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The Cancer in Occupy

Posted on Feb 6, 2012
Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists—so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property—is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state. The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power. They were shut down because they articulated a truth about our economic and political system that cut across political and cultural lines. And they were shut down because they were places mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe.

Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution. The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but their collaborators among the unions, workers’ movements, radical intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as the Zapatistas. Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures, especially through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, rather than physically destroy, becomes, in the eyes of Black Bloc anarchists, the enemy. Black Bloc anarchists spend most of their fury not on the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or globalism, but on those, such as the Zapatistas, who respond to the problem. It is a grotesque inversion of value systems.

Because Black Bloc anarchists do not believe in organization, indeed oppose all organized movements, they ensure their own powerlessness. They can only be obstructionist. And they are primarily obstructionist to those who resist. John Zerzan, one of the principal ideologues of the Black Bloc movement in the United States, defended “Industrial Society and Its Future,” the rambling manifesto by Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, although he did not endorse Kaczynski’s bombings. Zerzan is a fierce critic of a long list of supposed sellouts starting with Noam Chomsky. Black Bloc anarchists are an example of what Theodore Roszak in “The Making of a Counter Culture” called the “progressive adolescentization” of the American left.

In Zerzan’s now defunct magazine Green Anarchy (which survives as a website) he published an article by someone named “Venomous Butterfly” that excoriated the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN). The essay declared that “not only are those [the Zapatistas’] aims not anarchist; they are not even revolutionary.” It also denounced the indigenous movement for “nationalist language,” for asserting the right of people to “alter or modify their form of government” and for having the goals of “work, land, housing, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.” The movement, the article stated, was not worthy of support because it called for “nothing concrete that could not be provided by capitalism.”

“Of course,” the article went on, “the social struggles of exploited and oppressed people cannot be expected to conform to some abstract anarchist ideal. These struggles arise in particular situations, sparked by specific events. The question of revolutionary solidarity in these struggles is, therefore, the question of how to intervene in a way that is fitting with one’s aims, in a way that moves one’s revolutionary anarchist project forward.”


Square, Site wide
Solidarity becomes the hijacking or destruction of competing movements, which is exactly what the Black Bloc contingents are attempting to do with the Occupy movement.

“The Black Bloc can say they are attacking cops, but what they are really doing is destroying the Occupy movement,” the writer and environmental activist Derrick Jensen told me when I reached him by phone in California. “If their real target actually was the cops and not the Occupy movement, the Black Bloc would make their actions completely separate from Occupy, instead of effectively using these others as a human shield. Their attacks on cops are simply a means to an end, which is to destroy a movement that doesn’t fit their ideological standard.”

“I don’t have a problem with escalating tactics to some sort of militant resistance if it is appropriate morally, strategically and tactically,” Jensen continued. “This is true if one is going to pick up a sign, a rock or a gun. But you need to have thought it through. The Black Bloc spends more time attempting to destroy movements than they do attacking those in power. They hate the left more than they hate capitalists.”

“Their thinking is not only nonstrategic, but actively opposed to strategy,” said Jensen, author of several books, including “The Culture of Make Believe.” “They are unwilling to think critically about whether one is acting appropriately in the moment. I have no problem with someone violating boundaries [when] that violation is the smart, appropriate thing to do. I have a huge problem with people violating boundaries for the sake of violating boundaries. It is a lot easier to pick up a rock and throw it through the nearest window than it is to organize, or at least figure out which window you should throw a rock through if you are going to throw a rock. A lot of it is laziness.” 

Groups of Black Bloc protesters, for example, smashed the windows of a locally owned coffee shop in November in Oakland and looted it. It was not, as Jensen points out, a strategic, moral or tactical act. It was done for its own sake. Random acts of violence, looting and vandalism are justified, in the jargon of the movement, as components of “feral” or “spontaneous insurrection.” These acts, the movement argues, can never be organized. Organization, in the thinking of the movement, implies hierarchy, which must always be opposed. There can be no restraints on “feral” or “spontaneous” acts of insurrection. Whoever gets hurt gets hurt. Whatever gets destroyed gets destroyed.

There is a word for this—“criminal.”

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By Anarcancerist, February 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm Link to this comment

@Donna - are you kidding? This is a total smear piece. If someone lost sight of his supposed central point, maybe that’s because it wasn’t at all central to this article… if even partially articulated.

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By TheEnd, February 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm Link to this comment

I read every comment here as of this posting and all I see is a collection of the following ideas:

- Hedges is way off and I hate him now

- Hedges is right on to address this “issue”, peace

- OWS is dead (really?)

- Anarchist solutions aren’t “real” solutions

- Anarchy is an age old, tried and true tradition

This article and comment thread illustrate why the the elites always win; it’s easier to find consensus amongst 1% of human citizens than 99%.

Instead of arguing over tactics why don’t we focus on the accomplishments of the movement?  Everyday I read updates on the web about progress made, be it re-claiming foreclosed property, the SOPA/PIPA results, mic checking dirty auctions and other events to a close, outing particularly abusive police, and re-call proceedings in WI of gov. Walker.  Just today I read the city of Berkeley, CA withdrew $300 million in public funds from Wells Fargo!

I would urge folks here and elsewhere to remember one thing: the corporate state attacks all protestors, peaceful or otherwise, for having the nerve to stand contrary in the first place.  People will inevitably and understandably resist this differently, so when you’re out there protesting, watch your back AND your front. - TheEnd

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By heterochromatic, February 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm Link to this comment

——“what will it look like to shut down these violent
folks?  Badges, a ban on black clothing, a ban on face covering, shaming,
fighting?  What will it take?”—-

repeated and unequivocal statements that OWS wants no part of these assholes
and refuses to accept them as part of the OWS group for a start.

then photos of their faces posted

and after that, serious measures.

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By Donna Fritz, February 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment

“Chris Hedges, your hypocrisy is despicable. You
champion anarchists and the poor rioting, destroying
windows and setting banks on fire in Greece,...” -
anarchist 1871

No he didn’t. Where on earth did you get that?

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By Donna Fritz, February 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

Several ho have commented here are losing sight of
Chris’ central point, which is that the violent tactics
displayed by a few in the Occupy Movement are counter-
productive to the Movement’s main goal, which is to
wrest control of our government back from the
corporations and wealthy elites who have undermined,
infiltrated, and usurped out government of, by, and for
the people. If he’s incorrect on the fine points of
Black Bloc, you can have that debate, but I think it
detracts from Chris’ central message.

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By Becky, February 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Chris,

As an occupier who cares deeply about our movement’s dialogue over violence as a tactic and whether it serves the goals of Occupy, I am writing to express my concern about this article.

I believe you are conflating tactics and people, that you have offered a single divisive analysis of Black Bloc tactics, and that you are failing to recognize possibilities for creative and productive inclusion of people despite the current conflict over choices of tactics.

The comment made above by Libertine says most everything I would say:

My addition—I’m grateful to the Occupy movement itself for embracing the conflict between Black Bloc tactics and Occupy goals to move in a productive direction together.  Since last week’s events in Oakland and NYC, organizers have been working to create dialogues among the movement—locally and nationally to discuss the perceived conflict of tactics and goals. 

This truly is in the spirit of Occupy—seeking to understand diversity in order to move together.  Please honor Occupy and write about this instead of amplifying weak popular analysis that simplifies the complex into false dichotomies.

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By AnarchoBibliophile, February 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a load of shit. Super bummed I just purchased Hedges’ new book, but glad
this liberal rant wasn’t in it.

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By Anarcancerist, February 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment

Bill Maher thought Occupy was dumb to begin with, lol. His critique was that camping in a park with no demands lead to the frustration and abandonment of Occupy leaving behind the more hardcore anarchists/whatever.

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By beatpanda, February 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris, you are the cancer. This pile of shit column is indicative of a bunch of
nonsense I’ve been reading from the “organized left”, deciding that it owns the
occupy movement and dictating its purpose and tactics.

The energy in the occupy movement comes from people who are fed up with the
“organized left”, people who tried those tactics and found them wanting. Occupy
Oakland still exists precisely because it wasn’t co-opted by the “organized left”
early on.

Personally, I felt a lot safer with the barricades up front than I would have if some
hand-holding kumbaya-singing asshole like you had been in the same position.

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By Darrell, February 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Not a very careful reader are ya? Try reading the article again and make note of various qualifiers for statements you are emotionally reacting to.

Your response to this article illustrates the thoughtlessness of the anarchist’s approach to protest that he is criticizing.

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By ohiolibgal, February 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

Tactics like used by this bloc are completely counterproductive. The right doubles down on it’s left hate talk and we lose popular left leaning voices we need on our side for this movement…like Bill Maher.

It’s all about numbers, hordes in the street and marching, peaceful civil disobedience, Dr. King had it right.

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By David Velasquez, February 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m going along with those that suggest that Chris Hedges actually go and talk with Black Bloc people (especially in Oakland) before he pens such divisive tracts. The problems between the OWS movement, the Black Bloc and the police are unique to Oakland. There are other longer running issues than just the nascent OWS movement.
  That said though I will add that in most cases I definitely don’t believe in people bringing violence to OWS marches just because their personal philosophy incorporates violence as a solution. To go to someone else’s event then you’re basically saying that you endorse their philosophy and should adhere to their form of tactics. In that sense you have no right to bring your own mini faction with its own rules. To do so is to be childish and selfish. I’m for anarchy but with anarchy but its takes more effort to create than to destroy.

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By anarchist_1871, February 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges, your hypocrisy is despicable. You champion anarchists and the poor rioting, destroying windows and setting banks on fire in Greece, but when it happens here we are “hypermasculine” and “a cancer”. You said “Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.” ( But when anarchists in Oakland do THE SAME THING you throw them under the bus. You slander the black bloc and argue that they shouldn’t be wearing masks and marching as a group and then you support the EZLN which is literally an army that wears masks and has killed people. You criticize the black bloc for being critical of people who are against the same things…pot…kettle….etc. Screw you.

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By Cherie MacDonald, February 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m surprised to see some people claiming that the Black Bloc “defends” other activists from the police. I am over 60 and disabled. My experience of the Black Bloc is that they run into the crowd to hide behind old ladies like me, who then end up forming an unwilling buffer between the cops and the Bloc. When I posted something like this on a discussion after the G20 demo in Toronto, I was called a “sheeple”.

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Auntie Khan's avatar

By Auntie Khan, February 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment

Old Wise Liberals,
I understand your great insight, but you
strike a chord with people because your
logic seems to be “telling” people what to
think/do based off your personal/shared
rationalization. There are some people
around this movement, “radicals” or
whatever you would like to call them which
will defend their views, especially if
someone claims to know the “truth”, the
“way it has to be”, etc. I am going to use
the term “Liberals” as the large portion
of people that “we are trying to win
over”, as well as the people talking about
it. Liberals have to realize that the more
you push a “radical” the more hard core
she becomes, realizing that you are
treating her as the enemy. The radical
left understands liberal tactics, and
where they are coming from, (do not forget
we grew up with your households, your
schools, your democrat ideals, etc.) We
don’t really care for your ideologies but
we are willing to work alongside you in
order to reach a common goal. There is
also a strong detest for individuals that
defend the state dogmatically…which
stereotypes “anarchists” as gutterpunks
drinking moonshine and throwing rocks. One
belligerent person in a state of “I don’t
give a fuck” fueled by angst, does not
represent the entire group. If so, I would
have to say most Libs are sexual deviants
unable to see their institutionalized
corruption, (see your elected leaders for

Approaches and goals are going to differ.
What is good for a 55 year old Chris
Hedges is not going to be the same good
for the 15 year old who got beat up by a
cop last week, or a 38 year old fast-food
worker who moonlights as a marcher in
order to relieve the stress of sweating
all day for $50 (after taxes). Waving your
hands in the air, frantically typing about
the “Cancer that is Anarchy”, as if you
are some kind of monk, matured and
enlightened…aged like a fine wine…Well…
some of us prefer whiskey. The challenge
is not to convert people to your personal
“rationalization” or “vision” of what
anything is, but rather to figure out how
you can open up to them, understand where
they are coming from, realize the
diversity, and unveil similarities in
order to form a cohesive group with shared
values. Overreacting because 60 people
show up dressed in black, or because you
do not understand certain tactics because
they do not fit well with your plan, only
makes the division more prominent.
Eventually, the “radicals” may give up on
this movement and continue to do what they
have been doing long before “Occupy” -
then the Libs will be fighting two fronts.
I’d try to embrace them rather than run
them off with stereotypes, scare tactics
and verbal abuse. Your elections are still
a long ways away.

Liberals do not understand Anarchists and
Anarchists cannot stand Liberals. 

Hugs and Kisses- Auntie Khan

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By NolaAnarcha, February 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment


You think nothing got smashed in the paris commune? you think bakunin was against violence? are you an idiot?

the very same people who denounce the Black Bloc when it is near to them in time and space celebrate things like The Boston Tea Party, which was property destruction and matching outfits to hinder identification (just like the black bloc is), or even celebrate much more VIOLENT events like the Paris Commune, which began with the ***murder*** of 2 generals.

I mean, for christ’s sake, bakunin coined the phrase “the passion for destruction is also a creative urge” and actively participated in Insurrections (surely you don’t delude yourself into thinking those were non-violent).

The American style of non-violence, in which one attempts to justify their own inaction and middle class lives of cowardice by denouncing those trying to destroy this system of oppression has got to be one of least theoretically consistent ideas to have even come about. Their is a reason that in history class in government run schools they teach you about the non-violence of MLK but don’t mention that the power structure was scared shitless of the riots and rebellions breaking out in black ghettos all across the US and THAT is why they negotiated with MLK and how he got a seat at the table of power.

And if you are curious, the riots outside the WTO in seattle in 1999 are how NGOs got their seat at the table inside the WTO as well, once the WTO got scared it would be completely abolished.

At least those who harp on about non-violence should be willing to lead by example, but they don’t even do that, showing that they are not even serious about their own beliefs:

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By Anarcancerist, February 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

This debate is so old that there should be a rather high standard when it comes to comprehending black bloc tactics and honoring their contested place in social struggles: whether from revolutionaries or reformists. Black Bloc isn’t an ideological outgrowth of anarchism, even if it is the preferred tactic of some anarchists. The security and surveillance state was already hot on #OX before any black bloc actions took place. If the state is on the defensive because #OX is taking a non-violent approach to challenging Property, fearing the spread of such a challenge - it is also operating from the same logic when it seeks to suppress the spread of property destruction. The suppression of the student occupations only a couple of years before OWS had nothing to do with black bloc tactics. It is simply the state fulfilling its role of suppressing any legitimate threat to those it grants a claim to property: unused buildings, homes, parks, etc.

Further, claiming Zerzan as some sort of ideological leader for those who participate in BB actions is absurd. Especially using Zerzan to claim that anarchists who participate in BB actions are generally at odds with the EZLN/Zapatistas. The exact opposite critique was the wind in the air before: that those who participate in BB actions fetishize the EZLN/Zapatistas ...Considering, *cough* “A black bloc is an ad hoc tactical formation in which affinity groups and individuals cluster together, themselves against identification and to maintain a symbolism of anonymity as promoted by the EZLN (Marcos 1998). The tactic originates with the anti-fascist scene and first appeared in the United States during the protests against the Gulf War in 1991.” - Uri Gordon, Anarchy Alive: Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory, London, Pluto Press, 2008

Aside from such trash, claiming that anarchists are using BB tactics to destroy OWS is a plain lie. The arguments in anarchist circles concerning Occupy haven’t been a debate about if anarchists should or shouldn’t try to destroy it… but whether or not it would be a waste of effort for anarchists to participate in Occupy because of the many prejudices anarchists had experienced from the outset and concerns about an inevitable capture by MoveOn, Democrats, Progressives, and other groups with a history of suppressing anarchist voices, using anarchists as a scape-goat for their own failures to keep the public interested in activism. Not to mention that the first I heard of a suggestion to separate more militant/BB actions from the general Occupy actions/crowd came from anarchists as a remedy to the endless attempts to purge anarchists from Occupy from a fear of BB tactics (before they were used).

Finally, while you pretend at providing a strategic and tactical critique of “Black Block Anarchists”, you do nothing but feed into the already-present attempts to divide Occupy by marginalizing anarchists… In good company with Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, the Democratic Party, and numerous other groups with real interest in destroying the Occupy Movement. If anything is true about anarchist participation, it is a wish to see Occupy surpass struggles of the past and become a true force to be dealt with… not for another movement with potential to melt away from burn out, lack of achievements, and in-fighting.

For anyone who has been around for at least 10 years, it should be expected that we know each others positions and goals. You contacted DJ, but did you care to contact DG or any other anarchist that has been actively participating in the Occupy Movement? Here’s a suggestion… check out internal critiques before stereotyping and putting out sensational calls to ostracize those struggling with you. Here’s just one:

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By Lumpenproletarier, February 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

Wait a minute; did I read correctly? Hedges called on the State to protect his ample posterior after receiving death threats? Hasn’t he tried to convince us all in one of his recent rants that the State is broken beyond repair, and that we should abandon all hope but for civil disobedience? In another that he won’t pay his income taxes if the United States goes to war with Iran?

What a charlatan.

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Robespierre115's avatar

By Robespierre115, February 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment

There also appears to be a general abuse of the word “anarchism.” Some kiddies seem to think it just means no masters and no order, but read serious anarchist thinkers like Bakunin and Kropotkin, they envisioned a kind of council communist society or the replacement of the state with something closer to the 1871 Paris Commune, not the kind of idiotic disorder promoted by Black Bloc. As for violence, they also emphasized it could only be used as a tactic of defense, not senseless smashing as Black Bloc likes it.

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By ecodefense, February 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“There is not a petition campaign that you can construct that is going to cause the power and the status quo to dissipate. There is not a legal action that you can take; you can’t go into the court of the conqueror and have the conqueror announce the conquest to be illegitimate and to be repealed; you cannot vote in an alternative, you cannot hold a prayer vigil, you cannot burn the right scented candle at the prayer vigil, you cannot have the right folk song, you cannot have the right fashion statement, you cannot adopt a different diet, build a better bike path. You have to say it squarely: the fact that this power, this force, this entity, this monstrosity called the State maintains itself by physical force, and can be countered only in terms that it itself dictates and therefore understands. That’s a deep breath time; that’s a real deep breath time.
It will not be a painless process, but, hey, newsflash: it’s not a process that is painless now. If you feel a relative absence of pain, that is testimony only to your position of privilege within the Statist structure. Those who are on the receiving end, whether they are in Iraq, they are in Palestine, they are in Haiti, they are in American Indian reserves inside the United States, whether they are in the migrant stream or the inner city, those who are ‘othered’ and of color, in particular but poor people more generally, know the difference between the painlessness of acquiescence on the one hand and the painfulness of maintaining the existing order on the other. Ultimately, there is no alternative that has found itself in reform; there is only an alternative that founds itself - not in that fanciful word of revolution - but in the devolution, that is to say the dismantlement of Empire from the inside out.”- Ward Churchill

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By Louis Proyect, February 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

It is about time that someone of Chris Hedges’s stature called out these agent provocateurs. There has been ample evidence that the cops egg on the black bloc and then go beat up the rest of the movement. They are an enemy of the left and should be locked up in their parents’ basement back in suburbia where they can keep busy playing video games.

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By NolaAnarcha, February 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

Letter from Cairo:
Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission; 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed, and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on the 28th of January they retreated, and we had won our cities.

It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose.

If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead.

Radical Love looks like standing up against injustice and stopping it, even if in doing so it alienates those who would make equivocations and excuses for the present inverted totalitarianist apartheid police state. Even if it means risking years in jail. Even if it means Chris Hedges forgets how to love and becomes just another vulgar soulless attacker of those who stand up for themselves.

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By geoduck, February 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

iirc the black bloc ‘movement’ began in cold war Berlin where it was begun by members of the 10th Special Forces Group’s Berlin detachment as a pseudo gang in the early 1970s to discredit the ‘new left’ which grew out of public revulsion over the war in Viet Nam and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

But try telling kids that these days and they won’t believe you.

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By Nat, February 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry Chris, but you’re way off with this one. You lost me right about the point where you
so wrongly state that anarchists are opposed to Zapatistas and unions. Where do get
this stuff from? Are you just making it up as you go along?

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By Lumpenproletarier, February 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

The Closeted Communists who have hoped that Occupy
Wall Street would turn into a Marxist Revolution must
surely be confounded now that their High Priest has
denounced the 1% of the 99.

If the peaceful protesters want to preserve non-
violence, then they will need to police their own
protests. If they don’t, then the State will be glad
to do the job for them.

When Gandhi’s protesters for Home Rule got out of
hand, he would go on a hunger strike. Maybe that’s
what Hedges should do?

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entropy2's avatar

By entropy2, February 6, 2012 at 11:53 am Link to this comment

Actions CANNOT be separated from principles. Not in the state, not in a corporate boardroom, not under a black hood, not in my mirror.

Aggression is aggression, whether it’s performed in the service of your beliefs, your greed, your hunger for power or your hatred. Aggression for a “cause” is nothing but consequentialist crap—putting Black Bloc on the same moral plane as the 1% they so piously condemn.

There’s enough sh*t already going to pieces without any help from us. Try building!

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By Tim, February 6, 2012 at 11:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If the state fears non-violence so much, then why is it the only tactic taught in schools? Why do they put so much effort in saying, over and over again, that non-violence is the only acceptable way to disagree with your government? Why do they drill that lesson home for us by giving MLK his own holiday and ignoring Malcom X and the many others who did pursue another course?

This reeks of self-selected bias. Look at your own comment section; these folks don’t actually dispute violence much as a tactic, they attack the people who don’t think non-violence will work. They call them childish. They say that they’re living out immature fantasies. They never once stop to ask themselves whether they support non-violent tactics for their own personal reasons. They never stop to ask themselves if they are exchanging efficacy to make themselves feel like they’re better people. They never question their commitment at all. I’m not saying that black bloc types do - I don’t think people are very self-aware as a group at all. What I am saying is that these folks have their own immature, childish fantasies, and they haven’t once stopped to consider that.

I buy that they feared Occupy, but I doubt that their tactics had anything to do with it. They feared the message, because that message resonated. They would have cracked down no matter what the tactic.

My personal opinion is simple: whatever works. If non-violence accomplishes occupy’s goals, then good. If they don’t after a few years, then it’ll time to move on. The goal is what matters. Ends may not justify means, but they certainly have to be weighed.

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By Ricardo Flores Magon, February 6, 2012 at 11:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Aside from the about 2-3 factual errors per sentence….

Black Bloc is a tactic, used when appropriate, not when not. It is defensive in
nature and shouldn’t be confused with nihilist rioting, which is entirely
different. We need to have a discussion to be smarter about this, now a lot of
new people who joined protests who know little about black bloc, and are still
susceptible to smears.

It is silly to condemn those bringing shields to protect the whole march from
police attack as “violent”. It is even sillier to claim some sort of self-righteous
legitimacy when all you’re doing is asking people to subject themselves
unprotected to beanbag rounds and other non-lethals fired at head level, tear
gas, flash bangs, etc. We got people struggling with brain damage and speech
because of OPD firing at NV protesters who just STOOD there

I have never masked up, never thrown a rock at police, or tagged a building
with spay-paint, but as an immigrant who cannot afford arrest, I am thankful
for having been saved from arrest a number of times by black bloc.

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By KA, February 6, 2012 at 11:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What absolute unmitigated rubbish. Black Blocks are “cancer”? They’re “lazy”?
They have “no strategy”? They’re “hypermasculine”? Way to combine all the traits
of State Racism (aka biopolitical racism) with the worst mainstream media
stereotyping conceivable. This is divide and conquer at is most disgusting. I’m
unsurprised to see all those in my newsfeed—esp. the ISO and social
democrats—happily jumping on the bandwagon to denounce these people.
And the irony is: the claim is that the black block takes as its enemy the
reactionary forms of the left, and therefore helps the ‘true’ enemy. Yet what
does this piece do if not excoriate and demonize the “degenerate” element of
its hallowed new ‘body politic’? What would someone like this say about Bash
Back!, about the London riots, about the role that the Book Block played in the
UK student uprisings, about the protective function that the Bloc played in its
entire early existence (e.g. in WTO summit in Mexico in 2003). All this does is
contribute to the statist myth that the only way to build a mass movement is
legally, and all forms of self-defense is violence. It demonizes the notion of a
diversity of tactics, despite plenty of examples of it working just fine. Piss off
Hedges. We know who’s working for the State and who isn’t. And it isn’t the
black block.

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By urbaned, February 6, 2012 at 11:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have seen the Black Bloc, and they are hierarchical,
very hierarchical.

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By Trojan Horus, February 6, 2012 at 11:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here we are again… splits on the left, divide and rule. I don’t doubt for a minute that agent provocateurs are at work in the Occupy movement, and where better than among those who are anonymous and providing a gift to the media to label the whole movement as a bunch of shoplifters and rioters with no agenda. I’m reminded of the debates that went on between the Black Panthers and those who supported Martin Luther King’s more moderate agenda for change and some of us remember how that ended for both parties. The reality is that if you want to become a fat problematic file for the security services, then demanding revolution, and being an activist is a great way to create one. The Security Services, like the police, are charged with certain duties to defend and protect “society” and the State. From their perspective they are protecting the 99%. Gandhi who probably more than any other spokesperson for Indian independence had a number of wise words to impart but in particular he said, when the British leave they will want to leave and they will leave as our brothers. He also said “The best way of losing a cause is to abuse your opponent and to trade upon his weakness.” There are a variety of ways to skin a cat - but divided we fall

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By groobiecat, February 6, 2012 at 11:28 am Link to this comment

“The non-violence of my conception is a more active and more real fighting
against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness. I
contemplate a mental and, therefore, a moral opposition to immoralities. I seek
entirely to blunt the edge of the tyrant’s sword, not by putting up against it a
sharper-edged weapon, but by disappointing his expectation that I would be
offering physical resistance. The resistance of the should that I should offer
instead would elude him. It would at first dazzle him, and at last compel
recognition from him, which recognition would not humiliate him but would uplift
him. It may be urged that this again is an ideal state. And so it is. The
propositions from which I have drawn my arguments are as true as Euclid’s
definitions, which are none the less true because in practice we are unable to
even draw Euclid’s line on a blackboard. But even a geometrician finds it
impossible to get on without bearing in mind Euclid’s definitions. Nor may
we…dispense with the fundamental propositions on which the doctrine of
Satyagraha is based.”

“I admit that the strong will rob the weak and that it is sin to be weak. But this is
said of the soul in man, not of the body. If it be said of the body, we could never
be free from the sin of weakness. But the strength of soul can defy a whole world
in arms against it. This strength is open to the weakest in body.”

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than
the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. Destruction
is not the law of the humans. Man lives freely by his readiness to die, if need be,
at the hands of his brother, never by killing him. Every murder or other injury, no
matter for what cause, committed or inflicted on another is a crime against

“Nonviolence is like radium in its action. An infinitesimal quantity of it embedded
in a malignant growth acts continuously, silently and ceaselessly till it has
transformed the whole mass of the diseased tissue into a healthy one. Similarly,
even a little of true nonviolence acts in a silent, subtle, unseen way and leavens
the whole society.”

M. K. Gandhi

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By DonMidwest, February 6, 2012 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

Essential reading for OWS. I am making a copy and
taking it down to the Occupy Columbus OH. I also sent
it to my friend who lives in Oakland who lives with
the problem of the Black Bloc anarchists.

Chris must be being carefully watched these days.
Just like the Black Bloc which is infiltrated with
police and other security people, I bet that many
paid people are writing comments attaching Chris for
what he said about Black Bloc.

The power structure is trying to discredit OWS. Black
Bloc is the way to do it. Thus, they have to attack
Chris Hedges for articles like this.

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By Eltiki, February 6, 2012 at 11:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Based on the black block people that I have known, I have to concur with Hedges. Almost all to a T loved to fight cops. It seemed to be their MO, and they would disrupt anything and everything to provoke a fight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from an organized event to see it destroyed by black blockers confronting cops. It’s like they need each other. Last fall in Italy there was a massive march that was an incredibly powerful expression of unity until…. the black block went into battle (a few hundred or so), at which point the other 1000,000 of us had to go home covered in gas. Regardless of their motives, one has to wonder how it is that the strategic interests of a small group of militants happens to give the police exactly what they want. Coincidence? Or just bad politics? Regardless, I’ve had it with them.

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By groobiecat, February 6, 2012 at 11:16 am Link to this comment


“And we wonder why people are not inspired by this?”

Um, you think people are inspired by violence? Did you not understand the
original OWS credo about non-violence? Don’t tell me, let me guess—another
angry male?!


“Hedges displays his complete ignorance of the so-called “black bloc anarchists”,
but also the limits of his own imagination, as he would admonish us to get some
money out of elections, to cut some CEO pay a bit, to make war a bit less, to get
some slightly different politicians, a little less carbon in the air, etc.”

That’s not what he said or has ever suggested. But what’s ironic (there’s that
concept again!) is that you ignore all of his arguments and support leading up to
this. And turn him into some sort of turncoat—without, of course, actually
addressing his points.

You write like an extremist right winger, to be honest. Ignore specifics, and spin
your own agenda’s items. Funny how little actual critical thinking there is in you
and your compatriots rantings.

“When we look at it this way, we can see the true reason Hedges hates the black
bloc: it is aware of itself, acts consciously in its own name, and offers a starkly
different vision of politics, action and, naturally, the future—one that rejects the
so obviously bankrupt politics that initially motivated everyone to get in the
streets in the first place.  Hedges says to us: this far an no further.  And he
wonders why no one comes out to listen.”

LOL. This is truly hilarious. The tried and true ad hominem attack made famous
by George Bush when he said of Muslims “They hate us for our freedom.” Hedges
may be a lot of things, but someone who hates people who are self-aware and
act consciously isn’t one of them. As for wondering why “no one comes out to
listen, well, that’s known in psychology as *projection.* Because the thing of it is?
A LOT of people listen to Hedges. It’s you who people are/will ignore. Wow.

Again, are you sure you’re not a republican? You use the same “logic” structure
that’s for sure…

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By Darrell, February 6, 2012 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The kiddies in hoodies have pretty much destroyed Occupy Seattle as a movement.

You don’t believe Hedges—check out these kiddies in hoodies websites:

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By NolaAnarcha, February 6, 2012 at 11:01 am Link to this comment

when McKinley was shot, many people, including many anarchists denounced it. No doubt, if you are willing to cause breaking windows violence and denounce the Black Bloc, you would’ve been among them denouncing the assassination.

Guess who didn’t denounce it? Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and the rest of the anarchists you pretend to be carrying on in the tradition of. They kept their critiques focused on power not on the powerless.

That shift in focus from the powerful to the powerless is when you stop practicing Radical Love and lose all credibility.

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By Phoenix Insurgent, February 6, 2012 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yeah, because it’s the bad anarchists’ fault that occupy is stagnating all over the country, right?  The only occupy with any vitality is Oakland these days.  The rest have shrunk into a rump advocating the kind of liberal reformism that now makes them indistinguishable from the Democrats for the most part.  And we wonder why people are not inspired by this?  This lack of contrast with the centrist party sure makes the occupy movement’s very savvy anti-political rejection of electoralism look pretty ridiculous.  Why bother, then, if you are not going to pose a distinct alternative to the existing order?

Hedges displays his complete ignorance of the so-called “black bloc anarchists”, but also the limits of his own imagination, as he would admonish us to get some money out of elections, to cut some CEO pay a bit, to make war a bit less, to get some slightly different politicians, a little less carbon in the air, etc. 

When we look at it this way, we can see the true reason Hedges hates the black bloc: it is aware of itself, acts consciously in its own name, and offers a starkly different vision of politics, action and, naturally, the future—one that rejects the so obviously bankrupt politics that initially motivated everyone to get in the streets in the first place.  Hedges says to us: this far an no further.  And he wonders why no one comes out to listen.

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By groobiecat, February 6, 2012 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

@NolaAnarcha: LOL. Well, aside from living up to the description that CH laid out
(well done, btw, you met everyone criteria that Hedges outlined, including the
purity and “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” explanations). Funny, I
thought only right wingers had no sense of irony. Apparently, you’re so far left
that you’ve completed half-circle and have become the very people you loathe.

But more to the point: ” What if that were to happen closer to home Chris? What if
someone shot an elite rich person?”

And who, exactly, would decide this? You? What’s considered rich? People who
worked their whole lives in building a nest egg and living somewhat comfortably?

I wasn’t going to pay attention to the Black Bloc before, but now it’s clearer than
ever: *You* represent the main threat to the OWS movement.

Oh, and let me guess: you’re a male, right? Angry. Discombobulated. Disturbed.
Male. Good job on fulfilling the stereotype developed by Chris. What a big
amygdala you have!

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By David J. Cyr, February 6, 2012 at 10:54 am Link to this comment

QUOTE, Chris Hedges:

“The Black Bloc movement bears the rigidity and dogmatism of all absolutism sects. 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.”

Hedges’ description of immature criminal minded Black Bloc members perfectly describes how the “progressive” liberals “think.”

However, the Black Bloc won’t likely be Democrat voting in 2012 with the tens of millions of corporate party “progressive” liberal criminals who are (D) dedicated to continuing the sociopathic policy continuum of global corporatism.

When will the Occupy Movement publicly occupy the 2012 elections, in sensible support of the lonely 1% who have long been standing in opposition to the 99% of voters that have routinely provided (R) & (D) solidarity popular vote mandates for all the sociopathy of corporatism?

Jill Stein for President:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

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By afs, February 6, 2012 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

entropy2 - I’m clearly not the first person who has told you any attempts to place a Anarchy-ish nation state any place on this planet would be Somalia in two weeks. I won’t be the last. That land would be mob rule in two weeks. That’s not a meme. That the real world we all live in.

If we were to turn the current surveillance used on us and turn it upside down, turn them around and put anyone that want to hold power on camera 24/7 on the internet, crowd-source the job of watching those who hold power, that might be a start.

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By Anthony, February 6, 2012 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excellent piece, though I don’t know how much I agree
with the Jensen quote regarding “lifestylism”
supplanting organization. The two can and should go
hand-in-hand; and have in the past (the Montgomery
Bus Boycott comes to mind).

While the rejection of all goods and services
produced by and/or beneficial to corporations is
wholly unreasonable—maybe impossible (this is one of
the more foolish points that #ows detractors
constantly return to, crying “hypocrisy” on
demonstrators for carrying iPads)—there is a certain
point at which our level of consumption makes us at
least somewhat complicit in driving the corporate
machine and its environmentally, socially, and
economically destructive practices. Oil and
agriculture (especially the farming of animals for
consumption) are two of the more visibly destructive
industries, and perhaps the two areas in which
consumer behavior is most directly linked to
corporate strength (hence the vehemence of vegans and
anti-automobile types; though anecdotally I’ve often
seen these as the most likely types to also organize,
demonstrate, etc.) 

Corporations are now, and have for centuries, been
aware of this link. From the rise of industrial
production, the central aim of large-scale
manufacturing shifted rapidly from balancing
cost/quality/scale to meet consumer need and/or want,
to modifying consumer behavior—both at home and
abroad—to foster a perceived dependence on a high-
consuming lifestyle. While this may seem like an
obvious and benign approach to selling more product,
the means by which this aim is accomplished have
contributed to some of the greatest travesties in
American culture, and the role of the American
Superpower abroad (Matthew Frye Jacobson’s Barbarian
Virtues explores this phenomenon in brilliant detail
through the lens of late 19th century corporate-
driven imperialism). But they’ve nonetheless
succeeded in that aim; and it’s evident as cultures
both in the U.S. and across the developed world
increasingly “require” an ever-expanding high-
consumption lifestyle.

But I digress—the point here is that in a society in
which the terms “citizen” and “consumer” continue to
grow increasingly synonymous, it is important to
acknowledge that responsible citizenship also means,
to some degree, responsible consuming. We can punish,
dismantle, and regulate into a pulp the corporations
that destroy the environment, stamp out local
business, cart jobs off to other parts of the world,
etc., but if we refuse to modify the consuming
practices that create the demand driving such
behavior, something else will simply rise up to meet
that “need.”

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By Ron Allen, February 6, 2012 at 10:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m in Atlanta, and we have been dealing with this phenomena as well. You will see and hear about our solution over the coming weeks. I don’t cede any grown to the violent crew. I refuse to allow them to hijack the movement. Property damage is VIOLENCE. If someone tried to win me over to a movement that destroyed my property, I would say you would have a better chance of hell freezing over. The Violent Crew is not the major of this movement. If they want to be violent, do it somewhere else. Quit trying to piggy back off this movement. Its just not going to work. Set your own activities and events and let’s see what happens, i.e. participation, fund-raising, attendance, and public support. Just don’t use Occupy events or immediately after Occupy events at the same location for your tactics!!!!!

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By Libertine, February 6, 2012 at 10:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Listen closely.

The author of this article, and most of the people
who comment on it, they are the ones who have been
infected. You have been poisoned against your
brothers and sisters by the main stream media’s
propaganda about what Black Bloc is, and what the
anarchists want.
It’s time to dispel some myths.

NUMBER ONE: Black Bloc is a tactic, not a group. Yet
the author of this article continually demonstrates
his ignorance by referring to Black Bloc as a group,
rather than an action. This has also been done by
mainstream media members on the right.

NUMBER TWO: Not everyone who utilizes Black Bloc
tactics is an anarchist.
I would describe myself as a social democrat. But I
support Black Bloc tactics.

NUMBER THREE: Black Bloc tactics are what made the
Egyptian, Tunisian, and Syrian revolutions possible.

On a personal note. I find it disgusting that people
will sit by and watch those protesting injustice be
beat and unjustly arrested. I understand why some
have been able to rationalize inaction in these
circumstance, and I admit that such passive “protest”
may have its place.
But I believe that these protests should be about
fighting injustice and that means leaving NO MAN
BEHIND. Freeing arrested protesters, occupying and
holding property without permits, remaining anonymous
to prevent individual harassment, and wearing all one
color to promote solidarity. There is more to the
tactics, but you don’t want to give everything away.

These are the tactics used by every successful
revolution in the past 30 years.
Black Bloc is not a cancer, it is another part of the

Perhaps, if the fear mongering continues about the
more active activists, then you may find the
establishment willing to be seen as negotiating with
the more passive activists. IF OWS falls for that
trick, people willing to demonstrate against
injustice using more courageous methods than holding
signs and shouting slogans, we will be the last line
of defense before out right open violent revolution.

Now, to learn more about what kind of tactics OWS is
refusing to consider, look up Gene Sharp, and read
his conceptual framework for revolution.

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By Anarcissie, February 6, 2012 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

CalmCalm, February 6 at 8:52 am:

‘Can somebody give me one instance where the Ruling Class ever gave anything to the Lower Class without the threat of violence? ...’

If you want the ruling class to give you things, then you’re going to have to keep them around.  It would seem better to discontinue their jobs and lay them off. 

But, no, as long as you’re dealing with the state and its ruling class, then there is going to be violence in the background and underfoot.  The state is war.  The question is how to deal with it: more war, or something else?  Note that the first of these two general methods has been very extensively tried out.

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By Wikileaks for Nobel, February 6, 2012 at 10:38 am Link to this comment

Dear Black Bloc:

Go away.


Which part don’t you understand?

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By Teresa Roberts, February 6, 2012 at 10:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not responding to any comments, but directly to the article:

Or else they are the new American Revolutionaries—you remember, the ones that took America away from England, France and Spain’s 1%ers? They may be the French Resistance under Nazi Germany. they may be heroes.
I don’t know. I am committed to peace and I am going to the march tonight to hand out my peace gags in hopes people can refrain from shouting obscenities at the cops.
I also hope to make a CopWatch and CRC banner to take the message in a positive informational direction for those who still believe in INDEPENDENT CITIZEN REVIEW.
The fact is that we live in a pollice state and our minority American citizens are being brutalized and killed. They shoot at us with weapons and I hope we only shoot back with cameras.
This march is happening with or without us. Will it be 25-year-olds without fully developed frontal cortexes standing alone against trained militants? I am afraid for them to be out there alone without some adult Occupiers. They’re good kids, but a lot of them are homeless and have PTSD from previous encounters in which they were clubbed and incarcerated. I know. I’ve gone to the Pollice Accountability Subcommittee hearings of the CRC and at City Council hearings.
The situation as is cannot stand.
And I hope we will not contribute to it tonight.

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By entropy2, February 6, 2012 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

@EmileZ—thanks for the link, I think they are definitely on the right track (i.e. inclusion, decentralization, focus on labor - the actual producers of wealth, etc.).

To me, the major issue of humanity is dependence. As long as an individual is dependent on another individual or organization for a basic need, exploitation is almost guaranteed (people aren’t saints!). Right now, we ARE dependent on the corporate-state for all the basic needs of our life…food, shelter, clothing, energy, security, etc. (not to mention wages to pay for all of the above). As such, when power says “jump,” we’d better ask “how high?”

What’s the alternative? Total individual independence? Well, I, for one, REALLY LIKE the benefits that society gives me. I have no desire to go live in a cave somewhere.

So, what then?

IMHO, the answer is voluntary INTERdependence. Acknowledging that we DO NEED OTHER PEOPLE to live a good life. But, at the same time, rejecting the proposition that the only way to get there is through hierarchies. There is joy in voluntarily cooperating with like-minded and -hearted INDIVIDUALS to manifest our shared values. The hard work is in building and maintaining the personal relationships of trust and responsibility that will truly form the backbone of a peaceful, just, bountiful and sustainable society.

It’s going to be a hard road. But, the upside is that, for the first time in the HISTORY OF HUMANITY, we are ALL in one big room. We have the power to identify, isolate and eject the sociopaths from our lives and to coordinate our resources and efforts for mutual benefit with each other in ways undreamed of, ever!

But, it is the work of individuals. No party, no religion, no state, no white knight can do it for us.

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By @wardad, February 6, 2012 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I like when “our non-violent brothers and sisters”
start scheming to assault and/or sick the police (who
are incredibly violent) onto people. It shows the
extent of their insanity. You are only non-violent when
it comes to dealing with your masters. Everyone else
would just as soon feel your boot?

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By Anarcissie, February 6, 2012 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

Robespierre115, February 6 at 2:32 am:

‘... On the other hand, the Black Bloc’s infiltration of OWS is also a result of the movement’s insistance on remaining vague and postmodern, the movement itself creates voids which idiots like the Black Bloc then fill.’

There’s no lack of movements, groups and organization with more highly defined purposes and structures.  Why don’t people join them, then?  I’d guess it’s because OWS has been vague, allowing those who approach it to inscribe whatever they want on its banners in their imagination.  Hedges has certainly been among these.

The argument about the use of force by activists, and of which kind and how much, has a long, long history.  It didn’t start with Occupy Oakland.  It’s kind of odd to start throwing a hissy fit about it now.

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By JDmysticDJ, February 6, 2012 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Finally Hedges “Gets it” regarding the issue of Occupy Wall Street’s Anarchy. Hedges has been walking back his initial unqualified support for Occupy Wall Street for several weeks now; apparently the reality presented by Black Bloc types has served to enlighten him. Hopefully Hedges has, or will, come to the realization that his hyperbolic demagoguery, and that of others, has fueled the thinking of Black Bloc types.

Hedges writes:

“Because Black Bloc anarchists do not believe in organization, indeed oppose all organized movements, they ensure their own powerlessness.”

Hedges’ observation should not be perceived as exclusive to Black Bloc anarchists; the above observation applies perfectly to the Occupy Wall Street Movement itself.

The hope that Hedges will moderate his hyperbolic demagoguery is diminished when Hedges cites Derrick Jensen who states:

“’I don’t have a problem with escalating tactics to some sort of militant resistance if it is appropriate morally, strategically and tactically,’ … ‘This is true if one is going to pick up a sign, a rock or a gun.’”

Obviously Black Bloc Anarchists believe their militancy is appropriate in achieving their objectives “morally, strategically, and tactically” if they didn’t they would not engage in such.

Apparently Hedges is not ruling out militancy i.e. the use of “Rocks” or even “Guns” by citing the thoughts of Derrick Jensen. Hedges walks on thin ice with this citation and he is apparently unable to see that Derrick Jensen’s thoughts on this issue of militancy have come to some degree of fruition with the actions of Black Bloc Anarchists e. g. exhortations to violence. Hedges once advocated “Sabotage” as a means of achieving objectives which can only be considered a validation of the morality, strategy, and tactics of Black Bloc Anarchists. The existence of Black Bloc Anarchist types is inevitable within an anarchical movement such as Occupy Wall Street and this inevitability provides nutritive fodder for the opponents of Occupy Wall Street’s only positivity i.e. bringing the abuses of Wall Street and corporatists to the forefront of public debate.

Contrasting the effectiveness of the Tea Party movement with the effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street movement it becomes clear that the Tea Party Movement has achieved real and tangible goals while the Occupy Movement has amounted to nothing other than being a valuable, but impotent, purveyor of propaganda (as defined by the to the following definition.)

prop•a•gan•da [ pròpp? gánd? ]
1.  publicity to promote something: information put out by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause

The Tea Party Movement is first and foremost anti-Obama, secondly anti-government, and thirdly, pro-right wing conservatism. The Tea Parties’ opposition to liberalism and the progressive agenda places it firmly in the camp of corporatists and the Republican Party. The Tea Party is now a powerful force within our government while the Occupy Movement eschews participation in traditional politics to the point of excoriating any in their midst who demonstrate any hint of political allegiance. The Occupy Movement claims absolute impartiality condemning every aspect of traditional politics thereby rendering itself politically impotent in terms of any tangible pro-active achievement in the hands on politics of governance.

Hedges’ iconoclastic condemnations of our society are not at all without merit by my appraisal but I continue to believe that Hedges’ hyperbole and demagoguery is dangerously counter productive in terms of promoting a progressive agenda. What Hedges affectively accomplishes is the promotion of a dangerous and counter productive political chaos which will only facilitate the objectives of reactionaries in the final analysis.

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By Samson, February 6, 2012 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

This is exactly what happened to the Occupy movement
in Denver when the Black Bloc came in and took over. 
A broad and promising movement was turned into first
a silly fight with the city over putting up tents in
the park, which has now de-generated into a small
handful of people who stay at the ‘occupy’ side and
are generally ignored by most of the city.  And, if
you read any of the writings from these people, its
filled with such scorn and hatred for anyone outside
their encampment that its obvious that they have no
chance of growing to be anything else.

In Denver, the Radical 0.01% has thoroughly defeated
the Occupy movement.

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By CalmCalm, February 6, 2012 at 9:52 am Link to this comment

Can somebody give me one instance where the Ruling Class ever gave anything to the Lower Class without the threat of violence?

Just one?

Propaganda always lists the names of MLK, Gandi and South Africa, but nobody reads the historical content.

Demanding “Change” is far more complicated than we often admit.

There must be a “Good Cop” and “Bad Cop” routine and I view Chris Hedges as being a “Good Cop” and The Bloc as being the “Bad Cop”. Each compliment the other.

When Martin Luther King was preaching peace, there were riots and violence happening all over the country.

Violence was used extensively throughout the course of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Gandhi famously called poverty “the worst form of violence”.

“More relevant are the facts of Indian history: non-violence worked only alongside widespread violence, including riots, across the subcontinent; and independence only came after mutinies within the Royal Indian Navy and the armed resistance of the Indian National Army (not to mention several world wars that overtaxed the British treasury and destroyed the fiscal basis for direct empire).”

“There were two main trends or tendency within the African-American Freedom Movement of the Sixties (and other Freedom Movements inspired by it).

One was the non-violent resistance exemplified by King and Rosa Parks.

The other was the militant, in-your-racist-face resistance of Robert Williams, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers (who, of course, originated in Oakland).

It’s interesting but not surprising that the former gets all kinds of validation in the schools and holidays today while the other is scarcely mentioned or honored if at all.

I believe Malcolm said it straight-out in his visit to Selma speaking to the southern racists: “If you don’t want to deal with King, you’re going to have to deal with people like me.”

And his words were already starting to be backed-up by urban rebellions.”

“In any case, King and Malcolm, despite their different ideologies and approaches, appreciated the value of each other. They were like a “good-cop”/“bad-cop” routine against the ruling elite, without which the achievements in the ways of Civil Rights during that era would not have come about.”


Additional Notes Here:

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By entropy2, February 6, 2012 at 9:47 am Link to this comment

@afs - Obviously, you have issues that affect how you choose to use your time (btw, we all do!). As such, it’s not up to me to suggest that you actually learn anything about anarchism before you spout tired old myths (the “Somalia” meme always gives it away). But, whether you choose to learn or to remain ignorant is your call.

Likewise, if you choose to believe that big daddy state is going to ride in and make everything all nice for you…well, your faith is also your prerogative. I disagree. The history of the state is a river of blood, exploitation and destruction—THAT’S A FACT.

Finally, if you want to throw out the old “utopian” argument, then I ask you—what’s more utopian than concentrating ultimate coercive power, then naively praying that (this time) it won’t fall into the hands of crooks, sociopaths and idiots? That’s worked out pretty well so far, eh?

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By Wikileaks for Nobel, February 6, 2012 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

As usual, Hedges has it exactly right.  The thing that has most struck me about the BB current is its love of violence.  This is the essence of patriarchy:  the fetish made of “hardening,” the need to have and to treat others as enemies, the our-group swagger and “F.U.” rap that passes for their “politics.”  Mr. Hedges is no stranger to movements for social change, and he knows plenty of people who’ve been around as well.

Sometimes, all that’s required is simple honesty—something you don’t often find in the super-heated locker-room of fools who think the Weathermen were anything other than losers.  But then, winning isn’t what they are about; as soon as “the people” “the 99%” or any other name for those outside their own handful of friends stray from the righteous path of breaking-and-trashing, then they are “peace police,” “pigs,” or—getting right down to it—“the enemy.”

Hedges puts his finger on the crucial point:  if the BB wants to act out their juvenile fantasy of “revolution,” go do it—away from the rest of us.  We have no interest at all either in being used by them or in having the hopeful, creative wellsprings of Occupation poisoned by their machismo.

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By David Morgan, February 6, 2012 at 9:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am as opposed to this article as I am to the disregard for consensus.

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By Armen Melikian, February 6, 2012 at 9:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If tolerance is the highest virtue, as the writer insinuates in his refutation of Black
Bloc anarchists, labeling them “absolutists,” then the writer is contradicting
himself by not tolerating them. A contradiction implies an opposite pole, which in
this case is “liberal absolutism.” The contradiction may also be evidence that
tolerance is not the highest, governing virtue. In which case, a methodological
viewpoint, that of the writer, cannot claim superiority over an ontological
argument, that of the Black Bloc anarchists. The writer elevates a methodological
argument to the status of ontology. Ontological arguments can only be countered
by ontological arguments, which the writer fails to provide. If it were provided,
then we could discuss the issue. At this point there is little to discuss. On the
contrary, what lurks in his arguments is another case of of intolerance,
judgmentalism, marginalization, and ostracism.

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By Guest, February 6, 2012 at 9:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with your critique of the Black Bloc.  But, your essay paints
anarchism with such broad brushes that it obscures more than it illuminates
about the doctrine in order to achieve its legitimate end.  There are many
forms of anarchism, and while I do not claim to have studied all of them, I
do know that many anarchists, both contemporary and historical, have been
far more analytical, strategic and tactical than Black Bloc.  What they have
shared is a revulsion of the capitalist state, and one can hardly blame them
for that.  The syndicalists that I’ve read did not believe in use of terror, or
engage in juvenile tactics that, as you accurately point out, were essentially
counter to the short and long run objectives of freedom from state
oppression.  There must be a recognition of the salience of anarchism’s
critique of the state.  And, such a recognition can be incorporated into a
countersystemic movement without any adoption of the essentially stupid
tactics of employed by some in the name of “anarchy.”

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By Michael Lewis, February 6, 2012 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

September 6, 1901
“President McKinley was shot this afternoon in the Temple of Music at the Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, by an anarchist named Czolgosz. Two bullets took effect; one in the stomach and the President’s life is despaired of. The wretched, unreasoned act has created a profound sensation throughout the country. Deep sorrow and fierce resentment are widely expressed. Pitiful indeed is it all, yet such a swift tragedy of high mark startles and sets loose the imagination in the deep recesses of the darkened world. Its fascination cannot be denied.

While the theoretical contention of the anarchist against rule and it’s chief representatives is plausible, if specious and impracticable, his method by violence can only make all the rest of mankind more firmly convinced of the value of rule and its executive incarnation. It is the saving good in the assassin’s desperately bad deed that it makes us all better respecters of law and order, much more righteously inclined. In another aspect, it may lead to the enactment of repressive measures of doubtful wisdom, that may be more harmful than effective. It is difficult, if not impossible, to frame a law in this case to hit justly what is aimed at and if it misses its object, the injury falls on the innocent and society in general. The healthy evolution of liberty is checked. Freedom of speech and action should be as unlimited as possible: it is the condition and way of human progress. As civilization advances and men become more fit for liberty, crimes’ acts and injunctions, which are but badges of dishonor and bar the gates to utopia, should by degrees be ameliorated and repealed section by section with the vanishing point in view. Yet this heinous blow and crimes of like character in particular curtail the area of human freedom and stop temporarily at best the slow creep of civilization. It is in this more than in moral turpitude that the enormity of the murder lies.” Edwin Manners (class of 1877 Princeton)

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By forstudentpower, February 6, 2012 at 8:50 am Link to this comment

Chris is way off base here. Not surprising that he didn’t interview anyone who
would defend the black bloc as a tactic and those who choose to participate in

The position he takes could just as easily show up on the editorial page of the
New York Times (or New York Post, for that matter). It simply doesn’t show any
understanding of what’s going on. For an investigative journalist, he doesn’t
seem to have done any actual investigating.

For a nice corrective from Hedges’ rant, Here’s Harsha Walia (gasp! not a white
man!) from No One Is Illegal, talking about black bloc, and countering many of
the points that Hedges makes (not surprising, because there isn’t an original
thought in this essay - it’s almost all mainstream liberal critiques-from-afar):

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By johnnysaynever, February 6, 2012 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks for writing this, Chris. My local (college-town) occupation has a controlling faction of insurrectionist anarchists. They do a lot of talking, as you can imagine. Support from the community has nose-dived as people have figured out the immense disdain the anarchists have for anyone but their own, especially the dreaded ‘reformists,’ whom they hate most of all. I would add ‘autonomous action’ and ‘separation of time and space’ to the list of nebulous cliches they like to utilize to excuse their ongoing sabotage of the Occupy movement.

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By Nemo, February 6, 2012 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

Your condemnation of the writing of Ted Kaczynski may be premature. I read what I agree is his rambling manifesto what seems like decades ago.  In hindsight he seems to have been a prescient amateur futurist.

He predicted a time when the working class would become surplus.  In the last ten years US manufacturing output has increased 30% while jobs in manufacturing have dropped over 30%. His prediction of de facto slave labor due to globalization competing with robotic manufacturing seems to be coming to pass.  This will start a slow collapse. The insidious part is the demise of the working class as the primary market of capitalism. Kaczynski asked what happens when the people who made all the products and were responsible for 70% of the economy lose BOTH of these things at once.  Once that sinks in his post industrial dystopia seems almost inevitable. Technocrats in power make the least evil decisions available to them creating a police state that makes Oceania look like somewhere I would like to emigrate.

You are often just a morose, “If we continue to put our faith in traditional systems of power, which are corporate, […] they will kill us. They will kill you and they will kill your children,” said Hedges, addressing an audience of nearly 300 at the Grande bibliothèque nationale’s auditorium on Friday night.
Loved your books. Especially Death of the Liberal Sellout Bastards. Keep up the good work.

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By afs, February 6, 2012 at 8:10 am Link to this comment

entropy2 - How do you anarchists plan to deal with the gun arsenals the bigots that just voted for Newt in South Carolina have?

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By EmileZ, February 6, 2012 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

@ entropy2

I like your comment.

Paradoxi (is that the plural) can drive a person to despair at times.

It can’t hurt for people to check out the Vermont Progressive Party as a possible model, inspiration, or something.

Their statement of principles is on the website here…

They are actually starting to get results to a certain (somewhat surprising) extent.

To me, they seem like an example of the kind of organizing you call for in your final paragraph.

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By afs, February 6, 2012 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

Any actual attempt to set up a nation state run by either anarchists or libertarians would wind up the exact same way in 2 weeks

Somalia. Mob Rule. Someone would walk into that little former utopia with bigger f-ing gun than anyone in that utopia has and name themselves King, or God Emperor, or Muad’Dib… whatever floats their boat.

“Anarchy” is a complete fantasy. All the time spent talking about that fantasy is a time lost forever. My mom died of Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve got Huntington’s Disease. That’s real. Time wasted on these stupid Anarchy fantasies is time that could have been spent on getting stem cell research, or civil rights, or getting our troops home. Something real.

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By Patriotgames, February 6, 2012 at 7:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hear, here, Robspierre!

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By rumblingspire, February 6, 2012 at 7:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let the dove fly!

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By John Penley, February 6, 2012 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges is another person who has jumped on the
Occupy bandwagon without spending a single night
occupying or facing the police in the street. I am
tired of these intellectuals getting more fame and
money writing about and attempting to direct the
movement. By the way Chris… The Zapatistas wear
masks and carry guns. I have spent a lot of time in
Chiapas and much of the material aid and physical
support for the Zapatistas came from black bloc types
and I am sure they would not be happy about Hedges
speaking for them like I am not sure why he feels he
can speak from his high profile position so much
about what the Occupy movement should or is doing.

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By james shelburn, February 6, 2012 at 7:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Anarchist duty would be to create mayhem around the citys during
protest marches where the cops are attacking protesters thus limiting the
overall effectiveness of the police force against occupiers. Drawing strength
from the ranks of the oppressive state to deal with multiple disturbances
however small or inconclusive but a major boon in total caos. Logisticly
speaking in a metaphoric sense logic prevails they are part of the 99%

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By Butterbean, February 6, 2012 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Black Bloc anarchists make me embarrassed to call
myself an anarchist. I’m glad Chris Hedges outlines
the problem that Black Blocs represent to any social
movement. These juvenile insurrectionist tactics will
only serve to give the state an excuse to brutalize
all of Occupy (and whatever movement that the BBs are
a part of) and to help discredit it in the public.

I’m no pacifist. Far from it. But there’s a time for
violence and there’s a time for non-violent
disobedience. This is the time for non-violent
disobedience. We have no reason at all to resort to
violence—even towards “property”—at this point
of our movement.

Funny how these BBs hijack and manipulate the
democratic processes of the movements they affect in
the same way that politicians and capitalists hijack
and manipulate the democratic processes of the
country’s they rule. They are as anti-democratic in
regards to direct democracy as state socialists are
to representative democracy.

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By compostbrain, February 6, 2012 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is funny to see Jensen being used as a counter to Zerzan considering they both
espouse essentially the same anti-civilization ideology.  Either Jensen doesn’t
believe what he writes or he is being quite deceiving in his comments for this
article.  One of his assumptions is that a mass movement that can solve the
environmental crisis will never arise and that hastening a collapse is the only
strategy worth pursuing.  I am surprised that Chris Hedges seems ignorant of this
clearly articulated goal of Jensen or maybe he is deceiving his audience as well.

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By Sebastian Lawhorne, February 6, 2012 at 7:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For once, me and Hedges (and Jensen!) actually agree on something.

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By entropy2, February 6, 2012 at 7:04 am Link to this comment

First of all—Black Bloc makes up a miniscule fraction of individuals who consider themselves anarchists and they command NO RESPECT NOR SUPPORT from us. While Mr. Hedges did consistently specify BB (as opposed to just using a generic “anarchist” label), he didn’t take the opportunity to contrast BB hooliganism with the history and present reality of peaceful anarchism. The vast majority of anarchists are committed to building a new society, orderly, but decentralized and non-hierarchical, based on freedom AND ON FULL PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, within the shell of the old. The shell of the old society will fade away on its own - no smashing needed.

Second, (imho) BB is not *the* cancer in Occupy but just *one* obvious, outward sign of its basic flaw.

The paradox is thus…Occupy is a form of concentrated power—and concentrated power must either be used or dispersed. If Occupy does NOT demand/negotiate with the corporate-state, its nebulous growth will attract violent sociopaths like BB and self-promoting, power-hungry sociopaths—or else it will fall into endless, clueless, circle-jerk committees that talk the movement into an ineffective torpor.

But, if Occupy falls into the demand/negotiation mode with the corporate-state, it legitimizes our dependency on the corporate-state. Thus, it will not fundamentally change the power structure—just (if they’re lucky) get bigger bandaids after the whippings.

Any new, non-authoritarian social structure, based on peace, freedom and justice, must be built from the ground up, as a network, one local personal connection at a time. It will be hard work—it take rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty. It will NOT be delivered to us, wholesale, by whining at the corporate-state elite.

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By TheAlterEggo, February 6, 2012 at 6:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m very much glad that Chris Hedges, one of the more
prominent figures in Occupy, as I see him, is
bringing up this issue. I believe it’s one of the
biggest threats to the movement right now, mainly
because people don’t even recognize it as such.

To put it simply, the troublemakers within the
movement (Black Bloc anarchists, Hedges calls them)
are undermining all the efforts made to protest
peacefully and destroying public support for Occupy.
Such people inevitably ends up stealing all the media
attention, along with all of the public attention
that goes with it, and the movement is no longer able
to truthfully call itself peaceful if a portion of it
is explicitly not so as it wrecks shit.

Yet even so, most protesters fail to acknowledge and
deal with this problem, many of them actually being
sympathizers and apologists for the troublemakers. A
common excuse brought up for the troublemakers is
that they defend the common protester against police,
but nobody’s considering whether or not the protester
needs defending, or if the troublemakers are actually
justifying the heavy-handed actions of the
authorities in the first place.  Another excuse is
that they’re not doing bodily harm to anyone (“real
violence”), but that makes little difference to the
public as they are seeing property and livelihoods
being destroyed on TV by thuggish juveniles.  It’s
also not much of a stretch of the imagination for
these troublemakers to go a step further and attack a
police officer full-fledge, or someone else who tries
to stop their vandalism.

Denounce, isolate, and oust the troublemakers. Hand
them over to police if you catch them in the act of
vandalism. You’ve got plenty of cameras to record the
evidence. As long as they’re granted refuge in Occupy
as they carry out their vandalism and aggressive
actions, the public isn’t going to see Occupy as
peaceful, and more and more people will turn away
from it in disgust.

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By balkas, February 6, 2012 at 6:43 am Link to this comment

if anarchists want to reestablish structure of society and governance [or actually of nongovernance] as
existed prior to rise of organized religion and mafia, aka, nobility; and as it existed or may have existed
among n. american indigenes, then i accept such an anarchic thought.
historians tell us that, say, hopis or haydas [of queen charlotte island, B.C.] had no laws, judges, organized
religion, titled nobility, money [and thus no taxes], jails, lawyers, politicians, prostitution, ‘schools’, media,
parliaments [as the ones we have] ownership of people, army, etc.
and it seems they were richer than europeans have been until just 20th century.
and 90% of our riches are not beneficial at all to our inner peace, feeling of security; being needed, wanted,
respected, etc.
i could have skipped all of the above and just said: we have been ruled by mafia. in mesopotamia for at
least 8k yrs, persia/greece since 3 k yrs, and europe since about 1300 to 1700 yrs.
and zunis, sioux, crees, apaches, lakotahs were not. all they had was guidance and tutoring!

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By WTF, February 6, 2012 at 6:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is an unbelievable display of ignorance on Chris Hedges’ part right here. I’m so disappointed. Prejudices and intellectual laziness on his part. It just lacks so much analysis and history of black bloc tactics and what they actually are. I also feel extremely insulted to be compared to the likes of John Zerzan, who may support black bloc tactics but doesn’t represent them in their entirety.

For a better introduction of black bloc tactics, I recommend this debate with Harsha Walia:

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By madisolation, February 6, 2012 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

Read David Graeber’s essay, “The New Anarchists.” Here is an excerpt:

“The effort to destroy existing paradigms is usually quite self-conscious. Where once it seemed that the only alternatives to marching along with signs were either Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience or outright insurrection, groups like the Direct Action Network, Reclaim the Streets, Black Blocs or Tute Bianche have all, in their own ways, been trying to map out a completely new territory in between. They’re attempting to invent what many call a ‘new language’ of civil disobedience, combining elements of street theatre, festival and what can only be called non-violent warfare—non-violent in the sense adopted by, say, Black Bloc anarchists, in that it eschews any direct physical harm to human beings.”

I particularly liked his description of Ya Basta! and the “Pink Bloc” in Prague:

“..when lines of costumed figures attack police with balloons and water pistols or, like the ‘Pink Bloc’ at Prague and elsewhere, dress as fairies and tickle them with feather dusters.”

David Graeber is a wealth of information when it comes to activism and resistance.

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By balkas, February 6, 2012 at 6:02 am Link to this comment

“dichomitization”, eh? no, it is not a new word. the darn word befuddled me. it
should be, i think “dichotomization” [pairing in twos]
about brutality of morality and it being part of the infinitely-valued reality or
did not the onepercent [+20%] had proved how brutal its morality is?
how many innocent children, women had it slain just post ww2? and in name of
what? in name of their morality, that’s all folks! god bless america, greatness of
america, the best country in the world were and still are mere veils, coverups!
the problem with hedges is that he thinks one can change the said extreme
brutality by protests, shouts, supplication, etc.
it cannot. one has to use also politics and a political party [ok, even the Democratic
party]. that means stop protesting and start knocking on doors and preaching to
the silent majority. thanks

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By Big B, February 6, 2012 at 5:56 am Link to this comment

It would be nice if a massive nationwide peaceful protest would be able to illicit the kind of radical systemic change that the USA desperately needs.

But…don’t hold your breath.

Even Ghandi’s movement led to unspeakable violence at times. Christianity is one of the largest religions in the world not because they preached peace, but because they beat any opposition into compliance. To think that the OWS movement is going to remain completely peaceful is nieve at best, especially in america, where generation after generation has been taught from kindergarten on that violence and intimidation are a means to an end. Let’s face it, at the end of nearly every revolution the victors are usually holding rifles, not olive branches.

I recently watched a documentary (on discovery or FSTV, I can’t remember). Playing off the 2012 apocolypse stuff, a moderater asked a group of scientists what could cause the collapse of western civilization. Their where the predictable answers ranging from global warming to asteriods. They began to talk about the arab spring, and what a massive protest movement in the west might look like. One fellow gave a very dire warning. While he thought an OWS type movement in europe might remain relatively peaceful, he painted a different and troubling picture of america. He worried that americans are armed to the teeth and used to using violence as a means to an end. Needless to say, he predicted that it wouldn’t end well here.

Unless we can change our nature, we are headed down the road of another american civil war. Only this time it will be between the have-nots, and the hired armys of the haves.

Oh, I still think there can be a peaceful transition from the corporatocracy that nows runs america to a republic of the people, but with the problems of global climate change coming to the forefront faster than anyone could have predicted, and diminishing availiablity of petroleum products, we have a monumental task ahead. To think that we and most other nations are going to just sit down together and sing kumbaya as food and water and fuel become more scarce and more expensive, well, good for you. I just think that americans, on the whole, are unable to change unless presented with extinction.

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By balkas, February 6, 2012 at 5:27 am Link to this comment

violent acts, such as breaking windows, burning some empty buildings, stores,
and the like would work marvels but only if all of the 99% would engage in or
approve of it. [ok, the 99% may just issue a threat of doing just that and do it
only if the 1% refuses to implement desired change or allows the 99% to do it]
if only 00001% of people do it then it is not right nor useful in any way. what is
right and useful [or may be useful] is what the 99%—or to be more, exact what
the 70-80% of people do.
we could even forget about right wrong and true-false dichomitization and
especially in view that there is no truth, right, wrong aside from thinkers/doers.
morality is as real as reality and is part of that reality we see, touch, smell….
after all, even the nature or the only reality we have, of which we are a part, is
often very mean, brutal!! thanks

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By EmileZ, February 6, 2012 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

I don’t think it is reasonable to suggest the presence of Black Bloc is the result some failing within the OWS movement. They had been around long before OWS.

They infiltrated protests at the Democratic convention in 2000. They fucked up the huge WTO protest in Seattle. They showed up at the G-20 summit protest more recently in Canada and set police cars on fire and such, and so on.

However, it is neccessary to recognize the problem they pose and find some way to, if possible, banish them from OWS, or at least minimize the harm they are inflicting.

This is an important article because it recognizes the problem and soundly discredits the Black Bloc.

They should not be tolerated.

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By balkas, February 6, 2012 at 4:53 am Link to this comment

anarchists appear right to a point. lots of union members accept warfare,
exploitation, vast inequality among people on econo-military-politico-educational
level, god bless america, greatness of america, etc.
and what’s to them a “radical intellectual”?
since i have been visiting the internet i only read two or three pieces who descend
to root [radius] cause for warfare; attitudes expressed/exhibited by god bless
america, america right or wrong, worship of ‘stars’, etc.
however, black bloc is wrong in resorting to violence. that, to me, is
counterproductive. thanks

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By Rockero, February 6, 2012 at 4:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

With all due respect to Hedges and his work, this
article mischaracterizes the black bloc and attempts
to drive an artificial wedge between the bloc and the
rest of the occupy movement.

The black bloc is a tactic, not a group. The person
standing next to you at a general assembly or
watching at home on livestream might be part of the
bloc when it is time for action. Not all anarchists
join the bloc and not everyone joining the bloc is an

And while sometimes, a black bloc can be part of a
strategy to carry out missions that the law might
frown on—such as the use of walls as a means of
communication (often necessary when the corporations
control tv, radio, and print media), the liberation
of unjustly-detained comrades, and the disruption of
commerce or war activities)—the primary purpose of
the bloc is defensive. Especially in the US, the
movement uses the bloc to defend the rest of the
crowd from police violence.

Hedges sees nothing more than the incidents of
property destruction (duly misrepresented by the
corporate media) and seeks to paint anyone who has
ever covered their face in public with the same
brush? Accusing us all an immorality springing from
a juvenile, hypermasculine, anti-organizational
philosophy we all share uniformly?

I’m surprised that Jensen plays into this nonsense.
Hedges may be a Christian moralist who feels the need
to comment on everything in print, but Jensen usually
has a more nuanced analysis than that.

There is plenty to critique about Zerzan and his
strain of green anarchy—lifestyleism being a prime
example. But frankly, the lifestylists are not the
ones on the front lines of the class war when occupy
decides to take direct action: That’s the brave women
and men of the black bloc. The argument is a red
herring at best, or at worst, demonstrates a deep
disconnect from the movement and its actors.

There is much to criticize about this article, but
suffice it to say that Hedges’ once-enticing rhetoric
has gone from challenging liberals to think more
critically to unwarranted and disingenuous criticism
of a crucial element of our movement: The element
that recognizes that it is important to fight back
against abuse and is bold enough to act on that
recognition. As a peacelover, I’m not one to
fetishize conflict with the police. But I realize
that it will take this kind of boldness and
initiative for our movement to advance and
eventually, hopefully, triumph.

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By Emma Goldman, February 6, 2012 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

why are you not posting comments that are defending the
black bloc? why are you censoring us. you motherfuckers
are just as bad as the mainstream media.

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By afs, February 6, 2012 at 4:22 am Link to this comment

There was a LOT of Black Bloc at Occupy Portland. They used their knowledge of the consensus process to take over control of the Occupy Portland General Assembly.

They changed Occupy Portland from a protest against the banks and corporations into a fight with a fairly progressive Mayor of Portland and Portland Police over a street running through the middle of the park Occupy Portland was staying in. Black Bloc used their knowledge of the consensus process and Block votes to block all attempts of those who wanted to get Occupy Portland protest back on track.

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By Stupid Git, February 6, 2012 at 4:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A great article as I would expect from Mr. Hedges and very enlightening on
many points. One point I would like to add, as the commenter before me
stated, “Black Bloc represent the kind of childish idea of “revolution” so
common in the United States” and this sense of revolution comes from a real
lack of purpose and self-worth masquerading int he form of an idealized (or
Hollywood-ized) form of acting out an epic battle they wish they were part of -
to be something bigger than they actually are.

I’ve known a few people in similar groups and they suffer from the same
symptoms of others I’ve met with “end of the world” fixations and other
romanticized tragedy fascinations. THe desperately want to have a grand
purpose and be at the apex of humanity yet as you stated, they have a lack of
ideas, patience and perseverance to actually accomplish anything real so they
settle for their own make-believe battles.

LIke the ones I knew a decade ago, these people too will cut off their dreds and
start grasping for the corporate ladder leaving those of us who know them
scratching our heads wondering how the guy who was throwing rocks through
a Starbucks window in Seattle (or now days Oakland) became the guy shooting
promo videos for breakfast cereal companies. (Yes, that’s based on one of ‘em I

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By Emma Goldman, February 6, 2012 at 3:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Hedges,

I’m writing to you as an avid reader and fan of your
lectures, articles and books; I am also writing to
you as an anarchist.

I would like to know, first and foremost, where you
received your information on strategy and
organization surrounding black bloc tactics. You site
Wikipedia, but have you ever spoken to individuals
that have taken part in black bloc actions? I would
hope that you did, seeing as you often site
journalistic integrity as something you hold dear. It
seems, however, that you have not done your research
on this topic.

In all honesty, I don’t know where to begin in
refuting the ludicrous claims that you make in this
article. Maybe I should start with your assertion
that the black bloc draws it’s theory entirely from
Zerzan (and by some insane stretch of the
imagination, Kaczynski.) Or possibly, that those who
participate in the black block are opposed to the
EZLN (I’ve only EVER heard words of admiration and
solidarity about the Zapatistas from the mouths of
those who have participated in blocs). But maybe I
should start with your most heinous allegation; that
those who participate in black blocs (and all
anarchists by implication, it would seem) are opposed
to organization, simply because they oppose
hierarchu. I would like to stop for a moment and
sincerely ask, what the fuck are you talking about?

In the future, Mr. Hedges, I would ask that you
please do a bit more in depth research on a topic
before you set out in trying to demonize an entire
tactic or group of people. You are a great author,
but this article is bullshit.

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By J, February 6, 2012 at 3:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Being someone who has seen the black bloc in action at major occupy actions outside of Oakland, and whose local occupy argued long and diligently about the presence of such tactics in other large scale actions. The research and discussion that went on around those debates proves the bulk of what you lay forth here to be totally false. It’s as though you wrote an article based on only the vaguest of rumors about a group of people, plural in nature who you clearly do not understand. The Black Bloc hates the Zapatistas and Environmental Radicals? It’s inspired by Ted Kasczynski? Where on earth did you get such drivel? I don’t partake in the tactic, and I think any tactic deserves to be critiqued, but please don’t fear monger and spread falsehood.

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By wardad, February 6, 2012 at 3:51 am Link to this comment

So, Chris Hedges begins the process of purging the Black Bloc from #occupy. 
How does this unfold on the ground, in the marches, and in the actions to come? 
How does non-violent #occupy resist the Black Bloc and drub ‘em out of the
movement?  What kind of aggressive and confrontational measures will our non-
violent brothers and sisters need to employ in order to demonstrate in a very
clear fashion that the Black Bloc and their tactics will not be tolerated and are

It seems to me this is #occupy’s primary P.R. mission right now.  Even if the Black
Bloc is a “disinformation campaign” a “false flag battalion” of The Man, whatever
damage they do to the movement needs to be mobilized against.

I have seen livestreamers in confrontation with Black Bloc activists and it seems
they get very little support when the Black Bloc comes at them and uses
reactionary tactics to shut down the feed.

Tell us Chris, or anyone else, what will it look like to shut down these violent
folks?  Badges, a ban on black clothing, a ban on face covering, shaming,
fighting?  What will it take?

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By ardee, February 6, 2012 at 3:51 am Link to this comment

This is a struggle to win the hearts and minds of the wider public and those within the structures of power (including the police) who are possessed of a conscience. It is not a war. Nonviolent movements, on some level, embrace police brutality. The continuing attempt by the state to crush peaceful protesters who call for simple acts of justice delegitimizes the power elite. It prompts a passive population to respond. It brings some within the structures of power to our side and creates internal divisions that will lead to paralysis within the network of authority. Martin Luther King kept holding marches in Birmingham because he knew Public Safety Commissioner “Bull” Connor was a thug who would overreact.

I am one who enjoys Hedges style, not for everyone I know. His tendencies are towards the emotional and hyperbole, but, should one take the time to see past the hand wringing I believe one does find much truth there.

I agree with Robespierre that the OWS movement actually encourages the so-called Black Bloc folks by its silence and refusal to coalesce around a set of goals and principles, to become a movement instead of a vague and almost nebulous expression of dissatisfaction. But, in the fullness of time, I think it will have to do so or perish.

As to the anarchists in black, I think they subscribe to the idea that confrontation is inevitable, that escalating violence will show the blatant truth of the repressive nature of those in power towards protest. In many ways I think this is a truth we have to face.

But I think one first must engage the public, one must understand that, in an era when the media is a wholly owned subsidiary of those in power, to engage in acts that help that media win the propaganda war is counter productive at the least.

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Robespierre115's avatar

By Robespierre115, February 6, 2012 at 3:32 am Link to this comment

Excellent article. Black Bloc represent the kind of childish idea of “revolution” so common in the United States. In countries like Egypt and Greece you see street combat because there is no choice, but here the kind of lunatic actions seen in Oakland for example, only help to turn away workers and others who should be joining in the movement.

On the other hand, the Black Bloc’s infiltration of OWS is also a result of the movement’s insistance on remaining vague and postmodern, the movement itself creates voids which idiots like the Black Bloc then fill.

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By Jake, February 6, 2012 at 2:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great article. However I fear Chris, that you are becoming very close to conflating
Black Block anarchists with the anarchist/libertarian socialist movement as whole.
Please do not do that. For the vast, vast majority of the anarchist movement, Black
Bloc tactics are widely shunned and criticised.

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