I recently celebrated my fifth anniversary of freedom from all things “American.” Ironically, it coincided with the inauguration of Donald J Trump as POTUS. I’ve been a bit distracted by the confirmation hearings and the immediate movement via Executive Orders on some of the less than charming policies that to my mind and heart, are completely un-American. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the beginning of my expat saga, with the all-too-familiar horror of how vicious and unrelenting the US has become. The main thing that becomes apparent, is how important Brock has become, not only to all of you, but also, to me.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine any part of my expat experience that does not include Brock (probably about 6 weeks total). The site has been so much more than we anticipated. We developed our knowledge and outlook through combined research, in order to protect ourselves from the “alternative facts” being promoted at the time by the tax compliance industry, the media and government figures like Levin and Shulman. Secondly, it was the ONLY place expats could go for support; to get reassurance that this was not imagined or exaggerated. Everything about the OMG moment was 100% true. People leaned on people for the support they didn’t get from their spouses, parents, families, friends, employers or representatives. Without Brock, I don’t think there would be ADCS-ADCS or the Canadian lawsuit. There would not have been the network of people to help with and promote the Information Sessions. There would not have been such a massive submission to the Senate Finance Committee. No Brock SWAT team on the endless comment sections of articles. (SWAT=”Special Writers and Thinkers). No expansion into the various FB groups and Twitter accounts. No ADCT. No mini
protests. No “We Are Not a Myth.” No submission to the United Nations. No campaigns to reach out to journalists, mayors, other expats, etc. I am probably missing things but you get the idea.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected directions Brock took was to be the focal point for donations for the ADCS-ADSC lawsuit in Canada. It is probably this that changed Brock more than anything else; Brock is not at all the same as it was in the beginning. This is hard to explain to newer people but it is true all the same. And over time, Brock has developed an international visibility. It is a place where letter writing campaigns and Twitter rallies are organized. It is a place where the more “shocking” ideas are explored (shocking to the Homelander-American exceptionalist viewpoint). It was, I believe, from Brock, that the strongest “screaming” became evident and which helped push certain changes that have occurred in the last five years. The fact we were not “politically correct,” not afraid to speak out against US policy, Shulman, Levin, Obama, et al is what made us different. Things we started with (renunciation, remaining full-ostrich) were so taboo five years ago. I remember being shocked at renounceuscitizenship’s blog -wincing at the very title (even though I had already decided that was what I was going to do)! These developments were what didn’t happen in the other expat forums, groups (or considered by the professionals) and absolutely what needed to happen. There is not one shred of doubt in my mind that Brock is what made the now common renunciation movement, possible. We own that.
As is to be expected, whenever a group of people interact, there are problems, issues, difficult moments and so on. There have been a number of situations in the past few months that have motivated the Committee to review and re-evaluate what is happening here. We recognize that we’ve (everybody) all worked hard to make Brock what it is. There have always been (and still are) only two main “rules” here.
1) Use only one alias. When people write under multiple identities, they undermine the integrity of our conversations. It is dishonest and shows a callous lack of respect for the other people taking part. There have been incidents where such a person “talks” to him/herself as a different person. This is simply misusing precious anonymity (which most here rely upon) as a way to promote one’s own way of thinking. If you decide you want to change your alias, just let us know and then use the new one (only).
2) No personal attacks. This is an area where we have not always “been on top” of what has gone on. In the past, many such exchanges have taken place. Going forward we all need to be on the same page, being aware of two different situations before letting loose.
Firstly, we have attacks that occur within our Brock community (which naturally extends to our broader sphere such as “lurkers” and people who drop in to check out the site, look for info etc). Comments where one person swears at another, threatens them or their family, is aggressive, makes accusations, harps on endlessly with non-constructive intent etc, will be removed and ongoing comments put in immediate moderation. (Moderation does not mean changing content; it means future comments have to be approved; we do not make changes to comments unless asked to by the author). These types of attacks are negative, unsupportive and generally not the sort that lead to more understanding or knowledge. In other words, they serve no real purpose other than one asserting themselves against another person. Often the same people pushing the same people’s buttons over and over and over again…….
Secondly, we have the issue of real persons outside of our immediate community and the issue of defamation. Tax compliance professionals, judges and lawyers involved in our case, etc. This is where we need to take note of the fact that things everyone says makes Brock (i.e., Peter and possibly the rest of the Committee as well as the commenter) liable to be sued. Should that happen, it would likely be the end of Brock. “Real people” means those whose real names are used, reference made to their profession etc. Singled out, not protected by an alias. People some of us will run into in the course of things. No matter how justified one may feel, to call such a person a derogatory term, criticize without direct proof etc, puts Brock in jeopardy. In this regard, the risk Peter et al. takes is similar to that which Ginny, Gwenny and Katia take. All are taking a chance of being personally financially responsible for an undefined level of punitive action. No one would do anything that would put our plaintiffs in a compromised position. It is reasonable for the members of the Committee to take steps to protect themselves. So please, before making any kind of comment that could be defamatory, make sure you have real, true information (not just opinion) and that you demonstrate/reference it. If there are substantiated facts to support criticism of a point of view, that is one thing. Developing a sound well-reasoned perspective need not involve any sense of attacking someone else. Calling someone a degrading name, threatening to harass them or their firm, will result in the comment being deleted and ongoing comments put in immediate moderation. That kind of behavior has nothing to do with improving our situation.
What is wanted is to create a place where people want to come to, participate in, and hopefully, become more involved in what we are doing. The tone of comments and type of language used has affected things such as donations to the lawsuit. People have given so much in terms of time, energy and money. In other words, Brock is bigger than any one of us-why hurt the cause?
Much is expected
Brock has played a large role in the expat movement over the last five years. It might be that we sometimes don’t appreciate that because we are so used to having it at our fingertips. But please do consider whether your words and actions are positive in tone and intent-this is how we can have the greatest impact on this ongoing dilemma of unwanted U.S. persecution.