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Security for Activists

Disruption: Warning Signs

Sexism, egos, and lies:
Sometimes you wake up and it is not different

By Lisa Fithian / The Rag Blog / March 22, 2010

Excerpted from a much longer esay that is worth reading in its entirety here.

I am sorry; I have worked with thousands of young people over the years and none of them are in the situation that people find themselves in after working around Brandon. I have no time for his twisted logic, vague threats and destructive behavior. Instead, let us vanquish him and learn from this to insure that he, or people like him, can never do this again. To that end…

Behaviors of Brandon’s or others that enabled this kind of damage to be done.

  1. Deferring or listening to men, as opposed to women and/or attacking women in leadership positions. Our patriarchal society has taught us this and we need to deconstruct it.
  2. Charisma and confidence enabled him to assume leadership and control -- people deferred even though he had little experience. He cultivated a handful of women and men to become personal assistants who did a lot of his work for him.
  3. Assuming credibility by his associations -- Brandon tried to associate himself with other high profile organizers in the activist community.
  4. Preying on and exploiting people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities, particularly using alcohol or other addictions. He liked to “play with people's minds."
  5. Bullying. All bullies abuse their power and people let them do what they want because they are afraid of what will happen if they do not go along. They use their physical prowess to intimidate both women and men.
  6. Disrupting group process in meetings, derailing agendas, questioning process, challenging others, or not coming to meetings at all to avoid accountability. Or using secrecy and sub-groups to divide the whole.
  7. Pointing fingers at and ‘snitch-jacketing’ other people, accusing them of being cops, FBI agents, etc. This kept everyone on guard, and created an environment of suspicion and distrust.
  8. Seducing people using power or sex, leaving a lot of pain and destabilized situations in his wake or provoking people to do acts they would not do on their own.
  9. Being persistent and pursuing people, by calling them repeatedly or showing up at their homes, inviting them for coffee, he would wear you down, or find other ways back into important relationships.
  10. Being an emotional/physical wreck, becoming very needy and seducing people into taking care of him. Then people would defend him because of his emotional vulnerabilities or physical needs.
  11. Time and energy suck. Talk endlessly, consuming hours of time and energy -- confusing, exhausting, and indoctrinating.
  12. Being helpful or useful -- showing up when you most needed support. Brandon would arrive with tools, money, or whatever was needed at just the right time.
  13. Documenting through videotaping or photographing actions but never using it or working on communications systems which he attempted at the RNC.

Brandon Darby at work. Image from New Orleans Indymedia.


[Lisa Fithian has been organizing for 35 years -- working with peace, labor, student/youth, immigrant and global, environmental and racial justice organizations and movements. Much of her work has been focused on using creative nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience in strategic campaigns. She is a member of the Alliance of Community Trainers, a small collective working to empower communities for collective transformation.

Lisa has worked with Common Ground Relief, the post-Katrina New Orleans collective; the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); United for Peace and Justice; and environmental groups like Save our Springs -- and she helped Cindy Sheehan coordinate activities at Camp Casey. Check out Lisa’s websites: and]


Previous Rag Blog articles on Brandon Darby and the Texas 2: Go to the Support the Texas 2 website.

And listen to “Turncoat,” a story about Brandon Darby on Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life. [The Darby segment starts 13 minutes in.]

Also, read this remarkable piece of reporting: The Informant: Revolutionary to rat: The uneasy journey of Brandon Darby by Diana Welch / Austin Chronicle / Jan. 23, 2009

For more background on the history of informants in Texas, read The Spies of Texas by Thorne Dreyer / The Texas Observer / Nov. 17, 2006.

And see the entire "Hamilton Files" of former UT-Austin police chief Allen Hamilton that served as documentation for Dreyer's story, here.




More Resources

David Kaplan of California's Center for Investigative Reporting called COINTELPRO "the largest known program yet in domestic suverillance."

Kaplan observed that "between 1965 and 1975, the FBI opened more than 500,000 intelligence files on more than one million Americans, according to a Congressional report."

"Among the Bureau's targets: Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War Groups, and the underground press."



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