I mentioned to a friend that I’d tried to get the Mateel Community Center to rent me space to present the Who Bombed Judi Bari Road Show, now in its third month of growing audiences but mixed reviews. He laughed. “You have about as much chance of getting into the Taj Mateel as a liberal would have had getting into a German beer garden in 1936 to argue against Hitler.”
He was right; the Taj never called.
So I rang up the Garberville Vets’ Hall. Mr. John Haines promptly called back and said I could have it for $50 for two hours and proof of insurance. I immediately forged a Farmer’s Insurance policy rider, faxed it to Mr. Haines on whom I’d also dropped my Marine Corps ID number and 0300 mos as “rifleman, basic” to firm up my bona fides with him. “And the subject of your talk, Mr. Anderson?” inquired Mr. Haines in the calm tones of a man expecting a response like, “How To Slow Smoke Salmon,” not so much as pausing when I said, “Who Bombed Judi Bari and Who’s Bombing Her Now.” Mr. Haines, a Vietnam Vet and a man who has been in uncomfortable proximity to explosions and related military mayhem said, “Meet me at 6pm on the night of the event and I’ll give you the key.”
Promptly at six I was on the corner in front of the hall. A very large woman wrapped in several acres of tie-dyed material walked briskly past, apparently trying to keep up with a short, wiry little hippie male. (Garberville is the last place in America where Hippus Americanus still thrive; it’s a sort of open air Smithsonian for them.) The woman, Mrs. Falstaff I’ll call her, bellowed, “If I have to disrupt this bastard’s speech all by myself I’ll do it.”
Ohhh gawd, I groaned to myself. They’ll all be here tonight — every acid-loosed ding from Weaverville to Petrolia who never quite got all the way over the Summer of Love will be out to slay the Beast of Boonville.
I’d been told that Alicia Littetree Bales had been on KMUD urging Bari-ites to appear at the Vets’ Hall on Thursday night, but Bales had committed a fundamental political error: Never rally the troops unless you have the troops. She and her handlers, Darryl Cherney and Mike Sweeney, don’t have the troops. Or the arguments. Or even the facts of their own case. The farther one gets from ground zero Ecotopia — Garberville-Redway — the more troops they have and the more plausible their case seems because no one is allowed to challenge it.
Miss Tree didn’t appear at the event she’d rallied the troops to disrupt.
At ground zero Countercultural Smithsonian, dead center Garberville and the middle of the world famous Emerald Triangle, home of America’s best marijuana, the Bari-ites seemed to number exactly 6 identifiable ones, including a witch who passed a note around the room promising the righteous among the audience — between fifty and sixty friendly and open-minded people — that I’d have a fatal accident on the way back to Boonville.
I was home and tucked in by midnight, and it only took me a pint of White Horse and no seat belt to get there.
I’ll pause here to say that I’m forever inspired by the awesome depths of the humanity of Northcoast Earth First! Has a more generous, more compassionate, dare I say more loving, group of people ever walked among God’s disappearing creatures in His clearcut forests since the Prince of Peace Himself strode the lush gardens of Babylon?
As Irv Sutley, maligned for years as the agent of Judi Bari’s destruction, began to talk, “My name is Irv Sutley” Mrs. Falstaff shouted out a sarcastic, “So what?” Mr. Haines of the Vets’ Hall, who had stuck around to hear the presentation, explained to everyone that Mrs. Falstaff was a well-known Garberville outdoors personality of no fixed address whom he would now lead out of the room until she agreed to behave herself. Which he did. Mrs. Falstaff only spoke out of turn one more time when something Sutley said caused her to exclaim, “Deep cover!”
Other than Mrs. Falstaff the only other consistently rude person in the room was Naomi Wagner who smirked and interrupted various speakers with uninformed and implausible versions of Bari-related events for two hours. One much younger woman, also from the exhibitionist, shout-them-down branch of “activism” prevalent on the Northcoast, did shriek as the presentation got underway, “I didn’t give anybody permission to film me!” She snatched the knit cap off her head and held it in front of her face as if she were Greta Garbo emerging from a limo at Cannes. I pointed out that since I’d rented the hall she was in my livingroom and if she didn’t want to be filmed or recorded or couldn’t behave herself she was welcome to leave.
It’s a close call with these people, the Naomi People. I’ve seen them up close for years now, avoiding them if I can because wherever they are no birds sing and bad things tend to happen. At a minimum one can expect no fun.
Do the Naomi People stand for something or are they what they appear to be, bitter, unhappy women who express their personal misery in what they seem to think is cutting-edge politics? Or are the Naomi People merely generic American assholes of the uniquely unpleasant pseudo-left personality type — spiritual Stalinists who, if they ever achieved power, would murder by the millions. In the present context they kill where they can, like the smaller predators of the forest they recently sold out to Hurwitz.
The master, Judi Bari, picked her spots. She only went off on people from positions of relative strength, but was often an awful bully who could be brutally hard on vulnerable people, especially vulnerable young women. JB, the Naomi People’s inspiration, the person the Naomi People eerily mimic right down to her speech patterns and nervous giggle, was the kind of feminist who didn’t seem to like women very much. Judi Bari never went off on the tough guys she liked to hang out with, and she never went off on men who wouldn’t hesitate to present her with the option of acting like a human being or adios. But beneath all the awfulness of parts of her personality, Judi Bari had real ability and, I think, was a real radical.
Her successors, I dunno. If Naomi had been born a man and behaved the way she behaves, she’d have been in fist fights from the day she learned to walk. But as it is she, and the small army of female dings like her who are ubiquitous at NorCal public radio stations, all demonstrations having to do with trees, and at any event convened on the false premise that women are somehow superior interpreters of natural life because of their reproductive equipment, take advantage of the built-in protections of gender to behave in ways that only a man with a punch like Jack Dempsey’s could even consider behaving.
I didn’t pay much attention to Naomi; I never have from the morning I watched her dress down her husband — or whoever the poor bastard I saw that day get twenty nasty minutes right in his defeated face. Mr. Naomi stood there, his head hanging like a beat-down dog long accustomed to starting his day with repeated kicks in the pills, Naomi yapping up at him like a berserk Pomeranian.
Thursday night, as she rattled irrelevantly on, finally exiting in a dramatic, martyred huff as if she had somehow been “victimized” — according to the Naomi People there are more victims than citizens — by the conversation she’d spent the evening trying to destroy, I thought of appealing directly to Alicia Littletree Bales, the young Naomi-in-training, only 24 or so, to flee these miserable bastards before she found herself twenty years down the line acting like a nut case in public, alone and unhappy. There’s a certain kind of so-called activist these days who are the walking equivalent of quicksand for young people like Miss Tree, who’s off to a bad start — rude, arrogant, ignorant, and vain just like her role models. The Naomi People take an idealistic kid and either destroy her, or turn her into versions of themselves — the kind of shrew the rest of us pivot and run from whenever we see her coming.
“Run, Miss Tree, run! It’s not too late. You have your whole life in front of you. There’s a lot more to it than muttering hags, bad music, doofus-dudes, and half-cracked losers. You’ve got looks and brains. Use them. Enjoy yourself before you reconcile yourself to long days in the gloomy dank of the MEC, your only company troops of tedious lunatics!”
When Judi Bari’s bomber, her former husband Mike Sweeney, took custody of the two girls he and Bari had together when Judi Bari passed on into the Big Demo In The Sky, the Bari-Sweeney girls disappeared from the dreary activist nexus that had eaten daddy and mommy both. I’m with the guy there; keep the smart, lively young people clear away from these embittered covens who suck the joy out of every life they touch.
So the wackys didn’t wreck the discussion Thursday night as they’d apparently hoped to do. Mrs. Falstaff did just fine as comic relief, and even a young woman with a Brit accent who stood up to say I’d “been attacking the women of the Northcoast for years, including an especially vicious personal attack on me” smiled when I said I was happy to see that she had survived the assault and was up and around and appeared to have escaped permanent injury.
The vicious personal attack? She told Alex Cockburn, Brit-to-Brit, or Brit to Anglo-Irish Brit if either she or anybody else around here makes these distinctions, that I’d said in the paper that she “chirped like a little British bird.” Apparently Mrs. Falstaff was nonplussed at the alleged insult. “Hell, that ain’t so bad,” the hard-living Garberville street personality observed. “I’ve been called a lot worse than that.”
I’d never seen or heard of the Brit bird before, and I doubt very much if I’d ever said anything at all about her, let alone something that lame. I wish when people claim they’ve been viciously attacked by me in print they’d produce some evidence to back it up.
A young man, with a great big Gotcha Look on his face stood to quote from a back issue of the AVA. “Right here, Mr. Anderson, from your own newspaper,” he began — he’d obviously been lying in wait for days to raise me to the roof beams by my own petard, whatever a petard is — “in an article by Mark Heimann in your own paper, Mr. Anderson …..” and on into the story about a Humboldt County logging family with ties to crank, criminals, crackpot Aryan belief systems, fundamentalism, and a comprehensive collection of articles on Judi Bari and Earth First! The guy wanted to know why I seemed so intent on “bashing Mike Sweeney” when there was this group of uninvestigated scumdogs out there.
As I tried to explain, we’d sent that article to the entire Bari-ite apparatus, including its deballed, oblivious, posturing so-called attorneys, and not a single one of them expressed any interest in the HumCo scum-pups whatsoever. Why? Because the entire Bari-ite bullshit case, all $17.7 million of it, and not a penny pledged to trees, rests entirely on the fiction that Big Timber and/or the FBI bombed Judi Bari. This has been the story from Day One of the bombing — May 24th, 1990 and, like the dedicated hustlers that they are, Darryl Cherney and the rest of the mercenary crew (and their dim hangers-on) are sticking with it. They’d rather fight than switch to a real investigation.
Mary Moore, Irv Sutley, and Jim Martin of Flatland Magazine were up front with me. As they have on previous occasions they calmly said what they’ve always said: We want an investigation of the Bari Bombing no matter who it begins with or where it leads. But the Bari-ites have tried to shut down the discussion before it begins, and that’s the first difference we have with them.
I’ve received three letters from people who were present, the three of them similar to this one: “I thought your presentation last night at the Vets’ Hall in Garberville went very well and all on the panel were sincere and articulate. It’s difficult to understand how an intelligent woman like Naomi can’t see that her boorish behavior is counterproductive to her cause, such as it is. There were a number of politically active people in the audience and they almost all seemed sympathetic to your case for considering Sweeney as a suspect. I hope Michael Jacinto is able to arrange a debate with Cherney on KMUD where you’ll reach a considerable audience.”
KMUD’s coverage of the Garberville event was, I understand, fair and as balanced as it’s possible to be in an overheated political context. Gordy Johnson covered it for KMUD, afterwards taking statements from me, Naomi Wagner and Alex Cockburn. It’s the first fair and equal coverage we’ve received from any Northern California public radio station. At the others, including of course KZYX just down the road from me in Philo where mention of me or the AVA was prohibited even before the station went on the air ten years ago and continues to this day, I’m proud to say, the Bari Bombing mystery cannot be mentioned other than to promote Earth First!s $17.7 million version.
An agreeable fellow named Owl, who hosts a Friday morning talk show on KMUD was gracious enough a couple of months ago to give me a few minutes to outline our side of the dispute, but when I approached program guy Jacinto for more time to respond to the literal unchallenged hours KMUD has allowed Darryl Cherney to call us names and lobby for his $17.7 mil retirement fund, Jacinto said he thought he could set up a debate between Feral Darryl and I “some time in February when Darryl’s back in town.”
I’m not holding my breath.
Gordon Johnson, by the way, was secretly vilified by self-certified “liberals” associated with the Mendocino Environment Center in Ukiah who got him fired by KZYX back when Gordy functioned briefly as news director. Too “negative,” I believe the charge was, which translates as a lack of visible reverence for the nutpies who dominate the place. Linda McClure, Susan Vandongen and Louis Korn put in a lot of OT on sticking little shivs into Gordy’s back, arranging with KZYX’s supine management to replace the honestly skeptical Johnson with Bari gofers and KPFA graduates, Bruce Haldane and Annie Esposito.
And that’s the state of free speech, lib style, on the Northcoast; no debate, the Gandhian kick in the nuts, the organic knife in the back.
The mystery of Who Bombed Judi Bari is about to go national. It’s got legs, as we say in the newspaper biz; Cockburn is writing a long piece on the case for the New York Press, and Steve Talbot and Dave Helvarg are working on one for “a national magazine.”
We’re going to find out Who Bombed Judi Bari and Why Mike Sweeney Bombed Her, and if I were Mike Sweeney I’d either be working on a bomb big enough to take out the entire national media or I’d be investigating recycling jobs in Brazil and calling the Ukiah Library to see if they’ve got Portuguese language tapes.