Sunday, May 1, 2011

Turning ‘Non-Violence’ Into ‘Violence’: The Quote That Wasn’t

We–at Insurgent Visuals–obtained and edited the videos of the course that Judy Ancel co-taught with Don Giljum at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).

The course lectures were posted online, which is how we obtained them. We then gave the videos we made to several news outlets.

The videos were not edited to distort the context of Ancel and Giljum’s remarks, as Ancel alleges. Let’s take the very first quote she complains about. Ancel says:
…Statement by Judy Ancel…
  • Breitbart’s version: “Violence is a tactic and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.”
  • The real version: After students had watched a film on the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King, they were discussing nonviolence. I said, “One guy in the film. . . said ‘violence is a tactic, and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.’ . . . “ The class proceeded to discuss and debate this.
Ancel is wrong. She distorts the quote from the film, as well as the context of the class discussion, in a transparent effort to divert attention from the damning content of our videos.

In fact, the activist she “quoted” from the 1993 film At The River I Stand, Coby Smith, said, “…we saw non-violence as a tactic, and a tactic alone,” not, as Ancel erroneously claims,”violence is a tactic, and it’s to be used when it’s appropriate, the appropriate tactic” (our emphasis). Smith’s original, full quote appears at 1:02 – 1:15, below:

If, as Ancel claims, those words were not hers, then they apparently weren’t the words of the activist she claims to have quoted, either.
Furthermore, the context into which she introduced the misquote was not, as she claims, a discussion of nonviolence, but a discussion of violence.

Just over a minute earlier, in discussing the act of smashing windows and looting, someone in the class had declared: “I’m not willing to put any tactics off the table.” Another student then declared: “When they’re willing to give up violence, I will, too, you know.”

That’s when Ancel introduced the idea that “violence is a tactic.” In our view, the fact that she was referring to the film was irrelevant–especially given the fact that she misquoted it, perhaps deliberately.

The very next statement was by a student following up Ancel’s point: “I don’t necessarily want to be a part of capitalist society. I want to take over the state with a revolutionary movement, which doesn’t exist.” Ancel did not comment on his call to overthrow the government.

Arguably, the only criticism Ancel made of violence during that lecture was implicit, when she spoke with approval about union “militancy,” “in-your-face tactics,” and breaking the law:
…true militancy means high levels of participation and willingness to undertake creative and in-your-face tactics, I think. And the American labor movement never would have had the successes it had without that kind of militancy. There isn’t any major labor battle in this country, clearly, before the era of the 1950s that did not, in fact, break the law. And–but they didn’t do it by destroying property and smashing windows. They did it tactically, by violating the laws they had to violate if they were going to be able to continue their movement…
Throughout the rest of that lecture, Ancel repeatedly failed to criticize statements made by Giljum or by students endorsing violence. She deflected blame for violent labor conflicts onto “capital,” the police, etc. And she clearly and explicitly advocated “militancy,” saying: “Militancy is a tactic. And it’s a tactic that you select out of your toolbox of tactics when you need to figure out what’s the appropriate thing to do.”

At another point, a student in the class staunchly defended violence as a tactic, and asserted that the French Revolution, and Latin American and African revolutions wouldn’t have been successful without violence. To those words, Ancel added approvingly, “Also, the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations, which merged with the American Federation of Labor in 1955 to become the AFL-CIO], uh, wouldn’t have made it, either.”

As for Giljam, he claims that his words were distorted in the video. He is quoted in a sympathetic article at as follows:
In another section [of the class], Giljum told Labor Notes he said, “Labor can’t deny its violent past in response to the repression that was perpetrated on it. It’s hard to say that was not appropriate at that time; it might have been. I don’t believe those tactics are going to work today and I think they would do more harm than good.”
Breitbart snipped out the words in italics [bold, in this post]. has the facts wrong. Like Ancel, Giljam is misquoting and “selectively editing” himself to remove his admission that he had “inflicted pain and suffering on some people.”
Here is his Giljam’s full quote from the lecture–responding to a student who had observed that “different scenarios call for different action”:
Certainly, and I tend to agree with you, because I think if you look at labor’s history over the years, you’ll find that, you know, we’ve had a very violent history, with violent protest and reaction to suppression, OK? But as time has changed, the tactics have changed, or the need for those have changed, OK? Now, you know, that’s not to say that, in certain instances, strategically played out and for certain purposes that industrial sabotage doesn’t have it’s place–I think it certainly does. But as far as–and I can’t really honestly say that I’ve never wished, or have never been in a position where I haven’t wished real harm on somebody, or inflicted any pain and suffering on some people [Interjection: "We're all human."] that, you know, didn’t ask for it, but, you know–it certainly has it’s place, it certainly makes you feel a hell of a lot better sometimes, but beyond that, I’m not sure as a tactic today, the type of violence or reaction to the violence that we had back then would be called for here, and I think it would do more harm than good.
The portions not in bold, above, were not included in the video we produced. That may not have been the way Giljam would like his quote to have been edited, but it’s a fair edit, in our opinion, and includes Giljam’s confession about inflicting “pain and suffering”–which his statement to does not.

There’s a common refrain now, most recently in the wake of the NPR sting, that videos revealing bad behavior on the left are the result of “selective editing,” in the words of Gail Hackett, Provost of the University of Missouri-Kansas City–or, in Judy Ancel’s words, edited in a “creative” way, as “part of a broad agenda to weaken unions and the public sector as well as public education.”

Really? Then why hasn’t Ancel demanded that the university release the full lectures for the public to decide?
Ancel cannot deny that she and Giljum were discussing violent tactics–and, in Giljum’s case, recalling his personal experience in using fear and intimidation.

So she, and the university, have resorted to a red herring–the false claim that students’ “right to privacy” was violated.

None of the individual students in any of the videos was identified. Furthermore, Ancel herself encouraged students to share the course materials widely, saying in one lecture:
…all labor education materials are uncopyrighted, and to be shared. We do not believe, for the most part, in intellectual property rights. That’s one of the principles of labor education. We share.
This is not an “attack on the rights of working people and on anything that is public,” as Ancel wants Missouri taxpayers to believe. This is about the promotion of violence as a political tactic in labor disputes in a public university classroom.

The fundamental context–which Ancel distorts–is that she and Giljum discussed violence–and militancy, and intimidation, and law-breaking–in the course of teaching impressionable students how to get results through union organizing.

If, at times, they stated that “the tactics have changed,” at other times they seemed to condone those tactics–with Ancel, for example, stating that “there are some people whose definition of terrorism is just an army without a defense budget.”

At one point, Ancel stated: “the struggle for public employee unionism cost lives”–real lives, because people “had to fight for it.”

No doubt she partially meant the lives of those who suffered to win labor rights in America, a large number. But let there be no doubt that labor violence cost lives among those who resisted, for whatever reason–those innocents who were the casualties in the battles she supported.

NOTE: An earlier version of the Giljam quote above inadvertently bolded a section that was not included in the video. We have updated the post to reflect that.

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