Bob McManus at City Journal has a simple question: “Why did the city of Charlottesville and the state of Virginia suspend the First Amendment for Saturday’s calamitous ‘Unite the Right’ rally?”
Nazi swastikas may “inflame and provoke,” but waving them reminds us of “a fundamental principle of American democracy: the individual’s right to free expression and the concurrent obligation of government to protect that right.”
Yet in Charlottesville, “there was plenty of expressing going on” but “precious little protecting.” And “when push came to shove — literally — police and National Guardsmen were to be found only on the periphery of the brawling.” In fact, police refused to intervene “unless specifically ordered to do so.”
Sadly, “when the sun went down over Charlottesville Saturday, the First Amendment was lying in the dust.”
In the aftermath of Saturday’s Charlottesville, Virginia chaos — a physically violent conflict between disgusting white supremacist alt-right thugs and repulsive Antifa thugs, which culminated in a murderous attack by an apparent alt-righter on the Antifa crowd and other miscellaneous counter-protesters, resulting in the death of one person and injuries to another 19 — the hot takes have been coming fast and furious.
Here are some of the things you need to know about the awful events of yesterday.
1. The Alt-Right Is Not Conservative. One of the hottest takes from the Left is that the alt-right represents the entire right — that what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia represented conservatives broadly. That’s factually incorrect, and intellectually dishonest. The alt-right is not just conservatives who like memes or who dislike Paul Ryan. The alt-right is a philosophy of white supremacy and white nationalism espoused by the likes of Vox Day, Richard Spencer, and Jared Taylor.
Here’s Jared Taylor explaining the alt-right:
They openly acknowledge their antipathy for the Constitution and conservatism; they believe that strong centralized government is necessary to preserve “white civilization.” They label all their enemies “cucks” — men in favor of “race-mixing.” Here’s a solid guide to what the alt-right actually thinks.
2. The Alt-Right Has Successfully Created The Impression There Are Lots Of Them. There Aren’t. Thanks to the hard work of alt-right apologists like Milo Yiannopoulos, the widespread perception has been created that the alt-right is a movement on the rise, with a fast-increasing number of devotees. The media have glommed onto the alt-right in order to smear the entire conservative movement with it. The alt-right is quite active online — according to the Anti-Defamation League, I was their top journalistic target in 2016, and I received nearly 8,000 anti-Semitic tweets during the election cycle — but they aren’t particularly large. They fill up comments sections at sites like Breitbart, and they email spam, and they prank call people, and they live on 4chan boards, but the vast majority of alt-right anti-Semitic tweets came from just 1,600 accounts.
Thanks, however, to their online vociferousness, they convinced members of the Trump campaign, apparently including the president, that it was important not to knock them.
3. The Alt-Right Has Been Tut-Tutted By President Trump And His Advisors For Over A Year. Yesterday Was Nothing New. President Trump’s initial response to the attack in Charlottesville made no mention of the alt-right or white supremacy or even of racism. He simply stated, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.” Trump, who has been fully willing to call out radical Islam, had nothing to say about the alt-right. Some Trump defenders point out that Barack Obama never condemned Black Lives Matter in the wake of riots and shootings of police officers, either. But Obama was wrong, and his wrongness is not an excuse for Trump to sit by and do nothing.
On Sunday morning, the White House used an unnamed spokesperson to release a statement:
Why didn’t Trump just come out himself and say the same? Because he tut-tutted the alt-right throughout his presidential campaign. He refused point-blank to condemn the KKK during an infamous exchange with CNN’s Jake Tapper in March 2016. He refused to condemn the alt-right targeting Jewish journalists like Julia Ioffe in May. His chief campaign strategist, Steve Bannon, was head of Breitbart when Yiannopoulos wrote his screed, and openly stated that the site had become “the platform for the alt-right.” Sadly, Trump has shown willingness to accept support from any source, no matter how despicable.
4. The Car Attack Was An Act of Terrorism. The alt-right piece of human debris James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, apparently deliberately drove his vehicle into counterprotesters and Antifa members. That’s an act of political violence no different from the car attacks of Nice, France or Jerusalem or London Bridge. That’s terror.
5. Trump’s Unwillingness To Fight The Alt-Right Tooth And Nail Grows The Alt-Right. President Trump’s milquetoast statement has emboldened members of the alt-right. Here’s the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer: “He outright refused to disavow. People saying he cucked are shills and kikes. He did the opposite of cuck. He refused to even mention anything to do with us. When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room.” That account may be unfair to Trump. But it’s what white nationalists are reading. They see Trump as a useful figure. David Duke said as much at the rally: “This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take this country back. We’re gonna fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
6. The Left’s Malfeasance And Support For Violent Groups Like Antifa Grow The Alt-Right.Antifa was violent in Charlottesville. That’s not according to me; that’s according to Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, who tweeted thusly:
She was forced to backtrack and suggest that the Antifa thugs weren’t “hate-filled” after online blowback. But Antifa has trafficked in hate and violence for over a year now — we all remember how they’ve been assaulting people asserting their free speech rights in Berkeley, and how they have been engaged in street fights with alt-righters in places like Sacramento.
This isn’t “whataboutism.” Nothing justifies the alt-right’s racist perspective or murderous violence by an alt-righter. But it would be factually incorrect to ignore Antifa’s continuing role in the violent incidents that have now spread across the country. Because the Marxists in Antifa try to shut down free speech, they drive foolish people into the morally incorrect binary decision of supporting the alt-right, rather than loudly rejecting the ideology and violence of both sides.
7. The Media’s Broad Misusage Of The Term Alt-Right Grows The Alt-Right. Some members of the Leftist media have attempted to term large swaths of the right “alt-right” — just last week, some idiots in the media attempted to lump me in with the alt-right because I thought Google was wrong to fire James Damore. I am, for the record, perhaps the loudest voice against the alt-right in America, and I openly and repeatedly criticized Trump for failing to condemn the alt-right. For some evidence, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. There’s a lot more where that came from. But the media seek to paint the entire right with the alt-right brush, even though the alt-right hates the Constitutional conservative right. That drives otherwise reasonable people into thinking that perhaps they are alt-right — and then they, in knee-jerk fashion, defend the actual alt-right because they’re confused about definitions. The Left needs to stop this nonsense immediately.
Charlottesville, Sacramento, Berkeley — we’re watching a microcosmic re-enactment of Weimar Republic brownshirt-vs.-reds violence in real-time, complete with the same flags being flown. Just as then, some leadership condemning the evil of alt-right white supremacy, the viciousness of hard-left Marxism, and the violence anyone commits in violation of basic rights should be unceasing and thunderous.
A new study shows how much time is wasted by employees at work using their mobile devices on personal tasks.
Answering that friend request while at work may not seem troublesome, but add up all the on-the-job smartphone screen time across the country and you’re talking $15 billion in lost productivity, a new study reveals.
The average office employee is spending about five hours a week on his or her cellphone on things that have nothing to do with the job, such as answering personal e-mail, according to the study, which was conducted for the staffing firm OfficeTeam.
Some workers are doing online shopping. Others are watching the highlights of last night’s Yankees or Mets game.
“If these numbers were true for every full-time worker in the US, that would add up to $15.5 billion in lost productivity every week due to professionals using their mobile devices for nonwork activities,” the study’s authors posit, using Department of Labor figures.
Some 600 workers and senior office managers were questioned at US companies with 20 or more employees. Besides using the cellphone to answer e-mails and sometimes visit social media sites, the employees also said they spent about 42 minutes a day on
“All in all, the average employee could be wasting more than eight hours per work week on activities unrelated to the job,” according to the study.
Besides visiting social media sites, employees use their phones to visit sports sites, play mobile games, shop or go to entertainment sites.
Although both male and female workers were using a cellphone for personal tasks, the study found males (32 percent) more commonly check their non-work e-mail, while females (33 percent) more commonly check social media networks.
The survey also found that workers are increasingly using their cellphones to go to sites blocked at work.
“More than half of the professionals — 58 percent — often use their personal devices at work to visit pages that are banned by their company, a 36 percent jump from the 2012 survey,” according to the study.
The eight hours a week of lost productivity can have a dramatic effect on a business, an OfficeTeam executive said.
“It’s understandable that employees may occasionally use their mobile devices or attend to personal tasks during business hours. But these activities can easily become big distractions,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam.
Britton added, “To best manage their time, staff can take advantage of breaks during lunch and throughout the day to catch up on non-work e-mails or errands.”
Another OfficeTeam official noted that the use of cellphones and other mobile devices has become an integral part of the personal and professional lives of most people.
He argued that employers should understand that banning cellphones and other mobile devices is not a reasonable option, but that they should establish limits on their use.
“Employers,” said Daryl Pigat, a division director for OfficeTeam, “need to establish rules about where and when cellphones are permitted and when they are not.”
Energy drinks could be a gateway to cocaine use, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health found that young adults who said they’d consumed energy drinks yearly between ages 21 and 24 were at greater risk for subsequently doing cocaine, using prescription stimulants for non-medical uses and problem drinking.
The 1,099 study participants were recruited as 18-year-old college students.
Those who didn’t consume energy drinks as they got older were less likely to develop substance-abuse problems.
Amelia Arria, director of the university’s Center on Young Adult Health and Development, explained that factors contributing to a propensity for risk taking, susceptibility to peer pressure and and changes in energy-drink users’ brain that make them like stimulants more.
“Energy drinks are not as regulated as some other beverages. One policy implication is to consider options for regulating the maximum amount of caffeine that can be put in an energy drink.” she said. “Parents need to be aware of those risks when their child or adolescent or young adult wants to make a decision about what sort of beverage to consume. They need to be aware of the potential risk.”
Energy drinks are a booming segment of the beverage market. Last year, North American retail sales were close to $11 billion, up from less than $5 billion in 2007, according to the market research company Euromonitor.
Big names among energy drinks include Red Bull, Monster, Amp and Rockstar.
Anheuser-Busch announced last month that it was acquiring the organic energy drink maker Hiball Energy.
Arria and her co-authors cited existing data that an estimated one in every three American teens and young adults consume energy drinks or energy shots with 50% of college students reporting they’ve taken them in the past month.
William Dermody, vice president of policy for the American Beverage Association, questioned the methodology and comprehensiveness of the University of Maryland study and said it didn’t prove causation.
“Mainstream energy drinks have been extensively studied and confirmed safe for consumption by government safety authorities worldwide, including a recent review by the European Food Safety Authority. Nothing in this study counters this well-established fact,” he explained, adding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the drinks’ ingredients and labeling.
Dermody said that mainstream energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similarly-sized cup of coffee shop coffee and that they account for about two percent of Americans’ caffeine intake from all sources.
“I wasn’t looking for Louisville’s biggest jackass, but I guess I found him,” I thought. Here was his Volvo SUV parked exactly halfway across two parking spots outside of Home Depot.
I just needed to return a soap dispenser.
A few years ago, I sat across from a woman at an airport playing a video game at full volume on her phone. The other travelers stared. We gave her the stink eye. Finally, I said, “Hey, what you’re doing is not acceptable. Mute your phone.” Is there a German word for being covered in shame and simultaneously regarding yourself as a hero?
And anyone riding public transportation has likely experienced “manspreading,” the predominantly male practice of sitting on public transit with his legs spread wide apart, crowding other passengers. Transit authorities worldwide have been forced to begin “anti‑manspreading” campaigns. I am not kidding.
These trivial and ultimately inconsequential moments illustrate a nontrivial problem that has far-reaching consequences for us and our planet, a concept described by economists and environmentalists as “the tragedy of the commons.” I’ll call it more simply “jackassery.”
At its core, the theory holds that when humans have a shared resource it tends to be exploited or overused by individuals pursuing their own self-interest. The concept was originally described in an 1833 essay which used overgrazing on common land in England as an example of the problem: individual farmers have incentives to put as many of their cattle on “the commons” as possible. Without regulation, the commons will be abused and everyone will suffer from its abuse when grass no longer grows at all on the commons.
Examples of abuses of the commons are not limited to ecological problems like air pollution, noise pollution and collapsing fisheries. Anyone who has ever found (maybe on the bottom of a shoe?) dog poop in a park has experienced the tragedy of the commons. Our shared spectrum of radio frequencies is a commons. Tax revenue is a commons.
The dilemma of how to share our many commons is so important, I would be OK if every kid graduated high school only able to a) explain the problem, b) identify commons prone to abuse in the real world, and c) propose solutions to avoid such abuse. Math? Art? Those can wait. We’ve got some commons that need to be identified and protected.
What are some of those solutions? We have three broad categories: privatization, regulation and shame.
If we want the office refrigerator to stop being a dump of three-month-old leftovers, we could sell plots of refrigerator real estate to our co‑workers. This would give Doris the incentive to keep her area tidy (finally). But while privatization can be an elegant solution to the abuse of commons in certain circumstances, it often encounters logistical and moral complications: How should we sell the atmosphere? What’s the price for fresh air?
These complications often recommend regulation rather than privatization. Traffic laws and speed limits are simply a way of protecting our roadways from individuals who would selfishly abuse our commonly-held thoroughfares. Without the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual “Elk Lottery,” there would quickly be zero elk to be hunted in Kentucky.
Creating sensible regulations to ensure fair use of the many “commons” we share is the fundamental task of our democracy. In these laws and regulations, we find not only our values but our continuing commitment to living and sharing together.
Finally, for those situations in which privatization or regulation can’t work, there’s always shaming.
Selfishly abusing a common resource is a shameful act and we should say so more often. The “greed is good” class has been valorizing selfishness with a siren song for decades. Shaming selfishness is more important now than ever before because we have a president who claims that assiduously avoiding paying any federal taxes for years and years makes him “smart.” Presumably, the rest of us are suckers for contributing to the common pool of assets used for our shared education, protection and benefit.
When shaming abuses of our commons, it’s important to keep in mind the phenomenon of the “fundamental attribution error.” Basically, the fundamental attribution error suggests that we are more likely to think another person misbehaves because something is broken inside them while we are more willing to view our own misconduct as the result of situational factors.
When protecting our commons, we should first privatize or regulate as appropriate. But, if you must shame, shame with empathy.
Ben Carter is a consumer rights attorney in Louisville. He writes for The Courier-Journal, where this piece first appeared.
A shocking and vulgar sign about police officers has been posted in front of a local business in Atlanta. The sign could be seen from the street with the curse word blurred out, but the message is clear: It says no cops allowed.
He says he’s a military veteran and was offended when he saw it outside the East Atlanta Village gym.
“It was really just that the vulgarity in that sign, and that seems to bring it out for people,” said Jim Chambers, owner of the EAV Barbell Club on Flat Shoals Avenue in the city’s East Atlanta Village neighborhood.
EAV Barbell Club’s ‘No Cop’ policy is no longer plastered on the front door.
“I didn’t want the other folks there to take the heat that I’m willing to take,” Chambers said.
Despite the backlash, Chambers says he still stands by the message it conveyed.
“We’ve had an explicitly stated ‘No Cop’ policy since we opened, and we also don’t open membership to active members of the military,” he said.
For Chambers, a lifelong political activist, the sign and policy is a political statement outside a multi-use space which serves as a gym, community gathering spot and meeting place for activists in the metro area.
He says groups who work out there are generally minorities who are uncomfortable with the presence of law enforcement agents.
The Atlanta Police Department would not comment on the policy, but told 11Alive News, “Were we to respond to an emergency there, this sign would not stop us from lawfully doing our job.”
“If they have a warrant, they can go anywhere they want, but we’re not breaking the law,” Chambers said.
The question now is what happens if Chambers or anyone inside the gym needs the police.
Chambers says they never have, and won’t ever need the help of officers. He says he plans to put the ‘No Cop’ sign back up without the foul language.
Lawyers we talked with found the policy strange, but said because law enforcement officers are not a protected class under the law, only the courts can decide if EAV Barbell Club is violating any anti-discrimination laws.
Who was the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world?
Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, many of them as part of a terror famine that likely took more lives than the Holocaust. But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people – easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.
Mao thought that he could catapult his country past its competitors by herding villagers across the country into giant people’s communes. In pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivised. People had their work, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them. In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate. As incentives to work were removed, coercion and violence were used instead to compel famished farmers to perform labour on poorly planned irrigation projects while fields were neglected.
A catastrophe of gargantuan proportions ensued. Extrapolating from published population statistics, historians have speculated that tens of millions of people died of starvation. But the true dimensions of what happened are only now coming to light thanks to the meticulous reports the party itself compiled during the famine….
What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction. When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten kilogram stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – punishment for digging up a potato.
The basic facts of the Great Leap Forward have long been known to scholars. Dikötter’s work is noteworthy for demonstrating that the number of victims may have been even greater than previously thought, and that the mass murder was more clearly intentional on Mao’s part, and included large numbers of victims who were executed or tortured, as opposed to “merely” starved to death. Even the previously standard estimates of 30 million or more, would still make this the greatest mass murder in history.
While the horrors of the Great Leap Forward are well known to experts on communism and Chinese history, they are rarely remembered by ordinary people outside China, and have had only a modest cultural impact. When Westerners think of the great evils of world history, they rarely think of this one. In contrast to the numerous books, movies, museums, and and remembrance days dedicated to the Holocaust, we make little effort to recall the Great Leap Forward, or to make sure that society has learned its lessons. When we vow “never again,” we don’t often recall that it should apply to this type of atrocity, as well as those motivated by racism or anti-semitism.
The fact that Mao’s atrocities resulted in many more deaths than those of Hitler does not necessarily mean he was the more evil of the two. The greater death toll is partly the result of the fact that Mao ruled over a much larger population for a much longer time. I lost several relatives in the Holocaust myself, and have no wish to diminish its significance. But the vast scale of Chinese communist atrocities puts them in the same general ballpark. At the very least, they deserve far more recognition than they currently receive.
Why We so Rarely Look Back on the Great Leap Forward
What accounts for this neglect? One possible answer is that most of the victims were Chinese peasants – people who are culturally and socially distant from the Western intellectuals and media figures who have the greatest influence over our historical consciousness and popular culture. As a general rule, it is easier to empathize with victims who seem similar to ourselves.
But an even bigger factor in our relative neglect of the Great Leap Forward is that it is part of the general tendency to downplay crimes committed by communist regimes, as opposed to right-wing authoritarians. Unlike in the days of Mao, today very few western intellectuals actually sympathize with communism. But many are reluctant to fully accept what a great evil it was, fearful – perhaps – that other left-wing causes might be tainted by association.
For both Chinese and westerners, failure to acknowledge the true nature of the Great Leap Forward carries serious costs. Some survivors of the Great Leap Forward are still alive today. They deserve far greater recognition of the horrible injustice they suffered. They also deserve compensation for their losses, and the infliction of appropriate punishment on the remaining perpetrators.
In addition, our continuing historical blind spot about the crimes of Mao and other communist rulers, leads us to underestimate the horrors of such policies, and makes it more likely that they might be revived in the future. The horrendous history of China, the USSR, and their imitators, should have permanently discredited socialism as completely as fascism was discredited by the Nazis. But it has not – so far – fully done so.
Venezuela’s tragic situation would not surprise anyone familiar with the history of the Great Leap Forward. We would do well to finally give history’s largest episode of mass murder the attention it deserves.
Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and popular political participation. He is the author of “The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain” and “Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter.”
Before a joint subcommittee hearing today of the U.S. Congress concerning the U.N., Israel, and the Palestinians, the director of the independent monitoring group UN Watch will testify and present a new report showing 40 alarming new cases of UNRWA school teachers in Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria whose Facebook pages incite to Jihadist terrorism and antisemitism, including by posting Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.
UN Watch sent letters this morning to U.N. chief António Guterres, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and U.S. envoy to the U.N. Nikki Haley, urging them to take action and demand U.N. and UNRWA condemnation of the incitement, and the immediate termination of the implicated employees.
“We need to see zero tolerance in the U.N. for terrorism and antisemitism,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch.
A REPORT ON UNRWA TEACHERS’ INCITEMENT
TO JIHADIST TERRORISM AND ANTISEMITISM
Presented by UN Watch before the United States Congress
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Joint Hearing of the
Subcommitee on Middle East and North Africa and the
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights,
and International Organization
February 2, 2017
This report exposes more than 40 Facebook pages operated by school teachers, principals, and other employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which incite to terrorism or antisemitism. The report is divided by region, and includes UNRWA staffers in Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and Syria. These cases are additional to the 30 cases of incitement revealed at the end of 2015 by UN Watch.
The examples of incitement in this report include UNRWA teachers and staffers celebrating the terrorist kidnapping of Israeli teenagers, cheering rockets being fired at Israeli civilian centers, endorsing various forms of violence, erasing Israel from the map, praising Hitler and posting his photo, and posting overtly antisemitic videos, caricatures, and statements.
Incitement as Symptom of Core Problem
It is essential to understand that the hatred on display within UNRWA is a symptom of a deeper, underlying problem: the very existence of the organization, its structure and operations, and core political mission. As noted by Dr. Einat Wilf, the world’s leading expert on UNRWA, the agency functions as a political Palestinian organization committed to the political program of “return,” which means sending five million descendants of 1948 Palestinian refugees into Israel, effectively ending the Jewish state as we know it. Rather than nurturing the possibility of peace, Dr. Wilf has shown, UNRWA is currently the greatest obstacle to peace, as it institutionalizes, perpetuates, and inflates the Palestinian refugee issue and the dream of Palestinian “return” to what is the State of Israel.
U.S., UK, EU and Other Top Donors Must Act
UNRWA’s major donors include the U.S., which gave $380 million in 2015, the EU ($136 million), and the UK ($100 million). These and other donor states, including Canada which recently announced a new $25 million grant, bear a responsibility to ensure that UNRWA lives up to its obligations as a UN humanitarian organization.
Regrettably, when we exposed 30 similar cases of online incitement last year, the response of UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness was to lash out at UN Watch, and to deny or downplay the problem. Only after months of sustained media attention did the UN spokesman in New York announce quietly that a few employees had been suspended. The identities of the perpetrators, or the duration of their suspensions, were never disclosed. UNRWA itself has never issued any statement on the matter, neither on its website or elsewhere.
That so many UNRWA employees continue to publicly display Facebook posts which celebrate radical Islamic terrorism and incite antisemitism demonstrates that UNRWA—despite its claims to have established disciplinary systems—is failing to take the issue seriously, and that its employees know that.
Likewise, the senior UNRWA echelon’s daily political advocacy targeting Israel—an anomalous practice and breach of neutrality among humanitarian agencies worldwide—creates an overall atmosphere in the organization where teachers clearly feel comfortable erasing the Jewish state from the map.
The incitement by UNRWA employees constitutes a violation of their legal obligations:
Breach of Neutrality Duty
UNRWA’s 2017 funding agreement with the U.S. State Department obliges it to act in accordance with “UN humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality.” Under general UN principles, UN humanitarian actors have a duty not to take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
The incendiary Facebook posts by UNRWA personnel supporting, glorifying and legitimizing murderous anti-Israel terrorism is a gross violation of this duty of neutrality. These UN employees are openly taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and engaging in political, racial, religious or ideological controversies.
Breach of UNRWA’s Undertaking to Reject Racism
UNRWA’s agreement with the U.S. obliges it to reject “racism in all forms.” Yet UNRWA teachers and principals are in gross violation of this obligation by posting classically antisemitic posts on Facebook.
Failure to Implement “Social Media Training”
Under its agreement with the U.S., and in pledges made to Canada that were announced in November, UNRWA must implement e-training on UNRWA’s policy on social media use by UNRWA personnel. UNRWA is in glaring breach of this provision. Based on today’s UN Watch report, it is clear that if UNRWA has taken any actions in this regard, they have been an utter failure.
Furthermore, UNRWA’s e-training obligation is supposed to be implemented in connection with its broader obligation to comply with Section 301(c) of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (see, Section III, p. 2), pursuant to which UNRWA must ensure the United States that its contributions are not going to assist persons who are involved in terrorism. The fact that UNRWA personnel are actively inciting, glorifying and honoring terrorists on their Facebook profiles calls into question whether UNRWA is in fact in compliance with FAA Section 301(c).
Failure to Discipline Teachers Who Incite Terrorism and Antisemitism
Under its agreement with the U.S., UNRWA must take “clear and consistent . . . disciplinary action” against its personnel who violate UNRWA’s regulatory framework. (See, Section III, p. 3).
In response to UN Watch’s reports from last year, UNRWA claimed that it took disciplinary action against some of its personnel in the form of suspensions and loss of pay. However, UNRWA did not identify the employees subjected to disciplinary proceedings or state the length of the suspensions. In any event, whatever disciplinary action UNRWA took plainly was not effective—today’s UN Watch report shows that the conduct is continuing unabated throughout UNRWA’s facilities across the Middle East.
The U.S., the EU, the UK and Canada must demand that UNRWA employ a zero tolerance policy for this type of incendiary Facebook activity by its employees, just like that applied to teachers in the U.S. and the UK. In November 2016, the Oberlin College Board of Trustees dismissed an assistant professor for anti-Semitic Facebook posts. Similarly, in October 2015, the UK government banned a teacher from the classroom for life over an anti-Semitic Facebook post. Palestinian students deserve the same rights that UNRWA’s donors grant their own.
Violation of Internal UN Policies on Impartiality
In addition to these flagrant breaches of the 2017 funding agreement, UNRWA is also in violation of UN and UNRWA internal policies concerning staff neutrality and impartiality.
Article 101(3) of the UN Charter states that the “paramount consideration” in employing staff is “securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity.” The quality of “integrity” is central to the UN Staff Rules and Staff Regulations, which require staff members to “uphold the highest standards of . . . integrity.” This includes, but is not limited to, “probity, impartiality, fairness, honesty and truthfulness in all matters affecting their work and status.” See Regulation 1.2(b). This value is again reflected in Rule 1.2(f) requiring staff to remain neutral and impartial, especially with respect to public pronouncements.
Moreover, UNRWA’s own International Staff Regulations expressly incorporate this UN “neutrality rule” for its staff, stating in Regulation 1.4 that staff must “avoid any action and in particular any kind of public pronouncement which may adversely reflect on their status or integrity, independence or impartiality which are required by that status.”
The UNRWA staff Facebook posts exposed by UN Watch today and last year reflect a brazen flouting of these UN and UNRWA regulations.
The Department of State has declassified documents confirming the activities of Tony Poe, aka Anthony Poshepny, a CIA officer (cryptonym allegedly “UPIN,” cover allegedly “Air Operations Officer, Continental Air Services”) who conducted field operations in Thailand, Cambodia, and most prominently Laos from the 1950s to 1974.
Poe is frequently cited as a basis for Colonel Kurtz, Marlon Brando’s character in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, a CIA operative who –far removed from western influence– had “gone native” and was running his own army deep into the jungle of Indochina. Though both Poe and Coppola denied that he was the basis for Kurtz, the similarities are pronounced –and Poe was certainly one of the most remarkable, flamboyant, and grizzly operators employed by the CIA during American’s war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
According to John Prados’s must-read biography of Poe for Unredacted, Poe went to Laos in March 1961 to train the Hmong to fight against the Vietnamese Communists.
Hating paperwork and preferring the field, Po was content that a younger officer, Vincent Lawrence, served as base chief with himself as underling. He ran field missions with the Hmong partisans. After the Geneva Accords of 1962, which was to have removed all U.S. field operatives from the country, Lawrence and Po remained at Long Tieng anyway to coordinate with Vang Pao. Poshepny is said to have had shifting relations with Vang Pao and there were reportedly multiple incidents where the two almost came to blows or even drawn guns. Lawrence remained the head CIA man.
Poshepny had a checkered reputation with senior CIA officers for a number of reasons. One was that during the period of post-Geneva fictive neutrality, he reportedly continued to go out on field missions. During his career Po would be wounded about a dozen times, including losing some fingers to a booby-trap that killed a fellow officer. On another occasion he shouldered a wounded Hmong fighter and carried him about 30 km back to camp for the doctors to see him. His difficulties with Vang Pao gradually increased and created a second problem. His drinking also did not help.
With April 1964, when the Laotian operation went back into gear, came reports of Po paying bounties for severed heads and ears of alleged Pathet Lao guerrillas. When the CIA Station questioned his body counts, he told the partisans to cut off the ears of dead enemies, which he kept in a plastic bag. When Poshepny considered he had enough he forwarded them to Embassy Vientiane. “I used to staple them to the reports,” Po joked. “There were bushels of ears at headquarters.” He admits to “distributing” at least two. Another time a village that had shot at Po’s aircraft was threatened by the airdrop of a severed head. The outraged headman managed to get the tail number of the Air America aircraft and complained to Embassy Vientiane. The ambassador was forced to apologize to the villagers. “if you do everything according to the orders, you’d be in a straightjacket. You have to break the monotony sometimes,” Po is quoted as saying.
…More than CIA has released.
The recently declassified State Department cables rarely mention Poe, but they do provide official government corroboration of his activities. One 2003 cable describing a Laotian government relocation program describes the northern “Nam Yeu valley between Muang Meung and Huasai” as “a valley that during the Vietnam war era was the base of the ethnic Mien ‘secret army’ advised by the legendary Tony Poe[.]”
A second cable from December 1988 describes a visit to the U.S. embassy in Vientaiane by “a re-education camp releasee [after] nearly 13 years of detention in Sam Neua.” The walk-in reported rumors of U.S. prisoners –including airmen captured in Laos– being imprisoned in Vietnam as late as 1978. Before reporting this information about potential POWs to official US channels, the source first “sent this information by letter” to Tony Poe.
This is plausible. Tony Poe returned to Laos after retiring from the CIA in 1974. There, according to Prados’s account, he married a Laotian woman and worked “as a gentleman farmer for many years.”
A final document from 1976 makes brief mention of Poe as a reference for a Lao refugee attempting to immigrate to America. This is also plausible. After returning to California in the 1990s, Tony Poe continued to maintain deep ties with the Laotian community. According to the Wall Street Journal:
[Tony Poe] lived with the hill tribes, drank with them, fought with them, nearly died with them. Most important, the Laotians say: Long after American street gangs replaced CIA commando units as the proving ground for tough hill-tribe youths, Mr. Poshepny still cares. He counsels Laotian kids on joining the Marines, helps finance Laotian weddings and plots strategy for winning official recognition in Washington for Laotian veterans.
A few years ago, he fought a deportation order for one of his men convicted of opium possession in Sacramento, Calif. The man’s military contributions, Mr. Poshepny testified in court, should outweigh his opium rap. The judge agreed.
Tony Poe died on June 27, 2003. According to his funeral announcement he was awarded two CIA stars, the agency’s highest honor, and two Purple Hearts.
A search of the CIA, State, and FBI FOIA reading rooms turned up no additional information on Poshepny. The CIA’s Study in Intelligence’s Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laosprovides good context of the Agency’s operations but is highly redacted. It is possible some of the redactions hide Poe’s activities.