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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
open letter to the Mayor of Berkeley
I recommended to the Mayor of Berkeley, and to some concerned residents, that they heavily video the so-called alt-right at rallies. Since this is arguably in contradiction to what some anti-fascists advise (e.g. it risks exposing anti-fascists) I want alert the community.
This is an open letter to the Mayor of Berkeley, and to a variety of residents on some local mailing lists. I'm sharing it with IndyBay because the stance I've taken risks contradiction with the "no cameras" demands of some anti-fascists.
This is a follow-up to my comments at the Mayor's recent town-hall
on the topic of so-called alt-right rallies and similar events being
held in Berkeley.
I follow some of the social media activities of the alt-right both
directly -- reading that junk for myself -- and indirectly by
keeping up with others who also track them. I am not an expert
sociologist but I think I have some appreciation for what is going
on with these events.
In this note I will state and briefly argue for three opinions I
hold, and suggest a concrete action the people and the City can
* Opinion 1: It is a mistake to worry about how these events are
covered by the news media.
I have heard many Berkeleyans complain that the actions of this or
that anti-fascist counter-protester has created a bad image in the
press. For example, some people say that in August there was a
magnificent non-violent counter-protest that was ignored by the
press, while the fights involving a few anti-fascists got all the
Here's the thing: for the most part, the alt-right does not give a
rat's ass about what the news media are saying, and neither should
you or I.
The alt-right does not rely on or care about news media coverage
-- not even Breitbart -- not even Fox.
The alt-right ***IS*** a media machine. The alt-right ***IS***
its own news media.
Social media is not simply friends and acquaintances chatting
online. Social media is a broadcast medium. The alt-right news
media has an audience of many millions, who are reached by
spreading tweets, facebook posts, and the like. They are major
broadcasters -- but in unconventional ways.
Berkeley can not "lose" the PR war with them because it has
already lost that by definition: the alt-right speaks directly to
the people. They bypass the traditional press. There is no "PR
war" to lose. This is not that game.
I don't care what stupid take NYT or Wapo or any other outlet has
on antifa, and neither should you.
* Opinion 2: The alt-right is not here to speak. They are here to
make videos for broadcast.
Every single alt-right event in Berkeley has been characterized
by the presence of *many* alt-right videographers. These are
somewhat expensive productions, typically involving lots of
travel, accommodations, equipment, network connectivity, and
post-event video editing and production. At some events, the
alt-right runs concurrent in-studio anchor-desk operations, going
out live over platforms such as Periscope and youtube.
Within hours of a typical alt-right event, their live, unedited
videos of an event start to disappear -- removed by the alt-right
-- and they are replaced by heavily edited videos to which
commentary and other production features have been added.
It very nearly does not matter how any Berkeleyan, or any
counter-protester behaves. The alt-right has enough cameras on
the scene, and are expert enough at video production, and are
willing to cheat (e.g. send in fake anti-fascist actors) that they
can spin any crazy story they like about Berkeley *regardless of
what really happened at these events*.
* Opinion 3: Liberals and the left have erred by holding signs
rather than cameras.
When you see alt-right leaders in raw video or up close in person,
for the most part, they look stupid, lost, scared, and
When you see them in their own broadcasts, they appear bold,
witty, smart, and fearless.
The people can do an enormous amount of damage to the alt-right
campaign simply by documenting the alt-right in Berkeley, up
close, from multiple angles, without editing.
Please forget, for the moment, the battle of ideas. Forget the
supposed issues of national policy or campus policy or city
Forget "refuse fascism" signs and "united against hate" signs, for
now. We all see already there are plenty of us.
Surround the alt-right at every moment with cameras. Publish all
of the raw footage on youtube and similar services. Do this in a
coordinated way. Encourage anti-fascists to spread the word
about these counter-videos.
I have no doubt that if this idea is taken up, some anti-fascists
will be caught on video doing stupid, bad things. I have no
doubt that people intent on black bloc methods will not like the
cameras. I also believe that that damage will be outweighed by
the good of exposing the alt-right media machine lies for what
So: What can the City do?
1. The City Police can put the word out to public-facing
anti-fascist organizers that they wish to *encourage* making
videos at this event. In particular, organizers should pass
along to black bloc friends that the "no video" ethos will NOT
be respected, precisely because the alt-right always moves with
large squads of their own videographers.
2. Elected officials, the council, the police can all encourage
people to video these events and to do so in ways that are
safe. Reckless "heroism" is not encouraged: video from many
3. Elected officials can work with the community to identify some
non-governmental leaders who can help create a collection of
raw video of these events -- for example by republishing all
videos one one youtube channel, promoting a twitter tag for