VOX POPULI: My Thoughts on the Unprincipled Attack on Richard Aoki’s Character

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The author (fourth from right) at a gathering several years ago in Oakland with other activists, including Richard Aoki (second from right), Wesley Ueunten (third from right), Yuri Kochiyama (fifth from right), Shaka At-Tinnin (sixth from right) and Ray Sasaki. (Photo courtesy of Mo Nishida)

By MO NISHIDA

I have known Richard Aoki off and on since the late 1960s and more intensely after his retirement.

I consider him a friend, komrad, mentor and crime partner in our mutual quest for freedom, justice and equality. We both considered ourselves Maoists and tried our best to “serve the people” with this tool.

So, to have an opportunistic jerk all of a sudden come out with a conclusion that Richard was an inu/snitch/informant pissed me off to no end.

Seth Rosenfeld, the author of the book and accuser, claims to have investigated over 30 years for the materials in his book. Yet the only source he cites is FBI records. NO OTHER SOURCES, just FBI records and an old retired former agent now dead.

He also seems to have come to his conclusions fairly early on, meaning when both Richard and his so-called “handler” were still alive. To his credit, he videos an interview with Richard that he could have used as his platform but didn’t. He draws his conclusions in forceful terms after Richard is dead and gone and can’t defend himself.

The most telling point to me about this guy is that all this “expose” comes out THE DAY BEFORE his book hits the stands. And the manner it comes out is a call to the past of “YELLOW JOURNALISM.” All the media are notified and in the print media, accusatory large, bold-print headlines in the upper left-hand corner are shown. The Rafu is a good example of that journalistic style. After seeing the headlines, folks who didn’t know Richard jumped to the conclusion that he was/must have been an inu/snitch.

And all the articles that followed, defending Richard or at the very least protesting the jumping to conclusions, don’t mean jack; the damage is done. I hope The Rafu will have the guts to print this letter.

So much for this joker’s “serious investigative reporting” and “balanced objective presentation.” To sell his book, he would try to destroy another person’s reputation. The same goes for the media and their sensationalistic headlines. A simple investigation of the accusation and the evidence would have shown a red flag. Just one source? A definitive conclusion? The best examples of the capitalist “free press”! Anything that promotes sales is automatically good.

Another point I want to make is this. Anyone who opposes the powers that be in this country can expect to be attacked. History is full of examples; the infamous COINTELPRO operation of the FBI of the ’60s, Marcus Garvey of the ’20s, Reis Tijerina, the Fair Play Committee, etc. They were criminalized, killed, sent to prison and their reputations smeared. So for many of us, it’s not a matter of “if” or “why,” but of “when” and “how.”

For the San Francisco 8, it took over 30 years and a couple of grand juries to get a case that was based on torture confessions thrown out again. For Richard, it’s an aggressive reporter/wannabe author with no scruples, attacking him and doing the system’s work.

Now I’d like to present why I, who knew Richard personally, support him. In all oppressed  communities, there are those who stand for principle, come hell or high water. The Fair Play Committee folks come to mind during WWII/camp days. The opposite, the inu and gov’t favorite, the wartime JACL. The dialectic always presents itself.

The great Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata said it most clearly: he would prefer dying on his feet to living on his knees. Richard preferred the former. In our community there is a saying that covers that choice, “baka shojiki” (stupidly honest). We have them, you know, principled womyn and men who can’t be bought.

In our history as a community, just as with all other oppressed peoples, whether foreign-born or U.S.-born, communist, anarchist, Trotskyist, Red Guards, Asian hard core, East Wind Collective, I Wor Kuen, League of Revolutionary Struggle or Communist Workers Party, some of our people have stood up; for freedom. justice, equality and socialism. Not the majority, of course, but some of us. And we, that part of us who identify with the 99%, should be proud of them. They are a proud  part of our history and legacy.

Again, should we be surprised by this attack? If we study the history of the left and those who have stood up to “the man,” we shouldn’t be. The question isn’t why but when. And how, what excuse? “The man” will try to criminalize you or kill you. Defame you and/or jail you.

The FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) killed over 30 Panthers and jailed scores of others, all by writing slanderous letters, setting up and railroading many others, with many still in prison 40 years later.

What can we learn from this attack on our community?

First: Don’t jump to conclusions; check out the source, what are they saying and what side they are on. Try to get all the facts. It may come in handy down the road.

Second: Don’t get paranoid or suspicious of everybody and most of all, don’t be afraid to state your opinions in an open and frank way. That’s what “they” want, to chill and scare folks off, to force one to live on their knees.

Third: We have to think of ways to effectively screen folks, without being overly protective and self-righteous. After all, I believe our goals and the process is to develop ourselves to become more open, caring, trusting and loving human beings that will fit in and help to develop the new society that is needed right now, in our people-to-people relations and our people-to-MotherEarth relations.

Hope to see some of you all on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. in the Social Hall of Centenary United Methodist Church, 300 S. Central Ave. in the heart of L.A.’s Japanesetown. My contact: (323) 371-4502.

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Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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