|Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action, and Josh Fox, Gasland|
Governor Tom Wolf's inauguration, 1.20.15
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee
adequately study whether fracking can be done safely--an argument that sounds reasonable on its face, but in fact belies a complete capitulation to Governor Wol'f insistence that we can "have our cake and eat it too--Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action (CWA) posts the following (reproduced ver batim):
Wendy, one problem with your theory is that the anti-fracking movement is entirely dependent on the organizational, institutional and financial resources of the larger environmental organizations. In the history of social change and in the near certainty of cases, something (new social movement activity) nearly always arises from a pre-existing organizational base. In the American Civil Rights Movement, the SNCC sit in movement arose out of the social organizational context of the SCLC and CORE. And SCLC and CORE, in turn, arose from the context created by the NAACP, the Historically Black Colleges, and Gandhian traditions brought to America by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. So, I am not threatened personally by new movements arising out of and possibly in reaction to the organizational basis of the anti-fracking infrastructure in PA that was created by Marcellus Protest, Clean Water Action, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Sierra Club, and others who had a base of funding and staff and whose staff had the time, talent, and inclination to bring activities together. New things happen. But one thing I do know. Individual acts do not a social organization make. You need infrastructure to support, encourage, and develop ongoing organization. And you need funding. If I were you, I would be spending my time organizing that infrastructure to nurture the movement I wanted to create. Wendy Lynne Lee, you are a scholar. I suggest that you take a look at all of this through the context of Resource Mobilization Theory (McCarthy & Zald). New social movement steps do not come out of nothing. It comes out of something that was already nurtured and created. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/sierra.frackers/)
About the only thing Mr. Sooy gets right is the line about how I am a scholar--but this, of course, is intended as damning with faint praise.
Let's examine Sooy's reasoning:
One of the basic principles of logic involves learning to distinguish necessary from sufficient from contributory causal conditions. Causal arguments that fail to appeal to the correct cause and effect relationship are fallacious--that is, they misidentify the correct causal relationship or they see such a relationship where there is none.
Sooy commits this causal fallacy in his very first sentence when he claims that "the anti-fracking movement is entirely dependent on the organizational, institutional and financial resources of the larger environmental organizations." In effect, he's claiming that larger environmental organizations are a necessary causal condition for the existence of the anti-fracking movement.
This reasoning is fallacious for at least four reasons:
1. Sooy mistakes contributory (if even that) causal conditions for necessary ones: as the organizing of the disruptive events inside the inaugural venue made abundantly clear, such groups like Clean Water Action, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, and Food and Water Watch not only had no bearing on the success of that disruption, it in fact was successful despite the utter lack of participation of the leaders of these organizations. Indeed, the notion that somehow the courageous folks who risked arrest did so only because they thought they'd have support from Sooy, et. al, is ludicrous. It's like claiming that in his magnificent "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King saw himself as dependent on the white clergy to support the Civil Rights Movement--when precisely the opposite is the case. King chastised his clerical fellows for their lack of committed involvement, their predictable capitulation, their insistence that racial equality had to wait. King moved forward despite the apathy, cowardice, and racist attitudes of his fellow clergy--not because of them. So too, the eight brave folks who were arrested at Governor Gas Wolf's inauguration acted despite the faint-hearted dependence of these faux-environmentals on a political system that rewards them so long as we don't put an end to the fracktastrophe. Note carefully, this is not to say that the risks undertaken by the Wolf protesters are the same as those of the incredibly brave civil rights activists at, say, Selma, Alabama. But it is to say that until we are prepared to take those risks, the gazillion dollar gas industry is going to keep right on fracking and pipelining us into oblivion. And it is to say that because climate change is the global civil rights issue of the 21st century that until we get clear about that fact, we're going to settle for the dry crumbs offered us by these fake greenies.
2. Sooy's position leads to a reductio ad absurdam: if Sooy's correct that the anti-fracking movement is dependent on the bigger environmentals, then there is no movement and there has never been one. The Big Greens cannot brook the possibility of a movement--any movement--since, by definition, a movement lays claim to criticism of the system that has spawned it, refuses to be dependent on a system that generates conditions of harm, and it demands that the system change to prevent that harm or be overthrown. But CWA, et. al. not only fails to challenge that system, it actively benefits from it in the form of donors and political access. As I have argued elsewhere, these groups directly undermine the prospect of any anti-fracking movement from ever emerging by effectively colluding with law enforcement to "protest" only in designated "free speech zones," to not engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, and to not be any real problem to the powers that be. In so doing, they get to portray themselves as the "rational" activists against the "radicals." But the truth is that it is only the radicals--those willing to question the very system that benefits the gas industry, the corrupt political system, and the Big Greens who benefit from both--who will ever get this movement off the ground. To therefore claim that that movement is dependent on these Big Greens is to claim that there is no movement. Of course, Sooy may be right about that--but I don't think that's what he wants.
3. Sooy's argument insures that the gas industry wins, and wins big: to the extent that these smaller wanna-be greenies like CWA and PAF model their organizational structure after the BIG greens like the Sierra Club, they cannot as a matter of policy support any movement. The Sierra Club's explicit policy is to not participate in any act of civil disobedience, and while movements are about many strategies to achieve a goal--like the end of fracking--to preemptively bar members from participating in a direct action insures that unless the goals are very very small (say, moving a pipeline route from my yard to yours) they will not be achieved. No doubt the Sierra Club leadership knows this--so we can only assume that their real objectives have nothing to do with ending fracking, and everything to do with perpetuating and growing the Sierra Club donor base. In that case, of course, SC might as well stand for "sugar candies" or "soggy conjectures"--cuz' that's about as much of a movement as they can support. Nonetheless CWA, PAF, FWW are SC-Clones to the extent that what they value most are their greenie images, their donor base, and their access to whomever is in power.
4. Sooy commits the specific causal fallacy Post hoc--"After this, therefore because of this." Sooy claims that there'd have been no Civil Rights movement without a number of organizations to provide its "base."While it is possible that that is the case, there is no way to determine that it is necessarily the case. Just because these organizations did provide support does not mean that others might not have arisen to the occasion had they not, or that no organization would have provided that base, but rather more loosely affiliated citizens with the same objectives. Indeed, Sooy doesn't get his history correct here since some of these organizations became organizations in virtue of and during the Civil Rights Movement--hence could not have been its base. To claim that no movement can emerge without an organizational base is just silly. Indeed, it is virtually always in resistance to organizational or systemic injustice that movements arise--and the fact is that an effective anti-fracking movement must come to regard organizations who model themselves after the Sierra Club as antithetical to their objectives since those organizations have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
|Disrupting Governor Wolf's inauguration|
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
At bottom, however, it's just monumentally arrogant to claim that the anti-fracking movement is dependent on groups like CWA, PAF, and FWW.
It's like Sooy thinks these groups bear some sort of parental relationship to the decision whether to engage in an act of protest, nonviolent civil disobedience--or any strategy to bring attention to the issues.
But Nathan Sooy is not my dad--and he doesn't get to lecture me about what I should read about movements. Indeed, were CWA so expert, you'd think we'd have seen some modest results with respect to getting the gassers out of the Commonwealth.
And I'll bet that if you asked, say, Maggie Henry why she was willing to risk arrest during the Gas Wolf inauguration, her reasons wouldn't include appeal to whether Clean Water Action thought it was OKAY.
are the mommies and daddies
of the anti-fracking movement is nuts.
And it's pompous nuts.
This sort of peremptory arrogance puts Sooy in the same league as, say, state police officers who, reporting to the Marcellus Shale Operators Crime Committee, think they can intimidate folks into behaving according to a system that rewards Sierra Club-Alikes for towing the line, staying in their "free speech zones" drafting their repetitive petitions, having their one-off marches--
while it punishes real citizens for demanding to live in the democracy we were promised with the clean water and air to which we have a right.
The proof here is in the pudding. None of the organizations Sooy sites have gotten us one iota closer to a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania. My god, they haven't even really slowed the disaster down. While they ask you for your money, the industry just keeps on keepin' on--ravaging of the state's water and air.
Lastly, Sooy says that "Individual acts do not a social organization make."
He's right--but that redounds only to his failure and the failure of the organizations he defends.
Had CWA, et al, organized even just 100 of their loads of sign-onmembers to join the eight arrested, the inaugural events would have seen very different news coverage. And--just to trouble shoot for one rather lame response--this isn't because civil disobedience is the only tool we have in the ban fracking tool box.
Nathan Sooy's failed argument reminds me of an image that epitomizes that entire day:
As I was leaving--hightailing it home to process photographs--I walked past the building where Maggie Henry and her fellows were being charged and processed. As I looked to cross the street, I saw Nathan and Karen Feridun (PAF) strolling together away from the protest--and away from that
Governor Wolf's inauguration
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
Sooy would have us believe that it's in unity with some organization to which Henry somehow owes loyalty--although it has done nothing to protect her. I don't pretend to know Henry's specific motives--but she owes nothing to an organization whose policy bars them from standing with her to protect her farm.
The Big Greens count on folks like Maggie Henry to be the "radicals" so that their paid staff can continue to play the system as the "rational activists."
|Nathan Sooy in the|
Free Speech Zone
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
But they are not activists, and they have no movement.
And if you doubt this, simply look back to what Sam Bernhardt of FWW "demands":
Indeed, anyone who works out here in the actual trenches of the effort to stop the gas companies from destroying our communities knows that while movements are partly about money--first and foremost their about experience, guts, and commitment.
a ban that excises the gas industry from the state in defense of the right to clean air and water and in recognition of our moral duty to act to stem the effects of climate change for our future kin.
Anything short of that demand, and our having our cake and eating it too is throwing out the baby with the bath water.
A baby that's the planet.