Defeating their own arguments

May 10, 2008 – 6:20 pm by John

I'm surprised I haven't blagged about any of the posts on one of my new favorite libertarian sites, Rad Geek People's Daily, Charles Johnson's blag. He wrote a long and entertaining post about three rural-Minnesota 8th-graders who were suspended for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance. My favorite part of the post was some wonderful new terminology I picked up from Rad Geek: the Patriotic Correctness bellowing blowhard bully brigade. These would be flag-waving "patriotic" Statolatrist boobs.

I don't mean to take away from the excellent refutations and condescension he smacked the school administrators and their supporters with. Maybe he didn't learn the same lesson Randall Munroe learned: pay no attention to the comments about news articles, blag posts, YouTube videos, etc., because they are some of the loudest and stupidest writings you will ever encounter. But it worked out well for him because he got an excellent blag post out of it.

One of the first insights the libertarian will garner from the thought processes of the Patriotic Correctness bellowing blowhard bully brigade is: they violate the very things they purport to value and protect in their overzealous efforts to force other people to value and uphold them. Force is obviously the key word. A lot of supporters of the school's decision to punish the children base their support on the belief that, since they have the privilege of living in the freest country on Earth (fuck yeah!), children should show their respect for the soldiers and generals who gave (!) them that right, and if the kids don't show this gratitude to their enlightened and gracious government, then they should be punished and taught to respect the military and the government that have given them so much.

The reason, the patriotic correctness people claim, that our country (government) is so great is that it protects our freedom of speech, freedom of association, and other general human rights, whatever. (Some might even say the government and its Constitution "guarantee" or "grant" these things to its citizens.) These presumably include the right to do or say anything against the government itself, as long as you don't hurt anyone or their property. And so, obviously, by teaching children that they are wrong to protest against their government because their government is so good and gracious that it allows them to protest against the government, they are being ignorant, stupid hypocrites. I doubt any of them sees this simple and un-subtle point.

This thought is nothing new. Anti-war Americans say the same thing about an aggressive foreign policy executed in the name of "protecting our freedoms": we are violating our own freedoms and debasing our own values to defend ourselves against people who (supposedly) want to take away our freedoms and who have barbaric and un-humanitarian values.

These thoughts prompted me to comment on the life and times of Emma Goldman, an anarchist activist from Lithuania who did most of her writing, speaking, and activism in the United States. In 1893 Goldman was arrested and tried for the very dubious crime of "inciting to riot." To my (limited) knowledge she didn't actually succeed in inciting any riots and she certainly didn't injure any people or property herself. According to Wikipedia, which is as far as I've gotten in my readings about Emma Goldman,

As she awaited trial, Goldman was visited by Nellie Bly, a reporter for the New York World. She spent two hours talking to Goldman, and wrote a positive article about the woman she described as a "modern Joan of Arc".

Despite this positive publicity, the jury was persuaded by Jacobs' testimony and scared by Goldman's politics. The assistant District Attorney questioned Goldman about her anarchism, as well as her atheism; the judge spoke of her as "a dangerous woman". She was sentenced to one year in the Blackwell's Island Penitentiary.

Emma Goldman was also arrested completely unjustifiably in connection with the assassination of President McKinley by Leon Czolgosz:

Because he was an anarchist and had interacted several times with Goldman, authorities became convinced that she had planned the action. They tracked her to a residence in Chicago she shared with Havel and Abe and Mary Isaak, an anarchist couple. Goldman was arrested, along with Abe Isaak, Havel, and ten other anarchists.
Although Czolgosz repeatedly denied Goldman's involvement, the police held her in close custody, subjecting her to what she called the "third degree". She explained their distrust of him, and it was clear she had not had any significant contact with Czolgosz. No evidence was found linking Goldman to the attack, and she was eventually released after two weeks of detention.

Wikipedia says in 1906 Goldman and a group of activists were arrested for meeting to "reflect on Leon Czolgosz." And, "in 1915 Goldman conducted a nationwide speaking tour in part to raise awareness about contraception options. Although the nation's attitude toward the topic seemed to be liberalizing, Goldman was arrested in February 1916 and charged with violation of the Comstock Law. Choosing not to pay a hundred-dollar fine, she spent two weeks in a prison workhouse...."

Then, in 1917, she was arrested for opposing military slavery and "inducing persons not to register" for the draft.

Finally, in 1918, she was deported by the federal government for being an anarchist.

The US Department of Justice's General Intelligence Division, headed by J. Edgar Hoover and under the direction of Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer, conducted a series of raids to arrest radicals. In a memorandum prepared while they were in prison, Hoover wrote: "Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman are, beyond doubt, two of the most dangerous anarchists in this country and [a] return to the community will result in undue harm." Although her marriage to Jacob Kershner arguably provided her with legitimate US citizenship, the government invoked the 1918 Anarchist Exclusion Act and deported both Goldman and Berkman to the Soviet Union, along with over two hundred others.

Woodrow Wilson, whom my college libertarians club colleague described as the Antichrist, claimed he was dragging the U.S. into World War I "to make the world safe for democracy." Presumably he meant safe to speak freely, assemble freely, and not be arrested, charged, convicted, or imprisoned for actions that don't harm someone else. These are just a few freedoms that, we are constantly reminded, need protecting by soldiers and generals. These are the same freedoms that J. Edgar Hoover and Alexander Palmer officially were protecting when they forced two hundred radicals out of the country.

Hopefully, you know better than to buy the State's official line. They were acting to protect the State's own interests and insulate itself from radical opposition and protest. How just and enlightened.

The Statists who opposed Emma Goldman's rhetoric and activism back then and who still support the federal government's handling of her and her ilk today would claim that the interests of the State (order, peace, security) need to be protected and maintained, or else no one will have their basic rights protected. Those basic rights include writing, speaking, assembling, and demonstrating against the State and, yes, advocating revolution. It is kind of doubtful how innocent she was of promoting only peaceful activism and no potentially destructive and deadly activities, but given her at least three wrongful arrests and very wrongful deportation, she was perfectly justified in so fiercely opposing the very existence of the United States government. She was right to protest its transgressions against the rights of its subjects.

Then, as now, many cheerleaders for the State advocate State actions that go against the very reasons the Statists supported them. To use an overused phrase, they violate the freedoms they are meant to protect. In the very action of defending State interests over individual rights, the State proves that the individuals in question were right to be protesting the State—proves that the State itself is abominable and monstrous because it beats, terrorizes, imprisons, deports, and kills peaceful protesters while speaking of defending everyone's rights, and furthermore it says the beating, killing, and imprisoning are essential to its protection of everyone's rights!

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