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”

“FREEDOM!” A Modern Manifesto of Liberty

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.