Author Archive: TimN

Operation Payback, Anonymous and Wikileaks: A look at tactics, morality and innovation

Nearly two weeks after my first post on Wikileaks, their diplomatic cables and the resulting fall out continue to make the front page news. The arrest of Assange and attacks on Mastercard, Visa and Paypal by “Operation Payback” have garnered far more attention then the cables themselves. The New York Times quoted one Internet guru comparing Operation Payback to the battle at Lexington that started the Revolutionary war in the United States.

In looking at “Operation Payback” and its denial of service attacks, journalists have begun to focus on Anonymous, which is typically described as the group of hackers behind the attacks. Some portray it as a shadowy cadre of internet vigilantes, meeting somewhere out there in the ether, plotting their next strike. Others paint a heroic picture of activists fighting for free speech against giant corporations and governments. Estimates of the number of people (or computers) involved vary widely.

A little bit of history is useful in understanding Anonymous. I first came became aware of Anonymous through their Project Chanology campaign which focused around opposition to Scientology. In their protests outside Scientology offices, they wore masks modeled on that worn by the main character in V is for Vendetta. Along with demonstrations, their tactics used by Project Chanology were a lot like high school pranks: sometimes silly, sometimes crude, often juvenile and always motivated by a strong sense of righteous indignation. The collective culture of Anonymous was born in the /b/ section 4chan, an internet forum worthy of its own lengthy article. Suffice it to say that 4chan thrives on trolling, griefing, digital bullying and generally offensiveness of all sorts.


Wikileaks’ Cablegate as a threat to empire: Cyber Command scrambles

Today Wikileaks began its release of over 250,000 diplomatic cables in conjunction with media outlets around the world. I believe the work they are doing is on the emerging edge of resistance to US imperialism. The releases not only unmasks the powers in meticulous detail, but threaten the very mechanisms through which empire seek to influence, control and coerce. After all, if client states and their leaders know their collaboration with the U.S. could be published all over the world, they may be less ready to go along with imperial machinations.

For example in Newsweek, Christopher Dickey describe a cable in which Yemeni leaders promising to lie to their own people and parliament. He goes on to complain, “That bit of dialogue is not just embarrassing, it’s going to make the covert war against the most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise that much harder to wage.”

For once, it is the empire that it is on it’s back foot, scrambling to respond. (more…)

When we first visited Young Anabaptist Radicals PLUS first new poll in over a year!

Our poll “When did you first visit Young Anabaptist Radicals?” which ended today holds the record for longest running one in YAR history, clocking in at over a year and two months (It went up on September 24, 2009). Not surprisingly, it also holds the record for most responses at 183.

Because it’s been running so long, it’s been skewed a bit by all the first time visitors showing up and dutifully answering the questions, but I think the numbers themselves are quite interesting:

Year when you first visited YAR:
2006: 19
2007: 17
2008: 10
2009: 15
Last 3 months: 16
First time: 106 (more…)

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Chicago Style: More then Funny Signs?


I just got back from the satellite Rally to Restory Sanity and/or Fear here in Chicago. I’ve been reading the confused articles leading up to the rally. Is it all about irony? Is it about moderation? Is it about progressive politics? Is this the millennial generation’s Woodstock?

After spending half an hour wondering around the edges of the rally here in Grant Park, it’s clear that those in attendance weren’t sure either. On the stage were Chicago progressive (trying their best to show enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference in challenging Chicago’s corrupt politics) competing with a Chicago comedians making jokes about sandwiches.

Alongside the stage was a muted jumbotron showing Comedy Central’s live coverage of the D.C. rally. The most unifying cry the crowd could get behind while I was there was shouting, “Audio! Audio!” when Jon Stewart came on screen. That’s right: They’d come to stand with thousands of other people in the middle of Grant Park on a beautiful October day so that they could all watch television together. And the funny thing is that they weren’t trying to be ironic.

DSC_0021 (more…)

Queerness, Mennonites and Bullying: Beyond Spirit Day and Wearing Purple

This week on Thursday, people around the world wore purple in response to a spate of suicides has raised the profile of bullying dramatically. Specifically, bullying of gay and lesbian adolescents and teens. Watching this video of Google employees got me thinking about my own experiences of bullying as I grew up.

For the first 8 years of my education, I attended New Danville Mennonite School, a small Mennonite elementary school in Lancaster county. Almost as early as I can remember during my time there, I was picked on.

It started on the bus ride to school, which included two bus trips. The first one went from my home to Penn Manor, the local public high school. Most of the other riders were going to public elementary or high schools. The second bus took us from Penn Manor to New Danville and so only had kids going to New Danville. It was on the second bus, of mostly Mennonites, where I faced regular bullying and harassment through my early grade school years.

Often one or two kids would egg each other on and so the tradition was passed down from brother to brother and cousin to cousin. Some of the names they called me still hurt enough that I won’t repeat them here. I remember the bus drivers one or two ineffective attempts to stop the harassment. But it was impossible for them to maintain any discipline while safely driving a bus full of kids over Lancaster’s winding hills.

Starting in fifth grade, the bullying became more physical. It seems I was a good way for boys coming into their adolescence to try out their new-found strength. I remember Todd* in particular because he was the popular boy in the class. It was as if he was experimenting to see how much pain he could inflict, where hitting me under the desk in class or kicking me in the back while we walked down the hall.


Oppression analysis on its own isn’t enough: Becoming an Ally

Gears of Iowa

by Tim Nafziger and Mark Van Steenwyk

In July, Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman blogged some reflections on his visit with Mennonites from various Native groups in Ashland, Montana. He clearly describes the way white settlers’ sense of manifest destiny led to the clearing of the Cheyenne and other groups from their land. He acknowledges the deep trauma these communities have experience. He shares the effect this had on him personally. In other words, he knows that oppression is bad and that he as part of the dominant group, is complicit in it.

Stutzman concludes the article with a commitment to “walk alongside our Native American brothers and sisters as they seek God’s way for their future.” What does this mean, exactly? What does it look like to take the the tragic knowledge of history of oppression and the analysis of how this oppression continues and do something to make a difference?


A Poem for Hiroshima Day

The Necessity of Hiroshima: why we must believe

Act I

in The Year of Decisions, our savior Harry asked

“a committee of top men”
Men all carved from the same superior
Aspen, carefully lathed of their
“to study with great care”
care. Eviscerated as children, smiling
beneath strange fruit. They died for
“the implications the new”
the new; our idolatrous messiah. Our
silicon steel colossus will consume
“weapon might have for us”
us, our civilization. As surely as
Saturn Devouring His Son.

the scientific advisers of the committee reports:

“We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war;
we see no acceptable alternative to
direct military use.”

Act II

And so, 65 years ago today, an orange cloud blossomed above a city full of them for our salvation.



Goldman Sachs, the global food crisis and faith in corporations

Last week, Harper’s magazine published an article by looking at the link between the unabashed greed of big financial firms and the 2007—2008 world food crisis. The crisis resulted in the starvation of thousands, hunger for millions and riots in some of the countries hit hardest. For a window into the pain of an individual family in Ethiopioa, see this article in the Independent.

Kaufman’s article includes an in depth look at the history of commodity markets and futures trading and detailed explanation of how recent “innovations” led to a dramatic rise in food prices. The bottom line of Kaufman’s allegation is: big financial corporations manipulated the food market for their own profit and millions of people went without food as a result.

It’s worth noting that Kaufman is not critiquing the over all system of wheat futures. He is specifically pointing to “innovations” by the financial industry that created a “food bubble.”


CPT video of Israeli destruction of Palestinian tomatos going viral

With over 5,000 views and counting it looks like this video from the CPT Palestine team may be going viral. It seems like the absurdity of Israeli destruction of tomato plants is really connecting with people:

I’ve never really been connected with a video that has got this much attention before. In my capacity as CPT Outreach Coordinator, I’m trying to figure out how to best to build on this swell. My usual Google strategy failed since the keywords I thought of mostly turned up stuff on how to get a video to go viral. But once it is on that trajectory, what do you do about it? Anyone out there have experience with this or resources on how to manage a viral video infection? For example, at what level of viewership do media sources start to get interested in the story of the viral video itself?

You can read the whole story of the tomato destruction on the CPT website here: AL KHALIL/HEBRON: Israeli Border Police destroy vegetable fields in Al Beqa’a Valley

Sparking Renewal and Becoming Undone: What I’ve been up to recently

For the last few months I haven’t been as active on Young Anabaptist Radicals as usual. Aside from my normal work doing web design and work for Christian Peacemaker Teams, I took a class on Anabaptist History and Theology. I’ve also been part of organizing a gathering in conjunction with the US Social Forum in Detroit. It’s called Becoming Undone: a gathering of Christians drawn to Anabaptism and the continuing work of Undoing Opressions. Follow the link for more details. There’s still room if you register now!


I’ve also been very involved in a movement called Spark Renewal.

For many years, I’ve been fascinated (and disturbed) by the way that institutions tend to drift away from their original mission and towards self-preservation. I started writing about it in back in 2004, but the decision by Goshen College to start playing the anthem got me thinking about it a lot more. Around the same time friends started sharing their concerns and frustrations with the “Joining Together” campaign to build a new Mennonite Church office building on the campus of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries. (more…)

Bureaucracy, professionalism and dissent in Mennonite Church USA institutions

Jumping over the Sunset

This is the second article in a series on Mennonite Church USA and its institutions. Part 1 is here and part 3 is here.

In the first article of this series, I critiqued “professionalism” in Mennonite institutions without defining it clearly. In the comments responding to the article, a number of people rightly pointed out that professionalism plays a very important role in allowing us to work in consistent, safe and effective ways. As Alan Stucky said in his comment:

Make no mistake that our seriousness and professionalism had a hand in helping to get MVS be the first recognized Christian alternative service organization in 25 years. Professionalism is not inherently evil, or antithetical to the Gospel. Yes, it should be kept in check by the Gospel, but they are not opposites.

Roses shared in their comment about their experience of seeing God move through values of professionalism. Paco, on the other hand, over at Young Anabaptist Radicals speculated on how well Jesus would have done at project proposals and budgets.

I’d like to take the opportunity to define my concern with professionalism more specifically: I am concerned by the way it views internal dissent. During my meeting with Mennonite Mission Network staff that I referred to in the first article, two staff involved with the capital campaign defined professionalism as prohibiting them from publicly dissenting from their institutions public position. As they saw it, their only public option for public dissent was to resign from their organization.


Young Church of the Brethren Radicals

Things are picking up over at Feetwashing and Four Square, our sister blog started by Nick Miller Kauffman (nicolas here on YAR). I’d particularly commend to you the recent post Anabaptist Fierce by Katie Shaw Thompson. Here’s an excerpt on the relationship between some theories of nonviolence and white privilege:

Bob cited a weak (or rather antithetical) version of non-violent theory he often hears from seminarians as symptomatic of the problem. Concerning Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount commandment to “love your enemies” these seminarians want to claim that we have no enemies, which as Bob cited is not really nonviolent theory at all.

Only someone at the top of the food chain, with all kinds of privilege, could claim that we have no enemies. (more…)

Bureaucracy and Buildings in the Mennonite Church

Exhibition of Jean-Michel Folon. Photo by by Marco Bellucci CC BY 2.0

crossposted from As of Yet Untittled

A few weeks ago I sat down with a group of Mennonite Mission Network staff who have been managing the $10 million capital campaign for the new Mennonite Church USA building on the campus of Associated Mennonite Biblical seminaries in Elkhart, Ind. The staff members were meeting with a number of people inside and outside of the institution who have had significant concerns and questions about the direction this project is taking the church.

In listening to the the responses from Mission Network staff to theological and missiological questions raised by the dissenters, I was struck by how much they focused on institutional values such as finances, efficiency and professionalism. The conversation made real for me the way the institutions of the Mennonite church are centered on values of professionalism and institutional interests in their decision making process. I heard them asking: What would a professional do? before asking, “What would Jesus do?”


The messy meaning of Easter

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Over the years, I’ve been a semi-regular reader of Revolution in Jesusland (now archived at, a blog by Zack Exley. Zack was a secular progressive activist who discovered the church a few years ago and was blown away by what he describes as "the fourth great awakening", that is, the church discovering and acting on God’s heart for justice. The blog was an attempt to tell the story of this movement to secular progressives.

When I visited the blog again today after a long absence, I was introduced to his new baby daughter Esther and this powerful passage:

… one side effect of Esther’s arrival was that I had to take over some of Elizabeth’s responsibilities to friends in need. She was eight months pregnant but calls kept coming in from refugee families needing help with medical, legal, financial and paperwork emergencies. So I finally crossed the line that I had been resisting for 20 years: I started getting wrapped up in the messy details of other people’s hard lives — as opposed to "organizing" them, or advocating for "policy" to help them.

Finally getting my hands dirty in various hopeless situations stunned me into silence. What it actually did was give me TOO MUCH to say, and left me tongue tied.

For the past 20 years, I witnessed and condemned systemic injustice. I thrived on the drama of “organizing” against it. But I carefully avoided ever getting my hands dirty in the messy business of merely surviving in the face of it.

For me, the temptation to focus on the systemic injustice and to miss the personal is very real. (more…)

Never doubt that a small group of marginal wierdos chan change the world.

In fact, according to Clive Thompson, marginal weirdos brought us computer, democracy and the novel. Basically, Thompson argues that when the audience gets too big for a conversation, it stops taking risks. Which is why I’ve come to see these long posting breaks on YAR as pruning moments. A 10% drop in visits to YAR in March means 10% more risk taking! Another part of Thompson’s argument is the way small groups can have wider ripple effects.

For example, I have to admit that I’ve been a Twitter skeptic. I just can’t bring myself to try to squeeze a meaningful into 140 characters. Its probably quite closely tied with my lack of enthusiasm for texting. Maybe its a generational thing. But I discovered that technology doesn’t wait for us to get used to it. Turns out people have been tweeting about YAR for at least a year. (more…)