Rebel Evolution by Anna Zetchus Smith is a feature-length documentary divulging a political narrative that will be unfamiliar to most — activists from the far left who have through disillusionment, or in some cases, practical thinking and experience moved to the right.
Lest full blown conflict breaks about between the two camps however, there is a thread in Rebel Evolution which questions these stances to begin with, but the tendency of the film is to show how the group of activists questioned have through their own experience.
There are three stories here — that of Brandon Michael Darby who found far-left activism too violent when he began to become involved in such groups — Out and Proud Conservative Republican Kevin DuJan who suggest that he may have been pushed further right by the lack of tolerance he experienced when he mixed in more liberal and left wing circles — and homeless activist Ted Hayes who suggest that having run the gamut of all political beliefs, from left to right.
Although ostensibly about Brandon Michael Darby, a former leftist turned FBI informant whose political journey has much to tell us about the nature of patriotism, activism, and freedom in contemporary America, there are others such as homeless advocate and activist Ted Hayes.
Brandon Michael Darby seems happy — from being a far left socialist activist, he now appears or at least in the film appears, to be organising for the Tea Party and other patriot groups. He moans about people’s reactions to him, and how hard it is for him to find work ina community he feels is fairly left-motivated, but he is essentially happy with himself. Others haven’t quite finished the journey and you wonder what personal issues may still be lurking which are influencing
We know the left and right divide as it operates and most of us are happy to take a seat on either side, and indulge in the cat-calling that continues so unattractively in our parliament buildings. And whether it’s TV or radio, the script has been the same for a long time — on any issue, the media will pull in a person from the left of an argument and a person from the right, and they will debate an issue. It occurs more often these days, how false this is. On top of that, it’s not discussion, listening to handpicked ideologues gainsaying each other — it is entertainment. Nothing is achieved in such debates, but positions are entrenched, and I will admit that it is fun and annoying listening to them, but it is not a process that solves problems. Entertaining as this is, it is something we as citizens emulate. Here as icons hard at it we follow Joe England, Ted Hayes, Kevin DuJan, AlfonZo Rachel, and Bill Ayers.
What we don’t see is the unattractive battlegrounds where the left / right debate is in full swing — which are the blogs and on Twitter, where the discussion is far from robust, never edited (as it is in Rebel Evolution)
What I am suggesting, having followed up on the careers of all of the participants is that they are in some cases benefitting from Anna Zetchus Smith’s editing, because on their blogs some of these guys are merely participating in the glorious political baiting of — quoting stuff like ‘Fear Porn’ and summoning up from nowhere a bitchy battle between
The star of this showing, is Bill Ayers. Ayers in fact memorably states in Rebel Evolution — and for the sake of the sanity of humanity — that the left is generally associated with collectivism, while the right is associated with individualism. But, he reminds us, we are both individuals and a collective, so of course the paradigm is going to fail at some basic level.
Ayers has been described as a communist — and although interviewer Anna Zetchus-Smith introduces him as a ‘small c communist’, he doesn’t talk about communism in his interview, and doesn’t come across as communist. I’ve watched Bill Ayers interview with Alex Jones, and while during the course of the interview Alex Jones is obliged to agree with virtually everything — if not everything — Bill Ayers says, Jones can’t stop attacking Ayers for communism — and ridicules him constantly, while bracketing a man who is very much a common-sense libertarian, with guys Stalin wherever he can.
Ted Hayes talks about how he now seeks to take conservative and capitalist ideals to help the masses, as he puts it — while asserting that over the decades he has been an activist he has come to observe how the left seems only to excel at criticism, and at knocking the system. Similarly he says that Tea Party people are “great at talking behind closed doors, and writing stuff, but you don’t see them out walking the streets, and talking with black folks, marching, demonstrating, educating.”
Why should we even spend time deciding which side we are on, the left or the right, or in the case of these Americans, Democrat or Republican. There is an assertion made several times in Rebel Evolution that the true intolerance in American politics lies on the left — and while there is growing evidence that this is the case, particularly when it comes to the scourge of political correctness, it can’t become a simple trope to be wielded whenever necessary — that Democrats are intolerant and that Republicans are welcoming of all.
If anything, things are getting worse however. Discussion lacks any empathy whatsoever, and most of us are beginning to see that it bears little relation to the discussions we have with people — even those to whom we are fundamentally and angrily opposed — face to face. It’s this that’s feeding the current war against feminism and the perceived war against feminism, that is currently being pulled out of Twitter and YouTube — the two sewers where this non-debate belongs — into more mainstream news. Using the Internet to host discussions is akin to having a AGREE and DISAGREE buttons
“Our similarities get blunted through our differences,” says Bill Ayers, whose position is clearest of anyone in this film. In fact he adds, talking to people who you think you have disagreements with is a valuable aspect of democratic living. Similarly, what Brandon Derby has learned is that “it is hard to be an extremist when you can see the humanity in other people.”
Rebel Evolution then is fascinating simply because it isn’t the usual narrative. A convenient and delusional way to live, perhaps.