Social Justice Strikes Back; From Mizzou to Salt Lake SJ is on the move

For social justice advocates, the last week and a half has offered enough joyous squeal inducing content to last a lifetime. From Salt Lake to New York, Social Justice has been on the march smashing expectations, challenging institutions, and toppling regimes. The apparent victories serve only bolster the millennial activist core who continue to leverage social media as a brutal club with which they have, and will continue, to strike at every foe of their intended utopia. The question of course is, who is next?

For review, the Millennial Army enjoyed three major victories; Tarantino, Mormons, and Mizzou. First, Quentin Tarantino provided a much needed public boon to Black Lives Matter’s continued war on police. After marching alongside anti-police demonstrators at the Revcom sponsored “Rise Up October” rally in New York, Tarantino made headlines for his apparent support for “cop haters.” Police unions across the country rallied against Tarantino and called for boycotts against his upcoming film release. Instead of pulling a mea culpa, as would be the norm for loose-lipped Hollywood types, Tarantino doubled down on his criticism of police tactics. First on NBC where he declared himself a victim of police intimidation via the unions who want to shut him down. Then on November 6th, Tarantino furthered his stand on Bill Maher’s show where he explained cops should focus more on breaking the “blue wall” and outing bad cops. Regardless of his intent, Tarantino succeeded at keeping the anti-police rhetoric alive, which thrilled the throngs of social justice activists who see police brutality as their vector into destroying a system steeped in male patriarchy and white supremacy.

In stark contrast to the street level tactics seen at the Revcom rally, social justice soldiers used a subdued, and religious-centric approach to attack the Mormon church. The root of the latest surge of anti-Mormon sentiment came from the church’s “clarification memo” regarding the children of same-sex couples. In short, children in those families will not be allowed to be baptized until they are 18-years-old. Those opposed to the church used the policy to prove the church was homophobic and even went so far as to create the hashtag, #mormonhate. Despite the presence of popular provocateurs, like Gregory Lucero, the most surprising element in this fight was the number of church members who publicly decried the church. Social media exploded with accusations the policy was “not of God, but of man” and indicative of an old, white, male-led church. The amount of members who stood in opposition of the policy, and the silent hundreds who privately lost their faith, are evidence of social justice’s ability to transcend theological boundaries. Rumors are swirling of mass resignations from the church, similar to ones organized by “Ordain Women” earlier this year. Perhaps unwittingly, the LDS church just threw itself onto the social justice anvil, and only time will tell how they fair.

Finally, in what will be considered one of largest victories so far in the social justice war, Black Lives Matter, assembled under the umbrella of “Concerned Student 1950”,  and forced the ouster of President Tim Wolfe. The simmering tensions between the student body and the president came after a series of on and off-campus incidents involving racial slurs and at least one Swastika drawn with feces. A portion of the student body organized with the help of the long-time BLM leaders and leveraged social media, to highlight stories of injustice and racism, and call for his resignation. In solidarity, the Mizzou football team announced they would not play until Wolfe resigned. This coupled with the threats of a faculty walk-out, forced Wolfe to concede to the mob, and resign. Along with their calls to resign, the Concerned Student 1950 group demanded a series of concessions by the University. Some of them profoundly unrealistic, while other have nothing to do with academia. In the end, it does not matter, Black Lives Matter, and social justice army prevailed once again.

For the time being, the SJ army has their battle calendar full. They are targeting Cal-Poly, Ithicia, and of course Yale. In the background they will continue to press the LDS church, and of course they will always fall back to anti-police marches and calls for reform.

#Ferguson and the Crisis of Authority

This post was originally published in August, 2014. 

Three days ago the Missouri State Police stepped into the middle of a crisis in the name of peace. As they entered the Ferguson city limits, they all but excused the local police from their duties, and offered what some saw as a concession from the state. Friday night seemed to confirm Capt. Ron Johnson and Governor Jay Nixon’s theory that removing the militarized police from the scene would calm the protesters and usher in a new era of police/protester relations. Then Saturday arrived, and any notion of cooperation was left on the side of the road with empty teargas canisters and rubber bullets.

In hindsight, Nixon and Johnson did what they felt was right based on decades of education, leadership, and experience. Their decision was right in line with established methodology when dealing with civil unrest; provide leadership. In the case of Ferguson, Nixon and Johnson decided the local police were no longer able to provide leadership on the streets, therefore a third party, one that had heretofore not been involved to any measurable degree, could step in and fill the void. Had the Ferguson unrest occurred ten, maybe 15 years ago, they might have succeeded. Today however, civil unrest like the type seen in Ferguson cannot be treated this way. It is a movement bereft of leadership, yet led by thousands. It is the ultimate in organized chaos, and it shatters old hierarchical molds. Welcome to the future.

In his book, “The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium” author Martin Gurri argues new social movements no longer need established hierarchies. In fact, modern movements are quickly eroding the authority of established political and special interest groups. They form and dissolve in an almost unpredictable manner and exist just so long as the desire to revolt continues. New movements, like the one in Ferguson, are not motivated by old enticements, rather they are ideologically motivated. This makes them impossible to prevent, and nearly impossible to slow or hinder. Due to their fluid nature, these movements do not require centralized leadership. This is both their primary strength and their ultimate weakness. They exist, as Gurri stated, in a crisis of authority. The crisis is not so much personal, as most within the group do not care for authoritative figureheads, it is deeply internal and inherent in their structure. Thus, once a movement begins to weaken, it will self-decimate rapidly and life will carry on as usual. That is the risk of leaderless resistances.

So, is Ferguson a leaderless resistance and does it suffer from a crisis of authority? To answer that we need to look at who has tried to steer the movement. We already touched on Capt. Johnson and Gov. Nixon. They failed, as seen in the Governor’s August 17th request for National Guard troops. Others include the Nation of Islam, The New Black Panther Party, Rev. Al Sharpton, the Moorish Temple and many others. Other than a few hours of relative calm, none of these groups can control the movement. During the build-up to the Saturday night teargas deployment, numerous protesters and observers were heard begging the crowd to obey the curfew. They were ignored and the mass moved on until there was gas. They were ignored because they represented and existential element, trying to break into dynamic and take control. They were honestly just as effective as riot officers.

Where do we go from here? In terms of law enforcement, strategies will need to be modified. As I stated earlier, these movements are impossible to predict, therefore impossible to stop. They can however be slowed, and occasionally derailed. The methods for this do not involve teargas, per se, rather an intellectual look at the dynamic and good old fashioned risk analysis. For protesters the leaderless movements mean more teargas, more hacktivism, and an unknown future. If the movement’s message resonates with the citizens and power brokers, then social change may occur. If however the movement is seen as nothing more than rampaging malcontents the message will die as the people turn their backs on your plight.

#Ferguson. (www.upi.com)

Why #ISIS cares about #Ferguson

Standing on the rubble of a bombed-out apartment complex in Gaza seems an odd place to see a sign supporting rioters in Ferguson, Missouri.  Yet, there he stands, a man with a forlorn look, holding a homemade sign declaring Gaza’s support for the movement in Ferguson. The links between Gaza and Ferguson are not obvious to the general public, and require a deep dive into American left ideology. Indeed this is exactly why the links between Gaza and Ferguson should be treated seriously. Anti-establishment ideology is ubiquitous in American activism and research into the solidarity between Gaza and Ferguson opens a Pandora’s box of extremism which ultimately leads to a British Jihadi fighting for ISIS.

In August the terrorist group, the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” issued a statement of solidarity with the protestors in Ferguson. The PFLP, amongst other things, stated “…the empire will fall from within.” The phrase is not merely an extremist platitude, it is a philosophy that many activists in the United States either ignorantly follow, or willingly promote. Regardless of where one stands in the activist continuum, they all acknowledge that no external force would ever bring down the United States. But what if a force was able to crumble the system from the inside? Is there a precedent for this? The answers to these questions explain the recent messages from ISIS to Ferguson.

If one looks at the Arab Spring or Euro-Maidan one sees a common theme emerge; when governments fail, extremists thrive. No one can reasonably argue that the Arab-Spring didn’t benefit al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, or even ISIS to a certain degree. Syria is a failed state and is the global training ground for Jihadists from California to Chechnya. In each of these cases, the impetus for unrest came from within but was fueled by outsiders who leveraged the chaos to seize power. Power was found by those who could move swiftly into a deteriorating situation and establish order. Iraq, Syria, and Egypt all stand as a testament that a government can be crumbled from the inside and that extremism is quick to move in and take over.

Returning to Ferguson, is there a foreign influence and does it encourage anti-government sentiment? The answer is a resounding yes. For example there are at least a dozen pro-Palestinian groups on the ground in Ferguson operating, organizing, and encouraging the unrest. Each of the groups have direct links to Gaza and spread their ideology through drawing moral equivalencies between the “oppressive Israeli occupation” and a “racist, militarized police force” in the United States. They all understand that once a person accepts the premise they are being systematically targeted by an oppressive regime, any tactic becomes morally acceptable. Hence, rioting, looting, and even violence are not only suggested, they are encourages. The police in the United States are now seen as a militant arm of a Fascist regime, controlled by anomalous powers and fueled by institutionalized racism.

This is the exact vector four members of ISIS used to inject their support for Ferguson. Their messages, while seemingly short, are firebrands stoking distrust, anger, and extremism. They seem to have watched the influence of the anti-Israel groups and decided they too can capitalize on the dissent. Their messages are an acknowledgment that the plan has worked before, and could work again. The question now becomes will Ferguson act as a rally point for lone wolves or homegrown violent extremists sympathetic to ISIS, al-Qaeda, or PFLP? Time will tell. The “Food Stamp Bomb Plot” foiled last week does not appear to be connected to an international group, but was terror inspired nonetheless. Their amateur attempts may be a “one-off” or may be the beginning of a new wave of insider attacks aimed at undermining the government. Again, time will tell.

2016 Preview: Gender Equality and the Perils of Patriarchy!

In October 2014 a clothing company smashed the delicate sensibilities of Americans by producing a viral-destined video of eight-year-old girls dressed as princesses, educating the world on gender pay equality and various conjugations of the “f-word.” The creators made the dubious claim the video was meant to draw attention to the plight of equal pay for equal work, despite it being the sole source of internet traffic to their on-line store. And, in typical partisan fashion, the video was defended on the left and vilified on the right. Its overall message however seemed to be missed by everyone; Feminism was back in style.

To be fair, feminism never really went away, but it has taken a far back-seat in recent years. During the hiatus from the spotlight, feminist adherents used to the time to re-tool their messaging just in time for what may prove to be a pivotal moment for them; the 2016 General Election. The first change was to move away from the name “feminist” and adopt a more social-justice minded label like gender equality. While the term “sexism” still exists, it is reserved for the hardcore activists. The term has morphed to gender discrimination or the more cryptic term, Patriarchy. They also moved quickly to push phrases like “rape culture” and “man spread.” All of these are dog whistles to the newcomers of the social-justice scene, specifically millennials, and meant to keep the fires burning.

To the activists and advocates, gender equality and the systematic oppression of women transcend nearly every social-justice boundary in modern society. The student loan industry is collapsing, but the crisis is much worse for women. The living wage fight, also known as “Fight for $15”, has been painted as very much a women’s issue. Nearly every reputable news and commentary site has done a spread on the “pay gap” with some saying it exists due to longstanding patriarchy, while others state it isn’t nearly as bad as some think. Politicians have unabashedly cited the pay gap as the driving force behind gelastic legislation meant only embarrass the other side. Unemployment in America is still staggeringly high, and women are making up an increasingly larger group in the overall numbers. Finally, gun control has been framed as an imminent women’s issue, closely linked to rape and domestic violence.

Social issues aside, feminism has taken on some major powerhouses in the United States over the last few years. Groups like “Ordain Women” challenged the LDS church on matters of gender equality by demanding women be allowed into the Priesthood meetings. The NFL came under direct fire from women’s groups after serious allegations were made against their handling of known abusers. The NFL’s fumbling of the issue led to an open discussion about the prevalence of domestic violence in America. Silicon Valley, well-known for its hipster/millennial population took a direct hit from women for its acceptance of a male dominated culture. Even false allegations of rape at UVA were seen not as giant hoaxes perpetrated on the public, but aides in a much-needed dialogue on rape and abuse on American college campuses.

None of this has happened in a vacuum. There is a noticeable crescendo in the volume and tempo of the new feminist movement. It leads to the inexorable conclusion that the next election will be all about the ladies. Take the two strongest candidates thus far for President; Elizabeth Warren (powerful despite having yet announced), and Hillary Clinton. Both women are strong advocates for women’s rights, and threaten the patriarchal political system in the U.S.. The Republicans will immediately face charges of sexism and patriarchy the moment they select their candidate, provided it is a male. The feminists will use their experience over the last few years to shred any candidate that threatens their advancement. In fact, they’ve already begun with the media induced smack-down of Rand Paul. The feminist activists learned a lot from the success of Mitt Romney’s binder comment, and will undoubtedly ramp up the pressure as the election nears.

Feminism is not dead. It is alive and well and if all indications are correct, the movement is about to undergo a long-awaited renaissance.

Carpe Locus Collective (Profile and Analysis)

Carpe Locus is an Anarchist collective in the traditional sense, however they are also an activist group. Formed in 2013, the group formed with the goal of creating a common space similar to the now defunct Dry River center in Tucson, Arizona. A common space in collectivist terms is a home or structure where people can gather, rest, eat, find food, and work as a small community to survive. Often common spaces have gardens, donated clothing, donated food, a soup kitchen, and a stage for concerts. Carpe Locus’ original intent was to convert a house in Tempe, Arizona into a common space. There are unconfirmed reports the group was successful in finding a house in late 2014.

Where Carpe Locus is most effective is local activism. They are closely aligned with another anarchist inspired group, Wave of Action Phoenix. In terms of ideology, Carpe Locus is a traditional socialist-anarchist group, combined with the modern social justice movements. As such they are anti-statist, anti-police, pro-indigenous rights, and oppose male dominated entities and “white privilege.” They plan and participate in banner hangings, protests, direct-action, and counter protests. In late 2014 and early 2015 the group openly opposed any pro-police rally in the Phoenix metro area in support of the Ferguson movement.

With the decline of Occupy Phoenix, Carpe Locus became a mainstay in the Phoenix metropolitan anarchist community. They’ve participated in dozens of rallies and protests, usually in conjunction with other activist groups. Carpe Locus’ actual membership numbers are unknown, but estimates range from six to 12. The group maintains a robust social media presence where they do not hesitate to blast law enforcement, decry capitalism, and detail the ills of the American government.

The fundamental element in all anarchist collectives is community consensus. For example in common spaces, also known as a safe spaces, each aspect of the space is maintained by everyone in accordance with their skill set. Governance, as it were, is accomplished through the common good providing for the common need. Decisions are made through consensus, removing the risk of unjust governance. The template has been successful in other areas, including Tucson where a common space survived for just over six years. Unfortunately because the space is governed by a community, they often fall victim to apathy, low involvement, and decreased interest. The Dry River collective space in Tucson is an example of this downfall. For this reason, it was suspected Carpe Locus would not be able to create a common space in the Phoenix area, and if they did, it would be short-lived. As of January 2015, it was unclear if Carpe Locus secured a space. Given Arizona law enforcement’s focus on anarchist groups in the past, it is not uncommon to hear Carpe Locus members talk of being followed, having their phones bugged, or being subject to unjust arrest. There is no indication however law enforcement focuses more on Carpe Locus than other active groups.

Black Lives Matter (Profile and Analysis)

Initially formed in 2012 as a response to the Trayvon Martin shooting, the group saw little to no national attention until the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. BLM was formed by three highly educated and well documented activists who hailed from the feminist, LGBT, and immigrant rights movements. After the shooting death of Brown, Black Lives Matter took hold as a hashtag on social media with many people not knowing the hashtag already belonged to a formalized activist group. The phrase became ubiquitous during the rallies, riots, and mass civil disobedience associated with the Mike Brown movement. Several activist groups substituted their own causes into the phrase to show solidarity. In October 2014, one of the co-founders of the original Black Lives Matter group authored a scathing article in an online feminist forum decrying the theft of her work and alleging racism by those who substituted their races instead of “Black.” By December 2014 nearly all acts of civil disobedience, criminal activism, and mass protests were attributed to Black Lives Matter. The protests ranged from peaceful “die-ins” to all out riots and criminal activism.

In the early days of Black Lives Matter it seemed the group was ideologically aligned with Black Liberation Theology. However, research into the group’s founders, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, and Alicia Garza showed them to be averse to Black Liberation in the traditional sense. While they espouse certain aspects of the theology, they stand apart in terms of deep support for LGBT African Americans, anti-statism, and women’s rights. The groups’ slogan was carried into the Mall of America and on BART in late 2014 leading to shut downs and mass arrests. During an interview in December 2014, Alicia Garza adamantly reaffirmed the group’s position that removal of “Black” from the phrase and substituting it with another cause conjures images of a non-existent post racial America. Thus doubling down on their intellectual rights and their near conspiracy theory view of America. A deep review of the group’s web presence and interviews shows they adhere to an ideology that places blame on a structural patriarchy and racism that demands the murder of African Americans. It is unlikely the many people who carry signs emblazoned with the near iconic phrase, know of the group’s deeply held beliefs.

Nevertheless, despite the founders’ ideology, thousands of people banter the phrase around at dozens of marches, rallies, and die-ins all related to the Ferguson movement.

www.blacklivesmatter.com

 

For more information on groups like Black Lives Matter, download the Protestus App, available in the Apple app store!