Posts by fordfischer

Ford Fischer is a student in the Fall 2012 class "Visual Literacy" at American University.

Anti-Cereal “Fuck Parade” Abandons Peace, Reason

Are you a lover of high-end breakfast cereal? Perhaps you’re a budding Instagram star looking for a hipster location for an iPhone shoot. Maybe you are just a dabbler in high-end cold breakfast. If any of these statements apply to you, then London’s The Cereal Killer Cafe might be a good place to start off your day.

  “We sell over 120 different types of cereal from around the world, if we can source it, we will sell it,” reads their website. “To create the perfect bowl of cereal you can choose from 30 different varieties of milk and 20 different toppings.”

Now admittedly, a £5 bowl of cereal may not appeal to everyone. In fact, I happen not to enjoy cold cereal and hipster cafes, so I’d spend my money elsewhere. To someone who wants nothing more than an imported bowl of Reese’s Puffs with their choice of 30 varieties of milk, finally there’s a venue for them. That’s capitalism, and it’s beautiful.

A tenet of a free capitalistic society is that the market can democratically decide what businesses succeed or fail. In order for a business to survive (absent using force or fraud), it must create value for customers. The fact of Cereal Killer’s existence and success shows that it creates value for someone. If it does not create value worth its while, it will eventually cease to exist. To those (such as myself) who would not glean any benefit from spending my money there, its existence is still in no way infringing on my rights. Some, such as the “Class War Fuck Parade” movement, do not share this capitalistically tolerant sentiment. 

Via The Guardian

Hundreds of protesters attacked a cereal cafe in east London on Saturday night, daubing the word “scum” on the shop window and setting fire to an effigy of a police officer. Riot police were called in to defend the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch after it was targeted by a large crowd of anti-gentrification activists carrying pigs’ heads and torches.The owners of the cafe, which has been seen by some as a symbol of inequality in east London, said on Sunday that the attack left customers including children “terrified for their lives”

The protesters feel that the store represents gentrification and that the existence of this store is offensive to the struggling and impoverished people in the local community. “Many parents in the area suffer the indignity of relying on food banks to feed their children,” one “Fuck Parade” participant explained. “[Meanwhile] the new Shoreditch residents can make a successful business selling children’s cereal for £5 a bowl.”

The issue of gentrification is a complicated one, and I have no qualms against those who try to create awareness for it or even combat it. Peacefully.

Let me say that again: peacefully.

Had there been a peaceful protest, I would be willing to discuss the principles espoused by the activists. Maybe they have some good points and reasonable concerns. If they do, then violent tactics surely are unnecessary to express them. The simple fact is that when facing a non-violent adversary in any situation, your values requiring violence is a sure sign that your ideas are not valid, or perhaps that you are not the proper advocate of those values.

In a world where people so prevalently turn to violence (particularly mass shootings, as we’ve seen in America even this week), upstanding members of society must universally condemn the escalation of any conflict into force, even when we agree with the motivations of who started the violence. While nobody died in the Cereal Killer Cafe attack, the lack of leftists saying “this method isn’t what we stand for” speaks to a general acceptability to violence today. As soon as you throw the first brick, fire the first shot, or begin to steal or deface the property of others, what you’ve really defaced is any reason to respect your cause.

Ayn Rand believed that we live in an “age of envy,” and would characterize the actions of these rioters as driven by hatred. She writes:

This hatred is not resentment against some prescribed view of the good with which one does not agree. . . . Hatred of the good for being the good means hatred of that which one regards as good by one’s own (conscious or subconscious) judgment. It means hatred of a person for possessing a value or virtue one regards as desirable.

Is it possible that these protesters, using violence and writing “scum” on the glass actually envied the peaceful and successful store owners?

It may be hard to say, but the fact remains that envy can drive people for better or for worse. Capitalistically, envy may be greatly beneficial if a person chooses to manifest it peacefully. If I were envious of a cereal store, perhaps I’d strive to be employed at one or create a business that is equally meaningful to me. Rather than the capitalistic spirit that drives one to make themselves better and match their inspiration, the protesters chose the opposite route. In typical communist fashion, they chose to destroy that which offends them, rather than challenging it peacefully or attempting to create something for themselves.

Reasonable people can agree to disagree, but this never justifies the escalation into violence. Whether you’re a racist in South Carolina or a member of some radical leftist group, your ideas are proven pointless when you use violence to advocate them. If you don’t like a local cereal cafe or what it represents, don’t shop there. If you really don’t like that store, hold a peaceful protest or a boycott, or open a competing business.

If the only way to express your concern about a hipster breakfast cafe is to use violence, then get your commie hands away from my cereal.

“Free Speech on Trial” – Short Documentary

On July 25, 2014, Doreen Hendrickson was convicted of contempt of court. She was recently sentenced to 18 months, and surrendered herself to prison on May 15, 2015. The details of the case were bizarre, to say the least.

irs-tax-returnDoreen’s husband, Pete Hendrickson, is the author of Cracking the Code: The Fascinating Truth about Taxation in America, a book that encourages an allegedly legal but unconventional way of filing tax returns, which has supposedly helped tens of thousands of readers win their money back from the IRS. While the book and documentary goes into much heavier detail, the compact of his premise is that the income tax was only meant to be applied to government employees, and private citizens can avoid income taxation by referencing this distinction.

Doreen and Pete have been using this method to avoid paying income tax since the release of Pete’s book, and it’s put them at odds with the IRS. In the recent case, Doreen was given a new set of returns filled out by the federal government and ordered to sign them as being her own testimony. Because they were not her own words, she refused, and has now been sentenced to prison.

Whether or not this method of avoiding taxation is valid, the case highlights a fundamental issue of free speech in today’s America. While the First Amendment supposedly validates one’s right to say, or not say, what they want, this case draws that principle into question. Doreen was not charged with tax evasion or falsifying returns; she was only charged with contempt of court for refusing to sign a document swearing something she doesn’t believe to be true.

we-the-peopleThe Power of Citizen Media

This story has gained minimal media response, and very few people are aware of it. Whether or not someone agrees with the Hendricksons, this is a story worth observing and debating. Shane Trejo, writing for Pontiac Tribune, has covered this story extensively. Knowing that it still wasn’t getting the attention it deserved, he decided to shoot a documentary.

Documentary is a powerful art. While the written word has pushed journalism for decades, documentaries have a unique ability to visualize a story and its raw emotions. With increasingly competitive technology markets, devices with cameras have become so cheap that nearly everyone in a first world country has a phone and a computer capable of making a documentary film.

When one sees breaking news occur right before their eyes, they can film it and share it on social media, submit it directly to a website like News2Share, or even self-publish the content on one’s own website. Virtually everyone has the power to do so. Trejo interviewed all of the available and relevant figures in the Hendrickson case, then found me via Solutions Institute as someone who could professionally edit together his footage. Even in the absence of any high-end camera equipment, I was able to use Trejo’s interviews and my editing to compose a documentary that can, at the very least, provoke sympathy for the Hendricksons and inspire further investigation.

In doing so, the documentary not only brought light to this case, but the ability of documentaries themselves as a powerful tool to create political and social change.

ISIS: Liberty’s Greatest Enemy Today

Yesterday, while eating lunch, I received news that journalist Steven Sotloff was killed. Although the mass media was refusing to show the video, within about 20 minutes one of my associate producers managed to find what ISIS released to the world. It begins on a brief and color-distorted image of President Obama saying that the United States would fight ISIS, and then cuts to a shot of Sotloff in almost the exact situation James Clay was in only two weeks ago. As soon as I saw it, shivers went down my spine knowing exactly what would happen.

It has been less than 24 hours since I’ve posted that video to the public. Governments and companies are scared to have it be seen. Despite removing the killing (and only showing the speech ISIS forced Sotloff to give) Youtube actually initially pulled the video down as we had received 800 views in mere minutes. Ultimately, I appealed and was able to get the video back online (which has now gotten 50,000 views overnight), but this along with the content of the video show ISIS’s war with liberty.

What is free speech? How governments and individuals around the world would define it may vary. However, a world with a conscience can agree that forcing someone to speak words and opinions other than their own while holding a knife over them doesn’t fit the bill. In doing this, ISIS really killed Sotloff twice. Firstly, they killed his ability as a human to speak for himself, and then they killed his body. I can only imagine what thoughts ran through his mind as he was forced to speak their words, but I’d prefer not to.

They also destroy freedom simply by virtue of their terror. In releasing a video like this, they force companies (that are otherwise very hesitant to self-censor) to instinctively cut down content. My version of the video, which is posted above and did not include the killing, was cut down nearly instantly for violating their policy “violence.” The people tasked with filtering content at Google are not the enemies of speech, they are simply afraid.

Terror itself is the greatest violation of liberty that the world can produce. Terror can cause the world’s companies and governments to restrict their own freedom for safety, while violating people’s rights to their own lives and the right not to be afraid.

Liberty-lovers tend to live according to the non-aggression principle, which expressly forbids initiating force against any person or their property. If every person in the world lived by this, there’d be no need for governments, or retaliation against violence. The world would be at peace. Some would go so far as to describe governments themselves as a form of force against their citizens, so it draws attention to ISIS’s mission to be the “Islamic State.” If they had their way, they’d be a new government of sorts. One perhaps more deadly and brutal than any other. But fear not, they will not have their way. While I tend to be adamantly non-interventionist, they’ve spilled American blood. Their recent video ended with a threat to the life of a British citizen. Particularly with the anniversary of 9/11 approaching, when they try to terrorize western nations in this sensitive time, they will likely be exterminated. It will come at the cost of many lives that didn’t need to be lost, and many freedoms that shouldn’t have been restricted, but they will be crushed. If the “Islamic State” is at war with liberty as their name implies, then perhaps they will make progress towards that goal. If their war is to dominate the world, then they will win nothing.

An Open Carry protest and stop conducted with civility

Submitted by Jonathan Frost and Aaron [last name not given] this video shows their experience when participating in an open carry holding a AMD-65 and a Chinese Mosin Nagant.

Open carry is a long-existing trend that has picked up some attention recently in the United States of America. Generally, participants carry guns as allowed in their specific areas in public or into private establishments, as an act of protest against other gun laws or to celebrate their freedom to carry. Recently, as is pictured in the video below, many open carry advocates have carried long rifles such as AR-15s or, in this case, a AMD-65 and Chinese Mosin Nagant to protest their inability to carry handguns where it is not allowed. These encounters often cause some level of attention which can lead to police encounters.

Jonathan told me:

“Visiting a friend in Georgia, we decided to have an open carry walk. As avid libertarians, civil disobedience comes naturally. My first open carry stop was fairly interesting. Living in Florida, where open carry is outright banned, this event felt liberating to me. About one and a half times around the loop, two police cars showed up to the rear and ahead of us. I was sort-of eagerly waiting for this day to happen. I wasn’t surprised when Officer Skinner told us to surrender our weapons, we wouldn’t have any of this, but Aaron said we would only place them in the grass beside us.

Aaron took out his cell phone, started recording, and handed it off to me; I let Aaron do most of the talking. Officer Skinner was rather tense throughout the encounter. We knew our rights and didn’t disclose our information without a reason; I personally didn’t have my wallet on me at the time. Skinner telling us that the event was going to be filed as a miscellaneous report, we only told the officer our names and addresses. Nothing outrageous occurred at the stop.

The majority of the time was spent chatting up with Skinner’s assistant. He asked if our guns were loaded and if we were recording. Aaron replied, “Of course, you’re looking for trouble if you carry around an unloaded gun.” And I replied the recording question with “Hell yeah! Accountability.” All in all, like I said: I found the scenario quite liberating in a certain light. If you take your natural rights seriously as a human being and choose not be a bitch (as in Mr. Adam Kokesh’s definition) to the state, you will probably find it just as liberating as I did.”

Aaron told me:

“Taking a walk around my neighborhood, my friend and I were open carrying, one AMD-65 and one Chinese Mosin Nagant. Two police cars approached one from the rear, and one from the forward direction. The two officers stepped out of their vehicles, they tall white male, Officer Skinner, had his hand on his weapon and demanded we surrender the firearms immediately, I told him I would set it onto the ground behind me, after doing so I began recording.

The other officer remained cordial throughout the encounter, as he was familiar with the area, and was aware of my previous walks. Officer Skinner however maintained a mostly antagonistic attitude through the encounter. Officer skinner asked multiple erroneous questions such as if the stock on my weapon folded or not. Overall a very decent encounter it just shows that if you know your rights, and aren’t an Asshat, you can and will triumph.
~The Right Of The People To Keep And Bear Arms, Shall Not Be Infringed”