On the Fourth of July, 2013, a former soldier and Republican congressional candidate filmed himself loading a shotgun on Freedom Plaza, in Washington DC.
“We will not be silent. We will not obey. We will not allow our government to destroy our humanity,” he said into the camera as he loaded the weapon with live ammunition, “We are the final American Revolution. See you next independence day.”
Adam Kokesh, the video’s creator and the producer of the libertarian web show “Adam vs. the Man,” still intends to live up to this promise, but not in the manner many would have imagined. Rather than attempting to fight the government by taking up arms, he has set his book entitled “FREEDOM!” to be officially released to the public on this coming Independence Day.
In the year since the shotgun incident, he spent four months in jail awaiting sentencing after a SWAT team raided his house and he was charged for openly carrying the shotgun and ammunition, which is illegal in the District of Columbia.
I (a journalist and co-producer of News2share.com) took a great interest in Mr. Kokesh due to his civil disobedience activity in the DC area. A few weeks before his sentencing, I reached out to some of his supporters at Liberty Movement Radio to ask for help contacting him. After appearing on one of their shows to discuss my desire to report on his story, my co-producer (Trey Yingst) and I conducted an interview with him three days before his sentencing, which would represent his final words to the public before possibly serving time in jail.
In the interview itself, he described his actions, and how he sees the government’s very existence as a violation of human rights. At the end, he also made two promises: the first was to publish a book next Independence Day, which would be “the new scripture for the global freedom movement,” and the second promise was to make a 2020 presidential run on the basis of an “orderly dissolution of the federal government.”
During his sentencing, the interview was included on the homepage of CNN and Mr. Kokesh was given probation, allowing him to continue his work in freedom (or not in jail, for that matter). I also had a chance to do a follow up interview with him at CPAC 2014 where he renewed those promises:
Recently, Mr. Kokesh pre-released the book in an effort to get media attention including reviews and coverage (such as this very article) before its official release date. While most authors try to make money from their books by way of royalties, Mr. Kokesh has taken a different approach. The entire book is already online as a free and downloadable PDF, and a Kindle version can be purchased for a mere 99 cents. Additionally, the book is supposedly being translated into enough languages to cover “90% of the world’s population.”
Mr. Kokesh clearly has a strong conviction for his ideas, enough so that he is willing to sacrifice profitability for exposure. A firm non-believer in intellectual property, he even ends the book by saying that “The contents of this book will never be restricted by any claims of ‘intellectual property.’ You can rip it, copy it, rewrite, criticize it, broadcast it, burn YOUR copies of it, translate it, misrepresent it, and profit from it. I will not stop you!” He has a remarkable desire for his message to spread to the world, and lets no external factor hinder that crusade. Rather than charging for the book itself, he hopes people will donate voluntarily if they feel so inclined before or after reading the book.
As for the content of the book itself, I originally intended to frame this article as a formal review, but its contents merit more of a discussion of its form and purpose.
The book is short, at fewer than 100 pages, formatted almost like an expanded constitution of anarchism or a libertarian manifesto than a non-fiction piece. It breaks down his stances on various topics into chapters and sub-chapters, each tackling some issue from war and foreign policy to sex and marriage and all places in between, all from a vantage point showcasing the harm he attributes to the involvement of government.
Each sub-topic is afforded one or two brief pages rather than harping on any one issue at great length. The language is simple and largely avoids making references to specific policies, governments, or politicians, but rather the institution of government or “statism” as a whole.
While initially I was off put by the simplicity of the work and lack of any form of statistics or cited sources, what I realized upon completing the book is that this simple format was actually very consistent with its stated purpose: freedom.
While many libertarian authors and economists have tackled specific issues in great length, “FREEDOM!” serves more like a simple hand guide to Mr. Kokesh’s views on the titular topic. Its simplicity and intentional ambiguity make its message accessible to nearly any person on Earth, particularly when combined with the zero dollar price tag and wealth of available translations promised to the world.
In fact, after reading the book I used a “find and search” feature to verify a suspicion of mine. A reader will notice that the book never uses the any of the following words: America, Libertarian, Communist, Socialist, Republican, Democrat, Conservative, or Liberal. Even as a long-time supporter of Ron Paul and critic of nearly any other politician that comes to mind, he also avoids reference to any politician or government agency by name. While including such details may have managed to better persuade a current American audience, the vague language allows the book to be equally persuasive to people of any culture, location, language, or time period. Due to the ambiguity, it could be argued that a reader in 30 years would find the book no less applicable than today (assuming that an anarchist society has not formed by that time).
The book does effectively manage to void itself of political affiliation. While Mr. Kokesh formerly made a run for congress on the Republican ticket, his conclusions are not limited by any political spectrum. While he takes a traditionally “conservative” view on topics like gun control and taxation, he also takes a traditionally “progressive” view on topics such as marriage and families, as well as drug policy. However, to summarize his book as conservative or liberal misses his point entirely; in the book he even states, “The freedom movement is not a political movement. It is an anti-political movement.”
While a conservative or libertarian may be more likely to agree with the book’s ideas, by taking no side in politics it invites anyone into the conversation who’s willing to participate. In fact, by consolidating his ideas into such a simple format, it would seem that the book is intended for those unfamiliar with his ideas and looking either to learn from them or dispute them.
This is something Mr. Kokesh has been a large fan of. For quite a while now, he has had a segment of his show called “#KOKESHED” where he invites anyone with an opinion different from his on any topic to debate it with him live on his show via Skype. Additionally, he takes opportunities based on news quite frequently to preemptively make his arguments to the public. Although my math is very loose on this, I calculated that for each page in “FREEDOM!” there is about one full day worth of content on his YouTube page. In other words, though the book itself is brief, someone interested in going deeper into Adam Kokesh’s views on any given topic could easily type “Adam Kokesh Gun Control” or something similar for any other topic.
His brevity on each topic may also inspire further reading. Every sub-topic in “FREEDOM!” could have an entire book written about it, and most of them already do (from a perspective similar to Mr. Kokesh’s). While “FREEDOM!” won’t turn its readers into Austrian economists or expert drug policy reform advocates, it may inspire a reader to research some of his ideas and pick up a book by Murray Rothbard or Ayn Rand (to name a couple, though there are countless others) and educate themselves fully on particular issues.
This indirect call for people to further educate themselves combined with his book directly calling for people to share and educate others shows that his intentions no longer include a revolution. Rather, as he puts it, “Clearly, this is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. As we have seen in the past, revolutions without changes in the paradigm have resulted in more of the same… If the message of freedom has stirred a passion for justice in you and changed the way you see the world, it is your personal revolution.”
While I may not agree with every point made in the book, and nor will the average person, as a fairly quick and interesting read, it comes recommended as, at the very least, a prompt to start a conversation about what liberty and freedom mean to you.