Ideologues receive preferential treatment from the alternative media. No matter how many times they take their audiences for a ride in endless circles, these misinformation pundits reap the benefits of satisfying their catharsis through endlessly whining about the latest government atrocity during this week’s news cycle. Anyone who dares to recommend a strategy or two is, more often than not, vilified as if they were a demagogue, especially if their proposal turned out to not work the one time it was tried; whereas, the reformists, as creatures of this system, are bestowed with an unearned credibility by the ignorantly gullible.
Picking up right were she left off at The End of America, Naomi Wolf attempts to philosophize about what the Founders intended American liberty to be, in order to provide a vision for what she (and others she interviewed) recommend be done to restore constitutional government. As she says in the introduction:
“I wrote this handbook with the faith that if Americans take personal ownership of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they can push back any darkness. The first two sections of this refresher guide to our liberties recall what America is supposed to be; the last third is a practical how-to for citizen leadership for a new American Revolution.”
So, what insight does Wolf have to offer us in terms of what classically liberal republicanism actually entails? She answers by saying:
“The stories I read and reread of the ‘spirit of 1776’ led me with new faith to these conclusions: We are not to wait for others to lead. You and I are meant to take back the founders’ mandate, and you and I are meant to lead. You and I must protest, you and I must confront our representatives, you and I must run for office, you and I must write the op-eds, you and I must take over the battle.”
Ah-ha! So, Wolf would like me and everyone else to believe that the Founders were a bunch of reformists. I don’t know about her, but last time I checked, the philosophy of liberty seldom requires “must,” yet frequently allows “may,” when it comes to practical human action; not only that, but I get a very strong feeling that does not want the rest of us to emulate the bravery of Mother Batherick. Now consider the next two quotes, also from her introduction:
“We have to rise up in self-defense and legitimate rebellion. We need more drastic action than e-mails to Congress. We need the next revolution.”
“Rather, it [the Declaration of Independence] is saying something darker and more personally demanding: you have a sacred obligation to take the most serious possible steps and undergo the most serious kinds of personal risks in defense of this freedom that is your natural right; and you must rise up against those who seek to subdue you – wherever and whenever they appear.”
By the term “revolution,” does she mean shooting cops? Because if she did, then, oh boy, according to statist propaganda, you can’t do that, because that’s illegal! All chuckling aside though, her rhetoric does beg the question regarding use of force issues and the ethical permissibility of the non-aggression principle, doesn’t it?
What I did appreciate about Wolf’s sequel was all of the bureaucratic red tape she endured when attempting to make her “constitutional” reformism happen. As she described all of the government literature about running for office as being indicative of both phony democracy and fake patriotism:
“Indeed, the materials seemed designed to make you conclude that democracy was just too complicated for ordinary people to take charge of. I felt as if I were in a scene in a thriller in which a character has to search under great pressure for a missing clue: I rifled page after page of printouts looking for what was not there. Finally, staring at my stack of yellow file folders – containing source after U.S. government source that left out the key action step that would let citizens actually enter the process and throw their weight around and make a difference – I faced a bitter conclusion. They don’t want us weighing in, let alone driving the process.”
If the rulers had genuinely wanted the citizenry to have a seat at the table of power, they wouldn’t act the way they do with flagrantly breaking the law in broad daylight, or condescendingly treating a petition for a redress of grievances as a mere advocacy letter. Wolf sums up political disenfranchisement rather eloquently by stating:
“Weren’t we supposed to tug our forelocks to no one? But it was hell on earth trying to find material that addressed us as the rightful leaders of the nation ourselves. Even Congress’s own websites don’t explain upcoming bills in clear English, don’t offer you enough advance notice of the agenda to affect the outcome, and don’t show how many citizens (who would be willing to have the information reported) contacted Congresspeople for or against various legislation. So you are left to be alerted, if you’re luckily, by some random organization, and you send your e-mail blindly, alone, as if dropping into the ocean. It is an engineered experience of powerlessness.”
I will applaud Wolf for being forthright about her experience in trying to wade through the bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare that is the administrative agencies. Unfortunately, instead of learning that perhaps contemporary representative democracy just ain’t worth “saving,” she chooses to persist in her error; might this be due to her fear of direct action?
Curtis Ellis, a “realistic” radical in the tradition of Saul Alinksy, offered the following authoritarian gem when interviewed by Wolf about what he would say to the Millennials if he could:
“I would say – I would want to say – the truth is that he’s being used. I would want to say, ‘The people in control don’t want you to vote. You’re a sucker – congratulations.”
Remember, this is from the same jerk who wants compulsory voting! As to why he would insist that Millenials are being manipulated, he said:
“It serves the moneyed interests and the political elite that have been bought and paid for by the moneyed interests. Their mantra is ‘Government shouldn’t spend your money, you should, so I’ll give you a tax cut.’ The message is brilliant because on a meta-level it encourages people not to participate.”
Wow, what willful ignorance; he should publicly apologize to everyone for his quoted remark here once he’s read a copy of A Law Unto Itself, yet, I won’t be holding my breath anytime soon, either. Unfortunately, his statism gets much, much worse:
“But who is the government? It’s supposed to be us. It’s us. We are the government. It didn’t come from Mars. It’s not the British crown. We’re a democracy.”
What tripe is this? Didn’t Larken Rose and Chris Cantwell debunk this lie just a few years ago? At the risk of sounding like a Christian, the Devil is the father of lies precisely because he can exploit half-truths to his advantage; for instance, although Ellis is certainly accurate that a Millennial is definitely being manipulated, it’s a bald-faced lie to say that “the people in control don’t want [him] to vote,” because they absolutely do! Popular electoral voting legitimizes the State, and if there ever was a devil, the State is it! Ellis also suggests:
“Start an affinity group: Democracy Commandos. Call it something. Meet every month or couple of months. Register everyone – even twenty people – and show the list to the Congressperson’s district office. That makes you a power broker.”
Oh, really? Last time I checked, grassroots lobbying doesn’t work, so why should I waste a moment of my time doing so? Worst of all, Ellis wants to increase the number of registered voters, as if that does anything; does he assume someone like me has acted contrary to the intentions of the Framers by cancelling my voter registration? Besides, when was the last time you could get five of your friends to agree on watching the same film at the local cinema? Isn’t reformism supposed to be practical?
It would appear to be the case that the first 200 some odd pages of this book is really just Wolf advocating for a vision of what I can only tell might be socially democratic populism. Nothing about the market, even less about economics, just a whirligig about the need to rescue democracy from “the corporations,” or something to that effect, I couldn’t quite tell. No wonder Lew Rockwell referred to her as an “ex-progressive,” who has allegedly become “libertarian-leaning,” back in 2010.
Regarding this sequel being an actual handbook, Wolf’s methodology is crowd-sourced, but she seems to imply that the listed techniques are somehow all equally valid. This presumption is rooted in the “throw spaghetti at a wall and see what sticks” method, which she appears to do, considering she also fails to distinguish between the political and economic means of making money! The sheer lack of follow up as to the efficacy of each technique is what I expected though, because there is not supposed to be; you are not allowed to evaluate or judge anything practically, since to do so would be to become a “scab” by failing to tow the party line. And so, statism, and its ugly buck-toothed cousin, reformism, carry on with their tyrannical designs.
Let me distinguish between what I think are the political (reformist) means and the economic (direct action) means that Wolf lists in her book. First up, reformism:
- Democracy commandos
- Writing letters to the editor
- Pitching a feature piece
- Establishing a non-profit organization
- Initiatives & referenda
- Mandatory voting
Obviously, recall elections are just as bad as initiatives and referenda, democracy commandos are grassroots lobbyists, and aren’t non-profits part of “the corporations” themselves, which I thought Wolf was vehemently against, unless I’m mistaken? Now, by contrast, here are some activities that just might count as direct action:
- Writing press releases
- Whistleblowing (includes FOIA & the 1974 Privacy Act)
- Meetings & lectures
- Hearings (includes conventions & festivals, such as the Jackalope Freedom Festival)
- Shareholder activism
As you can now doubt tell, the very best that Wolf has to offer is essentially the alternative media, but considering my concerns over the years, I think Wolf’s recommendations about Internet media have played themselves out, for the most part, whether for good or bad. With whatever it might be worth to you all, I think that shareholder activism is a rarely used method, which is likely to be quite powerful, if given half a chance.
Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries is quite lackadaisical in giving any serious contemplation to how best get “from here to there.” There is no mention of forming Committees of Safety, or even militia units, much less any coherent sense of real strategy. Needless to say, until people start questioning aspiring politicians, then reformists will stubbornly refuse to abandon the ballot box, plain and simple. I think what this book really illustrates is that counter-productive “solutions,” like state nullification, ought to trashed into the dustbin of history, alongside worn out polemics about “democracy.” To further upstage Naomi Wolf in just a few words, I’d like to recommend y’all begin role-playing police interrogations, as well as implementing your own security culture, if you genuinely care about exercising your natural liberty.