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February 22, 2011
An Experiment in Politeness
I was raised to be polite and rational. So when engaging in my hobby of trying to get powerful U.S. institutions to correct inaccurate statements, it's hard for me to be anything but—even though, in at least 100 attempts on my part, being polite and rational has literally never worked.
But you never know! So let's try again.
Yesterday WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show had on Alec Ross, who's "Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton." He has 327,000 followers on Twitter. And here he is on Facebook.
The subject of the show was "Internet Freedom and U.S. Diplomacy," and dealt in part with Hillary Clinton's speech a week ago—the speech from which Ray McGovern was forcibly ejected and bloodied for engaging in a silent protest. (He stood up and turned his back on Clinton.)
Someone called in and asked Ross to comment on this. Starting about 28:30 there was this exchange:
KOJO NNAMDI: On the case of Ray McGovern, that was brought up by several people...Ray McGovern of course was a protester, a silent protester, at a George Washington speech delivered by Secretary Clinton. Video showed him being escorted out—or in the eyes of some, being brutally roughed up.
ALEC ROSS: Yes, so, he was a handful of rows away from me, and he wasn't silent. [Chuckles] You know, Hillary Clinton was trying to give a speech, and he was yelling. So, look, you know, he was a guest, and if you're going to stand there and make a lot of noise when the Secretary of State is trying to give a speech, then, you know, you're probably going to be an unwelcome guest. I will say that I didn't see him being "roughed up." I mean, I didn't see until the end there, but my point of view was that cops did exactly what they ought to do. That's their job.
You can listen to segment here:
Of course, what Alec Ross says was inaccurate. Ray McGovern was not "yelling"—he was engaging in a silent protest when the security roughly grabbed him. Now, it's true that (by my count) seven seconds after he was grabbed he did shout, "So this is America!" But the fact that you say something when you're seized by cops does not make a silent protest retroactively un-silent, and it therefore legitimate for them to haul you out. And even if he had been yelling, McGovern should not have been manhandled in the way he was.
Now, someone as polite and rational as myself assumes everyone has good intentions. It's likely Alec Ross just isn't aware of what happened—and will therefore be happy to publicly correct himself on twitter, on facebook, and (if they'll let him) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. An apology to Ray McGovern would also be nice.