Tag: nuclear weapons activists

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.

What Are The Experts Missing?

Here’s an arrogant little post from a nuclear weapons newbie exploring the questions that have arisen in my mind as I explore the realm of nuclear weapons activism.

Please note that I am definitely not a nuclear weapons expert, or anything close, and thus all of the following could be entirely wrong. I do have activist experience on other subjects. Please feel free to contact me to debate any of the following, as additional perspectives are sincerely welcomed.

In writing this post I hope to contribute a view from the general public. If this nuclear weapons nube has these questions, others may as well, and it would be helpful to the disarmament cause for experts to have a reply at the ready.

Ok, here we go with some inconvenient whining….

Trump Bashing

On Twitter at least, there seems to be a fairly consistent pattern of partisan political sniping against Trump by nuclear weapons activists and experts. This doesn’t offend me personally, as I’m a Bernie Sanders voter with no love for Trump.

However, it does trouble me a bit that disarmament experts may not grasp that if America is ever to get rid of it’s nukes Trump voters will have to be largely on board with such a huge decision. It doesn’t make sense to me to be jamming our finger in their eye on a regular basis for no better reason than it makes our fingers feel good.

There doesn’t seem to be a substantial difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to nuclear disarmament. Both sides typically ignore the subject, and when they do engage neither party seems particularly effective. Perhaps this should be admitted more often?

Before someone shouts “Iran Deal!” let us please keep in mind that was a deal with a bunch of religious fanatic clerical dictators who routinely shoot their own citizens down in the streets.

Yes, we don’t like Trump, me too. But I like murderous power tripping psychopaths even less. Some balance to such conversations please.

All Or Nothing?

So far at least, I’ve not read any expert or activist commentary which expresses the understanding that it’s extremely unlikely any of the big nuclear weapon states will unilaterally disarm. We all know how that worked out for Ukraine. First they disarmed, and then they got invaded.

As best I can tell, either all the nuclear states disarm, at the same time, or none of them will. I’d like to read more from the experts on this.

Until I find such commentary I’m stuck having to question whether the experts are really experts, a disconcerting experience I’d be happy to soon lose.

Anybody Home?

So far at least, I’ve found nuclear weapons activist websites to be largely unresponsive to emails from the public. The same pattern exists on Twitter. This is of course only an anecdotal report, a first impression, and hardly a scientific survey.

After 25 years of working online I’ve learned that if you want to sell anything to anybody it would probably be wise to be willing to talk to your prospects.

Ok, yes, such response is time consuming, and replying to general public emails is not a job for the experts. So how about rounding up a couple of free college student interns to answer incoming emails? Pretty much any reply to incoming emails would be better than no reply. Even an automated reply explaining why a real person can’t reply would be better than nothing.

Where’s The Community?

How does a new nuclear weapons activist meet and chat with other nuclear weapons activists? I have no idea.

If I have no idea, there must be some number of other folks out there who also can’t figure out how to become part of the nuclear activist community. But they probably aren’t inconvenient loud mouthed bloviators like me, and so they just quietly vanish, never to be seen again.

Sure, there’s Twitter, and I’m following every nuclear weapons anybody there that I can find. However, Twitter is not really a community for nuclear weapons activists, but rather a kinda cheesy device for blasting little slogans at one’s followers.

A real community with real conversations might take the form of an online discussion forum. I keep asking if there is any interest in such a site, and offering to set one up, and so far, no reply from anybody. So I guess that’s the answer.

So for example, all of the above might be wrong, and if I were to join an online forum full of nuclear weapons activists I might learn why it’s all wrong. That would be good! But until then…

I guess I’m stuck writing articles about what the experts may be missing.