The Oaxaca Study-Action Group, its genesis
I went to the library one day last December, thinking of looking for kindred spirits and maybe donating some books. I looked in the card catalogue for titles that would interest me, to “size-up” whether the library might want books of current political interest. What I found was pretty dismal. 
But I ran into Tonee Mello (for the first time) and our social concerns resonated. The following week, on 27 Dec 2005, the two of us held the first meeting. Since then the new-born group met weekly, in space that the library graciously allowed us to use, 33 times, until, on the night of 12 Sept 2006 we were suddenly notified that the event scheduled for the following day, a presentation by Stephen Dunifer on community radio, was not welcome to meet at the library.
Previously the Oaxaca Study-Action Group (OSAG), the name adopted by the group, had held three well-publicized events at the library.  So far as I know, there were no complaints or other adverse reactions to these events. So,
What happened this time? Why was event No. 4 unwelcome? 
What happened in the five months between Lars Leer’s 13 April presentation and Stephen Dunifer’s planned 13 Sept presentation was the strike of state education workers that started 15 May and which has grown in the last four months into a vast popular movement demanding not only removal of the state governor but changing in a fundamental way the form of government of the state — an incipient revolution! With what appears to be a solid majority, the people of Oaxaca who see themselves as politically alert believe that the instituted government is illegitimate. The popular assembly leading the revolt, the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO)
is confronting at the state level, as the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)
and its allied parties are doing at the national level, the instituted governmental structure. But at a more profoundly revolutionary level, because APPO seeks to establish a state government without any political parties
, a government without the usual instituted hierarchical power structures. Both struggles are determinedly being pursued by non-violent, militant civil disobedience.
Under these circumstances the political climate naturally has become highly polarized. On one point all Mexicans appear to be in agreement: corruption in the government is thoroughly rampant, and unacceptable, but apparently cannot be eliminated. Despite repeated efforts it remains a deeply corrupting force in Mexican society. It is of course the wealthy and powerful who benefit personally from the corrupt state of affairs. It is from their ranks that the government draws its partisan defenders. By and large the opposition movements are based on the large impoverished sectors of the population, but also on substantial parts of the middle and professional classes.
Communication has been a key battleground in the contest between APPO and the Oaxaca state government. Governments, all governments, seek to monopolize the media by declaring that ‘unauthorized’ radio and television transmissions are illegal, and seeking to destroy ‘unlicensed’ stations. In that way control of the airwaves – the entire electromagnetic spectrum – can serve, as it largely does, the propaganda purposes of government and the mega-capital corporations that ‘own’ all major broadcast facilities, and whose interests are served by government. Community radio and television is targetted because it permits people to communicate directly with one another the truth of their life experiences, it allows for ‘counter-propaganda’.
Free speech? Sabotaged at OLL when it comes to
information about community radio!
Here was the first indication of questionable things afoot:
David C Myler <email@example.com
Sep 12, 2006 7:44 PM
Mello, Tonee <firstname.lastname@example.org
Davies, Nancy <email@example.com
>, Ricardez, Alvaro <firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Tonee --
Regretfully, the library needs to withdraw its invitation to hold the talk by Dunifer at the Library. We are getting just too much “heat” from our membership over this. As you know, this is a time of volatile feelings and the library cannot afford to be caught in the middle of all of this. As you also know, the library has only recently come through years of conflict into a time of peace and calm. The library simply cannot afford to go back into a time of such strife.
You know I have tried to be supportive but the library's needs ultimately come first and I believe that withdrawing the invitation (in consultation with Board President Bill Pumphrey) is in the best interest of the library.
David later forwarded it to me, at:
Tue, 12 Sep 2006 20:36:38 -0500.
Some hours earlier David had received the following e-mail, from a party (or parties) unknown and still, so far as I know, unidentified. He had forwarded it to Bill Pumphrey, the OLL Board President, and to Board member Tonee Mello, who in turn forwarded it to me. Here is the rat revealed.
Linda Anderson <email@example.com
Sep 12, 2006 2:33 PM
Linda Anderson <firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday September 12, 2006
Dear fellow Oaxaca resident,
The Oaxaca Library Website at this time has at the top center of its home page an item entitled “First Hand Crisis Reports” with a link to “a page of first hand reports by Oaxaca residents”. The page starts with a “report” by self described anarchist-communist activist George Salzman. The “report” is little more than propaganda for Mr. Salzman's political meddling in Oaxaca and provides support for the activities of the APPO. The Library is making a grave error in allowing its web space to be usurped in this way. The Salzman report provides links to other politically active “revolutionary” groups in Oaxaca.
Mr. Salzman’s “report” also publicizes his “Oaxaca Study-Action Group” (OSAG) . This group is in sympathy and support of the APPO, it is based here in Oaxaca and is actively involved in the overthrow of the established Government of the State of Oaxaca.
Tomorrow, Wednesday September 13 at 2 pm, the weekly meeting of OSAG will, as usual, be held at the Oaxaca Lending Library. The speaker will be Stephen Dunifer. The title of the presentation is “Project TUPA (Transmitters uniting the peoples of the Americas) and Community Radio”.
Mr. Dunifer provides information and expertise on the installation and use of clandestine radio stations to revolutionary people’s movements throughout the world. He has involved himself with revolutionary activity in East Timor, El Salvador, Haiti and with Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas in Chiapas. Now he intends to meddle in the politics of Oaxaca by supplying and setting up radio transmitters for anti-government people’s movements. The presentation tomorrow at the Oaxaca Library could well attract large numbers of APPO members, supporters, activists and informants from whatever side. I suspect that both of these guys, Dunifer and Salzman, would get off on turning this meeting into a media event. Library member and OSAG activist Nancy Davies could do the story for Narco News “American activists lend support to APPO”.
The Library is putting itself at great risk by hosting the OSAG meetings and by providing a web venue for ultra left wing social activists such as George Salzman. The disclaimer that the OSAG is not part of or supported by the OLL will have little effect on what the general public and government perception will be. The perception will be that the Library is now meddling in politics and is in active support of the APPO. I am sure the government of Mexico will not be too pleased with such activity and the good folks at Migra will not be left unaware.
I hope it is not too late to cancel the OSAG meeting at the library and remove the Salzman report from the oaxlibrary website.
Thank you and I welcome your comments/feedback.
I wrote David a note late that night, at Date:
Tue, 12 Sep 2006 23:36:13 -0500, but it had a small typo and an incomplete sentence, and I followed it some hours later with a corrected statement, the essential part of which is at. 
In effect it expresses my disappointment, but also my appreciation for his past efforts to support free speech at the library. David wrote back the following day, Thursday, asking to speak at the next OSAG meeting: 
I responded that same day with my personal welcome. 
The following day, Friday, I dropped by the library to talk with Dave so he could hear from me face-to-face and not just by e-mail. He said he was sure the perpetrator(s) was a right-wing fanatic who had acquired a large number of e-mail addresses of library members and was responsible for stirring a good deal of fear among them. Today, Monday 18 Sept I dropped by the library again. Dave still had no idea of the provocateur(s)’ identity. He had received yet another e-mail, this one from ‘anonymous’, i.e. so marked as the sender. Fun and games for a sick person or group.
The final irony
I was initially intrigued by the fact that although Dave had acted to prevent Stephen Dunifer’s presentation at the library, the other goal of the saboteur(s), to “remove the Salzman report from the oaxlibrary website” had not been acceded to by Bill Pumphrey. It was still there on the OLL website on Friday, and perhaps on Saturday, I don’t recall. But yesterday, Sunday, Bill had removed the box in the center column of the home page that had read,
At the request of members and friends who are not receiving news of the political crisis in Oaxaca, we are undertaking a page of first hand reports by Oaxaca residents. The Library does not endorse these viewpoints and offers them as a service to our members. . .
with the invitation to contribute to the column.
The irony is that in place of this honest attempt by Bill to respond to requests of OLL members and friends for news of the political crisis in Oaxaca, he replaced that center top box with the announcement
Latin American Group
Meets September 29
“Rebellion of the Hanged” by B. Traven will be discussed at the next meeting of the Latin American Book Group at the Library at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, September 29th. Click here for a listing of future selections to be discussed this year.
The anonymous provocateur(s), supposedly concerned about the well-being of the library, had written “The Library is putting itself at great risk . . . by providing a web venue for ultra left wing social activists such as George Salzman.” Of the three postings that had been there, only mine was cited as offensive by the writer(s), but when Bill removed the box, he took down all three reports, thereby denying the “requests of OLL members and friends for news of the political crisis in Oaxaca.”
In its place he announced a supposedly inoffensive discussion by the Latin American Book Group, a discussion of a book by one of the greatest anarchist novelists of all time, Bruno Traven, a novel that deals with the brutal conditions of the most oppresed Mexicans during the period of Porfírio Díaz a century ago. Ah! How much more comfortable it is to contemplate the sufferings of long ago than to pay attention to the misery of millions whose lives are being destroyed by a social system of which we are the privileged beneficiaries! So let’s turn to trivial pursuits to amuse and divert ourselves. Traven wrote, “It is a curious fact that the majority of men who know one another find themselves uncomfortable if they have nothing to talk about. That is why they indulge in so many stupidities when they get together that their words are even more empty than the gossipings of women.” The Rebellion of the Hanged, Allison & Busby (London & New York) 1952, p.14.
Americans — I don’t really know for sure that the coward(s) this account involves are American(s), but from the language of the anonymous e-mails it seems pretty clear to me I’m guessing correctly.
 Paucity of books of political interest to me.
– Nothing by Robert Fisk, the outstanding Middle East correspondent for the British paper, The Independent, two of whose books had enormous impact on me, opening a world of information of which I had previously known little.
– Nothing by Norman G. Finkelstein, historian known for his highly critical analysis of apologists for and supporters of the government of Israel.
– Noam Chomsky, merely a single volume, 9-11, published in 2001.
– Alan Dershowitz, a notorious apologist for the government of Israel, The Advocate’s Devil, published in 1994.
– The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert, LC No.940.53 G, a volume unknown to me.
 Prior well-publicized public events held, and well attended, at the Oaxaca Lending Library.
1) 2 Feb 2006, “Inside the Zapatista Communities”, an informal talk and discussion led by Professor Richard Stahler-Sholk <email@example.com>, who was studying Zapatista base communities’ efforts to achieve autonomy.
2) 14 Feb 2006, an open discussion following the Zapatista Otra Campaña tour in Oaxaca, facilitated in part by Dr.Vicki Lindsay <firstname.lastname@example.org>, a mathematics educator involved with indigenous teaching programs.
3) 13 April 2006, “Local Autonomy, What it is and Why it matters”, an informal talk and discussion led by Dr. Lars Leer <email@example.com>, based on his experience in indigenous communities doing research for his doctoral thesis.
 The fourth well-publicized public event, which was cancelled at the last moment.
4) 13 Sept 2006, “Project TUPA (Transmitters uniting the peoples of the Americas) and Community Radio”, an informal talk and discussion led by Stephen Dunifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>, an engineer who for many years has promoted community-controlled radio as a means of open communication among people, unmediated by government or corporate control.
Subject: Re: Last minute cancellation of Stephen Dunifer event at the Ooxaca Lending Library
From: George Salzman <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2006 05:20:55 -0500
To: David Myler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: Bill Pumphrey <email@example.com>, Tonee Mello <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Linda Anderson <email@example.com>, Nancy Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Alvaro Ricardez <email@example.com>
Oaxaca, Wednesday, 13 September 2006
Please replace my note to you last night with the following, very slightly modified statement:
I was disappointed to learn that you, in consultation with Bill Pumphrey, cancelled the Oaxaca Study-Action Group event planned for Steven Dunifer’s presentation regarding community radio.
I received the letter from Linda Anderson to you, which you forwarded to Bill Pumphrey and Tonee Mello, when Tonee forwarded it to me.
. . .
I very much appreciate your effort to maintain an environment open to discussion of important issues, in the best tradition of respecting free speech. I regret that you now feel sufficiently strong objection to that policy on the part of some expatriates that you bowed to the pressure. Although I haven’t responded to Linda Anderson’s letter, which I believe does an injustice to me, I want to share with you a partial file of correspondence that has all but engulfed me in recent days. Except for two or three polite requests to be removed from my “large” e-mail distribution list (about 1500 addresses), Ms. Anderson’s statement is the first one I received that characterizes negatively my efforts to disseminate the truth as I understand it and to act in accordance with my understanding.
 David’s note asking to speak at the next OSAG meeting.
Subject: Attend Meeting
From: David C Myler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 15:34:08 -0500
To: Davies, Nancy <email@example.com>, George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear OSAG (courtesy of George and/or Nancy) ---
I would appreciate permission to have a few minutes of your time at the next OSAG meeting. I would begin my sharing by apologizing to OSAG for the unfortunate events of the last few days caused primarily by decisions made by me.
Also, in a separate email, I am passing on another missive sent by the mysterious Linda Anderson.
I do hope to have your indulgence of my presence at the next meeting.
OLL Library Manager
 My reply personally welcoming the opportunity to hear what David has to say.
Subject: Re: Attend Meeting
From: George Salzman <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 21:08:29 -0500
To: David C Myler
Oaxaca, Thursday, 14 September 2006
I personally would be glad to not only welcome you to the meeting but to learn your concerns, if any, about the Library and/or OSAG. I hope the people at the meeting will share that sentiment so that we may hear from you directly in person.
Although I don’t intend to give further publicity to “Linda Anderson” (if “she” is a single individual and a woman), I want you to know that “she” sent a mysterious note to me last evening, which I will ignore, along with anything further “she” sends me. I believe “she” is acting as a deliberate provocateur, spreading speculations and lies about several of us involved in OSAG. Whether “she” is simply ignorant, somewhat paranoid, or acting on behalf of some agency that retained her for the malignant purpose of destroying the OLL and/or OSAG I don’t know. But as we all know, OSAG is totally open, with nothing to hide. Her attribution of illegal acts to any of the members of OSAG and/or the group are unworthy of a response. When I got the first note you forwarded to me my immediate thought was that “she” was attempting to play the kind of disgusting role made famous by that sleezy lawyer, Roy Cohn, who worked for the equally sleezy junior representative from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy on the House Un-American Affairs Committee. To my knowledge “she” has no standing, we don’t even know “her” identity, and I believe the best thing would be to ignore “her”, i.e. deny “her” the publicity “she” seems to be grasping for. I checked the Oaxaca telephone directory, but did not find “her” listed. Tonee told me (I think it was night before last) that he had dropped by the Library and that “she” was not a member.
With best wishes,
George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome. <firstname.lastname@example.org>