Mariann Wizard :
Brandon Darby – ‘To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest’

photo of George and Mariann

The late George Vizard, murdered in Austin 1n 1967, shown selling The Rag near the UT campus, with his wife Mariann Vizard (now Mariann Wizard).

If Darby had really been worried people he was working with were planning violence, he could have taken it up with other group members. But that would have required honest discussion. When there is no honesty on one side, discussion is meaningless.

By Mariann Wizard | The Rag Blog | January 7, 2009

The news about confessed FBI informant Brandon Darby has stirred up a lot of old feelings in me that stem from personal and group experiences with people like Darby.

Robert Zani, convicted in 1981 of the 1967 murder of George John Vizard IV, my husband, was revealed much later (to the public) to have been a “narc” for the UT Kampus Kops, put in touch with the TX Department of Public Safety by the UT police chief. DPS officers openly attended Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) meetings at UT, as well as meetings of other anti-war and pro-civil rights organizations, but that certainly did not preclude their also placing spies among us, and we know that certain individuals in Austin reported to the Austin police department, and other agencies.

[For more about the death of George Vizard and the spying on Austin activists in the sixties, read The Spies of Texas by The Rag Blog’s Thorne Dreyer, published in the Nov. 17, 2006 issue of The Texas Observer.]

These disillusioning experiences were replicated, and in many cases intensified, nationally. The black liberation movement was targeted even more viciously than the student peace movement, and where black liberation and peace activism came together, infiltration and disruption were most extensive (witness J Edgar Hoover’s unrelenting attempts to “get the dirt” on Martin Luther King). People like Darby were often proponents of violence, urging inexperienced activists to irresponsible acts. The current Maryland State spy revelations are a chilling reminder of what we came, long after the fact, to know as COINTELPRO.

It angers me very much to see today’s idealistic young activists — some of whom I have come to know a little and hope to know for a long time due to their consistency, commitment, and dedication to the struggle — targeted by today’s government spies, and to know that innocent people will undoubtedly be harmed by government’s callous disregard of civil liberties.

The real question raised by Brandon Darby’s spying admission is, “How do you know when a person is honest?” The real answer is, “You can’t.” But enough questions had been raised about Darby, and some reports of his usual behavior are certainly suspicious enough, that in my opinion HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ASKED POINT-BLANK by group leaders, collectively, if he was an informer, especially before they publicly defended him. This is a hard lesson for young activists, and no fun to learn, but a person can be betrayed by anyone. On the positive side, however, no one is ever betrayed by “just anyone,” but only by the most unscrupulous and morally degenerate of individuals (and yes, that makes it feel even more disgustingly gross to realize you were fooled; like being raped, being informed upon is an invasive and very personal experience!) Raising concerns and resolving them in a principled (HONEST), democratic manner is essential, no matter the topic. If something can’t be talked about and resolved in that way, there is more wrong in a group than the presence of an informer.

In addition, it’s important to recall that in the 60s and 70s, in the student milieu at any rate, our own eschewing of identifiable leaders and decision-making processes too often may have opened a door for the charismatic stranger who liked, e.g., to set fires. I don’t know that the new gen of activists has come up with any better model within their collectives; they don’t seem any more interested in acknowledging “leaders” than we were, but that means new activists also can’t identify who is really being truthful about group goals and methods. (That would make an interesting interview, or better yet, panel discussion.)

What makes a person willing to gain the confidence, friendship, and admiration of others, only to lead them into planning and/or committing bad acts and then “telling on them”?

If Darby had really been worried people he was working with were planning violence, he could have taken it up with other group members. But that would have required honest discussion. When there is no honesty on one side, discussion is meaningless.

If I thought Brandon Darby had the self-critical faculties necessary to provide a useful answer to that question, I might think an interview with him would be interesting. But in all likelihood, the self-justifications, excuses, counter-accusations and outright lies one would hear would effectively conceal whatever moral birth defect is at the root of his deceit. He is the jealous big brother tricking his younger siblings into being naughty in order to win Mama’s affection, perhaps; great fun when one is 10, but soon abandoned by a maturing human being. I was a big sister once, but now I believe that, if this life we are given has any purpose, it is to help one another.

Let us remember the stories of admirable men and women, and recall — perhaps with new insight after all these years? — the immortal words of Robert Zimmerman, “To live OUTSIDE THE LAW you must be HONEST. I know YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT YOU AGREE.”

See Brandon Darby : FBI Informant is Provocateur, Not a Hero by Austin Informant Working Group / The Rag Blog / Jan. 6, 2009

Also see Brandon Darby: Austin Activist Outed as FBI Spy / The Rag Blog / Jan. 2, 2009

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8 Responses to Mariann Wizard :
Brandon Darby – ‘To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest’

  1. Anonymous says:

    bravo Wizard – you are SO right!

  2. Mike Hanks says:

    Informants and provocateurs are, as the poor, always with us. This particular incident represents one of the instances when the tip of the iceberg is seen … thereby revealing, once again, it’s persistent presence.

    I have no problem with a person who follows conscience and does what they believe is right. I may disagree, but I do not condemn them for that. Violence? It’s hard to imagine in this day of advanced firepower and Composition-4 (oops, sorry NSA) that molotov cocktails could do much more damage than a couple of cherry bombs (oops, there I go again).

    What I do have a problem with is the violence done to truth. It seems symptomatic of our age that truth is no longer honored by corporations, our institutions, or our government. Lies and betrayals do far more violence to our souls and our society than a boatload of Molotov cocktails.

  3. Simon says:

    “in my opinion HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ASKED POINT-BLANK by group leaders, collectively, if he was an informer, especially before they publicly defended him.”

    Darby was confronted by (former) friends in October 2008 after the Pioneer Press reported he was an informant. he point blank denied it and there was no evidence then to the contrary, so folks supported him. Snitch-jacketing (labeling folks as informants without proof) just does the government’s work for it.

    When folks realized Darby was a snitch based on FBI documents released to the texas2 defense team, the Austin informant working Group was formed and the word put out. Hours before the AIWG planned to go public to the press, Darby got wind of it and put out his own open letter defending his actions

  4. Anonymous says:

    Darby said he did it because “I felt like I owed it to this little collective we call a nation who are trying to get through the world together.” (chronicle)

    Newsflash: this “little collective” we call a nation is neither consensual or voluntary, hence is hardly a “collective”.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank God for Brandon Darby, who realized the dangerous of his political allies and did the right thing by his country.
    McKay’s father must be feeling pretty stupid after saying he was going to expose Darby’s lies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oops, danger of his …

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m puzzled from out of state.
    I read in your blog about Robert Zani, convicted in 1981 of the 1967 murder of George John Vizard IV. Somewhere around 1983-84 I was in Texas and read in a Texas Newspaer (I think) that the murderer was a ” drifter from California” passing through Austin. At the time I thought ,gee I’ve been paranoid for 15 years thinking the worst.This new information kind of jars those feelings. Maybe I could be enlightened?

  8. Anonymous says:

    “It’s hard to imagine in this day of advanced firepower and Composition-4 (oops, sorry NSA) that molotov cocktails could do much more damage than a couple of cherry bombs”

    Unless you are the person hit and engulfed in flames.

    People who throw fire as a means of protest, should be fired upon and killed since they are trying to kill others they disagree with.

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