Friday, September 05, 2008

Looking Back

I first encountered the Public Good Project network when Paul de Armond phoned to invite me to dinner. At the time, in Fall 1994, I was executive director of an environmental litigation consortium, and was up to my neck managing lawsuits against Wise Use.

Paul had been investigating Wise Use operatives throughout Puget Sound, especially their covert money-laundering for electoral purposes, but increasingly their recruiting of violent Christian Patriots to intimidate political opponents of the building and real estate industries. Some of these vigilantes had already threatened my associate Sherilyn Wells (president of Washington Environmental Council), and Paul wanted to share with me the research he'd gathered in fourteen counties across the state.

From that point on, my perspective on politics changed forever; I never again assumed that things were what they seemed, and habitually sought out what was going on behind the scenes. It's a habit I've continued to find useful.

Since that dinner in 1994, I've joined with Paul and other network volunteers -- like Dan Junas, Devin Burghart, Tarso Ramos, Eric Ward and Sheila O'Donnell – in sharing research and analysis, as well as presenting at conferences and workshops sponsored by Public Good. More recently, I've been looking into establishing a national research learning center in San Francisco.

One of the things that struck me at one of those conferences in 2005, was the mentoring structure and process of the Public Good network—something I had personally benefited from, and later sought to continue. Since then, I have experimented with various means and mediums for that purpose, and even described the history of research activism since the early 1960s in an essay titled Continuity.

The concepts and frameworks exposed in that essay form the basis of a communication strategy for social conflict—something I elaborate on in my 2008 book Fighting for Our Lives.

Our colleague Chip Berlet once said that a real democracy requires the type of informed consent that emerges as many competing ideas struggle for acceptance in the public square. For fifteen years now, Public Good correspondents and operatives have attempted to do something about that—more often than not with good results.
--Jay Taber


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