Tag Archives: Tim DeChristopher

BIDDER 70 doc reduces super-activist Tim DeChristopher to a number, lonely

BUMMER. I was thrilled a documentary would tell the world about Tim DeChristopher. You might think his achievement would be more widely know. It’s a testament of the power he’s up against, added to the meager support he has received, that even here I have to explain who he is and what he did. Tired of the futility of outdoor protests to prevent BLM land sales to the extraction industry, Tim DeChristopher attended an auction of particularly dubious legitimacy and successfully thwarted it by posing as a bidder and buying many of the lots. This happened at the close of Bush’s presidency, but Obama’s administration pursued a successful prosecution. DeChristopher has just been released after serving two years in federal prison. The documentary “Bidder 70” recounts the ordeal in a manner that provides neither encouragement nor inspiration, and leaves me to question how DeChristopher might have been better represented in court, publicized in actions, and celebrated in film. To say Bidder 70 reduces Tim DeChristopher to a number distorts the idiom. No mere number, DeChristopher is the important but solitary number one, among a casualty count always rising. In the sea of ineffectual activism that prompted his improvisational escalation, DeChristopher emerges more singular than when he started, but that’s to judge based on a flawed documentary. Hardly an surprising result.

It’s certainly armchair quarterbacking to suggest Tim DeChristopher’s legal team failed him miserably, likewise his publicity crew, but I can unequivocally conclude that DeChristopher would have served the environmental movement much more successfully had he been free to apply his imagination and energies, literally. Jail time helped Mandela, MLK and Thoreau, but that’s because you heard about it. The makers of “Bidder 70” can’t be faulted for their subject’s obscurity, but they are applying themselves to sealing his fate with coffin nails.

“Bidder 70” has major shortcomings: you are left with an informed impression that one, there is nothing to be done, two, you don’t want to do it in prison, and three, our collective impotence is inescapable. What’s the point then of attending the movie?

Of all the questions left for a post-screening Q&A, probably one should not be whether the subject is other than he appears. Explain this, how does a protagonist gain inspiration from being told there’s nothing to be done, by a Nobel Prize winner, whom he believes and holds as his mentor? Everyone loves a good challenge, but DeChristopher comes off as a poor listener. Nothing? I’ll see your nothing and raise you nothing. Futile? Count me in! Everyone loves an underdog, but he gathers no recruits.

Never mind his in-denial heroics, the audience takeaway is that his cause is lost. This is swiftly reinforced with the story of Tim DeChristopher’s road less traveled to prison. Offered encouragement by other activists who’ve served time, who we’ve also not heard of, it’s painted to be a fate of unimaginable awfulness and given an ominous soundtrack.

Who could not to admire Tim DeChristopher and respect his dedication and courage? The filmmakers painted in super-heroic light, notwithstanding his irrational adjustments, and so their thematic choice look awfully suspect. Are we likely to learn that they’re new to activism and have no idea what does or doesn’t motivate?

Filmed between 2009 and 2011 and released last year, “Bidder 70” makes no mention of “fracking.” The environmental movement has been literally bursting with opposition to hydraulic fracturing and these filmmakers were at the forefront of the national rallies. This omission is juxtaposed with a clip of 350’s Bill McKibbon praising the consumption of natural gas over coal.

Tim DeChristopher on Democracy Now!

Edward-Abbey-Tim-DeChristopher-Arches
 
Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah disobedient civilian, was interviewed on Democracy Now! today. Amy Goodman asked him what relevance Edward Abbey had to his move to disrupt the bidding process for oil and gas leases in Utah’s red rock country.

His answer:
I think that the most powerful relevance of Edward Abbey to what I did was his statement and really his expression of the idea that sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul, because I think that’s what I had seen throughout my work as an environmentalist previous to this, where I had seen this massive crisis and massive challenge that we were facing in climate change, and I saw that my efforts of writing the letter here and there and riding my bike and things like that weren’t really aligning. My actions weren’t aligning with my sentiment of how serious this threat was, and I knew that. And so, I felt that kind of conflict within myself.
And when I stepped it up at this auction and was putting myself out there and winning all these parcels was really the first time I felt like my sentiment—or I felt like my actions were aligning with my sentiment. And I felt this tremendous sense of calm when I started doing that, because for the first time that conflict within me was gone, and I knew that when I was, you know, standing up and risking going to prison, my actions really were aligning with how big of a crisis this is.

A grand jury indicted Tim DeChristopher Wednesday afternoon with two felony counts of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Act. If convicted, Tim could face up to 10 years in the slammer. This, despite the fact that Ken Salazar cancelled the contested leases because the government failed to follow its own procedures, but more on that later!

For now, tune in to KRCC at 7 to hear Tim (and then Noam Chomsky) on Democracy Now! tonight.

Activism heroics and roadkill

Bush and Muntadhar al-ZaidiThis is by no means a complete list of contemporary populist heros, but I’d like to start with comedian Stephen Colbert, who roasted President Bush at a Washington Correspondents Association Dinner, like a court jester gone rabid. With celebrated White House correspondent Helen Thomas’s help, Colbert belittled the decider-in-chief to his face right in front of his friends.

Don’t Taser Me Bro
There was University of Florida student Andrew Meyer, who held his ground asking critical questions of Senator John Kerry. Meyer was tackled and tasered for his impertinence, while Kerry kept mumbling, to divert attention from “Don’t taser me Bro.”

Bidder 70
Then Utah environmentalist Tim DeChristopher disrupted a government land auction, driving up prices and buying several leases raising paddle number 70, until federal agents took him away. Extraction industry spokesperson Kathleen Sgamma may have miscalculated the degree of DeChristopher’s popular support. She earned no one’s sympathy when she complained: “There’s a democratic process in place if you don’t like what’s happening. If we all just decided we wanted to change the laws unilaterally, that would run counter to our democracy.”

The Shoes
And Iraqi Journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi is in jail for throwing his shoes at that dog Bush, when our president was making a farewell visit to Baghdad. (His trial date is fast approaching actually.) The shoes missed, but Bush was made to duck, which is the closest anyone’s come to getting reality to register with the cretinous bitch.

Barack’s first press conference
Let’s also mention Helen Thomas again, at Barack Obama’s first press conference a week ago. When Obama ceremoniously called on Thomas to lob the last question, Thomas asked the president to name who in the Middle East had nuclear weapons. It was something of a leading question, because the answer is known, but bears reminding when the argument is repeated that Iran acquiring nukes would lead to proliferation. Thomas put Obama in the position of having to utter recognition of Israel’s never-mentioned nuclear program, or very conspicuously avoid the subject. Which is what he did.

Israel Divestment Movement
Now the Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine have succeeded in getting their school to divest in Israel, just as Hampshire College led the way in the nationwide divestitures which contributed to the fall of Apartheid in South Africa. Board of trustees chairman Sigmund Roos tried to explain that the school’s actions were in no way a repudiation of Israel, and accused the students of falsely claiming otherwise. Of the 800-signature petition, Roos explained: “We never took it up. Students know that.”

Really? A petition signed by 800 of your students and faculty, and the Hampshire College board of trustees wouldn’t even read it? Roos doesn’t know what hit him.

Tim DeChristopher urban eco warrior

Tim DeChristopherI am neither handy with a monkey-wrench, nor am I much of an outdoorsman, but when environmentalist Tim DeChristopher took the eco fight to a federal land lease auction, it was an example of disruptive activism for which I know I am qualified. There is an undisturbed comfort in thinking one person cannot make a difference, even if just in lacking for ideas how. Dare I say for most of us, now DeChristopher and Ebay have closed that loophole.

This week, Ken Salazar, the new Secretary of the Interior, moved to invalidate the Utah land-use leases which Bush & co tried to give to the extraction industries in the last minutes of his administration.

But back in December, Tim De Christopher and his fellow activists had no way of knowing that those leases would not be exploited. Tim was frustrated by the seemingly ineffectual picketing outside the Salt Lake City building where the auction was being conducted, so he went inside, where he discovered he was treated as any other potential bidder.

Democracy Now covered the story when it happened December 22, and interviewed DeChristopher again after Salazar’s action. NPR picked up the story this week, and added an interview with one of the culprits who DeChristopher had disrupted: indignant Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States.

utah-federal-leases