My Path to Radical Celebritarianism
This post took a few turns since I first started it. As some of you may be aware, I’m working on a book, and this website is part of that project. I’m basically sharing my notes with all of you as I write them, and at some point these notes will be weaved into a cohesive story line. I wanted to include in that book, the story of how I became a libertarian.
That story however, begins at birth, as the world around us influences our perceptions of things, and is still ongoing with me, as it should be with all of us. I’m constantly learning and developing in perpetual effort to be a better libertarian, and I hope you are too. Trying to find a point at which to begin, much less end, a “how I became a libertarian” story is thus rather difficult, and with my word count for this post already in excess of 7000, I’m still not quite sure where to end it.
During the course of writing that story, I coined the term “Radical Celebritarianism” and thus we have our title. I’m defining this term as the building of one’s public profile to the point where a message has significant potential to go viral, and then exploiting it to accomplish cultural shifts inside and outside the greater libertarian movement.
Where to Begin?
I never was too big a fan of government. Prior to 9/11, all I really knew about it was that police wanted to take my weed, and that working off the books netted more money in my pocket than working on the books.
My father worked for the federal government most of his life. During my early childhood, he worked as an air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration. This paid pretty well, and so my parents lived in the fairly well to do city of Stony Brook, New York.
That little dream got disrupted when the PATCO union went on strike during the Reagan administration. He and other air traffic controllers engaged in a work stoppage and picket lines demanding better working conditions and pay, as public sector unions have been known to do.
Reagan wasn’t having it. When the union went on strike, it was illegal to fire them. Reagan went to congress, got that law changed, and then fired all the controllers who didn’t return to work. My father, not wanting to be seen as a “scab”, refused, and was thus fired.
Now unemployed with some rather hefty bills to pay, my father began mowing other people’s lawns for money. He worked hard, and built up the business over time, buying better equipment, hiring employees, and eventually putting me to work at a very young age.
Not much grass to mow in a New York winter, so he worked as a seasonal employee for the Internal Revenue Service.
My mother was raised Catholic, and was intent on raising my brother and I the same way. Despite our constant protests, we were regularly dragged to church on Sundays and holidays, and in addition to our public school education we were to attend “religion class” once or twice a week.
Between the two of them, the system of morality I was taught consisted of three things. Authority, authority, and, you guessed it, authority. We were to obey the church, the State, and our parents. Going outside of those lines had serious repercussions including spanking, being forced to eat soap, being threatened with an eternity of burning in hell, threats to call the police, long periods of being deprived of “privileges”, and a good deal of screaming and yelling.
I was never taught any sort of objective ethical or moral system. Property was fuzzy at best. The things people were permitted to do, or prohibited from doing, were dictated by authority figures, end of list.
Rejection of Said Authority
I didn’t need Murray Rothbard to tell me that this was complete bullshit.
I never believed in god. From my earliest memories of this indoctrination, I always told my parents and educators that this sounded really far fetched. All authority derived from some ancient book which my parents themselves admittedly did not understand, and so they deferred all their opinions on it to the church. This seemed deranged to me even as a kindergartner. The only response I was able to get from them on the subject were threats of burning in hell. This did little to convince me of this benevolent sky creature’s existence.
This of course extended itself to government. I despised going to school. I would regularly beg my parents not to send me, and they would insist that I had to go anyway, and that it wasn’t even their choice. We would be taken away from them if they did not send us to the school. I thought this was a horrific thing even as a very young child, but my parents assured me that god had ordained the authority of the government and thus it was just.
Since I didn’t believe in god, I saw my parents as liars not worthy of my respect, and the government as an unwelcomed intrusion based on those lies.
The only moral system I was taught was complete bullshit, and so I concluded that morality itself was complete bullshit.
In Junior High, I met some kids who were smoking marijuana after school. They asked me if I had ever done it before, and I lied in an effort to look cool. “Uh, yeah, like, all the time dude”. I got high for the first time that day and fell in love with pot.
My parents did not approve of me coming home stoned. I was grounded, hit, yelled at, searched, compelled to counseling, and all manner of attempts to correct this behavior. I was furious at this hypocrisy, because I probably should have mentioned earlier, my father was a fucking drunk.
I wound up running away from home for the first time at the age of 13. Some of my friends had far less restrictive parents than mine, and would let me stay at their houses for a few days to a few weeks at a time. This ended up happening a few times a year, and each time, my parents would call the police.
I was a wanted man, a fugitive on the run from the law, and all I had done was smoke a little weed and skip some classes. I remember thinking to myself “Well, if you’re a criminal, you might as well steal. Why the fuck have you been busting your ass on a landscaping truck if you’re going to get arrested anyway?”.
This coincided well with my new found freedom of being a teenage runaway. I needed money to eat and buy drugs with, it was difficult to hold a job as an underage kid on the run from the law, and after all, it’s not like I felt there was any legitimacy to the concept of right and wrong.
I became proficient at breaking into cars. We would steal anything, stereos, change, pagers, anything we could cash in on. Constantly trying to flip stolen goods for drug money, I became plugged into an ever growing network of criminals, and began to make a name for myself as quite the bad ass.
I got into harder drugs, not excluding crack and heroin. All night sessions of smoking crack, and shooting heroin to handle the come down became more common than I’d usually like to admit. This dramatically increased my need for money, which caused me to steal more frequently, and I got the idea in my head that by selling drugs, my own drug use would be a lot cheaper.
This led nowhere positive. My circle of friends consisted almost exclusively of society’s criminal element. I was picked up by the cops numerous times. Child “Protective” Services got involved at home and at school. I was carted off to various institutions throughout my teenage years, forced to take psychiatric medications with horrifying side effects, and ultimately wound up going from family court as a child, to the criminal justice system as an adult.
In the year 2000 I was finally sentenced to six months in the county jail on weapons, theft, and drunk driving charges, where I spent my 20th birthday.
Joining the Biggest Gang
Jail turned out to be a surprisingly positive thing for me. I got my GED, I got into great physical shape, and I reflected on the decisions I had made. I never regretted smoking pot, or possessing weapons. The drunk driving charge actually stemmed from me sleeping in my car because I knew I was too drunk to drive, but that didn’t stop the court from sentencing me to 60 of my 180 day sentence for it.
I did realize that the numerous thefts and assaults I had committed were wrong though, and I decided I wanted to be a better person. So when I got out of jail, I went back to work on my father’s landscaping truck and refrained from victimizing others, at least, not without the approval of the State.
I only vaguely remember the night I attempted to sign up for the US Army. I was drunk, and saw a very well produced piece of patriotic war propaganda during a commercial break on TV. “An Army of One” was the slogan at the time, and I thought to myself I could straighten out my life, make some money, and perhaps even be a hero.
I filled out a form online, completely forgot about it, and a few months later recruiters showed up on my doorstep. They told me being in the Army was awesome, that I would drink, get laid, make money, and there was no better time to join because a war breaking out seemed impossible. I swallowed this bit hook line and sinker. I was totally gung ho about it, I told all my friends and family that I was joining. I encouraged friends to join me.
After scoring very high on the ASVAB test, it seemed my career as a State mercenary was all but solidified. All I had to do, said the recruiters, was commit felony perjury.
You see, there is a point in the screening process for new recruits where you are given a physical and psychological exam by civilian doctors. Those doctors, they say, have no access to your criminal record, but they ask about your criminal history. To lie to them is a felony, and you can spend a good bit of time in prison for it. The recruiters tell you to lie anyway, and the doctors tell you the recruiter is lying due to a monetary interest.
Terrified of going back to jail, I told the truth, and I was denied entry to the worlds most powerful gang.
This devastated me. I remember thinking to myself “I’m not even good enough to die in a war”
September 11th and My Introduction to Politics
On September 11th 2001, I shook off my hangover and got on the landscaping truck like I did most mornings. We listened to Howard Stern on the ride from job to job, and while my employee finished blowing grass clippings off the driveway, I started up the truck and turned on the radio.
The cast of the show was hassling Howard over a rumor that he had hooked up with Pamela Anderson. Howard didn’t much want to talk about that, and so when he announced on the show that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, they at first didn’t believe him. He insisted it was true, switched the audio feed to CNN, and it was announced that America was under attack.
Least funny Stern episode ever.
We left the job and called it an early day. We went home, and watched events unfold as America was launched into a war, allegedly started by 19 cavemen with box cutters. I remember my mother saying “Thank god you didn’t get into the army” and my reply “Why do you think I wanted to join?”
By pure coincidence Fox News happened to be the channel I tuned into for coverage of the event. Before this, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a Democrat and a Republican (and oddly enough, if you ask me today I find this question even more difficult to answer).
At the time though, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were all too happy to explain to me that Democrats were the scourge of American politics and everything would be fine if the Republican party were left to do its business. That seemed reasonable enough, and after all, we had to support the president, because we had to support the troops.
I watched a war unfold on television, and I was absolutely obsessed with it. I watched Fox News whenever I happened to be in front of a TV set, I rarely ever changed the channel. On the rare occasion that I did check other channels, I was infuriated that these liberal Democrats were not supporting the troops. After all, had I not made so many mistakes in my youth, I would be one of them.
My Paradigm Gets Shattered
In 2009 I was arrested for “Driving While Intoxicated” while out on a date. I had consumed a few drinks, but purposely moderated myself because I didn’t want to be sloppy in my attempts to seduce the woman I was out with. I was pulled over for speeding in East Hampton, New York – a small town with its own very bored police force. I felt sober, I passed the standardized field sobriety tests, and my understanding of how the body processed alcohol told me I would be below the legal blood alcohol concentration level, but a machine said I was .01 over the legal limit. I was charged with a felony because 9 years and two days prior I had also been arrested for the same crime, because I was caught sleeping in a parked vehicle. I faced four and a half years in a state prison, for harming nobody.
I felt this was a terrible injustice, and was determined to take the case to trial. I hired an expensive trial attorney, and began studying to participate in my defense. I figured the US Constitution would be a good place to start, and so after some Googling, I found my first introduction to libertarian leaning thought. It was Michael Badnarik’s Introduction to the Constitution. A compelling 7+ hour video crash course in American history, which also introduces the viewer to the Federal Reserve, some basic economics, philosophy, and law.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Some time during the course, Michael asks his audience “Do you have a right, to violently overthrow the government?” He warns the class, that just for asking that question, they will be looked at as extremists. After reading from the Declaration of Independence, Michael concludes that we have not only the right, but the moral obligation to do so.
I was radicalized. Some switch clicked in my brain, and my life would never be the same.
I watched the course several more times, hoping that I could recreate this moment for others. I went out into the world and tried to discuss these topics with the rest of society, but inevitably more questions arose that I was not prepared to answer. So I studied more.
I studied the constitution of the United States, I read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, Supreme Court decisions, and eventually Human Action by Ludwig von Mises. I delved into conspiracy theories, crawling deeper and deeper down a rabbit hole looking for that moment in history when our glorious republic had been hijacked by the global elite. For hours on end I would sit in front of my computer, furiously searching Google for material that would improve my arguments, because I was certain I was right, and any failure to win an argument was only because of my inability to articulate my point correctly.
I realized at some point, that study or none, I would not accomplish anything on my own. I sought out radical groups online, and specifically local ones that actually met in person. This led me to MeetUp.com, where I found the Suffolk County, NY chapter of Campaign for Liberty, and Gigi Bowman.
The first gathering I attended was a 2009 Tea Party rally in Huntington. If I recall correctly, there were somewhere between 25-50 of us there as we marched around the busy street carrying signs and shouting slogans. I attracted the attention of Gigi and other organizers, because I had the loudest voice in the crowd, and wasn’t shy about using it. Gigi later introduced me to the Libertarian Party, and the 9/11 Truth movement, and encouraged me to get more involved.
I took her advice.
I became an assistant organizer for CFL, director of recruiting for the Suffolk Libertarian Party, and an at large committeeman for the Libertarian Party of New York State. I attended regular meetings, and rallies. I carried ballot access petitions for LP candidates. I was active on email lists and forums.
With some prodding from Gigi, I decided a good way to reach more people would be to run for Congress as a Libertarian Party candidate in 2010. I realized that part of the reason I was losing arguments was because aside from titles issued by some organizations I got involved with, I didn’t really have much in the way of credentials to claim to be an authority on anything. Being a congressional candidate, however unlikely to win, at least gave people some image of authority and cause to listen.
Eventually I began arguing with anarcho-capitalists during my run for congress, and leading up to the Ron Paul 2012 campaign. I was furious that people who understood liberty so well were unwilling to help me restore the republic. I again found myself unable to articulate my premise well enough to win the argument.
So I studied anarcho-capitalism. I read Rothbard, I listened to Stefan Molyneux, and others. I attempted to poke holes in the notion that a stateless society could provide defense or a justice system through market incentive alone. Applying my study of economics, and it being plainly evident that every promise made by the “founding fathers” had been broken in short order, I eventually came to the conclusion that unlike my arguments with Democrats & Republicans, this one I was losing because my position was incorrect.
This posed a bit of a problem for me. It was difficult enough to convince people that their government should probably be less tyrannical and abide by its constitutional limitations of power. It was certainly no small task to say that taxes should be collected from some other source than income, or that the government money supply should be limited, or that the government’s laws should exclude prohibitions on drugs and weapons.
I was now in a position that, if I were to be intellectually honest with people, I would have to advocate for the abolition of that government and the constitution that purportedly formed it. I would have to say that there should be no taxation of any sort, that there should be no government money, that there should be no government laws whatsoever.
It was around this time that my DWI case was approaching jury selection. As we waited for the pool of potential jurors, I was offered yet another plea deal. I could do 45 days in the county jail on a misdemeanor, or face the jury, a felony conviction, and four and a half years in prison. Discretion sometimes being the better part of valor, I opted to take the deal, do the time, and avoid a felony conviction.
The Temptation of Moderation & Incrementalism
The perceived difficulty of convincing people of anarchism, combined with the popularity of the Ron Paul 2012 campaign, convinced me that I should backburner and even hide my new found anarchism. Knowing that I was still advocating initiatory force on some level, and feeling somewhat fraudulent in my assertions, I campaigned vigorously for Ron Paul in both official and unofficial ways.
Unofficially, I argued vehemently with supporters of other Republican candidates on the internet. I challenged the anti-war credentials of liberals who refused to support Ron Paul, because they held their egalitarianism so dear that they hated the wealthy more than the war. I spent countless hours participating in these types of discussions with next to no reward.
Officially, I had little to do with the campaign in New York. There was a factional division between radicals and moderates that lead to a great deal of interpersonal conflict, and the fact that my ex-girlfriend was more or less heading up the official campaign in my area didn’t help matters. I did go to Nashua, NH during the primary though, and went on with the dull task of hanging reminders to vote from the doorknobs of purported supporters.
Not only did we ultimately lose the primary, the GOP also cheated Ron Paul out of the recognition he deserved during the Republican National Convention. This ultimately showed me the futility of electoral politics as a means of change. It wasn’t bad enough to beat us with lies and propaganda, they had to cheat us out of even that which we had earned.
Voting with my Feet
Before the Ron Paul campaign was officially over, but after the failure became obvious, I moved to New Hampshire to join the Free State Project. The FSP as many of you may know, is an effort to get 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire. At the time of this writing, they presently have 1600+ movers and 16k+ pledges to move.
I had done some research on the movement here before coming. I did some study as to which factions had settled where. It seemed the larger portion of Free Staters had settled in Manchester, but the most active, and radical faction had settled in Keene.
I chose radicalism, and moved just outside of Keene to a house in Marlborough. While I wasn’t quiet at this time though, I would not today call who I was then, outspoken. Aside from my run for congress, I had held some leadership roles back in New York with the Libertarian Party and Campaign for Liberty, and the scrutiny this invited into my life was unwelcomed. When I moved to Keene I was more interested in falling in line behind a group. I figured this would be easier, invite less scrutiny, hold less responsibility, and allow me to immerse myself in my alcoholism which had grown worse by the day since the DWI arrest caused me to lose my career.
No such luck.
I had built up something of a reputation already, and was readily recognized by a number of activists in the area. Factional differences and interpersonal conflicts set the course for a shitstorm.
I had not then, and still have not now, let go of Badnarik’s lesson on one’s right/responsibility to use force against a tyrannical government. While I would not have called myself particularly outspoken at the time, when asked, I would answer, and when challenged, I would attempt to defeat an opponent in an argument.
The position I held on use of force, combined with my drinking problem, and relative newness to the area, gave my rivals all they needed to set my reputation ablaze. They took to social media setting out to make me look like the next Tim McVeigh, and successfully attracted the attention of the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Force.
Unfortunately for the JTTF, there wasn’t a whole lot they could do about me based solely on social media hearsay. Short of perhaps a few questionable Facebook posts of my own, there wasn’t anything to come after me on. I didn’t do or sell drugs. I was on unemployment, and prosecuting tax mistakes against poor people is never popular.
To be clear, I don’t know how much of an investigation was going on prior to my arrival, but what happened next is what leads me to believe I was the focus of the investigation.
The JTTF teamed up with the Drug Task Force in Keene and set out to target a Free Stater. They picked up a heroin dealer who was not associated with the FSP, and offered to turn him loose if he gave up a Free Stater.
Rich Paul, a fellow activist known to frequent the Keene Activist Center (KAC), sold marijuana essentially as his living. The informant, Richie DuPont, made several buys from Rich consisting of marijuana and 2CI (a hallucinogenic chemical that was legal at the time). The buys were audio and video recorded surreptitiously, and after stacking up enough charges to put Rich in prison for the rest of his life, the DTF and the JTTF apprehended Rich.
During questioning, the JTTF informed Rich that they had him dead to rights on the drug sales, and that he was facing life imprisonment. They offered him an out. Wear a recording device into the Keene Activist Center, and talk about violence.
So to be clear, here are the priorities of the DTF and JTTF. Catch a heroin dealer, let him go to catch a politically active weed dealer, let him go to catch some guy talking about his political opinions in a private residence.
Rich ultimately alerted us to the plot, and refused to assist. He was charged with all of the sales, and the State proceeded against him with audio, video, and an informant on 81 years worth of direct buys. There was no beating this evidence in court, so Rich put forward a jury nullification defense.
In an apparent effort to cover up the tactics used in the case, the State offered Rich a plea deal that would allow him to avoid any further jail time. He refused, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to a year in jail.
The Desire for a Voice
As the case proceeded against Rich in court, the case against me proceeded on social media. People who had never met me were convinced I was either a federal agent or some kind of violent drunken lunatic who irresponsibly damaged property and put children’s lives in danger. No amount of fact or evidence or reason would suffice to turn this perception around. There were a small but energetic group of people who wanted to run me out of the “liberty movement,” but I was not about to let a handful of ideological rivals stop me in my fight against the State.
Meanwhile, my friend was on his way to jail, and I felt more than a little responsible for it. My attempts to take a step back from public light had done nothing to mitigate the damage done by my opinions being spoken in what I believed to be a private discussion. I remember thinking if I had the resources and support, I’d storm the jail and open every cell. Of course, I was only one guy, with an ever depleting level of support.
I was learning again what I had learned during the Ron Paul campaign. Being in the right, having the truth on your side, really doesn’t much matter if you don’t have a platform from which to tell that truth. If I wanted to fight against a tyrannical government, but couldn’t defeat a handful of vocal left leaning Facebook trolls, I had quite the uphill battle ahead of me.
Building the Brand
It was around this time that I had received a job offer back in New York that paid pretty well and would look very good on my resume. I returned to New York, only to be let go in my second week because the staffing agency that hired me failed to disclose to their client that I had a prior arrest for DWI, and the job required driving. Going back to work interrupted my unemployment payments, getting back on it required jumping through some hoops I wasn’t entirely sure of, and in any case, I didn’t feel good about taking government money.
I had a small but considerable social media following thanks to my congressional run and some of the networking I managed to do as an activist up to this point. I had created a handful of YouTube videos, almost none of which saw more than a couple of thousand hits, but to me that seemed like a pretty big deal at the time. I saw guys like Adam Kokesh and Luke Rudkoswki spreading their message, building their reputations, and even making money from their videos. So I set out determined to make more of my own.
I always had sort of a knack for telling people off. I had grown up in a decent neighborhood, but fell in with sort of a rough crowd in my early teens, and realized I could avoid physical fighting by turning the crowd against somebody with my words. This talent combined with my affinity for political news seemed to make for a pretty good combination. I would do rant videos about current events, the idea was somewhat inspired by the “Drinking with Bob” YouTube channel.
I noticed at some point that while my Facebook and Google+ followings were sizable and engaged, Twitter was a social media outlet I had hardly touched. I used to think of it like Facebook for people with short attention spans, and didn’t have a great deal of use for it as most of what I had to say required more than 140 characters.
Still, I had created an account during my run for congress, and did manage to acquire a few hundred followers, so I figured I would start trying to see what all the buzz was about. I logged into the account after leaving it dormant for quite some time, and my old tag line of “Congressional Candidate in New York’s 1st District” didn’t really apply anymore. I tried to think of what tag line I could use, that would fit into the limited space available.
And thus was born the tag line you see at the top of my website today. Anarchist, Atheist, Asshole.
Branching Into Different Mediums, and Controversy
Outside of the occasional Facebook “Note”, I produced almost exclusively YouTube videos for some period of time. I’d use social media just like anybody else outside of that, though perhaps a little more actively in hopes of building attention for when the next video was released. I was building attention up pretty rapidly. I had a small, but growing core audience of followers who were subscribed to my channel and shared all of my videos.
At the end of October in 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York. Prior to the hurricane I had made a satirical rant about disaster preparedness, and in the aftermath I was tweeting about gasoline shortages and National Guard patrolling the streets of my normally quiet suburban neighborhood. Adam Kokesh took notice of it, and invited me to come on his show to talk about it. Or so I thought.
I had seen Adam as a movement leader, and participated with him in a number of activist events that he led. My most successful video up to that time was actually a Hitler rant parody promoting his dance party at the Jefferson Memorial. I had won a contest when that video got the most views of any of the promotional videos, and was invited to be on his show while it was still on RT. Unfortunately, my bus was all kinds of late, and I missed the show. So getting another chance to come on I thought was really cool.
Thing is, I didn’t watch his show on a regular basis. I would catch YouTube clips when they were going around Facebook. I didn’t know who his cohost was, and it turned out she was a rival of mine from back in Keene. It turned into an ambush interview about the drama I had been involved in back in New Hampshire.
I was totally caught off guard, I didn’t come off well at all, and I was insulted after leaving the show. It was humiliating, I felt like this bullshit would follow me wherever I went forever, and I briefly entertained giving up.
When the power came back on, I recorded a rant video in response to the interview instead. I was terrified to release it, figuring that lil ole me attacking a guy with as big a name as Adam would have disastrous consequences. I thought surely this would be what ended me, but at least I would go out with a bang. On the contrary, my video ended up getting more views than his did, and I felt pretty good about that.
But my victory was short lived. Shortly after that, someone made an intellectual property complaint against me on Facebook. When I publicly exposed a screenshot of the private message containing the threat, I received a 30 day ban from Facebook. Facebook was then, and still is, my primary social network, and drives something like 70% of my traffic.
This combination of events taught me two things.
- I could take on bigger names, and benefit myself in the process.
- I had to branch into other platforms if I wanted to survive in this business.
In addition to dedicating more attention to building my Twitter and Google+ audience, I decided to start my own talk show using BlogTalkRadio called “Brink of Bedlam”. Brink of Bedlam was pretty short lived. The audio quality on BTR left much to be desired, and my audience was used to me in short dosages from rant videos. Listening to me talk for two hours was not terribly popular at the time.
I decided to give writing a shot. I opened two blogs, one on Blogspot titled “Because I Hate The Government” and another at WordPress.com titled “How To Anarchist” (the posts from both of those have since been integrated into this site). This turned out to be more popular than I would have imagined. My first post on “How To Anarchist” was a list of “Must Have Android Apps for Activists” and was very well received, earning me several podcast interviews and links back.
My first post at “Because I Hate The Government” got a lot of attention, but not all of it positive. It was titled “Concord Police, Go and Get Your Bearcat” and centered around a controversial proposal in Concord, New Hampshire to obtain an armored personnel carrier with a terrorism grant from the US Department of Homeland Security. The application for the grant, listed Free Staters as a terrorist threat, despite no violence having been initiated by them to date.
This led me back to the aforementioned lesson from Michael Badnarik about the right and duty to overthrow a tyrannical government by force, and so I wrote in part as follows;
So what to do? It’s a terribly unpopular thing to say, but the answer, at some point, is to kill government agents. The government agents know that, and that’s why they want a tank.
Carla Gericke, president of the Free State Project, correctly points out in her letter to the Concord police chief that “most libertarians strongly believe in the non-aggression principle, and choose to disassociate from those promoting the initiation of force”.
If anybody needs a refresher course in the English language, aggression is the initiation of force, and the non-aggression principle does not condemn the use of defensive force, even if the cult of the omnipotent State does. I believe in the non-aggression principle, which is why I believe in using defensive force against aggressors. It’s not a terribly complicated concept. If someone uses violence against me, I am within my rights to use whatever level of force is necessary to repel the threat, and the non-aggression principle doesn’t make exception for shiny badges or letters from men in robes.
This touched off a huge rash of controversy, and a chain of events that would lead me to becoming one of the most simultaneously revered and reviled figures in the modern libertarian movement.
On one end of the spectrum, there was the immediate rush to cover asses. People and institutions raised their voices, pens, and keyboards in outrage condemning this “advocacy of violence”. Others silently shut doors and disassociated.
On the opposite end, a small, but vocal minority who had waited their entire libertarian lifetime for someone of some note to stand up and say what they had been thinking the entire time.
In the vast region between these two ends of the movement, stood large numbers of confused libertarians, and huddled whisperers unsure of which side to speak on the issue publicly. “Of course he’s right, but we can’t say it!”
The Free State Project and Launch of ChristopherCantwell.com
The Free State Project was a vocal member of the first group. In what history should record as the greatest public relations blunder in the history of moderate libertarianism, I was contacted by Jody Underwood who threatened me with expulsion if I did not remove language from the blog post.
On top of the fact that I realized some time back I could take on bigger targets than myself, they couldn’t have chosen a worse time to bully me, as I was on quite the roll at the time. I had just gotten done publishing an epic video from Lemonade Freedom Day in Philadelphia, and I was covering for Adam Kokesh while he was locked up on gun charges in DC, during the Bradley Manning trial.
As I left Virginia, I visited with Eddie Free in DC and talked about launching my own website. It seemed insane that I didn’t have one yet, but I wasn’t sure about branding. I was trying to come up with some kind of catchy name, something I could have a logo designed around.
Eddie suggested just using my own name, and finding some cool font to write it in for a logo. The name itself had already become something of a brand after all through various media spots and speaking engagements. I thought about this on the long drive back to New York, and ultimately decided to go with it. I registered the domain, got a cheap hosting account with WordPress, and was almost immediately thereafter expelled from the Free State Project,
Not even if Santa Clause was real, could I have asked for a better gift, than to launch this website with my article “Porcupine Non Grata”
The post announces my expulsion and the ideas and causes behind it. I’m not too modest to say, it did so very well. This got around quite a bit, and social media, podcasts, and blogs were all buzzing with the news, and more importantly, discussions on the proper application of force in, and leading up to, a free society.
The Power of Widespread Controversy
When I had first come to New Hampshire, I was known, but I had little voice. I spoke of revolution in private ever so briefly, and haters shouted me down and played telephone with variations of my words on social media until the JTTF thought terrorist attacks were imminent. This caused them to threaten my friend with life imprisonment. Not a desirable outcome.
Now, my own words were there in plain text for anyone to read, be they JTTF agent, anarchist, or centrist. Sure, large numbers of ignoramuses didn’t bother to read the words and just responded with hysteria, but this time they looked like fools for doing so, to the people who had bothered to look. If the government wanted to come after me for my speech, they could come right to the source, my name was right there in the URL.
More importantly, a serious discussion about the topic had finally begun. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where? Important questions that individuals need to begin contemplating before they are disarmed.
While I wasn’t happy about my expulsion from the FSP, and knew I would miss the annual Porcupine Freedom Festival dearly, I felt like I had accomplished something profound for the first time. During my run for Congress I had shaken a lot of hands, and changed a few minds one at a time. Making YouTube videos I had managed to get ideas in front of hundreds of thousands of people, but only for a brief moment. This was the first time I felt like I managed to accomplish any kind of culture shift. The topic of fighting back was once again on the table for discussion because there were simply too many people saying the same thing at the same time for any one of them to be singled out and expelled from any particular group.
I attempted to carry the momentum with some limited degree of success. I challenged Stefan Molyneux to a debate on the topic of force, and though he has yet to respond 15 months later, the topic still arises from time to time.
Tackling Bigger Problems
It occurred to me that much of the pacifist sentiment that caused people to run me out for discussing forceful resistance to State authority, was part of a growing and destructive left wing influence on libertarian culture. Having been influenced by Rockwell, Rothbard, Woods, Block, Ayn Rand, and Ron Paul, along with my own general distaste for the left and political correctness, I found this rather difficult to swallow.
On Facebook, a trend had begun with some left leaning Austin activists, to take screenshots of politically incorrect Facebook posts, and share the images for the purpose of shaming. “This is why we don’t have more blacks/gays/women/unicorns in the group” to paraphrase John Bush, as he shared a screenshot of one Donovan Bock asking for music suggestions that weren’t “faggy”.
I once made a joke comparing taxation to rape, and was descended on by a number of women who claimed to have been rape victims. They informed me of how their lady parts were somehow more important than men spending decades in prison for not paying off an extortionist, and I frankly didn’t have a great deal of sympathy for that argument. Another Austin activist by the name of Antonio Buehler joined the fray, in borderline comical white knight fashion.
If I’m entirely honest, I had been into my cups that night, and I wasn’t about to tolerate his bullshit. I tore into him with as much vitriol as I could muster, hunting and pecking over a usually all too familiar keyboard with what was nearing double vision. I figured, who better to take on the social justice warriors and defend rape jokes, than the self described “Asshole” who yells at people on YouTube?
Much like the use of force argument, it turned out I wasn’t alone. A lot of people were sick of this crap, they just wanted somebody else to absorb the impact, and I opted to be that guy. What many in the movement may recalls as the Buehler Cantwell facebook war of 2013, really became a larger factional divide, which I personally feel was much needed. It didn’t take too many awful embarrassments to get Antonio Buehler to punch out of that fight.
All of a sudden, it’s not entirely safe for libertarians to throw baseless and meaningless ad hominem attacks like racist and misogynist around. You have to actually worry about gaining a reputation as a social justice warrior. Screaming about feminist conspiracy theories like rape culture and the patriarchy, actually has consequences.
Just so all you youngins who read this years down the road know, it wasn’t always like that. Somebody had to build a name for themselves, risk it all, and confront these people.
Focusing on the Internal
At some point during the course of all this it occurred to me that we would never get most of society to be libertarians. People just had entirely too many bad ideas and entirely too large of a support network for them. I was no longer interested in influencing elections, because I knew with absolute certainty it would be a minority affecting the change I sought in the world.
More libertarians is a fine thing to desire, and a goal I strive toward every day. I had come to the conclusion however, that if people who already identified as libertarians would only work a little harder and sharpen their focus, existing numbers could easily topple a government within a given geographic area.
So, while I certainly hope that I’m creating new libertarians with my work, I decided to dedicate more of my efforts to further radicalization of the existing movement. Rather than debate a non-responsive Rachel Maddow, I’d target other libertarians who I felt had gone off message. Combating distractions like race and gender, attacking purportedly libertarian outlets who would attempt to wield State power, and attempting to get fellow radicals to join me in New Hampshire, thus became one of the things I was most known for.
In this, I was talking to people who cared what I had to say. It is far easier for a libertarian to reach other libertarians, than it is to reach people who think you’re nuts just because you don’t like the government. Trying to get MSNBC to turn against taxation is just screaming into the ether. Keeping other libertarians on message and chasing out entryists, that’s a game worth playing, and one that I can win.
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