Who are the hypocrites?

Story highlights

  • Frida Ghitis: Of those pretending to defend basic rights, it's hard to judge who's the most insincere
  • Why are the dictators, thugs and autocrats suddenly concerned about African-Americans in Baltimore?

Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review and a former CNN producer and correspondent. Follow her @FridaGhitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)The past few weeks have brought a head-spinning display of pronouncements from people claiming to speak on behalf of "freedom." Of those pretending to defend basic rights for everyone, it's hard to judge who's the most egregious and insincere. So here are my nominees for the most hypocritical defenders of human rights of recent days.

The dictators, thugs and autocrats are suddenly concerned about African-Americans in Baltimore.
Frida Ghitis
Did you know that Iran's Supreme Leader is deeply troubled by the plight of African-Americans in Baltimore? Did you know that ISIS shares his concerns? Touching, isn't it?
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei unleashed a barrage of tweets, gleefully rubbing his virtual hands at the anguish in the United States. "Power with cruelty isn't favored by #Islam. #Police should embody justice and mercy by being potent," he tweeted.
    Clearly, the Ayatollah makes a fine distinction between police and other "law and order" groups such as Iran's infamous Basij militias, who help the ayatollahs keep control when people protest about, say, stolen elections. The Ayatollah's worries about abuse of power could be more usefully channeled toward well-documented human rights violations that are endemic in Iran, a place where his power is nearly absolute.
    You know who else is worried about the police killing an innocent man in Baltimore? ISIS. Yes, the self-described Islamic State, which slaughters Christians, Yazidis and any Muslim who disagrees with it, posted pictures of black and white jihadis play-sparring to let us know that "In the Islamic state is no difference between black and white."
    ISIS is known for its brutality.
    North Korea's news agency carefully downplayed the notion of protesting against injustice. But its Baltimore story explained that Americans "are human butchers without equals."
    In Turkey, where the increasingly autocratic government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was internationally criticized for its violent suppression of anti-government protests, an Erdogan loyalist, the mayor of Ankara, put on an undiplomatic show of schadenfreude, calling out the State Department's Marie Harf, "Where are you stupid blonde, who accused Turkish police of using disproportionate force?"
    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
    These statements of purported support for targets of reprehensible police actions in the United States have nothing to do with concern for the victims. The hypocrisy is an effort to score political points and blunt criticism against regimes with continuing human rights violations in countries where abuses have triggered no prosecutions, self-examination or change in behavior.
    The self-proclaimed free speech defenders who actually promote hate.
    When two gunmen opened fire in Garland, Texas, trying to make their way into a hall hosting a cartoon contest about the Prophet Mohammed, there was little doubt what their ideology would turn out to be. The shooters, who were killed, are the ones responsible for the attack. No one should be the target of assassins because of the cartoons they draw or the contests they promote.
    That said, the event organizer, Pamela Geller, and her American Freedom Defense Initiative are a study in hypocrisy. They claim to defend free speech -- a right worth defending -- but instead they foment hatred. Geller holds that all Muslims are potential enemies. Her Stop the Islamization of America group claims that "The U.S. constitution is under attack."
    Her views and tactics have been repudiated by the Anti-Defamation League and even right-wing conservatives are speaking against her.
    When Geller compared herself to civil rights hero Rosa Parks, someone -- was it Fox's Martha McCullum or the Catholic League's Bill Donohue -- suggested Geller should act in a "Christian way," an awkward plea for interfaith tolerance.
    The PEN writers who support free speech -- unless they don't like it.
    When the respected writers' group PEN decided to award its Freedom of Expression Courage honor to the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, it seemed an obvious choice. Charlie Hebdo displayed immeasurable courage when it continued publishing despite an earlier firebombing and threats over cartoons that many Muslims found deeply offensive. The courage was beyond doubt, as was proven in January when Islamic radicals killed a dozen people in the magazine's offices.
    At the time, everyone declared "I am Charlie." But now six prominent writers -- Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey, Rachel Kushner, Taiye Selasi -- have decided Charlie should not be honored. It turns out they believe free speech should be respected only when one approves of its content, which is precisely what those who oppose free speech argue.
    These critics accuse the magazine of having an anti-Islam agenda. But that is patently false. Ten years of covers prove Charlie's agenda is opposing dogmatism. Cringe-worthy cartoons mocking Christian and Jewish dogma are just as common. Islam is a less-frequently mocked religion. The president of the anti-racism group SOS Racisme called Charlie "the greatest anti-racist weekly in the country."
    The writer Salman Rushdie -- whose writings prompted Iran to issue a fatwa, a religious ruling, which called for his killing -- fulminated against the writers who decided to boycott the PEN award event, saying, "I hope nobody ever comes after them." He called them "Six authors in search of a bit of character."
    Amnesty International defends human rights for most people.
    Amnesty International normally acts as a force for good and has arduously defended many against human rights abuses, so it is with no small amount of displeasure that I note its regrettable demonstration of hypocrisy.
    When the organization held its annual meeting last month, members raised motions to sharpen the pursuit of its mission to protect human rights around the world. Every one of the proposals won approval -- except one.
    A motion calling on the group to combat an epidemic of anti-Semitism spiraling in the United Kingdom was the only resolution defeated at the meeting. The proposal would have Amnesty support the recommendations from a British study that found record high and rising levels of anti-Jewish violence. It had nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians, the usual explanation given for dismissing charges of anti-Semitism in Europe.
    Amnesty, which approved motions to defend Colombian trade union members, Guatemalan rule-of-law violations, and other issues, explained, "We can't campaign on everything." With that, Amnesty became a finalist in my hypocrites list.