Monday, November 29, 2010

Sore losers the Americans?

The Italian editor of “Wired” awhile ago proposed the Nobel Peace Prize for Internet. With the so-called “9/11” of international diplomacy (the definition is by Signor Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister) and the WikiLeaks international scandal, I’d say that Internet has caused MORE problems to modern-day society (and especially to the youths of the world) than anything else (I’m having to a certain degree a big laugh as the Americans are all in a huff over Julian Assange and his web site. More on this shortly).

Take for example the increasing cases of bullying in Italy. Ever since (American) wrestling appeared on Italian tv a few years ago (it’s been now taken off public tv) and with the advent of Internet, YouTube and what-not, there has been a noticeable increase in cases related to bullying among kids in Italian schools. The region where I currently live in Italy will be allotting some 340,000 euros to schools and communities in trying to resolve this social problem which is causing a few problems to kids and their parents. To all this we have to now add iPads, mobile phones that also include easy Internet access, etc. It’s not too surprising as you can now film whatever you want with even your mobile phone and post it immediately on YouTube. By doing this, many kids out there now fulfil Andy Warhol’s famous prophecy (that sooner or later in life EVERYONE will have their “15 minutes of fame”!).

Just one example? Months ago in Milan two 15 yr-olds were trying to derail a train. The cops caught them just in time. They asked why they wanted to derail the train? Because they wanted to post the derailment on YouTube! Now, whoever is “old” and reading this, well, we can presume that we don’t go around trying to derail trains, unless we have a VERY serious mental problem. But try putting yourself in the mind of a teeny-bopper (ditto for the rise now in Italy in teenage alcoholism. Not much use when Campari and the other major distilleries show us during their tv ads a bunch of young and beautiful people having a great time and drinking alcohol on a beach during the summer, and with then a very tiny message that appears on the bottom of the tv screen which says: “Drink responsibly”! Ah yes, I’m a 15 yr-old healthy male whose hormones have gone TOTALLY out of whack, and I’m going to obey that message? But of course… (n.b. I recently coached a 16 yr-old goalkeeper in Udine. He showed up one day and looked as though he was in a very, very bad mood. I asked him, “Girl problems”? (which he had had with a pretty 15 yr-old at school). “No, that’s not the problem, coach”, was his answer. The problem was that he had stayed at home from school that day because he had downed “only” 3 bottles of Jagermeister liquor, and basically showed up with a MASSIVE hang-over!). What teenager out there DOESN’T want to become famous with a 5 minute film footage, especially when that film footage can also mean big bucks to him/her?

The other problem, and the entirely new can of worms that Internet has opened up, deals with on-line child pornography. Few out there know that this has now also become a topic at all G8 Summits: how to combat it (I know because I covered it when I worked during that DISASTROUS Summit in Genova in 2001). In fact, many around the world are staunchly against G8 Summits as they think that they’re just a big waste of money, and world leaders only end up doing a lot of useless blah-blah-blah (so the world thinks). Au contraire! Recent arrests, even of Canadian paedophiles in countries like Thailand, have been also thanks to highly sophisticated and VERY expensive software programs which have been used by Interpol authorities in trying to arrest these same paedophiles who lure kids on Internet (by the way: if you’re a parent out there, raise your hand if you want your young kids to end up on an on-line paedophile web site?). It’s the RICH countries of the G8, G10, G20 etc. that can afford this type of software, and not countries like Malawi, Togo, Haiti…

Before the advent of Internet, it wasn’t as though you could just go down to your local newsstand and ask: “Excuse me, but do you have this month’s copy of “Paedophile Fun”? But now with Internet, all the world is literally at your feet (or at your desk). Without a doubt a wonderful candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, right?

On the Americans being somewhat “sore losers” as their highly sensitive documents are exposed on WikiLeaks, I recall a year ago that the Danes, evidently trying to copy the Americans and their sense of “Freedom of Expression”, had published a few cartoons with the image of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban with, of all things, a bomb inside it. I do believe that in the world of Islam, the Prophet’s image cannot be shown, and even less with a bloody bomb in a turban!

I do recall the uproar of many Muslims around the world—and rightly so—at the sight of these “blasphemous” cartoons. I also recall a dear friend of mine in the States who said that as always, the Muslims were overreacting, as though to say: “So what’s wrong with depicting the Prophet in this manner” (he may recall though that Sinead O’Connor’s gesture in the 1990s on the tv program “Saturday Night Live” wasn’t greatly appreciated by many Catholics around the world, nor by the Vatican: she had ripped to pieces a picture of the old Polish pope, John Paul II. For that gesture, O’Connor had disappeared for quite some time from the radar screens of the music world. So much for “Freedom of Expression”!)? When it comes to the WikiLeaks now, no doubt Americans are saying that this is a very serious breach of “national security “(n.b. almost EVERYTHING that regards the Americans in some way or the other is ALWAYS a question of THEIR national security!). What to say though about having, as a result of those Danish cartoons, up to 1 billion Muslims who are mad as hell? Isn’t that a major worry vis-à-vis EVERYONE’S national security? Or does it just apply to the so-called “civilised world” out there, such as America (n.b. in 1994 1 million Tutsi were slaughtered in 10 days’ time by the Hutu in Rwanda. Canada’s General Dallaire, who head the U.N.’s Peacekeeping forces, forces who had been during the Suez Crisis created by the same Canadians under Lester B. Pearson—a former Canadian Prime Minister, who at the time of the crisis was Canada’s foreign minister—basically had his hands tied behind his back by the U.N. hqs in New York, which in turn had its hands tied by its “boss”, that is, the folks in Washington, DC, who didn’t think it was worth it to lose not even one single American soldier for those poor Tutsi. And the French? Oh, well, they were MORE worried in getting out of their own Embassy in Kigali the dogs which belonged to their own diplomats than the locally-hired staff. Many were subsequently caught up in that horrific genocide). That I recall, not one single minute of silence was ever observed by this modern-day “Holocaust”, and yet when I was in Rome on 10/11, 2001, not one, not two but a whopping three minutes of silence were observed by the Italians for the victims of 9/11, as though Americans in some way or the other were more “special” than 1 million (black and poor) Rwandans! Go figure…

So we now, thanks to Internet, have leaks of highly-sensitive documents. But this kind of so-called “cloak and dagger” of international diplomacy has been going on since practically the dawn of diplomacy, ever since the Italians “invented” diplomacy as we now know it (n.b. diplomacy as a communications process between political entities has actually existed for literally thousands of years. The very first diplomatic document in our possession is a letter inscribed on a tablet which has been dated some time around 2,500 BC. It was sent from a kingdom called Ebla near the Mediterranean coast in what we would call the Middle East to the kingdom of Hamazi in what is now Northern Iraq. It was carried by a messenger who made a round trip of almost 2,000 kms. The modern day global diplomatic system has its origins in 15th century Italy where permanent embassies were first established, and the representative of kings and what-not were in fact ambassadors to those foreign countries). And naturally, the U.S. Embassy in Rome has not been in any way immune to Assange’s web site as it’s had its fair share of “hot” diplomatic cables sent to and from Rome-Washington where the Americans have blasted our “Great Leader”, Silvio Berlusconi, and his “wild parties” with lovely young hookers and what-not (the former no. 2 of the same Embassy, Elizabeth Dibble, has called him “inefficient” and “worn out because of all his partying with young and under-aged girls”!).

According to M.I.T.’s Professor Noam Chomsky, in one of the many books that I’ve read so far, as the Italian Communists were poised to govern Italy right after the Second World War, Washington wouldn’t have hesitated in 1948 to bring Italians to “starvation" had the dreaded Commies come to power (as though a devastating World War wasn't already enough to leave people starving)! In all these years the U.S. government in Italy has always stuck its nose into the affairs of Italians (n.b. in 1993 circa as I left work at 5.30 pm from the U.S. Embassy in Rome, there were several limos in the parking lot. I asked one of the guards who showed up. “Umberto Bossi”! Bossi was and still is the leader of the Northern League, and back then he had just come to power. So the U.S. Ambassador back then, Peter Secchia, called him in to see what this Northern League was “all about” (would they perhaps nationalise American companies in Italy, as Allende did in Chile in the 1970s?). On yet another occasion as I left work, again the Embassy parking lot was full of limos and police cars. Again my same question. This time the answer from the guards was: “The head of the CIA”! And I doubt very much that the big boss of the CIA had only come to Rome to have a gelato at Piazza Navona…).

Behind the scenes back-stabbing such as the secret documents released on WikiLeaks has always gone on between the U.S. and Italy (and not only these two countries obviously): one week before the assassination attempt on the old Polish pope’s life, a U.S. diplomat (his name is being withheld to protect the guilty), the wife’s former boss actually, came to work and blurted out: “So, did you hear, they shot the pope”! Now, it wasn’t quite customary back then to go around shooting popes, so his staff members were quite surprised to hear that rather unusual comment. Well, sure enough, about a week later, JPII was indeed shot. And who really was that U.S. diplomat in question, a political science professor at Yale? None other than the Embassy’s CIA station chief (and to this day, no clear culprit has been named in that failed assassination attempt. Some even suspect Vatican officials while others point the fingers directly at the Americans)!