(This is the third of three posts regarding the “diversity of tactics” debate raging in the Occupy movement and Chris Hedges inflammatory February 6th article on Truthdig entitled The Cancer in Occupy)
As Nihilo Zero, Don Gato and others point out, the major problem with Hedges’ article is that the so called “Black Bloc Movement” he attacks in doesn’t exist. Black bloc is a term used to describe a specific tactic – dressing alike (in black) and wearing masks – to avoid identification by the police. Its use is by no means limited to anarchists. Black bloc is employed by activists across the ideological spectrum who wish to avoid identification by the police. Hedges clearly has no direct knowledge or contact with either “black bloc” practitioners or the thousands of other Occupy activists who reject pressure to commit to exclusive nonviolence. Thus the entire article is based on totally erroneous assumptions, starting with Hedges faulty premise that “black block” represents a specific movement with a coherent ideology:
- According to Hedges, the so-called “Black Bloc” don’t see capitalists as their real enemies. This is an extremely bizarre accusation to make without supporting evidence, especially as “black bloc” doesn’t refer to any specific belief system. Hedges cites an article by an anarchist writer named John Zerzon in making this assertion. However as several critics point out, Zerzon doesn’t speak for the black bloc – no one does.
- According to Hedges, the so-called “Black Bloc” opposes “all forms of collective organization.” Again, Hedges has absolutely no idea who the people are behind the masks nor the diversity of views they represent. In To Be Fair He is a Journalist: A Short Response to Chris Hedges on the Black Bloc, Don Gato refers readers to real life leftist and Canadian activist Hersha Walia, who helped organize the Tent Village protest at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He provides a link to a speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oesjegD1-Vg) in which she describes friends who engage in black bloc tactics as some of the hardest workers in other movement building activities, for example infoshops that produce and distribute literature, bike and food collectives and other political organizations that deliver services to marginalized groups.
- According to Hedges, the so-called Black bloc is “rigid” and “dogmatic.” Nihilo Zero points out that it’s actually Hedges who is being rigid and dogmatic when he uses his prestige as a so-called working class journalist to declare off-limits a long list of tactics, such as swearing at the police, destruction of corporate property, flag burning and blocking streets with garbage and debris.
- According to Hedges, so-called “Black Bloc anarchists” are “hypermasculine damaged males.” Again he has no way of distinguishing the sex of protestors with their faces covered. As Gato suggests, this totally unsubstantiated accusation is a great insult to the Feminist and Queer blocs that participated in Move-In Day in Oakland.
- According to Hedges, protestors who shout “Fuck the Police” will alienate the people they seek to draw into their movement. Nihilo Zero asks which people? He acknowledges that profanity may alienate uptight politically correct liberals, but not disenfranchised minorities for whom police harassment and violence is a regular, life long experience. He points out that N.W.A’s “Fuck Da Police” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiX7GTelTPM) is one of the most popular songs in American history. For his part, Gato questions the use of “moral superiority” as a draw card for recruiting the disadvantaged. The argument that allowing the police to beat them up without retaliating will impress the masses with activists’ moral superiority shows a total lack of understanding of the circumstances or values of low income Americans.