Friday, November 14, 2014

Musings: Face of a Demagogue

dem·a·gogue noun \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\
: a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason.

I've been both fascinated and repelled by the glorified demagoguery of the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii.

It is not to be confused with demigod — the status to which anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca elevated himself with a crude cartoon depicting him as the “Hawaiian Superman,” a reference to the demigod Maui.

No, demagoguery is something different — more deliberate, more dangerous, more destructive to democracy, more insidious.

As a friend characterized it: 

I'm good because you're bad. We are virtuous because you are evil. Oh, and a truck will come by in the morning to escort you to your re-education camp.

The rhetoric espoused by Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser has offered countless classic examples of demagoguery. But nothing seemed to portray the dynamic quite so vividly as this Facebook post by Ashley Lukens, the director of the mainland-based Center for Food Safety, which set up shop in Hawaii last year specifically to direct and exploit anti-GMO sentiment:
Here's how it works. First, they create an enemy, preferably an easy target, like multinational chemical companies.

They then vilify the enemy through accusations — poisoning water, people, land — that are repeated over and over and over again. None of the accusations have been proven in Hawaii; indeed, every assessment — even their own— has shown the accusations to be false. Not one blood test has been produced that shows elevated pesticide levels in a person living near or working in seed fields; state water tests have shown environmental pesticide levels well below threshold levels; there are no cancer clusters, no unusual rates of birth defects. Yet still, the claims are repeated.

Next, they deploy despicable tactics, which they then attribute to the enemy, as evidenced by  Ashley's post.

Ashley and her followers fear for their personal safety because they are the ones who have promoted violence, from the “fistee” call to arms and the “pass the bill” mob scene in the Kauai County Council chambers to the calls to destroy fields and do “whatever it takes” to eliminate biotech.

Ashley is worried about bullying because she leads a movement that has mercilessly bullied not only those financially associated with the identified enemy, but average citizens who dared to question the movement's facts, goals and tactics. Though she never once spoke up against that bullying, she is now seeking sympathy as a supposed victim of “corporate” bullying.

Ashley is worried about putting her child's Facebook photos on “lock down” because her movement defaced, defiled and disseminated Facebook photographs of local biotech employees and their children.

Ashley is worried about threats from “crazy bloggers” because the “crazy bloggers” in her own movement repeatedly threatened biotech workers and supporters with death, financial ruin and other harm.

Ashley is worried about “participatory democracy” because her own movement used outside funding and tax-free, nonprofit status to engage in political advocacy and lobbying to influence local politics. Meanwhile, movement supporters like Jonathan Jay use public radio to bleat about our cruel “winner takes all” style of elections, i.e., democracy.

Ashley intones on “the importance of dissent in the context of a liberal state” even as she leads a movement that ruthlessly represses all dissent.

Ashley, who lead a movement that attempted to make others cower in their home for speaking truth to the movement, is now vowing she won't cower for “speaking truth to power,” even as she claims her movement actually holds the power.

In this Facebook post, Ashley, is looking in the mirror, where she sees a demagogue looking back. But rather than recognize it as her own reflection, she projects it onto the enemy and claims the rhetorical high road of “progress and liberation” for a movement that in practice is regressive and repressive.

A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from French "demagogue", derived in turn from the Greek "demos" = people/folk and the verb "ago" = carry/manipulate thus "people's manipulator") or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness. Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.

Take note, all of you in our community who have aligned yourselves with this movement, who have allowed your faces and names to be used by this movement. Take note. 


Anonymous said...

"Fools names and fools faces appear in public places."

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Joan.
The fervor over GMO/pesticides seems to fading. There are actually conversations being held in a civil manner. Previously, if some one said that trillions of GMO meals have been eaten with no problems, you could be vilified.
Gary has lost his power, due to his abysmal showing, his lying style and the loss of his BaBaLouie, Tim. Mason, his previous waterboy, seems to have graduated into an individual and not a Gary reflection. Keep it up can have a real future if you become your own man, you have a good way about you.
You brought up Bynum's "ricecooker". After all the foofoorah on GMOs/herbicides..the real impact on the island is the resulting "rules and regulations" that are in place BECAUSE of Tim's ricecooker.
Planning has re-defined what a kitchen is. The language in the regs is so ambiguous and confusing, they have brought in the ghosts of Jean Paul Sartre and Frederich Nietzsche to surmise the true meaning of the words and intent of Ricecooker lingerings. No one really knows how to put in the electric plugs or kitchen sinks in new or re-build construction, due to Timmy's RICECOOKER. This is a big deal.
So in the end end Tim's 1 million dollar ricecooker continues to cost people, architects, builders, homeowners, renters and the Planning Department money.
The Ricecooker that keeps on giving and taking.
Moral of the story? A simple little thing can evolve into a monster. A Golem.
F*ck the Fistees and the former Babes they rode in on.
Just let us live our lives. Guaranz ballbearanz.

Anonymous said...

Joan, there are several people who live in Kekaha who have had their urine/blood tested ---- pesticides were found! These are people who can afford the tests--they sent their samples to the mainland.

Joan Conrow said...

well then let's see them

Anonymous said...

It was the Kauai Prosecuting Attorney, County Council, Planning department, County attorney and county administration that implemented the Rice Cooker insanity. Tim was just one of many homeowners who chose to rent out portions of their homes and who had rice cookers for their tenants to use. Previous incarnations of the County of Kauai viewed another unit as being determined by the kitchen. In our wisdom we have determined that a violation of zoning can be determined by the presence of a rice cooker.

All of this in response to the rising price of ag land making land unaffordable for bona fide farmers. We limit the adu's on ag land. We limit the density of ag land all in response to land prices and McMansions. What is the result? Zuckerburg and Princeville Kaching! Mac Mac Mac Mac mansions.

What is really weird is that we do this because we are offended by carpetbaggers who come in to make money of of these lands so we try to limit the density of these ag lands only to have the Hermes baggers come in. So tilting at windmills.

Luke Kambic said...

I convinced Ashley to visit our lab when she was on campus one evening last spring. She talked the entire time. She admonished me to "stop accusing people of fear mongering", accused me of using fake names online (I don't), and reminded me that she "has a PhD" when I tried to nudge the conversation toward technical topics that she was unprepared to shoot down with anything but legalese and stubbornness. Near the end of our meeting, in a surreal display of the postmodern pseudo-relativism that characterizes that CFS's philosophy, she declared that she's "not doing this because she thinks she's right". So why are you doing it, Dr. Lukens? Idle whimsy?

I don't think she learned a thing about biotech that night. I realize that writing this comment might burn a small bridge. But I think I'm ready to burn this one. I don't know how to communicate or relate with a human being who is so fully committed to Andrew Kimbrell's dark-age crusade against enlightenment thinking and humanism. CFS's manipulations are as poisonous to healthy society as any pesticide, and their expressly anti-objective philosophy makes them immune to new information.

Last week the USDA approved the "innate" potato varieties, which have been engineered for two traits: to be less carcinogenic when fried, and to be less prone to the black bruising that makes millions of pounds of potatoes go to waste every year. The developers only used genes found in potato plants, and the new varieties have been through millions of dollars worth of cautious safety testing lasting most of a decade. Like clockwork, the CFS has already set their fear machine in motion and threatened legal action.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap! Right in the money Joan! That definition of demagogue is exactly what happened here. "Oppose deliberation and advocate immediate" as in the pass the bill now Nomatter that it will never make it or help anyone and in fact it will make matters worse. "Accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness" as in anyone who dared to question or tried to calm everyone's fears with reason was accused of being corrupt and a shill. Wow! ugh! I'm still having to spell it out for people who just don't get it. And then I end up being the "bad guy". Lowest common denominator is right. And they're all so self centered and ignorant that they still think they are the majority.

Anonymous said...

So why are you doing it, Dr. Lukens?

Money and publicity?

Anonymous said...

..and who can argue with a PH.d in Poly Sci...?


Anonymous said...

Lukas. I commend you for trying to help her learn something. Lukens should have stuck with the local food movement, she could have actually done some good there. Instead she took CFS high paying gig as anti GMO girl and has only one goal, bring down biotechnology and devide agriculture. Sad. Wasted potential.

Anonymous said...

All of a sudden this interloping ringer from the Center for Food Safety is a victim? I rather doubt it although she may be short of real friends. Perhaps she shouldn't have come riding in from wherever to spread the party line of an organization that produces no food, assures no safety and scares the crap out of people who don't inspect the message too carefully. Here's her doctoral thesis "Theorizing Food Justice: Critical Positionality and the Political Economy of Community Food Systems" Chew on that one! What possible use is something like that to any one of the 900,000 plus farmers growing GE crops in this country for our consumption? In fact, I'm thinking the doctoral program accepting this might be a little fuzzy to begin with- even if it is political science. I do not know what these dingbat theorists and bunco artists plan to feed us, but certainly, whatever it is, they sure as hell can't grow it. I'll take the people who know what they are doing any day before frauds like her who make it their god given business to force their way on the good people who walk the walk and rip off their income in the process. She's a True Believer complete with the 1000 yard stare if I've ever seen and heard one. On the positive side, she hasn't yet awarded herself a Hawaiian name like Nomi Momona, the lobbyist. At least I don’t think so.

Anonymous said...

Ms Lukens post invites questions. What evidence is there that she or her daughter have been subjected to "threats from these crazy biotech bloggers?" If she has been threatened, has she filed a police report? Or is she just making this stuff up? Hell, I don't know. Perhaps Ashley could furnish some evidence.

Anonymous said...

@ 13:19,
They don't do evidence

Anonymous said...

What does the hastag "wearethem" mean/ Does it mean they are really the biotech companies and that is why they advocate to pass crappy laws that bring us preemption which totally works in favor of the seed companies?

Anonymous said...

Whatever is going on around us, today is an amazing morning. Can you reach out and touch Waialeale or Makaleha? Kauai best people and best place.
I think I'll do some random acts.

Anonymous said...

8:32--it will be revealed at the right time!

Anonymous said...

Ur right Joan! This is how liberals, progressives whatever they call themselves operate.

Anonymous said...

8:06 Pesticides in blood tests.
OMG...I say let's test everyone on the island.
Blood tests reveal, but they do not show from whence them thar bad stuffs got in your body.
Test the old folks who have lived their entire lives in Kekaha...90 years of Sugar and Corn, Paraquat, Chlordane, Lorsban, Dursban, poly-unsaturated fats, masubi, akule and Arare. Now that would be a test.
One test doth not maketh empirical fact.

Dawson said...

Anonymous at 8:06 said:
"Joan, there are several people who live in Kekaha who have had their urine/blood tested ---- pesticides were found! These are people who can afford the tests--they sent their samples to the mainland."

To which Joan Conrow at 8:32 replied:
"well then let's see them"

Upon which Anonymous at 6:03 proclaimed:
"8:32--it will be revealed at the right time!"

Seriously, 6:03, is that the best you can do? "It will be revealed at the proper time" (the claim to be in possession of incontrovertible proof) is one of the oldest and lamest ploys in the demagogue playbook! Don't you guys want to at least appear to have just a little bit of credibility?

I guess not. Given the barrel-bottom scrapings that Lukens, Barca and Hooser are spewing, much less the pathetic posts of 8:06 and 6:03, it's clear that Kauai's crop of demagogues are in danger of devolving from hopeful contenders to background noise.

Look. Good, professional demagogues thrive on skillfully slinging lies, but what you guys are dishing is just amateurish -- silly, transparent, and insulting to the intelligences of the people you're trying to manipulate.

"Urine and blood tests?" Sweet Jesus! C'mon, guys, grow a pair or get out.

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Ms Joan, another beautiful day.
Way back when, you predicted the Kauai's anti-GMO/Herbicide/Ag law would get cut down.....and affect the abilities of other Counties. Now Maui is stopped.
As the Kauai people rushed to their mob marches led by deceptive Hooser/Bynum and Yukimura....little did the milyun li'l fistees think "that the li'l island that could" would and DID - in fact, not only f*ck up Kauai, but now, Maui, as well......Midnight chants, lying politicians and Fistee demagogues are one thing, but the hard fist of LAW is another....Now Kauai moves forward, a couple of reasonable new Council faces, an admonished Hooser, a free and uplifted Mason and the top big dogs, Mel and Ross. JoAnn is in there somewhere talking away with bewilderment on her face. A nice lady. C'mon Mel and Ross, Kualii, Arryl, Gary and Mason there is work to be done....the County is more downward tick on your bond rating and deep kimchee city. Cut the budget, keep Council meetings on track and HOPE that Ms. Joan doesn't find any discrepancies in your ambitions, laws or BS....KE will start another firestorm. Thanks again, Ms Joan

Anonymous said...

Please!!! I can't wait until you post something else so that when I come here I don't see that sucking evil face staring at me.

Anonymous said...

County is broke and the admin justified raises? What percentage has the budget increased in Carvalho' 6 years at the helm?

And isn't this how laws get changed? How long did it take for marriage equality to pass?
How many challenges and lawsuits? In time the political will of the people will move our legislators to act as in marriage equality legislation. The reason counties acted was the failure of the state to adequately address concerns.

Joan Conrow said...

Sorry, 12:10, but I'm calling bullshit on that one.

The counties acted because they were goaded into it by an advocacy movement that made like it was much bigger and more powerful than it actually was. The first step would've been to hold the state's feet to the fire, with lawsuits, public pressure, etc. That wasn't done.

Second, there is no basis for claiming this movement represent "the will of the people." Nor is this "how laws get changed," because we are not dealing with existing law, but new law. If you are making law, you start with good law. If you see a law go down in one county, as happened on Kauai, you revise subsequent laws to reflect that. You don't just keep putting forth the same flawed premise.

Unless, of course, your goal is to keep the lawsuits alive, so as to milk the battle for all it's worth. This is the strategy of Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice.

Anonymous said...

Unless, of course, your goal is to keep the lawsuits alive, so as to milk the battle for all it's worth. This is the strategy of Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, and so much more

Anonymous said...

The county is BROKE(N) so why aren't there Furloughs instead of raises?

When the county had a said 40-60 million surplus, the county colluded with the state and other islands to furloughed it's workers and froze pay increases.

So can someone tell me why the county of Kauai is not implementing the furlough and pay freeze when the county of Kauai is 10 million dollars in the RED and spent all of the 40-60 million dollars is surplus?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your, as always, insightful and informed writings. Without missing your critical point, would it be fair to say critiques of certain leaders risks overshadowing legitimate concerns about ordinary people's power to control what happens to them in the places where they live? Beyond the anti-gmo issue, the Kaua`i and Maui ordinances raise that question - which has been an ongoing issue in county CAFO ordinances v. state right-to-farm laws. Put otherwise, I'm curious about your opinion on the home rule aspect of the issue. Your "Local Control" post seemed more about identifying actors in these initiatives than about disparate impacts of statewide laws on neighbor islands (i.e., pesticides spraying law impact Kekaha communities differently than in Honolulu). Anyway, looking forward to future posts!

Anonymous said...

That's the Mayor Kauai returned to office. Fucked!

Anonymous said...

What do you mean fucked ???
Please use facts not Koolaid mixed punch by drop out loser barca....
They facts are he lost there is no ribbon or pats on the back for losing in politics that's for kids .. Stop bull shitting telling this clown he did a good job ... He was pounding poi on Election Day seriously ??? The mayor will be there 4 more years the people have spoke ... all facts

Anonymous said...

I'm referring to the budget asshole. Your Mayor has managed to spend away the surplus while furloughing county workers. He also raised every county fee there is and he ain't done yet. Now there's talk of raises for him and his cronies, immediately after election while the public gets continually squeezed.

And what's wrong with pounding poi? Better than sign waving if you ask me. Just because Dustin lost doesn't mean Bernard is managing the county well. He won the popularity contest amongst those who bothered to vote, that's all.

Anonymous said...

1,200 county of Kauai employees in 2012 and 1,500 Kauai county employees in 2014.

The county of Kauai probably leads the nation in job creation with 300 jobs created for salaries ranging from $30,000 to over $100,000.

All of this new hires and budget nearing $200,000,000 a year without better roads, landfill, drug rehab, affordable housing, and accountability.

The leadership on Kauai are phony cronies that spend like drunken sailor whores.

Anonymous said...

Agree 6:47 pm. A lot of warm and fuzzy talk but very little action that trickles down and affects everyday folks. "Together we can" replaced by "Action with Aloha".... campaign slogans don't cut through the BS.

Richard Manshardt said...

Thank you, Joan, for your objective and courageous analysis. Very impressive and gutsy posting.

Two more things in this situation amaze and disturb me:
1) the depth of cynicism resident in people who apparently view personal integrity and an active conscience as detrimental to effectiveness in the world.
2) how vulnerable to demagogic manipulation we are when our own experience/knowledge of the world weighs less in the balance than our fervor for "justice".