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Danger of misreading US and Western politics

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 By Tafataona Mahoso

FOR a variety of reasons, many Zimbabweans continue to misread US and other Western political developments in context. 

Some deliberately misread developments because they have something to benefit by selling out the African viewpoint and adopting the propaganda view of the North Americans and their allies; others misread such developments out of ignorance of our own history and of the histories of the US and other Eestern states.

Motives for such misreading of events in the West indeed do vary, but the underlying fact is that misunderstanding and misreading Western imperialism has always proven to be disastrous for Africans in general and Madzimbahwe in particular.

For example, The Sunday Mail of January 21 2018 published an opinion piece by its Assistant Editor which was entitled “Stop Whining About Donald Trump.”

The intro to the piece read as follows: “When lemons are thrown at you, you squeeze them as much as you can and make lemonade. 

Throwing tantrums will not take them away or turn them into oranges.”

The writer then used the example of former South African President Nelson Mandela to justify her homily about lemons, saying further that: “Remember the US Congress only agreed to remove Nelson Mandela from its terrorist list in June 2008, long after he had ceased to be even President of South Africa. 

If Madiba had decided to spend his entire life moaning about his placement on the list, he would have only enjoyed five years of real freedom as he was to die in 2013.”

The Sunday Mail Assistant Editor however admitted that Trump’s outburst vilifying Haiti, El Salvador and Africa was an escalation of systematic attacks he had issued against other groups and peoples ever since he assumed the US Presidency. 

This admission directly contradicted the thrust of the article which misread Trump’s racist slurs as benign, reckless and not warranting analysis.

l First, the Trump phenomenon is neither metaphorical nor anecdotal. It is historical. The scandal of ‘Trumpism’ is not even about Donald Trump. It is about a movement which has shown its ascendancy in US and European history at various times with serious global consequences during the Nixon era, the Reagan era, the Bush-Blair era, and now in the Trump era. 

l Second, Trump is a media person, a communicator who aims to shock left radicals, white liberals and people from what used to be called the Third World.

l Third, this kind of communication is meant to incite and inspire all ‘Reaganites’, Trumpkins and other white supremacists of the world against those being attacked.

As I pointed out at the time of the misleading Sunday Mail opinion, what made Donald Trump dangerous was the fact that he was not a lone white racist voice. 

He was, and still is, after all, the President of the United States. And however, disputed his election might have been, the fact that it was so disputed meant that he had gathered enough votes to make his surprise election debatable.

Since that time, Trump has not disappointed anyone in terms of truly revealing who he is, who his followers are and what they are doing. 

A few examples of the nature of his leadership are sufficient.

The best publicised is his role in inspiring right-wing white supremacists who are now reported to be coming out openly even within US security institutions, with the police being most notorious. 

This role was clearly dramatised through Trump’s response to the glaring cold-blooded murder of George Floyd on camera by a white police officer called Derek Chauvin. 

Donald Trump did not just attempt to justify the murder in the name of law-

 and-order but, using the Bible, he went further to instigate white Evangelical churches to view the Trump administration and the murder suspect in Floyd’s case as out to uphold Christian values against leftist extremists and liberals.

In the current US Presidential campaign, Trump has denounced his opponents, calling rival Joe Biden’s vice Presidential running mate Kamala Harris “a monster” and “a communist.” Harris is of Indian and African parentage. 

The latest scandal has occurred in the state of Michigan, where well-organised white terrorists openly inspired by Trump have been uncovered plotting to kidnap and execute State Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

According to The New York times for 11 October 2020:

Mr Trump has…been especially critical of Ms Whitmer all year, derisively calling her “That woman from Michigan,” and Half Whitmer and urging supporters to “Liberate Michigan!” after protesters armed with military-style rifles criticized her [Whitmer’s] policies for managing the coronavirus pandemic. 

After the terror plot was revealed he [Trump] tweeted ‘she calls me a white supremacist.’

Inspired by the president, Trump’s Republican Party supporters, according to the New York Times, are trying to dismiss as bogus the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report on the super-sophisticated white terror plot to kidnap and assassinate the Michigan Governor.

On a global scale, Donald Trump’s record is characterised by his refusal to relax or remove US economic sanctions against Iran, Venezuela and Zimbabwe especially in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

 Especially in Iran, illegal US sanctions have significantly and directly added to the coronavirus death toll.

As the truly organised nature of the white rightwing groups in the US itself should demonstrate, Trumpism is not personal.  

It is a real movement credited with the systemic infiltration of US security institutions with a view to overthrow the Constitution and “make America great again.” 

While Trump’s personality and background fit well into the neo-Nazi tradition, his success in mobilising a white racist movement arises from current factors, including:

  • The rise of China and the challenge which that country’s technological edge poses to US hegemony.

λ The existence of good relations between China and Russia despite Western efforts to divide them.

  • The growing influence of Russia, China and India in Africa.

λ The clear likelihood that the coalition of white liberals and “peoples of colour” which made it possible for Obama to become a two-term President will coalesce against white supremacy and misogynism again with even bigger numbers.

λ The fact that birth rates among the so-called “people of colour” (Latinos especially) are much higher that among whites, making it obvious that these people will outnumber whites probably by 2043.  Even long before that date, the kind of racial politics used by Donald Trump is likely to galvanise a formidable coalition of white liberals and radicals with Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and Arabs against white supremacy. 

The nation-wide uprisings against the murder of George Floyd already show the potential of that coalition.  The struggle will continue.

Why Should Zimbabwe Be Concerned?

First of all, Madzimbahwe should be concerned because Trumpism is not personal.  It is institutional, historical and systematic.

Second, the US and the West in general have long targeted local Zimbabwean media to channel their deception.  

On August 22 2002, for instance, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kanesteiner was quoted by the Washington Post saying:

“As far as how, you know, working with others to effect a political change the political status quo is unacceptable because the elections were fraudulent. 

 The question is: What are the tactics that we can use to work with those inside Zimbabwe as well as their neighbours to encourage a more democratic outcome?  And so we’re with a number of folks in the region and elsewhere…  

We’re working with civil society that is in Zimbabwe, and that includes a number of human rights groups, some in journalists’ groups and so we’re actively doing that, as a number of the European Community countries too…what we’re trying to do is influence those policymakers at the top.”

It was not just The Sunday Mail which in 2018 urged Madzimbahwe to ignore Donald Trump or to misread the meaning of his policies toward Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.

When one reads the coverage given the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, it is not possible to understand that Nichols, an African-American, is representing the Trump administration.

While the US has been busy polarising the world at the UN, in global financial institutions and even over an issue such as the coronavirus; while the Trump administration has been busy polarising US society itself along racial,  class and other lines, News Day for 25 August 2020 here had the temerity to put Nichols right on the cover page with a screaming headline lecturing Madzimbahwe about the need for all inclusive ‘dialogue’. “Dialogue Only Way Out: US,” said the paper.

Not to be left behind, The Daily News on Sunday for October 11-17 2020 featured two full pages of ‘interview’ with the same ambassador.

Given what was happening in the US with the White House and the US President, the following questions asked to the ambassador by The Daily News on Sunday were quite telling based on the relevant issues they avoided.  

It was as if the entire purpose of the story was to mystify Zimbabweans about the US, US society and international relations.

The first question went as follows:

What level of support has the United States given to Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 and in what areas?

The second question was:

In the United States’ view, what are the reasons for the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe and how can that be cured?

The third question was:

You have been accusing Mnangagwa (President Emmerson Mnangagwa) of not instituting reforms.  What are these reforms you have been referring to and can you hazard a reason for Mnangagwa’s inaction on them? 

The fourth question was:

What is the United States’ take on recent mediation efforts by South Africa and its ruling African National Congress (ANC) party?

The fifth question went as follows:

Any truth in suggestions that the US is exerting pressure on South Africa to intervene in Zimbabwe?

The sixth question was:

The ANC delegation claimed you requested to meet them when they visited Harare recently.  Why did you request the meeting?

The seventh question was:

We have noted that ZANU-PF has been issuing personal attacks on you.  The other day, the party’s acting spokesperson, Patrick Chinamasa, described you as a thug.  What is your response to these attacks?

The eighth question was:

Has it ever crossed your mind that one day, the Zimbabwe Government may throw you out of Harare?

The ninth question was:

Your take on assertions that the United States is sponsoring the opposition, civil society and activists to effect regime change?

The tenth question was:

What kind of evidence do you have that human rights violations are on the increase in the country [i.e Zimbabwe, not the US]?

The eleventh and last question was:

When you recently met Foreign Affairs Minister S B Moyo did you challenge him on the human rights violations?  What was his response?

The introduction to the so-called interview claimed that the two pages were the result of a chat between Daily News on Sunday’s Consulting Editor Constantine Chimakure and Nichols.  

The two pages show a pathetic performance on the part of The Daily News on Sunday.

The stiffness of the question and answer pattern shows that the whole thing was just a series of written responses to submitted questions.  

The most over feature of the two pages is erasure of ‘dialogue’ in the sense that the person asking questions has no mind of his own and cannot reframe the US Ambassador’s answer for his Zimbabwean readers, let alone show any research of his own concerning the issues.  

The paper’s readers are presumed to know nothing about the US and to be totally uninterested to know, contrary to what the global protests against George Floyd’s murder actually demonstrated.

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