Sunday, September 30, 2007

Too Much Chutzpah to Choose

This was one of those weeks when the chutzpah candidates just kept coming. Perhaps the full moon had something to do with it. As absurdity followed absurdity, I kept telling myself to wait; but I suppose I cannot wait any longer.

To some extent I find that I had to deal with this week through a process of elimination. Burma was a scene of the raw power of brute force, so chutzpah never really entered into their equation. Presidential politics is just poor theatre, where we still have to put up with summer-stock performances. As to the President himself, he is just getting too predictable to be accused of chutzpah. On the other hand I felt that this story, which Al Jazeera English pulled off of their wire services, deserved a bit more attention:

Pakistani journalists are marking a "black day" to condemn police beatings during opposition protests against Pervez Musharraf's pursuit of another five-year term in office as president.

Musharraf won a legal victory on Saturday when the election commission declared him a qualified candidate for the election on October 6.

Lawyers and opposition activists staging protests outside of the commission building in the capital clashed with police, who wielded batons and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Police then turned on journalists covering the melee, beating several of them.

Now I would guess that some readers now want to ask, "Isn't this just another instance of that 'raw power of brute force' you saw in Burma?" Well, yes, it could be; but what if it were more than that? Pakistan has been trying very hard to flirt with the respectability of responsible governance, so why would Musharraf want to jeopardize his act? Could it be that the word went out that, if the eyes of the world are not fixed so ardently on Burma, it might be possible to let one or two thugs off-leash long enough to let Pakistani's know where the power lies. American politicians know this trick well, often making moves they would prefer be hidden at times when the media are looking elsewhere; and there is every reason to believe that Musharraf both knows and uses that kind of playbook. That is where the chutzpah lies: not in the brutality itself but in deliberately scheduling it at a time when most media sources are "otherwise engaged." Fortunately, Al Jazeera was not "otherwise engaged;" and, as a result of their vigilance, the Chutzpah of the Week award can be assigned to Pervez Musharraf!

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