Angela Bocage



Corgis

1. Should not be bred with dachshunds.

2. Just get me.

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  1. * Jeff Sharlet says:

    This is the writer responsible for the “homogenized yuppiethink” about Brad Will. A sincere request: Will you tell me what you found offensive about my representation of Brad? Here or by email — jeff dot sharlet at gmail dot com.

    I certainly didn’t want to homogenize him. I’ve spent the last five years writing about right-wing fundamentalism, and writing about Brad was a tremendous relief — the first opportunity I’ve had in a long time to write about someone I admire without reservation. My goal, in writing about Brad, was to let people who might not know about him — and what he stood for — find out about this person. I’d love it if some 16-year-old kid in Peoria decides to use the the video camera she got for Christmas to make something besides youtube videos of the school talent show.

    I hate to think I got it wrong, but I’m more than willing to make whatever amends I can if I did.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  2. * angelabocage says:

    Hey, Jeff, thanks for writing. My gosh, I feel awful about criticizing the article now after hearing your own purpose in writing it. You’re right that if your article, or any article, inspires someone to get off their behind, that’s a great thing. And as I thought I stated pretty clearly, I did NOT get far into the article before emotion got the better of me, so I’ll certainly give it a more objective and thorough read and respond to your “sincere request” after that. By having the guts to write to someone who wrote something really nasty about your work, you remind me how careful a critic needs to be, and my thanks for that is equally sincere–we who want to make change should never be in the business of discouraging or shaming others who are working in good faith. None of this is to say I still might not disagree with you fiercely, of course! I knew and loved Brad. But thanks.

    BTW, re your having spent the last five years writing about right-wing fundamentalism, please provide a link to some of your writing if you would. I’d love to see it. I also wrote extensively on that subject in the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, a newsweekly in the LGBT community, back in the mid-90s. I had been inspired by another scrupulous writer/researcher, Sara Diamond, whose amazing book Spiritual Warfare clinched my decision to get involved with BACORR, an organization with which I worked for several years both in clinic defense and as a media liaison.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  3. * Jeff Sharlet says:

    I don’t blame you at all for a bad first reaction (and won’t be upset if you end up disagreeing with the whole thing). Rolling Stone is an odd venue for leftist journalism. (And yes, I know, a lot of anarchists reject the term “leftist”; I don’t.) And the coverline — “Anarchist Superstar” — made me cringe. Then again, I’m not a 16-year-old kid who’s never heard anything political.

    As for the stuff about fundamentalism you’re asking for, I’ve a book coming out about a network of elite fundamentalists in government, business and the military called the Fellowship or the Family. (the book’s called the latter, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Empire.”) Here’s the first thing I wrote about it, for Harper’s, back in 2003:
    http://harpers.org/archive/2003/03/0079525

    This is a piece I wrote about the now-fallen Ted Haggard and his megachurch, in Harper’s, 2005:
    http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/37/11458

    And about fundamentalism’s use and abuse of American history, Harper’s 2006:
    http://harpers.org/archive/2006/12/0081322

    Ironically, I got more shit for this piece I wrote with my friend Kathryn Joyce about Hillary Clinton’s quiet ties to fundamentalism, published in Mother Jones earlier this year:
    http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/09/hillarys-prayer.html

    Liberals saw it as a betrayal.

    I’ve also written several features about fundamentalism — the chastity movement, Sam Brownback, the Battlecry movement — for Rolling Stone, which has been good about subsidizing stuff most mainstream media wouldn’t touch. My book, drawing all this together around a full history of elite fundamentalism, will come out later this May. From a corporate publisher, yes; no independent publisher could have possibly afforded the research this book required.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  4. * angelabocage says:

    Thanks again, Jeff, for corresponding here, and for your links. I had read your Harper’s piece about The Family awhile back and would recommend it to everyone! I’ll also do my best to read the book as well, and review it in this blog. As for seeing your Mother Jones piece as a “betrayal,” hey, any faith in elected officials of any stripe in this cultural/political milieu is nothing short of insane, so better you get your misogynist jollies with Hillary Clinton than some woman who really represents a threat to the world order!

    But all these Harper’s pieces as well as Rolling Stone! I hear they pay some real bucks! You’ve certainly shown little ol’ me that you’re a Real Journalist an’ I’m not! Yep, my last credit was from Indymedia for a piece about queer comics, and before that some stuff for City Limits about how to help kids and people of color take on abusive cops, and before that for the Shadow or Tenant about ways for tenants to avoid eviction. I may have the order of all that all wrong, but you know what? I don’t know because I don’t be keepin’ ANY of my CLIPS! And I don’t get paid for what I write! Can you even imagine that? I don’t even C A R E that you get paid lots of money and I don’t.

    A white penis is probably really really great for getting you into such rarefied venues as Harpers, Jeff, and for getting RS to think you’re cool, but I’m not gonna suck it. I still think your portrayal of Brad was shite. Your treatment of his mother’s political awakening was patronizing. (For that matter, so was your comment about sixteen year olds failing to comprehend politics. I know plenty with a better grasp than most adults!) And for sheer purple ludicrosity, how about choosing a quote like the one you put right up front about Brad being “empty” and “incomplete” “inside”? And “more a folk song than a person”?! Puhleeeezorz.

    And then you’re virtually wankin’ all over the page in your voyeuristic approach to his relationships with women! –Whoa! See Brad with a 20-year-old! With BIG CURVES! See Brad kiss swimsuited radical gals under waterfalls!!! You raise, nay waggle, journalistic manbrows at his alternative, but sensible and humane, family arrangement with the French woman! I’m shocked the ol’ boys-&-girls who run Harper’s wouldn’t’ve wanted to wank to alla that along with you. But I’m sure Rolling Stone paid fairly well too.
    But I have to thank you kindly for, in however circuitous a manner, introducing me to my *NEW FAVORITEST WEBASITE!* http://www.crimethinc.com !!! They have the RS article about Brad, comments on it, and a lot of other really great stuff…

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  5. * Jeff Sharlet says:

    Oh for chrissakes. You asked for links. I gave em. And now you give me shit for having published where I’ve published. I didn’t say a damn thing about Harper’s or RS being better than anywhere else — I simply said this is where I published. And yeah, I kept the clips — so what? I wish you’d kept yours, and I’m sure as hell glad that Sara Diamond kept her research. That’s how we build up a library, last I checked. I like libraries.

    As for big bucks — no, Harper’s doesn’t pay big bucks. Time spent on a story vs. payment works out to about minimum wage. RS does pay well. But, well, I guess I’m an asshole for thinking that I could use RS to subsidize research into the Right. I also don’t care that I get paid big bucks and you don’t. Again, you asked for the clips. You like Sara Diamond. So do I. I spent years digging through archives, interviewing some scary right-wingers, and educating myself about the Right to come up with that stuff. That’s no way to get rich. I’ve been subsidizing my research on the Right with other jobs for years. Didn’t know that was a sin.

    As for 16-year-olds — why do you insist on reading every word I write as some kind of assault on your saintliness? Of course there are lots of 16 year old kids who are smarter about politics than adults. But there are also lots of kids with parents or schools or friends who’ve kept them from knowing anything about it. You can hang out w/your cool kid friends; I’ll write for the kids who didn’t get your memo. They’re not dumb — they just maybe haven’t encountered politics yet.

    I sure didn’t ask you to suck anything. You asked for writing — I sent it — and then you beat me up for sending it.

    As for the writing you deplore — I didn’t compare Brad to a folk song, I wrote that he seemed to many of his friends like a folk song. I wrote that because, well, at his memorial several of his friends said his life was like a folk song. Brad himself was a folk singer, a people’s singer. He knew a lot of folk songs. He knew a lot of murder ballads. You knew him, I didn’t; but I think he would have liked that line.

    He probably wouldn’t have liked the quote about being “incomplete,” but I don’t know — from what I can gather, Brad was more honest than most about himself. He knew he wasn’t perfect. I put that woman up front because as I researched him, a lot of women who’d had relationships with Brad told me not to ignore the fact that he’d been kind of a player. He knew it himself, and he told other friends he wanted to change that about himself. But he hadn’t, yet, and that was part of who he was. It was also a way of telling the reader that as much as this is an admiring story, it’s not hagiography. Brad wasn’t a saint and he wouldn’t have wanted anyone to call him that.

    As for big curves — ah, hell, that was probably a bad line. But what the hell — I only wrote about Brad for the money. That’s what I’m in this for. Cause, you know, magazines want you to write about anarchists and fundamentalist elites WAY more than they want stories about celebrities and Obama.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  6. * angelabocage says:

    Hey, quit whining! You’re not a sixteen year old, right?! 😉 JK.

    Seriously, again, I have to thank you for engaging in dialogue even though I disagree with you (strongly!) in some ways. Also have to thank you again for continuing to argue with me, because on further reflection you’re probably absolutely right about putting the “player” side of Brad out there; hagiographies are so unpersuasive. But the tone was so nasty. You know it, you admit it, but then you go on to dismiss it by reaffirming your own saintliness: “magazines want you to write about anarchists and fundamentalist elites WAY more than they want stories about celebrities and Obama.” That’s a very funny line, though–and its sarcastic point rings true. You have a choice, and you’re choosing to write about under-reported and extremely important subjects. So don’t go all martyr on me, I’m trying to agree with and support you more than not!

    Straight out, I’m sure I didn’t know Brad anywhere near as well as, certainly his family, or his gf’s, or even many of the people you interviewed. But even if one knows a lot of folk songs, it surely suggests a certain delusion for anyone to want to be one.

    But yeah, I asked for links, and let me be clear here. I did ask for links to know what you’d written. And, in fact, to publicize those links to all three of my readers! What’s wrong with that? But my asking was not “in order to beat you up” about them. And I most certainly didn’t! I’ve been recommending your links “to everyone”! And hope to review your book, positively! As I said, I’d read your Harper’s piece on the Family—it had been recommended to me by a very widely read and no doubt more sophisticated thinker than I am, and he probably wouldn’t have seen it if it had been a pamphlet in the ABC No Rio zine library—and was impressed with it.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  7. * angelabocage says:

    [Whew! I haz never got in noe argument b4! It is hard to keep up with it, because Jeff and I have also been emailing before the posts went up and posting over on crimethinc….but seriously folks, let’s all read, and by read i mean purchase if you can or go to ze libe if you can’t, his books, his assertion what he’s doing is in its own way damn combative is correct…using corporate $$ to get SOME helpful info out there.]

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  8. * Jeff Sharlet says:

    Thanks, Angela. We got mixed up by the timelag between gmail and blogtime. Which is kind of horrifying. I should wait longer to respond to anything.

    Anyway, you’re right that I’m no saint because of what I write about — I’m very lucky to get paid to write about things that interest me. I only meant that I don’t get paid a lot. It’s a trade off, and I certainly make compromises, and might be a sell out by some standards — but these subjects, as you say, aren’t really mainstream media friendly.

    One point of disagreement. I certainly didn’t agree that the tone was nasty. It’s not hagiography, but it’s a pretty clearly admiring story.

    And folk songs and delusions? Well, yes. I think a few of the people who knew him — not people who were close to him — are a little bit delusional about him, and are more invested in making him into a folk hero for their own uses. One person said he wanted to do that exactly. I’m not sure what I think of that — it’s not terribly respectful to Brad, but it’s not exactly disrespectful, either. Movements need stories, and Brad’s is a very sad but great one. Something that got cut out of the original draft: the word “martyr” very literally means simply one who is killed for the act of bearing witness. That certainly applies to Brad.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago
  9. * steve w. says:

    I knew Brad, but not that well.
    I’m glad the story got into Rolling Stone, and I’d be the last one to criticize a fellow ink-stained wretch for getting a decent-paying gig.
    My problem with the story was that I didn’t feel it gave me an insight into WHY Brad did what he did–where his principles came from, why he chose to go where he did, etc. That’s where it came up short. I don’t know if that was the editing, or what–I’ll take Jeff’s word that the editors wrote the “Anarchist Superstar” cover line.
    Angela, I think you went off a bit too harshly with your comments on “a white penis gets you into Harper’s.” And Jeff, you probably shouldn’t dismiss the political awareness of 16-yr-olds in front of the mom of two VERY conscious teenagers.

    P.S. on Brad’s womanizing–I was hanging out with an Indypentista woman last weekend, and joked that one of our colleagues mentioned in the article is now world-famous for turning him down. She answered, “So did I. I think he hit on every woman in the office.”

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  10. * angelabocage says:

    Thanks for your perspective, Steve…you’re right, in some ways I did go off all harsh, and you’re certainly right about my acute awareness of how passionate, conscious and brilliantly political teenagers can be! Clearly, Jeff made the choices he made with that article, its tone, its selection and deselection of events, and no amount of clever dissing of me or others who’ve challenged him changes that. Further, the less palatable aspects of the piece for which Jeff himself places the responsibility on his editors (e.g., the “anarchist superstar” treatment, the minimization of the whole Oaxacan situation) must be understood to acknowledge that the corporate context skews content, even as the trade-off may be wider distribution/the possibility of reaching some people who may not yet be informed but who are questioning. I don’t want to discourage anyone, ever, and from his scrappy comments here (which I’ve published in their entirety) and responses to the much smarter anarchists over at Crimethinc.com I don’t think Jeff’s too bruised. We can still hope that eventually Brad’s story will be told by others who better understand it.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago


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