Sunday, 14 October 2012

Language, Articulateness and Emotional Temperature

                What is being articulate? When the ideas are clear in your head, you search and find appropriate words to clothe the ideas and give it a form. You are inarticulate at times as you search for right expressions. Sometimes the ideas are not very clear in the head. One tweaks words and ideas this way and that to see where they lead to. One matches them with one's own experience of life. When one has captured ideas into words thus, Ah, the satisfaction. When I look later on at what I have written, I find it full of mistakes, grammatical and spelling and sometimes different parts of the same sentence in different tenses. I can correct them without the help of a spell-check. The writer who originally wrote was not the critical reader. Now I don't make mistakes if I am writing something routine.I have, in the past, tried to write without any error from the beginning. What emerges is a flat piece of lifeless writing. When the choice is between life and finesse, I choose life every time. The other times a coherent piece of writing emerges is
(i) when I am writing passionately about something. Strong emotions giving shape to the sentences                                                    
(ii) when I am writing smartly, humorously, usually running something down.
Yet, it is the smart piece of writing that is shaped by strong emotions that gets all the approbation and notice. When I write unemotionally about something I am passionate about, what comes out is not that attractive or eye catching may be, but a new insight emerges every time. What emerges has a much deeper emotion that was not there initially.

Following are a couple of essays by George Orwell and Doris Lessing on Language and Politics

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.
These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen -- but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:
    1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.
      Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)
    2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder .
      Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)
    3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?
      Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)
    4. All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.
      Communist pamphlet
    5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!
      Letter in Tribune
Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:
Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.
Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.
Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers.* The jargon peculiar to

*An interesting illustration of this is the way in which English flower names were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, Snapdragon becoming antirrhinumforget-me-not becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning away from the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.

Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.
Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.† Words likeromantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in

† Example: Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . .Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly)

the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal P├ętain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Here it is in modern English:
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread -- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.
As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry -- when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech -- it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash -- as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip -- alien for akin -- making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning -- they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another -- but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."
The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled" to write -- feels, presumably, that he has something new to say -- and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.
I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence*, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases

*One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.

and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.
To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a "standard English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a "good prose style." On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose -- not simply accept -- the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.
I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Doris Lessing - The Good Terrorist

The Good Terrorist

Year First Published:1985
First Published by:Alfred A. Knopf
This Edition:American first edition
click on image
for larger version

From the book jacket:
"The scene is contemporary London, where a loose-knit group of political vagabonds comprises an ill-defined and volatile underground. Drifting from one cause to the next, they occupy abandoned houses, demonstrate and picket, devise strategies to fit situations that may or may not arise. But, within this worlds, one particular commune - one small group of men and women whose deepest conviction seems to rest in a sense of their own largely untested radicalism - is moving inexorable toward active terrorism.At their center is Alice Mellings, who, though not the leader, is nevertheless the engine of the group. A brilliant organizer, Alice (in her mid-thirties) knows how to cope with almost anything, except the vacuum of her own life. And so we find her - in this latest of the countless squatters' communes she's inhabited during the past fifteen years - once again taking charge, taking care, being practical. Alice: fixing, replacing, conniving, convincing, cooking. Alice: always there, always reliable, giving her time and effort to running the house so that the others are free to take part in the demonstrations that are the motivating force of their lives. Alice: making herself indispensable - and invisible,; earning a precious sense of belonging by denying her own sense of self.
Suddenly, however, the stakes are rising. Some of the group appear to have ties to insurgents in North Ireland and even to Soviets who are "recruiting" ... a small bomb set off on a deserted street leads to ideas that are dangerously ambitious.. a crate of guns is left at the house for reasons Alice and her companions don't want to understand fully... and there is a man, a "professional," who is eager to meet with Alice and discuss her future with his organization.
Now there is dissension within the commune, a dissolution of the already tenuous focus and spirit that has so far kept it whole, and Alice finds herself at the center again. But this time it is the center of a circle on the verge of collapse, and it falls to her to make decisions that entail a kind of terrorism - political and personal - that she has never really meant to involve herself in, but which, finally, she may be helpless to avoid.
In The Good Terrorist Doris Lessing has given us not only an extraordinarily vivid picture of communal life and lives (the leader, who guards his lair with oppressive jealousy; the imposing female "lieutenant," whose strength goes far beyond those she serves; the madwoman, whose political actions may be the only vent for her severe emotional turmoil; the hangers-on, the intruders, the abusers, the abused), but also a profoundly intuited and timely portrait of the kind of personalities - who they are, how they function, what makes them tick - that can be drawn to this dangerous and frightening way of life."

    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and received The W.H. Smith Literary Award and the Mondello Prize in Italy.
Also see:

O T H E R . E D I T I O N S
[Current Edition]
Vintage (Random House)
American softcover reprint
Published October 1, 1986
ISBN: 0394746295

     The Marriages was hanging around for 10 years – The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, for 10 years at least, with me simply not being able to do it. The opposite happened with The Good Terrorist. A friend of ours, a friend of... a friend... we were talking on the telephone... People do not remember now the Harrods bombing which was... it was quite an event when it happened. There was an extremely messy incompetent bombing at Harrods. Now, we had known for many years a... a girl who had become from the moment she grew up as a kind of... she became Alice in The Good Terrorist; that is, she was simultaneously saying things like, 'Well, come the revolution, we're going to have to kill 40 million people. Or, come the revolution, we've got to...' this kind of talk... the revolutionary talk when while looking after cats, dogs, old people, whales, and anything else, this... which seems to me an absolute... the essence of revolutionary movements. They have this double thing going – one thing, they are bumping off 30,000 of the bourgeoisie without... with no more than a shrug of the shoulders, when with the other thing, what they're doing is looking after stray cats.
     And... now this girl, whom we've known for many years, she was currently at that time looking after a squat of, in quotes, revolutionaries somewhere or other. And she was always feeding them, looking after them, earning money for them, nursing them, etc, etc, while of course being ready to bump off 10 million people, come the revolution. So we were laughing about the Harrods bombing, my friend and I, and we said, 'Who on earth could have done such a stupid bloody thing?' It was a lot of blood and mess... killing for nothing.Now, the IRA at that time were very happy to claim responsibility for anything like that, and they instantly said, 'No, it wasn't us', with the superior intimation that they would never be responsible for anything as messy as that. I mean, if they were going to do a Harrods bombing, they would do it properly. So anyways, we said, 'I'll tell you who did it – Alice did it. Alice! Of course! Who else? Who else would do anything as stupid and incompetent and messy as that?'
     And I put the phone down and I thought, my God, if there was ever a story, it's this one. So I started. Now, whereas I'd hung around for Marriage... Marriages for 10 years, or for The Fifth Child for God knows how long, I simply went to my typewriter and started to write The Good Terrorist with no interval at all. Why? I don't know why. It's just a very strange business, the whole thing ... the time a book takes, how long you have to think about a book, the depth about which you have to think about this book, how... what kind of level are you thinking about this book. I would say that Marriages goes as deep as I'm capable of going as a writer. The Good Terrorist I would say is fairly surface – I have to think about ... I was a communist at one point, I know all about communist groups, left-wing groups, all of that. The language is very similar to terrorist groups, which... I think I'm going to mention something rather interesting about The Good Terrorist.
     I had an enormous number of letters about The Good Terrorist as soon as it was published. The first was from the Red Brigades in Italy. I don't know if people remember the Red Brigade? They were a terrorist group or movement. They were very, very violent and very bloody and ruthless. And the letter I got said, 'I was a member of the Red Brigade' – but he left for some reason. He said, 'Everybody I was working with is dead or in prison, and I would be one or the other by now'. He said, 'I don't know if you realise this', said this man, 'but in The Good Terrorist what you described was what the Red Brigades were like before they became serious. They were just like that, they were messy and silly and amateur, and then they became...' And then he said this, 'The language took them over' – and I've never forgotten that – he said, 'The language took them over, and then they became the hard-line killers that they were'. Now, the language as... it's in a thousand books – it's all this stuff about, come the revolution we're going to kill a million people, this kind of thing, and the language took them over.
     But now, you see, if you think about it, many different clubs or groups or classes have their own language. I mean, you know, the upper class, for example, are always to create a... a language that no one else can copy, and other groups like the... the groups in East London now, for example, they create languages. Or certain groups of young people create languages which no one else is supposed to understand. And then of course you have to ask, or at least I certainly do, what effect does this language have on them? Because some of these languages are extremely crude and brutal – it can't be that they have no effect at all, is my question... what kind of effect?
     Another letter I got... oh, a series of letters from Ireland about The Good Terrorist... because at that time, you see, there were this kind of group, the house full of revolutionaries, America, various parts of Europe and here, and Ireland. In Ireland there would be IRA. This man said to me, 'Have you thought that if you are wearing the right uniform' – which of course was jeans or something – 'and using the right vocabulary, you can be in any one of these houses and you are a revolutionary? You never ever have to do another political act'. He said, 'There are people living in these houses in Ireland who have never been to anything more than a mild demonstration, but they're revolutionaries. And the point is that they have a status: if you're a revolutionary, you're not just a bank clerk or working in a shop, you are a revolutionary, and you never do anything to earn it except talk the language'. So that was some of the letters I got from The Good Terrorist.
     And then I got a really funny one from... there was a time in Sri Lanka they had a – and I think they're still going – the rebels in Sri Lanka... she was captured by them. This woman wrote to me. She said she'd been captured by the rebels in Sri Lanka, and she said, 'They're all just as stupid as you say they are – with good wishes'. And oh, my God, no... I would love to have talked to her, but she didn't put her address on. So this was a missed opportunity, if there ever was one, because I would have loved to have known... six weeks is a long time to be captured by a terrorist group.

Self-Described Anarchists in Ohio Terror Plot Plead Guilty

Posted in AntigovernmentKlanTrial Updates by Bill Morlin on September 6, 2012

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Four of five self-proclaimed anarchists – calling themselves the Revolutionary People’s Party – have now confessed to involvement in a conspiracy in late April to use C-4 explosives to blow up an interstate highway bridge near Cleveland.
After their arrests, most of the suspects quickly agreed to discuss their plans with FBI agents during middle-of-the-night interviews. One of the would-be bombers said he just wanted to go to sleep and forget everything, court documents disclose.
Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, Ohio; and Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea, Ohio, all pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. district court in Cleveland. Each admitted conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempted use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce.
A fourth defendant, Anthony M. Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, pleaded guilty to those same charges on July 25, agreeing to become a prosecution witnesses against his co-defendants if they took their cases to trial. They, in turn, entered into plea negotiations with federal prosecutors, leading to Tuesday’s pleas. Dates for sentencing haven’t been set, but the defendants likely will face substantial prison time.
The pleas leave just one defendant, Joshua Stafford, 23, of Cleveland, whose case will be scheduled for trial separately after a court-ordered evaluation is completed.
The five were arrested April 30, just hours before their planned act of terrorism was to coincide with May 1 antigovernment, anti-establishment protests planned in Cleveland and other U.S. cities. The C-4 explosive devices, which were inert, were purchased by the suspects the day before their arrests from a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, according to court documents. The FBI said the public was never in danger.
“We are pleased these defendants have admitted to their intent to utilize violence, which threatened innocent citizens, to further their ideological views,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said. “The safety of our citizens is and continues to be the FBI’s primary focus as demonstrated by this investigation. The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international.”
After Hayne’s guilty plea in July, defense attorneys for the remaining defendants indicated they would offer an entrapment defense. Stevens’ attorney filed a motion to block the prosecution’s use of statements made by the defendants following their arrests. Court documents show Wright’s attorney also filed a motion for a separate trial based in part on those incriminating statements.
Federal prosecutors countered, filing documents indicating they planned to use post-arrest statements if the cases went to trial. Those documents include excerpts of statements made by the defendants.
“Honestly, the intent was to bring the bridge down,” Baxter told FBI agents, according to one government document. “I didn’t think there was enough (C-4) to do it. I just wanted to have it shut down for a few days. Stop, uh, flow of money for a few days from that area.”
The plotters intended to use a mobile phone to detonate two four-pound boxes of C-4 – a military-grade explosive – that were placed at the base of the Route 82 bridge crossing the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, south of downtown Cleveland.
The anarchists initially discussed using smoke grenades to distract law enforcement while co-conspirators would use explosives to topple signs atop high-rise financial institutions in downtown Cleveland. They also discussed bombing a Ku Klux Klan gathering spot or a Federal Reserve Bank.
The defendants apparently formed the Revolutionary People’s Party after they grew disappointed with the lack of action by people in the Occupy Movement, with whom they had been affiliated.
“I’ve been working with Occupy and it’s like I can’t even get them to do anything that would upset people,” Baxter told FBI agents, according to court documents.  Those he met in the Occupy Movement, Baxter said, wouldn’t “disrupt traffic … do anything illegal. A lot of laws are, are ridiculous. Can’t even get people to jay walk half the time in a march, or take the march off the sidewalk into the street.  It’s like, ridiculous.”
Baxter said at one point during his interview with the FBI that he thought about backing out of the plot, not for fear of causing casualties and damage, but because of the way the act of terrorism would be viewed.
“Yeah, [I] thought the corporate media would spin it as a bunch of crazy people who do what crazy people do, not as a, uh, politically driven thing.”
Stevens’ attorney argued for suppression of statements he made in a videotaped interview with agents, contending it was conducted under coercive conditions. But prosecutors countered by saying that wasn’t the case, that Stevens was given a blanket to get warm after his handcuffs were removed and later was allowed a cigarette and coffee break during the nearly four-hour interview with agents.
While being read his Miranda rights, Stevens told agents, “I feel like if I, if I exercise my right to remain silent, then I won’t be treated quite as kindly.”
To this, Special Agent Jared “Jake” Ruddy told the young anarchist he was “gonna have nothing but kindness from us. … We don’t operate any other way.”
To that, Stevens replied, “Well, I’ve been impressed so far, but –.”As he proceeded to read his advice of rights form, Stevens “teased” agents, referring to appointed defense attorneys as “public pretenders” and “kidding with the (FBI) agents about torture.”
Once Stevens agreed to answer questions, the FBI agent “asked what his initial thoughts were.” Stevens responded, “I just wanna go to sleep … and forget about everything.”


A Bridge Too Far

Were the five men arrested for trying to blow up a bridge in the Cuyahoga Valley a Cleveland-grown terrorist group, dimwit outsiders lured by an FBI informant or both?
Erick Trickey

Rain soaked the clothes of the six figures walking through the pitch-black Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Across the river from the scenic railroad's Brecksville station, where the Towpath Trail forks around a last remnant of the Ohio & Erie Canal, two of the men stopped to act as lookouts. The other four approached one of the giant concrete pillars holding up the 145-foot-tall Route 82 bridge. Its seven arches curved above them, holding up a roadway a fifth of a mile long.
A night vision camera stood guard, waiting.
The camera's live feed kept pausing, interrupted by the storm. But the agents watching a video screen at the FBI's Cleveland headquarters, 14 miles away, could see the dim profiles of three men. One, in a light-colored shirt and dark pants, set a small black toolbox next to the pillar. He reached into the box, and a bright light flicked on.
The other two men were puzzling over a second box. One stood over it, while the other, kneeling, fiddled with what was inside.
A fourth figure, much larger than the rest, stepped into the camera's view. "How much longer?" he asked.
"One is good to go — we just got to do this one," 20-year-old Connor Stevens replied, not knowing the big guy was wired for sound.

A little after 9:30 that night, April 30, the six men — five anarchists and a guy one of them had met at a protest rally — rolled up to the Applebee's in Garfield Heights, ready to drink some beer, get a quick bite to eat and remotely detonate two bombs.

The Garfield Heights Applebee's may have the best view of any Applebee's anywhere. It stands on a bluff, overlooking the Cuyahoga River valley. The parking lot gazes down at the bright lights of the massive Cinemark at Valley View movie theater. On clear nights, downtown's Cleveland skyline sparkles on the horizon. I-480, alive with headlights, flows directly past the restaurant and across the Valley View Bridge. The building lies at the end of Vista Way, a dead-end street off another dead-end street, in a half-empty shopping center near another, larger, emptier shopping center. It's a perfect spot for an ambush.
The skinny guys told the waiter they were a band playing clubs around Lakewood. The 290-pound, 39-year-old guy sitting with them must not have looked as punk rock as the rest, because they passed him off as their security guard. Two of the guys weren't old enough to drink, so the big guy ordered one of them a Yuengling tallboy. It was a good cover story.
Surrounded by the restaurant's corporate version of neighborhood-hangout memorabilia — a framed jersey for the hometown Garfield Heights Bulldogs; Cleveland State Vikings and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat T-shirts; a Cleveland Metroparks poster — Doug Wright, 26, and Joshua Stafford, 23, took out cellphones and started dialing.
In the toolboxes they'd left at the Route 82 bridge were phones that they believed were connected to blocks of C-4, a high-impact, military-grade plastic explosive.
Instead, they got voicemail.
They tried again, calling and texting. They even called the guy who had sold them the fake bombs, asked him to confirm the codes, and tried sending them again. Nothing worked. No off-in-the-distance rumble. No sirens. Nothing.
Stevens laughed. "What kind of group did I get involved in?" he asked.

It's a good question. Who were these guys?
Were the five men arrested near the Applebee's that night a Cleveland-grown domestic terrorist group, willing to risk killing innocent people for a nearly incoherent political motive? Or are they just a bunch of dimwit loners, angry at The Man and lured by an FBI informant and con man into acting out their revolutionary fantasies?
Or both?
The young, semi-homeless radicals, who came together during the Occupy movement, spent months trying to decide how to "send a message" to big business and the U.S. government. "[We] just wanted to stop the flow of money to some of these large corporations, slow it down a little bit," Brandon Baxter, 20, told an FBI agent after his arrest.
In the end, Baxter and his buddies decided the best possible way to do that was to shatter a pillar of a bridge crossed by 13,000 drivers a day.
For that, they're heading to federal prison. Stevens, Baxter, Wright and Anthony Hayne have all pleaded guilty to weapons of mass destruction charges. (Stafford is being examined to see if he's mentally competent to stand trial.)
The audacity of their plot may make them the most significant left-wing domestic terrorists caught in the United States in years — only one of the many reasons their arrest became national news.
The FBI's investigation began at an Occupy Cleveland rally in Public Square, spurring Tea Party groups to seize the case, trying to link the Occupy movement to terrorism. Some on the left, meanwhile, say the case reminds them of the FBI's abuses of power under J. Edgar Hoover, when agents infiltrated political organizations and tried to undermine and discredit activists from Martin Luther King Jr. to John Lennon.
The story of the bridge-bomb plotters is also a case study in how the FBI runs counter-terrorism stings — and new fuel for a growing controversy about them. Critics argue that since 9/11, overzealous FBI agents and informants have at times overreacted to minor threats and ensnared hapless losers in their stings by encouraging, escalating or even creating the very plots they bust.
Until the five men met the FBI informant — the sixth man at the bridge that night — they appear to have had little means to carry out any of the attacks they dreamed up. They lacked explosives, cars and, arguably, brains.
"They couldn't blow their noses, let alone blow up a bridge," John Pyle, Baxter's attorney, argued in May, "were it not for what this provocateur did."
The informant, a longtime crook with 13 felony convictions, talked two of the defendants into buying the fake C-4, drove them around, nudged the plan along, hired three of them and — according to several sources close to the men — gave some of them illegal drugs. Meanwhile, he continued to commit crimes of his own.
The Cleveland bridge-bomb plot brings up thorny questions about counter-terrorism strategy, questions the public rarely gets to examine: When should the FBI set a trap for a would-be bomber? Who can be trusted to set the trap? And what should happen when a target says he wants to back out?

Connor Stevens grew up in Oberlin as a sensitive kid who liked playing in gardens, digging up dirt and exploring the woods. He loved the wild, organic abundance of nature, but not the darker realities of the struggle for survival. Once, he found a snake, and his aunt tried to kill it with a BB gun. She shot it, but it didn't die. A year or two later, when he was 7 or 8, his family's cat brought a bird back to their house, wounded but still alive. He broke into tears.
Early in life, he developed a sense that the Earth had been damaged before he arrived. "I can remember being no more than 8 or 9 years old and looking around," he wrote recently, "thinking something's wrong with what we've done with the place."
His outlook turned darker still when he saw police take his father away.
In 2001, when Connor was 9, his father, James Stevens, was charged with inappropriately touching two 10-year-old girls. (He pleaded guilty to two counts of gross sexual imposition and was sentenced to 80 days in jail.)
"I developed a keen hatred for authority, •order,' and especially •law,' " Stevens wrote recently in an autobiography for a website raising money for his legal defense. One reason was "watching the cops arrest people, including my dad," he wrote. "The simple fact they can put you in handcuffs and haul you off was enough for me to hate them at that adorable age."
The family moved in with Stevens' grandfather, who lived next to the Metroparks' Mill Stream Run Reservation. Lonely for his friends in Oberlin, Stevens sought solace in the woods, where he played cowboys and Indians with a younger brother.
Stevens was home-schooled for eighth grade, and he tore across Wikipedia, tutoring himself in the ideas of Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hinduism and Buddhism. By high school, he was reading Marx, Lenin and Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani while living in that most unlikely of revolutionary hotbeds: Berea.
He carried the Communist Manifesto around Berea High School in a mostly failed effort to provoke interesting conversation. Teachers found his Marxism cute and quaint, but his peers generally ignored him. He started a radical group, the United Student Front, but at most of the meetings, only one other person showed up.
"He was very independent, teaching himself," recalls his mother, Gail Stevens, "not getting much of an education in school." Mostly bored, he lit up during class presentations — impressing his brother's girlfriend, at least, with so much knowledge that it seemed as if he could teach the class.
Late in his freshman year, in April 2007, Stevens finally got some attention by confronting military recruiters at a school job fair. "He said they would zero in on the kids that weren't dressed well, that you could tell were poor," recalls his mother.
His anger grew out of control. A month later, the recruiters reported him to the Berea police. One said Stevens called him a "fascist pig" in an email. Another student had contacted the recruiter to complain that Stevens' MySpace page was violent and threatening; it reportedly included the Unabomber's manifesto. The recruiters gave the police printouts of a MySpace forum page where Stevens had vented his hatred of authority.
"Kill cops!" Stevens, then 15, had written, signing his full name. "The pigs in blue are the fascists we have to fight!" He advocated throwing acid on them. (Berea police resolved the complaint by speaking to Stevens' mother, according to the report; she says they never talked to her.)
Stevens dropped out in 10th grade, but he remained troubled. Tempted by thoughts of suicide, he found solace in the "good red road," a Native American spiritual path involving a balanced life in harmony with nature.
For the next three years, he didn't go to school and didn't work. "He'd read, hang out with his friends, basically kind of just being a kid," Gail Stevens says. "He didn't know what he wanted to do."
He spent hours at a time writing poems that expressed alienation from a corrupted world or his longing to return to nature. "Lets try and tidy up on the way out," reads one, "Maybe dismantle a few reactors, / Put some rubble to use and / Return what we can of / the old-growth forests. / And struggle for / a new way of / Living."
Stevens began volunteering with Food Not Bombs, a collective that serves dinner on Saturdays in Ohio City's Market Square. Regulars there remember him talking passionately about freedom from hunger and citing literary references, from Ernest Hemingway to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda.
In spring 2011, Stevens went to see a concert at the Agape House off Lorain Avenue in Cleveland. The rented home was devoted to Christian anarchy, an anti-authoritarian movement dedicated to living a radically Christlike life. Its residents, all young men, met for morning and evening prayer and threw rowdy punk rock shows in the house on weekends. One housemate, Zachy Schraufl, invited Stevens to join them.
Stevens and his crates of books moved in soon after.
"He read Gandhi, he read Marx, he read everything between that," recalls Schraufl. "He used to feel there was no way to have a revolution unless it was a violent revolution," Schraufl recalls Stevens saying — but he'd started to see it wouldn't work in the long run.
Stevens began attending St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood with Schraufl. He even talked about getting baptized. The two started "guerrilla gardening" projects in vacant lots, planted squash in their backyard and stayed up late smoking grandfather pipes and talking about philosophy.
Schraufl grew close to Stevens, but noticed one thing about his new friend that gave him a little pause. "Connor was the kind of kid that drank in the morning," he recalls. "I was the kid who drank the most in the house, and then he moved in."

At Food Not Bombs last year, Stevens met another young anarchist, Brandon Baxter, as intense and passionate as Stevens was cerebral.
The 19-year-old Lakewood High graduate's influences weren't long-dead, bearded writers, but websites ranging from the far right (the conspiracy-minded InfoWars) to the far left (the Anonymous "hacktivist" movement). He embraced Food Not Bombs with gusto, screaming "Free food!" across Market Square when dinner was ready. He'd shaved his blond hair on one side, but the rest cascaded down the other side of his face, almost to his shoulder. He carried a vintage backpack and collected pipes and knives.
"I like to refer to him as a post-apocalyptic Boy Scout," says Schraufl. "He was really into survivalism."
Knives are a recurring theme in Baxter's life. He road-tripped to powwows with his father, selling pocket knives with patterned Damascus blades while his dad sold tepees.
At 17, after a fight between his mother and stepfather, Wayne Raymond, Baxter cut Raymond across the chest and arm with a kitchen knife. Baxter admitted to attempted felonious assault in juvenile court and received six months probation.
Mental illness tormented Baxter. He tried to kill himself in February 2010 by taking 30 pills of Seroquel, a medication for bipolar disorder. Three months later, when Baxter was 18, Raymond obtained a restraining order against him. Baxter's mother had found a disturbing note he'd written.
"In my deepest darkest fantas[ies] I see myself as evil, as possibly tearing down our society, lacking all reason and empathy," the note began, "spilling the blood of the innocent, driving [the] force of militants down the throats of all my enemies, who just happen to be anyone that I can see." The note's end focuses on a single victim: "I let one rip from my clip as my target screams in fright." A magistrate ordered Baxter to stay 500 feet away from Raymond.
He moved in with his father, Andy Baxter, who says his son found a purpose a year later by volunteering at Food Not Bombs and Occupy Cleveland. "He walked a foot taller. He was proud of what he did."
Despite their differing styles, Baxter and Stevens were excited by Occupy's leaderless decision-making and its message that the government served corporate wealth and screwed over the rest of society. They gravitated from Market Square to Public Square.
That's where a documentary filmmaker interviewed Stevens one night in October. In the video, Stevens stands next to a line of tall white tents, smoking a cigarette. Streetlamp light catches the reds and browns in his short-trimmed beard. In a steady, clear voice that made him sound older than 19, Stevens explained why he was spending his days and nights at the Occupy encampment.
"My favorite part about it is meeting people walking down the street — normal, average people," Stevens says, "talking to them, hearing about how they're affected by the economy, by the justice system."
The cameraman tells Stevens about a friend who protested the first Gulf War in Public Square and confided in him, "If I was down here two years earlier, I'd be kicking windows in at the BP Building."
"I could definitely identify with your friend," Stevens says. "Back in, like, 2008, I was at that state of mind. And now I'm understanding that we're in it for the long haul. Those tactics, they just don't do, they just don't cut it. It's actually harder to be nonviolent than it is to do stuff like that."

A kaleidoscope of activists spun themselves together to create Occupy Cleveland — students and organizers, anti-fracking environmentalists and universal health care supporters, musicians, hippies and anarchists.
They met first at Willard Park by the Free Stamp on Oct. 6, then relocated to the Tom Johnson statue in the free-speech quadrant in Public Square. Like the protesters in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, they began a day-and-night protest, camping on the wide sidewalk of West Roadway on the square's edge. Big white canopies sprang up — an information tent, a donations tent, a kitchen tent. Little blue tents gathered next to them, like a giant scouting expedition gathered around an urban bonfire.
For many of Occupy's young members — and a lot of them were young — those two weeks were the first time they'd found a community of like-minded people, belonged to a nationwide movement and felt, for a fleeting moment, that the whole society was shifting their way.
Stevens thrived at the Occupy camp. He volunteered for the kitchen tent and became known for starting deep discussions. "Connor was a really amazing guy," says Erin McCardle, a 23-year-old community organizer and Occupier. "He was really interested in stepping up and helping to do some of the harder work."
Brandon Baxter struck some protesters as big-hearted and passionate, others as immature and impulsive. He joined a training session for peacekeepers, but the teacher, veteran anti-war activist Tim Smith, says he acted like a high school kid. "He didn't pay attention, was distracted, kinda ADD," Smith recalls. "He didn't know why he was there."
Still, Baxter impressed law student Jacob Wagner while working the camp's night watch. "He was one of the most peaceful people there," Wagner recalls. "He was very loving and caring, and always tried to defuse any situation. If someone tried to get him riled up, he'd just walk away, rather than get violent with words even. He didn't want to say something he'd regret."
In a camp colored with every shade of progressive politics, from Democratic blue to socialist red to earthy green, Stevens and Baxter gravitated to others of their hue, anarchist black. Baxter worked night watch with a guy he'd met at a Lakewood cafe, Joshua Stafford, whom the Occupy campers knew as Skelly. He was thin and gangly, like a skeleton hanging from a string, with frizzy, tangled blond hair.
Stafford, 23, told his friends he'd struggled with schizophrenia. "Half his childhood he spent in the psych ward, and the other half he spent on the streets, learning different kinds of martial arts," says Schraufl. Stafford had a long misdemeanor and juvenile record — attacking teachers and threatening to kill one of them as a kid, serving jail time for assault as an adult. But Occupiers remember him as a calming presence. He often defended a transgendered camper from street harassment. When drunken bar-goers and the troubled homeless stumbled through Public Square and razzed the protesters, Stafford defused the situation.
"Whenever someone was getting intense," Schraufl recalls, "he'd get in their eyes and be like, •You need to calm down.' "
Another night watchman, 35-year-old Tony Hayne, made a lot of friends in the first few weeks of camp with his charming, upbeat attitude. But when police or reporters came by, Hayne pulled a bandana across his face. He'd served time in prison twice for theft and attempted domestic violence — a fact the protesters learned months later, when money went missing from the donation box and Hayne fell under suspicion.
While the other Occupiers frequently talked among themselves about their movement's dedication to nonviolence, Hayne kept his thoughts secret from most. "Tony would often admit to me, •I'm not nonviolent,' " recalls Schraufl, "but he adhered to the role of peacekeeper around Occupy."
Stevens, Baxter, Stafford and Hayne all befriended the most intense personality among the camp's anarchists, Doug Wright, a 26-year-old drifter and train-hopper. Tall, with hollow cheeks and missing teeth, Wright sported a Mohawk and wore the same black T-shirt with the anarchy symbol on it for several days straight. He said he'd hitchhiked around the country and come to Cleveland with someone he met at a concert about a week before Occupy's first event.
Schraufl hit it off with Wright, impressed with his tales of traveling to every state by boxcar and his knowledge of obscure punk bands. "He was the most hardcore train punk I ever met," he says. Wright and Schraufl would leave the square and go down to the river to drink and complain about campmates they thought were poseurs. Wright "can only speak in grunts," Schraufl says.
Wright did a lot to organize and set up the camp's donation, info and food tents, impressing McCardle with his dedication. "He was unemployed, and I definitely got that sense from Doug that he felt betrayed by all the systemic values of America, the mentality of •Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,' and that monetary worth is the only worth," she says.
Wright grew frustrated that other Occupiers proved unwilling to work as hard as he did. He often turned angry and aggressive, sometimes screaming at people, McCardle says. "I saw a very damaged person in him, but then I also saw an earnest, hardworking guy underneath that."
Smith was less impressed. "You know people in the world who get really excited about things and ideas and jump on the bandwagon?" he says. "They start preaching and haven't even read the holy writings? Doug was like that with anarchy. I don't think he read anything of substance. I think he just hated cops, hated rules, hated The Man.
"He bragged about fighting with cops in the past," Smith says. "He was an asshole."
Occupy's curbside utopia lasted two weeks. Mayor Frank Jackson's administration told the activists that they could no longer camp out overnight. In defiance, they planned a protest rally for the night of Oct. 21, when their permits expired. Some resolved to stage a sit-in to court arrest.
Around that time, the FBI received a report from an unidentified source about "potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists" at the rally, according to an affidavit. That evening, the FBI's Cleveland office sent an informant to the square.

By afternoon on Oct. 21, Public Square was abuzz.
In front of the Terminal Tower, speeches squawked from bullhorns and a guitarist played for a crowd of about 50. Across Superior Avenue, in the camp, protesters took down tents and the kitchen served one more meal.
Around 6:30 p.m., the informant arrived at the rally, looking for anarchists. They weren't hard to find. He spotted seven men he found suspicious. All but one had covered their faces. Four were carrying black backpacks and anarchist flags and wearing dark clothes with walkie-talkies around their necks.
One of the seven men was Doug Wright.
"The whole group appeared to be together and was constantly moving throughout the crowd expressing displeasure at the crowd's unwillingness to act violently," according to the FBI affidavit filed in the case.
At one point, the informant was likely standing close enough to the anarchists to overhear them. When an organizer explained the night's plan for peaceful civil disobedience — 11 people would be arrested while linking arms around one last, symbolic tent — one of the anarchists turned away and said, "F--k that."
Occupy protesters who attended the rally say parts of the informant's account ring true, but others do not. Occupy bought the walkie-talkies for the night watchmen, who moved equipment and provided security for the rally. The masks? Some protesters didn't want to be seen by cameras, fearing reprisal from police, the government, or employers, they say.
The "act violently" line isn't true, say McCardle and Wagner. But Cleveland city councilman Brian Cummins, who helped organize Occupy Cleveland, says some anarchists at the rally thought the civil disobedience plan was pointless and said so.
"Some clearly wanted to cause trouble," Cummins recalls. "There was definitely talk from the anarchists in the group — I can't point out or separate them by name — a buzz, •This is bullshit.' "
No violence broke out. The crowd grew to 100, then 350 by 10 p.m., when police arrested the 11 volunteers.
Sometime that night, the informant struck up a conversation with Wright, who was in an angry mood from having to take down the tents he'd helped erect.
Wright started talking about riots. He showed the informant his missing teeth and his crooked, once-broken nose, the results of street battles. "He also explained that if he goes to jail this time, he probably won't get out for a while," the affidavit said. Wright wasn't kidding. In 2006 in New Orleans, Wright pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated assault, one against a peace officer with a firearm.
The informant hadn't witnessed violence, but he'd found a violent anarchist. He exchanged phone numbers with Wright.

The informant, a 39-year-old con man, began working for the FBI last July when he was facing an indictment that would result in his 13th felony conviction.
His record at the Justice Center dates back to soon after he turned 18. Police arrested him twice on cocaine charges, in late 1990 and early 1991, and once for receiving a stolen credit card. At 19, he robbed a bank in Maple Heights. He pleaded guilty in all four cases and was sentenced to 5 to 16 years in prison.
Paroled in 1995, he embarked on a new career in 2001: check fraud. He cashed two bad checks, one stolen from a neighbor. He also filed two forged deeds to a real estate parcel and later sold the land for $50,000. The checks got him probation, the land scam a year in prison. Once he got free again, the paper really started flying. He was indicted in seven bad-check cases between 2006 and 2009, pleaded guilty in each, and got three years probation and six months in prison.
In late 2010, he passed a $52,000 bad check and got caught. His lawyer began negotiating a plea. On July 20, 2011, according to the FBI, he began working as a federal informant. The bureau has paid him about $5,750 since then. It's unknown what other cases he's worked on, but the FBI affidavit says information he's provided has opened up several investigations.
He continued committing check fraud while working for the FBI, passing one bad check, for $1,471 to a home decor company, on July 25, 2011, five days after signing up as an informant. This August, he pleaded guilty in three new cases. He was ordered to pay restitution and sentenced to probation.

After the rally, the Occupiers scattered.
The camp moved to a deconsecrated church Tim Smith owns in Hough. But Wright, Baxter, Stevens, Stafford and Hayne didn't stick around for long. They left and formed a splinter group they dubbed the Revolutionary People's Army.
The group met to talk about how to break free of the liberals in Occupy, upset that they wouldn't do anything even mildly disruptive, such as taking marches into the street without permits. They went on a graffiti binge, tagging the anarchy symbol and the phrase "Rise Up" throughout the city.
Stevens split his time between his mother's house in Berea and his friends in the city. Baxter went back to his dad's house in Lakewood. Wright moved in with a girlfriend on the near West Side. And Wright and the informant started playing phone tag, then emailing.
In mid-November, they met up, and Wright began taking about a grandiose plan of his. Wright said he'd been talking with fellow anarchists about how to "send a message" to corporations and the government. He wanted to set off smoke grenades on the Detroit-Superior Bridge as a distraction and then knock the bank signs off the tops of large downtown buildings. But he didn't know how he'd do it yet.
It sounds like a ridiculous fantasy. How could a bunch of young punks hope to knock the green Huntington Bank logo off the 658-foot former BP Building, or the big red key off the 888-foot Key Tower? But the government later claimed the idea was the beginning of the bridge-bomb plot.
Winter came and many of the Occupiers went home. Experienced activists left, sensing the younger protesters' resentment of their unofficial leadership. Stevens, Stafford and Hayne returned and spent time freezing inside Occupy's lonely informational tent at Public Square.
"It was him and another guy that were always asked to do the night shift," Stevens' mother recalls. "He hated the night shift."
The dedicated members most willing to staff the tent in the cold also tended to be those without a regular home. So in mid-February, the group rented a warehouse just north of Clark Avenue on Cleveland's near West Side. Hayne co-signed the lease. It wasn't much, but it had a small kitchen, a loft for sleeping bags, and room on the floor for a bunch of tents. Hayne, Stevens and Stafford were among those who moved in.
On Feb. 15, the informant took Wright to breakfast and got him talking again. Wright lamented that there weren't enough anarchists in Cleveland to start a good riot. He wanted to look up some recipes for smoke bombs and make them with the informant. He also wanted to plan something for the spring with an anarchist from Lakewood named Brandon.
Brandon Baxter was not in the best shape at the time.
On Feb. 12, he'd tried to commit suicide on Rocky River's Hilliard Boulevard Bridge, leaping in front of a woman's car and yelling, "Kill me!" The driver called police, who talked Baxter off the railing and the bridge and then tackled him. They found a 3½-inch knife in the left pocket of Baxter's camouflage pants and a 10½-inch knife in his inside coat pocket. He was booked on a charge of carrying concealed weapons.
Still, on Feb. 20, Baxter joined Wright and the informant for lunch in Lakewood to plan some crime. They talked about using stink bombs, paint guns or explosives at a bank or a hospital.
Wright said he wanted C-4 explosives, but they might be too expensive. Wright and Baxter said they thought the May opening of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland would be a good time for an attack.
The FBI decided the talk had gotten serious enough to outfit the informant with a body recorder.
A week later, Wright introduced the informant to Stevens and Hayne and told him he'd like them to get involved with the plans.

When the FBI quotes Doug Wright, he sounds like an enthusiastic dumbass who'd love to blow something up but hasn't figured out how.
On March 22, Wright told the informant he'd downloaded some bomb recipes. "We can make smoke bombs, we can make plastic explosives," Wright enthused. "It teaches you how to pick locks. It does everything."
"How much money do we need to make the plastic explosives?" the informant asked.
"I'm not sure," Wright replied. "I just downloaded it last night."
"Tell me what all we need to make the bombs," the informant nudged him, "so that we can start gathering—"
"Mostly bleach," Wright replied.
"You can make plastic explosives with bleach. That's actually what they used to use during, like, World War II, World War I for, like, land mines and hand grenades and stuff."
The next day, the informant set the trap for the FBI's sting. He asked Wright if he'd rather buy explosives from someone the informant knew.
On March 28, the informant was driving Wright and Baxter over I-480's Valley View Bridge when Baxter had his dark eureka moment.
"How much do you think we need to take out a bridge?" Baxter asked.
"It depends," the informant replied. "If you're talking about a bridge like the size of this • you would need quite a bit."
"This would be a good one," Wright said.
"It would be!" agreed Baxter.
"We could get off right here," the informant said as they neared I-480's Transportation Boulevard exit, "and I could show you where the base is."
Baxter had a different idea. "Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the corporate bigwigs a lot of money," he said, "not just because of structural damage to the bridge, but because it's going to stop a lot of people going to work."
The informant brought up a thought Wright had mentioned at lunch five weeks earlier. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "C-4 blocks?"
Wright said he wanted to compare C-4 to the recipes in his cookbook before buying it. But he was going to Chicago in May to fight cops outside the NATO summit, so he definitely wanted some riot gear.
The informant and the FBI leaped at the chance to give Baxter and Wright everything they wanted. Before the day was out, the informant took them to a vacant house and introduced them to two undercover agents posing as weapons dealers.
On the floor, one agent laid out all the riot gear on Baxter and Wright's wish list: tear gas canisters, Israeli gas masks, smoke grenades and retractable batons, plus some ballistic vests and helmets. Next to the gear, the agent laid photographs of explosives.
Buying for a riot party of five, Wright and Baxter ordered five vests, batons and gas masks, plus 10 cans of tear gas, for $1,150, plus a price to be named later for the masks. The agent pointed at the bomb pictures and asked if they needed the "heavy stuff."
"Yeah, we are going to wait on that," Wright answered. "We definitely might be interested later, but not right this minute."
C-4, a high-velocity plastic explosive used in military demolition, looks like white dough, often comes in the shape of small bricks and is very good at shattering things, including concrete. It's popular with international terrorists; al-Qaida operatives used it in 2000 to attack the USS Cole. In the United States, it is tightly regulated, though a black market in it exists. Legitimate purchasers need a federal permit, which includes fingerprinting and a background check. Few U.S. manufacturers make C-4, and those that do are required to include a tracing agent.
But in the world of the terror sting, the FBI and its informant convinced Wright they could get him C-4 for $75 a brick.
The informant mentioned C-4 to Wright again on March 30 and 31. On April 1, Wright took the bait. He met with the undercover agent and bargained him down to $900 for eight bricks of C-4, plus the vests, tear gas and gas masks. Wright said he'd pay $450 on delivery, the other half a month later.
Driving away, Wright told the informant he'd get the schematics for the Detroit-Superior Bridge.

On a Saturday in April, about three weeks before his arrest, Stevens served dinner in Market Square with Food Not Bombs. He got talking with fellow volunteer Aidan Kelly about Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which an American joins the Spanish Civil War to fight a fascist uprising and is assigned to dynamite a bridge.
"I remember distinctly talking about his ideas about pacifism," Kelly says. They mentioned the theatrical street clashes with police that often greet international economic summits. Kelly says he and Stevens agreed that movements such as Food Not Bombs offered a better alternative for creating social change.
But very soon, Stevens' friends and the informant would test his philosophizing with a very real and urgent choice.
On Saturday, April 7 — probably the same day Stevens talked with Kelly — Stevens discussed the bridge plot with the informant for the first time.
The informant struck up the conversation by mentioning how he and Stevens had worked together a few days earlier. Then he asked Stevens if he agreed with the plan to attack a bridge. If not, he said, he didn't want Stevens around.
Stevens said he agreed.
But Baxter was having second thoughts. Attacking a bridge would just piss off the people who rode over it every day, he said.
"What are we going to do with the stuff we got?" the informant asked. "We're on the hook for it." The informant said he'd bow out of the plan if they couldn't decide what to do.
The four men talked about attacking a Ku Klux Klan headquarters. Stevens suggested blowing up mines or oil wells. Wright suggested car-bombing the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Baxter wanted to attack a law enforcement office within the downtown Justice Center.
The four met again April 10, and more or less agreed they'd try to blow a hole in a cargo ship on the Cuyahoga River on May 1, when Occupy Cleveland's May Day festival would draw police downtown.
The informant was getting antsy. "Did you follow up on anything?" he asked one of the men on April 13. "What are we doing? Because as usual, you got me on a stupid-ass holding pattern."
That same week, he passed one more round of bad checks at Huntington Bank, overdrawing his account by $6,786.
Meanwhile, he was drawing the defendants closer to him.
Wright stopped by the Occupy Cleveland warehouse and announced he had a job, remembers Jonnie Peskar. Another day, "He came in and said, •It's going to be a good day, because my boss has some joints waiting for me at work,' " Peskar recalls.
In mid-April, Stevens' sister, Brelan, picked him up and drove him to a family get-together. He told her that for almost the first time in his life, he had a job, rehabbing houses for a strangely generous boss.
"He mentioned to me that he did buy them alcohol a lot, and supply them with marijuana a lot," Brelan recalls. "He would buy their cigarettes. He basically bought them anything they wanted. He bought them food."
Her brother seemed grateful but skeptical. "He said, •I can't believe I found a boss like this!' " she recalls.
That day, Stevens also told his older brother, Colin, about the job.
"It was long, brutal hours," Colin recalls, "upwards of 12 hours a day, for maybe $5 an hour — undocumented employment." Colin says Stevens told him the boss had given him beer and Adderall, a prescription stimulant. "That's one of the perks of his job," Colin recalls hearing.
In Colin's recounting, Stevens was more negative about the boss. "He told me that he was connected to criminal organizations," Colin says, "that he was basically what you'd call a thug. He didn't trust him. He didn't like him at all, either."
Schraufl says Stevens told him much the same story: "He would show up on the job, and [the boss] would have a case of beer and a bowl of weed waiting for them."
The boss was the FBI informant. Before long, Baxter, too, was working for him. He was 19 at the time. Stevens was 20.
Alcohol was Stevens' weakness. "Connor's a bit of a drunk," says Schraufl, "and whenever he'd get really drunk, he'd always get kind of douchey, kind of angry. He'd always be like, •I'll fight you' — kind of joking around."
Another warehouse resident, Michael Maples, was more alarmed at Stevens' drinking. "Connor, when he was drunk, he'd be willing for damn near anything," Maples says.
On April 19, Stevens and Wright met up with the informant, and Wright said the ship-bombing was off. Instead, he wanted to use the C-4 to try to destroy or disable a bridge. He'd picked one out: the Route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, connecting Brecksville and Sagamore Hills.
The next day, the informant drove Wright and Stevens to the Route 82 bridge to scout it out. Wright confidently asserted that 8 pounds of C-4 would take out "a good chunk" of it. Stevens wanted to know how far away they could get and still detonate the bombs.

In late April, Baxter and Stevens' friends saw the pair's moods shift.
"Connor wouldn't look me in the eyes at all," Schraufl recalls. Baxter "was off his gourd, acting crazy" — sleepless, his eyes wide open, giddy, always bobbing. Peskar says Baxter and Stevens both told him they'd gotten Adderall from their boss. (Baxter confirmed that this summer in court, saying he'd obtained an Adderall pill from the informant and another from a friend.)
At the Occupy the Heart Festival in Willard Park on April 28, Baxter, Stevens and their friends formed a circle and took turns saying something affirming about each other. Baxter said he was happy that Peskar and his girlfriend were having a baby. Stevens praised him for recording policemen with his video camera to ensure they did not abuse their power. Activists in the '60s "used to do what you do with shotguns," Stevens said. "It says a lot that [you] can do it with video cameras today." Baxter and Stevens started crying.
At the time, Peskar was puzzled at their sensitivity. Now he sees it as a sign of the stress they felt. "It was a cry for help," Peskar thinks.
The next day, Wright, Baxter, Hayne and the informant went to a Warrensville Heights hotel and bought the fake C-4 and the riot gear from the undercover agent for $450. Hayne was a late addition to the plot. One person was missing: Stevens.
Wright told the informant Stevens didn't want to be part of the plan — but he still wanted to work on the informant's houses.
The informant told Wright to have Stevens call him.
Instead, Stevens and the informant talked the next night, April 30, just before everyone left for the bridge.
The informant picked up Baxter and Stafford, probably at the warehouse, then drove to a house in Slavic Village to pick up the others. Stevens took the informant to the side of the house to talk, says his lawyer, Terry Gilbert. Stevens had been drinking and smoking marijuana, Gilbert says — but he was lucid enough to balk at getting into the SUV.
Stevens asked whether he'd lose his job on the informant's construction site if he didn't go to the bridge. No, the informant said, according to an FBI agent's testimony — work and the bomb plot were separate issues, and the decision to come along was up to him. But Gilbert says the informant was still pressuring Stevens. "The message was kinda, •We're all in this together, we got this thing ready to go, we're in it together — but no, you won't lose your job.' "
Wright rolled down his window, told Stevens it was his last chance to join, and told him there was still space in the SUV. His friends began making fun of him, Gilbert says.
"[The informant] is even making fun of him: •Poor Connor,' " Gilbert says. "And he actually said something like, •Don't be a wuss.' "
At the last minute, Stevens got in.

An hour later, the six men rode away from the bridge. Stevens' mood had changed. He'd just watched Wright and Stafford flip the switches to arm the bombs. He was excited.
"We just committed the biggest act of terrorism that I know of in Cleveland history since the •60s," he said.
"I'm glad you came, Connor," Wright told him. Stevens said he was glad too.

In Stevens' jail mug shot, his once-neat brown hair is thick and matted, his beard so severely untrimmed it's almost bulbous.
But when he walked into federal court on Sept. 5 in chains and prison orange, he was shorn, his hair closely buzzed, his cheeks bare. He looked tiny and thin. In his clear voice, he answered Judge David Dowd's questions, pausing at only one.
"The terminology of •weapons of mass destruction' kind of gets me, I suppose," Stevens said. He and Gilbert whispered for four minutes, and he told Dowd he had no questions. He pleaded guilty to all three charges against him, including attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
Wright and Baxter pleaded guilty the same day, but their November sentencings will be contentious. Prosecutors will seek a "terrorism enhancement," which could lead to 30 years to life in prison. The defense will argue for much less, around five years.
"You have a plot that's basically orchestrated by the FBI," Gilbert says. "This will all come out at sentencing: how the provocateur kept pushing and manipulating them." Still, Stevens is "willing to own up to his responsibility," Gilbert adds. "He's putting his hope with the judge."
Since May, some Occupy supporters have speculated that the FBI sent the informant to disrupt their political effort.
"They come into a peaceful movement, find people who are disgruntled, or fringe, or unstable, have problems mentally, and try to initiate the idea of doing something violent," Gilbert says. "They suck them into a plan that they couldn't even possibly conceive, and then make a big splash, as if they are protecting society."
Steve Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio, says it's not so. "This case does not involve any investigation of a movement or a group," he says. "We investigate specific individuals for specific acts."
Even so, the FBI has shown an interest in anarchist extremism. A 2010 story on the FBI website voices concern that violent anarchists "may be willing to use improvised explosive devices or improvised incendiary devices." A declassified 2011 briefing by the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit calls anarchist extremists — the violent wing of the anarchist movement — "criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities." The briefing's depiction of violent anarchists' preoccupations — confrontations with riot police at international summits, Internet instructions for homemade explosives — fits Doug Wright so well, his picture may already be in the next edition.
"Our techniques were lawful, suitable, and necessary in the prosecution of this case," says George Crouch, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Cleveland office. "The real danger you have to look at here is in a case where the [FBI] receives credible information of a terrorist plot and does not use all means and all techniques lawfully available to it to make sure that plot does not occur."
Crouch declined to comment on whether the informant provided marijuana and Adderall to the defendants. He said agents followed constitutional rules and FBI guidelines. (The guidelines let agents authorize informants to conduct "otherwise illegal activity," including providing controlled substances, but only for limited reasons such as maintaining credibility or obtaining essential evidence not reasonably available otherwise.)
Mike German, a former FBI agent who works on national security and privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union, says he's seen a troubling trend in counter-terrorism stings since 9/11. "The subject will suggest a particular plot, then the informant or government agent will come in and suggest a grander plot," German says. "They provide all the materials to accomplish it. Those materials are far beyond the capacity of the subjects to have acquired on their own."
But those defendants still get convicted. An entrapment defense has never worked in a post-9/11 terror case. It's not enough, German explains, to show that the government tricked someone, or that a crime wouldn't have occurred without its intervention if the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime.
A trial was too risky, Gilbert says. So Connor Stevens will soon learn when he'll leave prison — at age 25, or 50, or never.
"[He'll] continue to help people," predicts his brother, Colin — doing "what he has been doing: social outreach, social awareness. If anything, his time in prison is going to educate him more to the social problems in this country and the injustices of the legal system."
Yet had Stevens taken his own advice about nonviolence from that night at the Occupy camp, he could still be doing that work as a free man. Instead, he got in the informant's SUV. "It was a decision he'll regret for the rest of his life," Gilbert says.