L. Neil Smith's
Number 194, October 14, 2002


Vin Visits New Hampshire, Governor 'Horrified'
by Vin Suprynowicz

Special to TLE

I was condemned by the governor of New Hampshire last week.

It started when the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire invited me to give the dinner speech at their annual convention in Nashua last Saturday, Sept. 28.

I spoke about my latest book, The Ballad of Carl Drega a collection of non-fiction essays detailing real-life attacks on liberty and freedom in modern America.

Roger Talbot, a reporter for the Manchester Union-Leader, took me aside and suggested the controvery now raging over the book in New England may result as much as anything else from the cover, a painting by Scott Bieser which depicts Boston rebels in a darkened church in the early 1770s, passing out muskets in preparation for the Boston Tea Party, or the successful resistance to Gen. Gage's attempt to seize unregistered assault weapons at Lexington -- except that Scott improved on my original conception, depicting the arms being handed out not as ancient flintlocks but instead as modern-day AR-15s, like the one used by New Hampshire killer Carl Drega in August of 1997.

Any piece of artwork can be interpreted many ways, of course. But I agree with readers who tell me the cover -- with a rifle being handed toward the viewer as the militiamen mill about with their newly issued arms -- asks, "Have you considered what you might be willing to do to defend our liberties ... and when?"

Roger's story ran in the Sunday, Sept. 29 edition of New Hampshire's biggest daily www.unionleader.com/Articles_show.html?article=14506&archive. It begins:

"NASHUA -- For Libertarians, the message in a book with a cover illustration that portrays North Country killer Carl C. Drega as a modern-day patriotic Minuteman is that government needs to respect the individual.

"About 50 activist members of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire attended the party's 30th annual convention yesterday at the Holiday Inn.

"The keynote dinner speaker was a Nevada author and newspaper columnist, Vin Suprynowicz, who wrote a book titled, 'The Ballad of Carl Drega.' The book retells the story of the man who killed four people in a Colebrook shooting spree as an introduction to a series of essays on what Suprynowicz views as the loss of personal freedom to the oppressive encroachment of government.

" 'What happened in northern New Hampshire in 1997 was terrible, something that should never happen, but people don't see the full story. We need to see the full story, not to glorify Carl Drega,' said Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Babiarz of Grafton.

" 'Vin is adamant in his book that Carl Drega shouldn't be praised, but when we create a government situation where more people are desperate and there is no judicial relief for them, when the system is not fair for them, they are going to blow up sometimes and innocent people get killed. Government officials must realize they are servants of the people and that the constitution is our guide and we have to treat people with respect,' Babiarz said.

"Howard Wilson of Andover, a candidate for the N.H. House in District 35, said he had read both of Suprynowicz's books. His first was titled, 'Send in the Waco Killers'.

" 'Drega was pushed beyond his limit,' Wilson said. 'The thing is when the government exempts itself from the regulations it imposes on thee and me and then requires thee and me to jump through hoops to get to our own property, as Drega was, there is something very, very wrong.'

"The subtitle of Suprynowicz's 696-page book is 'Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1994 to 2001.' His musing covers a wide and critical spectrum -- from the seemingly ever-present regulation of government, to taxation, the war on drugs, environmentalism, the public school system, the right to private property and the rights to bear arms.

"Suprynowicz ... works as an assistant editorial page editor at the Review-Journal newspaper in Las Vegas, writes a syndicated column that runs in about 20 small western-state newspapers. ...

" 'I am not -- repeat, not -- advising anyone to go forth and start shooting cops and bureaucrats,' Suprynowicz wrote on page 23 in the book that begins with the story of Drega who lashed out with a gun after years of frustrating legal duels over what he considered the government's intrusion into his privacy and his right to do what he wished with his property.

"Drega was 36 on June 21, 1971, when selectmen in the North Country town of Columbia refused him a permit for the house he was building on property off the west side of Route 3 in that town. That was the beginning of a quarter-century of struggle over various property and tax issues that pitted Drega against a system he believed never gave him a fair hearing.

" 'Needless to say,' Suprynowicz wrote, 'a quasi-literate product of the government schools (with) no lawyer, his filings became a laughing stock both in the courts and in the newspapers to which he sent copies, begging for help.'

"Drega was 62 on Aug. 19, 1997, when he shot dead two state troopers who had stopped his rust-encrusted truck; a lawyer and part-time judge who had opposed him as a town official; and a newspaper editor who tried to stop him. Two other lawmen where wounded before Drega died in a shoot-out with about 20 officers in the woods in Brunswick, Vt.

"Last night, Suprynowicz told New Hampshire's Libertarians that 'we still retain a lot of freedoms in this country. The way to make sure we don't lose any more is use the ones we have. ...' "

The Associated Press moved a shorter, rewritten version of the Union-Leader's story on the regional wire that day. Just as messages used to grow garbled in the old children's game of "telephone," The AP typically condensed reporter Talbot's already creative description of "a book with a cover illustration that portrays North Country killer Carl C. Drega as a modern-day patriotic Minuteman" to simply "a book that portrays North Country killer Carl C. Drega as a modern-day patriot."

This, in turn, led to a press release being posted Sept. 30 on New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen's official Web site www.state.nh.us/governor/media/093002carl.html headlined: "Governor Appalled at Attempts to Excuse Carl Drega."

The release reads: "Gov. Jeanne Shaheen released the following statement on the appearance of Vin Suprynowicz, author of the 'Ballad of Carl Drega,' this past weekend in New Hampshire:

" 'I am horrified that anyone would attempt to find excuses for the actions of Carl Drega. Carl Drega was not oppressed; he was unwilling to follow the law. Carl Drega was not a modern-day patriot; he was a murderer. He killed four innocent people, New Hampshire State Police Troopers Leslie Lord and Scott Phillips, Judge Vicki Bunnell, and Colebrook News and Sentinel editor Dennis Joos. They were the true heroes."

I wrote a polite response to Gov. Shaheen, thanking her for attending my talk -- since I knew she surely wouldn't have condemned my message without hearing it -- but chiding her for not identifying myself so that I could have autographed her copy of my book -- explaining I was further confident that she would not have condemned that without having read it.

(Memo to the irony-deprived: Gov. Sheheen did not attend my dinner speech, nor -- I feel safe in concluding -- has she ever read a single word of my book.)

Within a few days, Michelle Dumas of Somersworth, N.H. had written in:

"Dear Vin, I know you probably have better things to do than worry about what some small Southern NH newspaper prints, but I wanted to let you know about a nasty, small-minded editorial that was printed last night (Oct. 3) in the Foster's Daily Democrat regarding your talk at the NH convention.

At www4.fosters.com/news2002/oct_02/oct03_02/comment/editorial_1003a.asp, Michelle had found the following:

"There is no way to justify murder ...

"It's easy to see why so few people take the Libertarian Party seriously.

"Libertarians held their annual convention last weekend and their keynote speaker was Vin Suprynowicz, author of 'The Ballad of Carl Drega.' Rosalie Babiarz says the author 'looks at people who have been pushed to the edge and asks, "What can we do to prevent people from being pushed over the edge?" '

"Babiarz's husband, John, the Libertarian Party's candidate for governor, implies Carl Drega was society's victim -- someone who existed in 'a government situation where more people are desperate and there is no judicial relief for them.'

"Carl Drega slaughtered five people in Colebrook five years ago. ... Carl Drega was insane. There is nothing a democratic republic could possibly have done to drive him to commit such a series of outrageous acts. At best, he was delusional. At worst, he had devolved into a savage animal -- an animal society had every right to destroy. ...

"Suprynowicz uses the story of Carl Drega as an introduction to what the author views as the loss of personal freedom to the encroachment of government. A look at Suprynowicz's Web site, www.privacyalert.us, gives us cause to worry more about anarchy than the expansion of oppressive government.

"While Suprynowicz emphasizes that violence is not the answer to the real and imagined threats perceived by Libertarians and other fringe elements of the political arc, a view of his thinking is clear in a passage from his current online offering:

" 'Now the sun is setting. The few of us who remember what real freedom was, and who wish to see that legacy preserved and passed on to another generation, no longer have the luxury, the remaining time and wealth and opportunity, to "save the world." At this point, we've got to concentrate on saving our own children and grandchildren, teaching them there's a reason to keep our gold and our guns and our liberties -- and showing them how.'

"It is horrible to think of Carl Drega as a patriot or even someone who represented a cause. Carl Drega was a madman who was unable to live in a society constructed for the benefit of common good. It is unthinkable to see him or anyone like him as representative of civilized behavior.

"It takes someone who is intellectually dead to view Carl Drega or anyone like him as representative of the legitimate frustrations of the people of New Hampshire or other Americans."

Interesting. Whether or not Carl Drega was insane, the little New Hampshire daily goes much further, here, actually asserting that anyone who ever forcibly resists government actions to deprive us of our constitutional rights must be insane by definition, since "There is nothing a democratic republic could possibly have done to drive him to commit such a series of outrageous acts."

This is a notion ponderously dangerous and evil. Germany's Weimar Republic was, without doubt, a "democratic republic," which elected Hitler and the Nazis in a fair polling. Does that mean no resistance to the Nazis could be justified -- that anyone who tried to resist them can be judged "insane"?

Robert E. Lee resisted the armed force of the United States. Whether or not his cause was just (and I can't find anything in my copy of the Constitution that bars secession), does that mean he was insane? If so, he's surely the most prominent insane person in American history ever to have a major university named for him.

If the Founding Fathers believed there could never be any cause for a sane man to take up arms to defend himself against abuses of authority by a "democratic republic," why did prominent New England federalist and founding father Noah Webster write in 1787, "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. [But] the supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States"?

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the books Send in the Waco Killers and The Ballad of Carl Drega. For information on his books or his monthly newsletter, dial 775-348-8591 or visit Web site http://www.privacyalert.us.


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