Shall we tint our Twitter avatars? No? Carry on…

As many of you are no doubt aware, Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president of Honduras, was ousted in an illegal military coup last June.   Obama originally issued a condemnation of the army, who stormed the presidential palace and removed and forcibly deported Zelaya while he was still in his pajamas.

Obama’s extremely reasonable response was nice, at least compared to Bush’s endorsement of  (and connections to) the short-lived 2002 illegal removal of democratically elected leftist president Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.  Zelaya and Chavez are political allies.   The US has a long history of undermining and actively supporting the overthrow of leftish governments in Latin America (This isn’t the greatest or most comprehensive overview, but it’s a start.)  So I was really disappointed when Obama backed down from having a position beyond that this is None of Our Business:

“The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we’re always intervening and the Yankees need to get out of Latin America. You can’t have it both ways…”

Because funding mass murders and installing puppet dictators is really equatable with supporting actual democratic process and providing humanitarian aid.

Amnesty International recently released a report warning of a post-coup humanitarian crisis in Honduras.  Mass demonstrations have been underway, met with arbitrary arrests and brutality.  Calls for aid have been largely ignored, at least here in the US.

I would be especially, especially interested to hear from Feministe readers in other parts of the world.  How is the media covering the coup?  How is your government and population responding?  Here, it’s not even a story anymore.

Hey, remember the worldwide Twitterevolution after the elections in Iran? People in the US were all over that.  I saw so many tweets from people who had turned their avatars green praising the brave souls in the streets of Tehran.  Hell, I made my avatar green.  I changed my location to Tehran.  I had my doubts about what all this did for the courageous in the streets, but if in any tiny way it showed support, I wanted to show support.

But the whole thing left a gross taste in my mouth.  Much as I supported the people of Iran fighting for their rights to self-determination, over here in the US all the support felt like it was coming less from the grassroots up than from the government/corporate media power structure on down.  It is in the interest of US foreign policy to undermine Ahmadinejad however possible.  The feel good story of normal people like you and me banding together across the globe via Twitter, the little company that could, to Twitterize the popular revolution?  PR gold.
Earlier this summer the US Congress even passed a resolution condemning the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the crackdown on peaceful protestors. One thing that bugged me then was the complete hypocrisy of the US government, which has in recent history shown no such love or respect for demonstrators on their own soil, including those specifically demanding free and fair elections.  I don’t want to equate the bloody repression of protesters in Iran to that facing  those in the US protesting the 2000 and 2004 stolen elections or anything, but the US government hardly has a history of glorifying their own citizens when they fight for democracy at home, let alone any consistent support for those fighting for their rights across the globe. It is clear that all the love the US government feels for Iranian protesters is primarily motivated by political opportunism.

This is not to in anyway undermine the demonstrators in Iran, who have my love and support.  But it is to point out that I think Honduran demonstrators are equally deserving.  And there are obvious reasons why they’re not getting it.


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21 Responses to Shall we tint our Twitter avatars? No? Carry on…

  1. shafagh says:

    well many thanks from Iran that you turned your avatar green.but other i rather see a big real sanction against iran or Nokia or siemense.or any other company that is helping Iran’s government

  2. gaby arguedas says:

    http://feministascrenresistenciaalgolpe.blogspot.com/

    about the situation in Honduras, from central america…

  3. Mindy says:

    I think a major reason is because Iran is a lot more prominent in the average American’s consciousness than Honduras is. Before the election, the typical American conception of Iran was of an evil, repressive, fanatically religious country hellbent on destroying Israel and America (a conception which is entirely wrong, but one that was nonetheless prevalent). So when they saw the images of thousands of Iranians in the streets, dressed in green and blue-jeans instead of black burqas, protesting for freedom, of all things, it was like a smack in the face. The Green Revolution changed the whole image of a nation that many Americans would previously have been a-okay with bombing.

    That’s what made the Iran case different from that of Honduras or any other nation where people are currently fighting for their rights and Americans don’t give a fuck. Sadly, it takes a lot to make Americans sit up and take notice of something outside their own borders, and Honduras just isn’t that important in the minds of most Americans. To them, it’s just another coup in another Latin American country that they couldn’t find on a map to save their lives. It’s not going to affect them, so why should they care? And anyway, asking Americans to support a leftist president who’s allied with Chavez? Good luck with that.

    It’s not fair, and it sucks, but it’s the way Americans are.

    • Constintina says:

      I largely agree with you, BUT– US Americans didn’t come to these conclusions on our own, it’s what we’ve been told by our major news sources and our government.

  4. Courtney says:

    I’m not convinced that the events surrounding the removal of Zelaya went against the wishes of the Honduran people, or the Honduran Constitution.

    I’ve been following La Gringa’s Blogicito, where she recounts (in English) a picture from inside Honduras that is very different from the images and stories presented by the AP, NYT, and even Democracy Now. I’m not comfortable saying that any one view of this situation is correct, but it does seem to be complicated enough to look for opposing viewpoints.

    http://lagringasblogicito.blogspot.com/

    It is infuriating, though, that this situation is being swept under a rug.

    • Constintina says:

      That may be. I tend to trust Democracy Now as a news source, and from what I’ve read and heard there and elsewhere up til now it seems like a pretty clear cut case of an illegal military coup, but I welcome opposing viewpoints from reputable sources, and appreciate your link which I will definitely check out. That said, I’m not clear on how these actions could be constitutional, or that “the wishes of the Honduran people” are homogenous. Clearly there are many who are out in force, actively opposing Zelaya’s removal,

  5. Constintina says:

    Um, my first comment (5) was to Courtney and the second (6) was to Mindy. Sorry.

  6. Constantina:

    Much as I supported the people of Iran fighting for their rights to self-determination, over here in the US all the support felt like it was coming less from the grassroots up than from the government/corporate media power structure on down.

    While I agree, overall, with the point of your post, I am not sure precisely what you mean by this statement. There were demonstrations in this country–and in many other countries all over the world–against what was happening in Iran, and while they might not have been “huge” outpourings of grassroots support, they were also not insignificant, and they were not exclusively Iranian (at least not the ones that I went to). I guess I just don’t want the people at those protests to become invisible in your analysis. (I would also add that most of the people I know who were involved in protesting against Iran’s government were very suspicious of the kinds of support that were coming from Congress because the politics of that support, much of it, had more to do with playing politics here at home, or with the political agendas of Iranians who have not lived in Iran for many, many years, than with the needs and lives of the people who live there now.

    You quote Obama:

    “The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we’re always intervening and the Yankees need to get out of Latin America. You can’t have it both ways…”

    This is very similar to the position he took on Iran, though he was also very clear in his condemnation of the Iranian government’s crackdown, and in the case of Iran it was the right position to take because of the way US actions play out in terms of internal Iranian politics. I don’t know enough about the situation in Honduras or how governments in Latin America respond to US involvement. Are you saying that situation in Honduras is different enough from the situation in Iran that Obama should take a different tack?

  7. Scott M says:

    Regarding “lagringasblogicito”: So, just because it’s in English, we should read the blog of an American woman who lives in Honduras, and believe it’s true? I’ll take Amy Goodman’s interviews on Democracy Now, with actual Hondurans (!), over this tripe any day of the week. The last two pieces on “la Gringa” were just reposting of press releases from rabid right-wing south Floridian members of Congress–gimme a break!

  8. La Gringa says:

    “Clearly there are many who are out in force, actively opposing Zelaya’s removal,”

    That just shows the media bias. There have been protests against Zelaya that number in the 50,000-70,000 or more. The US media doesn’t show you that for whatever reasons they may have. The pro-Zelaya protests are in the very low one or two thousand usually. Also, I wonder if the media shows you that the pro-Zelaya protesters are vandals, thieves, and violent?

    I would ask you to consider this: How would you feel if 100’s of countries in the world who do not believe in abortion tried to force your US Supreme Court to change their decision? Or if the UN tried to force the US to violate their constitution in the name of “restoring democracy”?

  9. PTS says:

    I think that one of the issues involved is that Iran, despite all the negative coverage in the media, has been always presented as a country with a vital civil society and democracy. Reform candidates get elected, serve out their terms, and peacefully retire. Now, the peaceful transfer of “power” is largely a facade, but there has been every reason to believe that the Supreme Council took the legitimacy of its democratic fig leaf seriously. The recent election changed that, so the difference was pretty radical for most commentators.

    As sorry as I am to admit it, military coups in the Americas are very common. Throw in the fact that the facts are more ambiguous and complicated (the military was responding to a presidential action which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court vs. out and out vote stealing), and it isn’t surprising that Honduras isn’t making the headlines.

    Further, Honduras is much poorer than Iran, the latter having three times the GDP per capita of the former. And Iran has 46 TIMES (500,000 vs. 23 million) the number of internet users. Is it all surprising that the twitter response is going to be considerably more prominent with Iran?

  10. Banisteriopsis says:

    Why would the US (strongly) oppose a coup? I just happened to be listening today to an issue of the Economist from when that happened. Wasn’t Zelaya close to Chavez? We didn’t really do much afterward to remove our financial support or diplomats. It seems to me the forcible removal of Zelaya would be in our interests. Oh, and btw what he was doing was sort of illegal, but that’s a far far secondary consideration. Did the military ever give a reason for not hauling him before a judge right away?

  11. Rebecca says:

    I largely agree with what PTS said about Iran, but I think a central reason for the Western ambivalence in the case of Honduras is that – in defying the Supreme Court and attempting to stay in office beyond his constitutional term limit – Zelaya wasn’t exactly te face of democracy either.

  12. The Turn Your Avatar Green thing was just a meme, something simple and easy to do so that you could feel like you were helping. If you REALLY wanted to step up to the plate and prove your bona fides and get behind the revolution, you’d post a photo of you holding up a piece of paper to cover your face with the words “I am Neda” on it.

    Iran is still happening — for God’s sake they just discovered a mass grave of 44 people suspected of being demonstrators. But the fad’s over, so we’re not hearing about it.

    The whole thing makes me pretty sick to my stomach.

  13. Constintina says:

    Richard:

    Just briefly before I go to work (hope this isn’t too pre-coffee incoherent):

    “There were demonstrations in this country–and in many other countries all over the world–against what was happening in Iran, and while they might not have been “huge” outpourings of grassroots support, they were also not insignificant, and they were not exclusively Iranian (at least not the ones that I went to). I guess I just don’t want the people at those protests to become invisible in your analysis.”

    Absolutely, and I don’t mean to erase these people either, or imply that they are/were uncritical of the politics at play. I’m just trying to look at the support for Iranian protesters phenomenon (in the US specifically as that’s what I’m familiar with) and compare it other situations where things went differently, in this case Honduras, though there are countless examples we could use.

    “Are you saying that situation in Honduras is different enough from the situation in Iran that Obama should take a different tack?”

    I’m saying he is taking a different tack, on the PR if not policy level. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if some US body, if not the president himself, had either a hand in this or turned a blind eye. I’m not trying to float conspiracy theories, and I’m not saying I believe that is the case Just looking at the government’s interests and history–it wouldn’t surprise me.

  14. Niki says:

    To answer your question about non-US coverage, I’m in Canada, and after reading your summation of the American coverage of Honduras, I can say the coverage here was pretty much the same. Iran was huge news, and Honduras was also a big deal but only for about a week. I can barely even remember the mention of the country in a newspaper here from July on.

    I think Mindy was bang-on in saying that Iran has a certain place in the average American (and Canadian) consciousness that isn’t mirrored in our consciousness of Latin America. With the war in Afghanistan (widely participated in by many countries, including Canada–we have a really big role there), and the war in Iraq (admittedly pretty much just an American-British thing, but nonetheless very heavily covered by Canadian media), I think Westerners have a certain we-have-to-help-all-these-poor-middle-eastern-folk complex. A complex that is ethnocentric and sad, but very real. Whereas with Latin American countries, the public consciousness seems to say “Well it’s sad, but that’s what poverty does.” Kind of like the way we react to dictatorships and poverty in many African countries. The “trendy” place to do aid work and save people, today, does seem to be the middle east. It’s quite a horrific state of affairs.

    And–it must be sad–add to that the fact that the Honduras coup happened within days of MJ’s death, and there you have it. I think we know which story of those two “won” the media.

  15. Niki says:

    *it must be said, not sad. Although I admit that’s a total Freudian slip!

  16. cpinkhouse says:

    I don’t think there is any disputing the impropriety of the coup in Honduras. The whole of Latin America has more or less condemned it.
    One of the major issues is that Zelaya is seen by many as a power-hungry demagogue who was trying to illegally manipulate the constitution to promote his staying in power (i.e. abolishing term limits).
    I also wonder how much propaganda bombardment Hondurans are getting that distorts their reporting.

  17. Sailorman says:

    Because funding mass murders and installing puppet dictators is really equatable with supporting actual democratic process and providing humanitarian aid.

    Of course not.

    But it is a lot easier to get entangled with another country’s politics, residents, and future than it is to get DISentangled.

    So, why worry about entanglement? Well, to make it more clear, you should try different language.

    “Supporting democratic process” is one way to put what we would be doing. “Openly assisting in the removal of a government” is another way to put it, even though the current government was obtained through military coup. And we both know which way it is going to be viewed by the current (in power) government.

    We already get into trouble playing world policeman, even when we are trying to prevent fairly obvious issues like international wars of aggression. When we step into a country’s internal government, especially when we are acting to try to completely change it, we risk setting a dangerous precedent.

    While I agree that Hondurans would benefit from a better government, and while I am also opposed to a variety of other pro-dictator U.S. intervention that is ongoing, I can see why we might not want to get into yet another fighting ring right now.

  18. MIghty Pony Girl:

    Iran is still happening — for God’s sake they just discovered a mass grave of 44 people suspected of being demonstrators. But the fad’s over, so we’re not hearing about it.

    Where? I missed the news of this one. Can you give a source? Thanks.

  19. Fatemeh says:

    This is a great post. KABOBfest asked what Afghanistan’s election fraud “protest” color would be in a pointed attempt to illustrate the same issue: why did everyone care about Iran and not Afghanistan or Honduras?

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