This was originally from the Ctrl Alt Right Delete newsletter. If you’re not currently subscribed to Ctrl Alt Right Delete but you’d like to be, you can sign up to receive it by clicking here.
This week’s newsletter is all about direct action. Beautiful Trouble defines direct action like this: “To shut things down; to open things up; to pressure a target; to re-imagine what’s possible; to intervene in a system; to empower people; to defend something good; to shine a spotlight on something bad.” I like this definition, as well as the more expanded version on their website because it acknowledges that direct action is a pressure tactic, it’s not about winning over hearts and minds but about forcing the powerful to give up some of their power.
As I write this, two mass shootings, one of which was an act of white supremacist domestic terrorism, occurred 12 hours apart in the US. My first instinct was to scrap this week’s newsletter but the more I thought about it the more I realized that non-violent disruptive direct action is a necessary response to this continual violence. The Trump Administration are beholden to the NRA and the white supremacist base that elected him to office. You won’t change their hearts and minds. Pressuring the powerful is our only option.
We’ve recently seen the power of direct action in Puerto Rico where days of mass-scale protests, which you could call a general strike, forced the governor to resign. Activism in Puerto Rico isn’t a recent development. As Mercedes Martinez, president of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico explained on the Belabored podcast, protests against corruption in the Puerto Rican government has been ongoing for some time. But if you’re like me and sometimes feel powerless to stop everything horrible the Trump Administration does on a daily basis, Puerto Rico is a source of inspiration.
I’ve asked one of my personal organizing heroes, America Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, to write about the power of direct action and to highlight some of AFT’s organizing work. HOPE not hate’s Simon Murdoch has also written a piece giving an overview of changing far right violent and non-violent direct action tactics today, drawing attention also to their co-option of left-wing methods and the centrality of the media to their actions.
Take care of yourselves and one another. It’s a rough world out there.
Despair is Not a Strategy
If you look at the news, scroll through social media, or even just talk to a neighbor, you’ve likely noticed a consistent, coordinated assault on the foundational norms of our society. It has permeated our politics, our news and our social fabric in a way that’s become difficult to ignore. President Trump’s election unleashed a wave of bigotry that wasn’t new in American culture—it’s as old as slavery and Jim Crow, but it’s been reignited with a hatred toward immigrants, people of color, Muslims and a complete “otherization” meant to divide us and threaten our stability and security.
Just recently, the president took to Twitter to rail against prominent black politicians and leaders, denigrating their hometowns and the people who live there in a blatantly racist and callous show of his lack of moral courage. But Trump’s attacks don’t end there. His economic agenda has widened the gap between the rich and the rest of us. Today, the 400 richest Americans, less than one-fourth of 1 percent, have more wealth than the bottom 60 percent of people in our country. He and his secretary of education sought $9 billion in cuts to public education, while 21 states are still spending less on education than they were before the recession.
The teacher uprisings of the last two years have laid bare the frustration over the inequality and disinvestment that this administration perpetuates—the insufficient resources, deplorable facilities, and inadequate pay and benefits for educators. Teachers rose up in all 55 counties in West Virginia after not having had a raise in five years, with soaring health insurance costs giving them an effective pay cut every year. Teachers rose up in Los Angeles, joined by parents and students to demand smaller class sizes; less testing; and more art, music, counselors, nurses and librarians.
Such direct action is on display in Puerto Rico, as well, where hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests day after day, until Gov. Ricardo Rossello was forced to resign. The firestorm over #RickyLeaks, the offensive texts shared between Rossello and his top aides, was preceded by the administration’s failure to use federal recovery money to fund and restore public schools, the negligent closing of 430 public schools in order to start charter schools, and allegations of serious corruption. Our affiliate, the Asociacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico, was at the center of the successful democratic uprisings demanding “basta!”
With so many attacks on civility, vital institutions and democracy itself, it can be easy to lose heart. But as these successful actions show, despair is not a strategy. Because at the end of the day, people want a better life, a voice at work and in our democracy. There is a path forward to a country that is safe, welcoming and sane, and that shuns cruelty in favor of decency. We have followed that path in Los Angeles, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. We have followed that path in women’s marches and the anti-gun violence March for Our Lives. We even see the power of collective action taking shape worldwide—with direct action of immense proportions in Hong Kong, where thousands are fighting for a democratic voice. And what we see is that we can accomplish together what is impossible to accomplish alone.
Our democratic society rests on a social contract between citizens and our government. In return for our consent to a democratic government, to paying taxes and obeying laws, government leaders have a responsibility to protect our rights and promote the common good. When our elected leaders fail, whether by not adequately funding public schools and services or by dividing people they should be uniting, they strike at the very heart of what makes us a democratic republic. And with a strike at our heart, we have to take a stand. At the polls and at protests, in the streets and in our statehouses—the actions we take will shape the country we live in, and the future of our democracies depend on our solidarity.
From Broadcast Violence to Pork Soup: Far-Right Direct Action Today
By Simon Murdoch
Outside of elections, the majority of far-right activism is focused on direct action and in many cases it is their main interest. It is here that they attempt to lay the groundwork for wider influence and, away from more high-profile marches, campaigns and media appearances, it is where the harms of their hate affect people on the street, in their communities and online day-to-day.
Yet, their methods here are changing. To help tackle this in all its breadth, I’ve looked at some of the current trends in the far-right’s direct actions.
- The Alliance for Securing Democracy has published the final article in Clint Watts’ Advanced Persistent Manipulators series: Social Media Kill Chain. Watts focuses on the systemic approach tech companies must take to fight back against social media manipulation: “Technology companies need an intelligence-led approach, but it must be systematic, detecting the technical and human characteristics of repeat offenders. What they need is a social media kill chain.”
- Disinformation’s Spread: Bots, Trolls and All of Us (Nature)
- Exclusive: FBI Document Warns Conspiracy Theories Are a New Domestic Terrorism Threat (Yahoo News)
- Journey to Power: the History of Black Voters, 1976 to 2020 (NBC News)
- Black Journalists Push Media to Cover ‘hyper-racial’ Moment in Politics (Politico)
- Is It Time for “strategic Silence” in News Coverage of Mass Shootings? (Nieman Lab)
- Marianne Williamson’s ‘orb Gang’ Brings Together Left and Right for Their Meme Queen (The Daily Beast)
- Will Reddit Un-quarantine Its Biggest Pro-trump Community? Ceo Steve Huffman Isn’t Holding His Breath. (Vox)
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Hamilton-Themed Subject Lines Work
The stats from last week’s CARD were insanely high. We’re consistently at a 30% open rate but Sunday’s CARD hit nearly 40%. Click-throughs were also on the high side for us. Edging on 6%. Strong forward to a friend action too, which is great because direct referrals are generally our primary driver of growth.
It was especially great to see so much enthusiasm for the ‘Undercover in the Alt-Right’ documentary, which last week’s newsletter was centered on. The film is the story of how Patrick Hermansson, aided by HOPE not hate spent two years infiltrating the far right in both the UK and the USA. I’m thrilled that it’s finally available in wide release to our readers.
The film is available in the UK and the USA for download from Vimeo and will soon also be available for Amazon Prime users.
Alternatively, we’ve also added a download of the film for current and future CARD patrons. Join our Patreon page at any level and you’ll receive an exclusive code to view the movie. We’ll send out codes to all of our members next week.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and supporting CARD!