Saturday, March 26, 2011

Email thugs

Couple o' stories out of Wisconsin that I wish were getting a little more coverage nationally:

Indiana prosecutor encouraged the Wisconsin governor to use staged violence to discredit unions:

After praise for Walker, the email — sent Feb. 19, during union demonstrations against Walker’s budget repair bill — then took a darker turn. It suggested that the situation in Wisconsin presented “a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation.”

“If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions,” the email said.

“Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.”


After trying to deny the email was his, the prosecutor (prosecutor!) resigned.

It's pretty much conventional wisdom among political activists at this point that plants are often used to disrupt peaceful protests and discredit those participating in them, eyewitness reports of these plants are numerous in personal accounts (I even ran into one myself during the RNC protests in St Paul a few years back, think he was just an observer though). But as the public tends to see protesters as Dirty Fucking Hippies, these first-hand reports are often taken as unreliable; the narrative always leans hopefully to the idea that protesters are inciting violence. It's much more of an exciting story that way as it reinforces premeditated beliefs about the nature of political dissent. So to have it in writing that yes, this sort of tactic is at the very least, considered (actually in audio too, as the Governor himself admitted during his fake conversation with David Koch that "we thought about" Fake Koch's suggestion of "planting some troublemakers" in with the protesters) is kind of a big deal. I'd actually speculate that if it weren't for that call being spread all over the media (which was a major hit on Walker's own credibility), you might of seen more of this, the push to smear the union protesters as violent thugs was so desperate in some circles it became almost comical.

As Walker & friends have had some embarrassing email incidents, they seem inclined to share the love. Their target now is William Cronon, a History Professor at the University of Wisconsin that committed the high crime of blogging about the potential power-players behind the recent legislation in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Republican Party has requested access to all of Cronon's emails through his personal university email account, on the argument that as it's a state email, it's public record. They make no pretense of what they are after (they specifically request any emails that may contain keywords relating to unionization), they are not so much looking for incidences of misconduct (the correct usage of the FOIA) but instead looking for conversations that can be used to discredit the professor's own character. After praise for the FOIA and the acknowledgement that universities are fair game, Professor Cronon questions the motivations and criticizes what he sees as an act of intimidation from the Wisconsin Republican Party:

When should we be more cautious about applying such laws to universities?

Answer: When FOIA is used to harass individual faculty members for asking awkward questions, researching unpopular topics, making uncomfortable arguments, or pursuing lines of inquiry that powerful people would prefer to suppress. If that happens, FOIA and the Open Records Law can too easily become tools for silencing legitimate intellectual inquiries and voices of dissent—whether these emanate from the left or the right or (as in my case) the center. It is precisely this fear of intellectual inquiry being stifled by the abuse of state power that has long led scholars and scientists to cherish the phrase “academic freedom” as passionately as most Americans cherish such phrases as “free speech” and “the First Amendment.”

Might be time for Cronon to meet up with PZ Myers at the border and share some survival tactics, as right-wingers have been trying to get his ass fired from the University of Minnesota for years now because he has a nasty and hilarious habit of pointing out bullshit spewed by fundamentalists. Because remember kids, you aren't allowed to hold down a job and have political opinions unless, of course, you lean right.


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