A PROMINENT activist in Occupy Wall Street has spoken out against "dangerous" criticism of the Black Bloc tactic by "violent peace-police".
David Graeber writes in N+1 magazine in response to an article called “The Cancer in Occupy,” by one Chris Hedges.
He tells Hedges in his open letter: "I am appealing to you because I really do believe the kind of statement you made is profoundly dangerous.
"The reason I say this is because, whatever your intentions, it is very hard to read your statement as anything but an appeal to violence. After all, what are you basically saying about what you call 'Black Bloc anarchists'?
"1) they are not part of us
2) they are consciously malevolent in their intentions
3) they are violent
4) they cannot be reasoned with
5) they are all the same
6) they wish to destroy us
7) they are a cancer that must be excised
"Surely you must recognize, when it’s laid out in this fashion, that this is precisely the sort of language and argument that, historically, has been invoked by those encouraging one group of people to physically attack, ethnically cleanse, or exterminate another—in fact, the sort of language and argument that is almost never invoked in any other circumstance.
"After all, if a group is made up exclusively of violent fanatics who cannot be reasoned with, intent on our destruction, what else can we really do? This is the language of violence in its purest form. Far more than “fuck the police.” To see this kind of language employed by someone who claims to be speaking in the name of non-violence is genuinely extraordinary."
Graeber pulls apart Hedges' claim that the Black Bloc tactic gives cops the excuse they need to attack protesters and depict them as violent.
He writes: "If the police decide to attack a group of protesters, they will claim to have been provoked, and the media will repeat whatever the police say, no matter how implausible, as the basic initial facts of what happened.
"This will happen whether or not anyone at the protest does anything that can be remotely described as violence. Many police claims will be obviously ridiculous – as at the recent Oakland march where police accused participants of throwing 'improvised explosive devices'—but no matter how many times the police lie about such matters, the national media will still report their claims as true, and it will be up to protesters to provide evidence to the contrary.
"Sometimes, with the help of social media, we can demonstrate that particular police attacks were absolutely unjustified, as with the famous Tony Bologna pepper-spray incident. But we cannot by definition prove all police attacks were unjustified, even all attacks at one particular march; it’s simply physically impossible to film every thing that happens from every possible angle all the time.
"Therefore we can expect that whatever we do, the media will dutifully report 'protesters engaged in clashes with police' rather than 'police attacked non-violent protesters'. What’s more, when someone does throw back a tear-gas canister, or toss a bottle, or even spray-paint something, we can assume that act will be employed as retroactive justification for whatever police violence occurred before the act took place."
And Graeber points out the even Gandhi, hero of the peace police, would not have taken the extreme line adopted by Hedges and his kind.
He writes: "Gandhi and his movement were regularly denounced in the media, just as non-violent anarchists are also always denounced in the media (and I might remark here that while not an anarchist himself, Gandhi was strongly influenced by anarchists like Kropotkin and Tolstoy), as a mere front for more violent, terroristic elements, with whom he was said to be secretly collaborating.
"He was regularly challenged to prove his non-violent credentials by assisting the authorities in suppressing such elements. Here Gandhi remained resolute. It is always morally superior, he insisted, to oppose injustice through non-violent means than through violent means. However, to oppose injustice through violent means is still morally superior to not doing anything to oppose injustice at all.
"And Gandhi was talking about people who were blowing up trains, or assassinating government officials. Not damaging windows or spray-painting rude things about the police."