Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beware the Rise of the Professional "Activist": Turns out the Color of Political Expediency is Green

Weiser State Forest, between the underground mine fires of Centralia
and the ongoing anthracite mining just over the next mountain.
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee

Here's four very good ways to tell that professional "activists" like Karen Feridun of the politically expedient Wanna-Be Big Green Berks Gas Truth (BGT) and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking (PAF) are simply removed from anything authentically grassroots--and are far more interested in keeping their place at the holy table of the Democrat Party by doing what at this point in history can be described as nothing more than misleading, momentum-deflating busy work:

First--here's the robo-letter I got in my email this morning from the entirely fake "Say No to the Atlantic Sunrise" campaign: 

Dear Wendy, 
"Hope you're having a wonderful holiday season! I wanted to take a moment to thank you for speaking out on so many important issues this year. 
I need to ask your help once again. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would cut a 178-mile path through eight counties in Pennsylvania. If it's approved, the pipeline will supply gas to the recently-approved Cove Point LNG export facility in Maryland where it would be shipped overseas. While the fight continues to keep plans for Cove Point from going forward, communities up and down the proposed route of the Atlantic Sunrise are working together to stop the pipeline from being built. Our friends at the Clean Air Council have started a petition on their behalf.  
By signing the petition, you're telling the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and our state and federal elected officials to say NO to the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Please support our friends fighting to spare their communities and natural resources the permanent scar this pipeline would create. 
Here's the url you can copy and paste into your browser if the link above causes you any problems. http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51176/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12086 
Thank you so much for your help, as always!

How do I know the objective here is PAF's political fortunes and not putting a halt to this pipeline, that BGT and PAF are little more than devices to advance their operative's careers as professional "activists"?

1. Feridun didn't do any work with those of us on the actual ground in Columbia County--indeed, we weren't even contacted--to (a) organize folks on the pipeline ROW, (b) gain access to township supervisors, (c) organize township meeting with residents, (d) orchestrate signatures. Indeed, most of the folks who actually matter here--the ones who'll live with the consequences of this pipeline--won't even see this petition, and even if they did, their wholly on-the-dollar response is going to be "How will this help me?" Answer: it won't. Many of us have been working tirelessly on opposing this pipeline. Feridun neither consulted with us nor bothered herself to learn anything about how ASP is playing out out here in rural Columbia County, PA. She certainly didn't bother to come and see what ASP means to people on our stretch of the ROW. If she had, she have realized that...

2. Petitions are worthless. As a movement, we have completely, entirely, fully exhausted the value of petitions for anything other than getting names to solicit for--more petitions. Moreover, if Feridun had bothered to consult with any of the many real grassroots organizers in Columbia County along ASP's proposed path, she'd know that we are way beyond the value of a petition. We know who is on the right of way. We have the maps. We have been working on all of this for months. And petitions are now just a really great way for the police and the FBI to surveil us even more effectively. 

3. Feridun knows that petitioning to FERC is a complete waste of time energy and momentum. It does sustained damage to this movement to keep up the lie that FERC will do anything other than permit this pipeline. What we must be prepared to do is prevent Williams from building the pipeline after FERC permits it--that is the argument for township ordinances and the commitment to nonviolent but sustained and massive civil disobedience in defense of them. 

4. The letter was sent to me--which means that Feridun didn't even look at the list of email addresses on the petitions list. Had she, she'd have known that I'd draft this excoriating response in defense of my neighbors on this pipeline ROW.

So what is the real motive here? To appropriate the campaign to stop ASP for Feridun's own activist career portfolio? To exploit Stop the Pipeline for political gain?

Not going to happen. 

The folks who do actual work on ASP get to take that credit--and most of these folks are also holding down full-time jobs. Is it to look like PAF/BGT are actually a part of this struggle against the pipeliners? No--also not going to happen. This struggle does not get to become just one more opportunity for the wanna-be Big Greens to take advantage of the very real struggles of the folks who do the real work and suffer the very very real consequences to pad their fake activist resumes.

Not on my watch--and I strongly encourage the good folks at the Clean Air Council to review their alliances.

Indeed, why did we ever think that petitions, letters to our electeds, pleas to our county commissioners, comments to FERC, appeals to DEP, sparsely attended protests on the steps of the Harrisburg Capitol, or chatting with Governor Elect Wolf, were going to stop this nightmare called carbon extraction at any cost--so long as that can be outsourced to 
the public?

Our petitions ARE accessible to the gas industry AND to the police/FBI agents that surveil us.

Letters to our electeds fall on deaf ears.

Pleas to county commissioners and township supervisors are heard only by their lawyers--who say "Do not listen to those who elected you! You'll be sued!"

FERC works for the gas industry.
DEP...works for the gas industry.

And Wolf is as in bed with the gas thugs as his predecessor.

When we win a lawsuit against FERC we are instructing the gas and the pipeline companies about how to make their permit applications airtight on the next round of application.

When we let down our guard on the hope that DEP might be doing its job because we finally get to know about contaminated wells, we forget that DEP does nothing about preventing future contaminated wells.

And then we just keep doing the same things over and over--as if tomorrow's petition, protest, appeal, comment, luncheon 
with Wolf....will make a difference.

It won't.

And while we're dithering, THIS happens:

Isn't it time we recognized that for an industry whose counting on making BILLIONS before the boom goes bust--as it will far sooner than BILLIONS can be made--these strategies are less than the tickle of a May Fly?

We must empower our townships one at a time with ordinances that protect their right to self-determination consistent with the rights of all of its members to clean air and water--and then we must be prepared to defend those ordinances with our bodies.

Until we are ready to be water-cannoned like the brave folks of Selma, Alabama;

until we are ready to be arrested like the now 92 people at Watkin's Glen; until we are ready to be pepper-sprayed, hand-cuffed, and jailed for non-violent action in massive numbers, we are not going to turn this around.

The sooner we get clear about this fact, and grow some fortitude, righteousness, and genuine solidarity (as opposed to the "solidarity of political expediency"), the better.

While we're looking for ways to rationalize our cowardice, the planet is burning.





Wendy Lynne Lee


Tom Frost said...

Should I relay this great information to Tom Shepstone about how you continue to apparently want to defect to his side? I felt a little bit sorry for him when I told him a while back that I won't be, you see.

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

It is just plain silly that because I level well-deserved criticism on those who'd appropriate a genuine movement to end the fracking nightmare, you'd identify it as "defecting." Apparently anyone who does not fall into lockstep with the movement's safest and most ineffective "activists" is, by your lights, playing for the other team.

But rejection of any one position is not logically or practically the advocacy of any other.

And the funny thing is that it's precisely lock-step you apparently favor--just like the gas companies.

Sasquach said...

Why would Tommy Shepstone need Wendy Lee's help - he already has an army of unemployed opportunists who use the fracktivist movement as a way to advance their private agendas.

Anonymous said...

Where did all this anger come from? It's a serious question.

And I side with you on the tactics thing, petitions and strongly worded letters are a waste and only serve to expose one's self to unwanted scrutiny.

But the amount of anger you're venting here will only serve to divide what is already a far too fractured movement of mostly paycheck to paycheck living volunteers.

I agree 100% the only way to win this fight is politically. Not by electing millionaire business men, but by going to every county commission meeting and permit hearing and working the LOCAL politics.

But when you angrily assert that people are frauds or fake or professional activists, you push them away rather than steer them towards effective activism.

If this kind of anger infuses too many quarters of the effort to stop this rape of the planet, the rapists win.

I'm begging you, rethink your tone. teach a better way. Help them improve. Don't call them names and denigrate them.

If you think their efforts are wasteful, then tell them why without calling them chumps, stooges or sellouts.

I ask this because, YOU got energy...and we need that energy.


Tom Frost said...

Tom Frost in "lockstep" - HAHAHAHAHA! Leave it to an ivory tower occupant such as yourself to miss my point entirely about how it is actually Laurel & Hardy that you should consider defecting to.

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

Dear anonymous,

What you're reading is not anger--it is a spelling out of some truths inconvenient to be sure--but truths nonetheless. I appreciate that you're asking a serious question, but that you are reading the piece in, I gather, an angry tone does not mean that there is one. A better description would be "resolute," "disenchanted," "exhausted by the BS," and "impatient," but not angry per se. There IS, of course, much to be angry ABOUT, not the least of which these political expedients are sucking all the wind out of the movement and trading that momentum for an entirely false sense of achievement. That IS tiring. I, however, am not venting at all. And I lay out reasons.

As for "divide," no. I am showing this movement where it is already fractured and divided. It does not need me to do that work. THAT so many PRETEND otherwise does not mean that the rift is not right in front of us.

It is.

How can we tell?

The Gas Thugs just keep raping our water and air--and our polite pretense to "unity" hasn't even slowed them down.

Indeed, so long as we continue with this charade, we are facilitating their devastation.

I'm just putting a mirror up to the face of a movement that doesn't want to look at it's own lack of courage.

As for "pushing away," I cannot have pushed away what was never my ally to begin with--even if I for the longest while could not see that fact.

Anonymous said...

It sounded angry to me
It sounded personal to me

I got that same email about the petition also. I just deleted it. I don't do petitions. I take it you don't either.

But, Tom Wolfe ain't the problem.
Tom Wolfe also ain't the solution.

The only place these battles can be won is in the legislatures
and county commissions. The permit hearings, the requests for comment hearings.
Using the very tools the state set up for us to use. (shitty as they are)
The databases and the permit announcements and, believe it or not,
sympathetic DEP and DCNR personnel (They do exist).

But our coalition is small and fractured.
And that keeps us weak.

And if you're going to "attack" the methods or actions
of a group who has similar aims as you,
you only serve to keep that coalition fractured.

And it sounded like an attack. It sounded personal to me.
And maybe it is. But that doesn't mean it has to be public.

Because we can't afford to stay fractured.
And that's my point, and I will leave it at that.
And thank you for your efforts as well.

Wendy Lynne Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy Lynne Lee said...

Dear Anonymous:

A couple of things: You are mistaking the fact that I used a name--Karen Feridun--for anger. That would be very mistaken. First, I very rarely use names. In point of fact, this is the first time on this topic. Why did I use her name?


If she can use her name to advertise for a coalition of anti-fracking groups who are in fact far more interested in their political fortunes in the Democrat Party, then I can call her out by name.

In fact, it is my DUTY to do so i the interest of neither being party to the deception nor complicit in that injury.

Tom Wolf absolutely IS one of the problems:


And for as long as groups fore-fronted by Karen Feridun keep touting Wolf as part of the solution, we will keep wasting time.

These battles will not be won in the legislatures; if they are to be one, it will be one township and one county at a time. And they will be won, as I said, only when we are willing to stop pretending we're following the example of Martin Luther king--and actually DO IT.

Suzie McKee said...

YES! to Dan-in-PA - December 10 at 4:47 PM

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

Care to spell out your "Yes" Susie? Or do you just think Dan a handsome fella?