CrimethInc vs. Chris Hedges, a Debate on Tactics & Legitimacy in Occupy & Beyond

[NEW YORK, NY] The debate surrounding “diversity of tactics” has indeed become a polarizing one …perhaps we helped (in part) to change that last week as we attempted to bring the fervor of both sides to the CUNY Grad Center for a respectful debate surrounding tactical legitimacy in today’s contemporary social movements.

Chris Hedges made himself a self-described “lightning rod” for this tactical debate in February, 2012 when he published his now infamous “The Cancer in Occupy” article (an indictment of black-bloc tactics) on his syndicated TruthDig column.  The sometimes ugly debate that followed Hedges’ article continued to boil over on internet forums and comments feeds surrounding the Occupy movement.  Since there is little accountability on internet forums and similar venues we thought it would be prudent to bring both sides together for a respectful face-to-face debate.   Short of a handful of passionate outbursts the audience at last week’s debate at the CUNY Grad Center between the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges and B. Travern of The Crimethinc. Ex-Workers Collective was perhaps the most disciplined “real-world” assembly surrounding this polarizing argument.Both Travern and Hedges attempted during the debate to define where tactical legitimacy begins and ends.  While each had differing answers to the moderator’s questions, the audience was excited to see the intersections between the two.  Travern conceded that he found himself agreeing with ~80% of what Hedges said about revolution. Interestingly Hedges also conceded when he proclaimed that “he is not a pacifist” and announced during the debate that he too is an advocate for “a diversity of tactics” …yet the two drift apart when defining what “diversity of tactics” personally means to each of them.  Though some awkward gaffs were made, and some questions left unanswered, the event as a whole was an informative and encouraging experience that many could take a great deal away from.  We encourage you to watch the video above, share it with your friends, embed it on your own blogs, continue to build dialogue surrounding the issues therein, and most of all take action for a more just future in the most effective and sensible ways you see fit.

At times it makes sense for Sparrow to mute our “radical” opinions and instead provide substantive facts that mimetically lead the readers/viewers/listeners we engage with to reach their own radical conclusions.  This is why we felt a public debate, in the vacuum of a highly controlled venue, would be the best way to harness the vitriol of 7 months of internet bickering and turn it into something hopeful and constructive.  We hope we did just that…

This event would not have been possible without the help of the CUNY Grad Center, Sujatha Fernandes, Sarah Leonard, Mintwood Media, Jen Angel of Aid & Abet, and the volunteers that helped with everything from filming to de-escalation..




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  1. I feel this entire intro is manipulative and intellectually dishonest. It’s leading and, in spots, just plain dumb. The last paragraph is ridiculous. Sneer/qualifying quotes around “radical” when you make a leading frame to readers reaching THEIR OWN (non-sneer-quoted) RADICAL conclusions is just… subcultural cognitive ghetto thinking at its worst. It’s the opposite of open-mindedness, and gives very apparent lie to where you stand, even as you strain credulity and the sensibility of logical English to try to appear to say otherwise, to convey objectivity or neutrality, &c. You are anything but intellectual respectful here, and I think what makes me saddest about that is that probably a majority of your subcultural subscribers will fail to realize that. This is propaganda, not critical thinking, and you should do better.

  2. I wrote the post above. I hate to say this, but to be completely frank, I don’t understand you.

    Did you think I was being snarky to “radicals” or snarky to non-radicals? I had hoped to not do either. We (sparrow) are publicists, creatives & event promoters that support activist endeavors. I am not a writer/journalist no matter how much writing I may do.

    Did anyone else find this manipulative or misleading?

  3. I did not find the writing manipulative at all. Nor do I understand the criticism. As the commenter said, your readers won’t understand. How prescient. Well, I do not understand- because it made no sense. I do not understand what is manipulative about what you wrote. You put quotes around your own “radical” thinking, not someone else’s. What is offensive about that? I do wish I had the 25 seconds of my life back that I wasted reading that critique, though.

  4. That first comment is either a troll or a crazy person. Based on what they accuse I should be able to assume I know your personal opinion on the debate which I don’t at all so I have no idea how they are claiming you are framing the debate . I was at the debate and it was entirely fair and balanced. And I don’t recall Andy ever even speaking at it. Both speakers were treated as honored guests by the staff.

  5. “Everywhere he looks, he sees ethnic cleansing, even if it’s just a kid with a spray paint can.” So Brian wants to make clear that he doesn’t take this discussion seriously and would rather make ridiculous, inflammatory ad-hominem attacks intended to rally the base (preach to the choir) rather than exchange ideas about this subject in good faith. Brian, why are you up there acting like a clown, making childish little quips and jokes about e.g. whether Hedges and Jensen are friends? Of course most people won’t get the joke (most people don’t know who Jensen is) but that’s not the point: like most crimethinc rhetoric, the joke isn’t for “most people,” it’s internal marketing for the anarcho-cool-kids-klub.

    Brian (at least in hour 1) will wax theoretical ’til blue in the face about whether violence is ever an appropriate tactic, but not whether the specific tactics currently in use in US black-bloc groups are actually effective in the given context. Black block is not helping occupy movement: “how can you say that? violence is justified in many contexts!!” That’s not a response to the accusation in question, it’s a side-step.

    In response to one question from the audience about hyper-masculinity in black block culture, Brian trots out no fewer than three standard anarcho-dodges to avoid responding to the accusation.

    Questioning whether black block culture is overly masculine is engaging in “problematic gendering”, so I don’t have to defend black block behavior
    Two white men shouldn’t be discussing identity politics [despite the fact that an audience member brought this up], so I don’t have to defend black block behavior
    ‘There are people in the congo raping women,’ so I don’t have to defend black block behavior.

    Brian, I’m disappointed you choose to clown on stage and rely on cheap shots and muddying the water (“is violence REALLY macho?” jesus christ…) rather than discussing this topic in good faith. You should apologize to the audience & moderator for wasting their time. I applaud Chris Hedges for sitting calmly thru Brian’s clown act & ridiculous accusations & insisting upon discussing the topic in ernest despite his shenanigans.

  6. Sorry for the bad formatting; it said <ol> was allowed!

  7. I expected to watch this thinking I would disagree completely with Hedges. But I didn’t. There were points he made, such as black bloc tactics being used at the wrong place/time impeding actual diversity of tactics, that I very much agreed with.

    That being said, overall, I felt like Hedges used this debate to toot his own horn, fetishize movements in other countries without fully understandinding the similarities and differences, and also repeatedly dodging the fact that much of his cancer in occupy article was straight up fantasy made up crap that read like an fbi report on activism. He denied writing lots of things that are available and published by him, and he also continuously referred to “the black bloc” as a group of people who oppose “organization”? How does a group of people as cancerous as Hedges claims oppose “organization”?

    I was happy to see Brian not pull the macho “black bloc is always appropriate or you’re a bad activist” stuff I do see in debates like this at times. Hell, I’ve probably even made such assumptions in less experienced years.

    I am hoping those on the fence could see that the difference in humility between the two sides alone shows a lot about their viewpoints, and hedges repeated use of other movements and people- that do not in fact match his ideology- to promote his “nonviolence” ideology was in poor taste at best.