In which the author considers how the rules for being an activist have changed due to the attacks.
New Situation, New Rules
The political situation changed this Tuesday, with attacks on America's economic and military infrastructure generating new an entirely new political landscape. This new landscape will be one where jingoism, fear, and hate can be expected to spawn war, racial prejudice of a sort not seen since the fifties, restrictions on our rights, and a whole new set of problems for the left in general, and the anti-globalization movement in specific.
I'll share a couple brief thoughts on the new playing field with you, then make a list of what I see as the new rules for our movement.
First of all, I'm guessing (and it's just a guess) that this attack was not expected. I do think that the Bush White House wanted at the very least a nasty cold war, but I suspect that they had hoped to provoke such a war with China. The idea that anybody would want to get involved in a war in Afghanistan, where incredibly stiff resistance bogged the Russian Army down in an unwinnable war for years is just plain silly.
This probably means that it will be a few weeks before the corporate right gets organized and starts with the serious ass kicking. Hopefully this will give everyone time to figure out how to exploit the situation, or at least get out of the way. Use the couple of days you have before they start exploiting the situation to fix any problems you might have, either in terms of how you might be perceived, or what you might be involved in that could bring the law down upon you.
Second, the situation gives us some new issues and opportunities to focus on:
Would we have been attacked if the elder Bush had sent out armies all the way to Baghdad during the Gulf War? Quite possibly not. Naturally, this makes him a moral coward who has harmed the whole world by his cruel inaction.
What about rebuilding defeated nations after the war. A coalition which began working that issue now could do some very good work making sure that the arrangement isn't too corporate.
And how about those wartime restrictions on our constitutional rights? Bush said, "Freedom itself was attacked... " Fight such restrictions tooth and nail with reference to the above quote. Look for other exploitably bizarre and extreme quotes in the coming week or two.
And the many government departments use that horribly insecure Microsoft OS during wartime. Shouldn't they use Linux? (As a serious geek this is my personal favorite.)
Lead a left wing blood drive.
How 'bout that Orrin Hatch revealing on national TV that we were monitoring Usama bin Laden's radio communications. Loose lips sink ships. Shouldn't he be tried for treason? (This is a great one to discuss on right wing forums. Extra points for finding the exact quote and creating a nice "sound bite" to go with it!!)
I'm sure that other opportunities are out there. Find and exploit them quickly.
THE NEW RULES:
1.) Any kind of cooperation or coexistence with the Black Bloc is over.
At this point anyone who gets convicted of throwing a bottle or rock at a demonstration will probably do the maximum sentence. If you're seen as an accomplice, expect the same. The Bloc will be portrayed as blood crazed terrorists from this point forward and be treated as such. If you want to survive, your organization will need to emphatically explain to both the Black Bloc and the police that you clearly understand the new rules. The Bloc is out of any sane movement as of now.
If you're a member of any anarchist group, get out at once. Please understand, I've got nothing against the Bloc, but the situation now precludes these tactics and affiliations.
2.) The police will have to be clearly invited to meetings, social events, and non-violence trainings. (Especially non-violence training.)
This may initially sound like a BAD THING, but remember it is also your chance to educate them. Get together as soon as possible and appoint someone as your liaison to any law enforcement agencies you might be involved with in any capacity. I know this is NOT a pleasant thought, but the police must either be intimately involved with your group or they will see you as part of the Trade Center Destroying Pestilence. Given the political situation, a good rapport with local and (if possible) federal law enforcement might be the only thing that can keep your group safe if things get weird.
3.) You must be respectful of the dead.
Your group's march or activity in DC or any other action in the near future should start with a few moments of silence or a prayer. In DC a big candle light march the night before protests start would be helpful if it can be arranged, as would a well-publicized group donation to any reliable victims fund.
4.) Sorry, no anti-war signs.
There has been too much blood spilled and too much damage done. There WILL BE A WAR AND THERE IS NOTHING any of us can do about it. Going against the war at this point will, while moral, be VERY, VERY FOOLISH.**
5.) Wrap yourself in the flag.
I know it's a despicable tactic, but grit your teeth and do it. You MUST make sure your group is not seen as treasonous. Fly a flag outside your home or HQ. Find a way to describe your group that relates clearly to the current political reality. For example:
"We protest against the World Bank because we believe that their mismanagement creates the social conditions that spawn terrorists. It's much better to keep people from being poor, oppressed and angry in the first place than have to clean up the crushed bodies of innocent civilians. This is George Bush's fault."
Also, make it a point to arrange for blood donation at any actions your group or collective undertakes, particularly DC IMF.
6.) Expect to be spied upon and infiltrated in every way possible.
The FBI, NSA, CIA and the various military intelligence agencies will soon be operating under some kind of special wartime rules, which will give them much broader authority to wiretap, inspect financial records, use listening devices, infiltrate, monitor your e-mail, etc. They will also be given broader authority to use these new powers on domestic, peaceful groups, and they will probably be given a much larger appropriations. Behave accordingly.
7.) Your PC is now your greatest vulnerability.
Don't be surprised if right wing hackers to go after you while law enforcement agencies smile and look the other way. If you're a Windows user go to http://www.grc.com and install the security tools he suggests. If you're a Linux user install a good firewall. Make sure that only your server can connect to the internet. Get rid of modems in any of your other computers. (If you are in the Los Angeles area e-mail me and I'll try to help.) This will not only defend you from attempts to damage you, it will also keep you from attempts to plant files on your machine which appear treasonous or criminal. Grit your teeth and get technical.
8.) Your group's business must now become completely transparent.
Expect the feds to knock on your door and ask to see all kinds of records. Keep them carefully, have them easily to hand, and make sure everything you're doing is legal. If you were not already using encryption, this would be a lousy time to start.
9.) Be respectful of the President.
I really hate this, but I'm determined to bite my lip and take it seriously. He's still a despicable little moron, but don't say so. He's no longer Shrub or "Butterfly" Bush. When the nation is at war you talk nice about the Commander in Chief. You can disagree with him, you can discuss his failings as a war leader in explicit detail, and even dispute his manhood if you're taking a more extreme position than he is, but don't dis the man until he's got a signed surrender in his hand.
There you have it. The rules have changed, and I don't mean they've just changed a little. Three days ago we were playing baseball and now we're playing soccer. Try to make some headway while the right is distracted. Learn the new rules quickly, take advantage of new opportunities, beat the corporate right to the punch and make them huff and puff to keep up with you for a change!
And no running by the pool!!
Please distribute this as appropriate.
** Morally speaking, those who want to speak against the war are correct, but in tactical terms, I can think of nothing worse. Current estimates would seem to say that this attack killed twice as many people as Pearl Harbor, and 95% of them were CIVILIANS. There has been too much blood spilled, to much damage done to an "essential" part of the economy, and too many people have watched too much disturbing footage combined with high power pro-war propaganda. THERE WILL BE A WAR AND THERE IS NOTHING THE ANTI-GLOBALIZATION COMMUNITY CAN DO ABOUT IT.
If we spend our time and energy fighting against the war, we will certainly alienate everyone we want to educate about globalization and "free" trade. We will convince them that we are crazy, soft on terrorists, and foolish. Anti-war protests will be seized upon by the media, branded as traitorous, linked to the anti-globalization movement and used to destroy any credibility we hope to enjoy.
In taking an anti-war stance we'd be in the position of doctors who are fighting the symptoms instead of the disease. The disease is global capitalism, and the institutions of which it is composed. They create war (or take advantage of wars) for their own ends. As "medics" our immediate concern must be the IMF/World Bank meeting. We should make it a point to attack these institutions with all the strength we can muster and avoid discussing the war.
Original: After the Attack: New Situation, New Rules