I have a general feeling that the worm began to change for the powers-that-be, probably in Madison last winter. While Europe is becoming more and more protest and even riot prone, North America had seen very little overt action against the obvious criminality of Wall Street in the run-up to the Panic of ’08 or the admitted criminality of many many Western governments in the so-called “war on global terror” (you know, the Forever War™). Generally, I think that’s because Canadians and Americans have a strong “throw the bums” out ethos that does not, with the exception of various traditionally marginalized constituencies (minorities, labor, feminists, LGBT, etc.) immediately think to stage marches. When they did march, for instance in the run-up to the Iraq Invasion or at the 2004 Republican convention, they were ignored by the media and repressed by the security apparatus. Lessons (I think in this case the lesson of learned helplessness) were learned.
The right legitimized the tactic of mass protest with its faux-populist, corporate-funded “Tea Party” movement that unleashed real nastiness in the summer of 2009. The antics of this small bunch were covered in detail by the media and behaviors were licensed that would have had a peace marcher pepper-sprayed and hand-cuffed with six cops on his or her back quicker than you can say, “Punch a hippie!” Things that make you go hmmm.
Then Madison hit and the attempts to demonize or marginalize protesters and marchers of the left failed, utterly. In fact, it was the protest movement of middle-class union members that fueled the local electoral earthquake of the recall elections. The aftershocks of that earthquake have yet to play themselves out but it is clear that the most nakedly corporatist GOP government in the country has been severely wounded, perhaps mortally so.
And now, Mr. Cheney. He is clearly a war criminal as he not only admits to torturing people (remember, his own country prosecuted others, including their own service members, for water boarding prisoners as war criminals and I don’t remember Dick complaining about how unreasonable those prosecutions were), he defends the practice and expects respect as some sort of righteous and manly dude for torturing people (even he’s a wimp on this, however, since he only cops to torturing three “super villains”–in fact his regime – and it was his regime as his own memoir makes plain – shouldn’t be so modest; it directly tortured thousands and tens of thousands in places like Bagram and Abu Ghraib, as well as “black site” prisons all over the world).
And no one wants to treat him like the goon his is. Well, the folks up in Vancouver, some of them at least, want the man arrested and insist that the Canadian government honor its treaty obligations and turn notorious war criminals over to the International Court at the Hague. You can read about it here.
But what I find fascinating is the nervousness of Canadian business and political elites who need to be escorted by phalanxes of the security apparatus to hear the old war criminal flog his book. See below:
That’s a pretty massive police presence and almost something you never see in America where the VIP’s are escorted into special parking garages and entrances where they don’t have to read the signs of the hoi-polloi. They’re also as nervous as a bunch of Bostonians among a crowd of Canucks’ fans. I would rate the actual probability of violence against audience members to this little shindig of being astronomically low, but the powers that be certainly were concerned about any “incidents” (maybe sparkle, a pie) to essentially provide a phalanx of protection. But who knows, maybe the StopWar.ca is really the al-Queda affiliate in Vancouver? Certainly, the organizers of the Cheney visit, the Bon Mot Book Club, feel horrified that anyone would want to censor a war criminal, I mean, writer like Cheney (I mean their slick corporate website does have the motto, “For Patrons of Ideas”–so presumably Cheney must have an idea or two in his self-promoting CYA of a book, you know even if that idea is “bomb Syria”. By the way, tickets were $500 a pop, so let’s not take the organizer, Leah Costello’s, admonition literally that “What is important is that he is able to speak and free to speak and people are free to hear him.” Well, free to hear him if you have an extra half grand in your pocket).
And censorship, of course, is not the real purpose of the protest in Vancouver or the Occupation of Wall Street or the Madison street protests–rather, to make it clear that business as usual isn’t possible if you’re promoting a war criminal’s book, and that maybe if you’re a member of the oligarchy and have to face squarely the revulsion your behavior elicits in the citizenry, you might want to change your behavior. I’m quite sure the protesters are very supportive of Cheney’s right to publish his book, since much of it is an admission, which can be placed in evidence in court, of guilt.
The above article indicates there was one arrest of a fellow for allegedly strangling a police officer (though in the accompanying photo, it seems the malefactor has deviously placed his own neck between the officer’s squeezing mitts), and certainly violence is to be abhorred. But civil disobedience, naming and shaming, a movement on the street to insist business-as-usual for men (and women) with blood on their hands is not permissible. Well, that is commendable. And the authorities, despite the huge numbers of their apparatus, sophisticated weaponry, open and Stasi-like spying, provocations and vast incarceration system are getting nervous. They are getting very nervous.