We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

According to Ramadan, writes Ahmari, “the American government and ‘powerful American corporations’ nurtured the young activists who triggered the Arab Spring as a way of ‘opening up Arab markets and integrating the region into the global economy’.”

This analysis is magnificent in its idiocy. It is radiant, luminescent, in its absurdity. What on earth do “powerful American corporations” know about bringing down a totalitarian regime like Moammar Qaddafi’s in Libya, a military dictatorship like Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, or the sectarian Soviet-style creature that the Assad family hatched upon the people of Syria?

Why on earth would “powerful American corporations” care about Egypt? There’s no money to be made there. Half the country lives on less than two dollars a day. It consumes little and exports nothing of value. India, China, and Brazil are serious emerging markets, but Egypt? Come on. And what corporate boardroom worth half a damn would waste time even discussing the “nurturing” of activists in a backwater like Yemen? Yemen, from the corporate point of view, is off-planet.

Michael Totten

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23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • the wolf

    As someone who works for a large international consulting firm, I can say that my company has little interest in many of the viable Middle Eastern countries, let alone the hopeless ones. Totten is spot-on.

  • Ernie G

    Mr. Totten’s article is entitled “The Most Overrated Intellectual in the World .” I emailed him to comment that I thought that Noam Chomsky had retired the trophy. He replied that Ramadan is indeed the most overrated, but Chomsky is the worst.

  • Tedd

    Positively Hitchensian!

  • buwaya

    This is not an unusual attitude.
    In a lot of the third world this sort of conspiracy theorizing is the usual case, even among quite well educated people.

    It is partly the result of an intense parochialism.
    They simply cannot conceive how inconsequential they and their countries or societies are, in the global sense.

    It is also a comforting fantasy that absolves anyone of responsibility. The great powers, the US in particular, take the place of some predestined fate, natural disaster, or inscrutable conspiracy, that explains all failures and disappointments. Its like blaming ones dead cattle on the evil eye.

    It also permits the fantasist to pretend to knowledge through an exercise in would-be-worldly cynicism. They know its all a conspiracy, they are too wise to be fooled.

  • Alsadius

    Wait…is this supposed to be a bad thing?

  • Paul Marks

    As usual with this sort of thing, a grain of truth is used as a foundation of a mountain of lies.

    People working for Google (and so on) did indeed support the “Arab Spring” in Egypt and so on – and they did indeed meet American State Department people (and so on) in conferences about how to spread democracy in the Middle East. And this activity may have had a minor effect – although only at the margin.

    However, there was no “selfish corporate interest” in this – it was young people following their college education “democracy is good” doctrine. If corporate managers were really the “profit is all that counts” types that they are claimed to be – they would not have wasted their time on this.

    “But democracy would mean more intergration into the world economy and this will mean higher corporate profits”.

    There was not a grain of evidence for this – indeed the “Arab Spring” in places like Egypt was full of protests AGAINST the (very limited) economic reforms that the Egyption govenrment had introduced over the years.

    The “cry of the people” was for the govenrment to provide cheaper bread (by magic) and the cry was death-to-the-rich (and so on). It was a classic “social justice” outbreak – both by the socialists and by the Islamists.

    This is why the “libertarian” left (and so on) were so happy with the “Arab Spring” (they smelled a chance a to reverse the, very limited, economic reforms that had been made and return to Nasser style full collectivism – and, of course, the “libertarian” left also smelled the chance to drink the blood of “the rich”).

    If corporations really were behind the “Arab Spring” (which they were not) they were very stupid business enterprises – very stupid indeed.

  • CaptDMO

    Chinese- Africa/Central America
    Assorted Oil- Central/South America/”Deserts”
    Whoever is making AK 47’s THIS year, as well as the ammo, and “(ie.)field dressings, certainly has an interest in “raising the stakes” against ensconsed less-than-rational folk, but NOT in actually resolving them.

    I wonder where Iran gets the electric motors for all those centrifuges. Toyota certainly seems to have made a “reputation” for itself in all those “third world”
    areas needing disposeable personell/weapons/assault transport.

  • If you read Totten’s article, CaptDMO, you will see that he does not think ‘The Middle East’ (or Africa or any large geographic area) is a fungible zone where anywhere is equally likely to interest profit seeking organisations.

    So you point out that Dow is interested in India. Well yeah, it is a pretty major economy these days. DeBeers is interested in ‘Africa’. Really? All of it? Mauritania? Libya? Tunisia? You know, the bits of the Dismal Continent without loads of diamonds? And ‘Various Oil’ only cares about places which export, well, oil. So much for Egypt (which consumes pretty much all the oil it produces) or Yeman, which pretty much won the geographic booby prize almost every way you look at the place.

    That is really all Totten is saying. Most ‘powerful American corporations’ are run by people who could probably not easily locate some of these places on a map.

  • A closer look, and you’ll find none of these ‘revolutions’ are particularly libertarian in nature. The children of the revolution somehow think the bureaucrats installed by the revolution will just meekly move on out of their cushy jobs.
    I certainly think there are corporate interests in some of these countries- the West needs reliable pipelines to get gas and oil to the appropriate markets, but I think the State department is primarily responsible for these social network generated ‘revolutions’. It is a bunch of soft-left crap that only plays well with the few Middle Easterners who have enough free time to dawdle on Facebook.

    I don’t think Ahmari actually makes much sense though. If people would actually listen to the stuff Hilary Clinton says publicly, they would find the implications troubling enough.

  • Paul Marks

    If a company sells a government stuff then the company controls that government – such is the “reasoning” of the “libertarian” left.

    And, of course, exports to the new Egypt (and Tunesia and ….) are likely to go DOWN.

  • Dom

    Is it official? Are we past the “capitalists want to keep dictatorships in control because it is easier to do business with them”, and now into the “capitalists want to bring down dictators to free up more markets” phase?

  • Alisa

    Good point, Dom.

  • A closer look, and you’ll find none of these ‘revolutions’ are particularly libertarian in nature

    File this under “no shit, Sherlock”.

  • veryretired

    The unholy alliance between the collectivist camp and the islamist camp is based on two shared hatreds—their mutual hatred of individualism, and their virulent hatred of the economic system which reflects individual preference, private enterprise capitalism.

    Anathema to both viewpoints is the idea that individuals should be able to make choices without direction or permission from some controlling power, whether political or religious.

    Of course, the alliance is totally cynical, as the collectivists firmly believe that once the overthrow of capitalism and representative government is accomplished, they will easily outmaneuver those ignorant fundamentalist boobs, while the islamists have no doubts that they will be able to isolate and behead any recalcitrant secular ideologues without too much trouble.

    And, indeed, the track record shows that the allegedly moderate, reformist allies of the religious fanatics quickly find themselves marginalized after power changes hands.

    The “arab spring” is rapidly becoming the “arab nightmare” for anyone who thought they were replacing a repressive regime with a democratic one which would be less so.

    Until we realize fully and completely, as a culture, how deep and abiding the hatred of the independent person is in much of the world, we will be regularly surprised by these collectivist/theocratic movements, and caught off-guard by both their ferocity and their stamina.

    Freedom is the anomaly. The pearl of great price.

    Repression, violent repression, is the familiar story of the history of the human race.

    Our current adversaries are merely the latest manifestation of an ancient, malignant, primitive impulse—that anyone who dares disagree with the leader must be killed.

    “The mindless primitive! Even the Krell in all their glory must have evolved from that same beginning!” (Extra credit)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well–it struck me that Mr. Totten’s attitude was actually rather naïve. Wasn’t it fairly clear pretty much from the start the the culmination of the Egyptian uprising would be to place Egyptian governance in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood–no friends to democracy of course, still less to the West, freedom, and “capitalism,” but much beloved of so-called “liberals” world-wide. Is it not the case that the power-players in many if not most “Powerful American Corporations” are (whatever their private motivations) huge public fans and supporters of “liberal” and Tranzi Leftist positions generally?

    Do you think Bill Gates was publically in favor of the Arab Spring in Egypt? Warren Buffett? Soros? Rockefeller?

    Do we not think that management of their companies tends to follow their lead–for various reasons, including the subversion of educational and entertainment enterprises in America, so that they tend to agree with these “liberal” and leftist billionaires? Do we not know that it is dangerous for a large and influential company to use its influence to fight against the liberal-left elites and rulership?

    There is a lot more to business than just “making money.” There is also ego satisfaction, and an honest wanting to be on the right side of things.

    But for the politically ultra-dense (I consider myself merely dense, not ultra-dense, politically), the example of Egypt was not enough to learn the lesson. So we also had Libya.

    As an aside: I have hated Muammar Khadaffi since forever, nor am I or was I any fan of Mubarak. But they were pussycats toward their people in comparison with the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, the Saudis and so on. “Democracy” is a meaningless noise when it comes to those folks.

    So yes, I think that in fact Powerful American Corporations did throw considerable moral support, and also money (in the form of donations to leftist foundations like the Ford and Tides Foundations and to persons with leftist-gangsterist agendas like the Execrable Sith et al.).

    Not for money-making reasons, but out of ego-satisfaction, and because after all it was and is What One Does.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh dear, too wound up to complete the sentence! The penultimate paragraph should of course read,

    “So yes, I think that in fact Powerful American Corporations did throw considerable moral support, and also money (in the form of donations to leftist foundations like the Ford and Tides Foundations and to persons with leftist-gangsterist agendas like the Execrable Sith et al.) to the Cause known as “the Arab Spring.”

    Of course, don’t even we libertarian-type folks think that humans world-wide would be better off if the Third World joined the rest of the world in free-market capitalism, and in (political) freedom generally? And would not this have the delightful side-effect of making money for companies that invested in the developing markets?

    In which case, the fault of such Powerful American Corporations as might have been on the side of overthrowing Mubarak and Democracy in Egypt for this latter reason would have lain in political naïveté, and not in any sort of Evil Desire for–anything!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, goody! I get to visit “I Can Has Cheezeburger”!

    I LOVE being smited at Samizdata!

  • Paul Marks

    Veryretired (profound as always) and Julie from Chicago have summed it all up.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thank you, Paul.

    Very–the Krell Gate! Starring Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon. Came out when I was 13. What a great movie! Very techie, yet with dark, mysterious forces that might tear apart the Universe! Ooooh!

  • veryretired

    Forbidden Planet.

    One of the truly great scifi movies of the pre-star wars cgi era.

    It was really fun when I was a kid, and even better when I watched it with my kids because they were stunned to find out Lt Drebin used to be a romantic lead.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yep! In fact, I have a copy on VHS tape somewhere. And I agree with the fans who think it’s held up well…even if, in the words of somebody, the fx are “a little quaint by today’s standards.” :>)!

  • veryretired

    That’s ok—I’m pretty damn quaint myself.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes “Forbidden Planet” is a great film.