I look forward to participating in what will be the second annual Keenevention this weekend. The forum taking place at the Best Western Plus Sovereign Hotel on Winchester Street will feature panels and speeches by New Hampshire’s activist community. In addition to a panel focusing on Direct Action that I will be hosting on Sunday, I was also asked to speak on Saturday’s media panel by organizer Mark Edge. When I agreed, I was not informed who else would be on the panel, though I expected that organizers would only select participants of honorable reputation when showcasing the most effective activists that New Hampshire offers.
While there is certainly a need for diversity of perspective within the activist community, there are standards that a reasonable person would expect individuals would hold each other to if we wish to make any sort of collective impact. As a peace activist, anyone who directly advocated or applauds the use of violence can be objectively classified as having beliefs counter to my own. For myself, I am wasting my most valuable asset, my time, if I support those working against my interests, those who are promoting ideas that are the opposite of my own.
It was once consensus within the libertarian and anarchist community of greater Keene that embracing peace was equally imperative to embracing ideas of social liberty. For whatever reason over the past year or so, that sentiment has changed as some formerly positive spirits have darkened amidst of heightened wave of reactionary opposition.
By giving someone a microphone and allotted time to speak, one is proclaiming that the person whom they hand off the microphone to is worthy of an audience’s attention, and that their authority is legitimate in the field of expertise where they have been asked to elaborate. In this sense, one can expect that anything may happen at an open microphone event, but that pre-selected speakers would be chosen using some level of discretion.
I happened to be on the road in Chicago with the 2013 Police Accountability Tour during the time of the previous Keenevention. At last year’s event, an embarrassing discussion was held featuring Chris Cantwell, who was featured as an advocate of violence on a panel presented in contrast with Ian Freeman and Derrick Freeman, two individuals who create plenty of media themselves, both on their own and in association with Cantwell. My perspective was that the performance was a waste of time which served only to legitimize Chris Cantwell’s twisted perspective. No great awakenings were reported as a result of the discussion, and Cantwell has made no adjustments or retractions of his statements applauding the violence of others. Since that time, he has attracted even more negative attention to himself, getting removed from his association with CopBlock.org after using his access to administrator accounts to applaud senseless violence (including murder) directed at police. Despite the poor demonstration of progress on a path to peace, Chris Cantwell is being given more stage time by forum organizers who claim adherence to advancing peace. When I spoke about this issue to the host of the media panel, Mark Edge, who is also a minister within the Shire Free Church, he concurred that Cantwell’s positions are not those of peace, but that since the panel is specifically focused on media production, that he did not consider his positions on peace vs. violence to be specifically relevant to that topic. While it is true that not all of Cantwell’s creative endeavors are distressing endorsements of violence, when a public personality takes a universally unsettling position and unapologetically defends such a position, it is incumbent upon those who know better to remain clear regarding who is on the side opposite of humanity. Treating those with backwards, old fashioned ideas as though they are a legitimate authority in an area is to divert attention away from the fundamental issues. If we cannot have consensus on peace, how could we possibly reach consensus on how to define liberty?
While Keenevention’s schedule is structured so that there are no overlapping panels, I won’t take it personally if you choose to skip this year’s media panel. Investing time into those who are forthrightly opposed to peace limits the time that we can invest into those propagating the more harmonious cultures we ought see more of. There may be something curiously tempting about trying to lead misguided souls into the light, but there reaches a point where one is being assimilated by their opponent when they are investing so much of their own energy with no demonstrable return. One must always balance an open mind with dedication to principle, not allowing one to compromise the other.
For more information on the poor social habits of unofficial Free Keene associate Chris Cantwell, with whom I will be speaking alongside on the media panel Saturday at 1:30pm, please see Leverett & River Street Residents Compete for Worst Neighbor Award published on September 26.