Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Amnesty smear

The proper Eustonians have their sights set on Amnesty International these days. Unsurprisingly, they've got Terry Glavin as their Canadian point man.

The issue: in February, a senior AI employee, Gita Saghal, went to the press to attack her organization for using a no-doubt insalubrious former Gitmo detainee
and his Cageprisoners group to assist in a campaign against prisoner abuse in Guantanamo and elsewhere. Saghal, who did not see fit to resign, was fired a few days later.

This led to a massive piling-on. Everyone from the deranged Melanie Phillips to the staggering and weaving Christopher Hitchens showed up for the lynching.
And prominent at the party was a gaggle of Eustonians like Nick Cohen. This sort of thing is typical:

Assuming that the far left has not taken control of Amnesty, and that may be a generous assumption, its managers must believe at some level that messianic religion is not a threat to the liberal values of feminism, anti-racism and freedom from tyranny they think they hold. To put it another way, Amnesty is living in the make-believe world of a phoney war, where it thinks that liberals are free to form alliances with defenders of clerical fascists who want to do everything in their power to suppress liberals, most notably liberal-minded Muslims.

I worry about what will happen when they realise that promoting human rights isn't a one-way bet, and that the Islamists they embrace aren't nice metrosexuals who support women's rights and want an end to bigotry. [Emphases added]

The same cadences may be found throughout the Eustosphere and elsewhere.
The content is the same as well: there are some people whose human rights aren't worth defending and whose accounts aren't worth listening to. Human rights are for nice people, not illiberal Muslims. (AI's measured response to this sort of thing--and a less-than-satisfied retort--may be found here.)

For a lively and mocking rejoinder to this tedious Eustonian groupthink tripe, here is the inimitable Flying Rodent. The comments are well worth a read, too: Harry's Place gets a thorough combing-out, which I rather enjoyed.

Don't go looking for a defence of the character at the centre of all this, Moazzam Begg, much less apologies for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, however artfully disguised. Flying Rodent cuts right to the core issue. Prisoner mistreatment at Gitmo and in other detention centres is being deliberately obfuscated by the deployment of a bright shiny object: a former prisoner's dubious associations. And that versatile BSO is being effectively used to make AI, not detainee abuse, the story.

Flying Rodent's piece is an uncompromising dissection of how propaganda is done, or as he prefers to put it, "How Bullshit Works," starting with the thunderous lede (or, more accurately, mis-lede) that introduced the controversy to the world:

A SENIOR official at Amnesty International has accused the charity of putting the human rights of Al-Qaeda terror suspects above those of their victims.

Actually, as FR points out, she didn't say anything of the kind. But the fat was in the fire and was soon merrily ablaze.

Lost in all the heat and smoke, of course, was the very "black prison" system that AI had been campaigning against. But, as FR has personally discovered, Eustonians get shifty and nervous when quizzed on their own reactions to extra-legal detention of the Gitmo variety.

The Euston folks have long pushed the absurd and mendacious "Left-Islamist alliance" meme, a variant of the "anti-Semite" smear that they also gleefully promulgate. We are held to embrace (to use Cohen's word) our opposite in both values and behaviour, allegedly united by some vague notion of anti-imperialism--or worse. Yet here at hand we find a lipsmacking coalition of shrieking rightwing dingbats and the so-called "Decent Left," toiling happily
away together.

What unites them? The anticipation, it seems, of smashing a well-respected organization that takes human rights too damned seriously for their liking. Nick Cohen, after all, defends the use of torture, and Terry Glavin would prefer to look the other way. For such as they, Amnesty International is a source of frustation: it just can't seem to grasp the fact that universal human rights aren't for everyone. Is it too early to speak glibly of "Eustofascism?"

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