STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Combat Illiberalism

Today marks the 80th anniversary of then-aspiring tyrant Mao Tse-tung’s “Combat Liberalism.” In that short pamphlet Mao outlines eleven ways that liberal attitudes might manifest themselves within an anti-liberal revolutionary movement like his. Broadly, Mao characterizes the liberal attitude as an orientation towards “unprincipled peace” and petty egotism. The pamphlet’s recurring theme is one of instilling party discipline both internally in oneself and externally in others.

There is a lot to say about “Combat Liberalism.” One startling feature is the way it exemplifies the illiberal fear of freedom. Economically, illiberals fear that free trade and laissez-faire will inevitably result in monopoly. Socially, illiberals fear that free speech and toleration will inevitably result in repression by their enemies. Accordingly, when building movements, illiberals fear that anything less than total regimentation will inevitably result in total disintegration.

Beyond remarking on those undercurrents in Mao’s pamphlet, we can also consider the inverse of his worry; political movements of all kinds can fall into attitudes opposed to their values. Libertarianism, especially individualist anarchism, is a kind of radical liberalism. Yet there are several ways that petty movement politics can push us into very illiberal behaviors.

Here I’ll be considering ten ways this can happen. Since I, unlike Mao, am a liberal, I will not just bark them at you. I will also give some brief explanation with each as to why it strikes me as illiberal and why it is a problem. With most of these, there are clear exceptions – times where the behavior is perfectly beneficial or even necessary. However, I would wager that we’re, at least, experiencing a crisis of overproduction in each of the following.

  1. The use of loud, public call-outs, especially when used to secure preferred distributions of social capital.[1]

Loud, public call-outs accompanied with damning screenshots have become unfortunately ubiquitous parts of political culture on the internet. This is not to suggest that everyone on the receiving end of these attacks is innocent. Innocence isn’t necessary for this practice to have its problems – just as the fact that most people in prison are guilty of actual rights-violating crimes doesn’t make mass incarceration acceptable.

These acts of shaming are dangerous in their power to socially isolate. They also give incentives towards cruelty, as those engaged in shaming elevate themselves socially through contrast with the person being shamed. This has an illiberal effect in that it pushes people apart into increasingly tribalistic subgroups, which then reproduce call-outs as a way of settling social scores instead of resolving problems.

To combat this illiberalism you should reserve public call-outs of this kind for truly serious cases where nothing else will work. 99 times out of 100, you should instead privately contact the person with your concern. If that does not work, you should privately contact mutual friends who are more likely to be receptive. This should be common practice even towards people you strongly dislike.

You can also combat this illiberalism by accepting the unenviable role of That Person in the comments of these call-outs. Often, it is easy to tell when someone is being unfairly construed to mean something much worse than what they actually mean. Take the time to make clear what this person is actually saying, especially when this person is from your outgroup and, especially, when what they are actually saying is still something with which you disagree.

  1. The drawing of hard social lines which must not be crossed.

Illiberal internet warfare that has its genesis in the last point can often become cemented by publicly calling out others for bare association, no matter how tenuous. This usually takes the form of insinuating or explicitly stating that if Person X retains some vague association with Person Y – coexistence within an organization, mere Facebook “friendship,” or whatever – then Person X must harbor some sympathies with Person Y’s problems. Incidentally, acquiescing to these demands can make them more effective. For if you accepted a demand to disassociate with Person Y but don’t do so with Person Z, it looks more plausible that you don’t take Person Z’s problems seriously.

  1. The drawing of hard ideological lines which must not be crossed.

This problem is often combined with the last one. In combination, they have the under-discussed effect of shielding people from critique. Much of the libertarian movement’s problems are born in mirrored dodges like “You can’t take their anti-war stuff seriously, they associate with people who are bad on immigration” and “You can’t take their pro-immigration stuff seriously, they associate with people who are bad on war.”

This point is also a bit more complicated than the others. Libertarians should unambiguously declare that shams like pro-war “libertarianism” and anti-immigration “libertarianism” are shams. In no way should those declarations be tamed – this would be a kind of “unprincipled peace.” Instead, we should reserve these kinds of statements for the cases where they are absolutely necessary. Moreover, even when drawing lines becomes necessary, we must stand guard against the abuse of those lines to keep out critics.

  1. The replacement of principles with alliances.

Construed broadly, most of this list could fit under this one point. What I mean more specifically, though, is the practice of downplaying problems that crop up within one’s own particular subgroup. People who have no actual affinities with war or borders will treat those issues as insignificant when it is their comrades who are hawks or nationalists. This is also true of less directly political problems.

In exceptions to points 2 & 3, this problem often motivates resistance to necessary action. More interesting, however, is the way these points feed off each other. Cases of opportunistic line-drawing can often be used to present problems within a movement as being necessarily a product of one’s intra-movement outgroups. This produces a tendency to see one’s own subgroup as definitionally the solution, never the problem. When individuals within that subgroup do create problems, these blinders prevent responsible action.

  1. The insincerity of shaping your positions according to your political identity, not what you think is true.

The subgroup tribalism discussed here can also develop commitment mechanisms in the form of strange beliefs. One way that you show affinity with a group is by having their back on their most bizarre beliefs. The illiberal effect here is in channeling your reasons for a belief away from reason and towards collective identity. It is also dangerous in that progressively wilder beliefs become necessary to show you’re really down. Stepping away from libertarianism for a second, this is one of the many ways perfectly normal young people in the illiberal left start joyously treating plans for mass-murder like a roleplaying game.

  1. The insincerity of shaping your positions according to shock value, not what you think is true.

Another death spiral comes in taking on views because they repulse people you dislike. This produces a kind of catharsis, where raising the blood pressure of your enemies gives you relief. As Jeffrey Tucker outlined in “Against Libertarian Brutalism,” this is a deeply illiberal impulse. It is also an addiction. Like many drugs, one can develop a tolerance and require deadlier doses for a high. Today, an edgy argument about the compatibility of libertarianism and immigration restrictions might be enough. A few years down the line, though, you might find yourself screaming about Jews in a Vice documentary without really knowing how you got there.

  1. The insincerity of treating ideas like a game.

Marxists take ideas to be largely impotent, with history moved instead by “material” economic relations. Fascists also laugh at claims that ideas rule the world, convinced that everything boils down to brute impositions of will through violence. It is liberals who afford ideas a central place in explaining history’s path.

Hence why treating ideas like a game does not make sense for libertarians. Before perpetuating the idea that killing political opponents is fine, with helicopter, gulag, or guillotine memes, you should consider the corpses that could follow. This is not hypothetical, as shown by Heather Heyer’s murder, which followed far-right repetitions of “run them down.” Returning to point 4, you should also be willing to be the killjoy who refuses to join your friends’ bloodlust. A commitment to open discourse does not require treating evil trivially, and those who do so should be held accountable.

  1. The molding of your views to moderation for moderation’s sake.

Since radical views have an aesthetic pull, this can facilitate the last three points. One solution might be, then, to consciously adopt a policy of moderation for moderation’s sake. I myself was deeply tempted by this in the days immediately following Trump’s election. What pulled me out of it was a friend noting that this is itself an aesthetic pull, making it deceptively illiberal. Comfortably simulating sincerity and smart opinions will not push you towards truth, it will push you towards complacency.

Karl Hess’s words, spoken by Barry Goldwater, that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” have become a libertarian cliché. We should still revisit them frequently. They are a healthy reminder that an open movement for the open society cannot silence its logical conclusions for the sake of PR.

  1. The use of equivocal language that distorts the topic being discussed.

Unlike Mao’s regimented Communist movement, liberalism thrives on open debate. That ebb and flow of ideas, however, can be disrupted through bad faith argumentation. One such virus is the deployment of ambiguous phrases. These can sneak one indefensible premise in on the backs of a defensible one. They can also create false dichotomies, where those who disagree sound much more ridiculous than they actually are.

One case is when immigration restrictionists say they favor “private property borders.” Taken literally, this position is identical to advocating for open borders. Implicitly, this is actually building in the illiberal – in fact, very progressive-sounding – premise that We the People own the U.S.-Mexico border and public roads. It further sneaks in the illiberal – in fact, majoritarian-democratic – premise that the will of a xenophobic majority must be favored over the individual preferences of people who would gladly welcome immigrants.

Another such case is in the discourse surrounding “denying fascists a platform.” This is ambiguous between two separate positions. The first is a refusal to offer one’s own property to help fascists organize. This is obviously a correct approach, and someone who denies it misunderstands liberalism. However, the phrase “denying fascists a platform” binds that position together with the position that one should violently disrupt fascist speech and assembly. So too with “physically confront fascism” – which binds that violence against speech and assembly together with obviously good things like assertive protest and standing ready to defend against fascist violence.

As this point shows, open debate can be corrupted by equivocal language. It does not follow, though, as I have seen it recently claimed, that liberalism requires the flawed assumption that everyone is engaged in good faith. Liberalism – both in its vision of an open society and its open movement towards that open society – is perfectly well-equipped to deal with this problem.

The solution is nit-picking. When equivocal language is detected, it should be interrogated. People should be called on to specify what they mean and to make clear why they think one claim entails another. Forcefully drawing attention to implicit assumptions of this kind puts them into territory where they must be defended, and where their traps can be sidestepped by onlookers.

  1. The casual indifference between rational and sub-rational forms of communication.

There are many other things I could add to this list, but most of them fall under this final point. For example, it is easy to mock far-right internet trolls who are overweight, dressed poorly, or have “neckbeards” for those characteristics of their physical appearance. Much has already been said about the general sliminess of this behavior. It is also a discourse of self-destruction, if we take seriously the ideas of liberalism.

Sub-rational forms of communication, like mockery, are not the territory on which we will win. We will win through greater reliance on reason, where ideas rise and fall on their merits. Whenever we engage in sub-rational communication, then, we are in dangerous territory. Sometimes we must fight there, but it should always be to push things back onto our preferred turf. Our mockery should always show that those who stand against us are being ridiculous, not that they are unattractive. Those whose ideas are forged in un-reason are more familiar with un-reason and will, therefore, often be better in battles of un-reason.

I have already passed twice the size of Mao’s original pamphlet. There is much more to be said – and much of it already has been said, much better than I could. I recommend George Orwell’s “Politics & the English Language” and Emmi Bevensee’s “The Conversations We Can’t Have.” The first expands on the insidious dangers of imprecision in political discourse, and the second engages seriously with the noxious environment created by petty social games in activist communities.

Illiberalism, in whatever form, is extremely harmful to any emancipatory movement. It is a process of melting that first eats away openness, undermines cohesion, and causes apathy, and then it re-solidifies to create stagnation. It replaces robust and diverse orders with the weak ties of strict discipline. It kills the potential of meaningful action and spreads ignorance. It is a deeply destructive tendency.

Illiberalism stems from the yearning for identities based in conflict; it replaces self-actualization with slavish devotion to floating abstractions, and this gives rise to political, economic, and organizational illiberalism.

Illiberalism is a manifestation of opportunism and conflicts fundamentally with both libertarianism and anarchism. It is negative and has the effect of creating enmity where none previously existed; that is why pre-existing enemies welcome its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, but it has no place in the process of liberation.

We must use liberalism, which is positive in spirit, to overcome illiberalism, which is negative. Individualist anarchists should have an activeness of mind, finding their own interests in harmony with others through the proper use of reason. This is what it means to be an individualist, and this is what it means to be an anarchist.

Endnotes

[1] A friend who studies social capital has voiced annoyance with the way that the term gets thrown around the internet in these discussions, especially among radical liberals. To be clear: “social capital” of the kind studied by sociologists and economists, taken on its own, is a good thing. It is better for people to have connections that allow them greater opportunities. However, the sharp centralization of social capital in a way that makes others reliant upon its monopolists is highly dangerous, and creates relational inequalities that are deeply destructive towards living a life worth calling “free.” The right analogy here is with economic capital. Economic capital, taken on its own, is a good thing. It is better for people to be able to have greater resources with which to create better goods. However, the sharp centralization of economic capital in a way that makes others reliant upon its monopolists – what free market anti-capitalists mean when they say “capitalism” – is highly dangerous. Our goal is not to destroy capital, of either the social or economic kind. Rather, we want to free it up by removing barriers and enabling contestation, so that it will be distributed widely and not create destructive relationships of power.

Anarchist Ends, Market Means

Zine form can be found here!

Markets are not my end goal. My end goal is anarchism which will always look like something just beyond the horizon of my knowledge. Markets unleash the creative complexity that make the dynamic testing of a wide range of liberatory strategies more meaningfully possible. This very same complexity makes it harder for authoritarians to squash resistance or take root themselves. It is no coincidence that dictators target harbingers of complexity such as internet freedom advocates. Yet also, there are aspects of the anti-capitalist freed market ideology that make me nervous and give me significant pause. It is not impossible that we would, in the long-run, completely outgrow markets in the traditional limited sense as we perceive of them now and develop some sort of yet unimagined post scarcity utopia but, it seems clear that regardless, markets exist as unavoidable steps and laboratories along the way. For example, even the CNT-FAI,  Rojava, and the Zapatistas realized that currency solves practical problems, at least in the short-run.

There are a wide range of anarchist strategies that are, on the whole much better than what we have now, but not anything resembling anarchism in the depth of its striving. Things like federalism/municipalism and experiments in direct democracy are light-years better than the pile of shit we are currently dealing with, but to me they will never represent an end goal. If anything, they are limited instrumental strategies along the way. The networked horizon of anarchism is far more audacious.

Markets realize that beneath virtually all of the issues we face as a species are two dynamic points of tension: ethics and coordination problems. A younger me may have seen in a big spook like Capitalism, the heart of all the issues we face as a species. This is a grossly limited view. Capitalism, however broken, is a strategy for addressing issues of ethics and coordination not the source of all of the problems themselves.1 Get rid of capitalism and many of the issues it attempted to solve will still exist. In this view, problems of access, rights, and equity fall into questions of ethics while, how we herd the cat-like human race is one of coordination. Any decent economic theory is attempting to answer these two questions in one way or another.

The most basic level of coordination problems (which are generally seen as following n-iteration game theoretic dynamics) in economics is supply and demand as broken down into preference and production. In simpler terms, we need to connect what people want and what they want the most, with a wide range of variables related to production. This is an unavoidable, tangible set of mathematical issues that will be faced by any radical society. It is not capitalist propaganda even if capitalists have used it to justify their coercion.  Any honest anarcho-communist or anarcho-syndicalist with an eye towards tangible issues of economic scalability will admit that these problems are difficult and have proven difficult historically. Price signals are seen as a more efficient way of addressing these seemingly infinite complexities by leveraging local knowledge as opposed to central economic planning. Most authoritarian socialists and communists recommend central economic planning which relies on coordinating bodies having both access to and the sorting ability to slog through and make sense of an infinite data pool that is almost impossible to systematically gather. This dilemma is why most, if not all, authoritarian socialist societies run into massive goods distribution and inflation problems such as those that the 1975 Nobel Prize recipient in economics attempted to solve through their study of central economic planning in the USSR. 

The liberal economists saw the problem of coordination as being quite central and prescribed that we develop a system that does not expect people to make good choices, but rather tries to create the maximum net benefit from the bizarrely irrational and generally self-interested (that “self” does include your community or larger values) decisions that we as individuals are wont to make. Market economists wisely predicted that things like the currency nexus allow us to express preferences in a way that solve many of these coordination problems and that has the potential to steer the macro utility maximization of the ship. These are, of course, also ethical statements and initiatives in many respects as they imply certain values for the direction of the species and societies and views of human nature. However, many classical and modern liberals chose to sell out the ethics of power and coercion in order to achieve these ends and so made endless ratcheting exceptions that led to the perversion of markets that we see today. Capitalists (capitalism itself is used quite differently by many) and (economic) liberals tend to disagree dramatically on the role or merit of socialism in navigating ethical coordination. Freed markets are inherently anti-capitalist but nonetheless draw from the wisdom of liberal economic theory despite its betrayals and sabotages of its own dreams.

Socialists, in the broadest sense of the term, saw the inequality and coercion inherent in statist capitalism and began to try and think of ways to undermine and redistribute the ill-gotten power as part of an ethical imperative. Socialism, like Capitalism, is a bit too broad to easily define (do you mean like Kropotkin or Tucker or Marx or Bernie Sanders?) but it is nonetheless, at root, a statement of the right of people to basic livelihood. This is an ethical statement that implies the need for a different approach to coordination problems than those provided by the capitalists and classical liberals. Socialists tend to disagree on the role of markets seeing them either as practical tools in the process of ethical coordination of utility functions (ie. market socialists) or as evil seeds of memetic danger, destined to corrupt their mission through exchange value (ie. communists).

What modern capitalism calls markets, is of course nothing that any self-respecting liberal or socialist wouldn’t spit upon. All of the power of markets to unleash creativity and accord is devastated by structural power and coercive exploitation. They aren’t markets so much as playgrounds for the protected rich and graveyards for their pawns. These distorted incentive machines that capitalism calls markets are created through a wide range of monopoly and oligopoly protections such as subsidies, artificial economies of scale, intellectual property and patents, structural racism, (neo-)colonialism, and nationalist military-corporate alliances. All of which prove far less sustainable in freed markets.

When market-anarchists call for “freed markets” we are advocating for a dynamic process of experimentation in an attempt to ethically solve coordination problems. We want to maximize utility without minimizing agency. We are not talking about structural adjustments and multi-national corporate predators. However, talk to any two market-anarchists and you’ll encounter wildly different values and approaches. Although we do oscillate around many themes, this vibrant disagreement is part of our shared value for diversity and is a hint at what markets are capable of providing. However, this strategy for ethical coordination should not be seen as an ends in and of itself, but rather as a meta strategy for developing better questions and approaches to the problems we don’t even yet know how to describe, much less solve.

Unlike strict normative philosophies, market anarchism provides space for many systems to explore. Capitalism and communism require the active subjugation of liberatory experiments. In the practice of market-anarchism, anyone can try out their ideals as long as they meet basic criterion for ethical coordination. Those criterion don’t need to be coordinated or enforced by a state because they represent normative trends within the workings of radicalized markets. In practical terms, market anarchism allows for things like federations, (voluntary) anarcho-communism, direct democracy, various interlocking legal systems, competing currencies and the abolition of currencies, collectives and hardcore individualism, and a wide range of economic philosophies. The real test is whether they work or not! Beyond these limited goals though it suggests a scientific pursuit of working knowledge of roots and applied solutions to technological and ideological problems. Markets make it so that all of these paths have the capacity to coordinate expectations of one another in a way that doesn’t violate the rights of individuals or groups. This is what makes it a superior mode of both ethics and coordination as it innately leverages the strengths of theory and practice from a diverse marketplace.

Market anarchism points out that we should ideally be humble with respect to the limits of its own capability of knowledge. After all, knowledge problems are core to our advocacy of markets as a tool. But what this suggests is something more beautiful than I think is often explicitly mentioned. In advocating for left-market anarchism, we are advocating for a tool that helps us to develop a future more magnificent than we are capable of knowing. The knowledge problem of anarchism is the process of striving for utopia.

When I identify as a left-market anarchist, it’s a way of saying I want a system where many systems can play, as long as they’re doing so in an ethical way that can also contribute to the greater good even if just through what some would consider selfish goals. The tacking of left- onto market-anarchism is, for me, a commitment to ethics in distribution and commitment to and recognition of the role of so called, “thick libertarian” implications such as fighting racism, fascism, authoritarianism, and homophobic violence. It means harnessing the socialist tendencies of markets such as flatter firms and greater access to means of livelihood,  and more functional social support systems. Using the word ‘markets’ is a commitment to complexity and experimentation as well as the role of voluntary and spontaneous coordination as a stigmergic means of transforming society. ‘Anarchist’ is the only of the three terms that represents the endless return to the barricades in the search for a better world. ‘Anarchist’ symbolizes the utopistic ends while containing within in it the seeds of various means. In the end, I am an anarchist without adjectives, I just think that it is of dire importance that we learn from the mistakes of anarchists in the past and utilize whatever aid freed markets can contribute to our impossible dreams.

If communism or capitalism suggest a rigid and cold world where dynamism is throttled, freed markets suggest a playground for practical utopian dreams. Markets are hubs of innovation and if that innovation finds a way out of markets entirely, that is not contradictory to what markets do. If anything, it is their ultimate internal utility function. So you think that money is the root of all evil and have an idea for a way around it? Go for it! Freed markets won’t stop you as long as your tactics don’t involve the subjugation of minds or the exploitative use of resources. Or maybe you believe that markets are the end goal and that instead we have to forever asymptotically boost their effectiveness and self-correcting efficiencies. Go for it! Freed markets will support you all the way! The point is that we need all the good tools we can get to keep ratcheting towards an ethical coordination that maximizes liberty and empathy without the use of coercion, and markets are a damn good means to a forever distant but brilliantly inspired ends.


  1. This should not be seen as a stand-in for the brutal, complex, and robber baron origins of capitalism and its overtaking of feudalism as the dominant economic order of the era.
Social Movements and the Sacrifice of Epistemic Rationality

There are two common ways to engage with ideas. The first is to treat them as models for the world, ideally providing us with greater accuracy or understanding and thus agency in our choices. The second is to view ideas exclusively in terms of their effects upon people and their relationships with one another.

In practice we all do both.

It’s almost impossible to consider a statement without considering the impact it might have upon likely audiences and we can rarely segregate our desire for truth entirely from our other desires or aspirations. Nevertheless there are still clearly different degrees to which we can weigh the first mode of thinking versus the second.

It’s tempting to try and parse the difference between these approaches in terms like ‘prosocial’ versus ‘antisocial.’ Altruistic science versus malicious manipulation. Internal clarity versus public positioning. But the dynamics are usually more complicated. We may, for example, lie to ourselves, focusing on the psychological effect a certain narrative or frame would have for us. Even honest communication with the goal of providing others with more agency necessarily involves modeling them, considering what frames or presentations will be most likely to “manipulate” them into an accurate understanding.

Of course one can make a utilitarian case for certain modes of discourse — the construction or presentation of ideas and statements — that intentionally deviate from improving accuracy. Obviously no one would object to lying to the gestapo at your front door about the border-crossing refugees you’ve hidden inside. But most of our interactions are rarely so extreme.

Today we frequently read a news article or an editorial piece and think first and foremost about it as a development in a strategic arena. Who benefits and loses from a certain statement or claim, and in what ways. What friendships are brought closer or severed. What demographics align. What social forces gain momentum. Those raised on the internet know this intuitively. Every development in The Discourse is a military act, every argument is a soldier.

The political movements of this primordial moment in the information age — as diverse as “social justice” and the “alt-right” — operate almost entirely in such a frame. Truth always has a bias and nuance is betrayal, or at least any nuance that smells of The Enemy. We can afford to tell some facts, but never all of them. Framing and narrative are half of everything, and the other half is who your utterances place you in alliance with.

I’ve long argued that the better part of this vicious polarization is not the natural tendency of information technologies to create bubbles but the limited capacity or hamfisted means of our present technologies to give us agency in our social networks.

Closed conversations with limited audiences are plainly useful, even necessary. Specialized knowledge bases and discourses are critical to the development and advancement of ideas. Physicists need to be able to have conversations with other physicists without fear of derailment by cranks. Women sometimes need the company of other women to be able discuss common experiences without constantly having to explain or prove them to the disbelieving. This loose clustering is hardly pernicious unto itself. What has fueled runaway ideological and demographic nationalism in our era is our inability to associate and disassociate in ways that we can completely control. Our communication technologies provide little nuance in our selection of audience. The choices are basically very select private chats or broadcasting to everyone.

When literally any stranger can show up in your mentions or in the comments, people necessarily turn harsh as a means of policing online “spaces” by overwhelming cruelty or other social psychological pressures. There are then sneering appeals to “coolness” that are necessarily statements about your social alliances. Since our tools are still too blunt to fine-tune audience and association, we resort to tribal discourses and fractal nationalisms.

The chaos and tribalism of our era is not an indictment of globalism or universalism but an indictment of how our hereto existing hegemonies were built. The norms and beliefs of the pre-internet era were incredibly suboptimal; they had escaped any real evolutionary pressures, backed by institutions and histories of centralized violence. Now those universal assumptions and patterns, grown bloated and domesticated, are being eaten alive by their sudden contact with an archipelago of ideological and subcultural ecosystems.

Centralization and institutionalization has weakened the epistemic muscles of civil society. Developing efficient grassroots social organisms and instincts for parsing truth takes time, and while they slowly and fitfully evolve from the primordial market, even the stupidest of ideas can win for a while with a few shallow tricks. Every inanity from nazis to flat-earthers are gorging themselves in this environment.

We exist in a period of grave upheaval, when white nationalists have begun to stalk the streets confidently again, murdering on a whim.

Obviously we must mobilize, we must convey the graveness of this situation, and we must get serious about responding with strength of our own. This is a time for movement building. For stepping forward to boldly face the challenges and horrors arising.

But it is precisely in such situations when it becomes easier and easier to think entirely in terms of friends and enemies, to dismiss ideas as phantasmal distractions without pull or torsion. It is precisely when the social stakes are so high that we risk accidentally trapping ourselves in a world of nothing but social positioning.

Things matter, and we cannot pretend that they don’t for the sake of some illusion of detached rationality, but we should nevertheless always bend towards it. Accuracy in our picture of reality is incredibly important, without accuracy our agency slips away, and the first thing small deviations from rationality do is hide the scope of their consequences. True rationality is not emotional detachment, nor is it willful blindness to the complexities of discourse and political struggle in favor of some simplistic code.

But social positioning is the language and paradigm of power, it encourages us to think entirely in its terms. The psychosis of power is a creeping denial of anything else besides the game. Eventually the entire premise of accuracy is lost to the most distant recesses of our minds, everything becomes positioning, and those not swallowed up entirely by the game are rendered enemies. Sincerity becomes viewed as betrayal, a weakness in the ranks, an unwillingness to fully embrace the most vicious tools. Or at least the most effective in the immediate. In a war of social positioning the honest person is criminally untrustworthy. Truth is lost and only teams remain.

This is how power wins. Small little cycles of feedback, building up to a storm of obtuse tribalism, authoritarianism, and sociopathy.

Fascists Invade Orlando; Anti-Fascists Strike Back

June 10, 2017 marked the date of the national March Against Sharia, an event celebrating Islamophobic war propaganda while warning against the supposed looming threat of Sharia Law being implemented in America. The thing is, Obama isn’t president anymore so unless Donald Trump is also a secret Muslim then I’m confused who exactly is pushing for Sharia Law.

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19095437_470842686597729_1526525730701085208_o.jpgWhile some folks were slightly more nuanced and reasonable in their arguments for being there, many were there to wave Trump flags, confederate battle flags, kekistan flags, and even iron cross flags in direct reference to Nazi Germany. In Orlando, members of the Proud Boys marched alongside the III%ers, Identity Europa, and “libertarian” fascist Augustus Invictus who exploited very real issues such as homophobia, sexism, child marriage, and genital mutilation in order to recruit and spread a message of hatred, deportation, interpersonal violence, and warfare. In fact, most of these groups are not even based in Orlando but instead travel around in an attempt to actively recruit and spread their message.

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While the loose right wing coalition protested at the entrance of Valencia College, there was much in-fighting within their ranks. The few folks who were truly there only to denounce radical Islam butted heads with those who explicitly advocated outright racism. Many in their ranks flashed Nazi gang signs, wore iron crosses, rebel flags, and even swastikas, and were openly antagonizing anti-fascist protesters. Several times they attempted to rush us but we stood strong. One fascist shoved through the crowd and started an altercation with an anti-fascist counter-protester.

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After the fascist ripped the anti-fascist’s shirt, he was prompted kicked in the testicles and punched. His glasses were smashed and his rings, one of which was covered in Nazi symbols, were taken as trophies as the police tackled the fascist to the ground and arrested him for attacking the antifa activist. The fascists were so shocked by this unusual response by their friends in blue that many wrongly claimed the man arrested was a member of antifa despite the myriad of evidence to the contrary. And while, as an anarchist, I am against using police force against anyone, it was pleasing to see the pigs they so admire turn against them even for a brief moment.

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But just because the police arrested one of their more rowdy members does not mean they were kind to us by any means. While no one on our side got arrested, we were kettled and contained by the police who gave near free reign of the streets to the March Against Sharia. In fact, they even harassed me and several fellow disabled and able bodied folks for daring to sit down and rest on tax-funded land.

When they attempted to rush us again, I ran past the police line to confront them. As I did, a member of Identity Europa flashed Nazi hand gestures at me, telling me I was poisoning this country while repeatedly calling me a faggot, threatening me, and asking me what I was going to do about it. As I raised my sign, which was stapled to a giant plank of wood, he went running like a coward. I went to follow after him as the police pulled me away. Needless to say, he wasn’t brave enough to follow through with his words nor was he brave enough to defend himself from a faggot like me. I shook free from the police and re-joined my friends who were confronting members of the Proud Boys who had tried to harass and dox anti-fascist activists in Gainesville.

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In the end, we showed them that we would not let them continue to promote Islamophobic propaganda which only perpetuates hatred, bigotry, and the War on Terror without consequences. No longer can we sit idly by as people continue to be killed both abroad and here at home because of groups like these. We will confront fascists at every corner. We will defend ourselves and our communities when attacked. We will stop this before it’s too late.

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For more information on how to get involved with anti-fascist organizing check out the following groups:

Redneck Revolt/John Brown Gun Club

Libertarian Anti-Fascist Committee

Radical Movement

Huey P. Newton Gun Club

Black Women’s Defense League

Hayemaker Gym

Or search facebook to see if there’s an Antifa chapter near you, just beware of fake honeypot pages created by fascists attempting to doxx anti-fascists! (See @antifachecker for a list of actual orgs.)

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Photographs generously provided by Derek Leavitt and CB

Wanted: Journalists, Researchers, Investigators!

Hey! Are you an anarchist? Are you a researcher, journalist, autodidact or amateur gumshoe? Do you have a pet project, topic of research or big, explosive story sitting under your pillow, waiting to be published? Email Investigations Coordinator Trevor Hultner at trevor@c4ss.org for information about an upcoming C4SS project.

A Legislated Minimum Wage Inhibits Low-Income Entrepreneurship

There are many different arguments against the Minimum Wage. One less prominent criticism of the idea is the fact that it restricts entrepreneurshipespecially from those with low incomes. It is worth conceptually exploring how this happens.

To begin with, when a Minimum Wage is instituted, there are layoffs. The wages of remaining employees are left clustered around the Minimum Wage. Although these employees may be able to nominally increase their savings, they immediately become more constrained in terms of their entrepreneurial capacity with those same savings.

Whereas those same employees with those same savings could have afforded to employ people at below the legislated, enforced Minimum Wage (and therefore engage in entrepreneurship more quickly), this becomes more difficult because of the Minimum Wage.

Imagine if someone on a $10/hour Minimum Wage wants to start their own business and they would like to employ two workers for that purpose. This means that they would need to save enough to pay $20/hour for a sustained period of time. Let’s suppose that this person works eight hours per day, five days per week, and 50 weeks per year. This means that their annual income is $20,000 based on their being paid $10/hour.

Suppose that they also seek to save 10% of their income per year with the intention of starting a business one day. Given that they seek to employ two workers at $10/hour each, this means that they would have to consistently accrue savings for 20 years before they can afford to employ those two workers for a year in pursuit of their entrepreneurial ambitions. This does not even presume that the legislated, enforced Minimum Wage increases over time (which it does) and it does not even allow for the savings required to sustain their own standard of living.

Now, imagine if there was no legislated, enforced Minimum Wage and that same individual who was earning $10/hour still merely sought to accrue savings (at an annual rate of 10%) to employ two workers for a year. This time, however, the would-be low-income entrepreneur is allowed to employ the workers at $5/hour. It is clear to see that they need only save for half the time (10 years) before embarking on their entrepreneurial ambitions. Of course, this is a very simple example, but one can readily see how the logic translates into economic reality.

When applying this insight on a macroeconomic level, the effect of a Minimum Wage in terms of inhibiting low-income entrepreneurship is all the more frightening and startling. Therefore, is it any wonder that Quartz published an article entitled ‘Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk – they come from families with money’? Minimum Wage laws, therefore, help perpetuate the paradigm of entrepreneurship being predominantly ‘a rich man’s game’.

Portland Must Be Done with The Oregonian

Last Friday, The Oregonian published a staff editorial that responded to the police brutality unleashed on May Day protesters by labeling all anarchists as “punk fascists.” This editorial — published by the conservative newspaper that used to be a daily powerhouse in the Northwest — has been roundly denounced in many circles for its political ignorance, opportunism, and misrepresentation of the facts. While some participants in the black bloc chucked Pepsi cans at alt-right provocateurs and the cops, the Portland police — infamous for rehiring officers exposed as neonazis — were the clear aggressors, as is the inherent nature of police.

They responded to the minor actions of a few by brutally attacking the entirety of the march: including families and the disabled. In the resulting chaos as police beat, gassed, and chucked grenades at protesters, some members of the black bloc responded by smashing bank and corporate windows, and a fire was set in an intersection as an impediment to slow the attacking police down. The Oregonian‘s attempts to portray all anarchists as responsible, and furthermore as “fascists,” is beyond atrocious. One cannot help but juxtapose this narrative with the police’s friendly approach to (and the media’s craven positive coverage of) white nationalists who marched through a poor immigrant neighborhood in outer East Portland two days prior.

The Oregonian, in its baiting rhetorical manner, demanded to hear from anarchists. The following is but one of many letters to the editor submitted by anarchists from Portland and around the world. Of course, it is highly doubtful The Oregonian will print a single one:

How fitting that The Oregonian would use a holiday internationally recognized in commemoration of eight anarchists unjustly prosecuted and convicted in 1886 to launch its own half baked crusade. May Day has always been primarily an Anarchist holiday, in remembrance of our role as organizers in the Labor movement that normalized the 8-hour day, and anarchists have always marched on May Day in a variety of organizations and capacities.

The Oregonian, on the other hand, has long served as a running dog for the Police and the Business Alliance, aggressively twisting public narratives to benefit and shield them. This week, it has truly lived up to this tradition in its laughable attempts to paint anarchist participants in the march as uniform, the police not as violent instigators of collective repression but as just responders, and the participants in the black bloc who shielded women and children from police attacks as out to “menace and control” the population.

But of course the job of yellow journalists has long been to push such Orwellian hogwash. In the 1800s you were able to redefine in the public’s mind a word like “an-archy” that literally means “without domination” into somehow meaning “a war of all versus all”. Now open white nationalists armed to the teeth march down 82nd sieg heiling and shoving black residents and you report it as a “free speech march”, happily drumming up a single preposterous anonymous threatening email that sounds like no actual leftist on the planet. Freedom is war. Racist thugs are civil libertarians. Self-defense is unilateral aggression.

Establishment rags like The Oregonian have pushed such lies, happily repeating anything the cops claim as fact, since long before I was born here in Little Beirut. But now people are waking up. “The Tale of Two Marches” last weekend has been truly illustrative. Open neonazis are normalized and embraced as merely “Trump voters”, while actual defenders of liberty must remain masked at marches lest they be exposed and gunned down in the streets of Portland like anti-racist activist Luke Querner was in 2011.

It’s no surprise The Oregonian cares more about a few broken windows and a small fire started than resisting actual attempts to menace and control. Nor is it any surprise they attempt to paint those who engage in misdirected attempts at resistance while being shot and beaten by the cops as “fascists” to dilute the term and provide cover for a real authoritarian police state and real white nationalists. But enough is enough. Portland must be done with The Oregonian.

William Gillis,
Coordinating Director of The Center for a Stateless Society

How Do We Best Improve the Lives of Animals?

As a relative newcomer to the tradition of anarchist activism in the field of human-animal relationships, I found C4SS Fellow Chad Nelson’s “What’s Wrong with Abolishing Circus Animal Shows?” to be a fascinating read. Although my concern for animals is currently rooted in their welfare rather than their ostensible oppression or rights as free beings, I share Chad’s view that circus animal shows ought to be abolished. The same goes for the consumption of meat and animal byproducts, as well as many other practices that inflict needless suffering on animals.

Let’s leave the philosophical question of animal welfare vs. animal rights aside for the moment. Chad is an abolitionist but also recognizes that the treatment of animals is at the very least an important side consideration. His essay makes strategic arguments that I would like to offer some thoughts on, in the hope of better understanding how the welfarist and abolitionist traditions interact with each other in practice.

His critique of welfarist legislation — in this case the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) — is that it inevitably represents a suboptimal use of activist resources. Whilst this legislation inevitably faces the prospect of being watered down if it is to have any hope of being passed, it’s undoubtedly better than nothing. Animals will still needlessly suffer if TEAPSPA is passed, but they will suffer less. Palatable versions of welfarism may preserve some harmful assumptions about human-animal relationships, but to say they reinforce them is a stretch. Even if they do, this must still be weighed against the reduction in harm caused by such legislation. And of course, there’s the wider question of whether welfarism is a superior foundation to animal-related advocacy, but I promised I wouldn’t delve into that too much!

Moreover, even if one were to accept that TEAPSPA advocacy was a misallocation of resources, the same does not necessarily hold for other legislative initiatives. Ending corn subsidies springs to mind, although a charitable interpretation might be that Chad is talking more specifically about legislation directly focused on the treatment of animals.

So, what’s the alternative to welfarism? In his piece, Chad advocates for diverting more resources to creative, horizontal vegan education. Admittedly, it’s easy to dismiss any criticism of a particular method of activism by making vague statements about strategic pluralism. Nonetheless, when considering whether to engage in decentralized, abolitionist vegan education or welfarist reformism, my first thought is this: why not both?

The task of convincing people to be vegan and adopt other animal-friendly positions is a long and arduous one. In the meantime, marginal shifts in our attitudes towards human-animal relationships can still make a difference. Chad is correct in saying that “legislative efforts to curb animal mistreatment necessarily have to be watered down in both their message and objective in order to achieve broad appeal.” This applies to non-legislative efforts as well.

In my experience, very few people instantaneously shift their views from one extreme to another. My own introduction to veganism and animal welfare was a gradual, incremental process. Support for “cage-free” eggs and “humane meat”, as well as the existence of many ethical vegetarians who have not yet made the leap to veganism, suggests that I am not alone in this regard. Yes, cage-free eggs, humane meat, and ethical vegetarianism are not enough. But they have significantly reduced animal suffering. Chad’s article has certainly made me reconsider how activist resources can be best used to improve the lives of animals, but I still see some value in reformist initiatives. Perhaps Chad does too, and I’ve misinterpreted him. Or perhaps living in D.C. for ten months has made me more biased towards accepting a plurality of strategies for social change.

Regardless, this is not to say that I reject all hardline rhetoric: especially for those already versed in the language-game of radical politics. We should make it clear that although it’s better than the status quo, piecemeal ‘Meatless Mondays’ welfarism is not enough. But it is better than nothing, and every animal saved from a life of pain and misery matters.

Reactionaries Have Always Been “Post-Truth”

Nationalism and all other forms of traditionalism have always been “post-truth”. One might think that this is an odd statement, since reactionary movements are so often characterized by a kind of absolutism. Liberals and leftists have always been the ones who are accused of vacuous relativism; many on the left mistake their commitment to pluralism for a refusal to defend the objectivity of their beliefs. Traditionalists’ sharp distinction between right and wrong makes them appear to be defenders of objective fact, unconcerned with matters of circumstance or emotion.

This absolutism is not the hallmark of a truth-sayer. For reactionaries, truth is a facade: manufactured in order to mask a host of dead cultural gods they are terrified to let go of. These gods ground their own subjective sense of stability. Reactionaries use truth like a hammer, but truth is not a tool. Truth is the construction project itself. Truth is aimed at — not swung around.

The performative contradiction embedded in so much of conservative discourse and political activity is embodied perfectly in Trump and his loyal fanbase. Trump’s infamous version of honesty involves confidently and bolding asserting that which is patently false. His truth is a fiat backed by an endless, eternal, choral repetition of the phrase “Believe me”. This is the essence of traditionalism. If something is repeated enough times with enough power behind it — if it has successfully drowned out the opposing view for long enough — then that’s just the way things are and always have been.

And this is our president’s strategic genius (although the genius may simply be incidental). Truth is rarely loud. Truth is for nerds. It’s boring. Who wants truth when you’ve got the age-old cultural practice of getting your followers worked up into a euphoric froth of righteous indignation at all things weak and foreign? That really gets the blood pumping and the dopamine circulating. Truth is hard and vague. Those who sincerely pursue truth are going to be wrong more often than they are going to be right. Those who present themselves as being consistently “correct” are rarely interested in any fact outside their place in the prevailing dominance hierarchy.

We have always lived in bubbles. Technology has simply allowed us to see through our bubbles and into other people’s. “Fake news” was at one time just the gossip of our particular ingroups. Today, gossip gets millions of views, and it’s more open to being challenged. Unfortunately, these things were never meant to be challenged. They are built to travel freely through our community like a virus, until that virus simply becomes an accepted and practically invisible component of our collective operating system. It’s just the way things function, so you’d better just go along with it.

I’m beginning to think that this is our fate. I can’t make myself seriously entertain the idea that this return of tradition-worship can be defeated by good-faith, reasonable engagement. It’s best to just wait for the accumulating viruses to crash the whole damn system and start from scratch. Taking an optimistic perspective, at least it doesn’t look like such a collapse will take very long to occur. Look at the last great wave of extremist reactionaries back in the 1930s. There’s only so much bullshit you can expect society to process before it burns down.

February 27, 2017: Something Something Oscars
I had a choice to feature this boy's smiling face or Trump's. You're welcome.

FILE – In this May 31, 2015, file photo, Bill Paxton arrives at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. A family representative said prolific and charismatic actor Paxton, who played an astronaut in “Apollo 13” and a treasure hunter in “Titanic,” died from complications due to surgery. The family representative issued a statement Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, on the death. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)


Welcome back to the Daily Molotov, all the news that’s fit to make you hate the state. As a quick refresher for new readers following our month-long leave of absence, the Daily Molotov is a roundup of the news and various views from anarchist and non-anarchist sources alike. Here’s today’s top news.

RIP Bill Paxton. I wanted to be a storm chaser before I became an anarchist.

From the New York Times

Donald Trump is going to be speaking in front of a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, but before he does, he will be asking for a marked increase in Defense Department spending at the expense of nonmilitary departments like the EPA. That’s super tight. It’s good to know that the prez is adhering to that really nice anti-interventionism Justin Raimondo recently lauded him for. In somewhat-related news, Philip Bilden, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Navy, has withdrawn due to potential conflicts of interest with various business ventures. Bilden is following former Army Secretary nominee Vincent Viola’s lead in withdrawing before congressional hearings can take place.

In other news, Trump apparently has a “soft spot” for DREAMers – children of undocumented immigrants who qualified for amnesty under Obama’s DACA program. Yeah we’ll see. Finally, Trump’s been on some Stalinist shit with his whole “enemy of the people” schtick he’s been using with the media.


From the Washington Post

First of all I need to point out that the Washington Post’s current subhead on their website says “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” which is kind of aesthetically rad. I’ve been away too long and I’m too easily amused. ANYWAY: Some Iowans who voted for Trump… are kind of pissed at Trump. Mostly it’s because the trade policies he’s ordered – that he was completely transparent about wanting – are kind of shitty.  Also, related to the story about Trump’s soft spot for DACA applicants, immigration activists are warning dreamers to lay low for the foreseeable future. Basically, nobody trusts the tangerine nightmare as far as they can throw him, which is a solid policy in my book.

Finally, Margaret Sullivan asks: Daniel Ellsberg asks: who will be the next Snowden? And Congress is still having trouble coming up with an ACA replacement.


From the Los Angeles Times

There is a detente in Mosul, Iraq as the Islamic State digs in its heels in the western half of the city. Also, in a weird twist of fate, deportees from the United States are carving out a middle class in El Salvador – and attempting to diffuse the stress from new arrivals. Egyptian Christians are fleeing from ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula. Scientists are trying to find ways to preserve World Heritage Sites in war-torn areas.

And finally, Trump supporters rallied against the Oscars on Friday. Womp womp.


From the Wire Services

AP: Trump toasts nation’s governors ahead of healthcare talks.

Reuters: South Korean graft investigators say they won’t be able to question President Park.

AFP: India’s top diplomat to visit US after Kansas killing.

UPI: French historian detained for 10 hours by US Customs.


From the blogosphere

Politico: Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown.

Politico: Father of SEAL killed in Yemen blasts White House: Don’t hide behind my son’s death.

Slate: Moonlight wins Best Picture despite gaffe.

Slate: Romanian Fascist Corneliu Zelea Codreanu denied facts and evidence.

Vox: Meet the 16-year-old Canadian girl who took down Milo Yiannopoulos.

Salon: Trump takes the “shackles” off: Mass deportations begin as the world looks on in outrage.

Boing Boing: Three kinds of propaganda, and what to do about them.


From the (radical) blogosphere

Counterpunch: Media Ban! Making sense of the war between Trump and the press.

Truthout: Double Punishment: After prison, moms face legal battles to reunite with kids.

Truthdig: The return of American race laws.

The Nation: “Where did you get your name from?” Muhammad Ali, Jr. is detained by immigration officials.


From the (anarchist) blogosphere

It’s Going Down: Community campaign continues against Richard “Trust-Fund Hitler” Spencer’s HQ.

CrimethInc.: Preparing for Round Two: Coming to blows with the Trump regime.


Thanks for reading the Daily Molotov, curated for C4SS by Trevor Hultner. You can submit news tips to trevor@c4ss.org, tweet at us either at @c4ssdotorg or @trevor_c4ss, or leave a comment below. Your continued support of the Center for a Stateless Society means we can continue to roll out new features like this.

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The Emptiness of “The Left”

Personally, I don’t think “the left” ultimately represents much of anything coherent, but rather constitutes a historically contingent coalition of ideological positions. Bastiat and other free market folks sat on the left of the french assembly, and while we might try to claim that as part of a consistent leftist market tradition, we should be honest that one’s position in that particular revolution — much less revolution in general — is hardly indicative of very much. There are always revolutionaries who desire systems far worse than our own, and similarly there have been many broadly recognized “leftists” whose desires were utterly anathema to liberation.

It’s popular these days to paint the left and right as egalitarian versus hierarchical. But not only is this an imposed read on a far messier historical and sociological reality, but it’s honestly quite philosophically contentless. No one is particularly clear on what egalitarianism means, or even hierarchy, and many interpretations are not only mutually exclusive, they reveal supposedly identical claims as actually deeply antagonistic. Does egalitarianism mean everyone gets precisely the same wealth (however that’s supposed to be measured)? Does it mean mere legal or social equality in the abstract realm of relations before The People or The State’s legal system? Does it mean equal opportunity for economic striving or does it mean equal access to the people’s grain stores? Does equality supersede all other virtues like liberty? Is it better to all be oppressed equally than to have some achieve greater freedom? I’m not being facetious. We paper over these deep issues with “well but common sense” and the wishful assumption that our comrades will come down on the minutia the same way we would, sharing our intuitions on various tradeoffs, but that’s empirically not the case. We constantly differ.

People talk about “collective direct democracy” as if something being the near unanimous will of some social body constitutes an egalitarian condition. And, sure, it does under some definitions. But the moment I see some collective body trying to vote on my life I don’t want to “participate,” I want to chuck a bomb at it. Leftists use both the slogans “power to the people” and “abolish power” — this should be an intense red flag to everyone that completely different conceptual systems and values are at play. It’s delusional in the extreme to suppose that if we sat down and talked about things we’d all end up on the same page. The assumption of pan-leftist solidarity or a shared common goal is a comforting lie.

The left isn’t defined by some set of axioms in ethical philosophy that we can all agree on and then argue about derivations of strategy or implementation from. The left is a historical coalition thrown together by happenstance. As with revolution we tend to self-identify as the underdogs and build our coalitions from the classes we recognize as underdogs against the classes we recognize as ruling, but this leads to all kinds of contortions. We are for the right to choose because women are the underdogs in patriarchy. But at the same time we’re pro vegan because animals are the (sometimes literal) underdogs in human domination. Wait, do we value all living things? What counts as a discrete living thing? Do we value them equally or is the level of consciousness/sentience important? Is it the level of dependence or strain it places on another person? Suddenly the responses we have in situations with family members versus the overdogs of christianity seemingly start to come into conflict with the responses we have in situations with disabled people (underdogs!). I’m not saying there isn’t a way to thread all these dynamics, to find a core ethical guide and nuanced attentive implementation — I think there is one (although my particular approach of ultimately recognizing a vast spectrum of sentience/consciousness between zygotes/nematodes and anyone remotely close to a conscious human is denounced by a number on the left as “unegalitarian”). I’m pointing out that our responses rarely arise from an ethical analysis but from instinctual responses to any appearance of an underdog. The left is rarely a philosophy, more often a coalition, with theory tacked on to serve the goals of binding that coalition together. One could easily imagine universes with different historical paths where outlawing abortion is a core leftist plank, seen as deeply interrelated with opposing queerphobia, patriarchy, ableism, etc. Or the left could oppose legal sanction, but support and build grassroots social and cultural sanction against abortion. (Again, for the record I’m pro-choice.)

Underdogism is a really dangerous approach to the world. It’s a good “rule of thumb” but if you know anything about me it’s that I abhor such heuristics and see them as the opposite of radical analysis. Underdogism is how you get things like zionism, leninism, poc nationalism, TERFs, SWERFs, etc. Its failures are manifold. There’s a good case the left is nothing but underdogism — in which case fascism is almost always leftist. MRAs don’t approach politics like a reactionary on the right side of the French Estates General, consciously seeking to preserve an established ruling structure, they see themselves as the underdogs. Sure, they’re not (in almost everything besides some fringe contexts like some bits of divorce law), but fuck it they’re potential underdogs, and that status is more than enough to reproduce much of the standard structures of underdogism.

One might interject that the problem with underdogism of the alt-right is not just their misidentification of underdogs but their hunger for power, and this is certainly broadly true (although a fraction of the alt-right actually seem less in it for power but more in it to drink outgroup/”overdog” tears). But this certainly applies to much of the left in good standing. Certainly many authoritarian leftists have hungrily latched onto underdogism as a potential ladder to power. I’ve met feminist writers who openly admitted to me they’d be patriarchal if they were men, or own slaves if they were antebellum rich whites.

Yes, any set of smart persons who recoil at clear instances of oppression are gonna broadly converge on a number of positions or analyses. But the way they reconcile or hold together these things may differ dramatically. Just because the left is a stable coalition in our present context doesn’t mean aspects of it that seem in perfect harmony won’t break in wildly different directions should certain conditions change.

I have repeatedly encountered leftists who’ve claim that valuing some things above other things is hierarchical and thus right-wing (leftism being in their minds representing something more like stoicism or buddhism). Similarly you find epistemic pluralism common in the most heads-up-their-ass sectors of left academia who think thinking some models of the world are more true than others is “unegalitarian” or even “totalitarian.” It’s tempting to just laugh about hippies and move on, but these sort of horrifically bad definitions of “egalitarianism” will sometimes come out of the mouths of smart people who generally have their heads on straight the moment they move to a context they’re unused to.

Now I hate the NAP, but everyone laughs at the NAP these days for being “unpragmatic” and this has increasingly become tied to a casual indictment of all ethical philosophy itself. A turn that has been encouraged by the twin interrelated scourges of the modern internet far left: tankies and nihilists. This makes sense if — as per social justice — you see the point of the left to create a social framework of etiquette and loose ideology that can bind a coalition of underdog classes together. Thus the increasing refrain of “you can’t compare!” that happens whenever someone tries to tease out commonalities or contradictions between various claims, positions or planks. There is, from this perspective, no common root or unifying ethos to the left and we should not look for one lest the whole project fall apart. Philosophy, ethics, and core values or principles become the enemies, as does both methodological individualism and universalism. There are neither individual experiences nor universal ones, just relatively simplistic classes of people with incomparable experiences. And we bind them together into common cause by badgering, social positioning, poetic affective appeals, and threats of violence.

The left isn’t unified by anything. Marxism is half discredited by idiocy and monstrosity and the half that survived became a wildly contradictory mess more preoccupied with obscurantism, irrationality and anti-realism to hide its own failures than getting anything done much less charting a path. Most of the concerns of the left refer to opposing mythologized superstructures that we are left flailing in the absence of or whenever their composition and behavior change. The left is, in short, utterly allergic to radicalism. Fending off its inadequacies with short puffs of extremism instead.

As social and ideological complexities compound through the runaway feedback of the information age these internal tensions and the laughably frail taping over we’ve done will only become more clear.

There is still hope for a radical anarchism that is willing to root its discussions of freedom and ethics concretely and explicitly. But this will necessarily involve casting off from many allies who we share some limited intuitions or momentary prescriptions with. Or at least dissolving the comforting delusions of a deep camaraderie.

The only reason the lie of “the left” has persisted for two centuries is that its grand Manichean narrative of two more or less uniform tribes — one enlightened and one indecipherably morally corrupt — enables a sense of community that provides psychological comfort to many. To many on the left (as well as on the nationalistic etc right) a hunger for “community” is actually their primary motivation. When chatting at the bar it’s better to not look too deep into why you both oppose capitalists lest you discover something that sunders rather than binds.

But the format of present internet technologies has had the reverse effect. Inescapable contact with The Enemy has led us to put up hostile discursive walls that naturally end up cutting out our traditional allies too, causing both right and left to fracture in desperate attempts to find purity, trustworthiness, or some kind of deeper binding. The happenstance points of unity that worked when we had little choice in who to befriend are now fracturing in all directions. This is largely a good thing, the last two decades have seen all manner of horrors lurking among our own ranks exposed. But the process that brings to light our lack of commonality with the anti-science leftist deep ecologist who wants to kill all humans is also a process that will ultimately rip “the left” to unsalvageable shreds.

This ship is sinking. And just because many of the rats are fleeing doesn’t mean we shouldn’t either.

On the Tactic of Burning Trash Cans

In the wake of the #DisruptJ20 protests in DC and around the world, there have been a lot of criticisms about tactics employed by various protesters. Fellow C4SS writer William Gillis previously tackled the issue of breaking windows and I have discussed the realities I saw in DC when it came to fighting back against the police. But there is one tactic I still constantly see being called into question which must be addressed: burning trash cans.

To an outsider watching these actions on video or in person, seeing a person or group of people rolling trash cans into the street and setting them on fire seems like pointless destruction. It feeds into the narrative that the left just likes to destroy things when they don’t get their way. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The tactic of utilizing trash cans and other objects like newspaper dispensers in such ways actually has a real and well thought out defensive purpose that has been proven to work.

See these trash cans aren’t being toppled and rolled into the streets for the fun of it. They are instead being effectively used as barriers against incoming cops. When the police swoop in to attack protesters with pepper spray, mace, batons, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades, protesters aim to defend themselves. Creating barriers helps slow the advancement of police and, when utilized effectively, can stop their advance altogether and even create police-free zones. The barriers are even more effective when on fire. An unlit trash can can merely be pushed out of the way but a pile of flaming trash cans, newspaper bins, and other materials leaves a lot more to be dealt with before advancement is possible.

After watching people being attacked in DC for protesting peacefully and seeing police kettle protesters in for mass arrests leaving little room for escape, I saw people employ these tactics successfully to push back the cops and give protesters a chance to recover and defend themselves against these armed foot soldiers of the state. So while I may make jokes about Antifa beating up fascist trash cans on K Street, I also understand the real reasoning and success behind utilizing such tactics as a means of self-defense.

Dear non-anarchists,

If we can urge you to do one thing in this spiraling crisis, please note the way the “checks and balances” of the liberal state are rapidly dissolving in the face of a demagogue president with near universal police support.

  • Many cops are just outright ignoring the court orders against Trump’s draconian ban.
  • Cops at Dulles are reportedly detaining and shipping people off to unknown offsite detention centers (ie black sites) to avoid a ruling saying those detained at Dulles should be granted access to legal counsel.
  • Cops have refused to talk directly with a sitting US senator and have in many places responded to legal/etc. requests with sneers of “ask Mr Trump.”

While journalists and civil rights lawyers can help apply broad public pressure, it is absolutely critical that you recognize at the end of the day popular legitimacy from a sheet of paper is not what ultimately empowers the state. Cops with guns are the ultimate foundation of the state, it could not exist without them and their violence.

Power is built on force, and while the crude measure of the 2nd Amendment at least recognizes this, the self-disarmament of liberals and the ideological capture of many armed “libertarians” by white identity politics and authoritarian national collectivism have together opened a window that Bannon is exploiting. You allowed an institution of incredible power to be formed, and to grow, and those at its helm have finally realized they don’t need to obey the rules or the norms you tacked onto it. They may yet be proven wrong in this instance, the variables may yet come out against them. But at this point it’s clearly a matter of chance. Please remember this.

If you want real checks and balances, then abolish positions of power like the presidency and dissolve centralized organizations with monopolistic control over means of violence. Instead of three branches of government in the US, why not three hundred million? Each of us individually taking responsibility for holding others in check, distributedly collaborating in ever vigilance to stop the emergence of thugs/cops and warlords/politicians.

We might yet get through this crisis, in some form or another. And despite this brief bit of “we told you so” lecturing anarchists have your back in any substantive resistance you wish to undertake against tyranny. But please learn some lessons from this situation.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 156

Shemuel Meir discusses the recent U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Doug Bandow discusses the South Korean left and Trump on U.S. policy vis a vis Korea.

George H. Smith discusses self-ownership and abolitionism.

Christine Guluzian discusses the U.S. alliance with the Philipines govt.

Uri Avnery discusses the two state solution and the path to peace between Israel and Palestine.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses the wishful thinking behind expecting Obama to pardon Chelsea Manning.

Abigail R. Hall Blanco discusses police militarization and Donald Trump.

Jonathan Marshall discusses U.S. manipulation of elections in countries surrounding Russia.

William J. Astore discusses whether Trump will do anything to rein in the military-industrial complex.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the recent dossier on Trump and his experience with Iraqi defector tales of WMD.

Cora Currier discusses a collection of fiction by Iraqi writers.

Murtaza Hussain discusses abuse by border agents.

Alice Speri discusses a DOJ investigation of the Chicago police force.

Jenna McLaughlin and Ryan Devereaux discuss the nominee for the head of the CIA under Trump.

James J. Zogby discusses why the U.S. shouldn’t move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jersualem.

Vijay Prashad discusses the conflict in Syria.

Andrew J. Bacevich discusses the more of the same national security policy Trump will bring us.

Daniel Larison discusses Obama’s legacy of perpteual war.

Ivan Eland discusses the non-existent threat from China.

Glenn Greenwald discusses the accusations of treason being leveled at opponents of NATO tension with Russia.

Richard M. Ebeling discusses the ideas of David Ricardo.

Bonnie Kristian discusses the surveilance state and the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jeremy Schaill discusses Erik Prince and his ties to the Trump campaign.

Alex Emmons discusses Chelsea Manning.

Derek Davison discusses foreign policy under Obama and the incoming Trump admin with two people.

Patrick Cockburn discussesd the parallels between Trump and the current Turkish leader.

David Swanson discusses the deep state.

Lee Fang discusses the possible conflict of interests of General Kelly.

Robert Koehler discusses the pointlessness of the F-35 figther jet.

Christopher Preble discusses a new approach to the military.

Media Coordinator Weekly Update: January 22-29

Howdy, folks. It’s been… a rough week. Trump’s been super busy with signing executive orders that futz with the rights of people to move freely between geographic locations, his lieutenants are acting all fashy to the press and the public, and basically we’re all doomed. On the upside, there’s a new Del Taco by my work AND C4SS has gotten some good publications out this week. Let’s take a look.

The Week* in Commentary

*So, I didn’t do a review of last week’s published content. Let’s get that out of the way.

Last week (Jan. 15 – 22), Kevin Carson’s “Right to Work and the Apartheid State” article got republished in Counterpunch and the Augusta Free Press. 

This week, we sent three articles out, all written by Kevin. “On Lemon ‘Free Trade'” got picked up by the Augusta Free Press, as did “#NoDAPL: Direct Action Gets the Goods” and “An ‘Open Source Insurgency’ Against Trump?

So that’s the stuff we’ve gotten in other places. Let’s take a look at everything else.

In addition to Kevin’s aforementioned pieces, we’ve also published two other spots by him: “Reason’s Ongoing Love Affair With Educational Cronyism,” and “Empires Don’t Practice ‘Free Trade’.”

I got a piece out as well: “Trump is keeping his promises. We must keep ours.”

The Week in Features

Edmund Berger wrote their latest feature, “Leftist Politicians Will Always Betray Liberty And Globalism” last week. We also have Kevin Carson’s “An Open Source Insurgency Against Trump?” C4SS Coordinating Director (I know how much you hate this title) William Gillis published “Responding to Fascist Organizing,” which has been republished at anarchistnews.org. And Grant Mincy published “Information Ecology: (fo)Rest In Peace.”

The Week in Studies(!)

Edmund Berger has published a new study connecting Deleuze and Guattari to anarchism. Go check it out!


We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that relies on your tax-deductible donations to keep rolling along, putting anarchy into the hands of folks all over the world. Come say hi at ISFLC 2017, be like the generous individuals who have already donated this month, or follow us on Twitter at @c4ssdotorg.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? email me at trevor@c4ss.org or tweet at me at @trevor_c4ss.

Daily Molotov: January 27, 2017

Welcome back to the Daily Molotov, all the news that’s fit to make you hate the state. We took a couple days off because honestly, the news has been overwhelming for the last week and sometimes you just need to decompress. But we’re back now. Here’s today’s top news.

From the New York Times

After signing an executive order demanding the construction of a wall along the United States’ southern border, the Trump Administration has proven that it doesn’t know what the hell it’s even doing. First it called for a 20-percent tax on all imports from Mexico, then it said it didn’t – that the tariff was only part of a “buffet of options.”

Also from the New York Times: Of course, even the act of demanding the border wall has already strained the US’s ties with Mexico. President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned meeting with Trump after the order was signed, and former president Vicente Fox has taken to Trump’s online home turf – Twitter – to forcefully and repeatedly let the US president know that Mexico will not build the #fuckingwall.

One major issue Mexico is facing, if Trump is able to get everything he wants on the immigration front, is increased unemployment, poverty and crime. On top of the threatened millions of deportees from the US, just within the last few months Mexico’s population of refugees and migrants has swelled – first with Haitian refugees and then with Cuban migrants stuck in the country after former president Barack Obama stopped the “Wet Feet, Dry Feet” program. The Mexican government is currently trying to find ways to integrate everyone, but the system is already strained.

Republicans have already gladly thrown off their “small-government conservative” t-shirts in support of Trump’s proposals. The border wall is expected to cost anywhere from $15 billion to $25 billion, and that’s chill with conservatives in Congress. Trump has called for an increase in Border Patrol and military agencies, and nobody has raised the minarchist alarm. Senate Democrats attempted to bluff everybody by pushing forward a $1 trillion infrastructure program, and everyone – including Trump – is going along with it.

Trump is looking for a plan from the Pentagon to hit ISIS harder. He also called up the National Parks administrator demanding photos of his inauguration that prove he had the biggest inauguration of all time. Stephen Bannon, one of Trump’s chief strategists, told the media it should “keep its mouth shut” in an interview Thursday. Most of the Sanctuary Cities’ mayors flipped Trump the bird after Wednesday’s executive orders. Trump uses an old Android phone. For some reason the media is framing the upcoming meeting between Theresa May and Donald Trump as a “Reagan-Thatcher” relationship and I don’t much care for it.


From the Washington Post

Six cities tried making it harder for “illegals” to exist, and it didn’t work.

Also, Miami is proving to be the snitch among all the other Sanctuary Cities, which is super disappointing. The media is, as both Trump and his flunkies have made clear, “the opposition party” now. A white nationalist and student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turns out to also be an arsonist, so that’s neat. The Doomsday Clock is now chilling out at two minutes and 30 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s been since the detonation of the hydrogen bomb in 1953. We now live in an era of “perpetual protest,” and I like that. A student in California who was forced to pee in a bucket by a teacher sued and won. Scientists aren’t able to talk to Trump. The chief of the Border Patrol was canned. Sean Spicer probably tweeted his Twitter password twice. And that’s probably enough major media news for one day.


From Infoshop NewsSyrian Kurds are rebuilding the city of Kobane.

From It’s Going DownWater protectors protesting the DAPL are resisting a grand jury and asking for solidarity.

From CrimethInc.The anarchists meet Trump in Philadelphia.

From JacobinJeremy Scahill: “No Quarter for Trump.”

From The NationFolks in Kensington are forming a grassroots anti-anti-immigration squad.

From The InterceptScientists from the government who are at the US Climate Conference are terrified to speak to the press.


Thanks for reading the Daily Molotov, curated for C4SS by Trevor Hultner. You can submit news tips to trevor@c4ss.org, tweet at us either at @c4ssdotorg or @trevor_c4ss, or leave a comment below. Your continued support of the Center for a Stateless Society means we can continue to roll out new features like this.

Want this directly in your inbox every morning? Subscribe to our mailing list below.




The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 155

Jim Lobe discusses public backing for the Iran deal.

Jesse Schatz discusses likely U.S. policy towards the GCC countries under Trump.

Nick Turse discusses special ops and the gray zone.

Jeremy Scahill discusses the real alleged target of a drone strike that killed a 16 year old teenager still being at large.

Robert Mackay discusses that most Israelis want a soldier recently convicted pardoned.

Zaid Jilani discusses the politics of embassies and moving the U.S. one in Israel to Jersualem.

Melvin Goodman discusses the dark side of the Obama legacy.

Robert Fisk discusses a journalist’s ordeal in an Egytpian prison.

Jim Lobe discusses an open letter to Trump from Iranian-Americans on upholding the Iran deal.

Uri Avnery discusses the Israeli settlements in the ooccupied territories.

David Swanson discusses torture and the Obama admin.

Robert Fantina discusses Kerry, the settlements, and Bibi.

Vijay Prashad discusses Algeria.

Neve Gordon discusses the recent conviction of an IDF soldier.

Laurence M. Vance discusses killing in war.

Laurence M. Vance discusses sanctions on Iran.

Sam Biddle discusses the weak nature of the declassified version of an intelligence report alleging Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC this past election season.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses ditching the CIA, NSA, and Pentagon.

Medea Benjamin discusses the hawkish foreign policy of Obama.

Patrick Cockburn discusses how the Saudi regime’s bid to dominate the Middle East has failed.

David R. Henderson discusses Q and A with Robert Gates.

Richard M. Ebeling discusses William Godwin and Thomas Malthus.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses the CIA being above the law.

Matthew Cole discusses the atrocities of Seal Team Six.

Abigail R. Hall Blanco discusses Obama as the drone president.

Michael Brendan Dougherty discusses the hypocrisy of Democratic Party folks on foreign policy and war.

Robert Fisk discusses time spent with a fellow journalist.

Kenneth Surin discusses the MLA and BDS.

David Swanson discusses the lack of evidence for the allegations against Russia.

Daily Molotov: January 24, 2017

Welcome back to the Daily Molotov, all the news that’s fit to make you hate the state. Here’s today’s headlines.

From the New York Times

Donald Trump told lawmakers that the reason he lost the popular vote was because of “illegal immigrants.” It’s not true.

Also from the New York Times: Trump gathered the CEOs of major corporations to the White House to threaten them with a “border tax” if they took jobs out of the country. The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Brexit needs Parliament to give it the go-ahead. El Chapo is being held at a prison that former inmates call “tougher than Guantánamo Bay.” The US has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Sean Spicer had another press briefing; this time it wasn’t as confrontational.


From the Washington Post

Senate Democrats, in a ridiculous (and kind of hilarious) move, are mulling over a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

Also from the Washington Post: A former mayor of Hiroshima has urged Trump to meet the remaining survivors of the bomb in an effort to make the President take nuclear weapons seriously. And yet, this is a man who named his own inauguration day the “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,” so I don’t know how serious he’s going to take survivors of a nuclear weapon strike. Julia Hahn is going to advise Steve Bannon. Hahn was a writer at Breitbart. And the CDC abruptly canceled a panel on climate change and its effect on public health, and no one knows why.


From Politico

Republicans are having a hard time keeping things together over the Affordable Care Act repeal.

Also from Politico: Donald Trump is assembling a shadow cabinet in order to keep the actual cabinet he appointed in line. Kellyanne Conway has a Secret Service detail because she’s afraid of the media. That’s super weird. Sean Spicer was bothered by being called a liar. In related news, the CEO of Dippin’ Dots tried to mend fences with Spicer. Spicer has continued to give the confectionery the cold shoulder. I’ll see myself out.


From Mic.com

As Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order yesterday, West Virginia became the newest state in the union to only have one abortion provider within its borders.

Also from Mic.com: Trump’s nominee for labor secretary called Carls Jr. employees “the best of the worst.” Not quite sure how to take that from a man whose last name can be modified to read “putz,” but whatever.


From Infoshop News

Here is a running global tally of the Women’s March.

From It’s Going Down

What Counts as Violence? Why The Right Can Shoot Us Now.” Also, here’s an interview with Alexander Reid Ross.

From Jacobin

Kenzo Shibata has an article on the Women’s March up. Also, “We Can Make the Nazis Back Down.”

From The Nation

Dave Zirin was at the inauguration. It was tiny.

From the Intercept

Lawmakers in eight states now have proposed laws that would criminalize peaceful protest.

From Antiwar News

The United States has vowed to keep China from claiming islands built by China.


Thanks for reading the Daily Molotov, curated for C4SS by Trevor Hultner. You can submit news tips to trevor@c4ss.org, tweet at us either at @c4ssdotorg or @trevor_c4ss, or leave a comment below. Your continued support of the Center for a Stateless Society means we can continue to roll out new features like this.

Want this directly in your inbox every morning? Subscribe to our mailing list below.



Daily Molotov: January 23, 2017

Welcome back to the Daily Molotov! It’s been… an interesting weekend, but it’s time to get back to the daily grind. Here are today’s top headlines from across the media landscape.

From the New York Times

President Trump’s first weekend was… fairly goofy. And not in any sort of endearing way. Against a backdrop of protest demonstrations taking place on literally every continent, Trump’s (and his administration’s) gaffes looked more like the mad scramblings of a tinpot dictator than a peaceful transition of power. From a press secretary who spent his first press briefing yelling at the press about crowd sizes, to a counselor who peddles “alternative facts” on political talk shows and who announced Sunday that Trump unequivocally will not release his tax returns, this weekend was wild.

Also from the New York Times: Foreign payments to Trump businesses violate the constitution, according to a new lawsuit. The Women’s March protests around the country (and world) gathered nearly 2.5 million people into the streets of major cities and small towns. Now people want to know: what happens next? Cervical cancer is killing a larger number of people in the US than originally thought. And tornadoes ripped through the Southeast US.


From the Washington Post

Margaret Sullivan comes in with the sharpest hot take, of course. Sean Spicer has ended the old way of reporting on the president. From Sullivan: “White House press briefings are ‘access journalism,’ in which official statements — achieved by closeness to the source — are taken at face value and breathlessly reported as news. And that is over. Dead.” Good!

Also from the Washington Post: An historic concrete ship was smashed to bits by California storm waves. Marco Rubio might not approve Rex Tillerson. But he probably will. Gambia’s former president took off with literally all of the country’s wealth. France is moving to the right, politically. The field failure analysis has come back from Samsung over why its Note 7 blew up last fall: “the battery components in the Galaxy Note 7 did not properly fit in the battery’s casing,” and “several manufacturing issues, including inadequate welding at the battery manufacturer, as the company raced to produce those new phones” in the second batch. So that’s unfortunate.


From PoliticoFederal workers are upset by Trump’s hiring freeze. Trump gives FBI Director James Comey a pat on the back for being “more famous than me.” And Wikileaks has called Trump out for not releasing his tax returns.

From Antiwar NewsThe cost of the air war between us and ISIS has reached $11 billion.

From The InterceptThe new CIA director-nominee is into torture. ALSO: Jeremy Scahill is starting a new podcast, first episode out on Wednesday!

From The NationScott Pruitt is not super great on the environment, which is a thing you know if you live in Oklahoma.

From It’s Going DownTexas prisoners are being punished for revealing horrid conditions. Also, IGD has a whole slew of protest reportbacks from this past weekend. Check them out here.


Thanks for reading the Daily Molotov, curated for C4SS by Trevor Hultner. You can submit news tips to trevor@c4ss.org, tweet at us either at @c4ssdotorg or @trevor_c4ss, or leave a comment below. Your continued support of the Center for a Stateless Society means we can continue to roll out new features like this.

Want this directly in your inbox every morning? Subscribe to our mailing list below.



Daily Molotov: Places to find ongoing coverage of anti-Trump protests

Donald J. Trump has been sworn in as the 45th President of the United States amidst a backdrop of citywide protest actions from various groups.

Check out Infoshop News and It’s Going Down for ongoing coverage of the action, and if you’re on Twitter, make sure you’re following #disruptJ20.

Infoshop News

It’s Going Down

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist