As you can see, I just can’t resist this material. But the latest, via (but not from) the Guardian, really stands on its own. It’s a montage without a mount, the perfect Hollywood trailer for our cute young century. And an epitaph, even, for the last:
A 26-year-old German, who did not wish to be named, told how she and her daughter were rescued from a furious crowd by the French army. “We spent two days locked in our home,” she said. “We were on the internet all the time and calling everyone we could think of for help. There were big explosions outside and we didn’t sleep for those two nights.
“A mob of a thousand people came storming down the street. They were all over the place, smashing boxes, breaking into shops and looting. Everyone was going nuts. One was carrying a tray of drinks; someone would grab a drink and run off in another direction.
“They set fire to the Honda garage and we could see flames seven metres high. There was a sugar factory that was completely destroyed. They stole all the sugar first; it should have taken them two days to take it all but they did it in three hours.
“We had no idea who was actually who or what the hell was going on. There were people with filthy hair—I don’t know if they were prisoners who escaped. We were scared of stray bullets.
“My daughter is seven and was born here. At first she didn’t understand what was going on. After a while she started asking, ‘Are they going to come and kill my cat?’ ”
Does this need a montage? I don’t know. It might. It might just stand on its own. But terhaps, since these people were on the Internets anyway, they could have gained perspective on the ineluctable humanitarian necessity of the Ouattara-Gbagbo war by a quick glance at La Wik:
The responsibility to protect (RtoP or R2P) is a norm or set of principles based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility. RtoP focuses on preventing and halting four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
The responsibility to protect can be thought of as having three parts. A State has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (mass atrocities).
If the State is unable to protect its population on its own, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state by building its capacity. This can mean building early-warning capabilities, mediating conflicts between political parties, strengthening the security sector, mobilizing standby forces, and many other actions.
If a State is manifestly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.
Gbagbo’s, you see, is the stronger party. In one form or another, it has always ruled since the French. But demographics have changed, so Gbagbo loses in the census—excuse me, the election. Hence the international community must step in to protect the weak from the strong, Outtara from Gbagbo, Muslim from Christian, the backward north from the elevated south. Thus, despite its tremendous respect for the principle of sovereignty, etc., etc.
Couldn’t the little girl, or at least her mother, understand this simple humanitarian principle? Language is no excuse. The same edifying material is available in Deutsch, where it sounds even better: Verantwortung zum Schutz. Next time you see a mob of a thousand people storming down the street, you have probably been Verantwortung-zum-Schutzed. Hide your wife, hide your daughter, hide the cat.
Alas, there is no word in either language for what you’re supposed to do when the “international community” fails to protect you. Especially when it fails to protect you from the weak—who are too weak to resist heavy weapons, that’s true. But not too weak to scare your daughter.
So our subjects, locked in a closet with their laptops, might have found better consolation in Vanity Fair’s April photo spread, Faces of the Facebook Revolution:
In essence, they had set up a small, Utopian city, where they were interacting with each other in this leaderless, self-organized system. It wasn’t just a protest. It was a model for how they wanted Egypt to be. It was a chaotic but somehow working system. I truly had this feeling of being surrounded by people drawn together by the strong ideals that they wanted to achieve. The atmosphere was extremely charged and fast-paced, changing minute by minute.
The concept of being self-organized and leaderless made the revolution a success. That was the aspect that fascinated me most. These anonymous people in the photographs—they are the ones who are so important. I may never see them again. I may never know who they were. But they’re the ones who made the revolution happen. I could have picked virtually anyone out of the square and each one of them would have been incredibly and equally as important.
Of course, while everyone is incredibly and equally as important, not everyone is equally photogenic. But Vanity Fair can find them. And so all the young, handsome and fashionable doctors and screenwriters in Cairo came together to be photographed. At negligible expense, with no big fuss at all.
This will get them laid continuously for the next five years, and in any case they weren’t doing anything else—having lost all genuine political relevance immediately after their “victory.” No word on whether Vanity Fair plans a sequel: “Faces of The Forces Nouvelles.”
In the same issue we see two violent screeds against the “top 1%.” Indeed there has never been a time in history when the top 0.01%, who of course constitute the world real or purported of Vanity Fair, have not despised the top 1%. Wanted to conjure up an army of cannibals, in fact, to slaughter them and eat their cats. (FDR, for instance, was a “traitor to his class” in exactly this sense. In fact he was fiercely loyal to his class: the socialite class.)
But the only difficulty with this pleasant fantasy of rabble-scourging is that the cannibal army, once conjured, cannot really tell the difference between James Wolcott, Donald Trump, you and me. Also, just because a civil war was conjured by Vanity Fair, does not mean Vanity Fair can un-conjure it. Welcome to the 21st century! Please hide the cat.