Occupy Crackdowns: Naomi Wolf's Response to My Critique Largely Evades the Issue at Hand
It's disappointing that Naomi Wolf's response to my criticism of her November 25 Guardian column – and earlier blog-post -- doesn't address the many misstatements of fact, logical leaps and baseless assertions which I highlighted.
Wolf instead spends much time on a general discussion of heightened federal surveillance and the increased coordination between federal and local law enforcement agencies, which she says I am naïve not to acknowledge, and devotes an enormous amount of space to establishing that federal law enforcement agencies have had some sort of role in at least monitoring the Occupy Movement and offering some guidance to local law enforcement agencies.
She claims repeatedly and falsely that I wrote that DHS had “no involvement whatsoever,” when I acknowledged that DHS had reportedly offered advice to local law enforcement agencies. All of the paragraphs she devotes to discussing the Freedom of Information request filed by the National Lawyers Guild – and the fact that DHS hasn't denied any role – are wasted space. DHS officials have stated that they had some minimal supporting role. That isn't in dispute.
So it appears that Wolf glosses over the debate at hand. The question is not whether federal law enforcement agencies had some role in assisting cities that chose to raid their occupations; the issue in dispute, as I made crystal clear in my critique, is whether any outside agency had “some unseen hand directing, incentivizing or coercing municipalities to [crack down] when they would not otherwise be so inclined.”
The difference is not, as some of Wolf's defenders have suggested, a matter of semantics or a minor distinction. Aside from the fact that federal encroachment into what are strictly matters for local law enforcement is a serious assault on our federal system, whereas advising local officials is not, we have seen brutal instances of police brutality, and some blatant contempt for Americans' Constitutional rights. Contrary to Wolf's claims, there remains no evidence that the fault for these abuses lies anywhere but with city and police officials in New York, Oakland, Denver and elsewhere, but Wolf would deflect our attention from these officials who in fact bear ultimate responsibility for their decisions, onto a non-profit police research organization, the House Homeland Security Committee and DHS. This is an important story to get right.
My criticism rested on Wolf's reckless disregard for the available facts, a tendency towards inaccuracy that she displays in the very second paragraph of her response:
Holland's main premise is that I am part of a "flurry of speculation" that is without basis in fact, and that there was no federal involvement in the crackdown. I cited evidence that DHS was on the 18-member conference call of mayors, which Oakland Mayor Jean Quan alluded to in an interview with the BBC on 15 November, and my source was Wonkette on 15 November. Holland argues that his assertion to contrary has been qualified, and I am happy to adjust the citation accordingly.
Nobody has suggested that DHS took part in the two conference calls organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. It wasn't suggested in the Wonkette post Wolf references as her source (serious journalism that featured a Darth Vader Youtube video), or anywhere else.
Jean Quan alluded to – and others subsequently confirmed – the fact that 18 mayors participated in two calls organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss a variety of issues surrounding the Occupy Movement. These were not calls devoted solely to talking about evictions -- although we can assume that was among the topics covered -- and there has been no indication that DHS participated in those calls by anyone other than Naomi Wolf.