Christine Ahn is feeling picked on, reports the Oakland East Bay Express, an alt-lefty rag with a room-temperature circulation. Writer Kathleen Wentz informs us that Ms. Ahn guards the privacy of her views jealously when she’s not on CNN, a book tour, the lecture circuit, or hectoring congressional staffers:
As a longtime peace activist and progressive, Christine Ahn was used to being on the ideological fringe. But even she wasn’t prepared to be red-baited and called a supporter of dictatorship.
It started in 2004. Ahn, then an activist working for Food First, an Oakland nonprofit that looks at the root causes of hunger around the world, was invited to give a speech about North Korea at the Human Rights Commission in South Korea. In her talk, she criticized the American passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, arguing that increased sanctions against the communist country were choking its people and exacerbating their human-rights crisis. Ahn advocated peace and engagement. She also pointed out US hypocrisy. “I said some provocative things,” she recalled, calling out American human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, racial biases of the US criminal justice system, and the persistent hunger and poverty of a meaningful segment of the American population.
That is, Ahn did what she always did when the subject of Kim Jong Il’s crimes against humanity comes up: she deflected. And when the audience ate it up, Ahn and Wentz pronounced the speech good.
The crowd’s response was overwhelming. “My perspective was obviously very fringe and a bit left, but the Korean people loved it,” Ahn said, recalling her surprise. “I was, like, paparazzi’d. …. But it was just like people opened their eyes for a moment here. Okay, let’s just stop for a moment here, all this propaganda about North Korea, and just like think about it here in a more pragmatic way. And, obviously, it had resonance.”
But there were heretics lurking in the temple:
But one month later, she received an e-mail that tempered her excitement. It was a message from a friend, pointing her to a blog called One Free Korea. A post entitled “The Alternative Reality of Christine Ahn” criticized her viewpoint, labeled her a “North Korean apologist,” and detailed facts about her life and her beliefs. Ahn was creeped out. “I mean it was so freaky to have this ten-page article about me,” she said. It was authored by Joshua Stanton, a lawyer with the Department of Homeland Security who currently serves as the department’s deputy chief for tort litigation. In a recent interview via e-mail, Stanton said he blogs as a private citizen, but added, “I think Ms. Ahn is a reprehensible apologist for mass murder, and for the deliberate, discriminatory mass starvation of men, women, and children.”
The incident horrified her. “It freaked me out so much that I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think I’ll continue doing this peace work,'” said Ahn, who lives in Oakland and is now a fellow at the Korea Policy Institute.
It pains me to wonder how Ms. Ahn manages to drag herself to the privacy of a television studio five years after the infliction of the grievous trauma called “criticism from a low-traffic blogger.” Wentz, having failed to inform her readers of the full extent to which Ahn has made a globally conspicuous imbicile of herself, leaves the impression that I got the goods on Ahn’s “fringe” views — her word — from the false compartment in the bottom of her underwear drawer, or by using my super-secret Homeland Security data-mining powers (psst!). For the record, that inference, which commenter “Fred Yong” drew as intended, is libel.
Incidentally, we’ve learned a new definition for “red-baiting:” quoting the public statements of a person as she advocates replacing the private marketplace in food with collectives that grow approved foodstuffs in strict accordance with the on-the-spot guidance of block committee leaders:
They point out that the definition of hunger overlooks the huge number of Americans who eat a diet of fast food and heavily refined snacks lacking in nutrients, since that is usually cheapest and easiest to access in poor neighborhoods where corner stores have largely replaced groceries. The common perspective on hunger also overlooks the larger issue of people’s disenfranchisement from food production and lack of control over their own food supply and health.
With these factors in mind, a recent report from the group Food First, called “Beyond the Food Bank,” criticizes problems in the traditional food distribution model and calls instead for support of alternative, empowering food production projects like community gardens and urban household gardens, buying collectives and cooperative organic farms.
“We need to revisit what kind of society we want to have,” said Christine Ahn, one of the study’s authors and a staffer at the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland. “We need to look at why these social programs [like food banks] were put in place in the first place, and how can we fund more alternative projects.
I can hardly wait to hear what those could be.
Growing Power derives funds from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. In a CSA program, subscribers — sometimes known as shareholders — pay a set amount in order to receive regular food baskets of current produce. Often CSAs, which exist all over the country, include more affluent members who help subsidize lower-income members.
Hey, it worked in North Korea, didn’t it?
Another organization, Victory Gardens, based in urban New Jersey and Athens, Maine takes the concept to a wholly different level, not only introducing organic farming to low-income city dwellers but also using the operation as a vehicle for political awareness and activism. The project was founded by incarcerated Afrikan Liberation activist Herman Bell and environmentalists Carol Dove and Michael Vernon, based on the Black Panther Party’s survival programs and Malcolm X’s belief that all revolutionary struggles are centered around land.
Really? Would there be criticism sessions, too? Why, what a vivid portrait she paints of a world in which I would secretly beseech a forbidden god each day for the sweet release of death.
Just let me know if you think I’ve been unfair in my deployment of Ms. Ahn’s own words here. A point of order: I have called Ahn “far left,” but not a communist. Elsewhere, I’ve given credence to Brian Myers’s view that North Korea is as fascist as it is communist. Not only do I stand by my characterization of Ahn as “a reprehensible apologist for mass murder, and for the deliberate, discriminatory mass starvation of men, women, and children,” I’m delighted to have driven her to paroxysms of whining. For my next acts, I’ll try for introspection, shame, and repentance.
Returning to Wentz’s “piece,” we learned that the more Ahn said, the more people seemed to recoil in disgust and horror:
Meanwhile, her list of critics grew. The following year, Ahn said one of her colleagues in South Korea received a call from the US embassy demanding to know “Who the hell invited Christine Ahn to speak at the panel?” She’s now listed on DiscoverTheNetworks.org, a web site by conservative author David Horowitz that she describes as an “online database of all these cells, like terror cells of academics, think-tanks, foundations, Hollywood stars.” She’s described as a “Supporter of the Communist dictatorship of North Korea.”
For the record, I’ve never met David Horowitz or had either direct or indirect contact with him or his organization, suggesting an alternative theory: other people have independently arrived at the conclusion that Christine Ahn is a tool.
Anyway, since the censors apparently denied Wentz permission to link my original criticism for her readers to judge, I will oblige. I wrote it years ago, and it took a good chewing from the html furies when I migrated to WordPress. No doubt plenty of the links have gone dead (I sent Wentz a link to a more recent fisking, but we’ll get to that).
In the end, Ahn and her mouthpiece, Wentz, still can’t debate how this regime treats its people without the deliberate ignorance of damning facts … and it’s hard to write something that pointlessly long-winded while still ignoring them. They can quibble about how many people live in these huts or behind these walls, but they can’t deny what the images show, and they can’t claim any greater knowledge than the witnesses do. Don’t they believe the questions are worth asking, especially of Kim Jong Il? For all their righteous anger about a couple hundred overweight terrorists at Gitmo, have they no concern left for the children of Camp 22? Do they dispute that, even without Kim Jong Il’s permission to take a census, the number of huts there must have a capacity of thousands? How do they deny this while going to such lengths to evade the truth? In the end, their only defense for Kim Jong Il is to hide behind his secrecy.
Considered this way, the article’s first lie is its title.
If a reporter ever contacts you, by the way, you can tell you’re dealing with a hack when the reporter is interested only in details about your private life and completely uninterested in the substance of your criticism. I cheerfully offered to expand on these and even sent Wentz a link to this more recent criticism of Ms. Ahn. That, too, is a side of the story that didn’t clear the Oakland East Bay Editorial Board. Wentz never took me up on the offer, and judging from her article, she never showed any interest in getting anyone’s side of the story but Christine Ahn’s. When Wentz asked me about my day job, I declined to comment. What does that have to do with the price of corn in Chongjin? I do my blogging as a private citizen on my time and on my computer, exercising rights that are protected under the First Amendment. Not that there’s any overlap between my work and what I write here, but if there was, you wouldn’t read about it here. All of this, mind you, is in the context of my criticism of Ahn’s public statements which are publicly available on the Internet.
Just so that you can count all the levels of irony there. Another point of order: I’ve never discussed or made an issue about Christine Ahn’s private life, because I don’t care and neither do you. But then, let’s not confuse the ownership of a printing press and an editorial board for the possession of editorial standards.
In any event, my blog isn’t a secret from anyone where I work. Some of them might even have seen my name in papers that people actually read.
Anyway, feel free to go to their comments section. Just try to show a litle more class than Wentz did.