POV: This live chat with 'Better This World' filmmakers and film subject Bradley Crowder starts in about 15 minutes at 2 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011. If you're here early, you can enter your questions or comments now, and we'll queue them up for our guests.
POV: We're just about to get started with Katie, Kelly and Brad. We'll be moderating your questions and comments, so they won't appear immediately, but we will be able to see them all and we will get to as many as we can!
POV: Welcome all to our live chat about 'Better This World' with directors Katie Galloway, Kelly Duane de la Vega and Bradley Crowder.
POV: Hello Katie, Kelly and Brad. Thanks for joining us!
POV: Katie and Kelly, can you tell us why you decided to make this film?
Katie Galloway: We first heard about the story in early 2009 when David was about to go to trial. We knew that he had been charged with domestic terrorism and that his defense was entrapment.
Katie Galloway: We'd heard or read about a lot of these cases -- scary headlines about terror plots and then later, and much less covered, an allegation of misconduct by a government agent or informant
Katie Galloway: We wanted to look behind the headlines at one of these cases and see what we'd find out.
Comment From Finn
How long did it take to gain the trust of the people you included in your film besides your two main subjects? Did the FBI have any stipulations?
Katie Galloway: We first met David and his attorney. It was the eve of David's trial - he was looking at 30 years. At that point he was pretty desperate to tell his story -- which, from his perspective -- had been told in very black and white terms.
Katie Galloway: He said that day that he wished that he could just sit down with the judge but the system doesn't work that way.
Katie Galloway: Once he opened up to us and we established trust, his family also opened up
Kelly: We developed a relationship with the FBI over the course of 11 months. We met with EK Wilson for an informal meeting the May before we interviewed him in November. They were open to talking about the case after Brad and David were sentenced. They didn’t dictate what we could talk about, they answered all the questions we asked of them.
Katie Galloway: We didn't meet Brad until months later - after he was sentenced. We actually filmed with Brad's mom before we filmed with Brad.
Katie Galloway: That scene where Brad call's Twila and says "they're threatening me" was actually the first time we "filmed with" brad.
Comment From Eleanor
Terrific job, guys. I'm wondering how different you think the film would have been if you had gotten an interview with Brandon.
Kelly: We really wanted an interview with BD and tried hard to get it. It is impossible to say what it would be like if he had directly participated, certainly it would have opened up the film to another first hand account of the events as they transpired.
Katie Galloway: Fortunately the archival interviews of Brandon really give viewers a sense of how Brad and David saw him -- and the heart of our story is really what that relationship was about. David and Brad say that the Brandon on tape was the Brandon they experienced -- full of righteous indignation, sense of duty to larger political and social causes and also militant.
Comment From Speechless
For Bradley: At any point in time, did you find Brandon Darby suspicious? Did you question why he didn't do that which he asked of you?
Bradley Crowder: Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back there are some moments that were clear red flags. There were things he insinuated that he had exclusive knowledge about, namely the death of the Palestinian-rights activist Riad Hamad. There were also things he asked of me that made me think twice, like when he asked me at one point about attacking police. (To which I responded negatively, by the way.) But he was so established, and so respected, that it seemed like naive paranoia to think that the Feds would waste time with an informant on David and me.
Comment From Clara
For Brad: How do you feel about Brandon Darby now? Have you seen him at all since you got out of prison?
Bradley Crowder: I never questioned why he was asking things of me that he wasn't doing. We had explicit conversations where I told him I was trying to learn and I wanted him to teach me. I basically told him "I don't know what I'm doing. You do. Tell me what to do and I'll do it." A stupid and embarrassing thing for me to say, but that was our relationship.
Bradley Crowder: As far as Brandon now... I suppose it's complex. I don't hate him. I'm frustrated and disappointed. If he would have had serious principles and was a more critically thinking, thoughtful person, he could be doing amazing things for social struggle. He had contradictions and problems but we all do. Those things could have been worked through, I think, if he would have had the strength to confront those things inside himself. Unfortunately he didn't do that and chose to make his opportunistic and unprincipled moves for his own personal reasons.
Comment From Clara
If I am interested in following this issue, what are the best websites, news media and blogs to look at?
Bradley Crowder: I haven't seen or spoken to him since my release, and am not particularly interested in doing so.
Katie Galloway: There are many but off the top of my head I'd say definitely check out the current issue of Mother Jones magazine, which is devoted to issues addressed in the film. There's a terrific piece by Trevor Aronson about the scope of the informant network... there's also a great article in the current issue of Harper's "To Catch a Terrorist" by Petra Bartosiewicz. I'd also check out "Green is the New Red". Alexandra Napatoff's Snitch blog is great. All this and more is available at our page on POV's site.
Comment From Dumbfounded
For Bradley: Do you think your incarceration changed you? Do you think you NEEDED changing?
Bradley Crowder: There is also an article that I recommend titled "Why Misogynists Make Great Informants."
Bradley Crowder: As for my incarceration, yes, it changed me.
Katie Galloway: When we started making the film in early 2009 we imagined it being part of a 10th anniversary conversation.
Bradley Crowder: It has to. A person can't go through that experience unchanged. The question is, I think, how do people who go through prison change? On who's terms? And to what effect?
Comment From Tristan H.
With the film premiering around the anniversary of 9/11, what sort of response has it gotten?
Katie Galloway: We didn't know what we'd find... but we knew we'd have a close to the bone, deep look at one case -- and hoped that would be a worthwhile contribution.
Katie Galloway: Happily there really has been a bubbling up of conversations about the issues addressed in the film and we do feel like its become part of something bigger -- an awakening of sorts about what's changed since 9/11
Katie Galloway: What's at stake in terms of our civil liberties and whether the way we're spending trillions in the terror war makes the most sense for the country.
Comment From Leslie Finnegan Conn
Great film. Make sure you watch this with your teenage children. They need to see what can happen to them in our current world if they get caught up with the wrong friends.
Comment From Dumbfounded
For filmmakers Kelly and Katie: What impact do you think the film will have on the use of informants in counter-terrorism efforts? (By the way, this film absolutely blew me away.)
Katie Galloway: I think a whole new generation of activists are having their consciousness raised about the depth and breadth of the informant network -- something that activists of the 60s and 70s knew well but has not been at the forefront since then...
Kelly: In terms of changing FBI policy, I doubt it will have a direct impact. I do think that this film, along with a few other works of journalism (like recent piece in Mother Jones, Harpers, and the New Yorker) about informant use is going to raise awareness in the activist communities
Bradley Crowder: I think for current activists today, this story highlights the need to connect hypermilitancy and machismo to a solid critique of patriarchy and sexism. What the State does, outside of having a broad and powerful mass movement, we have very little control over. What we can control, I think, is the way activists and those involved in struggle can approach the reality of informants and provocateurs inside movements.
Katie Galloway: several people who experienced informant use in one way or another since the 60s have said that this film highlights something important...
Katie Galloway: That the most militant among you... the one egging people on and looking for "action" -- may very well be the informant
POV: Brad, can you talk about the impact of the film in Austin? Has anything changed there in terms of activism and meetings?
Bradley Crowder: Here in Austin, it has sent many people reeling, and for a while, folks were really scared to have any kind of relationship to activism. It took some time and some people really trying to fight against that fear before any sense of normalcy really returned.
Katie Galloway: And that's a super important thing for young activists to know. There's a term "emergency heart" that we heard from Scott Crow who is in the movie.
Comment From Bethany
For Bradley: After all that you've been through, do you still believe in what you were originally fighting for?
Kelly: At a screening of the film in Berkeley a lawyer for the Chicago 10 stood up and said time and time again in the 60s the person egging people on to take more violent action was an informant. Hopefully people will listen to themselves rather than take the bait, and remain peaceful in their protest.
Katie Galloway: Its when a young activist feels, quite suddenly, all the injustice of the world and thinks something dramatic needs to happen RIGHT NOW.
Bradley Crowder: The short and simple answer is, "Yes."
Comment From Chris M.
Brad, what activism are you a part of now? What causes do you champion and identify with?
Katie Galloway: I relate to that -- I experienced it myself in my teens and early '20s -- and I think I would have been easily seduced by an informant during those times...
Bradley Crowder: I became active because I believe people should be free, should have control over their own lives and the institutions that affect their lives. I still believe that. The method has matured, but the principles remain.
Katie Galloway: I think Brad and David's deep politicization came - unfortunately for them, perhaps - in the age of the terror war
Comment From Curt
What do you think of all the negative backlash towards Brandon and the polar responses to the film? There's been a lot of angry back and forth between those who support the FBI's actions and those who don't.
Katie Galloway: I understand the backlash against Brandon from many -- but I think animosity toward him is, in many respects, misplaced.
Katie Galloway: For people who feel an injustice was done here - that Brad and David were entrapped or at least that something was wrong with how this case went down --
Comment From Gestet
Brad, Clara asked how do you feel about BD now? Do you feel vengeful? Or do you chalk it up to lesson learned & forgive him?
Katie Galloway: we feel they should be thinking more broadly about the post 9/11 domestic security apparatus... the government's role in how they use the informants... rather than on Brandon per se.
Katie Galloway: At one point David says "its terrible to be a pawn in somebody else's game." My sense is that Brandon is also to some degree a pawn in the game...
Bradley Crowder: I don't feel much. It is what it is, I suppose. There isn't much to do other than learn from it and move on. I'm not vengeful or hateful towards him But, especially as long as David is in prison, I can't say I forgive him either. It's just not something I dwell on. There's too much work to do, to many problems to deal with.
Comment From Gladys
How did Brandon Darby and the FBI agents react after seeing the film?
Comment From Rico
Thanks POV for airing this great film. Brad, how would you respond to viewers who say, "Well, I think what the FBI & Brandon did was wrong, but Brad & David did MAKE the molotov cocktails, and that's a pretty bad thing…"?
Katie Galloway: We don't really know yet... but plan to get in touch with them now that its broadcast. We'll do a follow up before long on this page...
Katie Galloway: I would agree with that viewer in terms of Brad and David's actions.
Katie Galloway: We're not trying to minimize what they did. But for me...
Comment From barbara
wonderful - yet disturbing film - thank you to the film makers for showing how much power informants have in the outcome- wondering if there is any follow up on how David is doing in prison and if Bradley and David are in touch with each other
Katie Galloway: the broader question is whether they were entrapped. And one definition of entrapment... and its the one that makes most sense from my perspective...
Bradley Crowder: Making the Molotov cocktails was a pretty dumb thing to do. It's certainly something I have to take responsibility for. I think a person asking that question is looking for an easier answer than exists, perhaps looking for something more black and white. I think it's just more complex and if a person is looking for easy villains or heroes, he or she will probably be disappointed.
Katie Galloway: is would the person or people accused of a crime have committed that crime were it not for hanging out with a government agent or informant.
Katie Galloway: I am speaking for myself now - not for the whole filmmaking team necessarily - but I do not believe that Brad and David would have even gone to Minneapolis were it not for Brandon.
Katie Galloway: Brad: what do you think?
Bradley Crowder: As for going to MN, there was a national meeting a couple months before the protests that Brandon adamantly wanted me to go to. I couldn't afford it. I told him I wasn't particularly interested in going, and he told me that if I went, he would pay for everything, gas, food, hotels, everything.
Comment From Tim
Hey all, really liked the film and it's been real interesting to see the comments Brandon has been getting on Twitter today. A lot of them are really hateful and polarized. I mean, I don't agree with what Brandon did, but do you think that kind of response is productive? How does it make you feel to see that? Is there a way that people can channel their frustration in a better way?
Bradley Crowder: A short time later, half of the people who went with us to MN for the protests were from Houston, and neither group knew each other. It was Brandon that made the connections and organized the meetups. If we never would have met, I don't think we would have had the money to go. Perhaps not the motivation either.
Bradley Crowder: There's no point hating on Darby. Only Darby can change himself, and only if he feels he needs to. Our focus should be on the institutions, the State.
Katie Galloway: On this I would refer people to my previous answer. I think an intense focus on and hostility toward Brandon is misguided. I hope people would channel that energy in a more productive way... buy focusing on the larger political and economic forces that created this situation. For one: who's idea was it to put an incredibly accomplished, charismatic activist 10 years their senior with a couple of young guys with no criminal history.
Kelly: David is doing okay in prison. It hasn't been easy for him. He has had to deal with a lot pain, loss of friendship and drifting apart from those central to his life prior to all this happening, but he has also grown a lot. He is a strong young man. He continues to work on his art which is amazing and while he has anxiety about getting out, we are very optimistic that when he is on the outside he'll lead a successful life.
POV: Can I ask you to answer the question about David. How is he doing in prison and have you had any contact with him?
Kelly: We have had contact. We've visited him multiple times, I think we have been his only visitors in prison, sadly. We are on email with him and talk on the phone with him from time to time.
POV: Thanks. I think we're running out of time. Just a few more questions...
POV: there is one question from a guest, who did the mellow guitar work in the music from the film?
Kelly: The wonderful and talented Paul Brill was the composer, he did most of the music through out the film.
Comment From Steve
For Bradley: What if one piece of advice you would give to a young activist today?
Comment From Gestet
Kelly & Katie: Do either of you have any projects in the works now or aspirations for any future film making?
Bradley Crowder: The most important lesson to take away is that young activists don't have to prove anything to anyone. Their frustration and impatience is understandable. I still feel it. But we can't substitute our drive and commitment, no matter how strong it is, for a mass movement. We have to channel it away from acts of desperation and into serious movement building. But we can do it. We have to. There's just too much at stake to make the same mistakes I made.
Katie Galloway: This is Kelly's and my first film together but definitely won't be our last. We're mulling a number of ideas / subjects for our next film but nothing is firm yet.
POV: And remember, you can 'like' Better This World at http://www.facebook.com/betterthisworld…
Katie Galloway: We've decided that this is our month to find our calling... but its not something to go into lightly.
POV: And stay in touch with the filmmakers at their official site: http://www.loteriafilms.com
Katie Galloway: As independents - we can assume that the life of a project will be at least 2 years from concept through festivals etc. Gotta love that subject.
POV: Thanks so much for participating in our chat, Katie, Kelly and Brad!
POV: We're sorry we couldn't get to all of your questions.
Bradley Crowder: Thanks for having me and thanks for all the questions.
POV: We really appreciate everyone spending part of your afternoon with us today!
POV: If your friends haven't seen Better This World yet, don't forget that it is streaming on the POV website until October 7th at http://www.pbs.org/pov/betterthisworld
POV: Here are some of the links and books that the filmmakers mentioned earlier.
POV: Mother Jones magazine: "The Informants"
POV: Harper's magazine: "To Catch a Terrorist"
POV: "Green is the New Red" by Will Potter
POV: Alexandra Napatoff's Snitching blog and her book
POV: And more links and books at the POV 'Better This World' website: http://www.pbs.org/pov/betterthisworld/links_books.php
POV: Thanks again. Good bye!