Lately I have been watching what are known as “first amendment audit” videos. These are videos where a person or a couple of people go out with cameras and video recorders and take photos and video of public buildings…anything from water treatment facilities to post offices, FBI buildings, police stations, and oil refineries. They interact copiously with law enforcement officers and their intention is to educate them on the right of citizens to monitor government officials and their businesses in the course of these officials performing their public duties.
Now, it is obvious to anyone with even a remedial understanding of the meaning a government “of, by, and for the People” that this is not only perfectly legal but also utterly necessary. History has shown us that a government which operates away from the watchful eyes of the public it is supposed to serve tends to grow fat with corruption, vampire-like with blood lust, and irredeemably addicted to power.
Of course we hear a million times that “in this day and age” [of terrorism] the government cannot be too careful nor too diligent in the protection of itself for the sake of its citizens, and so the legal right to monitor the government in public must be heavily qualified, if not occasionally curtailed. Yes photography and videography is legal, but it’s not wise, they say…and I actually heard a cop say essentially this to a cameraman in one of the videos—“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.” And what I find so shocking is the fact that not only is this statement so patently false with respect to citizen oversight of government, but this whole line of argument is nothing more than a pretense to the suspension of the first amendment whilst claiming that the suspension shall be IN SERVICE to the first amendment. In other words, the argument is that the government must strictly control the exercise of the first amendment in order that it can protect the people in order that they may continue to live freely, and by “freely” we can presume that this means (in part) to exercise the first amendment.
Do you see the twisted logic here?
This doublespeak is a recipe for tyranny…and though it is shocking it’s not surprising. As I have argued dozens and maybe even hundreds of times on this blog, the premise which underwrites government necessitates that government MUST INEVITABLY become tyrannical. There can be no other outcome; for you will get nothing less than tyranny from a premise which says that the only way to ensure a moral society is to compel men by violence and threats of violence into right thinking and behavior (ethical existence) via a centralized Authority tasked with bringing about some collectivist Utopian Ideal (e.g. The People, Equality, Freedom, Social Justice, Economic Justice, God’s Truth, the Nation, the Workers, the Tribe, the Culture, Diversity, the Coroporation, etc. etc.).
In a “day and age” wherein the world becomes more dangerous for a free nation like the United States (arguably used to be), the solution to whatever problems are faced is not less freedom, but MORE freedom. It is PRECISELY at a time like this when citizens should become INCREASINGLY engaged in overseeing their government, because they understand that it is the habit and the nature of governement to exploit crisis in order to expand its power. Government, like a roaring lion, actively and relentlessly seeks ANY excuse to devour the freedom of the citizen in order that it may indulge its root nature: despotism. This is a FACT, and history is my witness.
I also watched a disturbing video where an off-duty police officer, after a truck driver briefly lost control of his rig and had to perform an emergency evasive maneuver in front of the him, engaged in a fit of road rage whereby this cop chased and terrorized the truck driver for more than 25 miles. Of course the truck driver had no idea that the maniac chasing wildly after him was a cop, as the officer was in his private vehicle and not wearing a uniform, and never showed his badge.
The officer subsequently lied about the situation and brought a completely fabricated charge against the driver of reckless driving and wanton disregard for the public. But because there was absolutely no evidence for this accusation, the charge was dropped and an alternate one for “equipment failure” was submitted instead, which amounted to small fine and no points on the truck driver’s license…but even the “equipment failure” charge was a lie, as the truck had simply struck a bad patch of road and the back end momentarily lost traction and slipped sideways. The fine was literally nothing more than a face-saving exercise for the obviously embarrassed police department. It was also a “fuck you” to the public in general, I submit. It was a way of saying to us all that if you happen to piss off a cop, on or off duty, for a reason that is entirely false then they will hurt you. Period. You have no redress; you will get no justice. They are the authority, you are the masses. In effect, you are a slave, and they own you. You will NEVER be found innocent if they do not want to find you innocent. If you hurt their pride, you’ll suffer the consequences.
Though the truck driver was found innocent of all charges except for the token “faulty equipment” accusation, which again was nothing more than the police simply refusing to admit their fuck up, the damage had already been done. The mere accusation of reckless driving was enough for this driver to lose his job (which is understandable from the company’s point of view as he specialized in transporting hazardous material); and though the official fine was only $50, the whole affair including lawyers fees and lost work cost him around $2000. The accusing officer retired in good standing with the department and maintains a perfectly clean service record.
Land of the free IF you don’t piss of certain cops, it seems.
Speaking of pissed off cops, let’s get back to the first amendment audit videos. Unfortunately, yet predictably, the vast majority of the time security and the police are woefully unaware of the law that they are supposedly upholding. Even though we do not live in a police state like Nazi German or Stalinist Russia, public photographers are routinely asked to show identification well before any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity has been determined. Photographers are verbally abused, bullied, assaulted, arrested, handcuffed, and thrown in jail on objectively false charges of trespassing, or disturbing the peace, or resisting arrest, or failing to indentify…all manner of false and entirely contrived offenses. And of the dozens and dozens of videos I have watched I have yet to see any ACTUAL violation of the law. None. Not one. Certainly some of the videographers are aggressive and confrontational…clearly they are looking for an altercation. This makes for interesting videos which brings in more views. That makes sense—but I should add that I do not condone this approach. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we live in a society where the freedom of expression means that people are allowed to act like assholes in public. In turn, those of us who reject such personalities are free to act like assholes back, or to ostracize them, or to publicly shame them, or to fight back and/or enlist the police if they get violent. But the State is NEVER justified in making it against he law to be an asshole. A free nation WILL have its assholes…it MUST have its assholes. To regulate assholes out of the public sphere is to criminalize personality, which is to criminalize ideas, which is to criminalize thought, which is the death of the individual, which is the death of freedom, which is the death of the nation.
So here’s a question for you: What happens when the government falls under the control of “pissed off cops”, so to speak. Meaning, what happens when “public service”, which is a natural magnet for narcissists and psychopaths by its very nature, becomes thoroughly saturated with those who wield State Authority in order to satisfy their lust for power, exploit the citizenry for their own gain, and/or merely to feed whatever psychotic craving grabs them at the moment? Indeed, I should add here that, quite frankly, I’m not sure we don’t actually have this already.
What’s the solution? How do you address a government that exceeds the checks and balances of the Constitution because it (inevitably) realizes that the Constitution is utterly dependent upon its own practical authority to wield the force necessary to compel the masses into the right behavior that the Constitution declares and implies? Meaning that absent those in power, the Constitution is less relevant than an dishrag. The Constitution isn’t magic. Absent the practical coercive Authority of the State it’s just a piece of old paper.
Now, I understand already the myriad of responses to this question—what do we do with an irredeemably corrupt government?—which can be predicted, and all of them can be boiled down to two essential ideas. The first is that the citizens can stage some sort of revolt, perhaps American Revolution style; the second is that they can somehow replace the political class with new members…those who will respect the Constitution and the American people whose rights it exists to validate and ensure.
I’m not really interested in the specific, finer points of each of these solutions to the problem of tyranny. What I want to examine is the underling philosophical premise of them relative to that of the State. That is: what is the root assumption being made about man’s nature and his capacity for and sufficiency to his existence? And the reason why this is so important and so interesting is that within this question resides the most astounding and overt contradiction, a contradiction which has been the bane and the fundamental undoing of the United States since before the ink on the Constitution was dry. For 250 years the United States has been playing a losing game with metaphysical primaries, and now, finally, the wheels are coming off in a most spectacular and terrifying fashion. On the one hand the United States is founded on the enlightenment principle of individual liberty. What this means in summary is that the Constitution acknowledges the sufficiency of man to his own existence; the ability of human will and thus choice to effect moral outcomes and to establish productive social cohesion. In short, man is ABLE, through the exercise of his will, to EXIST. Man is by nature a thinking and thus a necessarily WILLFUL agent, and therefore his natural and most productive state of being is freedom—of life, liberty, and property. FREEDOM, the Constitution implies, is the most efficacious means of ensuring man’s of survival. Man, as an individual, in his natural state, is utterly sufficient to existence. This is why government shall be elected, not appointed by the ruling class; why property and the means of production are privately owned, not loaned to the masses by the State; why terms of governance are voted upon by representatives, not spontaneoulsy dictated to the people and laced with implicit violence; and why men are free to speak their minds up to and including overt and vigorous criticism of the government and its officials. It is because what man thinks actually matters; man’s mind is capable of discerning truth from false hood, and thus good from evil, and therefore is capable of and entitled to a say in how his government behaves and who shall be granted the privilege of running it.
On the other hand, the Constitution ALSO AFFIRMS government. And the metaphycial premise which underwrites government as an entity and renders it an existential ABSOLUTE and a object NECESSITY, and gives notions of its non-existence and lack of necessity the same amount of intellectual credence as most of us would give unicorns and fairies, is the premise which says that man, in and of himself, according ot his nature and residing at the very fundamental core of his being, is utterly INSUFFICIENT to existence; unfit for survival. The pointed necessity of government is the idea that man CANNOT be left alone to exist only unto himself, to and from his own mind, and through his own power to think and to choose and discern and decide between truth and lie, and good and evil. The whole point of government is the metaphysical argument that man simply cannot be trusted to act ethically outside of the auspices of a supreme coercive Authority which shall DICTATE truth and morality TO him and thereby manifest ethics by FORCE. Authority shall be the purveyor of the LAW (the ethical Standard)…government shall be the Law’s practical manifestation in the world, and this is the ONLY way to guarantee that man can have any sort of effective, efficacious, and productive existence. Religion calls the great Folly of man’s being which necessitates Authority his “sin nature”; secular philosophy calls it “the will to power”; science calls it “the survival of the fittest”. But they all amount to the same thing: Man cannot be left alone to decide the terms of his own individual existence. He cannot possibly be expected to live productively and morally and perpetually according to nothing but his own natural capacity. Man must be forced by an external and supremely violent Authority to think and act properly. Government exists PRECISELY because man cannot exist ALONE. in other words, the essential point of the State is to be MAN FOR man.
Think back to the solutions I submitted as the two primary means of rectifying a tyrannical State. Are you seeing the problem? I hope so. Do you see how the contradiction of attempting to synthesize an Individualist Metaphyic (man is sufficient to his own existence) with a Collectivist one (man is INSUFFICIENT to his own existence) creates an insurmountable barrier to any successful resolution of the problem of tyrannny? If man’s nature makes him insufficient to existence absent a coercive authority to compel him into right thinking and behavior, how can he ALSO be sufficient to hold that Authority accountable to a particular ethical standard? If man’s mind and will alone is insufficient to lead a moral and efficacious existence without a government to enable him to do so through its enumeration and codification of “rights” through law and the implementation of that law through force, then how can man claim that his mind and will IS sufficient to ascertain when the government has strayed from its proper duties and needs to be corrected? If man is capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, and truth and falsehood, to the point where he can tell when his own existence is being violated by the State, AND he is capable of articulating efficacious methods of seeking and acheiveing redress for that violation, then he clearly DOESN’T NEED GOVERNMENT IN THE FIRST PLACE. That is, the fundamental philosophical premise by which the legitimacy of government is established is contradicted by the claim that man has a right and the inherent ability to either terminate his relationship with government or to replace the ruling class with new members IF he deems that government is no longer acting in his own best interests.
Here is an enumerated summary of the intellectual error of the notion that government shall be held accountable to the people; and this is with respect to all of my aforementioned arguments on the subject:
1.Because of man’s natural existential insufficiency, he requires a government to hold him ethically accountable; yet simultaneously man is required to hold government ethically accountable when he deems it no longer capable or willing to properly discharge its duty of holding HIM accountable. Clearly this is a contradiction; if man is by nature insufficient to ethical living, then he cannot possibly be in a position to hold the government accountable to the ethics which necessarily elude the very existence of himself qua himself. If man IS capable of holding the government ethically accountable, then man does not need to be coerced by government force into ethical living. He is quite capable of recognizing ethics and acting upon them all on his own.
2. Since there is no Authority above the Authority of the State to compel it by force into ethical behavior, then we are left to hope and trust that those in power will CHOOSE to act ethically in order to prevent the State from exceeding its constitutional mandate and becoming tyrannical. (And, no, Christians cannot claim God is the Authority above the State because Christian doctrine makes the State merely an extension of him. It provides NO fundamental metaphysical distinction between God and Government whatsoever). However, the root philosophical argument which legitimizes government is the metaphysical claim that man is by nature entirely insufficient, in and of himself, absent a practical coercive Authority (the government), to truly apprehend ethics and to act upon them. Man’s mind and will are inadequate to effectively manifest the ethics necessary for him to survive; that is, his ability to choose ethical action is corrupted by his nature. Thus, the idea that we must trust men in government to CHOOSE to act ethically—as a hedge against tyranny—is a contradiction of the very root premise of government.
3. Government is to use authoritative force to compel the people into right thinking and behavior because they are incapable of this on their own, by nature. Yet it is claimed that the people have a right to reject the government if they do not like the way it decides to wield its authority. In other words, man has a right to choose how he shall be FORCED to act. This, too, is a contraction.
4. It is claimed that the people possess an Authority which trumps government Authority should government exceed its mandate and become tyrannical. Yet it is clearly a contradiction to claim that those under the authority of government have authority OVER government. If we claim that government rules by the “will of the people” then we claim that people are willingly choosing to submit themselves to governmental Authority, which is a contradiction, AND we imply that man’s will IS an effective means of manifesting just and ethical living . But if man’s will is sufficient and efficacious to just and ethical living, then there is no point in submititing it to an Authority which exists BECAUSE of the premise which states that man’s will is NOT in fact sufficient nor efficacious to just and ethical living.