Following is a e-mail exchange I had with anarchist Travis Riehl, concerning my film, "What I Learned from the Spokane Anarchists."

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Riehl wrote:

Hello!

My name is Travis.

I just caught your video about the March For Rights, and i thought it was very entertaining.

Trying not to judge your entire persona based on a single hostile artistic expression, i thought i'd attempt a dialogue regarding the demonstration and your video.

First, i think i should clarify that i actually agree with many of your criticisms regarding the demeanor of the march, although sifting through your sarcasm to fish out your actual opinions can be tedious at times.

I'd merely wish to clarify that we did what we wanted to do that day, and just as i mentioned not making a judgment based on one sentiment you have presented, i hope that you won't be presumptuous by allowing one particular demonstration to define individual's array of personally unique intentions, capabilities, and tactical approaches. It was a particular demonstration, not an entire representation.

Anyway, just thought i'd see if you wanted to have an exchange.

(... and my i.q. is about 141, by the way. haha.)

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I wrote:

Hi, Travis.

Thanks for responding in an intelligent and direct manner.

I'm sorry you felt the video was a "hostile" artistic expression. That was not my intention. I merely wanted to highlight a few troublesome things I heard and saw that day, and to do it with some humor and satire. I don't think there's a danger of anyone mistaking the film for serious political commentary.

Perhaps I should have tried harder to convey the fact that - despite any problems I have with some of the things you say - I like what you guys are doing. I believe it's good for Spokane and good for the country.

Steve

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Riehl wrote:

No apologies necessary, i understand completely, and i could typically differentiate between what was actually being criticized, what was more satirical, and what was potentially satirical derived from criticism.

I agree that you could/should have tried harder to include a considerable common ground you might have with me/us, and i feel as if it could have even been done without compromising the edge of the presentation... The reason i'm taking the time to say that is i was actually under the impression from discovering your site a number of years ago that you seemed at least somewhat sympathetic and could potentially enter in to a relationship of reciprocal resource exchange... so, i guess, my deal is

What made a scathingly critical documentation of this year's march a worthwhile endeavor to pursue for you?

Just curious, really.

and while i acknowledge that it would take an unsound mind to see the film as legitimate political commentary, it's always sad to think about how it will be co-opted as such... but that's inevitable on both sides, which is why i wouldn't respond as if the sky were falling.

feel free to ask any clarifying questions regarding any of the happenings, or raise any real issues you have... i would be happy to address them.

thanks for your time and consideration.

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I wrote:

I don't think you'd be satisfied with any answer I provided to your question, "What made a scathingly critical documentation of this year's march a worthwhile endeavor...?"

But I'll try. First, though, let me clarify something: despite what might be misconstrued because of the poetic liberties I took with the film, we didn't go to the march with the intention of making a critical report. We went to get some cool shots of my son, James (the tall guy with the hair and the upside down flag), and his wife, Karen, (the cute one) marching with you guys, but also because I thought it was totally fucking awesome that you were thrusting justifiable discontent into everybody's uber- flag waving, ego- masterbation-athon - what July 4 has become in recent years.

Eventually, though, I was overcome with frustration, by the way the whole thing seemed corralled and directed by the police, and how that fact seemed to have turned it all into an Anarchy Lite commercial. But, initially, my frustration was set off by the speech you gave in Peaceful Valley, where you unfairly characterized the writers of the Declaration of Independence as a bunch of rich, slave-owning white guys who came up with some pretty words to perpetuate their moral decadence.

This seemed to me to be a grave over-simplification, and quite irresponsible, especially for someone in possession of your charisma and power to persuade - and especially while talking to a group of highly impressionable young people.

Out of these frustrations, I think, arose the critical spirit of the film.

You invited me to ask you about any questions I had. How about that one? Do you agree or disagree with me that July 4, 1776 was a "quantum leap in human dignity"?

And yet, apart from everything I just said, frankly, Travis, I think you're taking my simple artistic belch way too seriously. And I think I understand why. You've thrust yourself onto the front lines of a real war. You're hyper-sensitive to criticism. You're out there getting real blood on you.

All I'm doing is walking through the aftermath and shooting the wounded...

(Sorry if I rambled, but I'm quite tired and a bit drunk.

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Riehl wrote:

Actually, i was very satisfied with your answer.
 
"Eventually, though, I was overcome with frustration, by the way the whole thing
seemed corralled and directed by the police, and how that fact seemed to have
turned it all into an Anarchy Lite commercial."
 
I think this is right on... I will probably be featured on a KYRS program soon to talk about the demo, and i plan on saying pretty much that very thing. There was no energy, and as hard as i tried to facilitate an environment where people might bend some rules or make the demonstration their own and introduce something unique, i was let down, in that respect. However, the food didnt 'taste like shit', hahaha, and we handed out seriously over 400 pamphlets... so that's cool... but i agree pretty much all the way... i feel as if the 4th of july demos have played their card, and it's going to take a new bunch of excited and inspired folks to make it happen in any meaningful way again in the future. im done. it's run its course.
 
"But, initially, my frustration was set off by the speech you gave in Peaceful Valley, where you unfairly characterized the writers of the Declaration of Independence as a bunch of rich,
slave-owning white guys who came up with some pretty words to perpetuate their
moral decadence."
 
I challenge you to produce evidence that the writers of the declaration were NOT comprised of rich white slave owners... Even jefferson owned slaves, and while he kinda 'wished he didnt', he remained hesitant to free them because of what he stood to lose by it... given his sympathy towards the idea of emancipation, i think it's just to call it pathetic to perpetuate it, and i think the eventual emancipation of africans stands as a historical evidence that there is nothing wrong with shaming people who owned slaves just for the sake of capital... I think you've committed a fallacy of interpretation regarding what i was trying to say...
 
Just because one aspect of something is condemnable does not mean the entirety of it is as well, and if i write something, it is with that basic logical assumption in mind... So, having said that... A summary of that part of my speech could be better read "Declaring independence is totally awesome... but building a nation on the backs of slaves is totally NOT." Also, i feel as if an important element of my speech was absent from your critique... The fact that the 'founding fathers' fought a revolutionary war does NOT mean they had the best of intentions... any amount of historical research will demonstrate that the native inhabitants were almost completely annihilated or assimilated to make the american dream realized... I recommend looking in to the history of Columbus, and as to why Columbus day was eliminated as a national holiday....
 
To keep it short, I'm sure Hitler loved kittens, and he was a super smart leader that had a lot of good things to say... but that doesnt make swastika flags appropriate... the founding of this country WAS at the expense of entirely too much human life and liberty for anyone who has examined it to say it was of completely respectable intentions.
 
So, to answer your question... no, i don't think white slave owners telling the queen to fuck off so they can commit genocide, own slaves, and participate in one of the worst violations of freedom and human rights probably secondary only to the holocaust, which paved the way for this land to be used as an imperialist world super power, a 'quantum leap in human dignity. Ask a native about the 'quantum leaps in human dignity' back then... it was the same shit, different face.
 
at least, that's my take... you should hear Tom (the older guy who made the long speech) lecture on how Thomas Jefferson was a rapist, haha.
 
anyway, i dont mean to come off like im taking it too seriously... i think i even agreed with you in our last exchange that im not worried about too many folks looking at it like serious political commentary... and, i never made it a point to even mention or bring up the nature of the character insults about me in the film... i thought it was funny, a LOT. i told the person who sent it to me that i thought it was really funny...
 
my persistence in this exchange was from a desire to mole out your actual opinions, and engage someone who cared enough about something i've done to make an effort to portray it in ANY way... if it had been more positive, i still would have contacted you.
 
and as most pretention aside as possible, your observation of 'real blood' hit home. i dont seek to glorify or romanticize any more than necessary, but i have gone through a whooooole lot of real shit for all of the things i've tried to do...
 
anyway...
 
thanks again for the exchange... sorry this one was so long... i am a tad intoxicated as well.

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I wrote:

Yes, the whole history of human endeavor is awash with blood and horror. As I said in the film, "the evil is in us."

The quantum leap was that those morally imperfect men acknowledged their moral imperfection, and concluded that because of this fact, the affairs of men should be governed by rules instead of other morally imperfect men simply because of their advantageous birthrights or religious connections.

I wasn't claiming that they were not slave owners. In fact, you could make a good argument that some were mass murderers. But the amazing thing about that period of history is that this group of men collectively agreed (some begrudgingly so) that slavery is wrong. Some argued - and rightly so - that the only moral thing to do would be to immediately free all slaves.

Fortunately (and I'm not comfortable using that word), the economic realists of the bunch knew that their slave-based economy would obviously collapse with the removal of that base, and that that void would obviously be filled with really pissed off people in red coats.

Notwithstanding the moral indignation, persistence, and courage of African-Americans over the years, wouldn't you agree that those words written centuries ago provided the legal foundation for the emancipation of slavery?

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Riehl wrote:

Yes, i would say we have come to an agreement.
 
hahaha.

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