I'll soon be singing at antiwar rallies in various European countries, but it's unlikely you'll see me on stage singing at any of the upcoming protests in Portland, Oregon. It's not because I don't want to, and the reasons why are worth a mention.
The American left is at a very low point -- and for those of you who may now be chiming in with a comment like "you mean liberals, not the left" -- I mean the left, or at least a certain large chunk of it, particularly in Portland, Oregon.
We can argue about where that very blurry line is that may be drawn to distinguish the liberals from the leftists. Mainstream liberalism has never been a threat to capitalism or imperialism, whereas when what we might call the left has been well-organized, it has indeed been a threat to the status quo -- which is why the powers-that-be have been so focused on dividing and conquering it for so long. And what a good job they have done!
There is an ongoing genocide being perpetrated by a fascist state called Israel, which is committing this genocide with US arms, funding, military and political cover, and even US military participation. It desperately needs to be stopped, which obviously requires that it be massively opposed by people around the world, especially in the western countries that are facilitating the genocide, most especially in the USA, which is facilitating it the most, by far. We desperately need to do everything possible to stop this genocide, very much including regular and large protests outside of the offices of every member of the US Congress that supports this war. (I've written a lot about this, and my writings, songs, podcasts, and interviews on this subject are collected together at davidrovics.com/palestine.)
I desperately -- to use that word again -- hope these protests will spread, and grow, become more militant, and shut down business as usual across the USA, which is what needs to happen.
The movement also needs to capture the hearts and minds of as much of the population as possible with effective and moving rhetoric, and much more. In order for a movement to grow, it needs more than just horrendous injustice to oppose, such as Israeli genocide of Palestinians, about as unjust as anything can get. In order to grow and sustain themselves -- as I've often said, and as many other people have said before me -- a movement needs hope. In order for a movement to have hope, especially in the face of a massive war machine with political and military support that seems to make it unstoppable, a movement needs to foster a sense of community. Fostering a sense of community involves, among other things, a powerful sense of solidarity and unity of purpose, plus friendship, food, and music.
This is not to say as the people of Gaza are literally starving, it's time to have a dinner party. I am merely pointing out what most of the people already know and take for granted as obvious, but which significant elements of the western world have been made to forget. Anger and guilt alone do not build lasting or effective social movements. They create good spasms of activity, a whole lot of in-fighting, widespread feelings of disempowerment, and that's about it.
This is the main reason I have spent most of my life playing the role of one of the people who sings for social movements. Being raised by musicians and having had the opportunity to befriend Pete Seeger and other musical voices of social movements at an early age, it became viscerally clear to me how powerful music could be in bringing people together and keeping them together for the purpose of making a better world.
This understanding was confirmed to me when I began to discover early on that it's like this everywhere else on planet Earth, too, but usually much more so. I discovered that all the big social movements have music at their cores, that everybody involved knows and love. The Palestinians all know and love Feyrouz, Marcel Khalife, Sheik Imam, Mahmud Darwish, and so many other Arabic culture figures. In Latin America everybody on the left loves Silvio Rodriguez, Victor Jara, Merecedes Sosa, Manu Chou. Every part of the world has this kind of music, and these beloved artists singing about what everyone else is thinking about and feeling.
I have been honored to be able to play this role, as a movement musician performing around the world for Palestine, against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for labor unions and against neoliberal free trade bills, against expanding coal mines and oil drilling, in favor of clean air, water, and forestland. Etc.
In my capacity as a movement musician, last week I was going to sing at a protest against our local Congresspeople and their support for this genocidal war. The little sound systems we had to use didn't work, so I couldn't play my instrument through them. I made a speech instead. As is often the case, most people couldn't hear the speeches because the sound system was too small. As I was speaking, and then much more after the rally was over, I was being yelled at by a trans woman who introduced herself to me, very loudly, as Phoenix Singer.
She was shouting at me because she was engaging in the tactic of cancellation campaigning. Like a caricature of a character from a rightwing cartoon about Portland, Phoenix was yelling at me at the top of her lungs as a performative exercise, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of everyone in earshot, in order to make sure they all know that any time I show up at a rally in Portland, this is the scene that may unfold. My crime is having interviewed the wrong person on my YouTube channel, for which I should be forever canceled. (Ironically, one of the things Phoenix was shouting about was how cancel culture doesn't exist.)
Phoenix Singer, though young, is not a new phenomenon on the landscape of the profoundly dysfunctional Portland left. If you mention her name, or show her picture, to any number of the folks who have been involved with organizing for workers or tenants or against US wars of empire or just about anything else, they will recognize her, because they have all been shouted at by her, and/or attacked by her online. Using the Twitter handle @marxandmagneto she has for years been throwing virtual bombs in online spaces, making any kind of serious discourse impossible for many people to engage in, raising suspicions about many different people for some perceived transgression or another, and presumably feeling very powerful in the process.
For anyone interested, I have hundreds and hundreds of collected screen shots, organized by troll, documenting the cancellation campaigning activities, the harassment of other activists, and the efforts to organize more harassment against them, that have been carried out systematically for years by Phoenix Singer and her many anonymous fellow trolls. Phoenix obviously decided to be a troll in the real world, too, making it much harder for her to maintain anonymity, which she clearly has no interest in maintaining, otherwise she wouldn't draw attention to herself in a public setting by screaming at one of the people who just got done speaking at a public rally.
Phoenix Singer is one of a group of not more than two dozen Twitter trolls who seem to be located in the Portland area who have been actively trying to destroy my life and career, along with that of many other wonderful people, who are attempting to do important and needed work. Online she is closely associated with Rose City Antifa, which is basically at this point a cultish hate group with no discernible vestige of any serious politics that don't relate to burning books or attacking leftists who fail to agree with their sectarian politics, most of which seem to revolve around cancellation campaigning in one form or another.
The damage that people like her have done to the left in this city, and in other parts of the US, Germany, and other countries where people with this extremely sectarian version of identity politics are particularly active, is impossible to measure. Her activities have been massively amplified by the algorithmic infrastructure of social media that controls so much of our collective conversation today, and amplified tremendously by the identity-obsessed, cult-like politics that have become normative in parts of the American left today.
I introduce her by name, with photo, because no one on the Portland left deserves to be taken by surprise by this extremely aggressive, shouting person getting right up in their face after the next rally that they may speak at. I describe her as a trans woman because that's how she describes herself, and I use the female pronoun because it's not up to me to decide what pronoun she wants to use, it's up to her, and I'm happy to respect that, just as I do with my many trans friends, acquaintances, fellow activists and fellow performers.
In the article I wrote about the rally at which she spent so much time screaming at me, titled Portland Jews Say No To Genocide, I also described her as an "alpha male trans woman." I'm very hesitant about using any such descriptors, because the last thing I would want to do is hurt the feelings of my trans friends and colleagues. Or the trans folks who are fans of my music, and tell me so regularly, of which there are many, particularly since I recorded the song, "Is That A Girl Or A Boy?", along with other songs about wonderful trans folks like CeCe McDonald and Chelsea Manning.
But when someone is shouting at you at the top of their lungs, acting very aggressively, carrying a bag that looked like it might have a gun in it, acting more like a stereotypical alpha male than anyone I've ever had the displeasure of encountering, and I'm in fear for my life and safety, then the term "alpha male trans woman" seems perfectly descriptive. I'm sure most trans women in the world would cringe at seeing that their gender orientation is being so represented, just as I cringe when I see a CIS man behaving badly, or an American, or someone else I identify with as part of their tribe, like it or not.
After the rally I was included in a message thread by some of the organizers of the previous rally, announcing the next one they were planning, which happened Saturday. I tried to get the word out about the rally and planned to attend it, after spending much of the day attending other rallies, such as for the Portland teachers who are about to go on strike. I offered to perform and to provide a better sound system, which I just bought for just such occasions, but never heard back from anyone on the thread. Then a couple hours before the rally was to take place, I received an email that at least claimed to be from the committee that had organized the shindig on the 19th.
For the record, I'm sure this email had nothing to do with any of the folks who were speaking at either of the events. At that last one, almost everyone who spoke is an old friend of mine at this point, who I've known from similar rallies, since I first moved to Portland 16 years ago, or folks I met before then. But the anonymous "emergency organizers," whoever they may be (they don't say), had the following to say in their email, sent from the email account of someone I don't know. I quote the email in full because it's brief and is such a brilliant example of why the contemporary identitarian cult that passes for leftwing discourse is such a massive problem for any kind of forward movement to happen -- unless the circular firing squad is your preferred method of organization, because your goal is failure.
In your 10/20/23 post regarding the Ceasefire Rally, you repeatedly made transphobic and inflammatory statements about a person you were in conflict with there. We will not engage in debate about whether she should have behaved differently, nor about your perspective on the situation. Your descriptions of her, and your posting of her photo, is intimidation, harassment, and amounts to a form of doxxing. This puts her and others at increased risk, especially of transphobic violence. Your actions are in complete conflict with the values underlying the Ceasefire Rally, an event meant to promote peace, collective action, and justice.
Please remove the post (or at least any and all sections of the post and the comments that refer to her in any way, whether by name or not). For example, please immediately remove the photo of her; your descriptions of your desire to do violence against her; and your descriptions of her, including your references to a "tall, trans woman;" an "alpha male trans woman", and "an uber alpha male trans woman." Please remove your references to her name and Twitter handle in the comments section.
- The October 19th Ceasefire Rally Committee
Let's examine this one piece at a time. And I should mention at this point that for those who are wondering why I don't just respond to their email with all of this background information and such, in case it's not abundantly obvious, they're not interested, they've already made up their minds, which were already frozen by identitarian thinking in the first place.
"In your 10/20/23 post regarding the Ceasefire Rally, you repeatedly made transphobic and inflammatory statements about a person you were in conflict with there."
Wording is important. I described Phoenix's behavior perhaps a bit colorfully, but accurately. Much more importantly here, though, is the setup they are giving us -- "a person you were in conflict with there." If a person who, not incidentally happens to be a tall, muscular person with male body features and a male-sounding voice is shouting at you loudly from the back of a rally, and then comes right up to your face and starts shouting at you even louder, for the benefit of everyone around them, creating a very obvious disruption, how is this someone I'm in conflict with? How am I playing a role here in creating a conflict? Quite simply, I'm not. I'm the victim of an aggressive, potentially violent person who is shouting at me. If I had had my little children with me, they would have been traumatized by the event, but luckily they weren't with me that afternoon.
Next sentence. "We will not engage in debate about whether she should have behaved differently, nor about your perspective on the situation."
Now, I never asked anyone to engage in debate with me about whether she should have behaved differently. It's very obvious to any decent person that this kind of behavior is very problematic, and not conducive to movement-building or community-building. I can understand why no one really tried to seriously intervene, because when a crazy person is screaming at someone, intervening often doesn't help, it can just escalate things. But it was obviously terrible behavior on her part, nothing that should even require discussion to understand that.
The point about not being interested in my perspective on the situation is very telling. It speaks to the fact that for the contemporary identitarian cultist, all background and context is irrelevant. Let's repeat that because it's important: all background and context is irrelevant. That's what these folks will tell you, point blank, and that's what is being communicated in this sentence. The background to this concept is that I have transgressed by saying transphobic things that may endanger a trans woman, and therefore the context that I've been a victim of her and her friends campaigning against me on and off line for years, doxxing me, spreading lies and throwing virtual bombs everywhere, doesn't matter, it's just beside the point, because trans women are automatically victims, and CIS men are automatically aggressors.
The assumption of victimhood for trans women, and for other marginalized groups, in the course of "conflicts" with CIS men, white people, or others considered to be the privileged actor in the drama, has been a gigantic ideological gift to those doing the work of keeping our country in such a divided and conquered state. Any time someone wants to get someone banned or canceled, or to raise suspicions about their character, just find a marginalized person to make an accusation.
Since it's very hard to find many people who actually want to do that, there has been a disproportionate reliance on trans women in many different scenes, including here in Portland, to play that role. This is an observation that many other people have made, and it by no means is a reflection on the broader trans community, the vast majority of whom do not act anything like Phoenix Singer. But it's worthwhile to explore the question: does this phenomenon of very aggressive trans women disrupting events from Portland to London have anything to do with the background of the trans activists in question, such as the fact that they're all trans women who grew up as boys, rather than trans men who grew up as girls?
The fact that is impossible to ignore for anyone involved with the left in Portland or London or many other cities that those in the trans community engaging in these kinds of tactics all grew up as boys. I've never seen a single trans man (FTM) behave this way, anywhere. I've also never seen a person of color disrupt a rally this way. The disruptors I've seen doing this sort of thing are always white, and always grew up as boys, whether they still consider themselves to be boys or not. It's not a coincidence, but rather is a consequence of how white boys are raised in this society, as opposed to other groups. And I insist that it is not transphobic to make a basic sociological observation like this, unless all sociologists are automatically transphobes.
Next sentence: "Your descriptions of her, and your posting of her photo, is intimidation, harassment, and amounts to a form of doxxing."
My descriptions of her were descriptive. She was aggressive and scary and shouting. She was harassing me and being very intimidating. I posted her photo to warn others about her, because everyone should know about the obvious provocateurs in our midst. To dox someone is to expose someone's home address or workplace. I didn't do that. Phoenix Singer is a very public person who goes to rallies and shouts at people publicly. She's not hiding or trying to lead a quiet life.
Oddly enough, however, Phoenix and her tiny band of cult associates on Twitter are on record, publicly celebrating the fact that I was doxxed, whether it was by her or a beloved associate of hers, I don't know -- certainly by someone she knows and loves, if it wasn't her specifically. Flyers denouncing me as an antisemite and containing many other completely untrue allegations were put on car windshields all over my neighborhood in 2021, which contained my address, a photo of me and my car, etc.
Next sentence. "This puts her and others at increased risk, especially of transphobic violence." The fact that an angry, shouting, possibly deranged person was behaving as she did could potentially put a lot of people at risk. I felt very at risk. I feel at risk every time I go to a rally, because of Phoenix Singer and people in her little anarcho-puritan identitarian cultish RCA circles. I used to feel safe bringing my kids to rallies, but no longer. Transphobic violence? The only actual threats of violence here have been directed at me. That doesn't matter?
One of Phoenix Singer's tweets soon after the rally, in no uncertain terms, explained that I was a fascist and should be beaten by a gang of people with baseball bats. She did this in meme form, in order not to get kicked off the platform.
Next sentence: "Your actions are in complete conflict with the values underlying the Ceasefire Rally, an event meant to promote peace, collective action, and justice."
"My actions" being a blog post that was entirely accurate and described being verbally assaulted by Phoenix Singer at a rally called to oppose a genocidal bombing campaign. Not my actions of the past several decades of singing at rallies like this one all over the world. Peace, collective action, and justice is what we so desperately need! And achieving any of these things while spending any time attacking me because I wrote a blog post about being verbally assaulted by a screaming person after a rally is not the way we'll achieve any of those things.
As to removing my blog post or my descriptions of my aggressor, or her Twitter handle, or my desire to punch her as she was shouting at me, etc.: I only wish that instead of only taking a picture of her, I had taken a video. If I had had my head together better, I would have done exactly that. Then the idea of anyone defending her or her behavior would be that much more comedic.
As it is, it's absolutely pathetic. The people defending her are doing so on principle, as defenders of the rights of trans people, in a principled opposition to making trans women unsafe by publishing their photos. In the minds of these people, the trans woman is always the victim and the CIS man is always the aggressor. There is no other sensible explanation for why they take Phoenix's side in this "conflict."
Thinking in terms of such rigid, black-and-white "values" -- that the trans woman shouting at the CIS guy who just spoke must somehow be the victim in a "conflict," and that the CIS man must now be ostracized from the left because of a blog post about the experience, with no regard to the past activities of the deranged aggressor (Phoenix) or the past activities of the movement musician (me). These "values" aren't values at all, they're just a social engineering scheme designed to paralyze the left, that were first introduced by self-styled postmodernists in colleges across this country, and very successfully implanted in the brains of unsuspecting leftists through circular arguments and social media algorithms. (For some values that could potentially help us overcome this form of rigid, identity-obsessed, black-and-white thinking, I have recently written a Statement of Principles that many people around the world have found of great interest.)
Phoenix Singer was and is a cancellation campaigner with a long record of this kind of disruptive, destructive, and abusive behavior. The public record is available. If she hides her past on Twitter, I have the screen shots. I've posted many of them publicly in the past. I did not do this research, by the way -- Phoenix Singer and the Rose City Antifa cult have many other enemies, and those that despise their destructive, idiotic antics have many friends. I've already written about her behavior and those of her puritanical identitarian cult colleagues ad nauseum. I'm not going to repeat the whole story of their campaigning against me -- an anti-Zionist of Jewish lineage -- for my supposed antisemitism. If you want to dive down that rabbit hole of false accusations, I've collected a lot of them at davidrovics.com/trolls.
Bottom line is Phoenix Singer is one of them. One of the few that is so fanatical about her cancellation campaigning that she does it in public, in person, inviting the press and whoever else to document her very public, very aggressive, very disturbing antics. This kind of behavior is so toxic and so counter-productive and needs to end right now.
Sadly, it won't, and in all likelihood the next time there's a rally against the genocide in Gaza, most of the people speaking will once again be old friends of mine, but my music will not be a feature of the rally's program, because I'm an antisemite, or maybe now a transphobe, too. Welcome to Portlandia, in all it's reality and surreality.