I have linked to online versions of my articles where possible. If you have questions or do not see a link, please email me.
Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Mass Incarceration: An Interview with David Gilbert on Contemporary Social Movements
The Sixties vol. 5, iss. 2 | December 2012
An interview with former SDS and Weather Underground member, as well as longtime political prisoner, David Gilbert about contemporary social movements. This interview was published in The Sixties and republished in Organizing Upgrade . Check it out!
The Prison and Its Metaphors
Chromatikon Yearbook VI: Yearbook of Philosophy in Progress | December 2010
Abstract: This paper examines the use of the prison as a strategic metaphor through which groups can name their feelings of “unfreedom.” Since the 1970s, the prison has helped various individuals and organizations describe the oppression they face. Its metaphoric usage derives from the prison's normative invisibility: the fact the prison remains largely unseen allows us to project onto it the horrors we wish to challenge by invoking the prison. While I outline the broader utility of this metaphor, I focus specifically on its use as a metaphor for racial oppression. As the U.S. prison population disproportionately comprises people of color, especially black, the metaphor of the prison meets its material salience. The metaphor of imprisonment is therefore of greatest use to racial justice pursuits, precisely because it is ceases to be purely a metaphor in the lives of millions of black and Latino people.
Of Black Panthers, Prisons, and a Life in Struggle for Social Justice: A Review of The War Before (by Safiya Bukhari, edited by Laura Whitehorn)
OpEdNews | January 2010
Excerpt: "'The War Before' deserves a wide audience--by activists and academics, history buffs and political neophytes. It is a fantastic contribution to the burgeoning history of the Black Panthers, all too rare in its grassroots spirit and emphasis on (re)building movements strong enough not just to withstand state violence but to overcome our own egotism and individualism." Read the full article
Constructing Crime, Framing Disaster: Routines of Criminalization and Crisis in Hurricane Katrina
Punishment and Society | October 2009 (The most downloaded article in Punishment and Society in 2010!)
Abstract: "This article argues that the media frames utilized in the first month after Hurricane Katrina legitimated punishment as disaster policy through lurid reports of individual crime. The application of prevailing state policies led to a quick embrace of punitive policing and incarceration, and journalistic routines ended up supporting this process. Although journalists openly expressed their disgust with state neglect, news conventions nonetheless criminalized much of the New Orleans population and suggested militarized policing and imprisonment as fundamental to restore order. Lacking credible sources, reporters relied on rumors and helped create a racialized ‘looter class’ that aided state efforts to regain control through existing policies of mass incarceration rather than mutual aid or state welfare. Even though various media outlets recanted the more extreme elements of this coverage, the tropes they employed created a lasting effect. Building off Stuart Hall et al.’s (1978) analysis of a moral panic over mugging in 1970s England, this article examines both the conventions and consequences of this crisis coverage. The result, I argue, bolstered the existing crisis of incarceration." Read the full article
On July 4, Puerto Rico Calls for Independence
La Voz del Paseo Boricua | July 30, 2009
Excerpt: "July 4 in Puerto Rico was less a celebration of independence than a demand for it. That night, more than 100 people attended the closing event for Not Enough Space, an art show featuring the works of political prisoners Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres, as well as a replica of the small cells in which they have each spent almost 30 years." Read the full article
Rescuing Civil Rights from Black Power: Collective Memory and Saving the State in Twenty-First Century Prosecutions of 1960s-Era Cases
Journal for the Study of Radicalism | Spring 2009
Excerpt: "[T]he current moment is a pivotal one in shaping how society perceives the history and impact of the black freedom struggle. ... [These cases are] being reopened in a post–civil rights world that has seen an immense retreat from racial justice ... these cases constitute spectacular intervention by the state in how the black freedom struggle is remembered." Read the full article
Defining Democracy: Coalition Politics and the Struggle for Media Reform
International Journal for Communication | Winter 2009
Abstract: The corporate consolidation of media has sparked a national bipartisan coalition struggling for media reform. This article attempts a critical overview of this phenomenon by analyzing its works and words to date. I argue that media reform has activated large numbers of people around vital but seemingly esoteric issues, and, in the process, has synthesized communication research and action for the democratic control of media policy. But this battle also exposes several potential limitations. In particular, I examine the populist nature of the media reform coalition's attempt to be a "nonpartisan democracy movement." Such an approach assumes an inevitable progressive basis to bipartisan coalition not demonstrated by historical examples. Further, this organizing model prioritizes formal institutional decisions at the expense of what is perhaps the media's greatest power: their ability to shape meaning through content. I conclude by analyzing several alternate models of media activism which join policy with production and forcefully articulate media reform as a vital component of broader struggles for social justice. Read the full article
Navigating the Crisis: A Study Groups Roundtable [with Chris Dixon, interviews with the Activist Study Circle, Another Politics is Possible, the LA Crew, and the New York Study Group]
Upping the Anti | issue 8 (Spring 2009)
Excerpt: "Our moment is marked by both crisis and possibility. Economies are plunging worldwide, and ecosystems are in undeniable danger. State repression is expanding, and the US, Canada, and Israel continue to wag wars of occupation. In this context, the recent US presidential election tapped into a reservoir of popular energy for change. However, mass movements in North America continue to be relatively demobilized. The left itself is in crisis and lacks clearly defined visions and strategies. Although progressive sympathies now run high, progressive options – let alone radical ones – are few." Read the full article
Chicago 10: Image Politics and Protest, From the Past to the Present
Toward Freedom | 9.18.08
Excerpt: "[W]hat better way to blend past and present, culture and politics, than an animated documentary of the (in)famous Chicago conspiracy trial, one of the most well-known events of the 1960s?" Read the full article
Off the Page and Into the Streets
Toward Freedom | 2.13.08
Excerpt: "From Art Spiegelman’s Maus to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, the graphic form has proved a powerful narrative tool. Combining memoir and social commentary in a visually appealing package, such illustrated stories blur the boundaries of art and history, reality and fantasy. It should be no surprise, then, that social movements—those rare hybrids of reality and fantasy—are finding themselves increasingly illustrated. Walter Benjamin’s argument that radicalism politicizes art seems more relevant now than ever." Read the full review
Reviewed:Harvey Pekar, art by Gary Dumm, edited by Paul Buhle, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History . (New York: Hill & Wang, 2008) 224 pages, hardcover, $22.
Monthly Review | January 2008
Excerpt: Particularly since the fall of apartheid, the U.S. left has not looked to African social movements for political mentorship. Many who rightly look to Bolivia, Mexico, and Venezuela for inspiration do not similarly focus on the emerging movements of Kenya, Nigeria, or Tanzania. The difficult challenges of building socialism under post- and neocolonial conditions have, too often, superseded the varied lessons that many movements on the African continent have to offer a global left bent on securing a viable alternative to empire.
Reviewed: Matt Meyer, Time Is Tight: Urgent Tasks for Educational Transformation: Eritrea, South Africa, and the U.S. (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2007), 202 pages, paperback, $24.95.
“The U.S. Social Forum: Visions to Build, Reasons to Hope"
WireTap | 7.19.07
Excerpt: Organizers estimate that more than 10,000 people filled Atlanta from June 27 to July 1 with visionary panels, spirited marches, fiery speeches, bumpin' dance parties and an all-around impressive political spirit. The feedback is (nearly) unanimous: the United States Social Forum (USSF) -- held in the United States for the first time -- was amazing...And now that it's over, the real work of the forum begins.
“An Even Newer Left”
The Nation | 6.30.07
Excerpt: It is a scene perhaps best captured in fragments rather than full sentences. Organizers. Housing. Immigrant workers. Vision. Prison abolition. Puppets. Speeches, newspapers, fliers, banners, flags, books, shirts. Laughter. Dance parties. Water. Media. Fundraisers. Collaboration. Resisting state and interpersonal violence. Imagining. Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, ghetto, barrio, reservation. The city. Youth. Networking. Strategy.
“Coming Out for the Palestine Solidarity Movement” (written with Nava EtShalom)
WireTap | 6.1.07
Excerpt: The 40-60 anniversaries [in Israel and Palestine] offer the chance for a range of creative action across borders: a chance to renew and rethink international solidarity. It reminds us that visionary thinking often comes first from those whose lives most depend on it. And yet, we all have roles to play in realizing such a world.
“Winning the (Anti)War and Rebuilding Political Imagination” (written with Andy Cornell)
WireTap | 1.24.07
Excerpt: We have the opportunity now, in this generation, to affirm a new, democratic critique of empire -- a radical anti-imperialism that fully affirms human rights, equitable distribution of resources, ecological sustainability, and grassroots democracy without being mired in the repressive anti-humanism of Stalinism, as previous generations of the left have been
“Radical Citizenship in Wartime, from Vietnam to Iraq”
Toward Freedom | 1.17.07
Excerpt: Just as in the Sixties, the frontlines of political struggle within the U.S. today emerge from the South and from those whose citizenship is in question. In the 1960s, the confluence of geography and precarious civic status came most notably from African Americans. That is just as true today, particularly the struggles from New Orleans and elsewhere in the Gulf Coast for a people’s led reconstruction after such criminal governmental neglect and the ensuing neo-liberalism characterizing the state’s efforts at rebuilding the Gulf Coast as a tourist playground. Read the full article
“Reflections on SDS and Black Power, War and Racism, 40 Years Later”
WireTap | 1.13.07
Excerpt: The same three pillars of U.S. society that Dr. King urged people to confront -- racism, imperialism, capitalism -- continue with unparalleled brutality. But what can be done? History may hold some answers.
“Testing the Limits of Dissent in the Green Scare”
Z Magazine | Winter 2006
Excerpt: One of the biggest post-9/11 criminal cases involves the prosecution of 14 radical environmentalists on a slew of charges for property destruction (mainly arson) and conspiracy.
“The Weather Underground and the American Radical Legacy”
Toward Freedom | 8.29.06
Excerpt: And yet the fundamental lessons about the need for audacious resistance to the ubiquitous crimes of structural injustice, the recognition that politics is both local and global, and that privilege not only exists and helps shape political consciousness and material relations but affords people who have it with a tremendous opportunity to be engaged in vibrant struggles—these are the contributions and challenges that the Weather Underground and others helped make to the American radical legacy.
“Ten Questions for Movement Building” (written with Andy Cornell)
Monthly Review | 7.24.06
Excerpt: The following ten questions emerge from our analysis of the political situation based on our travels and meetings with activists of a variety of ages and range of experiences.
“Building a Political Prisoner Support Movement”
Left Turn | May-June 2006
Excerpt: Political prisoners, if largely unacknowledged, are at the crux of debates over incarceration. Their presence testifies to the ongoing legacy of social problems, which in itself is central to the cycle of crime and punishment. As the anti-prison movement continues to grow in strength and stature, the question of political prisoners demands attention because these movement veterans remain part of current endeavors for social justice.
“Two Prisoners Named Williams”
The Nation | 14 December 2005
Excerpt: The memories Stanley Tookie Williams and Richard Williams invoked were, it would seem, more than the government wanted to deal with. But the issues their lives and deaths raise--the specter of Black Power, anti-imperialism, personal redemption and political commitment--will not be buried with them.
“Mark Felt’s Other Legacy”
The Nation | 6.22.05
Excerpt: Before throwing a ticker-tape parade in Felt's honor, we would do well to first attend to the activists Felt helped incarcerate and pay reparations to those who were placed under surveillance, robbed or otherwise harassed on the orders of "the guy they used to call Deep Throat.
"Frontlines, Headlines, and Bottom Lines: A Resource Guide on the Connections and Conflicts of Interest between Media, Government and War-Related Industries" (written with Media Tank) | 2004
“Should Comcast get tax break? Not without public-access TV”
The Philadelphia Inquirer | 6.21.04
"Like Prisons? You'll Love Globalization; Like Globalization? You'll Love Prisons"
(written by Dan Berger, with Lars Din, Zein El-Amine, and Kenyon Farrow)
The Project [Santa Cruz] | 2003
Excerpt: Both the globalization movement and the prison abolitionist movement have their roots in the political, economic, and social policies dating back to post World War II but that have intensified exponentially in the past twenty years.
“Refusing to Surrender: John Brown and White Anti-Racist Struggle”
ONWARD | Spring 2002
Excerpt: From 1800 until his execution for treason by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1859, John Brown lived white anti-racist struggle. A threat to the institutions of slavery and white supremacy, Brown's militant acts against United States racism terrified the white power structure and continue to frighten it. While highlighting his life and deeds helps us understand our history and shape our activism, his shortcomings must also inform our organizing. Only by critically viewing history - not romanticizing or dismissing it - can we hope to learn from it.
Also, I'm very happy to report that many of the contents of ONWARD , the anarchist newspaper Rob Augman and I co-edited from May 2000 to December 2003, are once again online (thanks to Rob). Check it out here.