Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Here we go: Smash, Jazz, Ron, Joe, lock stock and two smoking barrels

posted by Jazz at 2/26/2005 06:20:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

I will give full and fair warning right here. This one is going to drag on for a long, long time. So if you're going to read it, you may want to pour yourself a big cup of coffee, get your most comfortable seating arrangement and settle in. This post, for those of you not following the story to date and associated comments, is the fallout from a previous post by Ron about a post over at Joe Gandelman's blog, The Moderate Voice, which made reference to a long post on Citizen Smash. (Is that enough links in one sentence for you?)

Ron's initial point seemed to be that he felt that Smash's post was offensive and that Joe shouldn't have posted to it in an endorsement type fashion. I have since exchanged e-mails with both Joe and Smash, and the story has gone in two decidedly different directions on two very unrelated issues. I am pleased to say that I engaged in an extremely civil exchange of e-mails and information with Smash which included no cursing, vulgarities, rhetoric or mean spirited partisan bashing. Joe, as always, was civil and polite.

The first of the two points was one where I think that everyone found agreement. Ron still respects Joe very highly, and Smash and I agreed that he's top notch. He points to material on the left and right, far and near, all the time. This doesn't mean that he personally endorses the message or emotion of the destination - simply that it is of interest on the current news spectrum.

The story, however, took the expected turn of events and I wound up reading the post on Smash's site which originally got Ron riled up and talk to Smash about it. This is where we came to a parting of the ways. Having read the material, heard Smash's explanation, and listened to the audio tape in question, I'm definitely on Ron's side on this one. Possibly even more so than if I'd never exchanged e-mails with Smash.

Assuming you either clicked on or already knew about the previous posts linked above, here comes the follow-up. With no changes other than some spelling corrections, (I was typing off a fast e-mail before dinner) here is the e-mail I sent to Smash: (Please note... the first paragraph deals with the fact that I didn't agree with Ron about taking Joe Gandelman to task for linking to Smash's post - not disagreeing with Ron about the content of Smash's post.)

Smash,

I'd like to have a copy of that file. I want you to know that I consider Joe a friend of mine, and I did not endorse what Ron posted and said so in the comments section. But also I don't censor my other authors. I just rebut when I don't' agree.


You say "a few people clapped." How many people were there? If there were dozens and dozens and only a few clapped, then it sounds like the majority didn't agree with the speaker. If there were only three or four people there, then you were dealing with a handful of insane wingnuts who do not, in my opinion, represent the majority of the anti-Iraq-war crowd.


(I specify "Iraq" because I'm not anti-war. I'm ex-military. I supported the Bush I gulf war AND the invasion of Afghanistan and marched in favor of them both.)

Smash was nice enough to respond with a very polite letter and a copy of the audio file. (I have not altered the file in any way except to shorten the file name for ease of file browsing. For any reference to this file, please credit Smash.) For those who want to make a full judgment of this story, I encourage you to listen to it. I have uploaded it here and checked it for any virus problems. It's clean, and it's fairly short. And now, Smash's reply. I will make no edits or emphasis to any portion of it for this full insert, but rather leave it to stand on its own.

Jazz,

Thanks for writing back.
I've attached the file. It's been eleven months, but as I recall there were about 700 people at the beginning of this rally, but by Rebecca spoke later in the program, when only about 200 or so were left. Some fog had rolled in, and many of the protestors weren't dressed for the cold, so they left early.

Not everyone was paying attention to the speakers. Some were chatting with friends, and many others were checking out the various booths and displays around the perimeter. I was up close to the stage, sitting on the grass along with a few dozen other people. Most of them applauded during her speech, and just about everyone took part in the chanting at the end.


I noticed that the speakers became more and more radical as the day wore on. A few of the speakers after Rebecca (ANSWER types, mostly) were openly calling for revolution -- although they were so rabid that it was difficult to take them seriously. The thing about Rebecca was
that seemed quite sane and earnest.

At many rallies since, I've heard similar speeches -- but this is the only one I managed to catch on tape. I also saw this "strategy" spelled out on fliers from the International Socialist Organization, of which Rebecca is a member.
You can see the argument for supporting the Iraqi resistance featured prominently in such publications as the Socialist Worker, the official newspaper of the ISO:

(ED. Note: Link to socialist newspaper snipped.)

But the interesting thing is that Rebecca was, and still is, an active member of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, the group that sponsors most of the major rallies in San Diego. She rarely misses an event, and I've never witnessed a single person confronting her for making overly provocative speech, or otherwise discrediting the organization. In fact, after this tape went public, they rallied around in her defense!


Honestly, I have no problem with people who want to debate policy. That's part of being in a democracy. But when people start to advocate support for our enemies, or actively try to undermine our military (which is another topic entirely), that's where I draw the line.
Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this respectfully.

Cheers,


SMASH
Before we get into my commentary, I will also provide you with my response to Smash. (Which, I will confess, includes some commentary.) See? I told you this was going to be ungodly long, but if you are interested in the topic and hang in there, I think it may become worth your while.


Hi Smash.

Thanks for the tape. I just finished listening to it twice. (The wife and I went out to dinner before your e-mail arrived.) I guess I don't have enough to go on without asking more questions.

To somebody not familiar with the event, here's what it sounded like to me:
There was a crackpot girl on stage at this rally who, while being a member of the CPJ, is also a freaking socialist. She wasn't just an anti-Bush speaker. She wasn't just an anti-war speaker. She was anti-Kerry. She was anti-pretty much everything.

The interesting thing was the crowd response. Were you moving around while taping that or pretty much in one place? The reason I ask is that when she made the specific statements about supporting the insurgents against the Americans, it sounded to me like I heard not a single person clapping and a lot of chatter of people talking among themselves. Then she moved on to say that "we need to support US resistance in the military. Soldiers..." At that point, when she
finished that statement, I clearly heard the sound of exactly ONE person clapping.

Then she goes on to talk about how the US Military was "brought down in Vietnam because there was a fierce resistance in Vietnam and the soldiers refusing to fight." At that point, it sounded like possibly three to five people clapped. Next she moved on to talk specifically about George Bush and how "we're not going to convince him to have sympathy for the people of Iraq, and we need to mobilize."
At that point, I heard a fair number of people clapping. Hard to say with the tape quality but it could easily have been dozens. Then she goes on to trash BOTH Bush and Kerry, saying that there is "no good way to run an occupation" which gets even louder applause.

The fruitcake then goes on and asks everyone to become a socialist. Did you catch that part? She's a socialist. She ends up leading a chant which, I'll admit, a lot of people seem to have jumped in on just before it gets cut off. The chant, however, is a very typical of any peace rally. No matter who was leading it, they would join in. It was "No justice, no peace. US out of the Middle East."
The chant had nothing to do with supporting enemies who attack US troops. It's a chant for people who don't want America fighting these wars in the sand for no reason.

Now here's why I asked about whether you were sitting in one place or moving around. If you were taping from far off at first, maybe your tape recorder only caught the sound of no people, then one person, then a few people clapping, and later if you were up close you caught lots of clapping and then the chanting. However, your previous e-mail said that you were "... up close ot the stage, sitting on the grass."
If that's where you were for the recording of the entire tape, I would venture to say that almost nobody was paying attention to this loon, and virtually nobody clapped for her or supported her words until she got to the very general stuff about opposing George W. Bush's overall plans for war in the middle east and the need to demonstrate and protest.

When she said that everyone else should join the socialist party, you could hear a pin drop. Nobody cheered or applauded.
I went and looked at your post which started all of this. I will admit that Ron had a point to be upset. I want to ask you, person to person, if you don't feel that you were being very disingenuous.

After you described your taping session and how the tape ended up on
Rush Limbaugh's show.... (catch me. I may faint from shock that Limbaugh would pick that up) here is exactly what you wrote:

"IN A FREE SOCIETY, the best way to fight speech is with more speech. I took the momentum I had gained from the Rebecca tape, and used it to build an organization to counter the extreme left-wing groups that had sponsored that rally."


Did you catch that plural there? The "extreme left wing groups" (plural.. groupS) that had sponsored that rally." You lumped Rebecca in with CPJ and several other groups of real Americans who oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and do so peacefully, but apparently
did not applaud or cheer or, it sounds, want any part of the lone wacko from the ISO (socialist party) who was spouting off violent crap.

This apparently didn't slow you down, however, as you tell your tale of how you then ganged up with a bunch of other guys to do down and intimidate a peaceful war protest, (no mention of Rebecca made there) but decided to punish them for Rebecca's insane socialist views.


No, Smash. I've investigated everything I've been given from both sides thus far, and I can't say I'm proud of you at all. It sounds like you began running a smear campaign based on a tape of one freaky socialist who nobody wanted to hear talk and used her to paint the entire Iraq war opposition movement with the same brush.


If there's more information I'm missing (tapes or video again, please) please do let me know and I'll keep an open mind.
I'm involved enough in this now that I'm probably going to cobble together a post on RS about this, ensuring that I leave your full side of it in without editing you, but I'd rather wait and hear from you for your side again before I decide to or not. Frankly, to me, it looks like a right wing smear job, but that might just be me, the tape quality, or a lack of information.

Cheers,


Jazz
Congratulations if you're still hanging in there, and I promise that we're getting down near the finish line. However, before making a closing argument about this, to be completely fair and keep things in context, I will include Smash's final response.

Jazz,
(ED.NOTE: A small portion of Smash's final response has been edited out. This is not to hide anything or change his meaning. It was unrelated to the discussion and involved his personal schedule for the weekend and seemed unsuitable to re-print in a public forum.)
Suffice it to say that I've heard similar complaints before. Let me be clear: I'm not trying to smear the entire anti-war movement, the Left, or the Democratic Party. In fact, I am currently registered as a Democrat (I'm actually an independent at heart, but I registered to take part in the 2004 primary election).

My efforts are very specifically targeted at a radical subset of the anti-war movement that is working to undermine the US military through counter-recruitment, encouragement of shirkers and deserters, and propaganda efforts targeting the morale of military members and their families. Most of the events we've held have been non-confrontational, with signs expressing support for our military and their families.


Before I go, let me address one small part of your letter:
"This apparently didn't slow you down, however, as you tell your tale of how you then ganged up with a bunch of other guys to do down and intimidate a peaceful war protest, (no mention of Rebecca made there) but decided to punish them for Rebecca's insane socialist views."

That "peaceful war protest" was specifically targeting the San Diego Naval Station. The first speaker, a Mr. Carl Muhammed of the Peace and Freedom Party, opened up by chanting "USA out of Haiti... USA out of Iraq... USA out of Afghanistan... USA out of North America!"


Mr. Muhammed was followed up by a taped message from convicted cop-killer Abu Mumia al-Jamal, from his death row cell in Pennsylvania.
Next came a firebrand from the Worker's World Party, Mr. Pete Reilly. Reilly made special notice of my group of 15 counter-protestors standing politely about 100 yards away, labeling us as "jack-booted fascists," etc. Then he launched into a rant about how the US military was racist, and he pledged to "bring down the war machine." For his finale, he whipped himself into a frenzy and stomped around the stage, shouting "Revolution now! We're not going to stop until this red flag flies over the White House!"

You were right about one thing, though -- Rebecca wasn't at that rally. But the ISO did have their little bookstand up, and were selling copies of the Communist manifesto, and various books by and about Trotsky, Castro, Guevarra, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, etc.
These are the people I'm working against. Many of them will be in attendance at the rally on March 19.

Call it a "smear campaign" if it makes you happy.
I'll keep doing what I do, regardless.

Cheers,


SMASH
So, on the surface, it would appear that Smash can make a case that he's not trying to stifle dissent among peaceful people who are simply opposed to the Bush administration and its war mongering policies, right? He's opposed to the communists, socialists, and other anti-government radicals. And if that were the case, I could almost get behind him on this.

Any time there is a peace rally, it inevitably attracts a small but very vocal set of wackos. The RNC in New York was an excellent example. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters showed up. Unfortunately, the event also attracted a small contingent of anarchists, socialists, skinheads and similar groups. And, of course, who did the media focus on? The radicals. That's because the regular peace activists are too "boring."

However, they show up at these events for only one reason - if they held their own rally, nobody would show up. So they have to try to tag on to somebody else's rally. (When I say "nobody", I mean nobody except their own seven or eight pathetic little members who would drag themselves out of the parents' basements, put on their Guevara t-shirts, though most of them have no idea who the guy was, and go chant for a while alone.)

But Smash isn't doing that. He's not just targeting the communists and socialists and anarchists. He's attempting to disrupt the activities of everyone opposed to the war. Let's take a look at his upcoming "demonstration", shall we? (Taken from Smash's web site.)


FOR THE FIRST TIME in many months, we’ve learned of planned protests targeting military bases right here in San Diego. Our town will be the focus of a "regional mobilization" of the radical left.

I can't wait.

The World Says End the War! Bring the Troops Home Now! Rebuild our Communities! MARCH 19 - REGIONAL MOBILIZATION IN SAN DIEGO, CA Camp Pendleton Marine base, one of the largest bases in the country, has suffered a tragic number of casualties in the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq. CODEPINK will honor the devastating loss of these troops with a peaceful 30 mile, two day procession. Join us on March 18th and 19th as we walk from Oceanside, home of Camp Pendleton, to the massive rally at Balboa Park where we will unite with the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice to mark the second anniversary of the war in Iraq.


So, who is Smash going after? The ISO? The Young Communist League? No.... Code Pink. That's right... those dangerous, radical, America hating militants of Code Pink. (check your sarcasm meter for damage.) And let's see what these radical commies from Code Pink are advocating, shall we?
  • End the war
  • Bring home the troops to safety
  • Rebuild our communities
  • Honor the devastating loss of our troops in Iraq
Yeah, those are some pretty horrible sentiments, eh? Smash better shut those folks down. We certainly don't want a bunch of commies running around trying to honor the war dead.

And this brings us to my last point. What exactly are Smash and his buddies trying to do? Are they simply trying to peacefully assemble and air their views to the public? Well, in some cases they are. They have a program called "Operation Thank You". Here's how Smash describes it.
This is a wonderful, positive, non-confrontational event, where we stand outside the gates of various military bases holding signs that simply read "THANK YOU."
That's great, and I think they should be allowed, encouraged and supported in doing this. Because, unlike Smash, I think everyone should be able to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully assemble and air grievances or show support. But this event coming up on March 19th is nothing like that at all. Let's see how Smash describes that one.

THE BIG EVENT will be on Saturday, March 19, in Balboa Park. This will mark the second anniversary of Iraqi Freedom, and the first anniversary of Rebecca's now-infamous speech.

As you recall, last year at this event I felt that I was surrounded in a sea of anti-American sentiment, and was unable to stand up and denounce the seditious rhetoric of the various speakers.

This year, however, we're going to turn the tables.

Don't let the seditionists take over our park, again.

"Turn the tables." Stop the "seditionists". I'm sure you can see what's going on here. I lived in San Diego for a few years back when I was in the Navy, and I can assure you that there are a lot of parks besides Balboa. If Smash simply wanted to hold a public rally in support of the troops, in support of war, in support of Dubya, or whatever else he wants to support, there's many places to do it, and many days on the calendar to hold his event. But that's not his intent. His intent is, in plain and simple language, to do whatever he can to disrupt the Code Pink rally and silence their dissent. Read his own words, and you will see that there is absolutely no other way to describe what's going on here. Smash is an excellent example of why many liberals call the war hawks "re-thugs", even though Smash is allegedly a registered Democrat.

No, I'm afraid this isn't something that makes me or America proud at all. It's one more example of the creeping fascism that wants to ensure that no dissent against Dubya's administration is allowed, and considers free speech a unfortunate but unavoidable victim of the "war on terror."

Ron, you have my apologies. You were absolutely right to be infuriated by Smash's article, though I still place no fault on Joe Gandelman for linking to it. Nor do I think Joe should have felt compelled to make any comment painting Smash's writings in a negative light. He simply points to highly interesting or provocative items and leaves the reader to judge for themselves. In this case, I judge the activities by Smash to be, quite frankly, unamerican.

EDIT: Since this seems to be getting traffic, this blog has moved. You can find the same post over at:
http://www.runningscared.org/

Same date. Traffic from here is redirected, sorry.