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Wikileaks, Twitter, Cable News Fuel Tunisia Uprising Perfect Storm

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It is not everyday you get off a plane to visit friends and your second night in a country is attending a reception for national human rights activists at the British High Commissioner’s office and later in the week, to privately meet one of the main leaders of the opposition in my friends’ home, an official U.S. embassy residence. But in 2002, I traveled to Tunisia during spring break of graduate school to visit dear friends who were posted to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital.  This was not a typical tourist vacation, although visiting the ruins of Carthage and walking through the pristine excavation of a classic Roman-era gladiator stadium was one part of my trip.

I was smitten by Tunisia’s beauty and history that belied the everyday misery of living under autocratic dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose photograph was published every day on the front pages of  Tunisian newspapers, above the fold, by unspoken decree. Opposition political parties barely existed, and in name only because the government went out of its way to ensure that no business would rent a meeting room to them, and by making group meetings nearly impossible organizations outside of the government could not take root, due to oppressive security forces.

Tunisia, a country of less than eleven million people located in the upper-most Northern Arabic Africa, is a former French colony and an outpost of the Roman Empire where its officers retired on the Mediterranean Sea. U.S.-Tunisia ties are deep, forged in U.S. and Tunisian bloodshed during the World War II invasion of North Africa where more than 2,800 of our war dead are buried in consecrated ground.

In recent days, the Tunisian people, dominated by the young, educated and under or unemployed, known as the Middle East and North Africa “youth bulge,” ran its former “president for life”–Ben Ali–out of the country, only to have his political ally, the former Prime Minster Mohamed Ghannouchi, declare he was in charge. But less than 24 hours later, he also stepped away, as 10,000 rioters hit the Tunisian streets, emboldened by their success in sacking Ben Ali, determining  Ghannouchi unacceptable, tarnished by his close alliance to Ben Ali, who wisely turned over Tunisia’s spinning presidency to Fouad Mebazaa, former speaker of the parliament, the constitutionally designated successor to the presidency.

So today, at least for the moment, Ghannouchi has been asked by the new president to form a government.  Ghannouchi, so lacking in charisma and political backbone, became known as “Monsieur Oui Oui” (“Mr. Yes Yes,” and no, you can’t make this up) during Ben Ali’s 23-year tenure, and has indicated that he will open up the political process to everyone by forming a national unity government expected to be announced today.

He is the only figure who now stands between official Tunisia and a political and social abyss.

What is going on here? Rioters in streets throughout the country, accompanied by outraged masses of young men, who plundered, sacked and burned mansions belonging to Ben Ali’s self-engorged, corrupt family members, reflected a boiling-over on the Arab streets that mustered a massive push-back against Ben Ali’s punitive, coercive, dictatorial leadership and ran him out.  Ben Ali appealed to France’s Sarkozy for succor and was told “non,” but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agreed to take him in. What were they thinking in Riyadh, as the internet piled up with criticism from Saudi citizens of its Royal family?

https://youtube.com/watch?v=uJgRsND8iIw%3Ffs%3D1%26hl%3Den_US

Yes, the internet played a central role in Tunisia’s uprising, by using Facebook and Twitter, people gathered on the streets throughout the country, even though the government tried to shut it down. But in Tunisia’s case, unlike Tehran, an added weapon in the quills of the opposition was Al Jazzera Television, the “24/7,” all encompassing and ubiquitious Arabic language broadcaster, followed by the entire Arab world.

And Al-Jazzera is a big factor. The Financial Times Middle East Editor wrote an opinion editorial published on Saturday, advising Arab leaders to watch Al-Jazzera if they really want to know what is going on in their respective countries.

A third factor was Wikileak’s release of U.S. State Department cables on Tunisia, which was picked up by cyber activists in Tunisia. State Department officers had extensively reported the extreme government corruption and egregious human rights abuses carried out by the Ben Ali government that galvanized the rioters.

But the fact remains that Tunisia’s young, educated  population has no hope of gaining employment that will provide a decent quality of life; with few resources to bribe corrupt officials, anger boiled over into pure rage on Tunisia’s streets when college graduate and unemployed Mohammed Bouazizi burned himself to death on Dec. 17, in response to security forces who took away his vegetable cart in a Sidi Bouzid market because he did not have a proper license.  Since then at least 60 others have died–many by the sniper rifles shot by security forces.

There have been food riots in Algeria during the past two weeks in response to rocketing prices and unemployment there that has resulted in the deaths of at least three people and many more injured, because a standard food basket for a family of four now costs nearly 60 percent of monthly income.  Last night and earlier today, following Mohamed Bouazizi’s electrifying act of civil disobedience in Tunisia by killing himself, two other men have lit a match in self-sacrifice in Algiers and Cairo. Arab capitals in Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Egypt are nervous for good reasons. It appears that an Arab youth led revolution has been unleashed in the fires of Tunisia.

Their respective leaders should tune their televisions to Al-Jazzera and track Twitter for further developments. But left to their own devices, they are likely to confront primal urges for freedom with thuggery and violence–a cautionary tale.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs atColumbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Instituteaffiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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BREAKING NEWS

‘The Law Is Clear’: Appeals Court Rules Trump Handpicked Judge Should Never Have Appointed Special Master

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A three-judge panel on the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Donald Trump, and effectively against his hand-picked federal district court judge Aileen Cannon in the ex-president’s “special master” case.

The judges, all three conservatives, two of whom appointed to the bench by Trump himself, ruled that Judge Cannon should never have agreed to Trump’s request to appoint a “special master” to review all the items the Dept. of Justice removed from his Mar-a-Lago residence by executing a legal search warrant.

Cannon had ordered the special master to specifically review approximately 100 classified documents, and blocked the DOJ from accessing them while they were under review. That block halted its investigation into Trump’s likely illegal retention of the documents and other items – over 10,000 – he removed from the White House and was string at Mar-a-Lago.

RELATED: In Trump’s ‘Special Master’ Appeal 2 of 3 Judges Are Ones He Appointed – and Both Previously Ruled Against Him

CNN calls Thursday’s ruling “a major defeat for former President Donald Trump.” The appeals court’s ruling halts  “a third-party review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate,” and “removes a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records from Trump’s time in the White House.”

“The law is clear,” the judges wrote in their ruling Thursday, posted by NBC News’ Daniel Barnes. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”

“And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations,” they continued. “Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

READ MORE: ‘Roughing Him Up’: Judges Scorch Trump’s Attorney in Tense Hearing Over His ‘Secret’ Argument

They also wrote: “In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.”

“The district court,” meaning Judge Cannon, “improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, we VACATE the September 5 order on appeal and REMAND with instructions for the district court to DISMISS the underlying civil action.”

 

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News

Right Wing Social Media Platform Parler Announces Kanye West Will No Longer Buy It in ‘Interest of Both Parties’

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After Kanye West‘s antisemitic and racist remarks last month, which led to him being deplatformed by Twitter and Instagram, the extremist artist and rapper announced he was purchasing the right wing “free speech” social media platform Parler, which performs little content moderation.

On Thursday, hours after West went on far right extremist and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show and praised Adolf Hitler, Parler issued a statement saying by mutual agreement West would not be purchasing the platform.

But the Parler statement, which came from its parent company, also claimed the decision had been made weeks ago.

“In response to numerous media inquiries, Parlement Technologies would like to confirm that the company has mutually agreed with Ye to terminate the intent of sale of Parler,” Parler said on Twitter. “This decision was made in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”

READ MORE: ‘This Is Nazism’: Americans Outraged After Kanye West Praises Hitler – ‘This Is Not a Clown Show. It’s Dangerous’

On Thursday, stunning many, West told Alex Jones, “I see good things about Hitler,” as Consequence reported. “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.” 

When West had agreed to purchase Parler, he stated, “In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves.”

CNBC reported last month that “Parler, which initially launched in 2018, was swept up in controversy last year over the role it played in the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol building. That led a slew of tech companies, including Google and Amazon, to blacklist the service, rendering its app and website inaccessible.”

READ MORE: Matt Gaetz ‘Wingman’ Joel Greenberg Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison – Attorney ‘Disappointed’ Others Not Prosecute

Parler’s CEO is George Farmer, who is married to far right commentator Candace Owens. Owens several years ago had her own Hitler-praising scandal.

Owens, promoting nationalism, told young supporters in London, “Whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler.”

“But if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalise. He wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German. Everybody to look a different way. To me, that’s not nationalism.”

Hitler was responsible for the slaughter of up to 17 million people.

 

Image via Tinseltown / Shutterstock

 

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘This Is Nazism’: Americans Outraged After Kanye West Praises Hitler – ‘This Is Not a Clown Show. It’s Dangerous’

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Disgraced rapper and antisemite Kanye West on Thursday praised Adolf Hitler while in an interview with far right extremist and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Many are expressing outrage online.

“I see good things about Hitler,” West told Jones, as Consequence reports. “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.” 

In between those two remarks West launched into a plethora of lies about all the good things Hitler has done, including inventing the microphone (false) and highways (also false.)

West doubled down, exclaiming, “I like Hitler,” and said, “the Jewish media has made us feel like Nazis and Hitler have never offered us anything of value to the world.”

West, who brought a white supremacist with him to dine with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago last week, today also claimed he loves everyone but injected antisemitic tropes about contracts and pornography.

“I think most Jews are great people,” West said, while claiming, “I agree there’s a Jewish mafia.”

West, who goes by “Ye,” astonishingly “took credit for popularizing antisemitism,” Consequence reports, “saying, ‘No one in high school knew what antisemitic meant until Ye made it popular.'”

That, too, is a lie.

The outrage online is palpable.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) tweeted, “JUST NOW: ‘I see good things about Hitler, also. The Jews… Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.’
— Kanye West on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars show.”

“This is Nazism,” he added. “When are we going to say ENOUGH?”

Many pointed to a wildly offensive tweet posted by GOP Congressman Jim Jordan, who heads the House Judiciary Republicans. After nearly two months it was removed within minutes of West praising Hitler.

U.S. Rep. Eric Falwell (D-CA) blasted Jordan, saying: “for 2 months you were cool with Jew-bashing.”

Sam Stern of Politico and MSNBC took a wider view.

“We’re all gawking at Kanye saying he sees ‘good things about Hitler’ but i can’t escape the absolute dread that people who know no better and look up to this man and stumble upon this interview will be moved, even on the margins, by him,” he tweeted. “This is not a clown show. It’s dangerous.”

As did actor Josh Gad:

“It’s not what Kanye West says that scares me. It’s that he has 30 million followers who listen to his insanity on top of a cheerleader in the form of the current owner of this platform. No one who says “I love Hitler” should be allowed any oxygen on any social platform (period).”

There is video online of Kanye West’s vile remarks. NCRM will not post or link to it.

 

Image via Shutterstock

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