It began with an email mailer announcing the joint Clean Water Action/Pennsylvanians Against Fracking rally at Governor Elect Tom Wolf's January 20th inauguration. This included an image of their frack-celebrity invitee, Josh Fox and their demand that fracking be "halted" in Pennsylvania.
I posted the following response on my Faceboook page:
So this morning I get donation soliciting email from Clean Water Action and--same post--Pennsylvanians Against Fracking. In it, they promote their "action" for Tom (the Gas) Wolf's inauguration--but they just can't bring themselves to use ANY language that actually takes the only position worth taking: BAN fracking.
Instead, they resort to weasel words: HALT fracking.I guess they don't get the difference in meaning between the two words--and they hope YOU don't either.
BAN: stop permanently, in all forms, without exception.
HALT: stop FOR NOW.
While CWA and PAF may be finally getting it that the moratorium is DEAD, they continue to try to resurrect what amounts to the same thing in the language of "halt."
Don't be fooled.
This is the same "have your cake" (pretend to actually care about the air and water) and eat it too (promote the agenda of your PARTY).
And, of course, it's a lot more than that. It's about creating the illusion of a resistance with no real stomach for it; it's about prioritizing your organization's access to government agencies far ahead of actually putting an end to the harm.
Don't get me wrong--I don't doubt for a minute that lots of well-meaning good folks will participate in this rally thinking they'll generate the proverbial groundswell of resistance that will turn the tide on the industrial/government/private security firm complex that gets the gas our of the ground and to the export depots.
But I am more and more convinced that these media events actually do people--and especially people who live in the shale fields--more harm than good.
As I argued with respect to the rise of agencies like the Marcellus Shale Operator's Crime Committee (MSOCC):
The Marcellus Shale Operators Crime Committee is just one among many in a growing network of government, quasi-governmental (such as FERC--the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), and private (or privatized) concerns who act on behalf of maintaining carbon despotism. Any exercise of free speech that threatens to disrupt or expose this status quo as anything other than good old American free enterprise is a potential "terrorist" according to the lazy logic of MSOCC.
The irony is that we are welcome--even encouraged to be "activists" "exercising" our first amendment rights by holding up protest signs on capitol steps, or signing petitions, or writing letters. Indeed, that kind of activism works to the advantage of the corporatized state because it
exhausts all of our energy in actions that have no effect on the drilling and transport "activities" of the gas companies.
keeps us away from the public roads commandeered by the likes of EXCO.
keeps us in plain site of the state police and the private security firms who feed them information.
gives the state police and their counterparts in the private security firms an opportunity to intimidate us--just by being at our ineffectual "activist" events.
Provides the state police a way to distinguish the "activists" from the "radicals," and thereby use the harassment of the "radicals" to control the "activists."
And--most importantly--allows the corporatized state to use "the movement" as advertising for free speech thereby assuring everyone else that things are awesome in America.
But should we actually demand that gas industry "activities" be banned, the fury of a state already set to bulldoze us will crank into motion while the Officer Hutsons of the world smugly evince an "I told you so." It's irrelevant whether we do or don't commit any crimes--much less violent ones.
It's thus richly ironic that organizations like Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and Clean Water Action (not to mention Food and Water Watch) do even more of MSOCC's dirty work for them by engaging in exactly the sort of self-censorship that MSOCC would happily impose.
All apparently that's required to get the PAF folks to run away squealing like toddlers from a bumble bee hive is the mere mention of the dreaded word "BAN" and MSOCC's work is done.
Whisper the word "radical" and you may have to get out the smelling salts.
That's because PAF, et. al. value the appearance of respectability well beyond ending the nightmare that is fracking--and MSOCC surely knows this.
That MSOCC has to orchestrate their own set of appearances in order to justify their existence--calling the "activists" "radicals," surveilling us, subjecting to denials of FOIA requests--is all just part of the game.
But the objective of the game is to get the gas out of the ground with as few obstacles as possible--and as long as we keep playing this game--all the rules of which are rigged to make sure we lose--we lose.
We all lose.
It's no accident that even if you "like" the PAF Facebook page you can't post on it. That's how they control their carefully crafted "respectable" message and insure that they neither have to face their critics nor be identified with the radicals they're more than happy to disown in order maintain their "we're standing up for you" greenie appearance.
What we need to remember is that this is all appearance--not substance.
Yet on the all appearance/no substance scale, PAF has been outdone by their organizational patriarchs at the Sierra Club.
And that's where my day took an unexpected--and pretty damn hilarious--turn.
Below is the entire thread of comments originally posted at the Sierra Club Hydrofracking Facebook page. They paint a picture of an organization utterly dictatorial in its mission to preserve its image as an environmental group--more and more desperate as this image becomes tarnished via the exposure of the fact that, just like the little greenies who model themselves after Father Sierra Club, they're leaders are far more interested (indeed, hell bent) to maintain their donor base (their existence) and their political access than they are in doing anything about, well, anything.
What's significant about these comments is several-fold:
1. Even from the first critical comment, David Meiser--Sierra Club, Bucks County, Pennsylvania--takes himself to have the authority to alter, delete, censor--or in my case BAN--comments he deems unflattering to the Sierra Club. This suggests an organization so brittle with respect to its membership support that it cannot brook criticism--and therefore must deploy SC-Soldier/Snipers like Meiser to pick-off the critics.
2. In response to a Sierra Club member's expressed displeasure at the SC decision not to support the PAF rally at Governor Wolf's inauguration because it might alienate the governor, Meiser drapes himself in the flag insisting that a democratic vote was taken about whether to support the rally--and members declined "by a large margin."
3. This is a richly ironic decision since (a) SC is the model after which PAF clearly aspires, (b) PAF wasn't about to engage in any action that alienates the governor, and (c) PAF had already indicated clearly in its weak "halt" language that SC members had nothing to worry their conservative white nervous nelly donors.
4. The same Sierra Club member also expresses significant displeasure that SC leadership directs its membership to not wear any Sierra Club items if they're planning on being a part of the PAF rally. Meiser then tries to downplay this--but ineffectively--claiming that "all that was said was that individuals cannot speak for the PA chapter." I don't claim to know where the truth is here--but we can certainly say this much: (a) if this is what "listening to the membership" means in the Sierra Club, I'd reconsider paying those dues, and (b) if this is represented correctly, it only adds to the picture of an organization dictatorial in its relationship to its membership. And if that is the case, why should we take seriously Meiser's claim that there was a democratic vote not to support the PAF rally? Doesn't it make more sense to assume voting members fall in line with what they know is expected of this environmental patriarch?
5. While it's possible to get the gist of what's at stake in this contentious dialogue--you can't read all of it because although I had the foresight to save it, I was BANNED by Mr. Meiser from the Facebook page.
Honestly, it's hard to imagine an environmental organization more helpful to the Marcellus Shale Operator's Crime Committee. With adversaries like the Sierra Club, it's no wonder that agents like Michael Hutson of the Pennsylvania State Police Joint FBI Ecoterrorism Task Force have to go somewhere else to find speech to criminalize. SC-leader Michael Brune's "The Sierra Club Opposes Fracking. Period" means about as much as "The Sierra Club Loves Oatmeal" given the (old boy's) club's refusal to actually stand by their words.
Then again, here's a guy who thinks that chaining himself to the fence around the White House for a ten minute photo-op in his Khakis and sport coat count as an act of civil disobedience.
Lastly, Meiser insists that the Sierra Club is following in the steps of conservationist John Muir in refusing to participate in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.
But this is false on two scores:
First, as I pointed out to Meiser (much I suspect to his embarrassment since it was right after this that he hit the BAN button), this is not Sierra Club policy. Here's Michael Brune himself, 1.22.13:
If you could do it nonstop, it would take you six days to walk from Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond to President Barack Obama's White House. For the Sierra Club, that journey has taken much longer. For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every "lawful means" to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further.
Next month, the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance. We'll be following in the hallowed footsteps of Thoreau, who first articulated the principles of civil disobedience 44 years before John Muir founded the Sierra Club.
Some of you might wonder what took us so long. Others might wonder whether John Muir is sitting up in his grave. In fact, John Muir had both a deep appreciation for Thoreau and a powerful sense of right and wrong. And it's the issue of right versus wrong that has brought the Sierra Club to this unprecedented decision.
For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism. For Thoreau, the wrongs were slavery and the invasion of Mexico. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the brutal, institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. For us, it is the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet's climate.
Second, John Muir was not obviously opposed to civil disobedience, and although this claim requires more development, I think no one can come away having read Muir and not believe that while he was certainly no partisan of violence, he absolutely did believe his precious Sierras were worth defending with our bodies as well as our minds.
So there you have it--another "environmental" organization who, although they sport the color green, are really just another white guy's fiefdom trying to retain its relevance in a world it allows to burn just as blithely as does the gas industry and its government subordinates.
This harms people.
Why on earth would you give your money to these guys?
Here's the Facebook dialogue--or what I could salvage of it before Meiser banned me--unedited and uncensored--so you can make your own judgment.
Interesting, isn't it, that Sierra Clubbers have no trouble BANNING when its speech they don't like--but they can't even whisper that word when it requires they have the courage to forego their lunch invites to the Gas Wolf's table.