Probably gonna violate that now.
To anyone keeping up with the news, the hits have been coming fast since my last post. Before it, we had:
– union busting in Wisconsin
Since then, there’s:
– the hate demo in Yorba Linda, and the counter demo later
– Locals arrested on March 19th in LA
– Green gains in Germany, due to the Japanese nuke situation
Such a tsunami would be rich ground for ranting if I didn’t mind repeating what others are saying and droning on about one topic for a long time.
But there’s the GUTGWW, which I’m trying not to write about, and the following is related.
When I asked for comments about what makes people decide “It’s time, it’s up to me”, the longest reply, from Anonymous, was more about individual decisions than about mass decisions. Even when we’re trying to analyse people’s motivations, we might need
occasional reminders of the obvious:
A great deal of human behavior, especially in groups, is simple:
Monkey see, monkey do.
This is often pretty easy to set off. It’s why people wait for somebody to applaud, and then the whole crowds starts. It’s why they put laugh tracks on sitcoms. It’s why some audience members are hired to scream, faint, and riot over entertainers of all kinds, including politicians.
It’s also a large part of why several countries in a large region can have major civil disturbances in rapid succession, whether it’s 1848, 1989, or 2011.
This often depends on someone applauding or laughing first. If others follow, it’s called a “leader”. If others don’t follow, or not enough follow to make a difference, and the bold one suffers, it’s called a “martyr”. If one person alone somehow makes a difference, it’s called a “hero”. These roles can overlap, but martyrs don’t usually stay active long enough to do much. Good leaders know how to stay alive and delegate, so they’re unlikely to do much in the way of martyrdom or heroics.
The revolt in Tunisia is attributed to one guy burning himself. That’s a martyr, and apparently, the symbolism was enough to set something off, because people were aware and organized well in advance. That is a rare result.
So let me rant for a while, and categorize some people who try, or don’t, to inspire real change, and might succeed, fail, or succeed at something wholly different from what they
pretend. You know I like to make lists.
Our domestic movements in the U.S. have been woefully short of effective leaders, but we do have martyrs, heroes, and assorted others.
Bradley the Man
One can wonder why Bradley Manning joined the army to begin with, since he opposed the war in Iraq and was gay. One can also observe that he displayed some erratic behavior before the alleged acts that have made him famous. But there are some things of which there is little doubt:
– The act was inspired by his experience of being ordered to
help find dissenters for the Iraq police to illegally arrest and torture.
– He was savvy enough as a hacker to know that his behavior
would be found out, especially the way he communicated about
– No one has yet, publicly, shown any information he leaked that
is actually damaging to U.S. interests.
A little inside perspective here. I once worked with a classified database under contract with the gummint. I can’t tell you what was in it, but I can tell you one thing for sure: 99% of what was in it had no more reason to be classified than the owner’s manual that came with your computer. Someone, 30 or 40 years back, said “classify this, just to be safe” and decades could go by without anyone looking again to see whether there was really a reason to classify it. The great volume of what Manning is alleged to have copied, several CDs worth, says that this is also true of whatever that material was. If it were really sensitive stuff, someone much higher up would be answerable to the fact that he had access to it. What we’ve seen so far is stuff that the public definitely has a right to know.
If Americans were just a little less in awe of our national security state, he would be a hero. As it is, he’s probably doomed.
St. Julian of Assange
Does everybody remember Scott Ritter? Think back to 2002-2003. That guy who had serious credentials for talking about whether Saddam Hussein had WMDs, and was telling anyone who would listen that anything Saddam had left was long past its shelf life. You can tell that he was a serious threat to our rulers at the time because their reaction was to scream: “Pedophile!”. Some flakey charges were publicized alleging that he exchanged inappropriate emails with a cop posing as a 16 year-old girl, and it threw just enough confusion into the mix just long enough that the media wouldn’t touch him.
So, whenever there’s doubt about whether someone is really a threat to the rulers or just a troll, this should settle it: He gets accused of sex crimes. Not the ordinary stuff like adultery, hiring prostitutes, or simple hypocrisy about one’s orientation, but something a bit weird, with a little “monstrous” tinge to it, or some really strained evidence for it.
Enter Julian Assange. He’s not a U.S. citizen, so exposing U.S. secrets is not a crime for him, unless Australia wants to bring up some law about exposing an ally’s secrets.
But who cares? We can always throw a couple of women at him who will make allegations later, and that’s all it takes.
Another bit of official history about the original St. Sebastian, proving that he was a miracle worker:
“And Saint Gregory telleth in the first book of his Dialogues that
a woman of Tuscany which was new wedded was prayed for to
go with other women to the dedication of the church of Sebastian,
and the night tofore she was so moved in her flesh that she might
not abstain from her husband, and on the morn, she having greater
shame of men than of God, went thither, and anon as she was
entered into the oratory where the relics of Saint Sebastian were,
the fiend took her and tormented her before all the people.”
I’m keeping names out of this because I’m not sure whether certain locals signed up to be public figures, but many of you will recognize the person crudely pictured. She is one of several who, more than once, have chosen to be arrested to make a statement. Some small results were produced on at least one occasion. In another political climate, many would follow such an example, and much could be accomplished eventually, after a long process of reaction, repression, and further rebellion. This is what people around the world are much more accustomed to than Americans, making the Captain America frame above a flattering fantasy for us. Very few live up to it.
I’m not sure whether that’s the right phrase for what I’m talking about. It has many meanings. I’m using it here for someone who applies little intellect and little energy to getting something of little value out of people who have little awareness.
The best example I’ve seen in recent times was a “Green Voter Guide” that circulated in the last election. The candidates and ballot measures endorsed therein had nothing to do with any greenness that I understand. The publishers were simply the “Green Voter Guide Committee” or some such. It’s one of the downsides of the First Amendment that, barring any obvious copyright or trademark violations, anyone can pretty well call himself anything, unless someone wants to go to court and prove an intention to defraud. Such things slip under the radar all the time. People make money with these slate mailers, endorsing anyone who contributes enough to the project, and paying the organizer a good salary. The sad thing is that some voters might actually be swayed by them.
Another sort of “activist” that might qualify for this “bottom feeder” category is likely to be quite sincere about what they do, but just lame. A recent email I received actually contained a link labeled:
Sign the petition to end islamophobia and racism.
My head aches as I try to imagine a social context in which that line could be anything but a joke. These must be people who long ago gave up on appealing to anyone but the most naive and insular little community. Participation in their actions has steadily diminished over the years for good reason.
There are two words that are abbreviated “pro”, and the distinction between them is often unimportant. Our political life has many, from the eight-term congresscritter and the career lobbyist, to the covert operative organizing a coup, to the professional “expert” commentator, to the astroturf web designer and the professional protestor. Many are despicable. They are all doing jobs that might also be done by people who believe in what they’re doing.
True believers are usually not well-paid. That’s one way of identifying them.
They also might be less “professional” in what they do. This might be illustrated by contrasting the behavior of two local elected officials featured at the infamous rally in Yorba Linda: Ed Royce and Deborah Pauly.
The producers of the video clearly picked what would look like the worst clips of each speaker (linked to here, in case you missed it: http://ca.cair.com/losangeles/news/oc_hate_rally).
With Deborah Pauly, this wasn’t difficult. The whole text of her speech is available online,
(http://ca.cair.com/images/uploads/Pauly_Speech,_Feb._13_YL_Rally_.pdf) and it is wholly retch-worthy.
A more complete video of the whole rally is here:
The worst they could find to include of Ed Royce, that they would want to include, was some straw man stuff about “multi-culturalism”. His speech is much more sophisticated. He spent some time on sharia law in Pakistan and Nigeria — wholly irrelevant to anything in Yorba Linda, but who in that crowd could care? Then he moved to the same two tired quotes out of context from the objectionable speakers at the ICNA fundraiser. In all, a much easier thing to separate from behavior of protestors that he and Pauly were both helping to incite.
Royce was also very skilled at backing out of the situation after the idiot protestors were broadcast to the world. He’s been in one elected legislative office or another for 29 years,
and has learned a few things. One of them is probably that you don’t have to believe anything you say when you’re pandering to xenophobia. Another is to leave yourself a way out.
Pauly, on the other hand…
When looking for any comments she might have made after the brouhaha, I couldn’t even find a web site for her City Council campaign. (Maybe drowned out by articles on recent events when I Google her). Only a Facebook page. This is not a pro.
Pros are usually trying to act as “leaders” of one sort or another, creating the appearance of many monkeys doing something, but there’s often nothing to lead. That’s how even the most sincere efforts can end up looking like less-competent astroturf. Not long ago, we recycled a box of stickers made ten years ago for one little issue campaign that might have had great potential in the 80’s or 90’s, but the tsunami of 9/11 pushed a multitude of good causes into the backwaters, if they weren’t there already. The most professional of pros cannot control the weather.
Sometimes all you can do about a tsunami is watch.