's policy was
to exclude anyone who had attacked a member group -- which meant that the
peace movement had to choose between Lerner and Answer.

The night before Feb. 15, at the midtown offices of a labor union where
rally leaders were making last-minute preparations, Bob Wing of United for
Peace and Justice told me: ''Anti-Semitism is not tolerable. I don't think
it's a huge problem, but it is a problem and something to be aware of. But
we're not talking about thought control -- we're talking about making this
as big as we can.'' When I asked Leslie Cagan whether pro-Saddam speakers
would have been allowed on stage, she said, ''We try not to edit them.''
Pariser put it this way: ''I've always been a real believer that the best
ideas win out if you let them happen. I'm personally against defending
Slobodan Milosevic and calling North Korea a socialist heaven, but it's
just not relevant right now.''


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