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R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe

Wrong Kind of Green Apr 28, 2016 Amnesty International, Avaaz,


Humanitarian Agencies, Imperialist Wars/Occupations, Non-Profit
Industrial Complex, Purpose, Social Engineering, The International
Campaign to Destabilize Syria, The Soros Network | OSI, The War on Libya
- There Was No Evidence, United Nations, USAID

Wrong Kind of Green


April 28, 2016
By Jay Taber

Above: Avaaz and Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans

Under the neoliberal model of global conquestexhibited by the heavy-hitters of the UN Security
Council (i.e. USA, France and UK) in countries such as Burundi, Mali, Libya and Syriathe
recurrent chorus line R2P-R2P-R2P-R2P from pro-war, social media marketing agencies like
Avaaz, Purpose and Amnesty International is what the European writer Federica Bueti described
as the theatre of catastrophe that dramatically changes the way we live. The crises of the war
economy concocted by these heavy-hitters throughout the world, then, become stage sets where
the drama of neoliberal heroism can be enacted.

Performance extras such as the Purpose subsidiary White Helmetsgood guys always wear
white hatsfunded by USAID, play the role of innocent victims, thus justifying the need for the
heavy-hitters to ride to the rescue. Or, in the case of modern warfare, to bomb the hell out of the
designated villain(s).

New York Times Avaaz Ad, June 18, 2015. Headline: PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHAT ARE
YOU WAITING FOR? A majority of Americans support a No-Fly Zone in Syria to save
lives and 1,093,775 people around the world [in an on-line petition] are calling for action now.
The photograph used in the ad is from the Anadolu Agency.
As Bueti observes, catastrophe has become a rhetorical tool used to reinforce a general state of
anxiety and the rhetoric of crisis suggests a daily apocalyptic scenario in which preventive
measures and special interventions are required to ensure the survival of neoliberal forms of
governance. The crisis as a constructed eventin which the media plays a major roleshe says,
has succeeded in producing a peculiar representation of catastrophe with devastating social
effect that, due to the urgency of immediate intervention, has produced an opaque filter through
which it is almost impossible either to understand the causes and consequences of the current
crisis or to see a way out of it.

People write congratulatory messages to President-elect Barack Obama on a 24-foot long


message board in front of the Lincoln Memorial November 6, 2008 in Washington, DC. The
organization Avaaz.org has set up a global message board at the memorial with display of
messages from all around the world for people to write their notes to Obama.

October 29, 2010: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while Avaaz co-founder Rep. Tom
Perriello (D-VA) looks on during a campaign rally, on October 29, 2010 in Charlottesville, Va.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Writing further, Bueti notes, In Greek theatre, catastrophe designates the moment preceding the
final resolution of the plot. In breaking with the rhythm of the narration and moving from one
side of the stage to the other, catastrophe creates a moment of suspension of emphatic
participation in the staged event. This moment allows the author to directly address the audience
through the Chorus, which represented both the voice of the author and the one of the politeia, or
Athenian citizens. In the moment of kata-strephein, the staged dilemma of the individual hero
becomes the shared dilemma of the whole of community, eventually creating a temporary event
of solidarity.
As Bueti reflects, From a strictly pedagogical perspective, the Chorus is the moral
representative of the polis and of its institutions, the bearer of a certain order that needs to be
endlessly confirmed and reiterated. When the heavy-hitters of the UN Security Council prepare
to pound the constructed villain(s) into oblivion, it is the heavily-armed proxies of the heavyhitters that produce the conditions creating moral catastrophe that the chorus cheers on toward a
happy ending. As Bueti concludes, Apocalyptic scenarios, in this case, possess a restorative
dimension in which the hero will save the world from an imminent disaster.

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a
contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications
director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists
defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European
Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]