Captain Mistanthrope and the Great White Supremacist
Written by Jim Page
Published: Dark Night Press Web Site
“I’ve thought about class and it’s bullshit” – Paul Watson
“Class is an invention of the socialists.” – Margaret Thatcher
There’s an old saying: “Mussolini made the trains run on time.” It’s a warning about tunnel vision. If all you want is a good rail system, Mussolini can get it for you. But it’s a package deal; you get other things with it. Case in point: the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the campaign to save the gray whale. I will argue that the single-issue zealotry and cartoon romanticism of Paul Watson and Lisa Distefano of the Sea Shepherd have opened the door to some dark political rooms that we would all be better off keeping locked. And I will maintain that in spite of their protests to the contrary, their method and vision are based on an inflated self image and a general dislike for the rest of humanity. And my conclusion will be that animal rights without human civil rights can lead to fascism.
“Surely there will be some nonhuman animals whose lives, by any standards, are more valuable than the lives of some humans.”
-Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals, 2nd edition, 1990.
My Name Is Buddy, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This whole thing started when Paul Watson and Lisa Distefano showed up here in the Northwest in 1998 to keep the Makah people from engaging in what was reported to be a revival of their culture. The Makah, a whaling people living on the north coast of Washington State, had received legal permission via their treaty rights to re-institute their traditional hunt and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, along with several other organizations, were determined to stop them. One day Lisa was quoted in the paper as saying, “We met a friendly gray whale named Buddy,” and things began to get weird.
You see, there’s a great deal of difference between meeting a gray whale that “I call Buddy” and meeting one “named Buddy.” The first case is a rational acceptance of your place in the order of things and the second case is a little unhinged and reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons. Not a good sign coming from the adult director of a heavy-weight environmental organization.
I met Paul Watson years ago when I played a benefit for the Sea Shepherd and he told me that he listened to my music on the boat during his campaigns. He’s real committed, no doubt about that. But his ideology pits nature against humanity, which he often describes in terms of terminal diseases. He makes no distinctions between the different power grids of our social existence and will get mad at you if you bring it up. He’s the last person you’d want to have in a labor struggle.
In one of Paul’s letters to me he says “I am in fact unapologetic for my biocentric views and yes I put nature before the interests of humanity.” Yeah, but humanity is natural; it’s our social systems which are creating the problem, not the fact that we exist.
Ole Hickory Goes To Sea
When Watson was in custody several years ago I received a copy of the Sea Shepherd Log, a magazine for those who give financial support, in which Lisa had written a piece about him, creating an historical context for his activities. In it she described Paul’s ancestors arriving on the east coast of Canada, encountering old growth forests, clear running water, and beautiful wild animals. The existence of people, of whom there were many at the time, was conspicuously absent. A few paragraphs later she described how Paul was like her distant relative who was a pirate in the Louisiana Territories and was one of a handful of brave men who had the foresight and courage to fight alongside Andrew Jackson against the British; and that if it wasn’t for men like these “the United States of America would have been a far different place. President Jackson never would have been, and the British would have redefined the destiny of America and denied the visions and dreams of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry.” Jackson, if you recall, was the architect and chief prosecutor of the Trail Of Tears, a forced removal in which roughly half of the populations of several Native nations were killed. A man who boasted that he never met an Indian he didn’t kill and never killed an Indian he didn’t scalp. Lisa’s comparison here is disturbing, and revealing. You can’t make this kind of a statement without being really ignorant or prone to tunnel vision. Or both.
To Lisa and her friends the human being is only a weapon in the war for nature. When nature is not under attack, as when the ancestral Watsons landed all those years ago, they are unnecessary and so they don’t exist. When called into service they must be soldiers, such as Andrew Jackson who was, after all, good with his weapons. Through the lens of the deified naturalist there is no politics. This can create problems…
Enter Count Jackula
“Jack Metcalf is a political Maverick who votes his conscience. He is on our side for one reason: he likes whales.”
– Andrew Christie, SSCS
“I want to preserve the unique character and beauty of my people the same way that, as an ecology-minded individual, I desire the preservation of the Blue Whale or the great African Elephant.”
– David Duke
In their efforts to stop the Makah whale hunt Watson and company enlisted the aid of Congressman Jack Metcalf, a well known anti-Indian Republican politician. I have a bit of personal knowledge here. Jack Metcalf is the son of John Metcalf, leading member of The Silver Shirts. They were a nazi-support group during the forties. I used to work on a tree farm on Whidbey Island run by an old ex-Silver Shirt who couldn’t stop talking about World War II and the great things that Germany had tried to do before the Allies cut them short. He told me about John Metcalf, how they used to have meetings at his house where he would lead séances and they would discuss the advances of the Reich. Jack, who was raised by this man, has never addressed this so far as I know.
These days, as a member of United Property Owners Of Washington, Jack Metcalf has called on Congress to “abrogate all existing treaties…” He has introduced bills to make it more difficult for Indian People to petition for federal recognition. In 1985 he was Co-Chair of “Redeem Our Country,” a right wing anti-Federal group. Other co-chairs included anti-Semite Eustace Mullins and arch-segregationist John Rarick. The group’s advisory board included white-supremacist Christian Identity advocates, a columnist from The Spotlight (an anti-Semitic right wing conspiracy newspaper which was the personal favorite of my ex-Silver Shirt employer) and extremist tax protesters. As an influential anti-immigration spokesman he co-sponsored an attempt to overturn the 14th Amendment, with a further amendment barring children born in the US from receiving automatic citizenship. He has received 100% rating from both the anti-immigrant lobby US Border Control and the Christian Coalition.
From the journals of Lisa Distefano, November 4th, 1998 (taken from the Sea Shepherd web site):
“The decision was made to hold a press conference on Wednesday, with Congressman Jack Metcalf in Sieku. (Fortunately, he won his re-election bid the day before!) Buoyed by his victory, on a wave of righteousness that comes over one when one’s belief triumphs, he was impassioned. Metcalf is a survivor. A whale-loving Republican… who would have thought? Many attack him, and say he’s no friend of the environment. But he’s a friend of Buddy. And right now, that’s all that counts. He stands to lose, as well. He doesn’t represent just the desires of his constituency, he owns a local bed & breakfast.”
(I like the part where he “stands to lose” because he “owns a local bed and breakfast.” This is heart wrenching stuff…)
The Makah are a treatied people. The 1855 document created a “trust requirement” that the US government advocate for treaty rights. This includes whaling. The hunt was discontinued in the 1920’s when the gray whale population was faced with extinction, mainly due to commercial whalers. They have recovered and are no longer considered endangered. And so the government supported the hunt: they were forced to by their own laws. When the Sea Shepherd called for the government to withdraw their advocacy they were in effect calling for the abrogation of the treaty, just as Metcalf has done. Our boy Jack, and his right wing cammo buddies, have been clamoring for years that “Indians have special rights” and that therefore the rest of us “ordinary citizens” should support his work to dismantle their status. Up here in the Northwest he has mostly been concentrating on fishing issues. So the whale hunt was right down his alley.
And then there’s this from Michael Kundu, Sea Shepherd Northwest Pacific Coordinator: “We find it ironic that the Makah consider themselves and are treated as a ‘sovereign’ nation within their own laws, pay no US taxes of any kind and yet they can ask for and get personal security privileges from a federal agency which no normal United States citizen can obtain.” (emphasis added) (notice the similar use of the terms “privilege” and “normal,” meaning the rest of us. This is typical of reactionaries trying to keep an already oppressed people down.)
By the way, the five whales the Makah are allowed to hunt, were in fact given to them by an indigenous tribe in Russia, who will now take five less than their usual number. So the total kill remains the same, with or without the Makah.
It was quite a scene out there at Neah Bay when the hunt began. Coast guard cutters, Sea Shepherd boats, and Makah people all crowded at the dock waiting for signs of a whale. There was a scuffle when Lisa Distefano was invited on shore by a Makah elder, one of the few opposed to the hunt. Lisa was, of course, persona non grata. And the elder, Alberta Thompson, was experiencing pretty heavy harassment as a result of her principled stand. She had lost her job and her dog had been killed. She is 75 years old. Anyway, Lisa went ashore and the shit hit the fan. Surrounded by an angry mob she was pushed into the water and her inflatable boat was confiscated. Arrests were made by the tribal police and Alberta was hustled away for her safety. Later she was threatened with banishment. Lisa knew this would happen. It’s hard on older women but it makes for good press. Then Paul wanted his little rubber boat back saying that his First Amendment rights were violated. First Amendment rights! In another country no less… (I’ve heard Watson claim that the Makah were like the KKK in the days of the Mississippi Freedom Rides. This means that he is the Freedom Riders and the whales are the unregistered Black voters. This is certifiable! But crazier still is Lisa’s comparison of Paul with South African ANC martyr Steve Biko. This means that the whales are in fact an oppressed majority nationality struggling for their freedom and that Paul, also a whale, is their fearless leader. Is there a doctor in the house?)
Dances With Whales
To defend himself against charges of racism Watson refers to his story that he served as a medic for the American Indian Movement (AIM) at the Wounded Knee uprising in 1973. In his own words: “I was holding the other end of a stretcher when a US Marshall’s bullet struck down medic Rocky Madrid as we were running through a hail of lead. I assisted Leonard Crow Dog in removing the bullet. I was made a warrior brother to the Oglala Lakota Nation and was given the name Grey Wolf Clearwater. In the sweat lodge ceremony, I had a vision, a dream wherein an arrow struck a buffalo. The arrow had a long string attached to it. The buffalo asked for my help and I broke the string and chased the hunter away. Wallace Black Elk interpreted my dream. ‘Your mission is to help the buffalo of the sea – the whales,’ he said. ‘It will not be easy.'”
However, a few phone calls among AIM people themselves yield results like this:
“…it’s not just that his name doesn’t come up in any of the literature on Wounded Knee. I’ve queried Ron Rosen, who was in fact a medic at the Knee, and he doesn’t remember Watson being there. Uncle Wallace [Black Elk] doesn’t remember assigning any white guys to save a bunch of “buffalo of the sea.” Neither Russ [Means] nor Aaron Two Elk recall Watson as having been there. Nobody recalls a naming ceremony being conducted for anyone, much less a white medic. Nobody remembers any white guys being naturalized as Oglala citizens except the 7-member VVAW contingent – White Bob, Hillbilly, et al – and Watson was definitely not one of them.”
– Ward Churchill, Colorado AIM
“…we didn’t make ‘brothers’ like Hollywood and Watson would have you believe. We made certain people ‘citizens’ of the ‘Independent Oglala Nation’ and those we made citizens we awarded citizenship papers, as any other sovereignty would. Ask him for his citizenship papers if he was truly part of our Nation. Also remind him of his oath of loyalty upon pain of death for treason, we all took one.
– Carter Camp, Oklahoma AIM, Wounded Knee ’73 leader
As for being named Graywolf Clearwater that is an even bigger lie. First, we do not GIVE first and last names. Indians all over the country are laughing at that lie. Secondly, Clearwater is the honored name of our brother killed in Wounded Knee, funny how Watson missed that, but I assure you that we would NEVER give his name to a non-warrior.
Whatever he did ( if he was there) I am deeply offended by his assertions that he was guided in his misdeeds by a ‘vision’ he was given at WK73. We who were there would like to re-interpret his vision for him to show him the Makah, not eco-terrorists, are the ones saving our whale relatives. Maybe we could politely invite him to return to the Knee to smoke once again with Rocky, Blackelk, Crowdog and myself (I’m sure they will agree) so we can hear his ‘vision’ once again and give him the true meaning.”
In his autobiography he tells the story like a chapter in an adventure novel. How he snuck into the besieged area posing as a journalist from the Vancouver Sun. But interestingly enough, he removes himself from the narrative immediately after he’s inside and goes on to detail how long the siege lasted, how many people were wounded or killed, what the outcome was, etc. To the unwary reader it will appear that he was there for the duration.
As things continued to heat up Watson resorted to what could be seen as a classic racialist defense – he quantified the racial makeup of his operation. From the official Sea Shepherd response to the Declaration Against Racism: “The captain of the Sea Shepherd III was Matahil Lawson of the Ojibway people. His entire family – mother, father, sister and brother – joined our crew to protect the Gray Whales. The expedition leader for the campaign was Lisa Distefano, whose grandmother, a Cherokee woman, was raised on a reservation in Louisiana. Our Pacific Northwest Coordinator Michael Kundu has been condemned for being a white racist because he met with Republican Congressman Jack Metcalf to discuss the whale hunt. Mr. Kundu is an East Indian and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a ‘white racist.'”
And yet Kundu himself wrote one of the most amazing Steven King-like pieces, too long to quote here, called “A Whaler Prepares,” in which he describes a modern day Makah digging up the fresh corpse of a 9 year old accident victim and sawing it into pieces in order to get ready to “deceive” the heart of the whale. Not unlike the old stories about Jews having horns and eating their children. It would seem that Watson is a little over impressed with skin color. Or am I missing something?
But wait, there’s more: Watson has formed another interesting alliance. Brigitte Bardot, the famous French film star, joined him in 1977 to stop a Canadian seal hunt. She was to participate again in ’98 but had to bag out due to mechanical difficulties. I heard Paul explain to an audience a few years back that her presence was important as a way to get “media attention.” Brigitte Bardot is well known for her commitment to animal rights. But according to Robert Crawford, of the Coalition For Human Dignity, she is also a “prominent opponent of Muslim religious rights, a venomous anti-immigrant spokesperson and an ally of the National Front, France’s leading neo-fascist political party.” Her husband, Bernard d’Ormale, is a National Front activist. She is quoted as saying, “now my country, France, my homeland, is with the blessing of successive governments again invaded by a foreign, especially Moslem, over-population to which we pay allegiance.” (Recently Watson, Farley Mowat and Dave Foreman signed on to a campaign to get the Sierra Club to advocate immigration reduction. Remember that? David Duke prides himself in being a trail blazer on this issue. (Oh, the company you keep…)
And now for the really nasty stuff. Adolf Hitler was a “convinced vegetarian on principle” and a “hater of hunting.” There’s a story about a maharaja giving Hitler a movie. One part showed animals killing people; he watched impassively. The other showed people killing animals; he covered his eyes and begged his aids to tell him when it was over. And it was Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels who first said, “The more I get to know the human species, the more I care for my Benno.” Benno was his dog. In his diaries Goebbels said, “As soon as I am with a person for three days, I don’t like him any longer…I have learned to despise the human being from the bottom of my soul.” When you get into the history and thinking of these very sick people you find that they despised humanity and romantically, illogically enshrined the non-human natural world as some kind of wild place that they alone, the true race, were worthy of fellowship with. It seems that the “too many people” theory often translates into “too many other people.”
“Save A Whale, Harpoon A Makah” – anti-whaling protest sign
“She died at the hands of ruthless thugs whose souls are stained with her blood forever” – Bill Moss, World Whale Police
On May 17th the Makah finally got their whale. Most of the protesters were gone, either in jail or off refueling their boats. This made Watson mad – he should’ve been able to stop them but the forces of evil had engineered things against him. And like their close relatives in the anti-abortion movement, a dangerous and alarming crowd emerged from the shadows. Thousands of death threats were emailed into the official Makah web site. A bomb threat was called into the Puyallup tribal school. Indians of different nationalities were refused service in restaurants and harassed on the ferry boats. The call-in shows and letters pages were deluged with ugly sentiments like “If they would stop drumming all the time and get to work…” and “they lost the war, why don’t they get with it..” Words like “premeditated murder” and “baby killers” were thrown around, echoing the sentiments of the anti-abortion zealots. Somebody built a fake Makah web site with stolen tribal designs and dripping blood, reminiscent of the Nuremberg Trials site that gave Right To Lifers a hit list of doctors. While the domain name was registered to an activist in Canada, the site itself was generally believed to have been built by an American – some one too cowardly to take credit for their deeds. It got real ugly real fast.
While it is unknown at this time who the culprits were, there is an interesting similarity between the fake site and this poem, written by Sea Defense Alliance “Commander” Athena McIntye (The Sea Defense Alliance and the Sea Shepherd are good buddies in this whale saving business. Their web sites link up and they continually sing each other’s praises):
I AM NOBLE MAKAH WHALER!
I LOOK UPON THE SEA
FONDLING MYSELF, I WONDER
WHAT THE JAPANESE HAVE FOR ME
I’LL HONOR NOBLE WHALE
BY DOING UP SOME SMACK
AND WHEN I FINISH THAT
I’LL DO A LITTLE CRACK!
I’L SNIFF A LITTLE METH
I’LL DRINK A KEG OF BEER
THIS A GREAT CULTURAL TRADITION
TIL A BABY WHALE GETS HERE
I’LL BEAT UP MY WIFE
LEAVE MY KIDDIES BEREFT
THIS IS MAKAH TRAINING!
AND TRADITION MUST NOT BE LEFT!
TERRORIZE OLD WOMAN
HER DEAD DOG LIES NEAR
GOT TO HAVE SOME FUN, BOYS
TIL’ THE WHALE GETS HERE
O LOOK HERE COME WHITE RAVEN
SHE WRITING US A POEM
WE’LL SEE IF WHITEY BUYS THE JUNK
THAT COMES FROM THAT OLD CRONE.
SEE MY NOBLE RIFLE
50 CALIBER YOU HEAR.
I WISH THAT I COULD LICK IT
TIL THE WHALE GETS HERE.
HA HA I’LL TELL OLD WHITEY
A LOTTA “TRADITION” BUNK
BUT, HECK IF HE DON’T BUY IT
I’LL JUST GET PISSING DRUNK
HE JUST MIGHT BUY MY GARBAGE
YOU JUST CAN NEVER TELL!
IF HE DON’T. I’LL JUST SCREAM “RACIST”
WHEN I BLOW A WHALE TO HELL
I JUST CAN’T WAIT TO DO IT!
BLOOD AND GORE I LICK AND SUCK
HEY WON’T IT BE FUN BOYS
WHEN THE WHITEFOLK ALL UPCHUCK.
O GREAT CREATOR
SEND A WHALE, BUT HECK
I THINK WHILE I’M WAITING
I’LL PICK UP MY WELFARE CHECK!
(The Sea Defense Alliance and the Sea Shepherd are good buddies in this whale saving business. Their web sites link up and they continually sing each other’s praises).
Says Watson, “We do not condone threats of violence against individuals, but we understand the rage and anguish that has been awakened in ordinary people who know something is very wrong here.” “We do not condone” but “we understand…” This is a long way from a condemnation. And in fact, it is an encouragement of the feelings that feed the behavior of those “ordinary people.” The Christian Coalition speaks the same way when confronted with clinic bombings that it “understands” but mustn’t approve of publicly. And it’s interesting to note that in response to the sight of one youthful Makah doing a back flip on the whale Watson wrote, “When the Makah Indian tribe started dancing on the back of the Gray whale…” as though he can’t even tell the difference between one person and a whole tribe.
After repeatedly insisting that the hunt was in no way traditional because of the use of modern firepower, Watson wrote of the “prolonged, agonizing destruction of a 3-year-old Gray whale.” It was a ten minute death. But as a whaler himself explained to radio station KIRO, in the “old traditional way” the whale would have taken anywhere from two days to two weeks to die.
And the world turned upside down when the whale was made human and the humans were made monstrous. From the Sea Shepherd web site: “On Wednesday, an anonymous mourner left a wreath, a flower lei, a candle and a note on the spot in the Makah marina where the whale was butchered. The note read ‘Baby, you didn’t deserve this. We love you.’ The remains of the whale had been cordoned off with yellow police ‘crime scene’ tape.”
They Brought It On Themselves
“Our phones have been ringing non-stop since Monday morning with people who are enraged or in tears or both. The horrific images from the evening news woke a lot of people up. They want to know what they can do about this… We ask them if they’ve told their Congressmen that…it’s time to amend the whale-hunting clause in the Makah’s 1855 treaty…”
– Lisa Distefano, Sea Shepherd International Director
“We agree that it is unfortunate that the Makah’s actions have brought about great anger, and have given racists ammunition to use against them. The Makah Tribal Council may well have brought their people to ruin and a state of permanent ostracism. The public anger and resentment generated by their act may now compel Congress to reexamine the legal standing of all First Nations.
– Andrew Christie, Dir. Information/SSCS
“We note your concern for the ‘misfortune of the Makah people’ that this situation has brought about, and that ‘we must correct this before it is too late and people are killed or hurt,’ but such is not within our power. The Makah were made fully aware of the response their actions would bring for several years before they killed a whale, and chose to spurn all pleas, compromises, and offers of assistance. Hence, their misfortune now is of their own making. Never could it be more truly said that a people brought their fate upon themselves.”
“Reexamine the legal standing of all First Nations.” Old Hickory would be proud. Count Jackula is surely purring in his den. Note the off-hand manner with which Mr. Christie resigns these people to their fate.
Some time later a petition was circulated around the internet calling for a condemnation of the racist response which the Sea Shepherd most certainly had a leading roll in creating. Watson himself responded by saying, “…we reject the accusation that there is a racist backlash against the Makah for killing the whale. There is a backlash, and it is directed at human beings who slaughtered a whale in violation of international conservation law.” This is called verbal deflection.
The Demon Semantics
“Humanity is the AIDS of the planet” – Paul Watson
Says Watson from his article The Politics Of Extinction: “The human species, reproducing with the malevolent design of a cancer cell, is mindlessly pursuing growth for the sake of growth alone.” Besides its obvious stupidity, this is the language of genocide. It’s an old technique whereby you dehumanize your enemy, making it easier to dispose of them with a clear conscience. When Watson defines the human species in terms a deadly disease he is able to devalue people to the point of making them expendable. It’s easy for a misanthrope. Lisa’s old friend Andrew Jackson encouraged the killing of children as well as adults, saying to root them out from their “dens” and kill the women and their “whelps.” In the Vietnam days General Westmoreland referred to the people of that country as “termites.” The Iraqis were “rag heads.” And the Jews, of course, were a “parasite” upon the healthy body of the Aryans. Ovens anyone?
It’s not that Paul or Lisa or any of the so-called animal rights fanatics that they hang out with are card carrying Nazis, but you have to see the tendencies, don’t you? Such loathing for one’s own species leads to mental and emotional disorder. It’s a painful place to be, to dislike humanity and yet to have to live with yourself as a human being. And since the misanthrope never disposes of himself, this hatred and distrust must be externalized, usually in the name of some “great cause.” Animal rights without human civil rights is a dark steel-lined tunnel with no light at the end of it. And it carries within it something like the fundamentalist Christian view of original sin: the person is guilty because of their biology. This is how disposable populations are defined, and it’s not much of leap from thinking about it to doing something about it.
Capital alienates people, and early 21st century corporate capital has magnified the rift to psychotic proportions. Some people are so alienated that they can only relate to another species. A whale won’t move in next door, or sit down next to you on the bus, or ask you for spare change, or go on strike. A whale won’t ask you what in the world you think your doing. But people will, and we need to start.
There must be a better way to save the whales besides enlisting the aid of known fascists. Relationships between Indians and white environmentalists are strained enough as it is. A whale hunt is a messy business that most of us would just as soon have no part of. But most of us don’t come from a whaling culture. Most of us come from the dominator culture that kicked the shit out of the native whalers and we hold onto our positions of superiority by claiming a high moral ground and practicing an institutional ignorance. And the victims of this whole scenario are usually dehumanized either into brutes (“If there had been more of them they would’ve completely trashed the place”) or romanticized ( the “Indian princess”). Either way they don’t have to be dealt with as human beings.
Paul says “I am opposing Japan and Norway at Neah Bay – not the Makah.” But Jack Metcalf is opposing the Makah, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has actually endorsed this man. And Brigitte Bardot. And when Watson and company leave town these creeps will have achieved a higher standing in the minds of many people who out of the goodness of their hearts would like to protect the natural world. This is not smart.
If you’re going to save whales you have to save them from something and into something. The way this is going they will be saved into a world of the chosen few. Who is going to decide who these few are? And what will be the fate of the others? It comes back to that old idea that nature needs to be saved from humans, period. But all humans aren’t the same are they? What’s the difference between Rigoberta Menchu and Charles Hurwitz? And if there is a difference then maybe, considering the speed at which we seem to be dismantling the planet, it should be an emergency priority to address these things. This probably means expanding the definition of “environment” into its more holistic meaning of “the circumstances, objects or conditions by which one is surrounded.” This includes the workplace, the home, the street, the forest, and international historical treaty relations. We have to. They clear-cut people too.