The last 11 months have given us a close up look at anti-natural gas activists. It seems, a surprising number of them share certain commonalities reflective of spoiled children unaffected by mundane cares about economic development, jobs or paying property taxes. They are almost always individuals who have immersed themselves in a variety of leftist causes, with their anti- natural gas activities merely being a convenient platform from which to launch attacks on the capitalism, corporations and constitutional government that, ironically, have allowed them to pursue their passions or causes.
Opposition to natural gas is, for them, merely the latest tool for re-plowing the field of utopianism, often expressed today as “sustainability.” Many of these individuals are members, or supporters, of the “occupy” movement, but all are “activists” in causes that give them the all important platforms where they can be noticed. Chances are you know some of their names because that’s the way they like it. We’ve written about them here and here. Although we’ve recognized these characteristics among anti-development leaders for some time, we continue to be struck by their inflammatory claims and the actions they undertake in attempts to get noticed. Among all the anti-natural gas activists no one serves as a better representative of these characteristics than Alex Lotorto.
Lotorto the Student
Alex Lotorto, profiled earlier here by our friend Giles Howard, appears wherever there’s an opportunity to make a scene and get his name in the lights. While a student at Muhlenberg College he somehow managed to lead student protests at Pitt and NYU without anyone asking where he was from until after the fact. He appears at all sorts of anti-natural gas events, and protests, even though he apparently lives at home with his parents in Dingman Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania where there is no possibility of shale gas development. Appearing at an SRBC hearing in December, he safely asked to be hanged if such development comes to his doorstep, knowing full well, of course, that it won’t. It was anything but a Patrick Henry moment.
He is the face of Occupy Scranton, Occupy Well Street and innumerable civil disobedience training sessions. He claims to maintain 10 different blogs. They include Marcellus-CURE, Crash the DRBC, Occupy Well Street – Stop Fracking, Shale Gas Activists, Americorps Workers Union, Northeast & Mid-Atlantic Regional Occupy Meeting, Frack University, Pittsburghers for Public Transit and, what I’m confident is his favorite, one simply named Alex Lotorto.
A review of these blogs was informative. For example, thinking Americorps was about community service, I naively didn’t realize Americorps workers needed a union.
Lotorto the Wobbly
I couldn’t help but notice the Americorps union Lotorto blogs, and advocates for, is part of the Industrial Workers of the World or IWW, an extremist sect with deep communist/socialist roots. Lotorto identifies himself as an IWW Union Delegate, Pittsburgh General Membership Branch, Safety Committee Member, also know as “the Wobblies.” It is fascinating to read Lotorto’s remarks extolling the benefits of the IWW potentially representing natural gas workers. He says the IWW will work “to improve their conditions, protect their health, raise their pay, and win the eight-hour work day” skipping over the somewhat problematic fact he wants those jobs to disappear (see below). He proudly includes this little eye-opener from the Wobblies’ constitution:
Instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.”
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
This pretty much tells us what Lotorto is all about. He’s no visionary. He’s just one more dupe, a guy who only graduated from college in 2009 (making him about 25 years old at this point) and is, like most immature people, regardless of their age, still infatuated with himself.
Lotorto the Prince of Schtick
Lotorto says he’s employed as a “grounds technician” at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where his father is Head of Grounds. We have nothing against grounds technicians. It’s more than honorable work and we suspect a lot of the folks engaged it are allies of natural gas. Notwithstanding this, working for your father while taking time off to do protests, train Occupy Well Street sycophants and serve as spokesperson for Occupy Scranton hardly qualifies as meaningful employment. Rather, Lotorto is on a self-indulgent lark. Check out this video, for instance:
Also, take a close look at that resume. If you want someone with experience as a volunteer “Unemployment Compensation Specialist,” Americorps volunteer discussion leader, volunteer ballot access coordinator for the Nader Presidential run in 2008 or globalization dossier builder intern at the Institute for Institutional Studies, then Lotorto is your kid. It’s not easy getting hired, though, when you have a history of spending your lunch hour singing from the Little Red Songbook and the motto of one of your organizations is “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” That can get tiring real fast unless your father is your boss.
Lotorto also presents himself as a rural Pennsylvania kid who’s found himself involved in the cause of fighting natural gas because of what it’s doing to his county. Pike County may appear rural but it’s officially part of the New York City/Northern New Jersey Metropolitan Area. Virtually every home in that part of the world is occupied (no pun intended) by someone who last lived in Bergen County, Long Island, Brooklyn or environs. There are no farms in Pike County, just move-ins from New York and New Jersey. And, Alex Lotorto is no country boy.
He says Occupy Well Street will only succeed, “if the movement is led by people who look and sound and think like rural residents” and managed to get a news reporter to describe him as “the guy in the camo hat” as if he were just the typical deer hunting farm boy from the natural gas fields of rural Pennsylvania. If Alex Lotoro can get away with claiming to be a rural kid, then I might as well say I’m Mayor Bloomberg and start speaking for New York City.
Lotorto’s rural activist schtick is, at ground level, a lie. He talks about “city people” as if they were foreigners but his father was a Seton Hall preppie and they live on a 3+ acre lot in a residential subdivision surrounded by other residential subdivisions that are home to thousands of transplants from the metro area. It’s anything but rural America.
Lotorto the Extremist
None of this would be relevant to much of anything if this singularly unaccomplished individual were not regularly engaging in the theatrics and overstatements we see reflected in this video:
Calling natural gas companies murderers is more than a little over the top, of course, but histrionics are nothing new in the Lotorto’s world. They are what he does best. Most of us are used to seeing that coming from our opponents, but it’s always interesting to watch the warm-ups as one false assertion after another is made in laying the foundation for an emotional outburst. Lotorto, in this instance, talks about natural gas development in Pike County, but anyone familiar with that area knows most of it is public land and what is left is plugged full of second homes on small lots. Its natural gas is also cooked off and no one is interested in it as it likely isn’t commercially productive. The chances of seeing a rig in Pike County are about the same as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year. It isn’t happening.
Lotorto and his friends don’t let reality intrude, however. He is cited as inspirational by two of the best when it comes to inflammatory rhetoric. Loretta Weir, a Pittsburgh area natural gas opponent who just like Lotorto lives nowhere near any natural gas development, says this about him:
“Some of these people get their egos involved and want to push you around,” Weir says. But not Lotorto. “Alex,” she says, “is not in it for his ego. Alex didn’t care if he got credit.”
Weir is a 56-year-old housewife from suburban Pittsburgh who came to activism late in life. She attended a presentation about fracking and was hooked. Weir met Lotorto soon afterward and got to know him well.
She says she’d help him occupy Well Street any day.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’m old enough to be this kid’s mother — and I can learn some things from him.’ I saw him keep his calm when I’d be going ballistic,” Weir says.
“Alex doesn’t care about the noise around him,” she says. “I really respect that in him. It’s almost like he was born to do it. … It’s a vibe, you know, that this kid was put here for this purpose.”
Let me get this straight, Loretta. You’re saying Alex Lotorto, the kid screaming murder in the above video is calm while others are going ballistic? And, the kid who plasters his name everywhere and styles himself as a modern day Abbie Hoffman doesn’t care if he gets credit? Well, I suppose that’s the way you might see it if you happen to be the type to scream “You’re not gonna really need a job for long because I believe this industry will kill you” as she does at 0:43 in this video. [LINK NEEDED] Or your husband is given to shouting “Your gas is going to China,” at local landowners, like Sue Dorsey, as he does here at 0:30. Those are really nice friends to have. Facts appear to be as irrelevant to the Weirs, Lotorto’s admirers, as to Lotorto himself.
But, none of this matters to Lotorto. He just want the entire industry to “disappear” from everywhere, no matter what the cost in jobs. It’s all about him, after all. He’s not interested in safe and responsible natural gas development. He just wants to get his way. He’s willing, to that end, to treat anyone who disagrees with him as a terrorist, including the ordinary folks for whom he pretends to speak. These are the same people who depend on the natural gas jobs he’s prepared to throw to the wind. He wants to save these people by eliminating their jobs and hunting them down like terrorists. Such is the logic of extremists and Alex the Occupy Guy, who, if he is nothing else, is certainly an extremist.