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Medea Benjamin Protests John Brennan

In this brief video tape (made by an accomplice of the protestor?) Medea Benjamin disrupts a speech by John Brennan, the CIA director at that time, at the Wilson Center in Washington DC.  Medea Benjamin founded Code Pink, a feminist antiwar group whose name satirizes the color-coded terror alert system introduced by the Bush Administration.  Benjamin also wrote one of the first books about drones.  It’s one-sided, but full of useful information.

As part of my fieldwork I’ve been to many events at the Wilson Center, wearing a suit to blend in, and can easily imagine myself there.  I find the clip mesmerizing.  Jane Harman (the former Congresswoman who tries to restore order) reacts as if Benjamin could be persuaded to ask a polite question at the end of the talk, trying to recuperate this to normal speech. Benjamin has artfully positioned herself in the very middle of the audience so that it will be difficult to drag her out and she can give as much of her researched speech as possible.  While being dragged away she retains a remarkable composure to project her message and she goes rigid so that it’s hard to get her out through the door.  This takes extraordinary physical discipline (and was probably rehearsed many times before the action). 

Then there is the audience.  It takes a certain kind of discipline on their part to remain still, stony-faced.

Remarkably, Benjamin did the same again at a Congressional hearing and at a speech by Barack Obama.  Haven’t the authorities learned to recognize her?!

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Participant: Hugh GUSTERSON
Anthropology and International Affairs | George Washington University
Symposium Co-Organizer