Politics

Literally Hitler

US Military & CIA Interventions

It has become passé to invoke the ghost of Hitler, National Socialism or the Third Reich. Godwin’s law is an adage that says: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” It is inevitable that if Hitler or National Socialism is mentioned an individual will eventually speak up and chirp out, “Godwin!” This means that we have discovered a second so-called law: In any online discussion where Nazis are Hitler are mentioned the probability of someone gleefully shouting, “Godwin!” approaches 1.

This is often accompanied by the phrase “as bad.” As in “this politician is not as bad” or “the state is not as bad.” And for the most part this is true. Most modern politicians are not literally as bad as Adolf Eichmann, nor are the atrocities committed by many states as bad as the Holocaust. The statement is literally true. Yet this statement, along with Godwin’s law, is also used to shut people up and limit discourse.

The literal truth of “not as bad” is also the literal truth in comparing any two states. All regimes, ideologies, and politicians have been distinct and incomparable. Especially many of the world’s most brutal. Yet, the point of history is to compare these events. More importantly it is to learn from past events. If we have developed a level of discourse where no comparison at all can be made to the Nazi regime we effectively wall it off and seal it out; we can draw no parallels, no conclusions and thus can not learn anything from it.

And if we take that approach, if we reject our ability to draw comparisons from the past, how do we ensure that we are not doomed to repeat it?

Two Interesting Takes On The Political Spectrum

Back in February I compared an assortment of political spectrums and questionnaires. Here are two more I had not seen:

The Thomas Knapp Political Spectrum

This is Thomas L. Knapp’s political bell curve. You can read what he has to say about it at the Center for a Stateless Society. I think that this is one of the better conceptions of a political spectrum in that it accounts for anarchism and movements such as anarcho-capitalism or right-libertarianism. It is also correct in distinguishing classical anarchists, classical liberals, and market anarchists from modern right-libertarians such as Ron Paul or anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard:

On the far Left (market anarchism) and the far Right (anarcho-capitalism), appetite for political government trails off to zero (which is why “Left” and “Right” libertarians have so much in common).

As we move toward the political center, that appetite grows. The “Left” and “Right” disagree on ends, but closer to that center, both see government as an acceptable means to their desired ends. And the center is a corrupting influence. As you get closer to it, you grow less willing to give up the means and more willing to give up the ends.

It is also spot-on in that it accounts for the similarity between left-wing authoritarian ideologies, such as those of Stalin and Mao, and right-wing authoritarian ideologies such as the fascism of Mussolini. Rothbard and Thoreau are questionable placements on this chart; arguably Rothbard should be further to the right, squarely within the anarcho-capitalists instead of the Paul/Rand libertarians, while Thoreau should be further to the left on the very fringes of classical liberalism.

Here is a chart by Jesus Huerta de Soto that plots political ideologies on an axis of pro-state/anti-state and pro-private property/anti-private property:

The Political Chart of Jesus Huerta de Soto

This bucks typical the right-left paradigm, which is good. The left-right paradigm is relevant only in the context of the internal party politics of any given state. It has never been an accurate way to contrast ideologies and regimes across history. This, like Knapp’s bell curve, helps to explain the similarities in the authoritarian left (e.g. Stalinists) and the authoritarian right (e.g. Nazis, fascists). It may show too much sympathy to classical liberals, some of whom placed limits on private property (Locke’s provisos) and most of whom believed in states and social contracts. That is, it is questionable if “classical liberals” should be almost straddling the line between statists and anti-statists.

The Strange Case Of The Libertarian Policeman

The Libertarian Horse of Troy

The Procession Of The Trojan Horse In Troy

We all know some version of the story. In Virgil’s Aeneid the Achaeans construct a giant wooden horse. The Achaeans place the horse outside the gates of Troy. The inhabitants of Troy are confused and ask the bearer of the horse, a boy named Sinon, just what exactly is going on. Sinon tells the Trojans that the Achaeans have left him behind and that the wooden horse is an offering to Minerva. The horse, Sinon says, will bring good fortune to the people of Troy if they bring it inside the gates. If they destroy the horse, however, Minerva will destroy Troy.

The Trojans bring the horse inside the gates. Then that evening, after dark, the Achaeans spill out of the belly of the wooden horse and start killing people.

The Trojan horse is an apt political metaphor. “Libertarian” politicians, too, are no exception. The crony capitalist Koch brothers may be the epitome of the Trojan horse, dangling the lure of free markets with one hand held out while rigging the corporatist state with the other hand behind their backs. Rand Paul, a GOP politician, also whispers words of liberty while simultaneously engaging in authoritarian party politics. But is a lesser known politician, a man named David Patterson, also a Trojan horse?

You see, David Patterson is a police officer in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. In 1995 Patterson finished a B.S. in Police Administration. Patterson has worked for six different police departments in Kentucky. And Patterson has specialized in apprehending people for victimless crimes: according to his own campaign website he has “multiple awards for impaired driving apprehension.”

The Campaign Platform
Officer David Patterson

Officer David Patterson

Patterson’s own platform, which you should read, is vague and nonspecific. Most political platforms are phrased in such a way that they espouse goals most people agree with. No bailouts and tax reform – issues now embraced by Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Immigration reform, similarly, is a bipartisan issue. And at this point allowing farmers to grow hemp is not a controversial position.

When I visited Patterson’s campaign website it felt like the empty, bland promises of a party politician. In short, it did little to inspire trust. If a politician says, “I would end the drug war,” for example, this can mean anything. Does he mean the full legalization of all drugs, or the gradual transition of “soft” drugs such as marijuana to a highly regulated and taxed market? Or does it mean keeping certain drugs illegal, yet simply ending the current policies of enforcement? Politicians have said they wanted to “end the drug war” before. Few have stuck by that position when pressed. Many mean something very different by that phrase. Ron Paul, to his credit, famously said that he would favor the legalization of vices such as heroin and prostitution. Rand Paul, despite having said he opposed the drug war in the past, backtracked and reassured evangelicals that he would not end the drug war.

The Facebook Platform

I decided to have a look at Patterson’s Facebook. I was surprised. I expected more intangible political obfuscations. That is, I expected it to resemble the heavily sanitized Facebook of party politicians or Patterson’s own campaign website. Instead, Patterson seemed to be fairly candid. And despite his long career as a police officer Patterson seemed to have a genuine anti-authoritarian streak.

Patterson’s Facebook was full of libertarian memes and images. Many had strong anti-state, even anarchist, implications. He was calling for the full abolition of the NSA. He said taxation is theft. He quoted Murray Rothbard. That alone put him outside of the Koch and Rand Paul category.

Patterson NSA Abolition

 

And then it hit me. Patterson was either lying, another political Trojan horse attempting to court anti-authoritarians, or the words he was reading meant something very different to him than they did to me. This was the only way I could reconcile his behavior — his career as a police enforcer — with his political sentiments.

For example, take this image that Patterson shared:

David Patterson Democracy Meme

I don’t know how Patterson interprets this, but, “if John told you that you had to obey him or he would violate you” describes the role of law enforcement. It is only through illegitimate threats of force that individuals are made to comply with unjust laws. And yet Patterson is one of the agents of enforcement. How, in his mind, does he reconcile his own career with this type of rhetoric? Does Patterson not see that he is John in this image? His choice of career makes him John every single day.

Patterson, however, is not unaware of this contradiction. If you’ve already asked yourself just how a libertarian can be a cop, well, he has an answer for you (sort of):

David Patterson on Being A Libertarian Cop

You may have noticed two things: he did not answer the question and he has only been a libertarian a very short period of time. Neither “I have been a ‘cop’ for almost eighteen years” nor his statement on the “many different duties” of a police officer get at the heart of the issue. This may be because it is impossible to reconcile a career that mandates acts of aggression with adherence to the nonaggression principle.

It all breaks down here. I do believe that Patterson believes some version of the things that he says. I believe that he agrees with his interpretation of the memes that make his Facebook look like Reddit’s /r/LibertarianMeme. He is not being intentionally dishonest. Patterson is stuck in the position of an individual who halfway knows that his behavior is wrong, but is not willing or able to change it. This is the precariously defensive position shared by both police officers and politicians. This position creates cognitive dissonance. And cognitive dissonance breeds rationalization.

Here’s a rationalization that may be familiar to anybody who has spent time with law enforcement:

David Patterson On CopBlock

This might have been a great opportunity for Patterson to distinguish himself from mainstream law enforcement and politicians. Instead of playing the “cop hate” card, oft used to by police officers to gloss over why people dislike the police, Patterson might have used his unique experience as a law enforcement officer to address the issue. The individuals who were the topic of this story, Jared and Amanda Miller, were both libertarians who had libertarian rationales for what they did. This makes the event a particularly relevant issue for a politician who is also a police officer, who also claims to be a libertarian, to address. And by address I mean explain with more than a hand-wave and dismissive utterance of “anti-cop” or “hate” to describe the thousands of people who commented on the CopBlock article in question.

Patterson also seems self-unaware in some moments. While he thanks Americans on Veterans Day he overlooks that this holiday is one form of American propaganda that perpetuates a culture of warrior worship and support for foreign intervention. Many libertarians are tired of such prostrations and see them as culturally harmful. Patterson’s campaign boast of awards in “impaired driving apprehension” seems a faux pas that ignores the the libertarian rejection of victimless crimes as well as Kentucky’s own draconian DUI policies, including mandatory minimum sentences, multi-year sentences, felony DUIs, and sobriety checkpoints.

Should You Vote For David Patterson?

Patterson wants you to vote. All politicians want you to vote for them. Patterson’s Facebook is full of testimonials by and anecdotes of people who say they will vote for him. One image macro calls non-voting “surrender” and another depicts the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant throwing feces at one another. There is no critical analysis of voting itself, which also adds to the sense of self-unawareness surrounding Patterson.

That said, if you live in Kentucky and you plan to vote then Patterson is as good as anyone. That is as far as I can endorse him, because that also means that he is as bad as anyone. The trimmings of the Libertarian Party don’t turn an individual who seeks an authoritarian position of power — particularly not one who is already in an authoritarian role using violence to enforce unjust laws — into a libertarian. Anyone who expects liberty to spring forth from a police officer elected to the United States Senate is more misled than the Trojans were when they accepted the Achaean offering inside the walls.

As a final thought, I leave you with this from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience:

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.

N.L.P.D.: Non Libertarian Police Department (The Atlantic)

If you read the recent New Yorker satire, L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department, it may please you to know there is a sequel. Sort of. It is from The Atlantic. I was thrilled; I thought we should have an actual genre of absurdist police noir. Unfortunately The Atlantic disappoints. Because while the New Yorker’s L.P.D. gives us gems such as:

I was shooting heroin and reading “The Fountainhead” in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news, detective. We got a situation.”

“What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?”

“Worse. Somebody just stole four hundred and forty-seven million dollars’ worth of bitcoins.”

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. “What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down … provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said. “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”

The Atlantic’s article, N.L.P.D.: Non Libertarian Police Department, gives us:

I was just finishing up my shift by having sex with a prostitute when I got a call about an opportunity for overtime. A no-knock raid was going down across town.

“You’re trying to have your salary spike this year to game the pension system, right?” my buddy told me. “Well, we’re raiding a house where an informant says there’s marijuana, and it’s going to be awesome—we’ve got a $283,000 military-grade armored SWAT truck and the kind of flash grenades that literally scared that one guy to death.”

“Don’t start without me,” I told him. “I just have to stop by this pawn shop. It’s run by some friends of mine from ATF. They paid this mentally disabled teenager $150 dollars to get a neck tattoo of a giant squid smoking a joint. Those guys are hilarious.”

I laughed, too, until I realized every single event in the N.L.P.D. story was a real event. I don’t know Tom O’Donnell’s intentions when he wrote L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department. It was, admittedly, funny as hell. Did he intend it to be the absurdist detective noir I wished it to be? Was it a light-hearted joke? Perhaps O’Donnell intended for it to be an actual critique of a truly libertarian police department: dysfunctional, chaotic, full of moral deficiency?

If the latter, all we must do is look at actual police departments. The real life N.L.P.D.s. The actual behaviors, on a daily basis, of police departments are beyond extreme. They make O’Donnell’s satire seem the sane alternative.

When satire no longer makes an absurdity of real life, but real life makes satire seem sane — even a satire where police officers are doing heroin while reading The Fountainhead — this alone should make us rethink the reality we want to live in.

As for you, dear reader, which would you prefer to live in: The world of the New Yorker’s Libertarian Police Department, or the real world, the world of the Non-Libertarian Police Department, full of the actual violations we witness on a daily basis?

Libertarianism is More than Anti-Statism

Rockwell envisions the libertarian philosophy as being the non-aggression principle, Lockean property rights, and nothing more.

Any concern for social and cultural issues beyond this is merely a person’s preferences that have nothing to do with their libertarianism. “Libertarians are of course free to concern themselves with issues like feminism and egalitarianism. But their interest in those issues has nothing to do with, and is not required by or a necessary feature of, their libertarianism.” I don’t believe this is the case. My aligning myself with the ideas of feminism, anti-racism, gay and trans liberation, and worker empowerment is an outgrowth of my libertarianism. I am committed to those principles for the same reasons that I am committed to anti-statism.

Rothbard’s argument shows how liberty is needed for each person to find their own purpose and achieve their own good. This goes beyond the actions of the state. Repressive cultural norms and domineering social customs also prevent people from flourishing. They, too, lessen people’s liberty. A black person can’t flourish if he lives in a staunchly racist community with employers and businesses who refuse him service. They wouldn’t be violating his rights, but they would certainly be diminishing his ability to achieve his own good. He would hardly be considered free in such an oppressive society.

Libertarianism is More than Anti-Statism

How the FBI Goes After Activists (VICE)

By December, 23 activists across the Midwest were subpoenaed and asked to answer for their activism. Among other things, they were accused of providing “material support” for terrorism, a charge that can mean anything from providing guns to a terrorist group to providing any sort of “advice or assistance” to members of such a group, even if that advice is “lay down your arms.”

The document, released by court order last month in response to requests from the activists, shows that an undercover special agent was intent on luring people into saying ominous things about “revolution” and, sometimes, some of these people indulged her, which provided the pretext for legally harassing a group known to oppose US policy at home and abroad.

How the FBI Goes After Activists (VICE)

Don’t Joke About the President: The Secret Service Will Get You

A true story about how the Secret Service interrogated comedian Daniel O’Brien, who is the head editor at Cracked magazine, based on jokes that he made about current and former US President’s daughters:

[Special Agent Mike Powell] I just mean I’m not some, I don’t know, government dud. Believe it or not, I’ve got a sense of humor; most of us do around here. I know it’s a comedy website, I know you’re doing jokes. It just so happens that it’s my job to pay attention when certain … concepts are brought up online. That article, combined with your fascination with fighting presidents … well, that’s the kind of thing I need to know about.”

[O’Brien] “You just go around the Internet tracking down people who say potentially threatening things about the president?”

[Special Agent Mike Powell] “Unfortunately yes. Doesn’t matter how big or small the website is, I gotta follow up on everything.”

[O’Brien]  “On the whole Internet? That sounds just awful.”

Special Agent Powell laughed. “It sure is. What happens next is you’ve got to go to our downtown LA office for an interview. I won’t be there, my office isn’t in California. You’ll be meeting with two other guys, Agents … I don’t know their names offhand. Whatever.”

Well, from this alone we know one thing: the Secret Service is not watching terrorists. They’re watching you and I. Daniel O’Brien previously wrote a book titled How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran the Country. It is not a political trestle on resisting government. It’s a comedy that is about how to win in fisticuffs against dead US Presidents. This book, plus the article titled 6 Helpful Tips for Kidnapping the President’s Daughters, was what drew the ire of the American security apparatus.

Even worse, Cracked was forced to delete the article by the Secret Service. Cracked was served with a subpoena to remove the comedy short. O’Brien has also reported that his passport has been flagged and that, five times out of six, he is selected for special screening. This is how paranoid the American leadership is.


I would now like to divert attention to a different man: The President of Uruguay, José Mujica. This man has been dubbed the world’s poorest president. He is 78 years old, lives in his own home (he refuses to live in the presidential palace), drives an old Volkswagen Beetle and he has only one bodyguard. Despite being a former guerrilla — one who was shot multiple times by the police and put into a literal hole instead of a prison — he lives as a free man and the leader of a free nation. He does not need government thugs harassing people who are critical of him. There are few, perhaps no, legitimate threats to his life.

This is the President of Uruguay on an average day, José Mujica.

This is the President of Uruguay on an average day, José Mujica.

I mention this to illustrate the fundamental difference between Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and José Mujica. This is an example in the legitimacy of government. A government is legitimate when the people approve of it. And when the people approve there is no need to form an ongoing police state to protect government officials. Even after retirement, Clinton, Bush and other politicians are required to have a 24/7 Secret Service security detail. This is how many people hate them. And by “hate” we can really say people who found them to have committed evil, illegal, or illegitimate acts. The very fact that they cannot live as José Mujica does, a free man in his own home, is yet another testimony to the illegitimacy of the American government. American politicians rule by force and, as such, it is only due to heavy security that they are not removed from the government by force.


Back to the story of O’Brien. A phone call was not sufficient. He had to be interrogated at the Secret Service Office of Los Angeles. O’Brien wrote, “Once I got to the Secret Service’s LA office, it didn’t take long to realize that I’d been completely set up. Agent Powell’s job was to lull me into a false sense of security to ensure that I’d go to the office with my guard down.” He was in for a rough time.

The first thing the agents did was imply that he would be punished at his workplace for the article. They became upset when they discovered that O’Brien was among the top ranks and would not be punished. They wanted him to be fired for the anti-authoritarian comedy that he wrote.

Then the Secret Service agents began an intimidation attempt. They had O’Brien’s articles, many from years ago, ready for critique. Actual dialogue. O’Brien colloquially dubbed them Agent Hardass and Agent EatShit:

“This article is funny,” Agent Hardass said.”

“That was my question,” Agent Hardass said sharply. “Was this article supposed to be funny?”

“Oh, uh, yes. Yeah. I’m- That’s my job. Comedy writer. Champion of ch-”

“Funny. I don’t know. Humor’s subjective,” Agent EatShit said. He would know, right?

And this:

“Are you a terrorist?”

“Definitely not a terrorist; ask my mom.”

“OK, I will. Please write down her number.”

By the time I finished writing this, I began to suspect it was parody and I’d been duped. But, no, Reason contacted O’Brien and confirmed it to be a true story. Techdirt also confirmed and speculated that this is evidence that the government is, in fact, scanning data far beyond the search for terrorists. So, beware. If you are a comedian who makes jokes about the President and his daughters your comedy can be censored with a subpoena and you can be interrogated by the Secret Service.

Oh, and guess what: the censored article is archived here.