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CECIL BOTHWELL's VIEW — Asheville’s subversive co-op/bookstore: Terrorism HQ or just caring neighbors?
Wednesday, 17 August 2022 14:36
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The very notion that Firestorm Books & Coffee in West Asheville presents some sort of public threat — through the spread of so-called pro-terrorist political propaganda, or as the alleged base for Antifa terrorist operations in America’s Southeast — is laughable, or so says Cecil Bothwell, a long-time Asheville liberal political activist, writer, pundit and former City Council member.

Bothwell, who spoke with the Daily Planet in two telephone interviews on Aug. 12 and 13, said the following:

“Among the ‘tempests in teapots,’ I think worrying at all about a barely... struggling...  independent bookstore seems completely crazy to me. This is a bookstore that probably sells a book a month....” 

As for his knowledge of Firestorm Books, Bothwell said, “I was aware of them, particularly when they were downtown.

“I was aware of their theory. They wanted to be a socialist, quite-liberal bookstore.

“To me the Antifa thing (allegations by those on the right that it is a political terrorist group) is total horse-(expletive deleted). It’s a total creation of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement.

“I kind of think most pro-fascist people support (former U.S. president) Donald Trump. They have invented this idea of Antifa” as a terrorist group.

However, Bothwell quickly added, “I don't doubt there are some liberal people who have labeled” Antifa a terrorist group, too.

As for the former president, Bothwell asserted, “Donald Trump is the biggest damn fascist we’ve had in a long, long time.”

Historically speaking, he said, “Asheville had the Silver Shirts (group) back in the 1930s… It was one of the most powerful fascist groups in the city’s history.” 

The unfounded rumors and accusations about Firestorm Books, in Bothwell’s estimation, are the concoction of “Chad Nesbitt and his ‘nutters’ — now that’s a threat!”

Continuing, Bothwell said, “If you look at what Chad Nesbitt’s done over the past 10 years, it’s really scary.

“He’s led a movement that’s anti-democratic ... that demeans real democracy ... that tries to impose some sort of minority rule in Asheville and America.

“Chad Nesbitt is part of the worst element of electoral politics in America.”

As for Nesbitt’s accusation that Firestorm Books is trying to sell — or selling — violent/terrorist books in the Asheville area, such as one titled “How to Kill a Policeman,” Bothwell said, “Well, it's possible that there’s a book like that....”

After a pause, he then asserted, “Anybody who tries to ban books is the problem, not the answer.

“You get people like Chad and his camp — who claim they are for freedom, but ‘let’s ban this.’ Why not let people decide” for themselves what they wish to read? Bothwell asked, rhetorically.

When pressed further by the Daily Planet on whether Bothwell sees all conservatives as evil and wrong on every issue and that, conversely, the liberals all are good people and correct on the issues, he said the following:

“There are, certainly, honorable conservatives.” He cited the late William F. Buckley Jr. as an example of both a kind, smart and thoughtful conservative. However, he also added that he liked that Buckley reportedly once arranged to buy recreational marijuana in extra-territorial waters.

“It just seems to me that a mass of conservatives have gravitated to Donald Trump and are, therefore, completely nuts. They’re supporting autocracy. They’re not (representative of) all conservatives — and then there are a bunch of ‘toadies.’”

Bothwell added, “Hell, I'm conservative on some issues. I’m conservative about the use of language — and think it matters and it ought not be abused. Meaning matters.

“I think good ideas come from all over” and not just from the liberal side. “I don’t think there’s any particular source that has a monopoly on truth or accuracy. I think the idea — in my view — is to respect what is true,

“I think Trumpism has violated America. Trumpism has pushed truth out of the political discussion. It’s just whatever he (Trump) says is true. And he’s obviously a damn liar. Even his supporters have to know. The joke is … How do you know he is lying? His lips are moving.”

Further lambasting Trump, Bothwell said, “He’s really scorched free society — and I think Chad  (Nesbitt) is the local mouthpiece for that.

“The number of Republicans who insist the 2020 elections were fraudulant” is astoundingly high, Bothwell said. However, he added that those GOP politicians who won re-election in 2020 — hypocritically — do not seem worried about whether their own elections were clean or fraudulant.

“Trump is evil incarnate. He is the worst president in the modern area... I hope he’ll be in prison a year from now.”

Bothwell added, “Of course, there are ‘nutters” in any extremist political movement who commit violent acts.

As for Nesbitt’s criticisms of Firestorm’s needle exchange for addicts Bothwell said, “My gosh, we need needle exchange programs — to save lives.”

Regarding his current political affiliation, Bothwell said, “I'm — nominally — a Democrat, which, I think, is better than being a ‘nominal Republican.’ But I'm definitely a ‘Bernie (Sanders) guy’ (supporter)... You know Trump won in many regards by pretending to be for many things Bernie was for...”

When pressed for a clearer politicial self-description, Bothwell responded as follows:

 “Democrat with libertarian leanings and an atheist and a ‘friend to all’ — except Donald Trump.”

Returning to his affiliation with Firestorm Book, Bothwell said, “I bought a book there, when they were located downtown — and they sold a couple of my books there.That’s it. Back then, my books were compilations of my radio commentaries on WNCW... I am left-liberal, but I’m not ‘kill the police....”

As for Nesbitt, Bothwell asserted, “Chad Nesbitt has once again (with his Firestorm Books’ accusations) established that he is completely out of touch with reality.

“Firestorm Bookstore, in my awareness, is a center for caring about the under-served population in our community. They have tried to help drug-users find a safer place. They have certainly tried to find a way to help political liberals find a better place. And I think Chad Nesbitt must have done too many drugs in his youth.

“The political right has posited that some sort of Antifa organization exists. And what that stands for is ‘anti-fascist.’ And if being anti-fascist makes you Antifa, I’m Antifa.

“Fascist is corporate control of government, claiming to be populist — and not being populist. In Europe, it was corporate control... Fascism in America is the Republican Party and, therefore, if there exists an Antifa in the United States, it is opposing MAGA.

“I hardly see that it’s incumbent on a bookstore to represent everything. There are only so many shelves. From my perspective, why put ‘Christian fiction’ on the (Firestorm) shelves? 

In reference to books on Christianity, Bothrwell said, “How relevant is it to put some group’s ‘fiction’ on the shelves?

“Once again, I don’t see why a bookstore should be required to have certain opinions on the shelves. Are we talking about free speech or an imposition of ideas?” Bothwell asked, rhetorically.



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