Caitlin Johnstone: Policing Opposition to Genocide

The whole objective is to grind the conversation down into insignificant quibbling about manners and decorum so people stop drawing attention to the blood-spattered elephant in the room.

(Caitlin Johnstone graphic based on still from video by Aaron Maté)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons sat across from journalist Aaron Maté on the train on Monday, which is about the worst place you could possibly choose to sit if you’re a powerful official in a government that’s in the middle of backing an active genocide.

As any journalist of sound conscience would, Maté seized the opportunity to begin questioning Coons on camera about his support for Israel’s ongoing massacre of civilians in Gaza and to ask him why he isn’t supporting a ceasefire. 

Coons immediately became indignant that Maté was questioning him. He avoided addressing the questions he was being asked for a long time, responding only to repeatedly demand that Maté cease talking to him and to ask him who he is and how he got a seat on the train. 

“This is a quiet car,” Coons admonished.

“I understand, but children are dying sir,” Maté replied. “They’re being killed with our weapons. U.S. weapons are killing kids in Gaza.”

“Please stop,” Coons kept repeating, ignoring the irony that “please stop” is all anyone is asking of the U.S.-backed human butchery that is taking place in Gaza.

As British rapper and activist Lowkey noted on Twitter, Coons has received over a quarter million dollars from pro-Israel lobbying groups over the years.

Over and over and over again Coons tried to make the exchange about how Maté is being inappropriate and unprofessional and speaking the wrong way in the wrong venue, instead of the fact that the U.S. government is directly funding and supplying a genocidal massacre that has killed thousands of children and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

When all of this is over most of us will have regrets that we didn’t do more, but Aaron Maté won’t be among them. 

I recommend watching the clip of the exchange if you haven’t seen it yet, because it’s such a perfect illustration of the way opposition to Israel’s Gaza massacre is being aggressively tone policed by those who support it.

Ever since the mass slaughter of Gazans began last month there’s been a freakish trend of working to shut down opposition to this atrocity by attacking the way people are opposing it, rather than attempting to address their concerns. 

One good example of this was British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s statement ahead of a peace march scheduled for Armistice Day, claiming to plan such a demonstration on that date was “provocative and disrespectful.” Sure Rishi, Armistice Day is a completely inappropriate time for demonstrators to be literally calling for an armistice.

A recent tweet by Rupa Marya, an associate professor of medicine with the University of California in San Francisco reads, 

“I’m going to remember forever the day that Israel was shelling hospitals, killing fleeing refugees and shutting off the electricity for NICU babies in incubators, the president of UC system sent us an email expressing concern about anti-Semitism & telling us to behave ourselves.”

This is another good example of what I’m trying to point to here. People are trying to stop an active genocide and the leaders of Western institutions keep trying to make the conversation about whether or not those efforts are “anti-Semitic,” which none of them seem to be able to define in a way that is distinct from criticism of the Israeli government for war crimes and well-documented atrocities.

[Related: Israel Lobby’s Disastrous Domination]

A few days ago The New York Times ran a front-page article, “After Antisemitic Attacks, Colleges Debate What Kind of Speech Is Out of Bounds,” which opens with a story about a Jewish college freshman having the horrible, horrifying, anti-Semitic experience of seeing a poster on campus which referred to Gaza as a “modern-day concentration camp.”

The Times quotes the student who underwent this unspeakable trauma as saying the mood on campus “is not pro-Palestinian, it’s antisemitic.”

For the record many experts agree that Gaza can rightly be described as a giant concentration camp, not least among them the great Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein. But rather than discuss the abuses which gave rise to this crisis in the first place, outlets like The New York Times are working to make the conversation about anti-Semitism instead.

New reports from Mintpress News and The Intercept reveal that the massive 400 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States that the mass media keep reporting is a statistic from the Anti Defamation League which includes pro-Palestine demonstrations as instances of anti-Semitism — even demonstrations by Jewish organizations.

It turns out if you label all opposition to Israel “anti-Semitism” and then Israel murders thousands of children, you will inevitably see a large spike in “anti-Semitism” as you defined it.

Really this is garden-variety manipulation by the Western empire to shut down opposition to the political status quo.

Any time a large movement emerges in opposition to the agendas of the ruling power you see the information ecosystem flooded with highly amplified concern trolls wagging their fingers at the tone and tactics of the movement to try and kill off the energy and drag the whole thing into inert pedantic quibbling. 

That’s what you’re seeing with all the concern trolling about the popular chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” by the way.

Palestinian rights activists will tell you the phrase means they want all Palestinians to be free from tyranny and abuse, and at most that they support the dismantling of the apartheid regime of Israel, but Israel supporters will look you dead in the eye and insist that the chant is a call for the genocide of Jewish people.

In reality it’s no more a call for genocide than supporting the end of Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa was a call for genocide, but they re-interpret the slogan in the most negative way possible to mean something the people saying it have never intended, and then the powerful institutions of the Western world start treating it like a hate crime.

All of this is just a large-scale version of the manipulation employed by Coons on the train to get Maté to stop talking to him. It’s all designed to divert attention from the actual crime that is happening and get people shaking their fists at the specific methods of the people who oppose that crime.

The whole objective is to grind the conversation down into insignificant quibbling about manners and decorum so people stop drawing attention to the blood-spattered elephant in the room.

And of course another reason the powerful place so much emphasis on politeness and etiquette whenever they are confronted is because they are all acutely aware that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them, and that people can decide at any time to stop playing by the rules and simply tear down the ruling power structures which commit mass atrocities in their name.

As long as everyone’s worried about being perceived as sufficiently well-mannered, the people will never awaken to their true power.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

24 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Policing Opposition to Genocide

  1. anon
    November 17, 2023 at 22:19

    Aaron Mate and Max Blumenthal are amazing journalists. Being Jewish, and subject to vicious attacks to silence them as a result, makes their contribution all the more impressive. Creatures like Coons will eventually be held to account. There are many other similar figures on the right side of history, like Medea Benjamin and Norman Finkelstein, to name but a few.

  2. CaseyG
    November 17, 2023 at 16:21

    I wonder—does anyone know the original land size of Israel before they lost the land eons ago? It was not a big kingdom— But the Palestinians have been there for a very, very long time and it seems-the Palestinians. should have rights to the land first.But, when I read up about what and where Mai Lai was and how the US military just gunned down the people and their children——It seems that nothing trustworthy is found in wars at all.

  3. November 16, 2023 at 23:38

    “[T]hey are all acutely aware that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them, and that people can decide at any time to stop playing by the rules and simply tear down the ruling power structures which commit mass atrocities in their name.

    “As long as everyone’s worried about being perceived as sufficiently well-mannered, the people will never awaken to their true power.”


  4. wildthange
    November 16, 2023 at 20:47

    And it could be that millennia ago a religion was created as a mythology unproven that there was a messiah that terrorized temples and was ratted on to authorities that has also set of a group of people to be used as scapegoats throughout history.
    They eventually replaced the Roman empire with a religious empire dedicated to permanent wars and extreme military technological inventiveness. In it mythological beginning however it may have benefited the occupation of a region that resisted their occupation and was weapon using their messiah against them.
    The permissiveness of monotheism may allow adherents too much latitude in service to it for the good of human civilization to survive its weaponizing ways of soul searching and demonizing and dehumanizing hatreds.

  5. Rob
    November 16, 2023 at 15:59

    Max Blumenthal sometimes refers to his buddy Aaron Mate as the “Buzzsaw.” This video shows why.

  6. Graham Martin
    November 16, 2023 at 15:31

    Semites according to the English dictionary are people who speak a Semitic language which includes the Arabs and the Jews , so isn’t being anti-Palestinian also anti-Semitic ? So weren’t the attacks on Iraq and Syria and Libya also anti-semitic ? Just asking ??

    • Charles E. Carroll
      November 16, 2023 at 16:56

      Technically yes and I have wondered why our highly educated folk can’t understand that.
      “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free

      • firstpersoninfinite
        November 16, 2023 at 23:35

        At least we now know that the phrase, “let freedom ring,” actually means “let money flow into the hands of the few.” English is a difficult language. No wonder people get angry when we question the imbecile nostalgia of their institutionalized lodestones. However, I do not question the aspirations of oppressed people in attaining something worthy of a living reality. When the oppressors’ themselves begin to count themselves as victims, get ready for a magnetic shift in all our realities.

      • Ian Perkins
        November 17, 2023 at 10:05

        Logically yes, technically no. See my comment below, “The English words antisemitism and antisemitic …”

    • Ian Perkins
      November 16, 2023 at 23:37

      The English words antisemitism and antisemitic have always meant hostility/hostile to Jews, however illogical that may be. The German proto-Nazi Wilhelm Marr seems to be responsible, and racists aren’t noted for logic. See dictionaries, eg Merriam Webster online, or ‘Origin and Usage – Etymology’ in the Wikipedia entry for Antisemitism.

    • Anonymous
      November 18, 2023 at 23:28

      Rishi Sunak who calls protests on Armistice Day “provocative and disrespectful” seems unaware in his submission to Israel that being in the King David Hotel may be provocative and disrespectful to him and the British people. Does he not know that on July 22, 1946, 91 people, 25 Britons, 41 Arabs, and 17 Jews were killed by a hidden bomb in a terror attack set by the Irgun organisation lead by future Israeli prime minister and “Nobel Peace Prize winner,” Menachem Begin. Fairly insulting I would say.

  7. Susan
    November 16, 2023 at 15:24

    I’m thinking we should round up all of the “leaders of the western institutions” and throw all of them into Guantanamo. Spice it up with a bit of their own torture then allow them all to rot in the hell they have created…

    • Valerie
      November 17, 2023 at 08:43

      No Susan, Guantanamo would be too good/easy for them. Send them to hard labour in Siberia.

  8. Tedder
    November 16, 2023 at 14:17

    What is odd is that I first heard of the notion expressed by “From the river to the sea…” was from Israeli propaganda. Perhaps I misinterpreted “Between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state, only the state of Israel,” but ‘river to sea’ is better poetry.

  9. Barry Hip
    November 16, 2023 at 13:22

    Country Joe McDonald knew the argument that defeats this technique. It begins with “Gimme a “F”….. Gimme a “U” …. etc … “What’s that Spell?”

    The point is, if you let these fascists set the rules, and then you choose to obey them, you will always get shut down on an issue or ‘decorum’ or ‘language’ or some such irrelevant nonsense. But, if you choose to tell them to take their rules of language and decorum and shove them up their backsides, then you find Freedom … Gimme an “F” …

    • Susan Siens
      November 16, 2023 at 15:45

      You are so right, Barry, and I’ve been policed for decades by so-called leftists. I should point out that they were / are bourgeois leftists and nothing upsets the bourgeoisie like passion and thirst for peace and justice. My joke has been that if Mother Jones returned she would be ignored because she was forceful and loud. I am truly sick of the emphasis on decorum in a world gone mad (Western world wherever it may be found, from Australia to Israel to the U.S.).

  10. Vera Gottlieb
    November 16, 2023 at 10:49

    The ZIONAZIS are not to be disturbed. Hitler = 1 / Zionists = 1

  11. Ian Perkins
    November 16, 2023 at 10:36

    If “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” means the end of the state of Israel, it’s only because the state of Isreal will not allow Palestine to be free. Those who denounce this slogan are admitting as much.

    Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely vigorously defends her slogan “Between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state, only the state of Israel,” which she maintains is entirely innocent, while “Palestine will be free” is blatant genocidal antisemitism. See hxxps:// , especially from 1 minute 30 (the whole video’s only 4 minutes).

    • Tedder
      November 16, 2023 at 14:13

      There is no difference between: “Between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state, only the state of Israel,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” except for the names of the states. Of course, the first is aspirational genocide whereas the second is aspirational freedom.

  12. firstpersoninfinite
    November 16, 2023 at 10:35

    Great article! In just a few paragraphs, the whole psychology of power has been revealed for anyone to see. The elites really do plan to school us on how to react to basic reality – I mean the one that surrounds us at all times and is not a propaganda tool of technology. I’m trying to think of some period in history in which this kind of control was sustainable by a small group wagging their fingers at a larger group. I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t involve God (and inquisitions) or Monarchy (and standing armies beside your home). The elites and the rich and powerful will have to turn to either one or the other to keep us in our places (the iron maiden of fear).

  13. Tony
    November 16, 2023 at 08:29

    I was shocked to discover recently that the Armistice in 1918 did not end the naval blockade of Germany. It lasted for another 8 months until Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919.

    Winston Churchill reportedly told the House of Commons in March 1919:

    “We are holding all our means of coercion in full operation, or in immediate readiness for use. We are enforcing the blockade with vigour. We have strong armies ready to advance at the shortest notice. Germany is very near starvation. The evidence I have received from the officers sent by the War Office all over Germany shows, first of all, the great privations which the German people are suffering, and, secondly, the great danger of a collapse of the entire structure of German social and national life under the pressure of hunger and malnutrition. Now is therefore the moment to settle.”

    • firstpersoninfinite
      November 16, 2023 at 10:26

      Yes, exactly. And if the British Empire had served the defeated Germans scones and tea, would the Third Reich have come about even sooner and with more horror? Obviously not. The suffering of the German people after the war led to the rise of Hitler. The war machine is the only Deus Ex Machina on the international stage at all times.

    • November 16, 2023 at 21:46

      Winston Churchill is often said to be a “great man”, particularly for his role in inspiring the British people during the dark days of 1940 and his leadership throughout the war, as well as trying to warn about the threat posed by Hitler and the danger of appeasing him in 1938.

      So it turns out that Churchill was very culpable for helping to bring about the conditions in Germany which would lead to the rise of somebody like Hitler.

      Winston Churchill was a British imperialist and part of the elite, and was not a truly good person.

      • svay
        November 18, 2023 at 04:45

        Churchill was keen on brutally suppressing any resistance to the British ruling class, as Irish republicans and Welsh miners discovered early on.

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