Saturday, April 1, 2017

Will George Ciccariello-Maher Learn From His Mistakes?

George Ciccariello Maher
Richard Mellor GED
Afscme Local 444, retired

If one thing is revealed by George Ciccariello-Maher’s tweet about a 1st class passenger on a flight he was on giving up his seat to a soldier in the military, it is that Twitter is not a medium for serious discussion, especially politics.

On witnessing this, Maher, who has some 20,000 followers, tweeted, "Some guy gave up his first class seat for a uniformed soldier. People are thanking him. I'm trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul.".   For those who have never heard of Maher, and that would include most working class people I would think, it’s hard to tell exactly what it was that forced him to suppress the urge to throw up. But it’s not hard to figure how it would be used as Maher is apparently a bit of an anti-establishment figure.

Sure enough, the right-wingers, racists, neo Nazis, Klan, the whole lot of them pounced on it along with the mass media and Breitbart and co. They know an opportunity when they see one. Their take on it: Maher was disrespecting a soldier, insulting some working class person who might have spent the last 5 or 6 years in Afghanistan or Iraq assuming he/she still had all their limbs. Either way, they will be mentally damaged.  The vast majority of workers will feel that way, or at least be questioning what Maher meant because most of the people in those uniforms, the most at risk, are young working class men and women. For many workers, especially those from poor families, the military is the best option. For some parents, their son or daughter in the military gives them some sense of relief given the options.

Maher has been forced to explain what he meant by the tweet, something that was not clear at all, to the millions of workers that are not clear about his views and even more so if they follow his tweets of late. US attacks in Iraq and Syria killed more than a few hundred civilians a few days ago and Maher correctly condemns this as not making the world safer. He also explains that we should support our troops, not by supporting these attacks, but by bringing them home, providing help and all the usual stuff.

Thinking about this inflamed his passions and his comment was directed at the passenger that offered the soldier the seat. It was a, "smug and self-congratulatory gesture.", he wrote.  Hopefully, now that he has been forced to follow up with an explanation that covers more ground than a Tweet , Maher will learn something about politics, the class struggle, and the forces at play.

I am not holding my breath. Maher made a similar mistake that the enemies of working people grabbed and ran with in the past. In December last year he tweeted:  "All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide,"

Naturally, the enemies of the working class thanked him for his support and had a field day. Maher again had to explain what he really meant, something that could not be done with a tweet. He replied to his critics, "For those who haven't bothered to do their research, 'white genocide' is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I'm glad to have mocked it." 

Maher's employer, Drexel University, defended free speech, (tepidly) as Maher put it, but attacked his "white genocide" tweet as "reprehensible," "disturbing" etc. And there were calls for his firing. Maher claims the university didn't get it and  their weak response meant that, "This satirical tweet became fodder for online white supremacists to systematically harass me and my employer, Drexel University,"

I am sure that workers who came by it didn't "get it" either, especially white workers. 

I defended Maher's right to free speech on this blog and opposed any attempt by his employer to fire or punish him. But is he just stupid? What did he expect our enemies would do with the "white genocide" speech? They don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Does he believe capitalism has to be overthrown? Does he agree with Malcolm X when he said that "You can't have capitalism without racism."?  Does he agree with Marx that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself? Then how do his stupid tweets help workers?

Mayer must not believe workers of the world should unite because no class conscious worker would have the divisive approach he does. No worker would talk the way he does, especially a militant shop steward, or fighter in the workplace where "The Rubber Meets the Road." Class conscious workers would recognize the folly of such language and how it would cause division.

Did Maher not think that his quote would be taken as an offensive gesture by white workers? Maher might not be too bright, having a PhD doesn't guarantee one can't be stupid, but that's not the problem. The reality is, as with most left/liberal academics, he doesn't orient to the working class at all. He doesn't see the working class as the force for change in society. He doesn't believe the working class can govern. Consequently, he isn't participating in one way or another in the struggle for the consciousness of the working class so why bother to think about the consequences of his tweets? 

His genocide tweet became "fodder for white supremacists" because of his employer's weak defense of him he says.  He's wrong. His tweets aren't "fodder" for our class enemies including white nationalists, Nazi's and the like, they are not fodder at all, they are "ammunition" for these forces, who use his words to sow division and weaken and undermine the unity of the working class. Maher's irresponsible tweets are a gift to the enemies of the working class. We all make mistakes but it's Maher's approach and method to his politics that is flawed.

I would continue to defend his right to free speech, but free speech has consequences as Charlie Hebdo discovered.

Maher is a PhD. This is a title given to people by the institutions of capitalism.  In reality, they are bestowed upon individuals in order to intimidate and bully, to give the impression that the individual that possesses them is something special, is above the masses. Like the flowing robes and ceremonial dress of the religious figures and the professional medicine man we are supposed to call doctor even if we bump in to him or her at the supermarket..

Marx did not coin the phrase, PhD's of the World Unite for a reason.  It is the working class that holds the key to our emancipation and the future of human life on this planet.

I am not anti-education. But I am not in awe of the titles bestowed on individuals by the capitalist state. Women healed, made clothes, delivered children long before there was ever a profession of Tailor or Doctor. In general, the milieu that people like Maher is in, is not a favorable arena for revolutionary politics.  This doesn't mean that people with degrees or PhD's have not made great sacrifices and played key roles in the workers' movement and the struggle for socialism.  I have met and fought alongside people with university degrees including PhD's. There is a difference when a person from this background understands the special role the working class has in the struggle to end capitalism and the filth that comes with it and places the skills they have acquired through their studies at the service of the working class------that fight with the working class not for us. These are our comrades.

Professor Maher's approach harms the workers' movement, does not connect with workers, and throws up an unnecessary obstacle in the struggle to end this rotten system.

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