Confusing All Around: The Air and Space Museum Bumrush

Yesterday I read with excitement that otherwise docile protests in Washington, DC — the merging of the pre-planned October2011 rally with the spontaneous “Occupy” movement — rushed the Air and Space Museum and got it shut down. Guards shot pepper spray at the crowd, affecting several. The Museum, at the Smithsonian on the Mall in the capital, was featuring an exhibit about drones.

Today it turns out the most active participant in this rush was one Patrick Howley — a writer at the American Spectator. And he openly admits in his column that he ended up as an agent provocateur after first only planning to infiltrate and write a hit piece on the “socialist” movement and its apparent “indoctrination” techniques. But aside from this, the story is pathetic all around.

Howley reports the protesters, ever-bolder as they marched to the museum for a planned action, slowed down as they approached the building’s steps. Only about half rushed up them and tried to enter the building; only Howley and another protester actually got in the doors past the guards. In the ensuing moments, Howley and the protester were pushed and then pepper sprayed, and apparently the spray reached several others. Howley then ran through the museum thinking he had opened the way for the other protesters to streak through and hang banners and whatever other actions they planned. He turned around, squinting through his mace-swollen eyes to realize nobody had followed him.

Creepily, Howley is proud of the guard who sprayed him — he and the other guards “acted with more courage than I saw from any of the protesters.”

Now, the lefty blogosphere is outraged. This isn’t journalism! they shriek. Well, yes and no. It’s legitimate to infiltrate a movement in order to report; that’s classic stuff. But the result by Howley is less journalism than goofy slander — the piece he intended to write would have been rather weak without his little adventure.

But what’s puzzling is that Charlie Grapski of FireDogLake seems to have been snookered into kneejerk opposition to Howley’s actions, not just their intent. Sure, Howley did something he himself thought was terrible and would set-up and implicate the antiwar protesters as disruptive hoodlums. So… Grapski — and hundreds of commenters — agree with Howley? Yes, apparently.

“In light of his detailed description of his activities today the fact that they clearly document the commission of the crime of trespassing on federal property, if not the intent to incite a riot there, these admissions should not be taken lightly or ignored. … the presence and admitted activities of this self-proclaimed agent provacateur should be brought to the attention of federal law enforcement officials. … Who was really to blame for the chaos and disruption of a Federal Museum?

Blame? Surely, Grapski means who was the unintended hero in the righteous disruption of a museum that engages in imperial propaganda, when all others stood back and cowered? We’re supposed to be in solidarity with the masses of Tahrir, no? Well they burned down the party headquarters, buddy. If protesters had smashed up a few papier mâché drones in a museum wouldn’t exactly make Gandhi cry.

It’s time to embrace these nonviolent tactics that may happen to break the rules. It’s time to take some clues from the Occupy Boston participants who told the cops “No.” Let them eat their free-speech zones. They certainly have the seasonings handy.

Why is FireDogLake opposing this “crime of trespassing on federal property” — at all? This is the ONE truly heroic hardcore direct action against authority and the glorification of violence that we’ve seen! Smashing up a publicly owned shrine to remote death from the air — hurting nobody — is nonviolent. A sit-in — oooh, trespassing! — is also nonviolent and absolutely just. Who owns that museum? What crimes is that museum complicit in pimping to American children as legitimate?

Shutting it down was right. And sadly, it took some provocateur asshole to show us how it’s done.