Where’s the grassroots contemporary nonviolence movement?

I’ve long noticed there are few active, online peace sites or com­mu­ni­ties that have the grass­roots depth I see occur­ring else­where on the net. It’s a prob­lem for Non​vi​o​lence​.org [update: a project since laid down], as it makes it hard­er to find a diver­si­ty of sto­ries.

I have two types of sources for Non​vi​o​lence​.org. The first is main­stream news. I search through Google News, Tech­no­rati cur­rent events, then maybe the New York Times, The Guardian, and the Wash­ing­ton Post.

There are lots of inter­est­ing arti­cles on the war in iraq, but there’s always a polit­i­cal spin some­where, espe­cial­ly in tim­ing. Most big news sto­ries have bro­ken in one month, died down, and then become huge news three months lat­er (e.g., Wilson’s CIA wife being exposed, which was first report­ed on Non​vi​o​lence​.org on July 22 but became head­lines in ear­ly Octo­ber). These news cycles are dri­ven by domes­tic par­ty pol­i­tics, and at times I feel all my links make Non​vi​o​lence​.org sound like an appa­ratchik of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty USA.

But it’s not just the tone that makes main­stream news arti­cles a prob­lem – it’s also the gen­er­al sub­ject mat­ter. There’s a lot more to non­vi­o­lence than anti­war expos­es, yet the news rarely cov­ers any­thing about the cul­ture of peace. “If it bleeds it leads” is an old news­pa­per slo­gan and you will nev­er learn about the wider scope of non­vi­o­lence by read­ing the papers.

My sec­ond source is peace move­ment web­sites

And these are, by-and-large, unin­ter­est­ing. Often they’re not updat­ed fre­quent­ly. But even when they are, the pieces on them can be shal­low. You’ll see the self-serving press release (“as a peace orga­ni­za­tion we protest war actions”) and you’ll see the exclam­a­to­ry all-caps screed (“eND THe OCCUPATION NOW!!!”). These are fine as long as you’re already a mem­ber of said orga­ni­za­tion or already have decid­ed you’re against the war, but there’s lit­tle per­sua­sion or dia­logue pos­si­ble in this style of writ­ing and orga­niz­ing.

There are few peo­ple in the larg­er peace move­ment who reg­u­lar­ly write pieces that are inter­est­ing to those out­side our nar­row cir­cles. David McReynolds and Geov Par­rish are two of those excep­tions. It takes an abil­i­ty to some­times ques­tion your own group’s con­sen­sus and to acknowl­edge when non­vi­o­lence ortho­doxy some­times just doesn’t have an answer.

And what of peace blog­gers? I real­ly admire Joshua Mic­ah Mar­shall, but he’s not a paci­fist. There’s the excel­lent Gut­less Paci­fist (who’s led me to some very inter­est­ing web­sites over the last year), Bill Connelly/Thoughts on the eve, Stand Down/No War Blog, and a new one for me, The Pick­et Line. But most of us are all point­ing to the same main­stream news arti­cles, with the same Iraq War focus.

If the web had start­ed in the ear­ly 1970s, there would have been lots of inter­est­ing pub­lish­ing projects and blogs grow­ing out the activist com­mu­ni­ties. Younger peo­ple today are using the inter­net to spon­sor inter­est­ing gath­er­ings and using sites like Meet­up to build con­nec­tions, but I don’t see com­mu­ni­ties built around peace the way they did in the ear­ly 1970s. There are few peo­ple build­ing a life – hope, friends, work – around paci­fism.

Has “paci­fism” become ossi­fied as its own in-group dog­ma of a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion of activists? What links can we build with cur­rent move­ments? How can we deep­en and expand what we mean by non­vi­o­lence so that it relates to the world out­side our tiny orga­ni­za­tions?

Manufactured terrorist threat

The big news this week has been the foil­ing of a plot to smug­gle ground-to-air mis­sile from Rus­sia into the Unit­ed States. ABC News claims there’s “less in mis­sile plot than meets the eye”:abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/World/missile030813_sting.html and goes so far as to call it a set-up. From start to fin­ish, the plot was orches­trat­ed as a sting oper­a­tion by U.S. and Russ­ian agents. The accused mas­ter­mind Hemant Lakhani had no Russ­ian con­tacts and no his­to­ry of arms smug­gling. The ABC arti­cle paints him as a small-time black mar­ket importer down on his luck who thought this would be a good way of mak­ing easy mon­ey and pay­ing off debts.
This doesn’t excuse his actions but it does change the way this we think about this whole plot. There was no arms sell­er. There was no ter­ror­ist user. No weapon made it by U.S. or Russ­ian intel­li­gence (for they were the ones who shipped it). What we do have is a two-bit mid­dle­man who talked trash abou the U.S. and offered to be a link of the arms trade. Like an idiot, Lakhani fol­lowed the bread crumbs of oppor­tu­ni­ty left for him by U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies. We now know there are peo­ple desparate enough to sel­ll any­thing if the price is right (didn’t we already know that?) and that sales­men will talk­ing trash about a poten­tial buyer’s com­peti­tors to close a deal.
That there’s some­one will­ing to sell mis­siles is indeed fright­en­ing, but it’s not worth this sort of media cov­er­age. No ter­ror­ist was involved in all this and the only ones talk­ing about using these weapons were U.S. agents! One has to to won­der if this is the lat­est “threat” all “cooked up by some White House insider”:http://www.nonviolence.org/articles/000116.php. “Lets pose as Al Qae­da, wave lots of mon­ey in front of a desparate idiot, nail him when he grabs for it and declare it as a Al Qua­da plot foiled.”