If you’re paying attention at all to significant people in the conservative movement, and you’ve never heard of Brandon Darby, you obviously have been missing something. Today, Darby is a regular on the Tea Party speaking circuit, and has been attempting to organize activists to simply “do good” on the ground for their neighbors. It’s an important endeavor, because conservatives are often cast as unfeeling and greedy by Democrats. We must be, because we’re opposed to all the social programs they use to buy votes.
But how Darby got to this point involves a twisted and convoluted trail, from Texas, to New Orleans, to South America, and through Minneapolis. Much has been made about questioning the loyalty of people that consider themselves conservatives now, in spite of liberal roots. Andrew Breitbart seemed to have a tendency toward accepting at least a few of these people, including Darby. Perhaps it was his general openness that caused this, or maybe Breitbart was smart enough to realize that it’s better to take your allies where you can get them, without questioning their motives or past – maybe it was a combination of the two. Either way, Darby has become a strong conservative ally and activist, and one of many that wouldn’t pass the various “purity tests” that float around, implying that if someone doesn’t fit within some strict guidelines, that person simply can’t be a “real conservative.”
Darby’s history of political activism definitely started on the left side of the spectrum, leading him to keep company with anarchists like Scott Crow. Common Ground was co-founded by Darby and crow, among others, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and those community-organizing roots are what Darby is drawing from today with the Tea Party. But the story of how Darby went from being a lefist organizer trying to help people rebuild in the infamous 9th Ward section of New Orleans, to being an FBI informant is what has become a documentary film.
“Informant” is, by Darby’s own admission, a left-leaning film, however Jamie Meltzer, the director, did make an attempt at offering both sides of the story. His goal was to offer the audience Darby’s side of the story alongside that of the leftists. Many conservatives have heard this story, and have adopted Darby in spite of (because of?) it. So why should conservatives watch this movie?
Too often we get caught in the echo chamber, hearing only what other conservatives have to say about, well – everything. We forget that there really area bi-partisan issues out there. No matter which side of the aisle people may belong, it is wrong to stand idly by as people suffer, and are killed for no reason other than the color of their skin. That is what Darby and his friends face in the wake of Katrina, in New Orleans. While conservatives may not have agreed with the political philosophies of the founders of Common Ground, they certainly could agree that it would be wrong to ignore the problems the people faced on the ground after the storm. The name of the organization is appropriate, because its mission was something that people from vastly different philosophical backgrounds could support. Darby is proving that today, by encouraging Tea Party activists to do the same things that anarchists did with him in New Orleans back then.
Beyond getting out of the echo chamber, “Informant” gives conservatives the opportunity to get an up-close look at the mentality that leads people to violence in the name political ideology. We’re constantly accused of being just inches from the edge of taking to streets with weapons, to strike down progressives. The irony is that it really was the other way around, and largely remains so. We’ve been pointing out that the vast majority of the time, Tea Party and other conservative gatherings don’t tend to devolve into orgies of violence and vandalism. That’s the problem with progressives, like the Occupy activists. And we certainly don’t tend to make incendiary devices to attack our opponents – we make fires with our words. Meltzer said that he wanted to give viewers both sides, without judging. He came close, mostly through his editorial choices, but it’s close enough. It’s worth it to take the time to watch “Informant”, and see more about a basic truth that conservatives seem to have an issue with – it is possible for someone to start out life as a liberal, and legitimately shift to conservatism. Conservative “purity tests” only alienates potential allies – and bluntly, they make conservatives look like they’ve got mental problems with paranoia. A much wiser man than myself explained it quite simply: “Show me a young conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.” – Winston Churchill