How wonderful that an obscure, 83-year-old American disciple of Gandhi helped inspire and facilitate the Egyptian revolution. But the mainstream media don't quite know what to make of Gene Sharp, the man whose theories of non-violence and practical training manuals have helped inspire and train pro-democracy activists from Albania to Zimbabwe.
The New York Times sent reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg to track down Sharp at his very modest East Boston home that doubles as his Albert Einstein Institute. But in an otherwise informative page one profile, Stolberg (or her editors) composed this appalling paragraph, which could be used in journalism classes as an epic example of both missing the point and botching an attempt to cover one's ass lest the reporter look like a radical sympathizer:
Some people suspect Mr. Sharp of being a closet peacenik and a lefty -- in the 1950s, he wrote for a publication called "Peace News" and he once worked as personal secretary to A.J. Muste, a noted labor union activist and pacifist -- but he insists that he outgrew his own earlier pacifism and describes himself as "trans-partisan."
Jesus wept! Of course Gene Sharp is a pacifist. Non-violent, passive resistance has been the whole point of his life's work. You might as well write that some people suspect Gandhi of being a pacifist.
There is an American chain that links Sharp to Martin Luther King, to the Wobblies, to Susan B. Anthony, Fredrick Douglass, right back to Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson. If the modern America that props up despots like Mubarak retains any credibility at all in a world suffering repression but trying to declare independence, it is due to this authentically American lineage. Read Robert Kuttner's full article on Gene Sharp and the media at The Prospect.