In his New York Times op-ed last week, Rushdie complained that political courage is “almost always ambiguous,” and that those who stand against abuses of power or dogma are viewed suspiciously. Chinese dissidents are deemed subversive by the state’s Communist leaders and are imprisoned; critics of Putin in Russia like the women’s band “Pussy Riot” are sentenced to prison terms and are viewed as improper by the Russian public; and a Pakistani governor who defends a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy ends up murdered by his own security guards.
His examples are correct, and telling. Rushdie must identify with the plight of a Saudi poet and journalist who, he reports, tweeted something about Muhammad not liked by religious leaders in his country and, as a result, was imprisoned. But then, Rushdie writes the following, and it deserves letting you see his own words, because they are so preposterous:
America isn’t immune from this trend. The young activists of the Occupy movement have been much maligned (though, after their highly effective relief work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, those criticisms have become a little muted). Out-of-step intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and the deceased Edward Said have often been dismissed as crazy extremists, “anti-American,” and in Mr. Said’s case even, absurdly, as apologists for Palestinian “terrorism.” (One may disagree with Mr. Chomsky’s critiques of America but it ought still to be possible to recognize the courage it takes to stand up and bellow them into the face of American power. One may not be pro-Palestinian, but one should be able to see that Mr. Said stood up against Yasser Arafat as eloquently as he criticized the United States.)
Let us take up his two major points. Occupy Wall Street protestors were handled by the authorities with kid gloves. When they took over the park in New York City over a year ago, although it was privately owned, they were allowed to camp out, disrupt and close down local businesses, and engage in anti-social and horrendous behavior — from public defecation to rape of women — without consequences. Rushdie mentioned Occupy for one reason alone: to show his heart is on the Left so that he can get his comrades in that camp to listen to him about how Islamists persecute those they disdain.