Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's
Number 800, December 7, 2014

Privacy Party!

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Dear Editor,

Sean Gruber wrote (and Sara Kiper edited) a very thorough and well-reasoned essay which you were good to publish at [the previous issue]

It is true that the police are a gang, and not any more in charge here than anyone else. It is true that they are exactly the same kind of goons that Stalin used to put people in camps. It is certainly true that the use of force in self-defence is justified any time anyone feels that they should use force to protect life, liberty, or property.

To the examples that Sean mentions, I would wish to add a number of other incidents. The FBI provided explosives to help the Philadelphia police bomb a home where the MOVE group was living in 1985. The resulting fire killed people, including women and children, and set a large number of homes ablaze. Vicki and Sammy Weaver were executed by federal agents near Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in August 1992. A group of about seven dozen Texans were gassed and burned to death in their church near Waco, Texas in 1993 in a series of incidents over several months that involved ATF, FBI, National Guard, and almost certainly Delta Force.

Shortly after world War Two, a group of people in Athens, Tennessee struck back against the evident corruption of local government in an incident that they probably still don't teach in American public schools. It is worth reading about, for those interested in this topic. wikipedia article

Many readers of L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise will remember a book, Unintended Consequences, by John Ross. Others may find the book a little hard to locate, since many traditional book stores have been too timid, or too anti-freedom to carry it. Readers of the book will find it a treasure trove of details on incidents from the massacre of the Bonus Army in July 1932 (resulting in 4 dead veterans, over a thousand injured veterans and family members; 69 injured among the infantry, cavalry, tank operators, and police who viciously attacked them) to a seemingly endless series of BATF screw-ups, violations, and attacks on civilian gun owners. Ross also wrote, in that book, about how to use the same tactics and strategy that worked very well to save thousands of lives in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, at Sobibor, and at other places, in his fictional account of Americans eliminating federal agents, politicians, and others who have abused their power repeatedly.

It doesn't always pay to write about such things. For example, wikipedia says, "In 2000, Ross had his lawyer write a letter to the ATF claiming that their agents harassed him for writing his book, threatened vendors for selling his book and approached his "amicably separated" wife to elicit information against him. In October 2000, he had a stroke and was incapacitated for a few weeks. He has made a complete recovery and now lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he writes, does investment consulting, schedules fee-based speaking engagements, and runs night classes for Concealed Weapons licensing."

There are a large number of things to realise about the United States. It was founded on principles that it didn't live up to at the time - slavery, Indian wars, Indian massacres, the Trail of Tears, the War Between the States, and the military occupation of Mexico in 1848 and of various parts of the Spanish Empire in 1898 illustrate some of these points. For the last 100 years, the United States has been conducting an experiment in paper money which is destined to fail. At the same time, the racists in charge of the government who had segregated the civil service during Woodrow Wilson's time, got the Senate to ratify treaties obligating the government to fight "narcotics trafficking," a very open-ended obligation that is fundamental to the current police state. The war on drugs is inherently racist, by design.

A great many people benefit from things being the way they are. Military contractors like providing the police with military weapons, tanks, armoured cars, and deadly "non-lethal" weapons, gas grenades, and grenade launchers. Those same contractors enjoy profits from supplying the FBI, ATF, and other elements of Homeland Security with all kinds of tools, toys, and bullet-proof vests. And, of course, the same companies make billions in profits supplying the endless wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else. The prison industry enjoys enormous profits from keeping millions of Americans in prison. Other contractors enjoy profits from building prisons, police stations, and re-developing "blighted" land that used to have buildings now burnt out by rioters.

The strategies of violence can be extremely effective. The government obviously uses violence, and the fear of violence from rioters, to intimidate the public. Sean correctly identifies the Stockholm Syndrome at work. The study of military strategy suggests that for every armed individual who is willing to use force in an insurrection, it takes 20 occupying troops to keep order—without any prospect of necessarily retaining territory. With perhaps 150 million gun owners in the United States, there certainly aren't enough troops in the world to keep order —if those Americans all saw it in their best interests to be involved in insurrection.

But Americans are divided. They are not all independent. Many view the government as a key source of financial and physical support. Not everyone is going to rebel. And, because not everyone is against everything the government does, those who use violence in self-defence are not always viewed sympathetically.

Yet another sunny point, the same military contractor companies, including General Electric and Westinghouse, have major stakes in big media companies. NBC and CBS, among other networks, are not sympathetic to public outrage against the system. So it may be hard to get any message across without using the techniques of non-violence.

That's okay, I think. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., both had useful roles in changing how Americans view civil rights. Protesters have taken over buildings and been removed, violently, by police in protests over the Vietnam War, over equality for women, over apartheid in South Africa, and over many other issues while at the same time non-violent protests took place on the same issues. Anyone who says that violence has no place in American politics hasn't looked very closely.

When considering acts of rebellion, or acts of loyalty to the cause of freedom, it is important to understand how technology can be useful. Today, we have technologies that are very effective at providing for anonymity in e-mail and web browsing, providing for encryption in e-mail, chat, and voice-over-IP, providing for anonymity in payments (which are just another kind of message), and enhancing the information security of all kinds of data. Best of all, you can know what your software is doing because of the open source revolution. Since those in power use sophisticated technologies for communications and data security, it seems wise to be at least as clever as they are. And since they have been caught many times with their data hanging out where it can be exposed, by Manning, Assange, Snowden, and others, it might be better to be more clever than the government.

We live in exciting times. The time has come to talk of many things, and do quite a few of them.

Best wishes for a future of freedom.

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