Fall of the West, Live on BBC
Azerbaijan’s President reminds us that we don’t have any of the heights we used to have, either morally or politically.
The interview is a dead medium, especially because no one is alive today – whether interviewer or interviewee – is interesting enough to attract most people’s attention. Occasionally, a public figure with enough personality and intellect comes along nearly Earnings watch (think Boris Johnson); or a presenter presents enough raw energy to attract a captive audience and hide the lack of substance (like Joe Rogan); or the sheer craziness of a topic drives a few people (
Bruce Caitlyn Jenner continues Hannity).
Now and then, actually, someone says something that is worthwhile, and the rarity of such events alone means that people become aware of them. The source of such standout is also often unexpected – as in the case of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, whose clip interview with BBC journalist Orla Guerin went viral on Twitter last week in November. Aliyev, barely known as an advocate of civil liberties and democratic values despite his reputation as a pro-Western moderate Muslim, is not the first to be expected to speak with moral clarity about the state of the free society in 2021.
Saul wasn’t a likely prophet either.
Guerin, who was born in Dublin in 1966 but opted for career coverage for the British Crown’s royally chartered network, had the Azerbaijani leader for alleged media censorship under his 18-year (and ongoing) government, particularly regarding the mountain, – Karabakh conflict that was ongoing with Armenia at the time. With an almost Trumpian opening, Aliyev let go:
Absolutely wrong, absolutely. We have free media, we have free internet. Due to martial law, we now have some restrictions, but there were no restrictions before. The number of internet users in Azerbaijan is more than 80 percent. Can you imagine the media restriction in a country where the internet is free, there is no censorship and 80 percent of internet users? We have millions of people on Facebook. How can you say we don’t have free media? Again, this is a biased approach. This is an attempt to create a perception of Azerbaijan in the Western audience. We have opposition, we have NGOs, we have free political activity, we have free media, we have free speech. But if you ask that question, can I ask you one too? How do you judge what happened to Mr. Assange? Is it a reflection of the free media in your country?
“You took this person hostage for journalistic activities,” Aliyev continued, “actually killed them morally and physically. You did it, not us. And now he’s in jail. So you have no moral right to talk about free media when doing these things. “
Most important of all, of course, that he is right, and that none of the limits Aliyev has placed on the flow of information in his nation are worse, let alone those imposed by the government of his interrogator and his allies in the Anglosphere and beyond of the informal and self-imposed restrictions on non-governmental votes there. The Western powers that are are just as jealous of defending their own status as a small Central Asian strong man, whose entire domain is barely more populous than New York City.
The powerful establishment media of the West will highlight the motives in the eyes of their neighbors not only because they cannot see the rays for themselves – although the gullibility of such journalists towards their own governments is not to be underestimated – but because they can would never imagine a non-Westerner could Point to the beam.
So far, the assumption has been largely correct. Make no mistake, it’s not because abuses like the persecution of Assange didn’t happen until recently. Such a thing has been the inventory of the US and British governments at least since the height of the Cold War. But before 2021, no small statesman of a small regional power would have risked running counter to Western hegemony by harshly saying on television what is already new to most people to be true. Aliyev, who is practically a customer of the informal Western Empire based in Washington, London and Jerusalem, clearly sees that the balance of power has shifted. With China poised to overtake the US as a geoeconomic superpower, and with American domestic politics in disrepair, the soft empire that the US and its Western allies have been overseeing around the world is likely to collapse. With rich oil fields and a valuable strategic position between Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan could be more important to the United States now than vice versa.
For the first time in decades we find ourselves with practical vassals who have no qualms about denouncing the realm itself. Whatever some people might tell you, we haven’t had a moral reason for a long time; Now we barely have the political heights, and without one of them our position is far more dangerous than we realize. This time the world is actually watching – and taking notes.
Elsewhere in the interview, Aliyev took an even more trumpeting turn. Guerin accused his troops of using cluster munitions in a densely populated city, which the president flatly denied. When the reporter insisted that her BBC colleagues and other Westerners such as NGO observers had seen it with their own eyes, the president turned to a classic: “So what, were you there? That does not mean anything. That could be fake news. . . Because it was a biased approach to the conflict because of the black propaganda against Azerbaijan in the international media. “
Guerin tried to push him: “So everything is wrong news?” Aliyev with a giggle: “Of course, why not?”
Now I don’t trust Aliyev as far as I can throw him; Just because he’s right about Assange doesn’t mean he’s not corrupt and repressive, with a strong dictatorial streak. It is important to note, however, that Aliyev – whatever may be wrong or dishonest in his words – is right to point out Guerin’s hubris. The very fact that he is ready Pointing out along with the spectacular virality of the exchange is a sign that the tide is turning. Since the effective collapse of the formal British Empire in the last century, the vast majority of Western imperialism has been a soft power: political influence without violence or serious threats; massive and inevitable economic impact; cultural hegemony that turns even formally unaffiliated nations into practical social vassals (just look at what Aliyev wears); and perhaps more than anything, the ability to exercise near-one-sided control over global politics narrative.
No more. As Donald Trump realized long before most, the narrative failed. As Ilham Aliyev has shown, the rest of the world is catching up with growing domestic recognition of this failure. In all likelihood, this means a rocky road and a change soon.
In the oft-quoted rating of an overrated French writer, the near future may look the same, but worse. Politics will remain brutal, the media will remain biased, and doubts will no longer go away than hostility. Sectarian wars in distant lands will continue and the West will continue its efforts to interfere wherever it sees fit. However, the facade will continue to crumble. When the narrative falls apart and the decline becomes apparent, the envoys of the late global empire will not be treated with the same reverential feast that they have become accustomed to – and we will all know, like Aliyev, that they did not deserve it in the first place Line.