Why Anarchism Is Going Nowhere, Example No. 1232

Check out this post from Tom Knapp about a pair of British criminals: "Folks, this is not an edge case — “fire in a crowded theater” or “fighting words” spoken while brandishing molotov cocktails. It’s a clear matter of people sitting in front of computers, typing things intended to be read by other people sitting in front of other computers."

And what were they typing? Well, they were organizing looting and riots! In other words, they were using Facebook, "typing things intended to be read by other people sitting in front of other computers," in order to organize those others to maybe beat up some Pakis, smash shop windows, burn cars, and spread fear and mayhem. It sure isn't an edge case! And when the state steps in and protects us from these thugs, Tom is outraged!

The disconnect from reality is just stunning.


  1. Thanks for the love, Gene. You're my compass.

  2. Gene,

    What, did you think I was being sarcastic or something? I wasn't.

    You linked to the article, which is enough in itself to merit appreciation.

    That your brief critique is orthogonal to the article's actual content in a way which will allow even the casual reader to dismiss your argument is a bonus!

  3. I didn't know, but I wasn't!

    What is this orthogonality of which you speak?

  4. This casual reader clicked through to the link, and thinks Gene was spot on.

  5. Yes, Edward, Tom says that their being arrested is an outrage; I say it was OK. (I don't know if the prison term was perhaps too harsh: I'd say it depends on how much planning they had actually done.)

    It would seem like these two arguments are clashing head on, and not at all orthogonal to each other. So I'm really not sure what Tom means.

  6. Gene,

    One of the orthogonalities I was referring to has either been edited out of your post, or I imagined it in the first place: I could have sworn you alleged that I "defended" the guys.

    The second orthogonality remains.

    You're treating the episode as one in which the intent of the state is to "protect" people from criminals.

    I'm treating the episode in which the intent of the state is to "send a message" regarding the use of social media.

  7. 'I could have sworn you alleged that I "defended" the guys.'

    I don't think I edited that out, but if it had been in, it would have been correct, in a very ordinary meaning of the word: The guy who goes into court and says "These blokes should not serve time" is said to be *defending* them. In that sense, you certainly *are* defending them. (I'm not claiming you think what they did was swell!)

    "I'm treating the episode in which the intent of the state is to "send a message" regarding the use of social media."

    Well, in that message is "Don't use social media to organize criminal conspiracies," that is a great message, and one that does defend the public!

  8. Gene,

    If the point had been to send the message "Don't use social media to organize criminal conspiracies," there were probably 10,000 instances in which an overt act actually took place and could have been prosecuted.

    That the Crown either had no overt act to prosecute, or chose not to prosecute it, indicates that the message was directed at anyone who might attract the state's ire, and comes down to, as Arthur Silber put it "Just to be on the safe side, you probably want to shut the fuck up. For the rest of your life."

  9. Sure Tom. Seeing someone getting prosecuted for trying to organize a session of looting is certainly going to stop someone from writing a article saying, e.g, "I believe the Iraq War is bad."

    Paranoia does not an argument make.

  10. "That the Crown either had no overt act to prosecute..."

    They most certainly did. It was conspiracy to loot and riot.

  11. Well, Tom, Silber's post was far more insane and crackpot than yours, I must admit!

  12. Gene,

    I am not familiar with British law.

    In American law, the crime of conspiracy does not consist in merely conferring with, or announcing to, others, the intent to commit a crime.

    If you and I comment to each other here about how we're going to get together and rob a bank, there's no "conspiracy."

    It only becomes a "conspiracy" when I go buy a couple of ski masks, or when you rent a garage a block from the bank to hide the getaway car in. That is the "overt act" that turns it from idle talk and into a conspiracy.

    There were thousands of actual rioters actually rioting (i.e. committing overt acts), and apparently many of them were using social media in their conspiracies to do so.

    Once again: What separates this particular case from those is that these guys apparently -- at least according to the charges -- did nothing but make stupid public statements, and they didn't even do so in an environment where those statements were potnetially immediately incendiary ("fire in a crowded theater" or "fighting words").

    As many cases as there were of actual criminals committing actually crimes, the only logical explanation for the state's actions and the obvious campaign to highlight those actions (how many real rioters have you heard about being sentenced?) is that a message was being sent regarding speech on social media, not regarding rioting.

  13. Anyone who links to one of my desert-island songs couldn't be more kind in his cruelty. Now if only a future post sees Gene linking to "Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman,


    my life as a commenter here will be complete. "And you know it's right..."

  14. Hmm, Tom, interesting. In England and Wales the law is:
    "...if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions, either -

    (a) will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement, or
    (b) would do so but for the existence of facts which render the commission of the offence or any of the offences impossible, [added by S.5 Criminal Attempts Act 1981]
    he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question."

    So the issue would be whether or not anyone agreed with them. (E.g., posted in response, "Yes, let's!") If so, they clearly are guilty under the above.

    Arrests: Over 2700 and counting.

  15. Gene,

    So, they might well have been guilty of conspiracy, had they been charged with and tried for conspiracy.

    But, the Crown chose not to charge them with, or try them for, conspiracy.

    Instead, the Crown chose to charge them with, try them for, convict them of, and sentence them to four years in prison for, posting on Facebook.

    To the extent that prosecutions serve a signaling function, this was obviously not an attempt to send a message about rioting or conspiracy, but to send a message about posting on Facebook.

    Which, of course, was exactly the point of my post, and something you have yet to refute, or even deign to really address.

  16. "Instead, the Crown chose to charge them with, try them for, convict them of, and sentence them to four years in prison for, posting on Facebook."

    Well, I haven't addressed that "point" because I did not think anyone could possibly think that! Of course they were not tried for or convicted of "posting on Facebook" anymore than someone who breathes while robbing a bank is convicted for "breathing."

    Let's judge this by your own standards, Tom. Do you have any idea how many British people who posted on Facebook the last few weeks were *NOT* tried or convicted of anything?

    I am not a British barrister. Whether this was in exact conformance with British law I couldn't say -- but I believe that neither can you. (If there is no real British law covering this, then I am all in favor of releasing them.) The real issue here is, "Is this the sort of thing that it is outrageous to go to jail for?"

    And that sort of thing is not, "Posting on Facebook," but "Attempting to incite rioting and looting."

    You say it is, and I say it isn't.

  17. Gene,

    You write:

    "The real issue here is, 'Is this the sort of thing that it is outrageous to go to jail for?'

    And that sort of thing is not, 'Posting on Facebook,' but 'Attempting to incite rioting and looting.'

    You say it is, and I say it isn't."

    I'm not sure that you would uniformly say it isn't.

    As a matter of fact, people with shiny badges and titles like "Deputy Assistant Secretary of [insert function here]" publicly incite looting in their own countries and rioting in other countries on a fairly regular basis, and I don't recall you ever suggesting that they should go to jail for doing so.

  18. "publicly incite looting in their own countries and rioting in other countries on a fairly regular basis, and I don't recall you ever suggesting that they should go to jail for doing so."

    Looting: Never heard of such a case. If you are trying to be cute and contend that taxes are looting, then obviously you are begging all the questions between our positions.

    Rioting: If international law develops to the extent that there could be reasonable procedures for prosecuting such cases, I think that would be fine. (I certainly think it would be acceptable to arrest, try, and convict Bush II for Iraq!)

    In the absence of such laws, what do you propose be done? (And note: I have said quite clearly above that if the Facebook thugs did not actually violate any British laws, I think they should go free, however odious their actions.)

  19. I'm not trying to be "cute" by "suggesting" that taxes are looting. That they are is a fact beyond any shadow of a doubt. Your favored death cult's attempts at self-justification are too trite to constitute a "position."

  20. Sure, Tom. I'm in a "cult" along with 99.9% of the world's population, and you are in a non-cult along with .1%. My "trite" position is shared by Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, St. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Locke, Hobbes, Hegel, Madison, Mill, and Mises, while your non-trite position is held by you and Rothbard.

    I'm due back on earth now, Tom.

  21. Gene,

    Yeah, I'm a cultist too. But not a Rothbardian cultist.

    Some side notes:

    I'm not really sure Jesus is on your side here -- "render unto Caesar" seems to have been delivered with more than a little bit of sarcasm.

    As for Hobbes, my family's hobbyist genealogist places him in our family tree, and I consider undoing the effects of his life's work, as much as I can, to be my own life's work.

    I reject your contention that there's a 99.9% to .1% adherence disparity, for the simple reason that there's a difference between clergy and laity, devout and "jack" adherents, etc.

    Yes, the vast majority of humans live under states and accept that, but a greater percentage than 0.1% do so grudgingly/involuntarily, and even more who do so cheerfully don't buy into the miracle of transubstantiation of the ski mask.

  22. Yes, Gene, I've read that post. I'll keep my comments here for the moment, because I'd like to see how that comment thread develops without my input. So:

    - The polar analogy is pretty cool. Congratulations on coming up with it.

    - In my experience, you're right -- most people are nowhere near the poles. Most people are not ideologues or fundamentalists

    - However, I think that the point at which most people stop thinking of government as a looting street-gang, although perhaps not in those exact terms, is well south of the equator.

    Most people, in my experience, are a lot like the guy I knew growing up who ran a gravel quarry and hauling business. He would never have read Rothbard or Rand, and he probably would have furrowed his eyebrow at you if you suggested abolishing the state ...

    ... but as a PRACTICAL matter, if he could keep more of his money and give the state less by hauling that gravel for cash, he'd not only do it but give you a discount for saving him the tax money.

    And if you asked him why, he'd tell you that those [expletives] in Washington were nothing but a bunch of crooks stealing his [expletive] money.

    I think most people are like that to a fairly high degree, even those who would blanch at the polar concept of anarchy.

    Without calling Mormonism a cult, let me cast this in Mormon terms. There are millions of people formally affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I'd be surprised if as many as 50% of them would be reasonably classifiable as "devout," and if 10% actually paid their full tithe, had and used a temple recommend, wore the special underwear 24/7, etc.

    Of the 50% who are not devout, most of them are probably Mormons because it was good enough for dad and grand-dad, etc. They might make a donation to the church when they feel social pressure to do so, they might tolerate an occasional visit from the bishop or stake president to "check on your spiritual welfare," and they might make it to church semi-regularly because there's a certain established social minimum of doing so if you want to have a job and such in a Mormon community.

    When I treat you as a death cultist, I'm not saying anyone who doesn't advocate anarchist revolution is a death cultist.

    But I'd classify those who know the history of the state as well as you do, and still don't just mouth the popular scripture but genuinely believe in -- or at least actively preach -- the miracle of the transubstantiation of the ski mask, as bona fide cultists, just like I'd classify a bishop, a stake president, a member of the 70 or the 12, or a member of the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as a bona fide Mormon believer, much more so than one of the previously described "jack Mormons."

  23. Wow. It's hard to imagine how someone could ever fall for this. What is it like having at one time been there?


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