Portland Anonymous: Fragment Thirteen

I’m not proud of what we did, not proud at all.  We knew that #N/A was a person with a big mouth, and he had some strong opinions, although not unjust ones, and we were having problems with him, so we thought it would be good to put the screws on him a bit, so we helped some activist group dox him.  I didn’t say I was proud about it, and I think we in some way set the chain in motion of events that ended his life.  It’s strange to think about, I know, but looking back on it, I think that his being forced to leave Portland was responsible for the way things ended up.

***

I don’t think celebrities are owed their privacy.  It’s very important that those who hold to reactionary views, as was certainly the case for #N/A, feel the heat for their positions.  They need to know that they are out of step with the times, and I consider our group to be useful in putting pressure.  We get Confederate statues removed, we help encourage migration into the United States, and part of our job as activists is to make sure that there is a cost for speaking out against the correct thinking concerning politics.  I’m not saying he was a bad guy, but that’s even worse.  At least a bad guy with the wrong views you can easily marginalize.  Look at all of those who fell under the #MeToo barrage of bad press.  We almost prevented a decent family man from being put on the Supreme Court, and I’m still bitter about that one.  #N/A just happened to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We couldn’t allow a powerful conservative voice to be associated with Portland, especially once we were able to set up armed protesters wherever he met.  He couldn’t eat or go to the library in peace, and yeah, I’m happy about the way we drove him out of town.  It wasn’t a bad thing at all, and I’d do it again to anyone else in his position.  We’re in a fight to the death here, and we can’t rest until our political agenda is in force and all opposition has been crushed.

***

I think what they did was truly evil.  I’m not going to mince words.  I think the same of anyone who tries to turn the protections denied to public figures in terms of defending their reputation into a denial of privacy and the facing of continual abuse, including lynch mobs being sent to attack people at their homes.  I think it’s evil when it is done to conservative or even mainstream politicians, evil when it is done to reporters, evil when it is done to musicians, especially those like #N/A, who never wanted personal attention anyway.  I think it’s evil even when it is done to people whose political views I disagree with.  I think it’s a sign of coarsening in our culture, and an increase in the threat of violence that we all have to face.

***

First they came for the nationalists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a nationalist.

Then they came for the pundits, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a pundit.

Then they came for the Christians, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Christians.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

***

I’ve never considered myself a particularly brave person when it came to physical courage, but other people have always disagreed with me.  Yeah, it was uncomfortable what happened there in Portland.  I think anyone who wants to avoid attention and publicity has reasons for it, and I think my reasons for it were good.  I’ve always been out of step with those around me in terms of my opinions, and I’ve always paid a high social cost for being different and odd and unusual.  I don’t consider myself has having the sort of smooth social skills in order to overcome that kind of difficulty, and in a day and age where difference is viewed as harshly as it is now, that difficulty is even more serious and even more difficult to overcome.  I grew up in Central Florida and I was an oddball there, a bookish and intellectual person, and was looked down on those grounds.  There were lots of people who thought that someone who read as much or thought as much as I did couldn’t stand up to bullies, and they were wrong.  I did a lot of fighting when I was a kid, in order to prove that I could, and after a while, most people realized that it wasn’t worth it to threaten violence because there was no glory to be gained in beating up someone who could fight back, and who might even win.  And I never lost that sort of realization that bullies are cowards, regardless of their political ideology.  You saw how those cowards acted.  They wouldn’t engage in a one on one conversation because it wasn’t an issue of reason or logic, they would lose.  All they wanted to do was cause suffering, and so they would waste their time and gang up on me wherever I happened to go, to the point where I had to leave because it was causing such a problem for my landlord.  Fortunately, I had the money to be able to purchase some property and to build a modest home for myself in rural Oregon, but I also felt it necessary at that point to have a base of operations that was further from the nerve center of Oregon’s progressive politics, so I sought to build up a base near where I grew up as well, figuring that an intellectual with enough money would be less threatening than it was as a child.  So yeah, that’s where the idea of Castle Studios came about.  I wanted to build a castle to feel at least a bit safer, and to build a music studio outside of the city of Tampa that would be a safe place for people to make professional recordings in Central Florida.  It’s not done yet, but when I finish it, I’ll give you all a tour.

***

I think one can become so familiar with political violence that one stops seeing it as unusual.  I know that’s the way it has been recently for us.  We look back in history and are amazed that people didn’t see where the Nazi takeover of Germany or the rise of Communism in Russia and China would go, that it wouldn’t lead to the death of millions of people.  We look back on those places and times with hindsight, knowing what happened.  But we don’t have the same sort of clearsighted view of the past when we are looking at our own times.  We see people attack historical sites, like they were Taliban, because they don’t like something about the people being honored, and people treat it like ordinary political speech.  We see mobs of people try to bully people in their homes or attack people while they are playing softball, and we don’t see how this leads people to view political speech as dangerous, and as preserving the freedom of bullies to be less important than preserving law and order.  This is how democracies die, when people try to delegitimize those in power and do so by means that lead the ordinary mass of law-abiding citizens to prefer police and military repression on behalf of those political authorities than to submit with the arbitrary violence of anarchical forces that show no respect for privacy or honor or anything else.  I don’t think anyone would consider this an ideal outcome, but it is a pretty inevitable one, as the bias between security and freedom for most people is heavily biased towards security.

***

I’ve had a lot of arguments with #N/A over the years about politics, and I knew he thought differently than I did, but even though he was way more conservative than I am, he was always someone who was polite and respectful about our differences and not someone who was interested in starting a fight about such things.  But it doesn’t appear as if everyone is like that.  There are just some people who are unable to accept disagreement in others, and who just have to get disagreeable and violent, and that’s what happened here.

***

I don’t know when he first had to face political bullying, but I remember it being a problem when we were college students together.  During the 2000 election, I remember playing “We Are The Champions” when Bush was first announced as having won Florida and with it the electoral votes needed to win the election.  Of course, there were some liberals who weren’t happy about that and they tried to attack our room, and he stood in the door and kept them from coming in.  This was not a person who was a coward when it came to political violence.  He didn’t like gloating to anyone else about an election, but he wasn’t going to put up with anyone trying to bully him either.  I’m not surprised that was the case here either.  I mean, he’s not someone who has changed a lot in the past twenty years or so.

***

I don’t remember that we ever talked about politics around the workplace.  I mean, some of us did from time to time, but I don’t remember him ever asking any questions about what other people thought nor do I remember asking him.  He did his job, and a lot of reading and writing as well, and none of us were very curious about it.  He just wasn’t that interesting or exciting of a person and his private life was unusually private.  He didn’t talk about a wife or girlfriend or children or anything else.  He just did him and kept rather mum about everything else, and only once in a while would anyone find anything else about him.  I can’t imagine he was happy about having a large group of people following his every move and harassing him when he was trying to eat or go out privately, as that wasn’t his style.  He wasn’t someone who took selfies or seemed to like a lot of personal attention and I don’t think he would be happy about it.

***

I’ve been a friend of his for several years, and I was happy to help him with some property close to here.  He found a nice houseplan in a book and we dug out some hillside and he had a nice little place for himself.  It was good to have him as a neighbor and I was looking forward to spending a lot of time with him, but that’s not how things go sometimes.

***

Yeah, it was tough to perform with #N/A after the political drama started.  As a musician, you want to have fans on all kinds of divides.  If you’re a country musician, being conservative is a really good thing because you at least have your fanbase behind you.  I’m not surprised that he started making more Americana and country music after the doxing controversy.  What did surprise me was that he didn’t sell out and do country.  He was himself.  That is to say, he had recorded a couple of country songs and they had Latin titles, and I thought they were great, but I didn’t know how other people would take them.  It was music that was accessible but had quirky and unusual elements, and that was #N/A being true to himself.  I respected him all the more that he was able to make music that could appeal to a group of people who might give him a fair chance but at the same time was not going to show anything other than an honest quirkiness on his part.

***

We were definitely in his corner during the whole problems that he was having with those antifa bastards.  He didn’t ask us to be, but he didn’t have to ask us to be.  Of course we were going to side with him.  It’s not as if he was a politically strident artist trying to appeal to us, but he was an artist and an honest man about his views, and some people couldn’t take that.  I figured he was probably a bit cerebral for most of our crowd, but when they saw that he was a brave man as well as an honest one he won a lot of goodwill from us, and he warmed to us and would come in and do promos and talk with us about what he was doing.  I was looking forward to having built some bridges with someone who was a bit different than most of the people we worked with, and that got cut short.  It’s a real shame.  He deserved a lot better than that.  He had the chance to make some great music for a long time.

***

Of course politics matters.  He wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to support if he didn’t think the same way that we did, for the most part.  But he ended up being a friendly person, although very shy, and he was very articulate about our worldview, and so of course we were going to stand behind him.  It wasn’t even a question, once we realized this was just like Kavanaugh, were some decent and nice guy was getting attacked by people just because they wanted a political scalp, and he wasn’t going to give it to them, and neither were we.  When your own people are being attacked, you have to stand up to them, have to show them that you are not going to be cowed, not going to be bullied, not going to be pushed around.  Helping someone like him made all of us feel a lot better, because it meant doing a good thing for a good person, and in letting some scumbags know that they weren’t going to be able to set the terms of the political conversation, or any other kind of conversation, with their tactics of hatred and abuse.  It was a glorious moment to see him stand strong against that sort of bullying and to help him find a safe place to keep doing what he does.  What does he do?  A lot of reading and writing and singing, that’s what he does, and that’s quite enough, I think.

***

Of course I draw the connection between the way I was treated as a kid and the way that those activists behaved towards me.  I think most of us draw strength and insight from our own experiences, and the fact that I had a lot of negative experiences with bullying to draw on certainly influenced my own harsh feelings towards them.  Of course they are still human beings, but they happen to be very evil human beings.  It’s very easy being a bully, I think.  It doesn’t require a lot of courage to seek out the vulnerable, it’s easy to get a lot of people together if you are looking to behave violently or aggressively towards someone, and you get a moral payoff when you put down those who you look down on.  Without being violent and sinking to their level, I felt it necessary to let them know I wasn’t as easy a target as they thought, and it worked.  Of course I didn’t feel too bad when they got roughed up by counterprotesters.  They started it, and were hoist on their own petard.  I’m not going to shed any tears for people who started a fight they end up losing.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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One Response to Portland Anonymous: Fragment Thirteen

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Portland Anonymous Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

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