Part II of an Investigative Report into Tar Sands Action & the Paralysis of a Movement
Published September 19, 2011 by Political Context: http://bit.ly/njUko9
Obedience – A New Requirement for the “Revolution”
We have now reached a new level of subservient conditioning in an action ironically titled Stop the Machine. If the freedom fighters from liberation armies and resistance fronts read “the rules” that the organizers have established in order to “stop the machine,” they would undoubtedly come to the conclusion that Americans are insane.
The rules put forward by the organizers of this action clearly demonstrate how the mainstream liberal movement as a whole is further embracing its false belief that they (the “leaders” of the movement) have the moral superiority and authority to impose their unnegotiable, absolute tactical doctrine on all others, framing anyone who falls out of line with the dogma as provocateurs or “haters” who wish to incite violence. Such free-thinkers will be verbally chastised, stigmatized, then isolated and marginalized to the best of the ability of those wish to cling to denying reality. To date, these simple steps have proved most effective in stifling dialogue and shutting down dissent.
Some of the actions that have been undertaken include: training “peacekeepers,” a request that participants undergo nonviolence training, employing “peace cameras” to video anyone who might initiate violence with a request that participants bring cameras too and work with police to make them aware of threats and to isolate counterprotesters if they should attend.
Other rules include turning your anger at injustice into a positive, non-violent force; no destruction or vandalism of non-sentient objects; no running or other “threatening” motions; no insulting or swearing; protecting those who “oppose or disagree with us” (i.e., police) from insult or attack; no verbal or physical assaults on those who “oppose or disagree with us” (i.e., police) “even if they assault us.”
Participants are to embrace an attitude, as conveyed through their words, symbols and actions, of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all people encountered, including police officers and military personnel. The participants agree to be obedient to the organizers of the action or, if they do not obey, they must withdraw from the action.
It is nothing less than appalling that citizens are essentially being trained to completely submit to the corporate state – even if they are beaten with weapons. The organizers have obviously embraced the Gandhian myth that all neo-pacifists wear something akin to a shield. They will need this shield in order to protect themselves from their own hypocrisy.
Who needs big brother when you have “the movement” itself protecting the corporate state that is hell-bent on eradicating us?
If it were presented as educational outreach to further ideas and crucial analysis/critiques, this campaign would be deserving of much credit (if we removed the “rules”), as it highlights critical issues such as capitalism, corporate-controlled state and other vital truths that bright green NGOs refuse to address. However, as currently presented – an action to “stop the machine” – to even imply that “the machine” could actually be stopped through the outline and extensive “rules of non-engagement” is nothing less than an irresponsible, misleading nightmare that shields the truth rather than exposing it.
Of course, this is often what happens when activists are replaced with global strategists, finance officers, marketing executives and branding agencies. For countries exploding with citizens holding business degrees and MBAs, we could not possibly be more unintelligent and out of touch with reality, even if we tried. How many species on this planet knowingly and deliberately destroy their own habitat, their own future?
The movement with the corporate greens at the forefront refuses to admit – and in many cases refuses to even acknowledge the cold hard fact – that our success in achieving truly substantive change has been essentially zero, completely impotent. And a million “likes” on Facebook won’t make this fact any less so. And as far as preventing our own mass-eradication of unparalleled proportions, the “leaders” of the movement are a trillion miles away in La-La Land and racking up the airmiles. Reality cannot and will not be altered by a belief that the white middleclass can stop the very forces oppressing us with a dazzling dress code and impeccable manners.
Further, a dogmatic refusal to see reality and failure, along with an obdurate insistence on condemnation of those who may choose to take up self-defence (thereby framing anything other than “their way” as unacceptable in the eyes of the public) does nothing but further displace ongoing violence and bone-grinding poverty onto the billions of citizens and species already marginalized and suffering. This is not to say that everyone is expected to participate in self-defence. Rather it is to say that one’s decision must be base upon real facts – not on the doctrinaire delusion that pacifism is a moral virtue.
Militarism and Fossil Fuel Subsidies – A Vicious Cycle of Addiction
Considering that militarism is likely the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, does it not make more sense for a united global campaign to divert trillions in military funds, which destroy life, to peaceful endeavors that sustain life? Funding militarism ensures we are kept dependent upon oil while continuing to inflict massive suffering and civilian casualties as imperialist states expand their occupations in the Middle East and beyond. Occupying countries in order to steal their resources, which are necessary to fuel further occupations which, in turn, require more resources, commits to a vicious cycle that serves the interests of a handful of corporations tied into the Military-Industrial Complex.
If citizens occupied the industries that supply the occupations, if we stopped this madness as a unified front, on top of eradicating energy wastage (56% of all energy is wasted in the U.S. economy alone) through extensive conservation, we would create the swiftest, most massive dent in the climate crisis possible. Further, if we transferred all fossil fuel subsidies to zero-carbon energy, the dent would be astronomical; over half a billion dollars in direct subsidies are handed over each year to the most profitable fossil fuel corporations on the planet. This does not include indirect subsidies (via externalized costs), which equate to approximately three times that of the direct subsidies. Further, a recent study suggests that indirect and direct subsidies for coal alone in the U.S. amount to a half billion dollars per annum. This equates to more than a trillion dollars per year and tens of trillions of tax dollars (in direct and indirect subsidies) over the upcoming decades gifted to the very industry ensuring our demise. Although this is fairly common knowledge with most NGOs (even the World Bank reached this logical conclusion over a decade ago in 1990), none of them campaign on this imperative. It is a sad statement that the World Bank has more effective solutions than the environmental movement who claims to represent civil society.
These strategies would also slow down the destabilization and leaking of methane hydrates – FAR MORE dangerous than the Keystone XL or anything else for that matter. Methane hydrate release is now occurring in Siberia, and in the short-term (5 to 20 years), methane is 72 to 100 times more powerful than CO2. This is the true carbon bomb that no one speaks of. This discussion has been essentially censored from the public.
“My view is that the climate has already crossed at least one tipping point, about 1975-1976, and is now at a runaway state, implying that only emergency measures have a chance of making a difference.… The costs of all of the above would require diversion of the trillions of dollars from global military expenditures to environmental mitigation.” — Andrew Glikson, Earth / Paleoclimate Scientist
We ignore the solutions at our own peril. Of course, no matter what we do, until we begin to dismantle the root causes of climate change – that of the global industrialized capitalist economic system based on consumption and growth – the planet will continue to heat up. Further, until we reach zero emissions (actually negative emissions) there will be NO LOWERING of atmospheric CO2, which is now approaching 400 ppm (parts per million). Not even a return to 390 ppm is possible until we stop burning all fossil fuels. A return to pre-industrial levels will take hundreds if not thousands of years – which again, is only possible if zero emissions are actually achieved. And this is only possible if specific tipping points are not passed. Once enough tipping points have been passed it is essentially GAME OVER. There is no going back. No second chances. This is what mainstream NGOs, even ones claiming they are the leaders in the climate movement based on climate science (350.org/1Sky), do not share with the public. Why? Because it is terrifying. We must fight to achieve the impossible.
“The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means. It is this species of man who so vehemently and militantly participated in that classically idealistic debate at the old League of Nations on the ethical differences between defensive and offensive weapons. Their fears of action drive them to refuge in an ethics so divorced from the politics of life that it can apply only to angels, not men.” — Saul Alinsky
Ideologies Have Never Won Any Revolutions
“The desire for a nonviolent and cooperative world is the healthiest of all psychological manifestations. This is the overarching principle of liberation and revolution. Undoubtedly, it seems the highest order of contradiction that, in order to achieve nonviolence, we must first break with it in overcoming its root causes. Therein lies our only hope.” — Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology
Film director Josh Fox states that “There’s only been one tool that people have turned to in desperate times to change the world: Civil disobedience.” However, the tactics being pushed by McKibben and others bear no resemblance to those used in the past by the oppressed. Ask the people of Bougainville Island how non-violent civil disobedience worked for their communities who were being exploited and sickened by the mining corporation, Rio Tinto Zinc, before, in self-defence, they rose up in arms against the poisoning of their land and people and forcibly closed down the mine – despite a military occupation and blockade.
The Papua New Guinea Army were mobilized in an attempt to strangle the citizens into submission and destroy the rebellion. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army began the fight with bows and arrows, and sticks and stones. Against a heavily armed adversary they still managed to retain control of most of their island. This is not a story of “uncivilized” citizens; this is a story of courageous people who refused to submit to oppression and exploitation – the world’s first eco-revolution. This story and its documentary could be considered – along with stories told through documentary films such as END:CIV and other courageous screenings (think John Pilger) which speak the unpopular truths – the greatest stories ever told; real life stories of a rising up of the people against all odds – by any means necessary. Such are the stories that the plutocracy and the big greens, who are dependent upon them for their very existence, hope citizens never hear about.
Such instances of people reclaiming their power and land are not televised on corporate media, not even in self-proclaimed progressive media outlets (funded by corporations via their foundations, which serve to protect their interests). Ask the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation (Ipperwash); the Mohawk community of Kanesatake (Oka); or the Six Nations of the Grand River (Caledonia). Ask them how passive resistance assisted their ongoing struggle for rights, respect and compliance with treaties and claims, including land claims. It did not. After exhausting all recourse, these First Nations communities embraced self-defense tactics. In the case of Caledonia, the resistance forced Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to implement a policy of “passive containment,” which ostensibly stopped enforcement of the rule of law in that area. (Also see “UNDER SIEGE: How the People of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Asserted Their Rights and Claims and Dealt with the Backlash.”)
“Since the crisis began, Dalton McGuinty’s government has been petrified of taking decisive action, lest the Toronto media compare his actions to those of Mike Harris’ government during the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995. At numerous points during the Caledonia standoff, the OPP has been ordered to sit on their hands despite numerous provocations by native protestors.” — National Post, 16 September 2007
Today, the Canadian federal government, police and security agencies, and the Canadian army are essentially panicked in what they expect will be a unified resistance of First Nations rising up across Canada to reclaim and protect their rightful territories and resources. The strategy to prevent such an uprising from succeeding is continued efforts to further destroy traditional communities: “The First Nations Chiefs and Leaders who become more known and prominent are largely the individuals who have been trained and supported by federal bureaucrats.” (Source: First Nations Under Surveillance Harper Government Prepares for First Nations “Unrest”)
Video: Photomontage – Crise d’oka (Running time: 2:55)
[Watch the full length Canadian National Film Board documentary, Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance: http://www.nfb.ca/film/kanehsatake_270_years_of_resistance. "On a July day in 1990, a confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Quebec, into the international spotlight. Director Alanis Obomsawin spent 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. This powerful documentary takes you right into the action of an age-old Aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades." "The most gripping scene for me was when the Warriors were down and ready to go with the Vandoos; one of the Mothers turned a Warrior right on his heel. You could see his shoulders slump. The love of the women that love us and that we love is a powerful thing." –Arthur James]
Pacifism is a deadly position for those exploited and facing death. In the case of escalating climate change and collapsing ecosystems, those facing death are us and all living species on the planet. Forever.
Therefore, to be clear, when we speak of force, by any means necessary, we are embracing this essential and vital position, in self-defence.
One cannot participate in this system while at the same time morally judging the use of violence – if necessary – as a means to end relentless oppression, and in this case a global genocide / mass eradication of all species on the planet.
The global industrialized capitalist economic system – which most citizens of wealthy nations all happily (to one degree or another) not only condone but also support – is a system built upon and dependent upon unadulterated violence of unparalleled magnitude. Every time one fills their gas tank, they support violence. Every time one flies in an airplane, consumes animal flesh (speciesism), cracks open a can of Coke, purchases garments manufactured in China and other poverty stricken countries by exploited workers, turns on their fossil-fuel-powered heat, purchases the latest war “game” for their nine-year-old or simply pays their taxes – one participates in violence. The list goes on and on. To take the hypocritical position that non-violence is the only acceptable “moral” choice for fighting the system is only possible if one refuses to acknowledge the reality – deep denial in a most dangerous form. And it is of no surprise that such positions are primarily held by the comfortable middle class who are not subjected to severe hardships, gross injustices and bloody warfare.
Pacifism and non-violence are, and will continue to be, critical tactics of resistance. But the rejection of other tactics is detrimental to our survival.
Impartiality is not acceptable either as the question really is one of which side we will ultimately choose to stand on.
Skilled saboteurs are desperately needed. Underground movements and radicals who have the bravery to fight for humanity and for the rest of Nature, by any means necessary, deserve and require our undivided respect, gratitude and public support. Self-defense is not a crime.
During the Civil Rights Movement, organized racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized and murdered thousands of African Americans. In the face of such violence, would anyone judge the brave people who fought back to protect their families from slaughter? In such repressive violence, fighting back to protect those you love from death was, and still is, the only sensible option.
An image from the television series Deacons for Defense, about a small group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana who became a popular symbol of the growing frustration with Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent strategy and a rallying point for a militant working-class movement in the South. Lance Hill, in The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, said of non-violent civil rights organisations, “The hard truth is that these organizations produced few victories in their local projects in the Deep South – if success is measured by the ability to force changes in local government policy and create self-governing and sustainable local organizations that could survive when the national organizations departed … the Deacons and all other blacks who resort to self-defense represent a simple answer to a simple question: what man would not defend his family and home from attack?” – Property is Theft Website
Peaceful protests – as the only tolerated vice – will not end our escalating climate genocide and environmental collapse. We must follow up protests with action that uphold Malcolm X’s phrase ‘by any means necessary’.
In the 29 August 2011 article “¡Will Miller Presente! May Day 1971 D.C. Mobilization: This is What Revolution Will Look Like,” the author states: “The May Day action plan was for affinity groups – tightly knit groups willing to take direct action together and risk arrest – to take over key locations across D.C. and shut them down. In Orin’s case, it was one of D.C.’s circle intersections. In the case of Will, it was the 14th Street Bridge. This collective direct action to shut down the city showed the country’s ‘leaders’ that the anti-war movement was escalating its tactics in response to the growing body counts in Vietnam of both U.S. Soldiers and Vietnamese people.” This represents such actions designed to obstruct the system – not comply with it. Not to be obedient and passive to those oppressing us. It is imperative that escalating tactics be ensued following any action – especially with respect to the fact the Obama Administration announced their decision to proceed with Keystone XL immediately following the first day of the tar sands action. One would hope there are bulldozers secured and waiting.
“The concept of nonviolence is a false ideal. It presupposes the existence of compassion and a sense of justice on the part of one’s adversary. When this adversary has everything to lose and nothing to gain by exercising justice and compassion, his reaction can only be negative.”— George Jackson, Black Panther Party
From the Phil Dickens article “Why Pacifism is Morally Indefensible“:
My argument here is not that nonviolence is ineffective as a tactic. Indeed, it can yield considerable success given the right arena. It is that pacifism, as an absolute, is fundamentally immoral and unjustifiable within the context of the world we live in….
Whatever else one might say about him, Gandhi could not be accused of mincing his words or shying away from the logical conclusion of absolute pacifism. In Non-Violence in Peace and War, Gandhi offered the following advice to the British people: “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions … If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.
This is one of the comments which inspired George Orwell to declare that “pacifism is objectively pro-fascist“: “This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me.’ The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security…. I am not interested in pacifism as a “moral phenomenon.” If Mr. Savage and others imagine that one can somehow “overcome” the German army by lying on one’s back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen. As an ex-Indian civil servant, it always makes me shout with laughter to hear, for instance, Gandhi named as an example of the success of non-violence. As long as twenty years ago it was cynically admitted in Anglo-Indian circles that Gandhi was very useful to the British government. So he will be to the Japanese if they get there. Despotic governments can stand “moral force” till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.” …which brings us to the core point on why absolute pacifism is immoral. Unlike a pragmatic recourse to nonviolent resistance only in situations where it will be effective, it offers no recourse for the defense of innocents from injustice and brutality. And, ultimately, there is nothing heroic, even in principle, in offering yourself to the butcher’s knife.
With the Tar Sands Action campaign, spearheaded by Bill McKibben, we also witness a resurgence of religion. From the article “Religious Witness at Tar Sands Action”: “On Monday, August 29, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Sojourners has organized more than 50 prominent religious leaders from Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, and other faiths to risk arrest at the White House. A Jewish morning prayer service in Lafayette Park will begin at 9 a.m., followed by an interfaith prayer service that will conclude with a blessing for those risking arrest. At 11 a.m. religious leaders will cross to the White House sidewalk.” Bill McKibben said, “It was hard but not impossible – and we woke up Sunday morning singing that old spiritual ‘Certainly Lord.’” Throughout history religion has been used over and over again as a tool – as a means of conditioning, control and obedience to the state. In the meantime the Catholic Church has billions invested in BPI, Philex, San Miguel and other corporations who profit from decimating the planet. Like the Big Greens, the religious organizations are also dependant and feeding upon the very system destroying us.
The Tar Sands Action campaign has no political strategy at all; no plans, no platform. Rockefellers’ McKibben is successfully hindering and delaying the formation of a strong, uncompromising and unified movement. Yet, instead of constructive criticisms and demands coming from citizens and grassroots, even the most intelligent and informed activists are lining up to receive McKibben’s blessing. One would think we’ve witnessed ‘the second coming of Christ’. Hallefuckingluiah and amen. Pass the soma. Perhaps soon we will bear witness to McKibben making an offering or a sacrifice to appease the gods (which will be just as effective).
The Role of Censorship, Which Allows Us to Deny
The role of the elitist Left in furthering and protecting the false illusion and indoctrination of pacifism (as pathology) is clearly demonstrated in headlines such as the Bill McKibben article featured in the Guardian, titled “Martin Luther King’s legacy and the power of nonviolent civil disobedience.” (Here it is critical to note that it was the Birmingham, Alabama civil rights marches, protests and direct actions that degenerated into riots; those riots represent the instrumental element behind what forced law changes at every level of government. As King later said: “The purpose of … direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”) Of course, such fodder by McKibben and others is welcome by all who are secure and comfortable, as a movement based on symbolism will ensure that the violent continuation of full repression, which is felt by others all over the world as a direct result of imperialism, colonialism and our industrialized economic system, will not be felt by our society in the immediate future. (Aside from our growing apathy, denial and sense of superiority.) The mainstream movement has a pivotal role in censoring all but the tactics they embrace, providing justification for us to do essentially nothing – at a time when we must employ all tactics to force the hand of the corporate state. No doubt they are terrified that we may have to fight our oppressors head on – as witnessed by those fighting for their very lives in different countries all over the world. (Whew! Thanks, Bill! Thanks, corporate greens!) Self-proclaimed “progressive” and “alternative” media outlets (such as Grist – whose board McKibben sits on; funded by those dependent upon the industrial machine, including Rockefeller) perpetuate and propel this meme (– nonviolence at all costs), drilling this ideological view into the mindset and conditioning of civil society.
“Ours must be a leadership democracy, administered by the ‘intelligent minority’ who know how to regiment and guide the masses. The common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.… If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.” – Edward Bernays, nephew of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, considered the father of the field of public relations
We are being psychologically conditioned to believe that if only we continue to follow the rules and behave responsibly, we need not act in defence of our collapsing ecosystems and other crises unveiling themselves in unprecedented magnitude. This is only possible by clinging to false illusions, deep denial, and an irrational belief in an economic system that is destroying our planet – upon which we all depend – before our very eyes. We have been given a choice: resist or die. Thus far, we have demonstrated that we would rather cling to our illusions, thereby choosing death.
Is this campaign – funded by the world’s plutocracy – nothing but a means to give the false illusion of democracy while successfully conditioning people to further submit to the state – which would be an extremely valuable asset to the state as our planetary multiple crises deepen and escalate? Psychology and propaganda have always been recognized by leaders and the plutocracy as crucial and imperative means of controlling the masses.
Pacifism as Pathology | Tar Sands Action Déjà vu
“I just came home from Vietnam where I spent twelve months of my life trying to pacify the population. We couldn’t do it; their resistance was amazing. And it was wrong; the process made me sick. So I came home to join the resistance in my own country, and I find you guys have pacified yourselves. That too amazes me; that too makes me sick….” — Vietnam Veteran Against the War, 1970 (quoted in Pacifism as Pathology)
Below is an excerpt from Ward Churchill’s “Pacifism as Pathology,” first published in 1986 (endnotes removed). For anyone interested in mitigating the global collapse of all ecosystems and deterring planet-wide and species-wide genocide, this is essential reading.
For anyone wishing to take a critical look at the tar sands protests by groups funded (and in some cases created) by the Rockefellers and other corporate foundations – who will stop at absolutely nothing to keep the current power structures intact – the excerpt from this essay is sure to wake one from the paralysis that is trapping and constraining movements and societies in the status quo. The parallels between Churchill’s essay and the events in Washington, D.C. that were celebrated and endorsed – while the planet rests on the precipice – are nothing less than Orwellian.
The question central to the emergence and maintenance of nonviolence as the oppositional foundation of American activism has not been a truly pacifist formulation – “How can we forge a revolutionary politics within which we can avoid inflicting violence on others?” On the contrary, a more accurate guiding question has been, “What sort of politics might I engage in which will both allow me to posture as a progressive and allow me to avoid incurring harm to myself?” Hence, the trappings of pacifism have been subverted to establish a sort of “politics of the comfort zone,” not only akin to what Bettelheim termed “the philosophy of business as usual” and devoid of perceived risk to its advocates, but minus any conceivable revolutionary impetus as well. The intended revolutionary content of true pacifist activism – the sort practiced by the Gandhian movement, the Berrigans, and Norman Morrison – is thus isolated and subsumed in the United States, even among the ranks of self-professing participants.
Such a situation must abort whatever limited utility pacifist tactics might have, absent other and concurrent forms of struggle, as a socially transformative method. Yet, the history of the American Left over the past decade shows too clearly that the more diluted the substance embodied in “pacifist practice,” the louder the insistence of its subscribers that nonviolence is the only mode of action “appropriate and acceptable within the context of North America,” and the greater the effort to ostracize, or even stifle divergent types of actions. Such strategic hegemony exerted by proponents of this truncated range of tactical options has done much to foreclose on whatever revolutionary potential may be said to exist in modern America.
Is such an assessment too harsh? One need only attend a mass demonstration (ostensibly directed against the policies of the state) in any U.S. city to discover the answer. One will find hundreds, sometimes thousands, assembled in orderly fashion, listening to selected speakers calling for an end to this or that aspect of lethal state activity, carrying signs “demanding” the same thing, welcoming singers who enunciate lyrically on the worthiness of the demonstrators’ agenda as well as the plight of the various victims they are there to “defend,” and – typically – the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations to the assembled to “keep working” on the matter and to sign a petition and/or write letters to congress people requesting that they alter or abandon offending undertakings.
Throughout the whole charade it will be noticed that the state is represented by a uniformed police presence keeping a discreet distance and not interfering with the activities. And why should they? The organizers of the demonstration will have gone through “proper channels” to obtain permits from the state and instructions as to where they will be allowed to assemble, how long they will be allowed to stay, and – should a march be involved in the demonstration – along which routes they will be allowed to walk. Surrounding the larger mass of demonstrators can be seen others – the elite. Adorned with green (or white, or powder blue) armbands, their function is to ensure that demonstrators remain “responsible,” not deviating from the state-sanctioned, arm-banded plan of protest. Individuals or small groups who attempt to spin off from the main body, entering areas to which the state has denied access (or some other unapproved activity), are headed off by these arm-banded “marshals” who argue – pointing to the nearby police – that “troublemaking” will only “exacerbate an already tense situation” and “provoke violence,” thereby “alienating those we are attempting to reach.” In some ways, the voice of the “good Jews” can be heard to echo plainly over the years.
At this juncture, the confluence of interests between the state and the mass nonviolent movement could not be clearer. The role of the police, whose function is to support state policy by minimizing disruption of its procedures, should be in natural conflict with that of a movement purporting to challenge these same policies and, indeed, to transform the state itself. However, with apparent perverseness, the police find themselves serving as mere backups (or props) to self-policing (now euphemistically termed “peace-keeping” rather than the more accurate “marshaling”) efforts of the alleged opposition’s own membership. Both sides of the “contestation” concur that the smooth functioning of state processes must not be physically disturbed, at least not in any significant way. All of this is within the letter and spirit of co-optive forms of sophisticated self-preservation appearing as an integral aspect of the later phases of bourgeois democracy. It dovetails well with more shopworn methods such as the electoral process and has been used by the state as an innovative means of conducting public opinion polls, which better hide rather than eliminate controversial policies. Even the movement’s own sloganeering tends to bear this out from time to time, as when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) coined the catch-phrase of its alternative to the polling place: “Vote with your feet, vote in the street.”
Of course, any movement seeking to project a credible self-image as something other than just one more variation of accommodation to state power must ultimately establish its “militant” oppositional credentials through the media in a manner more compelling than rhetorical speechifying and the holding of impolite placards (“Fuck the War” was always a good one) at rallies. Here, the time-honored pacifist notion of “civil disobedience” is given a new twist by the adherents of nonviolence in America. Rather than pursuing Gandhi’s (or, to a much lesser extent, King’s) method of using passive bodies to literally clog the functioning of the state apparatus – regardless of the cost to those doing the clogging – the American nonviolent movement has increasingly opted for “symbolic actions.”
The centerpiece of such activity usually involves an arrest, either of a token figurehead of the movement (or a small, selected group of them) or a mass arrest of some sort. In the latter event, “arrest training” is generally provided – and lately has become “required” by movement organizers – by the same marshals who will later ensure that crowd control police units will be left with little or nothing to do. This is to ensure that “no one gets hurt” in the process of being arrested, and that the police are not inconvenienced by disorganized arrest procedures.
The event which activates the arrests is typically preplanned, well publicized in advance, and, more often than not, literally coordinated with the police – often including estimates by organizers concerning how many arrestees will likely be involved. Generally speaking, such “extreme statements” will be scheduled to coincide with larger-scale peaceful demonstrations so that a considerable audience of “committed” bystanders (and, hopefully, NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN) will be on hand to applaud the bravery and sacrifice of those arrested; most of the bystanders will, of course, have considered reasons why they themselves are unprepared to “go so far” as to be arrested. The specific sort of action designed to precipitate the arrests themselves usually involves one of the following: (a) sitting down in a restricted area and refusing to leave when ordered; (b) stepping across an imaginary line drawn on the ground by a police representative; (c) refusing to disperse at the appointed time; or (d) chaining or padlocking the doors to a public building. When things really get heavy, those seeking to be arrested may pour blood (real or ersatz) on something of “symbolic value.”
As a rule, those arrested are cooperative in the extreme, meekly allowing police to lead them to waiting vans or buses for transportation to whatever station house or temporary facility has been designated as the processing point. In especially “militant” actions, arrestees go limp, undoubtedly severely taxing the state’s repressive resources by forcing the police to carry them bodily to the vans or buses (monitored all the while by volunteer attorneys who are there to ensure that such “police brutality” as pushing, shoving, or dropping an arrestee does not occur). In either event, the arrestees sit quietly in their assigned vehicles – or sing “We Shall Overcome” and other favorites – as they are driven away for booking. The typical charges levied will be trespassing, creating a public disturbance, or being a public nuisance.
Documentary: PsyWar – Wake UP!
Chart below +++ Telling. TransCanada (and incidentally Enbridge as well) has managed solid gains in their stock prices despite the latest market volatility. July 14, 2011, Bloomberg News: “TransCanada Corp., Enbridge Inc. and the four other Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index companies that store and transport oil and gas are offering average dividend yields of 4.05%. That’s 1.48% percentage points above the full index’s rate and 1.16 points more than the payout on Canadian 10-year government bonds. The industry’s valuation has jumped to 21 times earnings and reached 22 in May, the highest since 2006.”