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Report Back on the Shameful Noise at the Law and Disorder Conference

The article below appeared as a comment to another article. To be clear, I did not write it. However, I deeply feel that it should be heard. What happened at L&D was DISGUSTING. A few hyper-egos screaming their stupid heads off to silence activists who had traveled long distances to speak on a very important topic was nothing but reprehensible. This sort of self serving and egotistical behavior is SHAMEFUL. Those who did this should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves, not patting themselves and each other on the backs and feeling self important, as they are doing right now. Disgusting. Just disgusting.
Audience member report 12.May.2014 11:27
By Penseur

Saturday, I tried to attend a panel presentation at the PSU Law and Disorder Conference. The talk would have included information about informers, infiltrators and provocateurs and ideas about how social movements can protect themselves.

As I opened the door to the second floor, in the PSU Smith building, I was wondering where room 238 was. I didn't have to look at all because I immediately heard angry shouting -- and since one of the panelists had mentioned that certain people might try to disrupt the discussion I followed the shouting. Sure enough there sat the panelists, someone at a microphone, some of the audience sitting and several people - it seemed mostly young women - stood, shouting angrily.

I was not one of panelists and while I knew one of them, I was not the person's close personal friend, and still I felt as if I had walked into an attack. The shouting included statements such as: "We will not be silenced!" and continued at loud volume despite the person at the mike trying to calm things down. I felt tears spring to my eyes as once again I realized that activists will never gain ground when such infighting occurs.

It crossed my mind that perhaps these people had been paid or otherwise encouraged by some faction of the State - by the police or political leaders - to cause disruption. After all, the government regularly enacts policies and actions that try to stifle dissent. It was shocking to me to think that other people trying to make positive changes in the world would use bullying tactics against other activists just because of disagreements. The hostility, anger and hatred were palpable and as usual when I'm around violence - even just verbal violence, I felt upset. I also felt anger - because the women who were shouting that _they_ would not be silenced, were using bullying tactics to silence others. At one point, one of the angry women shouted out a personal attack against one of the panelists who's only "crime" was to write an article that offered an opinion that was different from the opinion shared by the group of women. Why would these women feel justified in using tactics of oppression? Were any of the panelists perpetrators of actual abuse? How is writing an article which did not include derogatory statements but rather contained civil polite language examining a particular issue become fodder for hatred and verbal abuse?

Why would the women feel so threatened? Apparently, the women are survivors of abuse. As a female who grew up in an abusive home, I recognize that such anger comes from deep pain and fear - but taking it out on someone else is not okay. I had to work very hard to heal from my childhood - to not let fear and anger consume me - and to not allow my pain and anger to drive me into becoming abusive. I believe that these young women have several unresolved psychological and emotional issues that they are using to manipulate others. Encouraging victim mentality is not healthy - it doesn't help the person heal or learn from their experiences. It sucks, but unfortunately, victims of abuse are not entitled to special rights but rather have to take it upon themselves, hopefully with the help of well trained and compassionate psycho-therapists, to heal and learn healthy coping skills. Becoming abusive yourself because you were once abused only keeps the cycle of abuse alive, destroys your health and destroys society. All negative behavior stems from some form of abuse, neglect - some lack or deprivation during one's early years such that it prevented healthy physical, psychological and emotional development.
Becoming assertive and confronting (politely) wrongs and mistreatment is a healthy thing. But too many people define aggression as assertiveness. What happened in that room Saturday was definitely aggression - definitely verbal abuse. It was not a knee-jerk reaction which would have been somewhat understandable while still being inappropriate, but rather this was an action that was planned. Was there not one person in that group of women who saw how irrational and abusive such behavior would be? Being a survivor of abuse does not entitle you to commit abuse yourself. And yes, speech can be violent. What happened to safer space policies? How is it creating a safe space - a space in which issues can rationally and intelligently be discussed without intimidation to repeatedly shout such that the panelists could not present their information? How is it that this group of young women thought that only they have the right to present a certain opinion?

It is only the insecure person who feels so threatened, so intimidated by a difference of opinion. It isn't as if any of panelists - to my knowledge - held positions of power such that their opinions could become new legislation. Such loud shouting might be a good tactic in a street protest or before a government body, because definitely ordinary citizens have no voice in government decisions. How were the women being silenced? They would have had a chance to offer their differing opinions in this panel discussion and/or at some other presentation, perhaps one that they would arrange themselves. They would have had a chance to participate in a polite, intelligent, mature manner, but instead they chose to silence the panelists one of whom told them that he did not feel safe and so the police were coming.

What a great delight it must have been for the police to see activists disrupting other activists and to learn that the shouting stopped what most likely would have been an intelligent, informative discussion - a discussion that might have helped social movement progress. You could argue that the panelists could have remained and gave the presentation anyway, but very few people in the audience would have been able to hear them over the shouting women and most people in the audience would have felt uncomfortable and concerned about their own safety.

The panelists left the room. It seemed to be a wise move. The hatred spewing from the young women was indeed hate speech that could have lead to physical violence. I saw one young woman shaking as she shouted. Such shaking could have indicated a high level of negative emotion which can lead to violence. (I entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe, a small part of her was struggling with her behavior - trying to tell her that it was not okay.)

Activists should never try to prevent the discussion of theories and ideas but rather encourage all people to use and develop critical thinking skills. The shouting tactics used in a room at a college - a place of higher learning - was, in my opinion, unconscionable. Several people were shocked and distressed by such behavior. It saddens me that people claiming to want societal change would adopt the mentality and tactics of the corrupt and abusive powermongers. Such dysfunctional behavior is the reason that I no longer am an activist. The problems in government are severe - America is an oligarchy - and many people suffer the oppression of the corporate and military government. The government will not relinquish power easily but rather it will take a massive civilian movement to make any kind of meaningful changes. Such a movement means that activists must join together - work together - stop the infighting. To do that, I believe that each individual activist must engage in compassionate, healthy self-examination and, if necessary, seek professional help with unresolved issues that get in the way of being able to work toward healthy positive societal change. Activists don't need to strive for perfection but rather identifying their own problematic issues and learning healthy coping skills would enable them - even if they are survivors of abuse - to work with others - even those with whom they disagree -- to enact positive healthy changes. Healthy change is not going to come from a position of hostile, irrational, negative emotion.

It probably felt powerful to shout and shut down the discussion. Police officers feel powerful when they use excessive force on protestors. Why would activists want to adopt that same unhealthy mentality? And most especially to aim aggression at another activist who merely wrote an article?

Essentially the young women were fostering censorship and violating the panelists' free speech rights. The State does that enough, must activists take on the tactics and mentality of the power hungry State? The women apparently argue that even the discussion of certain issues is a patriarchal mechanism but somehow they didn't see their shouting and verbal abuse as such a mechanism. If abuse is wrong, it's wrong for everyone including survivors of abuse. You can heal from abuse. You can take awareness of your pain into compassion for yourself and others. I'm sorry that these young women are in pain and I hope that some day they will be able to heal and move on to healthier, happier mentalities. The women will gain no sympathy for their movement with such aggressive hostile energy and might eventually destroy themselves. They are allowing the abuse they suffered to keep them in a position of suffering. Even labeling themselves as survivors of abuse, serves to keep them in a suffering victim status.

coin with 2 sides 18.May.2014 10:50

flip the script

This is just one side of the story, now lets hear the other side of the story.

The other side of the story... 20.May.2014 13:30

repost

Why I Helped Disrupt Kristian Williams at Law and Disorder

by Ian Awesome

Since returning from Portland I've had a lot of people, inside and outside Seattle, asking me about the disruption of Kristian Williams' speaking engagement at the Law and Disorder conference in Portland. I have questions coming from people who don't know who he is, from people who don't know what horrid things he's done, or people who don't completely understand why his most recent article, The Politics of Denunciation, is fucked up and misleading.

Kristian Williams is a highly respected author in anarchist circles, with a widely-read and quoted book, Our Enemies in Blue. It can be confusing why someone who is so against the cops and so against capitalism might be vilified or targeted by members of the anarchist community; keep in mind none of us who speak out against him had previously had any beef with his anti-state politics. This is instead about his politics around rape and patriarchy, which came into sharp relief when one of his friends was criticized for interfering in an abuse accountability process in a way which favored the abuser over the survivor.

Pete Little, formerly of Bring the Ruckus, was the one who interfered, and resulting from that he was called out in the Q&A session of the event that took place about a year ago at the Red and Black: Patriarchy in the Movement. Then a supporter of Pete Little stood up and read a pre-prepared statement (edited by Kristian) defending Pete and essentially saying that when engaging in accountability, we should be doubtful of survivor accounts and basically subject survivors to investigative scrutiny (similar, sadly, to the amount of scrutiny survivors are subjected to by the state).

If you have ever been a survivor of sexual assault/abuse who has had your own experience subjected to this sort of politicized scrutiny, you understand what I am saying when I say this is horrible and, far from promoting the healing survivors need, actually causes additional trauma that compounds an already traumatizing experience. If you are not a survivor; please know this is not radical. This instead perpetuates the structures that already exist within rape culture and instead enables abusers to cast doubt on survivor accounts of abuse.

This created a political shitstorm in Portland and up and down the West Coast. On one hand, feminists and survivors attempted to correct this really shitty replication of patriarchy by insisting that survivor needs came first. On the other, Kristian and his supporters continually politicized rape experiences in order to undermine feminist positions on sexual assault; they theorized about and minimized the importance and inviolable necessity of the safety of survivors' bodies; they argued for the continued inclusion of abusers in radical circles, even going so far as to attempt to exclude survivors from radical politics in order to preserve the place of abusers within organizational power structures.

For example, the survivor in the Pete Little fracas was intensely and actively campaigned against by Kristian. He personally contacted people all over the US, calling this person a political libability, essentially making them out to be a scandalous individual who wasn't to be trusted.

This is beyond problematic. Survivors are not political liabilities, their abusers are, and Kristian's active complicity in painting them as such is despicable.

While all this is going on, people in Portland rallied against Kristian's position, with groups taking sides. One side places survivors paramount to the discussion of rape; one urges continued dialogue with Kristian to see if middle ground could be found.

Between abusers. And survivors of that abuse. I am not alone in thinking middle ground cannot be found here.

Regardless, dialogue was attempted. Dialogue failed. Kristian has an incredible amount of social capital and used it. He attempted to marginalize and isolate anti-rape voices, trading on the immense respect he has in the radical community. He explicitly used this power to silence people. Dialogue became impossible.

Finally, a couple months ago, he published a piece called "the Politics of Denunciation." A disingenuous piece, it thoroughly mischaracterized the entire conflict, omitted his underhanded attempts to undermine survivors of sexual abuse, and neglected to mention that this conflict occurred because a friend of his fell on the side of an abuser. It was disgusting. He suggests that we must doubt survivors, that understanding what triggers are is foolish, that placing survivors' needs paramount to the process of accountability amounts to totalitarianism, and most disgustingly suggests that survivor bodies and experiences are to be politicized, theorized, speculated upon. These are our BODIES. They are not some intellectual's grad thesis.

I, and many others, do not agree with these underhanded attempts to undermine anti-rape praxis. We recognize that his ability to tear apart radical communities (which has happened, more than one political organization has chewed itself to bits over this controversy) comes because he is accorded privilege; we decided to no longer accord him that privilege. Dialogue has failed; very well, since he cannot in good faith agree to stop silencing survivors and their supporters, we decided to take radical space back. We disrupted his event, and most likely will continue to attempt to take away his power to harm. This was not merely a conflict where we disagree with his politic and therefore act out like spoiled children; we intend to take back space and power that he uses to actively harm. He is hurting people, we choose to foil his ability to do so.

You may not agree with our tactic but frankly, we do not care. These are our bodies, our lives, our souls we are defending from patriarchy. Kristian and his supporters no longer get to dictate how we defend ourselves. We will not be tone-policed, we will not be harassed into silence. I say like I said during that disruption: "We are speaking for ourselves as survivors of sexual abuse. FUCK Kristian Williams and FUCK your attempts to silence us."

 http://patriarchyhaters.wordpress.com/

why I spoke up to silence am activist 20.May.2014 15:39

Ego Extrordinarius

I get a rush out of screaming over the top of people who are better at things than I am. It makes me feel powerful to be able to actually silence a real, effective activist. That almost erases my own feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that I get from... having done nothing all my life except call out other people. Almost.

Ian is not that awsome 20.May.2014 17:20

observer of this conflict

I was at the Patriarchy and Our Movement event and I have followed this conflict since the beginning. I have been active in the post-occupy militant community and have never been associated with Bring the Ruckus or Hella 503, though I, know some of those people, more or less. I was only superficially acquainted with Pete before he was called out at that event and did not know who Kristian was until this recent disruption. I have not spoken out about all this until recently.

Straight out: This statement by Ian is dishonest. Lets just pick apart one sentence - the second one in Ian's third paragraph.

"Then a supporter of Pete Little..."

That would be Eleanor - a strong feminist. Ian refers to her here as "a supporter of Pete Little" because he thinks it weakens his case to indicate that it was a female.

"... stood up and read a pre-prepared statement (edited by Kristian)..."

It may be true (I don't know) that Kristian was among the people that reviewed and consensed on that statement but I do know he was not the only one and this phrasing is misleading. Ian misleadingly names only Kristian here because it works with his narrative of demonizing him. Ian uses the term "edited" here because it works with his narrative of an evil person pulling the strings behind the scenes.

"...defending Pete..."

A distortion at best. The statement was mainly about addressing the the difficulties complexity of feminist praxis in an abuse accountability process.

"...and essentially saying that when engaging in accountability, we should be doubtful of survivor accounts and basically subject survivors to investigative scrutiny (similar, sadly, to the amount of scrutiny survivors are subjected to by the state)...".

This is such a subjective distortion that the only refutation is to show the statement that Ian sums up in this way:

-------------------

A lot has been said this evening regarding our comrade Peter Little and his behavior. We were anticipating that this might come up. This statement was written by two former members of Portland Bring the Ruckus, who are long-time comrades of Pete's and who have been involved with the situation alluded to. Unfortunately Geoff was unable to make it to tonight's event as a result of wage labor. However he bears his share of the responsibility for this statement.

During the summer of 2011 concerns about Pete's involvement in an accountability process (which he was not the subject of) were brought to the attention of Portland Bring the Ruckus. BTR took these concerns extremely seriously and conducted an investigation. We met with the survivor's support team (along with others) and listened to their experiences and concerns. Everyone agreed that BTR would handle the matter internally, which we did. The survivor support team informed us that handling it this way was satisfactory and that they considered the matter closed.

We did, and still do, consider the process BTR conducted around Pete to be internal. We do not consider a public forum to be a space where it makes sense to report our findings. We will say that we concluded that in many ways the initial accountability process stalled and failed. Folks involved, including Pete, made mistakes.

We believe that tonight's event is extremely important and that these conversations are essential to building movements capable of winning freedom. We are interested in moving away from personalized attacks on comrades and toward more general political lessons that can serve as weapons in our struggles for gender liberation. Toward that end we offer the following questions:

- Why have the forms of accountability processes that we've seen in radical subcultures so regularly failed?

- Is there a tension between supporting a survivor's healing and holding perpetrators accountable? Should survivors be in charge of the entirety of both such processes?

- How should accountability processes or other forms of grassroots justice differ from the punitive models of state-enforced "justice"? What does this look like in practice?

- How can we develop feminist anti-violence politics that undermines rather than reinforces the gender binary system? If abuse is not always a matter of men abusing women, does a feminist politics around this look like?

- Is there room for people to make mistakes and be supported in learning from them in the movements we are building? Should we ostracize comrades who fuck up?

- Is it possible or desirable to purify a righteous scene or movement? How does fighting patriarchy look in the context of millions of people, damaged products of this system, making history together?

We are extremely interested in people's perspectives on these questions, which we ourselves are still attempting to answer. The comparison to the treatment by the statement is, imho, uncalled for and reprehensible.


Yours in Struggle,
-Eleanor and Geoff (former members of Portland Bring the Ruckus)

-------------------

The reader here can judge for hirself, but I do not see here and did not hear at the event that she was saying what Ian says she "essentially" was.

I do not find Kristian's article to be "fucked up and misleading". - Read it and judge for yourself.

It would be tedious to try to go through every twist and turn of reality in Ian's statement. Read it carefully - Ian's statement is crammed with unsupported charges and assertions. This toxic witch-hunt and the people who are spear-heading it are poison. They do not speak for the abused. They do not speak for those of us actively fighting patriarchy.

How about some substance behind the rhetoric Mr. Awesome 20.May.2014 17:35

Erasmus

You call Mr. Williams piece "the Politics of Denunciation" disingenuous but then in your own disingenuous way juxtapose "accountability" with "survivors needs" as if the two do not have a legitimate relationship. Accountability is required in order to determine if someone is a legitimate survivor. Sadly, false accusations do occur. I'm not saying there are more false ones than legit ones, I'm not saying legit accusations shouldn't be dealt with harshly when determined to be true. I'm simply saying because of a certain number of amoral liars we must practice a certain amount of judiciousness with very accusation. Believe me, I know this can be intrusive and add trauma to people who may have already experienced great traum and I don't personally like that but unfortunately there are sociopathic individuals in this society that have the power to inflict additional traum on people they have hurt already. It's not fair but who ever said life is 100% fair? There are also sociopathic liars that would manipulate a hysterical society willing to lynch anyone accused of anything. That's why we have due process.


Now, I am not familiar with the situation described in this piece. I don't know the people involved. To me this is just hearsay. Perhaps to the people with personal and intimate knowledge of what happened guilt is clear as day and Mr. Williams is, indeed, covering up a friend's evil deed. One the other hand perhaps there has been a false accusation over a personal conflict. I don't know. Most of the people reading this don't know either. I'm not going to make a judgement without more facts. Can you supply some? Something that people can make sense of who aren't personally involved? If you feel you don't want to divulge personal information I would have to point out your public display has brought this story to the public attention in a way that demands you back it up. I suspect the only response I'll get is some rhetoric about believing a survivors accusation absolutely with no judgement, that might make you feel better but it doesn't accomplish anything. If you want people to sympathize with your side then let us know why we should.

The only "evil deed" is NEVER EVEN MENTIONED 20.May.2014 18:10

extraneous details

Why has everyone forgotten the *actual perpetrator* and instead focused their anathema on Peter Little and more recently Kristian Williams? Oh yeah... because the ACTUAL PERPETRATOR was not and is not and never will be an activist. So he was extraneous to this drama. Much better to tear down actual activists - first Peter, who tried to help the ..."survivor," then Eleanor, then anyone who supported either of them, then Kristian, and now ANYONE who supports Kristian. And apparently, anyone who supports anyone who supports Kristian. And the list grows and grows.

I've seen awful things being said to and about ANYONE who supports Kristian Williams, and ANYONE who does NOT support public shaming as a legitimate tactic in this case. The people doing this should truly be ashamed of themselves. (Instead of patting themselves and each other on their grandstanding backs, as has been the case.) I know the rest of us are ashamed of them, at least. What a lot of self affirmation flying around at *everyone's* expense.

Rape? 20.May.2014 19:18

Who is the rapist?

I am confused. In trying to be informed about this, I keep seeing that Williams is a rape apologist. Can anyone in the know provide us with some links about this?

It is crazy; I have heard people talking about Williams raping some one. Is this true or not?

For Ian 20.May.2014 19:22

a question

"On the other, Kristian and his supporters continually politicized rape experiences in order to undermine feminist positions on sexual assault; they theorized about and minimized the importance and inviolable necessity of the safety of survivors' bodies; they argued for the continued inclusion of abusers in radical circles, even going so far as to attempt to exclude survivors from radical politics in order to preserve the place of abusers within organizational power structures."

Can you please specifically cite these claims? Provide links or specifically, when and where he and his supporters did this. Names, dates? Thanks!

"Kristian Williams is a highly respected author in anarchist circles" 20.May.2014 19:33

as if

and no one outside your self destructive toxic "anarchist" micro climate cares.

hint: this is not the problem. this is a symptom of a greater problem that indymedia is part of. that is why you are all doomed either by your ineptitude or pissing the wrong people off.

for ian 20.May.2014 20:23

---

it is really ok to use quotes when talking about what the "rape apologists" have said and written. what is your aversion? i see none above.

you feel perfectly comfortable summerizing the purpose and intention of others words, and piling on allegations without quoting what they actually said to lead you to your conclution.

please tell me you can see why this is troubling.

Outline of Events and Some Links 20.May.2014 20:42

observer of this conflict

For "Who is the rapist?" (and others that are confused).

Here is an outline of the key events and accusations (presented as objectively as I can):

- There was, at least a couple of years ago a breakup of a relationship between a man and a woman. By all accounts, part of that situation involved abuse of the woman by the man. These two people were in the radical milieu.

- Bring the Rukus became involved in an accountability process focused on protecting the victim of that abuse. Pete Little was involved in that accountability process - I think he led it.

- The accountability process be came mired in squabble and increasing distrust. The nature and details of that squabble are somewhat murky to me and there is some dispute about particulars.

- At a "Patriarchy in our Movement" event some 15 months ago, the victim of the abuse and her support group named Pete Little's behavior as patriarchal due to his handling of that process. Most directly, he is accused of insufficiently supporting the victim. There is more, I am trying to lay out the outline of key events to give a framework for people trying to understand.

- Much acrimony. Organizations break up. Marriages and relationships break up.

- About a year later (a few months ago), Kristin Williams published political summary of the whole interaction ("The Politics of Denunciation").

- A couple of weekends ago, Kristin attempted to speak (about another issue) on a panel and that event was disrupted.

So, yes there is abuse involved but the abuser is not named nor central in all this.
Neither Pete nor Kristin is accused of rape or abuse (except, maybe in some in some (IMHO VERY) indirect way).

Links:

Key first statements from just after the Patriarchy in our Movement event from 15 months ago:
 link to patriarchyandthemovement.wordpress.com

by Black Orchid Collective
 http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/building-capacity-for-complexity/
 http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/feminist-struggle-vs-facebook-fragmentation/

Kristin Williams: Politics of Denunciation
 http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2014022101023491
 http://anarchistnews.org/comment/40273

A website by the Witch Hunters
 http://patriarchyhaters.wordpress.com/

You can follow those links to others. There is a link from the first BOC article to a video of the "Patriarchy in our Movement" event.

Yep 20.May.2014 20:59

adding one thing

From what I understand, Pete was criticized because he refused to support the use of violence in the "accountability" process.

So there's definitely a serious problem here when some idiotic loud mouths shut down an important panel, on a subject that really could have been of use to many people, and call an activist a "rape apologist" when NO such thing occurred.

NO one should have been ostracized and shamed in this entire debacle except for the one and only perpetrator. Instead, this event was allowed to carry out into the surrounding community and take down anyone within miles of it, all in apparent service of a few disturbed egos. I salute Kristian Williams for calling out call-out culture.

This is the article 20.May.2014 21:04

here


Ageism Ableism Oh My! 21.May.2014 14:23

Cat

Well, since this stupid debacle started, I have watched as people I once respected made *asses* of themselves,people involved in organizing the shaming of Kristian Williams made ageist comments ("just a lot of "old, irrelevant, washed up activists," - as opposed to a lot of just-as-oldish, pointless, self aggrandizing poops), at least one shameful grand-stander made amazingly ableist comments ("completely off the rails and potentially dangerous" to describe my political disagreement with this person who SHOULD have known better than to say such a shameful thing), and at least a few people involved with organizing the anti-KW campaign have made violent threats against survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Hm. Well, thanks anyway but... as most of the women, feminists, and survivors of this town have *already said*, thanks anyway. You don't speak for us. Stop silencing real activists just because it makes you feel so powerful. You *suck*, shamers. You really do. Your day came and went. Good riddance.