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Violence advocates in Cleveland forget rule #2: "The guy who knows where to get the explosives is always from the FBI"

And in solidarity*, I'm not putting "shit the bed" into the headline. Here's the Cleveland Occupy Statement:

While the persons arrested Monday evening by the FBI have participated in Occupy Cleveland events, they were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland. Occupy Cleveland has affirmed the principles of non-violence since its inception on October 6, 2011.

Here's the FBI statement:

Douglas L. Wright, 26; Brandon L. Baxter, 20; and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on the evening of April 30, 2012, on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and charges are pending against them.

Interestingly, the charges aren't terrorism (unless that's the "conspiracy" part) and aren't NDAA or any of the other exotic quas-legal instruments. And as usual:

The public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by an undercover FBI employee. The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement. The explosives that the defendants allegedly purchased and attempted to use were inoperable...

ABC summarizes the complaint:

According to the criminal complaint, last October the men began discussing plans to knock bank signs off of buildings in Cleveland. The men allegedly discussed the idea of using smoke grenades on the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Cleveland to create a diversion while they carried out their plan to topple the bank signs [professionals, totally].

Wright, the alleged ringleader, also allegedly discussed trying to recruit homeless people from shelters [totally non-exploitative, that] to carry out his plans to attack symbols of corporate and financial institutions. ...

"Taking out a Bridge in the business district would cost the … corporate big wigs [does anybody really talk like that? That smells funny] a lot of money," Baxter allegedly said. [Yes, by Baxter's standards. Move Your Money probably cost them more]

Wright and Baxter also discussed trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, as well as attacking a new casino in the city, a NATO summit in Chicago [the setup!] and the Republican National Convention [more setup!] in Tampa, Florida, according to the complaint.

The FBI said they used the informant [cheap at $5,750] to facilitate the men getting C4 explosives that they would use to target the bridge. According to the criminal complaint Stevens and Stafford were recruited towards the end of their planning to help them execute the attack. The men were arrested as they allegedly arranged to pick up the explosives.

Rule #2. Remember those poor shlubs in Miami the FBI found uniforms for? So, like that.

The FBI claims it's not investigating Occupy. Which has to be a lie because, this stupidity would all be totally A-OK under Diversity of Tactics:

The men had been associated with the anti-corporate Occupy Cleveland movement but don't share its non-violent views, organizer Debbie Kline said.

"They were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland," Kline said in an email canceling the group's May Day protest Tuesday at a GE Lighting plant in view of the arrests of the "autonomous group" [note the jargon] of five.

Salon gets the perspective right:

The FBI’s affadavit suggests that there was never actually a serious “plot.” The gang tossed around the idea of “taking out” a bridge in order to stop people from getting to work, but they also thought maybe they could use their (pretend) C4 on a Klan rally, or a neo-Nazi organization, or an oil well, or the Federal Reserve Bank. They eventually decided to maybe sink a ship. All of their many plans were super serious and well-thought out. (“To prevent capture, he suggested getting tacks that they could throw out of the back of a car if they get in a chase.”) Eventually they settled on the bridge thing, sort of, and bought fake IEDs from the guy they already suspected was a cop.

In other words, these are a bunch of dumbasses even by the standards of amateur “black bloc” dumbasses. Do you know how I know these morons weren’t serious? They planned to download the Anarchist Cookbook and follow its notoriously awful instructions. Every experienced anarchist knows that the Feds have a mole in your group house, but these guys were mainly concerned with having someone’s “hacker friend” explain to them how bitcoins work. Without the FBI’s intervention the most damage these idiots would’ve ever caused is a broken Starbucks window. So thank god they’re off the streets, and congrats to the FBI for getting this tale of dangerous, bomb-planting anarchists onto the news broadcasts on the day of Occupy’s big May Day action.

So, er, serious, non-dumbass violence advocates would be full of win? I await the views of the usual suspects... Ten, nine, counting, eight....

NOTE * To be clear, we should have solidarity with these guys because they're human and their situation is full of pathos. But for that reason.

NOTE The timing is pretty crude, even by FBI standards. Too bad Obama's campaign stop in Kabul sucked all the oxygen out of the story. I imagine they've got something cooked up for Chicago as well.

NOTE Rule #1: The first one to propose violence is always the cop.

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danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

something like the Merrill Lynch bull on Wall Street could - under the right circumstances - be a triumphant and profoundly symbolic event. Randomly "toppling" bank signs in Cleveland, um, try again boys.

Submitted by lambert on

Because you're defending against a claim that exists only in your own mind.

Or is it just sloppy reading? I "pinned it" -- and quite deservedly so -- on violence advocates.

Do you think that anarchy and violence advocacy are one and the same? A simple yes or no will suffice. If they are not, then I did not do what you accuse me of doing. If they are, I am proud to have done so.

In any case, surely you are sophisticated enough to realize that quoting a source doesn't imply endorsing a source?

Had I meant "Anarchists in Cleveland forget rule #2...." that is what I would have written.

My question: "Are all violence advocates stupid, or only some of them?" has another data point....

Submitted by lambert on

I've written quite often of how I like many of the organizational and horizontal ideas of Occupy; those I freely admit come from the anarchist tradition. I'm leery of anarchy as a political philosophy, but then I'm leery of a lot of political philosophies, including (say) marxism. Where I do draw the line is violence advocacy, because I believe it's a strategic fail. (Heck, do you really think me unable to recognize black costumes when I post an image? I like the image because it was both funny, effective, and non-violent.)

Hence, you are either confused, or intellectually dishonest; my take is the latter, since the intellectual dishonesty of violence advocates is both well known and necessary to their cause (since they find it difficult to get people to agree with their goals when they speak openly of them).

This is quite clear from your failure to answer my question, which I will pose again:

Do you think that anarchy and violence advocacy are one and the same?

From your silence, I take it your answer is yes. It's you who, at heart, believe that anarchy and violence advocacy are the same; but you cannot admit that to others, and so you project onto others behavior that you yourself engage in. This is typical of legacy party adherents and tribalists generally.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

I'm not going to answer that question as stated, as property damage is not violence. Does Anarchism call for property damage? Maybe, maybe not; those who engage in it come from a slightly different school of thought than me. I think it says more about people like you that you equate property damage with violence, which is probably the point- how can you recognize the actual violence of warfare and policing, and then call breaking windows "violent" without your head exploding from cognitive dissonance?

Submitted by lambert on

The lie that property damage is not violence (the new Orwellian euphemism for "Diversity of Tactics" is, apparently, "Targeted Property Damage") has many rhetorical uses, I see. Well played, sir.

So, answer the question using your definition, then. I don't see why a yes or no doesn't suffice. Why all this maybe yes, maybe no crapola? Isn't anarchy supposed to be the only coherent political philosophy? And isn't the treatment of property pretty basic to what anarchism is all about? So why all the mush at the central point?

Nice try on the cognitive dissonance. I'm an advocate of strategic non-violence because I think that's the only way forward to end the empire. Violence advocates, on the other hand, such as yourself, will end up recreating the empire, since -- follow me closely here -- violence advocates are running the empire now, and the qualifications are exactly the same. The 1% after all, are the only people who have complete autonomy now, so anarchism is good training for their replacements. The intercranial splatterfest should be in your head, not mine.

NOTE I like "people like you" a lot. The flattening of politics to in- and out-group dynamics becomes ever clearer, doesn't it?

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

I won't give you a yes-or-no answer because the decisions of what tactics to use are entirely contextual. You, for example, don't get to call yourself a "nonviolence advocate" if you believe a State should exist, as all States are founded on the idea of monopoly of violent force. Ah, but that force is "legitimate"... as defined by that system! Well, you certainly won't find anyone say that Anarchism is pacifist. Is that violence advocacy? I will concede that it is, only if you concede that you also advocate violence due to your support of the existence of the State.

Submitted by lambert on

Violence advocates can't be honest about their objectives, because most people won't support them. That's why I asked the question, since I knew you would not answer it.

Hence, all the fancy footwork about contextuality, the ever shifting Orwellian language ("Diversity of Tactics" mutating into "Targeted Property Destruction" and so forth).

Here's another question: Why should I ever believe what an anarchist says about anything, given that "decisions of what tactics to use are entirely contextual"?

It's a lot like the Marx Brothers joke:

Prof. Wagstaff: " What's the password?"
Baravelli: ". Aw, you no fool me. Heh! Swordfish."
Prof Wagstaff: "No. I got tired of that. I changed it."

It's all contextual! Just like... Well, just like nailing jello to a wall.

NOTE Of course, you persist in regarding non-violence as a tactic instead of a strategy.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

I won't answer it because you're asking, "What do you get when you add two plus asparagus?"

As for whether nonviolence is a *strategy*- Go ahead and try it, see where that gets you. Jesus? Executed, his movement stamped out, and, after an uprising, genocide. Gandhi? Assassinated, followed by the horrifying India-Pakistan wars; today it's among the most impoverished areas of the planet. MLK? Yeah, look at poverty rates and tell me how that's working out. All that any of those losers earned was that a few assholes get to join the middle-class of the empire du jour, and the rest in the gutter get to be clubbed with a new reason why they deserve it.

When your entire strategy is exclusively nonviolence, you're either asking for the dominant power to have some mercy (good luck!) or appealing for someone else to come kick their ass on your behalf.

That's not nonviolence. That's just washing your hands of it.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

analyses of violence and its (lack of) effectiveness. Many people posted agaisnt its use, with some really good insights in how it is affecting them and their support of Occupy. But here's one:

2, 2012 at 4:25 AM 22
Sorry, but if there are people on the other side of those windows, who don't know who is going to stop at throwing a brick, who is going to throw more at them, and who is going to try to burn the place down, then it is violence.

When I come hone to find my windows smashed in, I've either been robbed or vandalized, or both. When I'm hone and someone smashes my windows in, then I've been threatened with violence, and the perpetrators shouldn't be surprised if more violence is the result.
As for efficacy, blocs of tens of people rampaging through a downtown shopping area does not demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the state to most people, it demonstrates the necessity of the state. Most people do not want to have to defend themselves against brick- or Molotov- wielding mobs. That's what they expect the police to do. At most, you only demonstrate the ineffectiveness of a state, not the state. You are more likely to provoke a backlash amongst the people, who will run to the leaders who promise crackdowns and tighter security. You give more power to the state, not less, because terrorizing the public does not tend to make them reflective on the adequate levels of intrusiveness of and power of the state. Ref: 9-11 and the Iraq War, or late 1970s Iran. Ask the residents of Magadishu which they prefer more: the mayhem of a weak state fighting against a terrorist militia, or the oppressive dictates of the Islamic courts. Guess what: they won't be singing the praises of Bachunin.

If the plan is to goad the state into overreacting, then that might work, but you generally must already have the sympathy of the population or a significant subset thereof. This is where these sorts of antics tend to fail: the perpetrators think they're supported by the population (perhaps they're fooled by sympathetic support from the very small subset surrounding them at the time), but in fact they usually are not. More often, their actions are interpreted as acts against the population itself.

Take a couple of extreme examples: Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik. Both thought that the violent mass murders they committed would unleash a latent volkgeist in support of their racist ideologies. They were deluded into thinking that by their acts they could spark revolution, but in fact there must already be enough kindling and accelerant for that (and in these cases, it turns out sociopaths are not so good at reading the mood of the public). Are these bad examples because of the extreme violence? The IRA used to kill people too, but they actually retained support (although at times they overstepped their support too, terrorizing their own people).

What made the Boston Tea Party "successful"? The men already had the sympathy of much of the public. Their action was actually interpreted as a symbolic act against a disliked and distant regime. And the British government's reaction was seen as overblown.

The WTO mayhem might be considered successful in some measure because there was much more widespread (and global) sympathy, and bringing the topic to the fore tended to create more. Furthermore, it prompted a police crackdown that many considered disproportionate. Similarly, Occupy Wall Street really only gathered momentum when some completly non-violent women were pepper-sprayed by police. They were not inciting violence or vandalism. Had they been throwing bricks through shop windows, most viewers would have sided with the police. This is not pre-revolutionary colonial America, or the last years of the Ancien Régime. The public may sympathize with income disparity but threaten their security and they'll quickly forget about unfair economic models and settle for unaccountable street cameras.

Is terrorizing some Starbucks and Niketown employees really going to spark revolutionary thought? Do you suppose the dollar cost of the damage amounts to more than a momentary blip in those companies' income sheets? How many more Seattlites will be reading revolutionary pamphlets at Left Coast Books now, versus how many will actually feel more sympathetic to these multi-national corporations (at where they love to shop, mind you- just ask that guy wearing those Nikes!)?

Or shorter:
I find this rationalization of injury free abortion clinic bombing and swastika based graffiti as non violent rather distasteful.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

Yes, both practically and theoretically sound to smash the windows of American Apparel, a company that famously pays its workers a living wage and doesn't outsource. Clearly, the work of sophisticated, big-picture window-smashers.

And by the way, Brendan, there were workers in those stores cowering in fear. Ask them if they felt violence was done to them before you accuse other reporters of laziness.

Other than that, nice thumbsucker, bro.
Posted by hermann on May 2, 2012 at 8:24 AM

@46++ (and many others), Brendan's definition of "violence" is political, not factual. Pretending that the word "violence" does not apply, at least in some widely accepted definitions, to the destruction of property is a lie (and incredibly lazy, stupid journalism).

That said, yes, we can draw a moral distinction between breaking a window and breaking a bone. But as others have said, when you're scaring the shit out of people by breaking their windows, or destroying residential property (my house), or destroying property specifically to intimidate individuals, or destroying my property that was the result of my personal hard work, those distinctions quickly become less than clear.
Posted by Ancient Sumerian on May 2, 2012 at 8:44 AM

Not buying it.

Sure, some of them may have some fairly sophisticated justifications in their own minds, but I don't think they are very well thought out.

I'd guess that every one of the businesses that got smashed was fully insured. All that broken glass didn't cost them a dime. They may even have been insured against the loss of profits for the day. The only people who were effected were the employees—many of whom make little more than minimum wage—who were sent home for a day or two with no pay. I'm sure they'll appreciate the nuanced thought of the anarchists that cost them part of their paychecks this month.

And while there may have been some logical forethought to the choice of some of the businesses they vandalized, smashing car windows is just random mob violence.

I also think it is cowardly and despicable to hide themselves among a crowd of explicitly peaceful protesters. The anarchists vandalism did far more harm the the movement of the peaceful protesters than it did to Nike or American Apparel. The news coverage of the peaceful protests was completely cooped by coverage of the smashed windows.

The anarchists may think they are thoughtful and purposed in their vandalism, but it was a gigantic fail on all levels.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on May 2,

While a fine debate can be had about whether property destruction is ever justified and what / whose property it should be directed against, I think the debate over this point overshadows a much more important issue: a large percentage of people who agree with the message of protests such as yesterday's are afraid or unwilling to join a protest because property destruction and police retaliation have become regular trademarks of these events.

Imagine you are a 40 year old mother of two and you want to take your kids to a protest to learn about democracy and the right to assemble -- all of a sudden you hear breaking glass and two seconds later a masked person in all black comes charging through the crowd with a bunch of cops on his tail. You and your two kids get pushed around or maybe knocked over. Are you going to go home thinking "that was a success, I can't wait to come back?"

At the end of the day, one or two windows are broken and you have hundreds of people who will hear about this experience and think that getting involved in this type of thing isn't for them. Even if you think property destruction is legitimate, do the cost benefit analysis to the movement and tell me that's a good idea.

And if people really, really, really want to vandalize Nike or whatever other place, they can do it, just three days later at 4 in the morning. That way they can have their adrenaline pumping vigilante fun and they don't have to use a giant crowd of people as unwilling human shields / pepper spray absorbers. Make sense?
Posted by Chris Pollina o

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

How stupid to equate "violence" targeted against non-human corporations to the threats against actual humans implied by abortion clinic bombings and swastikas. So many strawmen!

Personally, I find it inspirational to see people standing up to the police, who are the most tangible entities of oppression in most people's daily life.

Submitted by lambert on

... since it's possible and effective to stand up to the police non-violently. We all find that inspirational (I mean, unless you want to trot out the Ghandian sandal wearers line).

Of course, your deflection (well played again, sir) ignores Julia's larger point: Violence advocates are successfully driving away support from Occupy. Since it's so obvious that's happening, I can only assume that's your goal. Is that your goal, RD?

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

"injury free abortion clinic bombings" are threats against actual humans implied, and the ubiquitous spray-painted symbols of destruction (the anarchist "A") is totally creating strawmen (since we NEVER see these types of things used by authoritarian regimes-I'll leave the search up to the readers). And confusing the Praetorian guard with Caesar is a failure of analysis.