Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, for short) stepped a little too far outside the mainstream when she clicked ‘like’ on a tweet by journalist Rania Khalek about US fears of Iranian retaliation over the killing of General Qassem Soleimani. An army of blue-checks and their enforcers quickly encircled her to point out the error of her ways, gloating when she finally knuckled under and apologized.
AOC was one of the few Democratic politicians credibly horrified by President Donald Trump’s unprovoked attack, and to her credit she immediately took to Twitter to denounce it, calling out an “act of war against Iran” that “risks the lives of millions of innocent people.”
Khalek’s tweet was largely in the same vein, making the point that “this assassination did the opposite of making Americans safer and our leaders know it.”
But it wasn’t the content of the tweet that infuriated these social media hall monitors, who have been gently prodding AOC toward an anodyne centrism since she arrived in Washington; it was the account doing the tweeting. Khalek is an outspoken opponent of US foreign policy, particularly the draconian sanctions and endless regime-change wars that have all but destroyed large swathes of the Middle East over the past two decades. She has made a lot of enemies in standing up for the US’s bogeymen, and they came out in force to concern-troll AOC.
“I’m a big fan, but did you know you’ve committed a thoughtcrime?” seemed to be the general message.
Some, like ‘professional troll’ Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, who has made no secret of her loathing for Iran’s current government, deleted their tweets after AOC was badgered into un-liking Khalek’s message and – supposedly – apologizing via Direct Message for her ‘crime’.
But merely apologizing and unliking the tweet wasn’t enough for some – one regime change fan actually called for a memo to be circulated in Congress to warn “progressive members” about Khalek and fellow anti-war journalists Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton. Clearly, a preemptive strike against wrongthink was needed.
It’s hardly the first time AOC has made a bold statement and then ran in the other direction – she was shamed away from speaking out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine before she was even officially elected to Congress, and more recently she was the subject of a Twitter pile-on when she attempted to speak up for UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Nor is it the first time a ’progressive’ US politician has had their knuckles rapped for veering too far outside the accepted mainstream. Even Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, one of the loudest voices in Washington speaking out against the US’s regime change wars, has been forced to adopt the establishment line about Syrian President Bashar Assad, with whom she met in 2017 in the service of finding a peaceful solution to the decade-long war the US has waged in his country. Following an avalanche of media criticism that is still ongoing nearly three years later, Gabbard has called Assad an evil dictator.
Unfortunately, there are no progressive role models in Congress for AOC (or Gabbard, for that matter) to look up to as an example of how to stick to one’s principles and stand against war. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, while a steadfast supporter of the rights of the working class, has largely toed the line on foreign policy throughout his career, lining up with the rest of Congress to demand Assad, Venezuela’s Maduro – or whoever the bogeyman of the moment is – must go. Even the standard-bearers of the rabidly anti-Trump Democratic Party limited their criticism of the Soleimani strike to the president’s failure to gain approval from Congress first. AOC may have to choose between being on the right side of history and being embraced by her party – and its Twitter enforcers.
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