Sunday, February 20, 2011

Solidarity with Wisconsin - How to Handle Outside Agitators


I find it amazing that, at the same time the Middle East is waking up to the power of the streets, America is rediscovering that power as well.

I also find it amazing that, even in crowds of up to 100K, the protests in Mad-Town (Madison, to you) are primarily peaceful, well-behaved, and good-humored. The photo at the start of this article is par for the course of what's been happening there, and continuing to gain strength as days go by.

Of course, that has not stopped the Governor from wanting to call in the National Guard. It's on the principle of "Where there's smoke, there's fire, and where there's no smoke, we'll make some."

As I write this, I have little doubt that certain interests are already at work to try and turn these peaceful protests into raging riots. The lies are already on the move in the media, so now they want to turn the lies into facts, even if they have to make them up themselves.

In the hopes that cooler heads will not only prevail, but also win the battle of perception, I write the following warnings regarding outside agitators to those responsible and peaceful protesters who are there, and perhaps other state capitols as well. I hope that they will not be necessary, but given our country's history (union busting, cointelpro, astroturfing, false flag ops, etc) it would not surprise me if they were.

In this situation, you will most likely be dealing with three kinds of outside agitators: Counter-protesters for hire, Firestarters, and Slick Talkers.

Counter protesters for hire:

This is the classic "astroturf" thing, only upped a notch. Astroturfing is when an organized group opposing something gets a group of people together, and buses them in to counter protest whatever you're standing for, when claims it was all "organic" -- just the silent majority no longer being silent.

For something like this, they will most likely get some very nasty, rude, and mean counter protesters who seem to be spoiling for a fight. They will do everything possible to get one: name calling, threats, in-your-face tactics, sign battles, possibly even employing mace or other self-defense products to knock you down and then watch as chaos ensues.

The best way to handle these people is to IGNORE THEM. Do not let them bait you. Do not get into shouting matches. Stay clear of them as much as possible -- a wide circle is the best technique -- and do not let them herd you or back you into a corner. If they are genuinely there just to counter protest, then let them rage. If they're employed to make you angry, don't give them the satisfaction.

After all, who really has the numbers?


More insidious than counter-protesters for hire are those who are made to look like protesters, but are actually there on behalf of the counter-protesters. They will probably look just like you, only a little more extreme. They want the cameras to see THEM. They want to be the focus of attention.

And they will use that attention to make you look bad. They will shout nasty slogans, make death threats against elected officials, encourage people to destroy public and private property, try to whip people up into angry mobs, and create an atmosphere in which the police think there is a threat to which they must respond.

The best way to handle these people is generally to IGNORE THEM and SHUN THEM. Do not listen to them. Do not be anywhere near them. More daring and responsible types should stand near and quietly and subtly warn people away from them. Take their picture, too -- LOTS of pictures.

If they don't get the hint and move on, you might want to find a police officer and inform them that some crazy dude in what appears to be a bad wig has just spent the last half an hour encouraging people to throw rocks at the window of a nearby Starbucks, or set a police car on fire. It's always fun to watch some angry, slogan-spouting "protester" change into a law abiding citizen in a costume when asked for ID.

And if he leaves on his own two feet, and not cuffed in the back of a police car (oh happy day) some daring soul should follow at a distance, taking pictures, and see where he goes next and who he talks to. At the very least you could warn others off. At best, you might catch him conferring with other, hopefully even less successful firestarters.

Smooth Talkers:

Even more insidious than the crazy asshole who wants you to break shit for the people is the reasonable-sounding, normal-looking person who wants to talk you into something that sounds harmless, but is actually really bad. Simply put - they are there to try and get the sheep to walk across the minefield so they can have rare mutton for dinner.

Case in point: say he's organizing a march. No harm in marching, right? Get people together, march march march. Friendly slogans, good humor, singing and laughing. All is well.

Then you go a little faster. Just a little louder. Then a little faster. Then you're turning a corner. Then another.

Then before you know it you've walked right into a police cordon, and trying to stop the fast-walking march is not going to be possible. The police turn around and see a flailing, stomping mass of people heading RIGHT FOR THEM.

Where's the smooth talker now? He dropped out two corners ago, leaving some sucker in charge. Ooops.

How do you tell a legitimate protest leader from a smooth talker? Unless you got mind powers, or are a real good judge of character, you probably can't. So the best way to avoid this is to AVOID SPONTANEOUS DEMONSTRATIONS AND ACTIONS. If you came by yourself, don't get talked into anything. If you came with a group, just do what you planned.

If you see someone starting something, take lots of pictures of its start and see if you can focus on the persons leading it. It could be important later, or it could be history in the making. Either way, you got the evidence.


Now, does all that sound worrisome and paranoid? Don't worry, and do not be afraid. This is your country, this is your state, and no amount of imported anger should stop you from making your voice heard, and your body counted.

And always remember - no matter what you see, what happens, or who you run into, the best weapons are in your heads and your hands.

In your heads, you have common sense and intuition. Use them both. If something smells fishy, don't go along with it. If someone sounds weird, or way too wound up, stay the hell away from them. Try to dissuade others from following violent people or doing violent and destructive things.

Know when to walk away slowly and when to walk away quickly. Do not run - that will just cause a panic. Know when to argue and when to back away. Do not get into a fight - that gives them an opening to escalate.

Do not automatically fear or distrust the police. It is their job to ensure that peace and safety prevail, and they are sworn to uphold the law -- which includes stopping outside agitators from whipping up a riot. If they appear to be acting contrary to those goals, then it's time to use your hands...

In your hand, you have a cell phone, an i-phone, or at least a digital camera. Have them on you. Take lots of pictures. Take movies if you can. You'll want to have them anyway, to say you were there, but, more importantly, those pictures will be useful later when trying to figure out who did what. (Or, in the case of lazy or bent police, who DIDN'T do what.)

If you see someone doing something strange, or behaving in an off manner, take their picture. This way it is documented evidence that could be admitted in court, sent to receptive news media, or at least put up online to help expose and shame the guilty. It may also make less professional agitators unwilling to carry through their assigned tasks and run back to the van for a bug-out - a win by any standard.

Be positive. Be vigilant. Behave. This is your time to show the "news," the media, and the world what Americans do when something stinky backs up out of the sewers and claims to speak for working people while simultaneously drowning their rights and livelihoods in filth.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Lie of the Birthers

Friday the 13th, Birthers in Action

"When a man lies he murders some part of the world" – Merlin, Excalibur

Birtherism – being the serious doubt that President Obama is a Natural Born Citizen – is not the only political movement based on a lie. It is, however, like its estranged cousin 9/11 Truth, one of the most infamous current ones.

It is also one that we have the “pleasure” of seeing active within our time. We can watch it grow, develop, and mutate before our eyes like some demented lab experiment.

But can we not merely observe in horror, but destroy it utterly with the reality of its untruthful origins, like sunlight dispatching Nosferatu?

Sadly, no. Much like The Monster That Would Not Die, from some grade-D late-night horror movie on television (or maybe Jason from the Friday the 13th sequels) Birtherism stumbles forth, seemingly invincible to all attempts to lay it to rest.

This may say something about the power of human credulity. It may also indicate how pathological Birthers (like their cousins in the 9/11 Truth movement) truly are.

A recent poll proves that 51% of Republicans believe that the President was not born in the United States. 21% of them are not sure. Only 28% correctly believe he was brought into this world on American soil.

This is up from a previous effort by the same pollsters, in 2009, which had the nay-sayers at only 44%. It is prima facie evidence that lies, when seriously unchallenged, become stronger.

There is also proof that, left unchecked, lies also gain weight and geometry, sometimes spawning other lies in their wake.

Case in point: first the President isn’t a natural born citizen, because he cannot provide a “long form birth certificate,” merely an “inferior” Certification of Live Birth. Then he’s spending a million dollars to keep people from getting hold of his “long form birth certificate.” Then it’s two million dollars.

The truth? The million dollar claim is as false as his not being an NBC, and the COLB being inferior. But because people refused to recognize the truth about the first lie, the second lie was formed from it, and then allowed to grow like sugar crystals around a string.

Only this rock candy kills brain cells.

Another example, stemming out from the argument about the Birth Certificate: it doesn’t matter if the COLB is legitimate or not, because Barack Hussein Obama (1) lost his citizenship when he was in Indonesia (2) is a dual citizen by way of his father’s nationality, and therefore ineligible (3) was born to one citizen parent, and not two, thus making his ineligible according to Vattel.

The truth? He couldn’t have, that doesn’t matter, and that’s right but wrong and irrelevant. But these separate lies have sprouted up in order to provide more cover for the big, initial lie, itself.

Like a child caught in a bad lie who has to keep making up (or believing) new lies to cover the first one, Birthers are tied up in a self-made labyrinth of untruth. If they’d only admit, once and for all, that maybe they were mistaken (or, yes, lying) about the first, primal lie in the chain, the key would appear and they could exit this nightmare.

But that’s too easy, and no one likes to admit defeat. To some, defeat seems like death, and we fight it with every fiber of our being – even when the victor clearly deserves to win, or we’re clearly not correct in our views.

Movie monsters that cannot be defeated are fun. Their rampages harm no one in reality. We experience vicarious thrills and then be about our way, bellies stuffed full of overpriced popcorn and soda, dreaming of the next brilliant and bloody sequel.

Lies that cannot be defeated are no fun. The rampages of their proponents make our country look ill-advised, uneducated, and shockingly stupid. We shudder in fear at the fact that just above half of the voting bloc of the Republican Party is too stupid to tell fact from fantasy, or too stubborn to admit they were wrong, and will be voting accordingly.

Jason, Michael, and Freddy never caused any real harm. Birtherism has made mockeries of people’s lives and livelihoods. It has turned an immigrant dentist turned lawyer into an international laughing stock. It has made a somewhat-obsessed far-shot Presidential candidate become a somewhat-unhinged no-shot testimonial to the destructive power of self-delusion.

It has taken the otherwise-exemplary career of a Lieutenant Colonel and turned it into a sad reminder that if you stand for anything, you’ll fall for nothing, and suddenly your “friends” will be far, far away.

It has enriched hack journalists, questionable web sites, and supermarket tabloids. It has provided fodder for late night humor, and a barometer for just how gullible someone actually is. It’s given me something new and interesting to rant about.

But it remains, at its core, a lie. And very little good ever came out of lying.

That said, there is a certain warmth and security in a lie. The truth is sometimes cold and unforgiving, and the little lies we tell help save us from its uncomfortable, sharp edges.

And big lies? They save us from having to make decisions. They animate us in anger, or lead us to acquiescence. They color our perceptions of the world and make certain positions and policies easier to swallow.

They also make it a lot easier to hate, as certain proponents of another big lie discovered to their unbridled – if genocidal – delight.

And that’s basically what Birtherism is: a permission slip for hate.

Birtherism says it’s okay to hate this black man with big ears that’s become the President of the United States of America. It’s not okay to hate him because he’s black, or because he has a funny-sounding last name, or because his father was a Muslim (however estranged from the religion), and he lived in a Muslim country.

It is, however, okay to hate him because he’s ineligible to be President. He’s a usurper. He’s hiding something. He’s not being square with the American people about some big secret, and I wonder what that could be…?

Of course, not every Birther is a hater. I’m sure there are some Birthers who are honestly just concerned about whether the President is eligible or not, and think there is some room for doubt. I would not begrudge them their stubborn insistence that, at the kernel of the issue, their lack of omniscience prevents them from being 100% satisfied that the facts of the case, as screamed from the offices of various state officials in Hawai’i, are indeed facts.

I would, however, gladly tell them that that same stubborn insistence essentially says that every person in Hawai’i who has had cause to request a COLB for some official purpose is using an inferior, inauthentic, and therefore useless “official” document, and wonder how popular that opinion makes them with the Oahu DMV, the people who read I-9s, and US Passport control.

Or did they stop to think about that? Did they ever stop to think at all?

Why do Birthers, most of whom must be intelligent enough to realize there’s something fishy about their own position, hang onto that lie? How can they claim to be on the side of the angels, yet ignore the devils dancing by their fire?

Are they really that lacking in self-awareness, or do they think the truth will be created from the lie if they only believe?

I wish I could tell you. I like to think people are decent enough to shun lies and embrace truth. But then I also like to think people are basically decent, all evidence to the contrary.

So maybe I have more in common with the Birthers than I’d care to admit?