Applying Social Research
Few realize how easy and effective open source research can be. I try to emphasize what a visitto the county courthouse can sometimes yield. But to truly make room for democracy, it is firstnecessary to circumscribe political violence.The public health model of community organizing, which grew out of my research andconversations with Paul de Armond, defines organized political violence as the suppression of free and open inquiry. Rendering ineffective those who practice political violence requires bothtraining and structured reflective engagement. The philosophy behind the public health model of community organizing is that the primary obstacles to engagement are ideological, and that the primary task in overcoming these obstacles is a communicative one.Civil society leaders, as such, are burdened with the responsibility to plan and prepare for theeventuality of attack, consciously preparing themselves, their followers, and their allies to bothendure and oppose the use of fear, hate, and revenge. Isolation of these social pathogens,inoculation of vulnerable populations, and education of those looking for certainty, comprise keyelements of the public health model.In the body politic, social pathogens of aggression that surface in the form of such things asracism, fascism, homophobia, and xenophobia can be viewed and approached in a public healthmanner. Each of these ideological cancers have origins, histories, distinct characteristics, and can be studied, monitored, and analyzed asking the same basic questions used by the Centers for Disease Control and the Institutes for Public Health:
Where does it come from?
What conditions allow it to prosper?
How is it transmitted?
What is its life cycle?
What causes it to become dormant?
Can it be eradicated?Through such a methodical approach to understanding social pathogens, we are best able tomobilize with economy and effectiveness the resources available. Beginning our quest for human dignity with an attitude of respect for the process and results of research and analysisenables us to avoid inappropriate responses to outbreaks, while we advance our pooledknowledge and experience.The beneficiaries of privileged social status often live in comfortable ignorance of the rare andlatent social diseases that pose grave risks to communities, that is, until they amplify inunhealthy environs into terrible epidemics like the Wise Use and Militia movements. Thechallenge is to adapt our political public health strategy to control environments and modify behaviors in a constantly changing world.The public health model of community organizing assumes a constant, aggressive oppositioncommitted to undermining and silencing good faith participation in societal problem-solving. Assuch, activists who approach organizing by bolstering community safeguards and regulatingmechanisms have a powerful asset in moral sanction. As guardians of a fair and open process,they can claim the high ground over anti-democratic opponents, whose behavior, if not agenda,