Pacifica Forum

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The Pacifica Forum
Formation1994
TypeDiscussion group
PurposeTo provide information and perspective on the issues of war and peace
Location
Host
Orval Etter
Websitepacificaforum.org

The Pacifica Forum was a discussion group in Eugene, Oregon, United States. It was hosted by retired University of Oregon professor Orval Etter.[1] It culminated a long slide into extremism by ceasing operations after Etter's death and has not been reconstituted.

Purpose[edit]

According to the group's founder, Orval Etter, the Pacifica Forum's purpose was to "provide information and points of view" on "war and peace, militarism and pacifism, violence and non-violence."[citation needed] The group was named the Pacifica Forum after a San Francisco-area supper club that had discussed similar issues.[citation needed]

When it was founded in 1994, the Pacifica Forum had a generally left-wing orientation.[citation needed] However, in recent years it has also hosted right-wing speakers.[citation needed] Two regular members and presenters at the forum made a very public disassociation in August 2007 [3] when it changed direction, publishing a guest opinion in the Eugene Register-Guard [4] that expressed mild criticism of having a neo-Nazi like Mark Weber as a lecturer along with extensive detailing of how the extremist slant would hurt the group's efforts to focus on the evils of Zionism.

After hosting two Holocaust deniers, it was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).[2] A 2008 report by the SPLC stated, "The number of people attending Pacifica Forum meetings is less than half what it was two years ago — and it's mostly a different crowd. Among those who left were Mariah Leung and Jack Dresser, who regularly made presentations on Israel and Palestine as well as on other topics related to war, peace and justice. Dresser, a former Army psychologist during the Vietnam War, told the Intelligence Report that after the Anelauskas lectures, he spoke to Pacifica Forum attendees about the psychology of racism and its consequences, showing photos of lynchings and anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda posters. "Since Pacifica Forum is a public forum, Mariah and I had no objection to attendance by the self-described 'white separatists' and even entertained some hope of modifying their views," he emailed. "However, we could not allow them any control of programming in a forum with which our names were regularly associated. Orval declined to exclude their influence in programming decisions and we thereupon formally dissociated ourselves."[3] Its regular attendees respond that the forum is not a membership organization, and does not hold any positions itself.[citation needed] It offers a platform to all political views, including Zionism and anti-fascism.[citation needed]

Orval Etter[edit]

Orval Etter was an emeritus professor of planning, public policy, and management, a musician, and a pacifist who was a conscientious objector during World War II.[2] Etter died in 2013.[4]

University of Oregon[edit]

Other than its meeting place, and having a retired professor as its founder, the group is not affiliated with the university.[5]

The group previously[when?] met in a room at the Erb Memorial Union at the University of Oregon (UO).[5] In January 2010, it was moved by UO to the less centrally located Agate Hall at the edge of campus.[6] In March 2010, the group was moved to the Baker Downtown Center, still part of the UO campus but located in downtown Eugene, with UO citing "declining attendance" as the reason for the move.[7]

Controversies[edit]

The Pacifica Forum was described by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010 as a "formerly left-wing discussion group that has increasingly embraced right-wing extremism."[8] It was listed as a white nationalist hate group by the SPLC in 2009.[9]

Valdas Anelauskas, a Lithuanian immigrant who describes himself as a white separatist, hosted a series of Pacifica Forum talks in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Another speaker, Jimmy Marr, described Martin Luther King, Jr. as a "moral leper and communist dupe", and that the American Civil Rights Movement was funded by Jewish communists and the USSR in an attempt to incite violence. Orval Etter and many other attendees strongly reject this perspective.[9][2][10][11]

The group hosted right-wing intellectual Tomislav Sunic, former Croatian diplomat and author of Homo Americanus: Child Of The Post-Modern Age as a speaker in June 2008. David Irving was also a featured speaker during the same month, speaking on his imprisonment in Austria for Holocaust denial.[12]

In November 2007, Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review, appeared at an event organized by the Pacifica Forum. Weber was billed by the group as "America's most prominent revisionist historian". The Weber event was promoted using a flyer that depicts a snake curled in the shape of a Star of David and the headline: "Free Speech versus Zionist power". The meeting was attended by an estimated 60 people.[12]

Orval Etter attended both the Irving and Weber talks, and states that both men are legitimate historians. The SPLC claims he stated "I admit that there were some bad things done to Jews during World War II, but I don't believe that everything they claim is truthful."[2] Etter and other regular attendees say the same of the SPLC, and gave a series of talks during 2009, based on the research of John Tanton,[citation needed] who criticizes the organization for inaccuracy.[13]

The former president of the University of Oregon, David B. Frohnmayer, criticized the Pacifica Forum and stated that its views do not represent those of the university. The forum is the only group Frohnmayer has singled out in this way.[citation needed] It has also drawn criticism from the University of Oregon Hillel, a Jewish student group.[2] The forum had access to campus facilities, despite attempts by local anti-hate campaigners to evict it, due to a university policy allowing retired professors to host meetings on campus.[1][12]

In December 2009, speaker Jimmy Marr gave a presentation entitled: "National Socialist Movement: An Insider's View of America's Radical Right". During the presentation, Marr invited those in attendance to join him in giving the Sieg Heil salute. Marr also showed video footage from a National Socialist Movement demonstration in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a report in the Eugene Weekly, the video shows one of the speakers pointing at a protester and shouting: "YOU are a Jew! A traitor Jew!".[14] To the frustration of some Pacifica Forum members, Marr's hardcore Nazi views were completely embraced by Etter and set the tone for the group's programs, contributing to the exodus of former supporters of the Forum who no longer could stand being around people like Marr.

On January 8, 2010, Pacifica Forum held a meeting entitled "Everything You Wanted to Know About Pacifica Forum but Were Afraid to Ask".[5] Of the seventy-five people in attendance, about half were protesting the forum.[5] The protest was organized in reaction to Marr's December speech.[5] The forum's supporters responded that the group champions free speech and has nothing to do with Neo-Nazism.[5] One angry and tearful UO student spoke to Valdas Anelauskas, saying that statements he had made in the past had made her feel unsafe.[5] At that point ASUO student body president Emma Kallaway asked the Pacifica Forum members to leave the building.[5]

In early 2010, a swastika was found spray-painted into the carpet of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Alliance, in the basement of the Erb Memorial Union.[15] A computer was also vandalized with black paint.[15] It was speculated to be related to a recent discussion by the Pacifica Forum held about the meaning of the swastika.[15]

Response[edit]

According to the SPLC, Orval Etter responded to accusations of antisemitism by stating: "If you rub a substantial number of Jews the wrong way, you're anti-Semitic ... In that sense, I have to admit that the Forum and I, in particular, are anti-Semitic."[2] Etter and the forum's regular attendees contest this and most of what the SPLC has written about them, arguing that the forum is not pro- or anti- anyone, but an open discussion group that holds no positions.[citation needed] A report in the Oregon Daily Emerald stated that Etter did not consider himself antisemitic.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Fox, Lauren (March 13, 2009). "Pacifica Forum labeled as hate group". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f Scherr, Sonia (Fall 2008). "Anti-Semitism Goes to School". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Legacy.com Obituary
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Baker, Mark; Greg Bolt (January 9, 2010). "Pacifica Forum draws campus protest". The Register-Guard. Retrieved 2010-01-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Bolt, Greg (Jan 22, 2010). "UO moves Pacifia Forum". The Register-Guard.
  7. ^ "UO moves meetings of Pacifica Forum, seen as a hate group, off campus". The Oregonian. Associated Press. 2010-03-11. Retrieved 12 March 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ a b Baker, Mark (March 13, 2009). "Pacifica Forum lands on list of hate groups". The Register-Guard. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Forum Responds to Critics - Sort Of". Eugene Weekly. March 6, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Pacifica Forum to address OC coverage, assholes". Oregon Commentator. March 5, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ a b c "Pacifica Forum Gives a Platform to Anti-Semites and Holocaust Deniers". Anti-Defamation League. September 15, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "John Tanton - exposing the Southern Poverty Law Center". John Tanton. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Lieberman, Joseph A. (December 17, 2009). "Free Speech vs. Hate Speech". Eugene Weekly. Retrieved December 23, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ a b c Terry, Lynne (2010-02-01). "Police investigate swastika vandalism at University of Oregon in Eugene". The Oregonian. Retrieved 12 March 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ Aho, Jill (April 28, 2008). "Comment on Emerald Web site brings attention to Pacifica Forum". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved December 29, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]