Beyond Civil Disobedience
Written by Ben Stone of Bad Quaker Podcast
Before you can build something new you have to tear down something old. So, we’re going to do some tearing down. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but given the situation we’re in today, it’s time to get serious. Too much is at stake. There have been too many missed opportunities in history to win this fight, and if we’re not smart about this we’re going to leave this task on future generations.
We have a lot of activists in jail today. Irwin Schiff will probably be in jail for the rest of his life. Rich Paul and Adam Kokesh were thrown in cages this year. Without endorsing any particular activist, there are a lot of people who would be more useful to the liberty movement if they were free, but instead they are behind bars.
We can’t afford losses like these. People say “they can’t lock us all up,” but they absolutely can! They could create an entire agency specifically to lock us all up if they wanted to. The State has done this throughout history, and it will again.
Playing the State’s game is not the way to beat the State. If you want to fight this fight effectively, you can’t do it foolishly. If you want to fight Muhammad Ali, you’re a fool if you step into the ring. You sneak up behind him and hit him in the head with a board. You don’t fight an enemy according to their strengths. If you fight the State on the State’s turf, the way the State wants to fight, you will lose. That’s just a fact. We have to fight in ways that don’t get us thrown in cages. Martyrs are no good to us, because the State can tarnish anyone’s reputation.
The final stage of the State is the unification of all nations under a single governing body. That’s the natural progression of this monster. It’s going to go through this final stage before it collapses completely, and when it falls we are going to have a brief opportunity to put it down for good, but we have to prepare now. Understanding our role in this process is critical.
Think of David and Goliath. Goliath was this great warrior. He was a Phoenician, meaning he had iron plate armor, unlike the Greeks’ bronze armor. That made him virtually invincible by the standards of the day. He had a spear. He had a personal shield bearer who walked in front of him. And at close range he had a sword.
David was a shepherd who decided not to fight the way Goliath expected him to fight. David had a sling, not a slingshot. It wasn’t a child’s toy. In its day it was an advanced weapon, and favorite among shepherds. A long strip of leather with a pouch in the middle that was loaded with a round projectile, and spun to build velocity. Maximum velocity of a bullet or a stone from a good slinger is estimated around 140 mph based on ancient accounts, as well as modern tests. Now think about this. Nolan Ryan holds the world record for the fastest baseball ever pitched, clocked at 100.9 mph. Try to imagine driving a convertible 40 mph toward Nolan Ryan as he pitches a fist sized rock at your face.
Goliath expected a conventional battle, but David hit him in the head, knocked him on his back, and lopped off his head with his own sword. Goliath had no defense against it, because David used an unconventional strategy.
We can’t fight the State the way it expects to be fought, and we can’t fight it according to its strengths. We can’t all show up in Washington DC with rifles and expect it to be some kind of a solution. We can’t be tied to one strategy. We have to find our own individual, unpredictable strengths.
Civil Disobedience is largely a pacifier. It’s not useless, but let’s consider what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and whether it will accomplish our goal. First, some definitions.
“Civil disobedience is a symbolic or ritualistic violation of the law, rather than a rejection of the system as a whole. The civil disobedient, finding legitimate avenues of change blocked or nonexistent, sees himself as obligated by a higher, extralegal principle to break some specific law. By submitting to punishment, the civil disobedient hopes to set a moral example that will provoke the majority or the government into effecting meaningful political, social, or economic change.” Merriam Webster
John Rawls published, A Theory of Justice in 1971 which is still considered to be a definitive work on modern political philosophy. He was not an anarchist, but this is how civil disobedience is viewed in the mainstream. He defines civil disobedience as:
“A public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. On this account, the persons who practice civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions, as this shows their fidelity to the rule of law.”
Both of these definitions regard civil disobedience as a rejections of a specific law, but an endorsement of the existing system as a whole, because the activist not only expects, but accepts punishment as part of the demonstration. It is an anticipated part of activism inside the system. So, no matter the intention of the anarchist, an act of civil disobedience is an act of protest, but ultimately an act of submission to the authority of the government.
Civil disobedience is in the same category as voting, petitioning, lobbying, speaking at a town hall, writing letters to representatives, political donations, volunteering for a political campaign, jury nullification and others. Civil disobedience doesn’t fulfill the long term goal of the anarchist.
Actions with Purpose Within the Zero Aggression Principle
I’m talking about something completely different than civil disobedience. This is not for immediate action. It’s something we need to lay the groundwork for.
The Zero Aggression Principle is a moral stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate. Aggression is defined as, “the initiation of, or realistic threat of violence against a person or their legitimately owned property.” Specifically, aggression is any unsolicited act by an individual that physically affects another individual or their property, no matter if the result of the action is intended to be damaging, beneficial, or neutral. In contrast to pacifism, the Zero Aggression Principle does not preclude violence used in self defense or in the defense of others.
Principled anarchist activism needs to accomplish four things (in order of importance):
- Educate people on the evils of government. The moral argument.
- Expose the failures of government, especially the things they claim to have the exclusive right to do. The practical argument.
- Make money from the failures of government and funnel that money into our mission.
- Assist the government in it’s path to self destruction.
The vast majority of anarchist activism must be in the realm of education, and insulating ourselves and our families from the evils of the State by finding black market ways of making money within the Zero Aggression Principle. However many anarchists will be driven from deep inside to go further, to fight, to take direct action, to go full on Fight Club against the State.
This can be productive, but only if it is done according to wisdom, and according to the Zero Aggression Principle. Any activity outside the Zero Aggression Principle must be rejected because in the long run violations of the Zero Aggression Principle are always punished, and only activities within the Zero Aggression Principles are rewarded. That’s how natural law works. If you’re taking actions that are outside the Zero Aggression Principle you are not helping our mission. You are legitimizing aggression.
The problem with fighting the government directly is that it’s collectivist thinking. If you take up arms against a collective you’re going to end up harming innocent people who are not guilty of aggression. We have to strike at the belief in the State, not at agents of the government. If you think striking one agent of the government is self defense because another agent is aggressing against you, you’re just a right-wing socialist. That’s collectivist thinking. We need to reject the idea that government oppressing us as a collective justifies retaliating against government agents as a collective.
The anarchist has to operate with love in their heart, and understand that they have the moral high ground. We have to have compassion for the people who have been brainwashed their whole lives, and find peaceful ways to accomplish our means. Thankfully, there is a lot of stuff we can do that does not involve physically attacking human beings, does not involve collectivist thinking, and does not violate the Zero Aggression Principle.
Damaging “Government Property”
If you were standing on unowned land, and you fired a gun into the ground, you wouldn’t have violated the Zero Aggression Principle because you haven’t harmed any individual or their property. What about so-called government property? Is there any such thing? To the anarchist “government property” can’t exist, because there is no collectivist entity called “the government” in existence. There are only people acting based on their belief in the State. There is only owned property, and unowned property.
It’s impossible for government to legitimately own anything. Everything that is commonly considered “government property” is actually unowned property, and it is perfectly legitimate to damage it. Breaking a window in a government building is not a violation of the Zero Aggression Principle. It may be unwise, but it’s not aggression. However, if you accidentally harm a person in the process you have violated the Zero Aggression Principle. There is no situation where an exploding device should ever be used by an anarchist, because there is always too great a risk of harming an innocent person. You’re actions must be according to wisdom.
Further, it’s impossible to steal from the government because government has no legitimate claim to property. You can homestead so-called government property without violating the Zero Aggression Principle.
Encouraging Government Spending
We need to encourage as much government spending as possible, to bleed the government with a million tiny cuts. Every time they waste money on useless programs that helps our mission. It’s ammunition for us to expose government failures. That does not violate the Zero Aggression Principle, because, again, government in not a person. They are a group of people who rob us. It’s the thief who committed the act of aggression, not the welfare mom who spent the money.
Left-socialists tend to think government money is in endless supply. Right-socialists tend to think that government money is “their tax money.” Both are wrong. Once the money is stolen it’s not yours anymore. Thinking it’s still yours is right-wing collectivist thinking. It’s thinking that you are part of government. Government will always steal as much money as they can, but they can never steal enough to cover all their spending. That means the more they spend, the more they have to print, which exploits one of their greatest weaknesses. So, encouraging more spending assists the government on its path of self-destruction.
Don’t Piss in the King’s Well. Piss in his Soup
If you’re a slave and you want to harm the King you don’t want to piss in the King’s well because all the other slaves drink out of that well. You want to find ways to harm the King as an individual.
Targeting individuals for retaliation is not against the Zero Aggression Principle, as long as it’s done individually, and not according to collective guilt. But you have to understand, even if you are morally justified in retaliating against an aggressor, it may not be effective. You have to expect the blowback to be incredibly dramatic. So, you have to consider what the result will be. In the long run it will most likely do more harm than good.
Consider this quote from Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block:
“What, exactly, is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailee pays the agreed-upon price. If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.”
Blackmail is completely within the Zero Aggression Principle. You involve politicians in the right scandal and their career is over. Governments do this all the time. It’s a weapon of our enemy, but it’s a legitimate weapon, so we should consider using it. But, like everything else, there is a practical argument to have. There will be serious repercussions if you get caught.
The time will come when we must take action, and now is a small window of opportunity to prepare ourselves for that day. An important part preparing is establishing parameters of behavior. We need to devise ways we can take action and remain consistent within our principles, and we need to establish systems of support, funding and communications ahead of time.
It’s foolish to poke a dragon. It’s better to leave legos out for the dragon to trip over, and hopefully fall down a flight of stairs. We need to establish two separate groups, with very little crossover, and no verifiable connection. One group will focus on education, making money, and fostering the public image of anarchists as a lovable nuisance to the State, but not a threat. The other group will actively put out the legos, laying traps for the government to trip over. There must be no solid link between them. But here’s the key; no one acts alone, and yet everyone acts alone.
No one can act alone, because that sends people down a dark road that usually leads them toward violating the Zero Aggression Principle. But everyone who risks apprehension by the government must appear to be acting alone. There must be plausible deniability.
The Lego Underground
Every underground anarchist must be unencumbered by family and property. If you have a child, or a spouse, or great wealth, the government will see that as leverage to coerce your cooperation. Being part of the Lego Underground will be dangerous. If you are vulnerable to intimidation, and you might fold in that situation, that makes you a liability to the rest of the Lego Underground. You need to be honest with yourself and stay in the above ground part of the mission.
Activists in the Lego Underground must be as invisible as possible. Every light on their car must be functioning properly. Their back seat should be clean. They should have a valid registration and insurance. They shouldn’t have anarchist bumper stickers, or anything that would appear suspicious. Their style of clothing should fit in with their surroundings. No 420 shirts. No Gadsden flags. No visible firearms. They should not look like someone a cop might want to question. They need to look like Barack Obama, or Harry Reid, or a bank teller, or a school teacher.
I’m not saying anarchists must look a certain way. I’m saying if you’re part of the Lego Underground you need to be hiding in plain sight. If you can’t be invisible for some reason, if you’re part of a targeted class, or your appearance can’t blend in for some reason, don’t work in the underground part of the mission.
Assume that every insecure communication is being recorded. If you’re working on a company computer assume your employer is recording your keystrokes. Lots of companies record the activities of their employees, and if the government requests that record there’s a good chance they’ll hand it over without a warrant.
There is government software in place now to search the internet for 377 so-called “problematic phrases.” This is an opportunity for above ground activists, who are clean, to flood the internet with so many “problematic phrases” that the government searches are useless. It’s like pouring molasses into the gears of government. But you shouldn’t do activism like this if there’s any reason that you can be arrested, so if they come to your house they can’t trump up unrelated charges.
The Lego Underground needs to be using Pidgin, Bit Message, encrypted email, and secure telephones. Their communication needs to be as secure as it can possibly be.
Turning the Government Against Itself
Government tries to recruit people from subversive groups and infiltrate them with their own agents. Fear of infiltration is often more harmful than infiltration itself. Infiltration should be expected in aboveground groups, but the Lego Underground should be so invisible there appears to be nothing to infiltrate. Keep in mind, anyone who is vulnerable can be compromised. Anyone in a position to know the secrets of the mission is going to be a target. If the government thinks you’re useful they’re going to attempt to entice you or threaten you into cooperation. So, the Lego Underground groups must be small, and extremely careful with newcomers.
We can do the same thing. We can seek out disheartened, disgruntled or even just bored government employees and attempt to recruit them. We need to open their eyes, and we must not encourage them to resign. Instead, we need to find strategies for them where they work. They can start just by doing a bad job. Just pour that molasses right in. Find ways to look busy. Keep your job. Don’t quit or get fired. Use your position to drain as much wealth out of the government as possible and funnel it into our mission.
Hackers and Grifters
Anarchists need to embrace the hackers and the grifters. It’s a logical marriage. They need to understand us, and we need to understand them. We need to learn the hackers skills at compromising security systems, and the grifters skills at confidence games. These are skills which are within the Zero Aggression Principle and can be incredibly powerful tools to our mission. They could flood the IRS with fake tax forms, or fabricate fake arrest records, or photoshop scandals anonymously leaked across the internet.
Many hackers can steal identities, which is of no use to us, but imagine if they could create new identities. Imagine an activist with access to 1000 clean identities, complete with passports, birth certificates, social security cards and everything else it took to function inside government systems. He would have the ability to step in and out of the Matrix at will, do what he needed to do, and then discard the unwanted papers.
To move within the system this way also requires the skills of a grifter. The government is big, powerful, stupid and lazy. We understand those flaws, but the real secret is to understand the individual bureaucrat, not the collective. Are they lazy? Are they greedy? Are they afraid to lose their job? Are they misguided by a desire to do good? This is the expertise of the grifter. A grifter can identify their strengths and weaknesses, and use that against the individual government agent to get the job done.
Imagine if you had a team of people with the ability to walk into a government facility, lay down all the appropriate paperwork, con all the appropriate clerks, remove a political prisoner from custody, and move them out of the country.
We have an opportunity right now. These are the final moments when the old system of rubber stamps and signatures is falling away, and a new digital system is replacing it. In two years it’s going to be harder to fake government credentials than it is today.
Above All Else, Avoid Direct Confrontation
In his book, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even, George Hayduke wrote, “The one thing the establishment is prepared for is a violent frontal attack. They may be pure lard inside, but they’ve got twenty-four inches of armor plate in the front.”
We have to avoid attacking them the way they expect to be attacked. They expect marches, and protests, and voting, and civil disobedience, and even a violent uprising. That’s behavior they’re prepared to deal with, but there’s lard on the other side of that armor. Never attack an enemy the way they expect to be attacked. Thats the way the Lego Underground should operate.
As I said, most of this is not for immediate action. Now is the time to lay groundwork for the Lego Underground, and other actions beyond civil disobedience. I am only trying to lay that philosophical groundwork. In reality, I am not the right person take these actions. I’m too conspicuous. I look too much like the type of person a police officer would want to talk to. People who wish to take these actions, or actions like them, should make a concerted effort not to contact me, not to tell me about it, and not to form any meaningful connection with me, or any other public persona in our mission.
Listen to the Podcast Series Here: