A leading supporter of West Palm Beach City Commission candidate Shanon Materio has warned voters that a Materio loss will expose the city to the danger of having an Operating Thetan (member of the Church of Scientology) in a position of leadership. Not only that, the warning goes, the miscreant's "governing philosophy" is that of "a budding anarchist" and/or "violent 'Earth Liberation Front' extremist" or (at best?) "maybe just a good old-fashioned socialist."
If that doesn't scare voters away from Materio's opponent, retired businessman Gregg Weiss, nothing will.
The warning came in an email blast from GOP lobbyist Anita Mitchell, who, along with her daughter, WPB City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, is a highly vocal, well-connected Materio partisan. The information "speaks for itself," lobbyist Mitchell wrote, concluding that "we don't need this kind of philosophy governing our City." Unprompted, she declared that Scientology is not a religion.
Mitchell's "information" consists of two things. One is a photograph of Weiss, in a ship's cabin, wearing a T-shirt that reads: Scientology Volunteer Minister. The other is the phrase "social ecology," the title of the program in which Weiss holds a degree from UC-Irvine.
Regarding the T-shirt, Weiss told New Times it was "borrowed on a sailing trip" when his clothes got wet. "It's two sizes too large," he noted.
Mitchell told us she's heard that Weiss has given two, differing explanations of the incriminating garment. "He said it was on a ship. He also said it was a gag." Ya think? (We'd like to state for the record that we could, if we wished, provide a photograph of ourself in a T-shirt that reads: "I AM HIP-HOP." We're not.)
Mitchell did walk the Scientology claim back a baby step or two. "I probably shouldn't have said that," she said when pressed. At the same time, she added, "I stand by it. If he's not a Scientologist, he should say so." Hopefully, he'll also take the opportunity to clarify what else he isn't.
As for "social ecology," Mitchell's "investigation" relies on that modern Sybil, the internet. The most inflammatory part of her email is drawn whole hog from a website run by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a tobacco- and liquor-industry front group. The remainder appears to be drawn from a Wikipedia entry on libertarian socialist Murray Bookchin, and it is a fair description of Bookchin's philosophy.
We, less imaginatively, thought it good to look at the actual, you know, course descriptions of the Irvine program -- which has no connection whatsoever to Bookchin. The program consists of classes in criminology, psychology, and planning. Scary stuff.
Apprised of that information, the canny Mitchell dared call it conspiracy. "The university's not going to say it's anarchy," she told us.
"I'm not doing this mean-spiritedly," Mitchell said. "It's what you find when you Google -- here's his background. Kind of like investigating someone who's in the KKK or the John Birch Society."
In reply to a text message, Materio's campaign failed to disassociate itself from the Mitchell email, declining to comment. Speaking to the Palm Beach Post Materio offered up the "everybody does it" defense.
Weiss told us this: "Nothing in the email is accurate as it relates to me." Asked specifically about the "Scientology" claim, he replied, "I'm Jewish."
Here's the text of the email -- and the offending photo
Begin forwarded message:
We need to keep Shanon Materio on the City Commission. Please vote March 12th and ask your friends to join you. The information below speaks for itself. We don't need this kind of philosophy governing our City. Thanks for taking the time to read the information. Please share this with your friends so that our voters are informed. Be sure to make your voice count on March 12th and cast your vote for Shanon!!! Thanks so much. Anita
In addition to the information below I have just learned that Mr. Weiss is a "Scientology Minister." A picture is a thousand words. Please continue to read the information below this picture.
Gregg Weiss claims to have received a degree in Social Ecology from University of California-Irvine. Having never heard of Social Ecology, we researched and this is some of what we found. Most, if not all of it, is rather disturbing.
So you're a budding anarchist who wants a college degree, a violent "Earth Liberation Front" extremist craving the legitimacy that a Master's degree would bring, or maybe just a good old-fashioned socialist with horizons that need broadening. Where can you turn? The Institute for Social Ecology (ISE), self-described as "both an educational and an
activist organization," is waiting for you.
What They Say
- We must free ourselves of 'internalized capitalism': the belief that capitalism is 'natural,' inevitable, unstoppable.
- We offer our perspectives as social anarchists in hopes of radicalizing the content of this conversation.
- I (Murray Bookchin) broke with the Communists, because of their Popular Front line - I was on the extreme Left.
- Rethinking Nonviolence: Arguing for the Legitimacy of Armed Struggle
- It is crucial that the debate continue to push beyond the limits of what can be documented scientifically.
Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 - July 30, 2006) was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist, and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics, philosophy, history, and urban affairs as well as ecology. In the late 1990s he became disenchanted with the strategy of political anarchism and founded his own libertarian socialist ideology called Communalism.
Bookchin was an anti-capitalist and vocal advocate of the decentralisation of society along ecological and democratic lines. His writings on libertarian municipalism, a theory of face-to-face, assembly democracy, had an influence on the Green movement and anti-capitalist direct action groups such as Reclaim the Streets.
In the essay "What is Social Ecology?" Bookchin summarizes the meaning of social ecology as follows:
Social ecology is based on the conviction that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep-seated social problems. It follows, from this view, that these ecological problems cannot be understood, let alone solved, without a careful understanding of our existing society and the irrationalities that dominate it.
To make this point more concrete: economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, among many others, lie at the core of the most serious ecological dislocations we face today--apart, to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes.
Starting in the 1970s, Bookchin argued that the arena for libertarian social change should be the municipal level. In a 2001 interview he summarized his views this way: "The overriding problem is to change the structure of society so that people gain power. The best arena to do that is the municipality -- the city, town, and village -- where we have an opportunity to create a face-to-face democracy." In 1980 Bookchin used the term "libertarian municipalism", to describe a system in which libertarian institutions of directly democratic assemblies would oppose and replace the state with a confederation of free municipalities. Libertarian municipalism intends to create a situation in which the two powers--the municipal confederations and the nation-state--cannot coexist. Its supporters--Communalists--believe it to be the means to achieve a rational society, and its structure becomes the organization of society.
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