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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchHow the US empire stole the left's ideas

How the US empire stole the left’s ideas

Author: Joseph Massad

Affiliation: Columbia University

Organization/Publisher: Middle East Eye

Date/Place:  January 17, 2020, U.K.

Type of Literature: Article            

Word Count: 1768


Keywords: The Left, Imperialism, Racism, Democracy, Orientalism.


Since Reagan’s presidency, the US has been working on transforming key concepts used by the global left against western imperialist ambitions. That goal has thus far been successful domestically but not yet globally. From the 1980’s onwards, after the cold war two methods were utilized to attain results in redefining concepts. The first method is “Newspeak,” or emptying concepts of their core meanings, thereby disengaging associations; the concept could here be the US disassociating its power from its global activities. Accordingly, the term “Imperialism” had been used only when it came to the USSR but not the US. Democracy is also redefined by saying that the US has been a democracy since 1776 while ignoring colonial expansion and slavery. The US may have been restrained in some periods, but has reverted back to being repressive. This discourse strongly represents White Americans. Racism too has been emptied of its meaning and has become a global brand which all are guilty of regardless. As a result, racism goes from an experience of institutional discrimination against minorities to a mere social or individual prejudice that all are guilty of, which renders null any criticism of racist behaviors. This equalizing of guilt produced the term “Occidentalism” as a mirror to Orientalism. The second strategy is appropriating concepts of the left, transforming the “adopted” principles and then using the new terms against critics. Thus, US aid to “revolutionary” pro-imperialist forces isn’t “aid,” but rather the US presents itself as a liberal supporter of “civil society” and “activism.” Questioning these new meanings offered by the hegemonic order exposes the questioner to heavy accusations, especially from social media agents of the new imperial culture.

By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Intern



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