To say the election had been bad for my health would be an understatement.
I had been thrown out of bars, hunted down the ghost of Max Stirner while tripping balls, argued, fought, howled at the moon, and most certainly risen up the ranks of the Potential Terrorist Watch list with my ever-increasing firearms purchases. I had become more beast than man, spawning legends across the trailer parks of a mad wizard draped in a Hammer and Sickle bandanna that could put the evil eye on folk at a distance of 200 yards. Children fled from my gaze, women shrieked in horror, and grown men wept and wailed at the merest sight of my signature straw hat.
I had gotten fucked up on politics, bad, and needed something to balance my humors before my liver gave out or I did something rash. I needed something, anything, other than the massive dose of nihilism one gains from being glued into machinery so vile it makes Anarchists drop any semblance of theory and call for the immediate ignition of every cop car in sight.
I needed a friendly face, even if it cursed as much as I fucking did, and so inbetween the throes of venom or fits of laughter brought on by the Mainstream media I’d plug into It’s The End of The World as We Know It And I Feel Fine, or simply ITEOTWAWKIAIFF for those into the whole brevity thing. The program was an iconic one, one of the few dedicated to an Anarchism built on action and real solidarity instead of paper clips, hosted by a floating face that referred to himself only as “The Stimulator.”
But who was this mysterious visage lurking somewhere in the internet, what body and mind lay behind it? What made such an odd creature tic, inspire it to call for riots?
I had scored an interview with the man months before but the timing had never quite been right. The election scooped up too much media, to many calls for being stronger together instead of burning the country to the fucking ground.
Every time I was set to publish, every hour I felt it was the right time, some new scandal would inevitably arise: emails, sexual assault, rumors of Egyptian chaos gods tinkering with the universe; the universe itself seemed intent on making me wait for some opportune moment just over the hedge.
The levee finally broke when Trump was elected. Suddenly the liberals were afraid again, dribbles of piss pooling around fresh sneakers as Il Duce made it clear he didn’t give two damns what “the other half” of the country thought of him. With both the House and Senate tightly in Republican control he’d been given a mandate to rule as he saw fit, and as he floated ideas of a Muslim registry Democrats could do little but look on in horror.
Key word: Democrats.
Legions of Anarchists, troupes of Illegalists, hordes of Communists, and even a few feral-eyed Primitivists battle against the newly elected Arch-Salesman. Calls rang out for the disruption of his installation, and with the folks at Submedia leading the charge the stars were finally ripe for a deeper look into the foul-mouthed voice inciting hearts and minds to glorious revolt.
How had it all happened? What was the key to his success? Did he think we were on the brink of success or plunging towards the most barbaric hellscape humanity had ever had the displeasure of seeing? I intended to find out…
Dr. Bones: “So, one thing I want to ask: you’re a pretty prominent activist, uh, your real identity isn’t really thrown out in everybody’s face but especially with the many strange and mysterious deaths happening to activists, to reporters, even to DNC staffers…well, something I like to ask of people who are involved in Anarchism or radical politics for a long time….have you thought about something happening to you, have you dealt with that sort of existential thought process?”
The Stimulator: “I think when I was really young and naive I was really scared about putting anything out there that I thought was subversive and uh, for me taking that first step was huge, even though if you look at that first project I put out under the name of Submedia…you know it’s not laughable, but its kind of a strange first attempt.
I was a pot activist if you can believe that and I thought I was just going to jail. I thought I was taking the largest chance ever and I was so relieved and…not really disappointed but you know….sort of all this expectation thinking that The Powers That Be really give a shit that much about what we do.
I came to realize that you really have to be super, super, super effective for them to even put any resources to you. In some cases these people have over-inflated budgets that they have to justify in order to put some surveillance on you. I dealt with that early in life. The more and more I got comfortable pushing the envelope with what I was comfortable saying in public the more I realized it’s people like the Edward Snowden’s of the world who are really making a huge dent, who really are getting put under the crosshairs. I think we’re reaching even more people than ever now, me and the people I work with at Submedia, but we’re still not at a level, I think, where we the government would try to take us out. We’re more at a level I think where we’re pissing people off. More like….the hacker level, you know? We got hacked this summer. It was brutal.”
Dr. Bones: “I saw that.”
Stim: “Yeah, more on that level. My dad was involved in politics in Puerto Rico(where I’m from) and while I was a teenager he helped start a television station down there that did a lot of investigative journalism and reporting on local politicians. He found links between the Cartel de Medellín, the Columbian cocaine cartel, and US Customs that were allowing huge shipments of cocaine to go through the Puerto Rican airport and into the United States. As soon as he put out reports about that things started going shitty for him and he ended up in jail. That for me was a clear example of huge effectiveness. We’ve seen people like Gary Webb who unearthed a similar a similar story in the 90’s and how they essentially tried to destroy him. Eventually, you know….the jury’s still out. Some people say he shot himself twice in the head so…you go figure that one out.”
Dr. Bones: “Especially with the recent killings of unarmed people, specifically black folks. You know you’ve got Darren Seals, a prominent Ferguson activist who was found shot dead with his car burned to all hell. Just a week before his twitter account said he had been stopped by Ferguson police and told to ‘choose his enemies wisely.’ I don’t know if things have always been this violent and we’re just seeing it now or what. People that certainly aren’t on the Edward Snowden level are being killed and the brazenness of the police is really shocking.
Now, you’re based in Canada, right?”
Dr. Bones: “What is it like watching all this police brutality madness happening just across the border?”
Stim: “I think that alot of black and brown folks would tell you nothing has changed. I think the difference is more mobile phone cameras, more videos, more evidence. These things have been going on for a long time and the immediateness of this evidence is making a huge impact in how people react.
I was going to school, going to college, when the Rodney King beating happened. For Americans that was particularly shocking because this was done with a VHS camcorder and it may have been bad video but it got out, it got out on television.
Eventually the cops were acquitted. Los Angeles, the rest of the country, and any other country with significant amounts of black and brown folks went ape shit. Rightfully so because that’s bullshit. It sparked huge rebellions. I think we’re seeing the logical version of that in our times with the technological tools we have at our disposal. Sadly though, and again black and brown folks will tell you this, police killings are not going down.
At the same time it’s really refreshing to see the level of autonomous organization. But, again, you see the fire extinguishers of the movement, the Jesse Jackson’s and Al Sharpton’s, the NAACP, and some religious reverends trying to pacify the movement. It’s almost like we live in these cycles and young people are just too young to remember how coaptation happens. The Democratic Party is usually the one to take the wind out of these movements and incorporating them into their political machine.”
Dr. Bones: “You’ve clearly been in the Anarchist game for awhile and before I ask how everything has worked out, how the identity of the Stimulator has grown and prospered, I’d like to address the large crowd of people who identify as Anarchist writer and artists who are merely scraping by and fighting for recognition. I think many people would agree you’re one now of the most prominent and well-known voices out there. How was it you and your comrades managed to build this Submedia thing?”
Stim: “Well, its been a one person show for a while. My discovery as an Anarchist really came after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. That’s when I really dropped all aspirations of being a video artist and decided to dedicate myself to making radical videos. I was 30 when my friends really pointed out my Anarchist tendencies. That being said I started this show after doing a brief stint working for Democracy Now in NYC, one of the most prominent progressive news shows probably in the world right now. When I returned to my home in Vancouver I played around with the idea of making a podcast, making Anarchist videos on this media website, but I wanted something that had a similar format to Democracy Now. Something that was no-holds barred, no language limitations, and basically using it as a way to vent. I had no aspirations that this was going to become anything other than a weekly video blog; a way to talk about things that interested me and an excuse to meet people I always wanted to interview.
As the show progressed my politics progressed. When you go to the beginning the show was concerned with primarily environmental issues, energy issues, peak oil, and what not. The more and more I got involved in the Anarchist milieu the more that my focus became about action and the folks that were doing things physically. In 2008 the show really became what it is now, a full-fledged Anarchist news show. That was the year Obama got elected and I traveled with a crew from Seattle who called themselves ‘Pepper Spray Productions.’ We went down to the Democratic National Convention and even to the Republican one, cranking out daily videos on the streets. Anybody in the milieu that didn’t know the show by then got to know it. It became a thing. People would finish their day of rioting or protesting and there would be this summation of it in this super snarky, sarcastic, cursing, floating…”
Dr. Bones: “Floating face dude?”
Stim: “Yeah. It showed me there was an audience for this, people who wanted moral…not moral support, but somebody who would ‘ra-ra’ the movement, right? Something which I don’t think happens enough. Also an immediacy, something that could put events through an Anarchist lens easily.”
Dr. Bones: You talked about how your politics changed towards action, how the movement needed this ‘ra-ra,’ how this it didn’t need more flowery language or peaceful marches in the middle of downtown where no-one’s even fucking looking. What was it that you weren’t seeing in the politics before that led you down an insurrectionist line of thought?
Stim: It was a bit of a work in progress. The first Anarchist film I saw, or at least was aware it was an Anarchist film was ‘Breaking the Spell.’ For anybody who hasn’t seen it I highly recommend it. It retells the story of the 1989 riots that happened in Seattle, when Anarchists and the Blac Block really made a national appearance and brought free trade agreements and neoliberalism to a national stage by smashing a few windows.” He made it clear other things happened, and he wasn’t trying to oversimplify it, but the film brought one clearly into the street and perfectly captured the mood. He described it as brilliant. “It was filmed through different sources, different cameras, some more professional than others, but was just really well put to together. That film just changed my shit and that film introduced to the concept of ‘riot porn'”
A noticeable shift came over The Stimulator as he spoke about this film, and for a moment you were there with him when the scenes of resistance that would forever sear into his cortex first singed his nerve endings. Images of burning buildings, flying bricks, and tear gas clouds quickened the blood. For the first time militant revolt was not the subject of patronizing reporters or disgruntled middle class cops. Here was footage he thought would never be legal to display, in full view, and framed in a way that lionized those who took part. The seed had been planted but was not quite yet ready to bloom.
When he moved to Vancouver a few things happened that would change his life forever.
Stim: “A few people that had seen my show, that I didn’t know personally called the Anti-Poverty Committee, found out I lived in Vancouver and got a hold of me. Told me ‘We’re going to do an action. We’d love for you to come and film it.’ There was a garbage strike in the city and we went to the Vancouver mayor’s apartment building. They had accumulated weeks worth of rank fucking garbage and they just dumped it all in front of this luxury apartment. Coming from the post-9/11 United States, living in Georgia where everything was scary shit and just seeing these people do this action, one of the most minor they ever did, as a camera man was so inspiring. Not to just be invited to capture that but to see how brazen these people were. They just didn’t give a fuck.”
This same group was part of another moment that would shape the Stimulator even more. The group had been engaged in defending low-income housing State forces looked to destroy historic neighborhoods to make room for the Olympics.
The group went to the office of the Olympic organizing committee and evicted them.
Stim: “They literally went in, broad day light, into their offices; took computers, faxes, couches, whatever they found and threw it into the street. I was just like ‘this shit, people need to see this shit.’ People need to understand that, while there is risk of arrest, sometimes you just have to do things. This can’t stay in just VHS underground where only a chosen few in the right scenes can obtain a copy. Whenever these actions happened and there was footage I wanted to bring it to people, as many as possible, and to break the fear threshold, specifically in the United States. There’s this idea in the United States that this kind of thing is impossible and it’s not true. I think alot is possible in the US…to make a long story short the purpose is to inspire people.”
Dr. Bones: “As someone who went through this long process, who came from obscurity, to now reaching an international audience and seeing that message reaching so many people, what pieces of advice do you have for other people involved with radical politics who want to reach those same large amounts of people?”
Stim: “Stop self censoring. I think we’ve created in atmosphere in our scenes where people are policing what people are saying and also are…it’s funny for someone like me to say this but people are fucking rude and disrespectful. I think we should be rude and disrespectful towards politicians, towards cops, towards anybody that oppresses us, but I think that we need a little more gentleness with comrades. I think we’ve created an atmosphere where people are afraid to speak out about certain things, like being lambasted on social media, certain websites, etc. I think people should let go of that fear, you know? They will find an audience that understands that, that feeling particularly. I think that’s why people come and watch our stuff because we’re not afraid to take some heat and we’re not afraid to speak the way that we want to speak.
People call us Manarchists, people call us all kind of names, but in the end the people that do that usually come out and apologize. They end up basically saying they were following the stream, so to speak, just doing what everybody else was doing.
I know I shouldn’t bring you into the article but when I read your stuff it spoke to me. It’s rare to see people writing with such brazenness and chutzpah and all that. I don’t think all people should acquire that style, but I think people shouldn’t be afraid to write in the style that turns them on. People should really do what turns them on and to me creating this non-nonsensical character that’s a total fucking potty mouth, loves riot porn, that turns me on. So I do it with passion.
I’m happy every week that I’m able to make this happen and while honestly I make a living out of this people should know I’m dirt poor. I live in a co-op apartment, I live in Montreal because rent is dirt cheap. But for me it’s important so I did the things that I needed to do to for the show to exist. If people have a passion for whatever it is they do whether writing, poetry, science fiction, whatever it is, they should fucking go for it. You only live this one life and you need to give it your all.
I’m actually hugely disappointed we don’t see more Anarchist video projects. I’ve ranted about this in the past and I really thought with the advent of indymedia, all this cheap technology, and all these different ways to publish, Anarchists would have been at the forefront of getting this information out. Video has really fallen short and I don’t understand why. We got publishing, we got books, and zines, and all that shit on lock down, but video? I don’t know what the fuck happened…”
What the fuck had happened, a question too often asked by radicals all stripes. So many moments of possibility drifting away like tear gas on wind, twisting banners all that remained of dreams so close to manifesting you could practically taste them. In 10 years time The Stimulator had seen a large range of protests, battles, revolts, and counter-insurgencies, outliving both the good and the bad. Campaigns lie like fetid corpses in the history of Anarchism, and so few have carried the flowers of victory that many don’t expect anything beyond a few burnt cop cars when news of an uprising reaches their ears.
But did it need to be this way? Had The Stimulator seen the seeds of promise somewhere where perhaps other Anarchists hadn’t looked hard enough? At the end of our conversation I can remember leaning back, slightly buzzed and trying to put together just what I had learned. As I typed the interview one theme seemed to resonate above the others:
“Syria and Indigenous resistance were the key.”
Gonzo journalism at no cost is my gift to you. Want to help keep me from starving to death or buy me a beer? Do me a favor and make a donation of any size and I’ll promise not to haunt you when I die.