Standing Rock Solidarity Undermined by History of Partisan Divide and Conquer

by William Skink

I respect people willing to put themselves physically in the way of environmental destruction because frankly I don’t have the guts to engage in direct action. I’m also pretty pessimistic about the capacity of humans to change course at this point because corruption and greed are so deeply rooted, and the tactic of divide and conquer so effective, I have a hard time seeing how the necessary changes to how we live will occur.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota has been operating to protect their source of water for weeks and weeks without much media attention, but that has certainly changed recently. Getting support from celebrities has raised the profile of the protest, and now private security thugs have descended to deploy violence, sparking even more outrage:

A private security firm guarding the highly controversial construction of $3.8 billion oil pipeline turned mercenary on Saturday, unleashing vicious attack dogs against a sizable crowd of peaceful protesters — including women and children.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and at least 100 other Native American nations as well as activists and advocates peacefully chanted “water is life” while guards held dogs nearby to intimidate the crowd. Without warning, these security henchmen showered the demonstrators with pepper spray and released the dogs — at least six people were bitten, including a young child.

The challenge of climate change and the primacy of water for human survival on this planet is going to be an increasingly critical issue. Vast migrations are virtually guaranteed to increase as the climate becomes less and less hospitable. Even the Syrian conflict has its origins in a devastating drought that provided the catalyst for rural migrations into urban centers.

Here in Montana, the environmental movement has suffered from the divide and conquer tactic of corporate funded “collaborators” constantly bashing those damn purist “serial litigators” who have the audacity to use the courts to get the government and the private sector to follow the law. Sadly, Democrats have by far been more effective in perpetuating this divide and conquer approach to environmental activism, especially Montana’s Jon Tester.

With the refugee issue in Montana, supporters have decried the dangerous rhetoric and misinformation they claim is motivating those critical of relocating hundreds of refugees to Missoula. The Missoula Current has a piece up citing concern from the Montana Human Rights Network, which starts with this:

The Montana Human Rights Network believes the misleading and often hateful sentiments directed largely at Muslim refugees are slipping into mainstream discussions, thanks in part to the strong rhetoric cast by political candidates seeking office at both the state and federal level.

The article doesn’t specify what kind of political candidates are using the strong rhetoric, but I think it’s safe to say the concern isn’t about politicians with a “D” beside their name.

Why am I referencing the refugee issue in a post about environmental direct action? Because I don’t recall the same concern when Jon Tester used strong rhetoric with the Missoulian editorial board, stating the following about the environmentalists who opposed his forest bill:

“The work doesn’t get done on the far left and it doesn’t get done on the far right,” Tester said during a meeting with the Missoulian editorial board on Monday. “It gets done in the middle. If you look at the folks opposing this bill, they’re the extremes. Quite frankly, extremists are extremists and I don’t really care. If they’re willing to become less ideologues and more realists, then come on board.”

When I think of extremists, I think of right wingers who bomb abortion clinics and Muslim jihadists. I guess Tester thinks extremists are people who don’t agree with his triangulating tactics to get bad legislation passed into law.

And then there was the infamous and totally bullshit claim that every single logging project in Montana was being held up by litigation. Here are Tester’s exact words:

“Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.”

It’s not just that Tester has spread misinformation, misinformation that those who despise environmentalists probably still believe to be true. A subsequent consequence of constantly demonizing environmentalists who use the tool of litigation to compel government agencies and private interests to follow the law is that a legitimate tool becomes negatively associated with hair-trigger obstructionism, making it more risky for the collaborators to use the same tool they criticize those “extremists” for using.

Today in the Missoulian, columnist George Ochenski has a great piece, titled When Kumbaya Fails: Collaborators Sue the Forest Service. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Ever since collaboration became the mantra for many of Montana’s conservation groups, a strange dynamic has existed that paints other conservation groups that litigate over forest projects in a very unflattering light. Called “serial litigators,” “environmental extremists” and worse, the lawsuits are often filed to protect habitat for wolverine, lynx, grizzly bears, fishers and other “non-game” species. But when it finally came down to logging and road-building projects threatening elk habitat, well, the collaborator groups finally had to realize their only option was doing what was very hard for them to contemplate – suing the U.S. Forest Service.

In the same vein, when you mock and ridicule activists, like Don Pogreba did a few years ago when it was the Keystone XL pipeline receiving the attention of direct action in the state Capitol, it makes it very hard for those of us who see Democrat apologists for what they are–partisans steeped in hypocrisy–to take them seriously.

While it wasn’t Pogreba who wrote this post about Standing with Standing Rock, it was Pogreba who wrote the following tweets (h/t Matthew Koehler):

Nothing says I am a serious protester like wearing a stylish trucker hat.

It’s always important to capture your anti-consumption protest on your smartphone so you can post it on Facebook.

Someone should definitely pick up all that shredded paper those environmentalists left behind on the floor of the Capitol. #protest

I was headed to the Capitol for the redistricting meeting but I am too allergic to patchouli and self-righteous self-promotion to risk it.

I’m just saying…I hope that the Earth Firsters keep protesting for a while in the rain.

Why would someone who identifies himself as an intelligent progressive stoop to this kind of juvenile, hippie-bashing mockery of activists taking a stand for what they believe in? It’s especially disturbing that a teacher would put out those tweets. I guess for partisans invested in electing Democrats, the ends justify the means.

But how many Democrats will be elected this election cycle when the sad reality for progressives in 2016 is, politically, they don’t matter? Those who felt the Bern have been neutralized, the effort to impact the platform was a failure, and Hillary’s transition team undermines any hope her campaign rhetoric will be followed with action.

This demoralizing reality will ensure many of the young people excited by Bernie Sanders will either stay home or vote 3rd party. With more and more Republicans, Neoconservatives, and military brass coming out for Hillary, progressives can either accept being figuratively punched in the face, and vote for Hillary, or they can vote 3rd party, becoming the perfect scapegoats if the horror of horrors happens, and Trump is somehow “elected” president.

Either way, progressives–and the environment–will lose.

*CORRECTION: I removed the term “state-sanctioned” because it was an inaccurate depiction of violence perpetuated from private security contractors.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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28 Responses to Standing Rock Solidarity Undermined by History of Partisan Divide and Conquer

  1. Big Swede says:

    Tester lies. The work does get done on the far left. Obamacare was a partisan vote which he cast the deciding decision. Interesting to note that because of the failure of government run HC Montanans are seeing a 32% increase in insurance rates in 2017.

    As far as the pipeline protest is concerned Standing Rock was offered 10 million to cross it borders, but they wanted more. The pipe went around the res and now they protest.

  2. Matthew Koehler says:

    Democracy Now! and Amy Goodman were on-the-ground this weekend reporting directly from Standing Rock. If you haven’t I’d encourage folks to watch the dramatic coverage here:

    I sort of wonder if Don Pogreba has anything to say or tweet about the numerous trucker hats and smartphones clearly visible during this protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, or if he’s praying for rain to cleanse the protesters?

    After all, that’s exactly what he did back in July 2011 when Earth First! and Northern Rockies Rising Tide activists held a peaceful, non-violent protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands mining and Exxon Mobile’s megaload transportation project at the Montana Capitol building when Brain Schweitzer was governor.

    It’s also worth remembering that the protest at the Montana Capitol on July 12, 2011 also came just days after Exxon-Mobile’s Yellowstone Pipeline burst, dumping 44,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River.

    John S. Adams was in the Montana Capitol that day in July 2011 and reported for the Great Falls Tribune (and later USA Today) that about 100 activists were part of the protest. In fact, Adams shot a 23 minute long raw video of the protest that you can still watch here:

    In the video, you can clearly see that the group of protesters started off sharing plenty of very intelligent and informative questions and concerns with Schweitzer, including concerns related to the environmental impacts of megaloads, the tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline, impact
    of these activities on indigenous communities in the US and Canada, on union workers and on people and communities of color.

    It’s clear from the video that Gov Schweitzer’s actions and unwillingness or inability to answer some pretty straight-forward questions contributed to the frustrations expressed by some activists. At the very end of the 23 minute video, a small percentage of those who attended the rally danced on a a big conference table at the Capitol. While I didn’t agree with the actions of those few protesters I’m also positive that they didn’t deserve the absolutely disgusting and sort of bizarre treatment that Don Pogreba gave them on Twitter that day.

    Ironically, activists with Earth First! and Rising Tide are on-the-ground right now standing together in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.

  3. JC says:

    Montana family Rainbow hippies have set up a camp at NoDAPL and are raising funds and collecting local food and produce to run a kitchen to feed activists, and helping with logistics and recycling. Maybe Pogie will freak out over the ganja haze and pull his guest post lauding the encampment — except he’d have to actually show up to get a second-hand smoke high.

  4. Eric says:

    “or they can vote 3rd party, becoming the perfect scapegoats if the horror of horrors happens, and Trump is somehow “elected” president.”

    Welcome to your nightmare – Hillary’s DNC bump is over, and it’s all downhill from here for her.

  5. larry kurtz says:


  6. larry kurtz says:

    Oh, good grief. Just how much Democrat Derangement Syndrome can you people stomach?

    • JC says:

      Face it Larry, Democrats have become the neocon war party. But feel free to engage in your own form of DDS where the lesser of two’s evil will only be to continue the slow walk from a hybrid WWIII to a hot war.

      You think the 60s were rough between dems and peaceniks, just wait until the current generations wake up to find out what a raw deal your generation dealt them. Occupy was just just a shot across the bow from the dem machine to any who would protest, showing how effective oppression has become in the face of civil disobedience.

      If there is one lesson from Standing Rock, is that there is a lot of solidarity against TPTB, and that includes you and your status quo dems that enable the likes of DAPL and KXL and continued coal production and oil boom and busts, all the while creating chaos in the middle east and Russia in an attempt to prop oil prices.

    • larry kurtz says:

      Chase Iron Eyes is running as a Democrat for North Dakota’s lone US House seat. He and i follow each other on Twitter: he retweeted that and you can see how many hits it got. Anyone who believes the GOP has any expectations of preserving habitat except to kill shit is delusional.

      • JC says:

        IronEyesForCongress Chase Iron Eyes:

        I don’t know what to do to stop our use of oil. If I could have it my way the pipelines would not cross the biggest river system in the united states, the Missouri. Pipelines, Trucking, Rail Transport are all needed in North Dakota, and in the United States if we are going to use gasoline in our cars, trucking, transport and petroleum industries; that’s 87Million or so gallons per day worldwide. We must protect water at all costs. There is no economy or jobs if there is no water. I feel the Standing Rock Nation is doing a great job of protecting its interests. The ND Industrial Commission, US Army Corp and Pres. Obama could stop this pipeline. If I could I would reroute it so that it doesn’t cross the Missouri River.

        Boy, that’s a real strong statement agains DAPL, innit?

        • larry kurtz says:

          Yes, it is, especially with contrast to what his Republican opponent, South Dakota’s At-large GOP Rep. and Iowa’s Steve King are saying. If you want to blame somebody for inaction pin it on the Army Corps of Engineers who answer to the Commander-in-Chief. Pretty gutsy to call on President Obama to shut this pipeline down, too.

          I’ve written some 250 posts about threats to the Missouri and Yellowstone River systems; but, the spam filter is cranked up so high here that getting them in front of these readers is hardly worth the trouble. We can certainly count on Matt Koehler to be right exactly half the time, that’s for sure.

          Energy Transfer Partners contributed to the campaign of every Republican in those states and of those sitting on South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission where it sailed through. Exactly why the route went where it would have little resistance: there are no Democratic congress members to dissent.

          You guys don’t even have any dogs in this fight but there just was a break in a gas line in Wyoming that originates in Sidney, Montana; but did liz put up a post about that? Of course not.

          Write about what you know instead of what you wish you knew.

        • JC says:

          Quit being such a condescending fuck, Larry. Fwiw, my step daughter is at Cannonball, and my family owns land just off the Standing Rock, so yeah, I got a couple of dogs in the fight and I’ve been doing what I can do from afar. And you don’t get to tell us what to write.

          And spam filter cranked up? More likely you’re the one all cranked up. This site runs vanilla Akismet, just like every other WP site out there.

  7. I corrected this post with a note at the bottom (thanks Petey!)

  8. Pete Talbot, apparently miffed that Matt put a link to this post at Moogirl, had this to say about RD:

    More bullshit in that link than at a Montana feedlot. I’ll start with a quote from David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, that didn’t make it into the linked post: “Perhaps only in North Dakota, where oil tycoons wine and dine elected officials, and where the governor, Jack Dalrymple (R), serves as an adviser to the Trump campaign, would state and county governments act as the armed enforcement for corporate interests.”
    But according to the link Democrats are responsible for the fiasco unfolding at Standing Rock. Then the post gets confusing: environmental “collaborators” or also becoming “extremists” and it’s all due to Democratic “divide and conquer” techniques. It’s the standard nihilism that emanates from that site: Bernie supporters are toast, Hillary is as bad as Trump, and Tester, Juneau and Bullock are whores.

    that comment was at 9:18pm, so I can only speculate that perhaps bourbon is to blame for Pete’s confusion.

    • petetalbot says:

      Or perhaps it was the convoluted, disjointed, inaccurate content thread.

      It starts with a review of the Standing Rock protest; so far, so good. Then moves on to Tester’s FJRA bill, then slams the Montana Human Rights Network for supporting refugee relocation, then quotes an Ochenski piece which decries environmental “collaborators” for becoming “litigators,” then goes after the consummate evil-doer, Don Pogreba, and, of course, no Skink post would be complete without demonizing Hillary Clinton and telling Sanders’ supporters to give up and go home.

      You covered all the bases. And always good to see that Swede and Eric have your back.

  9. Bob Williams says:

    Thank you William Skink for today’s best by far Blog column from Montana, in my narrow view.
    Look what happened! Discussion.
    The last two paragraphs of Larry Kurtz 2:27 comment,
    are not worth discussing.

      • larry kurtz says:

        Since 2014 the Dakota Progressive put up 66 posts on the Dakota Access ecocide all of which went into Twitter hashtagged with #ndpol where the several hundred of my American Indian followers began their protest. Yes, I was there at the beginning.

        • JC says:

          Nothing like a twitter campaign to engage the masses who could care less about twitter (and there’s no wifi or internet at the Camp of the Sacred Stones).

          What is more important to the Standing Rock Sioux is that you being a rich guy, how much of your wealth have you contributed to their legal defense fund?

          And by saying “I was there at the beginning”, do you mean that literally, like boots on the ground and all at the Camp of the Sacred Stones? Or just virtually from the comfortable office you maintain with your air conditioning in the desert retweeting someone else’s work?

          Cause, you know, nothing says “Progressive” more than this clip from Dakota Progressive in your hiatus proclamation:

          “This blogger controls every twitter hashtag pertinent to South Dakota politics and will continue to do so unless bought off.”

          I’d call that some really hollow ego-fueled high-test hubris.

          Now that you (and/or TDP) are on hiatus Larry, why don’t you go hang out at one of the camps and see what real world activism is all about? Write some johnny-on-the-spot cub journalist pieces and enlighten us all how you can survive without the comforts of home.

  10. larry kurtz says:

    Hey, it’s always nice to commune with huddled masses and the working poor. Hang in there people: you, too, can overcome!

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