Portland, OR — It’s looking like another annual free for all at PSU’s Law & Disorder Conference this year.
The schedule is listed elsewhere on this blog; the the fireworks have already begun on their FB Event page replete with denunciations of well known author, self described anarchist and invited speaker Kristian Williams. His critics threaten to make his experience there “Hell” if he’s permitted to speak and to trash/disrupt the event if they don’t dissuade the organizers.
The organizers, for their part, have taken to deleting comments on their page by the respective factions in an effort to turn down the heat and prevent the event from imploding before it even begins.
The text of the acrimonious exchanges is too long to re-post even a small part of its entirety here, but the following is an example of the tensions and cliched tropes that have entered the invective there:
5th Annual Law & Disorder Conference May 9-11th 2014
All events will be held at Portland State University
Smith Memorial Student Union Building (SMSU)
1825 Southwest Broadway, Portland, OR 97201
Dave Negation’s comment on Kristian Williams’ article ‘The Politics of Denunciation’ in its entirety is below. Please note that the pertinent links were embedded, and so don’t show up here. You will need to go to the comment thread to follow the links, but if context is what you want, it’s for sure useful.
One common response to Kristian Williams’ piece is that,whatever the specifics of what occurred in Portland, Williams’ piece is nevertheless valuable and makes some good general points. I disagree. It is extremely difficult to pry apart the content of Williams’ piece from facts about what happened in Portland. Williams’ account is utterly dishonest, and his article obscures Williams’ own role in what occurred. On the occasions where political content may be examined separately from Williams’ distortions, his commentary plays to typical sexist caricatures, such as of women as manipulative and unreasonable. The article is also unbalanced in its emphasis on doubting survivors. Williams does not argue for generalized suspicion, butwants suspicion to be focused on survivors. In other contexts where suspicion develops, Williams portrays this as a destructive breakdown of trust that is harmful to the community.
A longer criticism of Williams’ article is necessary, because to the extent that his politics are clear (and potentially separable from context) they are very bad indeed. In general, however, Williams’ article is not good faith contribution to discussions about gender, patriarchy and abuse. Rather, it is an attempt to circulate lies about what occurred in Portland and to harass a local survivor and her supporters. Williams’ motivations are much clearer once we examine some of his distortions as well as Williams’ own role in the events he wrote about. Providing such context is the task of my comments here.
Williams omits that he helped to edit the anti-survivor statement that was read aloud at the Patriarchy and the Movement event. In conversation, Williams admits to having helped prepare the statement. However, Williams writes his “Politics of Denunciation” article as though he was some sort of neutral bystander to the entire scene. Furthermore, Williams characterizes the prepared statement as being about the personal experience of Eleanor (who read it aloud) “trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing.” This is a tortured way to put things, to say the least.
The statement signed by ex-Bring the Ruckus (BTR) members Geoff and Eleanor was a direct response to the survivor’s experience plus Peter Little’s name having being mentioned. (See one version of the statement here.) The ex-Bring the Ruckus statement begins: “A lot has been said this evening regarding our comrade Peter Little and his behavior.” Note that this was a prepared statement, so it is clear that it was to be issued just in case Little’s name got mentioned at the event. The statement claimed that Geoff, Eleanor and the rest of the ex-BTR crew considered the matter to be closed, and that they wished to present general points so as to move away from “personalized attacks on comrades.” It is clear, firstly, that the statement co-edited by Williams portrayed the underlying situation as being about “personal attacks” not anything of substance. (To be clear about Williams’ relation to Bring the Ruckus: Williams was not a member but he worked closely with that organization.) Secondly, the more general points within the statement were a way of speaking about the specific situation without actually going into details, or they were red herrings to divert from the situation at hand.
When Eleanor, either going off-script or reading from a version of the statement that was different from the one subsequently circulated online, made a comment along the lines of “we think it’s important to be critical of survivors” (proximate quote, the ex-BTR intervention was not recorded) this comment was understood as a jab at the survivor, phrased in the typical indirect style of Portland Bring the Ruckus. People gasped and were upset because they understood the ex-BTR statement and Eleanor’s comments as an attack on the survivor, even though it was passed off as some sort of general comment (and then later denied altogether by Eleanor, despite a room full of people having heard her speak.)
Here, I should say something quick about the underlying situation. There is certainly more to say, but this is just a quick version for those who do not want to trudge through the various accounts online. Peter Little is not being accused of intimate violence against the survivor; they were never intimate. The issue is that Peter Little hijacked an “accountability process” regarding an abusive friend of his, with Little then portraying himself as the voice of the process while breaking all understandings that the “process” was founded on.
Instead, Little used his power and his self-presentation as the voice of “accountability” to demean and try to ostracize the survivor. As a result, Little was asked to leave the process, having in effect already sabotaged it.
The great majority of those involved in the process have, by this point, spoken out regarding Little’s behavior and identified it as highly damaging. Little continues to besmirch and organize against the survivor to this day, and has continued to escalate despite many opportunities to change his behavior.
As far as anybody can tell, Little’s actions are due to a grudge he has held against the survivor ever since she–long before the situation of abuse– made a snarky comment critical of Little and Bring the Ruckus.
It is simply not acceptable to use situations of abuse instrumentally, as a way to exact revenge upon a survivor for petty grudges and quarrels. Yet this is precisely what Peter Little did. (Peter Little’s own account is that he was acting gallantly to save a child from the survivor’s wrath, a threadbare and insulting story.)
Back to the Patriarchy and the Movement event: the ex-Bring the Ruckus statement was clearly an attempt to shut up a survivor and those who had supported her. Williams turns the situation on its head when he suggests that it was some sort of “totalitarian” feminism that was engaged in “silencing.” (Following some shock and uproar, Eleanor was given space to politically defend her statement, which she could not do.)
After the Patriarchy and the Movement event, Eleanor and Geoff even made an insincere apology for their intervention, admitting that “We can see how this was interpreted as an attempt to shield an individual and felt [like] silencing.”
Now, Williams has changed the narrative to his BTR friend having been “silenced” and, in fact, being a victim.
The apology made by Eleanor and Geoff was a cynical political move from the start, but their online post at least demonstrates what was actually considered as “silencing” at the time. The anti-survivor nature of the ex-BTR statement was not only noted by the organizers of the Patriarchy and the Movement event, but also by the Red & Black Café (where the event was hosted), the Patriarchy Resistance Committee of the Portland branch of the IWW, as well as other observers.
With all this in mind, how was the statement read by Eleanor actually about her “experience trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing” as Williams alleges?
As stated earlier, Williams’ wording is tortured. One of the reasons why people were so appalled by the statement signed by Eleanor and Geoff, is due to Geoff and Eleanor’s earlier role in this situation. Trying to address Little’s harmful conduct discretely, the survivor’s supporters attempted to talk with Bring the Ruckus about what was going on. The result was a meeting with Geoff and Eleanor, which is now Eleanor’s “experience” referred to by Williams. Yet the “personal experience” in that case is not one of opposing abuse, but rather of betraying a survivor! This needs to be further spelled out.
Bring the Ruckus constantly emphasized how everyone who knew of the situation needed to be quiet about it. The survivor’s close support did not accept the initial demand of Bring the Ruckus, which was: in order for BTR even to meet with you and hear you out, you must not talk to others about this matter. The survivor’s support team refused such a gag order, but tried to stay mostly quiet thereafter so as to create a situation favorable to what was needed: de-escalation, an apology from Little, and damage limitation. Instead, the BTR circles (including the clique which remained in Portland after that organization’s formal disbanding) from that point onwards just made excuses for Little and decided that the survivor was really the problem, for having dared to have a problem with their favored commissar.
It was protracted efforts against the survivor which led to one of her supporters finally talking about the situation openly at Patriarchy and the Movement, because relative quiet on this issue had only been used against the survivor. Prior to Patriarchy and the Movement, the ex-BTR people certainly did not practice the discretion which they expected of everyone else.
The survivor was presented by Little and his associates as [a] “political liability” to anybody who would listen (the phrase itself is vague, but was used for the purpose of borderline COINTELPRO-jacketing, when the survivor was not simply portrayed as crazy.)
In context of such ongoing efforts, the pre-written statement from Geoff and Eleanor (with Williams’ assistance) was a way of communicating to the survivor that their clique would throw all their efforts into opposing anyone who did not shut up. Williams had already been recruited for the purpose of their intervention, helping with the statement in case Little’s patriarchal behavior got referenced at the anti-patriarchy event.
Williams had not even heard from the survivor or her supporters before he threw himself into the conflict. So much for Williams’ pose of wanting “political discussion” or for people to examine situations critically!
Williams’ article claims to be about “The Politics of Denunciation” yet ignores the actual denunciation that has taken place since [the] Patriarchy and the Movement [event].
Soon after the Patriarchy and the Movement event, ex-BTR cadre[s] telephoned their contacts coast to coast in order to denounce the survivor. Within a couple of weeks of the Eleanor and Geoff pseudo-apology, Peter Little recruited his allies, Don Hammerquist and Janeen Porter, to issue a 2,700-word statement against the survivor to all their contacts on an international “revolutionary” listserv.
Hammerquist and Porter made clear that they would not tolerate any challenge to their account not backed by “supporting evidence,” while they broadly circulated lies from Peter Little without any proof except Little’s word for it! Those who could offer evidence contradicting Porter and Hammerquist’s repetition of Little’s dangerous claims were banned from the listserv. Also involved in harassment of the survivor was Seattle’s Black Orchid Collective, who wrote not one but two pieces on the topic, the final one wondering why the survivor’s supporters had not turned to them for help!
Peter Little’s new organization Hella503 also circulated a fantastic “report” against the survivor to their contacts. (When Hella503 began, it featured several alumni of Portland Bring the Ruckus, which suggests some of the pressure on the group to work against the survivor.)
None of these actions consist of “denunciation” to Williams, apparently.
Finally, it is ironic that at the start of Williams’ article as posted on Libcom, a “Trigger Warning” has been added to beginning of the text, presumably by some editor. (Libcom article [is] offline at time of posting here.)
A glance at Williams’ article will show that the word “triggering” is used in the article twice, both times in quotation marks. Williams’ article suggests that when people use the term “triggering” this is just to get what they want and to stop conversation.
Good luck involving survivors in your efforts, if that is you how you view things. You will need all the luck you can get.
Amicus Curia [says]:
Finally, a coherent more comprehensive case is offered for public consumption. It’s easy to see why the two factions are at sword’s point: their methodologies for resolving conflict/disagreements suck!–deeply.
It’s a case of a ‘hung jury’ where (much like the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas case) some believe the alleged victims, others believe the accused. Then there’s the allegation certain prepared statements were coached or even written by Williams.
This is so reminiscent of the corruption in our judicial system. Rather than a genuine effort to seek the truth, each side (as typical in trials by combat) tries to WIN–at all costs. The dysfunction in the r@dical scene reflects that which is inherent in the greater legal/social context and our courts. One can even see the litigious nature of our society mirrored in the r@dical scene.
Get over it!
This piece is more thoughtfully explained and provides some sympathetic light with which both factions can be viewed. If you believed a victim of abuse, you’d be outraged when his/her character/credibility was disparaged or questioned, just as many were when Anita Hill was attacked by Clarence Thomas’ supporters. Yet that’s inherently the nature of what passes for our judicial system–one most people use as their model for resolving conflicts. It is a model taking its origins from trial by combat where the assumption is made God will protect the innocent, but in reality, might makes right. It’s most definitely NOT ‘revolutionary’, but archaic.
This ‘might makes right’ paradigm saturates r@dical group dynamics, just as is evident here. The ‘politics of denunciation’ is but an extension of that model just as our court system and trials are. Whoever is the most persuasively slanderous/libelous carries the day because the system is designed that way and our politics (both mainstream and r@dical) mirror this anachronism.
If Williams takes the time to dissect this stinking corpse, so much the better. Perhaps he has chosen the wrong horse to ride in on. Even scholars make mistakes. KW may have made one in choosing this particular situation to shed light on the problem. But the problem exists and Williams is to be commended for at least attempting to expose it. If his analysis is found wanting, he should be given a 2nd chance to correct it and make it accurate WITHOUT intimidation or threats of disruption or making his appearance “Hell” for him. Anything less is a regression back to the time of the divine right of kings and combat as the arbiter of truth/innocence.
Voltaire is erroneously attributed as having said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Still, the sentiment remains valid. What ails the r@dical community and what Williams criticizes is its penchant for a metaphor resembling trial by combat. i.e. denunciation.
Amicus Curia (also says):
It’s late. I’m unlikely to take the time in the future to give an illustration of a personal nature to serve as a window of understanding that might cut through all the polemics. So here’s my best effort, for now, if I don’t fall asleep first:
A conflict arose between a public official and myself. Eye witnesses (4) who say the incident of which SHE complained characterized her as a drama queen. She was a juvenile probation officer for Thurston County well known to the courts, schools, and parents in the community–a pink collar ghetto since it’s the locale of the State Capital. Biases in favor of public officials run amok there. Sara Dotson was counting on just that and, no doubt, the fact she was a woman and her alleged assailant a large male. She used that sword until it shattered while she was wielding it.
A young mother (Amy Cunningham) had a recalcitrant adopted underage daughter who wanted the Social Security payments from her dead adopted father sent directly to her instead of her mother. This came to a head when Amy (having been informed of what her legal rights as a parent were) demanded a couple harboring her runaway teen return her to her home before the school year began. This prompted the teen to file a petition for emancipation with the assistance of none other than Sara Dotson. The teen was not employed, was immature for her age, could not support herself without public assistance/Social Security, had a long track record of lying and stealing from her family (and neighbors), and successfully manipulated the local Social Security office. Worst of all, Amy had a traumatic brain injury with chronic symptoms from an accident some years earlier including what’s medically termed transient short term amnesia. In other words, she couldn’t remember, often, what had happened or been said 5 minutes ago.
Amy was disabled and an example of why the federal ADA was passed by Congress–a powerful law designed to eliminate the rampant discrimination suffered in every nook/cranny of our society by those with disabilities. Amy could not afford an attorney to defend her parental rights, which were at risk in the Petition for Emancipation action her adopted teen daughter had brought. She asked for my help. I sought no compensation from her as I’d watched her grow up with my daughter as her best friend. She’d been in my home numerous times and I liked her. But, I digress–on to the fabled land of white patriarchy.
Amy appeared in court, as did her daughter before Thurston County Family Court Commissioner Thomas–a woman…and a hack for someone sitting on the bench controlling the most critical intimate parts of people’s family life. The daughter had (I pointed out in private) failed to have Amy served according to court rules for original process. Amy pointed this out when it came her turn to be heard by Indu Thomas. Amy demanded 15 days notice (which she hadn’t gotten). “Where did you get the idea you were entitled to that?” challenged Thomas. “It’s in the RCW’s,” Amy quietly demurred.
Thomas was unfamiliar with the very State law she was expected to adjudicate. She granted the continuance and directed both the teen and her mother speak (separately) with Sara Dotson, the woman who had been assisting the teen from the outset, with the expectation Dotson would provide the court a report outlining the situation/conflict.
Christina (the teen girl) entered Dotson’s office first–in tears because the judge had granted a 2 week continuance AND because she’d been given a copy of her FB photo showing her holding an open container of beer in an automobile along w/her friends–not exactly a sterling example of maturity for a teen seeking emancipation.
Outside the courtroom, as we waited for Christine to emerge, with her entourage of ‘witnesses’ waiting in the hall along with Amy’s and myself, I asked her, “So what did the judge say?” “I don’t remember,” Amy replied. “But, Amy, this isn’t good. Your representing yourself. I though I heard the judge [commissioner] say she was granting a continuance. What date did she continue it to?” I prodded. “I don’t remember,” Amy repeated. “But…” I started. “Look, Amicus, it’s NOT that I don’t WANT to remember, I just CAN’T!” she admonished.
Amy seriously needed a lawyer to prevent the court from terminating her parental rights and destroying her family. She’d called me to help, and I agreed to accommodate her as was her right under the federal ADA. When Christina emerged, her face still red from tears of embarrassment and rage, Amy was motioned to enter Dotson’s office as we sat together in the hallway.
She got up and I got up to accommodate her. Dotson moved like a shark toward me to block my path from accompanying Amy. I tried, several times, to explain to Dotson (it turned she already KNEW this from conversations with Christina) Amy had a disability that required accommodation…and she could choose who she wished to assist her. “You’re not her lawyer,” snorted Dotson. “I don’t need to be to accommodate her,” I retorted.
Nevertheless, Dotson blocked my path through the door to the anteroom to Dotson’s, et ux, office. There was a sign on it which said “Authorized personnel only”. I never crossed the threshold and could not since Dotson was standing in the doorway preventing me from entering it. I remonstrated with Dotson, explaining again Amy’s disability and need for accommodation. Amy confirmed this. Dotson remained intransigent. My voice was never raised, I made no physical threatening gestures, I uttered no threats, I did not resort to name calling or epithets or profanity. I remonstrated with Dotson for Amy’s sake, but to no avail. Dotson would not allow me to accompany/accommodate Amy. At one point, I offered an audio recorder to Amy to take with her so she could recall the conversation within later. Dotson pushed this aid and my hand away from Amy before closing the door between us leaving Amy on the inside, myself and Dotson on the outside. Dotson then stomped to the top of the 2nd floor banister to call a black female sheriff’s deputy to evict me from the courthouse hallway. As she did so, I attempted to take her photograph in this public area, which she, in turn, attempted to thwart.
I was escorted out of the building and ‘trespassed’ unlawfully (without due process). Four eye witnesses soon signed sworn statements confirming I had NOT threatened this public official (a felony in WA State), contrary to her later assertion and repeatedly shifting statements, each designed to parry, in turn, the objections to her inconsistent story. She was the complaining witness and there were no other eye witnesses to back up her lies. Nor, interestingly, was she every asked to record a statement to the investigating detective who worked only a few feet from her office…not even a sworn written statement. Nevertheless, an EX-PARTE order of probably cause was issued by Judge Tabor, a man who literally had a history of almost bankrupting the Thurston County Sheriff’s budget as a deputy prosecutor years earlier in search of WITCHE’S COVENS. (There’s an interesting 2-part article detailing this some years ago in the Paul Ingram as reported in the New Yorker magazine, “Remembering Satan”, also: http://www.religioustolerance.org/ra_ingra.htm)
“The 1988 charges against Ingram caused an absolute sensation among people who follow ritual abuse cases. This was the first known instance of a person actually pleading guilty to Satanic Ritual Abuse. Ingram was a sheriff’s deputy in Olympia, WA, and local official in the Republican party.”
“This inmate is innocent. There has never been any credible evidence that he led a satanic cult that murdered 25 babies. There has never been any credible evidence that he abused his children. Paul Ingram is simply the victim of Washington State’s most successful witch-hunt.” -Tom Grant-
Still, the rest of the hearings and discretionary rulings (after Judge Tabor recused himself in response to a motion objecting to his track record as witch persecutor general) were had before women presiding judges, including Judge Murphy, Judge Casey, and Judge Pomeroy, and deputy prosecutor Jennifer Lord–all women, BTW.
By the time the phony class-B felony charge (intimidating a public official) was filed, Amy had been denied an attorney after having twice noted up a motion before Thomas to have the court appoint one, especially given her disability and prospect for having her parental rights terminated. In the end, they WERE terminated, Indu Thomas refused to even acknowledge the properly brought on motions for court appointed counsel, and Amy’s family was decimated–she essentially disowned her daughter as a result of the court’s interference, manipulation and lies by her teen daughter, the the abuse of process she had to endure. Her rights under the ADA were egregiously violated, and her advocate, the man who was accommodating her had to defend himself against a trumped up felony charge (and 2 misdemeanors) maliciously acted on by a drama queen’s professional co-conspirators: Jennifer Lord and Detective Roland, both of whom couldn’t have worked closer on a daily basis unless they’d been sitting in Dotson’s lap!
In the end, this bald attempt to pervert justice was defeated, WITHOUT having to go to trial, on the basis of pro se motions filed before judge Murphy who had opportunity, over time as the weeks ensured to take the measure of the defendant and his credibility. The crux of his case rested on two prongs: 1) How is it unlawful to do what one’s required to–in response to the charge(s) arising out of Dotson’s unsuccessful anti-harassment civil action, and 2) The complaining witness (Dotson) was exposed through a series of motions, evidence, and affidavits as a manipulative lying drama queen who’d calculated the defendant would never get a fair trial in her home town and workplace.
When judge Murphy granted the defendant’s motion for a change of venue (to Mason County) the prosecution’s case, already teetering, collapsed and Lord filed a motion to dismiss WITH PREJUDICE, again EX PARTE without notifying the pro se defendant, and having the order entered AFTER Murphy had approved a change of venue before the very witch hunting judge (Tabor) who’d already recused himself from the case and had refused to officiate during the marriage of gays after the law in Washington State permitted it.
Where am I going with this long litany that only skims the surface of a court drama that resembled watching your grandmother wrestle and alligator and WIN!? Well, it resides in the often important detail of what you DON’T hear rather than what you DO. Where was the white male patriarchal privilege in all this? Sure, an factually and innocent pro se male defendant prevailed, but it was women who were initiating phony charges (or ONE, anyway), an arrogant female prosecuting attorney who ignored the sworn written statements of 4 eye witnesses to the incident referenced in the probable cause ex parte proceeding, and woman judges who allowed the defendant to go forward with standby court appointed counsel while he represented himself, and judge Murphy granting a rarely successful motion for a change of venue (15 such in WA State in 2010 out of 50,000 criminal cased filed that year). If THAT’s ‘partriarchy’, where do I find a substitute?
And was the woman ‘survivor’ telling the truth?–no way. She couldn’t even tell the SAME story twice. Four eye witnesses contradicted her. Upon pre-trial examination, when handed a blueprint of the 2nd floor of Thurston’s Family Court, and asked WHERE the defendant was standing when he supposedly ‘trespassed’ beyond the threshold of the “No Unauthorized Personnel” door, her mark and explanation indicating the same made no sense–was physically and obviously impossible considering measurements of the width of the doorway, and where the parties were standing (or alleged to be standing by Dotson).
The hoopla over the ‘institution of patriarchy’ ignores what’s going on, right now, in the real world and power centers saturated with corruption, as much by women apparatchiks as men! Men get shafted every day in Thurston’s Family Court…and so do women! It’s not right. Something must be done about it. But it’s going to be difficult to change it if the call for change isn’t supported by all the victims of it. Vilifying/denigrating half of them will only allow the corruption to continue. You want to talk about women being victimized? Talk to Amy. She can give you an earful. Want to talk about men being victimized for trying to accommodate a disabled young mother?–talk to me. I’ve documented it and am continuing to investigate it.
Finally, criticize Kristian Williams for his analysis, if you like, but don’t interfere with his right to speak or the right of others to hear him.