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View Diary: Overcoming The Disruptive Effects of Corporate/Gov't Spying And Infiltration of Activist Groups (117 comments)

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  •  One of the problems with Occupy in some... (17+ / 0-)

    ...places, however, was the presence of black bloc cohorts. Not every tactic black blocs use are, imo, bad ones. But when they view themselves as free to do whatever they want, even if that violates consensus, this opens the door to agents provocateurs who can use their presence to escalate. Makes it hard for activists to tell the difference to distinguish their allies from their enemies.

    FTR, I have no developed proposal for how to defeat such infiltrators. They are omnipresent and have been for at least a century in movements and effectively controlling or exposing them can sometimes cut against the objectives the movement has for its actions.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:09:41 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  The best response to the problems (7+ / 0-)

      that arise with black blocs are for more people to come out. Every time we had large masses, more than 20k or so, in Oakland out in the street there was almost no issue with black bloc except for an occasional broken window. It wasn't until there were equal numbers of police and people, or more police than people, that it became a real issue.

      Agents provocateurs are inevitable as far as I'm concerned. I don't think there's any way to stop it in a non-violent way but in my experience having a wide-spread working knowledge of de-escalation techniques is a good start. Treating everyone as if they are trying to be involved in good faith is the first step.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:57:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One old saw (4+ / 0-)

        we used in the labor movement, that we borrowed from the civil rights movement.

        Hold a meeting of as many folks as possible before a rally or action.  Announce you all will now break up into smaller discussion groups, each devoted to different topics.

        Announce there will be a specific small group discussion devoted to immediately implementing "militant direct action" at tomorrow's strike or demonstration.

        That small group will attract most of your infiltrators, along with some folks you might want to keep an eye on, like the guy who tried to set fire to the hotel banner during the 1980 SF Hotel Strike.

        “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

        by 6412093 on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:31:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I agree that's the best response. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eyesbright, AoT

        But it seems to me that the use of some Black Bloc tatics (vandalism, instigating violent confrontation with the police) is one of the best methods of depressing turn out.

    •  Blac bloc or no blac bloc (5+ / 0-)

      Agent provocateurs or no agent provocateurs, direct action, historically, has been what moves forward the interests of the working class. Direct action has always moved the movement forward. Look at the new deal after the direct action of the labor movement.

      It's odd that so much concern is put on a window or two, while the state is responsible for enormous violence against citizens that makes a rock or two pale by comparison. The prospect for a few unruly participants to resort to vandalism should never be the cause for refraining from direct action. That is allowing the press to frame the violence in such a way as to discourage action, which is exactly what the status quo wants to achieve: No direct action.

      For most anarchists, it isn't a question of strategy whether to work with the electoral system or not. It has been a long settled consensus among anarchists that the electoral process doesn't work, when it is under the control of the state and elites.

      The electoral system allows only for voting for personalities, rather than on community choices regarding actual policy. Those personalities are then free to ignore the people who voted for them, and they tend to invent complex theatrics to make the people think their intersts are being served, while not accomplishing anything except accommodating to varying degrees the wealthy class and the interests of the state bureaucracy.

      Thus, it goes against everything anarchists believe. That might as well be honestly stipulated from the outset. This doesn't mean in some instances anarchists would not vote. Referendums, especially, are more in line with anarchist ideas.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:37:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In other words... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, Ray Pensador, lostinamerica

        Just because of the threat of agent provocateurs, and what the press would make out of their influence, we should not engage in the one tactic which historically has produced results? and instead turn back to the approach that keeps failing over and over again, making a mockery of us all?

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:52:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "The prospect for a few unruly participants... (9+ / 0-)

          ... to resort to vandalism should never be the cause for refraining from direct action. That is allowing the press to frame the violence in such a way as to discourage action, which is exactly what the status quo wants to achieve: No direct action."

          And I never said otherwise. Since I've been involved in direct action often enough to be arrested for it scores of times and serve about four months of my 44 months of slam time because of direct action, I am hardly one to be arguing against it. I know it can and does have an impact.

          I responded to Ray's diary on the subject in which he puts forth a point of view for dealing with agents provocateurs and infiltrators. I didn't say his approach is wrong and I think he is right to reflect on it. I do believe his  approach as laid out here is incomplete in that it doesn't reflect the full situation; and obviously, since he plans more posts on the subject, he also doesn't think he covered all the ground that needs to be covered.

          As for electoral politics, reform cannot be consolidated without it. At least, so far in American history it hasn't been. We need both direct action, other non-electoral actions AND electoral politics to make progress.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:17:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Reform isn't the goal of anarchists, per se (4+ / 0-)

            As long as we're talking about anarchism... If reforms come, they are welcome. Anarchists are in this for the long haul, and don't believe in supporting the very hierarchy and elites that would dominate them once in power. Anarchists assert that only the working class can liberate itself. As long as we ask the ruling class to liberate us, they will never concede, but rather will hand out a few crumbs, depending on which party is in office.

            I know you don't agree with that, but there is a historical case to be made that despite ups and downs, and the occasional success, as long as we support a top down, elite, central state government, we will always be subjected to the exploitation of such instruments of control. It will always be a matter of not securing rights by the people, for themselves, but permissions granted by a few for the many.

            So anarchists believe that direct action is a better use of energy, time, and any money we may have, rather than letting ourselves be drained by the electoral process, and anarchists hold that this co-opting of time and energy is one of the functions of representative democracy. We work and work and work, as if walking on a treadmill, but never getting anywhere as far as significant, lasting self-management rights are concerned. The founders not only here, but in European parliamentary sytems, were never really for "democracy". Read Graeber's The Democracy Project for a good review of this historical fact.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:42:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You're right that I don't agree that... (9+ / 0-)

              ...it is foolish to work for reforms. I don't argue that everyone should do everything, only that we need everything to make progress.

              You see reforms as "welcome" if they come. I see them as important in or of themselves: from the abolition of slavery to the legalization of unions to the establishment of Medicare (that's a short list, not the whole shebang), we have made progress through reform. Activists have gone to prison and many have died to gain those reforms. People ARE much better off because of these reforms, even though the ruling class keeps chipping away at most of them. Indeed, millions more people would be living in poverty and dying prematurely without such reforms.

              Are they enough? No. Will the ruling class fight tooth and nail to keep more from happening? Absolutely. And they will fight 10 times as hard against far smaller numbers to defeat the goals anarchists set for us. That doesn't mean I think you should give up that struggle—certainly not—but one has to be realistic about its short-term and medium-term prospects. I think they are minuscule.

              Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

              by Meteor Blades on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:58:08 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  BTW, I have read Graeber. n/t (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                AoT, Ray Pensador

                Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                by Meteor Blades on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:58:43 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Yes and anarchists were hung even though (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Ray Pensador, lostinamerica

                innocent, were imprisoned, were rounded up by the thousands in Spain and Paris, persecuted by the Bolsheviks, and other direct action efforts for the last hundred and fifty years. Many spent time in prisons, from Kropotkin, to Bakunin, to Goldman, and many others. And their efforts led to reforms. But the point is, reforms are not the goal, but are seen as welcome. But anarchists will never stop at just reforms. Many of the reforms are undone every so often, or are not enforced, or are enforced selectively.

                For electoral politics, reforms are the end goal. For anarchists, they are welcome accomplishments on the way to real freedom and equality, not given by fiat from above, but by people, to themselves.

                I find it interesting that in the case of the reforms to which your refer, it was largely due to direct action that government gave in, rather than through electoral work. Even monarchs do that, without elections. They fear losing support of the many, whom they fear could easily overcome the mere few. That's what gets them to give in to the people. That's what movitated FDR. That's what got us the new deal (now being eroded bit by bit).

                But the circular logic here is that it is only anarchists, these days, who keep the end goal in sight: Complete return of authority to the people. When these aims are belittled and mocked, it serves the goal of the elites in maintaining the status quo. Only by remembering, every step of the way, that power never willingly gives up power, that the wealthy class isn't going to turn over its wealth due to some epiphany, will the real goal ever be achieved. Anarchists know this.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:17:34 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Bottom line: We need anarchists to be in the mix. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ZhenRen
                •  There's a lot here and I am not skimming... (4+ / 0-)

                  ...over it to nitpick. But, as I am short on time, let me ask you, when you say, "Complete return of authority to the people," in what era did the people ever have complete authority?

                  Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

                  by Meteor Blades on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:27:41 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Good question (2+ / 0-)

                    Some Primitivist Anarchists argue that root problem is technological civilization itself and idealize a return to earlier, pre-industrial, tribal social forms.

                    Nothing human is alien to me.

                    by WB Reeves on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:33:10 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  That would require a long answer... (3+ / 0-)

                    People always seem to ask this, as if this would settle all argument, as if the violence of the state is something we must endure due to some sort of human nature that compels it. There is a historical process which we are in the middle of, and there have been occasions throughout history when horizontal self-management was accomplished. Spain, in the anarchist regions, had a period when this was established, despite being assaulted by Franco, Italy, Germany (the fascists), the USSR and the Communist Party, the Spanish Republic (capitalist reformers), and other capitalist nations (US, UK, France).

                    Despite this, for nearly three years hundreds of collectives prevailed with self-management (which means they were in control). I posted a video about this somewhere in the thread. If not for opposition by forces (of the ruling elites) which felt threatened by a truly liberated people, it have continued. Is it fair, then, to say it failed? That would be tantamount to saying force is right, by virtue of sheer force.

                    As Chomsky said better than I. when asked who were the most important anarchist thinkers, who named the poor illiterate peasants in 1936, who established a "successful anarchist society":

                    It was so terrifying to every single power that they combined to crush it. Fascists, Russia, liberal democracies, put aside their differences, to insure that this would be crushed, and after they crushed it, they went and fought the war as a war of succession. They[the Spanish anarchists] were probably the most important anarchist thinkers.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:49:56 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  It reminds me of the old (3+ / 0-)

                "The worse things are, the better." argument.

                This idea is, IMO, based on a complete misunderstanding of how radical social transformation develops. That being that successful social revolutions grow out of desperation and despair.

                While it's certainly true that history is littered with examples of failed revolts and insurrections sparked by such, successful social revolutions have been inspired by hope, not despair. They come about when the greater mass of the population realizes their ability to effect massive social, political and economic change.

                Successful struggles for reform are crucial to this process. Such struggles educate people to the potentials and possibilities of change, breeding solidarity and serving as schools for the requisite political and organizational skills necessary for victory.

                It's not the tidy formulation that theorists and ideologues prefer but it has the advantage of being rooted in the actual material concerns of those without whom no social transformation, revolutionary or otherwise, can be achieved.  

                Nothing human is alien to me.

                by WB Reeves on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:27:23 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  By introducing the terms "theorist and ideologues" (0+ / 0-)

                  you seem to be engaging in some sort of innuendo about those who engage in the examination of these issues.  No worthy human endeavor happens without the process of "thinking things through," of developing "theories" which could eventually put into "practice."

                •  The more you support the avenues (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ray Pensador, lostinamerica

                  provided by the State, the more you support that State, and insure its continuance and survival.

                  "Round and 'round we go with this argument, which is the classic argument between Marxists and anarchists.

                  "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                  by ZhenRen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:39:19 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  A good example of what I'm talking about. (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Eyesbright, serendipityisabitch, AoT

                    Is the person who fights against a criminal charge in court supporting the state?

                    Are those who cite Constitutional liberties supporting the state?

                    Is a person who reports a rape to the police supporting the state?

                    Are those who use public services; streets, water, sewers, sanitation, parks, supporting the state?

                    Nothing human is alien to me.

                    by WB Reeves on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 04:06:57 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'd say yes to all (3+ / 0-)

                      Which doesn't mean we should always avoid those things, really we can't. At the same time, we need to look at our individual actions and their role in perpetuating oppressive conditions. Using the functions of the state legitimizes the state, whether out of necessity or otherwise. Certainly, there are degrees of legitimization, and some of those things legitimize the state more or less, and some of them are more or less necessary.

                      Participating in a system and using that system in the way it is intended to be used strengthens that system. I firmly believe that. There may be exceptions, but those are rare. For the most part using the things and institutions that the state provides strengthens the state.

                      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                      by AoT on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 12:54:49 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Thanks for a reasoned reply (0+ / 0-)

                        It's really too bad that Zhen chose not to.

                        I appreciate your realism in recognizing the contradiction inherent in being opposed to the State while at the same time relying on the State out of necessity. Dealing effectively with this contradiction is no simple matter.

                        For myself I think one must always look to the content of a specific action rather than appealing to theoretical principle. I do not think, for example, that insisting on freedom of speech, of the Press or of conscience can reasonably be construed as strengthening the State. Dissent from State sponsored orthodoxy is an explicit challenge to its authority.

                        I think the same holds true when it comes to voting. The objective content lies not in the action itself but in who or what one is voting for or against.

                        Nothing human is alien to me.

                        by WB Reeves on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 03:31:25 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  In regards to freedom of speech (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          WB Reeves, ZhenRen

                          I think that insisting on freedom of speech doesn't necessarily support the state, but appealing to it as a right protected by the constitution does.

                          I disagree completely about voting. It is the most basic form of legitimization of the state. Participating in a system legitimizes that system, especially when it is unforced participation.

                          If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                          by AoT on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 04:00:05 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Well we can agree (0+ / 0-)

                            to disagree:)

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 04:18:32 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Viewing rights (0+ / 0-)

                            such as freedom of speech, as being the province of the state is just absurd. The state acts as if it can bestow rights, and if we accept that, then right are a gift, not a right. ;)

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 07:52:14 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Nice in the abstract (0+ / 0-)

                            But when rights are enumerated and recognized by the State and are given statutory status through which they are asserted, they certainly qualify as an "avenue" provided by the State.

                            I think it "absurd" to pretend otherwise

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 11:38:58 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Not at all (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            If we look to the state to give us rights which are already ours, then they aren't rights.

                            When one studies relationships of unequal power relationships, that which Power gives can be taken away, and as such always belongs to the State. Only by recognizing that rights are already present until some authority takes them away can rights be properly understood. Authority takes rights away, then spoon-feeds them back, but often incompletely or in some weaker form. So, when we allow the state to do that, rights clearly don't belong to the people, and thus aren't really rights.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 02:29:55 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  This flies in the face of history (0+ / 0-)

                            The conception of what rights people may have has been fluid and changing over time. Our modern notions of individual rights are a very recent innovation. For the greater part of human history rights, where they were recognized at all, were seen as a function of collective identity: tribe, clan, caste and class. Consequently, they were defined by custom and codification on a collective basis.

                            What occurred prior to recorded history we have no way of knowing. However, there is absolutely no basis for treating rights as anything other than a subjective, agreed upon standard. Rights are a human invention. Treating them as having an existence independent of human agency is wishful thinking.  

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 04:45:37 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If history defines rights (0+ / 0-)

                            and not the people themselves, then history becomes our lord. My point has nothing to do with that. My point is that people have a right to determine how they live. You asked if people weren't in fact supporting the state by benefiting from rights supported by the state, and I've answered by stating the state lacks the authority to define rights autocratically. Rights should be determined by the people, themselves.

                            Rights which are given to people based on the authority of the state can also be disregarded or even taken away by the same authority. That being the case, those would be more accurately described as privileges granted by the state, rather than rights.

                            A horizontal, self-managed community that confers no authority on a single individual, and makes no more or less immutable laws, but rather agreements, wherein each person has an equal voice, and is based on egalitarian economic equality in social organization, can determine for itself the issue of rights. People are capable of deciding for themselves how they want to live without elites of the state dictating their lives from a central hierarchy. That is the point.

                            No, the state is not supported simply because people enjoy certain freedoms, while being deprived of others. It is quite the opposite in fact. The state exists not because it gives people rights, but rather on violence against the people. All states maintain existence through force of violence.

                            So, if one's freedom is once in a while protected by the state, the context is one in which if not for a state of some kind, people would be able to live as they collectively decide, and give themselves rights as they decide. When the state steps into the middle of this and takes over that role, and acts to determine what freedoms, or not, people will have to live by, then how is that supporting the state? It's all done by force, not collective agreement by the people.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 05:19:49 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Even the constitution does not say that (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ZhenRen, WB Reeves

                            said rights are provided by the state. It says that they are right that the state cannot infringe upon, which means they exist separate from the state. So when someone says that those rights are an avenue of the state they're wrong. More correctly the state is an avenue to securing those rights.

                            The specific times, places, and manners that the state allows you to exercise said rights are the avenues the state provides.

                            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                            by AoT on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 03:25:19 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yes, and once the state is used to "secure" (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            rights, the state owns them, since it can choose to protect rights, or not. It can even allow rights to be infringed, or resort to infringing upon them itself.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 04:19:32 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  But again this misses the point (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            The question of where rights originate isn't relevant to their statutory status or the use of such statutes to secure them. If using "avenues" provided by the State ultimately strengthens the State, then any exercise of those rights by statutory process would be a strengthening of the State. This would obviously include any resort to the courts or any other State institution in order to secure them.

                            As for where such rights actually originate, I'd say historical experience indicates the human imagination.

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 04:28:51 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't think I disagree with any of this (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            WB Reeves

                            except the claim that where rights originate isn't relevant. It's relevant because the rights themselves are an avenue of the state if they are provided by the state, whereas the specific time, place, manner avenues allowed by the state are the things  that people have fought to secure for ourselves from the state.

                            Every legal reference to rights in regards to the state makes clear that the state's only role in rights is to either protect said rights or not infringe upon them. To the extent that one is able to exercise one's rights falls under one of those cases. If the first then it reinforces the state, if the latter then it reinforces ones rights.

                            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                            by AoT on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:06:24 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Ah, but the essence of the State is coercion (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            so if the State is to protect said rights, it can only do so through coercion. The most obvious example of this is in the realm of so-called property rights where the police function is directly involved but it also comes into play wherever political, economic or individual interests conflict.

                            Anytime the State acts to defend the rights of a particular group or individual, it necessarily limits those of another group or individual. Ergo, any appeal to Constitutional statute is an appeal to the coercive power of the State.

                            So the material question is whether or not such appeals can ever be justified and under what circumstances.  

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Fri Dec 06, 2013 at 02:47:01 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Again, I agree (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            WB Reeves

                            The rights themselves are separate from the constitutional statutes "protecting" them.

                            Anytime the State acts to defend the rights of a particular group or individual, it necessarily limits those of another group or individual.
                            Not unless you have an incredibly broad conception of rights. Certainly, there are some rights that are infringed on in various cases, like in the civil rights battle and lunch counter segregation. But my right to speak doesn't need to have anyone else's rights infringed upon for me to exercise it. I personally consider personal property rights to be at the bottom of any hierarchy of rights, and that's one of the only rights that the state actually infringes on to protect other people.

                            On a tangent, I think we need to rework our conception of how we interact with each other in a way that doesn't rely on rights. Rights, as they exist now, are based on the historically inaccurate "state of nature" and a false understanding of individualism that posits that an individual can own themself. The whole thing is a philosophic ad ideological cluster fuck that breaks down hopelessly about a minute after you start to seriously question it. I have yet to see a conception of rights that doesn't effectively rely on a creator or utilitarianism, or has no base at all and is just a bare assertion that we have right "because".

                            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                            by AoT on Fri Dec 06, 2013 at 05:43:09 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Not to be a smart ass (0+ / 0-)

                            but your point about free speech reminds me of the time I was on the subway and moments after the doors had closed us in, a young guy jumped up and began striding up and down the aisle proclaiming the gospel. He kept it up all the way to the next station.

                            Funny thing was that he began his witness by saying that he hoped we didn't mind if he preached to us, to which one wag replied "Not if you don't mind if we don't listen!"

                            I'll grant you that it's an example more comic than dramatic but one that I think encapsulates an instance where the right to free speech conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion. People have the right to free speech but people also have the right to not be forcibly subjected to religious proselytizing.

                            Fortunately, no one in the above instance chose to call in Security.

                            I'm not sure that the concept of rights has outlived it's usefulness. While at present the concept has become increasingly divorced from any sense of communal responsibility, I'm not convinced that's irreversible. The notion of rights has the advantage of recognizing the possibility of divergent interests between individuals as well as groups and the consequence that conflicts of interests (rights) will inevitably arise.

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 01:05:49 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't think we have a right to not (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            WB Reeves

                            hear other people's religious views. If that were the case why not extend that to every sort of view and not just religion. Should people just not talk on the subway?

                            While at present the concept has become increasingly divorced from any sense of communal responsibility, I'm not convinced that's irreversible.
                            I think that a right has to be divorced from communal responsibility because of it's origin. Rights have never come from communities, they've always come from God or are inherent in the individual in some way. If you're saying you think that we should rehabilitate the idea into something that is tied to communal responsibility then I agree. But I don't think those would be rights. I'm fine with calling them rights though. I'm not stuck on names so much in situations.

                            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                            by AoT on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 09:27:59 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I thought you might say this (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            serendipityisabitch, AoT

                            but the point here is that no one has the "right" to force their religious views on others. If I were to lock a group in a room and bombard them with religious propaganda against their will, I think you'd agree that was a violation of their rights. That is the practical reality described.

                            The right of free speech doesn't extend to obligating others to listen to what you or I or anyone has to say. Of course people can talk on the subway but that's not at all the same as someone shouting hellfire and damnation at a captive audience. You might as well argue that free speech entitles someone to accost you at any time or place and demand you listen while they orate to their heart's content. I doubt that many would accept that proposition.

                            I think we may have a fundamental difference of opinion concerning your last paragraph. As I've indicated above, I do not believe that rights have any existence or genesis independent of human agency. In any social formation, rights are what the aggregate of individuals collectively agree them to be. That's one of the fundamental reasons that politics are a so vital on both a personal and collective level. At root politics is all about the basic dignity and agency of each and every human being. It's the question of what sort of world we want and how we can collectively achieve it.

                            A further difference may be that I am skeptical of the belief, widespread though it is, that ideas lead to predetermined results. While it's obvious that it is better to start from a good idea than a bad idea, it is equally obvious that in reality good ideas can and have led to bad outcomes just as bad ideas can and have led to good outcomes. An idea is only as good or bad as its material application. That's an innate paradox of human consciousness and experience.    

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 12:58:28 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If you locked them in a room against their will (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            WB Reeves

                            it's an entirely different story. That's kidnapping. It doesn't matter what reason you had to do it, doing it is wrong. If they chose to be in a certain place at a certain time and you go to that place to and lecture to them it's different than forcing them to be there.

                            Of course people can talk on the subway but that's not at all the same as someone shouting hellfire and damnation at a captive audience.
                            I don't see the difference in practical terms other than the content. If I'm having a conversation with a friend that's loud enough for others to overhear I'm infringing on their rights somehow according to your conception. And there's nothing to stop anyone in the car from telling the dude to shut up. You are perfectly free to ignore someone speaking on the subway. I've done it more times than I can count.

                            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                            by AoT on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 08:33:04 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Well if you were talking loudly enough to be heard (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            at the opposite end of the car, I'd say that you were infringing on others.

                            But as I said before, we can agree to disagree :)

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 10:14:58 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  As I said to Reeves (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            since rights, roads, etc., don't really belong to the state, then using them isn't supporting the state.

                            The state doesn't own the infrastructure. The people do. Likewise, the state doesn't own our rights, to give them to us, because what can be given can be controlled, and can be taken away as well.

                            Just wanted you to see my answer that I made to Reeves.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 07:59:02 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And this is why (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            as I see it, anarchists have always said only the people can liberate themselves. The State can't liberate them because then the state owns it. Only the people can own their own liberation.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 08:25:37 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And I would like you to see my reply to Zhen (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AoT

                            as well ;)

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 12:55:55 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  Don't ever assume that when I don't reply (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          AoT

                          it is because I don't have one.

                          It's really too bad that Zhen chose not to.
                          I spend far too much time here, and sometimes need to back away. At the time, I was trying to delete my account. ;)

                          It's been a wild ride lately.

                          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                          by ZhenRen on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 07:56:16 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I intended no such assumption (4+ / 0-)

                            I was genuinely disappointed that you hadn't replied. I'm sorry if you've been going through a rough patch but I had no way of knowing that.

                            Naturally I'm curious as to what would've motivated you to consider GBCW but that's your own business. I can well imagine that participating on a site dedicated to a form of political action that you oppose on principle could produce a good deal of stress and frustration.

                            Anyway, despite our differences, I'm glad you chose to stick around.

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 12:53:00 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Thanks for arguing with me (4+ / 0-)

                            Helps me feel things are back to normal. I'm not kidding.  It involves a long back channel story relating to some things on the site, some people I've known. That you don't know what it is, is actually a relief, in a way. I've exaggerated the influence of a few in my mind.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 02:58:18 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Evidently, there's good deal of back channel (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ZhenRen, AoT, churchylafemme

                            stuff that goes on of which I'm blissfully and happily ignorant. :)

                            Nothing human is alien to me.

                            by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 04:50:59 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  The person who fights a criminal charge (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      AoT

                      is being foced by the state to comply, by threat of violence.

                      Constitutional liberties are not granted by the stated, they are usually, in fact, taken away by the state. It isnt the state that grants rights, people grant those to themselves, while the state tries to act as if rights are some sort of property to bestow.

                      Public services, like streets, don't belong to the state.  Parks don't belong to the state. Property doesn't belong to the state.

                      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                      by ZhenRen on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 07:47:14 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Well, since property is impossible without the (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        AoT

                        State, I'm not sure that you can reasonably argue that "property doesn't belong to the State".

                        The claim that, "Constitutional liberties are not granted by the stated" is beside the point. It isn't a question of their being granted, it's a question of whether such statutory rights and their assertion by statutory means are part of the State apparatus. Given they are Constitutional Rights and the Constitution is the legal basis upon which the US State is constructed, they clearly are. Whether such rights exist independent of the Constitution is irrelevant, particularly if one asserts them through statutory means.

                        Your point about coercion is a good one, except that it isn't limited to criminal prosecutions. The State is, by definition, a coercive entity. All interactions with it can be defined in the same way. We interact with the State not from choice but necessity. What's interesting is how people can rationalize doing so in every instance except voting.    

                        Nothing human is alien to me.

                        by WB Reeves on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 12:41:38 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Not at all (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          AoT

                          Property, as a concept, is an invention of the state. It is enforced by the state. But in stating this, I'm referring to the concept of property, not the actual land, structure, tool, machinery, etc.

                          So in saying the property doesn't belong to the state, I'm referring to the actual land and structures, not to the concept of property. I could have stated this better. In anarchist theory, the concept of possession is used, instead. Possession of the land, when people are actually using it, is respected by anarchists. Property rights are completely different. Property indicates the "right" to sell the property, charge rents, make loans or put liens against it, and thus charge interest, and the monopolization of it to exploit wage labor. All of that is rejected as unjustifiable forms of authority, and only the direct right to use and possession is recognized by anarchists.

                          The people build the infrastructure by the efforts of their labor. The notion that it is "property" is enforced by the state. It's the concept that they enforce. The land itself, and that which is built and used by the people, only is "property" of the state due to violence (or the threat of violence) to enforce rules of ownership.

                          Even the constitution is just an agreement by a few men. It wasn't decided by the whole of the people. So why does it have any inherent "legality"? The entire legal framework is yet another invention of the state.

                          So, when the state employs wage-labor, and people build things, why do the structures belong to the state and not to those who build it and use them?

                          Unjustified authority only has authority because people allow it to continue without question or opposition. It has no innate authority that is self-justifying.

                          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                          by ZhenRen on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 02:53:53 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

            •  I'm truly in awe of your knowledge about these (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ZhenRen

              issues.  Thanks for your contributions.

          •  This is my prize for writing what I write! That's (0+ / 0-)

            a great post.

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