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The ‘peace police’

Update: Susie Cagle’s take here.

I don’t know if you’ve read it, but Chris Hedges wrote a piece last week denouncing the Black Bloc activists in the Occupy movement, calling them a “cancer.” I’m not even sure what he had in mind, since Hedges is not a pacifist himself (as he points out). Many well-meaning (dare I say, risk-adverse) progressives jumped to support him, emphasizing that as far as they’re concerned, non-violence is the only acceptable strategy in this movement. (I find it kind of strange that so many liberals think if there’s a revolution, those taking part will defer to their preferences, but whatever. And it’s baffling to me that so many movement types act as if self-defense is inherently immoral.)

Hedges’ position (and that of his supporters) is grounded in the idea that anarchist actions give the cops an excuse to attack Occupiers (you know, as if they need one!) and skew the media coverage, making Occupy unsympathetic to those whose support we need.

White liberals might be the last group of Americans who still believe cops won’t attack without a “reason.” And the media? Please. Like their coverage has anything to do with “facts”?

This is not to say I think non-violence is a worthless tactic, because I don’t. It’s that I don’t think it’s the only tactic, and I think as our society falls apart, we will see an array of tactics, from many different kinds of people. There’s more than a whiff of class privilege and laughable arrogance around the notion that of course they must all stop and ask liberals for directions first.

Anyway, David Graeber responds. It’s very thought-provoking, especially when he points out the logical (and inadvertently violent) consequences of attempting to police fellow activists:

Successful movements have understood that it’s absolutely essential not to fall into the trap set out by the authorities and spend one’s time condemning and attempting to police other activists. One makes one’s own principles clear. One expresses what solidarity one can with others who share the same struggle, and if one cannot, tries one’s best to ignore or avoid them, but above all, one keeps the focus on the actual source of violence, without doing or saying anything that might seem to justify that violence because of tactical disagreements you have with fellow activists.

I remember my surprise and amusement, the first time I met activists from the April 6 Youth Movement from Egypt, when the issue of non-violence came up. “Of course we were non-violent,” said one of the original organizers, a young man of liberal politics who actually worked at a bank. “No one ever used firearms, or anything like that. We never did anything more militant than throwing rocks!”

Here was a man who understood what it takes to win a non-violent revolution! He knew that if the police start aiming tear-gas canisters directly at people’s heads, beating them with truncheons, arresting and torturing people, and you have thousands of protesters, then some of them will fight back. There’s no way to absolutely prevent this. The appropriate response is to keep reminding everyone of the violence of the state authorities, and never, ever, start writing long denunciations of fellow activists, claiming they are part of an insane fanatic malevolent cabal. (Even though I am quite sure that if a hypothetical Egyptian activist had wanted to make a case that, say, violent Salafis, or even Trotskyists, were trying to subvert the revolution, and adopted standards of evidence as broad as yours, looking around for inflammatory statements wherever they could find them and pretending they were typical of everyone who threw a rock, they could easily have made a case.) This is why most of us are aware that Mubarak’s regime attacked non-violent protesters, and are not aware that many responded by throwing rocks.

Egyptian activists, in other words, understood what playing into the hands of the police really means.
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Howard Stern defends Ellen DeGeneres

In his own inimitable way! In case you didn’t know, the wingnuts have mobilized to get her the boot as JC Penney’s new spokesperson:

Ted Rall

‘Shoulda worked within the system.’ Hah!

Out of habit

Ani DiFranco:

Go read Matt Stoller.

Ethics investigation

Since there are so few actual ethical lines for them to cross, imagine how bad it has to be by the time they actually get around to an investigation! And let’s not kid ourselves, it’s on both sides of the aisle:

The Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee over possible violations of insider-trading laws, according to sources familiar with the case.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who holds one of the most influential positions in the House, has been a frequent trader on Capitol Hill, buying stock options while overseeing the nation’s banking and financial services industries.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent investigative agency, opened its probe late last year after focusing on numerous suspicious trades on Bachus’s annual financial disclosure forms, the sources said. OCE investigators have notified Bachus that he is under investigation and that they have found probable cause to believe that insider-trading violations have occurred.

The case is the first of its kind involving a member of Congress. It comes at a time of intense public scrutiny of congressional ethics, with the House passing legislation Thursday to tighten rules against insider trading by lawmakers. The impetus for the legislation, a version of which passed in the Senate a week earlier, came from a “60 Minutes” report and a book mentioning Bachus’s trades, “Throw Them All Out,” by Peter Schweizer.

“The Office of Congressional Ethics has requested information and I welcome this opportunity to present the facts and set the record straight,” Bachus said in a statement issued Thursday by his spokesman, Tim Johnson.

Omar Ashmawy, OCE staff director and chief counsel, declined to comment. “The office does not confirm or deny whether an investigation is taking place.” Chief counsel for the House Ethics Committee, Dan Schwager, also declined to discuss the case. “The committee doesn’t comment on specific matters or allegations,” he said.

‘Take yes for an answer’

Sure, it’s better than nothing – but I don’t think it will solve that many problems:

Since details of the big foreclosure settlement began leaking out, liberals have been watching to see how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would react, as a sign of whether the deal is a giveaway to big banks — or whether it contains the promise of real accountability.

In an interview with me just now, Schneiderman — who has gained a national liberal profile for his insistence on true accountability for financial institutions — conceded the settment announced today was “small” in financial terms, given the struggles of underwater homeowners and people who lost their homes.

But he insisted that time will show that today’s settlement was a win — that it secured a framework that will ultimately result in a true accounting of the role big banks played in sparking the economic meltdown.
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Well, we can’t have people claiming Israelis and Palestinians are the same, obviously. What would they have to fight over?

Jonathan Chait is mean

Wish more people were like this!

You got to move

Rolling Stones live:

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