"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Nov 10, 2011

Warning Label

If the person opposite an argument or discussion insists on the non-violence of [insert ennobled and revered fakir with a redline to the Allfather or the Everysoul] it might do well to remember that prayer, meditation, magicking and munificent thoughts do not actually alleviate squalor, stop the policeman's baton from completing its arc of brutality, or prevent a rapist from doing his rapey worst.

The appeal to the non-violence of sainted or holy prophets reveals the speaker for someone more interested in preserving his or her own presumed moral integrity than in opposing and ending the abuses which follow from concentrations of power and wealth. This person is therefore committed to a path of earthly or divine salvation; in other words, to the redemption of a treasured, special self from the sins of the world.  He or she is likely to abandon those without grace, and to justify that abandonment with an appeal to non-violence. It is not difficult to believe that these advocates of non-violence regularly end up betraying their own movements, because, in the end they also believe those too sinful or morally impure to seek a holy and harmonious estate of union with right living deserve the sordid fate of a dirty, quotidian world of starvation, venality and agony - one which is ruled by the violent, as a punishment for violence.  Following this logic of holiness to its verbal limits, those impure enough to resist with passion, to strike back, or to seek temporary and tactical advantage deserve to be written off for their surrender to contingency. It is a meted fate, and a merited one.

When the man who wields the baton, and the one who orders him to swing it, eventually get around to putting an end to unrest, the elect, identifiable by the sweaty stink of holy non-violence about their persons, will make their usual mewling sounds. They might even shed tears whilst they cluck their tongues at the dirty youths who brought violence upon themselves by falling from the grace of a perfect peacefulness.

They will safeguard their souls, and their good brand, leaving the dirty and impure work of actually resisting the powerful to people upon whom they heap their worst scorn. After claiming an inherently propertarian and capitalist title to the high ground, to the arbitration of right conduct, and to the soul and the purity of a movement, they will betray it to preserve their own salvation and the imagined redemptive qualities of their presence. They believe, these lesser prophets of a holy man's non-violence, that their bodies sacralize the shared space of resistance. Their mission is apostolic.

They make it holy. And that makes them one more iteration of the bourgeois, "middle class" interloper descending upon the victims of capital with a new set of tablets of the law, seeking not retribution and recompense, but converts to their faith. Armed with that faith, they believe that institutional violence can be undone with magic. They believe in presence, that the presence of saints in the chambers of power will redeem that power. When it comes to an accounting, they don't want to strike at power. They don't want to injure the beast. They want to capture it. They want to redeem it. They want to hold it in their sacred embrace, and to affirm their faith by restoring it to good and sainted purpose. They want affirmation, they want others to have mirrors for faces.


The great thing about mirrors is that when you break them, you get dozens of cutting edges.


Will Shetterly said...

This may be appropriate:


It's about individuals and violence, and it talks about when violence is the right response. I think it applies to groups, too. There are times to resist with everything you've got. But you have to choose those moments very, very carefully. Just as you shouldn't let an individual move you to a secondary crime scene, a place where they'll have even more power over you, you shouldn't use violence when the result will be to give the state more power over you.

When the state wants you to be violent, the state is doing the equivalent of moving you to a secondary crime scene, where they will have more control over you and more freedom to do what they please.

Which seems to be what fans of black bloc tactics don't understand. Or, in the case of provocateurs, understand perfectly.

zencomix said...

I saw a video (on someone's Tumblr, I believe) a few weeks ago of a soccer game. Someone had run onto the playing field with a sign. He was tackling by half a dozen or so security guards or police. They proceeded to start beating the shit out of the guy. About 30 seconds later, a guy, (a spectator? a player?) entered the fray and gave a swift kick to one of the guards. Within another minute, people were pouring onto the field from the stands, coming to the aid of the guy getting the shit kicked out of him by the cops. The cops started getting the shit kicked out of them as they tried scattering away from the guy they had beat up.

OWS could learn something from soccer "hooligans".

Will Shetterly said...

zencomix, what was the end result? Did the owners of soccer teams have them taken away so the teams could become collective organizations? Was the outcome of that particular game changed? Did anything at all change besides a bunch of violent people being violent?

Or let's go straight to your last sentence: who should OWS kick the shit out of to make a better world?

Jack Crow said...


As with the other post, I'm not really defending acts of violence. Or "black bloc" tactics. Or vandalism, as a generic category.

Tactics are situational.

I'm just leveling an angry glare at the holier-than-thou pacifists who've colonized the discussion.

I mean it when I suggest that they are propertarians. They've claimed the king's grant to resistance and now they've embarked on an Enclosure which banishes all the woodlands grubbers and poachers who violate the King's Peace, exposing them to the full force of the royal law.

Will Shetterly said...

Jack, I doubt we're as far apart as we appear here, 'cause I gather we both believe no one should rush into violence and people have a right to protect themselves. But, while I'm far from an expert on OWS, in my reading, OWS has two major problem groups: drummers and blackblockheads. That's not to ignore all the other folks trying to co-opt them, but those are the ones who seem like insiders who're sabotaging, intentionally or not, what OWS wants to accomplish.

So when you talk about violence now, you seem to be supporting blackblocking.

Which continues to be a favorite tactic of the cops. Did you see this?


Will Shetterly said...

PS I get your concern about propertarians. I wish OWS would call for more occupying of empty homes and more prevention of foreclosures.

Jack Crow said...


I don't believe I've even used the words "black bloc" in a post, have I?

I certainly haven't made any commitments to a type of tactics, because that smacks of lecturing the people actually in encampments (not that I think they're reading my stupid shit).

I just have an issue with the middle class, pacifist grundies who think that their revered Gandhi-fuckin-ji had the last word on resistance to empire.

zencomix said...


Here's the video, what the end result was, I don't know, but the immediate result was stopping a guy from getting beaten by the police.

Who should OWS kick the shit out of? If the police start beating people with batons for no reason, I'd say it would be in the interest of OWS to put an immediate stop to it. Disarm the aggressors, take their batons away with a swarm of protestors.

If you are at protest with your mother, and cops start beating you and your mother with batons for no reason, are you going to stand there doing nothing, or are you going defend yourself and your mother? I'm going to defend myself and my mother.

Jack Crow said...


That's mostly how I see it. Active, physical resistance works. Especially when well timed. That doesn't mean an instance of resistance needs to be escalated to murder, obviously.

But, putting the fear into the powerful is very, very underrated. There are risks, but there are also benefits which follow from having the police calculate what they cannot see.

Will Shetterly said...

I think any worry that people won't defend themselves from police or military violence is exaggerated. If you want to make the argument for violence, the better argument, imho, is that our damn media still clings to "If it bleeds, it leads." Until that changes, the best argument for violence is that it gets news coverage.

The counter-argument, however, is that then the coverage is about violence, not injustice.

Also, nudity works nearly as well if your goal is media attention.

Will Shetterly said...

I just came across this:


Check out what happens to the riot police about 57 seconds in.

Now, they weren't attacking. But that's a damn fine way to make it clear who's there for violence and who's there for an issue.

Anonymous said...

the only problem i can see with the blackbloc is that they all were black which makes them easily identifiable.
who could possible care that a few windows are broken? that someone burns some trash? that we throw rocks at cops?
we should stop worrying about how the media will portray our actions because the media is the enemy.

Will Shetterly said...

Anonymous, the media carries your message. When you're nonviolent, they tell Story #1: what you're concerned with, and what horrible things the cops do to you. The image of the young women being peppersprayed was enormously helpful to OWS.

When you're violent, the media tells Story #2: violent thugs were violent, and the cops had to protect everyone from them.

Story #1 spreads OWS' message.

Story #2 sabotages OWS' message.

#2 is, of course, the purpose of provocateurs.

Anonymous said...

the provocateurs are breaking windows too.
if TEH MEDIA is going to be caring our story, it's going to be lying. that's what it does. it is the 1%.
if we rely on NYT, MSNBC, etc to carry our message, we have already lost.
there are, however, other avenues of communication.

Will Shetterly said...

Anonymous, your "other avenues of communication" sounds awfully privileged, as some folks say. The internet doesn't reach everywhere, and not everyone can afford it. Huge swatches of the country are only served by TV and rightwing radio. Violent folks just serve FoxNews.

Thinking of Jack's propertarian concern, I was pleased to spot this:


Jack Crow said...

Will, in all honesty, it doesn't take the internet to coordinate. I'm a big fan of word of mouth, myself. In fact, whilst I use the intertubez to complain and make an ass of myself, I'd never entrust actual tactical correspondence to the web. A while back Justin wondered why I didn't do more practical posting. That's why.

You and anonymous here might not know the name my mother saddled me with, but I've no doubt that der guegler has already shared it upon request from the appropriate agency.

Will Shetterly said...

Jack, word of mouth is great in heavily-populated countries, but the US is full of places where word-of-mouth stops. There are many reasons why capitalism gets an iron hand on this nation--one of them is the sheer size of the US. It's easy to keep us divided. We're not to the point where we can ignore the media, so we've got to use it while making it as hard as possible for the media to use us.

Anonymous said...

it costs money to watch foxnews too. and i wasn't talking about the internet. i meant talking to people.
the best thing about the occupy movement, imo, is that people are meeting face to face and figuring out what to do on their own.

Will Shetterly said...

Anonymous, TVs and radios are cheaper and more common than computers and internet connections--I think you underestimate how poor and how dispersed Americans outside of the cities are, especially away from the coasts. I love that OWS has more people talking to each other, but what's ultimately subversive about OWS is that it's using the media well by staying peaceful and keeping the focus on economic injustice.

Anonymous said...

i meant that, at least around here, the only way you can watch foxnews is by paying for cable. but, you are definitely right about radio . . . which is why we need to start more pirate radio stations. there are also newsletters, zines, pamphlets, ham radio etc.
it's probably impossible, but, at this point, why not try? cuz the corporate media is always going to frame these movements corporately.

Anonymous said...

so we should be less concerned with how these things will look on in/on the spectacle and more concerned with what we need to do to hold and/or take new ground.

but, i also think we're in the middle of a civil war.

Will Shetterly said...

Anon, I dunno about civil war, but it's definitely class war. As for radio, Pacifica offers a fine model that I wish reached everywhere.

Roseanne said...


Actually this post combined with the few that have preceded it actually raises an interesting question:

should one bother to learn "lessons" from life?

could it, in fact, be that that is itself the problem? that people think that life has any "lessons" to teach whatsoever?

so that some people take something or the other that happened in their life as a reason to seek "purification" and then to impose a set of rules (be they "nonviolence" or something else) upon another group, or to set up "heroes" on the basis of the lessons that they believe they have learned...

and all along, one thinks: "well, ok, tactics, strategies, attempts to figure out how to attain certain ends. but lessons???"

mp said...

impressive generalization.

Lisa Simeone said...

Agree with just about everything Will Shetterley has written here.

As for the video of the protesters in Bogota going up and hugging the riot police, I don't know what the law is in Colombia, but in the U.S. if you try that, you can be charged with assault. Any touching of a cop constitutes assault. And assault of a police officer is a serious charge, whether misdemeanor or felony. Of course, you might want to hug anyway to make a point -- that's a choice -- but it does mean risking potential major time in jail.

Lisa Simeone said...

A moment of levity:

Wall Street bull survives attack by matador; clowns arrested


Justin said...

I am a bit tired of the idea that protestors have to make sure they are media savvy, that they have to take care not to do anything that the media will run with, etc. I think the concerns about that rest on a false premise, that the primary task of protest is getting the message out. Because, in turn, rests on another false premise, that if we could only convince people to see it our way, or make them aware of something, then they would change their behavior. That's not really how it works. People don't change their behavior according to some moral enlightenment if its costs them something to do so, look within yourself honestly to consider how this is true. Where we remember it working like that in history, its the result of how history is written and remembered or sensationalized in fictional accounts.

Will Shetterly said...

Justin, I agree with you about how hard it is to get people to change their behavior. (You prob'ly know one of my favorite quotes, Upton Sinclair's "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.") That's why the purpose of a protest has to be simple and clear.

I'm curious: What do you think is the primary task of protest?

Jack Crow said...


I can't type or speak for anyone else, but I'm (hypocritically, obviously) wary of psychoanalyzing individuals. Could a general rule be drawn? Sure. There is, I think, a didactic component to the insistence on non-violence, an idea that people will be elevated and therefore edified, by abstaining from the so-called poisoned drink of it.


Mea culpa. It is a generalization. I hope the links to the two essays/discussions which inspired it offer some manner of reasonably credible explanation.


Tactically, I expect my areas of agreement with Will would look like two barely distinct circles, in a Venn diagram. Morally, I'm extraordinarily cautious of arguments against turpitude.


That's the rub, and you've done well in your latest Shotwell post to express mostly how I feel as well.