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Strong Authoritarianism


Nice catch by Katha Polllitt. It’s nice that Benjamin Barber has published a trite but unobjectionable piece urging liberals to fight. But this isn’t really the week to be taking Barber seriously:

Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University wrote in the Washington Post, also in 2007, that Libya under Qaddafi could become “the first Arab state to transition peacefully and without overt Western intervention to a stable, non-autocratic government.”

Great minds think alike? Actually, no: all were being paid by Libyan money, under a $3 million per year contract with a consulting group which promised to “enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Quadhafi” in Britain and the US.

One more thing: none of them said in The New Republic, the Guardian, or the Washington Post that they were being paid by Libyan money. That seems to be a clear violation of journalistic ethics—at least that’s what the then-editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer, told David Corn of Mother Jones about Nye: “If we had known that he was consulting for a firm paid by the government, we wouldn’t have run the piece.”

Not only is the idea that Qaddafi was going to oversee a transition to multiparty democracy farcical, but Qaddafi’s ongoing obliteration of civil society will make creating an effective, non-autocratic state in the wake of his demise enormously difficult.

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