Dylan Roof Was Mainstream, Not Extreme

The shooting of nine black men and women in a Charleston church has sparked protests against South Carolina’s ubiquitous displays of the Confederate flag. If you’re not from the American South, you might be surprised to find the Confederate flag displayed alongside the flag of the United States. And if you had no frame of reference at all you might even be excused for believing it had some “official” purpose, akin to a state or regional flag.

But it’s just where the spirit of the South remains. This isn’t odd, given the fact that the United States was built on slavery. A culture of slavery and its associated environment inevitably produces individuals like as Dylan Roof.

As we should expect with any state that has its roots in enslaving human beings, as well as any state that continues to perpetuate variations of slavery to this day, people will rebel. The slaves, specifically, will rebel. These may be minor acts of rebellion, such as the anti-racist graffiti on a Confederate war memorial. They may be larger acts of rebellion we will see more of in the future.

Minor acts against racist symbols are viewed disproportionately by those who view the symbols as extensions of the self. This is why a controversy has erupted over the defacement of a racist monument as opposed to, say, the defacement of an alley wall. The remnant symbols of chattel slavery in the United States are still sacred symbols to those who sympathize with slaveholders. Zachary Gaither, quoted from the article above, said “the Confederate flag is a Southern heritage of pride.” This is the mindset of those who wished to preserve the “dignity” of the memorial and covered the graffiti with a tarp. It’s also the belief of the organizations that erected the memorial in the first place, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

As long as people exist who view symbols of oppression with pride, as long as people glorify oppression, we will face eminent violence. Violence is nurtured by oppression. The oppressors require violence to subdue the oppressed. The oppressed utilize violence in turn to cast off the yoke of their oppressors.

Dylan was one who glorified oppression. He glorified the Confederate flag – the flag was a source of pride to him. In fact, Dylan was a bit of a Confederate aficionado, fitting neatly into the stereotype of Southern racists who love Civil War bullshit. He toured Civil War battlefields and cemeteries. He rationalized chattel slavery in his manifesto:

Only a fourth to a third of people in the South owned even one slave. Yet every White person is treated as if they had a slave owning ancestor. This applies to in the states where slavery never existed, as well as people whose families immigrated after slavery was abolished. I have read hundreds of slaves narratives from my state. And almost all of them were positive. One sticks out in my mind where an old ex-slave recounted how the day his mistress died was one of the saddest days of his life. And in many of these narratives the slaves told of how their masters didnt even allowing whipping on his plantation.

Actually, you should read the full text of Dylan’s manifesto. It isn’t new material. It can’t even be called “extremist” material, because a significant portion of the mainstream population agrees with him. Just read some of the negative comments on a Black Lives Matter article. The material is the same. Black persons are “the real racists,” they have “lower impulse control,” and so on. It’s very racist, but this can’t be called extremism. Racism is not a fringe position. In many areas, especially in the South, it’s the status quo.

For example, Dylan credited the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) for his data. This group shaped his beliefs. The Council of Conservative Citizens is a mainstream political organization, patronized by American politicians. It has remained mainstream despite being listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. American governors, a Senator and dozens of politicians at a national level remained open members of the CofCC through the turn of this century. An assortment of American office-holders and politicos regularly appear at CofCC meetings.

In fact, in the very same article where Vibe reprinted Dylan’s manifesto, the comments are full of people saying he was right. If you check the comments on any one of the articles I’ve cited, you’ll also find the same thing: widespread support for Dylan’s racist beliefs, if not for his violence.

The CofCC immediately denounced Dylan’s violence. As has one Kyle Rogers, a “rising star” of white supremacy who is on the board of the CofCC. Rogers is being called “the man who radicalized Dylan Roof.” Rogers also denounced Dylan. In fact, Rogers – in typical white supremacist fashion – has both denied being a white supremacist and claimed he is “opposed to hatred and violence.”

In fact, Rogers and Roof share, almost to a letter, the same set of beliefs. Roof was inspired by Rogers, after all. Violence is the only point of disagreement. Yet, violence is secondary. Racism caused the violence. And violence is the natural result of the racism perpetuated by Rogers, by the CofCC, and also by any person who displays a Confederate flag.

When those who incite hatred and violence end up seeing the fruit of their labor they tend to condemn it, of course. In Europe they could face criminal prosecution, while in the United States – despite “freedom of speech” – there is still a very real risk of facing civil prosecution in the form of lawsuits filed by the families of victims. It’s damage control. Aggressive violence is an inherent part of racism. There is no nonviolent racism. Dylan Roof is just the natural conclusion of following through on the premises of Kyle Rogers.

Many white supremacists and neo-Nazis even deny being “racist.” Instead, they call themselves “race realists.” When Rogers said the shooting was “an atrocity” and that he was “devastated” this is not an anomaly. We can see this in form, if not content, throughout American society. The American state, for example, portrays itself as the peace-maker while it simultaneously perpetuates global war. American police do the same to black communities at the local level.

In short, racism – be it from individuals like Rogers or entire institutions such as the government of the United States – often says of itself “this is not racism.”

Barry Sheppard at Red Flag made one of the best points:

The mass murder of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist has to be understood in relation to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racist counter-movement spearheaded by police.

Dylan is said to have desired a race war. It would be more accurate to say he wanted the existing race war to shift from low-intensity to high-intensity. A race war has been in effect from the moment the first colonizer captured the first slave. Race war has never stopped; race war is the natural consequence of enslaving human beings. What we’ve done is disguise the race war. We’ve called it Jim Crow, or the War on Drugs and the War on Crime. Mandatory minimums, the death penalty, and life imprisonment. The police, having been militarized in the 60s and 70s, are the front line against people of color in the United States. Dylan killed nine and the media circulates the story, but most people still don’t know that the police have killed five hundred this year alone, and more than five thousand since the beginning of 9/11.

While almost half of Americans no longer trust the police, police still have significant support. The same police departments Americans support are routinely found to be harboring racists who share the views of Root and Rogers. Police whistleblowers have reported on a culture of racism within police departments inherent to policing itself. And law enforcement members are still being outed in 2015 as supporters and members of the Ku Klux Klan. None of this is controversial enough to mainstream Americans for a truly populist backlash (yet).

We could even say that Dylan’s racist beliefs are America. They’ve been there from the very beginning. Racism is manifested in the structure of the law itself, as well as the application of the law by the police. It is not a stretch to say that if Dylan wanted to get away with killing black people he could have become a police officer. In fact, if Dylan had been a cop he would be defended for the same actions he is currently being condemned for.

This is because Dylan Roof is more mainstream than many Americans wish to admit.

Snowden’s Newest Leak: Domestic Propaganda And What It Means For Internet Discourse

The Intercept has just released a document filed as top secret outlining the goals and modus operandi of the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG). JTRIG is one of the more significant, but less referenced, British intelligence operations Snowden made us aware of. In February of 2014, Edward Snowden leaked documents that showed GCHQ was manipulating Internet discourse. The manipulations included denial of service attacks (DoS) against the hacktivist collective Anonymous, as well as a propaganda operation aimed at shaping the way the Latin American public views the Falkland Islands dispute:

The group, first revealed last year by NBC News and The Intercept, has developed various techniques — including “false flag” operations, sexual “honey traps,” and implanting computer viruses — to collect intelligence, plant propaganda and diminish or discredit opponents. As reported in The Intercept last year, JTRIG “has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, ‘amplif[y]’ sanctioned messages on YouTube,” and plant false Facebook wall posts for “entire countries.” According to a study of the group by the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), “the language of JTRIG’s operations is characterized by terms such as ‘discredit,’ promote ‘distrust,’ ‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter.’”

The documents released today reconfirm that JTRIG was active in “preventing Argentina from taking over the Falkland Islands” and also confirm that JTRIG has been involved in “regime change in Zimbabwe.”

Today The Intercept released a 42 page JTRIG report dated from 2011 and detailing how the intelligence organization functions. Keep in mind that we are looking at a document that is four years old. The JTRIG program may have been expanded by now.

JTRIG, according to the documents, has 120 full time staff. This does not include “integrees” or persons who are not the full time employees of the program. JTRIG is divided into three operational groups: “Rest of the World,” “Counter-Terrorism” and “Support to Military Operations.” Try not to forget that although this is an international intelligence organization, a significant portion of its focus is being used for domestic affairs. According to the new documents, JTRIG is being applied to domestic crime. It is being used for police support. JTRIG is “providing intelligence for judicial outcomes.”

Parallel construction is worth mentioning. Have a look.

Among the domestic crimes listed are illegal immigration, online credit card fraud, and “domestic extremism.” The documents state that JTRIG is working with the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the UK’s tax collection authority, the Metropolitan police, UK Borders, and “15 Psyops” or the 15 Psychological Operations Group, in-theatre.

What we’re primarily interested in here is the way the state is using this team to manipulate public opinion online. This is being done under the banner of combating “extremism.” Extremism, of course, is any position or belief that does not support the current state and its official narrative. The documents list “monitoring Irish Republican groups,” “discrediting extremist sites and individuals/groups,” “far-right activists,” as well as “dissuading criminals, state actors, and hacktivists.”

Here are some excerpts from section 2.5, listing “operation methods/techniques”:

Uploading YouTube videos containing “persuasive” communications (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt).

Setting up Facebook groups, forums, blogs and Twitter accounts that encourage and monitor discussion on a topic (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt).

Establishing online aliases/personalities who support the communications or messages in YouTube videos, Facebook groups, forums, blogs etc.

Establishing online aliases/personalities who support other aliases.

Sending spoof e-mails and text messages from a fake person or mimicking a real person (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deceive, deter, delay or disrupt).

We’re talking about things that have been in the domain of conspiracy theorists. (I do not intend for the term to be pejorative here.) This is evidence of state-sponsored shills. If you’ve ever wondered if shills populate Facebook or YouTube – or if you’ve dismissed the idea as paranoia – now you know. It turns out they are real.

This may be more significant than it seems. More people receive most of their information from social media than ever before. While major news networks could be depended on to provide the state’s narrative without real critique in the past, today states (and corporations, for that matter) must contend with the manufacture of consent via comment-driven media. Reddit, for example, is one of the most popular websites on the Internet. It’s basically a comment farm, where reader opinions on news items subordinate the content of the articles themselves.

An environment like Reddit is especially susceptible to “establishing online aliases/personalities who support communications” and “establishing online aliases/personalities who support other aliases.” This is a form of media where votes determine which comments rise to the top – thus which comments are seen first. It’s easy to exploit the bandwagon effect and this can be used to shape opinions or develop a consensus.

A major goal of JTRIG, presented as the general thesis of the leaked documents, is exploiting psychological and cognitive biases. The documents refer to “stressing the importance of social validation (e.g. via highlighting that others have also complied)” and “conformity [as] an indirect form of social influence whereby an individual’s beliefs, feelings and behaviors yield to those (norms) of a social group.” They refer to the low-ball and high-ball techniques, the door-in-the-face and the foot-in-the-door techniques. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is cited in the references. Many of the references are similar in nature. Few, however, have anything to do with actual terrorism.

The documents list “being blocked from the website” as a risk element for a JTRIG operation to avoid. Many social media websites, Reddit again as an example, do ban users who game the voting system or shill. The generation of multiple accounts is a fast way to be banned. Inclusion of “being blocked” as a risk reconfirms the kind of operations JTRIG is involving itself in. It may also provide some additional clues as to where JTRIG is operating. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are mentioned by name, but the documents also refer to “forums” and “social media” in general.

While the documents admit that “it was difficult to measure operational success,” this element of consent-building on social media may seem familiar to you:

Check online and/or collect SIGINT to see if a message has been attended to, understood, accepted, remembered, and changed behaviour (e.g., people have spread the message and communicate support for it, people lack trust in the discredited individual/group/regime, people are delayed or deterred from an activity or interaction).

Now, you might say “that’s fine, they’re just making arguments.” (Or maybe that’s an excuse you’ll begin to hear online in the near future in JTRIG-influenced spaces.) Don’t forget that JTRIG is just a modern reworking of the same old propaganda tactics. The leak leaves no doubt of that. It says as much:

Propaganda techniques include: Using stereotypes; substituting names/labels for neutral ones; censorship or systematic selection of information; repetition; assertions without arguments; and presenting a message for and against a subject.

Psychological “persuasion” is on the table. And so are dirty tricks. Consider this: those dirty tricks aren’t ideal for stopping terrorism. They aren’t even ideal for solving a crime or gathering evidence. What they are really designed for is winning arguments. They’re ideal for politics. They’re ideal for consensus-manufacturing. And, specifically, for marginalizing the opposition.

Section 3.12 explains how Internet dialogue can be manipulated and what kind of personalities should be maintained:

Of particular relevance to the cyber-based effects and online HUMINT operations conducted by JTRIG is that researches have begun to study behaviour in cyberspace, including social influence. For instance, studies have found that anonymous groups may be more susceptible to influence than identifiable groups (Postmes, Spears, Sakhel, & de Groot, 2001). People in online social networks make new links with those whom they perceive to be similar (Crandall et al., 2008), and they are more likely to view a YouTube video if they believe others similar to them have viewed and liked it (Marcus & Perez, 2007). Neighbours/friends in online social networks are also more powerful than strangers in persuading a user to join an online group (Hui & Buchegger, 2009). The ability to trigger replies from others, create conversations between others, and induce similarity of language among users is more likely to be found in “online leaders” who demonstrate high communication activity, longer group membership, expansive and reciprocal social networks, and language use characterised by talkativeness, diversity, assertiveness, and emotion (Huffaker, 2010). High numbers of chat room contributions and words, as well as high levels of assertiveness and exaggeration can have a significant influencing effect during anonymous computer-mediated discourse (Miller & Brunner, 2008). Finally, during computer-mediated interaction, females are more likely to conform when the other party expresses confidence in their expertise verbally, whereas males are more likely to be influenced by quantitative expressions of confidence (Lee, 2005). Male online characters are also more likely to induce informational influence than female ones.

Maybe that sounds like someone you know.

Maybe not.

In any case, individuals involved in radical or anti-authoritarian politics in online spaces should take heed. You don’t need to be a terrorist. You don’t need to be a criminal. It is sufficient that you fall into the ill-defined category of “hacktivist” or “extremist.”

Quante Wright & How The State and Capitalism Perpetuate Crime

I recently wrote that the state and capitalism had a significant role in James Boulware’s armored van assault on the Dallas Police Department building. Boulware had stated that he “lost everything,” that he was on his “last dime,” and that he could not find employment due to his criminal record. This was a significant factor that motivated Boulware to attack the police. Now I would like to illustrate this phenomenon further with the recent example of Quante Wright.

Quante Wright is a former “gang member” who was associated with the Brighton Brigade. He was arrested under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Here are some court records explaining the charges. Quante was sentenced to 105 months in prison with five years supervised release.

According to court documents, all of the crimes Quante was accused of were committed between the ages of 14 and 18.

When Marnie Eisenstadt of Syracuse.com wrote that Quante had graduated and found employment after his release, Quante was promptly fired by his boss. The story erupted in the media and Quante was offered his job back. But too late – Quante was sent back to jail the same day he was fired.

Let’s consider a few elements of Quante’s story. The initial Eisenstadt article was about Congressman John Katko’s speech at a Bryant and Stratton College graduation. Katko hailed Quante by name and said he was “very proud.”

Katko, congressman, was formerly the federal prosecutor responsible for putting Quante in jail.

The story was intended to be a feel-good, reconciliation-type narrative. The very first thing we should ask, however – right there in the first few sentences – is how former federal prosecutors become congressmen. It’s a perfect example of the United States as an authoritarian police state. If your former job was putting people in jail this qualifies you to rule. American laws reflect this. The American prison population also reflects this. When your politicians are former prosecutors, you should expect the outcome to reflect their authoritarian biases.

But that’s not the story. No one in the media is asking how the people directly responsible for the world’s largest prison population manage to secure positions of even greater power.

Eisenstadt deserves some credit. She wrote, “Wright’s success is fragile. His life is an example of how moving on after a felony conviction isn’t as simple as trying hard and living mostly right. Wright is on probation until at least 2017. He’s been charged with violating three times since 2012.” Indeed, Wright’s success is so fragile that the very article Eisenstadt wrote ended up causing him to be fired and sent back to jail. We can’t blame her entirely for this, but we can’t absolve her either. The media has a significant role in perpetuating the exclusion of individuals with criminal convictions from social and economic participation.

At least she did direct the narrative as a critique of the criminal justice system. Eisenstadt pointed out that almost half of all persons released from prison return, and that a full 80% of those persons return not due to committing new crimes but merely for breaking the procedural rules of conditional release. Incidentally, that’s also why Quante went back to jail. He was late to his halfway house after he was fired from his job due to Eisenstadt’s article.

Steve Spector, the manager of Lowery Brothers Chrysler Jeep, fired Quante one day after Eisenstadt wrote about him. Steve said that he didn’t ask Quante about his criminal past, although Quante checked the box on his application form that asked if he had criminal convictions. Quante also wrote on the form what he had been convicted for.

The existence of the criminal history check box and its implications should also be questioned. The media isn’t going here, either. This practice is ubiquitous. Even “basic” forms of employment ask individuals to affirm or deny criminal history. The process is streamlined on employment applications so that employers can easily discriminate against those that do have criminal records. It has to be, because so many people in the United States have been convicted of crimes. It needs its own special spot on employment forms.

In fact, that’s probably part of why Steve overlooked Quante’s criminal past on the application. Half of all black males younger than 23 have been arrested. In a police state if you dismiss every person who has a criminal past you end up finding it hard to employ people. It’s probably also why Steve didn’t question Quante during an interview on a potential criminal history. He may not have actually cared.

But capitalism will ensure that he cares. When Quante’s story was made public and Lowery Brothers was associated with a “convicted felon,” it brought the hatchet down. You see, capitalism is about maximizing profits. And any risk to profits – such as daring to employ one of the unemployable – has to be nipped in the bud. Quante’s wellbeing, his “benefit to society,” his rehabilitation, or however we wish to frame it, is subordinated to the economic rationale – profits – of capitalism.

Capitalism also explains why Quante got his job back, even if a bit too late. You see, Quante was lucky to have his story picked up by social media. The American public loves the “reformed con” myth. This myth is necessary, in fact, to justify the fully dysfunctional criminal justice system. But it is a myth – there are no real second chances. And when Quante was fired it exposed the myth. People were upset.

Gary Lowery, the owner of Lowery Brothers Chrysler Jeep, had to respond. Profits were threatened for a second time. Lowery said that he “feels very badly” and that he “wants to be a part of the resolution.” And that’s all well and good for Quante. Quante may still be sent back to prison for being a few hours late. The US criminal justice system views tardiness as proportional to incarceration. But the publicity has ensured Quante will be able to find employment in the future.

The rest of America’s millions of “felons” will not be so lucky.

Take a moment to read the comments on the articles Eisenstadt wrote. There are people who are supportive, yes. There are also far too many people who stated, flat out, that Quante should not be employed. As in, not employed at all. They’re saying he should have remained in prison, or that they will refuse to patronize Lowery Brothers. There’s a comment that says “convicted felons” should never be equal to other citizens. (Don’t worry – they’re already unequal.) And there is one that says that jobs should go to people without criminal records first.

We’ve already got a system that marginalizes these individuals. The system does so by design. At the moment of arrest the media publicizes names. This ensures that persons accused of crimes can be discriminated against even if they are not convicted, or if charges are dropped. The state then further publicizes criminal conviction records. The state does not have to, of course. These records are not necessarily public in other Western nations. But the state does, specifically because people like former-federal-prosecutor Katko, who I mentioned at the beginning, end up becoming politicians. Finally, the capitalist private sector streamlines discrimination in hiring. Employers also don’t have to do this – there is no law that demands it – they choose to do it. And rightly so, from the capitalist perspective, because a failure to discriminate against persons tainted with a record, even the most trustworthy or productive of individuals, is controversial and thus a risk to the bottom line.

It’s a recipe for perpetuating crime.

We’re taking the individuals most likely to commit crime (we know they are the most likely because they’ve been caught committing crimes), the people with criminal experience, and systematically excluding them from legal alternatives. Quante was formerly a successful crack cocaine dealer. That was how he made a living. It was one of the only viable options for him to make a living. And that is still true for the untold hundreds of thousands of people convicted of drug related crime.

Does the state create incentives for legal behavior, then, to provide alternatives to drug dealing? No, the state does the opposite. The state ensures that it is significantly harder for people who already found it hard to find legal employment. It’s because the criminal justice system, policing, and the prison-industrial complex were never designed to end crime. They were designed to perpetuate crime and generate revenue for public employees and the associated private sector.

This also benefits capitalists. By excluding a significant portion of the population from employment the labor pool is altered. These persons, if they wish to participate in legal work, must accept what they can get. Further, the state usually mandates they find employment as a condition of release. They’re quite literally forced into industries that cater specifically to persons with criminal histories who cannot find employment elsewhere.

This is not sustainable. A society cannot subject millions of its members to a subservient and second class life. We’ve tried that in the past – it was called slavery. This resulted in rebellions. Slaves cut their masters throats while masters slept. Empires were destabilized. Uprisings and revolts left thousands dead. More than half a million people died in at least one civil war.

If we don’t abolish these modern forms of slavery then history is going to repeat itself.

“Shoot A Cop” Bumper Sticker & The Media’s Manipulation Of Discourse

Chris Thomas at NBC12 reported on a bumper sticker that says “shoot a cop.” On his Twitter and at the very outset of the NBC12 report he asks:

“FREE SPEECH OR TERRORISTIC THREATS?”

I don’t know, Chris. Are you asking us if it might be a terroristic threat, or are you telling us?

We’re presented with this question in such a way that it frames the range of debate. It asks us to pick one of two sides. The sides are chosen ahead of time by the reporter. They’re not marked out by any type of organic or preexisting public debate. Incidentally, one of the sides is clearly about censoring the bumper sticker and punishing the person who placed it on his or her vehicle. By introducing skewed debate, public opinion can be manipulated in one direction or the other. Noam Chomsky explains exactly this kind of manipulation throughout Understanding Power. You should read it if you have not yet.

We might also consider the title of Chris’s article: “Controversial Virginia bumper sticker reads: ‘Shoot a Cop’”

No, a bumper sticker reads “Shoot A Cop.” Who said it is controversial? This is an opinion, invented by Chris himself. And given that Chris was one of the first to report on the bumper sticker, the claim of “controversial” is hard to defend. There hasn’t even been an opportunity for controversy to arise. We’re presented with the information and told it is “controversial” before we’re able to respond in any way – much less to respond in controversial ways – at all.

And who does Chris interview? Why, it’s Kevin Carroll of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police. Aside from NBC12’s legal analyst Steve Benjamin, who said it would be illegal to stop someone from displaying the sticker, all we get is the law enforcement side of the story. Carroll goes straight for the fear play, too: “It’s absolutely very dangerous,” he says, “It’s dangerous for the officers.”

You know who Chris should speak with if he wants to report on the so-called “controversy” or maintain the facade of balance? He should speak with someone who actually supports shooting a cop. Alternately, he could speak with the owner of the car. If for some reason that fails to pan out, maybe he can speak with some of Virginia’s CopBlock activists.

It’s called journalism, Chris.

Now, I caught this one early and I’ve been watching as the story is bounced around. Almost all reports are the same. FOX News says it sparks outrage, NY Daily says it is very dangerous, here we’ve got one that says it causes outrage, here it is called hateful.

It’s strange (except it isn’t) that we don’t see a headline that says, “Shoot A Cop Bumper Sticker Is Free Speech.” Isn’t the “free speech” aspect the other side of the story, the other side of the so-called controversy?

The fear element is played up, because the intent is to reign in free speech. The American media, despite portraying itself as the world’s leader in free speech, fails absolutely across the board when it comes to defending controversial free speech in action. We’re told: “It may be legal” in a very soft voice, but “no” in a very loud voice.

Let’s consider a crucial question that is objectively newsworthy: why did this person put a “Shoot A Cop” bumper sticker on their vehicle? It’s a glaring omission. It’s a question we’re not supposed to ask. The media does not even go there. But it’s the obvious question an actually free media would ask: “Hey, guy, what do you mean by that sticker?”

I’m reminded of the media’s recent response to the Dallas van incident. CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield said, “it was very courageous and brave, if not crazy as well, to open fire on the police headquarters.” This is a statement of fact. It was courageous and brave. But if you’re in the media you’re not allowed to say this. Whitfield was shouted down and forced to apologize the next day, where she said literally the exact oppose, “I misspoke, and in no way believe the gunman was courageous, nor brave.”

There is a narrative that brings punishment if not strictly adhered to. This, in practice, serves as a form of censorship. A major element of that narrative is always to demonize the “bad” guy. No one in the media can say a bad guy is brave. No positive information can be introduced in any way. It doesn’t even matter if it isn’t truly positive (brave and courageous are neutral terms). It sounds remotely like praise, it sounds remotely positive, thus it must be censored. This is also why we will never hear from anyone who supports shooting a cop, despite the story being about a bumper sticker that says “shoot a cop.”

We’re not supposed to talk about why people have become so opposed to the police that they promote shooting a cop. The media is being used as a vehicle to shout down opinions perceived as threats by power before they can be digested by the public. We can’t even say they are “unpopular” opinions, because we don’t know if they are unpopular or not. There is no opposing side to the narrative. The public is not given ground to determine how it feels about the idea. The idea is framed negatively in a universal way throughout the mainstream American press. This in turn influences the way people form beliefs and opinions on the matter.

Maybe someone should ask Carroll why people want to shoot a cop. Even better, maybe someone should get on CafePress and run off a thousand or so of these stickers.

James Boulware: “I can’t find a job.”

Boulware Van

If you follow the media you may have heard of James Boulware. James bought a van outfitted for a zombie outbreak on eBay, parked it outside of the Dallas Police building and began firing rounds into the windows of the police HQ. James also dropped at least two bags filled with homemade explosives, one of which detonated and destroyed a police anti-IED robot. This obviously attracted the attention of the police, who chased Boulware into a Jack In The Box parking lot. A sniper shot James and the police detonated his van with his body still inside.

No one was hurt, except for James.

The police told us that James had called during part of the standoff and that James said he was upset because the police had accused him of being a terrorist, and because he lost custody of his child. And if you’ve been following the media reports, you would be excused for thinking that James was a child abuser and a terrorist.

The media has played up the “record” of domestic violence, as per police reports. In 2013 James was indeed arrested for assault and possession of marijuana. This was a factor in losing custody of his child, although Judge Kim Cooks said the accusations of family violence were not against his child and that “he truly loved his child.”

It doesn’t look like James was actually convicted of even half of the crimes he was accused of. Although he was certainly convicted in the eye of the public – the 2013 report was plastered all over the Internet for anyone who wanted to search his name during over the past two years – it isn’t clear if he actually made it to a criminal trial before the zombie van incident. This would mean James was fucking innocent, or at least should be presumed so, because he was never proven guilty. But the media is not even going there. We’re not told that James was merely a minor offender. His exceptionally small criminal history is being used to explain the van incident.

And it does explain it, but not in the way the media is leaning. We’ll get to that in a moment.

More attention has been paid to the fact that James was mentally ill. Unfortunately his political beliefs, many of which don’t conform to the mainstream narrative, are conflated with actual signs of mental illness. James’s mother said he heard voices. His family also said that the system fully failed him in supporting him in his struggles with mental illness.

If James was hearing voices and if he experienced delusions, he may have been a schizophrenic. However, schizophrenia does not explain what happened here. Schizophrenia is not associated with violence. The risk of violence is small comparable to the general population. When violence does occur it is associated with sporadic, unplanned and disorganized incidents in the home environment. Essentially, violence related to mental illness does not resemble the well-organized, well-planned van incident at all.

The liberal press has used the mental health angle as an explanation. The Guardian has a very good example. The narrative is that the resources were not in place to help Boulware. If they were, he would have never acted out. This is a half truth. While Boulware may have been mentally ill, and while that may have contributed to the way he behaved, it does not fully explain it. The liberal narrative ignores why he targeted the police. It ignores the initial motive. It fails to explain why Boulware is different from the rest of the mentally ill, potentially schizophrenic, population.

In short, it fails to address how capitalism and the state caused this.

The most significant element, the factor with the strongest explanatory power, is what James Boulware’s father, Jim Boulware, said. And I’m surprised that CNN was allowed to print this:

“He said, ‘Dad, I have lost my house, my tools, my son. I’m going through every dime I’ve got. I can’t find a job because I got domestic violence on my record.’ He said, ‘I’ve lost everything.’ “

The reason James “snapped” was directly related to the fact that he was pushed into the ostracized criminal subclass of unemployables. James couldn’t be hired. James’s finances were failing. James was pushed into a corner with no hope, no escape. Now, this explains things.

James’s father seems to get it. He said “they pushed him past it.” “They” being the police, the courts, the wage economy, the system in general. Jim also said that James “did not get justice.” While The Guardian played up the mental health narrative, the same article reported James’s brother Andrew Boulware as stating that James was upset by the abuse of a black child at a pool party by a white police officer.

The media has barely reported that James had reasons – good reasons – for targeting the police. The very same reasons that have motivated many of us to speak out against police right now. James simply chose violence. Most of us do not. James had no future so he decided to go out with a bang. The media narrative, however, has James as angry because of his own treatment at the hands of the police. But we’ve all suffered from police abuse and its side effects. The emergence of people like James Boulware is a direct consequence of abuse and its side effects.

The side effects may have hurt James most, because they prevented him from having a viable economic future.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever interacted with people who have been arrested. There’s a common misconception that all criminals hate the police. It’s intuitive, after all. It’s natural to assume that anyone who breaks the law dislikes the police. We’ve got a “natural enemies” paradigm.

I’d even go as far as to say that people who have been arrested should hate the police, because most arrests are illegitimate.

But most people who have been arrested don’t think that way. People who break the law largely accept its legitimacy, as well as the legitimacy of the police in “doing their job.” It shouldn’t be a surprise that criminals, in general, do not have a lot of political awareness. This is why Karl Marx grouped career criminals into the lumpenproletariat and claimed that they would not achieve class consciousness.

It’s also true that most people, criminal or not, lack a strong political perspective. I don’t intend to single out people who have ran afoul our bad laws. What I am saying is that people who have been arrested share the same beliefs and misconceptions as people who have not. Actual criminals – who I am defining as people who have been arrested for simplicity – are not the scary men and women of Hollywood crime dramas. And while I do believe that the lumpenproletariat has significant revolutionary potential, and thus I disagree with Marx, the point is that it isn’t uncommon for people who have been arrested to be uncritical of, or even to defend, their captors.

The exception is when the police are abusive, or when they bend the rules. Thus you may hear from one arrestee, “he was a nice cop,” typically meaning that the cop was not rude or did not beat the suspect. “He was an asshole,” on the other hand, means just that: the cop was abusive, be it verbally or physically.

This in mind, how do you think the police treated James? James wasn’t upset at the law being applied. I’d wager he was upset at how it was applied. It’s almost certain his personal interactions with law enforcement were bad, that he was manhandled, that he was treated in an unfair, if technically legal, way. I’d be interested in hearing from Jim Boulware on how the police treated James during his previous arrests. It’s those events, the way the police alienate the public, that foster justified animosity toward cops. “Asshole” cops are responsible for the kind of environment that produced the zombie van incident.

Let’s revisit what James told his father: “I’ve lost everything.” The criminal justice system must take responsibility for the violence. The capitalist economy must take responsibility for the violence. If we wish to punish or prevent domestic violence, fine. That is one thing, at least abstractly. No radical supports domestic violence. But if our solution is ruining a man’s life socially and economically, well, why are we surprised when that person lashes out like a wild animal?

Do we really expect people – millions of convicted felons – to be socially ostracized and forced into an impoverished and umeployable underclass?

They wont. I am telling you, they will not. It’s a situation with no viable future. As long as this system exists, a system that does not reintegrate offenders fully and equally into society, you’re going to get people like James Boulware. They’re going to “snap.” And the blood will be on the hands of the capitalists and the state.

Broken Law: Reflections On Negroes With Guns

Robert Franklin Williams Negroes With Guns

1957, Monroe, North Carolina. Robert Franklin Williams and a group of black Americans from “the most militant branch of the NAACP” opened fire on a Ku Klux Klan convoy. In that convoy were two police cars. Williams would be hounded by the law and forced into exile in Cuba for this act (and other acts of resistance in the south), where he wrote Negroes With Guns. In it he explained:

Because there has been much distortion of my position, I wish to make it clear that I do not advocate violence for its own sake or for the sake of reprisals against whites. Nor am I against the passive resistance advocated by the Reverend Martin Luther King and others. My only difference with Dr. King is that I believe in flexibility in the freedom struggle. This means that I believe in non-violent tactics where feasible; the mere fact that I have a Sit-In case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court bears this out. Massive civil disobedience is a powerful weapon under civilized conditions where the law safeguards the citizens’ right of peaceful demonstrations. In civilized society the law serves as a deterrent against lawless forces that would destroy the democratic process. But where there is a breakdown of the law, the individual citizen has a right to protect his person, his family, his home and his property. To me this is so simple and proper that it is self evident.

What has changed? While the Klan has declined, the brutality and racism of American police is as real in 2015 as it was in 1957. Law enforcement no longer dons white sheets, but practices racist violence in blue uniforms. (Let’s also not forget that in 2014 the Klan was found to have infiltrated a Florida police department and racist scandals are still common in police departments.) It was post-’57 that we saw the birth of Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT), police squads created with the specific purpose of crushing the Black Panther Party and armed with military weapons and training. Post-’57 gave us the War On Drugs and the subsequent prison population explosion, stealing the lives of millions of black, brown and white men and women. The crude racism of the Klan’s mobs gave way to efficient, institutional racism.

What, then, has changed? Williams wrote “where there is a breakdown of the law,” but when has the law not been broken? Do we not have the same right to defend ourselves against men in blue suits as we do against men in white sheets?

All this time three policemen had been standing about fifty feet away from us while we kept waiting in the car for them to come and rescue us. Then when they saw that we were armed and the mob couldn’t take us, two of the policemen started running. One ran straight to me, grabbed me on the shoulder, and said, “Surrender your weapon! Surrender your weapon!” I struck him in the face and knocked him back away from the car and put my carbine in his face, and I told him we were not going to surrender to a mob. I told him that we didn’t intend to be lynched. The other policeman who had run around the side of the car started to draw his revolver out of the holster. He was hoping to shoot me in the back. They didn’t know that we had more than one gun. One of the students (who was seventeen years old) put a .45 in the policeman’s face and told him that if he pulled out his pistol he would kill him. The policeman started putting his gun back into the holster and backing away from the car, and he fell into the ditch.

This was not the end of the story of our struggle in Monroe in 1961. By a quirk of fate the next episode involved the Freedom Riders and their policy of passive resistance. The contrast between the results of their policy and the results of our policy of self-defense is a dramatic object lesson for all Negroes. But before I go on to that I have to describe how our policy of self-defense developed and how the Negro community in Monroe came to support my conclusion that we had to “meet violence with violence.”

After the Klan was repelled in the ’57 shootout outside the NAACP headquarters home of Dr. Perry, they turned to purely legal forms of intimidation. As Williams put it, “After the Klan learned that violence wouldn’t serve their purpose they started to use the racist courts.” An abortion accusation was filed against a physician who fought Jim Crow. Two black children, aged 7 and 9, were arrested on rape charges. One of the boys, Hanover Thompson, had received a kiss on the cheek from a white playmate. This was all that was necessary to hold the two boys incommunicado in a juvenile reformatory for fourteen years.

Meanwhile, when black men and women were victimized by white offenders they did not receive equal treatment under the law. White juries routinely excused white offenses. This is a pattern we continue to see today, especially if the defendant is a white policeman. This is what catalyzed Williams’s belief that the law could no longer be relied upon for justice:

I told them that in a civilized society the law is a deterrent against the strong who would take advantage of the weak, but the South is not a civilized society; the South is a social jungle. So in cases like this we have to revert to the law of the jungle; it had become necessary for us to create our own deterrent. I said that in the future we would defend our women and children, our homes and ourselves with our arms. That we would meet violence with violence.

My statement was reprinted all over the United States. What I had said was, “This demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.”

This isn’t the civil rights narrative we’re taught. And yet, Williams was a seed of the militant civil rights movement. It was Williams and his story that inspired Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and the armed struggle ethic of the Black Panther Party. While the state, power and white supremacy quickly co-opted the nonviolent struggle of Martin Luther King Jr., it would be much harder to co-opt “meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.”

We should clarify here, as did Williams: “I was speaking of self-defense when the courts fail to protect us.” This was not a call of random violence against white men and women. It wasn’t a call for racially motivated lynching. Instead, it was a call for extralegal forms of justice when the criminal justice system fails. It was a call for the black community to defend itself, with violence, and impose its own laws, codes and punishments in response to injustices from outside the community.

This [NAACP] pamphlet tried to confuse my demand that Negroes meet violence with violence as a means of self-defense with the advocacy of lynch law. In its own way the national office contributed to the erroneous impression played up by the racist press that I was agitating for race war and the indiscriminate slaughter of white people.

I wonder if what Williams said would be permitted today: “lynching with lynching.” We’re seeing a lot of manufactured outrage, reactionary responses to increased awareness of anti-police and anti-brutality movements. How about Saida Grundy, the university professor who is currently being dragged through the particularly anti-intellectual court of public opinion for a Twitter comment condemning “white masculinity.” And how about Ebony Dickens and Michael Leshawn McCullum, who I’ve commented on, who essentially reiterated “lynching with lynching” in a not particularly tactful way. Those two were arrested.

(If you follow the discourse of reactionaries, by the way, many will condemn “political correctness” or so-called “social justice warriors.” But isn’t the epitome of stupidly pronounced political correctness actually found in the manufactured sensitivity of such reactionaries themselves? The type of person who becomes outraged over a critique of “white masculinity” is also the first to deny the myriad manifestations of racism in the American way of life. And that is the same double standard Williams recounted in Negroes With Guns, when white Americans formed lynch mobs but cried foul when black Americans stood up to those mobs with weapons.)

In 1960 we started a sit-in campaign. We became the thirteenth town in North Carolina to start sit-in demonstrations. Though the NAACP wasn’t taking notice, our sit-ins proved that self-defense and non-violence could be success-fully combined. There was less violence in the Monroe sit-ins than in any other sit-ins in the South. In other communities there were Negroes who had their skulls fractured, but not a single demonstrator was even spat upon during our sit-ins. We had less violence because we had shown the willingness and readiness to fight and defend ourselves. We didn’t appear on the streets of Monroe as beggars depending upon the charity and generosity of white supremacists. We appeared as people with strength, and it was to the mutual advantage of all parties concerned that peaceful relations be maintained.

Williams titled the fourth chapter of Negroes With Guns “Non-Violence Emboldens the Racists.” This isn’t a popular idea today. Nonviolence, including forms of nonviolent resistance and even nonviolent civil disobedience, has been co-opted by the state and in many cases is directly endorsed by the state. We’re taught, wrongly, that it was nonviolence and nonviolence alone that changed the world: from Gandhi’s struggles in British India, to Martin Luther King Jr. in the USA, to Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

We’re conditioned to forget that it was the persons who resisted with force that made way for the potential of nonviolent activism. That if nonviolent activism can work, it is only because those in power realize the alternative to acquiescing nonviolent demands is violence. It is time to return to what Williams called “flexibility in the freedom struggle.”

From barricades to woodchippers: Reason subpoenaed for “threats” to judge

Reason subpoena wood chipper
Ken White from Popehat just revealed that the United States Department of Justice is using a federal grand jury to subpoena and identify the persons responsible for anonymous comments at Reason.com. The comments involve the case of Ross Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his participation in the Internet market Silk Road. Here are a few choice comments, referencing Judge Katherine Forrest:

AgammamonI5.31.15 @ lO:47AMltt
Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.

Cloudbusterl6.l.15 @ 2:40PMIIt
Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.

croakerI6.1.15 @ 11:06AMltt
Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first.

White asked three questions, paraphrased: do these comments constitute a true threat, does the state have the legal power to use a use a grand jury subpoena, and should it have that power?

White also wrote about the true threat test in the case of Ebony Dickens. When I first wrote about Dickens, the arrest struck me as an obvious attempt to intimidate and silence militant anti-police commentary on the Internet. I’ve ended up referencing this post a few times now. I did not set out with that intent; I never expected it to be so relevant. The subpoena of Reason’s chatters again brings Dickens to the fore.

True threat or not? In the case of the Reason comments, White says “No. NO. AND HELL NO!” I agree. Dickens’s (and Michael Leshawn McCullum who was also arrested for merely reposting what Dickens wrote) comment seems to fall short of the true threat standard as well. But the law is only of secondary importance to me. “True threat” or not is the story for the people who care about the law. (For example, law bloggers.) Law, to flip one of Max Stirner’s aphorisms, is merely the term the state uses to christen its own crimes. I care not for the law debate.

The story to me is the way the state uses the law to protect its enforcement class, consisting of (among many other groups) judges and police officers. Had the Reason comments, or Dickens’s post, referenced a suspected pedophile or terrorist they would never have been investigated. Ken White said as much at Popehat:

Why is the government using its vast power to identify these obnoxious asshats, and not the other tens of thousands who plague the internet?

Because these twerps mouthed off about a judge.

The state can sit by and let innocent people be railroaded. It can even permit the advocacy of violence and calls to arms. In fact, the state can endure the literal lynching of black men by mobs, or homophobic assaults on gay men and women. But the state cannot endure calls to violence against its own agents. This is because the state is fragile.

The state is very fragile. Mention armed revolution and some people will tell you, correctly perhaps, that the modern state has the military might needed to crush an insurrection. But it is not military force that props up existence of the state. At least not solely. It is the illusion of legitimacy. Violence against the state, even sporadic and uncoordinated violence, shatters that illusion. The modern state might be able to subdue an insurrection, but it could not do so and escape with its legitimacy intact.

Violence undermines the facade of consent. It rebuts the argument that anyone who does not participate in the so-called “democratic process,” which can come in the form of anything from voting, to engaging in mainstream political debate, to running for office, is apathetic and consents to the status quo. Attacks against the legitimacy of the state – and physical violence against the state is the strongest form of attack against legitimacy – represent a form of social discourse outside of the approved range of debate. They tell us something about the relationship between ourselves as human beings and the state. What they tell us is something that those in power cannot accept: most of us do not recognize their authority.

The way the state responds further legitimizes what could be called the “argument through violence.” Within the scope of approved discourse we are told that violence does not work. Not that violence is bad, necessarily, though that is said as well. The argument is that violence is nonfunctional. Violence does not produce results.

The repudiation of this is, of course, the fact that violence empirically works. It empirically produces results, time and time again. We see this almost every time violence is employed in any meaningful way. Be it the American Revolution or the Haitian Revolution, or the Civil Rights Movement, or the end of Apartheid, to recent uprisings in Baltimore in the USA, violence has been the main catalyst of change.

The state is left with no verbal recourse. “Violence does not work.” “Yes it does, look.” Well, Q.E.D. The only way the state can respond is with violence, an implicit admission of the efficacy of violence. The state uses violence to stifle the “argument through violence” before it happens.

This explains why the state pursues – with disproportionate vigor – those who call for direct action against the state.

The old saying goes, “If voting changed anything they would make it illegal.” Advocacy for insurrection does change things and that is exactly why it is illegal. Now, I do not know if it is illegal as per the letter of the law in the case of Reason or Dickens. White says no, at least in the former case. He’s a smart fellow and he is probably right. But the state is treating the act as if it were illegal. It becomes criminal de facto. In practice that is what matters, because despite the myth “innocent until proven guilty” the moment you are arrested you will suffer. You will suffer even if you are innocent. You will suffer even if you are found not guilty.

Let’s put this another way: arrests are a tool of censorship. Even if these posts were not illegal, even if the subpoena results in no arrests, everyone who reads Reason is going to think twice about what they write now. We’ve entered the zone of the chilling effect.

Explaining why the comments do not meet the true threat criteria, White wrote:

The “threats” do not specify who is going to use violence, or when. They do not offer a plan, other than juvenile mouth-breathing about “wood chippers” and revolutionary firing squads. They do not contain any indication that any of the mouthy commenters has the ability to carry out a threat. Nobody in the thread reacts to them as if they are serious. They are not directed to the judge by email or on a forum she is known to frequent.

This is true, mostly. The only part I dispute is what is alluded to: people do take these sentiments seriously. Although I don’t believe anyone is preparing to put this judge into a woodchipper, I am certain that many people who read Reason would support it. In fact, I’d wager there are millions of Americans who would support the extra-judicial executions of politicians, police officers and judges.

The comments are “bluster” indeed, as White put it. They are not true threats. But the sentiments are real. The American people want a revolution. They know who the guilty parties are. And there are enough people – almost certainly more than the apocryphal three percent who participated in the American Revolution – ready and willing to man the woodchippers.

Joe Mullin Gets It All Wrong On Ulbricht, Silk Road, Activism

Joe Mullin of Ars Technica wrote that there is an “intellectual paradox” when supporters of Ross Ulbricht, founder of the online market Silk Road, claim he is both innocent and an activist. His supporters, specifically documentary film maker Andy Greenberg, don’t ask even “one hard question.” The link between Ulbricht, the Silk Road and privacy activists is “never really explained.” Media coverage of the Ulbricht affair is “glaring disingenuousness” for linking it with anti-drug activists, such as Neil Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Ulbricht as an activist “isn’t just wrong, it’s insulting to activists.” Ulbricht’s “idealism is tainted, not just by the money he collected from drug dealers, but by the fact that he hid his actions and lied to everyone around him.”

Many of the comments are as bad as the article. Indeed, Mullin’s authoritarianism – “changing the law is harder than just ignoring it” – seems to draw out those who are morally backward despite being technologically forward.

Mullin describes himself as having “covered the intersection of law and technology – including the world’s biggest copyright and patent battles – for a number of years.” No doubt he is well aware of the presumption of innocence, then. He quotes Lyn Ulbricht, Ross Ulbricht’s mother, “I don’t know what’s happened to the presumption of innocence in this country.” It isn’t an entirely unfamiliar concept, so it shouldn’t be strange if supporters of Ulbricht assert his innocence and his activism simultaneously.

To assert that Ulbricht is innocent is not to assert that he did not participate in the Silk Road. It’s an assertion that the state failed to prove his guilt. Further, it’s an assertion that he is innocent of wrongdoing regardless of criminality. There is no contradiction here, no “intellectual paradox.” We called for freedom and asserted the innocence of Nelson Mandela, despite his factual participation in so-called terrorist attacks. Mandela was not on trial. Ulbricht was not on trial. The system is perpetually on trial, the state and its laws are perpetually on trial, when the system is oppressive.

I find it bizarre that anyone who follows both technology and the law can’t see how Silk Road, Ulbricht, and prohibition in general are also “privacy issues.” What you do with your own body is at the very core of privacy rights. Not only that, but the drug war has been the greatest source of privacy violations since its inception. Even today, prohibition is used as a pretext to expand surveillance programs second not even to terrorism. Ars routinely reports on Stingrays, on warrants, on invasive GPS surveillance. In most cases these police abuses involve drugs. Drugs have been the main pretext for privacy violations for decades.

Ulbricht as an activist isn’t insulting. What is insulting to activists is the idea that the only legitimate form of resistance is petitioning legislators, begging the masters, for change. The assertion that a man like Neil Franklin is somehow more legitimate than Ross Ulbricht is insulting. Ulbricht may have profited from his drug market, but Franklin was a police officer. This means Franklin was a man who, despite whatever he is doing now to make amends, spent most of his life ruining the lives of others. If we talk about profiting from evil, we should also call out these former cops who suddenly become activists at the ends of their careers. Ulbricht literally risked his own life. Now Ulbricht will spend the rest of that life in jail. Men like Franklin, old cops who have found new careers railing against prohibition, are political opportunists who have risked nothing.

I don’t expect Mullin to get it. I doubt he has ever committed a crime in his life. He has no idea what people like Ulbricht risk. It’s a risk not only for their own personal beliefs, but a practical risk. It’s the kind of risk that negates a stable future, a future studying liberal arts at Berkeley and writing for magazines, with the ever-present dread, the tightrope act of trying to make a living, plan a future, and evade the world’s most powerful police state.

The difference between Mullin and Ulbricht is the difference between the Northern slavery reformist, the milquetoast who wishes to see slavery abolished gradually within the bounds of the law, versus the escaped slave, the abolitionist, who risks his life running a stop on the Underground Railroad. And the the reformist historically had – they still do have as we see here – the fucking nerve to criticize the abolitionist, the escaped slave who defies the law, because the abolitionist might exploit the slave system at the same time.

No, Mullin has no clue about the reality of life for drug users. He says, “real harm reduction is being done in homeless shelters, methadone clinics, and needle exchanges,” and “they publish papers, they practice medicine, they offer therapy, they testify to legislators—and the war continues.” Mullin has never been in a homeless shelter, nor has he known anyone that has, otherwise he would realize these are bastions of conservative moralism and profiteering. They don’t hesitate to put drug users on the streets. He doesn’t seem to be aware that those who do practice medicine and are interested in harm reduction are stifled by the laws and bureaucracy of medical practice itself.

The casualties of the drug war are its soldiers. These are the men and women who fight a literal war on a daily basis against drug enforcement police. They’re not ex-cops who fly to the White House to chat with politicians. In staying with the drug war analogy, this kind of reformist is a war profiteer. The people who actually participate in the drug war are drug dealers and drug users. These are the individuals who have built entire lifestyles around defying drug laws. They don’t do it as an intellectual exercise. They do it because that’s how they live. Few had the opportunity for a Berkeley education or a big police pension.

Yes, drug dealers and users hide. They lie. Just like Ulbricht did. You cannot defy the drug laws of the United States openly. Mullin’s claim that Ulbricht lost legitimacy because he hid his involvement in the world’s largest online drug market is absurd. There is no way to engage in this kind of resistance openly.

Maybe Mullin doesn’t get that. Silver spoon activists don’t fear reprisals from law enforcement. It isn’t real to them. They don’t worry about having their doors kicked in at midnight. In fact, they share almost nothing in common with actual victims of the drug war. It’s not really their struggle at all, regardless of what interest they have in it or what steps they take to end prohibition.

Mullin wraps up with a hypothetical drug market; “running my hypothetical street market doesn’t mean I am striking a nail in the coffin of the drug war. Likely, it’s just the opposite. A market designed to hide from the law is a great excuse for law enforcement to double down on the severity of enforcement and punishment.”

This illustrates just how far removed from the struggle Mullin is. There is an underclass of Americans who, due to having previous drug convictions, cannot find employment. Drug sales become one of the only viable, peaceful alternatives they have. There is also an underclass of people who, also due to the inflationary prices of drugs due drug war, are trapped in cycles of addiction and poverty. They don’t hide from the law as a luxury, but as a necessity. Any tool that allows them to evade repressive drug laws is a boon. The Silk Road didn’t have to change any laws. And saying “it just makes the laws worse” is classic victim blaming. It’s the Northern reformist telling the slave, “don’t resist, it just makes the master angry.”

Open Carry, Reading Between The Lines

This open carry video has gone viral – you may have seen it. A white man walks down the street carrying a legal AR-15. A police officer stops and questions him. It’s a typical example of open carry activism. The video then cuts to a black man in the same circumstance, with the same weapon. In the second example, police officers draw weapons and put the man – as well as his pregnant friend who is filming – on the ground. Both end up being released without charges, but the difference in how black and white open carry activists are treated is clear.

There is an element in all of these open carry videos, be they black or white individuals, that people miss. It’s the fact that we’re forced to submit to police intimidation regardless. The way many people comment on these events you would think that the open carry activists “get away with” something. The fact is that every one of them is being intimidated and persecuted by police for doing something that is not even against the law.

Imagine if law enforcement felt uncomfortable about some other legal object or attire. Let’s say that the police didn’t like hats worn backwards. Those persons who wore backwards hats were, invariably, contacted by law enforcement as they walked down the street. They were asked why they wore their hats backwards, made to identify themselves, and had their interaction with the police logged. If this happened to you then you might think twice about wearing a hat backwards the next time you went outside.

In short, you’d be intimidated into a specific kind of conformity.

The law itself means little. What I refer to is the words on paper. The law only begins to matter when it is enforced. And the way it is enforced – if it is enforced at all – becomes the true nature of the law. This can be seen in the many laws on the books no longer enforced. It can be seen in police discretionary policies, when departments choose to arrest individuals when they could write a citation instead (e.g. for possession of marijuana). And it can be seen when law enforcement is used, even unintentionally, to harass individuals who haven’t violated the law at all. In all cases, individual police officers shoulder the burden of the law itself and its application.

Open carry activism also demonstrates this: police officers do not want you to be armed. That individuals can carry a weapon, not just in theory but in practice and within a legal context, means we all have a means to protect ourselves. If we’re able to protect ourselves, a large portion of policing services are no longer needed. Indeed, the most crucial, the least controversial – protect us from violence – is made obsolete. We can protect ourselves, thanks.

And that’s a threat to policing. It’s a slap in the face to law enforcement, because it indicates how a major element of law enforcement has already been made obsolete.

Do police officers consider this? Probably not as I’ve stated it. I doubt many police officers think “we must crack down on firearms, because they pose a technological threat to policing and thus to my employment.” But what they do think is, “man with gun, scary to me.” Law enforcement perceives armed, peaceful individuals as a threat. And they are, though not in the spree-shooter, cop-killer sense.

I’ll close with two examples: Bundy Ranch and the Black Panther Party. When armed officials of the US federal governments showed up in the former example, they were forced to back down by a militia. When the Black Panther Party, just a couple of months ago, staged an armed open-carry march through the streets of Texas, the police did not even show up. Armed groups, even small ones, pose a legitimate threat to the very foundations of power. The state is left with little recourse in the face of armed resistance groups, because the fallout – even if the state were to win a live fire conflict – would be a problem. It would undermine the illusions of legitimacy the state has. That’s the greater loss, so the state is forced to take alternate routes: to intimidate individual open carry activists before they engage in collective action, to ignore collective demonstrations completely in an attempt to marginalize them (e.g. with the Black Panther open carry march), or to back down completely (e.g. Bundy Ranch).

All of that taken in context, it is easy to see why firearms have become a crucial aspect of struggle, from George Washington to Karl Marx.

“Legal Intervention” Most Distinctive Cause of Death In Three States

Most Distinctive Causes of DeathsThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just published The Most Distinctive Causes of Death by State, 2001-2010. Check out the plum-colored (letter U) states. “Legal intervention” is the most distinctive cause of death in these three. That’s interaction with the po-po, if you didn’t get it:

Any injury sustained as a result of an encounter with any law enforcement official, serving in any capacity at the time of the encounter, whether on-duty or off-duty. Includes: injury to law enforcement official, suspect and bystander.

And if you’ve been keeping up with the news in New Mexico this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

This is a strange set of data. We’re not looking at the most common causes of death, of course. The most common cause of death, almost invariably across the USA, is heart disease. We’re looking at causes of death which are statistically distinct from other states. In short, we’re seeing that police homicides are statistically disproportionate in these three areas.

Francis Boscoe, who co-authored this study, said of “legal intervention” and the three states: “As I’ve been telling other reporters: there are 51 stories here, some are more interesting than others. This maybe is one of the more interesting ones.”

And indeed it is. Even by the standards of the police state itself, New Mexico is pushing it. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a report condemning law enforcement in Albuquerque:

Albuquerque police officers too often use deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. To illustrate, of the 20 officer-involved shootings resulting in fatalities from 2009 to 2012, we concluded that a majority of these shootings were unconstitutional. Albuquerque police officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others.

That’s saying something, because the way Graham v. Connor is interpreted almost any law enforcement homicide is rubber-stamped in the courts. And, at the same time, it means nothing. It means nothing because “that’s unconstitutional” is the political and legal equivalent of “that’s not fair.” This is why despite twenty “unconstitutional” shootings, twenty police officers were not arrested and convicted of crimes. Twenty police officers are still roaming the streets to kill again.

There is a chasm between the law as it is actually applied, and the law as we wish it to be.

Let’s also keep in mind that these are not merely “interesting stories” as Boscoe put it. These are real people. Innocent people. Real, innocent people who were killed by police officers. In the case of individuals like Christopher Torres, innocent people with mental illnesses who were killed in their own back yards. Alternately, innocent persons such as James Boyd, shot in the back while laying on the ground.

Source: http://nmpoliticalreport.com/3663/new-mexicos-most-distinctive-cause-of-death-is/