Why “Conspiracy Theory” Is Hate Speech

“Hate speech” of course is a fairly silly term, since intent doesn’t necessarily follow the literal meaning of words. Let me give you an example:

I once sold a house to a gay couple. The one of the pair I dealt with happened to be a really decent guy with a good sense of humor. At the walkthrough our conversation went something like this:

James (laughing): So, Paul, you don’t mind selling your house to a couple of fags?

Paul (also laughing): Nah, it’ll make the neighbors happy. You guys are always neat and stylish, aren’t you?

I assure you, there was no hate involved in this conversation. James started the joke and I joined in with him. And while I don’t normally call people “fag,” in this case I played along because it was just that… playful. Using “fag” this way diffused tensions rather than caused them.

That said, I’ll play along with the political term, “hate speech,” today, because the term, “conspiracy theory,” as it’s so often used, really does have aggression and hate built into it.

How Adults Speak

I’m talking about actual adults now, not just people of a certain age. I’m referring to people with some level of maturity.

Mature people speak to communicate and (hopefully) to find the truth of things. And if things are too complex or obscure for truth to be clearly seen, they try to understand the other party’s viewpoint and to clarify their own.

Immature people speak for the purpose of winning. And that’s simply barbaric. It’s almost excusable for the fifth grader on a playground; it’s not for the 30-year-old or, God forbid, the 50-year-old.

And sad to say, I’ve seen a lot of older people – in their 40s, 50s, and even older – who are woefully immature in their speech. You can see plenty of them on TV (expensive suits don’t actually impart maturity), where the common denominator of their immaturity is politics, a blood sport devoted to winning at all costs.

A Weapon Is as a Weapon Does

There was a cute line in the Forrest Gump film, “Stupid is as stupid does.” In other words, stupidity is shown by its actions. Likewise, a weapon is shown by its actions. And if that’s true, the term, “conspiracy theory,” is very clearly a weapon.

This term was popularized by the CIA, by the way, when they were trying to quash discussions surrounding the JFK assassination((You can find the details in Conspiracy Theory in America, by Lance deHaven-Smith. There was even an official memo on precisely this.)). In other words, it was promoted to shut down inquiry, not with reason, but with intimidation, ridicule, and shame.

Since then it has been used widely, usually with fear mixed in. As in, “You are challenging authority, and people who do such things get hurt.” Clearly, this is a weapon-like usage.

Likewise in daily life. I think all of us have said something that generated the reply – the blow – “That’s a conspiracy theory.” Whereupon people in the vicinity take a sort of step back from us. And again, reason has nothing to do with this. “Conspiracy theory” is not a reason; it’s a verdict… a verdict supported, not by fact, but by fear and its dark associates.

And we should make no mistake, most of time this phrase is used, it is used with malice. To call someone a “conspiracy theorist” is to slap them. It’s to hammer them down, shut them up, scare others from considering what they said, and to shame them as badly as possible.

So, yes, such uses of “conspiracy theory” really are hate speech. The only serious difference between them and the so-called n-word is that one attacks race and the other attacks cognition.

The Dark Faith of the Heretic Hunter

Michael Barkun, a political scientist who has studied conspiracy theories at length, concluded that a common feature among conspiracy theories is that they form a closed system that is unfalsifiable. That is, they are cut off from reasoned examination. Because of that, he says, it becomes “a matter of faith rather than proof.”

Ironically, that’s precisely what has become of the epithet, “conspiracy theory.” The term is used as a verdict, enforced with dark and aggressive emotion, and is thus cut off from examination. It is a slander that stands upon a dark type of faith. The user of the term, “conspiracy theory,” is all too similar to the heretic hunter.

“Conspiracy theory” is launched more than spoken, intended to deliver shame and cut off from examination by the dark triad of intimidation, ridicule, and authority.

Very often it is hate speech.

* * * * *

TheBreakingDawn

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

  • Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Necessity of Being a Well-Rounded Person… and How to Pull It Off

I regularly go on about the necessity of forming your own opinions and making stands upon them. And while I’m quite certain about that, there’s another side to such things. We are complicated creatures, after all.

The more we express and defend our own opinions, the more we tend to get locked into them. And that part can be a problem, because none of us – not even the best of us – knows enough to claim that his or her opinions are beyond questioning.

No matter how sure we are about something, we need to leave an opening for better information to change our minds. Most often, we’ll need only modify a long-held opinion rather than jettison it altogether, but we have to be ready to jettison anything that doesn’t stand up against new information.

Where we hit danger is when we become set in our ways and can’t let things go. That problem tends to get worse with age, with persecution, or if we become well-known for a particular opinion. But whatever way it comes, being overly devoted is a grave problem.

The most common threat, however, is considering oneself part of a group and being so emotionally tied to the group that you lack the emotional strength to disregard it.

Ask anyone who has left a strong and clannish religious group how hard it was. They know. The people who quit such groups have to face losing all their friends at once. That takes guts, and such people deserve credit for what they did.

Political, academic, or other types of groups can become clannish and controlling in just the same ways, and exert the same pressures.

All such pressures are poisons, and protecting ourselves from them, in my opinion, is a duty we owe to ourselves, our friends, and to the truth itself.

How to Pull It Off

It’s one thing to say, “Don’t allow yourself to get clannish,” but making it a practical reality is something else.

I have three specific tools that have worked for me, and I’ll pass them along to you.

#1: Stay warm to the opposite view. Pay attention to opposing viewpoints, but not with the intent of chopping them up. Face them sympathetically. You don’t have to read every opposing viewpoint, but when you find one that seems to be clear and thoughtful, stop and check it out. More than that, try to find some good in it. Stay open and stay out of us/them imagery. What matters is the truth, not who says it.

#2: Keep friends who don’t believe the same as you. Make sure you spend quality time with people who don’t share your views. Make those people your friends… and I mean actual friends, people you come to care about. Try to find people who are competent, experienced, and different. And try to see them regularly. Two or three times per week would be ideal.

#3: Have someone to try your ideas upon. It would be ideal to have one person in your field or a near one who’s really good at what they do but who doesn’t entirely agree with you; then bounce critical ideas off this person. (Such people tend to be busy, so you should probably ask their thoughts for only the most important things.) This person can be hard to find, but if you do find one, hold on to them.

But More than All That…

Beyond all that we’ve said above, being well-rounded is vital. People who get rigid have a nagging little voice somewhere in the back of their minds, testifying that something is wrong. You don’t want to carry that with you for life.

On top of that, your family will be damaged by inflexibility of character, which is what you’ll get by holding your opinions above examination and change. Likewise, your effectiveness in cooperative ventures – everything from business to your local little league – will suffer.

We need to recognize people as they are, not how they line up with our beliefs.

So, I suggest that you start using the three tools I’ve noted above. Being a well-rounded person is dramatically to your benefit.

* * * * *

As it turns out, history was never too hard to understand; they just told you the wrong story.

Comments from readers:

“This is the most amazing little book I have read on history in 36 years of reading history.”

“It will change the way you look at nearly everything.”

“I will flat out say that this is the best history book I have ever read… I am fairly well read, but I learned a tremendous amount that I hadn’t known before or hadn’t aligned so that it made sense.”

“This is the best and clearest description of the history of Western civilization I have ever read.”

“Packed with insights on every page concerning how the world came to be the way it is and what we might expect in the future.”

Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Gospel of Radicalism

Radicalism

As I was writing A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, I felt an overwhelming need to put everything I had into the book. (That’s the way you feel when you’re very serious about such things and you’re not sure you’ll ever write another book like it.) So, I included several essays that I cared a great deal about.

Now, however, as I’m getting ready for a second edition of the book, I’m pulling the essays back out. A novel is best standing on its own, in my opinion. And so, I’ll publish the essays here from time to time, starting with “The Gospel of Radicalism,” which was the first of them.

– PR

Just a few hundred years ago it was a standard medical practice to bleed sick people, to make cuts in various parts of their bodies and to drain blood from them. Most people submitted to this useless and frequently harmful treatment without question.

Would you have been one of them?

What do you think of the bleeders? Does it seem to you that they were from a primitive and ignorant age? Well, guess how your descendants are going to think about our generation in a few hundred years! Unless you can break from the clamor of popular opinions, you are doomed to that fate.

All of the social, sexual, and political norms that people now hold dear will someday be gone and will look as archaic as praying to the gods of wind and rain. Rationalize anything you want, but most people are living in ways that will be pitied by future generations. The fashion of this world will pass away. And it will not be missed.

Look at our history: 6,000 years of wars, famines, epidemics, and nonstop emotional misery. Dear God, isn’t it time to question the rules we’ve been living under?

At some point, shouldn’t it become obvious? How much misery do you need before you start to ask hard questions? Shall I recite statistics to you of how many millions of people were violently killed in the past century? How many millions were starved to death by the authorities that ruled them? How many people – probably billions – who are emotionally damaged to the point of reduced function? What will it take? Are you in so deep a fog that you will never question whether something is fundamentally wrong?

Humanity in our time remains in infancy. We are essentially unlimited creatures, yet we have been wallowing in abject poverty – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

We have natures that are suited to high adventure, yet we remain stagnant. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned only to exist, not to live. That conditioning was imposed upon us as weak children, then reinforced during many years of compulsory training. After a while, we learned not to buck the system and eventually to find a safe place within the social order. We are afraid to venture too far out. The powers that be make sport of ruining people who venture too far out of bounds, so we stay safe and ignore our selves in the process.

Safety is a fine thing to choose when you are five years old but not when you are grown!

Your life is too valuable not to be lived. By virtue of being a healthy human, you have what seems to be unlimited potential. Why the urge to sit quietly? Why the fear of movement and expressiveness? Why the paralyzing fear of being different?

Wake up! Don’t be satisfied to merely exist. Live!

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

What’s Your Slavery Percentage?

slaverypercentage

Very few things in human life are truly all or nothing. Almost everything works on a sliding scale, even slavery. The problem is, very few people have ever studied slavery, leaving them with a few emotional slogans instead of actual knowledge.

A Roman slave in a major city, for example, could start and run his own business, might be very rich, and might even become a major intellectual, like Epictetus. A Roman slave working in a mine… well… that was about as bad as it gets.

So, all-or-nothing representations of slavery are false and more often than not are propaganda. This being the case, a question sits in front of us: How enslaved are we? People sometimes get very upset over such questions, but not because they’re invalid. They get upset because they don’t want to confront such thoughts.

Believing that truth matters, however, I’ve decided to raise the question.

What Slavery Really Is

Slavery is a type of economic skim. It’s primarily an economic tool… surrounded by creative justifications, of course. A slave’s surplus (“profit” or “retained earnings”) is transferred to his or her owner. Physical control of the slave serves this purpose – to keep his or her surplus coming in. (We examined this in issue #32 of the subscription letter.)

So, if you keep all of your surplus, you are not at all economically enslaved. If you keep half of your surplus, you’re 50% economically enslaved.

But while slavery is primarily an economic thing, our freedom of action can be restricted as well, and that’s also a type of slavery. And like economics, freedom of action can be restrained partially rather than completely, and usually is.

Freedom – or liberty – on the other hand, is the state of being unrestrained.

So…

If what I’ve written above is true or even mostly true, we can experience various percentages of slavery. In fact, by clinging to the old, all-or-nothing propaganda regarding slavery, we end up deceiving ourselves.

Here, for example, is a very simple calculation of a slavery percentage:

African slave, Alabama plantation, 1830

Economic slavery: 98%

Choice (other than economic): 70%

Overall slavery: 84%

In this case, the slave made very few economic choices – they could trade among themselves – but they could usually do things like mate as they saw fit, which does, after all, matter. So, the net percentage came out to 84%. That’s still horrific, but it’s not “complete slavery.”

Here’s another example:

English serf, 1300 AD

Economic slavery: 45%

Choice slavery: 50%

Overall slavery: 47.5%

This one is tricky. The serf owed his lord a number days of labor per month, averaging at most a third of his time. For the rest of the time he could work his own land as he pleased, but he couldn’t simply leave.

Adding to the complexity, he had a medieval version of a retirement plan: After he was too old to work he was still allowed to eat and couldn’t be put out of his house.

So, I gave him a 45% for economic slavery and 50% for free choice, coming to 47.5% overall.

Two more examples:

American baker, 1890

Economic slavery: 15%

Choice slavery: 15%

Overall slavery: 15%

During this period, the only taxes facing the working man were tarrifs and a few local extractions. (There’s a reason longshoremen and bakers were able to build grand houses in those days.) As for choices, there were social pressures on people, but that’s not slavery, as force was seldom used. Still, to be charitable, I’ve given that a 15% as well.

American plumber, 2016

Economic slavery: 60%

Choice slavery: 40%

Overall slavery: 50%

The modern American loses 50% of his earnings at the state, local, and national levels. In addition, he or she loses a great deal of money in pass-through taxes, taxes that businesses pay and pass on to you. I went to 60% on this, but that figure may be low, as frightening as that may be.

As for choices, those are dying by the day. Hundreds of medical choices are now forbidden, many types of employment are forbidden without state-approved certificates (aka diplomas), and much, much more. So, I think my 40% figure is not high and may in fact be quite reasonable.

“Wait… Worse than Serfs?”

That’s the usual freakout response. But in terms of slavery, yes, it seems so. I agree that serfs didn’t have the technology we do, but machines don’t negate slavery. Keeping our surplus and making unopposed choices negate slavery.

And I think you can see by comparing the 1890 and 2016 calculations why standards of living and the development of new technologies skyrocketed during the 19th century.

Disagree?

It won’t bother me if you disagree; I haven’t spent months putting together unchallengeable numbers on all of this. Neither has anyone else, which is the problem. These are “back of the envelope” calculations.

But if you do disagree, don’t just pass it off. Have the guts to run the numbers on your own. Consider each of the points mentioned above, using honest, best-guess figures. Calculate, and face the conclusion head on.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Price of Freedom™

freedomSomehow, and I had no idea how, I found myself face to face with a man I first mistook as a mobile home salesman. But he wasn’t trying to sell me a double-wide; he was trying to sell me a gaudy package labeled Freedom™. He stood in front of me, smiling too much and waiting for me to comment on the beauty of his product.

“Tell me about this Freedom of yours,” I finally squeezed out. “And why does it have the trademark symbol on it?”

“That’s because our freedom is the best kind.”

“So, freedom isn’t just freedom?”

“Heavens no,” he assured me. “Those other freedoms are poor, poor imitations.” Then he leaned in toward me and spoke in a lower voice, slyly. “You know what I mean, don’t ya?” He elbowed me in the ribs.

“I’m not sure I do.”

He leaned very close now. “You know. We’re kind of too humble to say it outright, but we’re…” He wanted me to complete the sentence, but I didn’t know how. He looked at me like a schoolboy who couldn’t come up with the answer to two plus two. “You know… we’re God’s favorite.”

“Are we?”

He pulled back, incredulous at my ignorance. “But of course!” Then he gave me a good looking over. “Ah, I can tell, you’re from one of those northern, liberal places, aren’t you?”

“Well, I’m from the north, yes, but no, sir, I’m definitely not a liberal. Actually, I’m—”

“Listen son, we’re the one indispensable provider of freedom. Without us, the world would have been a cinder a long time ago; and nothing can live on a cinder, can it?”

“No, I wouldn’t think it could.”

“Darned right, it couldn’t. Now, you just talk to any preacher south of your northern city and he’ll confirm that I’m telling you the truth!”

“Well, I—”

“You listen to talk radio, son?”

“Not in a long time, but I used to like certain interview shows, and when I used to drive a lot, I listened to Rush Limbaugh.”

“Ah, did you pay attention to him?”

“Sure, he said some things I really liked, and he was fun.”

“Well then, you have your answer!”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but rather than climbing further into his rabbit hole, I decided to move along to the price of this trademarked freedom. “And what, sir, does this finely wrapped package cost?”

“Well, it’s not a fixed-price thing.”

“Very well, but it must have some cost, no?”

“Certainly. Freedom isn’t free!”

“Okay then, what exactly is the cost?”

“Well, it’s whatever the government says it is.”

“The government?”

“Sure.”

“Look mister,” I said, “It was tax season recently, and I counted up everything they take away from me, and it’s a hell of a lot of money.” The salesman stood stone faced. But he had hit a sore spot in me, so I went on.

“The Feds take income taxes, payroll taxes, and Medicare taxes, which I don’t even use. And then I get hit for property taxes, state income tax, sales taxes, taxes on electricity, on gas, on telephones, gasoline taxes, and taxes on watching television. That accounts for more than half the money I work for… not to mention all the taxes paid by the people who make my bread, cars, computers, and clothes – all of which are rolled into the price I have to pay.”

“Look,” he said, putting his arm around my shoulders, soothing me and walking me across the display case so I’d see his package from a different angle. “Everyone pays that, son.”

But I wasn’t done. “The government also claims ownership of my children, you know!”

“Ah, son, don’t be silly. Why would the government want to hurt your children?”

“I don’t know or care, but if their agents decide to take an interest in them, they are authorized to take them away!”

“That only happens to bad people, son, and you’re obviously educated. You don’t have to worry about things like that.”

“And if their armed men tell me to fall down on the ground in front of them, are you saying that I don’t have to prostrate myself?”

“Well, of course you do, son. But it’s always for your own safety. And like I say, they only do that to really bad people.”

“And how can they be so good at telling the difference between me and a less ‘educated’ guy?”

“They know, son, they know. It’s in their training.”

And then, I must admit, my mind fell blank. What kind of magic training could they have?

Quickly, he put his arm around my shoulder again and walked me back toward my first position, stopping me where the lighting was perfect.

“You’re looking at this all wrong, son. You need to forget those details.”

“They seem like rather large details to forget.”

“That’s because you don’t know what’s packaged in with the deal. That’ll make you forget ’em!”

“Really?”

“Of course! Guaranteed!”

“Then what’s in the package deal?”

“Ah, the best, son… the very best!”

“Which is?”

He leaned close again. “Have you ever felt insecure, son?”

“Sure. Hasn’t everyone?”

“Indeed, son, indeed. And have you ever felt small, afraid, confused, and powerless?”

“Well, yeah, though not so much since—”

“Things of the past! All things of the past!”

I was incredulous. I worked long and hard to grow out of those things, and I couldn’t see how there could be such a fast, easy fix. Still, I had to ask. “And how’s that?”

“When you buy this here package, young man, you join yourself, heart and soul, to something larger than yourself! You make yourself part of the Jolly Red, White, and Blue Giant! He’s got the ass-whoopingest department of kill-people-and-break-things on the planet, and you get to become part of it!

“After that, the next time you feel afraid or small, just wrap yourself in his colors. Proclaim your allegiance and you become part of him, son, and you’ll never feel weak or vulnerable again. Just pull out your colors and sing his song. You’ll feel it, son, you’ll feel it! After that, you’ll pay the cost over and over and over.”

Maybe I’ve read too much history, but I can recall too many people who fell for that line and ended up squirming in an ash heap. I started looking at the other display cases, then down the aisle.

“Listen, sir,” I finally said, “this Freedom™ seems awfully expensive. Is there another brand I can look at?”

And then… for a horrifying quarter second or so… I thought I saw the salesman turn into Agent Smith.

And then, finally and gratefully, I woke up, and swore off holiday barbeques forever. Next time I think I’ll stay home and read.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Suppression of Happiness

happinessOne of the great errors of freedom people (myself included) is that we’ve sometimes based our arguments on less-than-optimal grounds.

What I mean is that we argued for freedom on political or legal grounds. And while those arguments were generally accurate and valid, it was a relatively poor line of argument.

Our arguments on economic grounds were somewhat better, but they still missed the largest and clearest areas of human experience.

A stronger strain of argument, in my opinion, involves happiness.

Defining Happiness

Happiness, of course, is a subjective thing. A new car might make one person very happy but be a burden to another (or to that same person at a different stage of life).

Furthermore, happiness is very often temporary. People think they’ll be happy if they win the lottery, but that rush of happiness lasts only a short time, then fades away. Lottery winners are happier than other people for a few weeks, then they return to normal – or worse. The same goes for similar cases.

Long-term happiness is what we would be wisest to pursue. But this type of happiness – which we generally think of as satisfaction – requires things of us. In particular, it requires good choices, the courage to make them, and good information to base them upon.

The best definition of the long-term happiness I know is a paraphrase of Aristotle. It goes like this:

What makes us happy is the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording us scope.

Let’s break that down. Three things are required for us to be happy for the long haul, all of which must be present together:

  1. Vital powers.
  2. Exercise along lines of excellence.
  3. A life offering us scope.

What We Have, What Is Taken From Us

Of the three items listed above, two are innate to us:

We are born with vital powers. Unless we’ve been seriously damaged, these are already ours. We may develop them or allow them to atrophy, but they are inside of us and not directly assailable by anyone else.

Exercise along lines of excellence is something that we can do and should do. This depends upon us and our choices. We control this ourselves.

A life offering them scope is where the problem lies. Our lives have been massively restricted, and that directly restricts our happiness. That’s such an important thought that I’d like to restate it:

Restrictions of human action are direct restrictions of human happiness.

And please forget knee-jerk reactions like, “We have to restrict criminals!” That’s a non-issue, and, more importantly, it’s a brain hack.

Go ahead and restrict your criminals, but don’t restrict me with them.

There is no sane reason restraints upon criminals have to be applied to everyone else at the same time.

 No one has any moral right to restrain you, unless and until you harm others.

Other Restraints

There are plenty of natural obstacles in our world that limit a man or woman’s scope. We require food, shelter, sleep, clothing, mates, and so on. And that’s precisely why we must be unrestrained in all other ways. We need to employ our talents to overcome these problems… then, hopefully, to expand our horizons.

The more restrained we remain, the more impoverished and unhappy we remain.

To restrict peaceful humans is to directly restrain their happiness. It also directly restrains their talent, and that impoverishes the future, including billions of humans yet unborn. It is among the worst crimes imaginable, yet it is presented to us as an essential.

Our happiness is being stolen from us daily, and the justifications for this crime – if ever we examine them – are quickly seen as mere fear and inertia.

It’s time that we started playing a different game.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The End of the Great American Fantasy

american fantasyThrough all of my life there has been an odd and persistent bias on the part of otherwise honest Americans:

What America does overseas is always good and right. We do not speak against it.

The protests against the Vietnam War were an exception to this, of course, but that break from tradition involved less than half the country. Those people were quickly brought back into the mainstream, And they have supported more or less all subsequent US wars.

This belief – that US foreign actions are always good – is falling apart as we watch. I take this as a good thing, as one should not believe in Santa Claus forever.

The Polarization Trick

But before I explain how this great American fantasy is failing, let me explain the trick that has kept it going:

There is a polar opposite to the fantasy of angelic foreign affairs – the demonization of US soldiers. Americans generally see in polar opposites: Either the military is sacred, or else it is wholly evil.

Once you get people strongly polarized, they’ll stay that way – always opposing the other side and never seeing the truth in the middle.

So, nothing I say here today should be taken as an indictment of individual American soldiers. As with any group of people, some are better and some are worse. Some became soldiers with good motives (to protect people). Some few joined with bad motives (to kill and dominate). But the majority joined for a mundane reason: They needed a job. And more or less all of them joined when they were quite young.

So, aside from a few monsters, I am not going after soldiers. They’ve got plenty to deal with on their own and I’m not interested in making things harder for them.

It’s time to step away from this false polarization and to start looking for the truth. And, as I say, I think the great American fantasy is falling apart. Here are my reasons:

Reason #1: The military-industrial complex is too troubling to ignore.

Americans still remember that President Eisenhower warned them about the military-industrial complex killing their freedoms. And while many of us try not to think about it, we all know.

The US government has troops in most of the countries in the world. Very few of us, myself included, can name all of the wars we are currently involved with. On top of that, we know that the military – and hundreds of private companies that work for them – are spying on all of us at all times. We may try to pass it off with cheap slogans, but we know the truth.

To cap it off, the US government has now given itself the right to permanently jail and even kill US citizens, without a trial, so long as they first call them terrorists.

Reason #2: We’ve seen the government start wars.

Those of us old enough will remember that the State Department suckered Saddam Hussein into the first Gulf War. I won’t recount all the details, but they used a diplomat named April Glaspie to set it up. The story has been confused since then (four versions of the crucial transcript now exist), but lots of us saw it in real time.

We know from WikiLeaks revelations that that there were US Special Forces in Syria a year or more before last year’s almost-war, arming the rebels and training them to fight.

There can be no question that the US stands behind the current troubles in the Ukraine. If this YouTube recording is to be believed, we have US diplomats deciding who should be in power after the takeover… a takeover they staged during the Olympics when Putin would be restrained.

This is no defense of Putin, of course, but it is obvious that the US Department of State is setting up and tearing down governments. That’s a very dangerous line of work.

Reason #3: The Intimidator State lives among us.

The line between military and police in America is all but gone. Police departments sport military equipment and are filled with former soldiers. They use military tactics.

The public increasingly sees cops as dangers, not as friends. A young man recently commented to me, “Cops are bullies,” and he had good reason to think so. Being assaulted by a cop erases a thousand episodes of cop-worship TV.

A few honest and helpful police officers do still exist, but they are steadily disappearing, at least in my field of view. Police=Threat is reality to a huge number of Americans, and not without cause. Merge that with the military, and the image of the soldier-saint fails.

In The End…

I think we have to admit that foreigners are not crazy to see the US government as a threat. Some of them may be stuck in the polarization trick, but they are not wrong to think that our political class is dangerous. We think that too.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Destroying the Myth That Military Power Equals Freedom

military power equals freedomAs I was finishing up my liberty entertainment article a few weeks ago, I checked lists that other people had made, just to see if I had forgotten something. As I did, I was dismayed to find that in most of these lists, pro-liberty really meant pro-military.

So I think it’s time to take a quick look at the myth that military power gives us liberty.

The Fantasy of the Foreign Oppressor

There is a plot that lies behind this “military power equals freedom” belief. It says that the enemy of liberty is a foreign invader. So, if the outsider is afraid to approach, we are free.

It implies that “local rule equals freedom.”

This is simply a lie. But it’s a lie that works very well in fiction.

Back in the real world, the hometown of an oppressor – whether it be near or far – makes him no better or worse.

Are we free because the people who rule us reside within local borders? Does that remain true even when it’s the “inside our lines” people who oppress us?

May only foreigners be oppressors?

Consider these recent cases:

  • No people suffered more to defeat Hitler than the Russians. So did killing the foreign invader make them free? Hardly – it kept Stalin, who killed far more people than Hitler ever did, in power.
  • What about Southern blacks in 1950? Almost everything done to them was “under the law,” and they were protected by a massive military and a nuclear arsenal capable of reducing any invader to ashes. Were they free?
  • And what about their great-grandparents who were slaves? They were militarily protected, after all. And their local oppressors operated fully under the rule of law. The  Supreme Court approved. Did that make them free?
  • The people of Eastern Europe were protected by a Soviet arsenal that included thousands of atomic bombs. They were further protected by constitutions and courts, all of which were locally administered. Were they free?

I could go on, but I think the point is made: The vast majority of human oppression comes at the hands of locals, not foreigners.

That’s a fact, whether or not it works as a movie plot.

I know that many good men and women have spent time in various military capacities, but the fact is this:

Foreign invaders abuse far, far fewer people than do local bosses.

And here’s another fact: Once a foreign invader takes control of a new place, he usually tries very hard to keep the populace happy. The foreigner does not murder civilians by the millions… but local rulers do. (Think of Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc. They each killed millions of locals.)

The Flip Side of Xenophobia

Xenophobia is fear of the foreigner and usually applies to things like hating immigrants. But it’s not always “fear.” It’s more often a need to keep the foreigner beneath us.

In any case, classic expressions of xenophobia involve punishing immigrants, Jews, or some other outsiders (justified by whatever facts can be conveniently assembled).

It seems to me that the myth we mentioned above, “military power equals freedom,” is the flip side of this xenophobia phenomenon:

  • On one side of this “xenophobia coin,” we have outsiders whom we need to keep beneath us.
  • On the other side, we have outsiders whom we must prevent from putting us beneath them.

Both of these fears come from a dominance instinct:

We must allow no one above us.

We must keep those below us in place.

Both of these impulses are irrational, and they tend to travel together.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but my experience tells me this:

The people who love the “military equals freedom” fantasy are the same people who oppose immigrants.

That’s not just an American thing, by the way. You see it more or less everywhere.

I know that there are many exceptions to this statement (we’re talking about millions of individuals, after all, many of whom DO analyze their own minds), but I think this statement holds up:

“Military equals freedom” grows from the same impulse as xenophobia.

The Case of America

Since the majority of my readers seem to be Americans, I’ll devote a minute to the US’s fear of the “foreign devil.”

Should Americans really take an “alien invasion” seriously? Even when surrounded by two huge oceans and friendly people to the north and south? (The trouble in Mexico exists largely because the US government created it.)

There is no potential invader who takes invasion seriously. Here’s what Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto said during the hostilities of World War II:

You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.

No foreign power would seriously consider invading America, where there are 270 million guns in the hands of ordinary people. Everyone, not just boys in uniforms, would be a deadly threat.

The US can be taken by stealth, but not by an open invasion. If the American people ever paid attention to what was being done to them, no oppressor would survive it.

To close this discussion, here’s a quote from General Douglas MacArthur, who knew something about America and war:

Our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.

We need to let go of fear and think rationally.

Very seldom do foreigners oppress us. The vast majority of oppression comes from within.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

You Don’t Have to Look Far to Find a Certain Kind of Freedom

pro-freedom entertainmentLiberty is important, not for its own sake, but because it’s the condition that allows life to flourish. So, you could call the list below “pro-life.” However, since we don’t want to confuse this with an abortion debate, let’s just call it “Pro-Freedom.”

Two weeks ago, I published a list of important history books. Now, I’d like to start a list of pro-freedom entertainment: films, TV shows, and music that inspired me towards freedom, or opened my mind, or encouraged me, or in any way (to use a great but forgotten word) edified me. I’m casting a wide net.

I should note, by the way, that these are not all serious works – some are comedies, even a stupid comedy or two – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable in their way.

I made this list fairly quickly, which means that I’m probably missing an awful lot. So, please add to the list if you can.

Here we go:

Films

The Shawshank Redemption

V For Vendetta

The Matrix

Serenity

Alongside Night

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

Atlas Shrugged, Part 2

The Fountainhead

The Great Dictator

The Dead Poets Society

PCU

Fahrenheit 451

They Live

The Caine Mutiny

Casablanca

Enemy of the State

Rocky

Rocky Balboa

Moneyball

Apollo 13

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

Chariots of Fire

Awakenings

Gran Torino

October Sky

The Sound of Music

Gandhi

Phenomenon

Young Sherlock Holmes

The Time Machine (1960)

The Legend of 1900

The Lives of Others

Television Series

Firefly

Star Trek, Original Series, especially episodes #28, 34, 55 & 63

Have Gun Will Travel

The Twilight Zone, original series

Highlander

Kung Fu

Kung Fu: The Legend Continues

Northern Exposure

Babylon 5

Music

Steve McQueen, Sheryl Crow

Icarus: Bourne on Wings of Steel, Kansas

Purify, Lacuna Coil

Going Mobile, The Who

Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who

I’m Free, The Who

Dream On, Aerosmith

Taxman, The Beatles

Hand Me Down World, The Guess Who

At The Stars, Better Than Ezra

Woodstock, Crosby, Stills & Nash

Carry On, Crosby, Stills & Nash

Highway Star, Deep Purple

Already Gone, The Eagles

Roll With The Changes, REO Speedwagon

Riding The Storm Out, REO Speedwagon

Ventura Highway, America

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen

Étude in C minor (Revolutionary), Frederic Chopin

Polonaise in A Flat Major (Heroic), Frederic Chopin

Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf

I’ve Got A Name, Jim Croche

Hero, David Crosby

The Morning After, Maureen McGovern

The Grand Illusion, Styx

Come Sail Away, Styx

Errata

Here are a few things that seem to have been important to a number of liberty people when they were young:

Peter And The Wolf, the audio version narrated by Sterling Holloway

Flatland : A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbott (Yes, this is a book.)

Deus Ex, a video game, versions 1 and 3

So…

What can you add as great examples of Pro-Freedom (pro-life) Entertainment?

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Enforcers Just Watered the Seeds of Their Destruction

internet freedomThe Silk Road marketplace was closed by the Feds on October 2nd. Its operator sits in a jail cell in New York. The users were scattered and victory was declared.

But a funny thing happened while all the politicians, FBI agents, and assorted naysayers were congratulating themselves…

The movement didn’t lay down and die.

The people who comprise it did not run away like scared little sheep… like Fed victims had a hundred times before. Instead, they re-formed and got back to business.

Today, there are at least six new, Silk Road-type marketplaces, including a Silk Road 2.0, with a new Dread Pirate Roberts.

Six is probably a very conservative number, by the way.

These new markets are improvements to the original Silk Road:

  • One includes two-factor PGP encryption.
  • Another uses both Bitcoin and Litecoin and caters to customers in Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc.
  • One new market claims to invite only top vendors and has promised a p2p-based escrow to prevent the possibility of administrators stealing user funds. They handle Litecoin and Bitcoin and provide good customer service.
  • Another operates on the I2P network rather than Tor and supports p2p escrow rather than centralized escrow.
  • One innovative market lets the users build it with modules, like WordPress, and with open source code.

(If you’re not the most technically minded, all that jargon might not mean much. In essence, these are just examples of how the market is fighting back and getting more sophisticated and more secure with each new generation.)

One more thing: If you think these markets are just about drugs, you’re missing the primary point. The discussion board at Silk Road was full of Rothbardian economics and the philosophies of freedom.

What This Means

What this means is that the Silk Road people – the Internet freedom people – refused to lay down and die. Rather than cringing in terror, they got back up and started rebuilding. So, instead of one Silk Road, there are now at least six. And there will probably be many more, soon.

These people are pressing on. They are not running away. They believe that their way is the better way, and they are holding to it, regardless of slanders and threats and scams and attacks.

And this means that the control freaks have lost a big battle. They attacked, they spread their terror, and they cranked the propaganda machine that for decades made the masses confess the enforcers as almighty.

But this time the targets didn’t flee in terror, didn’t cower in fear, and no longer believed that the enforcers were gods.

Instead, they acted according to their own judgment, and in their own interests.

Circle autumn 2013 on your calendar, because the terror of the enforcers just failed, for the first time in a long time.

Are There Lessons Here?

Yes, and the big one is this: In the end, a better philosophy (if it is understood) wins.

The free Internet and its free commerce philosophy offers men and women truth, understanding, and strong, direct relationships. The statist alternative offers fear, theft, punishment, an occasional promise of plunder, and intrusion into every relationship in your life.

And even though statism had a massive initial advantage, the freedom philosophy is now asserting itself. Our ways are better and our people are better. And our free Internet, free commerce philosophy is producing people who aren’t quitting, even when they are bruised and bloodied.

When you stop to think about it, a life of automatic obedience to the enforcer is based upon the wildest of claims:

  • That cops are more noble and trustworthy than we are, that their bosses are definitely nobler than we are, and that power does not, in fact, corrupt.
  • That government workers are somehow a better class of beings, but perhaps only while they are working for the state.
  • That intimidation, lies, threats, and violence are transformed into goodness when inflicted by men wearing blue shirts with brass pins.
  • That politicians, whom we all know to be liars and money-whores, somehow produce pristinely moral results in their offices.

Stated this way – and I think this is a fair way to state them – these ideas are ridiculous.

Almost everyone knows that enforcers are more predatory and more threatening than average working guys. People certainly know it when they drive down a highway and pass one of them with a radar gun; they’ve just been conditioned to not connect certain dots.

The great change of this moment is that the Internet people have started to act on what they know.

A corner has been turned. It may be some time until the reality of it sinks in and spreads, but this is an important moment: This time, the victims refused to lay down and die.

And the enforcers just watered the seeds of their own destruction.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com