Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) is deeply saddened by the growing degradation of respect for human rights, dignity, security, and freedoms from Establishment so-called “mainstream,” Media within the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Over the past year, R.E.A.L. has observed an increasing strident and extremist tone of “reporting” and acceptance of “opinion” voices which seek to attack and disparage our fellow human beings. It is a sad state of affairs that humanity has moved from the 15th century printing press, which once was used to print the Gutenberg Bible, to modern print and digital media which is being used too often to openly incite acts of violence against our fellow human beings.
R.E.A.L. noted a broad series of praise for public criminal violence in several media sources, and more “cagey” publications phrasing if such violence “was OK,” in response to an Anarchist violent attack on white supremacist activist Richard B. Spencer in Washington D.C. on January 20. Mr. Spencer was giving an interview on camera, and a masked individual from the violent Anarchist terrorists attack the city, jumped up and punched Mr. Spencer in the face, then escaped into the crowd.
For the record, R.E.A.L. has publicly (and much more so privately) peacefully protested the white supremacist extremist views of Mr. Spencer since 2009. R.E.A.L. challenges all anti-human rights ideologies that reject human equality, such as white supremacist views, and R.E.A.L. has also actively protested Nazism, rhetoric, and Nazi symbols since our inception, often when it was not popular to do so. We have done so when this was not “popular,” in the rain, in the heat, in the snow, and faced significant abuse and threats for our peaceful protests, including white supremacist and Nazi death threats. As R.E.A.L.’s founder, I have challenged white supremacy since the 1960s and this is a core mission of our human rights activism. When white supremacists have frequently disrupted R.E.A.L. human rights events, we offer an outstretched hand, not an upraised fist, to encourage them to release the burden of anti-human rights hate from their hearts, and to join the community responsible for our shared human rights for all. R.E.A.L. does not view this as particularly “noble,” but what those who are committed to human rights must do.
But the concept that a criminal believes they have the right to punch someone in the face because they do not agree with what someone else has to see goes against everything we believe in our shared human rights, and our identity as Americans. Beyond the matter of rights and conscience, there is the simple fact that public assault is a CRIME, as it should be not just in the United States of America, but in any nation.
The criminal act and the following mockery of it (and mockery of the LAW) on social media was only the first aspect of a brutal attack on our freedoms. It was followed by a perverted use of the “mainstream” media to glamorize, incite, and wink at such criminal violence as somehow “justified” and “right,” because the media writers and editors (like myself) do not agree with Richard Spencer’s views.
What type of coherent, law-abiding, society openly allows the media to incite violence against our fellow human beings, no matter who they are and what they believe? Among them, today, January 24, Newsweek published an article by “cultural editor” Joe Viex titled: “The Infinite Joy of Watching a Nazi Get Punched to Music.” Newsweek editor Joe Viex described a video of criminal violent assault set to music was “like a work of Renaissance art.” Newsweek later deleted this article, and Newsweek stated this was because it failed to meet its “ethics.” But R.E.A.L. asks the IBT Media owners of Newsweek, when did public incitement of criminal violence merely become an “ethical” matter?
Newsweek was hardly alone.
The Nation published an article by Natasha Lennard, titled “Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer Got Punched—You Can Thank the Black Bloc.” In this article, The Nation’s Natasha Lennard praised the criminal violence by the Anarchist terrorists attacking Washington D.C. on January 20, which she praised as “pure kinetic beauty,” from part of “our” Anarchist terrorist “black bloc” that she had “joined.” In her The Nation article, after Natasha Lennard repeatedly praised violent attacks on Richard Spencer and violent property damage in Washington D.C., she repeatedly incited additional violence stating such actions would not “appear threatening unless followed up again and again with unrelenting force, in a multitude of directions.” The Nation notes that Natasha Lennard also “writes regularly for The Intercept, Al Jazeera America, and Fusion.” Since the Nation sees nothing wrong with such public incitement and praise of criminal violence, will the silence by these other media sources indicate an acceptance of such incitement and praise of violence as well?
In addition to these, the Independent published an article by “Commissioning Editor” Kirsty Major, titled “Yes, it is OK to punch a Nazi like Richard Spencer in the face.” Kirsty Major described the violent criminal assault of Mr. Spencer as “poetry in motion” and a “moment of Fibonacci perfection.” She justified using the major media to rationalize criminal violence because in her view, people she disagrees with are not “rational actors,” and therefore since they are not to be “reasoned” with, violence should be part of “tools in our political toolbox, and we need to use them all to bash neo-Nazis over the head with.” She wrote that “They can work symbiotically: radical acts of resistance, such as smacking fascists in the face, move policy-makers closer to more peaceful and widely accepted protest movements in an attempt to quell unrest. We need to come at them from all sides.” The Independent then deleted this article, I would hope due to public outrage, but there is no real rejection by the Independent of these bald-faced calls for criminal violence by someone who was not only a “writer,” but an “editor” for the Independent.
The New York Times sought to rationalize such a criminal violent assault by asking “is it O.K. to punch a Nazi?” which is the title of an article by New York Times’ Liam Stack. Mr. Stack then reported about a series of Internet postings rationalizing and justifying such criminal violence, with numerous photographs and images in the article to justify and defend such criminal violence, and then a handful of those who (what a shock) state that criminal violence is WRONG. This approving wink at criminal violent assault by the New York Times was then referenced in, of all places, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)’s Hatewatch, with no commentary and no criticism of the actual criminal assault. (Apparently SPLC’s Hatewatch is now in the business of only objecting to violent hate towards some Americans.)
The Guardian’s “staff” (omitting any names to avoid any responsibility) published a similar “winking” praise at such criminal violence in an article titled “Is punching Richard Spencer inciting violence or ‘American as apple pie’?”. The anonymous “Guardian staff” wrote that: “edited versions of the video of Spencer being punched were shared on Twitter, including videos set to songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Others compared the act of punching Spencer to punching Nazis, which occurred in Indiana Jones films and in Marvel Comics’ Captain America. The first issue of Captain America, in 1941, featured the red, white and blue-clad superhero punching Hitler in the face. On Twitter on Friday, writer Gerry Duggan said such punches were ‘as American as apple pie’; the blow that hit Spencer, he said, was actually an ‘alt-highfive’.’ ”
The Washington Post published an article by Abby Ohlheiser, titled “A step-by-step guide to a meme about punching a Nazi in the face,” on how Internet videos were being made on this criminal violent assault, making jokes about the criminal act, and publishing links to various videos of the criminal assault set to different types of music for the Washington Post readers to enjoy. Also throwing in a handful of references to those few who asked if it was somehow “wrong” to commit such a criminal act, the Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser then ends the article with a posting from someone called “Punch More Nazis,” with the Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser providing a link to someone selling “a T-shirt you can buy” with a photograph of the criminal assault and the words “Punch Nazis.”
When news media source after source comes out publicly in promoting criminal acts of violence, and inciting violent acts against others, surely there would be some conscientious journalism organization that would reject such calls for violence in the press. The National Press Club? Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)? Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ)? National Writers Union? NewsGuild-CWA? International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)? Perhaps the public would have at least had the SPJ Ethics chairman speak up, when the very SPJ Code of Ethics specifically states a key objective to “minimize harm” to society, and to “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”
And the response to news media sources’ calls for public violence by these watchdogs and professional organizations is…..? Deafening Silence.
So we find private citizens and Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) offering the notably ABSENT call to conscience and responsibility for the mainstream news media.
Praise and incitement of violent attacks on others because of their views is against every ethic of journalism, even if major U.S. professional journalistic organizations have found it convenient to look the other way on this. Furthermore, such praise and incitement on violent attacks against others because we disagree with them, even when they have objectionable views, is not only an attack on U.S. Constitutional rights, it is also attack on our shared universal human rights.
Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), our shared universal human rights include:
— “Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
— “Article 20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
— “Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
The UDHR also includes a basic expectation that: “Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
It may not be popular for Human Rights groups to support the human rights of Mr. Spencer and those who share his views. But we either support human rights or we do not. We do not simply support human rights for those like us and those we like. Human Rights activists need to decide whether they believe in such universal human rights or not.
Finally, let us be perfectly clear, this is more than a matter of only our conscience and ethics. Incitement of criminal violence is not simply objectionable and disgraceful, we must recognize such incitement as a criminal offense itself. When our news media has chosen to act so irresponsibly as to praise acts of criminal assault and further to actively incite additional acts of violence, there must be legal and law enforcement consequences, just as there would be for any other citizen. No one is above the law. We have freedom of speech and press. We also have responsibility and accountability for our free speech and press when it praises and openly incites criminal violence.
If this were any other country, the United States would be pointing its finger in condemnation on activity by a foreign media source which was inciting violence and praising violence against a group of its citizens. If this had been done by a Middle Eastern media sources, we would rightly be calling such media as “extremist” and even condemning such praise of such “political terrorist” actions as clearly showing a “link” between the media sources and “terrorist movements.” We cannot hold double standards to expect such ethical and legal behavior by foreign media, while expecting no accountability and responsibility for U.S. media. Wrong is wrong.
R.E.A.L. calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to take notice of this, with DoJ Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (until Senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General) and FBI Director James Comey to begin an investigation on this abuse of media, mostly in the United States, to praise and incite acts of violence against others. R.E.A.L. urges the Department of Justice and FBI to pay specific attention to the U.S. law under 18 U.S. Code § 2101. Under 18 U.S. Code § 2101, it is a criminal act to use communications and “any facility of interstate or foreign commerce,” “to incite a riot,” including both fines, a prison sentence of not more than five years, or both. If the U.S. federal legal and law enforcement agencies do not recognize a legal power to challenge those who are misusing public communications and the media to incite such criminal violence, then R.E.A.L. urges the U.S. Congress to pass a law where incitement of criminal violence is a crime for all Americans, not just the private public, but also those who would pervert our free press to be use for criminal violence in our street. We must say enough is enough on such incitement to criminal violence.