Category: Activism

Here’s One Way To Support The Plowshares 7

As celebrated in a recent article about heroes, the Plowshares 7 are a group of Catholic activists who have risked prison to protest nuclear weapons at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

A handful of activists are of course not going to be able to close down a submarine base, so the point of their protest was to draw public attention to the base and the threat posed by nuclear weapons. As example, it was by their action that I learned the world’s largest nuclear submarine base is just a couple hours from our house, not good news for my wife and I in the event of war.

So, how can we support these brave Catholic activists in their mission to bring attention to nuclear weapons? One answer is that we can organize an ambitious effort within the Catholic community to bring a LOT more attention to nuclear weapons. We could take the process that they’ve started, and make it larger, much larger.

I’ve been pushing the idea of a billion dollar a year marketing campaign to amplify Catholic teachings on nuclear weapons. So far at least, my outreach efforts have been ignored by every Catholic site I’ve contacted, with the exception of one good fellow who is sure this plan must be some kind of a scam. Sigh…

Ok, so Rome wasn’t built in a day. One blog post is not going to change the world. Activism requires patience. I get it.

I never expected instant success, but I am hoping for feedback that will educate me on what I need to do to engage Catholics on the subject of ambitious marketing campaigns.

Talk to me please. Why is an ambitious marketing campaign for spreading Catholic teachings on nuclear weapons not interesting? Why is something like that not already happening? How should I edit this page so that at least a few Catholics will contact me with their own suggestions for how such an idea can be improved upon?

And remember please, I’m not asking anyone to support me, I’m asking Catholics to support the teachings of the Pope.

Not me, the Pope.

This guy.

Twiter just isn’t that useful medium for such conversations so I’m hoping we can establish an online discussion forum for nuclear weapons activism where all nuclear weapons activists could bounce their ideas off each other. Working on this, more on this subject later…

The Plowshare 7 are willing to go to prison to highlight the existential threat presented by nuclear weapons. We could support their brave work by buying some ads. Lots and lots and lots of ads. That’s how the real world works folks. If one is serious about selling anything, one funds an ambitious marketing campaign.

A billion Catholics could raise a billion dollars a year for such a marketing campaign. Let’s support the Plowshares 7 by getting to work on that.

Wow!!! This is exciting!! Let’s do it!!!

Her future.

In our hands.

Nuclear Weapons Activists Need Heroes To Celebrate

So I scrolled upon a photo of Martin Luther King in a Twitter feed and it came to me…

As nuclear weapons activists we need heroes to celebrate too.

While Martin Luther King was just one man who could have never led a successful civil rights movement without the help of very many other people, having a readily identified hero at the center of any movement is a powerful tool for generating inspiration and action among the many.

As you gaze upon the photo of Martin Luther King observe how it’s iconic nature immediately and instinctively reminds us of the justness of the cause that King led.

It’s true of any movement, we need our heroes, they provide a great service to us, as heroes address a deep human need which transcends all causes.

We need someone to look up to, someone to follow, someone to model our behavior on, someone who can give us hope, and inspire us with their brave selfless actions. We need icons, a visible image which at a glance reminds us of what we should be doing with our lives.

It’s NOT my intent to start a divisive contest over who would make the best hero for the nuclear weapons activist community. Each of us can and should draw our inspiration from where ever we can find it. Just as was and is true in the civil rights movement, there are many wonderful people we can celebrate.

That said, here’s my personal favorite pick for some heroes to place on a pedestal in the nuclear weapons cause…..

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7

As you may know, on April 4, 2018 seven Catholic nuclear weapons activists entered the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in South Eastern Georgia, home port for the U.S. Navy Fleet of ballistic missile nuclear submarines, the largest nuclear submarine base in the world.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 have since been found guilty of federal crimes and now face the possibility of years in prison.

Years in prison. Think about that for a minute.

These heroes are:


Elizabeth McAlister


Steve Kelly SJ


Carmen Trotta


Clare Grady


Martha Hennessy


Mark Colville


Patrick O’Neill


Here’s How You And I Can Help The Plowshares 7

Please join me and many other citizens in supporting these heroes via the GoFundMe page set up on their behalf. Over $96,000 has been raised so far.

Here’s a quote from the GoFundMe page describing the purpose of the fund.

Our friends, the Kings Bay Plowshares, have undertaken a courageous action for a nuclear weapons free world. We are raising money to support them and work for nuclear disarmament. We want to be able to support family and supporter travel expenses, provide commissary, and plan public events to support nuclear disarmament.  Those of us organizing this fundraising effort are Jessica Stewart, Bass Harbor Maine, Paul Magno, Washington DC,  and Beth Brockman, Durham, NC. All money will be used to support organizing for nuclear disarmament and support of the Kings Bay plowshares.

Support These Heroes Here

A Confession

Heroes are heroes because they rise above what the rest of us mere mortals are able, or perhaps willing, to do.

Personally, I’m a husband, not a hero. Ok, I’d go to prison for my wife, I really would. But I’m sorry to say, and no offense intended, there’s just no way I’m risking prison for anybody else.

That’s probably true for you too, and also probably true for almost all nuclear weapons activists.

The Plowshares 7 have done what very few of us would be willing to do. If we are smart, if we really care about the cause, we will take the heroic gift that they have handed us and put it to good use.

Even More Heroes

If you’d like to celebrate and support even more nuclear weapons activist heroes, check out The Nuclear Resister website, which describes itself in this way…

Since 1980, the Nuclear Resister has provided comprehensive reporting on arrests for anti-nuclear civil resistance in the United States, with an emphasis on providing support for the women and men jailed for these actions. In 1990, we expanded our work to include reporting on anti-war arrests in North America, plus overseas anti-nuclear and anti-war resistance with the same emphasis on prisoner support.

Online Discussion Forum For Nuclear Weapons Activists

One thing that seems to be missing from the Net is an online discussion forum for nuclear weapons activists. That’s a shame because, unlike social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, forums are great for in depth conversations on serious subjects like nuclear weapons, and the knowledge explosion which gave birth to them.

In this article I’ll attempt to share what I’ve learned from using forums almost daily for over 20 years and coding my own forum software. Let’s talk about what a forum for nuclear weapons activists might look like.

Let’s start with the most important decision any forum makes, the choice of publishing model.

The “Water Cooler” Publishing Model

The vast majority of forums use what I call the “water cooler” publishing model, in that they are similar to a random chit-chat gathering around the water cooler at work.

In the water cooler publishing model, almost anybody can join and say almost anything, a feature which has both pros and cons.

PRO: On the plus side, the water cooler model can be celebrated for it’s democratic inclusiveness, as literally anybody is welcome so long as they follow some basic common sense rules.

CON: On the negative side, such open inclusiveness is a recipe for low quality content. What always happens is that the most interesting posters get bored and wander off, leaving the forum to be increasingly dominated by the less interesting posters, a process of content degradation which tends to feed on itself and accelerate over time.

At this point in Net history there’s probably not much point in creating yet another “water cooler” type forum as there are already so many and the audience on any topic is thus typically very fragmented.

So let’s talk about a less commmon alternative publishing model which does give a new forum a chance to be unique.

The “Magazine” Publishing Model

The “magazine” publishing model is much like a typical print magazine. Everyone is free to submit an article to the forum editors (typically called “mods”), but only the articles which meet some standard set by the editors are published.

The Invitation Only Publishing Model

Another version of the “magazine” publishing model is an invitation only forum. In this case forum membership is limited to those writers the editors find interesting. Because the writers are pre-selected based on their past performance, the writers can typically be allowed to post whatever they wish with little intervention by the editors.

Quantity Or Quality?

In summary, the “water cooler” publishing model prioritizes quantity of content over quality, while the “magazine” and “invitation only” publishing models prioritize quality of content over quantity.

A key principle is, whatever you publish on a forum you’ll get more of. If you publish junk content, you’ll attract people who enjoy junk. If you publish high quality content, you’ll attract high quality posters. If you try to do both, you’ll wind up with mostly junk.

Nuclear Weapons Forums

There would seem to be two different audiences for a nuclear weapons forum, the general public, and committed activists.

It would likely be a mistake to try to create a single forum to serve both the general public and activists and experts. What’s almost sure to happen in that case is that the activists and experts will quickly become bored by the less informed discussion and will thus bail on the forum, resulting in what in reality would then become a general public forum.

Academics and other highly knowledgable people in particular simply aren’t going to invest their time in any forum that contains lots of posts such as “Wow, nukes are like awesome bad dude, like really!!!” In fact, such experts have probably bailed on forums in general years ago, and thus will require extra persuasion that a new forum really is a higher quality enterprise than what they’ve seen before.

The remedy here is to be clear from the start what audience a forum is going to serve, and then choose the publishing model most appropriate for that audience.

The “water cooler” model seems the most appropriate publishing model for a general public forum on nuclear weapons, while the “invitation only” publishing model is probably a better choice for the activists and experts.

A Forum For Activists And Experts

The most pressing need at the moment seems to be a forum for the activists and experts, so let’s focus on that for the rest of this article. Let’s start by giving some thought to how such a forum might be organized.

Forum Organization

There are many different kinds of organization a forum for nuclear weapons activists might have, and it’s not my intent to argue for a “one true way”. The following ideas might be a place to start a conversation on organization.

What I see so far in the nuclear activist community is that each of the activist groups seems very focused on their own projects. As example, few to none of the activist sites seem to link to any other activist site.

So, with that in mind I would organize a forum for activists around the activist groups. Each major section of the forum would be named after an activist group, like this…

Arms Control Association

Back From The Brink

Beyond The Bomb

Beyond Nuclear

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

etc

I would give each organization editorial control over it’s own section of the forum. This gives each group a sense of control and a stake in the success of the forum, and helps them continue to do what they’re doing on their websites, talk about their own projects.

All the group sections would be displayed on the main page of the forum so that it’s easy for any reader to travel from one group section to another to meet new folks and learn what they are working on.

Invitations

If it were me, I’d go the extra mile and send out snail mail invitations to the desired members as most folks these days seem to pay quite limited attention to incoming emails, tweets and Twitter messages etc.

Digital communications are very easy to send, and also very easy to delete. Everybody is overwhelmed with data so it may take an extra effort to connect with busy activists.

Problems And Obstacles

A key problem arises from the fact that most forums on the Net use the “almost anybody can say anything water cooler” publishing model, and so naturally that’s what new visitors will expect to find. Some readers will be offended that they can’t immediately join an invitation only forum. Cries of “elitism!” and “freedom of speech!!” may populate the editor’s inbox.

Another challenge is that the members such a forum would most like to attract will likely have a dim view of forums in general, due to the low quality content that typically dominates the forum realm. If true experts are to attend and participate the editing team is going to have to go the extra mile in persuading such experts that this forum really is different than what they’ve seen before, and worth their time.

In Conclusion

The above is the gist of what I’ve learned from thinking about forums to a, um, ridiculously nerdy degree for over 20 years.

None of what I’ve shared here is a “one true way”, but some of the general principles discussed here are worth considering before diving in to setting up a new forum.

I would set up a new activist forum myself, but at this early point in my activist career I’m not well known enough to be successful in inviting nuclear activists and experts who have spent years serving the cause. So I’m hoping a better known team will set up a forum for nuclear weapons activists, and I can support that effort.

Nuclear weapons deserve more than Twitter, don’t they? Yes, I think they do.

The Nuclear Resister

The Nuclear Resister shares information about those arrested in non-violent anti-nuclear and anti-war activism.

The project is led by Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa and provides educational materials such as a quarterly newsletter, an information rich website, and Facebook page.

Here’s a sampling of recent articles from Nuclear
Resister.

On Martin Luther King Day, in support of the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, six activists arrested at Lockheed

Eight arrests at Pentagon mark Massacre of the Holy Innocents

The Pope and Catholic Radicals Come Together Against Nuclear Weapons

Seven activists arrested at Volk Field mourning children killed by drones

The One Dollar Nuclear Weapons Question

Imagine that you’re at a dinner party and someone asks you what your interests are. You reply that you’re a nuclear weapons activist. You briefly describe your project, and then ask them if they’re concerned about nuclear weapons.

If your conversation partner says no, you politely change the subject to their interests.

The One Dollar Question

If the person you’re chatting with says they are concerned, you then ask if they would be willing to donate $1 a year to a marketing fund which will help the public understand how they can help make nuclear disarmament a reality.

One of three things happens next.

1) If the person you’re talking with says they’ve already signed up for a yearly donation to the fund, you shake hands, embrace, and enjoy a new friend who gets what you’re about.

2) If they say yes, you whip out your phone and show them the sign up page, and close the deal on the spot. And then the handshake and embrace.

3) If they say no thanks, you cheerfully reply, “Ok, no problem” and change the subject.

This last person is the most interesting. They said that they are concerned about nuclear weapons, but are not ready to act on that concern, even in the most modest manner possible. This describes most people on the planet.

The last thing we want to do here is start a debate.

If the other person starts a debate, we hear them out, give them respect, and then let it drop. The primary thing that happens in any debate is that each debater winds up clinging more passionately to whatever position they started with. Once anyone has publicly stated a position, their ego typically becomes attached to that position, and push back will typically be experienced as an attack upon their self image, each human being’s most prized possession.

Instead of debate, we accept their decision, which they have every right to, and then, wait…

Planting The Seed

After some period of time this person may very well start wondering why they aren’t willing to spend a single dollar to help save the world from nuclear war. By asking them for the dollar you’ve planted a seed in their mind which may spring from the soil of their concern at the right moment.

It took me a couple of years after watching Countdown To Zero to finally make the leap from concern to some modest action. Every nuclear weapons activist probably knew about the horrors of nuclear war for years before they decided to take action.

The main reason any of us delayed taking action on nuclear weapons is that we didn’t know what just one person could do about such an enormous problem.

It should be the job of activists to give everyone concerned person something they can do right now to make a difference. By asking for just a dollar we’re doing everything we can to make the leap from concern to action as easy as possible.

And if someone isn’t ready to act just yet, even in the smallest way, we’ve given them something to think about. Like the patient farmer, we’ve planted the seed.

Are You A Nuke Nut?

Back in the 1960’s there was a strong sense of community in the emerging hippy culture. If you identified yourself as being part of that culture by displaying some version of the hippy costume, you belonged to something larger than yourself, and were immediately embraced as a friend by others traveling the same path.

As nuclear weapons activists we need to create a publicly recognizable identity like the hippies did with their long hair. We need a costume and a catchy fun name. We need to tap in the ancient human need to be part of a tribe. We need a brand.

What’s Our Name?

The hippies had a great name. At just two syllables, it rolled easily off your tongue, and sounded like the fun people the label pointed to. Hippy, Yippee, and ok, kinda Dippy! It was our brand. It worked.

“Nuclear weapons activists” isn’t a brand, but just a dictionary definition. It’s an accurate description, but the term aims for our heads and not our hearts where we all really live. And as a brand name it has way too many syllables. It’s not really a fun label either, but creates more of an impending doom atmosphere.

So let’s learn from the hippies and try a name for ourselves that is shorter, simpler, catchier, and more fun. So until somebody comes up with something better, I propose that nuclear weapons activists be rebranded as….

Nuke Nuts!

After all, given that the vast majority of our culture would prefer to pretend that nuclear weapons don’t exist, you have to be kind of a nut to keep bringing the subject up.

The term has a self-deprecating spin to it, the most popular form of humor. And of course it’s always smart to label oneself as a crackpot before others do it for you.

So until further notice we have a name for our brand. And now we need a costume.

What’s Our Costume?

If you had long hair in 1968 you were immediately recognizable as a hippy and could promote that culture just by just by walking down the street. The long hair was the flag for your tribe, and it signaled to all who you were and more or less what you believed in. Others in your tribe could identify you as one of their own, and the long hair brand served the purpose of helping to bond that community together.

As Nuke Nuts we need a costume too. We need to be able to identify each other in public to strengthen our tribe, and we need to project our message to all those who we hope will join our tribe.

Like the hippy hair, our costume needs to be something that is accessible to all, convenient, catchy, an easy flag to wave.

The best I can come up with here is a No Nukes T-shirt. They’re cheap and readily available on Amazon and elsewhere. There’s a selection of different No Nukes shirts so that each of us can be part of the tribe while still expressing our own personal taste.

The Nuke Nuts Tribe

To get the point of the costume, imagine this happening. You’re at the gas station filling your tank, lost in thought about the day ahead. And then you look up at someone at another pump, and see they’re wearing their No Nukes shirt too. You smile, they wave, you come together and shake hands and have a good laugh.

You aren’t just one little person out there on your own trying to do the impossible. You belong to something larger than yourself. You’re part of a tribe. Your tribe is growing, it’s everywhere, it’s on the march. Victory will be yours!

I’m Not Making This Up

Big companies understood the power of branding long ago. Consider the simple little Apple logo. Steve Jobs very skillfully built a tribe around his product line. According to Jobs, if you had an Apple computer you weren’t just another mindless drone slave of the corporate gulag, you were creative, a free thinker, a smart savvy forward looking artist. If you bought a Mac, so the branding story went, you were special. It’s the success of that story that made Apple the richest company in the world.

That’s the kind of tribe building success we should be trying to replicate as nuclear weapons activists, oops, sorry, I mean Nuke Nuts!

A place to start with the rebranding is with a catchy name for our tribe, and a recognizable costume that we wear in public every chance we get.

Have Fun And Do Whatever Works

If you’re not sure how to get started as a nuclear weapons activist, the following principle is hopefully helpful.

Anything we can do to shift some focus to the subject of nuclear weapons is a constructive contribution to the cause.

Anything. Our activist action can be anything. It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to be what somebody else is doing. Our activist action doesn’t have to involve money or politics. And our action doesn’t have to include anything we don’t feel like doing.

If you’re stuck on how to get going as a nuclear weapons activist, just do whatever works for you. Anything you can do to get folks thinking about nuclear weapons, however briefly, is good.

What are you already doing? What do you like to do? If it seems like your interests have nothing to do with nuclear weapons, that’s ok, just be a little creative.

Bowling To Save The World

As example, if bowling is your passion, you could wear a No Nukes T-shirt every time you go to the bowling alley.

You don’t have to stand on a chair and make a speech, get in to a debate, wave a sign, scrunch up your face in an angry activist scowl, run for office, or any of that, unless you are so inclined.

You can just wear the T-shirt while bowling, have fun, and enjoy your life. Sure, wearing a shirt is a small thing. But it’s a good contribution to the cause, and way more than most folks are doing.

1) Start where ever you already are.

2) Do whatever you’re inspired to do.

3) Just do something about nuclear weapons, anything.

4) And you’re a nuclear weapons activist.

None of us, even the President of the United States, will personally be the decisive factor in ending the nuclear weapons era. So let’s not worry ourselves about that.

Let’s just focus on what we can do. And what each of us can do is make the little leap from doing nothing, to doing something.

Once we get started, there’s no telling where it might lead.

Hey, you might win the National Bowling Championship and then get interviewed on national TV wearing your No Nukes t-shirt. Millions of bowlers might see you on TV and decide to follow your lead because you are so cool. You might start a fad, a trend, a viral explosion!!!

Ok, so I’m kinda kidding, but seriously, a high school girl has become a global leader on the subject of climate change, so truly, literally anything can happen.

Anything we can do to shift some focus to the subject of nuclear weapons is a constructive contribution to the cause.

An Easy Way To Become A Nuclear Weapons Activist

In the article What Can One Person Do? it was suggested that the easiest thing an average person can do to help rid the world of nuclear weapons is just to talk about nuclear weapons. That is, introduce the topic in to whatever conversations we are already a part of.

If you’re not sure how to get going, the following links might give you a place to start. Simply post the eye catching question text, and link it to the YouTube video which provides the answer.

You can do this on your website, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your favorite forum, or where ever you travel on the Internet. If your posting inspires a conversation, so much the better!

 
 

What Happens When A City Is Nuked?

What Happens When A City Is Nuked?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iPH-br_eJQ
 
 

Can Nuclear Weapons Be Hilarious?

Can Nuclear Weapons Be Hilarious?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y1ya-yF35g
 
 

How Close Do You Live To A Nuclear Weapon?

How Close Do You Live To A Nuclear Weapon?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZXn5Ct0PJg
 
 

How Would We Stop A Nuclear Missile That’s Been Launched?

How Would We Stop A Nuclear Missile That’s Been Launched?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D97vZEJ2UBo
 
 

What’s The Nuclear Football?

What’s The Nuclear Football?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edDiPmMEAm0

What Can One Person Do?

Ok, so we read some of Phil’s rants, which told us what we already know, nuclear weapons are a horrific existential threat to everything we hold dear. That part is easy.

The more challenging question is, what are we going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? What can one ordinary person do about nuclear weapons?

As of this writing I’m just beginning my own journey in to this question, and I hope to document what I learn here on this blog. If you’re new to nuclear weapons activism too, perhaps we can travel this road together.

Why Did This Take So Long?

The first step for me has been to try to understand why it’s taken me 67 years to personally engage the nuclear weapons threat. I was born in 1952 just as the cold war arms race was taking off, grew up during the “duck and cover” era of the 50’s and 60’s, went to university, watched Reagan stare down the Soviets on TV, and have known about nuclear weapons my entire life.

So I can’t plead ignorance. Darn…

So what then? Why did it take so long for me to take nuclear weapons seriously enough to join the fight against them? As best I can tell, the answer goes something like this…

A Small Person Meets A Big Problem

It seems that when I asked myself, “What can I do about nuclear weapons?” I was hoping to find something big I could do, something decisive, some action that would make me feel like I was important.

As it turns out, whaddya know, I’m not important. I’m just a small ordinary average person living a small ordinary average life. Elbowing my ego out of the way a bit has helped me see what a small ordinary average person can do about nuclear weapons. And that turns out to be…

Small ordinary average things.

Hey, I know how to do that!

Well, ok, like what? What kind of small ordinary average kinda things can I do?

Calling All Typoholic Blowhards!!!

I can do what I’m already doing. I can talk. I can type. The only change required for me has been to talk and type about something more important than the kinds of silly things I’ve been talking and typing about all over the Net for 25 years.

Politicians Don’t Lead, They Follow

A ray of light realization for me has been to grasp that the politicians aren’t talking about nuclear weapons because most of us small ordinary average people aren’t doing so. The politicians are cautious, risk averse, chicken, they’re waiting for us to go first.

Seriously, I promise you, if the majority of voters insisted that the members of Congress should wear clown costumes while they work, it wouldn’t be long before they began debating what color the costumes should be on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Votes equal power, and we’ve got the votes the powerful want.

Talking Leads To More Talking

If enough of us talk about nuclear weapons, the politicians will too. The thing is though, we have to lead. We small ordinary average folks have to get the ball rolling. We have to talk first.

So, my job as a small ordinary average person is just to talk about nuclear weapons in public in whatever small ordinary average way that I can manage. If I’m talking about something that matters, I’m doing my job, and that’s enough. I don’t have to personally save the world, I just have to talk.

A turning point for me was viewing the excellent documentary film Countdown To Zero. You can read about the film here, and hopefully watch it here.

The makers of that film talked, I heard them, and now I’m talking too. The more people who are talking about nuclear weapons, the more other people will also talk. When enough of we small ordinary average folks are talking about nuclear weapons, even candidates for President will join the talking.

If you’re ready to start talking, try this page which offers an easy way to Begin Your Career As A Nuclear Weapons Activist.