Posts Tagged ‘FBI’


Anarchist Cookbook front coverby Chaz Bufe (co-author The Anarchist Cookbook)

At a reading last weekend, an audience member asked me and Keith (McHenry, primary author of the “cookbook” and co-founder of Food Not Bombs) why we had written a new “Anarchist Cookbook.” The question took us aback a bit, as we’d assumed that the answer was blindingly obvious. Evidently it’s not. Here’s the story:

Forty-five years ago, William Powell, then a 19-year-old kid, spent several weeks prowling through the stacks at the New York Public Library searching for every instructional  book and article he could find on drug making, bomb making, and other forms of mayhem. He then compiled all of this material, unedited, into a book. He field tested none of the “recipes,” and as a result the book is riddled with “recipes” that simply don’t work and/ or are dangerous to the user.  At that point, Powell had another unknown write introductory political material that was as incoherent as it was inaccurate (equating anarchism with Maoism, for instance), and that explicitly recommended violence as a political tactic.

Powell then presented this toxic mess to publisher Lyle Stuart. Evidently smelling money, Stuart, over the objections of his staff, accepted the book. He also did something I (and virtually everyone else in the publishing field) consider grossly unethical: he presented Powell with  a contract in which Powell surrendered the copyright to him.  Powell signed, and a misbegotten monster was born. (Powell subsequently had a change of heart and has publicly denounced his book and asked that it be taken out of print, but because he handed over the copyright to Stuart, he has no control over that; we included Powell’s denunciation in the front matter of our new “cookbook.”)

Powell’s book has been in print continuously ever since it was first published in 1971, and has done untold harm. After publication, the “cookbook”  quickly became a very popular ornament for young guys who wanted an edgy coffee table book with which to impress their friends. Fortunately, probably not one in ten ever read it, probably not one in twenty ever tried its lousy drug recipes (e.g., for “bananadine”–a “drug” derived from banana peels), and probably not one in a hundred ever tried its explosives recipes.

Still, it was a constant irritant to actual anarchists. Year after year, decade after decade, it reinforced the stereotype that anarchists are violent morons with no coherent political philosophy.

Worse, the FBI began using the book to entrap naive political activists. They’d give a copy of the book to their victims, or have the victims buy it, and then use the book as evidence in trumped-up terrorism cases. This use of the Powell book accelerated drastically after 9/11, with set-up victims being both Muslims and leftist political activists. A case in point is the 2012 “Cleveland Five” case, in which the FBI used the book as part of its entrapment of five young, homeless guys at Occupy Cleveland, who it had enticed with a place to stay, hot showers, and food. As a result of this FBI-orchestrated “plot,” which prominently featured the Powell book, the “Cleveland Five” received sentences ranging from eight years and one month to eleven-and-a-half years.

That was the situation that faced us when Keith and I began talking about producing a real anarchist cookbook two years ago. Anarchists had been talking about producing such a book for decades, but nothing ever came of it, and it had become obvious that if we didn’t write, and See Sharp Press didn’t publish, a real anarchist cookbook, no one else was likely to do so. (There are a few PDF food recipe “books” around under the name, but no other physical books.)

We decided to go considerably beyond food recipes in our new “cookbook.” We decided that we’d include the following: 1) Accurate information on the nature of anarchism; 2) A section on why use of violence is almost always a self-defeating political tactic; 3) A section on nonviolent political activism, both from a theoretical and practical standpoint; 4) An evaluation of all common social change tactics and approaches; 5) A how-to section detailing ways of putting those tactics and approaches into practice; 6) A section on the nuts and bolts of political organizing; 7) A section on food politics; 8) Vegan recipes for both large and small groups; and 9) A lengthy bibliography, to give those interested in further study a handy jumping-off point.

To put this another way, we decided to write an antidote to the Powell book, a book that would do good rather than harm.

We think we succeeded. We hope you’ll agree.


Anarchist Cookbook front cover(This is an excerpt from The Anarchist Cookbook by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, introduction by Chris Hedges.)

by Keith McHenry

The government wastes millions, probably tens of millions, of dollars annually spying on and disrupting the anarchist movement. It wouldn’t waste all that money trying to stop us if it wasn’t worried that we might inspire resistance.

Even though most anarchists are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and many participate in useful projects such as infoshops, bicycle co-ops, and the sharing and growing of food, the police, state agencies, federal agencies, and military intelligence units in the United States routinely infiltrate anarchist groups, and government provocateurs have repeatedly attempted to entrap activists. For the most part, they’ve failed at that.

But unfortunately some activists have not only been arrested, but have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to years in prison.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies can and do frame or entrap anarchists to devastating effect, so it is important to do all you can to reduce the possibility of being set up on phony “terrorism” or other charges. Not only could you be removed from the community for many years, your family and friends would suffer through your ordeals in court and through the pain of knowing you are in prison. Defense activities also siphon off huge amounts of energy, time, and resources from the good work of building a better world.

Still it is not always possible to avoid being the target of the authorities, so take precautions to limit the damage if the state seeks to silence you. Taking actions that you can be proud of may be the most important single thing you can do. Think of the consequences of your acts. How will you feel if someone is injured or killed because of something you did? Could your actions be used to discredit the movement? Could they add to the divisions, fear, and paranoia in the community?

Don’t think that you can get away with risky, pointless actions. You’re not clairvoyant. The government targets even the most peaceful groups (including Quaker groups)  through its use of informers and provocateurs, and surveillance is unrelenting and omnipresent. So what can you do beyond carefully considering your actions and doing only things you feel good about?
You can take some simple steps to reduce the possibility of being arrested and prosecuted on phony charges. When people talk or joke about taking up arms, trashing communities, or bombing or burning down some place, speak loudly about how you would never participate in any action that could injure someone.

The fact that we know that we are not considering acts of terrorism can cause us to make light of statements about arson, bombings, and rock throwing, but the FBI and Homeland Security have sent infiltrators to political meetings to talk about using violence or property destruction, or initiated conversations while being wired to record conversations. Months later, out-of-context statements can appear as evidence that anarchists were plotting acts of terrorism. When the cases get to court, prosecutors and the media can point out that the accused activists didn’t object to the comments made by the informants, “proving” their guilt.

You can minimize the success of the state in harming you and your efforts by making it clear that you are not going to participate in acts of violence or destructive sabotage. (They’re not the same: violence involves damage to people or animals; sabotage involves—sometimes, not always—damage to property.) If you are planning to damage property, consider making your intentions clear in advance by offering a public explanation of your actions. Examples could include pulling up genetically modified crops or dismantling the separation wall in Palestine, actions designed to stop an egregious harm. At the same time you can refrain from giving the exact time or location of your plans so that the authorities will have at least some difficulty blocking your actions. While you may still be accused of taking part in a “terrorist” plot, you will have much more popular support, and you’ll make the authorities’ “terrorism” accusations less credible.

You can make your positions clear in your literature, statements to the media, at meetings, social gatherings, and during informal conversations. If people are joking about using violence or talking about the virtues of acts that could injure or kill people, it is wise to make several statements making it clear that you will not engage in any kind of violent activity. Point out that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and that anyone considering any other strategies or methods should talk elsewhere.

It once was possible to use the defense of entrapment, but that is no longer the case. Vice News contributor Natasha Lennard’s article, “The Line Between FBI Stings and Entrapment Has Not Blurred, It’s Gone,” makes this quite clear.

In her introduction to the Human Rights Watch report, “Illusions of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” Andrea Prasow said that “Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US . . . But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.” While this report focuses on the entrapment and framing of people in the Muslim community, anarchists in the United States have also been targeted, as described in the report.

Natasha Lennard writes:

Since 9/11, Muslims in the US have been the focus of major counterterror stings. But other groups have been caught in the net where sting meets entrapment. A small group of self-identified anarchists in Cleveland were all convicted and sentenced to around 10 years in prison for allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge in Ohio. But an FBI infiltrator provided the target and the fake C-4 explosives. Rick Perlstein wrote of the case in Rolling Stone, ‘the alleged terrorist masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage.

The case of entrapment in Cleveland provides concrete examples of what activists should watch out for. The FBI sent an informant, Shaquille Azir or “Kalvin Jackson,” to the kitchen at Occupy Cleveland on October 21, 2011, seeking to build a relationship with some of the cooks.
FBI Special Agent Ryan M. Taylor filed Federal Complaint 1:12-mj-3073 regarding the matter. The government presented it at the defendants’ May 1, 2012 arraignment; it details how the entrapment worked. It’s a stark warning to anyone who might be a target of the FBI. In sections 8 and 9, the FBI admits to using a Confidential Human Source (CHS) and Undercover Employee (UCE) to encourage acts of terrorism:

8. The (CHS) Confidential Human Source hereinafter has been working as a source for the FBI since July 20, 2011. The CHS has a criminal record including one conviction for possession of cocaine in 1990, one conviction for robbery in 1991, and four convictions for passing bad checks between 1991 and 2011. The CHS is currently on probation in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties for passing bad checks. Since July 20, 2011, the CHS has been paid approximately $5,750 for services and $550 for expenses, the CHS has not been paid since beginning her/his probation.

9. The (UCE) Undercover Employee has been employed by the FBI for over 15 years and has been working in an undercover capacity for 10 years. The UCE has received ongoing training in conducting undercover investigations and has participated in dozens of investigations in an undercover capacity.

Section 12 suggests the FBI was seeking anarchists to frame at Occupy Cleveland.

12. Based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists who would be attending an event held by a protest group, the Cleveland FBI directed the CHS to attend that event. On October 21, 2011, at approximately 6:30 pm, and while the CHS was attending the event, the CHS identified four suspicious males with walkie-talkie radios around their necks. Three of the four men had masks or something covering their faces; one male did not. The men were wearing black or dark colored shirts, had black backpacks, carried the anarchist flags and acted differently than the other people in attendance.

Section 29 shows that informant Shaquille Azir was recording meetings for the FBI and claimed that one of those targeted, Michael Wright, had talked of making smoke bombs from a recipe taken from the William Powell book titled The Anarchist Cookbook (NOT this Anarchist Cookbook).

(In a separate case, according to a terrorism complaint filed in Brooklyn in April 2015, FBI informants provided Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas with copies of the Powell book on November 2, 2014, circling the types of bombs the government thought would help build their case.)

29. On March 22, 2012, the CHS was provided a body recorder [and] consensually recorded a meeting between the CHS and WRIGHT. In sum and substance, WRIGHT described using an upcoming festival as an opportunity to create a civil distraction in order to commit a larger act of violence. WRIGHT also discussed making smoke bombs and other explosive destructive devices using the ‘Anarchist Cookbook,’ a book that describes the construction and use of weapons and explosives. The following are some of the relevant excerpts from that conversation:

Sections 97 and 98 show that phone calls and conversations were recorded a couple of days before the FBI-engineered May Day fake bombing:

97. On April 29, 2012, the UCE recorded a telephone call with WRIGHT. In sum and substance WRIGHT said that he would call the UCE around 1:30 pm to give the UCE the exact meeting location, however it was in the Warrensville Heights, Ohio area.

98. On April 29, 2012, the CHS was provided with a body recorder and consensually recorded a meeting with the UCE and WRIGHT, BAXTER, and HAYNE.

In Section 110 of the federal complaint, the FBI admits that the alleged criminal activity that they were investigating amounted to no more than “smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland”:

110. WRIGHT recruited BAXTER, C.S. and the CHS to participate in some form of direct action, initially involving smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland;” Erick Trickey of Cleveland Magazine noted that defendant Connor Stevens expressed support for nonviolent direct action.

On a Saturday in April, about three weeks before his arrest, Stevens served dinner in Market Square with Food Not Bombs. He got talking with fellow volunteer Aidan Kelly about Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which an American joins the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War to fight a fascist uprising, and is assigned to dynamite a bridge. “I remember distinctly talking about his ideas about pacifism,” Kelly says. He and Stevens agreed that movements such as Food Not Bombs offered a better alternative for creating social change than violence.

Trickey writes of the first meeting of Stevens and co-defendant Brandon Baxter, a meeting like those you may have had if you travel in anarchist circles.

At Food Not Bombs last year, Stevens met another young anarchist, Brandon Baxter, as intense and passionate as Stevens was cerebral.

The 19-year-old Lakewood High graduate’s influences weren’t long-dead, bearded writers, but websites ranging from the far right (the conspiracy-minded InfoWars) to the far left (the Anonymous “hacktivist” movement). He embraced Food Not Bombs with gusto, screaming “Free food!” across Market Square when dinner was ready.

Yet the FBI claims that Wright downloaded Powell’s version of the Anarchist Cookbook with the purpose of making a bomb, which would have been a good trick given that to all appearances Powell’s book has never been sold in e-book format.

111. WRIGHT repeatedly asserted he downloaded the ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ in an attempt to learn how to make explosives including constructing plastic explosives from bleach and other household items; . . .

The complaint finally shows that the FBI was moving their own plot along by providing the defendants with phony C4.

112. When presented with the opportunity to purchase C4, WRIGHT and BAXTER met with an individual offering it for sale;

Michael Winter of USA Today reported that “Three self-described anarchists were sentenced to prison Tuesday for trying to blow up a highway bridge between Cleveland and Akron using dummy explosives provided by an undercover FBI agent.”

Ed Meyer of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote that “U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd, Jr. rejected the government’s insistence that the defendants get 30 years in prison and instead gave Douglas L. Wright 11½ years, Brandon L. Baxter nine years and nine months and Connor C. Stevens eight years and one month.”

Both of Stevens’ parents, James and Gail Stevens, lashed out at the government’s actions.

“My son is guilty, and so are you!” James Stevens told federal prosecutor Duncan Brown at one point. Gail Stevens called her son “my hero,” said she loved him with all her heart, and that he never would have acted as he did if not for the provocateur.

The entrapment of the young Occupy anarchists in Cleveland was the most dramatic attempt to discredit the Occupy movement. And it worked—with the help of some protesters who played into the hands of the police.

Efforts to re-energize the movement failed as the media reported on a wave of Occupy-related violence. Reuters reported:

Occupy Wall Street protesters smashed windows in Seattle, fled police on scooters through the streets of New York, and clashed with officers in Oakland on Tuesday in a May Day effort to revive the movement against economic injustice with demonstrations around the United States. . . .

New York police reported 10 instances of harmless white powder—apparently meant to raise an anthrax scare—being mailed to financial institutions and others . . .

In Seattle, some 50 black-clad protesters marched through downtown, carrying black flags on sticks they used to shatter the windows of several stores including a Nike Town outlet and an HSBC bank before police moved them out of the area. Others smashed windows at a Seattle federal building, and swarms of demonstrators gathered in an open-air plaza.

May 2012 was not the first time authorities used an alleged May Day bomb plot to discredit anarchists. Chicago police, seeking to stop the movement for an eight-hour workday, attacked a peaceful rally in May 1886. A bomb was set off and police shot into the rally in what has become known as the Haymarket massacre. The bomber was never identified and the government provided no evidence linking them to the bombing, yet anarchists August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, and Albert Parsons were accused of the bombing, convicted, and executed.

Historians James Joll and Timothy Messer-Kruse claim the evidence points to Rudolph Schnaubelt, brother-in-law of Michael Schwab, as the likely bomber. Howard Zinn, in A People’s History of the United States also indicates it was Schnaubelt, suggesting “he was a provocateur, posing as an anarchist, who threw the bomb so police would have a pretext to arrest leaders of Chicago’s anarchist movement.”

Spies would later testify, “I was very indignant. I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.”

That was in the 19th century. The government has been framing, imprisoning, and occasionally murdering anarchists ever since.

But you’re not powerless. You can take some simple steps to protect yourself from being arrested, charged, and convicted of planning or participating in acts of terrorism. The FBI and Homeland Security have sent infiltrators to our meetings to talk about using violence. The authorities will often attempt to give the impression in affidavits or typed memos that someone other than their informant or undercover officer made statements advocating violence, and imply that everyone participating in the discussion supported its use.

One of the most successful strategies used by the FBI is to have those infiltrating joke about the use of violence. When the words they used become the text in memos or court filings, they’re out of context, they no longer seem humorous, and can be presented as a serious conversation supporting the use of violence. Since those participating in such conversation consider the statements nothing more than an awkward attempt to be humorous or fit in with the group, no one thinks to make it clear that they don’t intend to participate in a violent action. Months later, out-of-context statements can appear as evidence that anarchists were plotting acts of terrorism. Even if you state clearly that it is not appropriate to talk or joke about violence, you can still be arrested and tried, but you will greatly reduce that possibility if you do speak up.

Activists have been charged as terrorists after getting a ride home with people that turned out to be infiltrators. After dropping off their passengers, provocateurs and those they’re setting up have burned down buildings or torched vehicles. The fact that you were seen getting into the informant’s vehicle before the act of alleged terrorism happened can provide the evidence needed to accuse you of taking part. The FBI and their informants are not always honest, and may choose not to mention that you were not at the scene of the crime, even though they can honestly say you got into a vehicle with the arsonist. Sometimes federal prosecutors have been able to get convictions simply because the set-up activists were intimidated into not expressing their dedication to nonviolence, fearing that they would be accused of being “weak” and not serious about social change, the well-being of animals, or the environment. Both provocateurs and holier-than-thou true believers use such fears to manipulate people into saying or doing things they would never otherwise say or do. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into silence. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into saying or doing things that could land you in prison.

The first step is to make it clear that you are not going to participate in acts of violence or destructive sabotage. You can make this clear in your literature, statements to the media, at meetings, social gatherings and during informal conversations. If people are joking about using violence or talking about the virtues of acts that could injure or kill people, it is wise to make several statements making it clear that you will not engage in any kind of violent activity. Point out that you are dedicated to nonviolence and that anyone considering any other strategies or methods should meet elsewhere. To help protect your friends you might also point out that it is very unlikely that such plans could be concealed from the government. As you can see in the Cleveland case, otherwise innocent conversations can be recorded and provide support for prosecution.

Another step you can take is to include statements about nonviolence in your literature about any direct action you might be planning or supporting. On occasion, the media and prosecutors will claim that our literature didn’t make any mention that our protests would be nonviolent, and use that as “proof” we are terrorists. If your group is planning an action, you can protect yourself by including explicit language about nonviolence in your publications. This can be difficult when working in coalition with groups that might not share our principles of nonviolence, but you could publish your own literature on the action. Don’t be intimidated into remaining silent on the issue of violence. It isn’t necessary to exclude reference to nonviolent direct action just because people are arguing in support of a “diversity of tactics.” You may initiate a pledge of nonviolence for the campaign you are supporting and organize nonviolence training sessions. Nonviolent resistance is every bit as valid as other methods and is often more effective.

Nonviolent direct action, noncooperation, and nonviolent resistance can be very empowering. It takes courage to organize and participate in campaigns of nonviolent struggle. Nonviolent struggle can build trust between participants and the public. Campaigns of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience can be so effective that governments and corporations will try anything to push our movement into adopting violent tactics. That is one reason groups like Food Not Bombs have been the focus of infiltration and why the authorities rely on agents provocateur to reduce the impact of nonviolence, while sowing fear and alienation.

Don’t let people intimidate you into silence. People can make comments about nonviolent activists being “wimps” or “pussies,” that nonviolence never works, or that you are not really committed to change if you aren’t willing to use sabotage or violence. You might even hear that nonviolence is racist because people of color “have to take up arms,” and that white, first-world people have the luxury to use nonviolence. Infiltrators or government agents may be talking to some of your friends at cafes, clubs, or other public locations, promoting the idea that armed resistance or arson is the only solution. Honest discussion of all tactics and methods, including types of violence, is fine, but make it clear that you and your group are dedicated to nonviolence.

At the same time, it is not wise to make claims of infiltration or accuse someone of being an informant. It is best to not worry about infiltration and to stay focused on the work of your organization. Just take the simple precautions of asking that any discussions of violent tactics take place somewhere other than at public meetings, make it clear you are dedicated to nonviolence; and make that plain in your publications and through organizing nonviolence trainings. If you do this, attempts to convict you on terrorism charges will likely fail, and the fear and mistrust that so often destroy movements will be defused. The government can use the fear of infiltration as a way of destroying trust in your community. Don’t accuse people—just be careful about what you say and do.

You can make sure you and your friends will not fall prey to the government’s efforts to disrupt your work. First, stay focused on the fundamentals of your project or campaign. Don’t feel guilty about refusing to take violent action. Since the world is facing so many dire crises, it might seem rational to consider arson or other acts deemed violent by the corporate state, but these tactics often backfire. They can cause the public to withdraw any support they may have had for your cause. The use of violence also breeds distrust among activists, because of the secrecy involved. But as we have learned from Ed Snowden and other whistle blowers, it is nearly impossible to have secrets in the United States. According to the Washington Post, over eighty billion dollars is spent each year on government and corporate spying.

A campaign of violence would add to the disempowerment in our community and scare the public into greater support of the authorities. If you feel you must investigate tactics that include violent action, ask yourself whether such tactics will do more harm than good for you personally and for the cause you support. Are you really ready to live fearing capture? How will you feel if your friends spend their lives in prison while you’re all portrayed as dangerous and crazy? Will your actions really inspire the public to rise up and save the earth? How will you feel if you kill someone or if one of your friends is killed? Can you really see yourself coordinating a campaign of bombings, arson, shootings? How will you feel spending the rest of your life in prison, seeing the stress this puts on your family and friends?

While it is possible you could spend decades in prison for taking nonviolent direct action, you are likely to feel more empowered and have wider support on the outside than if you were imprisoned for violent acts. Unlike people who are doing life in prison for bombings or shootings, if you are sentenced to a long prison term for organizing or participating in a campaign of nonviolent direct action and noncooperation, you have a much greater chance of inspiring popular support, possibly achieving your political or environmental goals, and of leaving prison before your sentence is up.

In addition, mass nonviolent direct action based on a thoughtful strategy is more likely to be effective. Agents provocateur encourage drastic actions, knowing we are knowledgeable about environmental and economic threats. If pressured, you can remind your friends that many of the anarchists in prison were framed for “terrorist” acts and that as anarchists we are dedicated to nonviolent direct action.

Along with making it clear you are not going to be silent when people suggest using violence, you may want to organize nonviolence preparations, trainings or workshops with your friends or organizations. Suggest that your community study the history of nonviolent direct action in books by people such as Emma Goldman, Erica Chenoweth, Gene Sharp, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who experienced first hand the power of noncooperation and nonviolence.

Again, be concerned about jokes concerning violence. If people joke about armed revolution, bombings, rock throwing or other acts of violence, make it clear that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and ask them to stop. You might remind your friends that conversations and jokes about using violence have resulted in activists being framed and sentenced to long prison terms. Terms sometime decades long. The activists that are joking about violence or making statements about the need to use violence are not necessarily infiltrators or police agents, so don’t make any accusations. They may have been influenced by someone they met or may have read some of the many books romanticizing violence. It is best not to worry and to stay focused on the work of your group. The government can use the fear of infiltration as a way of destroying trust in your community. Again, simply remind your friends that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and that we don’t joke or talk about taking violent action.

While armed resistance has worked to overthrow governments and change the power structure of some countries, in virtually every case the system that resulted continued to use violence to retain its authority. That is the exact opposite of what anarchists are seeking: a society free of coercion, exploitation and domination. Nonviolent social change offers the clearest route there.

 

Sabotage

Posted: April 12, 2015 in Livin' in the USA, Politics
Tags: , ,

Dummy 3 flat 72-small(This will appear in The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, scheduled for October 2015. It will contain accurate information on anarchism, dozens of tasty vegan recipes, and “recipes” for social change.)

A reasonable definition of sabotage is that it’s anything that causes physical damage or destruction to chosen targets and/or causes disruption to the normal operation of such targets.

Surprisingly, a good majority of sabotage is done for nonpolitical reasons. It’s done on the job, and its perpetrators are workers who are simply fed up with low pay, lousy working conditions, meaningless work, bosses they hate, or all of the above. As Martin Sprouse puts it in his interview book, Sabotage in the American Workplace, workers engage in sabotage “as a direct method of achieving job satisfaction.”

In contrast, very little sabotage is done for political reasons. But the two types can overlap, as with slaves in the pre-Civil War United States feigning stupidity, ignorance, or incompetence as a way of lightening their work burden. Though it probably was not a primary motivation, such sabotage helped to undermine slavery.

But here we’ll consider only politically motivated sabotage.

Except in very rare circumstances, sabotage in and of itself is not sufficient to achieve political goals–any political goals. It’s usually part of a broader campaign that can include civil disobedience, legal actions, and public education.

Because of this, it’s very important that sabotage doesn’t alienate unaligned people. It’s essential that it be nonviolent, that it injure no one. Authoritarian politicians and corporate shills are almost always delighted when saboteurs injure or kill people. They’re already attempting to equate sabotage with terrorism. Don’t make their job easier. Don’t play into their hands.

Sabotage (sometimes) involves destruction of things. Terrorism involves destruction of people (or threats of it). Make this crystal clear if you engage in sabotage.

Because much sabotage is illegal (not all is), it can be quite risky. Prosecutors routinely and viciously persecute politically motivated saboteurs, and judges routinely hand down savage sentences to them for piddling crimes (20 years for torching an SUV, for example).

One consequence of this is that those who engage in sabotage in groups are often turned against each other. The FBI routinely infiltrates progressive groups, no matter how mildly reformist and nonviolent, and will not only use informers but also provocateurs who will urge the group to perform illegal actions. In addition to this, provocateurs will often offer to supply money and logistical support for the actions they push. Sometimes they’ll also use emotional manipulation, appeals to “ethical responsibility” or “ethical duty,” implying that they’re ethical and courageous, and everyone else isn’t–unless they do what the provocateur wants them do do. (But be aware that some holier-than-thou types who aren’t informers or provocateurs also employ such manipulative language.)

Then if any members of the target group take the bait, the FBI will arrest them and, through threats of sadistic prison sentences, often turn at least one member who will then identify and testify against the rest–and sometimes implicate and provide false testimony against innocent others. This is not only tragic on a personal level, it’s movement destroying. Be very wary of anyone who urges illegal, especially highly illegal, acts, offers to supply money or other support for them, and attempts to emotionally manipulate you.

Since the risks can be so extreme, we recommend that people do not engage in highly illegal sabotage in groups except under exceptional circumstances (Nazi occupation, for example), and even then it should only be done as an absolute last resort. It’s far safer to engage in legally risky sabotage as an individual, and if you do that to tell absolutely no one about it. (Not telling anyone is difficult to do and takes a psychological toll–it’s isolating–so think several times before engaging in illegal solo sabotage.) Group sabotage should only involve legal forms of sabotage or the mildest, least risky forms of illegal sabotage–and even then we don’t recommend it.

Sabotage can take many forms, from the highly illegal to the perfectly legal. On the illegal side, it can range from simply pulling out survey stakes to destroying equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. On the legal side, one common form involves going into a supermarket during a strike, filling shopping carts with food, and walking out without paying.

One grey-area (probably illegal) activity some friends of mine took part in decades ago involved McDonald’s announcing plans to open a new Golden Arches in their neighborhood. About a dozen people went to another McDonald’s a couple of miles away, ordered meals, ate them, and then took ipecac. They had a puke-in. After they vomited, they left a flyer asking that McDonald’s not build the new outlet in their neighborhood. (One hesitates to call it a “restaurant.”)

They only had to do this twice before McDonald’s canceled construction of the new store. They evidently didn’t have the stomach to call the cops and then see headlines screaming, “Customers Arrested for Vomiting in McDonald’s.”

A more famous example of sabotage took place at the New York Stock Exchange in the late 1960s. Abbie Hoffman and other Yippees–who normally would have been turned away simply because of their appearance–gained admittance after telling security, “We’re Jews and we want to see the stock exchange.” Once inside, they tossed dollar bills down to the trading floor from a balcony. Chaos ensued as traders clawed all over each other to get the money. And what Hoffman and company did was entirely legal.

If you decide to engage in sabotage, be creative, keep your risk to a minimum, have fun, and think carefully about public perception of your acts.

(For ideas on sabotage, see Martin Sprouse’s book mentioned above, and also The Art and Science of Billboard Improvement, by the Billboard Liberation Front.)


Whitey(Whitey, documentary directed by Joe Berlinger, CNN Films / RadicalMedia, 2014)

reviewed by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

To call Whitey disturbing would be gross understatement.

It’s the story of James “Whitey” Bulger, a vicious criminal, and his protection by the FBI and Justice Department. Through the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s,  the FBI and federal prosecutors protected Bulger, who was the head of the Winter Hill gang (“Irish Mafia”) in Boston, as Bulger and his underlings engaged in drug dealing, extortion, loan sharking, and committed dozens of murders. Why? The feds claim that Bulger was an informant. Bulger in turn maintains that he bought FBI agents and federal prosecutors.

This in fact was one of the main points of contention at Bulger’s 2013 trial, even though it wasn’t relevant to the charges against him(!): he knew that the feds had him dead to rights, and he openly admitted to dealing drugs, but he wanted to prove that he wasn’t a rat, that he was a “buyer, not a seller” in relation to the FBI and federal prosecutors.

The evidence Berlinger presents supports Bulger’s contention. His FBI file reveals that Bulger provided the feds not a single “name” during his long career as an “informant.” He provided no actionable information. So, why would the feds maintain to this day that Bulger was an informant? There seem to be two answers: one is that the feds fraudulently used Bulger’s name when they obtained warrants to bust the Italian mob in Boston in the 1980s.

The second is that FBI agents and prosecutors, including the head of the Boston FBI office and the head federal prosecutor in that city, were on the take. Bulger’s FBI handler, John Connolly, was  sentenced to 40 years for his dealings with Bulger. And Connolly’s boss, John Morris, admitted that he took cash payments from Bulger. Yet Morris served not a day in jail for it. The head federal prosecutor in Boston at the time of the Mafia indictments in the 1980s, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, also protected Bulger, allegedly for protecting O’Sullivan from the Mafia. In one instance, where FBI agent Bob Fitzpatrick had obtained an informant to testify against Bulger in a murder case, both Simon and O’Sullivan refused to put the informant in the witness protection program. And the FBI tipped off Bulger about the informant. As a result, the informant and an innocent neighbor were gunned down by Bulger and his lieutenants.

The crowning touch came in 1994 when Bulger was finally indicted. Connolly (or possibly another corrupt agent) tipped off Bulger prior to the indictment, and he disappeared for 16 years until he was arrested in California.

But why would federal prosecutors still maintain that Bulger was a valuable informant, when his FBI file and the proven FBI corruption show that he was indeed a “buyer, not a seller”? If they would admit that he wasn’t an informant, the Mafia convictions from the 1980s (based in part on fraudulent warrants) would likely be overturned, the FBI and Justice Department would be revealed as engaging in wholesale corruption, and the FBI and Justice Department would face massive civil liability.

So, the federal prosecutors in the Bulger trial handled the turncoat mobsters from Bulger’s criminal gang with kid gloves–one of them John Martorano, who admitted to killing 20 people, only got 12 years in exchange for his testimony–while they viciously bullied Fitzpatrick, the FBI agent who obtained the murdered informant. Again, why? Fitzpatrick’s testimony revealed FBI and Justice Department corruption, and that Bulger was a “big problem” and worse than useless as an informant; and the prosecutors were intent on maintaining that Bulger was a valuable informant and that Connolly was simply a rogue agent.

In terms of documentary film making, Whitey is about as far as you can get from Ken Burns’ emotionally manipulative, maudlin The Civil War, considerably different from the works of Errol Morris, who’s an integral part of his films, and even more different from the works of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, who star in their films. Joe Berlinger is almost entirely absent from Whitey–in a single scene the brother of a murder victim addresses him as “Joe,” but we never hear Berlinger’s answer. Instead of inserting himself into the film, Berlinger tells the story through interview excerpts and statements from, among others, reporters who covered Bulger’s criminal career and trial, Bulger’s attorneys, Bulger himself (with the questions asked by one of his attorneys), former FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and surviving victims and the survivors of murdered victims. He fits all of these pieces in this complex tale into a multifaceted, horrifying mosaic. There’s no wasted motion (or emotion) here, and that’s refreshing.

Whitey fell through the cracks this summer, but is now available on Netflix.

Highly recommended.


You Call This Freedom? coverby Chaz Bufe

One hears, sees, or reads it every day. Often several times a day. It’s inescapable. And it’s an almost unquestioned article of faith: the United States is a free country. But is it really?

Civil Liberties—Freedom from Restraint

The more enlightened part of the American public (perhaps as much as 15% or 20% of the whole) regards freedom in purely negative terms, as freedom from restraint, intrusion, and compulsion—such things as freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of association. In short, the freedom to do or say anything that one wishes as long as one does not directly harm or intrude on others.

Many who believe in freedom in this sense find it very troubling that the government routinely violates supposedly guaranteed individual freedoms whenever it feels threatened, or even at its whim. Examples of such violations abound in U.S. history, from the first days of the republic to the present day. To cite but a few: under John Adams, congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which gave the government license to arrest and jail those who criticized it. It wasn’t the courts that saved Americans from these totalitarian laws; rather, they expired, due to a built-in time limit, while Thomas Jefferson, who had opposed their passage, was president.

Another example is the Espionage Act of 1917. Under it, criticism of the government was again declared illegal, and the victims of this law numbered in the thousands, many of whom were imprisoned for lengthy terms for exercising the supposedly guaranteed right of free speech. Victims included innumerable members of the Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, and the great Mexican anarchist and revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón.

Shortly after World War I, many states passed “criminal syndicalism” laws prohibiting unions and their members from advocating and organizing for worker management of the economy and dissolution of government. (The states permitted only AFL-type business unions, which accepted and supported capitalism.) Again, these laws and their application constituted a gross violation of the rights of free speech and free assembly; and thousands of IWW members were jailed under these laws throughout the land, often for lengthy terms.

Still another example, this time aimed at freedom of movement and freedom of association, was FDR’s executive order mandating the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. Of course, the courts found that this was perfectly legal.

During the Vietnam War, the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign did its best to silence dissent through the use of wiretapping, blackmail (of, for instance, Martin Luther King), use of agents provocateur, framing activists (such as Black Panther Geronimo Pratt and American Indian Movement [AIM] leader Leonard Peltier), and on more than one occasion murdering activists (including Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, murdered by Chicago police in an FBI-planned raid, and dozens of AIM members murdered on the Lakota reservation during early 1970s by goon squads operating with FBI help). Because these violations of individual rights were carried out secretly, none of the agents responsible for these violations were ever brought to justice.

At present, we’re seeing a renewal of COINTELPRO-type FBI activities directed against peace and political activists, notably the Occupy and Anonymous movements. In an eerie echo of WWI-era hysteria and its “espionage” act (virtually none of whose victims were engaging in espionage), this time the excuse is “terrorism,” even though the government must be well aware that peace and left-wing political activists pose absolutely no “terrorist” threat, and that the only “terrorist” acts which have resulted in bodily injury or death that have taken place in this country for the last four decades have all, with the sole exception of the “Unabomber” attacks, been carried out either by the extreme racist right (for example, the murder of Denver talk show host Alan Berg by The Order, and the Oklahoma City federal building bombing), right-wing “right to life” religious fanatics (numerous bombings of abortion clinics and shootings of abortion providers), and, in the most spectacular acts, by right-wing Muslim religious extremists.

More routinely, day in and day out, the government violates the individual right to be free from intrusion, the right to be left alone as long as one is not harming or intruding on anyone else. These violations of individual rights are codified in the laws against victimless or consensual “crimes,” most prominently the laws against drug use and possession, prostitution, gambling, and, until recently, “sodomy.” The oft-times extreme penalties for violating these laws have ruined literally millions of lives, with many of those who violated such laws serving far longer terms than rapists and murderers.

As well, the government still jealously guards its “right” to press its citizens into involuntary military service via conscription. The fact that this is an obvious violation of the 13th Amendment’s prohibition of “involuntary servitude,” and that the courts have repeatedly ruled that this form of involuntary servitude is not, somehow, involuntary servitude, serves to point out the weakness of the supposed guardians of individual rights: written constitutional guarantees and the courts that interpret those guarantees.

Occasionally, as in the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down the sodomy laws, the courts will uphold individual rights. But the courts tend to do this only when public opinion has shifted powerfully against the laws in question, and the government feels no compelling need to maintain them in force. (The Supreme Court upheld the sodomy laws as recently as 1986; since then public opinion has shifted strongly against such laws.) In most other cases, the courts feel no compunction in declaring that black is white and that written constitutional guarantees do not mean what they plainly state. To cite a few additional examples showing how near-useless the courts are as guardians of our rights, one might consider the numerous decisions upholding the government’s “right” to intrude into the private lives of individuals via laws outlawing private drug use, consensual sex acts between adults (such as prostitution), and gambling.
The courts and paper promises are not in any real sense guarantees of individual rights; and federal, state, and local governments continue to routinely violate our most basic rights, especially the right to be left alone so long as one is not intruding on or harming someone else.

How did this sorry state of affairs come to be? How could gross violations of individual liberty be so common in a country whose citizens supposedly value freedom? The answer is simple: a large majority of Americans passively accept this state of affairs in sheep-like silence, and at least a sizable minority actively support the government’s violations of individual rights. The few who have the courage to stand up against these violations, and the authoritarian herd supporting them, are often crushed like bugs.

The government’s treatment of author Peter McWilliams, civil libertarian and author of Ain’t Nobody’s Business, is a tragic example. McWilliams, who was diagnosed in 1996 with AIDS and cancer, began using medical marijuana to combat the nausea caused by his AIDS drugs. Due to his high-profile status as a defender of individual liberties and medical marijuana use, he was targeted by the DEA, which invaded his home, trashed it (a very common practice), and arrested him on marijuana cultivation charges. At his 1998 trial, the judge refused to allow a “medical necessity” defense, and thus refused to hear both scientific evidence of marijuana’s efficacy in combatting nausea and any mention of California’s 1996 law permitting the use of medical marijuana. McWilliams was convicted, and after his family put up their houses to raise his bail ($250,000—higher than for most rapists and armed robbers), he was released on bail, but on the condition that he not use medical marijuana to combat his nausea. In 2000, while his case was still on appeal and he was still under the restriction prohibiting his nausea medication, he died as a result of choking on his own vomit.

The “Freedom” of Voting

Again, how could such a horrible thing come to pass? How did our fellow citizens become so degraded as to support such horrendous misuse of government power? How is it that so many Americans have so little understanding of and so little concern about their own freedoms and those of their fellows?

A good part of the answer lies in what they consider freedom to be. It seems that a great many, probably a good majority, of our fellow Americans do not consider freedom from restraint and freedom from intrusion as fundamental. No. What they see as fundamental to freedom—and many seem to regard this as freedom’s only component—is the right to vote. Numerous consequences flow from this.

The primary result of believing that freedom consists only of voting, of choosing one’s rulers, is the belief that anything the government does is okay as long as the government is elected and enacts its decisions into law.1 In individual behavior, this attitude manifests itself as passive acceptance of intrusive, authoritarian government violations of individual rights, or in many cases goose-stepping enthusiasm for those violations (in cases in which the goose-steppers dislike those targeted by the government). This hypnotic fixation on voting is so strong that most people don’t even notice glaring contradictions, such as “making the world safe for democracy” (during World War I) while suppressing free speech and free association, and the intermittent practice of forcing multitudes into involuntary servitude in the armed forces to keep our country “free.”

Institutional Support for Voting

The reasons for this hypnotic fixation on voting are not difficult to see. The first, though not necessarily the most important, is the miseducation system in the United States. Its backbone is a system of rigid routine cued by bells and buzzers, inculcation of competition (for grades1 and teachers’ favor) rather than cooperation, participation in mandatory rituals of subordination (e.g., the Pledge of Allegiance), endless indoctrination that the U.S. is a free country (with heavy emphasis on the right to vote), and mindless rote memorization.2 Add to this that critical thinking and skepticism are often discouraged—it’s no accident that year after year U.S. students score badly in science compared with students in other countries—and one can only conclude that the U.S. miseducation system is succeeding very well in its mission: production of automatons who do not think for themselves, who are barely even capable of thinking for themselves, who submissively accept humiliating government intrusions into their lives (e.g., urine tests), and who accept hierarchy, gross economic inequality, an artificially low standard of living, a huge, parasitic military sucking the economic life from the country, and their own subordinate places in a rigidifying class structure as normal, natural, and indeed inevitable—and, most amazing of all, who consider themselves “free” (because of the right to vote).

The second important factor in the fixation upon voting as “freedom” is the corporate media, which also presents hierarchy, gross economic inequality, a highly intrusive government, militarism, religious irrationality, and a class structure (though never identified as such) as normal, natural, and inevitable. Again, as in the miseducation system, one finds a focus on “great men” (especially, as in CNN’s coverage of the Iraq invasions, military men). Again, one finds in the corporate media drumbeat repetition of the claim that the U.S. is a “free” country. From this flows the (generally unstated) conclusion that present social, political, and economic conditions constitute freedom.3 Then, there’s the day-in-day-out obsessive coverage of elected officials and elections. This, combined with the constant repetition that the U.S. is a “free” country (and respectful coverage of the courts as freedom’s arbiters and guarantors), provides powerful reinforcement of the belief that elections in and of themselves constitute freedom and that freedom is something delivered by the state.

One might add that the corporate media almost invariably present all radical alternatives to the present socioeconomic system as threatening to “our freedom,” and the advocates of such alternatives as being dangerous and/or crazy.4 A good example of this is the corporate media’s treatment of anarchism. There is a near-total media blackout of anarchism’s most respected spokesman, the renowned linguist, Noam Chomsky. Instead, the corporate media focuses on fringe figures such as the murderous schizophrenic, Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”), and advocates of the ridiculous, such as primitivists, and presents them to the public (with generally not even barely concealed ridicule) as the face of anarchism.

Religion, more especially authoritarian, patriarchal religion, is the third primary component in the machine which churns out the indoctrinated automatons who equate voting with freedom. Patriarchal religions, such as Islam, fundamentalist Christianity, Catholicism, and Mormonism are extremely hierarchical and authoritarian in nature. In these religions, God, in almost military manner, gives orders and his lieutenants convey them down the chain of command to the laity. (That’s the theory; somehow, one suspects that the orders don’t originate with God.) In all of these religions, the role of the laity is to obey, period.

The Catholic Church is perhaps the clearest example of hierarchical structure and the dominant/submissive relationship between clergy and laity. Here, “God’s” orders are relayed first to the “infallible” pope, and then down the chain of command: cardinals, archbishops, bishops, monsignors, priests—and then to the laity.

It’s also important to note that all of these patriarchal religions are virulently anti-intellectual (notwithstanding the Catholic Church’s intellectual pretensions), and all systematically discourage rational inquiry and skepticism. All too often, this “discouragement” has taken physical form, such as the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno and other heretics, the Index of Prohibited Books, etc.
In all of these religions, great emphasis is placed on blind acceptance of the words of “holy” men and “holy” books. In all of them, blind faith—that is, not using one’s ability to think, not using one’s ability to reason—is presented as a virtue. Martin Luther stated the matter quite plainly in his Table Talk: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.”

Then add in the fact that all of these religions teach that it’s the duty of their respective flocks to impose their beliefs (their “morality”) on others, either directly through violence or through the threat of violence embodied in the law and the governments that enforce it, and it’s little wonder that the members of these religions have, overall, so little respect for freedom and so little understanding of it.

One can begin to appreciate how abysmally these religious folk misunderstand the nature of freedom by listening to their near-interminable whining about how their freedoms are being violated. When one gets to the bottom of these sniveling complaints, one almost always finds that their “freedom” is being “violated” by nonintrusive individuals who are committing private, consensual acts condemned by religious “morality.” A good contemporary example of this is the current bleating about gays (who make up perhaps 5% of the population) attempting to “force” the “homosexual agenda” upon poor, god-fearing Christians (who make up a mere 75% to 80% of the population). When one looks at this even briefly, it becomes immediately obvious that all that gays want are the same very limited legal rights (against employment and housing discrimination, etc.) as everyone else. For fundamentalist Christians, Mormons, and conservative Catholics, this granting of equal rights is a “violation” of their (the religious believers’) “freedom.” One might also mention the unceasing attempts of Christian true believers to use taxpayer dollars to have their creation myths taught as “science” in the public schools. (Of course, the creation myths of other religions are simply silly superstitions and not “science.”)

All of this quite clearly reveals the religious concept of “freedom.” For religious fanatics, “freedom” consists of the “right” to intrude into the private lives and private activities of others, to use public monies for religious indoctrination, and to force others, either through direct or institutional violence (the law), to live their lives in accord with the dictates of religious “morality.” In other words, “freedom” for religious true believers consists of their “right” to intrude and impose.5

Examples of religious “moral” intrusion into our private lives (via the state) abound. To cite two additional examples, the Catholic Church managed to keep birth control devices illegal until well into the twentieth century in many parts of the U.S. (until the 1960s in heavily Catholic Con-necticut), and many courageous advocates of reproductive choice were sent to prison as a result. Having lost that battle—though it’s now clamoring for the “right” of religious employers to deny contraception coverage in health plans for their employees—the Catholic Church is now attempting to impose its “moral” views on the rest of us through its attempts to outlaw abortion. If these attempts would succeed, those who view freedom as simply the right to vote for one’s rulers would see no contradiction between these intrusions and the assertion that the U.S. is a “free country.”

In fact, many religious folk have an even more restricted concept of freedom than that of its simply being their “right” to choose rulers to impose their “morality” on others.6 Many (such as the Christian “reconstructionists”) would actually prefer a theocracy or some other form of dictatorship. For these folk, “freedom” consists solely of obeying (and imposing on others) the dictates handed down by their “holy” men and “holy” books. In other words, for these religious believers, abandonment (voluntary or forced) of self-direction is “freedom.” To put the matter baldly, for them slavery is freedom. A huge painted (and oft-defaced) slogan on the side of a former local mosque nicely distills this Orwellian concept: “Freedom is submission to the will of God.”
In sum, it’s fair to say that to the extent that they take their religion seriously—that is, to the extent that they follow the dictates of their sects’ “holy” books and “holy” men—members of patriarchal religions cannot be good citizens, even in the common, very restrictive sense of that term.7 Through their belief in and support of authoritarian hierarchies, and through their unrelenting attempts to impose their “morality” on the rest of us, they are in fact deadly enemies of individual freedom.

What Voting Delivers

Getting back to the common belief that freedom consists of voting to choose masters who can, and often try to, control every aspect of life in accord (the voters hope) with the voters’ wishes, it’s obvious that the present system doesn’t deliver the promised goods—even for the authoritarian individuals who want to impose their twisted morals on the rest of us. In the first place, there’s no guarantee that elected officials will act in accord with voters’ wishes. In fact, once they’re in office, there are very few checks upon their actions, and they very often act in the arrogant manner befitting what they really are: the masters of those they “serve.”

In the second place, those with unpopular views are sometimes denied their elected positions. A good example is Victor Berger, a member of the Socialist Party who was elected to the U.S. house of representatives in a landslide in 1918, but was denied his seat in 1919 because he was a Socialist who had opposed World War I. A more recent example is Julian Bond, who was denied his seat in the Georgia state assembly in 1965 due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

In the third place, the U.S. electoral system is by far the most undemocratic of any in the western democracies. It’s set up, from the local to federal levels, as a winner-take-all system which by its very nature has cemented the two-party system in place and which has systematically prevented those holding minority views from having any share of power, no matter how minor. (In contrast, European democracies feature proportional representation, which guarantees legislative seats to all but the smallest political parties.) Further, the electoral college is a national embarrassment which has led on more than one occasion to the presidential candidate who garnered the most votes “losing” the election. And the U.S. senate is elected on the basis of geographic areas (the states) that vary wildly in size and population. This results in extreme inequities, such as Wyoming, with a population of half a million, having the same number of senators as California, with a population of 38 million.

In the fourth place, participation in electoral politics is far from an equal-opportunity affair. With the costs of even county supervisor races often running above $100,000 and the costs of U.S. house and senate races often costing well up into the millions, even tens of millions, electoral politics, above low-level local races, is a game only for the rich. At present, over half of the members of Congress are millionaires, and virtually all of the rest are far above the median in both wealth and income.8

Thus the vast majority of those who support the electoral process not only have no control over their rulers, but they’re effectively barred, because of their economic status, from becoming one of those rulers. Instead, they’re reduced to trudging to a voting booth every two years—and because of this “privilege,” they consider themselves “free.”

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1. This is a powerful, near-continual inducement to seeing others as rivals and to seeing their bad fortune (poor grades) as one’s good fortune.

2. This last is perhaps most pronounced in history classes, which rarely consist of anything more than memorization of dates and the names of “great men,” in conjunction with a carefully sanitized version of U.S. and world history focusing on the deeds of the “great men.”

3. This conclusion was presented in bare-faced form, and heavily promoted, as the (now nearly forgotten) “end of history” conjecture in the 1990s; this conjecture stated that the late phase capitalism under which we live is as near to utopia as we’ll ever get. That this absurd thesis received considerable, respectful coverage is a good indication of the subservience of the media to the socio-political agenda of its corporate owners.

4. Formerly, the primary tactic (which is still occasionally employed) was to present the false dichotomy of “free enterprise” vs. Soviet-style “communism,” as if no other alternatives were possible.

5. A quick, dirty means of determining who in fact is being oppressed in most situations is to look at who wants to regulate the private conduct of others, and who wants to use the law to throw others in jail.

6. The deceased “father of Christian reconstructionism,” the unapologetic racist R.J. Rushdoony, wanted to install a theocracy that would pass laws mandating the death penalty for, among other things, homosexuality, adultery, heresy, blasphemy, and atheism. Rushdoony wanted the victims of these laws to be stoned to death.

7. A reasonable common usage definition of “good citizen” might run as follows: someone who follows the law, takes part in the electoral process, and respects its results. Religious zealots cannot be “good citizens” under this definition, because they place “God’s law” above all else, and they’ll violate “man-made law” if the two are in conflict. (The murder of abortion providers by “right to life” zealots is a good example of this.)

8. Some of the above-listed defects in the American electoral system have been recognized as serious problems since the 19th century. That nothing has been done about them speaks volumes in itself about the undemocratic nature of the American “democratic” process.