The Day the Right Wing Lost Its Last Shred of Moral Standing

I climbed half way up the old War statue and hooked my arm around the horse’s leg, with the green copper, slouch-hatted and sword-yielding war hero looming above me. From my perch high above the crowd, I could get a better look at Ted Kennedy, but from anywhere I could hear the speech he was making. It was the same as the last speech, and it was great, and there were no surprises, until he mentioned S.1. Then I was surprised, and worried. And I still am. Only now I’m also really pissed.

S.1 was a bill introduced into the United State Senate again and again during the 1970s and 1980s, which provided the government with extraordinary powers to investigate, arrest, detain, and prosecute individuals who were vaguely suspected of working against the government. It was a bill that grew every year like fungus from the fertile manure of fear and hatred manufactured by those who controlled most of the resources in the United States and who wanted to make sure that this did not change. Every year the bill would sprout, like the first whiff of mildew you encounter when you revisit a home closed for a period of time, on the restart of Senate business. It was called S.1 because it was the first bill the right wing (mostly Republicans but some Democrats) would introduce into the senate at the start of the season. And of course, it smelled much worse than mildew.

Ted Kennedy and the other liberals, including moderate and liberal Republicans (yes, in those days there were quite a few liberal Republicans), would hurriedly squash the annoying and embarrassing bill, and normal Senate business would continue. Eventually, the yahoos stopped introducing the bill. But it didn’t go away. It did what fungus does. It stayed hidden in the ground, out of sight, invisibly growing and refining and waiting until the right conditions above ground came to be. Hijacked airliners flown into civilian and military targets by crazed fundamentalist Muslims on September 11th, 2001 produced those conditions, and S.1 was introduced again and passed.

You know of it as the Patriot Act.

And many states enacted their own versions of the same bill, and the society we live in now has this as one of its properties: criminal “justice” agencies and police forces around the country have ample funding, legal basis, and legislative and executive encouragement to directly repress individuals and groups who might disagree with the government. They can use spying, coordinated dissemination of illegally obtained information, harassment, home invasion, falsification of evidence, physical intimidation, arrest, and prosecution.

I hope you understand the great irony of all this, which I shall only mention once before moving on. The right wing and libertarian gun nuts and yahoos (and apparently everybody who lives in Texas and Florida) have been fighting all their lives to keep the government from having these very powers, but they did so by using only one, single utterly ineffective tactic: guaranteeing that they (the yahoos) would have the right to bear arms. All other tactics to minimize the ability of the government to control and repress protest, disruption, or even shouting in frustration or producing subversive art were ignored. As a result, the right to bear arms as a means of keeping the government under some sort of control in the political and social arena has been obviated by the Patriot Act. And the Patriot Act exists (here comes the irony) because George W. Bush stole one presidential election and lied his way past another. He was voted and then kept in office by the aforementioned yahoos, Texans, and Floridians. Thus proving that the yahoos and gun nuts are, by and large, morons.

~ ~ ~

I know some people. These people are between 20 and 30 years of age. They dress as postmodern hippies. They are smart and well educated. They are critical thinkers (except about certain things, depending on the individual), and they tend to be activists. They ride bikes, not cars; they eat more organic and less processed; if they smoke, they prefer Indian tobacco; they make zines and volunteer their time for good works; they tend to be atheists; and they hang out in coffee shops. They live all over the place, but most of the ones I know live in South Minneapolis, where they represent the third generation of political activists grown up in this more-radical-than-most-people-realize city. Their parents were all about Hubert Humphrey and Anti Viet Nam, the Utne Reader and the Mother Earth Catalog, Radical Theater and holding the line at the second Red Barn in Dinkytown.

They are the aging youth of a liberal city and I know them (well, some of them) because they found out that I was teaching radical ideas that interested them, so they came to gawk and sometimes talk, and to introduce themselves to me, in some cases to become my dear friends, and sometimes to tell me to fuck off, and sometimes to get inspired.

A subset of these people are more politically active than others, and when the Republican National Convention was planned for Saint Paul last year, they (and by “they,” I mean people from around the country sharing the same Venn diagram) organized protests and modest disruption. They also did something very humorous and intelligent: the production of a low-end, symbolism-rich, faux threat against the authority of the government, the Republicans, the police, and the military. I have it here, and I need you to watch it from beginning to end before you read the rest of this essay.

Did you spot the symbolism? The Molotov cocktail is obvious. The bowling ball may be less so. We will not all agree with the symbolism, but I saw 1984, ablution, anarchists bicycle movement, anarchists of yore and brats on the Weber of more recent times, awakening, the labor union wars, innocence of youth, Kafka, Marathon Man (the movie), more Kafka, Ralph Nader, several references to earlier protest movements in Minneapolis (a sort of “Hi, Mom and Dad!”), the Beaver Cleaver family representing the inured middle class, the Big Lebowski, the coffee shop trope (in several forms), the environmental movement, the holocaust, the local food movement and the old “food not bombs” trope, the more peaceful messages in the Bible, and more. And I laughed the whole time. I love this video. I love the kids who made it. I love the message it gives and the way it is given.

But the Saint Paul Police Department saw it differently.

We now know, because of the release of previously secreted information and some excellent reporting at MinnPost, that this video was the primary piece of evidence used by the police to argue before judges, city officials, state officials, and federal authorities that they needed funding, warrants, and overall administrative support as well as coordination at the federal and state level to spend $300,000 invading several homes, harassing several people, confiscating truckloads of stuff that police claimed was either evidence or dangerous materials, and ultimately arresting over 800 people.

OK, have you stopped laughing? Have you stopped screaming? Have you cleared the tears from your eyes? Yes, it is true. This video scared the authorities into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to carry out dozens of blatantly unconstitutional acts and hundreds of inappropriate activities. Thousands of law enforcement officials were involved. It was almost like a municipally organized pogrom pitting the police against the populous. The mayor of Saint Paul and the chief of police saw this video, shat in their pants, and the smell is still ripe.

The vast majority of the arrests were the sort of arrests that happen at protests, where protesters are carted off to prison for a few hours or a day and released. But many arrests stemmed from pre-Republican National Convention raids on homes (or other places) in which, it was thought, the ring leaders of a movement that would “destroy the city” of Saint Paul were jailed and charged.

Almost every single charge against almost every single individual has been dropped because there was no case. The vast majority of the confiscated evidence has been shown irrelevant. A very small number of individuals, who are now known as the Saint Paul 8, are still charged with a reduced number of crimes. These charges are likely to be further reduced or dropped. In addition, several quite viable lawsuits are now in play against the police and the city of Saint Paul.

The culture of citizen criticism, positive collective action, and thoughtful radicalism that defined this subculture within Minneapolis has always scared the authorities. Especially the authorities in Saint Paul. The restless spirit of Minneapolis has been used, rather than repressed, by the city itself more often than not, and brought to bear to solve many social problems. But this subculture has always frightened the more conservative, the less informed, and frankly, the less intelligent. When the national movement teamed up with the local to move on the Republicans, it was not enough, apparently, to put up some extra defenses. What had to happen is that this spirit had to be crushed. The free thinkers had to be punished. Those who dared to question the very questionable authority of a rogue political party and a pretender president needed to be labeled as the same ilk as “Al Qaeda” and silenced, even at the cost of our national sense of liberty, and even by a Democratic mayor.

Below I provide a list of resources for those interested in catching up on what happened, what is now known about what happened, and what is ongoing. The Saint Paul 8 have their next hearing in court scheduled in about a month. The prosecuting authorities seem to keep putting it off as though…as though they just want the whole problem to go away. It is widely accepted these days that the highly effective and very repressive actions taken against the RNC protesters (and journalists, and others who were unrelated to any of this) were by and large illegal, inappropriate, retrospectively embarrassing, un-American, and just plain wrong. Almost no one believes that what was done was in any way okay.

At the same time, it has also been said that these activities by the police have put a damper on future protests and broken the spirit of those who might think again about disruption and civil disobedience against an oppressive government.

This, I doubt with every fiber of my being.

News and Resources

Two-part article from MinnPost. This is a must read. Start here.

Part I: Assessing RNC police tactics: missteps, poor judgments and inappropriate detentions
Part II: Looking back at GOP convention: Police kicked into ‘disruption mode’

Details on the Joint Analysis Center: What’s the Minnesota Joint Analysis Center?

Defend the RNC 8 Web Site

Democracy Now reporting on the charges:

Journalist from above report getting busted by the cops in Saint Paul:

Just for fun: Watch Naomi Wolf use the word “permiticization”…but seriously, this is interesting:

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45 Responses to “The Day the Right Wing Lost Its Last Shred of Moral Standing”

  1. September 9th, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    The Science Pundit says:

    Was that video meant to be silent, or did the “copyright Nazis” get their hands on it?

    I remember the Amy Goodman arrest, but this backstory is incredible! I was tempted to sign off with “Power to the people!” but that just might get me on a terrorist watch list.

  2. September 9th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Yes, the video is silent.

  3. September 9th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Pierce R. Butler says:

    As it happens, I do remember Senate Bill 1. I can’t remember right now the minimum number of people in an “unauthorized gathering” which it (would have) enabled the cops to declare a riot and respond accordingly: it was either 3 or 4. (Yes, kids: Nixon was that bad.)

    I also remember that Senator Edward M. Kennedy, as part of a convoluted deal that gave him the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, at one point supported SB1. While acknowledging the many good things he did before and since, I never from that moment on trusted him. Please do not accept his version of that history without some deep digging.

  4. September 9th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Oh, I remember that. It is not necessary to hold it against him. He didn’t “support” the bill, he voted for it to be advanced in the comitte process. If you link the ideology of each bill that each Senator has advanced or held back at some point in the convoluted Senate process you would never be able to figure out who was what in that legislative body. This is why w don’t get a lot of Senators elected as President.

    Good memory, Pierce. Of course, you’ve got it all wrong but… good memory.

  5. September 9th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    AK says:

    What Ms. Wolf is leaving out is that the protests in the early US, the protests in Eastern Europe, etc. were also illegal. In fact, Martin Luther King and his organization broke many laws (mostly state and local), as has just about any protest that “changed anything”.

    I’d go farther than that: in order to “change anything”, a movement has to have martyrs: not necessarily dying but suffering some hurt, such as going to jail, or getting beaten up by offended WASPs, or whatever. Those martyrs focus attention on something somebody with “authority” (including mob law) is doing that most people don’t agree with, which is (IMO) what leads to this type of change.

    So, if you want to make changes, start by picking a law (or laws) that most people consider unfair, or which you can be sure the “authorities” will enforce in an unfair manner, or under unfair circumstances, etc. Then make sure that the “authorities” are goaded into such unfair behavior, and that the whole thing gets publicized. These don’t have to be actual “laws” on the books, they can be local customs that the majority of the country would consider unfair (although IIRC there were laws requiring “negroes” to sit in the back of the bus in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to move farther back). In fact, if you can find a local custom that represents the particular issue you’re trying to change, violate it flagrantly but legally, then goad the “authorities” into arresting lots of demonstrators, you’ve created an even better case of martyrdom.

    While you may decry Christianity (especially its modern incarnation), a study of its early efforts against the Roman Imperium will demonstrate the power of deliberate martyrdom. Similarly, the Civil Rights movement, which was modeled after early Christian efforts, as well as the work of Mahatma Gandhi, who, IMO modeled his own work after that of the early Christians and late pre-Rabbinical Jews.

    (For instance, consider this quote (from the link above): “The unexpected spectacle of endless rows upon rows of men and women simply dying rather than surrender to the will of an aggressor must ultimately melt him and his soldiery.” This is reminiscent of Josephus description of an event early in Pilate’s term as procurator of Judea:

    Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar’s effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the night time; but as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar, while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment-seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them; and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them routed, and threatened that their punishment should be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Cesarea.“)

    Gandhi ‘s work was particularly effective (IMO) because the parallels with early Christian martyrdom(s) were particularly poignant to the predominantly Christian population of England. (Note that in all cases the protests were illegal in terms of the laws of the dominant polity.) To use similar logic, modern martyrs should use similar parallels against the predominantly Christian Right Wing Establishment where it dominates law enforcement, or law enforcement in general where the majority of voters are Christian. Never mind what they (protesters) believe religiously, as long as they can proclaim a belief in American freedom (of, e.g. religion). The important thing is to put the law enforcement establishment in a similar position to the Roman establishment, oppressing and persecuting people in a way the population in general would consider “unfair” and with strong parallels to the persecution of early Christians (and Jews). (I should note that the Romans and Greeks generally considered the early Christians (and Jews) “atheists”, because they denied the existence of most of the Greek/Roman pantheon, and the divinity of the current Imperator. There are obvious parallels to modern liberals who deny the divinity of the currently established Trinity.)

    The bottom line here, IMO, is that mass protests work when/because they involve the creation of martyrs, willing to pay the cost of bringing their objections to the attention of the people who, ultimately, control the “authorities”. (Pilate would have had to answer to the Imperator, who would have had to answer to the people, as, ultimately, did Gaius (aka Caligula) and Nero. Tiberius was too smart to make the sort of mistakes they did, and Pilate was too smart to make this sort of mistake and have to answer to Tiberius.)

    But that cost must be paid. The “Saint Paul 8” deserved what they got: if they didn’t realize what effect their “joke” would have had, for stupidity: if they did, they must have wanted to create themselves as martyrs, which they’ve done. We may be indignant for them, because they would never have become martyrs if the “authorities” hadn’t over-reacted, listening to their own fears and world-view rather than the system of freedoms our country was founded on. But they have no right to be indignant, because they surely must have known what effects their activities would have had.

  6. September 9th, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    D. C. Sessions says:

    Oh, I remember that. It is not necessary to hold it against him. He didn’t “support” the bill, he voted for it to be advanced in the comitte process.

    For those who haven’t wasted too many irreplaceable hours chairing meetings, I’ll point out that all too often people will want to continue discussing a topic long after there is no real doubt of how a vote will turn out.

    In which case, a very useful parliamentary tactic is for someone (/me raises hand) to make a motion that’s the opposite of the near-certain outcome. Said motion goes down in flames and the subject is safely dead.

  7. September 9th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Burt says:

    I’m not surprised that this would rankle a Minnesotan more than say a Texan. When people are scared (this goes for Congresspersons too) they want to have decisions made by others that will protect them and assuage their fear no matter the cost – Ben Franklin’s observation on “essential liberty” notwithstanding.

    As a Massachusetts resident and politically ultraliberal, I’m saddened that the elected officials of my state are attempting to enact the below referenced law despite the blatant unconstitutionality contained within. Many Liberals are just as ill advised as the Conservatives when FEAR has them in its thrall. See this travesty.

    Massachusetts’ good intentions

  8. September 9th, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Thomas Krawford says:

    Conceptually, the video was brilliant. One possible reason the establishment was so successful in attacking it may be in that the execution of the video did not go far enough into the area of an independent film as it could have.
    Giving a nod to Chaplain in Modern Times would have been one sure legal leg to stand on. Making the piece more film noir or going the other way and exaggerating the Pleasant Valley Sunday teabagger hypocrisy through coloring or S/FX.
    Making stronger and bigger artistic choices are always much easier to defend in court than choices that are not as bold.

    I’d like to see it updated and redone with the current socio economic and political climate as a backdrop: kind of like a Kerouac meets Marcel Marceau video travel log of some of some of today’s more troubling cultural hot spots.

    Just a thought.

  9. September 9th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Pierce R. Butler says:

    Of course, you’ve got it all wrong but… good memory.

    I no longer have the articles which I read about this ~35 years ago, but since your memory is apparently even sharper than mine, could you please bring me up to speed about how gaining the Judiciary Committee chair resulted from this minor parliamentary tactic?

    More than a few of those who were closely watching the process at the time reported that Kennedy had left the other liberals to do the hard, sacrifice-requiring work, while he horse-traded across the aisle for personal gain. Having observed the Democrats in action since then, I have yet to see reason to doubt this – perhaps you’ll provide the missing piece to show me I was misled.

  10. September 9th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Tom (8) : Sure, those are interesting thoughts and good suggestions, but one of the points of this post is that if you make a video anything like this, there are police who will take it to judges willing to write orders to have your house searched, your property (including any possible weapons) confiscated, and to toss you in jail and press charges that carry life sentences.

  11. September 9th, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Pierce: You were not misled. And no, there is no missing piece of evidence that is going to bring you to your senses. You are what you are, politically.

  12. September 9th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Mike Haubrich says:

    I think the point is to break the spirit of protesters for future events. Unless they are carrying guns to health care rallies.

    What gets me is that people who are now out arguing against health care reform because of some weird concept of “Freedom” also were in favor of what the cops did leading up to the RNC last year, or supported the arrest of Amy Goodman.

  13. September 9th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    That is because the right wing ideologues are not really ideological. they are just idiotological.

  14. September 10th, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Jason Thibeault says:

    This all raises the question — did they ever have any moral standing to begin with? I’ve always been under the distinct impression that whatever moral standing they had was usurped.

    It’s funny that there’s a sort of double standard in effect — whomever is in power, investigates the closest thing to radicals that the other side of the political spectrum has, often to the exclusion of the other side, no matter who is actually close to radical. Or rather, this APPEARS to be the case. Bear with me.

    Republicans in office ignore the abortion clinic bombings and other home grown right-wing terrorists, while investigating and locking up leftists who make subversive but otherwise innocuous videos. Democrats gain the political power, and suddenly all those right-wing crazies not only double down on the crazy and actually carry out their acts of terrorism, but suddenly the government is paying attention to them — probably because they realize they’re the spark that ignites those powderkegs.

    The Democrats have to pay attention to these *actual* radicals because they’re *actually* dangerous, like with guns and explosives and threats of watering the tree of liberty. In the meantime they’re ignoring the pie-eyed liberal kids that were never really a threat to begin with, no matter how subversive their videos happened to be. We likewise see egregious acts of fascism (cracking down on these protesters and trying them for crimes that never happened), and we get upset only after the fact.

    Or rather, some of us do. Most people don’t get upset at all. The Overton Window is pulled so far to the right for everyone, that they see this as an equivalency. The right-wingers have their own personal overton window pulled even further, such that centrists like Obama seem to be the most liberal people ever to walk the face of the earth, while gun-toting teabaggers who talk about secession are patriotic (make sense of THAT).

  15. September 10th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Paul S. says:

    This is somewhat off the main topic, but I doubt that the entire population of any state are “morons”, even using your definition (which appears to be Person who doesn’t agree with me = moron).

  16. September 10th, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Paul: Technically you are correct. However, I find that calssifying everyone in Texas as a moron because of the horrid shit that keeps flying out of that dismal place …. everything from Bushes to creationist school boards …. both amuses me and keeps the liberals in Texas on their toes.

    And no, people who don’t agree with me are often very smart. However, anyone who can look at the posted video and imagine this as valid evidence to disrupt the lives and potentially jail for life a bunch of 20 year olds is an evil moron. Not just a regular moron. Or, just really evil. Well, actually, it is hard to imagine what range of combination of being stupid and being evil one requires to look at that video and think the next step is to put the kids who made in jail for the REST OF THEIR FUCKING LIVES!

    You are an historian, Paul. Think about it for a second.

  17. September 10th, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Stagyar zil Doggo says:

    1. I found parts of the Naomi Wolf clip a little silly. I mean, “Mass! Protest! Always! Works!”? Except when it doesn’t as she also describes, apparently unironically. That permit shit isn’t a recent USian invention either; its as old as Mass Protest itself. Pretty much every jurisdiction in the world has laws against “rioting”, or “unlawful assembly” on the books, which are easily co-opted to suppress protest. “Free Speech Zones” may however be a distinctly USian Orwellism. And the protests of the 60s felt “less Disneyish” because more actual skulls were cracked open.

    Mass Protest works when sufficient numbers of people refuse to back down despite the resulting personal costs to their safety/liberty/property. A good metric is that if you can’t fill the prisons to overflowing, your chances of success are slim. (Although I’m sure there are exceptions.)

    2. AK @5: I am in agreement with much of your analysis. But you go off the rails in your last paragraph.

    The “Saint Paul 8” deserved what they got: if they didn’t realize what effect their “joke” would have had, for stupidity: if they did, they must have wanted to create themselves as martyrs, which they’ve done. We may be indignant for them, because they would never have become martyrs if the “authorities” hadn’t over-reacted, listening to their own fears and world-view rather than the system of freedoms our country was founded on. But they have no right to be indignant, because they surely must have known what effects their activities would have had.

    Really? They have “no right to be indignant” at being illegally slammed into prison and threatened with years of incarceration for perfectly legal acts? Because such overreaction was in some way predictable (to you, if not to them) ? Is stupidity (if that’s what it was) such an unforgivable crime? This part of your comment is reminiscent of much recent commentary that Henry Louis Gates “deserved” what he got because he didn’t have the “sense” to lower his head and say “yus suh” when the cop started bullying him (unless he was deliberately provocative, in which case he got what he wanted and hence “deserved”).

    That apart, I’m not at all convinced that the cops’ reaction was somehow predictable. Inflicting punishment is costly. Compliance through fear can be maximized by inflicting disproportionately large “punishments” on a few arbitrarily chosen opponents instead of spreading it out proportionately. Of course, perpetrators of “more egregious acts” and leadership positions are more susceptible, but “crimes” of commensurate size are still liable to be unequally punished. I’ll guess that several of those who they’ve already let go committed offenses of equal or greater degree.

    The reaction to disproportionately egregious punishments is a good measure of the likelihood of success. You need to stand up after such events and say, “thank you sir (your politeness brings out the brown in their shirts), may I have one too”. And you need to do it in sufficient numbers so as to overwhelm their punitive apparatus. If you cower in fear at this point and go home you are unlikely to succeed, at least through Mass Protest.

  18. September 10th, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Stagyar zil Doggo says:

    Oh! and not a fan of Molotov Cocktails, or (most) jocular references thereto.

  19. September 10th, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Danimal says:

    Please read this web site about Black bloc’s and then rewatch the video. Once you do, you will understand why the authorities were concerned and took the precautions they did.

  20. September 10th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Danimal says:

    The web site is . I guess inbedded links do not work here.

  21. September 10th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Stagyar: I also found Wolf’s analysis and approach somewhat annoying. I thought a lot about the statement about mass protests. It might be true. I’m wondering if that counts, though, if the protests are going for three generations and nothing happens. Tibet comes to mind.

    I also think she does not realize that in the old days, that was often quite permiticized as well. However, whent Stephanie Zvan sent me that clip I agreed with her that it was appropriate for this post because of the contrast between vanelliciized (if youwill) protest and what the Welcoming Committee was doing.

    AK: I’m going to second Stagyar’s comments on your idea that if you make a joke and/or protest a senseless war and/or etc. even if you break a few windows, you should go to jail for life. They do hav a right to be indignant, and I should mention that they are also quite aware that if you carry out civil disobedience that you may end up in jail. They don’t have a problem with that. But the new Patriot Act like laws and the way the police have put them into effect mean that if you protest the status quo, or even show that you are thinking about protesting the status quo, that this is a crime against the state of the highest magnitude.

    Sorry, no.

  22. September 10th, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Oh! and not a fan of Molotov Cocktails, or (most) jocular references thereto.

    But you have to give them credit for this one, with the Weber. Unless you’re not in on the Weber culture thing, then. (People in South Minneapoilis routinely use Molotov Cocktails to light the Weber.)

    Daminal [19]Please read this web site about Black bloc’s and then rewatch the video. Once you do, you will understand why the authorities were concerned and took the precautions they did.

    Daminal, I will simply repeat my response to your similar comment on my other blog:

    “Why would you think that I’m unaware of the context? Why would YOU think that planning (if proven, which it was not) to break a window is a crime sufficiently bad to be sent to jail for the rest of your life? Ten windows even.

    And, the bottom line: If there was really a serious crime, how come there are no serious convictions? The serious charges were all dropped last April when the DA finally backed off. They called those charges “distractions” and dropped them. How come 300,000 dollars of funding and thousands of hours of police work including weeks of surveillance before and after produced essentially nothing?

    No, Daminal. The fact that you can get scared enough by a wikipedia page to assert that these kids should spend the rest of their lives in jail is outrageous. I think you need to rethink the way you think about these things. I mean, seriously, we can disagree on whether or not civil disobedience is OK or what is too much, but that is not what this is about at all. “

  23. September 10th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Pierce R. Butler says:

    Greg Laden @ # 11 – Evade & overextrapolate much?

  24. September 10th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Pierce, yes I was evading. actually, avoiding.

    I was avoiding telling you this: You seem to be indicating that you could never trust Ted Kennedy specifically because of the deal you remember him making in regards to S1. If I am wrong about that tell me. If I am right bout that, also tell me and I’ll tell you how utterly stupid it makes you seem. I won’t pull any punches. I’ll check back later.

  25. September 10th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    other Greg says:

    @21: “[…] protests are going for three generations and nothing happens. Tibet comes to mind.”

    The United States of America comes to my mind.

  26. September 10th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    AK says:

    @Stagyar zil Doggo, Greg Laden…

    I wasn’t saying that “if you make a joke and/or protest a senseless war and/or etc. even if you break a few windows, you should go to jail for life.” What I was saying was that they undertook to make martyrs of themselves and succeeded. If you poke a stick at the tiger through the bars of its cage, you have no right to feel indignant when it reaches through the bars (or breaks out) and mauls you. Granted, the tiger shouldn’t be there in the first place, if you poke it you have to take responsibility for the results. Even if your getting mauled was the price of somebody fixing the problem (tiger).

    See my comments above regarding finding a perfectly legal act that will result in arrest and/or other persecution. This makes the most effective type of martyr. I find it unbelievable that the people who created this clip didn’t realize the risk of what they were doing. Fine. They presumably wanted to become martyrs. They did.

    The left has constantly been complaining regarding how “Amerikkka” is a police state, full of injustice perpetrated by the “authorities”. Were they lying in their teeth? If they (St. Paul 8) actually believed what they (left in general) were saying, they knew the risk, and were “poking the tiger”. They got mauled, which is a good thing from the point of view of making changes (which needs martyrs). IMO the price of this type of social change almost always includes martyrdom. Unless the “St. Paul 8” were deceived into making martyrs of themselves, they have no right to complain.

    That doesn’t mean I think it’s OK. It’s a good thing to raise public indignation over this, especially since our current president is presumably much more “with it” when it comes to modern culture and technology than the previous one. This will serve as an opportunity for him to take a position regarding police paranoia. It’ll be interesting to see what his response is.

    This part of your comment is reminiscent of much recent commentary that Henry Louis Gates “deserved” what he got because he didn’t have the “sense” to lower his head and say “yus suh” when the cop started bullying him (unless he was deliberately provocative, in which case he got what he wanted and hence “deserved”).

    The cases aren’t parallel, unless, as you say, “he was deliberately provocative“. There’s a big difference between the deliberate provocation the clip represents, and being confronted by police in/around your own home. The case is still somewhat iffy: if somebody is breaking into their own home, they have to expect some suspicion on the part of the police. But the police also have an obligation to check out any claim of “forgotten keys”, before acting, especially as they did.

    The fact is that ideally, the police should be like robots, following the proper procedures and never allowing their personal paranoia, anger, or other reactions to interfere with how they behave. But police officers are human too, and between the numerous constraints placed on them, and the generally low pay and dangerous working conditions, it’s understandable that many officers aren’t really qualified for their work in this regard.

  27. September 10th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    rnc 8 says:

    Actually the video has a song and YouTube pulled it. Go to

    to see it in all it’s glory

    Rob one of the RNC8

  28. September 10th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Mike Haubrich says:


  29. September 10th, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Rob: Perfect.


  30. September 10th, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Oh, and I might add, scary as shit too. The authorities never could handle Rock and Roll.

  31. September 10th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Pierce R. Butler says:

    Greg – was I stupid to ask if there were facts that would correct my possibly false impression?

    Have I lost my senses to suspect that an individual who apparently dumped his principles, and his nominal allies, to gain a position of greater personal power should not be counted on in other fights?

  32. September 10th, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Yes, you are totally wrong about that. You have taken a single episode that you probably understand poorly and certainly have only limited information about, which you have likely misunderstood or misinterpreted because you have a view of how politics and in particular the Senate works which is nothing like what really happens, and used this misconception to condemn the entire life work and fundamental integrity of a person you never even met but who devoted his life to serving you. Yes, loss of senses would be a good way to describe this!


    Jeesh. May you never be judged as you have judged Teddy.

  33. September 10th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Pierce R. Butler says:

    Sheesh – I’ve already been judged on the basis of very limited statements, and quite recently.

  34. September 10th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Pierce, grow up. The topic of this post is an important and ponderous one. Your tiff with the image of Ted Kennedy is of no consequence. And if you want to whine about something, please state what it is you are whining about. Nobody else is keeping track, I assure you. But better to just not whine.

    You’ve shown sufficiently bad for badmouthing the man so soon after he died that I think you need to take it down a notch anyway.

  35. September 11th, 2009 at 4:18 am

    brianw says:

    To me, a moron is anyone that accepts blatantly false statements and takes suggestions or insinuations for ridiculous actions seriously.

    I’ve lived my entire life in Texas. I would most certainly classify Texas as a state of morons because that is how the majority of them act. Hell, i’d classify myself as a moron for staying here this entire time! 🙂

    People can be smart, or even brilliant and yet still a complete and utter moron. All it requires is blind acceptance of a “fact” without stopping to think about the logic or evidence behind said fact. *poof* “Yer a moran!”

    A prime example is the approach of treating drugs as a felony crime instead of as a medical addiction despite the mounds of evidence indicating that felony prosecution has made a negligible dent since the first drug laws were enacted, while countries that went with the medical approach have seen dramatic reductions in levels of addiction, prison population, and associated crime.

  36. September 12th, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Stagyar zil Doggo says:

    AK @26:
    On Martyrdom: Not counting the recent fashion in suicide bombings started by the LTTE, I suspect martyrdom is, for the most part, accidentally encountered and only then reluctantly, if at all, embraced. And unless it’s a part of their organizational ethos, those that do aspire to martyrdom tend to plan alone and in secret, hoping to protect their compatriots. This particular video was made by a moderately large group of people. It also hints at illegality at least thrice (molotov / wirecutter / bowling ball) only to clarify an innocuous intent and outcome on each occasion. I’d say it was made by people well aware of the limits of constitutionally protected speech vis a vis promoting violence, who clearly hoped to avail of those protections. A desire for martyrdom is far from evident to me.

    Note also my comments on random imposition of disproportionate punishment. This is obviously known to protesters too. Outcomes are far from known upfront and large subsets of them are playing the odds. Initially they are testing the authorities’ punitive appetite and abilities. When these turn out to be large, their subsequently participation is based on the hope that theirs won’t be the skull cracked open today. An inability to swallow the restrictions that staying away would require accepting is what stops them from staying home. But if every single person expected to experience brutal violence, long term incarceration or death, very few would actually show up (for a non-violent protest at least).

    Which leads to the part of my response that you’ve left unaddressed, regarding both the rnc8, and HLG. Even if the provocation was deliberate, albeit consisting of perfectly legal acts, miscalculating the precise extent of the authorities’ overreaction does not in any way make you “deserve” the full extent of said overreaction. In fact, your usage of both “deserve” and “indignant” engenders a response of “I do not think it means what you think it means”. Other than that, I suspect we are largely in agreement.

    …how “Amerikkka” is a police state, full of injustice perpetrated by the “authorities”. Were they lying in their teeth?

    I’d say it was more akin to a millionaire complaining about the ravages of poverty on discovering that s/he’s worth only half as much.

    … ideally, the police should be like robots, …

    I think the word you’re looking for is “professionals”. 🙂

  37. September 12th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Stagyar zil Doggo says:

    @Greg Laden:


    But you have to give them credit for this one, with the Weber. Unless you’re not in on the Weber culture thing, then. (People in South Minneapoilis routinely use Molotov Cocktails to light the Weber.)

    Huh! Whaat? Cos glass chards in your roasted meat is considered a particular delicacy in South Minneapolis? Sorry, clearly I don’t get. Unless you mean Vodka+Rum, in which case … I still don’t get it.

    2. LOL @ Vanellicized.

    3. As to counterexamples to “Mass! Protest! Always! Works!”, China and Burma come to mind. I am somewhat ambivalent about Tibet. The current Chinese regime, while clearly responsible for cultural, and political repression, appears to be an improvement over the feudal theocracy it replaced. Those desiring a restoration of said theocracy (relabeled as democracy, but are you really going to vote the “living Buddha” out just cos he’s repressive/incompetent?) have participated in peaceful protests which have been brutally repressed. But I doubt the “mass” aspect of these protests. I suspect there’s a significant anti-clerical faction that won’t truck with these guys.

    4. Your disagreement with Pierce R. Butler on Ted Kennedy: Pierce has at least articulated the basis for his particular conclusion. You clearly think he is wrong, and have chided him for his conclusion on the basis that he’s misinterpreted the situation based on limited understanding. But you’ve refrained from justifying your contrary conclusion so far. This makes reading your posts on this sub-thread a waste of time for those of us who are even less familiar with the particulars.


    Have I lost my senses to suspect that an individual who apparently dumped his principles, and his nominal allies, to gain a position of greater personal power should not be counted on in other fights?

    Not to comment on Kennedy in particular, but I suspect a certain skill in backstabbing is a necessary qualification for even a chance at electoral office. There are no absolutely trustworthy allies. We have to calculate anew the backstabbing pdf* for each ally on every occasion.

    * Probability Density Function.

  38. September 12th, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Danimal says:

    @Greg Laden: It is Danimal not Daminal. From what I read, black bloc is used to do something illegal in protests (for example vandalism, fighting with police, etc.). Follow the links at the bottom of the wikipedia page to find true black bloc web sites. I was not aware of this until AFTER I read this post. Given what happened at the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, I can see why the authorities were concerned when they saw the video. I think peaceful protests are OK. But destroying businesses is not.

  39. September 12th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    They tried to send these kids to prison for life because someone ELSE broke a window in saint paul and because they made a video. I don’t think you are really OK with this. Not if you think about it. Rather than following links, follow the logic. Don’t be alarmed and scared at every turn.

  40. September 13th, 2009 at 11:16 am

    other Greg says:

    Danimal, that is called “Guilt by Association”.

    It’s a good way to keep ignorant peasants in line.
    It’s a poor way to argue a point.

    Also, it reveals more about the disorders in the accuser’s mind
    than about the associates of the victim.

  41. September 13th, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    other Greg says:

    Ak, it is hard to discern your purpose.

    Greg wrote a somewhat rambling essay expressing dismay and outrage about the state’s illegitimate use of instruments like the “Patriot” Act, and its assault on our Civil Rights.

    You, although you later claimed to agree with Greg, wrote a rambling reply touching on a number of topics, which several took to mean you disagreed, and which in toto seem to be a collection of red-herrings, chosen carefully and specifically to entice Greg.

    Of course, I cannot speak for your motives. And this is only one out of probably millions of blogs… especially leftish and consequently more lively blogs… where this happens : When I read from the beginning and keep reading until the end, the Topic gets swallowed up in the marshmellow.

  42. September 13th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Of course, I cannot speak for your motives. And this is only one out of probably millions of blogs… especially leftish and consequently more lively blogs… where this happens : When I read from the beginning and keep reading until the end, the Topic gets swallowed up in the marshmellow.

    Sort of like in this rambling paragraph.

  43. September 14th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    other Greg says:

    No. A lot longer. And usually multiple paragraphs.

  44. January 19th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Encouraging man says:

    If the left would act like civilized human being instead of a bunch of hippy marxist freaks, maybe police wouldn’t even be needed in the first place. Be normal for a change. Stop thrwoing crap and stop being violent and the raids will stop. You people truly belong in the Middle East. I bet you’d give HAMAS a run for their money when it comes to violent protests. You two go good together. Twittle Dee and Twittle Dum.

  45. January 19th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Mike Haubrich says:

    Thanks for the insightful comments. Oh, and check out our online store while you are here. We have some “teabags” for sale.

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