A Word of Caution

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

I allow a pretty free range of discussion in the comments section. I generally only delete comments that are gratuitously bigoted or gratuitously insulting. That is, if you make an actual point, I’ll let most things stand. I’ve only banned about 20 people in nine years, most for habitual trolling.

All of that said, I won’t tolerate death threats. This site hits public officials pretty hard, I like to think only when it’s merited. Threatening to kill a public official is never merited. It isn’t an argument, and it taints everything we try to do here. Do it on this site and you’ll be banned. Immediately.

Something else: I’m not sticking my neck out for you. When you make a death threat here, you put me in potential legal jeopardy. In most cases, I’d go to jail to protect a source who gives me information that’s important to a story. I won’t do that for you. If you abuse the platform I’ve provided for you by playing Internet tough guy in a way that results in me getting harassed by Johnny Law, I’ll turn over your IP address and any other identifying information I have on you in a heartbeat.* If that makes me a hypocrite or a bad libertarian (and I don’t think it does either), so be it. These are the conditions for you commenting here.

I don’t want to give the impression that this is common. It isn’t. But it has happened twice in the last week. So I want to be sure we’re clear.

(*Note: I’m only talking about actual death threats, here. I’d of course oppose any government attempt to get identifying information for other purposes, though I doubt it would ever happen)

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85 Responses to “A Word of Caution”

  1. #1 |  delta | 

    Thumbs-up.

  2. #2 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I don’t advocate killing any of the swinish government pussguts that make life so miserable under our present legal system. What I do advocate is establishing a legal hunting season on all elected officials, appointed chairwarmers, and GS 10-and-ups. Say, one month, with a reasonable bag limit and a large license fee.

  3. #3 |  Radley Balko | 

    C. S. P. Schofield:

    That isn’t helpful. Seriously. What’s the point in making a comment like that?

  4. #4 |  EH | 

    CSP: Did you steal that from an 18th century screed?

  5. #5 |  Les | 

    I have a feeling CSP is making a joke, but comedy is hard.

  6. #6 |  Nando | 

    CSP,

    I’m a “GS 10-and-up”, so you want to open a legal hunting season for me? Why, may I ask?

    Radley,

    I agree with your original post and would do the same in your shoes. Anyone who has to resort to death threats over a difference of ideas is a moron and thus won’t be contributing anything useful to the discussion so they might as well be banned.

  7. #7 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Just to be clear, are motor-boating threats still OK for Selma Hayek? I haven’t made any, but then again I haven’t published my position AGAINST them either.

    “…my position against them” NICE!

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Libertarians make up such a small fraction of the population that we are perceived as radicals. Because of that, if we make threats, we will be placed in the same category as the Unabomber.

    I personally try to limit my rhetoric to sarcastic ridicule, although admittedly that doesn’t do much to advance the cause either…

  9. #9 |  Ryan Moore | 

    Do what you have to do, Radley. Your work here is of great importance and shouldn’t be shut down due to some twat acting tough. You’re the Lex Luther of justice!!!

  10. #10 |  downdurnst | 

    I don’t think that makes you a hypocrite at all – I have no love for the gubbermint (I’m one of those crazy anarchists that make you libertarians uncomfortable at conventions ;) ), but that being said the whole POINT of libertarianism at it’s base is non-aggression. Death threats _do not_ fit with someone who claims to live by the non-aggression principle.

    In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to turn over the IP to the authorities, because said authorities wouldn’t have any authority (say that 3 times fast), but it’s not a perfect world and we have to work within the confines of what we have.

    As an anarchist, would I call 911 if someone was breaking into my house? Probably. I would like to have the legal ability to simply deal with the intruder myself, but as I really don’t (except under very narrow legal lines), the government is my only option.

    So are you a bad libertarian for working with the government in situations like this? No, since there’s really no ALTERNATIVE to the government.

  11. #11 |  Medicine Man | 

    Twice in the last week? Against whom?

  12. #12 |  Psion | 

    Good. Very good.

    A lot of your posts here boil my blood, Radley, and I often entertain fantasies of dispensing harsh justice upon various elected and unelected officials. But it’s premature to actually sanction assassination when there’s still plenty of opportunity for public pressure and elections to correct the situation. Not as fast as any of us would like, but …

    The thing to remember is that these bureaucrats who abuse their positions and authority are lessons — lessons not to trust authority, but to question it. We’re in the mess we’re in today because the press has slacked off on its job of reminding us that cops and politicians are humans with the same shortcomings all the rest of us have. None should be trusted absolutely and all should be watched with jealous scrutiny.

    Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where cops and politicians get pushed back into their proper roles in a free society. Sites like this one, open discussion, ubiquitous cameras, and the Internet’s inability to forget are helpful tools that give free citizens the leverage they need to accomplish the goal. The Tanya Treadways and Janet Napolitanos of this country can be removed from their positions without the need for bloodshed or death threats. It’d be nice to have tarring and feathering involved, but loss of power and a humiliating headline will do.

    But I still wonder: when is it appropriate to start talking about an armed uprising? Where is that line and how do we know when we’ve crossed it? How did the founding fathers know that line had been crossed, even though the majority of the population still supported the British? An anti-authoritarian agenda will never have the support of everyone, so do we still have the right to revolt if things go too far?

  13. #13 |  Psion | 

    Hmmm … that last line could be interpreted as a dig against Radley if read wrong. I’m speaking generally, not asking when Mr. Balko will lower his guard.

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Some time ago I posted an article on my website critical of a claim made by an anti-prostitution group that the average age for entry into prostitution in the US is 12.

    When a link was posted on the group’s facebook page, I started getting a lot of comments in support of the claim. One commenter listed his website as http://deathbringer which, like here, doesn’t show up unless you mouse over his name. I was a little shocked by it. It wasn’t like I was promoting abortion or waging war on Christmas or something.

    Threats are often used as examples to both justify and oppose the concept of banning anonymous internet posting. I’m an advocate of permitting anonymity. Banning anonymous posting won’t rid the world of kooks, but I rather like them not being able to easily find out where I live…

  15. #15 |  Joe | 

    One of my favorite Christmas traditions was my uncle loosing his temper and threating to kill all his kids and all his nieces and nephews.

    Actually not all of them, mostly me and my cousin. We were young agitators! It is a gift.

    Good times. Good times.

  16. #16 |  Joe | 

    I should say one of my favorite childhood memories. My uncle is sadly gone now. I miss him. As for agitating at family affairs, I am now learning true meaning of Karma through my own kids, neices and nephews.

  17. #17 |  Mario | 

    To those making death threats, just remember: if you claim the authority to kill a resident of the United States without a trial and conviction, you’re as bad as the president.

  18. #18 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Also, for the record, I think there’s a difference between an actual threat and simply expressing a lack of concern for someone’s misfortune. In other words, I would be far more concerned if someone told me they were planning to hunt me down than I would be if someone simply said they wouldn’t piss on me if I were on fire (which, because of my warm charming personality, has actually happened more than once).

  19. #19 |  Joe | 

    I am not making light of your post Radley, it is a serious issue. I agree with your position 100% when it comes to stuff like that (not that you need me to agree, but I do). I am also glad it is rare.

  20. #20 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    BTW, are the thumb up and thumb down buttons coming back someday?

  21. #21 |  Pete | 

    We should kill anyone who makes death threats.

  22. #22 |  Pete | 

    Seriously, though, I’m still trying to map out where I am politically. I think I identify most closely with libertarian because while I agree with some of the ideals of the ‘pure’ versions of the republican and democratic parties, the other stuff (kill all homofags, invade all brown people with resources we want vs regulation bonanza and do-what-we-say, to give some examples) I just absolutely cannot identify with.

    So what I’m saying is I’m not a cut-from-the-mold libertarian – like Radley says, it just sort of happened to me. But that said, I get the idea that a true libertarian would view assassination as anathema.

    And while I will respect Radley’s property rights in this case and not make any death threats, I will say that the world would be a much better place if certain people showcased on this site were shuffled off a bit sooner than fate has in mind.

    But that’s not my decision or place to act.

  23. #23 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    I only abdicate a swift kick in the shins*. And that is rare in itself.

    *purely a fanciful jest -Mike

  24. #24 |  Aresen | 

    Thumbs up on shutting down the morons who make death threats against others.

    TBS, if some politician were to slip on the platform and fall on the tracks during the dedicaton run of a new high-speed rail project, I might enjoy a bit of schadenfrieude

  25. #25 |  JS | 

    Mario “To those making death threats, just remember: if you claim the authority to kill a resident of the United States without a trial and conviction, you’re as bad as the president.”

    lol gold Mario, gold!

  26. #26 |  J.S. | 

    “To those making death threats, just remember: if you claim the authority to kill a resident of the United States without a trial and conviction, you’re as bad as the president.”

    True, but isn’t that really an open declaration of war against the citizenry by government?

  27. #27 |  SJE | 

    Radley, thanks for this. Death threats cross the line. I also think that promoting violence of any sort against public officials, or anyone, could cause you trouble.

  28. #28 |  Cynical in CA | 

    A death threat is unlibertarian and cowardly.

    Self-defense is libertarian and courageous.

    But it is impossible to vanquish the State by resorting to its own means.

  29. #29 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “I allow a pretty free range of discussion in the comments section.”

    We’re free-range commentors! Which is much better than industrial farm commentors.

  30. #30 |  Sean L. | 

    Psion,

    You took the words out of my mouth. I don’t think they’re a dig against anyone. These are valid questions: How many innocent people executed (in their homes and by lethal injection) will it take? How many hundreds of thousands of people will they need to incarcerate for smoking pot will it take? How many state-supported property forfeitures will it take? How many more of our rights need to be violated when we simply want to move within our country? How much more of what I earn can be confiscated to support failing wars against weak enemies?

    Were the British really this bad? The fact that I am allowed every four years to vote between which thug runs the national protection racket does not make the racket moral or legal.

  31. #31 |  party boy | 

    The people making threats are likely cops looking to entrap someone. They would just love to use that as a way to shut us all up.

  32. #32 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Crap. I meant advocate, not abdicate.

    *facepalm*

  33. #33 |  Bill | 

    Deaths threats are bad, but I can see why some people might get a bit pissed off after reading some of the stories here and spout off a bit, especially after drinking a few beers. Doesn’t make it right though.

  34. #34 |  Aresen | 

    @ Mike Leatherwood

    It was funnier that way, though.

  35. #35 |  Brandon | 

    Agree with #31. If you make death threats, I assume you’re a bored FBI agent trying to pad the resume. And, really, fuck those guys.

  36. #36 |  Andrew S. | 

    Bill @ #33, you said exactly what I was thinking.

    The stories on this site can make me angry. I can end up ranting and raving (usually to my wife, who thankfully shares my views, if not my passion) after reading story after story about police and other governmental abuses. But resorting to death threats is intellectually lazy. C’mon, people.

  37. #37 |  Max | 

    I’m sure everyone would think there’d be common sense on a blog such as this, but that’s not always the case. Maybe a “Do’s and Don’ts” page is in order?

  38. #38 |  alexa-blue | 

    Is anyone else confused about whether Dave Krueger has been on fire more than once?

  39. #39 |  c andrew | 

    CinCA said,
    “We’re free-range commentors! Which is much better than industrial farm commentors.”

    And Tastier!

  40. #40 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Very well said, Radley.

    There have been times that I have stopped reading the comments on The Agitator, largely because of the few unstable people that have, err, graced us with their presence. I got angry, not only because they were brutes and neanderthals, but because I knew that their ugliness would be used by true statists (not just people who don’t buy into libertarianism, I mean the real deal) to damage Radley’s reputation.

    Radley Balko’s work is very important, no matter what your political beliefs are. I condsider myself more of an old style radical liberal (Think Thomas Paine) than a doctriaire libertarian, but I say in all seriousness that Radley is probably my favorite journalist. And he is right to banish those that would give his opponents the ammunition they need to marginalize his work. Cheers, Radley, and Happy Holidays!

  41. #41 |  Bambam | 

    The USA “government” kills people for less than death threats all of the time, usually for empire, whether it be direct action or indirect action (e.g. try to bankrupt you, deny you medicine via threat of violence, kidnap and cage you for victimless crimes, etc).

  42. #42 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #41 Bambam:

    What do the indiscretions and crimes of the USG have to do with Radley’s stated policy of no death threats on his blog?

  43. #43 |  anarch | 

    Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious. ~ George Orwell

  44. #44 |  Aaron C. de Bruyn | 

    I didn’t see the comment you were referring to.

    But like TJIC said, George Washington didn’t get rid of big British government by holding petitions, having rallies, or debating on Fox News. George Washington got rid of big British government by orchestrating the execution of hundreds of British government officials.

    I see nothing wrong with saying “Hang the treasonous bastards”. Politicians need to be afraid of treading on our liberties. ‘Soft’ power will not stop the hard power of the government. It may slow it down somewhat, but it definitely won’t stop it. (Gandhi would have gone to the ovens practicing peaceful resistance against Hitler and all that…)

    But lastly, I will defend your right to do whatever you want with your blog. It’s your blog after all, not the public square.

  45. #45 |  Marty | 

    I hope it wasn’t me, but I know I’ve been sarcastically guilty before. Jim Bell just seems like such a good option when the abuses are so over the top.

    If I’m guilty- sorry, won’t happen again.

  46. #46 |  Six | 

    Have you ever considered that the people making the ‘death threats’ and most outrageous posts are undercover FBI agents or informants working for the FBI trying to entrap… Nah, they don’t do things like that. Nevermind.

  47. #47 |  cApitalist | 

    Mr. Balko, as the owner of this site you are certainly within your rights to do with it as you will. Please take any actions necessary to ensure your ongoing ability to provide your readers with content.

    That being said, amongst agitator readers, what is the role and/or morality of tyrannicide?

    How many deaths must someone or some group be responsible for in order to be considered a tyrant?

    If someone or some group were responsible for the deaths tens of thousands of people, what could one justifiably do in order to stop him/her/them from continuing to murder others?

    Thanks to all for the great discussion.

  48. #48 |  OBTC | 

    Not to be an ass or disrespectful to Radley but I need some clarity here:

    If I hope/wish/think some Public Official/Person of Authority “meet their maker” sooner rather than later – is that considered communicating a death threat? Those who participate or promote: the erosion of civil liberties/torture or brutality/withhold or manufacture evidence – come to mind. I consider these people DANGEROUS to my life, limb and liberty and would rather they be neutralize SOONER rather than later.

    If I hope/wish/think Julian Assange is/gets/should be assassinated/executed by the USG – is that a death threat? Or have I circumvented a direct threat by having the government do the dirtywork? Or because he’s not a public official, it’s okay?

    Now I’m being an ass:
    I suppose it’s safest to say: I hope Public Official/Person of Authority is REMOVED from Office/Position of Authority sooner rather than later.

  49. #49 |  random guy | 

    I agree that death threats against specific individuals is profoundly stupid in this day and age, and certainly not in keeping with the non-violent image that libertarians want to maintain.

    I also think its foolish to pretend that nonviolence works against an empire in all cases. We can’t all be Ghandi and outnumber our oppressors 7000 to 1. The founding fathers knew that sometimes in the course of human events violent resistance is an appropriate measure. It should not be a first response, peaceful avenues of change should always be perused and explored before making the regretful choice to wage war of any kind. But indignities and injustice cannot continue forever and it may be drawing a line in the sand, but sooner or later every free person has to draw the line somewhere.

    I don’t see our system working towards positive change in most areas. I don’t see any amount of petitions, protests, law suits, or elections ending the war on drugs, the surveilence state, the war on terror, or the military and prison industrial complexes. Legal and peaceful inroads could probably be made on issues like asset forfeiture, DUI laws, sex offender laws, video taping police and other issues reported on this blog. And progress was recently made in repealing DADT, and its not too unlikely that total gay legal equality may be a reality in the next decade.

    However each issue should not be considered separately. Really how much of a victory is it for gays to serve openly in the military, when that exact same military is engaged in baseless wars of aggression against foreign nations? Or when weighed against the government maintaining the power to detain and torture people without arrest or trial? Taken in sum the trend is one of a government whose power is growing exponentially and of a complete disregard for the rights and dignities of not just citizens, but human beings.

    Like I said it is drawing a line in the sand, you will never be given proof of the absolute goodness or evil of your government. All anyone can ever decide is when enough is enough and what they are willing to risk to bring about change. History is made, nations built and destroyed around people willing to risk their lives and take a stand against tyranny. Violent resistance is what founded our nation.

    Whether violence is just or unjust is a matter of principles and situations. I would not casually dismiss violent means, especially considering the reckless manner in which our government wields the same power.

  50. #50 |  Arthur | 

    #30 Sean L. +1

    Radley’s right, making death threats via blog or otherwise should not be risked. Threatening harm is harm. I agree, but am apprehensive about the potential government abuses that can arise with ANY muddling of distinctions between comments along the lines of “That cop should get the same blah, blah” (I think I remember reading one of those here during the past week) and direct threats. We ARE drawing that distinction, right?

    Another thought I had reading this post and thread: Having spent too many hours reading *LEO only* blogs, I think government agents are somewhat more prone to this “internet tough guy” syndrome than any libertarian focused group. Not to mention the thinly veiled threats of a chorus of badged and armed pirates banging out “Good shoot” after “Good shoot” in response to the death of an american citizen breaking no laws, doing what millions of us do every day without thought. Seriously, what the fuck does a “bad shoot” look like then? I just think it makes sense to feel much more threatened by this reality than by what JabaWookie313 posted in response to some YouTube video. Please don’t lose perspective on this.

  51. #51 |  Gordon Clason | 

    C’mon, Balko!! The motto of the State of Virginia (sic semper tyrannus) refers to Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar and is uttered by Brutus at the moment of assasination. It is loosely translated as “Death to tyrants”. This is the motto of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson said the tree of liberty must be refreshed with blood of patriots. Patrick Henry said, “liberty of death”. Jefferson’s personal motto was “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God”. There is ample documentary evidence to believe that the founding fathers believed that assassinating tyrants was a protected civil right!!

  52. #52 |  Joseph.Mark | 

    I agree with that policy 100 percent. It is sad that so many want to ignore the first rule of morality — aggression is always wrong.

    Great site; great work you do; I thank you.

    By the way; could you do a post on the general state of the American “justice” system someday soon? What is the biggest problem today? How many are in cages and should not be? Things like that …

  53. #53 |  Mike T | 

    a legal hunting season on all elected officials, appointed chairwarmers, and GS 10-and-ups.

    Congratulations, you’ve just advocated the killing of virtually the entire Department of Defense on the civilian side since most of its civilian employees are professionals, not grunts like secretaries and admin staff (all of that is contracted out).

  54. #54 |  Mike T | 

    So who was it that made the threats and what did they say (in summary)?

  55. #55 |  Terry | 

    The FBI will come to your home over this kind of thing. It happened to me several years ago. I had volunteered to moderate part of a forum. Some guy appeared to threaten a judge. It didn’t help matters that the guy’s handle was “bushmaster”. I was told I could answer questions on the spot or answer them in DC. I answered the questions. (I honestly didn’t know anything anyway) The agent pretended ignorance and asked me to explain how this kind of thing worked. I sensed that he already knew the answer to everything he asked and just wanted to see what I would say. I don’t know what ever became of the matter.

  56. #56 |  Bart anarch | 

    Is this okay?

  57. #57 |  JOR | 

    “A death threat is unlibertarian and cowardly.

    Self-defense is libertarian and courageous.”

    What about self-defense by death threat? And what’s so bad about cowardice?

    “That being said, amongst agitator readers, what is the role and/or morality of tyrannicide?”

    Perfectly moral in and of itself, usually unwise (and often immoral because of necessary constituent actions and immediate forseeable results, e.g. turning a country into a wasteland and blowing up its cities to get to its kleptocrat is wrong because turning a country into a wasteland and blowing up its cities is wrong).

    “How many deaths must someone or some group be responsible for in order to be considered a tyrant?”

    One.

    “If someone or some group were responsible for the deaths tens of thousands of people, what could one justifiably do in order to stop him/her/them from continuing to murder others?”

    Anything up to and including exterminating them. This does not include actions that harm third parties.

  58. #58 |  Joe | 

    tyrannicide: when is the last time you saw a Tyranasaurus Rex?

  59. #59 |  JOR | 

    I don’t watch tv, but I see his picture on some websites I visit.

  60. #60 |  claude | 

    Yeah really. Death threats arent necessary. This isnt FAUX News.

  61. #61 |  jimc5499 | 

    Your house, your rules. I’ll respect them. Even if I sometimes disagree with your views, I think the world is a better place with this site in it. Merry Christmas.

  62. #62 |  Kent | 

    Talk about death threats. Police recruits in Las Vegas are now told they are warriors and that they are fighting a war. See the very last paragraph of this article. Sad, Sad, Sad.

    http://www.lvrj.com/news/training-culminates-with-advanced-techniques-112302409.html?viewAllComments=y&c=y

    PS…whatever you do, don’t copy and paste anything from the Las Vegas Review Journal, they will sue you for $150,000 and take away your web site domain (if you have one). I’m not kidding.

  63. #63 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #49 | random guy — “I agree that death threats against specific individuals is profoundly stupid in this day and age, and certainly not in keeping with the non-violent image that libertarians want to maintain.”

    Non-violence is more than skin-deep for a libertarian. It is a defining characteristic. In other words, anyone who advocates the initiation of violent non-defensive aggression against another individual is not libertarian, period. The word for that person is “statist.”

    I believe it is paramount for libertarians to hammer home the message that the violent, dangerous ones in the room are the statists. Shaming is one of the few weapons available to the libertarian.

  64. #64 |  Mario | 

    Here’s the footer on Slashdot:

    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2010 Geeknet, Inc. [Emphasis: Mine]

    At the very least, Radley, you should put something at the bottom of your page stating that comments made on this site are not yours and do not represent your endorsement. (You should still remove any comments you like.)

  65. #65 |  albatross | 

    cApitalist:

    One thing to remember is that violent revolution isn’t noted for its high rate of providing good government afterward. It worked out well here in the US once, but that’s probably an anomaly.

    Violent revolution here, if it happened, would not lead us anywhere close to a libertarian society. My guess is, the main question would be whether we’d end up with a religious police state or a secular one. (That is, are the guys applying the electrodes to your tender bits called secret police or inquisitors.)

    Similarly, campaigns of assassination or terror seem incredibly unlikely to lead us anywhere we want to go, even if you could manage them so they only struck at pretty unambiguously evil targets. The pinpricks[1] we’ve suffered from terrorism have not made us a freer country. Nor have they made us less imperialistic, which was probably one of the goals of the attackers.

    [1] Yes, 9/11 was a pinprick compared to what real wars look like. Go ask an Iraqi what real wars do to your country. Or a older Vietnamese. Or a Chechen.

  66. #66 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #57 | JOR — “What about self-defense by death threat? And what’s so bad about cowardice?”

    The beauty of being human is that one must decide for oneself. The ugly of being human is that one is always judged by one’s actions by one’s peers.

    Rather than threaten death to defend oneself(???), why not simply kill your aggressor, then attempt to defend your actions as self-defense? From a practical standpoint, you would have eliminated the threat, whereas merely threatening death (cowardice) prolongs the situation and lets your target know that it might be in his best interests to kill you first. While I deplore the violence, I could at least respect the cold, reptilian logic of it.

    Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Pretty sure you were just being cheeky, JOR.

  67. #67 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #65 | albatross — “One thing to remember is that violent revolution isn’t noted for its high rate of providing good government afterward. It worked out well here in the US once, but that’s probably an anomaly.”

    I have come to believe that what is commonly called the American Revolution, as is the case with most statist history, was nothing of the sort. It was a civil war between the landed classes of England and the Colonies, each group vying for political control of the Colonies. I’m not sure how government has fared post-civil wars in general.

    And in light of subsequent history, I believe your conclusion is speculative at best. Government by England then was vastly superior and preferable to the utter monstrosity we live under today. But in fairness, it’s absolutely apples/oranges as modern America bears no resemblance whatsover to colonial America. So, we’ll really never know.

    But I absolutely concur with you that where colonial governments worldwide were overthrown and replaced with strong-man dictatorships, the quality of government deteriorated catastrophically.

    For more analysis of the efficiency of British colonial governments in history, Unqualified Reservations has written volumes on the subject derived from source material analysis.

  68. #68 |  Token | 

    How would banning them make you a bad libertarian? You’re doing what you want/choose to do with your property (in this case, the website) because it’s your right to do what you want with what you own; I’d say that’s pretty closely aligned with libertarian values.

  69. #69 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    “And what’s so bad about cowardice?”

    “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.” – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

  70. #70 |  Cynical in CA | 

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101223/ap_on_re_eu/eu_italy_embassy_blast

    Bomb Blasts in Rome, Anarchists Smeared

    Just so we’re clear again, if you are violent, you are not an anarchist, you’re a statist. What you call yourself is irrelevant.

  71. #71 |  random guy | 

    CiCA:

    Non-violence is more than skin-deep for a libertarian. It is a defining characteristic.

    You are absolutely right, my original post was poorly worded in that regard. Many posts here testify to the fact that non-violence is a core tenant of libertarian ethics. It is one of the things that largely distinguishes the movement from the reactionary and frequently bloodthirsty rhetoric present in political discourse today.

    In other words, anyone who advocates the initiation of violent non-defensive aggression against another individual is not libertarian, period. The word for that person is “statist.”

    Here is where I am going to disagree with you. I am not advocating aggression against individuals, I am talking about a more general response to the aggression of the state. Though neither of these is in itself the act of a statist. Using violence and advocating statism are mutually exclusive.

    I absolutely agree with you that initiating violence against another person is unconscionable, one of the just purposes of government in a free country is to serve as mediator for conflicts to better ensure the safety and prosperity of all. But the calculus is a little more muddled what talking about the state and its agents. The state has the power to arrest, try, imprison, and execute an individual. If the government behaves unjustly the balance of power is woefully in its favor. I wish that as an individual I had the ability to arrest, try, and imprison those government agents who have violated their oaths to defend the constitution and who continue to violate the rights of citizens. If I had that ability execution would be unnecessary, unlike the state I don’t believe in the death penalty. Buy you and I can’t do that when it comes to dealing with an increasingly lawless police state, our options are limited to what we can do with our own means.

    JOR said:

    Anything up to and including exterminating them. This does not include actions that harm third parties.

    Really thats where you draw the line? Waiting in a train on your way to a death camp? Why fight at all if you’ve already given up the other 99% required to get to this point?

  72. #72 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #71 | random guy — “The state has the power to arrest, try, imprison, and execute an individual. If the government behaves unjustly the balance of power is woefully in its favor. I wish that as an individual I had the ability to arrest, try, and imprison those government agents who have violated their oaths to defend the constitution and who continue to violate the rights of citizens. If I had that ability execution would be unnecessary, unlike the state I don’t believe in the death penalty. Buy you and I can’t do that when it comes to dealing with an increasingly lawless police state, our options are limited to what we can do with our own means.”

    Truth, every word of it. This is why violence is not just immoral, it’s atrocious game theory. The corollary is that there are several modern examples of non-violence being used to achieve political goals against the State (Gandhi, King, etc.). Of course it could be argued that these peaceful political movements exist in the context of statism and that the State wins either way, which it does. But for the lowest in society, these movements had meaningful positive results for a significant minority of individuals, so I have to give credit where it’s due. Kind of like how Balko wins some battles but the war seems unwinnable. I guess it’s all about scale and picking battles wisely.

    Still Kant’s categorical imperative commands my interest, that if the vast majority can be persuaded to abandon violence as the organizing principle of society, then the State will disappear. Human nature seems to be the impenetrable barrier to that ever happening. Too much fear, too much greed, too much death.

    Merry Christmas!

  73. #73 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #72 Cynical in CA:

    “Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”

    Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

    “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    Some classic quotes on the nature of government from two of the most radical of the founders (I am partial to Paine, but Jefferson was certainly brilliant, though deeply conflicted). A holiday gift from me to you, Cynical!

    Your reference to Kant is very relevant and timely. In my area, violent crime has increased as the holidays get closer. The homicide numbers continue to grow, and with it the calls for the state to “do something.” As much as I abhor the drug war, I believe that the people involved in this illegal market COULD work together to reduce the violence if they had the desire, morality or mental stability. Instead they shoot randomly into houses and cripple children for life (no, their bullets don’t always hit their intended rivals).

    People could also do things to reduce the likelihood that they will injure each other, whether through violence or traffic incidents (drink a little less, seek counseling for substance issues or relationship problems, etc). Instead, their irresponsibility becomes a criminal justice problem when they impose on or injure others. We The People are largely responsible for the growth of government and the associated infringements on liberty because we are a violent, entitled and litigious society that doesn’t really know what it wants.

    In spite of it all, enjoy your holiday season. Cherish family, friends, good times, reason and learning. These are the things that make our society a “blessing,” not government, and not those among us who do everything in their power to encourage its growth and power.

  74. #74 |  Grenadier1 | 

    So did my last comment disappear in the aether or have I been banned?

  75. #75 |  Grenadier1 | 

    I am an advocate of violence. In fact I advocate sudden ultra violence.
    That said however I advocate it only as a response to tyranny or direct threat to my or my family’s person or property. Thankfully I have had to resort to this only a few times in my life. I consider myself very libertarian but I am by no means a pacifist. Some of you seem to blur the two. On a personal level I do not feel that it is wise to allow someone to strike you before you respond. You may only get one chance. At what point do you consider it moral and valid to respond with violence? Do you think that your libertarianism is going to be enough to assure your safety from tyranny?
    It is fine to be an advocate of non-violence however consider this.
    If Dr King or Ghandi had been in Russia or Iraq they would have never been known to history. They would have been just another body in a hole. Non-violence works when the state must keep a measure of restraint. When it is still in a position that demands that it appear fair and just. But what makes the state show restraint? King and Ghandi offered the governments an alternative path to resolution because of the unspoken threat of violence from the populace. It was because that chaos was so unwelcome that the non-violent solution could be even an option.

  76. #76 |  MPH | 

    Why would one advocate violence against a particular government official anyway? Let’s say your most hated government official dies (who cares how). He’ll be REPLACED.

    Advocate for the removal of the office in question, or for the removal of the authority being used. Changing the person in the office using the authority will have little effect.

    It is NOT the “abuse of power” that is the problem, it is the “power to abuse”. If a government official lacks sovereign immunity (too few do), when they exceed their authority they should go to prison, and certainly should be subject to civil penalties.

    We need to take our authority back from the government. That cannot be done by threatening those who are currently “in power”. Indeed, this gives those “in power” the excuse for even more draconian measures. Don’t give them that. Use peaceful means to remove their office from the governmental structure, and return the authority of that office to the people.

  77. #77 |  Dox47 | 

    So, you might say that some people got a little *too* agitated?

    I guess that’s a compliment of sorts, the site is clearly effecting people’s feelings and opinions in a very strong way. Some people just need to cool it on the “vote from the rooftops” rhetoric, it’s unseemly and feeds an unfortunate stereotype.

  78. #78 |  Michael | 

    So your cool with Voltaire?

  79. #79 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Peace to you and your family Helmut this Christmas, thanks for the words of inspiration!

  80. #80 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #76 | MPH — “It is NOT the “abuse of power” that is the problem, it is the “power to abuse”.”

    Great line, MPH. Ties in with what’s wrong with “if we only had the right people in office.” The whole system is the problem. What to do about it?

  81. #81 |  Grenadier1 | 

    MPH-
    If that process works thats fine I have no problem with attempting to work within the system. My issue is that there comes a time when the system has failed and no amount of wrangling is going to phase it. There comes a time that the threat of violence is the only way to back down TPTB. If those in office see no dire consequence for their actions then they will continue to act accordingly. It is when they are faced with violence that they become willing to accept the chains that government should wear.
    Again peacefull non violent protests can be effective provided the alternative is clearly available and spelled out to those in power.

    You provide the peacefull protest and I will keep getting ready for the alternative.

  82. #82 |  Violence, Government Violence, and Anti-Government Rhetoric | The Agitator | 

    [...] and counterproductive to any anti-government cause. As is encouraging or praising others who do. I ban anyone who engages in that kind of talk [...]

  83. #83 |  GT | 

    MPH – within the core ‘theoretical rationale’ for systems like Jim Bell’s is the idea that once the brutalising rogue ‘bad apple’ is taken care of, he will be replaced by someone who UNDERSTANDS the costs of behaving like his predecessor. (If not: rinse and repeat).

    Furthermore, the ‘chilling effect’ of the required public-awareness campaign will see to it that ALL members of the state’s thug-drone squads are aware of an increase in the costs of ‘business as usual’; likewise, decreasing the expected net utility of a career as a thug-drone will likewise harm recruitment efforts (with the irksome short-term corollary risk of attracting jelly-minded idiots who think that life is Halo or ‘Call of Duty:Black Ops’… the sublimated-homosexual war-cartoon addict).

    As Grenadier1 pointed out, the British in India
    (a) were already an Empire in the throes of decline who had lost the will to retain India; and
    (b) had had sufficient difficulty in putting down uprisings in the past;
    that they saw no net utility in assassinating Gandhi. Had Gandhi been a leader in the mid 1800s he would simply have been killed, and anyone who pretends otherwise is either a dupe or is selling something.

    It is not clear to me why some ‘libertarians’ think that the Zero *Aggression* Principle means that we have to come over all Buddhist when confronting the sort of swaggering shitbirds who think a badge and gun gives them the right to treat us like mediaeval serfs. One can be ultra-violent without being the aggressor: like Grenadier1 I am perfectly comfortable with massively-asymmetric retaliatory violence – disproportionate response is required to account for the fact that the threat is ongoing.

    Violence is perfectly acceptable – even necessary – as a reaction to tyranny; so long as one is not INITIATING violence. (That said: if one is constantly under the express threat that the State can ice you if it feels like, with no pretence at due process… almost all acts towards such an open threat qualify as defensive).

    And yes, advocates of that sort of thing might be v& – it’s to be expected when the country has degenerated to the point where the people in charge can kill folks without pretending they need to answer to anybody.

    Besides… the required markets already exist on freenet; you can get dox on a jerk in a matter of days and organise anything from harrassment, to a beating, to a dirtnap… so anything posted in an ordinary comments thread is probably only advertising.

    Cheerio

    GT

  84. #84 |  GT | 

    Oh, and PS…

    Banning is fine (your property, your right), but re-think ideas about handing over trace details.

    No sensible wingnut (if there is such a thing) will post genuine Yog-Sothoth level madness without running through a proxy, a VPN, or TOR/JAP/I2P… or perhaps making use of a WPA cracker to access a neighbour’s WiFi router.

    So you might wind up participating in a mechanism whose end point is sending the State’s goons to some poor sod who leaves his WiFi connection susceptible to any numptie who happens to download the required tools to crack the shit-awful encryption used for most WiFi.

    So long as you’re comfortable with adding to the number of no-knock raids on the wrong schlub, you’re golden.

    Cheerio

    GT

  85. #85 |  Michael Ejercito | 

    This site hits public officials pretty hard, I like to think only when it’s merited. Threatening to kill a public official is never merited. It isn’t an argument, and it taints everything we try to do here. Do it on this site and you’ll be banned. Immediately.

    I would not go so far as to say that killing, or threatening to kill a public official is never merited, given recent human history (Holocaust, Rape of Nanking).

    Those of us in America are not there yet. We can only hope and work to avoid getting to such a point.

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