it is prohibited to criticize any congress critturs on twitter, even in jokes, or else

Anti-war activist visited by police after posting embarrassing AOC video
Max Blumenthal, The Grayzone, Apr 9 2021

As he waited for a food delivery at his home in Los Angeles on Apr 8, Ryan Wentz, an anti-war activist and producer for the online viral program Soapbox, heard two men calling his name from over his front gate. When he approached, he realized they were not delivery drivers, but police officers flashing badges of the California Highway Patrol. The cops informed Wentz that they had received a call from the Capitol Police, the federal law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the US Congress, about a tweet he had sent that allegedly threatened Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Wentz told The Grayzone:

The officers said, ‘We got a warning about a sitting member of Congress. And it was because of your tweet, which tagged them in it.’ And then they just wouldn’t back down from this accusation that I threatened to kill her.

The California Highway Patrol indicated on Twitter that it had acted on a call from Capitol Police. A spokesperson for AOC has denied to Intercept reporter Ryan Grim that their office reported Wentz’s post, and has “asked Capitol Police to look into what happened here.” The police visit Wentz received may have been part of a wider trend of post-Jan 6 law enforcement intervention in social media criticism of members of Congress.

Though AOC’s office has denied falsely informing Capitol Police of an online threat by Wentz, the Democrat congresswoman has in the past asked her supporters to report critics to social media censors. Whoever called the police on Wentz furnished law enforcement with a patently false allegation, as he has never threatened violence against any member of Congress. In the tweet that triggered the police action, Wentz merely posted video of AOC delivering a vapid and embarrassingly convoluted answer to a question about resolving the crisis in Israel-Palestine. Describing her answer as “incredibly underwhelming,” he let the congresswoman’s cringeworthy commentary speak for itself.

Asked by Michael S Miller of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council about actions that could be taken to support movements towards peace between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, AOC responded as follows:

Earlier just now you and I were talking about the what and the how. And I think that when we talk about peace, centering people’s humanity, protecting people’s rights – it’s not just about the what and the end goal which actually gets a lot of focus, but I actually think it’s much more about the how, and the way we are coming together, and how we interpret that what, and how we act in, you know, the actions we take to get to that what. So what this really is about is a question more than anything else about process. And we really need to make sure that we are valuing a process where all parties are respected and have, you know, a lot of equal opportunity to really make sure we are negotiating in good faith, etcetera. That being said, you know, I think there’s just this one central issue of settlements, because if the what – if the what has been decided on as two state, then the action of settlements, it’s not the how to get to that what. And so, you know, I think that’s a central thing that, you know, we center. And that we value Jewish and rather, we value Israeli, uh, uh, uh, we value the safety and human rights of Israelis, we value the safety and human rights of Palestinians, in that process that is similar, and that is on equal footing. And so all of that is extremely important in that process.

The video that Wentz tweeted of AOC’s long-winded dodge of a fundamental question about resolving the Israeli occupation of Palestine prompted a flood of online mockery and contempt, mostly from leftist Twitter users. Many derided AOC as a careerist who had abandoned progressive causes like Palestinian liberation in order to curry favor with Democrat Party power brokers, while others ridiculed her meaningless word salad.

Within hours of the online pile-on, someone reported Wentz to the Capitol Police for tweeting the video that embarrassed AOC. Because Wentz does not provide any information about his personal identity in his public Twitter profile, the social media giant appeared to have provided his private details to federal law enforcement. Wentz said:

Another weird thing is usually I would get a report [from Twitter], because I’ve gotten my tweets reported before. But I didn’t get any notification about this.

AOC’s staff has previously appealed to social media censors to suppress online criticism. On Feb 4 2021, her campaign sent a mass email to supporters asking them to “scan your social media to find posts with misleading information” about the congresswoman, and “use the built-in report feature to flag them for moderators.”

Team AOC issued its appeal for supporters to police social media in response to right-wing mockery of a dramatic livestream in which AOC suggested that the mob which stormed the Capitol building on Jan 6 nearly assassinated her. She recounted in the livestream:

I just hear these yells of ‘WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE?’ This was the moment where I thought everything was over. I thought I was going to die.

However, the source of the yells which had terrified AOC turned out to be a Capitol Police officer who had been dispatched to protect her. Further, the congresswoman’s office was located in the Cannon House Office Building, which had not been penetrated by any rioters on Jan 6. Right-wing activists and other political foes of AOC exploited these points to launch a viral hashtag likening the congresswoman to Jussie Smollet, the actor who faked an attack on himself. After attempting to challenge her critics directly, AOC delegated her staff to dispatch its army of supporters to report critics en masse to Twitter and Facebook censors. Weeks earlier, podcaster Jimmy Dore had initiated a “Force The Vote” campaign to pressure AOC and fellow members of the progressive congressional “Squad” to withhold their votes for Rep. Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House until Pelosi agreed to bring a bill for Medicare for All to the floor for a vote. In response to incendiary criticism from Dore for her refusal to buck centrist party leadership, AOC declared:

That’s not tone, that’s violence.

According to Wentz, the police officers that visited him asked if he had any violent intent behind his tweet, then left. he reflected:

If this was like a purely intimidation thing, then I guess it did its job. It’s not comforting to be on the receiving end of that. But at the same time, they’re not going to shut the left up.

Wentz’s disturbing encounter with law enforcement appears to be part of an emerging trend. On the same date law enforcement visited him, a Twitter user posted photos of alleged federal agents on their front lawn and claimed:

FBI just came by my house for a tweet to Ted Cruz.

AOC panders to Israel lobby
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Apr 9 2021

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won an upset primary victory in Jun 2018, it came as a breath of fresh air for supporters of Palestinian rights. The month before she unseated a senior member of the Democrat Party, she had expressed her solidarity with unarmed Palestinians being gunned down by Israeli snipers as they protested in the besieged Gaza Strip. On the day Israeli soldiers killed some 60 Palestinians, she tweeted:

What a difference three years and two elections to Congress make. On Apr 1, Ocasio-Cortez did an online event with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, her first meeting with the Israel lobby group. The event might have gone unnoticed, but for a tweet on Wednesday from left-wing activist and journalist Ryan Wentz, gently criticizing her “incredibly underwhelming” response to a question about “peace both between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s vacuous word salad of an answer, which completely failed to address Israel’s violence against Palestinians or call for accountability, went viral, with thousands of responses and retweets mocking it.

In a deeply disturbing development, Wentz was tracked down at his Los Angeles home on Thursday by California state police after he posted the video. They were acting at the behest of the US Capitol Police. Wentz told the publication The Grayzone:

The officers said, ‘We got a warning about a sitting member of Congress. And it was because of your tweet, which tagged them in it.’ And then they just wouldn’t back down from this accusation that I threatened to kill her.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office has denied reporting Wentz’s tweet to the Capitol Police, though the episode is raising alarms about increasing police-state style censorship of US online discourse. Ocasio-Cortez has been in the forefront of calls for online speech-policing and censorship.

While the segment of Ocasio-Cortez’s comments shared by Wentz attracted widespread derision, there are other troubling parts of her discussion with JCRC-NY that have escaped attention. JCRC-NY CEO Michael S Miller used the interview with Ocasio-Cortez to advance the claim that “Israel is a leader in environmental sustainability, especially in water conservation, reforesting and solar power.” Miller spoke about seeing an Israeli aid project in Ocasio-Cortez’s ancestral homeland Puerto Rico, a country she calls “colonized” by the US and whose self-determination she champions. Miller asked the Congress member:

Might there be components of the Green New Deal in New York or around the world where Israeli ecological expertise could be employed to upscale real solutions and address the climate crisis?

Ocasio-Cortez, the author of the Green New Deal, ought to have seized this opportunity to point out the striking parallels between Puerto Rico’s colonization by the US and Palestine’s US-backed colonization by Israel. She could also have denounced Israel’s greenwashing propaganda, which aims to falsely paint it as an exemplary environmental steward, often as a cover for ethnic cleansing and theft of even more Palestinian land. Instead, she answered, “Absolutely,” before going on to praise “Israel’s technology around wastewater circulation.” Those technological marvels will come as news to two million Palestinians caged by Israel in Gaza, where due to Israel’s wars and blockade, 97% of water is undrinkable and conditions are like living in a septic tank. While Ocasio-Cortez’s dismal performance during the JCRC-NY event sparked widespread ridicule, a basic question is why a self-proclaimed champion of human rights and racial justice agreed to participate at all.

JCRC-NY is an Israel lobby group whose activities include organizing junkets to Israel for politicians and community leaders. It uses these junkets to build support and influence to advance its agenda, which includes justifying Israel’s brutal violence against Palestinians. It disseminates propaganda attacking the Palestine solidarity movement, including recommendations from Israel’s Reut Institute think tank on how to smear and sabotage the BDS movement. In Ocasio-Cortez’s defense, she appears never actually to have endorsed the BDS movement, unlike her fellow Squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. JCRC-NY promotes a host of far-right anti-Palestinian organizations, including CAMERA, HonestReporting, Palestinian Media Watch and Our Soldiers Speak, a propaganda organization for the Israeli military. It also promotes the Israel on Campus Coalition, a group shown to collude secretly with the Israeli government to surveil and smear American college students and educators who organize in support of Palestinian rights.

The CEO of JCRC-NY, the same Michael S Miller who interviewed Ocasio-Cortez, has attacked the New York chapter of DSA, of which Ocasio-Cortez is a “superstar” member. According to Miller, the group was anti-Semitic because it asked candidates seeking its endorsement to pledge not to go on the kind of propaganda junkets to Israel that lobby groups like JCRC-NY organize. Notably, even NYC-DSA had to distance itself from Ocasio-Cortez following her 2018 endorsement of now fullydiscredited New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The depravity of JCRC-NY’s anti-Palestinian racism can be gauged by an action alert it issued in support of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. During 51 days of merciless bombardment, Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 550 children, an average of 11 children per day. Entire families were obliterated in their homes. The lobby group’s efforts to justify the massacre in real-time included hosting briefings with senior Israeli military officers and officials. Ocasio-Cortez’s path into the arms of the JCRC-NY, and who knows which Israel lobby group might be next, has been discernible from the start, even if it has had a few detours on the way. Within weeks of her stunning Jun 2018 primary win, she already showed signs of buckling under pro-Israel pressure. When challenged on PBS about her description of Israel’s mass killings of unarmed Palestinians as a “massacre,” she replied defensively:

Well, I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of the two-state solution.

That represented a quick reversion to accepted Democrat Party orthodoxy. She also said apologetically that she was “not the expert on geopolitics on this issue.” She was given the chance to address the stumble less than two weeks later in an interview with outlet Mic, but Ocasio-Cortez dodged the question and did not mention Palestine at all. Ocasio-Cortez appears to have taken the lesson to heart: Since her May 2018 “massacre” tweet, she has rarely tweeted to her 12m followers about Palestinians or about Israel’s abuses at all. She never again tweeted about Gaza. Last year, Ocasio-Cortez delivered another shock to supporters of Palestinian rights, when she agreed to participate in an Israel lobby event honoring Yitzhak Rabin, the late Israeli prime minister responsible for decades of expulsions and war crimes against Palestinians. Amid strong criticism from Palestinians and supporters, Ocasio-Cortez backed out of the Rabin event. But in hindsight, given her recent embrace of JCRC-NY, it appears her initial acceptance of the Rabin event was not a hapless mistake, but a calculated effort to curry favor with the Israel lobby.

True, Ocasio-Cortez has still occasionally taken positions that go beyond those of mainstream Democrats. Last summer, she angered the lobby group AIPAC by spearheading a congressional letter to Sec State Pompeo that called for putting conditions on US funding for Israel if it proceeded with formal annexation of land in the occupied West Bank. This letter appears to be the only item on her official website that refers to Palestinians. And while she has not endorsed BDS, Ocasio-Cortez did co-sponsor a 2019 resolution introduced by Ilhan Omar supporting the right to engage in boycotts as a matter of principle, though that resolution did not explicitly mention Israel. Ocasio-Cortez’s embrace of an Israel lobby group like JCRC-NY is of a piece with her widely noted shift towards the center of the Democrat Party. The backlash over her response to the question on Palestinians recalls the outpouring of disgust earlier this month when she deflected criticism from the Biden administration’s continuation of cruel Trump-era policies of detaining migrant and refugee children at the US-Mexico border. Under Trump, she had called the detention practices “concentration camps,” language that has now disappeared from her vocabulary.

It also follows the backlash in December over the refusal by Ocasio-Cortez and every other member of her allegedly progressive Squad to withhold their support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to force a vote on Medicare for All. At the time, Ocasio-Cortez justified falling into line behind Pelosi on the basis that it would preserve progressives’ “leverage” to win a $15 minimum wage. But then when Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad had the opportunity to hold up the Biden administration’s must-pass COVID-19 relief package unless it included the overwhelmingly popular minimum wage hike, they refused to do that too. During an interview with DSA last month, Ocasio-Cortez slammed leftists skeptical that progressive policy could come out of the Biden administration as espousing “a really privileged critique” and suggested they were “bad-faith actors.” Ocasio-Cortez’s shift to the right, including her embrace of the Israel lobby and echoing of its propaganda, could be linked to reports that she may mount a primary challenge against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Or it may be motivated by the mundane and routine personal interests of almost every politician who seeks to stay in office and advance through the ranks of their party. None of that would make Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez remarkable, but no one should mistake her for a courageous champion of human rights, especially those of Palestinians.

One Comment

  1. bb
    Posted April 10, 2021 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    AOC and the rest of the Squad read the handwriting on the wall once Bernie’s presidential campaign collapsed after Super Tuesday. What we’ve seen since is a shameful scurrying to the center. A few tweets about M4A and social justice is all AOC can muster

    There is a consciousness problem (Caitlin Johnstone’s main beat) in the U.S., UK and Europe. Look at Corbyn’s performance; more recently, the outcome of the vote on whether to form a union at an Amazon fulfillment center in Alabama. When the future has been wiped out it is hard to muster a stand for the collective. I suppose it is every man for himself.

    Nonetheless I am interested to see if the People’s Party, which promises to field congressional candidates in 2022, can make a dent.

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