Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Protesting Hypocrisy

This isn't Tehran in 2009, it's St. Paul in 2008. If it weren't for the signs being in English, you might not be able to tell.

Image credit: Andrew Ciscel/Wikimedia

Middle East and expert Juan Cole wrote this today concerning the protests that President Obama and other federal politicians have made concerning Iran's treatment of its citizens:

I applaud the Iranian public's protests against a clearly fraudulent election, and deplore the jackboot tactics that the regime is using to quell them. But it is important to remember that the US itself was moved by Bush and McCain toward a 'Homeland Security' national security state that is intolerant of public protest and throws the word 'terrorist' around about dissidents. Obama and the Democrats have not addressed this creeping desecration of the Bill of Rights, and until they do, the pronouncements of self-righteous US senators and congressmen on the travesty in Tehran will be nothing more that imperialist hypocrisy of the most abject sort.

Washington and the Iran Protests: Would they be Allowed in the US?

Whether it's viewed as imperialist hypocrisy or just ordinary hypocrisy is probably a matter of one's political views (not to mention where one lives), but as I've written before, it is hypocrisy nonetheless. The same question Prof. Cole asked in the title of his post occurred to me. The Minneapolis Republican convention last year is a case in point. The protests there were not violent, except in a few isolated cases. Yet the police used violence to break up the protests. They arrested many people, including journalists, who they must have known were doing nothing wrong. Few in the upper strata of Washington politics have objected to what happened there in any way, let alone in the terms they've objected to Tehran's behavior.

I don't recall those politicians objecting to the so-called free speech zones, which, in fine Orwellian tradition, were set up to make sure that speech wasn't free anywhere else during the 2004 national political conventions.

When the United States starts living by the rules it seems to expect Iran to live by, then pronouncements of the sort President Obama made yesterday may have some weight. For now, though, they're clearly not helpful. I suggest that the President and the Congress turn their attention to making our country a good example of how to treat citizen protests.

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