In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The murky provenance of a Libya “good news” story

Posted by seumasach on July 25, 2012

The view from falling downs

24th July, 2012

As I was scrolling down the Google news aggregator this morning a headline on the right side of the screen caught my eye; Libya might be on right path.

Well that would certainly be good news! I clicked on for a read. The article is from a website called War in Context which appears to be the hobby blog of one Paul Woodward. The article is a recycle of a piece by James Traub that appeared earlier on the Foreign Policy website under the title Baby Steps.

Traub informs us that he gets a lot of his Libya news from a “plucky” little start-up called the Libya Herald. Traub approvingly informs us that the Herald has informed him that no less an authority than William Hague has declared Libya’s progress “inspiring.”

Traub then goes on to spend several paragraphs celebrating the victory of secular forces (i.e. NTC boss Jibril) over Islamist forces in the recent election. He quotes an official from the National Democratic Institute, “a democracy promotion group,” who assures him that since all Libyans are Muslims, an Islamist party has no appeal.

Alas, and give Traub credit, it’s not all unvarnished good news. A gratuitous reference to Max Weber leads to a discussion of how those unruly NATO rebels could yet throw a spanner in the works. He concludes with a celebration of the impressive resiliency of Libya’s oil sector.

The think tank here at Falling Downs would like to climb aboard the happy-talk bandwagon with Messrs. Traub and Hague. Here’s why we’ll stand aside for the time being.

That plucky start-up doesn’t seem all that plucky, unless you think that it takes “pluck” to write a continuous stream of pro-NATO propaganda. While there are certainly Libyans who owe that viewpoint their current good fortune (Mr. Jibril?) it seems like an unfortunate source for an experienced journo like Mr. Traub to get a “lot” of his information about Libya.

Aside from being an experienced journalist, James Traub is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a fact that some might conclude could becloud his journalist’s objectivity.

And who are these democracy promoters, the National Democratic Institute? Why, they’re not Libyan, they’re American! Here’s a link to their Libya page, where they’re quite happy to tell you that they’ve been ever-so-busy fanning the embers of freedom in Libya long before the spontaneous eruption of Arab Spring!

Finally, lets have a look at that election that we’re told established the “secularist” Jibril as the champion of the Libyan people.

In the first place, Jibril is famously on record as stating he wants a “secular” Libya based on Sharia law. That’s not a secularism that I personally would put a lot of stock in.

Secondly, approximately 1.7 million Libyans took part in the election, out of 3.5 million eligible voters, in a country of 6.7 million. Do the math and then decide if this election should be heralded as a triumph for democracy.

So I’m somewhat saddened to let go of that brief flicker of hope I felt when I first read the words ‘Libya might be on right path’. The seeds of that sadness were right there in the title all along of course…

If Libya “might” be on the right path, than I guess it might not be either.

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