Frank La Rue, the UN's special rapporteur for freedom of expression, who has already promoted a troublesome resolution at the UN that invites more state participation in the Internet than less with the "development rubric," is now focusing on the US -- despite American diplomats' role in helping him pass his beloved resolution that just about declares Internet access as a "right".
And to make an inside baseball point, he's out of his mandate, strictly, as study and pronouncements on US treatment of Occupy Wall Street should really be done by another mandate, on freedom of peaceful assembly -- also brought into being by US persistence against severe human rights violators -- and whose stress on "peaceful" would certainly make many of the OWS claims of "violations of rights" wither on the vine.
My problem with this manipulative gambit from La Rue and the cheerleading of his action by the "progressives" isn't that I think the US should be shielded from UN criticism. Actually, we'd never have to worry about that problem EVER occuring as the UN is notorious for selectively obsessing about the sins of the US and Israel before they will ever cross the street to care about Sudan, Syria, Iran, etc.
No, it's about the timing of what is clearly a provocation and the likelihood that the US will do nothing to challenge it for fear of seeming illiberal -- enabling yet another round of bad-faith activity at the UN to persist.
BALANCING THE SADDLE-BAGS
Of course, these rapporteurs have to be impartial and be willing to criticize the great powers -- it's a very important system in the UN to keep protected which is always under assault by oppressive regimes trying to cover up their crimes.
And to be sure, Frank La Rue has expertly balanced his saddle-bags like the most savvy of rapporteurs with his list of fact-finding trips and with his list of statements on country situations which carefully includes Western states that don't really need his help, new democracies like Hungary that have real press freedom problems but which are already addressed by regional and national bodies and movements, and severe offenders like Iran.
Yet it's more than fine to ask whether his criticism of the US over OWS now isn't the usual third-world anti-American animosity at play here, and whether there isn't a microscope being applied to our liberal democracy at a time when situations in Russia, for example, like the firing of a journalist for writing supportively of the Magnitsky List, or the killing of a Siberian journalist, or beating of Russian demonstrators, aren't getting the attention they deserve from this rapporteur.
If I had time, I'd go read all his press releases and other statements and likely find the same technically perfect geographical balancing act there, although it would leave some egregious media freedom issues underserved -- "geographical distribution" always does that at the UN, and in fact undermines rather than upholds universality.
But in selectively picking on the US over OWS at this time, Frank La Rue is just "taking out insurance" against abusive regimes who endlessly demand "parity" with the US, and getting on the "progressive" and libertarian band-wagon, fanned very actively by the Open Society Institute and other "progressive" organizations that have worked with La Rue. They all accept the narrative of the left-leaning National Lawyers' Guild that has adopted the cause of monitoring very supportively the Occupy urban camp-outs, claiming that police efforts, sanctioned by local and national leaders, to dismantle these camps are somehow free-speech violations.
NO GOOD DEED GOES UN-PUNISHED
He's doing this despite the after-glow of the US helping him get his pet resolution passed last month precisely because he needs to fend off other third-world US haters that are no doubt down his throat for that resolution. He needs to prove to them he is "balanced".
Focusing on the infamous pepper-spray incident, where a policeman appears to be casually --and brutally -- dispersing a sit-in -- is emblematic of this position of concern that the "progressives" adopt. Two police have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Could we ever get something like that going in Russia or China?
I'm certainly not for people being pepper-sprayed needlessly. My son was needlessly pepper-sprayed and hospitalized. Has yours been? I file complaints when I see excessive force used by the NYPD. Do you?
IS THERE A RIGHT TO ENDLESS URBAN PROTEST CAMPING?
Yet few ask how the UC Davis scene came about. An alternative account struggling to be heard in the politically-correct din, from an eyewitness on campus lets us know that students in fact surrounded police trying to disperse them, and the police had to summon extra help, and then had a harder job of dispersing what was now an obstructive sit-in blocking police themselves and other traffic on the campus. The New York Times denies this -- but then, they would, as they take the side of OWS in most of their reporting. Even Wikipedia lets us know there are counter-narratives, and we all await the outcome of the investigation. The UC David Chancellor apologized for the incident and said she had urged no force be used:
"I want to unequivocally apologize to the entire community for the appalling use of pepper spray. I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing like that ever happens again." She said, "My instructions were for no arrests and no police force. I explicitly directed the chief of police that violence should be avoided at all costs."
It's not like the cop just casually came up and sprayed pepper spray at the kids -- there were hours of interactions before that in which police kept trying to get people to disperse who were trying to make an Occupy camp-out on a college campus -- people who weren't even students and were outside agitators as well as students who didn't reflect the wishes of the whole student body.
Sure, people get to demonstrate but there are lawful restrictions as to time, place, and manner, and what Occupy does, as I've explained again and again, is try to lawfare their way out of legitimate prosecution of their civil disobedience by not acknowledging even that it *is* civil disobedience, and instead shrilly demanding right of way for disruptive urban campouts and traffic blockages as "freedom of assembly".
I'm not sure we will ever hear the truth, no matter how carefully calibrated the investigation -- an apt indication of the wildly skewed and politically-correct environment this is all taking place in is that when one member of the investigative body was from Kroll, which holds security contracts in the UC system was included, students rebelled because Kroll was tied to another agency which "works closely with the financial sector on Wall Street". There isn't anything these radicals won't find tainted with capitalism and Wall Street, and that is the issue, not impartiality.
Truly, the administration and the whole student body have to be asked: what do you guys want here? Socialism or capitalism? And are you willing to have radical student campouts disrupt your life endlessly instead of studying, and call that freedom? Please do tell us.
But Frank wasn't there to observe OWS in Zuccotti as I have been multiple times -- sure, they seemed like a peaceful bunch at the start, but there isn't an absolutely right to all-night camp-outs. And they turned rowdy, disruptive and problematic even for Mayor Bloomberg, who was initially tolerant of them, when they began shitting in the street, annoying passers-by, barging into local stores and demanding bathrooms and service and free food, well beyond the capacity of the local merchants to address, and then drumming and shouting and making noise all night so that the people who lived in the area couldn't sleep. Not to mention using illegal drugs, creating health hazards with loads of garbage and junk and rain-soaked bedding and rotting food, and even being involved in crimes like sexual harassment and rape, as well as theft and assault.
Enough got to be enough, and the mayor ordered the camp disbanded. Is Frank defending the absolute right for Marxist-Leninists, anarchists, class-hating hipsters and others to endlessly camp and disrupt? If so, he or some other OWS fan should bring the case of the Zuccotti dismantling to the UN Human Rights Committee. I'd be sad if that important body had to start dealing with frivolous cases, but I do think that it would help dissipate some of this fake "rights" speak coagulating around the anarchist and even violent OWS cause. I think the case will disintegrate on impact. No independent expert nor state-engaged hack (of which there are both in these treaty bodies) will defend the right of protesters to endlessly camp out and disrupt society in the name of radical revolutionary socialism. If they can find some incident of excessive use of force in roughing up a journalist or demonstrator, let them find it and let them condemn it. I'll eagerly await their findings. Their findings will not be about the US having some systematic policy of stifling assembly and media like Russia or China.
DO YOU GET A PASS IF YOU PROTEST AGAINST 'BANKSTERS'?
And I don't think that banking malfeasance entitles you to as pass from prosecution for your civil disobedience, although some leftists do, as the Huffo points out and La Rue readily concedes, championing their cause.
Even civil libertarians disagree whether the right to freedom of expression under First Amendment jurisprudence means all-night camping with fires, food, tents, crowds, etc. are all legitimate. Let them test their theory in court. I don't think they will fly.
I find it the most reprehensible moral equivalence to compare people demonstrating in Tahrir Square in Egypt, who lived under a dictator who jailed and tortured opponents, who were facing economic hardships, to the hipsters in OWS who have the leisure time and affluence to demonstrate over their college tuition bills or who are dysfunctional enough to be street people in the first place.
OWS is an appalling movement ideologically, which I've found from lots of up-close study of the meetings in person and also reading of the writings of the idealogues.
EVIL GREEDY CAPITALISTS ARE EVIL
But La Rue is not just examining whether Art. 19 and Art. 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Liberties were violated, given his mandate's jurisprudence. He's not just looking at freedom of the media and freedom of expression, he's got a "progressive" third-worldist agenda, and that is to demand socialism and demand the overthrow of capitalism. Take a look:
La Rue said the protesters are raising and addressing a fundamental issue. "There is legitimate reason to be indignant and angry about a crisis that was originated by greed and the personal interests of certain sectors," he said. That's especially the case when the bankers "still earn very hefty salaries and common folks are losing their homes."
I find this sort of facile and Marxist dogmatic analysis of the savings-and-loan crisis and the recession to be unjustified, wearisome and ultimately stupid and unhelpful.
Bankers earning "very hefty salaries" isn't against the law; it isn't against the UN covenants, either. It's just against UN socialist cultural belief.
People losing their homes isn't against the law; it may be against certain UN covenants on economic rights the US hasn't signed, but it's more about -- again -- a sin against UN socialist cultural belief.
UN officials love to talk about "greed" -- all capitalism is "greed" to them. They scarcely differentiate. It's not just greedy bankers who caused the NINJA loans; it's greedy community organizers with stealth socialist ideals demanding housing and education for free or low-cost for everyone to fit their ideals, and the politically-greedy Clinton Administration and even the Bush Administration being guilt-tripped into giving it to them with less and less questions being asked.
Sure, evil banksters are evil. But so are unscrupulous loan sharks and mortgage hustlers who took advantage of poor people with the "no income no job applications" (NINJA). The Internet accelerated and enabled the hustling of bad mortgages and loans and their conversion to toxic "investment products" as the aggregate debt was passed along. And here we are all. Yeah, we get it that there are regulatory actions to be taken and lessons to be learned. But the key one is not that socialism should replace capitalism, or that Wall Street, the stock market, the free enterprise system should be overthrown, dismantled, and destroyed (and surely Soros, who is funding the organizations engaged in all this agida with La Rue, doesn't personally believe this).
And that *is* what OWS wants, and if you don't want to hear it from me, just read their websites, General Assembly transcripts, and go to their demonstrations and read their signs. These are class-warrior anarchists who hate capitalism and think socialism or even outright communism will work. That's what I mean about the stupid part.
La Rue thinks that he can trump any legal concerns about unlawful civil disobedience by invoking this "higher cause" of people "rightfully" challenging "greed". And I'm sorry, that's just plain Bolshevism. The idea that there are sectors with "personal interests" that prevail over people's needs is a conspiracy theory, not an analysis. It's not a report on freedom of expression rights being applied; it's a shrill and politicized provocation.
WRITING A LETTER
This being the ineffectual UN not at its best, one doesn't have to worry that La Rue will get too far with this deliberately obnoxious posturing -- all he's going to do is write a letter (and that's about all he can do, other than making a fact-finding visit or writing a report).
La Rue said he is in the process of writing what he called "an official communication" to the U.S. government "to ask what exactly is the position of the federal government in regards to understanding the human rights and constitutional rights vis-a-vis the use of local police and local authorities to disband peaceful demonstrations."
The US should be urged to answer this letter, and not ignore it like so many authoritarian governments ignore such UN letters. And if anything, La Rue should be encouraged to make a fact-finding visit to the US -- but here a debate really needs to be had about whether he's outside his mandate looking at assembly and not media -- but hey, let him come in tandem with his fellow special rapporteur for that cause.
But let them not speak just to the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild and Human Rights Watch and self-criticizing Obama operatives, but let them talk to those with alternative accounts, neighbourhood organizations who struggled to deal with OWS and let them examine carefully the police brutality allegations against the allegations that also bear examination of violence, even assault of police, and of course blocking traffic and obstructing business.
I welcome any and all rapporteurs coming to the US -- something they are not shy about doing as they come here in greater proportion than they do to China or Russia, which give them less access. But it's important to see that this is a political hustle:
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman welcomed the international scrutiny.
"We live in a much smaller, connected world than we ever did before, and just as Americans watch what goes on in Tahrir Square and in Syria, the whole world is watching us, too -- and that's a good thing," Lieberman said.
"We're kind of confident that we're living in the greatest democracy in the world, but when the international human rights world criticizes an American police officer for pepper spraying students who are sitting down, it rightly give us pause."
It's not about just sitting down, Dianna. It's about camping out and disrupting the campus and the ultimately, it's about blocking the police themselves and defying legitimate calls to disperse. Why do OWS demonstrators get to do this with impunity? What are you -- and they -- really trying to use these rights for?
You like so many activists seem to have forgotten the 1960s and 1980s when there was a kind of compact: demonstrators who want to make a point about an evil war or evil missiles go limp, and allow themselves to be arrested. They don't whine that their civil rights are violated when they know they are engaged in civil disobedience in the first place.