“Anti-imperialism to me means supporting nations in their struggle against my government's violent and exploitative influence.”
This week I spoke with Randi Nord. Nord is a Detroit-based journalist and activist. She is the co-founder of Geopolitics Alert. Her pieces have also appeared in MintPress News. We discussed anti-imperialism and its relevancy to some of the more pressing questions of the period, especially in lieu of the ongoing US-led wars in Syria and Yemen.
DH: Tell me a little about yourself and the genesis of your political development.
RN: I'm from a working-class family in metro Detroit. Two years after I graduated high school the recession hit. During this time, I was attending college at Wayne State University but didn't see a future through that route beyond hefty tuition, debt, and an uncertain job future so I dropped out.
I ended up moving to Hawaii for three years. I moved with a little money from my job and lived with some people I knew there. I got a job working as a maintenance supervisor/handy person at hotel spas. It was here my eyes were really opened to the devastating effects of global neoliberal capitalism and the history of settler colonialism. I was always aware of our problems in the Detroit area, but living in Hawaii allowed me to see this from another perspective. All of this and watching the Iraq war unfold as a teenager really set the anti-imperialist path for me. I know that US imperialism is really the biggest threat to not only world peace but sustainability and growth around the globe.
DH: You are the co-founder of Geopolitics Alert. What is Geopolitics Alert and what prompted its formation?
RN: My partner Jim Carey and I had been writing for a few different indie outlets like The Fifth Column and Pontiac Tribune. Our topic of writing has always been the war machine and we noticed there weren't many US-based sites focusing on this niche so we decided to fill this gap. The war in Syria was really starting to take off (we launched the site a few months after Russia officially started taking action) and the US-backed Saudi war against Yemen was starting to get hot. We really wanted to provide a non-sensational and fact-based counterweight to war propaganda with hard news and analysis.
DH: Black Agenda Report publishes from a Black left perspective, which has historically been fundamentally anti-imperialist. What does anti-imperialism mean to you in the context of your work? Why is it so hard for Americans and Westerners to adopt anti-imperialism in their media/organizing efforts?
RN: I think it's really hard for people to be genuinely anti-imperialist for a few reasons. For one thing, people don't know anything else. You mention the Black struggle and its anti-imperialist roots. I think that's because Black people in the struggle already have a fundamental understanding of who the oppressor is and how oppression operates. The general population only knows war: there's never been a time in our lives when the US hasn't been at war with several countries. It's just "the way things are" which makes a world without US war seem so far-fetched that it's an idealistic pipe dream.
To top it off, the US population is isolated. It's not easy to find anti-imperialist perspectives if you aren't specifically looking for them.
Another reason is that anti-imperialism is very unpopular. The media does a great job of demonizing US enemies, so it takes very strong and educated principles to stand with nations and leaders who are labeled dictators and murderers with backward ideologies. I think Iran and the DPRK are good examples of this.
Anti-imperialism to me means supporting nations in their struggle against my government's violent and exploitative (to put it lightly) influence. My job is to offer support and not criticism. I think it's really that simple.
DH: In this series, I have paid particularly close attention to American and Western imperialism's obsession with Russia and its impact on independent left-wing media. Corporations such as Google and Facebook have actively censored left-wing media claiming outlets such as Black Agenda Report promote "fake news" and act as “useful idiots” for Russia. How does the team at Geopolitics Alert view the ongoing imperialist campaign against Russia and its link to the repression of independent media?
RN: Other than seldom contributors, my partner Jim and I are the only ones who work on the site so we're the "team" haha. I don't want to show weakness because we won't back down. But to be honest, it frightens us quite a bit. It seems like no one remembers the Cold War and no one wants to take this Russia hysteria seriously. In fact, other "leftists" are contributing to it with their own conspiracies.
These "fake news" accusations are just a few degrees of separation away from labeling people like myself as "Russian operatives." A reader recently emailed to let us know that an EU-sanctioned website had listed something we published as "Kremlin propaganda." Things could get real really quick. At the same time, our work is needed now more than ever to combat this narrative and show readers who the real aggressor is.
I think this just shows that we (us and other outlets like us) are making waves and doing our job because they clearly consider us a real threat. As the US war machine continues to fail in Syria I think it will get worse too.
DH: In studying your work, I've noticed a special emphasis on the ongoing wars in Yemen and Syria. Yemen and Syria rarely garner attention from the corporate media, and when they do, it is not the kind of attention that helps Americans and Westerners understand their government's role in the destruction their government has created in these countries. Could you tell readers at Black Agenda Report some of the latest developments on the ground in Yemen and Syria? And where does Syria and Yemen fit in the broader geopolitical context?
RN: We cover Yemen and Syria so much because those seem to be the biggest victims of imperialism right now -- at least in terms of physical casualties. Other areas are certainly important, but we only have so much time in the day and this is where people are dying because of the United States.
I think the biggest thing readers should know is that the empire is failing in both of these theaters and everywhere really. Yemen's revolutionary government recently took full control of the capital after the death of the former President Saleh, so the US and Saudis are still reeling from this. The entire war against Yemen has not only completely failed all objectives but absolutely backfired. They wanted to smash Yemen's resistance, Ansarullah (the Houthis), but instead, Ansarullah started producing long-range missiles and grew stronger in every way. Plus, the Saudis are losing influence in Yemen's south to the UAE. That's why they just carpet bomb and starve civilians to death: they don't know what else to do to "win." It's disgusting.
“The entire war against Yemen has not only completely failed all objectives but absolutely backfired.”
I think the biggest shift happening in Syria right now is with Turkey going rogue. It's been interesting watching the United States try to balance support for the Kurds against the Syrian government for years while trying to stay friends with Erdogan.
The thing people should understand is that Iran is the "final boss" in both of these wars. If Syria were to fall, the US would go after Iran next. That was a big reason for launching their war against Syria in the first place: take out Iran's allies in the region and cut off Hezbollah's supply route.
Although Iran does not support Ansarullah with military equipment and weapons, the US SAYS they do. The real problem is that they don't want an anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist government on the Arabian Peninsula controlling the Red Sea and giving the civilian population in the monarchies any ideas. The mere possibility that a Yemeni government could ally with the Iran axis is enough for the US to say they already do and carry out military intervention accordingly.
DH: With all of that said, what are some of the bigger challenges to independent journalism in the current political context?
RN: I think the biggest problem right now is reaching people who need to hear our message. Mainstream outlets with large budgets can pay to rank well in search engines and keep their content in news feeds. Plus, they're trying to promote the idea that anyone who promotes an anti-war narrative (and really a non-centrist narrative) is a Russian bot. So breaking the echo chamber is also difficult. It's important to produce digestible content for a variety of readers. You need to remember your mission and goal and write for a broad audience in this field. We don't write for leftists, we write for the working class who wants to understand US wars.
DH: Do you contribute to other projects and organizations aside from Geopolitics Alert?
RN: I also contribute at MintPress News and I organize with local groups in Detroit. A big struggle in Detroit right now is the gentrification and illegal tax foreclosures which are kicking families out of their homes and calling it "revitalization." Detroit is always struggling.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He can be reached at [email protected]