'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, January 27, 2012

Franz Walsch Takes the Fall at firedoglake (Part 1) 

As some of the longtime visitors to this blog know, I am a fan of the films of the 1970s and early 1980s German director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Fassbinder aspired to show us the world as it is in order to encourage us to create a better one. He was personally inspired by his identification with the character of Franz Biberkopf in Alfred Doblin's 1920s novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz. Biberkopf was a thief, a murderer and a pimp, but he, and those with whom he lived, also represented the experience of the German lumpenproletariat during a period of rapid urbanization and extreme poverty during the Weimar era. Fassbinder said that, upon reading Alexanderplatz as a teenager, he felt as if his personal experience had already been written by Doblin. He eventually directed a TV series based upon the novel in 1980.

Prior to that time, Biberkopf allegorically appears in a number of Fassbinder's films as the character Franz Walsch, usually performed by Fassbinder himself, as in his debut film, Love is Colder than Death, with the last name being an homage to one of Fassbinder's favorite American directors, Raoul Walsh. One of the identifying characteristics of this character is his naivete, which results in him invariably being the fall guy in the classic film noir sense. After being reluctantly persuaded by one of my Occupy guests on KDVS last October, Mary McCurnin, to move beyond being a lurker at firedoglake and become a member, so that I could post comments and, possibly even diary entries, I took the name of Franz Biberkopf. I selected it to identify with the downtrodden who struggle through the perils of life, having forgotten the more specific noirish implications of it. I intended to communicate with others through comments and a stray diary entry here and there about Occupy as firedoglake has been a strong supporter of it.

Unfortunately, my apprehension about becoming a member of firedoglake was confirmed in the most incredibly surreal way. On Monday, Kevin Gosztola, a person who I have interviewed on KDVS as well, posted about his visit to Occupy Buffalo. He briefly addressed how Occupy Buffalo deals the question of admitting the homeless. As Franz Biberkopf, I commented upon it by responding specifically to a comment by Kevin, and, apparently, as you can see if you scroll down the post and peruse the comments, Jane Hamsher, the founder of firedoglake, wasn't too pleased with what I had to say, although I didn't understand the intensity of her displeasure at the time. Yesterday, Gosztola discussed the issue of Occupy Buffalo and the homeless in more depth, and I commented again despite an initial inclination not to do so because I felt an obligation to engage Gosztola's willlingness to continue to address the subject.

Of course, that was a mistake, similar to the kinds of mistake the allegorical Franz makes in Fassbinder's films, assuming the kind hearted good nature of those around him. Here is what transpired as Hamsher proceeded to imply that I am either an employee of the Department of Homeland Security or sympathetic to it:

Franz Biberkopf January 26th, 2012 at 1:44 pm 5
In response to CelestialNavigation @ 3

Yes, the challenge is to avoid considering the homeless as a monolithic group identified by a set of dysfunctional behaviors, which it appears that those involved in Occupy Buffalo does. I do, think, however, that John’s contrast between those who sleep outside as a statement against the government and the homeless who see it just personally advantageous is a bit reductionist. No one, including the homeless, should personally exploit the movement, but there has to be a point of contact that enables those in the movement to persuade others to embrace it and take responsibility for it as well, as best they can. Otherwise, you run the risk of that old left sectarian thing where you can’t even walk through the door unless you possess a completely realized political consciousness congruent with the movement. Think about this in terms of activism outside of Occupy. You know someone who has some personal problems, but is willing to hand out flyers or make some phone calls a few hours a week, and has the capability to do these limited tasks. Do you say, no thanks, or work with them as they are? Of course, there are some people with such difficulties that an occupation lacks the resources to deal with them and offer them the opportunity to participate, and they must regrettably be excluded. The sad reality is, as you observe, that the victims of this social order respond to that victimization in self-destructive ways, and this presents unique problems for any social movement that seeks to address it.

Jane Hamsher January 26th, 2012 at 1:54 pm 7
In response to Franz Biberkopf @ 5

I think it’s so great you’re out there putting yourself on the line every night like the people in Occupy Buffalo and show up here to give us the benefit of what you have learned from dealing with these same problems directly, and not some failed middle-aged blow-hard armchair activist who shows up here demanding that others expose themselves to danger for your philosophical beliefs.

What occupation do you live in that allows so much access to electrical power during the day? And what has your General Assembly done to deal with your homeless issues?

I know that the #1 way that government operatives undermine the occupations is to send people out to infiltrate them and demand that they take on more problems than they can handle by working their liberal guilt and castigating them for being insufficiently compassionate when they take steps to protect themselves — usually from the same compassionate agencies that are pouring violent, mentally ill and drug addicted homeless people into the camps and feeding them a steady diet of drugs and alcohol to exacerbate their problems.

What occupation did you say you were with again?

Jane Hamsher January 26th, 2012 at 2:04 pm 8
Hey you two have a real consistent tag-team going, Franz and Celestial. It’s great that both of you always show up to engage in a back-and-fort every time the subject of the homeless at occupations comes up, to reinforce just how cruel, selfish, short-sighted and insufficiently liberal the people who are out there in the occupation camps are when they take steps to protect themselves from the tactics of professional operatives who are exploiting the homeless. Which you both mis-characterize in the same (equally uncharitable) way.

Occupy Buffalo has become a rich target for government operatives because they have adopted tactics that keep infiltrators from working their game plan there as successfully as they have other places.

Do you work for Homeland Security, or just engage in their their tactics out of personal belief?

Franz Biberkopf January 26th, 2012 at 2:31 pm 9
I really don’t understand your hostility, because I’m not even sure that we disagree about very much. And, to malign me as a Homeland Security operative . . . well, I’m speechless and that doesn’t happen very often. After I interviewed her last October about Occupy Sacramento, Mary McCurnin suggested that I sign up to post comments here after I told her that I had lurked here for years. Not because I’m Homeland Security, mind you, but because I actually appreciate what you and the other people here have done. Anyway, that was apparently a mistake. I even made a small contribution to the site the other day and a larger one to the Occupy Supply fund. I’m no enemy or agent provocateur.

Needless to say, I wouldn't know where to begin to deconstruct Hamsher's comments, except to note the obvious, as I did, that they were indicative of an intensity of hostility that was incomprehensible. If you think that was the end of it, guess again, as Hamsher thereafter proceeded to abandon her claim that I am aligned with or sympathetic to DHS and substitute another one to the effect that I am part of a K Street, corporate lobby effort to disrupt Occupy Buffalo and firedoglake:

Jane Hamsher January 26th, 2012 at 11:39 pm 45
In response to Franz Biberkopf @ 9

I really don’t understand your hostility, because I’m not even sure that we disagree about very much.

That’s the exact thing they train the DLC guys to say to us when they debate us. It’s a canned response: “Try to sound reasonable and emphasize your similarities; characterize them as hysterical, out of control, extreme and angry for not acknowledging how alike you are.” Standard tactic for appropriating populist credibility on behalf of an elitist agenda.

It’s also the second time you’ve used that exact phrase. Perhaps it’s your first time at the rodeo?

FDL has been vigilant about keeping the place free of obvious political and corporate operatives (and their contractors) by booting people who show up and exhibit the warning signs. Where other sites have become overrun with propaganda-pushing trolls who tag-team messaging using virtual counterinsurgency tactics (“let the enemy know you care about them and you’re on their side”), FDL has adopted a zero tolerance policy when the warning lights go off.

You Mr. Franz are flashing bright fuschia, and I frankly don’t care if you’re working for STRATFOR or NMS or Palantir or Berico or it’s just a happy coincidence that you follow their script. You’re here for the second time to curl your lip and disrespect Occupy Buffalo for adopting tactics that protect them from such infiltration, and only dialed it back when you realized you were on thin ice.

This is your second warning. If you would like us to agree on something, I suggest the definition of zero tolerance.

Franz Biberkopf January 27th, 2012 at 1:31 am 46
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 45

This is so totally off base that it’s comical. But if you want to look into it, here’s my background. My name is Richard Estes, and I live in Sacramento, California. I have hosted a public affairs program on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis since 1998, and interviewed a lot of people associated with progressive, liberal and left issues over the years. All on my own time, as KDVS is a volunteer, student and community run radio station. From firedoglake, I have interviewed Jon Walker and Mike Ross, and, more recently, Kevin Gosztola and Mary McCurnin in relation to Occupy, as well as occupiers and ustreamers from Occupy Sacramento, Occupy Oakland and Occupy SF. You can listen to me over the Net at http://www.kdvs.org at 5pm tomorrow when I interview a couple of people from Occupy SF as well as Jorge Mariscal of Project YANO, a counter-recruitment effort among people of color in San Diego. I have also participated in Occupy events whenever possible (you can go look up my post at the Occupy Oakland port shutdown if you are so inclined). If you take the time to check out my profile, you will see that I have a blog, http://www.amleft.blogspot.com

You might not agree with what I say there, but that’s not the point, I just mention it as yet another indication that I’m not a corporate shill. I just write what I really believe, and encourage the few people that visit to engage with it. I have also contributed to Occupy Supply as I said (out of my own pocket, no less), you can check with Brian on that, and even donated to firedoglake itself. Sometimes, you can just take what people say at face value, as if they really mean it, and not incorporate it into some sort of conspiracy theory. My e-mail address can also be found at my profile, and you can confirm what I say by using it if, again, you are so inclined. Anyway, here it is: restes1960@yahoo.com

On my end, I will give some thought about how I ended up sounding like a K Street corporate lobby firm. That’s definitely not my intention.

Poor Franz, always the fall guy. Circulating in shark-like waters where the Department of Homeland Security and K Street lobbyists are conspiring to destroy Occupy and firedoglake, Franz takes the fall for their crimes instead of the leftist ones that he committed. So far, I haven't heard anything more about it, and have sent an instruction to firedoglake for assistance in closing my member account.

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