In a recent Willamette Week article (10/23/2013, Vol. 39/51) entitled 'Whack-A-Mole', reporter Andrea Damewood explores the recent, online, viral controversy instigated by a post made by the Committee Against Political Repression (CAPR).
The CAPR lists a series of allegations towards an alleged FBI mole by the name of Vahid Brown who has been active in the local Portland activist scene. (Original CAPR post can be found here)
In the CAPR post, Brown is accused of being an FBI mole because he served as an outside FBI consultant and educator on the issues of Islam and Western perceptions on the 'War on Terror'. While it is understandable why such a work history would give reason for most activists to pause and desire to inquire more about the issue, there is a disturbing trend in "radical leftist" culture to not inquire more. Currently anyone can post unchecked rumors and allegations, and destroy the lives of innocent people in what can only be described as a fear-based witch-hunt. What is worse is that many well-known and "respected" local activists partake and perpetuate this ignorance.
In the Willamette Week article we discover that not only are the mole allegations of Vahid Brown blatantly false, but that there is a repeated history of damaging false accusations towards activists who are outside the peripheral of leftist anarchist cliques. Activists on all ends of the spectrum should be embarrassed and outraged at fear based propaganda, the very tactic used by the state to destroy and repress activism. This is not to deny the reality of state based oppression, spying, and agent provocateurs- it is simply to allow for the process of mindfulness to emerge before engaging in uniformed slander.
Two prominent local activists (who will remain nameless for this opinion piece) are quoted in the WW article with saying " You have to assume everyone you didn't give birth to is an FBI agent." AND "Association with the enemy, academic or not, is enough to warrant exclusion." These statements are highly problematic. The first problem is that there is a large difference between having a healthy awareness of the realities facing those actively engaged in political activism, and unhealthy paranoia. Unhealthy paranoia is the type of paranoia that dictates ones life, ones ability to maintain a healthy level of trust and inclusion of others. Movement building is simply not possible with this level of mistrust; on a spiritual level it is also simply a very sad way to engage with the world.
The second problem with this line of thinking is that it does nothing to critically challenge the mainstream adversarial nature or 'war making' mentality of the state. For many, activism is less about "smashing the State" then it is about transformation through education, knowledge, and enlightenment. Those who know the challenges of peacemaking know that the real work comes from the long and arduous journey of consciousness changing. Tapping into the hearts and minds of perceived opponents is when and where meaningful change happens. Those with the knowledge and ability to change the world have a moral obligation and duty to do so. This often means working in undesirable environments or with perceived enemies in an effort to affect change. Those who would discourage this transformation are in the end, their own worst enemies.
Why is this discussion important? It is important because what the Brown controversy suggests, is that anyone and everyone interested in engaging in processes of change from within, are (or will be) deemed as an automatic "threat" or "enemy" by certain leftist circles. Unity is therefore a form of rhetoric only intended for those who live, work, and act exactly like those empowered to cast slanderous allegations. Finally, it also affirms the idea that those most disconnected from the inner workings of the state have the most to fear. You simply cannot change that with which you do not know. It is unclear which is worse, the blatant harmful ignorance of those consumed by fear, or the silence of those who stand witness to this ignorance and do nothing. Please don't choose fear, or silence.
Additional Suggested Reading: link to www.vice.com