Durham Plenary Address
July 25, 2009
By Brent McMillan
There Be Dragons
In maps of old, where there was unknown, unexplored territory it was not uncommon for it to be indicated that … there be dragons.
We know that we face a media blackout and have to work harder than others to get media coverage. Who makes the cultural map in the U.S.?
Who decides that we reside where … there be dragons?
How are people stigmatized? Who is behind the Green Scare? What are people scared of? We face greenwashing, infiltration, sabotage, provocation, libel, slander and defamation, etc.
The Six Questions
In 1992 I attended the most life changing lecture that I have ever experienced. It was delivered by Sam Keen at a writer’s conference in Crystal City Virginia on “the Power of StoryTelling”. (You may remember him from the Men’s Movement as the author of “Fire in the Belly.) There is a two cassette tape set of the lecture (The Power of Storytelling) in circulation if you can get a copy, I highly recommend it. In it he talked about how there are basic questions that we are always asking ourselves throughout our entire lives.
1) Where have I been?
2) Where am I now?
3) Where am I going?
4) Who are my people?
5) Where is my place?
6) What is my purpose?
If you can help people answer these questions you will get their attention. Whether I am writing a fundraising appeal letter or delivering a speech I keep these questions in mind.
Whatever you may think of Ronald Reagan in terms of his politics the fact of the matter is that he was a great communicator. He knew what he was doing. If you listen to his speeches closely you will see that he answers these basic questions for the intended audience.
I have been working with journalist James Ridgeway. Many of you may remember him as the journalist that made Ralph Nader famous. He was the one that caught GM spying.
In April of 2008 he put out an article in Mother Jones that got my attention:
Black Ops, Green Groups
I noticed that there seemed to be a very high level of FBI entrapment and infiltration within the Green Party. It is a long list and includes such greens as Dean Zimmerman (MN), Chuck Turner (MA), Malik Rahim (LA), and others that have been targeted by State and local police.
I met with James several times. I would present information and then he would ask questions. If you see this do you also see this? I would inquire, and sure enough, he would be right. He suggested that I work on a timeline. As he reviewed this work he shared with me that he thinks that the Ohio Recount was a trigger event: After evidence was presented to the U.S. Justice Department it was the Green Party that became the target, not the people who stole the election. He thinks that at that moment we became a threat. (Before that there may have been incidents involving individual greens such as Tre Arrow (OR) but not targeting of the Green Party per se.)
In 2005 we conducted The national shared vision survey. (I have some copies with me for those delegates unfamiliar with the survey.) It was a stepping stone in developing a strategic plan for the party. Unfortunately we didn’t take the next step. You heard earlier this morning a report from the SC on the Strategic Planning Retreat that took place in DC earlier this year. It was at least something. Today we are going to do something more. We face an income crisis. Yet, in order fundraise we need to know what we are fundraising for.
In a fictitious speech supposedly delivered by Edward R. Murro in the film Good Night and Good Luck , George Clooney explores the limits of broadcast television to both entertain and inform, but that instead it is being used to … distract, delude, amuse and insulate us.
What can we do about it? We experience this exclusion not just in media, but in ballot access and in access to candidate debates. What kind of messaging has the best chance of cutting through this barrier?
Here is some of what we are up against:
The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary is a 140-page guidebook written by Frank Luntz.
It includes such gems as:
“Don’t talk about religion Americans who see the bible as their sourcebook on foreign affairs are already supporters of Israel. Religious fundamentalists are Israel’s “Amen Choir” and they make up approximately one-fourth of the American public and Israel’s strongest friends in the world. However, some of those who are most likely to believe that Israel is a religious state are most hostile towards Israel.”
As a guerilla party we need to go where they can’t. Where are the No Go Zones? That is where our opportunity lies.
In my opinion the best Political Essay ever written was “No Go Zones” by Hakim Bey.
I first read it in a publication called the “Mad Farmers Jubilee Almanac” in Seattle. You can find it online. Read it. Understand what a No Go Zone is. That is where … There Be Dragons. No resources go in and no resources go out. It includes places like Gaza, Detroit, East LA, Bosnia, Cape Horn and Indian Reservations.
Earlier this year we saw Cynthia significantly challenge this media blackout, within the first one-hundred days of the Obama administration on Gaza … a No Go Zone.
“On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 a.m., several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The reports from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.”
I was amazed about how this story actually, to some degree, interrupted America’s honeymoon with Barack Obama. I didn’t think that anyone could do that in the first 100 days, yet Cynthia managed to.
And more recently:
JERUSALEM (CNN) — The Israeli navy took control of a boat that violated an Israeli blockade and crossed into Gazan waters Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said, while a Gaza group said the ship was carrying humanitarian aid, a former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney reportedly is asking the international community to demand the crew’s release. The boat’s crew included former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, according to the Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group that sent the boat it calls “Spirit of Humanity” from Cyprus. Along with McKinney, who served six terms in the House of Representatives from Georgia and was the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, Israeli authorities took 20 people into custody, the group said.
Green Party Watch saw more hits on covering this story than anything else that they have been involved with.
Craig Seeman, one of our media persons in New York said that the July 2 interview of Cynthia in an Israeli detention facility shot up the fastest and the highest on You Tube of any story that he has ever been involved with. It made the top 100 stories internationally. We even had a large number of hits from Israel.
In an SVC (State Volunteer Coordinator) call earlier this year I asked, “Does anyone still believe that we are talking about reform? Do you really believe that this system is reformable?” I challenge you, is it time for our rhetoric, our message to become more revolutionary in nature? (The SVC network was formed during the McKinney/Clemente campaign and chose not to disband. They have been holding a series of debriefing calls and are preparing for the next cycle.)
If have been thinking on this of late, Mao Tse Tung said that, in essence, “If you are going to effectively wage a revolution you will need to come from a place of redoubt.”
Where is our place … of redoubt?
Currently, at the national level…
We are faced with continuing to tighten our belt, to cut expenses at the national level. We are the mouse that roared if you look at what our resources are versus our impact. We leverage for everything we can. We are a tiny office with a tiny staff in the overall scheme of things.
Well … enough on that for now.
Issues to consider for messaging:
As I mentioned earlier Cynthia has been doing some great work on Gaza and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. She has shown some success in cutting through the media blackout.
I hope that you attended the Single Payer Forum yesterday afternoon. We, at the national office, have been very involved promoting Universal Health Care, and in particular Single Payer during the discussions about Health Care reform on the Hill. Scott, who is not able to be with us today has been showing leadership on this in our press releases and messaging including talking points and letters to the editor.
One of the most vocal activists has been Russell Mokhiber, one of the founders of the Mountain Party in West Virginia, and founder of Single Payer Action. We currently have a link to Single Payer Action on the national website.
Our food is killing us. Americans are getting this in droves. The e-coli scare has had a lot to do with it.
There is a major relocalization effort underway throughout the US today. This includes among other things food production.
Many Summer Internships Are Going Organic
5/23/2009 The New York Times
Back to the land
5/27/2009 The Boston Globe
Monsanto is responsible for 90 % of the GMO’s on the planet.
Monsanto is working to head off the relocalization effort. (They are hiring PR firm(s ) ? within the beltway.)
HR 875, or as I like to call it the Monsanto power grab act, and the other Food Safety Bills are very suspect. Rural America is up in arms, literally.
I hear that the USDA is issuing body armor for the first time.
“Louisville, KY (May 22, 2009) The Community Farm Alliance today charged that the agenda for the upcoming listening tour for the National Animal Identification System is biased against small family farmers and will do nothing to improve animal health or food safety. Members of the Community Farm Alliance are especially outraged that the USDA’s proposed system favors large corporate agri-business and factory farming. Ultimately, full implementation of NAIS would annihilate family scale farms, which are the majority of farms in Kentucky.”
You should watch Food, Inc. I have seen it and it very graphically spells out the problems with our food production system today.
One documentary that you won’t see in the U.S. is The World According to Monsanto. This French made documentary is a scathing indictment of Monsanto. You can view it online in English in its entirety for free.
How do we build social capital? We are going to need it as we move into the Long Emergency.
Currently I have begun working with Ed Burns – documentary film maker.
Looking for vocal individuals. I recommended that he talk with Jon Olsen, among others.
On June 16, 2009 thirteen government agencies presented the findings from 10 years of study on Global Climate Change Impacts on the U.S. The study is available online in pdf format here.
In this region by region analysis they state that Global Warming is not a future event, it is already playing out and having major impacts on the U.S. Today!
The study is being published by the Cambridge University Press – Available in August
I’ve got my order in.
I hope that you availed yourself of the opportunity to view Coal Country last night.
The beltway has been awash in coal money during the debate on the Waxman/Markey Global Warming Bill. It’s no secret that the Global Warming Bill was effectively gutted before it reached the House floor. The coal industry has been running full page ads, some with Barack Obama’s picture, promoting Clean Green Coal. (hold up example) after he was elected!
Clean Green Coal my ass!
When International Visitors come to the national office and I tell them about the Obama/Clean Coal Ads they don’t believe it. Then I show them. They gasp and go silent. Then they photograph the Ad to take back to their own country.
Many of these ads are being paid for by Peabody mining.
Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private sector coal company.
Peabody is developing the largest surface mine in the eastern U.S. – The Bear Run Mine located in Sullivan County, IN.
Any one involved in the Environmental Justice movement can tell you that Peabody is one of the most egregious violators of human rights in the U.S.
“I was reminded that it is my obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided,” Obama wrote in his memoir, The Audacity of Hope.
“But Obama’s audacity is not only his unwillingness to support the issue, but also his misunderstanding and misuse of the term “gay marriage.” The terminology “gay marriage” not only stigmatizes and stymies our efforts for marriage equality, but it also suggests that LGBT people’s marriages are or would be wholly different from those of heterosexuals, thus altering its landscape, if not annihilating the institution of marriage entirely.”
It can be very powerful when we form coalitions with representative from other third parties on election reform issues. For example: Recently Bill Redpath of the Libertarian Party and I testified at a Public Hearing in Washington, D.C. This made the media. We did such a good job of raising support for the issues that Councilmember Mary Cheh, (Chairperson of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment) announced at the beginning of the Public Hearing (on Bill 18-345, the “Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009”) that these sections (703. Advisory neighborhood commissioner elections, 901. Filing Fees and 902. Advisory neighborhood commission nominating petitions) had been entirely struck from the bill entirely before we even testified.
People like it when we come together on an issue.
In 2000 when we worked to stop the attack on the Blanket Primary in Washington State all of the third parties got together and spoke as one voice. Latter, then Secretary of State, Ralph Munro confided in me that we scared the hell out of the state leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans. They never thought that we would ever come together like that. We postponed the ending of the Blanket Primary for another cycle until they could regroup.
Building our Ticket in 2010
So….How can all of this translate into the work of running candidates? We can focus on developing educational materials – pamphlets, letter to the editor, talking points, webinars, position papers (green papers)…so that our candidates don’t have to.
I believe that we are going to have a big opportunity in 2010. History has not been kind to the party in power that sees double digit unemployment. Officially, it appears that this administration will accomplish that dubious distinction at the end of this month.
Jobless Figures Pose Social, Political Threat for Obama, Dems
The Nation – John Nichols 07/05/2009
There is great disappointment among progressives with Barack Obama’s leadership on the illegal wars, health care, global warming, gaza, the bailout of Wall Street not Main Street and marriage equality. This administration has basically given Israel a free pass to bomb Iran. On Illegal Wars … it’s the Democrats wars now!
Leading our ticket – We have some great candidates for governor in Illinois and Maine, Lynne Williams and Rich Whitney (point out Lynne in the audience.)
We have a big opportunity in Arkansas because of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Will Unions Back a Green Candidate Against Blanche Lincoln?
With the seating of Senator Franken (MN) this issue will heat back up.
Illinois is currently leading the Green Party nationally on candidate recruitment. Ever since Rich Whitney’s campaign in 2006 they have been leading the country. I hope that many of you attended the workshop by Phil Huckelberry yesterday. You need to find out about what they are doing.
In 2008 we got more votes for our U.S. House candidates than ever before. We set individual records both for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. 2006 was the second biggest mid-term for Independents and third parties since 1934 …. And I think that 2010 could be even bigger. The American People are angry …. More and more people are getting it. Washington DC is occupied territory … we need to take our country back. This message resonates across the political spectrum.
Thank you for this opportunity.