Pacifica Forum

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The Pacifica Forum
Formation 1994
Type Discussion group
Purpose To provide information and perspective on the issues of war and peace
Location
Host
Orval Etter
Website pacificaforum.org

The Pacifica Forum was a controversial discussion group in Eugene, Oregon, United States, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010 as a "formerly left-wing discussion group that has increasingly embraced right-wing extremism." [1] It has been listed as a white nationalist[2] hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). It was hosted by retired University of Oregon (UO) professor Orval Etter.[1] The Pacifica Forum is currently the only group in Oregon that is listed as white nationalist by the SPLC.[2]

Purpose[edit]

According to the group's founder, Orval Etter, the Pacifica Forum's purpose is 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 [2] when it changed direction, publishing the following guest opinion in the Eugene Register-Guard [3]:

"Referring to the Pacifica Forum presentation by Mark Weber, a Jewish friend of mine complained, “I don’t need a white racist to tell me about Israel’s racism!” This is among several pejorative descriptors that have been applied - fairly or unfairly - to this speaker. Whether or not this term applies to Weber, it may be fairly applied to a small group within the forum who have invited and funded his visit.

Weber will briefly come and go, but this group is the reason we have disassociated ourselves from Pacifica after providing many presentations and films over two years on numerous topics ranging from the illegality of the Iraq War to racism, impeachment, CIA atrocities, PTSD, war profiteering, and depleted uranium. And yes, to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and proposed solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Founded by pacifist Orval Etter, the forum was devoted to the goals of peace and justice. We valued the forum as a community peace organization that went conceptually beyond signs and bumper stickers and was uniquely attentive to deeper forces behind world events. Quite importantly, it has been the only local organization willing to touch the third rail of American liberal politics - Israel’s land seizures and subjugation of the Palestinians.

A small group of attendees with a 'white separatist' preoccupation were attracted to the forum and started attending regularly. While never part of forum sessions, emailed views about 'race-mixing,' 'blood consciousness,' 'miscegenation that tears down civilization and pollutes good races,' and 'the genocidal war against our own race' began to proliferate.

These familiar echoes from the Jim Crow South ironically mirror the Zionism they oppose, but Orval declined to exclude them from programming decisions. As advocates for peace, justice and human rights, we could not afford to have our reputations associated and our work potentially compromised by conflation in the public mind with these viewpoints.

We have learned from Palestinian human rights advocates that their organizations throughout the country have been infiltrated and corrupted by people holding these worldviews, perhaps sincerely held, perhaps as agent provocateurs planted to discredit critics of Israel. They distort valid critiques of Israeli policies into ideas that can justifiably be labeled 'anti-Semitism' - although we reject simplistic name-calling of that kind. Here, they have stated that they don’t care about the Palestinians, just their own 'European white race,' thus pursuing agendas entirely different than ours."

After hosting two Holocaust deniers, it was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[3] 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 factual 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." [4]

" [5] 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.[3] 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.[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]

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.[2][3][8][9]

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.[10]

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.[10]

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."[3] 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.[11]

The former president of the UO, 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.[3] The forum has 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][10]

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 all 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!".[12]

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.[13] A computer was also vandalized with black paint.[13] It was speculated to be related to a recent discussion by the Pacifica Forum held about the meaning of the swastika.[13]

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."[3] 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.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Fox, Lauren (March 13, 2009). "Pacifica Forum labeled as hate group". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Baker, Mark (March 13, 2009). "Pacifica Forum lands on list of hate groups". The Register-Guard. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Scherr, Sonia (Fall 2008). "Anti-Semitism Goes to School". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  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. 
  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. 
  8. ^ "Forum Responds to Critics - Sort Of". Eugene Weekly. March 6, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Pacifica Forum to address OC coverage, assholes". Oregon Commentator. March 5, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c "Pacifica Forum Gives a Platform to Anti-Semites and Holocaust Deniers". Anti-Defamation League. September 15, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  11. ^ "John Tanton - exposing the Southern Poverty Law Center". John Tanton. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  12. ^ Lieberman, Joseph A. (December 17, 2009). "Free Speech vs. Hate Speech". Eugene Weekly. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c Terry, Lynne (2010-02-01). "Police investigate swastika vandalism at University of Oregon in Eugene". The Oregonian. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  14. ^ Aho, Jill (April 28, 2008). "Comment on Emerald Web site brings attention to Pacifica Forum". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved December 29, 2009.