The Black Bloc Doth Protest Too Much

  • Posted on: 21 September 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="">The Indypendent</a> - By Ari Paul

It finally happened. After months of anarchists howling over journalist Chris Hedges’s controversial article “The Cancer Within Occupy,” the author debated the subject of non-violence and the diversity of tactics in the Occupy Wall Street movement with Brian Traven, representing CrimethInc, an anarchist group sympathetic to the Black Bloc tactics Hedges denounced in the article.

Both sides made good points in the exchange, which took place Sept. 12 in before a packed audience in Manhattan. Hedges reflected upon his years covering wars and revolutions for the New York Times, saying that violence can hinder progress, while Traven brought up relevant questions about how we as a society define what is violent or criminal. But the real star of the show was the Black Bloc supporters themselves, whose main goal, it seemed, was to discredit any and all scrutiny of themselves and smear their detractors with ad hominem attacks. Traven at one point suggested that the police were taking cues from Hedges, who laughed at the idea of security forces being inspired by his railings against corporate capitalism.

For people who raise their middle finger to the man and brag about their fights with the cops, these rabble-rousers are perhaps the most thin-skinned activists I have ever encountered, as they have still yet to recover from the fact that a writer turned a critical lens on them in one article seven months ago. They simply cannot tolerate any dissent against their tactics, and they fight back the only way they know how: by being whiny little brats.</td><td><img title="Can this the last time we talk about this? Please?" src=""></td></t...
Both presenters had their faults. Traven’s main tactic for ducking criticism was to employ a post-modernist obfuscation of any inconvenient questions. When asked if the Black Bloc had ever succeeded, he questioned what success meant. When asked if the Black Bloc was marred by hyper-masculinity, he dismissed Hedges’s definition of gender. But for the most part, Hedges responded to these things respectfully.

Hedges has a tendency to put people off with his ministerial style. Some people find him condescending with his repeated reminders that he covered the wars in El Salvador and the former Yugoslavia. Regardless, during the debate he was constantly met with childish hisses, laughter and cries of “liar,” not to mention one suggestion that his career as a war correspondent was a cover for his employment with the Central Intelligence Agency.

This whole act was not just disrespectful to the participants and the event’s organizers, but the hordes of people who wanted to listen, who maybe could have been swayed into seeing things Traven’s way (he didn’t seemed bothered by the disturbances). And so I decided to photograph the troublemakers, despite being told that I could only take photos of the panelists and not the audience. As far as I was concerned, this was a public space (City University of New York property, to be exact), and once these people decided to be disruptive they have made themselves a news event.

And so I was escorted outside by an event organizer and a uniformed security guard and urged to delete my photos, as they had received text messages that I had pointed my camera in the direction of the shouters. Despite the delicious irony of anarchists deferring to rules and security, I am always perturbed by anyone who feels they should be shielded from the press if they are, in fact, doing something newsworthy. Out of respect for the organizers I complied and erased the frames, which didn’t matter because they were too blurry to be used anyway.

But this kind of entitlement to be at once disruptive and immune from accountability is emblematic of the kind of dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it attitude they have displayed in reaction to Hedges’s original article. If they’re still having a tantrum about Hedges’s article, how can we expect them to hold up against the 1 percent shock troops?

This is why I think it is ultimately wrong to classify this particular group as anarchists—that would sully the names of various movements past and present that have used and currently use non-hierarchical structures in anti-capitalist organizing. This particular clique is explicitly and actively against the left, and there’s a reason the CrimethInc book Days of War, Nights of Love reads like the ideological bastard child of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand. It rails against corporate control, but replaces class struggle with libertarian individualism. Capitalism and the state are oppressing you, and their flavor of anarchism is your struggle to liberate yourself from the mediocrity of the bourgeois state. You have to do whatever you can to do to save yourself.

This is why Hedges and Traven couldn’t come to a consensus. Hedges wanted to know what kind of society Black Bloc anarchists wanted to create, but never got a real answer, and that’s because they’re currently living in it. They’ll roam the city streets, living in squats, riding on freight trains, mocking all the losers in suits and blue uniforms for squandering their days for paychecks and health insurance. They live off the waste of capitalist society (if they don’t already have trust funds), cocooned in their punk rock Neverland. Their utopia isn’t a liberation of oppressed society but their personal secession from it.

This is the kind of anti-social narcissism that Hedges wrote about in the article that kicked off this whole mess. The rage against the police, press and fellow anti-capitalists has everything to do with their inflated sense of self and precious little to do with solidarity.

I’ve encountered it recently. In Chicago, during the NATO protests in May, Black Bloc participants gathered with other activists in Grant Park, wearing masks, waving banners and angrily confronting anyone who took their photo. My response was that if you don’t want your photo taken don’t go to a public protest where you know there are going to be hundreds of journalists. Further, picking a fight with the police only endangers journalists and other activists. While covering the Eurozone crisis in Athens this summer, I was confronted by so-called anarchists for photographing them, and in fact, they routinely assault journalists in demonstrations while later celebrating television news footage of their street fighting. They want to have their dumpster-dived vegan cake and eat it, too.

I don’t fully side with Hedges on his take on the Black Bloc. During the debate, for example, I bristled when Hedges suggested that there was some common ground for both OWS and the police because they are working class (see my articles in the Indypendent and The Guardian on the subject). But it is certainly a win for Hedges when his critics live up to his description of them.

“The Black Bloc movement bears the rigidity and dogmatism of all absolutism sects,” Hedges wrote. “Its adherents alone possess the truth. They alone understand. They alone arrogate the right, because they are enlightened and we are not, to dismiss and ignore competing points of view as infantile and irrelevant. They hear only their own voices. They heed only their own thoughts. They believe only their own clichés. And this makes them not only deeply intolerant but stupid.”


Jesus fuck who the hell cares.

I do.

Yeah... I guess I do, too. Bummer.

They don't like us?

Fuck 'em

this guy is a writer for The Nation magazine. glad to see he is featured on Anarchist News!

Aww, is someone hurt to find out their camera isn't god?

What is this person really trying to argue here?

That definitely destroyed any credibility, not that this piece had much to begin with. Even though you were specifically asked not to film the audience, you did so anyway out of some journalistic obligation? Fuck you. Lucky you didn't get your fucking camera smashed.

ooohhh, he broke your rules!

you are pathetic. Get a job so i dont have to associate with you.

also: learn how to deal with criticism.

IGTT 1/10

Disregarding all other points, valid or otherwise, Hedges contributed to a social narrative that represses militancy and revolutionary/anti-State stances. Not a fan.

Daz because you're in a position of privilege to actually dismiss the despotic elements of this State. Just because Chris Hedges is a liberal leftist doesn't make him the Enemy. But that doesn't mean he's our ally either.

Disregarding all the points Hedges made makes ("valid or otherwise"?) you into a sectarian moron who judges following pre-fixed ideological positions, and not his/her own reason and feelings. Not very anarchistic I might say.

As you can witness with your very eyes, if they can see, he world is not made of black and white.

I'll take those critiques, they're fair. As for the "valid or otherwise" bit, I didn't mean that I was ignoring his statements because I disagree with them flatly, but that I wasn't addressing them in my comment.

"They hear only their own voices. They heed only their own thoughts. They believe only their own clichés. And this makes them not only deeply intolerant but stupid"

i must be missing something. is hedges accusing the black bloc of having joined the establishment? or has the black bloc been stone-walling the establishment on their requests for black bloc policy revisions?

Exactly. What's being condemned here is the refusal to argue within the terms of debate defined by Hedges and his ilk. Extremism is supposedly a deficiency, no matter the perspective. Tell that to John Brown. Tell that the any revolutionary throughout history who refused a seat at the table. Fuck Hedges and all of his apologists.

Exactly. Author didn't mention it was the blatant inaccuracies of that article that bothered us. The article was terrible journalism. Dishonest.

Author doesn't even mentioned hedges took back a lot of the points in that article. That's dishonest.

I think author and hedges think media will be the main vehicle of change under which our behaviors conform to create an image...but, anarchists aren't for creating a politcal program. Leftism rears its ugly dead head in the neo-fascistic language of political correctness...the therapeutic. They both could learn a few things by reading ellul's "propaganda."

Author also doesn't know identities of people photographed. We don't know they have participated in black blocs. That's presumptuous.

All this leftist talk of class, inividualism (as pejorative reminds me of jason mcquinn's intro to "the revolution of everyday life." Oh wait, anarchists aren't supposed to read things like situationist thought. Fuck your leftist ideology.

Thou shalt not question Fathers Hedges and Marx. Haha.

This is the best article ever. Ari Paul is cute.

LOOK AT THE COMMENTS SECTION ON THE ARTICLE'S ACTUAL SITE! It's fucking hilarious! I went there expecting a bunch of people nodding in agreement, but I skimmed over like twenty comments and literally all of them were shit-talking the author of this article.

“I read once, passingly, about a man named Shakespeare. I only read about him passingly, but I remember one thing he wrote that kind of moved me. He put it in the mouth of Hamlet, I think, it was, who said, ‘To be or not to be.’ He was in doubt about something—whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—moderation—or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. And I go for that. If you take up arms, you’ll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who’s in power to make up his mind that he should end it, you’ll be waiting a long time. And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built—is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

We need to take direct action, the enemy isn't going to give us shit, we need to organize and begin to take it by force.

Someone should give this motherfucker a good kneecapping, then we'll see who's whining.

This is such a burn, I actually read it three times. From what I've experienced with this milieu, he is unfortunately right.

"Hedges wanted to know what kind of society Black Bloc anarchists wanted to create, but never got a real answer, and that’s because they’re currently living in it."

Bullshit. The Crimethinc guy explained in details how they think social change works. All that bagels nonsense is a 15-year-out-of-date hostile stereotype. Fuck that guy, and I'm sorry you're taken in by this.

Actually, many people who participated in some of the early, influential BB's managed to come to a broad consensus and create an outline for a future anarchist society, complete with detailed maps, resource allocation, and more. It was done specifically in response to these assertions by the media and in some regions has been quietly adopted as sort of a manifesto. I don't think it's been put online before but I guess this is as good time as any to finally put this myth that anarchists who use BB tactics have no specific aims to rest, now that the whole no-demands/no-program fad has passed. If I can paste it all here in its entirety, I think journalists like Hedges, Ari Paul, ParEcon intellectual Michael Albert and various left progressives sometimes sympathetic with anarchist sentiment but frustrated with a lack of vision should pay special attention to the analysis in Thesis 10, where LOST SIGNAL

Who in the fuck is this dumbass author??? What a dipshit. Did the author even pay attention in those debates? I can go on about the whole journalist fights (shouldnt be fucking snitches) and how crimethinc is a joke for most anarchists, but why should I, or anyone one else who can see through this crap bother to give a shit if people refuse to pay attention.

At least the Oakland "Nonviolence vs Diversity of Tactics" debate in Oakland the anarchists were hard.

"crimethinc is a joke for most anarchists"

Speak for yourself, bub.

this persons odvi doesnt know us.

I agree with the kneecaping. We need to do more kneecaping. Anyone who kneecaps this fool gets my vote for prez

was this written by some kind of cliched black bloc stereotype text generator? it doesn't read as though it was written by an actual human being capable of critical thought. is days of war nights of love the only crimethinc text the author has read? was the author actually paying attention to the debate, or more concerned with getting photographs of people who felt like yelling during it (the horror!)? fyi, for the majority of people who saw the debate, which was via livestream, we couldn't hear anything the hecklers were saying. sounds like you were the only one for whom the experience was ruined. funny that to you the "stars of the show" were folks that no one outside of that room (ie the high majority of people taking in the debate) really knew existed.

hate to break it to you dude, but folks weren't pissed about the cancer article because it turned a critical lens on them, it was because it was full of things that simply weren't true and helped to build a narrative that the state could use to demonize and repress people (and they did, btw. b didn't just "suggest" that the police were taking cues from that article, he mentioned quotes by police commanders from places where anarchists have faced repression which mimicked word for word language used by hedges)

the main issue with this seems to be the utter lack of understanding of why certain anarchists do things the way they do, with seemingly no interest in finding out. "you do things in public but don't want your pictures taken? that's absurd! who wouldn't want their picture taken? what's better than recognition and celebrity?"

that coupled with the pathetic stereotyping, which has been disproved over and over and over, plus the author's apparent inability to actually hear anything happening in the debate (i guess he was too focused on the "stars of the show" rather than what was being said by the debaters)

The comments on the article were better than the article itself.
I may not be a fan of everything the Black Bloc form of protest stands for, but the author severely misrepresented the Black Bloc as well as Anarchists and used cliches extensively to support his argument.

I think this debate is stupid and stems from handful of 20 somethings showing up at other peoples shit. Granted, I don't think it made much of a difference in New York or Oakland where I got the impression they were at the very least tolerated, even seemed to lead many of the actions. Again just going off of a handful of accounts. But there's a really good article on this website via crimethink about black bloc tactics and ethics that would probably clear a lot of this up. I will say this though, I'm in a state where there's no bloc. During 99 percent protests there was discrpeency between reformists and radicals. One night a window was broken at a demo. Could have been an Anarchist might not have been. No one cared. Intense media backlash condemnation from politicians etc. No one wavered, no one from the protests condemned or distanced or blamed anyone. I support activeresistence and bloc tactics. But when the people involved know what their getting. Other than that you just give people like the bitter cunt who wrote this article someone to blame. If the people, not Hedges but the people at these demosdont want it, don't go. Let the people deal with it on their own, and when things get rough maybe they'll feel differently.

"For people who raise their middle finger to the man and brag about their fights with the cops, these rabble-rousers are perhaps the most thin-skinned activists I have ever encountered, as they have still yet to recover from the fact that a writer turned a critical lens on them in one article seven months ago."

This is hilarious, and true. You can't just say every criticism is distortion and lies, it makes you sound like Mao.

The black blocs most vocal apologists are still trying to fit the bloc into an activist framework. B. Traven's basically liberal speechifying was such a far cry from that zine 'god only knows,' which at least said it like it is: we do black bloc because black bloc is awesome.

It's funny, because both the "speechifying" and that zine come from... the same nexus. You're creating a false dichotomy. Also, that zine said more than your summary.

Mainstream journalists doesn't like the black bloc? THAT'S WEIRD!

Ari Paul, ya might not want to eat in any restaurants or fast food places for a while.

This guy levels the trust fund accusation, the old cliche. Unfortunately I've heard it one too many times now (while eating food out of the fucking trash) and would love to hospitalize him. Privileged piece of fucking shit.

you have to be really privileged or in a trash can eating trash to convince yourself that there's much of a difference between individualist nihilist anarchism (whihc is specifically the position being attacked her, I think) and just being another sadist capitalist dickweed. I don't agree with everything hedges says either. But it's GLARINGLY obvious to people who aren't a part of the cult.

No, asshole, I'm not an individualist or a nihilist, I just don't have a fucking trust fund, and I am an anarchist, and I'm sick of hearing this total bullshit about us. His argument carries as much strength as that groundless bullshit allegation -- or else he wouldn't have to make it one of his talking points.

you have to be really delusional to convince yourself there is not much difference between individualist nihilist anarchism and capitalists.


i don't think you're in a position to call anyone delusional.

you donna fukin know me i'll break in your windows with a hammer the size of a giant giant potato.

hahaha that's funny, you have absolutely no idea what position I am in, but anyone who says anything as stupid as 'there is not much difference between individualist nihilist anarchism and dickweed capitalists' is pretty much delusional.

hahaha. no.

it's (unfortunately) been demonstrated over and over again. at least by most of its proponents in Amerika today.

all I got to say to this foolishness is D-E-L-U-S-I-O-N-A-L.

all you're doing is proving my point, moron.

not really, all you are doing is asserting your point over and over again.

yes, there's no point continuing to respond to the trolling of a talking pizza. Let just study the criticism here, and think about how Black Bloc people can be less dickweed, and when exactly they went HAM to ayn rand, because I really don't think it should be condemned as a tactic.

HAM? that is a pepperoni pizza cat ayn rand individualist hero.

and you are such a whacky! smug basketcase.

first off more people than just Individualist nihilist anarchists use the tactic of black bloc. secondly, what criticism? this stupid article? an article written by some liberal ass journalist who just regurgitates stereotypes of crimethinc from 10 years ago and is angry at anarchists for taking notice and responding to Hedges "criticism" of the black bloc and the fact that anarchists who use the black bloc tactic don't want their pictures take by some stupid journalist so to reduce their chances of being identified and arrested. or yours'? well seeing as how all you provided was accusations you haven't proved, but only asserted, there really isn't much to take from anything you have said other than a 'what I say is true and has been demonstrated time and time again, because I say' type argumentation. Also what does Ayn Rand have to do with anything? Last time I checked Individualist Nihilist Anarchists don't argue for and defend with their actions Capitalism, nor do they argue anywhere that the only way of being that makes sense for expressing the maximum potential and happiness of the individual is capitalism like Ayn Rand does. Also they don't create a moral system and a moralistic justification for selfishness (and such a narrow conception of selfishness at that), in fact they don't create a moral system or utilize moralistic argumentation like Rand does. One more nail in the coffin would that Ayn Rand was pro-state and Individualist nihilist anarchists oppose the state. There are more differences between the two and the ones that I did list could be more detailed, but I don't feel the need to say more.

"Also they don't create a moral system and a moralistic justification for selfishness (and such a narrow conception of selfishness at that), in fact they don't create a moral system or utilize moralistic argumentation like Rand does. "


I'm lying am I? well its obvious you have read Ayn Rand's attempts to make selfishness a virtue and all of their erecting of the right values to live by, the anarchists in question have no interest in doing either of those things.

Delusions, Dad. You don't have time for my delusions.

does anyone remember 'the sovereign self'? go take a look at it.

All the pro-Black Bloc comments here betray the clear fact that the Black Bloc is not a substantive subversive phenomenon -- these clowns cannot and will not marshall an articulate argument against an opponent for the straight-up fact that they don't have one to make.

The Black Bloc is an entertainment culture phenomenon. The Black Bloc is an expression of a subcultural identity phenomenon that has been irrevocably psychologically annexed by the core pathology of market society -- this shit is all about being entertained. It isn't about anyhting more substantive that that.

Man does not seek entertainment; only the American does, and the Black Bloc are just about as pathologically consumer society one hundred percent American as it gets.

There should be a technical term for a troll who may be on federal payroll, or may just be a volunteer, but produces the same effect, regardless.

yup, a tactic that began in germany and holland, spread around the world from south korea to chile, and is still used in many anarchist marches in dozens of countries today is definitely "100% american"

lol you fucking moron.

Entertainment - they've sold us the rope with which to hang them.

No kicks like expropriation, amirite?

Black Bloc are not the rodeo clowns of the Occupy movement, as well as the assclowns.

^^ This is what happens when you use bath salts.


this is how you anarchy!

wuz up with u and pizza cat lately?

they are racists thats why.

This article makes me think about Hedges original piece in a new light. His portrayal of contemporary anarchism based on Green Anarchy was five years out of date, but Days of War is twice that...

Regardless, I've had to toss people out of events because they wouldn't stop filming debates about a "diversity of tactics". I have less than zero sympathy. Not filming the audience was clearly stated, and for some pretty obvious reasons. Self-righteous, camera-loving douchebags like this love to make a scene about their "right" to record and publish private matters, and they're almost never the ones who have to suffer the consequences.

Less Tolerance!
More Kneecapping!

I go pee-pee in this authors Coke.

anyone else notice that the comments on this article at the indypendent website seem to be shut off?

...Because they don't want other to know how much bull shit this Author and his ideas are...I hope someone fire bombs his crib.

Chris Hedges made a decent troll. You do not.
It's pretty obvious this is your attempt to "get back" at some sort of body that represents the people that kicked you out. Make that less obvious and you may actually ruffle some feathers!

trollympics#3 Is Crimethinc jealous of Chris Hedges fame or is Chris Hedges jealous of Crimethinc's money?

fuck off. American anti-capitalists are pacified to the point where they reinforce capitalist structures rather than hinder them. Liberation isn't about appealing to power, it's about building power. Black Bloc tactics in North America are very defensive shields,dearresting,etc.), and I haven't really seen any inappropriate uses of it at 'occupy' events. Is he referring to Oakland? Because while there have been blocs in Oakland, acts of resistance and such are generalized. Its not just kids in black erecting barricades, and fucking banks up, it's usually random people in masks/armor in Oakland. People are going to resist. deal with it, and struggle by their sides as comrades or realize that you are nothing but an extension of the agents of social control, and are not only useless, but harmful to the movement. Counter-revolutionary mother fuckers.

As for photos? They're acting illegally. go take pictures of drug dealers on the corner and rightfully get smacked up in the same way you would if you got in someones face with a camera as they're facing the surveillance state.

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