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The Anatomy of Resistance – Episode 1

5 Jun

So, Anthony Grimes and I have started a new podcast called The Anatomy of Resistance – Where We (the People) Won & Why. Check out our inaugural episode on the Women’s March, featuring Paola Mendoza and Sarah Sophie Flicker.

You can check it out on iTunes too.

Thanks to the Fellowship of Reconciliation & the University of Denver for their support. Episode 2 coming soon!

“What Can I Do?” A Living Guide to #TheResistance in Denver & Beyond

26 Feb

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People are asking what they can do. Here are some compiled resources, suggestions, and thoughts; I update this page from time to time as I get new info.

Many of these resources direct you to the folks who have been organizing, planning, and mobilizing in our state for a long time. They are the experts. But first, a caveat. The resources / tips below aren’t exhaustive, and they don’t cover the whole landscape of groups and organizations that deserve mention here. Suggestions / additions are welcome in the comments section.

Resources: Mapping the Resistance Landscape

Groups to Follow and Support

Most of these have national or state-by-state chapters. Some are Denver-oriented.

Legal resources, advocates, legislative action, etc.

Community / grassroots groups, activism, etc.

Take Action

I hope that people are willing to commit to taking at least three actions per week in support of the resistance. During most successful resistance campaigns, activists often report that they spend much more time building trust and solidarity, providing care for one another, learning, training, planning, and preparing than they do actually mobilizing in actions.

  • Host a huddle / gathering / civic meeting. Encourage those who attend to do the same, if they can.
  • Support the Denver Metro Sanctuary Coalition, with your funds, your time, food, and if needed, your physical presence. Our undocumented neighbors have urgent needs.
  • Contribute to Jeanette Vizguerra’s legal assistance fund. She’s also asking for folks to sign the petition requesting approval of her stay of removal application or for the authorities to drop her case. Contribute to Ingrid Encalada’s legal fund too. Watch for opportunities to support other members of our community who are in sanctuary.
  • Reach out to the people you know in marginalized communities. Ask them to tell you their story. Listen deeply. See them & hear them. Offer them all of the help, support, and solidarity you can give. And then when you’re out in the world, confront racism actively and consistently.
  • Join, start, or attend an Indivisible Group.
  • Be in community everywhere you can find community. Attend a town hall, a teach-in, a community meeting, civic group, etc.
  • Organize and/or attend an action.
  • Bring a first-time-activist to a protest, rally, or other action.
  • Call your representatives (calling is more influential than letter-writing/emailing).
  • Support the Standing Rock Sioux.
  • Take a civil servant to lunch, coffee, or dinner. Ask them how they are doing, and what you can do to support them.
  • Attend a nonviolence and/or direct action training (or a few). If you are a nonviolent direct action trainer, consider organizing a few trainings for others to attend.
  • Begin a conversation at your church about joining the sanctuary coalition.
  • Plan a few meals a week with people you don’t normally connect with. Talk politics. Ask them how you can support them in getting involved in their community.
  • Spend some time learning about the local grassroots organizations active in your community. See how you can support their work. Show up when they ask you to show up.
  • Write an opinion article for the local paper.
  • Inform yourself about reparations.
  • If you’re a woman and/or a person of color, consider running for office. If you aren’t, consider lifting up and supporting women and/or people of color who are running for office.
  • Develop and share an online, crowdsourced document (e.g. googlesheet, googledoc) with resources / links to resources for others to contribute and share.
  • There is so much more. Add your ideas in the comments section below.

Some insights that came up during the discussion: Focus your energies on the things that most excite you. Own your skills, acknowledge your limitations, and focus on what brings you meaning, power, and satisfaction.

Recognize that being in a position to choose resistance is an extraordinary privilege, and that many in our community do not get to choose. We need to stand with / for everyone in our communities now. Use the freedoms you enjoy to create space for marginalized voices. Practice mutual respect. Don’t be afraid of clumsy interactions; learn from them, and when you know better, do better.

If you’re like me, then you’re in it for the long haul. But you are not alone.

Take it a day at a time, but do what you can to become informed and active as often you’re able. Despair is demobilizing; avoid it. Get help and support from your close networks when you need it, and then reciprocate when you can.

Resources: Civil Resistance Learning

Here are some slides posted at Warm Cookies of the Revolution from a presentation I gave there in January. It has a lot of visuals I referenced during the gathering. Also, check out:

Sites with Accessible & Practical Info about Effective Civil Resistance

Recently Published Short Reads (check out the linked sources in them too)

Longer Reads

Film

Possible Discussion Topics for Huddles

  • Who in our immediate community needs support right now? Are there urgent needs that we can meet? What resources do we have around the table that we can mobilize?
  • How can we most effectively confront white supremacy? How can we inform and engage our white friends and family members to dismantle the oppressive systems from which they benefit?
  • What troubles do I face every day? How are my troubles different from or the same as my neighbors’? Of others’ in our community? How can we support one another?
  • What kind of world do we want to create? How will we know when we are on our way?
  • Where should we be 5 years from now? 15 years from now? 30 years from now? How can we get there?
  • Which actions are you taking each week? How is it going? What is working well? What do you think you could do better? Where do you need further support?
  • Watch “A Force More Powerful.” What insights from these historical cases apply here and now? How can we share these insights broadly?
  • Pick 5 campaigns to read about and discuss from the Swarthmore Nonviolent Action Database. What lessons can we learn from them?

In Closing

My friends, I am glad we are all awake. May we never go back to sleep. As Rebecca Solnit often reminds me, we live in a time of wild possibilities. And to paraphrase the incomparable Rev. James Lawson, do not succumb to the myth that you were birthed into this world impotently. You were born with the power of the universe in your fingers. Use it.

–Note: This post was last updated at 3:36pm on August 21, 2017.–

Civil Resistance Blooms

1 Feb

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Recent weeks have seen the publication of some sharp articles on (or about) civil resistance. Here’s a brief roll-up of ten recent reads on the topic:

Frances Fox Piven, “Throw Sand in the Gears of Everything,” The Nation, January 18, 2017.

George Lakey, “A 10-Point Plan to Stop Trump and Make Gains in Justice and Equality,” Waging Nonviolence, January 23, 2017.

Zeynep Tukefci, “Does a Protest’s Size Matter?” New York Times, January 27, 2017.

Maria Stephan, “An inside-Outside Strategy for Defending the US Republic,” OpenDemocracy, January 27, 2017.

author anonymous, “Trump Endgame,” Daily Kos, January 30, 2017.

Francine Prose, “Forget Protest. Trump’s Actions Warrant a General Strike,” The Guardian, January 31, 2017.

Tina Rosenberg, “From Protests Past, Lessons in What Works,” New York Times, January 31, 2017.

David Solnit and George Lakey, “How Do We Stop Trump and Win Gains in Justice and Equality?” Common Dreams, January 31, 2017.

Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein, and Marc Fisher, “Resistance from Within: Federal Workers Push Back Against Trump,” The Washington Post, January 31, 2017.

Erica Chenoweth, “Worried About American Democracy? Study These Activist Techniques,” The Guardian, February 1, 2017.

Add your reading recommendations in the comments section.

Terrorism in Democracies

28 Sep

Yesterday the FBI arrested a Massachusetts man, who has been subsequently charged with a number of crimes related to terrorism. [1] This is the latest in a string of plots that the U.S. has successfully thwarted, yet it raises alarms for many Americans who have felt immune from Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism on U.S. soil. Erik Dahl, of the Naval Postgraduate School, has identified dozens of credible plots (as many as 45 by jihadist-inspired groups or individuals, according to John Avlon) since 9/11, all of which have been either botched by offenders or thwarted by the authorities.

Americans should not be too surprised by this latest wave of domestic plots. After all, domestic attacks make up the vast majority of terrorist activity–jihadist or not. Neither should they be too surprised about homegrown AQ-inspired activity, which is simply part of the current wave of terrorist activity around the world, as Karen Rasler and William Thompson tell us. Some scholars have even argued that Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism is simply a “fad” that will eventually go the way of all other other fads.

Nonetheless, this brings up three important questions:  (1) Will the current wave of jihadist terrorism be replaced? (2) If so, by what kind of terrorism? (3) Where?

My answers: (1) Probably. (2) Who knows? (3) Largely in democratic countries, most likely.

One of the most important continuities during the past forty years is the fact that terrorism tends to occur much more in democratic countries than in nondemocratic ones–the subject of the book I am currently completing for Columbia University Press. Take a look at this chart, which shows the the number of terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2008 according to the Global Terrorism Database, distributed by regime type:

This chart shows that democracies remain the most frequent targets of terrorist attacks around the world. Additional research confirms that despite all of the concern about terrorism in weak states, democracies also remain the most frequent sources of terrorist activity.

There are lots of reasons why, about which much has been written.

But here’s the good news: terrorism is incredibly rare, even in democracies. As John Mueller insists, a person is more likely to drown in one’s toilet than to be killed (or hurt) by a terrorist. Although there is a fascination with terrorism among the public and in the media, and although it is certainly destructive, violent, and terrifying to those who experience it, terrorist attacks almost never occur.

Moreover, in a recent working paper with Joe Young, he and I find that terrorism does not actually threaten “our way of life,” as some argue. Democracies are incredibly resilient to terrorist threats, and although democracies occasionally do circumvent limits on civil liberties, such measures are usually temporary and are typically repealed over time. Martha Crenshaw has found that democracies almost never retaliate against foreign terrorist attacks using military force, although when they do, it can be quite consequential as we’ve seen in Afghanistan.

My point is that terrorist plots and terrorist attacks are rare but normal in democracies–and that’s likely to continue. Although terrorism is a nuisance, it is not an existential threat to the United States, nor is it ever likely to be.

On the whole, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

The Department of Homeland Security should put that on a billboard.

—–

[1] I shan’t dabble in definitions of terrorism because the caveats and qualifications could go on ad nauseam. For those interested in debates on how terrorism should be defined, Chapter 1 of Bruce Hoffman’s Inside Terrorism is great on the subject. I use a fairly noncontroversial definition: terrorism is politically-motivated violence by non-state actors directed at civilians to produce fear in a broader population.

[this is a cross-post from the Duck of Minerva]

Anarchists Anonymous: Rationality Without Morality is a Bummer

8 Aug

Now, this hack into the Syrian Ministry of Defense was pretty spectacular. Here is the message Anonymous pasted, in English and Arabic, on the site:

To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side – tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face of the regime’s brutality, and admire your willingness to pursue justice, not mere revenge. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next.
To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country – rise up against the regime! – Anonymous

For news about Anonymous, click here. On that site, you’ll find a propaganda-ish video promoting their work:

For the last couple of days, I’ve been pondering whether Anonymous qualifies as a rational actor.

The first thing a rational insurgent will do is establish a clear set of goals. In this case, the goal appears to be total free speech–the inability of any government or any person to maintain any privacy. The rational insurgent will then survey the field of available methods by which to pursue those goals, selecting the techniques that will yield the highest return. Anonymous certainly seems to have a comparative advantage using cyberwarfare, and resorts exclusively to this highly effective strategy. Under rationality assumptions, in conflict, the incentives are generally to be maximally forthcoming with information about one’s credibility and resolve. Anonymous has clearly been forthcoming with information, releasing statements and digital media claiming and explaining different cyberattacks. So, on the surface, they’re pretty much on target as strict definitions of rationality go.

But this case is a little more complex.

First, rationality is more a process of means than ends. We simply assume that actors have goals, and make no judgments about whether the goal is crazy or sensible, right or wrong. This group’s goal is essentially anarchy. They apparently want total, free, unrestricted information, which would involve governments, corporations, hospitals, and other institutions letting go of any privacy or confidentiality. In my view, this goal is unachievable. It also violates one of the most fundamental human rights (see Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which innumerable people have fought and died for over the millenia. And, they seem unwilling to practice unrestricted information themselves. If they were really committed to their stated goals, they’d go ahead and tell us who they were.

Second, in addition to taking down the Syrian Defense Ministry’s website, Anonymous’s compatriots Anti-Sec have also been hacking into domestic law enforcement in the United States in retaliation for the arrests of hackers affiliated with their anarchist cybernetwork (h/t to Jack D). The network claims to have “no sympathy” for the well-being of law enforcement officers in the release of their personal information, since they’ve been “oppressing” people for so long. That’s too bad. One of my family members is a cop, and he spends most of his time protecting us from folks who literally want to hurt us. He gets threatened all the time by violent suspects and has gone to considerable lengths to get his personal information removed from public records to protect himself and his family. In our system, law enforcement officers exist because we pass laws (including many that constrain their actions to guarantee something close to due process) and pay taxes willingly funding their positions. We rely on them to improve our quality of life. As indiscriminate cyberattack that fails to distinguish between legitimate targets and off-limits ones confuses people. Is the group for the people, or against them? Don’t they realize that in our system, law enforcement are civilians too? Don’t they appreciate that the very presence of law enforcement is, in part, what has assured them the quality of life that has allowed them to develop the skills they now use against law enforcement? Under rationality standards, mixed signals are a bad idea, as they distort the opponent’s perception of what the group wants. One way to mix the signals is to be indiscriminate about targeting, which makes it look like antagonism for antagonism’s sake, no matter how many communiques the group issues to explain its actions. Anonymous and its network seem to think that everybody is a potential target, whether they sympathize with their overall objectives or not.

Rationality can be tricky. A group can have a ridiculous goal but still use rational means to achieve it. But because this group has an arguably unachievable goal, uses mixed signals, and seems to be willing to throw literally everyone (except themselves) under the bus to achieve their goal, I’m not sure their stated goals are truly sincere. Instead, I think they are of the type I’d call “non-rational,” an especially perplexing type of insurgent who appears rational but is really just disrupting society for disruption’s sake.

Now that I’ve said all this, I really hope they don’t hack me.