Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Arrest of Naomi Wolf


Naomi being arrested

New York Police, including the notorious pepper sprayer, subdue an obvious OWS terrorist

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."
- George Orwell, "1984"

Naomi Wolf's a babe.
She's babealicious!
Hey, don't take my word for it. There's a picture of her just a few inches above where you're reading right now, look for yourself.
She reminds me of my second wife actually. A cool and regal hellcat, to be sure.
She's also a leading feminist author, which is why I began this post as I did.
I'm an irreverent bumpkin.
Born in San Francisco at an early age, Naomi's mom is Deborah Goleman, an anthropologist and the author of "The Lesbian Community." Presumably the book concerns lesbians. Her dad is Leonard Wolf, a poet, author, teacher, who is known as a scholar of the written horror genre. She herself was a Rhodes Scholar like my friend Rachel Maddow, and in 1991 she garnered worldwide fame as the author of "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women," her very first book, published when she was at the ripe old age of 29. "In the book, she argues that "beauty" as a normative value is entirely socially constructed, and that the patriarchy determines the content of that construction with the goal of reproducing its own hegemony." - Wikipedia
Well that's clear enough. I take that to mean that so-called feminine beauty as an ideal is produced through social customs, like the gender roles we learn as children, and that men are responsible for maintenance of these ideals, with the goals of retaining dominance.
Well that's clear enough. In any case after the book's publication Ms Wolf was regarded as a spokesperson of third-wave feminism, which indicates she may or may not appreciate the first sentence of this post.
What I know she does not appreciate, because she wrote about it, is being arrested by New York's finest last Tuesday night for violating a law that didn't exist.
"Last night I was arrested in my home town, outside an event to which I had been invited, for standing lawfully on the sidewalk in an evening gown," wrote Ms Wolf.
She was attending an event for the totalitarian Huffington Post, on Hudson Street in Manhattan, where John Cheever lived and Dylan Thomas fell ill before he died.
Governor Andrew Como was to attend the event, and about 200 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters were stationed outside waiting for him to arrive. Naomi arrived with her boyfriend and chatted with them, assuring them they had a constitutional right to use a megaphone if they so desired.
See, not there two minutes and she was already causing trouble.
Up until then the OWS crowd had been using the old "human Microphone" technique we've discussed before, a speaker speaks and the crowd dutifully and arduously repeats what he says until everyone has gotten the word. The reason they had to do this is because they had been told by the police that the use of a megaphone had been prohibited for them.
Besides writing about feminist issues Naomi has written at least two books concerning alarming political realities in this country and others. One of them is "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot," which argues that events of the previous six years before the book was published (2007) paralleled steps taken in the early years of the twentieth century's worst dictatorships (Italy and Germany) and called Americans to take action to restore their constitutional values before they suffer the same fate of these countries.
I have this very book waiting for me at the library. I'm looking forward to reading it, but I'm going to wait a little longer to pick it up as I'm busy reading about whistleblowers in Bosnia right now.
I have to pick it up by the 31st though or the library will send the book away and charge me a dollar. Library bastards.
In another of her books, the sequel to "The End of America," "Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries," she looks at people who risked everything to fight back against the powerful interests who would ruin our society through their ideology or greed.
Hey! Sounds an awful lot like what the OWS people are trying to do.
Naomi wrote in 2007: "This lack of understanding about how democracy works is disturbing enough. But at a time when our system of government is under assault from an administration that ignores traditional checks and balances, engages in illegal wiretapping and writes secret laws on torture, it means that we're facing an unprecedented crisis. As the Founders knew, if citizens are ignorant of or complacent about the proper workings of a republic "of laws not of men," then any leader of any party -- or any tyrannical Congress or even a tyrannical majority -- can abuse the power they hold. But at this moment of threat to the system the Framers set in place, a third of young Americans don't really understand what they were up to."
She states that one of the most potent weapons a movement for change can employ is an enduring, long lasting, peaceful protest that disrupts business as usual.
Hey again! Just like OWS, sort of. They haven't disrupted business as usual so much, but rather have changed the national discourse, which is now focused on the greedy banksters, income inequality, and the job issue in this country, rather than the Republican talking points which would have us all worried about the deficit, and too much government spending, which doesn't have anything to do with the real problems facing this nation.
"It's kind of a miracle," Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman says, speaking about how the OWS movement has focused the issues in the US. President Obama is now trying to pass a broken up jobs bill through Congress, rubbing Republican noses over and over again in their insistence on protecting the wealthiest 10% from the slightest tax increases while denying American workers badly needed jobs, and a strengthening of the national infrastructure.
Naomi wrote a chapter on "permits," in "Give Me Liberty," and how the powers that be tend to employ "overpermiticisation" in their efforts to deny the people the ability to peacefully assemble, the megaphone restriction being a prime example. She mentioned this to the OWS protesters outside before taking a list of their demands inside to present to the Governor, whenever he decided to show up.
She had to leave soon though, before Como arrived, so she decided to drop off the demands at the Gov's office the next day and write about the response.
Upon returning outside she noticed that the police had cordoned off the protesters on the opposite side of the street, far away from where they had intended to confront the Governor.
Naomi asked the police why this had happened, and they replied that the authoritarian Huffington Post had a permit which denied the protesters the use of the nearby sidewalk. Naomi knew this was impossible because she's smart. She knew that the establishment was terrified of the unrestricted power the people had at their disposal with the right of assembly. This had been demonstrated during the anti-war protests of the 1960s and 70s, and they have tried to curb that power ever since, one way being the use of these permits we've talked about.
However the United States Constitution trumps these attempts to subvert it. The Constitution does not say "Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble if they have the proper permit." No! It does not say that. It doesn't even mention permits at all!
She also knew that a private entity like the Huffington Post could not deny citizens the right to use a public sidewalk because... well it's a public sidewalk, that's why. Huffington doesn't have any special power to control it. Huffington being the entity that it is, what some consider a liberal news outlet, probably wouldn't even want to. She asked the police for an explanation and got no reply. She identified herself as a citizen of New York City and a reporter, and asked to see this permit. Someone associated with the event told her that they did have a permit, and that the permit allowed for the protest as long as the protesters didn't block pedestrian passage.
Well that's a whole different thing from what the police had told her. She returned to the protesters and said, "The permit allows us to walk on the other side of the street if we don't block access. I am now going to walk on the public sidewalk and not block it. It is legal to do so. Please join me if you wish." She and her friend did just that, about 30 to 40 of the protesters joined her, walking around, not blocking access, obeying the law.
She was immediately surrounded by about 40 cops (her being such an obvious threat to humanity). Get this... one of the senior officers used a megaphone to pronounce "You are unlawfully creating a disruption. You are ordered to disperse." Naomi respectfully approached him and said, "I am confused. I was told that the permit in question allows us to walk if we don't block pedestrian access and as you see we are complying with the permit."
The cop didn't like that though.
I remember a line in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," when Leo Decaprio is talking about cops to his therapist, and how they have a certain "sense of entitlement," how they feel superior to the citizens they are supposed to be working for, and I think about how these thought tendencies might lead to civil abuse.
As it did last Tuesday night.
"Are you going to back down?" The cop shouted at her.
Why should she. She wasn't breaking any law.
"Okay," the cop stated as 20 other cops surrounded them and immobilized them with plastic handcuffs. Here's a video of it:
In "The End of America," Naomi takes a historical look at the rise of fascism, outlining the 10 steps necessary for a fascist group (or government) "to destroy the democratic character of a nation-state and subvert the social/political liberty previously exercised by its citizens." One of these steps are: "Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens."
Another is: "Harass citizens' groups."
And another: "Engage in arbitrary detention and release."
And one more: "Suspend the rule of law."
These things happened to Ms Wolf last Tuesday night.
The other steps: "Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy."
"Create secret prisons where torture takes place."
"Set up an internal surveillance system."
"Target Key Individuals."
"Control the Press."
And "Treat all political dissidents as traitors," has happened in the recent past, and may be, or is, still happening.
I've known police throughout my life. Some are nice, good men who want to help the people who they are sworn to serve. Some are not. I've often thought of the police as hired enforcement for the status quo, for the rich and powerful, their unofficial paramilitary force, they exist to serve the wealthy.
The public at large is to be feared and harshly dealt with when necessary. Sometimes police do things they're not supposed to. That's why they don't like to be video taped, because when they're video taped they have to play buy the rules or suffer the consequences.
There are many laws on the books in many localities that now make it against the law to video tape police without their permission. These laws, like the permit laws, must be resisted and struck down in the courts. This is not a police state.
But what the police don't understand is that they are very much a part of the 90% in this country that are being taken advantage of by the people they are so enthusiastic to protect. Congress is siphoning money from law enforcement like there's no tomorrow. Some police agencies, in New Jersey for example, can't even function any longer due to lack of resources. This of course causes crime to increase. Less law enforcement and bad economic conditions equal more crime and unsafe neighborhoods, both caused by Republican intransigence.
The cops who arrested Naomi Wolf and her boyfriend didn't seem to mind being videoed, or at least, they couldn't do anything about it. It would later be explained to her, at the jail, that the arresting officer had had her arrested due to safety issues. She must have been walking in an unsafe manner. Naomi brought up the point that anytime a police officer wants to arrest somebody for no good reason they can proclaim safety as an issue, so anybody can be arrested at the police's discretion, for anything, or nothing at all.
This is similar to the "national security" claim. Any federal agent, or agency, can do practically anything if they state it's in the name of national security. When asked for proof of this they can claim it cannot be provided due to national security reasons. These ploys essentially provide the federal government and the police with unlimited power.
Until they go to court.
Unless the aggrieved is labeled an "enemy combatant," of course, and stripped of all rights, and shipped off to a place like Guantanamo Bay.
Naomi and her friend where essentially "disappeared," a practice usually found in third world dictatorships when citizens are rounded up by agents of the state and never seen from again.
Those around Naomi at the time of her arrest and her friends were told she was being taken to the police's 1st precinct, so that's where they went to rescue her and provide legal aid. The police by now had figured out they had a high profile case on their hands, and decided to take her to the 7th precinct instead. There they could do with her what they will.
Which was to stick her in a dirty cell for half an hour until she was released.
I'll let her end this story in her own words:
"The police are now telling my supporters that the permit in question gave the event managers "control of the sidewalks". I have asked to see the permit but still haven't been provided with it - if such a category now exists, I have never heard of it; that, too, is a serious blow to an open civil society. What did I take away? Just that, unfortunately, my partner and I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007: first they come for the "other" - the "terrorist", the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you - while you are standing on a sidewalk in an evening dress, obeying the law.

"And I believe that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph again." - George Orwell

The Obligation to Peacefully Disrupt
By Naomi Wolf

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