Monday, July 21, 2014

Boeing Has an Israel Problem . . . and Chicago Has a Boeing Problem

Yesterday I marched with other members of local Lutheran congregations in a march to protest the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Estimates put the number of marchers at between 5,000 and 10,000. (Watch this Youtube video "Protest in downtown Chicago on 7/20/14" and judge for yourself.)

As the march neared its objective -- the office building at Madison and Canal where the Israeli consulate is located -- the nearby Boeing building came into view.  For the first time, I wondered at its proximity.

Boeing, headquartered in Chicago, is one of the top military contractors in the world; and it's one that hides behind the veneer of providing civilian airliners, for "nice" travel. The antiwar community in Chicago has long sought to shine a light on Boeing's grisly war business and has called for it to cease those activities. (See "Activists Challenge Boeing to Disinvest from Drone Research".)  Getting the public to pay attention isn't easy in our see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, above-it-all society.

Now that the Israeli government's killings in Gaza are front-page news -- particularly the way military aircraft is being used to mow down innocent men, women, and children -- Boeing's involvement is in everyone's face.

"An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the Gaza Strip
on Saturday as Israeli forces pressed ahead with a ground offensive."
(Source: Baz Ratner/Reuters/Landov, retrieved from 89.3 KPCC website.)

You can read the description of the "Boeing AH-64 Apache (Hebrew nickname: 'Peten' ('Adder'), 'Saraph')" on the Israeli Air Force website.

"An F-15I over the IAF’s Hatzerim air base."
(Photo credit: Ofer Zidon/Flash90. Retrieved from End Time Bible Prophecy website.)

You can read the description of the "Boeing F-15I (Hebrew nickname: 'Ra'am' ('Thunder'))" on the Israeli Air Force website.

It seems that Boeing has an Israel problem. And considering the close relationship between Chicago and Boeing, that means Chicago has a problem, too.

Most recently, several groups in Chicago took action in light of Boeing's leading role in the Gaza killings, with a protest where Boeing lives. (See "Police Arrest 5 Anti-Israel Protesters At Boeing HQ")

What will happen in just a few weeks, when Boeing sponsors a full-volume enactment of fighter jets and other military aircraft roaring over the Chicago lakefront in front of a half million spectators? Isn't the sight and sound of jet fighters coming in low over people on a narrow strip of land next tot he water a little too close for comfort?  Isn't the 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show likely to be a public relations disaster for Boeing?

"Die-in" at 2012 Chicago Air and Water Show.

Numerous peace and justice groups long ago committed to have a presence at the Air and Water Show to protest U.S. militarism, drone killings, abuses of the "war on terror," and recruitment of youth for war. (See, for instance, August 16-17: Protest U.S. Kidnapping, Torture, and Drone Assassinations at the 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show Protest )

It's beginning to look like Boeing's role in the Gaza killings may be the big story at the 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show.

Related posts

Year after year, hundreds of thousands of people from Chicago and the surrounding area gather on the lakeshore to watch aerial displays by an array of planes. Most don't suspect that they are being subjected to an intense propaganda effort by multiple branches of the U.S. military.  The Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo views this as a perfect opportunity to engage with the public and enlist them in the growing movement against U.S. war, torture, surveillance, and other crimes.  We will join activists from many other peace and justice groups who have had a growing presence at this event in recent years.

(See August 16-17: Protest U.S. Kidnapping, Torture, and Drone Assassinations at the 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show Protest )

Isn't the real problem that fully half of Boeing's business consists of making and selling war materiel? Is it really necessary to identify the one, or two, or three most egregious weapons that Boeing makes? Do we need to pick and choose?  Isn't the real issue that nice, all-American, fly-the-friendly-skies Boeing is one of the core purveyors of war and misery in the world today, by virtue of its Military Aircraft division? I mean, look at their own sanitized version of what they do -- "Strike, Mobility, Surveillance & Engagement, Unmanned & Missile Systems, Global Support" -- even in their own words its readily apparent that they're peddling poison.

(See The Wrong Labor Struggle at Boeing )

There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks and months about the problem of gun trafficking in Illinois, and how we will never meet our goal of stopping the violence in our communities if we can't stop the flow of guns. Maybe it's time for us to eat our own dog food . . . .

(See What If Illinois Became a "War-Profiteer-Free Zone" ? )

Monday, July 14, 2014

Social Media: If It's Good Enough for USA Today, It's Good Enough for Me

What do you do if you're not reaching a big enough audience through traditional channels?

This is an important question for people in the antiwar movement, since we can't count on the mainstream media to carry our message for us.

Well, as it turns out, the mainstream media has come to the conclusion that it can't count on traditional channels either!

In "USA Today Goes Viral" (New York Times, July 14, 2014), we learn that the paper with one of the largest daily circulations in the country has seen the handwriting on the wall and is requiring all its journalists to learn to drive readership via social media.

For Social Media Tuesdays, the staff must act as if there is no other way to get their articles except through sites likes Facebook and Reddit. That means USA Today’s journalists diligently place each of their famously punchy, graphic-rich stories onto various social media platforms. The purpose is to get them thinking like their readers, who increasingly get news through their Twitter feeds instead of the paper’s front page or home page.

As I read the article, I kept hearing echoes of lessons that I have been learning in the last several years as I have worked to communicate online about peace and justice issues.  Herewith the top of my hit parade, with reference to stories from the USA Today newsroom . . . .

(1) FIRST PRIORITY: Get the story out there

Social media is not the place for long-form journalism. If you've got one thing worth telling, get it out there . . . NOW! It doesn't have to be lengthy to "big."

(Or, as they say at USA Today: "A premium is placed on reporters’ speed and digital output. . . . 'Reporters have to write 5- and 30-minute stories.'")

Some of us find this incredibly liberating: no more writer's block! (Hey, it's binary: you either have an idea or you don't.)

(2) So: how "big" does a story have to be?

Big enough to be worth clicking to via Twitter.

(USA Today: "[R]eaders . . . increasingly get news through their Twitter feeds instead of the paper’s front page or home page.")

Steven Covey, of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People fame, used to say, "Start with the end in mind." So . . . start with the tweet in mind.

(3) What's the rush?

The flip side of being allowed to be brief is you can't procrastinate.

(USA Today: "Too many daily newspapers still focus on reporting what happened yesterday, despite many readers having learned yesterday what happened yesterday.")

Rule of thumb: Think of the information you have as having a half-life of about a day.

(4) Measure results

The coin of the realm is viewership numbers.  After all, if no one's getting the message, why bother?

(The USA Today version: "All of the paper’s journalists have tools allowing them to track the online viewership of their stories." )

If you don't get jazzed looking at how much your numbers have climbed every morning with your morning coffee, this isn't the place for you.

(5) Cultivate your channels

Want to be heard on Twitter? That takes followers, and you need to build followership steadily over time.

(USA Today: "Competitions have included who can . . . add the most new Twitter followers in a given time.")

One lesson that's not in the USA Today story: "Everything's connected."  For instance . . .

Content Tags Across Dozens of "No Drones" Sites Now Networked

Hmmm . . . I wonder what else that story left out?


Related posts

There is an eerie similarity between events in the book Paul Revere's Ride and events in our world today. I'm thinking particularly of how a network of mass resistance springs into action.

(See New World Counterinsurgency: Deja Vu All Over Again)

The biggest single eye-opener for me came this morning when I was trading emails with Washington Post reporter Peter Slevin. I expressed amazement at the 286 comments that people had appended to his piece on the use of the Thomson Correctional Center to house Guantanamo detainees. (That's a lotta comments!) Peter said, "Yeah, well, that one got picked up by the Huff Post . . . ." (See The World Turned Upside Down - Huff Post, Wash Post, and Twitter )

Read about the #AfghanistanTuesday campaign - in which people made time every week to remember what's happening in Afghanistan and push for change.

(See Making an Impact on #AfghanistanTuesday)

I've started to organize some of the practices I've discovered, starting with the ten "guideposts" below. I'll expand on these from time to time, and hope to spur continued conversation with all of you!

(See Twitter: Scarry's Ten Guideposts )

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Everything Is Witnessed": Searching for "the Guilty" in GROUNDED

Grounded ended its run at the Greenhouse Theater Center on July 13, and my summer wish is that it can be brought back for an extended stay.

You can get lots of detail on the production in Tony Adler's review in The Reader ("A pilot brings the war home in American Blues Theater's Grounded: George Brant scores a direct hit with his one-woman play"); what I want to stress here is:

Gwendolyn Whiteside is an amazing actress. I was sitting 2 feet away from the stage, and I found myself attracted and scared at the same time. I kept wanting to get a word in edgewise, interrupt her cocky assertions, but also just hoping to be able just to sidestep her. I had to remind myself again and again that the wasn't a real fighter/drone pilot, that this wasn't really happening to me . . . .

The play itself is pitch-perfect. Gwendolyn Whiteside has help delivering an amazing performance because every word in this play works. And the other aspects of the production - staging, sound, video projections - all contribute to putting you in the boots of a "pilot" who drives back and forth through the Nevada desert every day . . .  shuttling . . . between home (sincere husband and pink-pony-wielding toddler) . . . and "combat" (a dark, air-conditioned trailer where she stares at images of the putty-colored Middle East terrain transmitted by a Reaper drone's cameras).

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

Find a way to see Grounded. And tell others.

Through 7/13: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM
Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N. Lincoln

Related posts

At the end of the day, is surveillance bad if no harm comes of it? Foucault understood this to be symptomatic of the much larger project of societal rule. To Foucault, prior to the physical and bodily aspects of control and manipulation, there are aspects that have to do with seeing, knowing, naming, and categorizing.

(See Drones, 1984, and Foucault's Panopticon)

Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

(See Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up)

In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country: a performance of Gilroy's play, The Predator.

(See "The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era")

Monday, July 7, 2014

Antiwar Animation: A Lost Art?

I'm just back from a retrospective of the animations produced by John and Faith Hubley at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

I'm breathless over the short animation from 1964 called "The Hat."

"I ... must ... have ... my ... HAT!"

It's a pitch-perfect antiwar tale -- timeless.  You can read about it on the Michael Sporn Animation blog, and watch it in two parts on Youtube. I don't know what part of "The Hat" I like best: the totally convincing dialogue (spoken by Dizzy Gillespie and Dudley Moore)? the original soundtrack they created?  the mythic arc of the story? the exquisite drawings?

"The Hat" - Part 1

"The Hat" - Part 2

Where are we going to get more of this kind of work to power the movement to abolish war?

Related posts

Have you ever wondered . . . instead of just tsk-tsking about "The Great War," why doesn't anyone actually seize the occasion to try to put a stop to future wars?

(See Everyone Talks About World War I, But No One Does Anything About It )

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )


We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )

Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Little Word That Will Sink the Hillary Clinton Presidential Run ("Obliterate")

Hillary Clinton signaled the beginning of her 2016 presidential campaign with a spread in People magazine in June . . . not to mention the publication of a memoir, Hard Choices.

I have no argument with the proposition that it's high time for Americans to elect a woman as president. I think the usual criticisms of Hillary reflect nothing more than double standards and sexism. I particularly relish the prospect of the Republican Party struggling -- unsuccessfully -- to contain its Hillary hating, thereby unleashing the full power of women voters against the G.O.P. in races nationwide . . . .

However, I think Hillary has one strike against her that is very profound and is a show-stopper.

I've been reading Hard Choices, with special attention to the problem of nuclear weapons. The first thing I am struck by is that the only thing that Hillary Clinton has to say about the problem of nuclear weapons is in terms of containing other states. It does not seem to register with her that the main nuclear threat in the world today comes from the United States.

Perhaps it is natural that a memoir of a former secretary of state would be organized around engagement with other countries. Nonetheless, Hillary's no longer just angling to be the head of the State Department -- she's running for president. Moreover, the tone of Hard Choices leans heavily on the degree to which every other country is in need of correction, and the willingness of Hillary Clinton to get tough with them.

Yet even the "get tough" posturing could be explained away, except for one quote that I just can't get out of my head. Hillary recounts her sparring with then-candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, and her tactical decision to position herself to his right. Fair enough. But then she adds, almost as an afterthought,

I also caused a bit of a stir in April 2008 when I warned Iran's leaders that if they launched a nuclear attack on Israel on my watch, the United States would retaliate and "we would be able to totally obliterate them." (Hard Choices, p. 420)

(See "'Obliteration' threat to Iran in case of nuclear attack," The Guardian, April 22, 2008)

Bit of a stir?

Now, I remember Hillary's "3 o'clock in the morning" political ads. But this choice of words -- and the insensitivity they betray -- put me more in mind of another famous political ad:

"The stakes are too high . . . "

Barry Goldwater was sunk in 1964 by a number of factors, but an important one was the sense (conveyed by his own words) that he simply didn't understand the stakes involved in nuclear conflict. The famous "Daisy" attack ad drove that point home.

(Hmmm . . . wasn't Hillary Clinton's favorite book back then Conscience of a Conservative? Or am I misremembering?)

We are approaching a moment when the threat posed by U.S. nuclear weapons will be brought into high relief -- by the possible Scottish rejection of continued involvement in the nuclear weapons basing, as I've already written about, and by developments that I will write about soon, including the trend toward defection by nations that are currently part of the NATO "nuclear umbrella," and by the likely showdown at the spring 2015 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

How will all these developments come together over the next several years? My prediction is that, despite a desire to elect our first woman president, the American public will reject a candidate that wants to "obliterate" other countries with nuclear weapons.

Background: the "Daisy" attack ad

Related posts

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry)

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )

Monday, June 30, 2014

Everyone Talks About World War I, But No One Does Anything About It

Saturday was the hundredth anniversary of the assassination that marks the beginning of World War I, and predictably the media was full of coverage. The stories will probably continue for the next four years, straight through until the 11th day of the 11th month of 2018, when we will mark the hundredth anniversary of the WWI armistice.

It's a full employment act for the journalists. And everyone will be reading and talking about WWI.

But have you ever wondered . . . instead of just tsk-tsking about "The Great War," why doesn't anyone actually seize the occasion to try to put a stop to future wars?

"I've had enough of war."
Have you?

A new campaign has been launched to build mass opposition to the institution of war. Unsurprisingly, almost no one is really for war. So the challenge now is get the "silent majority" who oppose war to come out of the closet.

Check out the World Beyond War video and support the effort.

Don't just talk about war without end. Do something about it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ai Weiwei: So Far Away, and Yet So Close (Take 1)

I was at the screening of the film about the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago several nights ago: Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case. Ai Weiwei is a fascinating character, and particularly interesting to me because of my years of involvement with China. But at some point I started to wonder if the situation of Ai Weiwei and other dissidents in China isn't just too remote to be relevant to most Americans.

Strangely, even though the whole story was about Ai Weiwei being detained illegally because of his politics, I didn't make the connection to the work we are doing here in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S. on exactly the same issues until late in the film when a completed art exhibition was depicted.

S.A.C.R.E.D. is a work of six life-size dioramas, executed in ceramics and mixed media, depicting Ai Weiwei's detention by State Security officers.

(You can read more about the S.A.C.R.E.D. project in WIRED: "Ai Weiwei’s Shockingly Detailed Remake of His Life in a Chinese Prison" by Kate Stinson)

Somehow it was only when I saw these re-creations of the detention experience that I saw how directly connected the experience of Ai Weiwei is to that of people the U.S. persecutes, and that I work on behalf of week in, week out.  In fact, that's what I had been working on earlier that day:

Chicago, June 26, 2014: On the International Day in Support of Victims and
Survivors of Torture
, protesters call for reparations for victims of Chicago
police torture. The rally was supported by members of the Chicago Coalition
to Shut Down Guantanamo and others. (Photo by Mark Clements)

Seeing the physical body -- and power relations in real space -- brings the reality of this home in a way that can be easy to lose if we are just conceptualizing it or talking about it.

Related posts

It may be difficult to see today that the success of our movement in the future will depend on Chinese activists having the same freedoms that activists in the West enjoy. But, I predict, that is precisely what will make all the difference.

(See What is the US Peace and Justice Movement Doing for Dissidents in China?)

My most prominent memory of my first viewing of the Guantanamo film, The Response, is of one of the stars of the film -- Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek fame -- participating in a panel after the screening. I was blown away when she said, "I did this because our civil liberties in our country have been gravely damaged and we all need to contribute to repairing them."

(See Understanding What Guantanamo Means)

More than any other part of the day, I was moved by the assurance with which Alderman Joe Moore, the resolution's sponsor, stated, "I expect this resolution will pass UNANIMOUSLY."

(See summary of testimony offered in Why Chicago Must Become a Torture-Free Zone )