June 01, 2005
Amnesty International is paying a hard price for its PR cheap shot, and it should. . . . Amnesty’s current leadership inhabits a self-referential echo chamber, and over the next few months will find that there is such a thing as bad publicity, particularly when an organization relies on “moral principles and human rights” An organization with genuine moral principles and genuine respect for human rights must be able to distinguish between scattered crime and focused genocide, between criminal actions at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo (on the one hand) and 9/11, the Taliban, Bali, Saddam, suicide bombers (etc) on the other. Koran flushing? Does anyone remember the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddas of Bubiyan? Does Amnesty? Amnesty has cheapened the language of suffering, and for an organization espousing Amnesty’s principles, this is a grievous error.
Yes, when you go over the top like that, people quit taking you seriously. Read the whole thing, which has a useful quote from just after 9/11.
UPDATE: Reader Wagner James Au emails:
Back when Amnesty International actually used to promote global human rights, they'd lead widescale letter-writing campaigns against rights abusers around the world, in the hopes that the public attention would shame the regimes into reform. By focusing so much ideologically-driven, disproportionate attention on alleged rights violations committed by the US, they are actually providing PR and moral cover to genuine gross violatars around the world. By the simple principle of opportunity cost, any excessive public pressure spent on US behavior is pressure *not* invested on, say, China, North Korea, Burma, Sudan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc.. Who really benefits most from describing Guantanamo as a "gulag"? People genuinely concerned with legitimate complaints against Gitmo-- or regimes which run actual gulags right now, and are more than happy that their behavior doesn't warrant anywhere near the same high moral dudgeon from the most recognized rights group in the world? (Who now have a perfect diversionary alibi, if Amnesty International ever condescends to devote as much attention to them. Tell them about their mass executions, or their forced labor camps, or their collective starvation campaigns, and they'll retort, "At least we don't have a Guantanamo." Thanks, Amnesty!)
The cause of promoting human rights worldwide is being actively impeded by the leadership of the largest human rights group in the world. So how about a letter-writing campaign against Amnesty International itself, in the hopes that that the public attention will shame them into reforming?
UPDATE: An interesting Amnesty International experiment.