The West Coast co-founder of the international "Buy Nothing" movement, in which local members go online to trade items with their neighbors, shut down the Jamaica Plain Buy Nothing group on Facebook last night after an increasingly vitriolic battle over who knows JP better - the people who live there or people on the other side of the country.
Unlike other free-stuff efforts, the goal of the Buy Nothing Project is to foster stronger ties between neighbors in small geographic areas, using the trading of items as just the first step in getting neighbors to better know and help each other. Until last week, Buy Nothing Jamaica Plain was one of the largest Buy Nothing groups in the world, with close to 5,000 registered members.
Buy Nothing's national and regional administrators said the JP group had gotten too large - it was at risk of losing its neighborly feel - and wanted to "sprout" new, smaller JP groups.
The four local administrators argued against the change, saying the local group was working fine but agreed to help with the splitting - as long as it was done in a way to avoid cleaving the online neighborhood along racial and ethnic lines, lines they said the JP group had helped to bridge in the diverse neighborhood.
As Kai Haskins writes in a summary of the to-do, regular members were also less than thrilled - and said so in posts in the group. The national administrators started deleting the posts and banning the members who wrote them.
When Buy Nothing co-founder Liesl Clark accused one local moderator of calling her a Nazi - the moderator had made a crack about "spell Nazis" - the local moderators had enough and quit. Somebody set up a competing - and locally controlled - gift economy group.
Things got no better. In the middle of the firefight over the racial and ethnic implications of splitting the group, one of the national administrators called for unity with a photo of four white women's hands atop each other.
More posts were deleted; more users banned.
The regular JP Facebook group, where people normally post photos of Jamaica Pond and talk about when that new taco place in Forest Hills is opening and how Whole Foods is going downhill, became a gathering spot for Buy Nothing refugees to trade war stories - and screen shots of the discussions the banned members were missing.
Last night, the national organizers "archived" the JP Buy Nothing group, effectively shutting it down, and created several new JP groups, including, initially, one for "Egleston Square and Hyde Park," which made little sense in a neighborhood that does not have a Hyde Park (although it does have a Hyde Square). They have since created groups that are not exactly incorrectly named, just completely unrelated to the ways JP residents think of their neighborhood, including East, West, Central and Southwest Jamaica Plain.