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Truthdiggers of the Week: Bill McKibben and Protesters

Posted on Aug 26, 2011
Flickr / Josh Lopez (CC-BY)

Bill McKibben, left, stands in front of the White House with fellow activists on Aug. 20 to protest the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. He was later arrested and spent two days in jail.

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.

By the end of year, President Obama must decide whether or not to allow construction of a transnational oil pipeline—the Keystone XL—that would transport up to 900,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The environmentally volatile proposal has thousands of people this week and next prepared to risk arrest in front of the White House in order to show Obama their disapproval. Those thousands of activists and their leader, environmental activist, journalist and author Bill McKibben, are our Truthdiggers of the Week.

More than 2,000 volunteers from across the country came to sit in with McKibben in a stand against the pipeline, and by Thursday more than 300 of them had been arrested, many held overnight. Most of the volunteers planned to participate again on Saturday, in what is meant to be the biggest day of action of the entire two-week protest. Many stood their ground Friday despite heavy rains and, while it remains to be seen how many will turn out in the face of the approaching Hurricane Irene, perhaps it is only fitting that a severe weather event occurs at the height of such a protest.

Truthdig reader Patricia, just one of many who nominated McKibben and the Keystone XL protesters this week, said that McKibben “has reminded us that civil disobedience is a powerful ‘NO.’ And by pledging to be arrested—and convincing others to do so—he has given us an example of how we might save the world from climate catastrophe.”

* * *

Honorable Mentions

Former Army lieutenant and LGBT rights activist Dan Choi participated in the sit-ins against the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House this week, too. But perhaps more notably, on Aug. 29, Choi will stand trial for handcuffing himself to the White House gate last fall in protest of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In May, Choi rejected an offer by prosecutors to drop charges in exchange for six months of probation, an option all 12 other activists involved chose over the possibility of six-month jail terms. But Choi said his defense will focus on what he believes was an unusually harsh, unconstitutional law drummed up for his arrest.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Darcy Flynn was recognized in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi on Aug. 17 for blowing the whistle in July on two decades of corruption. Flynn told authorities that the SEC had destroyed records of thousands of investigations since at least 1993, and as Taibbi put it, “whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals.” While Flynn is prohibited from speaking to the media about the issue because of his status as a federally protected whistle-blower, Taibbi gave voice to Flynn’s honorable actions not only in his article, but in subsequent interviews.

* * *

Bill McKibben, appearing on “Democracy Now!,” talks about the sit-ins and his arrest in the video below, at about three minutes in.


Matt Taibbi on “Democracy Now!” discusses his article in Rolling Stone magazine.



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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, August 30, 2011 at 5:00 am Link to this comment

Everyone my age can remember the “Duck and Cover” drills, of the early 1950’s. I vividly remember having my tiny palms slapped hard with a heavy metal ruler, for questioning the teacher’s intelligence — punished for telling my classmates that crawling under our little school desks wasn’t going to protect us from a nuclear bomb’s destruction.

There’s a significant difference between the threat of extinction that we faced, in My Generation (which actually turned out to be a degeneration), and the threat that our children and theirs now face. We grew up under the threat of possible extinction from a Third World War. Our children now face the certainty of extinction… if they merely live the consumer lives that their parents have.

All that money and brain power that went into designing more efficient weapons of mass destruction was wasted. The WMD that succeeded was advertising — the clever ideas that persuaded people to always want more of everything they didn’t need.

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Gabriel's avatar

By Gabriel, August 29, 2011 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

Violence or Non Violence is all rubbish.

The ruling class has declared War on everyone else and actually whole planet.

Zombies [the uneducated working slobs] have taken over the streets and are consuming food of the planet at exponential rate. They are getting too educated for ruling class comfort. They must be reigned in and culled, just as a farmer does when he has an explosion of chickens or rats who are taking over his grain silos.

Ruling class decided to use crude oil, weather, big pharma, foreclosures, business, economy, wars, vaccines and rest of their sneaky genocidal tools to decimate the population of Earth ... eliminate 99% of YOU, the humans.

You, all of you are those zombies, chickens and rats.

[rhetorical statement] = Any questions?

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By thethirdman, August 29, 2011 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

Just because I highlight the inefficacy of nonviolence does not mean that I am
for violence.  I have never intentionally inflicted violence upon anyone, not even
property, which I don’t even acknowledge as deserving that level of regard.  I
am merely pointing out that nonviolence most generally favors those with

I would be absolutely thrilled if every solider wearing an American flag would
refuse to fight.  That would be my dream.  But I am trying to be realistic.  Most
of the time, violent action is counterproductive.  But nobody with power is going
to hand you anything just because you picketed outside the White House.

Again, all I am pointing out is that McKibben essentially failed.  You can’t affect
shit from a jail cell and the pipeline will still be built.

P.S.  On a closely related matter, I think people should refrain from using Egypt
as an example for anything.  The outcome is far from certain and we shall see
what emerges from all those nonviolent protest.  My guess would be, more of
the same.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, August 29, 2011 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

Attempting to understand who is quoting whom when it comes to violent compared to non violent change, I believe Ardee is against violence and Third member is for violence? Well, it does not matter, I do not support violence as a way of protest. 

Wisconsin had non violent protests, which were successful and got some attention, though the media works overtime not to notice, simply because they are the crotch of the problem.

Egypt was for the most part non violent, though I do remember something about camels and whips running through the crowds?  I believe another despot stepped down next door to Egypt, after massive protests. In Israel there have been large protests with little to no media coverage here in the US, I do not even know what happened or what they where protesting about?

But what of the Vietnam protests?... I know the flying saucer aliens did it with their anal probes or the stories about Solders in Vietnam would not fight. If the truth be known?  Massive protests can work if applied with a single cause without the divisive manipulated counter logical crap perpetuated by the anti social use of pervasive violence.

Anyway if violence is used, many people would not support it and in the end just like the Mexico Revolutions,  the opportunists float to the top like turds in a cesspool.

US Rage is attempting to get something off the ground, clearly non violent protests in different cities right here in the US, even a tent city in front of Wall Street. (In Israel they did the tent city thing for a time?)  If US Rage gets traction, it may over ride the corporate silent shaft and emulate our one Arab Spring right here in River City?

US Rage supports one citizen, one dollar, one vote!...Check it out!

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, August 29, 2011 at 6:01 am Link to this comment

Acknowledging the objective reality of the inadequacy and irrelevance of nonviolent protests and polite civil disobedience is not necessarily an advocacy for violence. It’s a recognition of reality and rejection of delusional thinking that’s necessary before any actually effective means can possibly develop to provide the potential required for there to be any possibility for success.

Power maintains itself by consolidating and monopolizing all power… including people power. The brilliant tactic of nonviolence has been completely co-opted. Its repressed collaborator advocates are all effectively now working for the corporate state to police, neutralize, and suppress dissent… obediently channeling dissent against the state into service of the state.

It’s clearly evident that elections, which should have been the best and most efficient means for nonviolent action to be policy determinant useful, cannot possibly provide any of the change (for good) necessary, because near all who vote have regularly, routinely demonstrated that they do not want what is wrong to be changed — a supermajority of the electorate always reliably supporting the corporate person candidates that America’s consumers are dedicated to. The U.S. elections are merely the means for the corporate party’s conservative and liberal collaborators to express their comparable product brand preferences and consumer desires to the corporate person entities that decide what will be done. The (R) & (D) voting factions of the corporate party fight over how they want their violence to continue; who or what they wish to assault more or less now than before; and who might benefit more or less from the next 4 years of corporate-state sponsored (and voter mandated) violence.

Since “nonviolent” protesting attempts to influence an electoral process that will surely only provide more violence there’s nothing actually nonviolent about those protests.

For those not so “educated” that they have become uneducable…

The Violence of “Nonviolence” :

“Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives.”
— Malcolm X

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By ardee, August 29, 2011 at 2:43 am Link to this comment

thethirdman, August 28 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment


I know you are not one of my biggest fans, but do try to put your thinking cap
on for this one.

I am a fan of realistic political planning. You are an advocate for violent revolution apparently. Thus you play into the hands of the ruling class, poised as they are to remove the last vestiges of our freedoms and bring down a total fascist state upon us in the name of “ensuring our freedoms from the terrorists among us”. Perhaps this is what you intended all along?

Rather than enter into a useless debate with you about the effectiveness of nonviolence I will post a link so that others, less one sided and wrongheaded than you, can read and learn:

simply put:

the effectiveness of nonviolence

into your browser and read at your leisure.

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By thethirdman, August 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment


I know you are not one of my biggest fans, but do try to put your thinking cap
on for this one.

Please sir, without reverting back to your silly “We the People” education you
received all those many years ago, provide me with some historical examples of
nonviolence conquering and changing the status quo.

You bring up Gandhi and that was good for a chuckle.  Do a little reading and
you will see that India’s struggle for Independence was very, very violent. 
Britain only left when it was no longer in their economic interest to stay. 
Orwell, who was a policeman in India at the time had this to say about Gandhi:
“Gandhi made it easier for the British to rule India, because his influence was
always against taking any action that would make any difference.”  That would
be nonviolence Mr. Ardee.  Similar to the ineffectual “political” action of voting
that brings us presidents like Obama.

Next you’re going to tell me that MLK used rousing speeches to finally win
equality for blacks in the US.

So as I said. MicKibben goes to jail, the elites barely notice, and the pipeline
will be built.

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By ardee, August 28, 2011 at 7:51 am Link to this comment

thethirdman, August 28 at 3:00 am Link to this comment

You know why only six people have commented on this story?  Because nonviolent
protest affects just about nothing.

Do you know why I find your post reprehensible, counter productive, false in its assumptions and presumptions?

Of course you do not. If you can channel the ghost of Gandhi perhaps he might enlighten you as to the power of nonviolent protest. Perhaps not.

speaking of presumption:

David J. Cyr, August 28 at 6:31 am

The only thing I admire about you, Mr. Cyr, is your ability to continue to post when you have nothing to offer. Well, maybe admire is not the correct term.

I think you need a history book and a time out in order to study the accomplishments of the generation you so besmirch. Certainly all goals have not been met, perhaps even most of them in fact. But a start has been made. The next generation will take up the torch, must in fact do so.

That you so eagerly denigrate a generation that included some of the hardest working, most dedicated and patriotic Americans,of whom Doctor King was only one example, while offering not one thing in the way of positivism, simply reeks, sir.

Speaking of reprehensible:

Your hinting at violence as the only solution certainly falls into that category. You claim to want activists in “every political office” yet you decry their activism in the same breath.

You claim allegiance to the Greens yet your posts are the antithesis of the methods adopted by this third party. Why, I wonder, is that?

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, August 28, 2011 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

Smart, well intentioned young people can expect old liberals to earnestly advise them to keep doing what hasn’t worked — to only ever use the moderate means and methods that haven’t provided the change needed. That’s what liberals do.

I find no pleasure in seeing young people incarcerated, changing nothing occupying a prison cell.

I want them to be occupying each and every seat of government, from dog-catcher to POTUS… with no exceptions.

Our greatest problems were created by the vanity and ignorance of my parents’ most immodestly labeled Greatest Generation. Those problems were only made greater — far more intractable — by the irresponsible self-gratifying narcissism of My Generation that raised everyone’s consciousness, but had neither the desire nor will necessary to by any means become The Solution needed.

For more than 50 years now, My Generation has been locked in a vicious struggle between the two societal dominating factions within the corporate party — an apolitical struggle over cultural issues. During their decades of squabbling over drug and sexual matters, the non-recreational difference between Republican and Democrat voters was mainly found in their different preferences for how America, Inc’s fascist policies should be managed (hot-bloodedly by crude Republicans, or cold-bloodedly by cool Democrats), and in how quickly either would destroy all life upon the planet.

Yes, the “ignorant” retrograde conservatives would have used up all of our planet’s resources yesterday, if they were allowed to, but the “intelligent” depraved liberals chose to preserve just enough for today — for themselves — with neither having any plan for leaving any life-support remaining, when tomorrow comes. Left in charge, My Generation will surely leave nothing left over needed for any future generations to thrive upon, or to even merely survive. Both the conservatives and the liberals of My Generation are clearly determined to bequeath unto their children nothing… nothing but the End of Times.

If the social networking Alphabet Generations are to have a future worth having they must not be seduced by the devious moderating methods of the “Yes We Can” limp liberal “change” politics — relying upon nothing more than false hopes for maybe some small possible to happen… way too little and way too late. There’s no time left for well intentioned young people to waste another 50 years, like Boomer “progressives” have, too patiently waiting in suspended expectation for Democrats to somedaaaaaaay not be what they are. The young must rise up now, and achieve what the Art of the Possible liberal deceivers will say is impossible. To survive the putrid principled policies of their parents, the young must rise up and self-directed find their own path to become the Yes We Did Generation!

For future generations to have any future, the creative destruction of a category 5 societal hurricane is now needed, with a fierce storm surge that will wash away all the old in government… no exceptions. The answer for the complete corporate corruption of government isn’t campaign finance reform, or term limits. It’s euthanasia!

It’s time for old people to either get out of the way of the young, or be forcefully removed from their path… by whatever means necessary.

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By thethirdman, August 28, 2011 at 3:00 am Link to this comment

You know why only six people have commented on this story?  Because nonviolent
protest affects just about nothing.  Only people at truthdig know who Bill
Mckibben is, and it will probably remain that way even after they build the mega
pipeline right through the shitty red states.

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By BcdErick, August 27, 2011 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s see if I got this right. A bunch of green extremists want to subvert democracy and intimidate others into doing something really stupid and self destructive.  I guess these left wing haters don’t know that unemployment is over 9%, gas is approaching $4/gal, the economy is in shambles and the national debt is growing at $1.6 TRILLION/YR for as far as the eye can see.

So in the face of this what do the green know nothing haters want?  Why of course they want to make things worse, much worse.  McKibben and the clowns want to stop construction of a modern oil pipeline that will without question create 10’s of thousands of jobs, pump billions of dollars into the economy and contribute to America’s energy independence.

Why?  Because they are haters who hate America and they want us all to live in teepees, eat only tofu and put them in charge.  The whole charade is so crazy no one would believe it if it wasn’t true.

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By MeHere, August 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm Link to this comment

McKibben’s work is to be admired.  He is an important voice and he has done
much more than participating in protests.  It’s hard to tell who exactly all the
other participants are.  Some are committed environmentalists but others may attend just because their girlfriend or boyfriend does.

But D. J. Cyr is correct in assuming that many of those who express concern about environmental issues will end up voting for the same kind of leaders all over again. This happened with many, perhaps most, of those who went to Washington to protest the Iraq War. When election time came, they voted Democratic in presidential and other elections. They were against the iraq War because it was Bush’s war but they saw nothing wrong with Obama supporting and expanding the Afghanistan war. It’s a disease with no cure in sight.

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By Charles Cave, August 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would think the amount of co2 released in the atmosphere by burning tarsand oil would become an international issue. Might not the European Union and other nations have something to say about this project?

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By Charles Cave, August 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Isn’t it time for Al Gore to challenge Obama in the primaries?

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By upgradeyourlife, August 27, 2011 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

Why don’t you get lost, David J. Cyr. Efforts however token should be saved from this kind stalemate cynicism. While you’re having fun pinning down “liberals” and “progressives” for what they really are, the same young people you talk about are sitting in jail.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, August 27, 2011 at 9:13 am Link to this comment


“More than 2,000 volunteers from across the country came to sit in with McKibben in a stand against the pipeline, and by Thursday more than 300 of them had been arrested, many held overnight.”

Sure, it’s always feel good heartening to see some few people willing to take a public stand for sensible solutions.

However, the numbers are insignificant, and the means are inconsequential.

As with the Wisconsin rising, near everyone who traveled to DC to advocate for ecological wisdom, and get complimentary free* room & board for a night (courtesy of the MPD), will surely be sheeple flocking to the polls in 2012 to free-will (D) vote for Obama—again—providing a popular mandate—again—for America, Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of the global market-state) to wage more resource wars, continue ruthless neoliberal economic policies, and totally ignore climate change… while providing a market for the bundling of pollution swaps, and favorable conditions for a few to profit immensely from the increased scarcity of water and food occurring in conjunction with a rapidly increasing global population.

The “progressives” are the liberals who vote for Democrats so they can keep protesting against what they keep voting for.

Those who are young today will not have any future worth living in if they do not rise up soon, push all their parents aside, and provide themselves (by whatever means necessary) with a socially responsible governing system that seeks global ecological sustainability to entirely replace the socially irresponsible and ecologically insane system that near all their parents are dedicated to preserving… until the day it kills all of humanity, along with near all other species upon this planet.

If McKibben’s action could possibly be effective he wouldn’t be released after his arrest. He’d be disappeared. Before any change comes that’s needed a hard reign is gonna fall.

*free accommodations are subject to remuneration by fines levied in participating municipalities

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, August 27, 2011 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

Not everyone can afford to make it to Washington DC. Far as I can tell Obama has been selling the people down the river for three years.  People need to take stands and do what they did in Wisconsin and voice their discontent.

TD may want to cover US Rage, I may not agree with everything they cite but hell, I do not agree with everything coming down the road from Washington DC

One Person, one dollar, one vote: Check out the link below may be a possible chance to make a difference?

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Gabriel's avatar

By Gabriel, August 27, 2011 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

Good call for Truth-digger of the week. smile

This ties nicely to Oil Barons, Economy / Mafia, Global Domination, Wars, suppression of ergonomic power production and permaculture practices, destruction of our planet, monarchy & Elites behind it all, and mostly to Story of Your Enslavement:

We are at a time when humanity is growing up and becoming educated enough to depose the present ruling class / Elites.

Many are already designing a world without such greed and abusive control, planning for all contingencies and can hardly wait for the whole system to collapse and/or feed upon itself to it’s eventual destruction.

The uneducated, stubborn and ignorant will be like Zombies/sheeple or moths to a flame when whole global corrupt system crashes down around them. I wish them good luck, cross your fingers and toes, and kiss your asses good bye.

For the rest of you: Which of the 3 sides are you going to be on?

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By MD, August 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

McKibbon posted on on the Daily Beast about hurricane Irene and connecting it to
global warming.  Of course the flat-earth crowd was out in full force to deny
climate change resulting from CO2.  But what was interesting was there personal
attacks on McKibbon “he’s an idiot….stupid…..”  etc.  There was an extra bit of
personal attacks, even for the fringe types.  Now, I cannot prove it but I would bet
money that it is coordinated to discredit and shame McKibben because he is the
current face of the fight against Keystone XL.

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