We Are Change - well, not really.
Coloado Springs, Colorado
Friday, September 11th, 2009
The sun was warm and a strong wind blew on 9/11/09, as a group of about seven “9/11truthers” held home-made signs and passed-out dvds at the corner of E. Bijou and Tejon St. in downtown Colorado Springs. Similar actions took place around the country today, including at the intersection of 16th and Wynkoop in Denver. These were part of an organized campaign, this one in particular run by a fairly decentralized group called “We Are Change,” based out of New York. It was an unusual site to see in a city known for its extreme conservatism. However, as some of you might well-suspect, “We Are Change” is an ironic misnomer. Further inquiry revealed that the group responsible for the event is neither radical nor reformist; but represents a new and growing form of reactionary right-libertarianism.
My first exposure to 9/11 conspiracy theories and their sponsoring organizations occurred many years ago, chiefly through the internet. The websites were generally full of invective against George W. Bush, neo-conservatives, and oil corporations. My limited face-to-face experience with 9/11truth activists that I had met showed me a little anecdotal evidence that the average member was a middle-aged or retired educated white male, usually with left-liberal political leanings. However, over the past few years, I have been slowly made aware of the increasingly reactionary attacks on radical or leftist organizations from the so-called “9/11truth” movement – in particular from people like Alex Jones.1 Alex Jones's brand of reactionary white-populism has been around for a long time. I am by no means the first person to take notice of these attacks. What is interesting is that so much of the 9/11truth movement has been taken-over by Jones-esque libertarians. According to the demonstrators, the WeAreChangeColoradoSprings coalition started in October 2008.
Today in Colorado Springs at the action, I expected to see clones of Alex Jones – overweight, middle-aged men who were a little angry. While it was still one-hundred percent angry white and male, I was surprised by the counter-culture appearance of the demonstrators. With sleeveless shirts, tattoos, piercings (including gauges), decent amounts of facial hair, and even a white bandanna around one neck, I saw a group of young white males who could have almost been mistaken for anarchists in different circumstances. In many cities there appearance could be considered somewhat average for young men, but for Colorado Springs it is rather rebellious. But make-no-mistake, they were there on the part of an organization ( wearechangecoloradosprings.com ) which is aggressively ultra-nationalist, pro-capitalist, and even reactionary. It's website recently includes accusations that Ariel Attack is a government provocateur, and that the home-defense organization ACORN is “nefarious,” “shady,” “crooked,” and using, “thug criminality” to have the audacity to break locks to let people occupy their own bank-foreclosed homes. They are consistently on the attack, and neither cause nor comrade seems to be sufficient reason to withhold their vitriol.
I first introduced myself to Justin, one of the demonstrators. He was a young man with short-cut neck-beard and earrings, who was standing on a short wall with a sign. I told him that I was with Colorado Independent Media. Nobody seemed to know exactly what it was. I started to ask him a few questions. He said, “I am with We Are Change, we are not left, we are not right, this is a non-partisan movement.” However, by both volume and rhetorical content, their website clearly shows an anti-left bias.
I then spoke with another man, named Chris. He is in his early thirties, short in stature, with a shaved head and spiral earrings. He is from Colorado, worked here for eleven years, and has a family. He said that he voted for Ron Paul, that in his adult life, he was a democrat, then a republican, then a libertarian.. Judging by the role he plays on the website and his eloquence among the demonstrators, he seemed to be the de-facto leader of the block-corner cabal. When asked what he would do if he were in charge, he said the first thing that he would do is to close-down the borders of the United States to illegal immigrants. He said, “I'm not looking to overthrow government or anything like that. I'm looking for limited government.” When asked what his opinion on the healthcare debate was, his reply - “one-hundred percent against it.” The organization's site views the health-care reform effort as a government conspiracy.
According to Chris, the real goal of their action today was to get support for an independent investigation of the events of 9/11 – a reasonable goal which, incidentally, I would support. The major error of reasoning made by Chris and organizations like WeAreChange is the inability to generalize based upon the evidence. Chris places great faith in the constitution and the American system, and as I tried to get him to talk about systemic change, he seemed to be uncomfortable when I broached the question of how merely investigating the events of 9/11 or sealing off the US border would somehow prevent another “false-flag” attack from the same “global elites.”
While anarcho-capitalists might be said to be misguided, with their heart in the right place, We Are Change blatantly holds its allegiance to the United States Flag and Constitution. It is pro-market, and maintains a strict-nonviolence policy. Taken as a white-male-populist movement, this is not surprising. Such ideologies serve the interests of the privileged. Their understanding of nonviolence virtually guarantees that their movement will be ineffective towards its stated goals, but does not preclude the added boost that it will give to libertarianism, or the negative effect on anti-capitalist community-organizing.
The confrontational-nature of the 9/11 issue allows the organization a certain aura of rebelliousness and makes right-libertarian ideas a little more sexy. While their group is currently quite small, and they have a long-way to go to perfecting their image, it may be that in the future, especially in areas like Colorado Springs, where anarchists are very disorganized, such right-leaning organizations may attract youth who would otherwise be influenced by more radical philosophies. Indeed, as I was unable to talk with everyone, it may be possible, however unlikely, that Chris was alluding that some of the members of the group are in fact anarchists, willingly being co-opted by a libertarian organization. Although the group in Colorado Springs may be an anomaly, which would make my evidence for this argument mere anecdote, your own experiences with similar groups may come to corroborate my concern of co-optation .
We Are Change is one of many organizations in a veritable social-movement that represents a threat to anti-capitalism and even all forms of anarchism. To their credit, the demonstrators advocated that people inquire into the issue of 9/11 for themselves, rather than embracing a certain version of the alleged conspiracy. However, the group adopts conspiracy theory-based skepticism but rejects radical critical analysis. Their lack of necessary analytical tools makes them unable to use the evidence to further their understanding of how systems and groups really operate. They appropriate the rhetoric of the reformer and the face of the rebel, but they self-identify as the wounded patriot, the moral purist, and the quintessential American. Their organization's ethos is that of the right-libertarian. Unfortunately, they are more than just misguided skeptics. They are reactionary, and they are not alone.