Thursday, August 07, 2014

How Right-Wing Greedster Cranks Raise $ by Trashing Obama

Right-wing cranks and greedsters have been cashing in on the gullibility of their audience since the earliest days of the Internet. Selling gold, survivalist supplies, investment opportunities, and the amazing garage fish farm crap/hydroponics vegetable garden installation.

Now comes an offer so cynical and breathless that it deserves its own post. How can I improve on this carnival huckster pitch? I can't. Here it is.

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News just broke that a Russian crime ring has stolen over a BILLION passwords.

I hope that you're not among those impacted, but only time will tell.

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This is not in the news yet...

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He's granting 750 of our readers an unbelievable opportunity...

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Let's call him Congressman "X."

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To reserve your seat, click here.

[[ ]]

Good investing,

Justin Fritz
Editor-in-Chief, Wall Street Daily

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PT Barnum wouldn't blush...he would vomit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Terrorism, Politics, Mental Illness, and Superhero Complex

Originally written for and posted at Alternet

In Friday’s Colorado movie theatre shooting rampage the suspect is described as a “Lone Wolf” terrorist. What does that mean? How does it fit into the overall picture of terrorism as portrayed in the corporate media? Media coverage of domestic terrorism is not covering the whole story. Since the election of President Barack Obama, there have been a series of deadly terrorist incidents in the United States, some clearly politically-motivated, others more obscure—in which individuals have reached the breaking point and acted out in violence; often cloaking themselves in the armor of a delusional Superhero Complex in which they are a hero or antihero for their terrorist attacks.

The claim of mental illness in a terrorist is often used incorrectly, and sometimes used to dismiss any societal motivating factors in a violent act. Most people who struggle with mental illness do not act out in violence. Some convicted terrorists said to be “obviously” mentally ill do not have a diagnostic condition recognized by the medical community; while juries convict terrorists who display clear signs of mental distress. What if the few terrorists who are mentally ill are like the mine canaries, warning us of something toxic spreading the fumes of anxiety through our society?

Even the definition of the term terrorism is hotly disputed and politically-biased. The US government considers “eco-terrorism” the greatest terrorist threat in our country. The evidence suggests this is not the case. Not all acts of violence—even political violence—are necessarily forms of terrorism. A broad generic definition of terrorism is using force or the threat of force to harm or intimidate civilians to advance a political or social objective. Using this definition, terrorism can be carried out by individuals, groups, or states. It can be a methodology used by the weak against the powerful, or the powerful against the weak. It can be aimed at persons or property. Using this definition, in the Middle East, suicide bombers targeting Jews and Israelis and the Israeli government shelling of Palestinian towns are both acts of terrorism.

The U.S. government rejects this definition in favor of one that assumes nation states cannot be engaged in terrorism. This is self-serving, since it excludes from “terrorism” US drone attacks that kill non-combatant citizens in foreign countries. It also excludes the World War II carpet bombing of the German city of Dresden in February 1945, and the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

A “Lone Wolf” terrorist is a person who has no current or past ties to an organized group advocating political violence. Such people are very hard for government authorities to track, thus their acts of terrorism are almost impossible to stop. The Lone Wolf uses a form of terrorism called “Leaderless Resistance.” Organized groups or cells can use Leaderless Resistance, but it is accurate to use that term only if every member of the cell has never participated in another organized group dedicated to political violence as a current or future goal. The concept of “Leaderless Resistance” is often attributed to right-wing racist Louis Beam, a neonazi icon and ideologue in the United States. Even Beam correctly notes that the concept was developed by a former CIA operative, Colonel Ulius Louis Amoss, a dedicated anticommunist who sought to improve the success of US agents building espionage cells in European countries occupied by the Soviet Union. Beam, on the other hand, implied it would be an effective way to build underground cells by White supremacists in the United States.

Claims that “Leaderless Resistance” cells on the political right have carried out numerous acts of terrorism are not technically accurate. Most incidents involve perpetrators with previous ties to organized ultra-right White supremacist groups. According to terrorism researcher Simson Garfinkel, the clearest examples of Leaderless Resistance in the United States are in the ecological group Earth First! and several Animal Liberation movements—movements that generally avoid harming people with their acts of vandalism against property.

When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in a terrorist bombing, terrorism “expert” Steven Emerson speculated that it was Arabs attempting to “inflict as many casualties as possible…that is a Middle Eastern trait." Being wrong and a bigot have not stopped his crusade of self-promotion. As I write this, bloggers—without any evidence—are speculating on the motives of the accused perpetrator in the Colorado shootings. Some already are saying it can only be the act of a person who is mentally ill. This is not necessarily true.

Let’s start with the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by Jared Lee Loughner in January 2011. Writing in Slate following the terror attack, Vaughan Bell suggested we are “too quick to use ‘mental illness’ as an explanation for violence.” As evidence Bell reviewed the work of an Oxford University psychiatrist, Seena Fazel, who “led the most extensive scientific studies to date of the links between violence and two of the most serious psychiatric diagnoses—schizophrenia and bipolar disorder” Either of these forms of mental illness can “lead to delusions, hallucinations, or some other loss of contact with reality.” Bell wrote that:

Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies, Fazel's team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find. As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses tell us next to nothing about someone's propensity or motive for violence.”
According to Dr. Marvin Swartz, while “we don’t know whether there was a specific relationship between the political climate that [Loughner] was exposed to and his thinking, it’s a reasonable line of inquiry to explore.” Swartz explains that “One’s cultural context does [have an effect on] people’s thinking and particularly their delusions. It gives some content and shape to their delusions.” Swartz, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, says it is legitimate to study “the cultural influences on people’s delusions or persecutory thinking,” and consider “different aspects of culture” and the how they affect people’s behavior—even the actions of terrorists.

The link between mass media vilification of a scapegoated group and incidents of aggression and violence against that group is well-established. Not everyone gripped by the media massage reacts by assaulting or killing the scapegoat, however, and a few people actively resist the campaign. Some terrorists write a script in which they see themselves as a Superhero out to avenge a wrong—real or illusory. Men in the United States seem oddly attracted to this role which intersects with guns and violence.

Older models of psychological interpretation often dismissed the violent actors as dysfunctional or mentally ill and left it at that. Contemporary approaches factor in psychological considerations, but also consider the role of demonization and scapegoating in creating perceptual frames. Within sociology, the study of how the construction of frames and narratives assists ideological goals and attracts and retains recruits is well developed. In several disciplines there are studies of apocalyptic narrative storylines that cast the perpetrator in the role of hero for saving society from a mortal threat.

For some terrorists who are not clinically mentally ill, the act of violence has a clear goal of sending a message they hope will be understood and acted upon. They are seldom correct in their idea that their “propaganda of the deed” will have the desired outcome. For the tiny handful of those who struggle with serious mental illness and turn to violence, outside factors in the society play a role in writing the script they are following to justify their actions. This script is internally generated and generally incomprehensible to other people, however, it can be internally consistent and understandable to the perpetrator. So outside societal factors can be involved, even if they are greatly misinterpreted through the darkened glasses of psychosis.

Zev Sternhell, a scholar of Fascism who was injured in a 2008 terrorist pipe bomb attack, says there are outside factors. Sternhell said the Loughner attack on Giffords and others was related to “radical conservative incitement against the Obama administration’s health care reform law, which Giffords backed.”

What about the terror attacks of John Salvi on reproductive health clinics in Boston in December 1994? Salvi was clearly motivated by his zealous anti-abortion stance and conspiracy theories about manipulation of currency by bankers. A jury convicted him despite persuasive testimony that Salvi was mentally ill. Salvi later committed suicide in jail. This raises further question, including the issue of the difference between a diagnosis of mental illness and the criteria for being found legally insane and unable to stand trial.

Clearly the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing, for which Timothy McVeigh was executed and Terry Nichols remains incarcerated for life—showed no signs of mental illness. They were political soldiers, just like Anders Behring Breivik charged with terror attacks in Norway in July 2011.

“The terrorist attacks in Oslo,” writes Gardell, “were not an outburst of irrational madness, but a calculated act of political violence.” Gardell says that here was a “certain logic” to the “carnage that can and should be explained, if we want to avoid a repetition.” Gardell notes that Breivik himself was aware that his “shock attacks are theatre and theatre is always performed for an audience.”

Psychiatrist Rosenqvist believes Breivik is not legally insane, and his “deviant statements” about Islam and other matters “are an expression of an extreme ideology,” and should not be seen as “a psychotic view of reality.” Rosenqvist suggests Breivik is suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder that is not a form of legal insanity. Rosenqvist told reporters that Breivik was immersed in a cult-like anti-Islamic movement based outside of Norway. That movement, in fact, is based in the United States.

As one of Norway’s leading forensic psychiatrists, Rosenqvist’s opinion carried enough weight to have the matter of Breivik’s sanity reopened to a new pre-trial evaluation by outside experts. Rosenqvist examined Breivik for Norwegian authorities while he was in prison awaiting trial. Breivik admits to the bombing and shooting spree, but denies criminal guilt, according to press accounts. The Telegraph reported Breivik describes himself as “a commander of a resistance movement aiming to overthrow European governments and replace them with ‘patriotic’ regimes that would deport Muslim immigrants.”

A number of authors have written about what Mattia Gardell calls “Breivik's Ideology” of the “Romantic Male Warrior Ideal.” Gardell writes that Breivik saw himself as a “self-appointed knight” who “gave himself the stage name Sigurd – the Crusader.” Gardell observes:
Animated by heroic tales of the crusaders, movie epics such as 300, Lord of the Rings, Passion Of The Christ, Serbian ultranationalist narratives of Radovan Karadzic's bloody actions during the Bosnian civil war, and the exploits he performed in World of Warcraft, Breivik felt equipped for battle.”
Breivik’s Manifesto echoes many of the same tropes. Breivik warns of a “deconstruction of European cultures, identities and the traditional structures” which he identifies as the “nuclear family, traditional morality and patriarchal structures.” He rejects what he sees as the current “pacified/feminized” culture of Europe. He sees himself as a heroic warrior standing erect against the onslaught.

The role of gender panic in shaping an identity of the Superhero warrior is analyzed by James William Gibson in his book Warrior Dreams. In a similar line of analysis, Julie Ingersoll found in Breivik’s Manifesto “evidence of his profoundly sexist view of the world, where women are naive and lacking in rationality, but are useful for sex and reproduction.” She called it “emasculation paranoia.” Ingersoll also highlighted Breivik’s claim that “feminism is to blame for what he asserts is the success of a supposed Muslim plan for world domination.” Breivik “wants to set the culture clock back ‘to the ‘50s—because we know it works.” This mythic nostalgia, according to Ingersoll, “is a central feature …of how Breivik’s analysis could well have been lifted from the talking points of the religious right.

An example of this is in an essay by Christian Right author Gerald L. Atkinson that appeared in a collection on Political Correctness by Christian Right ideologue William Lind, one of Brevik’s intellectual heros cited in his manifesto. Atkinson excoriates feminism and blames what he calls “Cultural Marxism” in a way that matches Breivik’s analysis. According to Atkinson:
Perhaps no aspect of Political Correctness is more prominent in American life today than feminist ideology. Is feminism, like the rest of Political Correctness, based on the cultural Marxism imported from Germany in the 1930s? While feminism’s history in America certainly extends longer than sixty years, its flowering in recent decades has been interwoven with the unfolding social revolution carried forward by cultural Marxists.
The conspiracy theory about Cultural Marxism sweeping America and infecting the body politic all the way up to President Barack Obama is widespread in right-wing Republican circles. Many of the purveyors of this myth warn of impending doom and cast themselves in the role of the latter day Paul Revere’s—an example of Superhero Complex.

A number of terrorists in the US fall into that pattern. Stressor factors that can create a Superhero Complex that leads to violence can include zealous political goals, anxiety over changing racial, gender, or religious dynamics, a sense of being persecuted, fear and depression over collapsing economic viability, a belief in conspiracy theories of impending attack by dark forces, or other factors. For Salvi, Loughner, and Breivik, stress was focused on targeted scapegoats by right-wing fearmongering from marginal sources and demonization of liberal ideas. This litany of demonization and scapegoating is carried on mainstream corporate media in the United States, and not just Fox News. An example is the appearance of right-wing ideologue, Islamophobic bigot, and Sharia Law conspiracy theorist Newt Gingrich appearing on CNN to discuss the Colorado terrorist attack.

We do not as yet know enough about the shootings in Aurora, Colorado to make an assessment of the motivations of the arrested shooter. We do know that societal and political factors can shape the actions of any terrorist, no matter what their mental status. We also know, based on reporting by alternative journalists David Neiwert, Sara Robinson, and others, that the mainstream frame of reporting on terrorism and political violence in the United States is shoddy and politically-biased—downplaying acts by right-wing militants and attacks on reproductive rights providers, while overplaying terror plots involving Muslims and Arabs as well as those involving ecology activists. Better in-depth reporting could help solve the problem, rather than exploiting it for commercial game in an ironic parody of the bad sensationalist media hacks criticized in the HBO television series “The Newsroom.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Abstaining from Bad Sects

This essay first appeared as "Abstaining from Bad Sects: Understanding Sects, Cadres, and Mass Movement Organizations," Resist Newsletter, Somerville, MA: Resist, Vol. 8, No. 10, December 1999. It has fallen off the website of Resist, so I re-publish it here due to several recent requests. It may be of interest to the Occupy Wall Street movement, now facing parasitic sectarian organizing, conspiracy theorists, bigots, and right-wing recruiters.

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Any experienced activist can tell tales of trying to unravel the Gordian Knot of the relationships among mass organizing, sectarianism, left cadre organizations, and ultra-leftism. To describe cadre-based sectarian ultra-leftists as tedious and disruptive is a charitable understatement. Wait! Grab hold of that last sentence and examine it.

Sectarianism, cadre groups, and ultra-leftism are three separate issues. Those successful at juggling these tendencies in a real organizing campaign usually start by understanding that there are differences among ideological tendencies and the people who marry them, and there are differences between structures and styles. Rather than lumping everything and everyone together in a prejudiced and stereotypic way, lets unpack the box.


The term sectarianism originated with the Protestant Reformation starting in the 1500s. From the vantage point of the Vatican, Protestantism began as a form of sectarianism., when a small espoused different religious convictions and separated from the "one true church." This group formed its own religious body and established its own principles and leadership, separate and apart from the Vatican. The response, of course, was to condemn this new protesting sect, consign all those who disagreed with the Catholic Church and its tenets to hell, and--since they were heretics--also revoke all earthly rights. Protestantism soon spawned more sects, who denounced each other for heresy. Some leftists have borrowed this theme with unsettling enthusiasm.

Today, the term sect in discussions of religion can have a far different meaning than sectarianism in the political left. A religious sect can simply be a relatively small group organized around a distinctive set of theological principles. Since these principles are seen as ordained by God, they demand obedience. When a sect tries to enforce these views on everyone, member and non-member alike, the sect becomes sectarian. In this discussion the term "sectarian" refers to an inappropriate demand for a mass group to accept uncritically the ideological precepts of a specific group or individual.

The rise of various religious fundamentalist governments and factions (such as in Iran, Algeria, India, Pakistan, Israel, and many other parts of the world) represent another type of religious sectarianism. In our own country, we can see similar themes in the theocratic wing of the Christian Right.

Sectarianism can have roots other than religious. A form of racialized sectarianism plagues the Balkans and parts of Africa, but it can be seen in the violent attacks on Blacks, Jews and Asians by followers of far right ideologies in the US, with echoes in the electoral politics of David Duke and Pat Buchanan.

Both racial nationalism and religious nationalism are sectarian forms of a right wing populist backlash against globalization of the world economy for the benefit of transnational corporations. Right wing, because instead of seeking to broaden democratic participation, it seeks to build a strong coherent homogeneous group to defend against the socially destructive forces of corporate globalization in a way that demonizes, excludes, and oppresses scapegoats seen as outside the core group. This form of right wing populism can be dangerous, but its crude anti-elite critique can seem attractive to some on the left.

Cadres and Ultra-Leftism

Cadre organizations are built along strict lines of obedience to the group's ideology, strategy and tactics. They are sects with particular features involving hierarchical structures and organizational practices rooted in Leninism. Often they are obligated to articulate a specific line or script (or "frame" in sociological jargon) regarding a variety of topics.

One way to enforce a single ideological line or a specific strategy or tactic is to use a process called "democratic centralism." Under democratic centralism, cadre are expected to engage in a frank discussion and debate internally with other cadre and the group's leadership. However once a specific position is arrived at, cadre are expected to support the decision, and refrain from any disagreement with or criticisms of the "line" with persons or groups outside of the cadre organization. When people talk about "The Party Line," they mean the line the cadre group members are bound to uphold in public.

Ultra-leftism is an egocentric form of mythopoetic martyrdom whereby practitioners anoint themselves as the beleaguered guardians of the one true political line. They read long impenetrable manifestos at public meetings. They show up at mass demonstrations with helmets and hockey sticks for a game of self-fulfilling prophecy that often results in violence as they hurl themselves at police. They inevitably urge a course of action that is hopelessly out of touch with reality. Even Lenin called this an "infantile disorder."

Theory, structure, organizational practice, and individual behavior interact in complex ways.

Cadre organizations indeed resemble "sects" in terms of internal organization and hierarchy, but not all cadre organizations or their members are "sectarian" in organizational practice. Not all cadre organizations engage in ultra-leftist activities. Some cadre members of ultra-left groups can still act appropriately as individuals in mass organizations.


Andrew Feenberg in "Paths To Failure: The Dialectics of Organization and Ideology in the New Left" discusses how sectarianism and ultra-lefitism can create a false sense of achievement. Looking at the New Left of the 1960s and early 1970s, Feenberg, argues the attraction of "sectarianism and ultra-leftism sustained its energies for several decisive years while dispersing its audience."
"Sectarianism in the movement was based on a sense of moral superiority that was effective in motivating an in-group but incompatible with its expansion among those sympathetic to its program. Moral heroism mobilized the troops, but it was accompanied by a characteristic romantic elitism rooted in a sense of differentness, of sacrifice and oppression."

"New left sectarianism was often conjoined to ultra-leftism, the systematic failure to employ strategies realistically adapted to the situation at hand. Instead, many new left groups preferred to substitute individual morality for politics and became obsessively concerned with establishing the revolutionary personal identity of their members at the expense of effective action on the real world. Ultra-leftists became adept at driving a wedge between principle and practice in every kind of situation, blocking the employment of even the most elementary instrumental intelligence in political work."
In the mid 1970s thousands of left activists joined new cadre organizations. The results were mixed. Some individuals carried out successful organizing campaigns. Other groups sank into a totalitarian morass. In the worst scenario I witnessed, lesbian couples were broken up, told to marry heterosexual fellow cadre, and moved to industrial cities to "merge with the industrial proletariat."

In Chicago in the 1980s I was asked by friends of my spouse to be parliamentarian at a founding meeting of a national US/Albanian Friendship Society. At the time, I was still collecting hours of such work needed to become a certified parliamentarian. I turned out to be one of the few attendees not in one of three competing Stalinist cadre organizations. Everyone was on their good behavior, however, and over several days we actually managed to draft principles of unity and a constitution and by-laws. I had quipped that if this group somehow managed to come up with democratic guidelines that didn't require supporting the government of Albania or its political system, that even I would join. They did, so I paid my dues and have been red-baited ever since.

It was in this group that I finally took the time to understand the ideological rift between Moscow, China, and Yugoslavia, which occupied far too much conversation time among my leftist friends. I learned that in post-war Europe some of the countries had been semi-feudal; and that for survivors to side with the communists who had fought in the resistance, instead of re-installing Nazi-collaborationist monarchs and oligarchs who had looted the country, was hardly difficult to understand. I helped investigate the harassment of ethnic-Albanian Chicagoans who were protesting Yugoslav repression of Albanian intellectuals in the Kosovar region (premature anti-fascism redux). I made friends.

Unfortunately I also made enemies. At one point some cadre member who held an elected position in the local group fell out of favor with her party's leadership. At the next meeting all of her former colleagues arrived with the same script. She was no longer doing a good job. She must be removed. I protested that what was happening was obviously a decision by a cadre organization to enforce conformity of action through democratic centralism. I argued that this was not appropriate in a democratic mass organization. It was clear that some of the individual cadre members were troubled by what was being asked of them. I gave an impassioned speech on the importance of moral conscience over blind obedience that had some of them in tears. Resistance was futile. They all dutifully voted to purge the poor woman from her meager post. She was also required to remain an active member...another humiliation.

My retribution was not to quit. I wasn't in a cadre group and I was too well known to purge. I hung on until I left Chicago. What was left of the group threw me a going away party. There we were in a rented hall, the chair of the group, the purged woman who came to thank me, and me. That's all that was left.

Block voting by cadre members in a mass democratic organization is one of the most destructive practices I have seen in the US left--and I have seen it far too often. It undermines the basic premise of actual debate, the informed consent, that makes democratic practice possible.

Two Steps Back...

One response to sectarianism and ultra-leftism has been to condemn identity politics as reflecting new forms of those tendencies. To me this sounds like the voice of privilege complaining about how annoying it is to deal with those pestiferous people who keep pointing out how unfair the privilege is. My mental image is a support group for former slave holders after the civil war. Nobody likes to give up privilege and power (well, I certainly don't) but I see it as an issue of fairness.

Jean Hardisty, in her book Mobilizing Resentment, acknowledges that a "theme common to nearly all those who discuss the state of the progressive movement and its future is our lack of agreement on a vision around which the movement's different groups can coalesce." According to Hardisty, "to blame 'identity politics' for the decline of the larger movement fails to look at the reason identity groups arose in the first place--the neglect of their input and their issues."

Hardisty embraces the thesis of Francis Calpotura and Kim Fellner in their pamphlet, "Square Pegs Find Their Groove," and summarizes their views as arguing that:
"...if all the people who are marginalized and excluded from power are to achieve real self-determination, progressive organizers must address not only class inequities, but also related forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism--even if these are not directly germane to a specific organizing uncompromising solidarity with marginalized groups is the bottom line of this model of grassroots organizing."
You Can't Judge a Book...

I have worked on organizing campaigns that were destroyed by sectarian ultra-leftism, yet I have worked on organizing campaigns where members of cadre organizations played an important leading and sustaining role. While I have never been tempted to join a cadre organization, I have seen the good--not just the bad and the ugly--emerge from such groups. Clearly there are some organizing campaigns where the energy and commitment of cadre groups sustains the work through dry spells. Therefore, it is not the cadre organization itself that poses the problem.

In the 1950s the National Lawyers Guild refused to purge its members who were members of the Communist Party. Today there are Guild members who are cadre in a variety of communist groups along with a majority of unaffiliated members. As a paralegal investigator, I joined the Guild in the 1970s. I found an example of an organization that tried hard to incorporate the participation of cadre within a democratic structure.

Easy? Are you crazy? The cacophony at some meetings makes "Star Wars" seem like a minimalist film. I have chaired committee meetings with debates featuring cadres from Leninist, Trotskyist, Stalinist, and Maoist groups, along with Marxists, anarchists, libertarians, and progressive independents--interacting with a preponderance of reluctant Democrats--all intertwined with multiple alternate identities as lawyers, legal workers, labor organizers, tribal sovereignty activists, civil liberties and civil rights advocates, environmentalists, feminists, gay men and lesbians, and people of color.

Bernice Johnson Reagon has discussed the practical problems of coalition work in terms of risk and discomfort. She built a metaphor around her problems breathing due to being at a high altitude for the first time at a 1981 meeting of women in Yosemite National Forest:
"You got one group of people who are in strain--and the group of people who are feeling fine are trying to figure out why you are staggering around, and that's what this workshop [on coalition politics] is about this morning." 
"I wish there had been another way to graphically make me feel it because I belong to the group of people who are having a very difficult time being here. I feel as if I'm gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you're really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don't, you're not really doing no coalescing."
Practical Magic

In real life, a mass democratic organization needs to establish principles of unity that apply to both the goals of the group and its internal operating procedures.

Can cadre organizations relate to the mass-based group in a principled manner? Can members of cadre organization abide by the principles of unity established by the mass-based group? The issue boils down to behavior. Do individual people behave appropriately? If not, is there a process to deal with their behavior that is problematic?

Principled opposition needs to be respected within a mass organization as long as it is not disruptive to a degree that threatens the existence of the group. Some disruption is inevitable, even healthy. How else would people of color, women, and gays and lesbians assert their right to be treated with respect? If a group cannot accommodate these issues of respect, then its existence is problematic, and maybe a mass exodus and formation of a new group with new principles of unity is a good outcome. The trick is to find the balance between the constant struggle that democratic and inclusive practice requires, and the ability of the group's goal to be pursued without endless splits. As Reagon graphically explained, real coalition work is hard.

Individuals who repeatedly engage in disruptive behavior should be expelled from a group, as long as some sincere attempt is made to reconcile the person to the group's principles of unity regarding appropriate behavior. Nothing is more destructive in a mass organization than rumors claiming someone is a secret member of a cadre cell, or a police agent, or mentally unbalanced. Some people are just disruptive, for whatever reason. It is essential that the objective effect of the behavior be the focus, not the assumed intent or cause of the behavior.

It is not fair for cadre organizations to send blocks of cadre members bound by democratic centralism (or other mandates to conform to a single line) into mass organizations to commandeer debates and votes. It is manipulative, elitist, and profoundly undemocratic.

Members of cadre organizations need to be sensitive to the fact that their presence changes the dynamics of mass organizations, and learn to tread lightly. They may see themselves in the vanguard, but history makes that judgement. Insisting it is so will not speed up the process. Everyone needs to persuade others by the force of their ideas and the exemplary character of their actions...not by brute force.

Leaders of mass organizations need to be sensitive to the fact that in a truly democratic organization, every voice must be heard. It is not appropriate to silence real or imagined cadre members because of a presupposition that the message will be a repeat performance or that a cadre is just parroting the party line. So what? Either the ideas are persuasive or they are not.

Activists in cadre organizations get to proselytize and even recruit, as long as they do the work, and abide by the principles of unity agreed to by the mass organization. Groups get to set the rules for time, place, and manner. The usual time is before and after the main event. I usually tell cadre members I will listen to their pitch if they will listen to my tirade on why the concept of "democratic centralism" is an oxymoron.


Organizer Suzanne Pharr, wrote In the Time of the Right: Reflections on Liberation, in which she urges that within the movement we must "Create principled internal politics and healthy standards for work and working conditions:"
"Be respectful of everyone. Do not act martyred. Build relationships that include more than work: celebration, ritual, play. Use positive humor whenever possible and often. Get a life, have a life, live a life--as fully and joyously as imaginable."

Democracy is a process,
not a specific set of institutions
Democracy is a process that assumes
the majority of people, over time,
given enough accurate information,
and the ability to participate
in a free and open public debate,
reach constructive decisions
that benefit the whole of society, and 
preserve liberty,
protect our freedoms,
extend equality, and
defend democracy.

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[Chip Berlet, an investigative researcher and reporter, has been an activist and organizer since the mid 1960s, when he joined the civil rights movement as a high school student and youth delegate for National Council of Churches ecumenical projects.]

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My Tweet:

Occupy your process. How genuine democracy deals with cadre organizations: Abstaining from Bad Sects #OWS

Friday, September 18, 2009

Values Voters Summit 2009 - Friday Morning

Tweets from the annual Christian Right "Values Voters Summit" in Washington, DC. So tweets read from bottom up in each section.

Prejean: "God has called me for such a time as this." [paraphrase of Esther 4:14 - when Queen Esther stood before the judges].

Prejean: people make fun of me for my faith, but I am still standing.

Prejean: Beginning of a vicious, vicious storm of attacks.

Prejean: "God had a plan for me that night." As soon as I didn't give the politically-correct answer, I knew I was not going to be Miss USA.

Onstage: Miss California Carrie Prejean. "Parents taught me to fear God," but to be tolerant and not be mean.

Cantor: Liberals have been whittling away at these values.

Cantor: For more than 200 years America stood for the "sanctity of life" from "fertilization to natural death."

Cantor: Liberals attack the idea that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA): For more than 200 years America stood for "Traditional Values" - Now liberals have abandoned that tradition

Cantor: Liberals pursue social whims and pseudo-scientific theories.

Cantor: For more than 200 years America stood for "Faith, Freedom, and Family" - Now liberals have abondoned that tradition.

Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA): For more than 200 years America stood for "Peace through Strength" - Now liberals have abondoned that tradition

McConnell: Democrats - wasteful spending and debt. "We must turn the tide." That's what FRC and others are doing. FRC "vital role."

McConnell: Labor law reform--Employee Free Choice Act, would inhibit freedom.

McConnell: wrong that current healtcare plans still allow paying for abortions through a variety of ways

McConnell. Heathcare protests not astroturf, but born in kitchen tables and living rooms across America.

Onstage: Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader. At town hall meetings we saw the wisdom of Americans, and many of you were there.

Standing ovation for disabled woman who said abortions started a downward spiral in her life.

Bachmann: Obamacare means 53 different government bureaucracies with the IRS as the enforcement mechanism.

Is it too crass to pray for a new computer? OK, yes, but sometimes...

Computer crashing. Sigh. Must reboot.

Bachmann: Government is taking over energy business-taking over private business profits.

Bachmann: Government is taking over private business in America

Price: Change things in 2010 election.

Price: No checks and balances that work when Obama and Pelosi rule. Only check left is to have American people rise up.

Bachmann: No reason to have government role in healthcare

OK, that's Rep.Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Sigh...

Rep.Michele Bachman (R-MN). One "l". Hard to copy edit Twitter.

Rep.Michelle Bachman (R-MN): time to Defund Acorn

Price: time to set the fires of Freedom

Speaking now: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): It's not about healthcare, it's about Freedom.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): Society has been embacing a "Culture of Death." Longstanding frame of Christian Right

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): Obama "the abortion President"

That's "sez" McCLosky. One key over, a Freud away... (Sorry, Tom)

Rep. Michelle Bachman joins healthcare panel. She has worked with FRC for years sex McClusky.

Vice President for Government Affairs for Family Research Council, Tom McClusky now onstage for healthcare panel

Huckabee: American Exceptionalism is a good thing.

Huckabee: Obama foreign policy is "walk softly and carry an olive branch"...or maybe a "bag of Stay-Puft marsmallows."

Huckabee: State-run healthcare has bankrupted State of Massachusetts. Really? Ii was solvent when I left yesterday. Fact-Check?

Hucakee: Obama was wrong to hire Van Jones in the first place.

Huckabee: Repeal 16th Amendment, eliminate the IRS and Income Tax.

At Values Voters meetup in DC. Huckabee onstage now. Sez: Audacity of Hope has turned into hypocrisy. Condemns abortion, Acorn.