It’s been about a year now since this started – the threats, the fake accounts, the smearing. When local QMI papers got in on the action, and started framing the narrative, I wasn’t surprised. Much of all of this past year was something I knew was coming. I know, fundamentally, that when you are involved in campaigns that run on a model not geared toward popularity and that, admittedly, sometimes look very ugly – you will face that back on you. I knew that was going to come both from the opposition, but also from within the supposed “community” or “movement” as people vie for messaging and influence. I also knew that my role in important actions to support the survivors of sexual assault and harassment in my community, as well as my solidarity politics and actions alongside my efforts to hold larger non profits in the area accountable would all add to this. Accepting that this is all “ok” is something I will never do, but I do not organize without the knowledge that this happens.
The only thing that has surprised me is the level of fixation that some have adopted – some for the entire year. I know that some of the most vocal people spreading mis information about me are people who are unwell. That’s not just coming from me, but also from family members of those people who have reached out acknowledging the issue and trying to help. Of all of the positions currently trying to take aim – this is the position that I carry regret about and this is the position I want to apologize to.
There are many people who are isolated who come to these issues looking for a community. The focus of a campaign like Marineland Animal Defense is not a typical AR or anti-captivity campaign. The baseline for involvement is a respect for diversity of tactics as well as a baseline in anti-oppression. These two things were seen as barriers to some who wanted to engage and their reaction to them was extremely negative. In responding, I was frequently sarcastic or flippant with these people who, from my perspective, refused to be accountable. I realize now that my responses made people who already feel small feel even smaller. To me, that is what I trace their fixation to. It does not excuse the behaviors of others to stalk, threaten or smear me, or call for a change in tactics/anti-oppressive policies. It has, however, been a lesson to me. These people came to an issue feeling as though I played a central role. When they felt excluded and lashed out, my responses hurt them. This has come back to haunt me, and in hindsight it should.
Around this, this group have been organized by people who have made up the periphery of messaging around this issue and directed them against myself and the M.A.D. campaign. Over the last year this has played out with seemingly endless online commentary about me personally and my role with Marineland Animal Defense. It has escalated to the point now where; any event or speaking event has threats placed on it, I typically wake up in the morning to threats in my inboxes, numerous coordinated fake online accounts are active on every story/thread about myself/MAD and an anonymously run website has shifted focus to “exposing” me as a “fraud.” Folks are now even so bold to publicly introduce a hashtag #BringPowellDown – a sign that their advocacy goals and focus have clearly shifted.
Throughout this past year I have read that; I did not graduate from Brock University, I do youth advocacy to indoctrinate young kids into my “cult,” that I have defrauded donors and M.A.D. as an organization, that I have lied about a court ruling and restricted others in their activism, that I don’t care about animals anymore and only care about the “Indians,” that I am Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, etc, etc. There is no basis for any of these claims and I believe the people who make them rely on a network to assauge each other that there must be some truth. I don’t seek this stuff out – it comes by way of screen shots by concerned friends and allies – so I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Personally, and as a group, M.A.D. has had various responses to these claims. At the beginning we were more apt to respond, believing that the motives of the people bringing this information forward were honest. Immediately, we realized that the goalposts merely shift. There are claims being made about me publicly that I have responded to – at length – months ago. Clearly my response is not important. This then brought on a stage of sarcasm and responding to threats in kind. This escalated the situation and, in hindsight, was a huge mistake. If people do not listen to your response, then do not communicate with them further. There intentions are already set.
What has followed is months of Marineland Animal Defense and myself trying to keep a policy of only responding to situations which we cannot legally ignore. In those instances we make one position statement, post it publicly, and move on. We know those position statement are divisive, but we also know first hand that Marineland will use these people against us to extract more concessions. In these instances we cannot remain silent. We have tried to keep to this policy as things continue to escalate and, admittedly, sometimes fail.
I wanted to break slightly with that tradition and write something here for friends and family to let them know that I know what is going on and hopefully to try and bring down their level of concern. I’d rather not receive screenshots or hear about this stuff. I’ve long blocked these individuals and would rather go on organizing without have to hear about or answer to claims coming from this crowd. It is an entirely wasteful and counter productive exercise.
Aside from that, as I know this will be read by that crowd as everything I write, say, do is – I wanted to acknowledge that I fucked up in the way I treated some of the people who came to this issue and felt excluded. I have not posted names, for quite a long time now, and I will not unless there is absolutely no other option. My hope is that for this specific group you find the support and help you need. People who are encouraging you to continue on with what you are doing are not interested in your health or well being and are using you for their own aims. Don’t let that desire for a community be leveraged by them, and please don’t give up hope of looking for a positive and supportive community. I am deeply sorry that you did not find one through this issue.