Archives

A Comedy of Censorship

The irony of opening my daily subscription email from Rational Review, a libertarian news digest, and seeing an item from Newsweek about how Russia is planning to ban Facebook from its country unless Facebook stores the data for Russian users inside Russia, which critics are deriding as an attempt to censor and control the Internet, was almost too much hilarity for my brain to take before I’d ingested any caffeine. On the surface, the law actually makes a fair bit of sense (though I’d obviously not support it). Requiring companies not to store user for Russians outside of Russia is a protective measure–surely we can all see why we Americans wouldn’t want the user data of Americans stored, as a matter of routine, in Russia (especially given the anti-Russian hysteria, which is what I’m getting into).

Of course, Newsweek couldn’t help but stoke the coals of aforementioned hysteria by adding at the end of their article:

Facebook representatives told U.S. lawmakers that 80,000 posts from 470 fake Russian accounts disseminated information on its network and that it shut down 5.8 million fake accounts in October 2016.

Alas, we almost made it through one entire article that mentioned “Facebook” and “Russia” without playing it into the anti-Russian propaganda being peddled by lunatics across the United States. To give you some perspective on this addled stupidity, because, only counting photo uploads, there are three hundred million Facebook posts a day. If we include text-only posts, there are two hundred, ninety-three thousand (293,000) every single second. Eighty thousand in one month versus the nearly three hundred thousand made every second is a ludicrously low ratio–enough that it’s not worth mentioning and, indeed, Facebook should be ashamed for mentioning it.

I don’t care for the word “disseminated,” either. The media is notoriously no longer neutral. As I observed in an unrelated article about the mythical “popular vote,” bias in the media takes a number of forms, and the most subtle and insidious is the deliberate choice of loaded words. “Disseminated” is one such word. Almost any word would have been more neutral–perhaps “shared?” Or “posted?” Clearly, the journalists themselves only constitute half the problem; no editor who is good at what they do should have allowed that statement through. Not only is it loaded heavily, but it’s also stated poorly. Briefly, I’d have edited it to:

Representatives of Facebook reported to Congress that 80,000 posts from 470 dummy Russian accounts posted to its network, and that Facebook shut down 5.8 million fake accounts in October 2016.

I’d rate their version as a 4 / 10 (-4 points for blatant bias, -1 point for reuse of “fake” in a single sentence, and -1 for violating parallelism, which is far more important than people think).

Anyway, Newsweek in their article also failed to note who these “critics” are, but one has to give the benefit of the doubt and assume the critics are Russian. After all, it would just be silly for Americans to be accusing the Russian government of censorship when our social media titans are being compelled to report to Congress on what measures they are taking to censor their networks.

Recently on The Call to Freedom, of which I am a co-host with former libertarian vice presidential candidate Will Coley and recovering Republican Thom Gray (live every Sunday night at 10pm EST, and the encore airs Tuesday at 3pm EST at https://www.lrn.fm), I asked Thom Gray what the problem is with Russians posting on Facebook for either presidential candidate, a sentiment with which Will agreed, because it works just like anything else. If Russians, English, the French, the Spanish, the Catalan, or anyone else wishes to post to Facebook, then they’re basically allowed to do that*.

Maybe Facebook should implement a tool where users will never, ever see posts from people who live in countries other than their own.

Sounds horrific, doesn’t it?

This is the Global Age. In half a second, I can chat or play chess with someone in Russia, China, or Pakistan right now. We should be using this technology to communicate with one another, to learn what the other cares about, to learn what motivates them, and to learn that they’re people, just like us. That enormous ocean that once prevented people in the United States from recognizing that the Japanese circa 1940CE were real people was bridged by the Internet and World Wide Web, and we should be rejoicing in this, not freaking out, panicking, and seeking the isolationist approach. And let’s not mince words about this: what people are proposing is effectively isolationism.

In hindsight, I suppose it was always inevitable for the kneejerk reaction. We’ve seen it in countless other ways. Diversity and peace champions celebrate when LGBT people are allowed to exist in peace, but become regretful and remorseful when LGBT people start moving into their neighborhoods and in the vicinity of their children. Of course, similar things happened when black people began moving into certain neighborhoods, too, and when Mexican began coming into the United States. Satirical comedy South Park has drawn attention to this on at least two occasions, in the episodes “Goobacks” and “Here Comes the Neighborhood.” So it’s something we should all be familiar with.

Being able to communicate and interact with people on the other side of the planet instantly sounds great… until they post things you don’t like that allegedly influenced voters, who in turn voted in a way that you don’t like. So, once again, it absolutely must be said: the entirety of this Russian fiasco is the allegation that Russians influenced American voters. The contention has not been that “Russians influenced the election” since the audits of a few states in December of last year showed no irregularities. American voters voted for Trump. The allegation is that they voted for Trump because they were duped by Russians. So even if all the allegations are true, it changes nothing, because an American voter can take information from any source that they like and use it to cast their vote for any person that they like for any reason that they like.

Let’s imagine that the raving paranoids get their wish. Not only does Russia ban Facebook from its country (doing significant damage to the Russian people’s ability to communicate in the process, which, granted, the hysterical lunatics don’t care about anyway), but Facebook implements some sort of stern measure to keep Russian posts, where they might still exist, from appearing to the delicate, confused, sensitive, and gullible American masses. But oh no! Trump doesn’t run in 2020, and instead Ted Cruz wins the Republican nomination, whereupon he finds himself running against Joe Biden (the only standing Democrat that would have a realistic shot of winning the presidency). Unfortunately, Cruz wins the White House.

There are no Russians to use as a tool of challenging the legitimacy of Cruz’s victory and as a method of undermining his presidency. Who else might have such capabilities? The Chinese. I have very little doubt that the Chinese would be the next scapegoat. A few audits would show the voting results are more or less accurate (one has to wonder why they aren’t 100% accurate, though, given that they’re almost all electronic now), which would leave people unable to say that the election was rigged. They’ll resort to the tactic of saying that voters were misled, and it was the Chinese who convinced all the stupid, gullible people to vote for Cruz. Or perhaps the Democrat would win, and Republicans would try that tactic–with the “Obama is a Kenyan Muslim!” thing, they’ve certainly got a history of doing so.

We might go through this entire charade again, and it might culminate in the widespread elimination of China from Facebook. At that point, we could say, “Congratulations, America. You’ve effectively isolated yourself from 25% of the world’s population.” What would happen in 2024, when someone else inevitably won the White House, and the other side picked, perhaps, Brazil as the scapegoat? Or the European Union–unlikely though that is, since we have an enormous blindspot for Europe–see how Spain has invaded Catalonia and denied its right to self-governance, the most anti-democratic thing to happen in the last few decades in Europe, and yet we’ve done nothing to defend the Catalans from the occupying forces of Spain, and many people don’t even consider this a violation of democracy. Let’s face it, if Georgia declared independence from Russia and Russia invaded Georgia, Americans would be yelling and screaming about the invasion and violation of Georgian rights, and… Wait a minute.

See? It doesn’t matter how tyrannical and undemocratic Spain’s actions are. We can’t see them in the proper light, because they’re “western society,” too. So even though they have done to Catalonia exactly what we condemned Russia for doing to Georgia (and going even further, in fact, since Spanish police actually attacked people who were trying to vote, destroyed ballots, and other atrocious things), we don’t call them out on it. We also know that people in the UK, Italy, Germany, and other nations were posting on Facebook about the 2016 presidential election, and that they, too, were “disseminating information,” but we’re not freaking out about that, are we?

Russia is only our enemy if we make them our enemy. There is absolutely no reason we can’t get along with Russia as well as we do with Germany. In fact, we should get along better with Russia, seeing as Russia has never caused a world war–in fact, we once allied with them to fight those world wars–and I don’t think we’ve ever actually been at war with Russia. What is really our problem with Russia? It’s the same problem we’ll have with China in ten more years. They’ve committed two grave sins for which we cannot forgive them:

They refuse to bow to American supremacy, and they aren’t western.

That is the heart of American foreign policy. That horrible, racist, arrogant, entitled, and condescending attitude is the heart of all that the United States does on a global scale. The United States’ position on any country can be deduced by answering three basic questions:

  1. Do they bow to American supremacy? This includes taking no public issue with the USD, of course. There is almost no recovering from this–anyone who doesn’t bow to American supremacy is almost immediately an enemy, unless…
  2. Are they western and mostly white? Although we won’t seriously entertain the possibility that Greece, Germany, or the UK are truly “equal” to us, we will, for the most part, allow the European Union as a whole to consider itself equal to the United States. Individually, however, each country is considered inferior to the U.S., and we wouldn’t tolerate any suggestion otherwise. If 1 and 2 are both false, then #3 doesn’t even matter.
  3. Do they give us oil? Sadly, this is still an important consideration, although it’s not the greatest any longer. It is, however, the reason we’re always kissing Saudi Arabia’s ass, even though they don’t really bow to American supremacy.

If they don’t have the audacity to not be any color other than white European and don’t have the audacity to refuse to bow to American supremacy, then we will tolerate them in much the same way that we handle cats and dogs. They’re quaint and cute little things that exist for our pleasure, and nothing else. If they do have the audacity to not be white European, to not bow to American supremacy, and to not sell us oil, then we don’t care much for them unless we can exploit them in some other way (like how we import cheap goods from China)–and even then we don’t like them, and merely tolerate them.

Our entire foreign policy is built on American supremacy. This is alarming, since the United States is almost certain to be removed from the #1 spot technologically, economically, and military within the next twenty years.

The Russia hysteria can be briefly summarized like this:

How dare Russians act like they have freedom of speech or something, by posting things on the Internet that gullible American voters might believe!

* Let’s not spend four thousand words clarifying that statement, k? You know what I mean.

People Sometimes Do Bad Things

No one (least of all libertarians) wants mass shootings to happen. In fact, libertarians are among the loudest of the people who speak out and condemn violence, whether it’s orchestrated by random lunatics, police officers, or soldiers within the military. The libertarian position has decades of consistency and history that reveals itself to be loudly and explicitly pro-defense and anti-aggression. The means by which a person commits aggression, and the means by which a person exercises their right to self-defense, are not terribly important, as long as the Defender has weapons equal or greater to the weapons held by the attacker.

One day, that attacker will be the United States Government, and the more we allow them to disarm us, the sooner that day will come. When the Germans surrendered their weapons to the Nazi Regime, they did not expect that their government would ever turn so viciously against them, and this has been the case repeatedly throughout history: very shortly after a population has been disarmed, the illusion of government benevolence is wiped away, revealing a nightmarish, brutish totalitarian thug underneath.

In an era when Nazis are marching, when leftists ransack businesses, when the police murder more than a thousand people every year, it is lunacy to surrender our guns. Don’t the people who suggest this say that Trump is a fascist? Why in the name of all that is good would anyone surrender their means of defense to a fascist regime? It’s certainly true that a shotgun or 9mm pistol is not going to do a lot of good against the true might of the military, once it comes to that, but one stands a much better chance with even a 9mm than one does with a baseball bat. Just because you’re unlikely to defeat Mike Tyson if you step into a ring with him is no reason to have your hands cut off.

I wrote The Power Gap about exactly this reality–when push comes to shove, it’s true: we won’t have much chance against the military. They’ve already effectively gutted our defensive capabilities, and we let them do it in full violation of the Constitution. The Second Amendment protects your right to own claymore mines, drones, cluster bombs, and, yes, even nuclear weapons; it makes absolutely no distinction between one type of weapon and another type of weapon. Further, contrary to popular belief, there was a range of weapon power back then–if the founders had intended We the People to own guns of lesser power than those held by the government, that could have been achieved even in 1787. They didn’t ban cannons from the public, which had already existed for centuries, though, because they never intended the government to possess weapons that the people didn’t. To do so would defeat the entire purpose of the Second Amendment.

Imagine if, today, We the People were still under British rule and sought our independence. Would our shotguns, AR-15s, and revolvers do much good against the awesome power of the UK’s military? No. Our rebellion would be crushed, decimated within minutes as jets we couldn’t even see soared high overhead and dropped bombs on the location of our forces. Whisper, Signal, Wire, the Onion network, cryptocurrencies–even these are not yet enough to allow us to successfully circumvent their awesome technological might, not if push came to shove, because these technologies rely upon satellites that they could (and would) blast from the sky, or simply shut down. EMPs would wipe out our laptops and other communication equipment while we resorted to primitivism and what would be recognized as “terrorism” by most people, because those would be the only tactics left available against such a juggernaut. And we would ultimately be unable to do much damage to the behemoth, just as Al-Queda, ISIS, Boko Harram, and other terrorist groups have been unable to do much damage to American military power.

I’ll even cede, at this point, to let the American government regulate who can and can’t acquire things like fighter jets, nuclear weapons, cluster bombs, and the like–but to have them banned entirely makes us infants before Mike Tyson. But none of this is my point, not really. I’m just explaining my position, and the importance of having weapons capable of truly defending ourselves against the government. Our entire nation was founded by people who did exactly that. And now you want to throw away our ability to do so?

No One Wants Mass Shootings

The question isn’t, “What should we ban?” Anyone who thinks that is the question is being disingenuous. The question is “How can we stop mass shootings?” The answer is difficult to hear, but it’s one that people have to face:

You can’t.

Today, four people in China killed 29 people and injured 130. They didn’t use guns to do this. They used knives. Could it have been worse, if those four people have had guns? Certainly. But you know what else? This little incident wouldn’t have happened if the citizens of China had owned their own military-grade weapons:

It’s simply a part of the human condition. Sometimes, people do bad things. There’s never a way to know beforehand that an otherwise ordinary person is about to do something horrific and evil. Even though I’ve warned extensively about the dangers of data mining and putting every bit of information about ourselves out there into the open, because this can lead to terrifyingly accurate predictions, no predictive algorithm will ever be 100% accurate. We’re already at a point where algorithms can predict whether a person will turn out to be gay, or whether they are on drugs, and they do this with accuracy better than human intuition, but they’ll never be accurate enough. Chasing after the red herring of preventing some Ordinary Joe from losing his mind one day with 100% success will result in each and every single one of us being watched, monitored, probed, and explored by the government at all times. What you’re asking for is, and I hate to pull up the cliche, Orwellian.

Because that’s what it takes to identify which of the 60,000,000 Americans who own a gun is about to lose their mind and shoot someone–and to be sure that everyone who has a gun is registered with the government. Because…

Gun Control Requires Closed Borders

It’s not just people coming across our borders, and that’s a fact. Drugs and guns also come across our borders. If you want to control guns in the United States, the only way to do this is by ensuring that each and every gun in the nation is registered with the government, and this means preventing any new guns from coming across our borders. This is why the UK has been more successful with gun control than other nations–they’re reasonably isolated, with water on all sides. The only way to get in is through an airplane or a ship, and both of those will involve metal detectors at some point. This isn’t the case in the United States–we have lengthy borders to the north and south, and there are many ways into countries on the other side of those borders without passing through such screening processes. To control guns in the United States, you must both control the borders absolutely (again, a red herring) to ensure that no guns get across, and you must have a reasonably tough, watchful eyes on all countries in North and South America.

How effective is this? Not very. We can’t even keep guns and drugs out of our tightly controlled prisons, which are much smaller and much more contained than “the entire country.” But the prison system is the only one even theoretically capable of achieving this task, so we must turn the entire country into a prison to achieve gun control. Once this is done, you might be more successful at keeping guns out, but you won’t be successful enough to justify having imprisoned yourself and everyone in the country.

3D Printing

And even if you manage to do all of that, you have to carefully monitor anyone who is even capable of making a gun. My grandfather has made guns. Even if someone lacks that level of expertise, in modern times all they need is a 3D Printer, some aluminum, and the blueprints. This, while expensive, allows them to create their own totally untraceable gun. How do you aim to stop that? By banning 3D printers? In a world that has P2P networks and the Onion network, it’s not possible to round up and eliminate every copy of the plans to “print” a gun.

In purely logistic terms, the idea of gun control is ludicrous and impossible. It can’t be done. It’s not government regulations that are keeping nuclear weapons out of citizens’ hands–it’s how damned expensive they are. Even so, there are rumors that there are, in fact, nuclear weapons loose within the borders of the United States. We know that the U.S. government has lost some nuclear weapons. Yes, lost. As in, misplaced. Or, far more likely, sold to Pakistan or stolen.

Back to the Question

If gun control isn’t the answer, then what is? Well, as I said, there really isn’t one. People sometimes do bad things, and if they don’t have a gun, they’ll use a knife. The 9/11 hijackers, after all, did not have guns. They had airliners that they improvised into weapons by smashing them into buildings. Even Paddock had improvised explosives that he intended to use. Several people in recent years have used automobiles as the means of mass murder–are we going to ban automobiles because some lunatics notice that they can be used to murder people?

No. That’s insanity. That some lunatic used their vehicle to drive through a crowd and murder people doesn’t in any way suggest that vehicles are the problem. There’s a much larger problem, and one that we would be ignoring if we attempted to ban automobiles: humans sometimes do bad things.

Let’s Clarify Something About Casino Hotel Bellpeople

There is a lot of confusion, misunderstanding, and downright stupidity going around these days regarding the tragedy in Las Vegas as well as the expectation that someone, specifically the bellpeople, should have noticed that Paddock was carrying far too many bags and that they likely contained weapons. Seeing as I used to work at Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Tunica, Mississippi, in the hotel as a custodian, and that I regularly worked as a bellperson because the bellpeople liked to leave early (and it was the only way for me to get regular tips) and I covered for them, I think it would be a good idea for someone to clarify a few things. So take this from someone who has literally been a bellperson in a casino’s hotel.

High Rollers

Rule one of any casino is that you don’t piss off a highroller. Once upon a time, a guest requested an ashtray. I don’t remember why, but I was in a tremendous hurry, grabbed the first ashtray that I saw, and took it. A few days later, I was called not to my supervisor’s office, nor to my manager’s office, but to the office of a casino host, whereupon I was handed a written referral, a formal reprimand, for taking a high roller a dirty ashtray. The significance of this should not be lost to other considerations, but I do have to defend myself and point out that this isn’t something that I regularly would have done. I have a much better work ethic than that, and the ashtray in question had a small, gray stain in the center from where someone had routinely put out cigarettes. Yes, I should have cleaned it first–there is no doubt of that. But given that it was a small stain and the guest was immediately going to stain the thing anyway, I weighed the choices and took the risk. That proved to be a bad decision, as the guest was a high roller who expected everything to be perfect.

So let me explain what a Casino Host is. These are personalized PR people for the most part. Each one is dedicated to perhaps a dozen or so high rollers, and it’s basically their job to be the high roller’s friend. They go golfing with them, will drink at the bar with them, and will do whatever else with them is necessary to keep them happy–and therefore coming to the casino. If you’ve ever seen the show Las Vegas or whatever it was called, then you know basically what these people are and what they do–if the high roller asks for a hooker, then you find them a hooker. You just don’t talk about it and tell people that you did it.

You don’t fuck with a highroller. This is why it was the casino host who lectured me and served me the write-up, to re-stress the importance of pleasing the high rollers. It’s not like they called and requested an ashtray, and said, “Oh, and I’m a high roller, so make sure I get good service.” No, in most cases, they expect us to already know that. The systems aren’t in place for that to happen (at least, they weren’t at Sam’s Town Tunica), and so unless the person was staying in one of the deluxe suites, there was really no way to know. Best to err on the side of caution, then, and assume that any and every guest was a possible high roller. Because if that high roller threatened to leave the casino and never come back, you were fired. No questions asked, no appeal. You were gone.

The Expectations of Bell People

Now, when a high roller arrives at the hotel, you generally know, usually because there will either be a casino host already with them, because a casino host will greet them, or simply because you’re familiar with the regular high rollers. Your job depends on you being familiar with the regular high rollers. If you arrive at an elevator at the same time as one of these high rollers, and you’re carrying something that would prevent them from getting on, then you wait, and you let them go. If you’re walking past them in the hallway, you step to the side. So it’s extremely important to learn who the main regulars are, and to respect that–failing to do so, after all, is a firing. You get ridden up over an ashtray–what do you think will happen if you accidentally bump into them? Or if you make them wait for the next elevator while they were heading up to their room or down to the casino floor? You’re gone.

#1/24-TREND#2/24-120V1BOX #3/24-120sp

It’s like people think bellpeople are treating guests’ bags like Christmas presents, shaking them around and trying to guess what is inside. This is absurd. It’s the job to protect and deliver the guest’s luggage, and you are responsible for it. You specifically undertake responsibility for it. We’re not tossing them around like a golf caddy in Happy Gilmore. We’re treating each and every single bag like it could contain a $4,000 bottle of wine, because any single one of those bags could, in fact, be containing a $4,000 bottle of wine. If you break it, you’re gone. You’re fired. And you might get your ass kicked on your way out to the parking lot while carrying your termination slip. It is, after all, the host’s job to deliver 100% satisfaction to the high roller. You don’t think shit like this happens? Then you’ve never worked at a casino.

I can tell you from first-hand, real experience being a bellperson that it never once occurred to me to even be curious what a guest was bringing up to their hotel room. If you shake that bag around trying to guess what is inside, and you break something, you’re done. Even if the guest isn’t a high roller, you’re likely to be fired for that. If the guest is a high roller, then you’re certainly fired. You load up the bags, push the bags on the cart, and unload the bags as gingerly as possible, because you don’t know what is inside them. If you hear anything inside clanking around, then you’re being too rough with the bags, and you’re going to be fired before the week is over. That “clanking” is far more likely to be a bottle of wine, perfume, or cologne than it is a gun, by a ratio of millions to one, and you’ll eventually break one by acting like a little kid a few weeks out from Christmas trying to guess what is inside.

And may the gods help you if you touch that zipper. Are you out of your mind? You unzip that bag and you might as well call the police to come arrest you. If you find something “suspicious” and get security involved, they absolutely will not under any circumstances search that bag without the guest present. So congratulations–here is your pink slip when that clanking turned out to be two bottles of cologne, and you caused a freaking high roller’s bags to be searched by freaking security. You will stand there looking like an idiot as the casino host, the security guards, and the high roller pull items out of the bag one by one–and if there is a vibrator or dildo in that bag, or anything sexual for that matter, then you caused the high roller so much embarrassment that nothing will save you from a firing. When they find nothing, as they will 99.999999% of times, and the 0.0000001% of times they find a weapon it will only be to endanger others 0.0001% of the time, you will stand there looking like a paranoid, nosy, suspicious liability to the casino and its ability to keep high rollers happy.

They don’t want an employee who poses a significant risk of disappointing or hassling their high rollers.

None of this crap being directed at the hotel employees is realistic. Neither the hotel clerks, the valet drivers, nor the bellpeople are interested in finding out what is in the guest’s bags, especially not a high roller’s, and especially not a regular high roller’s. If you’re sitting there saying, “Well, clearly they should be! Because this could have been averted!” then you will never, ever own a casino or hotel–or, hopefully, have any position of authority to set policies. Because for every one random lunatic out there, you’ll end up with tens of thousands of people who are just going about their lives. Seriously, just start looking tomorrow for “suspicious behavior.” Consider each and every suspicious person you see to be a possible mass murderer just minutes away from murdering 59 people and wounding several hundred more. Do you feel like a raving, paranoid lunatic yet? Because you should. If you don’t, then consider calling the police on each and every one of those people and ensuring that they are hassled, searched, and questioned because you found it suspicious that the guy was standing around the side of the gas station for a strangely long amount of time.

That kind of rampant paranoia quickly gets you dismissed as a lunatic–as it should. It’s hysteria. Sure, it’s easy now to look back and say, “OMG, why didn’t anyone notice?” But if you think for one solitary second that, had you been the bellhop who delivered those bags, you’d have given even a moment of consideration to the possibility that he was carrying up dozens of guns and untold ammunition, then you are, without a doubt, full of shit. Because you wouldn’t have. It is lunacy to suggest that one would have been that attentive, that suspicious, that rough with the guest’s bags, that paranoid of a high roller, and that hysterical about the behavior of someone you saw fairly often. It is abject, hysterical lunacy.

And Another Thing

If you think that it’s even possible to ban guns of any time, then you are badly out of touch with the capabilities of modern technology. Guns can be 3-D printed now, and this has been true for a few years. It is not possible to ban something that can be created spontaneously by unskilled laborers from raw materials that are far too useful to ban. To ban guns in 2017 CE, you’d have to also ban 3D printers and aluminum. I hope it’s not necessary to point out to anyone that banning 3D printers or aluminum is a fool’s errand, and something that would never, ever happen. You can buy a 3D printer and the plans for a gun, and you can do it all in basically untraceable cryptocurrencies. Come join us in the future; the technology here is jaw-dropping.

And unstoppable.

Oh, and LITERALLY Hitler Trump?

If you think Trump is LITERALLY Hitler, then why in the name of sanity would you want to disarm anyone? You do realize that guns are literally (in the literal sense of the word, not the figurative sense of people who say Trump is LITERALLY Hitler) the ways that we resist fascism, right? If a fascist dictator actually took over, you wouldn’t be able to vote them out of office. You would need guns. Not just any guns, either–good ones. Assault rifles, at a minimum. Realistically, you’d also need tanks, drones, cluster bombs, and, yes, nuclear weapons. I can promise you this: an American citizen who owned a nuclear weapon would be the very last citizen to be killed by the American government. Why do you think North Korea wants one so badly?

The liberal position on this whole thing makes absolutely no sense to me.

  1. Trump is LITERALLY Hitler.
  2. The police are brutal murderers who unfairly target minorities and are unaccountable.
  3. We should let LITERALLY Hitler tell the unaccountable police to take all the defenses away from the minorities.

Am I missing something? Besides the emotional motivations that allow them to believe all these things because they want to really, really hard, and facts and logic be damned? Conservatives are no better, of course, and many are now stepping up to say that bump stocks should be criminalized (though half of them have no idea what a bump stock is, or only know because they read a hysterical lunatic article in USA Today about how they are responsible for 97.3% of all kitten murders). Hell, Ben Shapiro said that they should be outlawed while at the same time he admitted that this wouldn’t keep them from making their way into the hands of mass murderers. So… Um… What is the point, then?

If one puts the basic liberal position, as I’ve recounted above, into logical form, it creates an inescpable conclusion: liberals are racists who want minorities to be defenseless while they are murdered by police. In other words, liberals’ own positions suggest that they want a fascist dictator in power who uses the police to murder minorities:

  1. Trump is LITERALLY Hitler.
  2. The police unfairly murder minorities.
  3. The only defense against someone with a gun is a gun (hence, why we send armed police officers to take down shooters, not people wielding knives).
  4. Therefore, if we want minorities to be defenseless against LITERALLY Hitler and the police who unfairly target them, we must take their guns away.

But I’ve now let this derail the post away from the main point, which is that people are forming completely unrealistic expectations of what bellpeople do.

Bad Apples & Peer Pressure

Americans continue to underestimate peer pressure, but I’m not sure that there is a manipulation force in the west that is more powerful than that of peer pressure. In fact, the dangers of peer pressure are ones that I constantly watch out for; as I’ve said countless times, it will only take one drunken idiot jokingly saying, “We should teach that fag a lesson” for it to grow out of control. We all know how it will play out next: his friends will agree, and the next thing you know they’re on their way to my house with chains and bats, and the first drunken idiot’s reservations about it are kept quiet.

I think it was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that Dumbledore remarked that standing up to one’s friends is among the most difficult things that a person can do, and this remains true today. Yet I’m seeing a lot of condemnation for the cops who stood around and did little, or nothing, to stop the arresting asshole from being an arresting asshole.

Absolutely, yes–that was wrong of those officers. But let’s not pretend like most of us would have done otherwise in that position. The overwhelming majority of us would have stood around silently, keeping our reservations quiet. The top-right officer, who you can see in the video putting his hand on the asshole and attempting to calm him, is the only one who did something to try to calm the situation, and I daresay that it was far more than what 99% of people would do.

We all like to think we’re immune to peer pressure. But we’re not. Because he says it infinitely better than I can, take a few minutes to watch this short video on conformity by therapist and psychologist TheraminTrees:

This is an observed phenomenon that affects the majority of people.

It’s easy to stand there and condemn the cops for doing nothing. Yet how many of us have stood and watched a fight play out, and one person be kicked in the head while they lie on the ground? You know what you see when you watch the video of the nurse being arrested, and everyone else standing around and watching?

Notice all the people standing around, watching, as “a few bad apples” engage in being bad apples. Those “good apples” in Antifa–they’re doing nothing to put a stop to this, to calm the situation, to de-escalate it. I’m not ripping on Antifa; the exact same thing is seen in the cop video, or in any video of a mob targeting a single person. The horrific murder of Kelly Thomas certainly applies. You’re watching animals–bloodthirsty predatory animals–who smell blood circle around and pounce on their target.

I remember being in high school, my ninth grade year, when a friend of ours wanted to put together “a gang.” I don’t remember what he called it, but it wasn’t “gang,” though it had the same effect. Naturally, we all agreed, and the rule was anyone who wanted out had to fight the guy who put it together. None of us took it seriously, of course. Then one guy said he wanted out. They fought in the locker room of the Fieldhouse. These two large dudes shoved each other through lockers while everyone else watched. No one moved to stop it. No one went to get the coaches. No one jumped in, because these two behemoths would have crushed most people purely by accident. But there were more than enough of us to rally together and break up the fight.

And none of us did.

On September 11, 2001, a number of planes were hijacked by a relatively small number of people. The passengers, despite being numerous enough to overwhelm the hijackers, consistently did nothing, in at least three out of four of the alleged hijackings*. Because it’s not just a simple matter of “Hey, everyone, we can take these guys! We can put a stop to this.” Anyone who thinks it’s that simple has never been in such a situation.

The reality is that, even if “everyone else” joins in, that first person who acts is as good as dead. Even if five other people would have jumped in and overpowered the hijacker and his box-cutter (or whatever), the first person who jumped for the hijacker was still dead. Of course, in the grand scheme, they were all dead, weren’t they? Surely we have to wonder why, once it became clear that they were all going to die, they did not take over the plane? It was not cowardice; they were not cowards. No, it’s too easy to call them cowards, but that doesn’t carry water. If you tell an animal they’re about to die, they’ll not passively submit.

The answer is more insidious and more dangerous: peer pressure.

Further, we have to ask ourselves what would have happened if one of the cops had moved forward to put a stop to it? Even though it’s pretty clear from the video that most of the cops present had quiet reservations (anyone familiar with body language can see this), only the one guy did anything about it. What if he had done more? He’d have been fired, or at the least reprimanded for questioning another officer’s authority during an arrest. You know how a mother occasionally says to the father, “How dare you challenge me in front of the kids?” or how the father says that to the mother? It’s the same thing here.

Good apples and bad apples is too simplistic of a view. It’s not that simple. There are good apples (yes, coming from me), and you can often see their reservations about how things are developing. It’s easy to criticize them for not stepping forward and putting a stop to the bad apples’ bullshit, but this criticism drastically underestimates the power of peer pressure–the same power that caused the Salem Witch Trials, the anti-clown hysteria of last year, the anti-Russian hysteria, the current Neo-Nazi hysteria. The same power that causes peaceful Antifa protestors to stand around and do nothing as their comrades pile on single individuals and beat them.

We can’t address this quickly or easily. We have to go to the source, and the source is peer pressure. It takes far more forms than the simple “Ah, you know you want to smoke this marijuana” indicated by afterschool specials. Watch the video I linked to get a more complete picture of what, exactly, peer pressure can do–what that innate desire to conform to others can do. It’s powerful.

And it’s the problem.

* Don’t get me started.

Debate on the Nature & Scope of Self-Defense

Friday night, I debated with Matt Kuehnel of “Dankertarians,” who run the website https://dankertarians.com. I don’t really follow the site or the page, but I think they make memes or something. I’m not entirely sure. Matt is a hard-left leaning libertarian of the anarchist persuasion and calls himself a Libertarian Socialist. From my reading of Libertarian Socialism, it’s basically anarcho-communism by a different name. C’est la vie, it’s not important.

After we’d each been cross-examined, we featured Will Coley of Muslims 4 Liberty to talk about his MALIC center project, where he is opening a mosque and interfaith place of worship in Keene, New Hampshire to serve the community there. As a fun bonus, it is opening within five miles of where now felon Chris Cantwell lives. The project has been funded well, but it could use your support, and not just to make a Nazi cry by having a mosque open up in his backyard; even as an atheist, I’m fully on-board with the project. You can find it here, and I hope that you can throw $5 his direction.

I took basically the position that you’ve heard me describe before: there are limits to what is and isn’t self-defense–objective criteria by which we determine an act was self-defense. This is critically important, because saying “I was defending myself” is not just an excuse for one’s own actions; it’s an accusation of criminal behavior. In order for me to be “defending myself,” the person attacking me must be guilty of a crime–assault, battery, etc. Yet this person has the right to be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty (socially or legally–as I reminded Matt several times throughout the debate, we’re not talking about law as much as we are social custom and what is right). If my claim of self-defense is to hold up, I must prove beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt that the person against whom I defended myself was guilty of a crime. This often gets lost in the self-defense debate, but there’s never just one person: both sides are prosecutor and defendant, and both must be presumed innocent.

Anyway, all that said, I was really rusty, and it showed. I haven’t formally debated anyone in years. And after all the bitching about formality, wouldn’t you know it? It was I who cross-examined someone when I shouldn’t have. Anyway, the debate weighs in at just over an hour, and we take questions at the end, so I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for watching.

A Letter to Glenn Beck

While doing my usual “scroll through Facebook to make sure the world still exists” thing this morning, I stumbled across two interesting things from the very same source: The Blaze. For those who don’t remember, The Blaze is a cable news network started by former Fox host Glenn Beck, a Mormon with a decently good head on his shoulders, but with a lot of socially conservative leanings that I can’t get on board with. Conservatism, as we understand it in the U.S. today, conflicts with itself–they want “small government,” except that they want the government to impose social conservatism.

First I saw this well-phrased, well-written emotional appeal to the American public to stop the divide, to reach across the aisle, and to heal the country:

Well, I’m sorry, Glenn, but you don’t get to be the Voice of Reason right now.

I’ve noticed many people on the left and right pulling this schtick, where, after years, if not decades, of peddling divisiveness and hysteria (remember The Blaze and Michelle Bachman’s attempts to link President Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood?) and then, when you see that the mess you’ve been creating is getting ready to implode or explode, pull a 180 and try to take the highroad, saying, “We have to stop this!”

You. We have to stop you.

You, Glenn Beck. You, Rachel Maddow. You, Milo Whateveranis. You, The Young Turks. You people now trying to act like this mess isn’t of your making–you are the ones who must be stopped, because this mess is of your making.

This random guy being attacked by his own allies because of his appearance? You created this. You paved the road here, you sat us down in the vehicle, and you drove along that road until we reached this point. You did it knowingly and deliberately, to boost your ratings, and now you’re saying “No, we shouldn’t be divided. We’re all humans”? Where was that spiel when you were trying to link Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood?

You monsters did this. You created the circumstances, you lied, you manipulated the facts, and you misled everyone, waiting to release critical information until the most opportune moment, and this hysteria that you’ve created is a direct result of all of that. I wrote about how the news purposely and deliberately withheld information about rotting farms across the country until the most opportune time, and they decided that time was when they could blame it on Trump’s immigration policies instead of droughts, wildfires, and government interventions paying farmers to grow crops regardless of whether the crops survive. All of this has been happening for years. But now that the media can blame it on Trump and ask if he’s going to claim responsibility for the famine–because, yes, people really are that hysterical–we hear about it.

And what about the fact that critically important news items seem to pop up and vanish just as quickly, keeping the masses in a paralytic state of paranoid fear? This was the entire point of your attempts to link Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood. You know it, I know it, and everyone knows it. You rode that “Obama is a Muslim Kenyan” line every bit as hard as Donald Trump. In fact, I lost a longtime friend with whom I used to play in a rockband, because of his constant peddling of Glenn Beck bullshit, telling me that I needed to be afraid of the Muslims who were infiltrating our government. You did that, Glenn. You took over his mind and replaced his rationality with fear by exploiting his vulnerabilities.

And now you want to say “We’re all humans”?

No, because you’re not. You’re not a human. You’re an immoral monster. You’re a disgusting, mutant salesman obsessed with your sales numbers, and you didn’t give a damn how much damage you cause to humans while you attempt to sate your ravenous hunger.

The alt-right for years, Glenn–for years has been calling Obama a Muslim and a Kenyan hellbent on destroying America from within. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you have a documentary that asserts that very thing. You can’t just distance yourself from it now that it’s grown beyond your control, because you planted the seeds that became that tree. And you’re still doing so, you slimy toad.

What is this shit, Glenn? That article was released yesterday. Yesterday, Glenn! On your website.

This diehard, rightist propagandist, wacky, inaccurate, nonsensical article propagating the notion that transsexualism is a new thing that should be condemned rather than allowed appeared yesterday, 24 hours ago, on your website. And now you want to say “We’re all humans”? What about transsexuals like me, Glenn? Are we “all humans” too? Because this article on your website from yesterday suggests otherwise. “Trans people should get back in the closet and shut up,” is what this article from yesterday on your website asserts.

You want to dance in Romulan territory while proclaiming your neutrality, and it doesn’t work that way. Libertarians are in the neutral zone. You, though? You cast your lot with the Romulans a long time ago, just as the leftists cast their lot with the Federation. And I’m over here like, “No… Why did we let people like Glenn Beck push this to the point of war?”

Because you did, Glenn. You and the leftwing media both. You did this.

Now we jump from war with Syria (which, it’s time to confess, we are fighting) to war with North Korea to trans military bans to Nazis to possible trade wars with China to raging anarcho-communists in the blink of an eye. You won’t let people sit down and take a deep breath and remind themselves that “We’re all humans,” because you’re too busy peddling fear trying to keep their eyeballs glued to their television screen and listening to you prattle on about Obama’s ties to the freaking Muslim Brotherhood.

You don’t have the right to stand there and appeal for calm now, Glenn. Neither you, the Nazis, or Antifa have the right to do that. You’ve all taken your sides. Maybe you didn’t have the foresight to see where it would go. Maybe you didn’t realize what you were doing. I could accept that. But you’re still responsible for his mess. You can’t just pretend like that isn’t true. If you want to call for calm and unity now, that’s great–you can join the call of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists who have been calling for calm, liberty, tolerance, and love for years. At this point, though, you’re tainted by the circumstances you’ve created, and you owe the world an apology if you want to change your tune now.

You directly contributed to this. In fact, wasn’t it because you wanted more leniency to say wild, speculative things that you formed The Blaze in the first place? And you continue to dance in the redzone of conservatism–the very same redzone that created the alt-right that morphed into Neo-Nazism, as that lunatic article from yesterday shows. Of course, trans people have always existed, Glenn. The only question was whether we had to pretend otherwise, or whether we could embrace it. Through most of human history, it was “pretend otherwise.” This led to many suicides and many problems–like with a guy you may have heard of named J. Edgar Hoover.

If you want to appeal for calm, that’s great, but you’ve got to extract yourself from either side. You have to get out of the left versus right paradigm entirely, or you’re not appealing for calm. You’re appealing for victory for your side. “Conservatives have the high-road because conservatives are calling for calm… It’s the leftists who are calling for violence still.”

You made this bed. Either set it ablaze or lie down in it.

Conversation Control

To a certain extent, we’re all reactionaries, because we react to news as it happens to provide–ideally–insights and perspectives that other people may not have considered. I think that definition, though, is a bit too limited, because many of us are using reactionism as a way of being proactive, contradictory though that seems, because there are underlying ideas that are being spread by the reactive writings. At the same time, many of these “reactionaries” I’m talking about are doing work on the ground that is certainly proactive, aimed at creating the circumstances instead of reacting to changing circumstances. I’m pretty sure this paragraph could be deleted without changing what I’m about to say much, but I’m going to leave it in anyway, because it’s still true: we’re all reactionaries.

That said, there’s one area where are reactionism is hindering us, especially libertarians and anarchists.

If we are to be free, we must stop allowing the government and other institutional authorities to set the agenda, to set the tone of the conversation, and to set the topic of the conversation. Last week–if you can believe it was only a week ago–it was Trump’s tweet about banning transgender and transsexual people* from military service. This week, it’s North Korea and the prospect of nuclear war. It should be interesting to note that both issues received similar levels of reactions: many Facebook posts, articles, and tweets, very little real activism. In fact, it’s just a lot of reactionism. We’re letting the government and other institutions decide what we’re talking about. Instead of advocating libertarian principles, we set aside what we want to discuss so that we can jump on the bandwagon and join the conversation that the government wants us to have. Scratch all the tweets, articles, and Facebook posts about Trump’s proposed ban on transgender/transsexual soldiers, and pencil in statements about North Korea. It seems pretty likely that you’ll find the same people have produced both sets of reactive tweets, with very few exceptions, and that, perhaps, the transgender ban received more attention than the North Korea one. However, the North Korea thing is still young.

How can we ever talk about freedom and the value of liberty if we’re jumping at the state’s beck and call to discuss whatever random issue they have landed on when they spun the Wheel of Reactionary Division? If the government can control what we’re talking about so effectively, there is no reason that it should ever stop doing so, because doing so gives us the breadth that we need to discuss liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love–and the government doesn’t want that, because liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love are ideas that can destroy governments.

Imagine that you own a multi-billion dollar company, and you treat your employees like crap, because they can’t work anywhere else–you have a monopoly in the area. Some of these employees are trying very, very hard, however, to form a union that would give them the leverage needed to fight for better standards, if not eliminate the people at the top altogether. How would you handle this? Ignoring morality (since not many of us would be so callous in the first place), would you just sit there and watch them unionize and take some of the power away from you?

Of course not. And one of the most effective weapons at your disposal is Conversation Control. Create scapegoats. Blame a small segment of the workers for the plight that everyone faces. “I know it’s bad,” you might say, “and it’s those migrant workers who are responsible. Being from poor countries, they don’t care if they can’t each afford to pay a car and house note with their wages. So they’re working for less, which drives down everyone’s wages. They’re the ones responsible.” Suddenly the workers are no longer talking about unionizing, because they’ve been divided into two camps: those who defend the migrant workers, and those who fell for the scapegoating. The conversation is no longer about unionizing. It’s about a manufactured enemy.

When that enemy expires, randomly pick another one–bonus points if the new enemy has never been encountered by any worker, and demonstrably poses the workers no threat at all, such as Isis or North Korea. They’ll stop talking about the harm being done to them because you’ve presented them with some imagined harm that is multitudes worse than what they’re already facing. To prevent that from coming to fruition, they’ll stop their talk of unionizing in order to prevent those evil, distant devils from making their situation worse. Once that problem is dealt with, of course–presuming it’s not an indefinite and eternal problem, like “terrorism”–their situation will certainly have gotten worse, and, as an added bonus, they’ll accept the worsened conditions as normal, as “the price we pay for protection from those external enemies.”

We are being manipulated en masse, and it is apparently pretty easily done. The masses are marionettes being made to dance and neglecting the dance that we want and need to perform. This has to stop. We have to begin ignoring the government’s attempts to change the conversation. We have to talk about the things that we want to talk about, not simply react to whatever they want us to discuss. Otherwise, they will always set the agenda, and Liberty will never be on that agenda.

* As a transsexual person, I don’t particularly care for how “transsexual” is being pushed out of the conversation by the same people who enjoy pointing out that gender and sex aren’t the same thing; therefore, “transgender” and “transsexual” aren’t the same thing. For months now, I’ve watched my allies push me and my type out of the conversation because they mistakenly have decided, as I once did, that “transgender” is a more palatable version of “transsexual.”  But that’s incorrect.

By the way, I would ask that you consider sharing and contributing to former libertarian vice presidential candidate Will Coley’s attempt to open an interfaith religious center in western New Hampshire, which you can find by clicking that link. New Hampshire, of course, is the home of the Free State Project, and contains, currently, the highest number of Libertarian state legislators.

Everyone Wants To Be Free

No one ever said, “I really enjoy having the government telling me what to do, and I don’t think I should be free.”

Or, if they do, it’s such an extremely rare occurrence that it’s not really important to the discussion.

When people challenge the ideas of liberty and freedom, it’s never the speaker who has the problem; it’s never the speaker who can’t be trusted with liberty–it’s all those other people. It’s everyone else. I’ve talked with countless people who want freedom for themselves yet immediately recoil at the idea of freedom for others, handing out responses that range in ridiculous from “What about murderers?” to “What about those who would dump poo in your water?”

It’s telling that we’ve become so conquered by fear that we’d meet the idea of freedom with intransigence and build from the assumption that not only could someone dump poo in your water, but that it’s inevitable that someone will do so. The existence of murderers, rapists, and thieves is hardly a matter of concern to the libertarian or anarchist, because such people exist today, and all available evidence (as well as logic) suggests that the state and its laws do nothing to prevent such behavior, and instead simply exist as frameworks for punishing the behavior. Since the state has not managed to eliminate crime, it isn’t necessary for anarchists and libertarians to propose an alternate social structure that would eliminate crime before anyone can take it seriously.

It would be like if I proposed a new version of American football that has slightly different rules than the current set, and people rejected my idea on the grounds that I didn’t propose any way of preventing head injuries and brain damage caused by years of physical trauma. Even if my modified rules would reduce the number of fractures and other injuries, people would gleefully reject the proposed changes because, “What are you going to do about head injuries and brain damage?” in full disregard of the fact that their rules similarly fail to do anything to prevent head injuries and brain damage.

It’s simple mathematics to realize that something that affects two sides of an equation can be reduced. If we have an equation that reads “2x + 4y = 2x + 9,” we can immediately see that “2x” doesn’t factor into things at all–we are, instead, dealing with “4y = 9”. Crimes such as murder are never going to be eliminated from society, and we have a hundred thousand years of human history and societies that range from despotic tribes to fascist police states to serve as evidence, and not only have all of these societies failed to eliminate murder, but there is a noticeable correlation between the murder rate and the power of the state–the more powerful a state is, the higher its murder rate. It wasn’t a fluke that caused Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Lincoln, and Mussolini to murder millions of people; this is actually a feature of the state. It also remains true that no Charles Manson or Ted Bundy ever came close to approaching the murder rate of various states.

This is because society deals with murderers, rapists, and thieves before they can organize to the point that they can commit crimes against thousands and hundreds of thousands of people–unless those murderers, rapists, and thieves call themselves a government. Take, for example, the American Government, which murdered more than 1,000 Americans last year, as well as the year before (and are thus far on the path to surpassing last year’s record). Even the most barbaric and bloodthirsty mobster would look at those numbers and be impressed, because this works out to nearly three murders per day for the individual, if the person wanted to be more bloodthirsty than the government, and anyone who murdered three people each day would leave a trail of bodies and evidence that would take us directly to them for punishment. Without even including the 100,000 Iraqi civilians murdered by the American government since 2003, and the similar number of murdered civilians in Afghanistan, it’s readily apparent that if we want to reduce murder, there isn’t a better way of doing so than abolishing the government.

But these excuses for allowing the continued existence of the state persist.

The reality, however, is that the overwhelming majority of people aren’t murderers, rapists, and thieves. I cross paths with tens of thousands of people every single day, and none of them are murderers, rapists, and thieves. This notion that “It’s okay if I have freedom, but I can’t trust anyone else with it, because they might be a murderer!” is blatant fearmongering, and every bit as bad as suggesting that we should reject all refugees because one among two hundred thousand might be a terrorist, or that we should regulate immigration because one in millions may carry a deadly disease. In fact, the arguments are exactly the same:

  • “We need to have laws against open borders because some immigrants may be drug dealers, murderers, and rapists!”
  • “We need to have government, because some people may be drug dealers, murderers, and rapists!”
  • “We need to ban refugees from entering the country because some people out there are bad people and are terrorists!”
  • “We need to have government, because some people out there are bad people.”

It’s amazing how easily we recognize blatant fearmongering when we’re not the ones peddling it, and how blind we are to our fearmongering when we are.

Liberty is trust and faith in your fellow human beings, and an end to fearmongering. It’s time we stopped living in fear of everything and everyone.

The Drumhead

Anyone who has seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “The Drumhead” will probably have a pretty good idea of where I’m going with this. In the episode, a klingon happens to be a spy, and is caught–however, an accident that occurred at around the same time went unexplained, and, worried about saboteurs and collaborators, Starfleet began an investigation into the crew of the Enterprise.

What began as a seemingly justifiable investigation devolved almost immediately into a witch hunt, or, as Picard put it, a “Drumhead Trial”–a mock trial put on by a military tribunal where punishment was swift and decisive. It’s a well-known episode, and generally considered among that series best’s. It’s a pity that we learned nothing from its rather anvilicious lessons.

Consider this excerpt from someone at Fox News who was writing in defense of Trump:

That doesn’t mean that, say, Michael Flynn, who just invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying on the Hill, doesn’t have problems related to past payments from the Russians.

Er… No, Howard Kurtz, that’s not right. The way this is phrased creates the default idea that Flynn has those problems, and that his invocation of the fifth is evidence of that–otherwise, why even link these two things?

In the episode I mentioned, a young man is revealed to have lied about his heritage, having claimed to be half-Vulcan when he was actually half-Romulan, and the Romulans were essentially Star Trek’s Russians. During his publicly open interrogation, with dozens and dozens of people watching eagerly, he was asked about his true lineage, and he invoked the fifth (or, actually, Starfleet’s version of the fifth).

Immediately, the whispering and gasps rang out. Rumor swirled, and he was instantly assumed to be guilty.

Kangaroo done hung the juror with the innocent.

We would all do well to watch this tense episode once more, but allowing it to hit closer to home. You’ll see in the inquisitor none other than Democratic leadership, relentlessly pursuing every possible lead in their quixotic quest to find a collaborator or saboteur. In those nightmarish circumstances, where even Picard is ultimately brought in for questioning, even pleading the fifth becomes evidence of a person’s guilt.

The moral of the story is that we’re never more than one accident away from a witch hunt. We saw it last year when the clown sightings began–fully hysterical reactions from people over clowns who had done nothing to anyone and may very well not have existed in the first place. It’s entirely possible that there was never even a single clown, much less several, but that didn’t stop panic and hysteria from sweeping the nation: schools were locked down, clown masks were pulled from store shelves, and police investigations were launched.

Of course, we can look to an actual witch hunt if we’d like to depress ourselves, since 40,000 people were killed in puritan America for being witches–and, the reasoned mind of today understands that none of them were witches. The accusation alone branded one guilty, and often the trials involved horrific things like “Drown her. If she’s innocent, God will save her.”

Eyeballs deep in muddy water, fucking hypocrite.

I’m honestly not scared of much. I’ve had someone put a gun in my face and tell me to drop to my knees and beg for my life, whereupon I defiantly replied, “You’re gonna have to kill me, because I’m not doing that.” I’ve been left beaten and bloody in at least three parking lots. I’ve had picking up hitch hikers backfire on me in spectacular ways. But none of that scares me.

Hysteria, however… Hysteria terrifies me.

How long did McCarthy and Hoover’s reigns of terror last? There has even been talk of recognition the House of Un-American Activities. My death–who cares? It would likely be painful, but after that, over, so it’s really not something to be scared of. However, a witch hunt can go so very far beyond that–into tortured confessions, corrupt interrogators, presumed guilt rather than presumed innocence…

We played with the fire after the Orlando Shooting, as well, when people asked how this person who had been investigated three times by the FBI had been able to acquire guns. It is simply assumed, in their worldview, that a person is guilty if the FBI investigates them. Never mind that this could easily be part of the anti-Muslim witch hunt. “He was investigated three times? Then he’s guilty. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Besides, look what he did!”

Yes, but the fact that “what he did” was something he “hadn’t yet done” at the time he was being investigated is of critical importance. You can’t apply current knowledge about him to decisions people made about him in the past. And we damn sure can’t assume people are guilty just because we have an out-of-control investigatory agency that is perfectly poised to begin and instigate witch hunts.

I don’t know or care whether Flynn did whatever it is that he’s being presumed guilty of doing, and I don’t care if Trump played a role in it. Even if they do manage to demonstrate guilt (as opposed to assuming it), they still have to demonstrate why the whole thing is of any consequence at all.

Now people are talking impeachment. There’s no doubt: impeachment was on people’s minds on Election Day, as soon as the results came in. If the idea of having a hardcore religious nutjob as President sounds appealing, then, by all means, proceed with impeachment. People seem to think that we can make a Democrat president if we impeach Trump, or that we can spark an emergency election. Neither of these things will or can happen.

Kangaroo be stoned, he’s guilty as the government.

If Trump is impeached and remove from office, then Mike Pence becomes President. And any impeachment proceeding would look far more like a Drumhead Trial than anything that resembles a fair court. And, really, I think such an act could very easily spark a civil war, given that Trump has been in office barely four months and hasn’t done anything out of line with what previous presidents did. Removing the president that people chose before that president has even had the chance, in his supporters’ eyes, to do what they wanted him to do… I hope Democrats are ready for the fallout from that, because it won’t be the sunshine and daisies they seem to expect.

We have a problem, though, and the problem is fear. We are terrifyingly prone to panic, and that should be what scares us, not whatever bogeyman we’re panicking about at the given moment. Panic and hysteria shredded much of the Bill of Rights already. What is next in our witch hunt?

Issuing a Challenge to the United States

To clarify the title (originally “War With North Korea is Inevitable”), within the confines of the current U.S. foreign policy, war is inevitable with North Korea. Since it seems extraordinarily unlikely that U.S. foreign policy is going to change very much, I’m reasonably confident that war with North Korea–even if it’s been avoided this weekend–remains inevitable.

First, Kim Jong Un and North Korea aren’t going to stop working out how to make an ICBM and how to lob it at the United States.

Second, they take so much pride in their nuclear program that they would all rather die than surrender it.

Third, the United States is not going to tolerate North Korea developing a nuclear warhead ICBM.

China doesn’t have the power over North Korea that we non-North Koreans like to think they have. It’s true that China is North Korea’s primary lifeline to the world, but North Korea is notoriously defiant, even of China, and if China could tell Kim to “Just cut it out” they would have done so by now–or around the time that we sent carrier groups into the Korean Peninsula. North Korea isn’t part of China, and they don’t like to be treated as though they are–the Sino-Korea Treaty takes great care to be a mutual defense pact, and not a case of “We’re going to protect our little brother.”

While we in NATO know that Montenegro isn’t going to come to the defense of the United States if we’re attacked–and, even if they do, they can’t contribute anything of any actual significance–this isn’t necessarily true with North Korea and China. While China can undoubtedly do more than North Korea, North Korea’s capabilities aren’t inconsequential, though they are limited to that region; North Korea would be almost no help in a war against the United States (except that they’d be able to decimate South Korea), but could contribute considerably in a war against Japan or India.

Our tendency to treat North Korea like China’s little brother, quite frankly, pisses off North Korea. And, realistically, it probably should piss them off. It’s supremely arrogant of us, first of all. North Korea came as close to “kicking our asses” as any nation ever has. It’s rather like getting beat up on a playground and limping away while telling the kid who beat you up that they should be glad they’re being protected by their big brother. They have a feather in their cap that few nations can claim: they took on and defeated the United States.

There are a lot of reasons for that. Our hearts were never in it, and we had to impose the draft to get people involved–and it’s a matter of record that draftees are motivated more by the desire to get back home than to win a “righteous” battle. We ended the Korean War after only three years, making it perhaps one of the shortest wars in American history. That’s how little we wanted to fight it. We were also constrained by UN policies and regulations that, like Vietnam, seemed more designed to make the war perpetual than anything. None of this really matters, though, because the fact remains: North Korea fought us, and North Korea won.

Compare it to our involvement in World War 2, where we were ready to throw anything and everything into the war effort, and against Japan. Then, for the Korean War, we could barely muster an entire regiment of volunteers.

I was relieved today to wake up and learn that we hadn’t started World War 3 in response to North Korea’s testing of a nuclear weapon, primarily because North Korea didn’t test a nuclear weapon.

What does it really matter, though?

It has merely postponed it.

For months, indications have been that North Korea was about to test another nuclear weapon. This is why tensions have been so high–the evidence is pretty clear that we are going to attack if they do so. Satellite images routinely show the “right” activity to indicate there is about to be a nuclear test, and it’s pretty likely that Kim Jong Un backed out at the last minute precisely because of pressure from the United States and China.

But this hasn’t changed anything.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves why we care whether North Korea tests nuclear weapons. The answer is that our actions throughout the last century have left us having to look over our shoulders constantly, and the only solution we’ve found for this is to continually look over our shoulder and attack anyone we happen to see–which, of course, means that we have to spend even more time looking over our shoulder.

In less than a week, we went from “Are we about to start World War 3 with Russia?” to “Are we about to start World War 3 with China?” One gets the image of a lunatic spinning wildly in circles firing an Ak-47 at every moving shadow he happens to see, paranoid and terrified that someone is coming to get him–and, honestly, is correct that someone is coming to get him, but only because he went around shooting people like a psychopath in the first place.

From what I can tell, this madman could really use some sleep. But he can’t sleep, because he’s created so many enemies that any one of them would sneak up on him in the middle of the night and slit his throat. So the only thing he can do is continue standing and spinning, firing missiles at anything that dares move in his presence while laughing and proclaiming to the world how secure and safe he is now that he’s gone through the world and shot everyone.

I was born on a planet alongside about six billion other people. For the first few years, things seemed pretty ordinary and sane, but then I noticed something odd. These otherwise rational and loving people had the strangest tendency to wantonly kill one another.

And then I noticed something even more bizarre.

Everyone acted like it was totally normal, and as though I was the crazy one for suggesting that we stop killing one another.

We’ve been killing each other for so long that we don’t know any other way. We’re set on that path, and the idea of getting off it, for some reason, terrifies us more than the prospect of nuclear war. God forbid we try to be friends with these people. No, we’d rather risk the possibility of annihilating life on the planet. The notion of just putting down the guns scares us more than nuclear war.

Something remarkable almost happened during World War 1. We came so close to putting war behind us permanently. It marks the most tragic moment in human history, when both sides of a war realized that they didn’t hate each other and that they were brothers being pit against one another by governments. On Christmas Day in the first year of the war, Central Europe forces and Allied forces put down their weapons and met on the battlefield for a day of celebration and peace.

War ends when the soldiers decide to stop fighting.

This posed such a threat to the powers that be–the states of the world–that it was forbidden from then on, and anyone who attempted it faced treason charges. They knew the danger it posed; they knew how close we had come to permanently putting down the guns. All we had to do was make one more decision–“When the sun rises tomorrow, we won’t resume shooting.”

The courage it took those soldiers to rise out of the trenches and walk toward the opposing side was more courage than anyone else had ever displayed in human history. There was every possibility that the other side would seize the opportunity to kill them. “They’re coming at us without weapons! The fools! Kill them! Kill them all!”

But that didn’t happen. They put down their own weapons, and the two sides met in a scene virtually guaranteed to bring tears to any peace lover’s eyes. We were right there. We had put down our guns and approached the other side, trusting that they would accept the gesture of peace and that it wouldn’t prove to be the dumbest thing anyone ever did. And our enemies rose and met the challenge. We came so close to learning it all right then–war is a racket of states. They can order us to kill each other all they want, but they can do nothing if we refuse to. And if we refuse to, we learned on that day, then the other side will refuse to.

It just takes that first courageous gesture of peace, that first person putting down the gun and stepping forward with a hand extended.

The next thing you know, generals and politicians throughout the world are freaking the fuck out because they’ve lost control of the minds of the soldiers and can no longer tell them to go and kill one another.

I challenge the United States to do this today.

Disarm.

If you expect to find a bogeyman pointing a gun at you in every shadow, then that is what you will find.

So disarm completely. Dismantle our warships, our jets, our bombs, our nuclear warheads. Disarm and dismantle everything. Show how courageous you are. Be like those soldiers in World War 1. It doesn’t take courage to continue maniacally shooting at everything that moves. What took courage is throwing up one’s arms, rising out of the trench, and approaching the other side without weapons drawn.

If we put down our weapons, they’ll put down theirs.

It’s time to end the worldwide Mexican Standoff.

And if our government doesn’t do it? Then American soldiers need to just go home. Just put down the weapons and go home. They can’t imprison all of you, because the only people who would imprison you would also have put down their weapons and gone home.

Is it unlikely? Perhaps.

Is it impossible?

The first Christmas of World War 1 suggests that it isn’t. It just takes courage.