The August 11 OpEdNews article below concerns the eco-activist who attempted to save National Forest land (which belongs rightfully to everyone) from a fire-sale to oil and gas interests. Like Tim DeChristopher, Bradley Manning is now in a similar position of having become an icon for genuine public interests including antiwar, whistleblower protection and government transparency.
What’s important here is to be clear about what exactly we are doing to “support” those brave enough to take it upon themselves to personally act in ways that actually have a significant effect.
Not only are these genuine heroes made into commodities, in essence support groups may be subtly “de-incentivized” to achieving their original goals because they have become their own reason for existence (though always for good reason, of course).
Perhaps even more importantly, by lending only superficial and ineffectual support to these martyrs to various causes we are in danger of excusing ourselves from the need to act personally. Because these brave souls have already “done” whatever act was called for, and have therefore by proxy symbolically “atoned” for all of us…we need merely voice support for them to attain absolution.
As our various struggles develop, let’s not forget that both these errors are not only ethically bereft but more importantly they can and nearly always do derail effective action and consequently help to maintain the status quo.
A third error, that of assimilation, will be explored in a future post on the dangers to efficacy inherent in abrogating power to neutralizing groups such as entrenched political parties.
The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher
by Gregory Vickrey
Tim DeChristopher, otherwise known as “Bidder 70” and any number of other marketable terms, was recently sentenced to two years in prison and required to pay a large sum in fines as retribution for his actions at an auction for 130,000 or so acres of land in Utah slated as near give-aways to oil and gas conglomerates.
Tim DeChristopher, in his own words, acknowledges quite specifically the reasons for his actions, and what he would like climate activists to do to support him and his effort that day in the auction house. It is essentially a two-word suggestion: join him .
Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system. Not to rant at it. Not to wave signs at it. Not to sing songs in front of a static building waiting for the police to politely escort him away.
Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system.
And prior to, during, and after the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher, what pitifully stands for a climate movement today did one thing in response. It commodified Tim DeChristopher, morphing him into nothing more than a cheerleader for various parades in front of the White House in DC; a fundraising campaign for those that seek to exploit the passion of those that care about the state of the world; a symbol for the cautious and weak approach to civil disobedience that always allows for a pat on the back, but never makes a dent in the system. [emphasis ours]
This is not new.
It is simply a matter of perpetuating the self for these entities. [emphasis ours]
September and October of 2011 include plans to prop up various heroes through the mechanism of commodification for several causes, marches, protests, and vigils. Old tactics to raise money and attention will be employed on the backs of these individual acts of strength with only the occasional symbolic gesture to disrupt the system in coordinated fashion. An insignificant number of arrests will be arranged. “Success” will be re-defined and diluted again, and again, and again.
And no one will have the guts to stand up and say, “Sorry, Tim. We are too afraid, too comfortable, and too embedded to join you.”
Sorry, Tim. [and sorry, Brad.]
Editor’s note: Anonymous is not y/our personal army. These people are not y/our personal saviors.