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Copenhagen: Seattle Grows Up

Published in The Nation

The other day I received a pre-publication copy of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. It’s set to come out ten years after a historic coalition of activists shut down the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the spark that ignited a global anticorporate movement.

The book is a fascinating account of what really happened in Seattle, but when I spoke to David Solnit, the direct-action guru who helped engineer the shutdown, I found him less interested in reminiscing about 1999 than in talking about the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen and the “climate justice” actions he is helping to organize across the United States on November 30. “This is definitely a Seattle-type moment,” Solnit told me. “People are ready to throw down.”

Climate Rage

Published in Rolling Stone

One last chance to save the world—for months, that's how the United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen, which starts in early December, was being hyped. Officials from 192 countries were finally going to make a deal to keep global temperatures below catastrophic levels. The summit called for "that old comic-book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the Earth," said Todd Stern, President Obama's chief envoy on climate issues. "It's not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children and their children will be just as great."

Obama's Bad Influence

Published in The Nation

Of all the explanations for Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, the one that rang truest came from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "It sets the seal on America's return to the heart of all the world's peoples." In other words, this was Europe's way of saying to America, "We love you again"—sort of like those weird "renewal of vows" ceremonies that couples have after surviving a rough patch.

Now that Europe and the United States are officially reunited, it seems worth asking: is this necessarily a good thing? The Nobel Committee, which awarded the prize specifically for Obama's embrace of "multilateral diplomacy," is evidently convinced that US engagement on the world stage is a triumph for peace and justice. I'm not so sure. After nine months in office, Obama has a clear track record as a global player. Again and again, US negotiators have chosen not to strengthen international laws and protocols but rather to weaken them, often leading other rich countries in a race to the bottom.

Copenhagen: Obama Better Go Back

Posted on the Huffington Post

When Obama arrives in Copenhagen tomorrow to support Chicago’s Olympic bid, he will be showing the world that he is willing to schlep to Scandinavia for an event he considers important. The big question now is: will he do it again on December 7, when Copenhagen plays host to the United Nations summit on climate change, the highest-stakes environmental negotiations in history?

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already pledged to be there, characterizing the summit as a last chance to pull the planet back from the brink. "I will go to Copenhagen to conclude the deal," Brown told the UN General Assembly. "This is too important an agreement—for the global economy, and for the future of every nation represented here—to leave to our official negotiators. So I urge my fellow leaders to commit themselves to going to Copenhagen too."

Michael Moore: America's Teacher

Published in The Nation.

On September 17, in the midst of the publicity blitz for his cinematic takedown of the capitalist order, Moore talked with Nation columnist Naomi Klein by phone about the film, the roots of our economic crisis and the promise and peril of the present political moment. To listen to a podcast of the full conversation, click here. Following is an edited transcript of their conversation.--The Nation Editors

Naomi Klein: So, the film is wonderful. Congratulations. It is, as many people have already heard, an unapologetic call for a revolt against capitalist madness. But the week it premiered, a very different kind of revolt was in the news: the so-called tea parties, seemingly a passionate defense of capitalism and against social programs.

Meanwhile, we are not seeing too many signs of the hordes storming Wall Street. Personally, I'm hoping that your film is going to be the wake-up call and the catalyst for all of that changing. But I'm just wondering how you're coping with this odd turn of events, these revolts for capitalism led by Glenn Beck.

Michael Moore: I don't know if they're so much revolts in favor of capitalism as they are being fueled by a couple of different agendas, one being the fact that a number of Americans still haven't come to grips with the fact that there's an African-American who is their leader. And I don't think they like that.

Obama's Big Silence: The Race Question

Published in The Guardian

Americans began the summer still celebrating the dawn of a "post-racial" era. They are ending it under no such illusion. The summer of 2009 was all about race, beginning with Republican claims that Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama's nominee to the US Supreme Court, was "racist" against whites. Then, just as that scandal was dying down, up popped "the Gates controversy", the furore over the president's response to the arrest of African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr in his own home. Obama's remark that the police had acted "stupidly" was evidence, according to massively popular Fox News host Glenn Beck, that the president "has a deep-seated hatred for white people".

The Tel Aviv Party Stops Here

Published in The Nation

When I heard the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was holding a celebratory "spotlight" on Tel Aviv, I felt ashamed of Toronto, the city where I live. I thought immediately of Mona Al Shawa, a Palestinian women's rights activist I met on a recent trip to Gaza. "We had more hope during the attacks," she told me. "At least then we believed things would change."

Al Shawa explained that while Israeli bombs rained down last December and January, Gazans were glued to their TVs. What they saw, in addition to the carnage, was a world rising up in outrage: global protests, as many as 100,000 on the streets of London, a group of Jewish women in Toronto occupying the Israeli Consulate. "People called it war crimes," Al Shawa recalled. "We felt we were not alone in the world." If Gazans could just survive, it seemed that their suffering could be the catalyst for change.

The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

Originally published on http://torontodeclaration.blogspot.com

As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.

Clarification on "Shock Doctrine" Documentary

I am getting many requests to respond to an article that appeared in the Independent reporting that I “disowned” The Shock Doctrine documentary that will air on More4 in the United Kingdom on Sept 1.

A few important points of clarification. I don’t have a credit on The Shock Doctrine documentary made by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross because it is not my film. I chose not to make the documentary myself because when I finished the book I had been utterly immersed in the material for five years and I believed the project would benefit from a fresh perspective. However, I did think the material in the book was so inherently visual and emotional that it had great potential for film. So I left the project in the hands of experienced directors whose films, such as “Road to Guantanamo,” I very much admired.

Minority Death Match: Jews, blacks, and the post-racial presidency

Look out for Naomi's cover story on "Durban II" in the September issue of Harper's, on sale August 25th. Subscribers can read the article online.

Here's the announcement from Harper's press office:

Reporting from Geneva, Naomi Klein, a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine, reveals the grudges and absurdities of Durban II, the follow-up convention to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which took place in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Such issues as reparations for slavery—and the correction of other immense historical imbalances resulting from colonialism and racism—are overshadowed, in the months leading up to the conference, by supporters of Israel, who seize on fears that the conference will promote an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda. In reality, the U.N. goes to great lengths to ensure the neutrality of the proceedings, but the objections reduce Durban II to an event that nobody (except anti-Israel crusader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) wants to touch, and the bare-knuckles fight seems convincingly won. Meanwhile, U.S. public-policy activists report the word that the White House is interested only in hearing about projects that are “race neutral”—and not in anything that targets disadvantaged constituencies. Which all leads to the question of whether the relatively thin charge of anti-Semitism was, for many developed nations, an excuse to avoid Durban II’s questions about what the rich countries of the world might reasonably owe on their debts to the peoples they once exploited. Klein pays particular attention to the Obama Administration’s legislative inaction on racial issues—and what it means for all of us.

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