Project Mayhem

“The Mechanic: In death, a member of project mayhem has a name, his name is Robert Paulsen. His name is Robert Paulsen. His name is Robert Paulsen. His name is Robert Paulsen...”Fight Club (Palahniuk / Fincher / Uhls) video here

In the grand scheme of things, the act and its impact (symbolic or direct, transcendent or practical) is more important than the man. But we as humans are endlessly fascinated with the concept of personal sacrifice, find it easier to elevate ideas, values and beliefs if they can be exemplified by and crystallized in a single representative human figure. Call it personality cult, messiah-worship or simply an honoring of historical heroes, the trend seems as old as human civilization itself. The connection to a set of ideas is made much easier and lasting by imprinting its essence on an actual person that average people can relate to and try to identify with. Deities are anthropomorphized for this same reason. This may ALSO be the reason why the Chinese authorities have yet to reveal/confirm the identity of THIS man (thought to be Wang Weilin (王维林) ). We’ve all seen the image:

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What many may not have seen, or remember, was this version of the same image. That's a tank batallion, or more.

No man, no attachment, no cult. Charismatic, popular leaders and/or icons are necessary for ANY idea to change social consciousness. Whether the realistic busts/statues of rulers from Egypt through Rome, the faces of rulers on coinage, Christ/Mohammed/Buddha, the topless Liberty of the French Revolution, the personality cults of totalitarian regimes from Germany to Oceania, faces DO matter.

Destroy the man/woman physically, and the idea is often ELEVATED, not dispersed. Consider Joan of Arc, Jesus of Nazareth, most of the early Catholic saints (who had to have been martyred to be considered for canonization). Hence the importance of destroying the reputation of and marginalizing anyone today. Historically, it was one of the reasons why dissident leaders were eventually gaoled instead of hanged/drawn & quartered. Kangaroo courts and show trials 1940's - 1960's. Today, witness the character assassinations of any number of people trying to speak the truth, most recently Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Though there may be remarkable, courageous people who are not afraid to die, very few exist who are not vulnerable to blackmail or systematic PR assaults. And for those few from the latter category, high-velocity lead remains as a last resort – but in those cases a much more difficult task remains of paying lip service to honoring the fallen leader, while in truth defiling his legacy (JFK? MLK? RFK?).

The reason I bring all of this up is due to the unusual and persistent anonymity of a group of exceptional men and women. These folks took a stand, stood up to be counted. At first through 'acceptable' channels, through law-abiding traditional methods. And when they realized that sanctioned forms of (controlled) opposition such as political activism, protests, letter writing, petitioning politicians, collecting signatures, organizing sit-ins were ineffective, they decided to take a calculated risk with their livelihoods, freedom and reputations, and did what needed to be done. They took no credit, they sought no limelight or recognition. For good reason, of course. Yet, ironically, because they were successful in evading detection, they perhaps lessened some of the impact of their (unquestionably courageous and ultimately effective) deed.

But doing service for one’s community, for one’s fellow citizens, one’s nation and for human values in general is not about clamoring for recognition (and certainly not about satisfying the demand for catharsis of mere spectators such as myself, with no skin in the game).

The story, when I first read about it, brought an immediate glow of cheer and an almost uncontrollable urge to grin ear-to-ear. The more I read, the wider the grin became. At least for me, stuff like this really reaffirms my faith in the better side of humanity – and ultimately is one of the things that has the power to give hope.

In 1971, a small group of eight determined, dedicated people in and around Philadelphia gathered to try to find a way to expose and end the FBI’s domestic surveillance and destabilization efforts against the antiwar movement and the political left. While at that point the Bureau was not quite the (gargantuan) intertwined many-headed hydra that is DHS/DOD/DOJ – it was still very much a tremendously risky operation by eight amateurs. The plan: to break into a small, 2-man satellite office of the FBI in the Philadelphia suburb of Media (the irony is no lost on me…) to try to find documentation of the extensive and patently unconstitutional activities of the agency.

After months of planning, preparation, stakeouts, casing the office in person (exposing one of the members to potential suspicion/targeting later), on March 8, 1971 (International Women's Day, as they took care to point out in their subsequent letter to the press) the group made its move. Breaking in with some difficulty despite meticulous practice beforehand, the group ultimately carted off more than 1,000 files in suitcases – along with an autographed photo of J. Edgar himself.

The full cast of characters may never be known. But those who consented to being named:

Bonnie and John C. Raines (looking a little rueful, perhaps after losing their latest purchase of shiny on the way home?). Their efforts are all the more laudable considering the fact that this was them in 1971.

These days, the same sparkle is in the same eyes:

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Bob Williamson (a few years ago, and more recently)

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Keith Forsyth then and nowadays:

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William C. Davidon a few years before the operation (right-click image to open in new tab to enlarge and read the caption), and the only more recent photo of him that I could find. Just in case eBay deletes the first image, you may be able to find it in the form of WirePhotos, which the image below is.

'William C. Davidon, 42, a Haverford, PA, College physics professor active in peace movement, who was named as a co-conspirator in a plot to kidnap Presidential Advisor Henry A. Kissinger' (AP AAA Wire Story - wfa 4 0700 files - 1971 EDS - a 1966 photo)'

His obituary is here – he passed away late last year. If this post were worthy of being dedicated, it would be to his memory --- and of course to the other named and unnamed co-conspirators.

The lady who first published the news and details of their findings in the Washington Post despite Attorney General Mitchell’s appeals to Executive Editor Ben Bradlee not to do so (the first of many such requests, as it turned out…), and ultimately wrote the book 'The Burglary', which came out yesterday : Betty Medsger:

From a great piece on the event in the LA Times from 2006:

“The FBI, after building up a six-year, 33,000-page file on the case, couldn't solve it. But it remains one of the most lastingly consequential (although underemphasized) watersheds of political awareness in recent American history, one that poses tough questions even today for our national leaders who argue that fighting foreign enemies requires the government to spy on its citizens. The break-in is far less well known than Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the Pentagon Papers three months later, but in my opinion it deserves equal stature.

Found among the Media documents was a new word, "COINTELPRO," short for the FBI's "secret counterintelligence program," created to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the U.S. Under these programs, beginning in 1956, the bureau worked to "enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles," as one COINTELPRO memo put it, "to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox."

The Media documents -- along with further revelations about COINTELPRO in the months and years that followed -- made it clear that the bureau had gone beyond mere intelligence-gathering to discredit, destabilize and demoralize groups -- many of them peaceful, legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups -- that the FBI and Director J. Edgar Hoover found offensive or threatening.

For instance, agents sought to persuade Martin Luther King Jr. to kill himself just before he received the Nobel Prize. They sent him a composite tape made from bugs planted illegally in his hotel rooms when he was entertaining women other than his wife -- and threatened to make it public. "King, there is one thing left for you to do. You know what it is," FBI operatives wrote in their anonymous letter.”

Some write-ups on the case:

Some who kept the history alive, from earlier last year: The FBI, COINTELPRO, and the most important robbery you've never heard of (PrivacySOS)

Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows (NYTimes – some great photos and a LOT of sympathetic comments)

A detailed account from Philadelphia (The Inquirer): Book reveals secrets of a burglary from Phila.'s antiwar past

From the once admirable WaPo itself: Band of activists who burglarized FBI office in 1971 come forward

What really ticks me off is that even the sympathetic accounts keep referring to this as a ‘burglary’, the ‘theft’ of government documents, a ‘break-in’, a ‘robbery’ and a ‘heist’. BULLSH*T! Even the language used boxes in and discredits the effort.

This was a case of enforcement of the very founding principles of the Constitution by a dedicated and courageous group of citizens. They are, by very definition, heroes: people who rose to perform extraordinary feats in trying circumstances to better the lives of their fellow men and women. I salute them, and give thanks for their courage and resoluteness.

I also wanted to make sure all of Turdville (or at least the subset willing to suffer through my long-winded diatribes :-) ) is aware of this portion of American history because this work is very, VERY far from done. Despite the publicity, the revelations of a fundamental betrayal of trust and abuse of power by the government and the subsequent oversight and reforms achieved as a direct result, we have the same problem back in spades, don't we? Metastasized, if you will. Moved to (multiple) different buildings, given new badges and names, moved off-budget as needed -- and has grown in size a hundred times over.

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I have quite a bit of respect for the Occupy movement, who despite their half-baked and at times communistic tendencies and alleged Soros-funding at least called attention to some dire problems and DID SOMETHING. Ineffectual? Unfocused? Infiltrated? Controlled opposition? Perhaps. But they DID move the needle ever so slightly in terms of raising awareness. Anonymous might very well be a creation of our good friends at No Such Agency, a shadow-opponent to justify their existence – but as members are caught and prosecuted with some regularity, maybe not. In any case, same verdict: THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING. Whatever your opinion might be on the character, motives and ultimate effectiveness of Bradley, Julian and Edward – THESE GUYS CHOSE TO ACT. The same goes for the founders and operators of Zero Hedge -- and of course our host Turd Ferguson.

(Attributed to George Orwell, though this guy has different ideas. I can't remember offhand, will have to re-read 1984.)

My dad and uncle were both involved in the replication and dissemination of ‘subversive’ material involving heretic ideas about 'freedom and democracy' at a time when the likely outcome of being caught would probably have been in a good case a long prison sentence and subsequent loss of livelihood. My father also (on a small scale, of course) organized a 'smuggling ring' among his colleagues across the world abroad to circumvent the COCOM trade restrictions which prevented technology needed for medical and research purposes from being exported to the 'boogeymen' behind the iron curtain. They were obviously not caught, otherwise I would not be here writing this today. In my own humble way, I would like to think I am striving to follow in their footsteps. When one day we are all sitting around the campfire by the lake at Dog’s Gulch, sipping on some of the host’s finest nectars, I’d like to be able to regale you with stories of achievements greater than what I could boast of today. And I hope to be able to hear many of yours.

Yes, it’s difficult and at first glance insurmountable. Our current adversaries are all but indistinguishable from the entire system, wield ever-larger power, have most of the money, and control most of the infrastructure. They are immune from prosecution, congressional hearings have become a laughable farce, they have no shame and are impervious to exposed proof of blatantly criminal behavior. They rig the electoral process and pervert governmental functions both legislative and judicial. What can be done that even amounts to a gnat bite on an elephant’s rear end? I have no ‘homework assignment’ to offer, only the reminder that asymmetrical engagements many times ultimately swing in favor or of the ‘weaker’ party. But only if that side ever decides to join the engagement. Standing aside may not forever remain an option.

Think outside the box, and stay thirsty, my friends.

[redacted to avoid air-to-surface projectiles]

[redacted due to bad vibes]

(credits on photos are imbedded in them [click], or are from the articles listed.)

PS: While there is no rational reason to think so, I hope a Turdite got the print of Davidon from eBay. The more I think about it, the more this gentleman reminds me of the 'REAL' Tyler Durden. Speaking of which, the Tylers and Turd should have gotten mention in the main body of the article, an omission I corrected.

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