Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The FBI is targeting Peace Activists again.
September 26, 2010 7:38 PM   Subscribe

The FBI has a long history of targeting peace and social justice activists. Now activists across the country are sounding the alarm. It's happening again.
posted by history is a weapon (102 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why am I soooo un-surprised? If anything is worth doing, it's worth being spied on.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:58 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I right in thinking that it is the activists of this Freedom Road Socialist Organization being targeted? The link in the FPP to the other Freedom Road Socialist Organization seems to suggest it is a group with a confusingly similar name.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2010


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:08 PM on September 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Oh wait that's right presidents aren't responsible for anything done under their watch and should not be held accountable for anything. Sorry my bad; disregard.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2010


Your shtick has grown extraordinarily tiresome, elfy.
posted by dersins at 8:15 PM on September 26, 2010 [27 favorites]


COINTELPRO II: Electric Boogaloo? (Honestly, this is probably more like III, it's just nobody has broken into an FBI field office lately.)
posted by Hactar at 8:16 PM on September 26, 2010


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Given all the harassment President Obama has gotten from birthers, one would think he'd be more empathetic about groups bullying people, and put a stop to this nonsense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:18 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Your shtick has grown extraordinarily tiresome, elfy.

Sorry I made a bet with Joe Beese.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:19 PM on September 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


TL;DR version: if your group is explicitly dedicated to harassing The Man, you sort of have to figure that The Man is gonna harass you back. You don't get to foment civil unrest--or even look like you are--without attracting some sort of official attention.

The targeted groups aren't Al Qaeda, but they aren't exactly limiting their activities to eating tea and crumpets on the lawn either. While the new SDS seems fairly innocuous, the original SDS was something which it was not unreasonable for the government to have wanted to keep tabs on. And given that it is not inconceivable that at least one of the targeted groups could have unofficial links to actual terrorists--which they refuse to renounce--again, executing a search warrant doesn't strike me as an inherently irrational thing to do.

These guys should be encouraged: someone thought what they were doing was serious enough to warrant the effort and expense to check up on them.
posted by valkyryn at 8:19 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


dersins: "Your shtick has grown extraordinarily tiresome, elfy."

I haven't seen any material change in the actions of the govt censure of the rights of Americans form this administration, in contract of the last. I should point out that while still Senator, Obama promised to filibuster the warrantless wiretapping bill. He later changed his mind and voted *for* it. (He lost my vote in doing so.)

So yes.. its more of the same.
posted by MrLint at 8:20 PM on September 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


valkyryn: "These guys should be encouraged: someone thought what they were doing was serious enough to warrant the effort and expense to check up on them."

Too bad its someone else's money.
posted by MrLint at 8:21 PM on September 26, 2010


Can we see the other side to this story? None of the sources linked are what I would call "independently reliable"

I don't find it completely implausible that there could potentially be violent extremists within these organizations. If the raids were executed with a warrant under reasonable cause, this isn't really a story.
posted by schmod at 8:24 PM on September 26, 2010


Yeah, none of the "sounding the alarm" sites pass my "html design skills are a reflection of the rest of what you do" test. What has really happened here? Executing a search warrant isn't exactly govt censure of the rights of Americans.

Did I fuck up my bookmarks and DailyKos changed its color scheme or did I watch too many of those weird Simpsons videos?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:34 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Plenty of coverage from newspapers and wire services at Google News.
posted by enn at 8:39 PM on September 26, 2010


Here's the warrant (pdf).

The justification for the search was that the groups were suspected of providing material support to the PFLP, to Hezbollah, and to FARC, all of which are officially designated as terrorist groups by the US government. Giving support to organizations on that list is against the law.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:45 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Executing a search warrant isn't exactly govt censure of the rights of Americans.

If it is done as a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation, that seems at odds with people's right to peaceably assemble.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:48 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Giving support to organizations on that list is against the law.

Point taken these people may have actually broken the law, i.e. we are not aware of all pertinent facts. So who wants to start taking bets on whether anyone is ever charged?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:55 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


the original SDS was something which it was not unreasonable for the government to have wanted to keep tabs on.

Except that they kept tabs on everyone else, too. If you are spying on everyone, it's pretty easy to pick one out of the crowd and claim, "well it was a good idea we were spying on this one!"

Seriously, this is a major step backwards for the USA. Back in the 1970s, I had thought we learned the errors of our ways and dismantled our program to engage in domestic surveillance of everyone who thought that maybe the foreign policy and civil rights policies of the federal government weren't the most productive ones. But now we've built up that destructive infrastructure staffed with authoritarians all over again.

The worst of it, of course, is the actual staff designing and implementing these programs: it's like they learned American history and decided that the "bad guys won" when it came to civil rights and public dissent.
posted by deanc at 8:59 PM on September 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


If it is done as a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation, that seems at odds with people's right to peaceably assemble.

Very true.

I left out "with cause" and from the looks of it, providing material support to the PFLP, to Hezbollah, and to FARC, would certainly fall under cause.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:00 PM on September 26, 2010


I left out "with cause" and from the looks of it, providing material support to the PFLP, to Hezbollah, and to FARC, would certainly fall under cause.

Right, that was the reason they got the warrant. But my understanding is that that was a lie.
posted by delmoi at 9:06 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


providing material support to the PFLP, to Hezbollah, and to FARC, would certainly fall under cause

Given the decades-long history of the FBI targeting people for abuse, whose only crimes were to be left-of-center, I'm somewhat reluctant to assume the warrant's accusations are true. Perhaps facts will come to light, but I am skeptical.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 PM on September 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Related.

Before you jump to the defense of the FBI, consider the history of COINTELPRO and how it has historically been used against Civil Rights organizations such as the NAACP.

On preview: What they said.
posted by yaymukund at 9:16 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Given the decades-long history of the FBI targeting people for abuse, whose only crimes were to be left-of-center

The government spies on people who are right-of-center too. You know Ruby Ridge, Waco, and such. Not that that makes it OK, but just saying.

The problem here seems to be the law they were enforcing: "material support of terrorism," which basically boils down to giving money to a group or person that the government dislikes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:20 PM on September 26, 2010


And if caring about civil liberties regardless of which party happens to be in the White House makes one "tiresome," than please put me down as tiresome as well.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:21 PM on September 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'll just leave this here and be on my way...
posted by kickingtheground at 9:29 PM on September 26, 2010


You know Ruby Ridge, Waco, and such

To be honest, I'm failing to draw an analogy between the violent individuals behind those groups, some really bad people, and the not-so-violent individuals who are the subject of this post.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:33 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


kickingtheground, a letter saying, "We are confident that the day is coming when all of Palestine will be free, and we extend to you our solidarity and support as you march upon the road to liberation," is not material support. It's philosophical support, moral support, but not money or supplies. And therefore, NOT ILLEGAL. And not cause for a warrant and a raid on their homes.
posted by philotes at 9:47 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Guesswork follows: they donated money to people who donated money or supplies to Hezbollah. This is illegal but not normally very well enforced, but these folks were already on the FBI's radar due to the RNC protest. They'll plea bargain down to some minor crime, pay a fine or serve a few days in jail, and go on their way.
posted by miyabo at 9:59 PM on September 26, 2010


I'll just leave this here and be on my way...

OMG I can't believe they let these people walk the streets. I know that I for one will not sleep easy until every last person involved with this organization has had their houses raided by the fbi and they are properly harassed into submission. This communist shit can't stand not in my America.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:17 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guesswork follows: they donated money to people who donated money or supplies to Hezbollah. This is illegal but not normally very well enforced, but these folks were already on the FBI's radar due to the RNC protest. They'll plea bargain down to some minor crime, pay a fine or serve a few days in jail, and go on their way.

So it's cool for the US government to invade the lives of its citizens, using potentially deadly force, on trumped-up charges to investigate suspected activists, as long as it's not too inconvenient?

No. No matter what their suspicions might be, the FBI never should have performed these raids. At bare minimum, it's gross violation of due process.
posted by pedmands at 10:17 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember when the law against funding designated terrorist groups was passed. I used to joke with my friends that I was going to send Al Qaeda a dime, and document on video how I put it in an envelope addressed, "Osama Bin Laden, c/o Al Qaeda, Tora Bora, Pakistan," affixed sufficient postage to get it there, and then put it into a mailbox. My friends begged me not to, they seriously believed I would get arrested, or at least hauled in and questioned. After a while, I believed them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:19 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


but the village of hommlet has no spies.
posted by clavdivs at 10:22 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't forget you can no longer supply groups on the list with information or aid, either. So I guess in this case, protesting the occupation of Palestine is 'helping' by 'spreading dissent' among 'Americans' and 'furthering' the PFLP's 'message' of 'rebellion'. Ah!
posted by pedmands at 10:24 PM on September 26, 2010


After a while, I believed them.

but if you sent osama a chain letter, this is legal.
posted by clavdivs at 10:26 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The FBI knows it can't win any other way.
posted by telstar at 10:32 PM on September 26, 2010


What a shabby game the U.S. justice system has become. A game where it's simplicity itself, to trump up "reasonable cause" against anyone - and I do mean anyone - and get a warrant. What amazed me in the FISA scandal under Bush, was just how very lazy the FBI was - they knew that they could get an OK for surveillance wiretapping etc, after the fact, fully legally, under the loosened rules of "emergency" (the idea being that there may be no time to get a warrant when a threat is developing, so you need to ask for one after you've already started the warrantless-until-then surveillance), yet they were too lazy to even do that meaningless bit of paperwork. And then, they paid no price for breaking the law. Just astounding.

The way it's looking, is that our rights are purely theoretical. In practice there are so many loopholes that law enforcement can always come up with some trivially easy excuse to disregard whatever protections you were supposed to have.

People say it's too easy to become cynical - but really, it's just basic realism at this point.

I have no idea what the legality of this latest FBI raid was, but at this point to me, the FBI does not have an automatic presumption of rectitude. I trust them not at all.

This is not just an American problem, of course. I well remember when that Brazilian electrician was murdered by British security people, how people sprang up here defending the shooters and presuming that there must have been a reason, and buying into what later proved bald-faced lies about how the victim acted (jumped the gate! ran! refused to stop! etc.). And then, when the lies were exposed, and the time came to assign personal responsibility the vaunted multi-camera setups mysteriously lost all their footage. At that point one can only spit, and say "they are crooks, one and all". There is no accountability. There are no checks and balances. There are only fairy tales told the gullible public about supposed rights, while the enforcement apparatus operates with impunity.

I can only say that the West has confronted the threat of terrorism, and it has failed, miserably. Not by the metric of the number of terrorist victims, but by how readily we abandoned what we proudly proclaimed to the world we stood for and fought for for centuries - our civil rights.
posted by VikingSword at 10:43 PM on September 26, 2010 [36 favorites]


The FBI has a purpose. That purpose is to determine threats, and take legal action if necessary. I don't think anyone finds fault with that.

The issue is that they are stepping way out of bounds of that purpose. From the Church Committee:
In these programs, the Bureau went beyond the collection of intelligence to secret action defined to "disrupt" and "neutralize" target groups and individuals. The techniques were adopted wholesale from wartime counterintelligence, and ranged from the trivial (mailing reprints of Reader's Digest articles to college administrators) to the degrading (sending anonymous poison-pen letters intended to break up marriages) and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling members of a violent group as police informers)

...the cases demonstrate the consequences of a Government agency's decision to take the law into its own hands for the "greater good" of the country...

COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme Court rulings limiting the Government's power to proceed overtly against dissident groups; it ended in 1971 with the threat of public exposure. In the intervening 15 years, the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.
During COINTELPRO, they even performed outright assassinations. I cannot even imagine what new powers they must have under Homeland Security, and how many lives they have already ruined under the false pretense of the War on Terrorism. Even if they are technically legal, the fact that members of our own government are going out of their way to trash our basic rights in the fruitless pursuit of perfect security is beyond dangerous for a Democratic society.

This is serious, serious business. If there's a single, central idea to the American dream, it's that we are all equal before the law. No person, regardless of their wealth or birth or government position, should be able to abuse another, or be able to deny us any liberty without due process. Once this ideal is eroded, we have nothing left to build our society on.
posted by notion at 10:51 PM on September 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


I think the Onion hit it spot on 4 years ago, and this article is still quite pertinent.
posted by symbioid at 11:18 PM on September 26, 2010


I don't think most people realize the thread on which our Republic now hangs. The pieces are all in place. The legal framework is in place. And as evidenced by police brutality committed everyday in this nation they have the willing jackboots to do the dirty work.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:22 PM on September 26, 2010


I find it interesting that the PFLP was founded by a Palestinian Christian. It saddens me this stereotyping we have of the situation. It makes things harder to actually understand. And it makes it so wonderfully easy to say "zOMG MUSLIMS!" When it's not always about that... That said, to the topic at hand, I'm with Aelf, and Blazecock and notion etc...

Why is a fascist police state OK when Democrats are in power, but not when Republicans are?
posted by symbioid at 11:27 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Funny how some people can threaten violent insurrection if they don't gain their political ends, and they are let alone, but other people advocate for peace and justice, and they are harassed and arrested. I guess it's safer to mess with the second group, since you know they don't have guns.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:44 PM on September 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


cryptome.DOJ report.FBI/domestic.sept.20
check it out


posted by clavdivs at 11:44 PM on September 26, 2010


Merton for crimminy sake
posted by clavdivs at 11:45 PM on September 26, 2010


The Anarchist Bookshop in Haight Ashbury has a very enlightening, and not expensive, history of the the techniques used in COINTELPRO and their countermeasures, written by activists.

I just can't remember its name
posted by MuffinMan at 12:43 AM on September 27, 2010


No. No matter what their suspicions might be, the FBI never should have performed these raids. At bare minimum, it's gross violation of due process.


No, it is not. The going to court to get a search warrant, and the availability for public scrutiny of that warrant, followed by the presentation of evidence to the issuing judge for comparison with the terms of the warrant, is the due process.

You disagree with the FBI's reasoning and that of the judge, fair enough. Perhaps a district or appeals court will share your view. But this is, in fact, the way the government is supposed to conduct its business if it suspects criminal activity is afoot: by soliciting permission to act from the judicial branch and providing documentation of that lawful authority. To argue otherwise is rank counterfactual bullshit.

I'm reminded of the tea partiers and GOP claiming the Democrats' passage of legislation which they found repugnant was somehow unjust or violated the constitution. No, the Democrats won those seats in the house and senate and then used their votes to pass some legislation that would further their objectives, which is what people elected them to do.

I do not have any strong opinion about these Freedom Road Socialists but they don't sound like peaceful hippies to me. They are enthusiastically supportive of the Maoist rebel movements in Nepal and India, and seem quite at ease with those rebels' bombings and massacres. In their report on the Tiananmen Square student protests, they support the suppression by the Chinese government and pour scorn on the social-democracy movement for watering down the cause of revolution, in a paper titled '(t)he revolution is not a dinner party.'

These were the only two documents I looked at from the front page of their website linked above, and I had no idea what sort of position they would take on those matters. The answer seems to be that they are strongly in favor of a communist revolution, don't mind if it's violent and are largely indifferent to humanitarian considerations. While I think they're probably more wannabes than anything else, they're certainly not a bunch of pacifists.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:16 AM on September 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Were none of you alive when J Edgar was?
posted by cookie-k at 3:27 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would believe more that the FBI was actively trying to stop terrorism within the US if they had noticed that this guy was saying both on the internet and to his associates that he was going to murder OB/GYNs before he actually did. Yes they caught this guy, but he was literally discussing his plans on Facebook. And how on earth did it take them so long to catch this guy and how many other people did they blame for his crimes in the meantime?

If they actually cared about domestic terrorism, they would be actively investigating groups whose sole purpose is harassing women who are going to clinics for reproductive services and plotting murders and bombing at those clinics. But they've never taken right wing terrorists in our country seriously until they are literally holed up in armed compounds, while left wing "terrorists" need only discuss over coffee issues that make the FBI nervous.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:38 AM on September 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


Muffinman, you're probably thinking of Brian Glick's essential Cointelpro primer, "The War at Home: Covert action against US activists and waht we can do about it".
posted by nobeernotv at 6:02 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Take a look at this animation pushing for a sixties style counter revolution or rather 'over the counter' revolution ;p I found it apt somehow that this thread and finding that video within the same few hours juxtaposed the situation quite intriguingly
posted by The Lady is a designer at 6:26 AM on September 27, 2010


I'm researching this this morning for my column, and I think it's just too early to jump to any conclusions. I know some of the folks involved, and know them to be earnest and dedicated peace activists who would never knowingly support a terrorist organization. But it looks like the FBI was seeking information regarding financial support for these organizations, and part of the way we disrupt terrorism internationally is by disrupting their financial support. And, given my own experience with peace organizations, they can do some terribly stupid things meaning to do some very good things. They tend to take people at their word when they are told resources are going to go into ant-war activism. They tend to support groups that sound like-minded, when those groups are actually front-groups for other activities. And this is all understandable -- we're not dealing with geniuses in international affairs here, we're dealing with normal people who very much want peace, and want to support oppressed people worldwide, many of whom are oppressed as a result of the way the US spends its money, which often directly goes to terrorist organizations.

It may be that this is part of a pattern of disrupting and harassing peace activists. Wouldn't be the first time. It may also be that this is legitimately part of an investigation into how terrorist organizations get US funding. Until I know more, I will reserve having an opinion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:31 AM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's happening again.

You provided examples of two raids on two homes. While they may be up to some of their old tricks, is there any evidence other than insinuation that these two raids were part of a larger conspiracy rather than individual targeted raids? Were those raided potentially guilty of providing material support to terrorists? What did the search warrant say was the justification (not that we will get to see that)?

It's one thing to say "police target black people" and then point to the arrest of two black people to stir up GRAR and another to point to data showing an overarching trend or documentary evidence of trumped-up charges.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:44 AM on September 27, 2010


Freedom Road are a bunch of Stalinist assholes who use vanguardism and other shitty Soviet-era tactics to get what they want and are as "socialist" as the Nazis, but they still don't deserve to have their homes raided for supporting some group or another, even if financially. I mean, these are mostly blue collar and office workers who have families and the like, who maybe, in Astro Zombie's line of thought, gave a few hundred dollars to the wrong front group or something.

And I have to second the sentiment that right wing groups have to be holed up in a mountain compound with children as hostages before the FBI perks up. Left wing groups just have to have more than a few hundred members.
posted by cthuljew at 6:53 AM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interview with the targets of two of the raids.
posted by homunculus at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"A Justice Department investigation has found that FBI agents, including several supervisors, cheated on an important test covering the bureau's policies for conducting surveillance on Americans."
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on September 27, 2010


OK, here's what I'll say: I live a few blocks from Mick Kelley, and while I don't know him, several friends do, and while I have huge disagreements with Freedom Road, I support his rights to express his political opinion without harassment, intimidation, etc. So here's what's going on, as far as I know: Mick, and the other activists here, have had much of their lives confiscated. It's questionable whether or not they're going to ever get any of that stuff back, and if so, when. They have been served with subpoenas for them to appear before a grand jury in Chicago in less than a month. It is unknown how long they will be asked to be in Chicago, however, what is likely is that if they comply with the order, they will be asked to name associates, who will be targeted next. What is even more likely is that they will refuse to comply with this. They will be found in contempt of court and imprisoned indefinitely. To members of the Minneapolis activist scene, this might seem awfully familiar.

Some insight from that last link about how on earth this happened:

As Special Agent Maureen Mazzola testified to on the stand in Scott’s pre-trial hearing, the FBI used the pretext of this raid as a fishing expedition, searching Scott’s room for anything linking him to “criminal activities” that fell well outside of the scope of the search warrant being executed. In this process, Mazzola came across a journal that she mistakenly believed linked him to the 2004 ALF raid at the University of Iowa. FBI agents later reviewed this and other seized materials, including his computer, and we believe that at some point in the year after the RNC, they began communicating with US Attorney’s offices throughout the Midwest in hopes that the items taken would lead to some sort of prosecution.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually clarification of that last piece of my comment: two issues at stake here--one, the suspicion is that the FBI is still doing follow-up work on the RNC stuff they collected in massive raids the week before it happened, and 2, the recognition that they shop whatever little evidence they have to various prosecutors, hoping one will bite. Many, it would seem, have little interest in prosecuting this case in front of a grand jury, but every now and then, they'll find one with conservative enough leanings, or a bone to pick, or some other reason to engage in this process and horribly disrupt the lives of activists.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 9:19 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know some of the folks involved, and know them to be earnest and dedicated peace activists who would never knowingly support a terrorist organization.

Look, I don't lie awake nights worrying about the red menace or anything, but it's obvious that someone in this group reveres revolutionary communism. If they're so peace loving, why all the violent rhetoric on their website?

Yes, they should pursue right-wing extremists with equal fervor. Sometimes they do, eg Hal Turner or the Huttaree loons.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:30 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: “Given the decades-long history of the FBI targeting people for abuse, whose only crimes were to be left-of-center, I'm somewhat reluctant to assume the warrant's accusations are true. Perhaps facts will come to light, but I am skeptical.”

drjimmy11: “The government spies on people who are right-of-center too. You know Ruby Ridge, Waco, and such. Not that that makes it OK, but just saying.”

Blazecock Pileon: “To be honest, I'm failing to draw an analogy between the violent individuals behind those groups, some really bad people, and the not-so-violent individuals who are the subject of this post.”

'An analogy'? Any analogy? They're people that have eyes and teeth, for example? Yeesh. The government targeted them. It's pretty simple. This has nothing to do with who's right or wrong, and what I perceive to be your point – that the activists on the left have been less violent than those on the right – has absolutely nothing to do with what drjimmy11 said.
posted by koeselitz at 10:40 AM on September 27, 2010


it's obvious that someone in this group reveres revolutionary communism.

Well shit then by all means lock them up and throw away the key.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:51 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, y'know, "revolutionary." Communism aside, if you're dedicated to overthrowing the government, some pushback from the government should be factored into your calculations.
posted by dersins at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2010


Nobody talks about getting locked up anywhere in these links. And frankly, spending some time at that FreedomRoad.org site, they tend to speak about Maoism in such glowing terms that I don't mind having the FBI rough them up a little. Maoism is morally equivalent to Nazism; and while freedom of speech can be a fine thing, odious systems of belief that have been responsible for the senseless deaths of millions should have, at most, a minimal place in our society.
posted by koeselitz at 11:02 AM on September 27, 2010


it's obvious that someone in this group reveres revolutionary communism.

Well shit then by all means lock them up and throw away the key.

if you're dedicated to overthrowing the government, some pushback from the government should be factored into your calculations


I don't know these people. I don't know what all they espouse. Is the "revolutionary" nature of what they say along the lines of legal takeovers like the free-state libertarians or are we talking about blowing shit up?

If it's A then we have no problem; if it is B then maybe they do need some jail time.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:10 AM on September 27, 2010


odious systems of belief that have been responsible for the senseless deaths of millions

cough...cough GWOT
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2010


Well shit then by all means lock them up and throw away the key.

Nobody has called for them to be locked up; the point is that it's quite reasonable for the FBI to be curious about a group who promote the violent overthrow of the government - as long as the FBI respects their constitutional right to due process, which in this case they appear to have followed to the letter.

It's ironic that you're complaining about the rights of people who promote the view that social democracy is a cancer on the body of the revolution and that it's OK to suppress peaceful protesters if they are not good Communists. Care to clarify?
posted by anigbrowl at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2010


odious systems of belief that have been responsible for the senseless deaths of millions should have, at most, a minimal place in our society.

...if they're leftists.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:25 AM on September 27, 2010


Remember the quaint old notion of probable cause?
posted by ahimsakid at 11:35 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hal Turner begs to differ.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:35 AM on September 27, 2010


Care to clarify?

By all means. Everyone has the right of free speech whether I agree with them or not and I will defend their right to express themselves as they see fit as long as said expression doesn't involve violence.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:58 AM on September 27, 2010


Is there any evidence whatsoever that the FBI agents and judges involved are part of some conspiracy to harass left-leaning political activists, or is this just some random baseless unsupported GRARy libelous outrage-filter?
posted by thesmophoron at 11:59 AM on September 27, 2010


as long as said expression doesn't involve violence

And if it turns out that these folks are involved with violence or are materially supporting it?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:00 PM on September 27, 2010


If I remember my Marx correctly his position was that the communist revolution was something that was a natural evolution of human society and would happen as a natural course of events. From this perspective it is entirely possible to espouse support for the communist revolution with out advocating violence. I am not sure if that is what these particular people believe but I am just throwing it out in opposition of automatically equating support of the communist revolution with violent revolution. Disclaimer: I am not a communist. :)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:03 PM on September 27, 2010


Man, it's kind of sad how much everyone seems to buy in to the idea that the State is the only legitimate wielder of violence. The idea that the State is somehow fundamentally different from any other human organization is really upsettingly entrenched.
posted by cthuljew at 12:03 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


AElfwine Evenstar: “cough...cough GWOT”

Are you fucking kidding me? The GWOT is equal in scale to the holocaust?
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on September 27, 2010


Are you fucking kidding me? The GWOT is equal in scale to the holocaust?

Well you said "senseless deaths of millions". I am definitely not claiming the GWOT has killed 12 million people, but it has directly led to the death of over a million. Not to mention the "odious systems of belief" that led to the 12 years of sanctions on Iraq killing at 2 million children in the process.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:14 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


AElfwine Evenstar: “If I remember my Marx correctly his position was that the communist revolution was something that was a natural evolution of human society and would happen as a natural course of events. From this perspective it is entirely possible to espouse support for the communist revolution with out advocating violence. I am not sure if that is what these particular people believe but I am just throwing it out in opposition of automatically equating support of the communist revolution with violent revolution. Disclaimer: I am not a communist. :)”

That's picking and choosing bits and pieces of Marx, frankly. Marx said that the revolution was inevitable; but he went on to say that that meant that not only were the most violent and most shocking actions in support of the revolution justified – they were essentially victimless and agentless, since a person who committed such acts was merely taking their human part in the grand action of history, and the people killed would have been killed anyway, if not by her or him then by somebody else. The moral ambiguity and haughty arrogance that led to the animalistic slaughter in Russia and China were fully present in the writings of Marx.

I accept that people who call themselves 'Marxists' might very well be similarly picky, and might only agree with or acknowledge certain parts of Marx's ideology. However, you can't say that the justification for massive violence wasn't present in his writings. I want it noted, however, that I am no hater of communists, and I accept and embrace the presence of Marxists in society; that's a good thing.

Maoists are an entirely different matter. Stalinists, too. And your rejoinder about the war on terror means nothing to me on this point, since your apparent implication is that I'm required to choose a team in the "LET'S SLAUGHTER ALL OF HUMANITY" super bowl, and that therefore I may as well pick the hipper of two evils. Maoist and Stalinism are fucking evil, man – they're schools of thought that happily embrace the wholesale annihilation of millions of people. Yeah, American nationalism sucks, sure. I'm with you on that. But that doesn't make Maoism or Stalinism un-evil.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on September 27, 2010


me: “Maoism is morally equivalent to Nazism; and while freedom of speech can be a fine thing, odious systems of belief that have been responsible for the senseless deaths of millions should have, at most, a minimal place in our society.”

Jimmy Havok: “...if they're leftists.”

So you agree with Glenn Beck on the whole 'Nazism was a leftist, socialist movement!' thing, huh?
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 PM on September 27, 2010


Koeslitz I was merely pointing out as you noted that it is entirely possible to believe in a formulation of Marxism that does not involve violent revolution.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2010


Glenn Beck has no problem with Naziism so long as it doesn't have that name. It's all about branding.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:45 PM on September 27, 2010


Are you fucking kidding me? The GWOT is equal in scale to the holocaust?

Well you said "senseless deaths of millions". I am definitely not claiming the GWOT has killed 12 million people, but it has directly led to the death of over a million. Not to mention the "odious systems of belief" that led to the 12 years of sanctions on Iraq killing at 2 million children in the process.

Koselitz, on second thought let's not get into this here. We will only derail the thread and I will piss everybody off. If you really want to discuss this issue(I certainly do) then you can join me here. If we get bored we can also debate who would win in a fight between Superman and the Incredible Hulk. :)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:47 PM on September 27, 2010


Want to point out here, not all the activists in Minneapolis were connected to Freedom Road, the Stalinist group. The Anti-War Committee, an organization which helped organize some of the larger protests during the 2008 RNC, had its offices, and several activists' houses, raided as well.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Indeed AElfwine, but you seem oblivious to the fact that FSRO promotes a formulation of Marxism that does involve violent revolution. Those Maoists in Nepal and India have killed quite a lot of people, for example.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:54 PM on September 27, 2010


Indeed AElfwine, but you seem oblivious to the fact that FSRO promotes a formulation of Marxism that does involve violent revolution. Those Maoists in Nepal and India have killed quite a lot of people, for example.

Which is not what we are discussing here. I don't know what individual members of the FRSO believe and I doubt you do either. My only point was that it is possible to be a non-violent Marxist regardless of what the group you belong to espouses. Furthermore verbally supporting the Maoists in India and Nepal or the FARC in Columbia is perfectly within their rights as U.S. citizens. Again I may disagree with their positions but I will defend their right to hold them.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2010


Those rights don't seem to have been abridged any, so far.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:37 PM on September 27, 2010


I read this story in the dead tree version this weekend, turned to Mrs. Bubba & said: I thought we'd moved on from 1968--and then I said, no, 1969--whenever it was that Nixon took office--and then I corrected myself & said: No wait, it's not like the FBI just started their persecutory ways under Nixon. Hoover never met an undercover plant he didn't like.

One reason I react so strongly against any of this sort of intrusion is because I remember being 12 years old and reading about Viola Liuzzo being killed in Alabama, and I remember hearing all the slurs against her. A communist! Race traitor! Let alone all of the sexual slurs promulgated about her--I can remember that from the playground, kids having learned to repeat that bullshit from their parents. Yeah, turned out that Gary Rowe, an FBI undercover plant was thick in on that.

Forward a couple of years to 1968 and the DNC in Chicago. The riots, the arrests, and the next year, the trial of the Chicago 8. Oh yeah, Chicago Police undercover instigator.

I would ditch school, go down to watch the trial. I saw them run roughshod over Bobby Seale's rights to a fair trial. But more personally, I started noticing that I was being followed. Years later, as an adult, I requested my CPD file. A lot of it was redacted, but apparently I had communist sympathies & might be a campus radical.

So, yeah, I'm an old man now, and I am not in any damn danger of overthrow, peaceful, violent, or otherwise. But I still think that there is too much power invested in the state and too much of an inclination to foment disorder where there is only intent to change the status quo.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:48 PM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


and I am not in any damn danger of overthrow, peaceful, violent, or otherwise

care to wager.
posted by clavdivs at 6:23 PM on September 27, 2010


me: and I am not in any damn danger of overthrow, peaceful, violent, or otherwise

clavdivs: care to wager.


I meant me, personally, leading an overthrow. Otherwise, point well taken.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:27 AM on September 28, 2010


odious systems of belief that have been responsible for the senseless deaths of millions should have, at most, a minimal place in our society

I look forward to the day when capitalism has a minimal place in our society, since it is responsible for the senseless deaths of millions on an annual basis. If people used the exact same methods and criteria for determining the number of deaths which are the responsibility of Mao, Stalin or whomever in determining the number of deaths resulting from capitalism, the numbers would verge on astronomical.

To those very upset about the idea that some people could advocate violence in setting up a state: hands up those who currently live in a state which was established and maintained without any violence.
posted by williampratt at 6:16 PM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


williampratt: “If people used the exact same methods and criteria for determining the number of deaths which are the responsibility of Mao, Stalin or whomever in determining the number of deaths resulting from capitalism, the numbers would verge on astronomical.”

Look, I think this is more than a little silly, but I appreciate your perspective even if the math doesn't really work out. Capitalism hasn't been responsible for nearly as much death as Hitler, Mao, or Stalin – but that's just because death in particular isn't capitalism's strong suit (though it does cause a ferocious amount of death.) Capitalism is unlike Hitler, Mao, and Stalin in that it likes to keep its victims alive; it can't make money from dead slaves. However, as I say, your point is on the whole completely correct; capitalism is a massively unjust, inhumane, cruel system of belief which elevates greed and disdain for the well-being of others to the highest virtue, and the day that capitalism is wiped from the earth forever will be a day which sees more net good done for the human race than any day in the last hundred years at least.

But please don't let that obfuscate the point that Maoism is flatly evil. In fact, Mao's evil can, with some small modification, be made to look precisely like capitalism's evil; if you don't believe me, there are some current members of the Chinese Communist Party who would like a few words with you. I'd really like it when we can get past this childish need to accept by fiat hugely tragic errors which have been proven false by history – errors like capitalism and especially (because it is so blatantly cruel, and so forthrightly willing to slaughter so many people without hesitation) like Maoism.
posted by koeselitz at 7:37 PM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


the math doesn't really work out.

Again, my point is "use the exact same methods and criteria." Far from "silly," if you do this, this point is glaringly obvious.

Just as an example of what capitalism does as SOP. During the 80's in Peru, there was a net transfer of wealth to the US and other imperialist countries of about $20b. During that same period 75k children died of malnutrition and diseases of poverty every year, for a total of around 750k. At the same time, much of the fish catch from Peru was being shipped to the US to make cat food.

When a system extracts money and food from people who are starving, that system is responsible for the resulting deaths. Apply this globally, and you quickly get many millions every single year - again, as standard operating procedure. Add in the wars, the genocides, death squads - not to mention the unspeakable horrors of slavery and the like which were part of the rosy dawn of capitalist accumulation - and there really isn't any comparison.

Capitalism ... likes to keep its victims alive.

No, they don't because there are always more laborers to take their place.

I have a very different take on Mao and the experience of revolutionary China, but this isn't the thread for it.
posted by williampratt at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, they don't because there are always more laborers to take their place.

really, stalin did the same as did pol pot and...

Why did bot the leaders of Peru kick the u.s. interests out... then WHY Mr. Pratt
why.
posted by clavdivs at 9:30 AM on September 30, 2010


williampratt: “Just as an example of what capitalism does as SOP. During the 80's in Peru, there was a net transfer of wealth to the US and other imperialist countries of about $20b. During that same period 75k children died of malnutrition and diseases of poverty every year, for a total of around 750k. At the same time, much of the fish catch from Peru was being shipped to the US to make cat food. \ When a system extracts money and food from people who are starving, that system is responsible for the resulting deaths. Apply this globally, and you quickly get many millions every single year - again, as standard operating procedure. Add in the wars, the genocides, death squads - not to mention the unspeakable horrors of slavery and the like which were part of the rosy dawn of capitalist accumulation - and there really isn't any comparison.”

I'll leave aside that that's not at all how anyone counts the deaths that are laid at Stalin's feet, or Mao's, or anyone else's. (Deaths from starvation and famine are generally specifically not included in Stalin's death counts, for example. If we included them, the counts would be much higher.)

What you call "standard operating procedure" seems to be a handy explaining away of intentionality and actual causality in the interest of imputing to a 'system' a unified being and direction that it doesn't have. 'Capitalism' is a lot of different things to a lot of different people; I take it centrally and mainly to be the conception that greed is a fine and just central motivation for a society, a conception that derives from Adam Smith.

Capitalism is not a 'system' or a 'procedure' or a 'method,' because people who believe in it use many systems and many methods and many procedures, and these sometimes conflict. The world is a messy place, and unfortunately creating some systematic set of categories which supposedly define the 'system' of capitalism is a mistake because this puts the cart before the horse; it assumes that history is a systematic and immediately intelligible thing that can be rationally and coherently arranged into neatly ordered archetypes. My experience is that this is hardly the case. The world isn't filled with structures, or systems, or institutions, or governments, or regimes; the world is filled principally with human beings, some of which agree with each other, some of which believe they agree with each other, some of which hate each other, most of which are confused, and all of which are fragile and frail. Human beings don't combine to form structures or systems, because in their confusion they don't even actually agree on half of the things they think they agree on; it's possible for me to pin down, for example, what 'capitalism' seems to mean on the whole, but even though I'm being cautious I'm aware that I'm generalizing. 'Capitalism' doesn't even make up a vague network of fraternally connected fat cats; 'capitalism,' so far as I can tell, is a belief that some people have about the world.

But the conception you're laying out of the world takes this structuralist dialectic and presumes that its application to the real world is completely justified. You refer to "the US and other imperialist countries" – whereas, so far as the word has meaning, the US is emphatically not imperialist, nor do any other imperialist nations really exist in the world today. Yes, I know the currency of the term, but its central mistake should be pointed out: the wealthy nations which engage in capitalist extraction enterprises and exploitative trade actions in poorer countries have very little to do with the empire-building nations that last peaked in the middle of the nineteenth century. Everything has changed since then; their exploitation was of a more personal and immediate character on the whole, and carried with it the religious and social imprints of the time. It's important to note that this change isn't necessarily a qualitative one; I don't say that the particular actions of these modern 'capitalist' nations are better than the actions of those latter-day empires. I only say that they're fundamentally different, and those differences in my mind invalidate any simplified historical schemes aside.

Horror has been the hallmark of all human history. We are foolish creatures with the ability to do unspeakable things to each other. This is not owned by any epoch; if anything, the exceptions to this rule have been much more worthy of discussion, as rare as they are. The exceptions to this rule, by the way, aren't really distinguished by economic system; there is no inherent justice in any economic system, as they're all just arrangements of wealth, and justice has little to do with wealth. The factor that matters most is how the system is applied – whether it's in a just way, whether it's done in a way that helps the largest amount of human beings and grants the largest amount of justice. Yes, it seems almost foolishly simple to brush theoretical systems aside and say that what matters is "justice." But I'm aware that it's not simple; in fact, my objection to the systematic structures describes by the dialectical materialism is that these structures are far too simple and basic to describe something as complicated and confused as human interaction.

Smith, Hegel, Marx. One wonders when we'll finally be free from the malignant influence of these Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thinkers whose unwitting theoretical bumblings have so utterly confused so many humans and set them on the course to maximum cruelty and stupidity.
posted by koeselitz at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


– In more mundane and immediate terms:

williampratt: “During that same period 75k children died of malnutrition and diseases of poverty every year, for a total of around 750k. At the same time, much of the fish catch from Peru was being shipped to the US to make cat food.”

Who shipped the fish to the US? Who decided? This isn't a simple question. I am not saying that blame can't be laid at the feet of speculators looking to make a buck without caring or even knowing what exactly they were doing to peoples' lives in the process; and I accept that the received wisdom that people have to be selfish and look to themselves is a canard, an unfair premise; everyone should be in the habit of looking to others as well as themselves. But what of the fishermen who sold fish that could have fed their families and the families of their neighbors? What of the workers who loaded food that could have fed the starving children onto ships to be taken far away? I blame the capitalists for their largest part in this, yes; but this is hardly the same as directly ordering the execution of those 750k. There is a real qualitative difference.
posted by koeselitz at 12:06 PM on September 30, 2010


I'm as capitalist as they come, but the US relationship with Peru (and other medium-sized South American countries) under Reagan was a horrible, shameful chapter in its history. I'm not sure if it counts as capitalism to put dictators in place who borrow billions from the US thus bankrupting and starving their own people...it's not part of the accepted definition of capitalism, but we've done it quite a few times.
posted by miyabo at 4:27 PM on September 30, 2010


I take it centrally and mainly to be the conception that greed is a fine and just central motivation for a society, a conception that derives from Adam Smith.

Yet another person who hasn't read Adam Smith.

The meaning of capitalism is right there in the word. It is the enshrinement of capital as the center of the economic system. It is a system where the owners of capital retain the benefits from the use of that capital. In its more extreme form, it is the conception of the entire universe, including human beings, as capital to be used.

The crimes of Stalin and Mao came out of state capitalism. The state owned all capital, including its citizens, and used them as such. Marxism-Leninism presented this as a part of evolution of toward communism, but it was not communism in any way, shape or form. It was simply the ultimate in monopoly capitalism.

A society can only function in the long term when capitalism is restrained. Without the restraints of democracy, capitalism implodes due to the growth of monopoly on the one hand, and market forces pushing the price of labor to the margin on the other hand, leaving no buyers for the products of that labor. We saw it nearly happen in the Great Depression, and the current recession is another replay of the same dynamic.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:32 PM on September 30, 2010


Jimmy Havok: “Yet another person who hasn't read Adam Smith.”

Yet another person who didn't read the comment he was responding too.

If it needs to be said, I've read Wealth of Nations and A Theory of Moral Sentiments cover to cover several times. I have a copy of Theory of Moral Sentiments sitting on my desk at home at this very moment, in fact. But continue – please. Tell me how Adam Smith's theory of self-sufficiency doesn't derive from a glorified selfishness.
posted by koeselitz at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2010


I find it very hard to read Smith and see greed is a fine and just central motivation for a society. Perhaps you take a more postmodern approach to interpretation.

Smith's major focus was on the way mercantilism and monopoly hurt the economy of a nation. He notes that merchants and manufacturers will be glad to collude for purposes of greed, and that must be prevented for the benefit of society as a whole.

All in all, he only speaks of greed being good when it is tightly constrained. I'd say that his central theme is the social benefit of competition, rather than greed.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:54 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


hands up those who currently live in a state which was established and maintained without any violence.

Seeing as how its 2nd October where I'm at, and Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, does that count as an example of a state established and maintained on the principles of non violence?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 4:54 PM on October 1, 2010


Want To Know If The FBI Is Tracking You? Look For One Of These.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:43 PM on October 5, 2010


Obama's Hard Line Neo-Con Agenda
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:46 PM on October 5, 2010


Anti-war activists refusing orders to testify

Antiwar Activists Refuse to Appear in Court
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2010


I learned yesterday afternoon that a friend of mine was among the Minneapolis activists to be subpoenaed (her home was not raided). I've known this person for nearly twenty years, and Astro Zombie's description above is spot-on: she is an earnest and dedicated peace activist who would never knowingly support a terrorist organization.
posted by nickmark at 7:32 AM on October 8, 2010


Caught Spying on Student, FBI Demands GPS Tracker Back
posted by homunculus at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older The Lynchsons is a remixed episode of the Simpsons...  |  The "Civilization" theme -- no... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments