Hell of a week
Haiti, Afghanistan, white terror, and an update on the book
A week ago today I closed my computer, signed off Twitter, and prepared for a much-needed shabbos rest with my family. How charmingly naïve. Within hours I would be jolted back to work by my worst nightmare: another magnitude-7+ earthquake in Haiti. America’s client government in Afghanistan fell to the Taliban later that day. Then Haiti got hit by another disaster—a strengthening tropical storm. Finally, a Trump supporter threatened to set off a bomb near the Capitol, while the FBI was leaking that it plans to ignore the collusion in plain sight behind the January 6 attack on the Capitol—all to yawns from the national media.
I hope you’ll understand that I didn’t send out a midweek newsletter in the middle of all that, but I hope some of you have a chance to check out my work elsewhere. Here are some of the highlights:
“Looking at both of these recent crises through that lens clarifies what kind of response is needed. It puts the lie to the idea that Haiti or Afghanistan are naturally ‘failed states,’ waiting around for paternalistic aid, pity, or scorn. Instead, a bright light has been shone on our obligations: to make real restitution to the millions harmed in our name and to accept as refugees those we left behind.”
I also wrote in Foreign Policy about the political implications of the earthquake within Haiti—coming, as it did, in the middle of Haiti’s government tumult and the investigation into the recent assassination of President Jovenel Moïse:
And in Slate, I adapted and updated my Saturday edition of this newsletter (you saw it here first!) about my reaction to the quake itself. As I promised last week, I expanded a bit on what I meant when I pushed back on the cliche that “Haiti can’t catch a break”:
I also did interviews with CNN, PBS Newshour, Black News Channel, and the BBC World Service, among others. (That last one should be airing tomorrow.) There will be, of course, much more to say—especially given the latest word that the Marines are headed back to Haiti.
The area of Haiti that got hit by the latest quake and storm is largely rural and, in contrast to the 2010 quake, far from the capital. If you’re interested in helping the people there in ways that don’t recreate the inequities and colonialism of the last big response, I’d check out this list shared by anthropologist and longtime Haiti ally Melinda Miles for suggestions:
Yesterday, a 49-year-old pro-Trump white man from Grover, North Carolina, parked his pickup truck next to the Capitol complex and announced he had a bomb. Before surrendering to the police, he called on “patriots” to join him in a revolution. Rep. Mo Books, a Republican from Alabama, issued a statement supporting the would-be attacker’s aims.
The discrepancy between the nonstop coverage of the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan and that of the standoff in the heart of the nation’s capital was not lost on everyone in the media:
As I told Blake, and am now telling you, all the answers are in Long Version subscriber and friend Spencer Ackerman’s incredible new book, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump. (Seriously, buy it.)
Specifically, in the first chapter, Ackerman reflects on how American society, on the whole, reacted to the realization that the Oklahoma City bombing—the worst terrorist attack in American history to that date—was a decorated white U.S. Army veteran.
“When terrorism was white— when its identity and its purpose claimed the same heritage as a substantial amount of the dominant American racial caste—America sympathized with principled objections against unleashing the coercive, punitive, and violent powers of the state. When terrorism was white, politicians and journalists recognized that such a response consigned their neighbors to an unfair burden of collective suspicion, one from which they might never escape. When terrorism was white, the prospect of criminalizing a large swath of Americans was unthinkable. When terrorism was white, the collective American response was to focus the machinery of its wrath anywhere else, sparing white supremacy the expansive violence America pledged against terrorism that was foreign, Muslim, nonwhite.”
The whole book is indispensable, especially right now.
And speaking of books
Look at what just came in the mail:
I can’t express what it means to hold a book you’ve been working on for five years (granted, an advance, uncorrected proof with “NOT FOR QUOTATION / NOT FOR RESALE” printed on the back). I can’t wait to share it with all of you.
You can preorder it right now—best of all from your independent local bookstore. (Yay local bookstores). There will also be Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, and audio versions:
And if you sign up for my Patreon at the Gangster of Capitalism tier, I’ll send you a signed and personalized first edition after its release on January 18.
Finally, I’d like to take a second to thank all of you who have sprung for paid subscriptions to this newsletter. Weeks like this one are extremely hard and the pay for journalism about it embarrassingly low—just a few hundred dollars a pop for a web piece. Media interviews as a rule don’t pay at all.
The Substack dream is to build a loyal cadre of supporters willing to support individual journalists at a time when the industry is simply in collapse. I’m trying to keep my journalism on here free of charge so that all can access it—and I really do appreciate every one of the thousands of you who subscribe for free. But if you appreciate my work, and have the means to do so, please consider upping to a paid subscription:
That’s all for now. Hope everyone has a good and restful weekend.