When Silencing Dissent Isn’t News

Exclusive: The criminal case against ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern for “resisting arrest” when he was denied entry to a public speech by retired Gen. David Petraeus appears to be nearly over, but the image of police brutally shielding the mighty from a citizen’s question remains troubling, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

What if Martin Luther King Jr. had been arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, in April 1963 and the U.S. news media had decided that it wasn’t a story, just some troublemaker getting what he deserved for breaking the law? Would King have gone on to give his “I have a dream speech” in August, win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and change American history?

Some Americans would insist that suppressing news about King’s arrest during the Birmingham protests simply couldn’t happen here because we have a free press that for all its faults knows a good story when it sees one.

Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern crying out in pain while being arrested on Oct. 30, 2014, in New York City. (A screenshot via The Dissenter at firedoglake.com)

Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern crying out in pain while being arrested on Oct. 30, 2014, in New York City. (A screenshot from a YouTube video via The Dissenter at firedoglake.com)

Sure, these people might acknowledge that there may have been a time before airplanes and television when significant events in fairly remote parts of the country were missed because they were harder to get to or because editors might not even have been aware of a newsworthy story, but not in 1963 and surely not today, in the Internet age when there’s Facebook and Twitter, which news organizations monitor regularly.

So, what if I told you that an internationally known American a 75-year-old Army veteran and a longtime official at the Central Intelligence Agency, someone who had famously questioned the imperious Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about his Iraq War lies in a public event that led evening newscasts in 2006 was recently denied entry to a public speech by another Iraq War icon, Gen. David Petraeus, and despite having paid for a ticket was brutally arrested by the police and jailed?

Wouldn’t that be a story? Wouldn’t that be something that the news media, especially the “liberal” news media, should jump all over? Wouldn’t a newspaper like the New York Times just love something like that?

But what if I told you that the New York Times wasn’t interested at all? You might think that perhaps the event occurred in some distant hamlet, maybe a small college town where there wasn’t much media, so it just fell through the cracks.

Yet, this story actually played out in New York City, the media capital of the world, on the Upper East Side at the 92nd Street Y in full view of hundreds of New Yorkers on the night of Oct. 30, 2014. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was roughly arrested, with the police ignoring his howls of pain as they pulled his arms behind his back. (McGovern had recently suffered a painful shoulder injury from a fall.}

The arrest of McGovern on charges of resisting arrest, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct did draw attention from people on Facebook and Twitter. It was described in some detail at reasonably well-read Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com. The story resonated around the world, even reaching RT, the Moscow-based network.

Yet, it was studiously ignored by nearly all the New York media. When I ran a Google search for “Ray McGovern, Petraeus, arrest,” there were scores of articles from various Web sites but next to nothing from the mainstream media. Only one brief item came up from the New York Daily News with a misleading headline saying McGovern was “trying to crash” the Petraeus speech (although the article did note that McGovern had bought a $45 ticket).

McGovern, who has become a prominent critic of recent U.S. war policies (and who writes frequently for Consortiumnews.com), called me the day before the event and said he planned to attend Petraeus’s speech with hopes that he might be able to ask a question from the audience, like he had in challenging Rumsfeld.

But someone in authority apparently got wind of McGovern’s plan he still is curious how that happened and he was intercepted when he arrived at the 92nd Street Y. A security guard addressed him by name, “Ray, you’re not welcome here” and the NYPD was prepositioned to arrest him.

As the police pinned his arms behind him wrenching his injured shoulder McGovern screamed in pain as bystanders unsuccessfully implored the police not to behave so brutally. The arrest was captured on an amateur video (uploaded to YouTube by April Watters). It is not pleasant to watch.

Probably some Americans feel that McGovern got what he deserved for even thinking about posing a pointed question to a “hero” like retired Gen. Petraeus, who was speaking along with one of his neocon friends, Council on Foreign Affairs honcho Max Boot, who, like Petraeus, had been all gung-ho for the Iraq War.

Having briefed senior U.S. government officials for years while at the CIA, McGovern is not intimidated by some growling response from a powerful man. Nor is he scared of getting booed by an audience enthrall to a famous speaker.

So, in that sense, McGovern might well have “disrupted” the event with an impertinent question, possibly about how the Iraqi Army that Petraeus has boasted about training so well collapsed in the face of ragtag militants from the Islamic State in 2014.

That might have caused an uncomfortable moment or two, but isn’t that what democracy and freedom of speech are all about, the ability for a citizen to question the mighty? And, really, is it the job of police in a “free society” to roughly arrest a citizen who objects to being denied entry to a public event because of his perceived political opinions — and to prevent the citizen from having the chance to ask a question?

Though he lives in Arlington, Virginia, McGovern had to return to New York for a court appearance on Feb. 4. There, the judge granted what’s called an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” meaning that the charges will go away if McGovern doesn’t commit any new offenses. Advised by his pro bono attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, McGovern accepted the offer, rather than extend the legal fight over what appeared to be a First Amendment issue.

But perhaps what should alarm Americans the most is that the New York Times and other major media in New York City see nothing newsworthy about a citizen being silenced, roughed up and arrested for simply hoping to ask the esteemed David Petraeus a question.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Petraeus Spared Ray McGovern’s Question”, “Stifling Dissent on the Upper East Side,” and McGovern’s “A Pointed Letter to Gen. Petraeus.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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11 comments for “When Silencing Dissent Isn’t News

  1. February 9, 2015 at 00:29

    I’m in security, which I HATE. No, It’s nothing glorious. It’s the least glorious thing one can do in security. Still, I’ve had to take classes and read material. And it makes me ill. Some of it’s reasonable enough. Non violent crisis intervention is a good thing to know – if you care and will be in a position where you’re going to have to practice it. I’m not. It could happen, but I won’t be dealing with situations where I get to practice techniques. I therefore won’t have muscle memory and, depending on the crisis I’m facing (I’ve also taken use of force), I may just mess up good. I did fail my handcuffing, although the instructor had me re-do the exercise until I passed.

    I was terrified that I would end up doing something I was against doing on principle. I’m in Toronto. They asked me whether I was interested in the G20 event when it was then in the works. I immediately answered ‘no’. Considering how that turned out, I made a very good decision.

    We have to have police. (And, as long as we are going to have mafia capitalism, we are going to have more sophisticated security orgs. A Senator once questioned the need for the then nascent Pentagon, William Blum recounts, displaying a distinct lack of prophetic ability that would have made his question seem silly. Maybe we needed more politicians like that back then.) And, in system that is run by powerful special interests who buy elections and politicians and view the people as the enemy, the police – who have to feed themselves and their families within a money system – will prove to be a problem. That presents a quandary. I have no solution.

    Elites have no interest in inculcating democratic values in the very forces that they see, rightly, as being there to shield them from the people who they abuse. People who are abused by politicians who take their marching orders from exploitative, unpatriotic corporations rightly want their political leadership to answer for it’s crimes. They want accountability. The irony here is that macho elites and their star politicians like glory and they believe in inequality. Therefore, They get their glory, namely our attention, by taking the means of survival (basically money, via the austerity feature of neoliberal capitalism) from us. Then when we demand something fair and an audience with our rulers so that we can discuss both their unwarranted attacks and possible alternatives, Well, they have no interest in that. The glory was great. The accountability isn’t nearly as fun. But they are clever, because they have this wall – gatekeepers – between themselves and the abused people.

    Gatekeepers can be appointed (police for example) and self-appointed. They can be anyone and they run the gamut between the homeless and the rich and educated. The propaganda system plays a role in making gatekeepers (who are the opposite of caring, hence knowing, whistleblowers) the kind of trouble makers they are. Sometimes the trouble is minor. Sometimes it’s major.

    Sometimes the major trouble comes from self-appointed gatekeepers who just happen to congregate temporarily, as in the case of Jesse Washington, who Bill Moyers recently talked about in a Common Dreams article titled “The Fiery Cage and the Lynching Tree, Brutality’s Never Far Away.” Another example would be the one Chris Hedges’s conveys in his book “Death Of The Liberal Class.” The lynching that Mr Prager (in Hedges’s account) was given resulted in a court case in which the counsel for the leaders of the mob pleaded “patriotic murder,” and succeeded. Conversely, Appointed, paid (and therefore motivated) gatekeepers, who even enjoy a culture in which all of their ‘us vs them’ thinking is reinforced regularly through ‘training’, might only arrest someone, albeit brutally. But anything goes and the sum of the gatekeeping of all the uncaring, unknowing (if not ignorant), gatekeeping – is fascism that has displaced democracy. This is exactly what Yanis Varoufakis explained in the course of trying to get his European counterparts and their colleagues to care about the people rather than powerful special interests and their own power and privilege which they see as dependent on pleasing those special interests. See the Common Dreams article titled “Greek Minister: Poison of Troika Austerity Fueling Rise of Nazi Party.” Greece just may throw off the fascist system that it has been living with and hobbled by, largely thanks to American efforts after World War II. (My preference is to label a system ‘fascist’ if the political class works with the business class and runs the country and cuts the people out, which can happen even if people seem to have a say – through electoral politics – in matters affecting them. I am not terribly interested in whether a fascist system is identical to historical examples, such as Nazi Germany. I don’t feel that details are as important as main features.)

    What’s sobering to reflect on in all of this is the role of the media, namely the corporate owned media, which consists of a bunch of well paid gatekeepers, for they help with the propaganda aspect of the fascist culture we are having foisted on us, which in turn colors the thinking and behavior of the gatekeepers who normal people must confront when they signal, through normal behavior, that they ‘do not’ have the right political views. What are the ‘right’ political views? It boils down to whatever the powerful, who look after you (if you’re for sale and lack principles), say.

    William Blum looks at all of that in his interesting book (which I’ve only started reading) titled “America’s Deadliest Export.” He finds it astonishing that with all the evidence for the evil of the American ruling class, including the lying it does regularly, Americans keep believing in their leaders. He asks Why? He looks at a number of ideas or myths that regular Americans keep falling for, but focusses on the idea that citizens have that their leaders, despite their ‘mistakes’, mean well. No doubt there’s many reasons for that failure – which happens to result in the enabling of a ruling class and system that results in millions of deaths and terrorism and unbelievable suffering, making Blum’s investigation an important one. Too bad that the mainstream media isn’t there to help out with it. Because, as they say, If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

  2. Doug Giebel
    February 8, 2015 at 17:18

    Let’s not forget that General Petraeus was promoted as a top candidate for the presidency by many including Roger Ailes of FOX News. There’s currently a FACEBOOK page: Petraeus for President in 2016. If the Good General had not fallen for his lusy biographer-companion, he’s still be high on the list for 2016. But, then, extra-marital fiddling has not prevented others from astounding success, so hope still springs for a Petgraeus march to attain POTUS In Chief. As for who alerted the Petraeus camp to Ray McGovern’s planned appearance at the 92nd Street Y: Ray told Bob Perry. That’s enough for the NSA and companion Enemies-List Sleuths to ring alarm bells. Surely the two must be high on the radar of our highly-paid informers bent on Keeping America Safe.

    Doug Giebel
    Big Sandy, Montana

    • Doug Giebel
      February 8, 2015 at 17:20

      CORRECTED VERSION. PRIOR VERSION CLICKED TOO SOON BY MISTAKE:

      Let’s not forget that General Petraeus was promoted as a top candidate for the presidency by many including Roger Ailes of FOX News. There’s currently a FACEBOOK page: Petraeus for President in 2016. If the Good General had not fallen for his lusty biographer-companion, he’s still be high on the list for 2016. But, then, extra-marital fiddling has not prevented others from astounding success, so hope still springs for a Petraeus march to attain POTUS In Chief. As for who alerted the Petraeus camp to Ray McGovern’s planned appearance at the 92nd Street Y: Ray told Bob Perry. That’s enough for the NSA and companion Enemies-List Sleuths to ring alarm bells. Surely the two must be high on the radar of our highly-paid informers bent on Keeping America Safe.

      Doug Giebel
      Big Sandy, Montana

  3. Jay
    February 8, 2015 at 11:25

    One would think that the 92 Street Y would not want this marketing fiasco of pre-arrest and expulsion in advance of any question McGovern may have asked.

    The 92nd Street Y comes off looking like a marketing organization for illegal wars and war criminals.

    That organization already suffered a big contracting kick-back scandal, one that lead to the forced resignation of the director and then his suicide.

    Strange that the current director and board members would not want to avoid tarnishing the reputation of the 92nd Street Y further.

    Unless they think that allowing Petraeus to face a serious question would tarnish the 92nd Street Y more than suppressing that question. (This may be their “logic”.)

  4. Anonymous
    February 8, 2015 at 10:50

    Would still prefer the spooks to beat me up rather than covertly try to poison me to death or ambush me in a dark set up, as it has repeatedly done, making my life a bit of a guessing game 24/7.

    And more important, Petraeus’s mistress was also a spy, apparently a Mossad one, who was using his information and position to help defeat Obama in his re-election effort by the plot in Benghazi, it seems, for Mitt Romney’s benefit.

    Little wonder he has decided not to run again with Hillary in the wings, ready to expose their betrayals.

    • February 9, 2015 at 10:18

      Wait, what?

      Who decided not to run again?

      • February 10, 2015 at 09:45

        Of course, the answer is Mitt Romney.

        And I wrote the post, and don’t understand how it could have appeared without my name and email address being provided – what I overlooked when struggling with the Password, though I have no objection to their appearing.

  5. Peter Loeb
    February 8, 2015 at 10:32

    FREE WITHIN GIVEN PARAMETERS

    There are many ways to express this but this phrase was Noam Chomsky’s and
    it is an excellent one.

    Of course I do NOT have “free speech” at all. I cannot condemn Israel except to
    others who I already know also condemn Israel. I cannot attack our Western
    society for its admiration of things military. I cannot freely express radical ideas such as those in articles by R. Parry except to others who I already know have such ideas and may be open to them.. I cannot criticize capitalism.

    The “parameters or “consensus” as some have stated it ” are set by our government in the USA, by our media, and by ourselves by our complicity. The young are
    temporarily less concerned about their careers, their place in the world, their
    families. Sadly, this often wears off with time.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Bill Bodden
      February 8, 2015 at 13:06

      At least you have the benefit of knowing who your real friends are.

  6. Pat
    February 8, 2015 at 05:37

    Ray’s arrest is beyond outrageous. Reading how he was treated is sickening and makes me want to cry.

    That the NYT didn’t pick it up doesn’t surprise me, nor does it infuriate me the way it does you, Bob. I don’t need both hands to count the number of articles I’ve read in the NYT since Judith Miller’s duplicity was exposed. It is not worthy of my time. How much more proof do we need that the it’s a propaganda sheet?

    We are living in a very different world from when you and I were in J-school. There’s no more coffee with the morning paper. Instead, I turn on my computer and go to my short list of news and information sites, including this one. And, while we need to approach the social media with caution, we do indeed get important eyewitness accounts, because just about everyone has a cell phone with a camera and video recorder. Although I’m sorry to hear what happened to Ray, I’m at least glad that someone recorded it. And it may be just as well that the corporate media ignored the story. We know they distort the facts. At least Ray was spared the additional pain of insult added to injury.

  7. paul wichmann
    February 8, 2015 at 02:02

    “…called me the day before the event and said he planned to attend Petraeus’s speech…” and “But someone in authority apparently got wind of McGovern’s plan – he still is curious how that happened.”

    I was going to go all sarcastic on Misters Parry and McGovern. Yet I decided that “how that happened” was the identification of the specific channel by which he was found out. Did he pay for the ticket with plastic? McGovern called Parry – that there is three easy ones.
    I’d really like (here in dreamland) an accounting of the cost to the taxpayer, to the end of preventing a war hero – who by the way, allegedly coughed up classified info to his mistress / biographer – or other authority figs, from being embarrassed.

Comments are closed.