The clash between Chris Cantwell and the FSP is important, but the underlying issue is more important than the actions of either of the parties involved.
Bigger Than Cantwell and the FSP
There is a controversy in and around the Free State Project, concerning Chris Cantwell and an article he wrote that was published at Cop Block dot org. (link)
Due in part to this article and due in part to Cantwell’s previous statements and behavior, a good many people in the Free State Project want nothing to do with Cantwell, his wild antics, nor what they perceive as his radical and dangerous beliefs.
The Free State Project is a non-profit organization, currently seeking Federal 501(c)3 non-profit status. It is comprised of voluntary membership along with about 7 members on its board of trustees. The board of trustees is the final decision making body of the Free State Project. (here further referred to as the FSP)
I’ll get into Cantwell’s Cop Block article in a moment, but first I want to touch on the relationship between the FSP and Cantwell.
As Cantwell has acknowledged, the board of the FSP has every right to exclude him from their organization, exclude him from their sanctioned events, and even publicly and privately shun him. However, as Cantwell has stated, the FSP has no right and no power to say who can and can’t associate with Cantwell, what Cantwell may or may not say, nor where Cantwell may or may not live or travel. I assume the board of the FSP understands this.
On a personal note, this is a great time to point out the difference between leadership and authority. Leaders do what they think is best, and you may follow if you agree. Authoritarians dictate behavior, and force compliance. Dancing between leadership and authority is a burden every organization and every individual must deal with on a regular basis. I’ll say this in defense of Chris Cantwell; when I have talked to Chris at PorcFest he has never demanded I show my PorcFest identification bracelet, and I never asked to see his.
The FSP board notified Cantwell by email of their decision, and Cantwell has posted this email, his response, and his comments. (link) In his comments, Cantwell points out that the board never engaged him in debate on the topic, never asked him to explain his statements, nor offered a specific criticism of his article. They simply demanded he retract his statements or be banned from the FSP. It is my understanding that the board of the FSP may be reviewing their decision at some point.
Considering Cantwell’s request for a critique, I would like to offer a two part analyses, starting with the Cop Block article in question, and finishing with Cantwell’s stated view that violence will be the final answer to the question of government aggression.
In the article at Cop Block, Cantwell begins setting up a straw man argument in the 5th paragraph where he states; “Mislead pacifists have told me for some time, that we have to meet government violence with non-violent resistance, and civil disobedience, because government agents don’t know how to deal with non-violent people. Clearly, there is an ever increasing amount of evidence that these people are completely misinformed. Government agents know exactly how to deal with peaceful people, they deal with them using violence, and the acquisition of the Bearcat in Concord is just one in a long line of examples.” Notice the “Mislead pacifists” classification and the leap-to-conclusion “because government agents don’t know how to deal with non-violent people” as the motivation for pacifist actions.
The essence of a straw man is to discredit the opponent by misrepresent his position. By starting with the assumption that pacifists are mislead and placing that firmly in the conversation, then dismissing the pacifists based on the fact that cops handle non-violent protest with more violence, the pacifist is made to look foolish and naive. Cantwell’s conclusions should be ignored unless he can make an argument based on facts and not on fallacies that support his predetermined conclusion.
The informed pacifist doesn’t make the assumption that victory will be obtained by baffling a cop through nonviolence. It is not the goal of the informed pacifist to stump a cop by peaceful resistance. The goal of the pacifist is to show by their nonviolence that even in the face of violence they are peaceful. The purpose of this behavior is not to magically cause the frenzied attack cop to suddenly revert from his violent nature and begin hugging hippies and planting trees. The reason the pacifist remains nonviolent is to prove the greater point; you cannot achieve good by doing evil. You cannot archive peace by acting violently. The true pacifist believes that violence, even in self defense is bad, and you cannot achieve a good by doing a bad.
Here I must point out, I am not a pacifist. I believe that some situations can morally be solved with violence, and I believe some situations can only be solved by violence. Further I believe that in some situations humans are morally obligated to commit violence on other humans. So just to be clear, while I am defending pacifists against Cantwell’s straw man attack, I am not a pacifist.
In the article, Cantwell goes on to make a list:
- Adam Kokesh is peaceful, that didn’t stop government agents from kidnapping and caging him.
- Ian Freeman is peaceful, that didn’t stop government agents from kidnapping and caging him.
- Derrick Horton is peaceful, that didn’t stop government agents from kidnapping and caging him.
- Ademo Freeman is peaceful, that didn’t stop government agents from kidnapping and caging him.
- Rich Paul is peaceful, that didn’t stop government agents from kidnapping and caging him.
Here we see a misdirect and a non-sequitur. Cantwell was building a straw man against pacifists, then he implies that the arrests of Kokesh, Ian, Derrick, Ademo, and Rich as examples of how pacifism has failed. Are Kokesh, Ian, Derrick, Ademo, and Rich all pacifists, and have they failed? The misdirect is in the attempt to bring sympathy for victims of government aggression into the argument, and the non-sequitur (meaning it doesn’t follow) assumes the conclusion that the arrests of these men prove pacifism is a failure.
Considering the first name on Cantwell’s list, Adam Kokesh said May 6th 2013 on the Alex Jones show, speaking directly as to the nature of the proposed, and failed, July 4th “march”; “Alex, this is an armed revolt against the American government, make no mistake about it.”
Are those the words of a pacifist? Are we to believe Adam is a pacifist? Adam may or may not be peaceful, and his protest may or may not have been peaceful, but to say Kokesh is a pacifist is an example of Cantwell using his friend as a red herring to misdirect the argument, and draw a conclusion on a topic that has yet to be concluded. What will come of Kokesh’s protest? Cantwell simply doesn’t know, but would like you to believe that his arrest is proof of failure.
It’s important to point out what Cantwell clearly doesn’t want to address. This is not an argument about pacifism. Pacifism is a philosophy based on specific principles. Principles Cantwell clearly has no desire to grasp, even if he is capable. A person doesn’t become a pacifist because it’s the most efficient utilitarian method to archive a goal. A person is a pacifist because they believe in the philosophy of pacifism and they follow through with their beliefs by remaining peaceful even when it would be in their best interest to turn violent.
When Cantwell uses the label “pacifist” he is either showing his ignorance of the argument, or he is intentionally misdirecting the argument by using name calling, red herrings, straw men, and other forms of deception.
Now to motivation; why would Cantwell seek to drive Freestaters into violent actions, as their only solution and their only hope?
Cantwell continues talking about the Free State Project:
” …They see this injustice, they want it to stop, and so they are coming together to make a stand against it. The only problem is, now that they have come together, they have absolutely no idea what to do, because their vision of a peaceful evolution to a voluntary society is being shattered on an almost daily basis by government violence.”
If I were a Freestater I would be highly insulted by this remark.
Are the Freestaters really just stumbling around New Hampshire, without direction, baffled that the government didn’t roll over and die when they moved in?
Here we see a continuing flaw of those who tend to view things through the old mindset, no matter what label they attach to themselves and no matter what celebrities they cling to. It’s the notion that there are only two options being talked about; their path that includes a violent bloody revolution, and everyone else that have no plan, are clueless, and who will sit around waiting for government goons to beat them, rob them, jail them, and ultimately kill them.
This is the false dichotomy that Cantwell and many others would like to sell to the liberty movement, and unfortunately many people, both inside the movement and outside, are buying these ridicules fallacies. A common variation of this false dichotomy is the argument that you have to get involved in government, vote, support the right politician, support the right issues, and work to “move the government in the right direction”! And if you aren’t doing that then you have no plan, you’re just sitting around complaining, and you’re doomed to failure.
Then Cantwell reveals his heart felt fantasy:
“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.”
Chris Cantwell, like many people around the world, is so fed up with government aggression, and the pathetic sheep that allow it to continue, that he has adopted what I call “the black hole sun” solution. You may also call it the “blaze of glory” solution. In desperation and frustration, people are ready to burn the house down to rid themselves of the bed bugs. I know this thought pattern well, as I sat stewing in those juices for many years before my eyes were pried open and I was forced to see the light.
To sum up the remainder of Cantwell’s article, he correctly states the non-aggression principle, and lays out the reason that self defense is allowed by the non-aggression principle. He correctly states the moral implications of self defense, as I see them, and indicates, as I believe, there is nothing morally wrong with defending oneself against an aggressor, even if the aggressor holds some official title or edict. But then in his conclusion, he falls back to his straw man by lumping all the Keene New Hampshire activists into his twisted version of “pacifism” and proclaims them a failure, providing as proof the fact that the Keene PD has a Bearcat vehicle. He then repeats his challenge to confront government violence with more violence, and reiterates his false dichotomy by proclaiming the only alternative is “lying down”, “holding a sign”, “filing paperwork”, or “waving your finger at people”.
Stepping away from Chris Cantwell, and his article at Cop Block, I will now address the concept that violence and even revolution are a necessity for a future based on liberty.
Let’s reexamine the pacifists for a moment. The great difference between the true pacifist and the internet tough guy is that the pacifist lives his philosophy every day of his life, whereas the internet tough guy wants others to go live their fantasy for them, while they sit safely on their couch eating Cheetos. I wish I had a pre-1964 dime for every time I have seen an internet tough guy telling others that the “line has been crossed” and the “time for talk is over” and “we tried their way, now its time for action”. The internet would be so much more entertaining if these tough guys would shut their mouths, stand up, button their pants, wipe the french fry grease off their hands, and do what they want others to do for them. In that one fatal moment, the internet and the liberty movement would be cleansed of these clowns and their silly routines. But never fear, they aren’t likely to take my advice and walk their talk. When their grand day of action comes, they are more likely to film themselves in predawn light on a vacant street, making their threats, than actually confronting a government killer on his own terms.
Another characteristic of the doom and gloom, kill’em-all, way of thinking, is the predominant lack of understanding of basic economics and the lack of understanding of the tendency for the market to provide what people want. Today, in the real world where we walk around and live our lives, the vast majority of humans want government. They fear their neighbors, so they believe they need those government police. Even more, they fear the foreign bogeyman who could, at any moment, attack and take away our freedom and force us to speak some other language or convert us all to some evil religion. So currently there is a market demand for aggressive government. So long as that demand exists, no amount of patriot bravado or revolutionary uprising can ever produce anything other than more government oppression and aggression. Over and over, throughout history and throughout the globe, people have grown sick and tired of the government boot at their throat, and have beat their plows into swords. Over and over they have risen up, burned the castle, and hung the tyrant, only to then watch helplessly as the leaders of the revolution become a worse government than the one they kicked out.
The solution for this loop in history is to stop repeating the loop! Taking arms against a government can only produce one of two results; either the government will bring its might upon the rebels and crush them, or the rebels will win and become the government. To continue the same pattern in blind faith of a different result, is madness.
Now don’t let it be said (yet again) that I only criticize and that I offer no answers. I do offer answers. But I offer those answers in a language that can only be understood by those who seek the truth, not preconceived notions. And I offer answers that don’t easily fit the bumper sticker culture or the 2 minute 30 second pop-music/pop-news headline-reading public.
Understanding the Zero Aggression Principle is the beginning, but it is not the end. Understanding the concepts of private property and the fallacy of public property, is a step on the journey. Understanding the difference between what I may morally do and that which is expedient, is a move toward wisdom. Bringing together that wisdom, with an understanding of property and defense, along with the clarified view of our enemy, are the required steps if victory is to be achieved and freedom for mankind is to found. This knowledge cannot be taught in a brief emotional article. It must be revealed in the heart, before it can be understood by the head.
The last thoughts I would like to express today are very old words of advice:
Know the art of war before you engage an enemy.
Every battle is won or lost before it’s fought.
The wise warrior should feign ignorance to his opponent.
The strong warrior should feign weakness.
If you are far from your enemy, make him think you are near.
Worry your enemy, make him lose sleep, and anger him.
If you are near your enemy, make him think you are far away.
Convince him he is safe. Let him slumber while you loot his castle.
Never fight an enemy according to his strength.
Never fight an enemy on the field of his choosing.
Never allow your enemy to chose the method of battle.
Never allow your enemy to chose your weapon.
Always cheat at the enemies rules, but never cheat at what is right and true.
There is one weapon, one battlefield, and one entity that can wield that weapon on that battlefield, and defeat the State forever. The market is the natural mechanism that produces what humans desire. So long as humans desire government there will be government, but the moment humans stop desiring government and desire freedom, humans will have freedom.
It’s not our job to fight government agents. It’s our job to sell the desire for freedom to a hungry market.
Permission to reprint, copy, alter, claim credit for, or out-right steal, is gladly given because IP law is an imaginary concept made up by statists.