Dear RN, Aug. 17 As so often happens, when I get very busy I overlook some messages sent to this list. One which I discovered not that long ago seems pertinent now, even though it was written in reply to the discussion about the usefulness of using international law to bring ALL war criminals (not just the West's enemies) to justice. The message was written by Yves Leclerc, a former journalist now living in Montreal. He just recently sent us another message, reflecting on "Democracy, Humanity and Information" and I feel it merits sharing as well. Yves has a web site which some of you may also find interesting: "...[It is called] "Infocrats", my new Web page on the future of democracy in the Age of Information (in French and English) at <http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Cafe/3789>. This is not an "activist" site, but rather a place for thoughts and debate on political theory and philosophy. I only started it a few days ago -- contents will grow with time, and hopefully with the help of readers and thinkers." all the best, Jan ********************************************************* Date: Thu, 08 Jul 1999 00:53:55 -0400 From: Yves Leclerc <•••@••.•••> Subject: Re: rn: on using international courts to work towards peace The true lessons the rest of the world will (correctly) draw from the NATO action in Yugoslavia is that, whatever public statements say to the contrary: 1. The end justifies the means. 2. Might makes right. Reinstating these "principles", rather than the rule of international law, at the center of world diplomacy brings us back two generations to the level of the thirties -- and what happened right afterward. This is much worse, in the long term, than anything Milosevic could do to his compatriots. Arguing Western and American "moral superiority" to defend such a backward step is doubly dangerous: who's to say that the dominating power in the next 20 or 40 years will have the same *apparent* concern for human life and rights? In the meanwhile, we'll have given them the excuse to impose their own morals (which may be far different and less acceptable to us) and destroyed whatever fragile protection we had painfully erected for lesser countries, through the UN, during the last half-century. -- Yves Leclerc, Montreal "Les choses sont moins simples qu'elles ne paraissent, mais plus simples qu'on ne les croit." ************************************************ Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:07:02 -0400 From: Yves Leclerc <•••@••.•••> Subject: Democracy, humanity and information To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.••• I've been very silent on these lists for several months. First because there was fairly little for me to say, then because there was too much. The recent discussions and revelations about Kosova and the Balkan War induce me to raise my voice again. I've been a fascinated student of practical and theoretical politics ever since, at age 15, I had my eyes opened by the simultaneous and similar colonialist invasions by France and England at Suez, by the USSR in Hungary. Here are some of the conclusions of over 40 years of study, debate and thought on these matters, especially as they relate to the current crisis: a) There is no direct relationship between the kind of democracy we practice and respect for human life and rights. Milosevic is a democratically elected leader. So is Clinton. Both don't mind wantonly destroying human lives -- Milosevic's crime the more obvious and immediate, but Clinton's probably the worse in the long run. Why? Milosevic's deadly instincts only run within his own country, and are strongly opposed by much of the citizenry. Clinton's violence affects the whole world outside his own country, he has popular support and no fear of retribution. Moreover, he is smugly self-righteous about it and the means at his disposal are much more lethal. Milosevic will eventually be brought to heel, Clinton (and his successors) won't. b) The problem has its cause not in individuals or personalities but in the system itself. Representative democracy as we implement it only serves to perpetuate the current situation where power-hungry elites monopolize political and military levers and use them to bargain shamelessly with economic power-holders. Since economic power is inherently anti-equalitarian and thrives on isolating individuals to better control and exploit them for profit, this is a very poor way of protecting the lives, rights and interests of ordinary people. c) The only form of democracy that could effectively protect most people is one where the citizens themselves would dictate basic policies, and their delegated (rather than representative) leaders would only have enough power to implement these. Such a direct democracy approach is physically and technically possible today, using both old-fashioned "town meeting" methods and modern communications technology, but this is not enough: the long-term survival of the system depends on the quality of the democratic decisions taken, and this in turn can only be ensured by the deciders-voters having access to reliable and complete information. d) The "diversity" of information provided by private media won't answer this need. The very enlightening debates about media coverage, both on these lists and on the "Monde Informatique" forum in France, show this clearly enough. Corporate-owned media compete against each other only where their real interests conflict -- not where they're the same. This means they may give an appearance of diversity, but will omit, or treat with a strong negative bias any news that contradicts their basic shared ideology. For instance, anything that challenges the corporate agenda of globalization, G-7 dominance, NATO's strong-arm approach to a one-sided "world peace", etc. e) Individual journalists' efforts to correct this are obviously insufficient. First, because without the support of their organizations they lack the means to really do much. But more subtly, because subconsciously they live within the same ideology and largely share it -- including its bias against anything uncapitalist or unamerican. They may try to cover honestly the opposite viewpoint, but to them it remains "the other side", not an option equal in importance and validity to their own. Having been a journalist myself for nearly 40 years, and having discovered this flaw in my own professional thinking in a number of occasions, I know first-hand what I'm talking about. f) At least a partial solution to the problem lies in a hybrid press system, where publicly-owned media compete *on a level footing* with private ones. Having seen quite a few such systems in action in France, Britain, Canada and some Third World countries, I know that their citizens are usually better informed than Americans -- taking into account the resources each nation can allocate to information. The laudable efforts of the PBS system in the US to bring a bit more balance to news coverage only emphasize their paucity of means and the discrepancy in resources and audience between them and the major private networks. Of course this won't solve our immediate problems... but while I have a lot of respect for all those trying to plug the leaks in the dyke with their naked fingers, in the long run some people will have to take the time to bring bulldozers and cranes into action, if we don't want our whole civilization to crumble under a North Sea of military-industrial bullshit. I certainly don't want to find myself permanently in a situation where the fact that the Chinese stole the Pentagon's nuclear secrets becomes our sole protection against Washington's jingoism and power-hunger. -- Yves Leclerc, Montreal "Les choses sont moins simples qu'elles ne paraissent, mais plus simples qu'on ne les croit."