This is one of those debates that’s almost worthless to have because each side’s view is set in stone and there’s very little in the way of wiggle room in-between: You either think that Code Pink and Medea Benjamin are courageous warriors for social justice and against government-sanctioned yet indisputably illegal violence abroad, or you think they’re a national punchline who are at best well-intentioned but unable to avoid shooting themselves and their cause in the foot or at worst are a patently ridiculous throwback to a time when dipshit hippies ruled the liberal protest landscape. If you willingly position yourself on the far-left, there’s a pretty good chance you’re in the former camp; if you’re anywhere else on the political spectrum, it’s likely the latter.
Several months ago, I wrote a column for this site criticizing Code Pink’s tactics after the group decided to try to shout down incoming CIA chief John Brennan at his confirmation hearings. My point at the time was that a lot of yelling, banging and clanging, puppets, signs adorned with pithy slogans, and general Kabuki theater just wasn’t an effective brand of protest anymore; it may have been in the 60s, but the world has come a long way since then and activism-as-cacophonous-individuality just doesn’t have the kind of impact it used to. In the 60s, when that kind of protest truly reached its zenith as a model, upsetting the “establishment” was actually considered a threat; these days it’s impossible to truly throw a monkey wrench into the order because every kind of rebellion has already been done and is now available in pre-packaged form. Nobody gives a damn about people who make a lot of noise anymore.
But the problem with Code Pink goes well beyond the way they’re presenting their message to the message itself. I’ve said quite a few times that while the debate over the use of drones in prosecuting the so-called “war on terror” is a healthy one and the killing of innocent people — as well as the backlash to it — is something that can’t be easily dismissed by anyone with a conscience, I don’t lose a lot of sleep over the same things the Code Pink people do. I don’t think drones in and of themselves represent an altogether different kind of threat or danger than any other type of weaponry; I accept that there are in fact terrorist operatives out there who are still working toward killing Americans and that they should be taken out one way or another; and I absolutely don’t struggle with whether or not it’s acceptable to rid the world of “American citizens” like, say, Anwar al-Awlaki — there’s just no moral or legal downside to killing someone, anyone, who’s spent a good portion of his life trying to figure out a way to kill you.
A couple of days ago, the questionable message and court jester-style message delivery came together to bring Code Pink perhaps its biggest moment in the spotlight yet. By now you’ve probably seen it for yourself: Code Pink founder and proud fly-in-the-ointment Medea Benjamin heckling the highest-profile target possible: the President of the United States. It happened during Barack Obama’s address on U.S. national security policy, at which he clarified his position on the use of drone technology abroad — which included an admission that it was time to scale back drone warfare — and once again promised to push for the closing of Gitmo. What Obama was saying, though, didn’t matter to Benjamin since she came into the room planning to be heard and nothing he said — no amount of ostensibly giving her what she wanted — was going to stop her from being heard. And so she yelled. As usual. She shouted and ranted about the CIA and Muslim-killing and DRONEZ! and so on and so on.
But the way Obama reacted was probably what was most noteworthy (since God knows Medea Benjamin shrieking her ass off in public wasn’t much of a surprise). Obama let her complain. He not only graciously allowed her to keep going, he then pointedly deferred to her opinion. He said that she deserved to be listened to. In other words, he showed her a lot more respect than she would’ve gotten from a president culled from the current crop of Republicans. And that’s because whether you agree with every one of his policies or not, it’s obvious that Obama spends a lot of time giving deep and difficult consideration to the decisions he makes on national security and foreign policy. He’s not some swaggering asshole eager to throw his dick around because he’s the leader of America. What he is, as I’ve said many times before, is the best the professional left is ever going to get when it comes to liberal policy in this country. He deserves a certain amount of latitude for that and a hell of a lot more respect than he’s typically given by those who demand progressive utopian perfection.
But that’s of course not the way Medea Benjamin and Code Pink see it. They have a message, dammit, and they will not be silenced. Never mind that Obama was essentially there to move toward giving Benjamin what she wanted — a point that I have no doubt he would’ve arrived at on his own, without Code Pink’s ridiculous histrionics — that just wasn’t good enough for a bunch of professional agitators who have to have what they want when they want it (“now!”). Benjamin’s little display was both silly and unnecessary, and, worst of all — with the exception of those who already considered her a brave and beloved figure in the left-wing protest movement — I guarantee it accomplished nothing in terms of winning her the kind of national support that would help her cause. Most people just looked at it and saw it for what it was: another outraged lefty shouting about baby-killing and being disrespectful to the President of the United States. The same kind of thing we’ve been seeing from the far-left for decades.
When all was said and done, aside from generating the kind of publicity that’s throughly counterproductive, Medea Benjamin accomplished nothing the other day. She made Barack Obama appear calm, caring, and decent. And she made herself look like a screeching jackass, neither the messenger nor the message worth giving any consideration to.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.