Let's Get Freaky

A call for diversionary tactics

In the wake of the election, wingnuts – already teetering on the fringes of reality – have got our work cut out for us. If in fact we now face the prospect of a Christian fundamentalist assault on abortion, gays, birth control – probably alcohol, drugs and porn, too, if they get a chance – then it’s high time to begin a counter-offensive — the best defense is a good offense!

Folks on the extreme fringes have a crucial role right now — which is to be on the extreme fringe and keep the political spectrum as wide as possible. The right-wing would like to move the debate ever further to the right – so that fringe issues and in fact fringe reality doesn’t even exist. If this happens, what are now the moderate issues could become the far-out end of the political continuum.

For example, Bush is believed to have used the gay marriage issue to help him win the election. We have to keep in mind that gay marriage is essentially an attempt by the more mainstream wing of the gay movement to assimilate into the mainstream – to be entitled to everything “normal” people are entitled to. That is cool and a worthy goal – but on the fringes, we have to recognize that winning gay marriage isn’t the radical forefront – having polyamorous, gender traitorous orgies in the streets is more like it. Right now, mainstream civil rights groups are talking about how they’re going to avoid pressing demands for gay marriage for the moment, because the movement for gay marriage is creating a perfect wedge issue. That is a calculation by responsible folks – many of whom have “activist” jobs with non-profits. Out on the fringes, reality looks a little different – those Christians would be begging gays to have nice, monogamous, suburban lives if they realized the alternative options for queer chaos. If gay marriage is a threat to het marriage, doesn’t polyamorous sexual chaos represent an even greater threat?

If you want equal rights for gays to be “normal” people, then the offensive strategy is to fight for the freaks. If you want to stay on the defensive, then do what the moderates do – pull gay marriage off the table because it might offend the Christian right, and see if you can work on subtle changes to the tax code or whatever to provide more space for folks in civil unions.

The same theory works for most issues – Earth First! or the Earth Liberation Front define the fringes of the environmental movement while the Sierra Club engineers sensible compromises that usually leave the earth worse off. Playing defense is always going to get us the crumbs. The Christian right didn’t win the last election by playing defense – they fought for what they actually wanted. The fringe is always tiny and marginalized, and usually has influence far beyond its apparent marginalization. Those of us on the fringe have to remember that as millions of Kerry voters sink into a post-election depression — we have to avoid catching their negative energy.

Radicals in America have a lot to learn from the rebels in Iraq. When you’re battling an empire, a lot of times it’s not the best idea to launch a frontal assault on heavily armed troops. Instead, the guerrilla looks for weak spots, looks to distract the enemy from it’s main goal, looks to move in the shadows until the crucial moment. Being a radical in America, we share a common struggle with the rebels in Iraq – we reject the brutal American empire and its occupation of our homes. But conditions are not precisely the same — conditions are totally inappropriate for tiny bands of youth to “go underground” and take up small arms in the USA. That may sound romantic to a few people, but a romantic suicide doesn’t help anyone. However, the root of guerrilla tactics still apply – we need to pick fights that favor our spontaneity, flexibility, the element of surprise and our other strengths and avoid battles on terrain chosen by the rulers.

When a baby wants to play with a hot fire place poker, you try to distract the baby with something a little safer, like a rattle. The right wing wants to spend the next four years going after abortion, gays and women. The fringe has an opportunity to distract them and force them to waste their energy instead of using their time effectively. So like the guerrillas in Iraq, who launched an uprising in Mosul while US forces invaded Falluja, as wingnuts we ought to be figuring out diversionary attacks that we can mount against religious fundamentalists, rather than spending the next four years in a defensive mode trying to preserve a mainstream status quo.

I’ve been trying to think of actions designed to be so outrageous that the right-wing would be forced to drop what they want to do to stop them. Even if such actions don’t work as diversions, they can help keep the political field broad and let freaks everywhere know that we’re not alone, and we’re not going away!

But figuring out appropriate actions is hard when the stakes are high and your main strengths are humor and being a total freak — you don’t want to just have a really outrageous Sodomy in the Streets (SITS) party while the US empire is shooting civilians in Iraq. My friend thinks we could disrupt reality by going around the country planting marijuana seedballs so pot would start growing everywhere like the weed it is. Cute idea, but let’s be serious.

Another idea I had right after the election was to mount a campaign of Bible Burning. Remember a few years ago when the political establishment had to drop what it was doing to try to stop flag burning? For some reason this totally symbolic act by a tiny number of wingnuts drove the political establishment nuts. So I was thinking, if flag burning drives ‘em crazy, how about Bible burning? But I think this is probably not a great tactic for a few reasons: it’s scary and negative, evoking images of Nazi book burnings, it ignores the liberatory threads of some religious folks, and it only highlights what we’re against, not what we can be for. I do like it because it could be an insane diversionary tactic – wouldn’t it be great if church groups spent time banning bible burning instead of banning abortion? We need to be creative, but also be thoughtful and not allow our own fear and prejudices to lead us into our own intolerant actions. Intolerance is a far greater threat to the fringe than to the mainstream.

Because we’re in the belly of the beast here in the U$A, we have a crucial role – determination and even some discipline are in order. We have to use all means at hand in the struggle – a wide variety of tactics gives us the best chance to discover what will work.

After turning it over in my mind for the past few weeks, I have to admit that I have no idea what kind of actions we need to be up to, but I’m pretty sure we need to try some new things. The night after the election, the usual suspects gathered on Mission Street in San Francisco to protest, but this response seemed weak and somehow inappropriate. We shouldn’t stop protesting and resisting, of course, but couldn’t we be a little less ritualistic? If we have rallies and protests to lift our spirits, act in solidarity with peace and freedom loving people outside the USA, and show that there are alternatives to the grim drumbeat of war and capitalism, that is great. But our protests need to serve our own purposes — traditional protests seem less relevant at the moment.

I think the best hope is for lots of people all over to think of some new ideas and try some freak experiments — and then report the results to everyone else. Decentralization and diversity are strengths in uncertain times. Seize the moment and let your freak flag fly!