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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Some reflections from Bob Black

Last night, I killed some time in a hole of a coffee shop by reading Beneath the Underground by Bob Black. It fitted my strange, somewhat dark mood, and, as usual, it brought up the questions around what is an anarchist, what should anarchists do, and how anarchism can be achieved in our lifetimes. I don't think Bob Black knows either. It has to be more than sitting around and firing off crtiques of other progressive elements.

Bob Black, however, does just that and with a fair amount of bite. A real nasty junkyard dog bite, and here's a taste (which fits with an earlier post I did on Northern Researchers):

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Empire, some Western anarchists (myself included) are mailing their literature to their resurgent but embattled comrades in Eastern Europe. Well and good. But why not also send it, at much lesser expense, to the small towns, the totalitarian horrorshows in Utah or Orange County or the Bible Belt? We can probably do more for peace and freedom in the world right here, on our own turf, than by exporting ideology to the rest of the world which has perhaps had its fill of our imperial outreach offerings.


No perhaps about it, Bob.

His obiturary for Gerry Reith is sublime:

It was a bunch of bull and Reith, in his last letters, said so, but he'd been driven to the brink. He left a note that said, "I have to get out, or die." In the event, he died, he shot himself. Reportedly he'd toted up the pro's and con's of life and death, and finding them evenly balanced, he flipped a coin.

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  • Thanks for introducing me to Bob Black - I'd not heard of him before (at the risk of sounding ignorant). I've started reading his "Abolition of Work". I've also been pondering what it is that anarchists DO. Anarchism sounds very cerebral(for lack of a better word - as I've only just started exploring anarchism), but how is one an anarchist in practise? Are anarchists not also just paid employees, part of "the system"?

    By Anonymous Glen, At 12:33 pm  

  • An Expose of the Abuse Perpetrated by Bob Black, Written by One of his Victims


    One of the worst things about abuse (physical, emotional or verbal) is that the victim can rarely be counted on to come forward, identify his or her attacker, and describe what he or she was forced to endure. The victim was originally chosen because of perceived weakness. There is shame in realizing this, as there is shame in the very fact of being abused. There are fears about being abused again. And so, many victims of abuse find it easier to suffer their abuse in silence. Unfortunately, many abusive people are aware of this all-too-human tendency, and take advantage of it. Not only do they remain unpunished; they become brazen. They know that their crimes won't be reported to the precise extent that these crimes are shameful; victims of shameful crimes are ashamed to come forward; thus their victimizers feel comfortable with attacking them again and again, for many years in some cases.

    But I will not be silent any more. For several years now, I've been receiving word from people around the country that Bob Black has been barraging them with vicious, hateful lies about me. I've had enough of this self-appointed judge, this cowardly COINTELPRO-wannabe, and I'm denouncing him publicly for his latest unprovoked, scurrilous attack. On 22 November 2008, just two days after the opening of an exhibition of my work at a gallery at the University of Cincinnati, Black looked up some names on the university's Web page and sent them emails that began, "I write to report the background of bill Brown, who has an exhibit at the Reed Gallery." By way of attachments, these emails include "a chronicle of his movements," which "place[s] at your disposal everything I have on Brown."

    Is Black trying to write like a police detective or is he trying to be confused with a police detective? He identifies himself as a lawyer, but his reason for writing has nothing to do with the law. He writes, "He [Brown] has often publicly insulted and libelled [sic] me in his fanzine 'Not Bored!' -- the zine you are exhibiting, and quite possibly one of these libels is on display, which, technically, renders you liable as its 'publisher' as this term is used in defamation law. I have no intention, of course, of proceeding in that fashion." Absent this intention, there is no reason for Black to continue to write, indeed to write anything at all, to the people at the Reed Gallery. As he himself has shown, if he continues to write, it is only because he is interested in perpetrating libel, not stopping it.

    There is a sickening irony in Black lecturing strangers (people he's never met) about the very thing he is doing, elsewhere in his emails: namely, deliberately defaming someone's character, in this case, mine. Of course, the fact that Black's emails had no "publisher" (other than his ISP, which has Terms of Service that precisely forbid this kind of abuse of their services) doesn't mean that his letter isn't an instance of defamation. Furthermore, it is chilling that Black is perfectly aware of the precarious position that he has placed many publishers (real and virtual) over the years: Anarchy Magazine, for example, which several years ago published a letter to the editor from Black that contained obvious lies and libels about me. Of course, I threatened to sue unless a retraction was printed.[1] That's what honorable people do: when confronted with dishonorable behavior, they use honorable means.

    Given Black's calculated use of defamation -- either defaming others or using the claim that he's been defamed to launch a campaign of defamation -- it is hard to believe that publishers, especially "anarchist" ones, continue to allow themselves to be used in this fashion. Should not "anarchist" publications be interested in targeting as their "political enemies" the people who run the government and the corporations, that is, if these publications are really anarchist? But Black is no anarchist either: he simply terrorizes people he thinks are "leftists." Who could benefit from his on-going smear campaigns? Only right-wing zealots and nutjobs who hate leftists.

    What does the content of Black's "chronicle" on me reveal? It is a nauseating collection of fantasies, half-truths and outright lies: the truly unpleasant thing is that Black is utterly obsessed with me, and has been tracking me for over 20 years. I'm a terrorist, a CIA agent, a fascist, a card-carrying Communist; I'm an assimilated Jew, an anti-semite, a neo-Nazi; I'm a baby-killer, a drug addict, a moral degenerate; I'm trying to reanimate dead bodies in the basement of my mountaintop laboratory -- the particular content of Black's lies do not matter. What matters is that these lies are spectacular enough to make the reader forget that Black has no business making them up and/or spreading them.

    Though he may cast me as a mortal threat to something that he pretends to hold dear, Bob Black has never been injured, abused or libeled by anything I've said or done. He is simply using this opportunity (a bit of success on my part) to vent his pathological hatred against someone whom he calls his "self-appointed political enemy," that is to say, a target for perpetual character assassination. If any of the many serious charges that Black makes were true, and if Black himself were an honorable person, he wouldn't have wasted his time filling up the in-boxes of a few people at a university gallery: he would have gone straight to the police, the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee and/or the Spanish Inquisition (whichever has jurisdiction in such matters). But he didn't, because none of his charges are true; his insinuations are preposterous; he knows that the "authorities" would simply laugh at him and his bungling attempts to be a freelance COINTELPRO agent if he tried to sell them his trash.

    Unfortunately, I am not the only one whom Bob Black stalks and attacks at will: he has also targeted the people at Processed World, Jim Hogshire, Ward Churchill, Ramsey at AK Press, and no doubt many others. No doubt we know about only a fraction of the dirty tricks that this man has played over the years. Is Bob Black keeping a file on you? How would you know? He didn't let me know that he's been "chronicling" my "misadventures" for over 20 years. If he is also keeping a file on you, to whom has he sent a copy? How would you know? I only found out about this most recent incident indirectly, four days after it happened.

    The important thing, of course, is the outcome. None of the people to whom Black sent his emails took them seriously. In fact, they suspected that their author was actually me, trying to cause a "situationist" scandal and thus promote my own show! Yes, indeed, that would have been pathetic, but not as pathetic as the simple truth: the ranting hate-filled lunatic who signs his emails "Bob Black" is a real person, not a fiction. When the recipients of Black's emails found out that their content was a matter of defamation of character, not self-promotion, they immediately reassured me that the matter was over. Case closed. The gallery would never take down an exhibition in response to complaints, and certainly not in response to the artificially generated outrage of a dossier-compiling sociopath.

    The moral of the story is simple: for predators like Bob Black to succeed, they must find, not only victims, but dupes who provide them with alibis, excuses and self-justifications. In this case, Bob Black encountered not dupes, but intelligent people interested in ascertaining the truth, and so his despicable efforts at sabotage were thwarted. May he find neither victims nor dupes, wherever he goes.

    Bill Brown
    27 November 2008

    [1] Note: the following is from Black's file on me. It shows Black's utter cynicism: when he commits libel, he knows exactly what he can get any with. (Please note that, despite what follows, my father practiced civil law, was neither rich nor powerful, and never employed me.)

    He [Brown] caught the [Anarchy Magazine] project at an awkward time, with longtime editor Jason McQuinn beginning to spin off more and more editorial responsibilities onto an editorial collective forming in Berkeley, California. McQuinn quite properly involved the Berkeley collectivists in the decision how to respond, but as any legal liability would still fall on him, he made the final decision. It could have been worse.

    I am a lawyer admitted in New York and California and I know the law of libel a lot better than Bill Brown or probably even his dad, who is a specialist in criminal law, and lawyer specialists usually know little law outside their specialty. I explained to McQuinn that, for legal and practical reasons, Brown's threat was as hollow as he is. In the first place, truth is an absolute defense. If what I wrote was true, it was not libelous. Second, Brown has incurred no monetarily provable damages, without which his hurt feelings are irrelevant, because Dad didn't fire him and Brown cannot show any other out-of-pocket damages either.

    Third, courts are hostile to libel actions and usually find ways to dismiss these cases, either on the pleadings (i.e., for failure to use the right highly technical magic words in the complaint) or by summary judgment (i.e., there is no genuine contradiction as to the important facts and on those facts the case cannot be won so why have a trial?). Fourth, such a lawsuit lays the plaintiff open to pretrial "discovery," which is the compulsory extraction of information and evidence from the other party and anybody else. Because libel is about injury to reputation, there is nothing, absolutely nothing about the life of a libel plaintiff which cannot be coerced out of said plaintiff or anybody else. Even if all this evidence did not substantiate my statement in every detail, it would certainly elicit enough evidence to nauseate any jury into ruling against Brown. And the jurors will know his home address.

    Fourth, following in part from the foregoing, Brown almost certainly could not have found a New York lawyer to take the case. Even in New York City, only a handful of plaintiff-side lawyers will accept a libel case, and only on a contingent fee basis, i.e., for a proportion of the damages won, but nothing if the case is lost. Even if Brown had a slam-dunk case, the defendants are what we lawyers call "judgment-proof," they have almost no money, collecting from me is impossible, collecting from AJODA would require slow, costly, difficult, and ultimately futile efforts. Missouri and California lawyers who do collections work will want more money up front than Brown has, which is probably more money than he could ever hope for from an award of damages.

    Fifth -- and it wounds my pride that this factor was not given more weight -- I pointed out that AJODA (now) has a lawyer licensed to practice in New York State who is willing, indeed eager to defend, at no charge, against this claim. True, it is quite an inconvenience for me to defend a case in New York City, 150 miles away, but I have almost unlimited time and I am, to put it mildly, highly motivated. I could easily lay down procedural roadblocks it would take Brown's lawyer thousands of dollars to clear away, and he might not clear them all away.

    My suspicion is that AJODA was overimpressed by the fact that Brown's Daddy is a lawyer (what am I, chopped liver?). I observed that while a father who is a criminal law expert will go to some trouble to get his son out of a criminal prosecution, there is no reason to believe that his indulgence extends so far as to sacrifice tens or (I can at least force this) hundreds of thousands of dollars in foregone income to pursue a grudge lawsuit against Sonny's obscure and penniless political enemies which Dad is not qualified to handle without foregoing more tens of thousands of dollars at least, to educate himself in an unfamiliar and esoteric field of law he will never know as well as I already do.

    The AJODistas, however, fear for their project. They may have discounted my legal explanations as self-serving, which is disappointing, for they have known me for a long time and they should know me better. Some Berkeleyists want to call Brown's bluff. McQuinn probably agreed that a lawsuit a lawsuit whose very filing would disrupt the project was only a remote possibility, yet fretted that it was nonetheless too much of a risk. So what they did was publish, in AJODA #57, an apology to Bill Brown for a "gratuitous personal attack" by an unnamed letter writer. Consequently "the letters policy has been changed" to forbid "irrelevant, gratuitous personal attacks," although most readers enjoy them very much.


    To Contact NOT BORED!
    Info@notbored.org

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 6:18 pm  

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