Thursday, April 13, 2023

From Brisbane to Ballarat and Back

A few recollections from three weeks in southeastern Australia.
It was my first trip Down Under since March, 2020, when a short visit to Australia was cut even shorter due to a certain global pandemic. As for the other country that constitutes what they call Down Under, New Zealand/Aotearoa, it's now been ten years since I was denied entry to that island nation, and I haven't tried to find out if they'll let me in again since then. Perhaps with Labor in power there it'll work better if I try again, people suggest. But the folks who worked so hard to organize that tour that never happened -- complete with beautiful, mass-produced tour posters -- have understandably not offered to try that again since I was turned away in 2013.

But Australia still lets me in, apparently, as they did in 2020, 2013, and on several other occasions before then, the first time being 2008, when our dear departed Alistair Hulett organized a seven-week tour of Australia and Aotearoa for the two of us, centered around the Woodford Festival near Brisbane.

This tour began and ended in Brisbane. In Australia, if you rent a car, you must return it in the same place where you got it, or the drop fees are astronomical. People often fly from one major city to the next, because of the vast distances between most of them. The continent of Australia is roughly equal in size to the continental US, but with about a tenth of the population. This tour needed to start and end in the same place because Kamala Emanuel and I were doing it in her own little Hyundai. After touring together and playing music in various other parts of the world, we were back on the home turf of my singing partner of many tours now, who moonlights as a doctor in her spare time.

Our first gig was the day after my arrival, on March 21st in the small city of Toowoomba, about an hour and a half's drive west -- inland -- from Brisbane, amid the forested hills there. A wonderful arts space and performance venue called the Swamp Collective started up during the pandemic there, and is going strong. We sang to a small gathering of folks in what was once the living room of a house, with a wall removed to turn it into a bigger space for such events. Surrounding us in every direction were art studios and arts and crafts of all sorts. Outside the building, more freestanding art studios scattered about, along with a lush grass backyard, a shed, and a big garden full of edible things.

We headed south, splitting up the ten-hour drive to the Sydney area with a little visit with Kamala's mom, in the woodsy northern coastal area of New South Wales. As we drove through this area in 2020, the evidence of the massive fires that had left so much of Australia charred the year before, along with the bodies of an estimated three billion other animals, was all around us. At that time, we met and stayed with people who were unmistakably traumatized by the experience of living through that, and by their new, very precarious, fire-prone reality in those parts of the country.

On this trip, the fires seemed much more distant, as the latest "natural" disasters to befall this part of the world have involved the element of water. Kamala's sister was one of so many thousands in Australia to lose her home -- twice -- to floods. I have a tendency to stop often when doing long drives, and visit little towns along the way where Google Maps tells me there's an espresso place, which Australia has more of per capita than anywhere I've ever been, with the possible exception of New Zealand. One nice one we stopped at was in a village that clearly was recently popular among tourists, but now was largely empty, due for one thing to all the streets being torn up and under reconstruction since last year's bigger-than-ever floods, which filled many buildings with water well up to (what Americans know of as) the second floor.

By that Saturday evening we had reached the Sydney area, and were on the familiar, winding road that passes through the Royal National Park and ends at the tip of the peninsula just across the bay from the Sydney neighborhood of Cronulla, where you'll find the little village of Bundeena, in which can be found the welcoming home of a couple of wonderful folks I met on my first visit to Australia fifteen years ago named Peter and Pamela.

At five the next morning, as with every other morning I've ever had the pleasure of spending in Bundeena, I was awakened by the amazingly loud, insane cackling of a bunch of local kookaburras. There are many other very loud birds that are native to Australia, but the kookaburra is probably the loudest and the weirdest among them.  At the cafe just down the street, flirting with customers, eating the leftovers, and going after any garbage can with a lid that isn't properly battened-down are gangs of adorable and cunning yellow-crested cockatoos.

Based out of Bundeena over the next week or so, we had gigs in Sydney, Katoomba, and Wollongong, before we'd be heading further south, to other parts. Certainly the grandest of the gigs on the tour was the one in Sydney, in the Sydney neighborhood (or what the Australians call "suburb") of Marrickville, at the home of the Addison Road Community Organization.

I had been to Sydney many times, certainly on every visit to Australia. This is the city where the man who introduced me to Australia, Alistair Hulett, certainly had the most history, having lived there for 25 years, and having long been the front man for a popular local Celtic punk band called Roaring Jack. But what it was that brought out the hundred or so folks that attended the festivities seemed mainly to be the organizing prowess of the dynamic collective of people who are the organizing force for this particularly impressive and large compound, which is a collection of several buildings and lots of outdoor space. There's a weekly outdoor market, lots of food carts run by folks from around the world. The Ethiopian food was delicious, I can attest.

Addison Road has been a center for all kinds of community organizing and movement-building for a long time now, but it played a key role very recently, during the pandemic, in housing and advocating for international students who were stranded in Australia after the universities and the borders both closed. The assembled crowd included people representing two generations of Afghan refugees, for whom this place seemed to be a second home.

Two days later it was my first visit to Katoomba as far as I can recall. Not my first visit to the region, which they call the Blue Mountains, though. Alistair and I came here on that first tour, and I remember him explaining the geology of the area to me. He had been employed in the past doing what they call bush restoration, which involved knowing the difference between native plants and invasive ones, and how to get rid of the invasive ones and cultivate the native ones. He also had a good grasp of the geological processes that created the Blue Mountains, though I don't remember the details.

Katoomba is easily recognized as not only a beautiful town in the lush mountains south and west of Sydney, but as an alternative sort of place, which I already knew it was, because of hearing about it for the past several years from Stephen Langford. Stephen was the main one who had been making arrangements for the house concert we did there in a very spacious living room, and I had already been hearing about his good times in Katoomba, since he had started spending a lot of time there during the pandemic, mainly going back to Sydney to participate in protests or court cases related to his chronic tendency to deface a particular statue of Lachlan Macquarie in the central business district there.

Wollongong was another visit to a folk club I had first played in with Alistair. Some of the same folks are running it who were doing so fifteen years ago, and it's in the same venue as it was back then as well. A venue I particularly remember, because it's a Retired Servicemen's Hall, and when we played there the first time it was my first exposure to the phenomenon of being interrupted by a recorded message playing from a loudspeaker instructing us all to stand up, be quiet, and remember our military dead (“lest we forget”).  I had the feeling at the time of suddenly having been transported to North Korea, but being the only one in the room who felt this way.  The announcement finished, and things returned to normal.

On this occasion, we were booked long after the folk club had already booked their season, so they had us there to open for a Scottish performer named Tony McManus. He was billed as an extraordinarily good guitarist, and he did not disappoint. His audience definitely responded with the most enthusiasm to the instrumental pieces he did, though I thought the songs he interspersed among the instrumentals were well-chosen and lovely as well.

We left Peter and Pamela's enchanting abode in Bundeena to head towards the nation's capital, Canberra, where Sophie Singh had organized a concert for us that was strategically planned in the first place to happen the day before the annual Palm Sunday rally in support of refugees, which takes place in cities across Australia. From what I gathered from other people who attended Palm Sunday rallies in other Australian cities, the Canberra rally is one of the bigger and better-organized ones.

Sophie was not only the organizer of one of the most well-attended shows on the tour, and one of the main organizers of the rally, but she was also the person who had originally introduced my music to Peter and Pamela a couple of decades ago. The concert she organized featured another artist named George, who had clearly spent a lot of time around music from Africa, Latin America, and North America. The sounds of Senegal, Peru, and Memphis could all be recognized in his easy-going improvisations. He only played the didgeridoo for his last song, which was the only thing I found mildly disappointing about his set, which could have included more of that rocking didg playing he was doing. Maybe the locals hear too much of that enchanting instrument, but I don't!

We broke up the long drive from Canberra to Melbourne by stopping for frequent coffee breaks as usual, and also to spend a night in the spacious home near the town of Aubrey of a former secretary of the local Trades Hall, a very entertaining host who wanted to make sure the USA was indeed as much of a madhouse as it appears to be, and I happily confirmed all of his suspicions. I had been introduced to Chip online through another Trades Hall secretary, in Ballarat, when I was looking for somewhere to stay between the two cities.

Our most notable coffee breaks on that leg of the journey were both basically accidental, though only partially so. I was just looking for somewhere to find espresso. But of course, more espresso is more likely to be found in a town with more tourism. Gundagai and Glenrowan are both villages that have some of that.

In the case of Gundagai, the tourism is at least partially related to a beautiful set of statues on the main drag, representing the Aboriginal men and one of the canoes they employed in the successful rescue of dozens of stranded white people, who had been caught off-guard when the whole village flooded big-time and scores of people died, in 1852. When the whites came in the first place, locals told them not to build there, that it was flood-prone, but they ignored the advice.

When we pulled into Glenrowan I discovered that not only is the village home to several fairly mediocre espresso places, but far more interestingly, it is the locale where the great Ned Kelly made his last stand against the cops who had caused him so much trouble all his short life, and where he designed his improvised body armor that he used for the occasion, to great effect. The fun thing about Glenrowan is all the other suits or improvised Ned Kelly body armor that can be found in front of various shops.

In Melbourne we played at the Black Spark Cultural Center, a wonderful art gallery, performance space, and book shop run by a collection of very self-motivated and brilliant anarchist youth. They've had this space since 2021 or so, just a recent phenomenon. They're doing great stuff in there, though they don't own the building or anything, so it seems they're in the precarious situation of renting from a landlord in a capitalist country – hopefully they can figure out how to keep this thing going! What especially impressed me was the lack of interest in identity politics among these fine upstanding anarchist youth, and their definition of “community” as a physical phenomenon that happens in a neighborhood, rather than online.

Most of the gigs featured at least one person who told me they heard about the gig due to Ciaron O'Reilly's efforts, from his encampment outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he's been marking the fourth anniversary since Julian Assange's abduction, as were we, from afar.  There were many notable people in attendance all over our travels -- in Brisbane, the wife of Brian Law, who I wrote "If I Had A Hammer" about.  In Melbourne, among the luminaries present were Peter Murnane, a priest I first met in Auckland, soon after he and a group of fellow anti-imperialists took a sickle to the CIA spy base in the sleepy village of Waihopai, doing a million dollars in damage, before being arrested, and ultimately found not guilty, due to the notion that New Zealand shouldn't be having CIA spy bases in the country in the first place.  

Walking around the area we discovered a gorgeous park that winds its way along a river and includes lots of gardens, a cafe, and the coolest playground I've ever seen, anywhere, full of gigantic and wild structures for kids to climb in and around, which were made largely with wood and rope and old rubber tires and such, by some amazing craftspeople, one of which looked like a giant centipede.

The folks we stayed with in Melbourne used to run an anarchist book store in London, England, and had an impressive collection of anarchist songbooks they had collected over the years. Many of the songs in them focused primarily on slagging Trotskyists. I really prefer the songs that go after the capitalists, landlords, and imperialists, generally, but they were very nice hosts and very interesting songbooks.

The one hotel stay on the tour was arranged by the folks at the Ballarat Trades Hall, where we played when we were there, whose members had built the hotel. This historic trades hall, the oldest one in Australia, had been at the center of the Australian labor movement pretty much since there was one. During the pandemic folks got all high-tech, and outfitted the place with what looks like a room from a TV studio, with lots of computer screens connected to different cameras that are mounted in the main hall, pointed at the stage, which is decorated with a beautifully-lit, large flag of the sort that flew above the Eureka Stockade during the 1854 uprising on the gold fields nearby.

The next morning, Brett from the Trades Hall met us at the recently-built museum just outside town, which is dedicated to the memory of the Eureka Stockade, and all that that involved, in terms of the participants, the soldiers who died as well as well as the rebels, and the political changes that resulted from the uprising. When Brett introduced us to the museum curator, it turned out he was already familiar with the song I wrote about the event, and he took our pictures in front of the original Eureka flag, which is displayed in a dimly-lit room in the museum.

The next few days featured a lot of driving, along with a brief night in Bundeena, and another in Coff's Harbor, in the home of another friend of Pamela and Peter's. When we got to Lismore, in northern New South Wales, it became quickly evident why the recent floods in the area had been called the Lismore Floods. This town was the epicenter, and so much of it was destroyed or damaged. The house we sang in had been mostly underwater and had to have all kinds of work done on it to make it livable again. Pretty much everyone who came to the show who was from Lismore, which was most of the crowd, had stories to tell of their homes being underwater, and most of their worldly possessions having been destroyed at some point over the past few years, often more than once.

Lismore, and Nimbin, where we stayed that night, are also both centers of the cannabis scene in Australia. Cannabis is still illegal in Australia, unlike in so much of the US or Canada these days. The legalization of cannabis in places like most of North America has resulted in an abundance of inexpensive and high-quality cannabis products legally and easily available for consumers like me, but there have been down sides to the whole process, such as the fact that small-time operators have been pushed out of the business, whatever business they may have been in, such as growing or selling cannabis in some form or other.

Nimbin felt more like Humboldt County, California used to than anywhere I've been in a long time, other than Christiania, in Denmark. Like Christiania today, or Humboldt County two decades ago, you'll find in Nimbin a funny combination of people and storefronts promoting cannabis and hippie culture generally, and then the sort of underbelly of any illegal drug trade, involving some fairly tough-looking characters who you wouldn't want to steal anything from.

Kamala got to practice her Spanish in Nimbin, as our hosts included a Salvadoran lady who made us the most delicious papusa breakfast, and showed us around her magnificent garden, which she had beautifully reconstructed since floods destroyed it some time ago. Mari's partner, Warwick, had written a promotional piece about our gig in Lismore which was very nice, but which also invented a little bit of my back story, including a bit about me having been deported from Australia in the past, which hasn't happened yet. Hopefully it makes for some interesting rumors down the line...

The first gig in Brisbane was in the last place I played a concert anywhere for people live in person before the pandemic closed everything down, in March, 2020. We had a significantly bigger crowd this time than we did then, which included a very entertaining opening set by a local musician named Andy Payne, whose “don't kill people” song is an instant classic. The multi-talented Alex Bainbridge recorded all of the proceedings at this Green Left benefit very nicely, both audio and video.

The visit to Australia also featured numerous radio interviews.  Australia has a vibrant network of community radio stations, reminiscent of how it used to be on the west coast of the US in the 90's, as I recall them.  I had more interviews on the phone and in person in the space of those three weeks than I'd had in a long time -- including one interview that I missed due to not knowing that there's sometimes a time difference between the states of Queensland and New South Wales, and one that happened at an actual radio station, 4ZZZ in Brisbane, with the aforementioned Andy Payne, who also has a radio show.

The next day, Easter Sunday, was the one that was chosen for an event held in a very nice park in Brisbane's chill West End, which featured a panel discussion followed by several musical performances. My partner in various musical-academic projects over many years now, Paula DeAngelis, had come up from Adelaide for the festivities, which involved her more or less interviewing three folks who were involved with the convergence at the Woomera refugee detention center in 2002 that involved dozens of refugees breaking out of their prison and escaping, some of whom stayed escaped, and have never been rearrested since.  It was an especially fascinating afternoon, hearing from Asger and Kimbeaux so much of the vocabulary of the global justice movement that I was also engaged with at that time.  Indymedia, affinity groups, spokescouncil meetings, convergence, decentralized organizing methods, and of course, Food Not Bombs.  It occurred to me as I was listening to all this that someone needs to do a global oral history of Food Not Bombs.  It also made me wonder how much all of the effective, decentralized organizing that happened during that period was related to the fact that the corporate social media platforms hadn't done a hostile takeover our communications yet.

The final gig on the tour was another folk club I believe I played in with Alistair a long time ago, which had, like the one in Wollongong, already set up their season before they learned that I was coming to town. They were alerted of this by an organizer with Extinction Rebellion these days, also a brilliant climate-focused musician, Jenny Fitzgibbon, who had also put together a gig for Alistair and I a long time ago, when she lived in the town of Maleny. This meant that we were once again opening for another act, which meant getting to hear more great live music, this time a duo touring from Melbourne called the Weeping Willows, who reminded me very much of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, with their soaring, gorgeous harmonies, singing most everything in a sort of duet style, and with lots of expert guitar and accordion added to the mix.

I'll avoid giving you any moral of the story here, but I hope you've enjoyed this little travelogue.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Embracing Reality and Finding Solutions vs. Sowing Division and Spreading Disinformation

A response to Shane Burley's latest piece of disinformation in Truthout, along with related thoughts on Al-Jazeera's Labour Files exposé, Scandinavian economics, and the future of civilization.

Whether the US left is dead or in a pit or at a crossroads or whatever other image we want to invoke, it's not in a good way, overall, and regardless, it's always a good time to reassess our outlook, tactics, and vision for the future.  I think about this sort of thing often, but in the past few weeks these sorts of thoughts have been happening in a certain, current, context.  In the big picture, climate chaos and a general global failure of the dominant capitalist system to meet the challenge, a bloodbath in Ukraine that threatens to become a global nuclear war between Russia and NATO, and an ever-worsening crisis for those in the US attempting to keep themselves housed or avoid being gunned down in the next massacre.  In the small picture, as I've been doing concerts around Australia for the past two weeks, I've been thinking a lot about George Lakey's book, Viking Economics, which I listened to in February in audiobook form, and about Al-Jazeera's four-part documentary, the Labour Files, as well as about Shane Burley's latest effort at division and disinformation posing as journalism, which was published in Truthout a couple days before I left for this current tour, and which I happen to have read only because Google alerted me that my name had appeared online somewhere on a platform that it considers to be "news."

On the afternoon of March 20th I left for Australia, but that morning I had a nice walk with fellow Portlander, Shamus Cooke.  Like me, Shamus has been involved with various forms of left politics and organizing in Portland for a long time, up to and including the present.  What happened to the latest social movement to sweep the streets of the US in 2020, we agreed, had all the hallmarks of a counter-revolution.

Listening to the Labour Files documentary about the successful campaign of the UK's Labour Party establishment to overthrow their party's own popularly-elected leader, smear him with false allegations, and kick him out of the Labour Party -- and also being familiar with the ways the Democratic National Committee conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign in 2016 -- some of the most interesting bits are when we hear about the particular techniques that were employed by the rightwing of the party to create false myths and smears, and to cleanse the party of most of its best organizers in the process of taking it back from Jeremy Corbyn.  Anyone who has been involved with the left in the US over the past few years has seen exactly the same sorts of efforts successfully made to sow division and spread disinformation within the movement that took the streets across the country for most of 2020.  As to who is behind these efforts, in some cases it's obvious, but in other cases, perhaps we'll have to wait for the next exposé.

Reading Viking Economics, a book which Lakey wrote several years ago, was just a process of having all of my understanding about how things work confirmed by an author who has come to the same conclusions.  George knows a lot more about Scandinavian history and economics than I do, but like George, I spent a lot of time in Scandinavian countries early on in my adult life, and still do.  Experiencing life in Scandinavia and becoming good friends with many Scandinavians over many years, I drew all of the same conclusions that George drew, without knowing as much of the history as he does.  The particular conclusion George and I drew that I would highlight at the moment is this one:  when the left is fundamentally a proactive force, forming cooperatives and unions and building a more equal and more prosperous society that way, the countervailing political forces from the right that can be so very popular and destabilizing in countries around the world, from Germany in the 1930's to the US, India, or Brazil today, never really get much of a foothold on political power.

When there is a rightwing movement of any size that is engaging in activities like attacking places where refugees are living, as happened in parts of Germany in the wake of the economic devastation that hit the east after German reunification -- to take one of many similar examples from around the world, from throughout human history -- then I applaud those brave, mostly black-clad youth who went to places like Rostock and stood in between the refugees and the xenophobic mob of disenfranchised Ossies.  Insert anecdote here -- Cable Street, Charlottesville, and so on.  In fact, it is this very element of society that perpetually makes up a large minority of my audience globally -- people who might use a variety of descriptors for their worldviews, orientations towards political strategies, aspirations, etc., but who will often be identified by outsiders as Antifa. 

So it is sometimes with a little hesitation that I make the point that the way forward always needs to be about building a better society, because I say this not to disparage those who spend a lot of their time and energy opposing the right in one form or another, but just to emphasize that there is no amount of opposition to the right that can ever build the left.  Building is a different set of activities.  Furthermore, when opposition to the right becomes a constant, never-ending dance for the left, this only tends to feed the growth of the right and justify the narratives of those trying to build the right -- that is to say, the tactic actually backfires and becomes counter-productive, a little like cops trying to defeat crime by fighting criminals.

If we follow the political activist model that has been established since 2020 in many circles, we make a priority of having a general consensus about all kinds of things within our organizations, getting lost in endless debates about whether we can have members of our group who diverge from the left consensus around one issue or another, lest we impose an unsafe space on everyone.  The focus becomes one of moral purity rather than accomplishing anything.  If we follow a simplified version of the Scandinavian model, we don't focus so much on opposing the problematic elements of society, but on building institutions that support those elements, and watch the bullies stop acting like that in the process, as they get all of their needs met, and stop having any reason to blame immigrants or trans school teachers or whoever else for their problems.

The labor movement in Northern Ireland is made up of roughly half people who, if given the opportunity, would vote for the north to leave the United Kingdom and join the Irish Republic, and half people who would be likely to vote against this.  It is made up of many people who consider violent resistance to a violent British occupation a just and necessary cause, and many people who think any such resistance is nothing more than mindless criminality.  I could go on with describing the differences between your average Irish Republican and your average British Loyalist in the north of Ireland.  But they're in the same labor movement.  This didn't happen from people shouting at each other and calling each other terrorists, but from the capacity of the Irish people -- or British people, depending on how they might call themselves on that island -- to overlook their many differences and find common ground, such as a desire for everyone from both sides of the sectarian divide to have good-paying jobs and not to be exploited by wealthy capitalists due to their historic inability to organize together.

It seems obvious to me and a lot of other people that it is this kind of spirit we need today, in a big way, rather than more expressions of moral outrage, grandstanding, or finding ways in which we can attack each other for our transgressions.  What we especially don't need are efforts to make a divide look more significant than it actually is, by spreading disinformation, which brings me to Shane Burley's latest piece of fake news in Truthout, not just because he mentions my name again, but because it, and Shane, are emblematic of the challenge the left in the US faces today.

I'm no expert on Shane Burley, nor shall I become one -- I have many other more useful ways to spend my time.  But given that I have transgressed in Shane's eyes and crossed over onto the Dark Side years ago, and given that he felt the need to publish more commentary linking me to fascism on a popular left platform, he's a particularly useful example of how not to be an organizer, and how not to do journalism, along with some of his colleagues engaged with identical activities.

For a very brief introduction to those who have avoided the subject to date, Shane is a legitimate social critic in the eyes of many on the more anarchist-oriented end of the left because he publishes collections of essays on AK Press about antifascism, which generally include some excellent contributions from some dedicated thinkers and organizers, such as Anti-Racist Action founder and Portland-based hiphop artist, Mic Crenshaw (with whom I recently recorded a great album).  Aside from putting out these collections of essays now and then, Shane's own journalistic endeavors seem to involve a lot of blogging and YouTube discussions, and a few articles each year published on a platform that Google and Wikipedia agree qualifies as "news," such as Truthout, NBC, and Ha'aretz.  The content with his blogging, videos, and journalism tends to revolve around talking about why various elements of the left are actually closet fascists and antisemites, and why the wisdom of experts on fascism such as Shane is necessary in order for society to hopefully avoid becoming fascist -- the message is that we need to identify and isolate the people on the left like me, who are supposedly platforming fascists and supposedly making space on the left for antisemitic and racist ideas.

Shane's latest piece in Truthout features a picture of Tulsi Gabbard speaking at February's Rage Against the War Machine rally in Washington, DC, and is titled "Fascists Are Attempting to Win Followers by Rebranding as Antiwar."  

That Shane would write something about this particular rally comes as no surprise.  The rally was pretty much designed to attract the ire of people like Shane.  The notion that antiwar people from the left should even consider protesting together or forming any other kind of alliance with antiwar libertarians or members of the US Republican right that are questioning Biden's headlong plunge towards Armageddon is anathema to Shane, it is evidence of our country's journey towards becoming a full-fledged fascist state, evidence that fascists are opportunistically trying to join a nonexistent antiwar movement in order to impress us all with their apparently brilliant perspective.  In Shane's world, these voices must only be silenced, they're too powerful, no discussion allowed, that's just allowing for "entryism" to work its nefarious ways with our innocent leftwing minds.  We can't read the wrong books or hear the wrong speeches, so the narrative goes, you might brainwash yourself, or expose yourself to traumatic thoughts.

Shane, of course, is far from the only leftwing pundit to criticize this rally.  Some of the people who were scheduled to speak at it had to pull out, due to opposition from members of their own groups to participating in a rally that involved certain elements of political society.  The possibility that one of those antiwar Republicans might also say something disagreeable about immigration or abortion was too much to countenance.  Being correct and being in a safe space is more important than society uniting to prevent World War 3, it seems.

Shane's article begins as a straightforward, if critical, description of the rally in February.  

The idea of a political coalition that mixes self-identified communists with neo-Nazis may seem implausible at first. However, a February 19 rally in Washington, D.C., branded as an effort to “Rage Against the War Machine,” brought together dissident parts of the left and the right into common opposition to the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) role in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The next several paragraphs continue to describe the rally and comment on the preposterousness of it.  He then seamlessly continues with discussion of Matthew Heimbach for most of the rest of this lengthy article with lots of historical background about how fascism works, and which attempts to interpret Heimbach's political orientation, beginning with a quote from Heimbach.

“This is a religious war, it is a cultural war, and it is a political war against the people of East Ukraine who only ever wanted to go home,” said Matthew Heimbach, who was there to promote the Patriotic Socialist Front.

Matthew Heimbach was one of the organizers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and has been involved with all kinds of other rightwing, racist, and disgusting political initiatives.  As Burley notes, he has since become a Marxist-Leninist with an Orthodox religious bent, and has also thus become, as Shane puts it, "marginal."  What Shane doesn't note is the reason Heimbach was ever a well-known figure is because of the rightwing media covering his every move for years, and the reason why he is now so marginal is because they no longer have any interest in him, because he's inconveniently now against most of the things he used to support, and no longer makes for good soundbites if he's quoting Fred Hampton rather than Adolf Hitler.

Regardless of Heimbach's past, present, or politics, however, the very notable thing that Shane does not make at all clear in his article is that Matthew Heimbach was not a speaker at the event.  Shane quotes him just after quoting people who were speaking from the stage.  He doesn't say anywhere that Heimbach was saying all of these things from the stage, or was somehow affiliated with the organizers of this rally, because he wasn't -- but this is very clearly implied by omission. 

Plausible deniability, I suppose, but it's very clear what Shane is doing here.  He is trying to associate the Rage Against the War Machine rally with Matthew Heimbach, because Heimbach showed up to the rally with a couple of friends, and stood in the grass far from the stage, talking to people who were largely hostile to him, recalling his active record of white supremacist organizing in the fairly recent past.  And he then also feels the need to associate me with Heimbach, because I had the gall to interview him once on my YouTube channel during the Capitol siege.  Shane writes:

Heimbach eventually rebranded as a “former white nationalist” and attempted inroads with the left. He appeared on the podcast of popular protest musician David Rovics, whom Heimbach said was a favorite of his both before and during his time in white nationalism. After backlash, Rovics temporarily took down the interview with Heimbach, though indicated he had kept up correspondence with him, and that he didn’t believe Heimbach was a fascist, and has published multiple articles singling out anti-fascists as the real threat.

Shane thinks talking to fascists, or former fascists, is a terrible thing to do, as is corresponding with them.  I am guilty of accepting the possibility that Heimbach's politics have evolved (from reprehensible to bizarre).  I'm definitely guilty of seeking to understand fascists by talking to some of them, current or former, including Heimbach.  I think a lot more people on the left should do that, and we should also consume rightwing media, so we have a clue about how these people think!  But Shane's orientation is against communication, against dialogue, against understanding, and certainly against different political factions unifying around any common goals, like preventing a nuclear holocaust.

Though Shane would like to believe that he and his friends represent the pinnacle of antifascist thought today, they don't.  They're a marginal sect of cancellation campaigners, calling out nonexistent left antisemitism everywhere they think they've found it, attacking people for engaging in any public communication with the wrong people, and doing serious damage to activist networks around the internet-speaking world.  

When he says I "published multiple articles singling out anti-fascists as the real threat," what he means is I published many articles talking about how he and his discredited antifascist researcher friend Alexander Reid Ross (quoted in his latest Truthout missive) and his cancellation-campaigning colleague Spencer "David Rovics is a fascist collaborator" Sunshine are threats to me and to the notion of understanding the actual fascist threat.  I've written about how they use their troll farm to attack people like me, and how they spread misinformation to try to invent new realities because they are convenient for their "entryist" narrative.

For more information on Shane Burley, his "antifascist" gatekeeping and thought crime activities, his "antifascist" cancellation campaigning, and some background on the German origins of his whole worldview (it's all translated directly from the annals of a group called the Anti-Deutsche, as far as I can tell), go to

Linda Wiener's Echo

When people die, they leave behind many different kinds of echoes. There were a lot of people back in the 1960's like Ken Kesey who, for...