Center for a Stateless Society
A Left Market Anarchist Think Tank & Media Center
STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Relatório da Coordenação de Mídias em Português: Agosto de 2014

Como prometido, aqui estão os números referentes à atuação do C4SS de 25 de junho a 25 de julho de 2014:

  • 14 textos publicados
  • 32 republicações em jornais e veículos da internet

Os textos mais republicados foram:

  1. “‘O governo é aquilo que fazemos juntos’: talvez a coisa mais idiota que já foi dita“, Kevin Carson: 7 republicações
  2. Guerra cibernética: O inimigo é você“, Thomas L. Knapp: 6 republicações
  3. A pergunta é: por que alguém confiaria no governo?“, Kevin Carson: 5 republicações

Como meu relatório anterior veio sem os números acima e a atuação do Centro foi um tanto anêmica, decidi dedicar trabalho redobrado em agosto. Estes são os números de 25 de julho a 25 de agosto de 2014:

  • 28 textos publicados
  • 7 dos 28 originalmente escritos em português (escritos por mim e por Valdenor Júnior)
  • A página do Facebook do C4SS em português saltou de 1219 curtidas para 2056 (aumento de 837)
  • Nosso perfil no Twitter saiu dos 66 seguidores para 82 (aumento de 16)
  • 99 republicações e citações em jornais e veículos de mídia da internet

Os textos mais republicados no mês foram:

  1. Iraque: A cirurgia imperial sem fim“, Brian Nicholson: 9 republicações
  2. Como não combater o 1%“, Kevin Carson: 9 republicações
  3. Agroterroristas acusam banco de sementes de agroterrorismo“, Kevin Carson: 8 republicações
  4. Ciberativismo libertário“, Valdenor Júnior: 7 republicações
  5. A guerra de Israel em Gaza: Não olhe atrás da cortina“, Kevin Carson: 7 republicações e citações
  6. Privacidade 2014: Google como braço da vigilância estatal“, Thomas L. Knapp: 6 republicações
  7. Eduardo Campos morre, mas suas ideias infelizmente sobrevivem“, Erick Vasconcelos: 6 republicações
  8. A Argentina e os fundos abutres“, Alan Furth: 5 republicações
  9. O magnata dos ônibus e a coleção de vinis que você comprou para ele“, Erick Vasconcelos: 5 republicações

Dois textos que não foram computados foram os dois últimos a sair no mês (de David S. D’Amato e Valdenor Júnior), que acabaram de ser enviados para diversos editores.

Também acabei de fazer um blog no Tumblr para o C4SS em português. Talvez consigamos estabelecer um diálogo interessante sobre nossas ideias por lá também.

Outro fato digno de nota deste mês foi a publicação de uma reportagem sobre o crescimento das ideias libertárias nos Estados Unidos que citava o diretor do C4SS Roderick Long. Publicamos toda a sua entrevista em português logo a seguir.

De acordo com as estatísticas do Facebook, tem havido grande repercussão de nosso conteúdo em Angola. Sendo brasileiro, naturalmente o conteúdo que produzo e reproduzo tem foco no Brasil, que também é o maior país de língua portuguesa do mundo. Embora seja até certo ponto natural esse foco no público brasileiro, é uma surpresa agradável que nós consigamos chegar à África com as ideias anarquistas de mercado.

Outros projetos da nossa embaixada em português que estão em andamento são:

  • Resenha do livro Hierarquia, de Augusto de Franco (provavelmente saindo na primeira semana de setembro)
  • Resenha de Brasil potência: Entre a integração regional e um novo imperialismo, de Raúl Zibechi (também saindo, provavelmente, na primeira semana de setembro)
  • Tradução para o português de The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand, de Kevin Carson (que deve ser lançado no final de setembro)

Também estamos implementando uma nova página inicial para nosso site em português, para torná-lo ainda mais atraente para os leitores.

Para tudo isso, precisamos da sua contribuição. Por isso, faça a sua doação, porque é isso que mantém as engrenagens da anarquia em funcionamento!

Erick Vasconcelos
Coordenador de Mídias
Centro por uma Sociedade Sem Estado (C4SS)

Portuguese Media Coordinator Update: August 2014

As promised, here are the Portuguese C4SS embassy’s numbers from June 25 to July 25:

  • 14 published articles
  • 32 newspaper and internet pickups

Most picked up articles were:

  1. ‘Government Is The Things We Do Together’: Perhaps the Stupidest Thing Ever Said“, Kevin Carson: 7 republicações
  2. Cyber War: The Enemy is You“, Thomas L. Knapp: 6 republicações
  3. The Question is, Why Would ANYONE Trust the Government?“, Kevin Carson: 5 republicações

Since my July report didn’t have the previous numbers and the Center’s action was rather anemic, I decided to go full steam and work double in August. These are the numbers from July 25 to August 25, 2014:

  • 28 published articles
  • 7 articles from those 28 originally written in Portuguese (by myself and Valdenor Júnior)
  • Our Portuguese Facebook page jumped from 1219 to 2056 likes (+837)
  • Our Twitter has now got 82 followers, from the previous month’s 66 (+16)
  • 99 pickups from newspapers and other websites

August’s most picked up articles were:

  1. Iraq: Endless Imperial Surgery“, Brian Nicholson: 9 pickups
  2. How Not to Fight the 1%“, Kevin Carson: 9 pickups
  3. Agri-Terrorists Accuse Seed Bank of Agri-Terrorism“, Kevin Carson: 8 pickups
  4. Libertarian Cyberactivism” (unpublished in English), Valdenor Júnior: 7 pickups
  5. Israel’s War in Gaza: Don’t Look Behind the Curtain“, Kevin Carson: 7 pickups and citations
  6. Privacy 2014: Google as an Arm of the Surveillance State“, Thomas L. Knapp: 6 pickups
  7. Brazil: Presidential Candidate Dies, His Ideals Unfortunately Live On“, Erick Vasconcelos: 6 pickups
  8. Vulture Funds vs. Argentina“, Alan Furth: 5 pickups
  9. The Bus Magnate and the Vinyl Collection You Bought Him“, Erick Vasconcelos: 5 pickups

Our last two articles in the month (David S. D’Amato’s and Valdenor Júnior’s) should get a few pickups, but they were not counted here, as they have just been sent to several editors.

I have also opened up a Portuguese C4SS blog on Tumblr. Hopefully we’ll be able to establish an interesting conversation on our ideas over there too.

Another interesting fact was the story the largest magazine in Brazil, Veja, published on the rise of libertarian ideas in the United States, which mentioned C4SS’s senior fellow Roderick Long. We published his whole interview for the magazine in Portuguese shortly afterwards.

According to Facebook, there has been great repercussion of our content in Angola. Being Brazilian, and Brazil being the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world, I tend to focus my efforts mostly in Brazil. It’s natural to a certain point that I do so, and that’s why it’s positively surprising that we’re able to communicate market anarchist ideas to Africa as well.

The other projects that we have underway are the following:

  • Augusto de Franco’s Hierarchy review (should probably be ready on the first week of September)
  • Raúl Zibechi’s The New Brazil: Regional Imperialism and the New Democracy review (also probably ready in the first week of September)
  • Kevin Carson’s The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand translation (which should be done by the end of September)

We’re also implementing a new splash page for our Portuguese website, so as to make it more attractive and inviting to our readers.

To do all these things, we need your help. Donate and keep the anarchy gears spinning!

Erick Vasconcelos
Media Coordinator
Center for a Stateless Society

Ask an Anarchist Week
1979741_10152305329178690_1466573893_n 1619121_10152305329168690_1083213991_n
1011256_10201645242388949_1268073089_n unnamed

People are drawn to a commotion. In the marketplace of ideas, winners are often simply the loudest and as anarchists we hold ideas inherently more combative and attention grabbing than those regularly seen on a college campus. This is precisely what makes the campus perfect for radical activism, and was the philosophy which guided the Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS) at Texas State when we held our inaugural Ask an Anarchist Week.

The event intended first to establish S4SS as the primary voice for radical politics and social justice on Texas State campus, and second to communicate to other anarchists on campus that there was an intellectual home for their ideas. Armed with hundreds of pamphlets and a sign which read “Abolish Government Now!”, we set up our tent directly in the middle of campus and invited anyone interested to engage us in dialogue over whatever they wanted. A constant stream of students visited the table, sometimes recognizing the literature and ideas, but more often they were simply interested to hear what the people with the “abolish government” sign had to say. We distributed almost the entirety of our literature, and finished with 40 names on an email list. All metrics point to the event being a great success, but they don’t tell the whole story.

The success of the event was solidified in my mind on the final day of tabling, when I realized almost all of the visitors to the table were repeat visitors coming back to talk about the ideas they had read in the pamphlets we gave them. In our first week of existence, S4SS had not only succeeded in distributing anarchist literature, but managed to create a tiny community where new people explored anarchist ideas and sought deeper understanding of the philosophy.

Ask an Anarchist Week blew through all expectations I had of an anarchist tabling event being held well into the semester, and set a standard for our future activism. I attribute this simply to the commotion we made by being an intellectual group who embraced their radicalism with a touch of flair.

Travis Calhoun is an organizer for S4SS at Texas State University in San Marcos Texas, and a campus coordinator for Students for Liberty.
S4SS at Texas State has a Facebook page and a group.
The group can be contacted through either of the facebook links or email: s4ss.txstate@gmail.com.

The Weekly Abolitionist: Pitfalls and Possibilities

The protests, police violence, and repression in Ferguson have sparked nationwide conversations about police militarization and misconduct. There’s some incredibly promising potential here, as more and more people become aware of the brutality of the modern criminal justice system. However, there are also some potential pitfalls that deserve cautious examination.

First, the good. Popular commentators have been offering insightful analysis of police militarization. Perhaps the most notable is John Oliver, whose bit on Ferguson and police militarization was informative, incisive, and darkly hilarious. Thanks to this sort of commentary, plenty of people who hadn’t even heard of police militarization until recently are now aware of why it’s a problem.

Anarchist commentators have offered particularly insightful analysis in the wake of Ferguson. Here at the Center for a Stateless Society Grant Mincy has linked the protests in Ferguson to a broader trend of revolutionary movements, Cory Massimino has called for the abolition of the police, David D’Amato has analyzed what makes the US a police state, and Ryan Calhoun has called on Ferguson to “embrace community chaos over police order.” Over at AntiWar.com, Dan Sanchez has also called for the abolition of police, correctly identifying them as occupying forces that undermine peace and security rather than upholding them.

But it’s important to remember that this isn’t primarily about a national conversation. It’s about people’s lives. The people of Ferguson are facing arrests, police involved shootings, raids, tear gas, and a warlike environment that prevents the peaceful social cooperation that supports human life. To mitigate this tragedy, it’s important for people within and outside Ferguson to cooperate to support those being harmed by state violence. One way to do this is supporting the legal defense fund for those arrested in the course of the protests. Another is supporting the Amnesty International team that is on the ground observing and documenting abuse. Directly supporting those acting on the ground is one example of the vibrant voluntary cooperation human beings engage in from the bottom up, even when the top down violence of the state tries to thwart these actions.

While we should support these sorts of direct and bottom up actions, we must be skeptical of top down reform proposals, no matter how well-intentioned. The danger of public awareness and conversation surrounding serious issues is that politicians will seize on it to pass reforms, and these top-down reforms may make the problem worse rather than better. To understand why reform can be dangerous, just examine the history of criminal justice reform. In a review [PDF] of prison abolitionist Dean Spade’s book Normal Life, Jennifer Levi and Giovanni Shay note various examples of criminal justice reforms that unintentionally resulted in expanded state power and violence:

It is not only prison abolitionists who share Spade’s concern about the unintended consequences of prison reform. The sociologist Heather Schoenfeld writes that prison-conditions litigation in Florida contributed to a prison building boom there. Other commentators–including James Jacobs, Malcolm Feeley, and Van Swearingen–argue that prisoners’ rights litigation contributed to the “bureaucratization” of prisons, consolidating administrators’ power even as it asserted prisoners’ rights.

Examples of double-edged US criminal punishment reforms extend well beyond prison conditions. As described by Kate Stith and Steve Y. Koh (in “The Politics of Sentencing Reform: The Legislative History of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines,” Wake Forest Law Review, 1993), some of the initial proponents of federal sentencing guidelines were liberal academics and judges, who wanted to rationalize sentencing to make it fairer and more consistent. Unfortunately, as innumerable commentators have recounted, the implementation of the guidelines produced draconian sentences, ultimately contributing to the growth of US prisons.

That second point about liberal intentions motivating the establishment of federal sentencing guidelines is particularly important, given how these one-size fits all sentencing policies have driven the dramatic growth of the American prison state. A recent report from the National Research Council on the growth of incarceration in the US identifies the replacement of indeterminate sentencing with top down sentencing guidelines as a key policy that contributed to increased incarceration. The authors note multiple criticisms of indeterminate sentencing from the left that helped contribute to this change, writing:

Criticisms of indeterminate sentencing grew. Judge Marvin Frankel’s (1973) Criminal Sentences—Law without Order referred to American sentencing as “lawless” because of the absence of standards for sentencing decisions and of opportunities for appeals. Researchers argued that the system did not and could not keep its rehabilitative promises (Martinson, 1974). Unwarranted disparities were said to be common and risks of racial bias and arbitrariness to be high (e.g., American Friends Service Committee, 1971). Critics accused the system of lacking procedural fairness, transparency, and predictability (Davis, 1969; Dershowitz, 1976). Others asserted that parole release procedures were unfair and decisions inconsistent (Morris, 1974; von Hirsch and Hanrahan, 1979).

So leftist critique of an unfair criminal justice system inadvertently helped make it more harsh and punitive. These and other examples of reforms gone wrong are vitally important to understand, because the current national attention focused on mass incarceration, police brutality, and police militarization produces opportunities for reforms. And these reforms have a high risk of making the problems of punitive state violence even worse.

One particularly troubling trend in the wake of Ferguson is the trend of liberals calling for increased gun control in order to reduce the supposed need for police militarization. Commentators including UCLA law professor Adam Winkler have claimed that the prevalence of guns in America helps motivate police militarization and gun control may be a solution. But as Daniel Bier points out, police militarization has risen over a period of time when gun ownership has declined, crime has declined, and violent attacks on police have declined. In addition to being at odds with the facts, Winkler’s proposal risks promoting laws that increase the punitive power of America’s criminal justice system. As I’ve written previously, gun control laws have fueled the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in this country.

It’s good that more people are paying attention and talking about police militarization. But we must remember that police militarization is impacting real individuals and we should start by directly supporting the individuals and communities impacted, not attempting top-down political solutions. We must always be careful of the pitfalls and unintended consequences that come with politically enacted reforms. Direct action should be preferred to political action, and our analysis and prescriptions should be both radical and cautious. Radical in critiquing the root causes and institutions that contribute to these problems, and cautious in always being wary of unintended consequences and never allowing good intentions to make us support destructive top-down plans.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist And Chess Review 44

Pepe Escobar discusses why Obama is bombing ISIS.

Alex Kane discusses 11 facts about police militarization.

Philip Giraldi discusses the GOP.

John Maxwell Hamilton discusses how WW1 led to modern propaganda and surveillance.

Charles Davis discusses how America helped make the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria.

Joshua Cook discusses blowback in Iraq.

Ted Snider discusses the pattern on display in the U.S. response to ISIS.

David Lindorff discusses police militarization.

Medea Benjamin discusses the U.S. funding of repression in Egypt.

Alex Kane discusses the use of humanitarianism as an excuse for U.S. intervention abroad.

Sheldon Richman discusses attacks on liberty during WW1.

Immanuel Wallstein discusses the caliphate vs everyone else.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses police militarization and the Michael Brown case.

Kevin R.C. Gutzman discusses Lynne Cheney’s book on James Madison.

Michiko Kakutani discusses a book on women soldiers.

Thaddeus Russell discusses alliances between libertarians and leftists.

Justin Raimondo discusses how today is like the sixties.

Conor Friedersdorf discusses the memo allowing for drone assassination of American citizens.

Ralph Nader discusses Hilary the hawk.

Ivan Eland discusses U.S. interventionism in Iraq.

David Swanson discusses how militarism is a public safety issue.

Elliott Colla discusses ceaseless escalation in Iraq.

Falguni A. Sheth discusses torture and Obama’s comments on it.

Gilbert Mercier discusses how the war culture has come home to roost.

Peter Suderman discusses the events in Ferguson, Iraq, and the legacy of 9-11.

W. James Antle the third discusses American defeat in Iraq.

William Astore discuses the U.S. fetish for bombing.

The Washington Times discusses the “nanny state” in New Jersey. I prefer the term patriarchal state.

Reuben Fine defeats Arthur William Dake.

Vladimir Akopian defeats Vladimir Kramnik

Is There an Immigration Problem?

Rand Paul has spoken of an alleged “immigration problem”. This is a reference to the considerable number of “illegal” immigrants living in the U.S. The solution proposed to this supposed problem is to secure the border. A secure border would allegedly lead to less “illegal” immigrants crossing it.

This framing of the immigration issue is entirely wrong. It rests on the assumption that an inflow of “illegal” immigrants is a bad thing. The notion stems from a belief in the morality of nation-states and border control. If we abandon this idea, we can see that the real immigration problem pertains to border enforcement. It’s also related to miserable conditions in other countries. This horrific context is what leads many people to immigrate.

It’s definitely a problem when force is initiated against people simply crossing an imaginary line on a map. That’s one aspect of the real immigration problem. Another is the aforementioned miserable conditions. These consist of poverty and violence. Both of which contribute to people choosing to immigrate. If they lived in a better context, they may not feel the need to do so. This is not to say there is a moral issue with their choice to immigrate though.

This violence is partially the fault of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. recognition of the coup government in Honduras is one example. Another is the past terrorist wars waged by Reagan in Central America. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violence unleashed by U.S. foreign policy. It’s the most relevant though.

A just resolution of the problems surrounding immigration would involve ending imperialist U.S. violence around the world. It would also involve opening the borders. These are the positions consistent with radical libertarianism and anarchism. In contrast, the present framing of the issues by politicians is non-libertarian or non-anarchist. The latter statist take is morally grotesque.

One way to go about helping this solution along is to pressure politicians to declare safe havens in areas under their control. Another related approach is to have non-governmental institutions harbor or help refugees from other countries. One could also donate to organizations that push for illegal immigrants to receive legal defense in court like the ACLU.

All of these options are important for furthering freedom of immigration. This principle of freedom of movement follows naturally from the non-aggression principle. Let’s work to implement the above solutions! All we have to lose is our chains. The time to act is now.

The Culture of Anarchism

State ideologies require an underlying cultural disposition, if they are to stand the test of time. This cultural disposition is inevitably tied to the core concepts of an ideology. Nationalism subordinates the individual’s values to those of their national community, while numerous strands of socialism focus upon the lives and pastimes of the proletariat. Romantic conservatism paints an idyllic vision of pastoral simplicity, all watched over with love and grace by a landed aristocracy. But what of anarchism? Where is the shared culture of a movement that rails against such concentrations of power?

At first glance, the question may appear oxymoronic. Indeed, it is true to say that anarchists of all stripes disagree on “fundamentals” such as wage labour. What then makes anarchism a distinct mode of interpreting the world? A vague aversion to the State will not do: such a disposition is necessary but insufficient. The State is just one of numerous power structures (e.g. patriarchy and institutional racism), and any anarchist worth their salt is concerned with hierarchies in general.

Note that I say “concerned with” rather than “automatically opposed to”. As Austrian competition theory explains, freed markets allow concentrations of economic power to ebb and flow like the tide. Competition is a state of flux and dynamism, with firms, workers and entrepreneurs constantly adjusting to a changing world. It is inevitable that — in some cases — power structures will emerge. The anarchist concern is to ensure such structures are beneficial and are not entrenched to our detriment. To be an anarchist is to commit to constant evaluation of power structures; our damning verdict of the State, as the instigator and catalyst of oppression, is a product of this commitment. Paul Goodman sums it up cogently:

[The] relativity of the anarchist principle to the actual situation is of the essence of anarchism…It is always a continual coping with the next situation, and a vigilance to make sure past freedoms are not lost and do not turn into the opposite, as free enterprise turned into wage-slavery and monopoly capitalism, or the independent judiciary turned into a monopoly of courts, cops, and lawyers…

The anarchist culture of scepticism towards power structures is key to human flourishing. On an individual level, this manifests in critically examining our everyday habits. Samuel Beckett reminds us that “the pernicious devotion of habit paralyses our attention, drugs those handmaidens of perception whose co-operation is not absolutely essential”. Our unwavering collective devotion to entrenched power structures paralyses society, and blinds us to the evils that plague it. Embrace change and the possibility it provides.

Liberal and Libertarian Conceptions of Policing: Response to Armanda Marcotte

Armanda Marcotte recently wrote about the supposed refutation of libertarian arguments represented by the Ferguson protests. She acts surprised that a “few libertarian types,” other than Radley Balko, are attempting to sound consistent on police power in Ferguson, as if most libertarians had previously been endorsing this kind of policing response.

She also goes on to accuse libertarians of thinking that civil liberties violations allegedly created by Bush are actually the invention of Obama. A baseless charge for which I am aware of no evidence. As if that weren’t bad enough, she postulates that libertarians are just “ass covering”. A notion implying that they aren’t really seriously opposed to this stuff.

All that aside, the meat of the piece revolves around a contrast between the liberal and libertarian conceptions of policing. Her central piece of empirical evidence for the liberal conception is what happened when Liberal Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, got involved. She specifically mentions him putting the head of highway police, Ron Johnson, in charge, and his marching with the protesters.

The central problem with this line of reasoning is that Jay Nixon recently declared a state of emergency along with a curfew in Ferguson, Missouri. He also recently sent in the National Guard. There are also police abuses still occurring such as the threatening of reporter, Chris Hayes. Ron Johnson broke a promise to not enforce the curfew with military style trucks and tear gas. He also ordered the arrest of journalists. It appears that the old approach is still in effect.

Another major part of her thesis is that non-violence has proven itself more effective than violence. This is ironically combined with mentioning that Ronald Reagan cracked down on blacks carrying guns in the form of the Black Panthers. Not to mention that there is no unifying libertarian view on the use of violence against government as a form of protest. We can grant truth to her argument without believing it’s refuted libertarianism.

The final part of her piece worth addressing pertains to her queer view that libertarians view police as inherently authoritarian. This implicitly means all libertarians believe this. The fact is that some libertarians do oppose all police while others want to have private policing. Not all libertarians even think government police are inherently authoritarian. There are minarchists who support them.

That having been said, her liberal conception of government police as serving in an accountable “serve and protect” function ignores a number of factors. The factor of officer friendly belonging to a monopolistic organization. This means people can’t escape abuse easily. Another issue is that the government police may only be officer friendly for respectable members of the community who aren’t violating any unjust laws deemed socially necessary.

The final problem with her analysis is that all government relies on the initiation of force to survive. Officer friendly will eventually have to be unfriendly to anyone seeking the services of a non-government protective association. In the context of most governments, they also have to eventually be unfriendly to those evading compulsory taxation. Her goal of police who genuinely serve communities is better realized in left-wing market anarchy. One way to go about creating rights protection outside of government is to encourage things like non-government sanctioned neighborhood watch and jury nullification. Both of which can serve to protect rights without the state. The first by deterring violent crime through citizen watch and the second by freeing people unjustly headed for imprisonment. Please get started on this vital task today!

Missing Comma: #mediablackout

I’ll be honest, I used to scoff at the term “citizen journalism.” Why should any average Joe with a Twitter account be trusted with the same line of work for which I’m working on a bachelor’s degree?

But in recent years, with the introduction of GoPros, smartphones and accessible encryption techniques, a new kind of vigilante “journalist” (and I’ll get to why I used scare quotes in a second) has emerged. They’ve allowed us to watch live streams of worldwide Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, riots in Ukraine and most recently, the Ferguson protests after card-carrying journalists were reportedly purged out of police-occupied areas with tear gas. This is problematic in the growing blog culture of the new media landscape – people who don’t have the necessary training to handle themselves as members of the press make for even more misinformation coming out online, especially when they don’t properly contextualize situations such as the Ferguson riots.

The #mediablackout hashtag appeared on Twitter without any real contextualization; people were tweeting it in tandem with #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and similar hashtag campaigns but it wasn’t clear what exactly the #mediablackout entailed until the arrests of Al-Jazeera, Huffington Post and Washington Post journalists surfaced.

Outrage doesn’t.

Outrage isn’t a substitute for information. Sure, the public is taking notice on restrictions of journalism but a few attention-grabbing tweets aren’t going to reverse a media blackout. We need people on the ground like the affected journalists to get publicly angry, and even Obama took their side, albeit after some presidential jargon condemning violence against police:

There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.

All that aside, whether or not you believe that the Disney Channel purposely aired throwback episodes of old shows to distract youths from the news, I don’t need to tell you that press freedom is a myth in America. What’s most concerning about Ferguson isn’t citizen journalism, it’s, as Sandy Davidson, a professor of communications law at the Missouri School of Journalism weighed in:

… every piece of information Ferguson officials have tried to keep from leaking has come back to bite them. Despite vocal outcries from community leaders, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has refused to release the name of the officer involved in Brown’s shooting, citing death threats against the officer. It’s a valid concern, and one Davidson said is supported by legal precedent. She cites a 1982 appellate case in her home state of Missouri, which held that public information can be withheld if releasing it would cause a “foreseeable risk of harm.” The Supreme Court let the decision stand in 1983.

But legal or not, withholding information has consequences, including a risk that those withholding the information will be perceived as having something to hide. “You can’t trust what you don’t know,” Davidson said. “Anytime a veil of secrecy is thrown on something, I think it leads to speculation, which can get more and more odious.”

As long as transparency isn’t the norm, information is going to suffer. This should be a no-brainer, but this makes it all the more important that we fight for press freedom and attempt to instruct people on how to conduct citizen journalism properly.

The Weekly Abolitionist: Chris Burbank and the Myth of “Good Cops”

Last week, Radley Balko published an interesting piece on the question “After Ferguson, how should police respond to protests?”  He contrasted the militarized approach seen in Ferguson and in the Battle of Seattle with less reactionary and more cooperative forms of policing. One police chief Balko praised was Chris Burbank of Salt Lake City, my hometown. In particular, Balko emphasized the manner in which Chief Burbank evicted Occupy protesters from Pioneer Park. His department gave protesters advance notice and did not bring riot gear or other military equipment to the eviction, thus avoiding much of the violence and conflict seen in other police crackdowns on Occupy.

Last year, as part of a series on the police reform movement in Utah, Balko published a profile piece praising Chief Burbank. Balko summarizes Burbank’s approach as follows:

Unconventional has been Burbank’s modus operandi since he was appointed chief of police in 2006. Be it the drug war, immigration, or the handling of protests, Burbank’s mantra to his officers is the same: Use the minimum amount of force necessary to resolve the situation. Or as Burbank puts it, “It’s not can I do it, but should I do it?”

His comparatively peaceful approach is not the only thing that makes Chief Burbank more likable than the average cop. He also attempts friendly relations with groups often at odds with abusive police officers. Transgender individuals face brutal repression and violence from police across the country, but Chief Burbank attended and spoke at Utah’s Transgender Day of Remembrance service last year, mourning trans people who had been killed. This year he spoke at Salt Lake City’s SlutWalk, a protest against mistreatment of sexual assault survivors. Several years ago both Burbank and myself were attendees at the ACLU of Utah’s annual Bill of Rights Celebration. If you want to find an image of a “good cop,” Chris Burbank is probably one of the best examples you’ll find. When an incredibly astute critic of police abuse like Radley Balko praises a police officer, that officer is probably above average.

So it’s pretty telling when Burbank and his subordinates behave in the same destructive ways as any other cops. And they do that all too often. Last week, Salt Lake City police officers shot and killed an unarmed man, 20 year old Dillon Taylor. His brother, Jerrail Taylor, witnessed the killing and described it to the Salt Lake Tribune:

“We’re walking out of the 7-Eleven with a drink, when the cops show up and start harassing us with guns,” Jerrail Taylor told The Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday night. South Salt Lake police, who are investigating the shooting, said Salt Lake City police were answering a 911 call reporting a man there was waving a handgun; Dillon Taylor purportedly matched the description of the armed man.

Dillon Taylor was wearing headphones and didn’t respond to the three officers until they surrounded him, Jerrail Taylor said.

“He couldn’t hear them, so he just kept walking. Then … they had guns pointed at his face. That’s when he turned off the music,” he said. “I saw them point guns at my brother’s face, and I knew what was going to happen.”

One officer told Dillon Taylor to get on the ground, while another told him to put his hands on his head.

“He got confused, he went to pull up his pants to get on the ground, and they shot him,” Jerrail Taylor said.

Witnesses said they heard two shots. Taylor died at the scene; his brother and cousin were detained for questioning.

So Chief Burbank’s subordinates surrounded a man and pointed guns at him, then shot him when he attempted to pull up his pants. And they almost certainly won’t face the kinds of criminal charges we would expect if a private citizen committed this sort of shooting.

This June, Salt Lake City Police Officer Brett Olsen entered a fenced yard without a warrant and shot a dog named Geist. After massive public outcry over this shooting, Chief Burbank criticized the public for much of their anger. Or, as J.D. Tucille of Reason put it, “Police Chief Chris Burbank stepped in front of a camera — and acted pissy that anybody would dare criticize his officers.” The SLCPD eventually concluded that Olsen “acted within policy.”

In 2011, attorney Andrew McCullough represented two escort services in a lawsuit challenging a Utah law that allowed police officers to arrest suspected sex workers for touching themselves, exposing themselves, or acting in any lewd manner. McCullough argued that this criminalized perfectly legal expressive activity routinely engaged in by strippers as part of their job, and thus violated the First Amendment. Chief Burbank had lobbied for the law and continued to defend it during this suit. His argument for the law was based on the idea that officers were being asked to behave inappropriately when they conducted undercover operations to catch sex workers. In other words, because he wanted it to be easier for his employees to identify and coerce sex workers for their choices of what to do with their bodies, he supported an overly broad law that could threaten legal businesses and free expression.

What can we learn from all this? What I take from it is that even the better police officers still respond to the structural incentives associated with policing. Police are granted a monopoly on legal force, and along with that are given privileges to use force we would consider criminal if carried out by a mere mundane. Police officers are also rewarded for enforcing vice laws, and they thus have incentives to seek expansive powers for enforcing such laws. Moreover, they are a concentrated and too often revered interest group that can easily influence legislative bodies in order to claim these expansive powers. Burbank’s actions show that even cops who emphasize treating the public with respect and preserving civil liberties will respond to the perverse incentives embedded in policing itself. They will almost inevitably find themselves helping killer cops escape accountability and seeking more power to coerce people who pose no threat. Given these perverse incentives, I think we should take the advice of Anthony Gregory and abolish the police.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist And Chess Review 43

George H. Smith’s series on social laws is now on its third part.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the end of Iraq.

Cesar Chelala discusses war crimes in Iraq and Syria.

John Marciano discusses Obama’s response to the torture scandal.

Doug Bandow discusses the recent U.S. military action in Iraq.

Jay Stephenson discusses how network television presents moderate pro-war people and extreme pro-war people.

John Grant discusses how to break the cycle of war.

Tyler Durden discusses the complete history of U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Jacob Sullum discusses the panic about stoned drivers and marijuana legalization.

A. Barton Hinkle discusses the export-import bank.

Wendy McElroy discusses the War on Drugs and private shippers.

Ivan Eland discusses a scandal worse than Watergate or Iran-Contra.

David S. D’Amato discusses left-wing individualism.

Jason Lee Byas discusses the renewed U.S. intervention in Iraq.

J.D. Tuccille discusses five areas where libertarians get it right.

Brian Nicholson discusses imperial surgery in Iraq.

Cory Massimino discusses state support on behalf of the rich.
rtarian
Cory Massimino reviews Markets Not Capitalism.

William Blum discusses the U.S. government’s longstanding use of torture.

Justin Raimondo discusses Hilary Clinton and foreign policy.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman discusses Nixon’s treasonous behavior related to Vietnam.

Kelly Vlahos discusses how the child migrant crossings are partially due to the War on Drugs.

Sheldon Richman discusses the recent U.S. intervention in Iraq.

William Blum discusses attempts to overthrow the Cuban government.

David Stockman discusses the new intervention in Iraq.

David D. S’Amato discusses American Coup: How a Terrified Government is Destroying the Constitution.

Joel Schlosberg discusses Paul Krugman’s recent attack on libertarianism.

David Swanson critiques the renewed bombing of Iraq.

Anand beats Carlsen.

John E Oberg is defeated by W Wenz

What to Make of Renewed U.S. Intervention in Iraq

A humanitarian rationale is being given for the recent renewed U.S. intervention in Iraq. The atrocities of ISIS are the latest excuse for U.S. military action in the country. There are even signs of a new U.S. push on Fallujah and Anbar generally. Fallujah is the site of two past U.S. assaults and some atrocities.

All of this should be deeply troubling for friends of liberty. George W. Bush had humanitarian reasons for his occupation and bombing of Iraq too. That didn’t make his actions in Iraq just. There were jihadists running around killing Shia and oppressing Christians during his term as well. The difference now is one of degree. ISIS is a lot more successful and powerful than other jihadist groups have been in Iraq.

One need not like ISIS to question further U.S. military action in Iraq. There is a very real possibility that further occupation of and airstrikes on Iraq will lead to sympathy for ISIS. They can play the defense against foreign aggression card. Not to mention that airstrikes will most likely result in the euphemistic concept of “collateral damage”. This can lead to further support for ISIS.

These possibilities were also present in the military action in Iraq prior to this latest round. That makes one wonder how people will react to it this time. If there is a positive reaction, the stigma surrounding war in Iraq created during the Bush era will have been defused. This could lead to an escalation of the intervention or military action elsewhere. An action that would no longer trouble the populace and thus not be politically dangerous.

The banishment of a stigma surrounding war from the public consciousness would be disastrous for people around the world. They would be subject to more U.S. murder and military intervention. This aversion to war and imperialism helps keep people alive. If nothing else, renewed U.S. military intervention in Iraq could have this awful effect.

Renewed militarism in Iraq could also involve the further use of extrajudicial killings via drone strike. This has been a horrific practice honed in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. A rational anti-militarist will not want it to spread to other countries. If they make an exception for this new military action in Iraq, they may very well be supporting what brings extrajudicial killing through drone strike to Iraq. One can only hope that further military action in Iraq doesn’t lead to any of the possibilities above.

One way to help is by donating to Antiwar.com.

Market Anarchy Reading Groups for Students!

I’m very proud to announce that both of Students For Liberty’s (very quickly!) upcoming Virtual Reading Groups for this Fall are related to market anarchism, and both of them include C4SS Senior Fellows as Discussion Leaders.

The first, led by Charles W. Johnson (with my assistance) will be a general overview of left-libertarianism, individualist anarchism, and free market anti-capitalism. We’ll focus on readings from Markets Not Capitalism, but also include plenty of material not found there. The group meets every other week on Monday nights at 7:00pm EST/4:00pm PST, with discussions typically going for about an hour and a half. The first meeting is on September 8th.

Also, Roderick Long and Kevin Vallier will be co-leading a general overview of Murray Rothbard and his place in libertarian history. Readings will primarily come from Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, but will also include plenty of other material not found there. The group meets every other week on Tuesday nights at 7:00pm EST / 4:00pm PST, with discussions typically going for about an hour and a half. The first meeting is on September 9th.

From the official announcement:

SFL Virtual Reading Groups operate like Liberty Fund symposiums, in which participants are given a list of readings on the intellectual underpinnings of a free society and are then given the opportunity to share their own thoughts on the readings with each other. By creating a space for active discussion with other intellectually engaged students, led by capable and informed discussion leaders, VRGs give participants a unique chance to truly delve into a text in ways they might not have been able to on their own. Each reading group will meet every other week for 8 meetings over the course of 16 weeks. All readings are provided by SFL. 

Importantly, the deadline to apply for either (or both) of these Virtual Reading Groups is Sunday, August 31st. You can find more information about the VRGs and how to apply at the link just provided.

Ferguson 187: Comment Copy/Paste

The occasion is a CNN Money story relating that Anonymous has divulged name and photo of someone they allege is the Ferguson killer cop (the dominant area street gang, which calls itself the “St. Louis County Metropolitan Police Department,” denies the ID — here’s a more detailed story, including screen caps, etc. from before Twitter shut down the Anon account). My comment on the story:

If a police officer had been gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of the street by a young black man, the suspect’s name would have been released within minutes, charges would have been formally filed within hours and the suspect would have been taken into custody as soon as humanly possible.

Since it was a young black man gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of the street by a police officer, it is now days later and the suspect’s name has not been released, charges have not been formally filed and the suspect has been put on paid vacation while the police department runs through sequential conflicting versions of the story it is putting together until it has everyone worn out and confused enough not to burn the city down when it announces “we’ve determined that the un-named police officer was acting according to department policy.”

Like the pigs (equivalency definitely intended) in Animal Farm said, “all animals are equal — but some animals are more equal than others.”

Tamara (my spouse) noticed this morning that the victim lived in Canfield Green, an apartment complex that we considered moving into a couple of years ago. If you’ve never been to Ferguson, don’t take the media portrayals of it as “ghetto town” seriously. It’s a nice, normally peaceful, lower-middle-class suburb (apropos of the race-baiting, it’s not “as black” as the town I lived in for 12 years, 4 or 5 miles to the south). I’ve driven every last one of Ferguson’s streets and probably sold ice cream to the victim when he was a young kid.

Ferguson is the kind of town where it takes a lot to get a crowd out on the street facing down armed thugs with badges.

[Cross-posted from KN@PPSTER]

Police are Arresting Reporters, Seizing Cameras and Assaulting Protesters in Ferguson

Last night, police in Ferguson, MO were lobbing Super-Sock cartridges into the crowds gathered to protest the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown. Brown was shot eight times, witnesses say he had his hands in the air. He was shot several times in the back.

At the same time, police were tear gassing reporters with Al-Jazeera America and taking apart their video equipment so they could not record the police’s actions.

They were also arresting Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly. The Federal Aviation Authority declared Ferguson a no-fly zone, preventing news crews from filming aerially.

The Economist:

The shooting comes not long after Eric Garner, another black man, was killed during a choke-hold arrest in New York. Last year an unarmed man called Jonathan Ferrell was shot ten times by a North Carolina police officer. “People are asking: ‘Is it open season on us?’,” says Delores Jones-Brown, director of the John Jay College on Race, Crime and Justice.

Jackie Summers#Ferguson

Contemplating Economic vs Political Power and Power in Left-Wing Market Anarchy

Ayn Rand stated:

Now let me define the difference between economic power and political power: economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction.

True enough in left-wing market anarchy. It’s not true under capitalism though. An employer may use their ability to offer a reward to dependent employees as a tool of control. A lowered wage may be enacted to punish the dissenting worker. Political power also bolsters capitalists, so a strict separation of them under capitalism isn’t present. Not to mention that employer-employee wage labor often involves government on the side of the employer.

If not forcibly suppressed, there may still be employer-employee wage labor in a free society. The liberating effects of a freed market would render the power dynamics involved much more egalitarian though. This would render the destructive form that can be taken by economic power above relatively null and void. It may not be entirely eliminated, but it would be significantly reduced than under capitalism.

Under left-wing market anarchy, power would also be much more dispersed. The decentralizing effects of market forces would render concentrations of power unstable or unworkable. The ability to inflict damage on others through economic means would be tempered by massive market competition. There would be tons of independent producers and cooperatives of producers to deal with. This would make it easy to avoid a producer who is economically abusive.

Such economic abuse in left-wing market anarchy might take the form of demanding far too much for a product or denying someone access to economic resources for bigoted reasons. Freed markets would be one, but not the only, way of dealing with this scenario. One can also imagine a social boycott or protest as a means of ensuring people aren’t exploited. Oppressive power need not always be fought with coercive means. It depends on the form such power takes. There would be no institutional home of aggression in left-wing market anarchy, but there might be instances of power projection like the above. It’s also true that rogue individuals or collectives might try to initiate force, but the power of a left-libertarian culture would render this less likely.

In working for the realization of left-wing market anarchism, one shouldn’t lose sight of the above. The analysis of power dynamics is crucial for understanding what freedom looks like. All are welcome to add their own analysis of said dynamics in the comments section below.

The Weekly Abolitionist: A Prison Abolitionist Reading List

Recently in the Los Angeles Times, Carolina A. Miranda published a list of “8 eye-opening prison books.” Out of the books listed, I’ve only read Angela Davis’s excellent treatise on the prison-industrial complex, Are Prisons Obsolete.  I’ll be adding the rest to my reading list, however. This got me thinking about what I would recommend people read to understand the prison system. So here are a few recommendations:

Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, by Victoria Law.  If you’re interested in how women fare in the prison system, this book is a must read. Victoria Law documents a litany of problems including sexual assault, abysmal healthcare, shackling of women during childbirth, separation of mothers from their children, and slave labor conditions. She also explores the ways top down reforms, even hard fought reforms by prisoners’ rights activists, often wind up exacerbating conditions for prisoners. Yet while Law documents a litany of serious problems, she also consistently discusses the ways prisoners organize among themselves to resist and mitigate these problems.

Prisons Will Not Protect You. The Against Equality collective, a radical queer and trans organization, assembled this book to oppose the mainstream LGBT movement’s push for hate crimes laws. The book documents the ways prisons brutalize rather than protect queer and trans individuals, the way some queer and trans people have been criminalized for defending themselves from hate crimes, and the way hate crimes laws exacerbate the problem of mass incarceration. The introduction by Dean Spade is particularly brilliant.

It’s About Time: America’s Imprisonment Binge, by James Austin and John Irwin. This book  provides a detailed discussion of mass incarceration. I particularly appreciate the discussion of how parole policies make it harder for former inmates to find employment, and thus increase risk of recidivism. The authors also compare crime rates among the 50 states. They find little correlation between crime rates and incarceration but do find correlations between crime rates and other indicators of poverty and social problems.

Undoing Border Imperialism, by Harsha Walia. This book connects prison abolition, immigrants’ rights, anti-colonialism, and anti-militarism. Harsha Walia is a founding member of No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, a migrant justice group “that challenges the ideology of immigration controls”  and opposes “racial profiling, detention and deportation, the national security apparatus, law enforcement brutality, and exploitative working conditions of migrants.” Walia begins the book by laying out a theoretical framework for understanding what she calls “border imperialism.” She makes a compelling case that immigration controls, prisons and detention centers, and criminalization are part of a broader system of imperialism, where states have stolen indigenous land and broken up communities along the lines of borders drawn through conquest. She then discusses the concrete actions groups like No One Is Illegal are taking to counter this system of border imperialism and achieve regularization for all immigrants.

The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State, by Bruce Benson. One question prison abolitionists are invariably asked is “What’s the alternative?” Economist Bruce Benson provides one of the best answers to that question. He begins by explaining the functioning of historical systems of customary law, stateless legal systems built around restitution. He then explains how the state took over the provision of law and justice, and how this served as a mechanism to transfer resources to political leaders and their cronies. Benson examines the perverse incentives that govern state provided law and examines examples of private sector security provision.

Alternatives to Police, by Rose City Copwatch.  Other answers to the question of “What’s the alternative?” are explored in this online booklet from Rose City Copwatch. This booklet simply explains a variety of organizations and institutions that provide alternative ways to deal with crime without relying on the criminal justice system. It’s short on detail, but provides a useful antidote to the status quo bias that leads too many to see prisons and policing as the only way to deal with crime.

The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo is famous for conducting the Stanford prison experiment, which had to be called off because the students appointed to guard positions became so abusive. Zimbardo uses social psychology to explain how good people can be led toward evil behaviors because of authoritarian social environments. In particular, he applies these insights to explain the causes of prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib.

The Social Order of the Underworld, by David Skarbek.  This new book from economist David Skarbek applies economics to understand the rise of prison gangs. Skarbek argues that prison gangs are formed to provide governance, particularly in areas that cannot be governed by guards, such as disputes within black markets in prisons (drug markets, cell phone markets, etc.). As prison populations become larger, inmates cannot rely on knowledge of one another to provide reputation and assurance for transactions, and thus begin to need governance by gangs. The structure of incarceration enables these gangs to even extract taxes from street gangs within the region surrounding the prison. I have not yet read Skarbek’s book, but I’ve seen him present on this topic and I’ve read multiple papers he’s written on the subject. His work is consistently fascinating, and I am quite excited to read it.

One more recommendation. 

Read up on public choice theory. It’s important to understand that criminal justice policies are made and enforced by self-interested individuals, not by benevolent despots. Given the way reforms can often entrench the power of the prison state rather than erode it, those of us who are concerned about carceral power need to understand “politics without romance.” Daniel D’Amico, who has done excellent work applying economics to understand imprisonment, has a great blog post that recommends literature on public choice theory.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist And Chess Review 42

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses whether the CIA should be reformed rather than abolished.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses why the CIA should be abolished.

Kevin Carson discusses accusations of agri-terrorism.

Ivan Eland discusses how the current situation in Libya shows the folly of U.S. interventionism.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses the importance of graphic photos of war.

David Swanson discusses the renewed U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Luciana Bohne discusses American recruitment of Nazis from the past and present.

Brian Cloughley discusses Cold War 2.

Glenn Greenwald discusses the presidential ritual of bombing Iraq.

Justin Raimondo discusses sneaking back into Iraq.

Eric Margolis discusses the Ukraine.

David Stockman discusses Iraq.

John V. Walsh discusses an Obama interview with the Economist.

Benjamin G. Davis discusses torture.

Sheldon Richman discusses the continued subversion of Cuba by the U.S. government.

Laurence M. Vance discusses whether the import-export bank should be reauthorized.

Sheldon Richman discusses the 100th anniversary of World War 1.

Anthony Miles defeats Michael Rhode.

Anthony Miles beats Karpov with ..a6.

Dubious Arguments Against Releasing Senate Torture Report

Yahoo News recently reported that an internal U.S. intelligence memorandum warns that the release of a Senate report on torture could inflame anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East. This is a predictably bad argument that usefully serves to keep people worldwide in the dark about the criminal practices of the U.S. government. This argument assumes that preventing anti-American sentiment is more important than giving people access to the truth. This standard applied to World War 2 would mean that Holocaust photos shouldn’t have been shared, because it might inflame anti-German sentiment.

In other words, there is always a risk that something will offend someone somewhere. If you applied this principle consistently, you’d release barely anything – if at all. Libertarian principle also informs us that responsibility for any immoral acts committed in response to the release would belong to the people who did them. It wouldn’t be the fault of the people doing the releasing.

Of course, the discussion above presumes that people actually would commit immoral acts in response to the release of the report. As opposed to just hating the American government. The anarchist is rightfully concerned with the former rather than the latter. What the governing class and national security establishment is really concerned about is the latter. They don’t want distrust by people around the world to interfere with their projection of power.

Libertarian principle is about the opposite. It would be a good thing, if the release of the report were to impede the use of coercive American power around the globe. The lives saved would be incaluable as the military power of the American government were no longer trusted to do right. That’s one of the best anarchist arguments for the release of the report. Not to mention the fact that it will make available good information for future war crimes trials.

To make this a reality, Wikileaks and similar organizations should be encouraged to contact whistleblowers within the establishment. If the government won’t release it on its own accord, another Chelsea Manning might be willing to. They don’t even need to be an anarchist, but, it would still be a very anarchistic act on their part. The kind of act that can radicalize people and push them towards anarchism.

Anarchists should thus contact Wikileaks and encourage them to follow through on this suggestion. The result could be very favorable to liberty. Freedom cannot survive the use of torture. All the more reason to get started on this project.

Missing Comma (For Real This Time): No, We Don’t Believe Alternet Is Part Of The “Kochtopus”

Last night I published a dumb joke that also served as a semi-congratulations to C4SS’s media coordinator, Thomas L. Knapp, for getting published in Alternet. It was not a well-crafted joke, and as indicated by some of your confused reactions in the comments section, it was much too inside-baseball to work, especially given the low quality of the material. So let’s talk about all this business.

No, Neither I Nor C4SS Believe That Alternet Is A Libertarian Shill Group

There is literally zero evidence that Alternet receives any money from either Charles or David Koch, Koch Industries, or any organizations loosely or tightly affiliated with the so-called “Kochtopus.” I knew that from the moment I clicked “add new post” to the moment I hit publish.

What I knew for sure is that Alternet, like Salon and others, likes to publish articles about how libertarianism is literally going to cause our sun to explode because David and Charles Koch, and also Rand Paul too; the irony that they’d publish something by a libertarian – intentionally or not – was so thick as to be cloying, especially given the tendency of some of their regular contributors to cast aspersions upon an institution for occupying breathing space near libertarians.

Now that it comes up, though, some of us here at C4SS have received money from the many-tentacled Koch-kraken - primarily in the form of speaking fees, airfare and (relatively) small amounts of grant money.

James Tuttle, our director, had his flight to Washington, DC and hotel room covered as a Koch Summer Fellow from George Mason University’s Institute of Humane Studies to talk to college students about radical “IWW style” labor and left libertarianism. Senior Fellow Roderick Long used grants from IHS to help pay for graduate school, lectured at IHS seminars, and has run their graduate program for two years in a row. He said he’s also been paid for the occasional Cato gig as well. 

Tom Knapp said, “For the record, I’m sure I was at least indirectly funded by the Kochs when I worked for Free-Market.Net/Henry Hazlitt Foundation 1995-2002. Don’t know if the Kochs directly backed them, but they got “partnership” money from e.g. Cato, IHS, et. al.”

As far as I am aware, C4SS as an institution has never been funded by the Kochs.

But So What If Alternet Had Been?

Alternet has been going strong as a source of liberal/progressive news for years. As a news aggregator, it publishes (and republishes) a lot of material from around the Internet; some of it fantastic, other stuff… not so much. They publish literally hundreds of articles per day. Even if the average liberal reader could peruse every article posted to the site, how much of that material would they find themselves agreeing with? Surely not all.

So what would be the big loss if it suddenly came out that Alternet was in fact partially funded by libertarians? I don’t believe that the average Alternet reader is rabidly afraid of libertarians to such a degree that they’d suddenly disavow ever reading the site if this alternate reality came to pass.

But some writers believe that even the slightest hint of a libertarian influence is enough to taint any organization or individual for life. These writers, of which the previously-referenced Mark Ames and Yasha Levine are but two, make their living conducting witch hunts against those who are now, or who have ever been, a libertarian. These writers spend weeks at a time, trawling through library archives and semi-private internet databases, digging up whatever information they can find on a person or group that proves they’re part of the great evil that is libertarianism broadly – it doesn’t matter if that person is Glenn Greenwald, or if that organization is the Tor Foundation.

This has become its own cottage industry. Up-and-coming left-leaning journalists and commentators take potshots at libertarianism to bolster their portfolios and gain notoriety among their friends for being intrepid muckrakers (even though, at this point, a lot of their writing is just rehashed material from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine - if anything, she should be getting royalties at this point), sites like Alternet and Salon and the Huffington Post get temporary pageview increases, and the world keeps on spinning.

It’s fun to take your own potshots at those who don’t give two farts in the wind about talking about ideas (especially not ideas you may espouse), but ultimately, last night’s impromptu Missing Comma was the wrong way to do so. Rather, I just feel like it bears mentioning that Mark Ames’ old writing site, Exile, went offline a couple of weeks ago, and subsequently a lot of his writing – especially a particularly unfortunate article describing his problematic relationship with Russian sex workers – is no longer readily available. Luckily, we still have the Wayback Machine. Damn libertarians and their net freedom.

MISSING COMMA EXCLUSIVE: ALTERNET IS A LIBERTARIAN FRONT GROUP

This week, popular liberal-progressive news aggregator Alternet published an article by one Thomas Knapp, a former Libertarian Party campaign manager, on Google’s descent into surveillance state madness. While the article had plenty of legitimate points of concern regarding Google’s behavior, and pointed out, quite rightly, that all citizens are considered to be criminals by the State, and even offers some solutions to this burgeoning problem, what’s more interesting is why Alternet published anything from a libertarian who belongs to a group whose director and several of its “fellows” are nothing more than glorified Koch shills?

Even if Alternet ISN’T a libertarian front group, which they most certainly are at this point, it definitely begs the question of who Alternet is getting their funding from these days. Mark Ames and Yasha Levine: your new assignment is set. Find out which shady figure is filling Alternet’s coffers.