The Anarchist Township

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14 Questions and Answers on Left-Libertarianism

What follows are some 101 questions and answers I designed for a Students for Liberty meeting at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

None of these questions or answers were needed because the group was so well engaged, but I decided to repost them here anyways because of the more general use they may serve.

The logo of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left

  1. What does the “left” in left-libertarian mean?

Left libertarianism can mean “left” as in a Georgist, someone who agrees with the philosophy of the economist Henry George. George tended to believe that the problems of the world revolved around landlords and that a single tax might alleviate social inequalities.

It can also mean “left” in two different anarchist senses.

One sense is anarchist-communism represented by folks like Peter Kropotkin or Emma Goldman.

But left-wing market anarchism (LWMA) is what the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) advocates. Markets for us tend to have separate meanings.

This philosophy stems from thinkers like Benjamin Tucker, editor of the individualist anarchist magazine Liberty in the late 19th and early 20th century. This form of “left” often involves an interest in solidarity, equality and liberty for the individual and the communities they inhabit. These cultural norms are meant to work against oppressive elements in society like capitalism (which is differentiated from markets), government and things like sexism, racism, etc.

As Gary Chartier puts it in his The “Left” In Left Libertarian,

An authentically leftist position, I suggest, is marked by opposition to subordination, exclusion, and deprivation.

This doesn’t mean no one else can oppose such things or have sympathies towards such opposition. But it’s often not the main cause of conservatives, for example, to challenge things like racism or other exclusionary cultural norms.

2. What does the “libertarian” in left-libertarian mean?

The “libertarian” in left tends to mean anarchist. This isn’t universal as we have some notable folks like Chris Matthew Sciabarra and the Bleeding Heart Libertarians who may consider themselves allied with left-libertarianism in some way, yet aren’t anarchists.

But for the most part, the “libertarian” in “left libertarian” involves anarchism. This a particular form of anarchism that has been advocated all the way from the 19th century by people like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Proudhon was mutualist living in the 19th century and one of the first individuals in history to call himself an anarchist.

“Anarchism” within this context doesn’t mean a desire for disorder, chaos or violence. Anarchism instead refers to a political philosophy that advocates the abolition of the state, capitalism and all other oppressive exercises of authority.

Despite whatever his other flaws, Noam Chomsky has a particularly good definition of anarchism:

…any structure of authority and domination has to justify itself- none of them are self-justifying. Whether they’re in individual relations, or international affairs, or the workplace, or whatever- they have a burden of proof to bear, and if they can’t bear that burden (which they usually can’t), they’re illegitimate and should be dismantled and replaced by alternative structures which are free and participatory and are not based on authoritarian systems.

3. What thinkers do left-libertarians tend to draw from?

Given how big of a tent left-libertarianism even within the specific branch of left-wing market anarchism is, the thinkers may vary.

Regardless, here are some common sources of its thought:

Benjamin Tucker
Lysander Spooner
Voltairine de Cleyre
Kevin Carson
Roderick Long
Sheldon Richman
Karl Hess
Murray Rothbard (60s and early 70s Rothbard)
Gabriel Kolko (New Left Historian though not an LL himself)
Samuel Edward Konkin III

4. What differentiates between left-libertarians and other libertarians?

Left-libertarians, in comparison to minarchists, tend to be more explicitly anti-political. In the sense that we’re more fundamentally hostile to government. We also tend to favor non-electoral means or at least downplaying their importance within our own tactics. This, as opposed to minarchists who may support candidates like Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, etc.

Left-libertarians in comparison to anarcho-capitalists tend to be more critical of things like corporate culture and bureaucracy within large non-governmental firms. Examples may include things such as non-profits or corporations. Our predictions for what a freed market would end up looking like tend to be more conventionally leftist. For example, we think independent contractors and worker cooperatives will be much more likely to spring up than the traditional hierarchical and large firms we see today.

It should be noted that some anarcho-capitalists care more about anarchism than capitalism and these sorts of anarcho-capitalists may tend to overlap with left-libertarians more. Particularly in that they have no real preference of whether corporations should still exist, or if everything should be privatized or not. They merely want to abolish the state, free the market, and leave it up to individuals and communities from there.

Left-wing market anarchists tend to sympathize with this position though we’d also remind these sorts of anarcho-capitalists that we are market forces and furthermore that some systems tend to be more conducive towards sustaining liberty than others.

5. What differentiates between left-libertarians and anarcho-communists?

Generally speaking, left-libertarians being market anarchists don’t want to abolish markets, money or material capital like anarcho-communists do. On economic questions then, anarcho-communists and left-libertarians may share some overlap with wanting a more fluid way of exchanging value, but on the whole we disagree about how to do that.

Anarcho-communists also tend to favor violent revolutions, expropriation and violent direct action. While there is by no means a consensus on these things within LWM(A) circles, we generally see peaceful gradualism or immediatism as preferable to violence whenever possible. Things like self-defense should be taken seriously but used carefully and strategically even when it’s morally right.

And just as LWM(A)s tend to disfavor monocentric systems of privatization we also tend to dislike the monocentrism via communizing. We’d prefer to socialize/mutualize (see also here and here) functions in society so that individuals, cooperatives, collectives, partnerships and any other sort of collaboration that happens can be done on people’s own terms.

Adding to this, some market anarchists advocate a sort of commons advocated by Elinor Ostrom or a peer-to-peer production model as opposed to a communist based commons. Kevin Carson has written about Ostrom’s approach here and the larger anarchist themes in her work. He has also written about P2P relations in a freed society through the topic of intellectual property.

6. What roles do thick and thin libertarians play within left-libertarianism?

Some people see “thick libertarianism” and “left-libertarianism” as synonymous but this is inaccurate.

The terms “thick” and “thin” libertarian refer to a matter of internal and philosophical consistency questions. Can libertarianism be joined to, as Charles Johnson writes, “absolutely any non-coercive set of values and projects” as with Leonard Reed’s famous “anything peaceful” mantra? Or should it be integrated into other social commitments such as anti-racism or religious freedom of various sorts?

To be clear, to be a left-libertarian you do not need to be a thick libertarian.

Although it is true that this is a rare combination it does happen. Historically, you could argue Benjamin Tucker’s version of anarchism was thin. Tucker only saw the goal of an anarchist society to be a lack of physical violence and no state. Whatever else was not the business of anarchists.

To add to this, it is entirely possible to be a thick right-libertarian.

For example, Hans Herman Hoppe has some (in)famous cultural commitments some may see as conservative. A notable example is his as exclusion of queer folks in his favored covenant communities. I may disagree with this view but it’s still a thick one.

7. Is left-libertarianism just a rhetorical device to attract the left?

More than a few people have accused left-libertarians of merely trying to change the rhetoric and not the substance of libertarianism. We would be doing this, so the narrative goes, to appeal to left-wing people. Usually this is implying more moderate liberals and progressives ala Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters.

But given that most LWM(A)s are anarchists this would seem to be very counter-intuitive. It appears unlikely that organizations such as the Center for a Stateless Society has, at least as their number one goal, to win over a Bernie Sanders supporter, for instance. Especially with articles like this and this.

Now, it’s entirely true that left-libertarians tend to focus more on things like prison abolition, LGBTQA+ discrimination, racial discrimination, problems with corporations, etc. But that’s often because we genuinely believe these things are important in of themselves and that they connect to radical libertarianism in important ways that are often under-emphasized within the broader libertarian movement.

And even when we do talk about conventionally left-wing topics we usually tie in the state in some way. Whether it’s mentioning the privileges that the state gives to corporations, the laws that help discrimination or something else. In which case we’re not toeing the mainstream leftist line there either.

So again, it seems unlikely that the main purpose of left-libertarianism is to only appeal to moderate liberals and progressives. As a side-effect of our tendencies, sympathies and interests, it’s plausible. But we’re doing this for a free society, not to market libertarianism a little better.

Moreover, this claim seems to rely on the notion that left-libertarians are lying in some sense. Either to our audience, to ourselves to the person that’s accusing us or some combination thereof. This is a dishonest tactic to use and even if the claim were true it isn’t the best way to go about establishing the idea that we’re only in it as a marketing plot.

8. Who are some contemporary left-libertarian thinkers?

Some notable contemporary LL thinkers are:

Kevin Carson
Sheldon Richman
Gary Chartier
Charles Johnson
William Gillis

9. What are some of the most important left-libertarian works?

This is a(nother)non-exhaustive list of the most important left-libertarian works and should be taken as such:

Markets Not Capitalism (audiobook here, YT series here)
The Conscience of an Anarchist
Studies in a Mutualist Political Economy
The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand
State Socialism and Anarchism: How far they Agree and Wherein They Differ
Advocates of Freed Markets Should Embrace “Anti-Capitalism”
FMAC: The Unknown Ideal
Instead of a Book by a Man Too Busy to Write One
Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Towards a Dialectical Freedom
What is Left-Libertarianism?

10. What means do left-libertarians generally advocate for advancing towards a freed society?

Jason Lee Byas summarizes it beautifully in his article What is “Left-Libertarianism”? published on the Students For Liberty blog:

…left-libertarians tend to focus on interacting directly with the thing they’re trying to change (society), rather than making appeals to the thing they want to eliminate (the state). Not only does this include educational efforts, but also find methods for circumventing state repression and building alternative institutions for handling problems states create or fail to solve.

Historically this includes experiments like Lysander Spooner’s American Letter Mail Company, the radical labor efforts of Dyer Lum, and Sam Konkin’s idea of “counter-economics.” Today it can be found in left-libertarian enthusiasm for projects like crypto-currencies, radical labor activism, 3D printing, file-sharing, grass-roots mutual aid, and cop-watching.

As Kevin Carson explains, the left-libertarian aim “is not to overthrow the state, but to ignore it. Anyone who wants to continue to support the state and obey its laws is free to do so, so long as they leave us alone. Our goal is to build the kind of society we want, and prevent the state from overthrowing us while we’re doing it. The last person out of the state can turn off the lights.”’

11. Are left-libertarians and Bleeding Heart Libertarians the same?

As Thomas Knapp explains in, Now Hear This: There’s a Difference Between Left Libertarians and Liberaltarians:

Most, if not all, left libertarians are anarchists. Most, if not all, liberaltarians consider the state at least inevitable and possibly necessary; and following from that,

Most, if not all, left libertarians eschew electoral politics and “public policy,” while most, if not all, liberaltarians consider those two things part of their program of action.

In addition, Roderick T. Long in his post, Left-Libertarianism: Its Past, Its Present, Its Future says:

Insofar as BHL represents a fusion of the free-market commitments of libertarianism with the social-justice concerns of the left, left-libertarianism may be counted as a subset of BHL; but left-libertarians tend to be more radical, in both their leftism and their libertarianism, than the majority of those self-identifying as BHL proponents. … Most BHL proponents appear to see their libertarian commitments and their left-wing commitments as at least to some extent moderating each other; left-libertarians, by contrast, tend to see their libertarian and leftist commitments as mainly reinforcing each other.”

12. What is mutualism?

Mutualism is an anarchist school of thought founded by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in the 19th century.

Mutualism more contemporaneously has two schools of thought

Carsonian Mutualism
Neo-Proudhounian Mutualism

Carsonian Mutualism (CM) is much like Benjamin Tucker’s mutualism. Tucker mixed Proudhoun and the first American anarchist, Josiah Warren, who was himself an individualist anarchist. This approach is mainly an economic one that relies on the minimization of usury (interest, profit and rent), worker directed cooperatives, etc.

Neo-Proudhounian Mutualism (NPM) is more “classical” in its approach. It may attach insights from Tucker, Warren and other individualist anarchists but it depends less on them than CMism. In addition, NPMism is more of a philosophical approach that relies on concepts like reciprocity, the golden rule, and approximation.

It should be noted that both schools of thought have much overlap and that economics and philosophy are important in both schools. One just tends to emphasize one over the other.

In either case the goal of mutualism is a more “mutual” society. One where people encounter each other in a more equitable way that depends less on hierarchy and command. Instead mutualism urges us to depend more on fellowship, respect and understanding. Institutions like mutual banks, cooperatives and communally owned institutions tend to be favored by mutualists as expressions of their desired political economy.

The CM tends to be a “minarchist” when it comes to usury. Profit, rent and interest are likely to exist (and perhaps even be necessary) on some level, but likely drastically less than what the situation is currently. While the NPM may be less flexible in its lack of necessity.

Both schools of thought tend to advocate a private property of sorts but one that is based on personal use and occupation. Contrary to some people’s claims this does not mean the milkman can come and take your house when you leave to buy groceries from the local co-op. Proudhon described mutualism as a “synthesis between communism and property” which is the “liberty” he desired most.

I recommend Shawn Wilbur’s The Gift Economy of Property and In Defense — Such as it is — of Usufructory Land Ownership by Kevin Carson for more. You can also see the C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium on Land which Carson and Wilbur both took part in.

And for a fairly comprehensive overview of mutualism I recommend Clarence Lee Swartz’s “What is Mutualism?” published in 1927. Carson and Wilbur have also recommended this work to others.

These two schools of thoughts are still very new and as such my descriptions should be taken as my personal experiences mixed with some of the originators own terms. As such, make sure to look up Kevin Carson and Shawn Wilbur’s work to see for yourself.

It should be noted that in recent years Shawn has distanced himself from left-libertarianism and ALL/C4SS. Still, I believe there is much of value to be found in his work that relates to the efforts left-libertarians do. More recent work by him that may better encapsulate his current positions can be found here and here.

13. What is individualist anarchism?

Individualist anarchism is a bit more complicated as the strands that exist under its labels are much more diverse and numerous.

For example, left-wing market anarchism is very different from egoism. Egoism was a philosophy most notably subscribed to by Max Stirner who was against the state and morality. LWM(A)s tend not to be against morality itself (though this is by no means essential).

There was also European individualist anarchism that was embraced by people who engaged in what was called illegalism (also see here). These people were involving themselves with illegal activities of one sort of another, often to upset the established capitalist order. Either by robbing banks, shooting officials or fighting cops. They had much overlap with the egoist philosophy.

The historical individualist anarchism of America was naturally more informed by American values. As such Lysander Spooner heavily relied on natural law, Benjamin Tucker only became an egoist later in his life and other individualist anarchists would even rely on spirituality to some extent to justify their beliefs.

It should also be stated that the lines between mutualism and individualist anarchism can sometimes be blurry.

Early Benjamin Tucker drew heavily from Proudhon and it may be difficult to say whether he really neatly fit into one category or the other. Similarly Dyer D. Lum drew heavily upon mutualism and in his “The Economics of Anarchism: A Study of the Industrial Type” seemed to mostly agree with Proudhon but also have some of the same Tuckerite caveats as well.

14. Where can I find left-libertarians?

Besides at C4SS you can find us on the Alliance of the Libertarian Left which has a Facebook page and a distribution site where you can buy our pamphlets as well!


If y’all liked that article consider donating to my Patreon!

You can donate for as low as $1 a month but I especially encourage $5!

Donating helps articles like this one come out more frequently. : )

 

Coming Attractions…

It’ll be quite a show – all at my expense, I assure you!

I’ve been itching to write some full-scale blogs on various topics here but so far my Patreon just isn’t making me enough to invest too much time into that. So I typically focus on Abolish Work and C4SS (and its Youtube channel) instead.

Nevertheless I want to commit (or attempt to commit!) to writing one full-length essay a month even so.

What does “full-length” mean? Well, I consider blog posts 0-500 words, articles 1000-2000 and “full-scale essays” to be somewhere from 5000-10,000 words.

So yeah, I’ll be aiming pretty big. I may not even meet this word-based goal every month but basically each post would be an attempt to do a really fleshed out piece on a given subject. Complete with links, sources, references, lots of quotes, statistics, etc. etc. etc.

Anyways y’all aren’t really here for that (I hope), so here’s a sneak peak at some ideas I’ve either had brewing for a while or some ideas that I’ve gotten recently, I’ll give some descriptions as well so you’re not going into ’em totally blind:

  • We Could Be Friends But You’re Playing (With Irrationality) – Basically a bonafide screed on what friendship means to me and why it never relies on immutable support
  • Gender as Auto-Pilot (note, maze metaphor, ) –  I’ve been struggling with gender a lot lately, so this would probably be one of my first essays channeling this struggle within me. It’d likely be intensely personal and get pretty long and pretty heavy pretty fast.
  • Discomfort, Privilege and Oppression (Utilitarianism) – Is it necessary to make others uncomfortable so that we highlight privilege in society? How powerful of a strategy is this and if it is powerful does that just mean it’s worth doing even less? I’ll also make some casual remarks about how utilitarians (see less casual comments here) tend to conceive this question (in my limited experience).
  • Trans and bathrooms (report, response, to this) – This ones pretty obvious. (The second link is obnoxious and also contains references to rape  so be warned on both fronts)
  • The Soul of Man Under Individualism – A play on some obscure essay.
  • “Because I said so,” is the frustrating exception that proves the general rule.” –  An essay on youth liberation. Fuck  yeah. Youth lib has been bouncing around in my head for a while now and this’d be my chance to expound upon why.
  • The Killer is Me (Philosophical) – An essay on self-esteem, I think. I’ve had this title (named after an Alice and Chains song I particularly like) in my head for years but I’ve finally found some use for it! Huzzah!
  • “You’re Actually Being Really and Truly…” (No True Scotsman history) – Criticisms of (gasp!) social justice and how social capitalism, social positioning and more tend to play into games of tribes, signaling and ah fuck, just call me a Less Wronger right? (Except don’t)
  • Building Monuments to Death (Thinking our Anger) – Or, “In Response to Folks Celebrating Scalia’s Death” Oh yeah, I’m going there. Bring on the hate!

So yeah, if you want to see these not only happen but happen more frequently than, I dunno, once a month? Feel free to donate to my Patreon!

And hey, if I get $50 or over a month then I’ll do my best to do two a month.

…And shit, if I ever get to $100, I’ll commit to four a month.

…But no more than that, OK?  Please?

I Want Friends, Not Community + My Comrades

Nick’s Notes: “I Want Friends, Not Community” is republished with Apio Ludd’s explicit permission.

I’m republishing “My Comrades” as a nice additional piece under Apio’s recent and generous permission to reprint anything appearing in his publication My Own.

“I Want Friends, Not Community” and “My Comrades” are both  located in My Own: Self-Ownership and Self-Creation against all Authority #18.

I have added minimal formatting to make it slightly more visually appealing.


Who needs this?

Who needs this?

I Want Friends, Not Community

Communities .. are best defined in terms of food relationships – we are asking who eats whom. –Marston Bates

Damn near everywhere I go, I hear talk about community.

It’s apparently something everyone needs, something to which everyone should be willing to give herself. In big cities, it’s easy to ignore these calls to belong, since it’s hard for the unarmed proponents of community* to intrude personally into other people’s lives. I now live in a rural area. It has many advantages, but its human population includes far too many liberals, activists, do-gooders, in short, busybodies for whom community is sacred, an impersonal deity to whom these believers want everyone to know.

These local communitarians make what they mean by “community very clear in their complaints about those who don’t conform to community standards and their attempts to enlist others against these anti-social elements.

Indeed, it is a question of “who eats whom” – who spends their time gnawing away at the reputation of those who don’t fit into their code.

Community, as an ideal, stands in opposition to individuality, because it requires in the reining in of the unique for a supposed greater whole. I recognize no greater whole to whom I am willing to give such power, so I have no interest in community.

Does this mean I want to be isolated?

Well, at times, I do I value my solitude.

But at times, I want to play with others. I simply don’t want to give myself over to any “greater whole”.

And “community”, as its proponents use the term, is just such an imposed greater whole. These proponents use it to enforce a conformity to roles that make you and I intro mere electronic bits coursing through the cybernetic social machine, suppressing the particularities that make you and I interesting to each other.

This increases isolation, as it becomes more and more difficult for anyone to meet each other except as these social functions. And your function doesn’t really interest me. Your particularities, those unique properties through which you create yourself, are why I desire to know you, to interact with you, and community standards serve to suppress them.

So I have no desire for community.

I desire friends, companions, lovers, comrades and accomplices.

In other words, I desire to intentionally and passionately create relationships with specific individuals, because I see a potential for mutual enjoyment and mutual benefit. Friendships, companionships, loves comradeships and compliciters are not things to which I belong, but interactions I willfully create with another.

The origins of some of these words make this clear.

  • A friend is someone you prefer to spend time with out of a love for them.
  • A companion is someone with whom you are willing to share food.
  • A comrade is someone with whom you would share your room.**
  • An accomplice is someone with whom you would join forces for some purpose.
  • And a lover is someone with whom you are able to share a mutual enjoyment and such delight in each other.

In every case, there is no greater whole, no hgiher power, enforcing obligations, merely two or more individuals choosing to itnerwave their unique particularities in order to better enjoy their lives or accomplish an endeavor mutually beneficial to them.

The individuality, the utter incomparable uniqueness of each one involved, provides the basis for the mutuality of these types of relationships – relationships that are never “greater than the some of their parts”, but rather enhance the greatness of each o the individuals taking part in them.

There are two other relationships that I may not desire or treasure as much as those I just described, but that I still prefer to the mutual tolerance and acquiescence necessary to community: enmity and contempt.

To merely tolerate others is intolerable to me.

If your projects, aims or desires conflict with mine, we will be enemies If you are not a worthy enemy, I will scorn you.

To do otherwise -in the name of community, of “getting along” – would be an insult to your individuality, to your uniqueness, and would reinforce the lie of community.

*Of course, the armed enforces of the community, the cops, are there in force to impose community standards.

**Of course, there are imposed “comradeships” in this since: the prisoner with a cell-mate or the conscript in the barracks.


 

A Meeting of The Minds – The Fool Meets the Blind Man

My Comrades

As for me, when I want to break my solitude, I prefer to go and seek my comrades, elsewhere, among the thieves of fire, the revilers of public authority, the walking dreamers, the furious night owls, the seducers of nuns, the libertines depraved by vice, the dabblers in underground cinema, the hunters for wild strawberries, the madcaps who harangue the clouds, the hooligans of the word, the polishers of the stars, the lone wolves who feed on the Golden Fleece, the drunkards of the absolute … and all those vagabonds of the spirit who will never bow their heads before good people.

These, and these alone, are my comrades.


Please support Apio by sending “…cash, stamps, love letters, hate mail, etc. to Intellectual Vagabond Editions P.O. Box 34 Williams, OR 97544 USA”)

“Illegalism: Why Pay for a Revolution on the Installment Plan…When You Can Steal One?” by Paul Z. Simmons

This essay was originally published in the Fall-Winter 2013-2014 edition of Modern Slavery. I have explicitly heard from one of Simmon’s friends that he would love this piece to spread.

So in that light, here is a transcribed version of the 25 page essay…you’re welcome.

All grammatical mistakes should be seen as my own.

In truth, it isn’t indispensable to feel oneself an anarchist to be seduced by the coming demolitions. All those who society flagellates in the very intimacy of their being instinctively wants vengeance. A thousand institutions of the old world are marked with a fatal sign. Those affiliated with the plot have no need to hope for a distant better future; They know a sure means to seize joy immediately: Destroy passionately!

-Zo d’Axa

Destroy Passionately!

Well as through this world I’ve traveled,

I’ve seen lots of funny men,

Some will rob you with a six gun

and some with a fountain pen

But as through this world you ramble,

as through this world you roam,

you will never seen an outlaw

drive a family from their home.

-Woody Guthrie

Pretty Boy Floyd

Illegalism – The open embrace of criminality as an expression of anarchism, particularly individualist anarchism.

The advent of the illegalist tendency in the last century of the nineteenth and first two decades of the twentieth century, primarily in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy, proved to be yet another contentious, seemingly indefensible dark stain on the soul of Anarchy for many of its working class adherents. Like the terrorists, the assassins, and the bandits – the illegalists presented to the world the tableau of the vessel of social morality tipped, emptied and smashed. For the illegalists crime was an accepted economic activity, and simultaneously the very heart and soul of social insurrection, the negation and the negation of the negation.
Passage into the illegalist milieu portended a commitment that encompassed the condemnation of all law, all morality, a rejection of both virtue and vice. It established a terrain of activity that by definition was beyond the purview of all social institutions and accepted relationships – the landscape of the illegalist was a place where the insurrection had already been fought and won.

The illegalists were probably the most individual of anarchists while simultaneously maintaining the strongest bonds of association and communication, bonds required by the social activity of crime as insurrection. The illegalist milieu also illuminates a singular aspect of utopia, specifically that when the anarchist society is realized it will not be as a result of some esoteric will-to-liberty, or a Freudian erotic demiurge, nor as the result and sum of a labored economic equation, rather utopia will arise as a function of necessity, as banal as breakfast and as certain as summer heat.

In the same manner that the illegalists turned to crime to survive and to speak, so society will turn to utopia to survive … and to speak. Of course, illegalist actions and theory are the stuff from which controversy is manufactured, not even ordinary criminals will condone crime publicly, and the Left, which has always asserted a monopoly on morality, was as outraged as the politicians and the press of the dominant society when anarchists started cracking safes and shooting bank tellers.

Anarchist history provides shining examples of theoretical hypocrisy; certainly the syndicalists, with their dreams of economic organization built atop massive industrial union structures were no grant fans of the illegalists.

The anarcho-communists who had watched as their tendency bled adherents into the various communist parties on one side and the syndicalists on the other were in no position to respond at any level, though Jean Grave, among others would develop a ranting liberal critique of the whole scene.

A very similar controversy reared its head two decades ago when Murray Bookchin and his “social anarchist” minions started throwing much at “lifestyle anarchists” for being uninterested in organizing for the masses for either the social revolution, or even a late July Social Ecology picnic. Though Bookchin obviously felt this was a new controversy within anarchism, his ravings (and ours) had all the trappings of the Syndicalist versus illegalist tribal warfare conducted circa 1910.

Finally, the Occupations of 2011 and the arguments brought for and against violence in the General Assemblies, as reported in the non-MSM press, also seemed yet another rehash of the illegalist controversy that played out a full century ago in France.

Yet, illegalism strikes deeper into anarchy than an economic or political construct –  including class struggle, surplus value, or post-modern analysis done in crayon.

Certainly, the illegalist tap roots penetrate further than most anarchists would like to admit, and they are not only buried in the conceptual tangle that supports the anarchist challenge, they are also present and resonate throughout every historical manifestation of anarchy or anarchism.

Thus one day in a post-insurrectionary era a toddler holding fast to a chair for balance may query a parent – “are you an anarchist, too, Mama?”

For the simple reason that the child already knows that mom is an illegalist – it goes without saying.

Clément Duval from War to Crime to Devil’s Island to New York

The very first illegalist, and the man who would provide the initial intellectul argument for anarchists as criminals was Clément Duval. He had served as a line soldier during the Franco-Prussian War and while unclear whether he participated in the Commune, he was wounded horribly by a Prussian mortar shell and subsequently contracted smallpox while recovering. He spent the next 10 years of his life recovering, including four years in hospital.

Upon release he was basically unemployable, being skilless save soldiering and with multiple physical challenges, and so set about becoming a thief. He also later jointed the legendary anarchist group the Panther of the Batignolles, one of the many contemporary Parisian affinity groups in that era who were notorious for their extreme ideas and also their street actions which seemed designed more to imperil police officers and violate laws than to protest any perceived slight to the anarchist community.

The Panther also doubled as a criminal conspiracy and their occasional forays into illegality would push Deval even further into the milieu. Duval, however, was a pretty mediocre criminal, shortly after joining the Panther he was arrested for the theft of 80 francs and spent a year in prison. Then on October 25th of 1886 Duval broke into a socialites house, stole 15,000 francs and set the house on fire – either accidentally or on purpose, his “confession” is unclear on this point.

He was apprehended two weeks later trying to fence some of the goods from the burglary.

The myth of the illegalists begins with his arrest, for as the cop Rossignol was trying to apprehend Duval, Duval pulled a dagger from his coat and stabbed him repeatedly.

Though Rossignol would survive his wounds, the image of an apprehended criminal striking back at an officer of the law mid-arrest was an addition to the history of crime that only an illegalist could have made. His trial drew loud support from all segments of the anarchist milieu and ended in chaos as he was dragged from court screening, “Long Live Anarchy!”

He had also sent to the anarchist paper La Revolte an article which included the lines,

Theft exists only exists through the exploitation of man by man…when Society refuses you the right to exist, you must take it…the police-man arrested me in the name of the Law, I struck him in the name of Liberty.

Duval was sentenced to the “dry guillotine” of Devil’s Island from which, after 20 unsuccessful attempts, he finally got it right and escaped in April of 1901 and lived out the rest of his life in New York City.

His memoirs were published in 1929, and have just recently been republished (Outrage: An Anarchist Memoir of the Penal Colony, translated by Michael Shreve, PM Press, 2012).

Duval never renounced nor backtracked from his life as an anarchist and criminal.

The Workers of the Night

The second foray of anarchists into the criminal milieu is due to one man, Marius Jacob, who just didn’t seem to be able to fit in.

Initially, a sailor’s apprentice on a voyage to Sydney Austria, he jumped ship at some point in time and among other employments tried piracy but found it too cruel to his tastes.

Upon returning to France he took up typography and militant anarchist activity that ended with him being caught with a parcel of explosives after a string of minor larcenies. Jacob knew when he was beat, and thereafter never sought legitimate employment, rather he gathered around him a group of anarchists similarly alienated from the world of work and formed what they termed the “Workers of the night.”

He used the term “pacifistic illegalism” to describe this new twist on anarchist activities. Jacob and his band evolved a simple though powerful set of guidelines, one does not kill except to protect one’s life an freedom from the police, one steals only from social parasites like bankers, bosses, judges, soldiers, the clergy, and not from useful members of society like doctors, artists or architects.

Finally, a percentage of the proceeds were to be donated to anarchist causes, depending on the choice and tastes of the illegalist doing the stealing and the giving. Jacob and his gang proved to be cunning and successful burglars.

One of the man tricks they introduced was forcing their way into an apartment from the apartment above.

To facilitated this a small hole was drilled through the floor of the top apartment and into the ceiling of the lower dwelling. A closed umbrella was inserted through the hole and opened so that falling debris and noose would be lessened in the target apartment.

From 1900 to 1903 Jacob and his small crew of from two to four burglars perpetuated at least 150 burglaries throughout France, including a smash and grave at the Tours Cathedral and pilfering an Admieral’s mansion in Cherbourg.

Then in April of 1903 the whole venture went sour with the slaying of a police officer in Abbeville during an escape. Jacob and his confederates were eventually captured and tried two years later in Amiens. Anarchists flocked to the city to support him, and while his legal defense left much to be desired he avoided the guillotine and was sentenced to life at hard labor in Cayenne.

After 17 escape attempts he was finally pardoned and returned to France, though he was unhappy in Paris and moved to the Loire Valley where he continued on with his life.

He eventually remarried (his wife had died while he was in the bagne, the Gallic Gulag) and took up a life of commercial travel. In spider of this his anarchist activities never abated. He traveled to Barcelona in 1936 to volunteer for the CNT/FAI militas, but was convinced that the battle would be lost by the communists and republicans and so returned to France.

During the Nazi Occupation he participated in Maquis sabotage squads (mostly expat Spainards, like Sabate, with a score to settle with any fascist – Spanish or German), primarily as a safe house operator and providing food and succor for the guerrillas.

Marius committed suicide by intentional morphine overdose on August 28th 1954.

His suicide was far from surrender, rather he wrote that it was a result of his calm acceptance of being unwilling to fight the rigors of old age. (My father committed suicide with a pistol in March of 2008 for very much the same reason, and I honor his will and courage in his action.)

Marius in the final years of his life developed a mixed attitude towards illegalism, based in part on the old magnetic attraction of proletarian workerist anarchism:

I don’t think that illegalism can free the individual in present-day society. If he manages to free himself of a few constraints using this means, the unequal nature of the struggle will create others that are even worse and, in the end, will lead to the loss of his freedom, the little freedom he had, and sometimes his life.

Basically, illegalism, considered as an act o revolt, is more a matter of temperament than of doctrine. This is why it cannot have an educational effect doctrine. This is why it cannot have an educational effect on the working masses as a whole. By this I mean a worthwhile educational effect.

Strangely, this statement would have been accepted by Bonnot, Garnier and the other illegalists as being accurate – they were not every interested in propaganda by the deed, rather they were convinced that the det itself, the robbery, the assassination, was the insurrection.

The point was not to educate the masses towards the social revolution, but to realize their insurrection here, now and for no one else but the individual, and possibly the union of egoists that she surrounds herself with – the herd, the collaborators – be damned.

Both Marius and Duval must be considered ultimately as proto-illegalists, each saw their respective criminal enterprises in a propaganda-of-the-deed conceptual framework, and as I’reprise individuelle (basically individual expropriation).

The act was justified in a moral universe that turned as nearly as possible the dominant moral codes upside down, but nonetheless acknowledged and accepted society an its flaws as the strawman – the thing that conceptually must be destroyed and altered, manipulated in a negative fashion.

The illegalists, however, were less interested in social revolution than they were in living in a state of rebellion.

Given the chance tey would have saved damn little of the dominant society, and certainly wouldn’t have used it as a negative paradigm from which to design an anarchist community – which is the single greatest conceptual flaw of the workerist anarchism.

In this sense these proto-illegalists seem more aligned to the mass-base anarchist tendencies than to the individualist milleu from which Bonnot and others would arise.

This is best exhibited by Marius’s ploughing his ill gotten gains into any one of a number of anarchist papers and projects, and the fact that such donation was an expected part of the gang’s ethics. Both men viewed their crimes as a means to an end, as a way to pay the rent and also as bringing the social revolution that much closer to fruition by supporting anarchist causes.

One is also reminded of Durruti, Ascaso and Oliver who, during their “pistolero” period, were clearly closer to either Marius, Duval or even Nobiling, than to say, a Kropotkin.

Yet in their case the assassination and robberies were, among other things, a way to support the CNY, and later the FAI, and hence were only mildly tinged with individualist anarchist ideas.

The success of La Revista Blanca, and the popularity of its editors, Federic Montseny and her father Joan (Federico Urales), would leave a deeply individualist mark on all of Spanish anarchism, including the syndicalist CNT.

Given the repression that was present in Spain during the period when such actions took place, criminal or not, their “outrages” were politically consistent and while not illegalist are worth recalling with fondness.

Finally it should be noted that Marxists and the syndicalists who drew dark, bold lines between crime and the working class did so in spite of the very real proclivity of both groups to pass back and forth freely from one social role to the other.

Victor Kibalchich, of whom more later noted of Paris in the early 1900s,

One of the particular characteristics of working class Paris at that time was that it was in contact with the riff-raff, i.e. with the vast world of irregulars, decadents, wretched ones, with the equivocal world.

There were few essential differences between the young worker or artisan of the old quarters of the center and the pimps in the alleys of the neighborhoods of the Halles.

The rather quick-witted driver and mechanic, as a rule, stole whatever they could from the bosses, through class spirt and because they were ‘free’ of prejudices.

Similarly, the majority of “loss” to theft in businesses today is due less to customers than to employees conscious enough to fill their backpacks with store inventory and office supplies after a hard day’s wage slavery.

Toccata and Fugue in Dynamite, Dagger and Pistol

Concurrent with the fusion of anarchism and crime were the waves of assassinations and bombings throughout Europe perpetrated by anarchists. The opening salvo of the assassination campaigns began in the anarchist watershed year of 1878. Emil Max Hodel attempted to end the life of the Kaiser, Wilhelm I, on May 11, 1878 with a pistol. When the first shot strayed he walked across the street to try again, but was apprehended in the process.

Less than a month later the anarchist Dr. Karl Nobling had another go at Wilhelm I, again with a pistol and being a better shot he wounded the aging monarch but did not kill him. Nobling then shot himself in the head, succumbing to his wounds a few weeks later.

Hodel was tried and subsequently beheaded on August 16, 1878.

On November 17, 1878, the anarchist Giovanni Passannante attacked the king of Italy, Umberto I, while on the tour of the kingdom, accompanied by Queen Margherita and the Prime Minister, Benedetto Cairoli.

Wielding a dagger he tried to stab the monarch who warded off the lunge with a sabre blow. The king lived, but Cairoli, a former Garibaldian officer and total sellout, was severely wounded and retired, briefly, from public life.

Passannante was tried and condemned to death, even though that punishment was explicitly reserved for successful regicides. Umberto commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in a cell only 1.4 meters high, without sanitation and wearing thirty pounds of chains. Passanante would later die in an insane asylum from his treatment during his years in hell.

The Russian anarchist populist People’s Will (Norodnya Volya) finally got it right (after several wild attempts) on 13 March, 1881 by tossing a bomb into Czar Aleksandr II’s coach. the bomb fired but didn’t harm the autocrat, however, as he stood in the street observing the carnage – and waiting for the transport back to the Winter Palace, another member of the People’s Will, also armed with a bomb, thew it at Aleksandr’s feet, which exploded – killing himself instantly.

The repression by the Russian state was savage ad in response the People’s Will set about plotting to kill the replacement czar, Nicholas. Their plans were uncovered leading to the arrest and hanging of Alecksandr Ulianov, Lenin’s older brother; which launched his younger sibling on teh road to the Marxists/statist counterrevolution.

So in terms of the long term political scorecard an anarchist should probably chalk that assassination up to a draw – sure they got Aleksandr, but ultimately the world got the Bolsheviks. Mixed bag.

The political violence revives, after a ten year lull, in 1891 in France when during a May Day celebration at Fourmies the police fired into a crowd of workers with a new device, the Lebel machine gun – by official count 14 dead, 40 wounded.

On the same day a small anarchist demonstration of laborers in Clichy degenerated into a running gun battle after the police attempted to break up the meeting. Three of the anarchist fighters from Clichy were rewarded by the French justice system with unusually harsh prison sentences for the time (three and five years).

Enter Ravachol, an impoverished, but highly motivated, anarchist who unreleased a singular and determined bombing campaign.

First he bombed the home of the presiding judge of the Clichy anarchists (March 1, 1892), then the Lobau police barracks, where Communard prisoners had been taken to be executed (March 15, 1892).

Ravachol was turned in after speaking a bit too openly about his exploits to a waiter while having dinner. He was arrested and executed in July of 1892.

Of note is the fact that on the day before the start of his trial a bomb exploded in the restaurant where Ravachol had spilled the beans to the waiter; evidently an attempt at vengeance.

Next stop Spain – November 7, 1893, with the tossing of two Orsini bombs by the anarchist Santiago Salvador into the orchestra pit of the Liceu Theater in Barcelona meant to avenge the garroting of anarchists in Jerez. The explosions killed twenty and injured an unknown number of others.

Not to be outdone by a Spanish comrade, and with Ravachol’s guillotine to avenge – on December 9, 1893 August Vaillant walking into the Chamber of Deputies in Paris and tossed a bomb packed with nails at the assorted legislators (no fatalities, one injury). He gave himself up and was guillotined on February 3, 1894.

Then on February 12, 1894 Emile Henry upped the ante and tossed a bomb into the Cafe Terminus at the Fare St. Lazare train station to avenge the death of Vaillant. He was apprehended, tried and guillotined on the 21st of May in the same year. Henry distinguishes himself by giving a brilliant account of his political movement towards anarchism and his justification for his bombing in court.

The peroration is still reprinted to this day (link to transcribed NY article on Vaillant) and is worth the time spent to read it.

Finally to top it all off Sante Geronimo Casrio, an Italian anarchist, to avenge the death of Henry Vaillant, Ravachol and anybody else he could think of, stabbed and killed the French President Sadi Carnot on 24 June 1894. He was tried and guillotined in Lyons on 15 August of the same year.

The life of bombings and assassinations goes on almost without interruption until September 1932, when several galleanisti, using a large dynamite device, effectively leveled the home of Just Webster Thayer, who presided over the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti – then resumes again in the sixties and continues on into the present…

Disharmonic Convergence

In terms of political activity and propaganda things were also afoot in the form of Albert Joseph, or Albert Libertad, or just Libertad.

Born in 1875 in Bordeax and abandoned at birth he became a ward of the state, and faced the usual miserabilist existence then doled out by the Third Republic to its unfortunates. Having lost the use of a leg as a result of childhood illness, probably polio, Libertad walked the rest of his life with the assistance of canes or crutches – which also doubled as clubs in a fight.

At the age of 21 Libertad moved to Paris and dove into writing, publishing, organizing, partying, lovemaking, just about every available opportunity for life and joy was not lost on the man. He worked and contributed to numerous journals including Le Libertaire, L’En-Dehors, and finally on 13 April 1905 there appeared the influential individualist journal that he founded, I’Anarchie, a four page broadsheet.

The journal was widely read, and being sufficiently easy to publish occasionally had incredible large print runs; as an example one issue specific to the July 14th holiday was issued in a print run of 1000,000. (By comparison, most contemporary North American anarchist publications run far less than 5,000 copies – Modern Slavery has an average print run of 3k.)

This issue included a manifesto appropriately entitled “The Bastille of Authority.” During Libertad’s life he met and worked with an astonishing array of writers, artists and oddly, politicians.

As an example, he worked as a correct on Astride Briand’s journal La Lanterne, which is weird because Briand was not only a Socialist Politician but served a total of eleven terms as Prime Minister of France, and later offered one of the first proposals for an economic union of European nation-states some 90 years before the EU was realized.

Libertad also worked with various anarchist agitators from Zo d’Axa (quoted above), the founder of the pre-eminent individualist anarchist journal, L’En-Dehors (The Outside), reborn in 2002 and currently a franco-phone website (http://endehors.net); Sebastien Faure, Victor Kibalchich, George Mathias, Paraf-Javal, and Émile Armand.

The last two anarchists listed, along with Libertad, founded and organized the Causeries Populaire, well-attended individualist anarchist public discussion groups which eventually proliferated throughout Paris.

Libertad wrote in short clipped stacccato pronouncements strung together by a common theme, very like prose poetry (see here).

Finally, Libertad’s version of free love and his natural combativeness backfired when in February of 1908 during an internecine individualist brawl he was kicked in the stomach by one of the two Mahe sisters, both of whom had been at one time or another his lovers. He died a week later in the hospital.

Victor Kibalchich picked up the editorship of l’Anarchie, and if anything cranked the articles into a vritual storm of individualist and illegalist rhetoric.

L’Anarchie moved rapidly into deep individualist waters propelled not only by the experimentation of the editorial staff with free love, vegetarianism and water-only diets, but by the discovery of the anarchist community in France of Max Stirner, the prophet of the sovereign self.

His work, L’Unique et sa Properiete, was read, quoted, argued, lauded and revilved throughout the first decade of the 20th century in France, and indeed in most of Europe and the United States by anarchists of all stripe.

Stirner’s most basic argument is grounded in an effective reduction of all conceptual political categories to ash, he derides all external loci of power, coercion and control and places the individual his or her needs and desires, including the desire for real community, at the center of his universe.

When first published in German, Marx, among others immediately recognized the rammifications of the work and in response he wrote a typically lengthy and dull polemic in The German Ideology in a failed attempt to squash the individualist challenge.

Later editions of MArx’s book edited out the most of the anti-Stirner material (almost 300 pages), primarily as a result of the shunting of The Unique and Its Property into a sideyard of theory for several decades.

With the re-discovery of Stirner in the 1890’s, and the printing of the first French translation of his work in 1900, the individualists had found a sound theoretical underpinning for a number of different projects.

As an example of Stirner’s thought that directly addresses the issue of crime, guilt and liberation,

Only when I expect neither from individuals nor from a collectivity what I can give myself, only then do I scrape the bonds of – love; the rabble stops being rabble only when it seizes….Only that seizing is sin, crime, only this rule creates a rabble…If people reach the point where they lose respect for property, then everyone will have property, as all slaves become free people as soon as they longer respect the master as master.

The praise of crime was not just sounded in the individualist milieu and journals, rather it was found in almost all of the anarchist press of the time with varying degrees or rabidity.

One of the better examples was Emile Pouget’s journal Pere Peinard, the most widely read working class anarchist periodical, described vividly by a contemporary as,

[having] no display of philosophy [which is not to say that it had none], it played upon the appetites, prejudices, and rancorous of the proletariat. Without reserve or disguise, it incited theft, counterfeiting, the repudiation of taxes and rents, killing and arson. It counseled the immediate assassination of deputies, senators, judges, priests and army officers.

It urged … farm laborers and vineyard workers to take possession of the farm and vineyards, and to turn the landlords and vineyard owners into fertilizing phosphates … it recounted the exploited of olden-time brigands and outlaws and exhorted contemporaries to follow their example.

So the anarchist press hasn’t really changed that much, the above content being stock in trade for the best libertarian periodicals now.

By 1910 all this theorizing, bombing, thieving individualist philosophy and intransigence would produce a group of young men and women determined to settle the score with bourgeois society in the form of the Bonnot Gang.

Beginnings: The Gang Forms

Of significance is the fact that Belgium plays a role in the formation of the gang; the small, primarily franco-phone monarchy served as a destination for young men seeking to avoid service in the French army, political exiles, and on the lam criminals. Several gang members would first encounter each other in Brussels and there they found sufficient agreement in ideals and goals to begin the process of forming themselves into a working illegalist combine.

Our first suspect is Raymond Callemin (La Science) who was born in Brussels and the earliest childhood friend of Victor Kibalchich, scion of an impoverished Russian refugee family. The two young men worker their way through a course of reading and drifting slowly towards anarchism which among other results caused Raymond’s father, an alcoholic and disillusioned socialist, to disown him for keeping bad company.

Kiabalchich would eventually land a job on the French side of the border and while there made contact with Causeries Popularies speakers and promoters, and it was here that he met and became enamored of Henriette Maitrejean (Rirette). Rirette had been married to an anarchist worker living in Paris at 17 but by the age of twenty-two with two small children and finding her husband rather boring had drifted through various anarchist millieux until finally she settled into individualist circles.

One of the main anarchist papers in Brussels, Le Revolte, served as a center for anarchist and later individualist activities and propaganda. It was here that Edouard Carouy, the paper’s editor encountered a young Parisian draft dodger, thief, and anarchist named Octave Garnier, one of the two primary founders, with Bonnot of course, of the Bonnot Gang.

Garnier had been born in Fontainbelau, near Paris, on Christmas in 1989. Garnier’s life of crime begins early and he was initially imprisoned at the age of 17 for conducting a series of smash and grabs. Exiting prison he found that without the requisite formal certificated indicating responsibility, sobriety and distaste for rebellion, most employers would have nothing to do with him. So taking a practical stance he had the appropriate forms forged and entered in to the world of work, which he found to be far nastier than unemployment, theft, or prison.

He drifted from job to job, tried his hand at being a mechanic, but was repeatedly rejected by employers.

During this period of drifting employment he participated in a number of strikes – which disillusioned him to the viability of a working class revolution. He found his workmates more interested in drink than in changing their situation, and this proclivity only made them more brutish, dull and easily led. He observed that union leaders, and especially the syndicalists, were about the same as the capitalists as they both sought to manipulate workers to serve their own ends.

Finally he concluded in his biography, penned shortly before his death and found on his body,

So I became an anarchist. I was about eighteen and no longer wanted to go back to work, so once again I began la reprise individuelle.

By May 1910 he was nearing the age of being called up into the armed forces and so began to drift towards the refuge of Belgium. Of note here is that the law of 1905 instituting compulsory military service had created an entire underclass of the militarily-challenged, by one 1910 estimate a full 90,000 Frenchmen were being sough for draft evasion or outright desertion.

While in Belgium Garnier finally found himself in the company of at least some semi-professional criminals, including Carouy the editor of Le Revolte, who augmented his income as a part-time pipe fitter with an occasional burglary; counterfeiting was also on the menu, and here he was instructed  by Louis Maitrejean, Rirette’s erstwhile husband.

Meanwhile Victor, having arrived in PAris, began writing for l’Anarchie, and finally got the chance to spend more with time Rirette, who, at their first encounter, found him uninteresting and “a poser.” It was in the Luxembourg Gardens that Victor introduced Rirette to a shy young anarchist named Rene Valet.

Valet was born into a middle class home, became interested in anarchism at a young age and had fled Belgium to to avoid military service. It was there that he met Victor and Garnier.

His stay in Belgium was short though and upon return to Paris he collaborated on the journal Le Libertaire, attended anarchist meetings, and spent a lot of free time with Victor. It was during this period that Rirette introduced Victor to Andre Soudy, a pale thin young man and the most easily identifiable symbol of the Bonnot Gang as the photographic image of “the man with the rifle” had passed into the anarchist collective consciousness, including some rather impressive tattoos based on the photo.

Victor described Soudy as, the perfect example of the crushed childhood of the back -alleys. He grew up on the street: TB at thirteen, VD at eighteen…”

In the close anarchist circles in which Soudy moved he was known by the nickname “Pas de chance” (not a chance – a very prescient moniker indeed). It also reflected the fact that he felt his life was to be short given “the price of medicine”.

Then in the midst of all the fermentation in Paris an event in Tottenham, a northern suburb of London, broke like a storm on the international anarchist community.

In December of 1910, several members of a Latvian revolutionary cell, while engaged in breaking into a jewelers store, were interrupted by the police. The comrades shot their way out, killing three policemen and wounding two, in the process also killing the leader of the kommando.

Eventually two comrades were traced back to Tottenham and there fought one of the anarchist equivalents of Thermopylae – there would be others.

The two men, armed only with pistols, held off seven hundred soldiers and dozens of cops.

The Home Office was eventually forced to bring in artillery, and a young Winston Churchhill, to the battle. The fires started by the cannonade ended the confrontation with the anarchists expiring in the flaming building – they never surrendered.

The news traveled quickly around Europe and the Americas drawing praise from most anarchist groups and derision from the powers that be.

A young and impressionable Alfred Hitchcock read all he could about the “Seige of Sidney Street” and eventually would put his artistic spin on it in the final scene of the 1934 version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

Kibalchich wrote an article in I’Anarchie entitled simply “Two Men” and in it he lays down one of the many conceptual visions that would subsequently animate the Bonnot Gang,

In the ordinary sense of the word we cannot and will not be honest. By definition, the anarchist lives by expediency; work for him, is a deplorable expedient, like stealing…He takes no account of any conventions which safeguard property; for him, force alone counts. Thus we have neither to approve nor disapprove of illegal actions.

We say: they are logical.

The anarchist is always illegal – theoretically. The sole word ‘anarchist’ means rebellion in every sense.

Several other minor actors join the group over the course of the next several months, mostly very young men well heeled in individualist anarchism and burning for some way, any way, to strike back at bourgeois society.  This amorphous group moves back and forth across Paris, flats were rented, small communes came into being and were abandoned, arguments materialized and were forgotten.

The single greatest surprise of these months is that somehow the illegalists found themselves in complete control of I’Anarchie, with Kibalchich and Rirette taking over editorial duties.

The Final Puzzle Piece – Bonnot

Much has been made of the character of Jules Bonnot, a charlatan, a dandy, a sociopath, a criminal masquerading as an anarchist, or vice versa.

It is known that unlike the other members of the gang he did serve in the military and made the most of the experience.

He learned to drive and fix motor cars and became a crack shot with both pistol and rifle – two skills that would serve him well when he decided on a career in crime.

Finally he was older than most of the other gang members by a decade, which provided him with determination and, strangely, a measured recklessness that rapidly infected (and affected) his younger comrades.

Mostly centered in Lyon after military service, he did occasional mechanic work and waited for the right burglary to come along – and when it did he hit it big. Bonnot had been traveling around to the homes of various lawyers posing as a businessman asking for legal services and inquiring about the climate for commerce in various regions of France.

In July 1910 he found his target, the home of a wealthy lawyer from Vienne; Bonnot and an accomplice drove to the house during a downpour to cover any sounds of the burglary. They cut through some shutters, broke a pane of glass, and Bonnot, using oxyacetylene torch burned a hole 30 cm wide into the safe from which 36,000 unfried francs were removed.

By the winter of 1911 Bonnot was finding Lyons far too warm for comfort, the heat included a visit to a garage he had been working at by the police where, among other swag, two recently stolen Terrot automobiles from the nearby Weber factory were identified. Bonnot had luckily beenout and after learning of the visit headed to Paris directly, only to return a few weeks later to see the love of his life, Judith, one last time.

Judith’s husband worked as a grounds keeper in a cemetery and the two lovers said their final goodbyes among the quiet snow-blanketed tombs.

They would never see each other again.

So Bonnot and a companion, the hapless Platano, set off for Paris in a stolen La Bruite automobile on 26 November 1911.

The journey was to be marred by misfortune, first of all, in spite of the freezing weather, the La Buire began to overheat causing the two companions to spend the night in a small hotel at Joigny.

The enxt day they set off again, only this time one of the cars tires punctured and as Bonnot set about fixing the flat, Platano began to inspect his newly acquired Browning 9mm pistol. According to Bonnot as he took the weapon from Platano to show him its mechanism, it discharged and shot Platano behind the ear, wounding him fatally.

Bonnot, not wanting to leave his comrade mortally wounded, shot him again in teh head and then tossed the body in the bushes after emptying the dead mans pockets.

Bonnot then sped off towards Paris.

The La Buire like Platano, finally died and Bonnot was forced to take a train during the final leg of the journey into the Gare de Lyon. News of the death traveled rapidly to Lyons, and Bonnot was immediately identifies as the most likely suspect.

Police scoured his former residences where they culled anarchist literature, burglar’s tools, and the 25,000 francs that Bonnot had meant to be a nest egg for his life with Judith.

Finally, Judith and her spouse were taken into custody and a warrant was issued for Bonnot’s arrest.

Fortune was on Bonnot’s side however, as the Paris papers ignored the story, so while being hunted in Lyon – he was relatively free to restart his criminal enterprises in the capital.

Upon arrival in Paris Bonnot looked up David Belonie, an anarchist whose name he had been given by contacts in Lyon; he explained the death of Platano to Belonie and it was suggested that a meeting of the illegalists be held to review the situation leading to the accident and to provide Bonnot the opportunity to clear himself of the homicide fully with the comrades.

A meeting was arranged in a top garret in Montmarte, Garnier, La Science, Carouy, Valet and a few others settled in to hear Bonnot’s side of the story. Bonnot aquitted himself well – angrily explaining the accident and denying that he’d kill Platano, rather the shooting was a freak accident.

The final coup de grace was delivered to save the wounded man from any further pain, not in an attempt to silence a homicide victim.

Sometime during the “trial” Garnier, and possibly others, realizes that this Bonnot was the man they had been waiting for – a mechanic, a sharpshooter, a tried and tested criminal with a certain degree of sang-froid, including ten years of experience in the demi-monde to boot.

The Gang Bangs: A Fistful of Bullets

Within weeks Garnier, Bonnot and La Science began working together on their “big job”.

A quick tangential note about the favored anarchist weapon of the time, the Browning 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Thought not as accurate as other 9mm weapons like the Mauser, it was light, easily concealed, and ammunition was readily available; further with a seven round clip and capable of firing off five clips per minute it was vastly superior to most pistols wielded by the forces of law and order, especially the clunky cavalry surplus revolvers carried by the Paris police.

Finally, the Browning 9mm was the weapon wielded by Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo precipitating the First World War, and to bring the discussion full circle the Browning was manufactured in Belgium, very much like the Bonnot Gang.

The illegalists had visited various areas outside Paris to find an auto with which to perpetuate their crime and finally settled on a 1910 Delaunay-Belleville limousine belonging to a bourgeois in the suburb of Boulogne-sur-Seine.

The Delaunay-Belleville was considered one of the best cars then available, with a six-cylinder thirty horsepower engine and a distinctive circular radiator – Bonnot clearly had a hand in the decision, he rarely settled for second best.

The name also had anarchist connotations, Delaunay being the anarchist assassin of the second-in-command of the Surete in 1909 and Belleville being the Paris suburb where the Commune had begun, and where during the final bloody week of street fighting most of the Communards had been slaughtered by the troops of the triumphant Third Republic.

Bonnot, Garnier, and La Science stole the automobile on the night of 13 December without a hitch.

The next decision, however, was the key, who or what would they rob?

And when?

They had weapons, a series of safe houses sprinkled throughout the outer boroughs of Paris and an impressively fast car.

Ont he evening of December 20th the four illegalists, Bonnot, Garnier, La Science, and one other usually thought to be either Rene Valet or Jon De Boe, picked up an acetylene torch and like Bonnot’s previous burglary planned to enter the home of a bourgeois and relieve the capitalist of the contents of his safe.

The weather, however, remained dry and clear, and Bonnot insisted that they have rain to cover at least some of the noise made during the breaking and entering.

At about half past three they gave up on the burglary plan and decided instead to go for a more bold, innovative job that had been planned by Garnier and Bonnot a few days before – a daylight robbery on the bank messenger for the Societie Generale, the largest Parisian bank and rivaled nationally only by the Credit Lyonnais.

The robbery would take place just as a bank messenger was to deposit funds into a branch of the Societie Generale in the Rue Ordener, just west of the Butte de Montmarte, which would allow the gang to either flee outside of Paris rapidly or to use the neighborhoods of Belleville or Montmarte as a screen.

The men must have felt an air of destiny in the whole endeavor, Bonnot was wanted for murder and if caught would surely face the guillotine, Garnier and Carouy were wanted for an attempted murder in Charleroi, forgery, and had been under surveillance for several months, and Raymond La Science, the only non-fugitive, with his disgust for bourgeois society clearly had little to lose either.

They ran through the plan a few times and around eight o’clock found themselves parked on the Rue Ordener.

“We were fearfully armed,” recalled Garnier, “I had no less than six revolvers on me, my companions each had three, and we had about four hundred rounds in our pockets; we were quite determine to defend ourselves to the death.”

A little after eight Octave spotted the guard walking out of the bank and towards the corner where the messenger would arrive. The guard stood on the corner and waited in the drizzle.

At last one of the local street cars ground to a halt and a handful of bowler-hatted men stepped off, though only one was greeted with a handshake from the guard. The bank messenger carried a satchel and briefcase.

As both men began to walk towards the bank, branch Garnier pulled his hat down low and said, “Let’s go,” as he stepped out of the car. He fixed his gaze on the messenger and marched straight towards him, with La Science a few paces behind.

Twenty yards from the bank, and six from the cash laden messenger Octave and Raymond pulled out their pistols and thrust them in to the bodyguard’s and messenger’s faces. The guard made a sprint for the bank doors as Garnier pushed the messenger down to the ground and grabbed his satchel.

Raymond grabbed the briefcase but the messenger reused to let go of it and was dragged a few yards up the street towards the waiting Delaunay.

Octave shot the messenger twice in the chest and ran to the car that Bonnot had just brought alongside the action. Octave jumped in the front seat, and Raymond, after dropping the briefcase in the gutter and retrieving it, hopped into the back seat.

Garnier held his pistol out the window and fired a few shots above the heads of any would be pursuers, and any traffic that impeded the escape. Five minutes later they flew past the Port de Clichy customs barrier and headed northwest towards St. Denis. Sometimes around 11 o’clock they halted the car and divided up the loot.

The small satchel revealed just 5,500 fr and the briefcase some 130,000 fr in bonds and checks. What was unknown to the men was that the messenger carried a small wallet inside his coat where the remaining 20,000 fr in cash was stashed.

Bonnot was irritated, he was much more comfortable with burglary and now that he had tried a daylight robbery it hadn’t even paid very well.

They stopped fro bread and chocolate and the proceeded to Rouen. They had decided to dump the auto over a cliff near Le Havre but ran out of gas too soon, so they pushed the car onto the breach where it stuck deep in the mud.

They stripped the license plates – one of which was thrown into the sea and the other into a large garden behind a seaside casino. The men then took a late boat train back into Paris, arriving about 1 am.

Upon alighting in the Gare St-Lazare train station Raymond bought a copy of the right-wing La Patrie whose headlines included, “The Audacity of Parisian Brigands – A Bank Messenger Attacked in Rue Ordener”, and “Bold Attack in Daylight.” La Presse reported the robbery as being “without precedent in the history of crime,” and called them, “les bandtis auto” – the auto bandits.

The Press also blasted the police for allowing such a thing to happen, especially when it was discovered that of the 84 cops assigned to the area where the robbery occurred only 18 were on duty at any given time.

The Times of London editorialized that, “at the moment when theives and other pests of society are daily resorting to more daring methods, the police are being more diverted from their primary duties in order to mount guard over strike-breakers and others who … in normal circumstances ought not require special protection.”

In this sense the class struggle, far from being the means to the social revolution, was proving to be an effective diversion for the ends of the illegalist insurrection.

The issue of the bonds and checks immediately played on the minds of the illegalists so Bonnot, with an interpreter, went to Amsterdam to see if they could recoup some of the money lose in the robbery by selling, trading or finding some way to turn the effectively worthless paper instruments into francs.

Of course the bonds’ and checks’ individual numbers were known across Europe within hours of the robbery and he was advised to wait until the heat had dissipated, or try cashing them in South America or Asia, where the likelihood of their origins may not, as yet, have been made known.

On the afternoon of December 24th La Science and Octave decided to visit Kibalchich and Rirette at home.

They knocked lightly at the door and a wide-eyed, incredulous Rirette let them in, hardly believing them still alive. They sat quietly and discussed the robbery with Victor, while Rirette occasionally shushed them for fear of waking the children.

As hours drew long the church bells rang in the new day, Christmas Day 1912, Garnier suddenly realized it was his birthday, he was 22.

The two illegalists took their leave of Victor and Rirette and went their own ways to spend the Christmas holiday.

Victor, however, seeing Raymond and Garnier at close quarter had realized that the time had come for I’Anarchie to rise to th occasion and to pour some gasoline on the illegalists’ fire, and to stand, at least in journalistic solidarity with the actions of the illegalists.

Kiabalchich faced the dual issue of his friendship with La Science, and his acquaintance with Garnier, (Bonnot being unknown to him), and for the fact that much of his writings were clearly an incitement to just exactly the type of action that had occurred on the Rue Ordener.

Something had to be written, and write it he did – in the first edition of I’Anarchie for the New Year appearing on Thursday 4 January 1912, bylined Le Retif and titled “The Bandit,”

To shoot, in full daylight, a miserable bank clerk proved that some men at least have understood the virtues of audacity.

I am not afraid to own up to it; I am with the bandits. I find their role a fine one; I see Men in then. Besides them I see only fools and nonentities.

Whatever may result, I like those who struggle.

Perhaps it will make you die younger, or force you to experience the manhunt and the penal colony; perhaps you will end up beneath the foul kiss of the guillotine.

That may be! I like those who accept the risk of a great struggle…

Besides one’s destiny whether as victor or vanquished isn’t it preferable to sullen resignation and the slow interminable agony of the proletarian who will die in retirement, a fool who has gained nothing out of life?

The bandit, he gambles. He has therefore chances of winning. And that is enough.

The bandits show strength.

The bandits show audacity.

The bandits show their firm desire to live.

Kibalchich was not done.

He knew that his friends were still at large and that now was the time to attempt to build some level of understanding and even support for the auto bandits among the various anarchist communities.

In notes for two causeries held during the weekend of January 27 and 28 he further developed his ideas.

He argued that society was the enemy of all individuality through its laws of social conservation and conformity, which deformed individuals into stunted, though “socialized” beings who could do little more than conform to a per-defined role.

He was under no illusions about social progress, and fatalistically suggested that things had been, were and would continue to be pretty much the same.

As he indicated in a reply to a letter criticizing his article on the bandits, he considered their actions being “logical, inevitable, even necessary.”

Kibalchich would write one more article for I’Anarchie defending the bandits entitled, “Anarchists and Criminals,” in which he emphasized, “Outlaws, marginals, bandits – they alone dare, like us, to proclaim their will to live at any price. Certainly they live far from us, far from our dreams and our desires,” but he had as much sympathy for them as he had for, “honest folks who’ve either made it or missed the boat.”

Whatever that last line meant in modifying the general intransigence of the rest of the article, he was, at least, clear about the importance of the bandits, and their crimes as they apply to theory.

The police, however, were under no illusions as to how close, both physically and ideologically, I‘Anarchieand the auto bandits were to each other.

On January 31st the offices of I’Anarchie were raided and searched, though nothing of ntoe was found in that incursion. Of interest is the attitude of Jouin, the Inspector in charge of the anarchist section for the Surete, who spoke to Kiblchich wistfully of the ideas of Jean Grave, and how the illegalists were harming the “good name” of Anarchy.

Which is an old trick and has been used as recently as the arrest of Stuart Christie for his alleges involvement in the Angry Brigade Bombings of the early seventies when during his questioning the interrogating officer came on as an anarchist sympathizer more concerned with saving the good name of anarchy, than being a bloodhound sniffing about for sufficient evidence to send the arrestees to prison for several decades.

Yet another lesson for us all – beware the empathetic, politically engaged cops who “respects” your ideals – his real motive is to suck your blood, steal your time, and sink your soul – not save the good name of Anarchy.

The police returned later the next week and searched I’Anarchie’s offices once again, this time they unearthed two of the ubiquitous 9mm Brownings, which led to both Victor and Rirette’s arrest for the possession of stolen goods (the pistols) which they identified as swag from the burglary of a gunsmith’s shop that had occurred on Christmas Eve 1911.

Rirette was eventually turned loose, but Victor waited in jail for something to occur that would either lead to freedom or to his being charged as a fence for stolen property; either way his oaths of silence and non-cooperation with police interrogators ran deep and he remained silent – willing to sit out his detention.

The illegalists for their part were pretty certain the Surete was only a few steps behind them so they went to ground, changing their hair color and shaving off their distinctive moustaches; further Bonnot suggested that they begin to dress like the bourgeois enemy to allay suspicion – so he handed out collars, cuffs and new shirts to further their disguises.

Despite the notoriety attached to the Rue Ordener robbery, not one of the gang members thought for a minute of leaving France, let alone Paris.

La Science and Octave also maintained contact with Rirette, meeting her in restaurants and cafes to get the latest news and to hear how Victor was holding up in the belly of the beast.

The gang also kept scouting out new locations for the robberies and burglaries, particularly in the south, eventually happening upon Ellie Monier (aka Simentoff) yet another draft dodger who had flung himself as far as Switzerland to escape French military service.

In 1910 he had written a brief piece for I’ Anarchie detailing an anti-syndicalist action for comrades in Arles. He readily joined the insurgent army of crime when the time came for his assistance.

On 15 February 1912 a superb Peugeot limousine was stolen in Beziers by persons unknown and driven northwards towards Paris.

By 9 am the following morning, however, the limo had flattened and the five well-dressed occupants of the auto managed to get a lift from a local garage owner as far as Beaune. After lunch the men caught a train to Paris, arriving in at 6:15 pm. No one would ever be charged with the theft but the Surete detectives suspected it was yet another exploit of Bonnot and the gang.

Four days later the Parisian press announced that the hunt for Garnier had reached as far afield as Chemnitz and Berlin, though the gang’s next “outrage” showed just how close the illegalists had stayed to their old stomping grounds.

In a spasm of spontaneity the gang had decided to travel south to rob the Lavernede mine near Alais and then the Comptoir National d’Escompte (a bank) near Nimes.

 Once again they chose a Delaunay-Belleville for a getaway car, this one well fitted out by a bourgeois who was planning to follow the Tour de-France as it wound its way through the French countryside.

The car though, almost from the very beginning, developed mechanical problems and after four hours wasted getting it repaired the disgruntled illegalists headed back to Paris. A real lemon.

Their drive though Paris was epic by the standards of the day, Bonnot behind the wheel kept the limo above 80 miles an hour through much of the city knocking over a few stalls near the Palais Royale and barely missing an autobus backing out of a berth at the Gare St-Lazare by hopping the car up onto the sidewalk nearly crushing two pedestrians as the engine coughed and sputtered into silence.

A traffic policeman who had been watched as the limo careened wildly to avoid disaster hurried over to demand the driver’s papers. Bonnot ignored the cop and finally got the engine roaring again.

Garnier who had stepped out of the Delaunay for a moment, probably to slow the onset of an oncoming panic-induced heart attack, hopped into the back seat as the cop jumped on the running board and attempted to grab the wheel.

Garnier thinking quickly, fired three bullets point blank into the cops chest killing him as his body crumpled off the side of the car and collapsed into the road. Bonnot pushed the Delaunay back up to speed.

Two “honest” citizens attempted to give chase in their own automobiles but were mistaken by the gathering crowd as the auto bandits and were surrounded, and nearly seized and lynched.

Despite the best efforts of the mob to exact vigilante justice, the car of the would-be heroes pulled away from the growing pocket of bystanders and sped off only to run over a hapless young woman crossing the street. Their pursuit finally abandoned, the luckless posse of two were questioned severely by police, and subsequently released.

Bonnot and the others continued their search for a target and after 24 hours finally found a house worth burglarizing. They made quick work of the safe but raised enough noise to wake the inhabitants of the house.

The owner of the mansion, yet another lawyer, thinking quickly fired six shots at the burglars, which sent the illegalists running for cover and ended the attempt of the gang for an honest, non-violent burglary.

Octave, in a fit of pique, found sufficient flammables to set the Delaunay alight and the gang returned to Paris without a penny to show for 48 hours of wild illegality, including very nearly vehicular manslaughter.

As a result the gang decided to lay low for a few months and during this time the Surete went into overdrive arresting anyone even remotely associated with I’Anarchie, eventually catching two fish worth having – Belonie and Rodriguez, the two fences who had been given the responsibility of selling the bonds and checks taken during the Ordener robbery. After selling the financial instruments and realizing a small sum for the gang both men were taken into custody and Rodriguez started doing all in his power to avoid the guillotine, both wet and dry.

The illegalists had grown somewhat depressed in the meantime; the sale of the bonds had yielded almost nothing, their last attempt at crime had been fun but a fiasco, the anarchist community had almost unanimously condemned them, and just as a final painful reminder of just how isolated they truly were I’Anarchie had published a piece bylined “LA”that had thrown some real much at the gang.

The author had called them, “feeble, narrow minded simpletons,” who theories were a load of crap; LA further noted that while their lives would be short, it was necessary for all anarchists to denounce their deeds and move as rapidly as possible in the opposite direction.

Of course the article drew scorn from a few in the individualist camp, an article written in response by Victor Metric scorned LA roundly and concluded with a request for funds to assist those in custody.

Garnier, of course, was nothing if not incensed and in order to get out in front of the criticism decided to do something truly seismic – he would write a challenge and send it in to one of the scions of the bourgeois press, Le Atin, which published it on 20 March 1912.

In the letter addressed to specific detectives in the surete including Jouin, he taunted them and ridiculed the 10,000 fr offered to his companion Marie to betray him, adding, “…multiply the sum by ten, messiuers, and I will surrender myself to your mercy, bound hand and foot…”

He goes on to exonerate one of his friends caught in the dragnet, Dieudonne, and emphasized that he alone was guilty.

Lastly he declared that,

I know that there will be an end to this struggle which has begun between me and the formidable arsenal at Society’s disposal. I know that I will be beaten; I am the weakest.

But I sincerely hope to make you pay dearly for your victory.

Concluding jauntily, “Awaiting the pleasure of meeting you…Garnier.”

Another enclosed sheet of paper bore inked impressions of Garnier’s index finger and right hand to prove the identity of the author.

Bonnot, not to be outdone by his partner walked into the offices of the Petit Parisien (a Parisian equivalent of the tabloid press today like the Sun in the UK or the New York Post), and placing his Browning menacingly on the desk of the journalist Charles Saurwein and stated that,

We’ll fire our last round at the cops, and if they don’t care to come, we’ll eventually know where to find them.

Then after picking up his pistol he walked nonchalantly out of the paper’s office.

Of course the paper should have contracted the police immediately, it was the bourgeois thing to do, but the but the gang was slowly beginning to garner some mild popular sympathy, and the police, for whom the average Parisian felt at least a tinge of hostility, were sinking low in the perceptions of the press.

As an example many journals had begun to call the gang “the tragic bandits” though the Petit Parisien had settled on the “Bonnot Gang,” which would stick long after the gang and the journal ceased to exist.

The effect of these interactions with the press was to bring even more pressure to bear on the police to do something spectacular and apprehend the outlaws, and completely outrageous.

Garnier had been thinking about firepower a great deal, feeling that though the police in Paris carried only old cavalry revolvers the gang needed something truly intimidating to make the next robbery successful.

He finally found what he was looking for when he purchased four Winchester rifles from a local anarchist fence – basically the modern equivalent of would-be criminals among themselves with surface to air missiles, or rocket propelled grenades to rob a 7-11.

 Car owners throughout Paris had become far more security conscious as a result of the spate of recent auto thefts, so in response the illegalists developed their final innovation to modern criminal activity-  the car-jacking.

The gang, this time was made up of Soudy, Garnier, Bonnot, Valet and the new guy, Monier. They armed themselves, including Soudy who carried the Winchester under his great coat, and took suburban trains into the countryside.

They disembarked at Villeneuve and walked as the final rays of sun peaked from behind trees into the forest to bed down for the night. they had selected a piece of road on the N5, a main north-south artery, and by mid-morning had found an ideal spot for their ambush.

Meanwhile at 7am in Paris a brand spanking new De Dion-Bouton 18 horsepower limousine, that had been ordered and purchased by the Comte de Rouge, was being revved and readied for delivery. Two men were in the car, a chauffeur in the pay of De Dion and a secretary sent by the Comte to make the 18,000 fr purchase; the Comte, who couldn’t be bothered with the mundane was sunning himself on the Cote d’Azur, waiting for his new car to be delivered.

Bonnot, Garnier and La Science recognized that they had only once chance to obtain a car in this fashion, should a driver get past them, their whereabouts would immediately be flashed to the capital, including all the cops just waiting for the opportunity to pounce.

Luckily as they waited by the side of the road two horsecarts came spanking down the N5, the illegalists ran out flashing their weapons and seizing the two conveyances which they propped in the middle of the road.

At the same moment the yellow Dion-Bouton came into view. The car came to a halt and the there anarchist walked with guns in hand towards the auto, La Science calling out, “It’s the car we want.”

The chauffeur pulled out his pistol, but he was too slow, Bonnot fired and shot him int he heart.  Garnier, perhaps in response to Bonnot’s shot, fired at the other passenger, hitting him four times in the hands, which had apparently been raised in protection.

The two bodies were dragged into the woods, the gang scrambled in and the Dion Bouton was turned around and roared north towards Chantilly.

They skirted Paris through the eastern suburbs and taking the N16 arrived after two hours of driving at the offices of the Societe Generale in Chantilly, located on the main square.

Bonnot sat at the wheel while Garnier, La Science, Valey and Monier walked into the bank. Soudy remained on the pavement outside the bank, the Winchester raised and ready. La Science called out, “Messieurs, not a word!” as the gang came charging into the office, one of the clerks instinctively dove for the floor, which caused Garnier to shout, “Fire!”.

Garnier shot one of the clerks six times and La Science poured four shots into another teller, while Valet winged the youngest clerk, a sixteen year old,with a shot to the shoulder. The remaining bank employees escaped by diving out the back door as bullets zipped past them.

Monier stayed at the door while Garnier, finding a set of keys after a “Jesse James” leap over the counter said, “Get the money first,”; perhaps wishing to avoid the embarrassment of staring lamely at a pile of worthless bonds and checks.

The shooting obviously did not go unnoticed by the locals, including the bank manager who began to walk back across the square. Soudy leveled the rifle at him and shouted, “Hold it! Hold it or I’ll pick you off,” finishing the statement with four rounds fired over the man’s head.

The manager wisely retreated in the opposite direction.

Soudy now began to fire rounds at anyone who ventured into the square as well as those who appeared in windows. The illegalists raced over out of the bank, guns roaring as cover for the retreat, and crammed themselves into the waiting car.

Soudy fired a final shot and ran after the already accelerating car, he slipped as he was jumping in but was caught and hauled in by his comrades who realized that he had fainted in the excitement of trying to catch the auto.

In minutes the limo was racing south to Paris, and the relative safety of her teeming millions. Though sighted at numerous places on the return trip no effective chase was given and having abandoned the car, they hopped a fence and found themselves in Levallois-Perrer, a neighborhood swarming with police due to the presence of the headquarters of the then striking taxi drivers union.

The strike had lasted for several months and results in numerous violent collisions between the taxi drivers, strikebreakers, and of course, the police.

So the gang strolled right through the largest cluster of police in all of France with 50,000 fr in their pockets and no one paid them any attention at all.

Again the class struggle had reared up and provided the perfect screen for the illegalist insurrection to occur.

The robbery at Chantilly sent the representatives of law and roder and especially the bourgeois press into apoplectic fits.

Meetings were held up and down the various chains of command, and like the September 11 occurrences, the final outcome was a forgone conclusion– unbounded police surveillance powers, augment by increased funding for the violation of rights, torture of suspects, whatever would bring the sad, and seemingly endless chapter to at least perceived conclusion.

Within 24 hours of the robbery raids took place across Paris, especially in the communities to the north and east, the “red belt” as it had been know since the days of the Commune.

L’anarchie was raided for the third time (in all the offices would be searched six times in as many months). The public mood at this time had turned from one of mild, silent approval for the Bonnot Gang to a raging hysteria-the image of a pale young man shooting at the honest, law-abiding denizens of a quiet Parisian suburb was unnerving to the point of psychosis for much of the bourgeois.

Gun sales spiked upwards as the middle and upper classes began to arm themselves in response to the possibility of confrontation with these neo-barbarians, and when the public realized that Bonnot had been trained to shoot and drive by no less a criminal conspiracy than the French army many wondered if the entire structure of sovereignty might not collapse with an armed forces made up of such malcontent recruits.

Further, like the resurrected Elvis, sightings of the gang began to be reported in such far flung places in Marseilles, Calais, and of course…Brussels.

In one insident, a Belgian stationmaster opened fire on a group of innocent, and probably stunned passengers convinced that the Bonnot Gang had decided to include train robbery in its repertoire.

In the working class neighborhoods, however, the mood was visibly different; kids exuberantly played “Bonnot Gang” with an unlucky few of the youngsters forced to play cops.

The Gang’s Finale: For a Few Bullets More

After Chantilly, the gang split the proceeds and parted company.

Soudy, seeking some relief from his tuberculosis, traveled to Berck, a seaside health resort. With his paleness and long interludes of coarse, rattled coughing no one expected to him to rejoin the gang.

Everyone else found safe houses and laid as low as possible, fully recognizing that anything appearing to be out of the ordinary could bring the attention of the neighbors and probably the police shortly thereafter.

The gang recognized that huge rewards were being offered for any information and that in working class areas the temptation must have been intense to turn informant.

Further the Surete was doing their best to plant as much suspicion as possible within anarchist circles, driving home the point made by Jouin that the bandits were “discrediting a great ideal,” thereby casting the police in the unlikely role of guardians of the purity of anarchism.

The first to fall was Soudy who had been staying with friends at Berck. Jouin had been fed information detailing his whereabouts and as Soudy emerged from his friends him and walked towards the train station five policeman jumped him.

An unidentified informant was paid 20,000fr for the betrayal.

Raymond La Science was next.

He had taken refuge with an anarchist couple Pierre Jourdan and his lover Louise-Marcelline in Paris’s 9th arrondissment. Louise-Marcelline was evidently the unidentified informer in this case, and as La Science appeared outside the apartment early one morning wearing cycling gear and with a new racing bike he was apprehended.

A search of his cycling shorts revealed sixteen one hundred franc bills and two loaded Browning 9mm pistols.

Monier was next, he had taken to hopping from hotel room to hotel room and had been impressively assiduous in his efforts to remain invisible until he met some anarchist friends for a meal in the boulevard Delessert; the meal party included Lorulot who was well known to the police and they had been tracking him for several weeks.

The gambit paid off, Monier was immediately identified and followed back to his hotel. Unwilling to wait for him to come out the police forced their way into his room and due to surprise took him without incident.

They noted that he had two loaded 9mm Brownings on the bedstand and had they been less quiet the arrest could have gone very differently.

Bonnot and Garnier would be less easy to take unawares, and they were both poised to take as many cops as possible with them into the abyss.

Bonnot had been staying with a friend Gauzy above his second-hand clothing store. As time gone on Gauzy had become more and more uncomfortable with the situation, and Bonnot, unwilling to remain in a darkened room for hours on end had been out walking several times.

Meanwhile the Surete had patched together some loose leads and decided that many of the “Second hand” shops in working class areas ay well be operated by fences, they had also linked a number of these shops to gang members.

Gauzy had finally prevailed upon Bonnot to find other accommodations, though Bonnot dithered away a day or two deciding what to do.

Gauzy was then surprised to see four bowler hatted men enter his shop on the day Bonnot was to have left, timing it seems was neither on his side nor Bonnot’s.

Join introduced himself and stated that he had a warrant to search the premises, and probably hoping that Bonnot had jumped out the window, Gauzy led the detectives upstairs to his apartment.

Gauze fumbled with the key as he unlocked the door and stood back for Join and Colmar to enter, as they did Bonnot who had been reading a paper by the window jumped up and grabbed for a small caliber pistol in his jacket pocket.

Join was on him in an instant, they wrestled and Bonnot, finally getting the pistol in hand fired three shots into the detective, the final bullet through the neck killing him instantly; a perfectly appropriate Stirnerian moment; the triumphant individual destroying the lead coil of the venomous state.

A fourth shot, probably fired from the floor, killed Colmar.

The third detective Robert dashed into the room and finding Co,mar breathing shallowly hefted him on his shoulder and carried him down the stairs.

Bonnot, shoving Join’s corpse off him ran down the hallway, through a window and into the street.

His forearm, grazed by a bullet, trailed blood as he ran.

Bonnot spent three uncomfortable nights in the open, finally making it to the garage of an anarchist at the fringes of the gang, Jean Debois, in Choisy-Le-Roi where he spent the night.

Dubois was up early working on a motorcycle when sixteen armed men pulled up in several autos and rushed the garage. Dubois pulled a pistol and shot the detective closest to him in the wrist, but the other cops were ready and he was met with a hail of bullets, one striking him in the back of the neck killing him outright.

Bonnot, wakened by the din from downstairs, grabbed a gun and walked onto a small balcony overlooking the yards and stairs only to find the detectives just ascending to the room.

He fired catching the lead cop in the stomach, and then ducked back into the room to avoid the bullets flying at him.

The detectives summoned help from anywhere they could, including two companies of Republican Guards, a group of locals with pitchforks and shotguns (no, really-pitchforks), and further reinforcements from the Surete.

The battle lasted all morning with thousands of bullets tearing holes throughout the room where Bonnot was firiming from, and Bonnot himself occasionaly walking out on the porch to take a few well-aimed shots at his attackers.

By noon, with the battle effectively a draw; the Surete men decided to try and blow the garage up, with Bonnot inside.

A cart piled with mattresses was rolled towards the building, the dynamite fuse lit and placed next to the wall. The fuse sputtered and died causing the cart once again to roll forwards so that the fuse could be relit-this time successfully, though the charge was insufficient to destroy the garage.

Third time’s a charm, with the dynamite charge this time large enough to level the building.

Bonnot, still alive though barely breathing was rushed to the hospital, but died en rote.

Two days later Bonnot and DuBois were buried surreptitiously in the paupers of the cemetery as Bagneux. The graves were left unmarked so as to preempt any remembrance ceremonies.

This left Garnier and Valet at large and the Surete detectives were justifiably concerned.

Garnier had sworn in his letter to Le Martin to deal swiftly with informers and he was serious about the threat.

One of the men whom Garnier was sure had sold information to the police was Victor Granghaut, who had prearranged Carouy to stay with him; he was subsequently arrested the very same night.

Garnier had caught a train to Lozere and there waited for Victor to return from work. Victor and his father were walking back home from the station when Garnier stepped out of the bushes and in spite of the father’s pleading and attempts to protect his son with an umbrella shot him once in each leg stating, “That will teach you to inform on Carouy.”

The final battle took place in Nogent where Garnier, his companion Marie, and Valet had rented a suburban Bungalow.

The two men had been recognized on a bus to Nogent and it didn’t take long for the police to identify the house that had been recently rented to three suspicious newcomers.

The illegalists were just finishing preparations for a simple vegetarian dinner when Valet, standing in the back yard taking in the air was accosted by a man wearing a red, white and blue sash who called in, “Surrender in the Name of the Law.”

Valet realized immediately that the gaudily clad man wasn’t a neighbor, and put a few rounds into the air as he dodged back into the house.

The gun battle that then erupted was fierce even by the standards of Bonnot’s last stand.

A cease-fire was called for and the detectives yelled in for the men to surrender.

Marie ran out of the house into the hands of the detectives.

The two anarchists downed water and forgetting their restrictive diet, also drank some coffee to stay alert, though neither had any time to eat.

They then made themselves ready for the end.

They piled the francs they had stolen in the middle of the floor and burned them. They both stripped to the waist and loaded cip after clip of ammo for the seven 9mm Brownings in their possession, though they had no cartridges for the Winchesters which would have been infinitely more useful, and accurate, in the static gun battle that they were engaged in.

After Garnier had made sure that Marie was safe the battle rejoined with gusto.

As time went on the odds became increasingly ridiculous, eventually it was estimated that the anarchists were outmanned by a ratio of 500 to 1.

The two managed to hold out to midnight, a full six hours, when with the aid of sappers the house was finally destroyed by a blast of melinite.

The combatants on the side of the law made their way into the rubble and the brave detectives of the Surete shot both men, still alive, twice in the head, in direct violations of “standard” police procedures.

The bodies of Garnier and Valet were laid to rest very near the graves of their comrades in arms, Bonnot and DuBois.

Finally, there were those who had been arrested and now face trial, a total of 18 men and three women (Rirette, Marie, and Barbe) – a girlfriend one of the outlying gang members).

The prosecution knew it had very little to go on, not one of the defendents was talking, the evidence was weak, very circumstantial and ultimately compromised in most cases by shoddy police work.

In fact there was no way that the prosecutors could state with any certainty exactly who had participated in what robbery. The accused languished in prison until 3 February 1913 when the court began to hear evidence.

In the interim Victor and Rirette began a rapid backpedal from what had been written in I’anarchie, complaining it had been misinterpreted, and that much of what they had said at meetings like the causeries poplaires went unrecorded and directly contradicted material that had appeared in printed – basically casting themselves in the role of the “honest intellectual” versus the “criminal illegalist” that the other defendants obviously were.

The final decision of the court and the sentences of some of the defendants follow:

The three women and Rodriguez the fence – Not guilty

La Science, Soudy, Monier- Guilty; Guillotined 22 April 1913

Kibalchich – Guilty; five years in prison, five in exile.

Of the three defendants sent to the guillotine, they all died well (that is, bravely and without regret).

Of the two “honest intellectuals” Kibalchich eventually changed his name (to Victor Serge) and his politics, joined the Bolsheviks, worked closely with the left-communists and later Trotsky only to be deported by Stalin in 1937.

Like his friend Trotsky he eventually made it to Mexico where he died of natural causes in 1947- though how he avoided the Stalinist ice-pick is hard to fathom.

Rirette spent the rest of her life damning the anarchists as publicly as she could – coming to the conculsion in her memoirs serialized in the bourgeois Le Matin, “

…behind illegalism there are not even any ideas.

Here’s what one finds there: spurious science, lust, the absurd and the grotesque.

Maybe she did “get it” after all…

Parting shots

 The history of illegalism doesn’t end here, a few others have stepped forward and picked up the theory and the weapons that death had pried from the mouldering hands of the Bonnot gang.

These include the Italian/German Horst Fantazzini, an individualist anarchist, who robbed his way across Europe during the 60s and 70s with a flair as yet unmatched among the criminal classes.

In one holdup he fled successfully on bicycle, he escaped from prison several times, and when a teller fainted during one of his bank robberies he sent her roses the next day. The press dubbed him the “kind bandit” thereafter.

He wrote an account of his escape from Fossano prison, which was eventually made into a movie Ormai e fatta!

Fantazzini died in 2001 in a prison infirmary.

One of his daughters built a website to commemorate the life and exploits of her father (horstfantazzini.net) which is fun to look through.

As of today, the life and written works of Alfredo Bonnano continues the theory and praxis of illegalism and any one of his articles is worth a read.

In terms of contemporary social movements the Yomango is an ongoing social phenomenon in South America, Spain, and Italy devoted to open socially informed shoplifting conducted en masse.

The movement is going strong and since the world economy hit the skits in 2008 has if anything grown and become more accepted, to the point of being endorsed by several non-anarchist Spanish trade unions, who periodically sponsor mass shoplifting outings for their members.

There are obviously many other forms of illegalism that have been tried and used in the anarchist milleux and the above review is in no way an exhaustive account.

As an example all forms of squatting are by definition, illegal, regardless, the practice is engaged in, and approved of, by virtually every permutation of current anarchist theory or movement, and is usually justified in a conceptual framework that looks and tastes very illegalist.

In a practical sense; not all illegalists are squatters, but all squatters are illegalists.

Continuing on in a pragmatic manner, illegalism also provides some interesting insights into the ongoing conundrum of organization as it applies to anarchism.

Of note is the fact that while Bonnot and company had no formal structure, no rules for decision making, and little to say on the issue of organization, they do seem to provide some answers on the subject.

One of these solutions is the turning on its very head of the question of organization, which usually begins with the question, “what type of structure shall we create?”

The illegalists, however, in the example provided by their activity began with the question what shall we do, what activity is required for the successful realization of this project. Then based upon what it is that a group is seeking to accomplish, the structure required to realize the activity comes into being.

Each of these solutions then is also tempered by the principle on its ability to realize the needs and desires of the individual, to safeguard her autonomy against the ever present likelihood that organizations will tend to blunt and ultimately deny the sovereignty of individual in favor of the growing power of the collective, especially with the passage of time.

In extremis some organizations exist whose sole purpose is to maintain their own existence, the nation-state is a good model of such circuitous existential theory, and certainly the police and the military are prime examples of the mailed fist that does nothing save preserve the sovereign status-quo, and eliminate any contestation that could lead to either radical internal change (a relative impossibility) or insurrection.

The absurdity of the argument is often laid bare when fundamental principles are used to justify their own destruction.

The Occupy movement, for all its weakness, provided a perfect example of freedom of speech being justified to destroy freedom of speech – you can say whatever you want, just not at night, not in a public park, and not in New York.

Alternatively there is the example of military versus militia organization in the Spanish Civil War; a puzzle that probably accounted for numerous sleepless nights for Durruti and other FAI militants during the late summer and fall of 1936.

In this case the strategic objective of winning the war did little to inform the structure of the militias; rather the decade/century milita configuration was far better suited to either the type of affinity group actions that the FAI excelled at, or at one step remove, the strike or insurrectionary committees, either regional or national in scope, that the CNY had utilized for its industrial conestation or the outright seizure of villages and towns and the inevitable declaration of “communismo libertario”.

Durruti, in one of his moments of clarity, voiced the concern that the “discipline of indiscipline” was proving to be an ineffective tactic with which to fight a civil war.

I have no answer as to how the Spainards should have structured their militias, rather I am convinced that their chosen organization was sufficiently flawed as to allow them to lose twice, first to the Stalinists, and then to the fascists.

The simple, elegant illegalist “solution” to the problem of organization was neither new nor particularly innovative. The raiding parties of the Great Plains tribes were comprised in a very similar manner.

The “solution” then consists of a structure that is temporary– that ceases to exist past the accomplishment of the strategic goal for which the organization was brought into existence. The organization allowed for each of the individuals involved sufficient input so as to satisfy the need for participation in decisions that affect ones own life, especially those decisions that may lead to the maiming, capture or death of the organizations members.

Each of the individuals involved understood their various responsibilities and that knowledge allowed for tasks to be completed quickly and completely without the need for oversight (administration) nor the attendant operationalizing factor of oversight – discipline, and its sustaining hierarchy motivating principles – punishment and/or reward.

The illegalists also represent one of the last glowing embers of the association of anarchist with utopia; which would be brought back into a raging conflagration some seventy-five years later with an unlikely mixture of anti-civilization, anti-technology theory, the resurgence of combative, mobile affinity groups best exemplified by the “Vermont Family,” urban squatters, and the re-discovery and re-popularization of 120 years of anarchist theory and history (including the Situationists and the Frankfort School) by a well-connected group of writers, journalists and theorists linked together through zines, mail, and who found each other via the ultimate underground print media clearinghouse, Factsheet Five.

This strange mix of theory, personality and history would be brought to a near explosive mass via the catalyzing addition of various meetings and events including the 1986-1989 Continental Anarchist Gatherings (Chicago-SF-Toronto) and the Tompkins Square Park Riot of August 1988.

Grinding back to the 19th Century – Marx and Engels would use the term utopian as a way to criticize and infantalize not only the those thinkers who had swum in the waters of socialism, communism, and revolution prior to their arrival, additionally the anarchists, especially Bakunin, would use the term utopian as an insult for all comers as they vied for political pre-eminence among the various population strata most likely to participate in revolutionary upheavals.

In the case of Bakunin the epithet was hurled without acknowledging the obvious and gnawing truth that most of anarchist theory and praxis was, in fact, pretty utopian.

The Paris Commune provided the political upheaval that materialized as the fork in the road that would effectively split the various revolutionary currents into utopian (anarchist) and anti-utopian (Marxist) camps.

Using then select activities of the Commune to illustrate this marked dichotomous political vision and simultaneously as real events that stirred the acrimonious stew then brewing between Marx and Bakunin, lets see what the Communards did that produced such antipathy – for the Marxists the high water mark of the uprising may be the Commune’s outlawing of night work for bakers, a solid practical step towards socialism without a blemish of the idealistic or heroic, without any revolutionary mumbo-jumbo that they accused their adversaries of engaging in.

For the anarchists the destruction of the Vendome Column was the insurrectionary act par excellence – with all the possibilities the action entailed, the death (regicide? arcicide?) of imperialism, militarism and nationalism, the proof of the malleability of the urban landscape to meet the needs of people, and finally the outrageous, side-splitting comedy of watching the bronzed, granite, phallus tumble grandly and flaccidly to the ground.

Not surprisingly the author of the night work legislation was Leo Frankel, a devoted follower of Marx, and the destruction of the Column was the brainchild of the artist Gustave Courbet, an admirer of both Proudhon and Bakunin.

Pushing on from the Commune into later European history one sees this dichotomy grow ever more striking, ever more profound.

The anarchists became the midwives of week long Social Republics, of risings doomed before the first shot was fired, of being the guardians of insurrection that is “nowhere” because it is realized and dreamed of everywhere.

In the mind one sees the image of a Spanish peasant unable to read but staring at and moving rough, calloused fingers over the pictures of black flags and various images that adorn the latest issue of La Revista Blanca.

Anarchism is utopian because the anarchist vision is sublime, transcendent; even the poorest, most uneducated worker could viscerally relate to a future where bosses and work had been destroyed in favor of play as the dominant economic activity and a grand illuminating equality of resources, wealth and opportunities to learn and attain knowledge, and finally to participate directly without mediation in decisions that affected one’s life.

Unlike the Marxist who envisioned a society very like the one she lived in, only in the communist world the workers were the masters, not the slaves. Marxism is anti-utopian because the communist vision is of a society where nothing, other than the class makeup of the new bosses, has changed.

The advent and activities of the illegalists, and the concurrent rise of the most possibillist of anarchist tendencies, anarcho-syndicalism, replayed in miniature the split that occurred after the Commune.

In this instance the reinsertion of utopian currents into anarchism, accomplished as the result of the individual writings of Zo d”Aza, among others, was offset by the growth of the syndicalist tendency, including the uptick in the census of various union bodies, especially those associated with the Confederation General du Travail in France, the IWW in the US and Australia, and of course the proliferation of soviets in Russia.

The strength of the syndicalist argument ultimately being contained in the non-utopian, practical method of building unions as the seeds of the new society, and also providing structure as the post-general strike world and how industry would be changed from a generator of profit to a liberator of human aspirations.

 Of interest too is the seeming confusion that reigned at the “top” of these organizations especially the IWW, where Bill Haywood would respond as to whether he had read Marx’s Capital with the snappy rejoinder, “No, but I have the marks of Capital all over my body.”

This sentiment is echoed by Joe Hill, who while rotting in prison during the months that the State of Utah was figuring out the easiest way to justify his murder was asked by a local journalist whether he was a Marxist, to which h responded with the simple, and avowedly untrue, “Yes, I am and always have been.”

Therefore as syndicalism sough to reject as much as possible the smear of utopianism , the closer the leaders and rank and file edged towards proclaiming the organization and its members Marxist.

The illegalists on the other hand never stood back from the glaring utopianism that characterized much of their theory.

Certainly Kibalchich was sufficiently clear in his theoretics that he acknowledged the basic utopian ism that animated much of individualist anarchism, he was equally solid in translating illegalist activities into the living breathing insurrection that was then being fought out. Not to be put off to some great event scheduled to occur in the next few centuries, but a battle that was joined daily by the adherents of illegalism, and their supporters.

In this sense the insult to the anti-utopians was two-fold, yes we are utopians, and yes we are utopians operating on the terrain of utopia – now – not in some far-flung future where our children’s children will form of the general staff of an as yet unborn insurrectionary militia.Finally its also important to note the fundamental violence that such theories do to the Marxists, and some anarchists, who believe that only when the time has become ripe, through the collapse of the wage and profit system, the downhill slide from peak oil, or the moment when everyone, in a vast global pre-frontal cortex explosion of wisdom realizes that the total amount of debt, individual, sovereign, and corporate exceeds the total number of all possible form of profits and incomes with which to make the payments will a revolution become a viable alternative to the species.

As opposed to the very general utopian notion that basic human individual desire and need will be the sole motivating factors that will push the species from where it is now into the great necessity; utopia.

Finally, the real arguments made against illegalism were that of an early, seemingly meaningless death.

So I’ll let Marcuse who stood with one foot in Marxism and other in utopia bring this essay to a conclusion,:

Under conditions of a truly human existence, the difference between succumbing to disease at the age of ten, thirty, fifty, or seventy, and dying a “natural” death after a fulfilled life, may well be a difference worth fighting for with all instinctual energy.

Not those who die, but those who die before they must and want to die, those who die in agony and pain, are the great indictment against civilization. They also testify to the unredeemable guilt of mankind. Their death arouses the painful awareness that it was unnecessary, that it could be otherwise. It takes all the institutions and values of a repressive order to pacify the bad conscience of this guilt.

Once again, the deep connection between the death instinct and the sense of guilt becomes apparent. The silent “professional agreement” with the fact of death and disease is perhaps one of the most widespread expressions of the death instinct — or, rather, of its social usefulness.

In a repressive civilization, death itself becomes an instrument of repression. Whether death is feared as constant threat, or glorified as supreme sacrifice, or accepted as fate, the education for consent to death introduces an element of surrender into life from the beginning — surrender and submission. It stifles “utopian” efforts.

The powers that be have a deep affinity to death; death is a token of unfreedom, of defeat. Theology and philosophy today compete with each other in celebrating death as an existential category: perverting a biological fact into an ontological essence, they bestow transcendental blessing on the guilt of mankind which they help to perpetuate — they betray the promise of utopia.

Paul Z. Simmons Supplement #2: “I hate the resigned!” by Albert Libertad

I hate the resigned!

I hate the resigned, like I hate the filthy, like I hate layabouts!

I hate the resigned! I hate filthiness, I hate inaction.

I feel for the sick man bent under the malignant fever; I hate the imaginary sick man that a little bit of will would set on his feet.

I feel for the man in chains, surrounded by guardians crushed under the weight of irons on the many.

I hate soldiers who are bent by the weight of braids and three stars, the workers who are bent under the weight of capital.

I love the man who says what he feels wherever he is, I hate the voter seeking the perpetual conquest by the majority.

I love the savant crushed under the weight of scientific research; I hate the individual who bends his body under the weight of an unknown power, of some “X,” of a god.

I hate, I say, all of those who, surrendering to others through fear or resignation a part of their power as men, not only keep their heads down, but make me, and those I love, keep our heads down too, through the weight of their frightful collaboration or their idiotic inertia.

I hate them; yes I hate them, because me, I feel it. I don’t bow before the officer’s braid, the mayor’s sash, the gold of the capitalist, morality or religion. For a long time I have known that all of these things are just baubles that we can break the glass … I bend beneath the weight of the resignation of others. O how I hate resignation!

I love life.

I want to live, not in a petty way like those who satisfy a part of their muscles, their nerves, but in a big way, satisfying facial muscles as well as calves, by back as well as my brain.

I don’t want to trade a portion of now for a fictive portion of tomorrow. I don’t want to surrender anything of the present for the wind of the future.

I don’t want to bend anything of mine under the words, “fatherland,” “God,” “honor.” I too well know the emptiness of these words, these religious and secular ghosts.

I laugh at retirement, at paradises the hope for which hope holds the resigned, religions, and capital.

I laugh at those who, saving for their old age, deprive themselves in their youth; those who in order to eat at sixty, fast at twenty.

I want to eat while I have strong teeth to tear and crush healthy meats and succulent fruits. When my stomach juices digest without problem I want to drink my fill of refreshing and tonic drinks.

I want to love women, or a woman, depending on our common desire, and I don’t want to resign myself to the family, law, the Code; nothing has any rights over our bodies. You want, I want. Let us laugh at the family, the law, the ancient form of resignation.

But this isn’t all. I want, I since have eyes, ears, and other senses, more than just to drink, to eat, to enjoy sexual love. I want to experience joy in other forms. I want to see a beautiful sculptures and painting, admire Rodin or Manet. I want to hear the best opera companies play Beethoven or Wagner. I want to know the classics at the Comedie Francaise, page through the literary and artistic baggage left by men of the past to men at the present, or even better, page through the now and forever unfinished oeuvre of humanity.

I want joy for myself, for my chosen companion, for my friends. I want a home where my eyes can agreeable rest when my work is done.

For I want the joy of labor, too; that healthy joy, that strong joy. I want my arm to handle the plane, the hammer, the spade and the scythe.

Le the muscles develop, the thoracic cage become larger with powerful, useful and reasoned movements.

I want to be useful, I want us to be useful. I want to be useful to my neighbor and for my neighbor to be useful to me. I desire that we labor much, for I am insatiable for joy. And it is because I want to enjoy myself that I am not resigned.

Yes, yes I want to produce, but I want to enjoy myself. I want to knead the dough, but eat better bread; to work at the grape harvest, but drink better wine; build a house, but live in better apartments; make furniture, but possess the useful, see the beautiful; I want to make theaters, but big enough to house their me and mine.

I want to cooperate in producing, but I also want to cooperate in consuming.

Some dream of producing for others to whom they will leave, oh the irony of it, the best of their efforts. As for me, I want, freely united with others, to produce but also to consume.

You resigned, look: I spit on your idols. I spit on God, the Fatherland, I spit on Christ, I spit on the flag, I spit on the capital and the golden calf; I spit on the laws and Codes, on the symbols of religion; they are baubles, I could care less about them, I laugh at them…

Only through you do they mean anything to me; leave them behind and they’ll break into pieces.

You are thus a force, you resigned, one of those forces that don’t know they are one, but who nevertheless a force, and I can’t spit on you, I can only hate you … or love you.

Above all my desire is that of seeing you shaking off your resignation in a terrible awakening of life.

There is no future paradise, there is no future; there is only the present.

Let us live!

Live! Resignation is death.

Revolt is life.

Albert Libertad

Paul Z. Simmons Supplement #1: New York Times article on Vaillant the Anarchist


DETAILS OF THE EXECUTION OF VAILLANT, THE ANARCHIST

PARIS, Feb 5 – With the cry of “Death to the Bourgeoisie!” “Long live anarchy!” Vaillant, the Anarchist whose name has been on the lips of Parisians ever since the 9th of December m when he threw the bomb in the chamber of Deputies, paid this morning the penalty of his crime.

The precautions taken by the authorities to prevent any Anarchist demonstration at the guillotine were perfect, and many of the crowd that had gathered to witness the execution, finding that the guards prevented them from seeing anything of the guillotine, left the vicinity of the Roquette Prison, in which Villant was awaiting the coming of the headsman, before the time it was expected that the execution would take place.

Judge l’Espinasses, before whom Vaillant was tried, arrived at the prison at an early hour. Shortly after, M. Lepine, Prefect of Police, visited the Place de la Roquette to see that ever precaution had been taken to guard against a demonstration.

After the guillotine had been set up in the Place de la Roquette, but a few feet from the doorway of the prison, by the assistants of M. Diebler, the State executioner, the latter appeared and tested the machine of death. After examining the pullets and finding that they worked all right, the knife was inserted. This knife, which is a foot wide, has a diagonal edge, one end being a foot longer than the other.

At 6:54 o’clock the gas lights in the vicinity of the prison began to pale. It was estimated at this time that not more than 700 or 800 people were waiting to see the execution, but as it grew later the crowd slightly increased, and at the time the knife fell about 1,200 were present. Many persons were standing on the roofs of houses, from which a view of the guillotine could be had. Everybody was remarkably silent. There was none of the shirking that usually marks an execution here.

AKA This is a Review of Jessica Jones Season 1

(Content Warning: Discussions of rape, sexual assault, etc.)

Confession time: Originally, I had very little interest in watching Jessica Jones.

After all, the show was focusing on a Marvel character I barely knew anything about. And on the surface level, all it seemed to be doing  was riding on the coattails of the Daredevil aesthetic.

Well, except with an even less known character.

Then again, here’s my review of Jessica Jones and I’ve never written such a full-treatment of Daredevil.

So point: 1 for Jessica Jones.

AKA The Boring Part (Spoiler Level: Low to None)

Jessica Jones is a psychological thriller/noir crime drama/drama/super-hero show. It’s a show about surviving, dealing with guilt and remorse, it’s about regaining ones own autonomy and control over their life.

It’s a show that dedicates itself  to the darkest inclinations and pursuits that we have in our lives. Those impulses or feelings that we should do something even though we know it’ll likely have terrible consequences.

Those actions that we think about even though we know it’d be awful to do them. Those times we use even the smallest measures of social control via intimidation, manipulation or abuse of some kind.

When we use small white lies, speak half-truths, say something a little too flippant to a loved one. When do that and when we do those other things, we sometimes see the worst in ourselves come on in these microscopic ways. These capacities to do evil and these capacities to do good are things that can both drive us in similar, opposing or even intersecting paths along the ethical diagram of your choosing.

What Jessica Jones does is show us what would happen if someone blatantly said, “Nah, fuck it.” and just used all of the emotional, psychological and social manipulation they could to get their way.

Enter: Kilgrave.

And yes, the name “Muderkill” was taken.

Kilgrave (David Tennant of previous “Doctor Who” fame) is a character who has the ability to control others with a simple command. From killing oneself to simply giving you his coat, Kilgrave can make someone do it.

This power doesn’t just extend to normal people though. Certain “gifted’ (as the show repeatedly refers to them as) individuals have also been controlled by them. This includes one Jessica Jones who had the misfortune to fall under Kilgrave’s spell for a total of eight months before she finally broke free.

This period of her life has left Jessica (played by Krysten Ritter) has left many scars on her. Specifically a nasty case of PTSD that she’s gone to therapy for and tried to use coping mechanisms to help her survive her traumas more effectively.

We join Jessica as she’s still trying to do so and outrun her past with Kilgrave, awhile affording the rent in her barely kept together Private Investigator office which doubles as her apartment. If you’re curious, Jessica, much likes Daredevil, lives in a place called “Hell’s Kitchen” which is a part of the NYC in the Marvel Universe.

And in this cozy little suburb, grit is the color of the day, robberies often happen and most people seem happiest when they’re stuck in their homes than outside.

So we have a very pleasant set up for what Jessica is, a bitter, cynical and jaded antihero who doesn’t even seem to feel comforting saying the H-word at times.

As other reviewers pointed out, this show feels less like a Marvel story and more like a really dark CSI drama that’s has sprinkles of superpowers in it. Whatever the case is, whatever the genre may be and whatever category you’d like to fit Jessica Jones in, it has definitely hit all of the right notes.

AKA The Mildly Exciting Part (Spoiler Level: Low to Mild)

As we go along in the story Jessica Jones encounters many characters who challenge her, aid her (or try) and do everything in between.

We have former best friends, lovers, junkies, loan-sharks, shady people of all shades of shady and much more. The character roster here is diverse but the main cast is typically filled with women which is another refreshing part of the show.

Even more refreshing is that the characters gender doesn’t feel forced upon us as if we must care because they are women. Instead, they are (mostly) well-rounded individuals who are strong, manipulative, caring, weak, charming, sadistic, possibly evil and possibly good.

There’s a lot going on with Jessica’s supporting cast and especially with her on-again and off-again best friend Trish Walker (played by Rachael Taylor).

Taylor’s character is a charming talk show host, who also happened to grow up with Jessica. Like many things in this show, this past isn’t a very happy one. Instead this past is filled with physical and emotional abuse on the part of someone Trish no longer wants to associate with. I’m speculating here, but this abuse and her fame seems to be all the reason enough for her to act like her apartment is her personal fortress.

Her door has an some serious locks on them, her apartment has a safe room and her door also comes with a screen where you can see who wants to come in. Did I mention Trish does some Krav Maga training throughout the show? Because she does, and she even takes Jessica by surprise once or twice.

Trish is just one of the many female characters who responds to this need to not be abused by others. She certainly takes an overly-guarded approach but it’s perhaps preferably to other approaches. Such as the approach done by Jessica’s main clients Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss).

Although Hogarth is a fun character to watch, she’s also manipulative. She’s what Kilgrave might be if Kilgrave didn’t have his “gift” (which is more akin to a virus) and instead ran a massively wealthy lawyers firm.

Hogarth excels at reveling in power, making others submit to her power and figuring out the best way to get power. She’s doesn’t have much going for her in the ways of being good, but that’s not something unique in this show. The balancing act of “good” and “bad” make those lines often times much more blurry than we’d like to believe they are. Hogarth is another solid character acting within this theme.

Though, as a side note, it’s slightly frustrating to have Hogarth play the stereotypical “controlling woman” and especially as a lesbian. I’m not sure how prevalent this stereotype is but from what other friends have said it’s a trope that needs to have the brakes put on a bit more. Then again, although I understood some of the frustration, overall I enjoyed the character and didn’t feel like her sexuality consumed her whole identity. Or that her tropish role was overplayed.

Besides all of these characters there’s of course Kilgrave himself. Or “Kevin” as we soon find out and he’s our main antagonist. The central opposing force of the narrative that really holds the story together.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: A Marvel super-villain who is not only good (i.e. Kingpin) but is central to something Marvel has done being good?

Yeah, I was surprised too.

AKA His Name is “Kevin”, Not Kilgrave (Spoiler Level: “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!”)

Kevin Thompson was a lab experiment.

Or, at least that’s what “Kilgrave” would want you to think.

In the latter-half of the series Kilgrave pulls out all of the stops:

  • He remodels a house to look like Jessica’s childhood home
  • He endlessly stalks her, threatens her, even blows up someone right in front of her
  • He uses people as bait, uses them as shields, uses them as means of blocking her escape
  • He targets anyone and everyone she loves as much as possible or is convenient
  • He constantly tries to reverse narratives on her about their former relationship and create his own

That last one doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s actually one of the worst offenders here. The real benefit of Jessica Jones is its personal touch. No one is trying to save the world here. Hell, Jessica isn’t even trying to save Hell’s Kitchen let alone NYC. She’s trying to save herself and her sanity, if possible.

So that makes this a much more centered and character-driven piece (as opposed to The Avengers films, which, I still appreciate) that also benefits from having a great supporting cast around Jessica.

And for better or worse, Kilgrave is one of those characters.

I struggle to even say he’s not the best character on the show. There’s almost without a doubt no character on the show who is so well-acted, written and shown in all of the ways that Kilgrave is. His manipulation, plays on other people’s fears, callous use of other people and a lot more all contribute to him being an excellent villain.

Kilgrave’s great characterization is only part of why he’s such a solid villain. It’s the believably of his evilness. You could easily believe that anyone or anything would be afraid of Tennant’s character. From the way he dismisses the pains of others, to how he refocuses pain he has suffered by replacing that with his own suffering. Suffering, by the way, that’s more often than not framed how he wants it to be.

The show deals with PTSD, survivor’s guilt, gaslighting and many other concepts that are relevant to rape culture as a whole.

And yes, Kilgrave is a rapist.

But don’t tell him that because he hates the word “rape”. And that makes sense, given there’s been at least one study on how men will more readily admit to “forced intercourse” than they will to the word “rape”.

The show makes no bones about Kilgrave and raping Jessica. Whether we’re talking mentally or physically, what happened between Kilgrave and Jessica was clearly non-consensual and the show repeatedly stresses this through Jessica herself if not another supporting character.

I don’t have PTSD, so I can’t speak to how accurate of a representation Jessica Jones has of it. But from what little I’ve seen and know Jessica uses a common tactic used by PTSD-affected individuals. Namely the one where she lists the streets she was born around. This is a method usually used where triggers cause a sense of separation between the individual and reality. They are used to recenter the traumatized individual and get them to reconnect with whatever is going on.

We see this break happen with Jessica a  few times in the show and when it does, her re-centering methods are usually not too far behind.

One of the main themes (if not the main theme) of this show is about reorienting your life and figuring out where you should be accountable or shouldn’t be. This show tackles themes of autonomy, responsibility and guilt. All of these themes are ones I relate to on a person level and I think (sadly) many others can relate as well.

As someone who suffers from low self-esteem, depression and general antipathy towards myself as an individual, it wasn’t hard to see myself in this show sometimes. Whether it’s dealing with guilt or personal responsibility for mistakes or trying to take back your life so you can stop beating yourself up and everyone around you. Especially when the blame doesn’t even fall on your shoulders.

Then again, sometimes the blame does fall squarely on our shoulders and that’s an even tougher lesson to learn. But it’s also a lesson Kilgrave couldn’t learn which shows that he wasn’t very interested in becoming a better person. Sure, there are times where you may feel bad for him. There’s an episode that has a brief part of the episode dedicated to Jessica actually seeing if Kilgrave can be used for good.

But in the end, people who abuse others and then take little to no steps in accountability, responsibility or personal blame aren’t going to be won over. They’ve shown who their allegiance is to and it’s to power. Jessica wanted to change her damaged psyche so she did what she thought was best for herself and went to therapy to deal with her PTSD. And in the end these steps gave her more power over herself and her environment. It helped give her the strength to confront Kilgrave and the haunting memories he gave her.

Sure, even after those steps, Jessica still ends up (mostly) alone and tries to scare off anyone else who’d get near her. But she at least gave it a real shot to come up with coping mechanisms so she can better deal with the real world. It’s hard to say the same for Kilgrave.

There’s another thing I loved about Jessica Jones:

It’s reversal of power-based narratives.

Also, her aesthetic is amazing.

Kilgrave is constantly trying to impress a narrative on Jessica. He hinges on 18 seconds where he didn’t have control over her and she “could’ve” left of her own will, but chose to stay. He tries to rationalize his use of coercing her with his powers by claiming ignorance. He claims he doesn’t know when people are doing things of their own free will or just doing it because he wants them to.

And when Jessica finally breaks down these narratives and asserts her own narratives, he falters. He tries to recenter the conversion unto his own past that he claims made him evil but this too eventually falls apart.

Especially amusing and empowering for Jessica is when she learns of Kevin’s backstory. She sneeringly calls him Kevin a few times just to reinforce that she’s taken control over their conversations. To impress upon him that she knows who is he and it’s no one who has even the capacity for good.

And so when all is said and done and Kilgrave’s neck is snapped, we have much more than a superhero story. We have a story of a survivor who took back her agency and reasserted it with the help of her friends, a mean right hand, and a bitter remark.

Jessica Jones as a show has literally helped rape survivors.

My hope is that the success of Jessica Jones can help pave the way for future empowering and enthralling shows for people who struggle with just about anything. Whether that struggle is with PTSD, survivor’s guilt, depression or something else. Having more stories that help more people out with compelling and relatable themes and excellent writing can only be a good thing.

Thank you to Jessica Jones for being such a show.

“My Dear and Delightful Friend,” by Apio Ludd

Nick’s Notes: This short essay was originally published in the Early Summer 2015 version of My Own.

My Own: Self-Ownership and Self-Creation against all Authority is an egoist pamphlet published by Apio Ludd.

I’ve republished this with Apio’s permission.

Please support Apio by sending “…cash, stamps, love letters, hate mail, etc. to Intellectual Vagabond Editions P.O. Box 34 Williams, OR 97544 USA”)

The “Future” Looks Bleak

My mind has been racing with thoughts tonight, and I hope to catch a few within a net of words – first of all for myself, to wrestle further with the ideas – and secondly for you, because I think (despite the limits of words), you may appreciate them. Sadly, not knowing where you are, I am capturing what I can of these ideas on this contemptible machine.

I was playing with an Italian translation of the words of a beautiful man (his photo – from the late 19th century – on the back of a book made me smile and dream of kissing his point beard and waxed mustache) and drinking nectar brewed from grains and hopes… Then a dance began in my brain …

I realized that if we are pessimistic (and nearly all anarchists I know -except the few who are delusionally optimistic – are, even if they try to hide it behind some quasi-deterministic “vision” of the future), it is because we are still too much of this social world, this “reality” we claim to hate. This “reality” is one in which our dreams are always in the future, always yet to come, something for which we must strive. The very talk of ends and means – discussed in oh so many ways within our milieus – itself reflects this… It assumes a future towards which we strive. And inevitably, in times like these, if you are not delusional (regardless of your political or anti-political views), it is nearly impossible to not be a pessimist. But what if anarchy, rather than being an end for which to strive, is a way to confront the world? What if insurrection and revolution are not means to achieve an end, but ways of living in the world? What if utopia is not a destiny, but an endless journey elsewhere for the immediate joy of it, an endless stretching beyond (the “no place” where you endlessly explore and experiment, not the “good place” where you settle, plant roots and vegetate)? This is the difference between Nietzsche and Hegel (and so also Marx). Hegel’s dialectic was a journey down a single path toward a specific end. Nietzsche’s “stretching beyond” (? – there is no precise English translation) has no end; it is an intense urge to encompass all that is possible and more – now, immediately. In this there is no place for either hope or despair, optimism, simply the joy of the immediate challenge and conflict.

My thoughts are dissipating but that isn’t important. I have dreams of the world I would like to live in, but they are constantly changing – unique in their place and time, like the one who dreams them… And they are of less important than my immediate confrontation with the world. They simply provide it with energy.

Pessimism, like optimism, eats away at creative imagination. I refuse them both.

A (More Formal) Response to “X Legal Rights Women Have That Men Don’t”

This was a nice find!

A Response to Sloth – Introduction

A bunch of months ago I penned a response (originally mostly on Facebook) to this article by Janet Bloomfield. The Facebook comment wasn’t originally intended to be a developed blog post but got (poorly, I’ll admit) transformed into such after I saw so many of my friends (many of whom who were feminists) “like” the comment on Facebook. So I figured it was something worth preserving and putting on here.

Now, I guess it isn’t exactly clear that it was a Facebook post (unless you looked at the tags at the bottom of the post) so that’s on me. I should’ve made it clear that I wasn’t intending it as some sort of detailed response to Bloomfield’s article. Rather, it was just a sporadic line of comments on her assertions. Some of which I found specious and others I found downright unlikely (strong words of condemnation, I know!).

Recently, a user by the name of “Sloth” (appropriate name since I run the site AbolishWork.com) decided to take issue with my (again, admittedly) half-baked response.

Here, I’ll try to emulate one of my favorite anarchists, Benjamin Tucker, and enumerate various points or claims that Sloth makes and respond in turn. And perhaps also in the spirit of Tucker, I won’t address everything but instead I’ll try to stay on topic and stray from going too far afield.

A Response to Sloth – The Response

They start by saying:

Interesting viewpoint, but if I’m honest, this feels badly written(1), poorly cited(2) and a classic case of flat out denial of an argument(3) rather than a fair cross examination of the content(4).

(1) I’ve hopefully clarified by now, but my apologies nonetheless. That’s on me for not making it clear that this wasn’t supposed to be well written. Just a 1:1 Facebook comment I made that was originally fairly casual.

(2)  But which citations or lack of citations make it so?  Sloth, throughout their response seems to be unsure feminists oppose things like the draft or what feminist organizations do so. Meanwhile they chide me for not referencing her discussion points and cross reference them. But why didn’t they do the same for the claims about the feminists and the draft?

Here’s a few things I found:

Also, in this case I’m against equality and I think rightfully so. Why would I support women dying for the nation-state in the same way that men die? I think that’d funge pretty hard against my anarchism.

It may go without saying but I also think it’s wrong that selective service only targets men. On the other hand, it also seems as late as 2007 that if a draft were to be instituted (which I and many other feminists would oppose as I’ve shown) it’d include women.

So the draft isn’t really a “legal privilege” that women have anymore in practice.

I’m also puzzled why the original article doesn’t deserve this same criticism as I point to it a few times in my own response:

But again, no compelling evidence is given (besides, again, a fairly sketchy looking site that doesn’t seem to contain much information pertinent to the previous assertions).

I don’t see the statistic they link anywhere.

Even if women had these five legal rights that doesn’t necessitate that they have overall more rights than men do. That’s a much larger claim that needs a lot more backing through empirical research, legal analysis, etc.

(3) As for flat out denial, going back to the draft for a second I said:

No argument here. The draft is a barbaric system of privileging traditional concepts of masculinity and what it means to be a man over individual’s rights and liberties. All things most feminists seem to oppose.

If my post could be summarized as “flat out denial” then wouldn’t I have argued this point as well?

Now, maybe I’m guilty of nitpicking but it seems unfair to claim or make it appear as if all I did was deny the article’s claims. That isn’t actually what happened though. For the most part, sure, I was denying the claims or at the very least trying to inject some serious skepticism. But I don’t think I was unfairly dismissive either. If I was, I’ll try to correct that now.

And as we’ll shortly see I’m only now arguing harder against the claim about the draft because I actually did further research on the subject (via just “feminism draft”) because of your response!

Originally, I was actually a lot more sympathetic to this claim and what it was trying to argue. Now, I still am sympathetic to the claim and think it has some merit and deserves discussion for sure. But it isn’t the kill-switch MRAs and other folks seem to think it is against feminism. Nor is it hardly the solid point I originally thought it was.

Now on to the bulk of of Sloth’s points:

1) Genital Integrity

1) Genital integrity – You completely missed the point Janet made. (1) She wasn’t arguing about abortion in her first comment, she was arguing about the legal rights of women having some legal protection and potential recourse against FGM enshrined in law, whereas circumcision in boys does not. (2)

(1) Well, actually, Bloomfield was using a particular to argue for a general. That is, she was alleging that women have the legal right to not be genitally mutilated and therefore they have a general genital integrity that men do not have. What I was arguing against was the general claim about genital integrity and not the particular one about male circumcision.

Now, in hindsight, perhaps that wasn’t the right thing to do, I’m not sure. But I definitely got Bloomfield’s point about FGM vs. circumcision. I just wanted to respond to that by saying something to the effect of, “Well it doesn’t seem like women have much genital integrity either if we look at abortion clinics nationwide…”.

I also want to make it clear that I oppose circumcision and see it as a serious issue that needs more attention with all circles, including feminism.

Regardless, if women’s genital integrity is wrapped up in how easily they can access abortions (and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be) then I think my point stands against the general notion put forth. That is that women have better “genital integrity” than men, legally speaking.

(2)  But if we want to focus on the particular then it certainly seems true to me that male circumcision isn’t taken as seriously as FGM. And that while FGM is outlawed and looked down with scorn the same can’t be as strongly said for circumcision, sadly.  And further, I agree that’s a problem but would point Sloth and others to the fact that many other feminists do as well* and would like that to change. Just because women has privileges that a man does not doesn’t entail that a feminist must support said privilege or isn’t a good tool to dismantle such unfairness.

Hopefully Bloomfield can work together with feminists on that issue.

(*See here , here, here, here and here all of which I found via a quick Google search of “feminism circumcision”, no specification of male needed I am happy to see!)

2) The Draft

The draft – Fair enough, but I’d like citations as to feminists who oppose the draft and to what evidence there is that feminists (including ideally organisations) are actually opposing this at all, or even suggesting (in the name of equality) that women should also sign up for the draft.

In my haste to make a minor point earlier I preempted this point. That’s poor form on my part, sorry. But either way I hope I answered these points (at least for the most part) earlier.

3) Women Have The Right to Choose Parenthood

3) I’m surprised that you’re happy to accept the comments over the draft without question or citations but you insist on citations regarding rights to parenthood.(1) Frankly this just feels like a nebulous point that you’re reaching to shift the blame, especially since she did provide a source to back her claim on parental rights.(2) The rest of the points she made are salient and even as a non-US citizen it took me seconds to cross reference her discussion points and find that they are accurate.

(1) Well of course I accepted the point about the draft and not the points about parenthood. The law about Selective Service is fairly common knowledge in the US (which, I suspect but do not know for sure, is why Sloth may have been surprised since they are a non-US citizen). So I had no real reason to argue that it was unfair, discriminatory, etc.

But as other sources I’ve cited have said, feminism isn’t reducible to a concern about equality. I don’t particularly want unjust institutions or institutions that seem to solely exist to perpetuate the US government to be more “equal”. And especially as an anarchist that isn’t exactly on the top of my to-do list.

I agree with some feminists that having more women in the military fights sexist sterotypes but consider the fact that we could (conceivably) have gladiator tournaments and have women and men both invited. This could, in theory, knock down common tropes about women (they’re weak, they need to take care of the family, etc.) but what good does knocking those tropes do if it results in those same women dead? It just seems like a self-defeating process to me.

(2) Okay, first, I want to make it clear that just citing a source doesn’t mean anything inherently. I could cite Fox News on the issue of racism and you’d probably be (justly) suspect of this source given Fox News’s well known conservative bias on these issues. I’m not even saying they’re necessarily wrong but just that I wouldn’t blame anyone for cross-referencing my source with something they trusted a bit more.

Second, the source from Paternity Fraud  is itself heavily un-sourced, mostly self-referential (I have this same problem with EveryDayFeminism, so I’m not even being biased here) and seems very amateurish in design overall as a site. And to be blunt the site in general just looks…unprofessional. Which gives it the appearance of unreliability.

And I know I don’t have a ton of leg to stand on here myself but hey, I’m not purporting to be anything but an anarchist blogger. The paternity site is (seemingly) purporting to be the site for learning about paternity fraud (which, as immoral as paternity fraud is, much like false rape allegations  (yes I’m going there) are actually very uncommon).

Now, the Paternity site itself only uses one case to make a much larger general claim (this seems like a running trend…) and relies on common intuitions about money to claim that everyone involved (the mother, the court, etc.) is just consumed by the profit motive. But there’s no source or real reasoning given for the idea that monetary incentives are the primary influence for how these decisions are reached.

It also treats mothers rather unfairly by painting them as being more concerned about money than someone they think is their child. A strong claim like that should at least have a bit of evidence behind it more than just isolated cases. Is this a statistically significant pattern? It’s wrong and it’s awful when it happens at all but how often are we talking here? The site makes it seem like a pandemic when the statistics hardly seem to back it up.

But let’s back up to Bloomfield’s assertions and say (as Sloth does) that they are accurate. Which claims exactly did Sloth find true upon cross-evaluation and what did Sloth find that supported them? Sloth links things further down in their post but doesn’t seem to link anything here. I’ll presume this was an error on their part but in any case would appreciate seeing what they found.

In summary, yes, paternity fraud seems to be legal but it also seems to be very rare and if you’re trying to prove that women have more rights than men maybe it’s not the best evidence to use even if you’re right.

4) Women Assumed Caregivers

4) Women assumed caregivers – In the first instance, I would point out that before the Tender Years Doctrine came into effect, custody of the children was typically awarded to the father of the relationship who was most likely the primary breadwinner in the family dynamic and able to financially support the children.(1) I’d also point out that the NOW’s (National Organisation of Women) history regarding joint custody and child care is incredibly shady, which I’m sure if you wish to verify for yourself, you can.(2)

(1) Well the father was more than likely the primary breadwinner in the family dynamic because of the time period and culture that existed then. I don’t see why Sloth is glossing over the obvious historical facts. In any case why does it matter that it went to the fathers before?

It’s also worth pointing out that the Tender Years Doctrine (which swung to the opposite extreme  of going to the mothers too much as far as I can tell but am not exactly sure) was formally abolished by the end of the 20th century in the US and has since been replaced by the Best Interests Doctrine. Father’s rights movements claim that the doctrine still unfairly privileges mother’s in custody battles (as you can see in that fairly unbalanced Wiki article I just linked).

I’ve seen a fairly good study that I’ll link here that seems to point otherwise. Though admittedly it’s a bit out of date and is limited in range, sadly.

(2) In terms of NOW and their positions on joint custody and child care, I found this and I guess I just have mixed thoughts about it. I’ll try to get into that a little bit but really, my main concern isn’t defending mainstream liberal feminist organizations. Hopefully that was already clear though.

Either way, here’s a few of the stances I totally understand:

* In families where there is a high level of conflict between the mother and father, joint custody arrangements are harmful to children, placing them in the middle of ongoing bickering and a stressful, unstable environment with no escape.

* Where there is domestic violence, joint custody/shared parenting arrangements are NEVER appropriate.

* Increased father involvement does not necessarily result in positive outcomes for children. This involvement by the father will have positive consequences only when it is the arrangement of choice for the particular family and when there is a relatively cooperative and low conflict relationship between the parents.

This stuff I’m more shaky on, especially due to the lack of citations, sources, etc.

* Joint Custody bills have been designed to establish rights without responsibilities. Joint custody facilitates using the children to maintain access to a former partner and ongoing control of their life. Father’s rights groups continue to push for this legislation in spite of the body of evidence that in the majority of cases, joint custody is not in the best interest of the children.

And a lot of the other stuff I’m wishy-washy on too. Though I hardly see much “shady” about any of these positions per se’. I can see why they’re troubling but that’s mostly because a lack of citations, at least for me.

I agree, at any rate, that mandatory joint custody could be extremely unfair to the child involved as well as other people involved. Perhaps joint custody should be encouraged more or should be sought more often (I don’t have the data on this stuff, sorry) but I don’t think one rule fits all type deals is going to help anyone on average.

I’ve found a few other links too about NOW’s tracklist. I think the only shadyness I see is their lack of citations and then the Father’s Rights movements subsequent lack of citations. It’s super frustrating as it just makes it a conjecture-fest that doesn’t appear to take us anywhere past a “nu-uh!” debate.

So that’s most of my opinion on NOW and custody battles. I just did a cursory look and I think I side more with NOW than the Father’s Rights movement (surprise?) but both of them seem like mud-slingers to some extent too due to lack of data.

I shrug and move on.

5) Unwanted, coercive sex as rape

5) Unwanted, coercive sex as rape – Once again I don’t believe you’ve actually taken the time to examine the argument fully.(1) Examine the CDC report from 2010 – Table 2.1, Lifetime and 12 month Prevalence of Sexual Violence tables and you will see it clearly reports 1.27 million women “forced penetration” and 1.27 million men forced to penetrate in the table below (2.2).(2) I would link it for you but I don’t know how to do that properly here.

I guess this will have to do (it’s not ideal but it does have the screen shots):

http://siryouarebeingmocked.tumblr.com/post/41787262227/plhanson-siryouarebeingmocked-cdc-national(3)

Janet does also point out the problem with the current legal definition of rape in the USA. It requires penetration of the mouth, anus or vagina by a digit, object or genitals (paraphrased). The problem with the current definition is that it does not, cannot count forced to penetrate or forcible coercion by the same measure. Although it’s considered a bit of a technicality, the reality is that those 1.27 million men “forced to penetrate” I mentioned will not be counted in official rape statistics because of the definition. Which means advocacy groups who want to argue a point about male/female rape will be present skewed statistics.(4)

You can also find that proposed revisions to this law to include female perpetrators of rape was opposed by women’s rights advocates and feminists:

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Womens-groups-Cancel-law-charging-women-with-rape(5)

(1) Once again, Sloth doesn’t actually argue how or why they think that. They just sort of assert it and quickly move on to the study. A study by the way I explicitly say I can’t find:

I don’t see the statistic they link anywhere.

So of course I didn’t take the time to examine the argument fully. I couldn’t even find the evidence for the argument to begin with. And that was using Bloomfield’s own links and general descriptions and trying to Google it. I am trying right now to do the same thing and am still having trouble. The problem is that the link they cite just sends me to the general CDC site and they didn’t tell me which year the study they were citing it was or anything else.

I thought I was pretty clear about that but hopefully that clarifies more why I may have not examined it as fully as Sloth may have wanted me to.

And before we get into the rest of this response I also want to point out that the FBI’s definition used to not count male rape at all and we have the feminist organization Feminist Majority Foundation to thank for the change in the definition that does make it count. It’s still not enough (as you and others who are self-described feminists note) but it’s a step in the right direction at least. Hopefully we can both agree there.

(2) Comparing the lifetime and 12 month categories seems a bit disingenuous. That’s been covered elsewhere* though and I don’t know that I have a solid understanding of the data, the multitude of interpretations and so on going on here.

For whatever it’s worth: I agree that “made to penetrate” is an awkward category and that it makes sense to include it as a subcategory as rape. The fact that men aren’t treated seriously when they’re raped is a larger issue of rape culture and is similar to women.

For example, when Shia Labeouf claimed he was raped there were definitely those who dismissed his claim. I remember being on Facebook and coming by it and seeing the posts and being really disgusted. It’s awful that people will dismiss the fact that men get raped and I hope we as a society can learn to take rape more seriously. Not just for the sake of women but men, non-binary folks and anyone else.

I agree that men don’t have the same recourse as women do in terms of rape but then the recourse for women generally isn’t too promising either in my reading. So I’m not sure how much that’s actually saying for anything.

(*Also see here, here and here)

(3) Oh boy…this is a long one.

I’m gonna just flat out ignore most of the following post because a lot of it is highly tangential to our discussion and would require me to make this response ten times longer than it already is. Besides, you didn’t link it for its contents (I think?) but rather for the fact that it had screenshots. So I’ll just respond to that.

Like I said, I don’t have much to say about the statistics or many conclusions I’ve drawn from it. Believe me, I’ve tried to pour over the data and see what is right and what’s wrong and it’s hard for me to reach a hard conclusion on the matter. I apologize if that’s not a very satisfying answer.

My intuition though is that there’s a mishandling on the folks who are trying to claim men are raped to equal or similar levels to females. But I’d also counsel conclusions drawn either way (from the feminist side or whatever else) from one study* more generally.

*(Also see here and here)

(4) The point about skewed statistics is fair enough and I’d like to see some recalculations myself.

(5) First off, we can just as easily find feminist groups pushing for more inclusion for men under definitions of rape as I sourced above.

Second, the article is odd because…why are we going from America to Jerusalem all of the sudden?

Third, and finally, the article itself is very poorly sourced. What feminist groups? Names? Names of leaders? Were these decisions unanimous within these organizations? Details man, details!

But I’ll get them on my own or try at least…

Okay…I still can’t find much, but here’s a neat response to this anyhow. Sorry, don’t have too much to say about this either. I don’t think it’s fair to compare US groups to Israeli groups and in general my purview is much more US-centric. That’s my fault for sure but I guess I’m also just interested in keeping this conversation local. If that doesn’t work for you, I apologize.

Let’s get to the final section.

Women Have More Rights Than Men(?)

6) Women have more rights than men – fallacy point. She has simply demonstrated five areas in law where women receive preferential treatment over men.(1) All things being equal and all assumptions that all other laws (such as fraud, criminal damage, theft, arson, murder, etc) are equally fair to men and women, women still end up with five areas of law where their treatment is preferential to those of men. As an individual opposing the argument that women receive preferential treatment in law, it is entirely up to you to provide evidence to the contrary, which you have not done.(2)

Overall, I find your arguments against the relevant article to be tenuous at best.

(1)Actually, as I’ve quoted earlier, Bloomfield explicitly states early in her article:

I have yet to meet a single feminist who was not completely astonished to discover that not only do women have equal rights to men, they actually have more rights than men. Most feminists will backpedal when confronted with that reality and try to justify why they are deserving of more rights than men, but the stark fact remains that in 2014, women do indeed have more rights than men. (emphasis, besides “more”, is mine)

So it’s not a fallacy point to say that Bloomfield doesn’t actually prove her general point. Hell, she hardly proves her particular points. Most of the points she tries to prove that do have merit were mostly found through me doing pretty heavy independent research or at least not really being able to use Bloomfield’s own links to her advantage.

To wrap-up things:

1 Women don’t really have a general right to genital integrity that men don’t

2. If a draft were instated women would be sent too

3. Women should have the right to choose whether a living being resides in them or not. I am not sure how I feel about doing it without notifying the father (though there’s no link for this) but the Safe Haven laws make sense to me while we’re at it. I agree paternity fraud is a bad thing but it’s also a very very infrequent thing and thus isn’t a very good example to tout for women having more rights.

4. Legally and explicitly they don’t and haven’t for a long time. Now, whether it works out that way, the study I cited doesn’t seem to point towards that but again it had limited scope and is a bit old now (also, the “Man of One Study” applies to me as well of course) so I admit it’s not the strongest evidence. If you’ve got contrary studies or whatever, I’m all ears.

5. Men have the right to call it sexual assault and not rape which is wrong. But it isn’t as if calling something sexual assault is nothing. It’s not enough and I agree we should push for more legal equality though.

(2) Probably because that wasn’t too formal of a response but hopefully this does ya a little better, Sloth.

Post Script: Can Women Have More Rights than Men?

A part of the conversation here is whether, as a self-described feminist (that’s not my own article but the sort of feminism I identify with), I can even admit that women have more privileges than men. This is more of a meta topic within the discussion but I wanna traverse it just for a second because I think it’s appropriate to tackle as well.

I just want to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with discussing whether women have more privileges than men or talking about when they do. It’d be impossible (even in the society we live in) that women wouldn’t have some things over men. Sexism hurts everyone and it can certainly work against both genders and especially trans folks who sadly get put to the side in these studies and discussions.

That said a rich white women (say Hillary Clinton) is gonna have a lot over someone who is male, black and lives in a poor neighborhood. There’s a lot of identities, social expectations and institutional forces involved in this comparison and it’s perhaps a bit too much to make the point but that’s precisely why I picked it. Because if we ignored a lot of the context you could easily just say I’m saying a woman is more privileged than a man.

“But wait!”, you may say, “How can that be? Doesn’t feminism say that we live in a patriarchical society?”

Of course! But that doesn’t mean that women who conform to patriarchal norms aren’t rewarded. I mean, isn’t that kind of the name of the game in some sense? That women conform to their ascribed social expectations and thus are going to be treated better? If a girl who is going to prom decides to wear a slightly revealing dress she is often asked to go back home and change. Why? Because the men might lose control of themselves!

And not to sound like a contrarian here but Jesus the sexism here against men is fucking appalling. The way that some so-called MRAs talk about men or Hell, just how men talk about themselves can be disgusting. That we’re just “simple people who need a beer and a hot woman and then we’re fine”. Fuck having feelings or having some emotional and intellectual depth! Even some men say this about themselves and see nothing wrong with it!

Now, women can do something similar where they say women are just interested in fashion and being a good housewife or something (sorry, I don’t have as much experience with this).

Regardless though, my point is that to the extent that we conform to the expectations of the ruling class (which, yes, is still largely made up of white men) we’re going to come out a bit more privileged. That’s not the only way of course and sometimes it’ll come from misguided so-called “progressive” movements or tactics that legislate the state to achieve equality. I disagree with that on several levels and often think it’ll create cultural blowback more than it’ll help. But I definitely understand the impulse to do so at any rate.

Bloomfield is right to point out double standards that men have to deal with in society through the state but often these sorts of things come off as more of a game for “oppression points”. Or the article is actually about how bad feminists (or feminism) is while arguing totally tangential points to that (related but not tightly knit in other words).

And look, I’m not a “perfect” feminist. Hell, if you’re as good as how many classics in the feminist lexicon you have read then I’m a downright terrible feminist. But I always try to improve my feminism and make it as consistent with my values of autonomy, equality and solidarity . Hopefully this article helps that process but I can’t be sure if I don’t keep trying to learn and of course, without the feedback of others.

So thanks for your time, Sloth and anyone else.

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Articles

The Real Reason You Don’t Know The Truth About Everything Ever…It’ll Surprise You!

The above is a fantastic info-graphic and gets to the heart of what makes a lot of so-called “science” unfalsifiable or otherwise hard to prove in one direction or the next. A particular pet peeve of mine is the sensational headlines which seem to be in vogue today for one reason or another. Everyone seems to think that they know “the truth” of the situation or that the truth will come out via this one study that had a really small sample bias but never mind the results because pop culture!

You see it in the Huffington Post among other places like the always obnoxious Buzzfeed always talking about how they seemingly found the one answer to an incredibly complex issue that has been debated for hundreds of years. But thanks to these few studies we’re citing from (of course) prominent institutions we can just lay the topic to rest.

Oh, and please mail the check to…

So yes, this an issue in fairly mainstream or at least widely-received publications that should know better. But how does this relate to articles? I think we can relate this practice to some similar problems with articles, maybe enough to sketch up a rough guide to notice some warning signs that the article in question may not be the best at telling you what the truth of the matter is.

Review of, “Eek! A Male!”

Recently someone on my friends list on Facebook (two actually) posted this which tackles a pretty serious issue: how society deals with child predators.

Now, my own opinion is that society goes a bit nuts when it comes to “the children” whatever the case may be. Which makes sense to some degree since children are seen as a given society’s “future”. And if the children are harmed physically or otherwise on a grand enough scale then repercussions might indeed be catastrophic for the given society. So I can see why things like child predators and other exploiters of children may be seen more harshly than others.

Besides this common notion of children being “the future” it’s also worth noting that adults typically see children as much more vulnerable, innocent and (frankly) cuter and thus may tend to have more compassion for them then, say, an adult who had to deal with these problems. It’s this sort of visceral reaction that also informs us while some people take abuse of pets less non-nonchalantly than domestic violence. Domestic violence, on some level, is much more expected than a pet’s owner being very abusive.

The problem in trying to rectify how viscerally people react so that children can actually be protected more often is that you run into the trope of, “well if you’re against the current way of protecting children you must not care yourself!” or worse still you’re accused of being a child predator yourself. The latter, potentially, could hold a lot of social power over your head if the right people are convinced of that and report you to the police or something.

I don’t have any statistics on hand for how often the above happens and I’m not about to claim it’s some systematic problem when I don’t have said data and could only vaguely refer to intimations, vague anecdotes and so on. But I do think the above situations are entirely possible in a society that seems to treat “safety” (whatever that means) as more important than the children themselves.

A less auspicious example of taking safety more seriously than children is when people build parks out of “safer” equipment or when an old park that’s now deemed “dangerous” is covered with safer material so the children won’t get hurt.

Of course, I’m all in favor of children having an environment that is less likely to harm themselves on and in general protecting people who are probably going to be more vulnerable to harm than you (on average anyhow) is usually a good idea. But these sorts of changes don’t strike me as particularly helpful. It’s giving the children the idea that if life ever becomes tough or there’s even a risk of it that someone can just bail them out or make it safer. It’s also fairly infantalizing to some extent to expect most children to be so reckless that they’re going to seriously injure themselves in a park.

Again, I have no statistics about how often kids get seriously (and by that I mean needing to go to the ER or the like) injured at playgrounds. But I’m going to engage in some speculation here (so grain of salt please!) that more kids get injured in car accidents and cars in general than they do at playgrounds. That’s speculation but it seems fairly intuitively right for whatever that’s worth.

In the cases I’ve cited above, you’ll note that I’ve given some individual examples, common cultural perceptions and so on without any statistics. But that’s fine because I’m not claiming this is a societal issue or an issue that happens any number of times. I’m just claiming it’s a thing that happens and has happened and that we ought to be suspicious about it inasmuch as that is possible.

Where the article that I link above goes wrong is that, from some anecdotes and no larger evidence or study, it concludes that men are seen de facto as predators in many places. It seems to repeatedly imply that men are seen as the problem. For the author, Lenore Skenazy, it doesn’t seem like a problem of predators themselves but who predators are associated with.

But how does she prove this? She seems to rely on various news stories and personal stories but as I said before has no larger proof of evidence that this is a societal problem that happens often and in many places. She just extrapolates from the handful of situations she cites that this is something that needs to be stopped.

Indeed, if Skenazy was right and this was a larger issue about men and does happen often then I’d probably agree that it needs to be rectified. But what happens if we take some of my advice from above? Stop infantalizing children, treat “safety” as more of a spectrum than a binary of “safe” and “unsafe”and so on. I speculate that if we did that then it’d also stop the persecution of men that Skenazy is deriding without even specifically addressing the part about men.

This shows to me that the issue isn’t about men or at least not per se’, it’s about how society thinks and deals with children and their safety. And I think that’s definitely an issue that I can see needs to be rewritten.

That idea of children and safety certainly hurts men but it can also hurt women just as well. It can make women who trust their kid to be by themselves for a minute to be a bad mother because maybe women are supposed to “always be close” to their kids. That opinion depends heavily on what counts as “close” though. Being on a park bench while your kid plays a bunch of feet away isn’t anything new and is often depicted in media. Is that “close” enough. What if you only live across the street and watch from your porch or look out the window every 10 minutes or so?

All of this is just to say that Skenazy’s points here aren’t well argued for and I think we should take a look at her article more closely to get a sort of study case on spotting bad articles.

Response to, “Eek! A Male!”

Let’s first notice the subtitle: “Treating all men as potential predators doesn’t make our kids safer.” (emphasis added)

So is Skenazy’s claim that all men are actually being treated as potential predators? I doubt it and in an attempt to reconstruct her premise as charitably as possible I’ll presume that she’s just going for a sensational headline (or in this case, subtitle) which is a part of spotting bad science and perhaps a bad (or at least problematic) article.

So Skenazy thinks that most men or at least a large percentage of the population’s male section are being treated as potential predators. Okay, so what is her evidence for this?

Skenazy starts with a story:

Last week, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Timothy Murray, noticed smoke coming out of a minivan in his hometown of Worcester. He raced over and pulled out two small children, moments before the van’s tire exploded into flames. At which point, according to the AP account, the kids’ grandmother, who had been driving, nearly punched our hero in the face.

Why?

Mr. Murray said she told him she thought he might be a kidnapper.

It’s not clear from this story the sequence of events. Did the grandmother see Murray? Did she know it was a man? She clearly didn’t see the smoke so if the smoke was in her line of vision somehow would it have been possible that she did what most people would do if someone came racing at your car and picked out your kids? I think that’s entirely possible.

The problem here more fundamentally is that we don’t know whether the grandmother almost punched him because he was male or because she thought he was going to steal her grandchildren. And if that’s not exactly clear then this story doesn’t do much for Skenazy’s case. She could have almost punched him out of a visceral reaction or more specifically a reaction to adrenaline to her body and not be thinking.

And where exactly did Murray come at from the car?

I know this sounds like I’m nitpicking but it is actually pretty important to the story to know whether the grandmother could tell it was a man to begin with. Maybe asking her a question like, “would you have had the same reaction if it was a woman or a non-binary person?” or something would be a good way to control for outside factors. Otherwise we just have no good way to know or conclude that she did it because Murray was a man.

Skenazy continues:

And so it goes these days, when almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep. I call it “Worst-First” thinking: Gripped by pedophile panic, we jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant.

Notice even Skenazy doesn’t say male panic even though the whole point of her article is that this is a male problem and not a problem with how society sees pedophilia and children. It’s possible I’ve misinterpreted Skenazy’s point but if so then why does she only mention males? Why not have pedophilia and children in the main title and not just the subtitle? Why only use examples that include men? It seems hard to me to interpret Skenazy’s argument any other way.

But regardless I think Skenazy points out something here that’s certainly true in my experience: people love having the moral high ground.

Consider the game, The Walking Dead. There’s a scene where someone saves their kid instead of someone else’s kid and runs away to safety. The player has the choice to moralize, shame and guilt the already explicitly guilty NPC who is trying to deal with his demons. When I considered my (time-sensitive) options the solution seemed fairly obvious: why would I shame him anymore than he already feels shame? I should console him as he is no good to the group (or less good to the group) if he’s feeling shitty about himself and his life choices.

And besides that, uh, it’s the zombie apocalypse…what the hell does having the moral high ground have to do with surviving?

Don’t get me wrong, in some cases being able to tell someone they’re wrong or make them reconsider their past actions might help you not associate with unreliable or otherwise not pleasant people. These are the sort of people who you wouldn’t want to survive with and you may even be better off without them in some cases.

…So yeah, I’ve been playing a lot of The Walking Dead lately, sorry.

Back to the point though, I do think that Skenazy is right to point out that sometimes we get so caught up in having morality on our side that we forget that morality involves other people too. And even if they’ve done something wrong this doesn’t always mean they’re a bad person (I could make another TWD reference here but I’ll stay my tongue…).

Skenazy cites another example however:

Consider the Iowa daycare center where Nichole Adkins works. The one male aide employed there, she told me in an interview, is not allowed to change diapers. “In fact,” Ms. Adkins said, “he has been asked to leave the classroom when diapering was happening.”

Now, a guy turned on by diaper changes has got to be even rarer than a guy turned on by Sponge Bob. But “Worst-First” thinking means suspecting the motives of any man who chooses to work around kids.

I disagree with the Iowa daycare center’s decision, for whatever that’s worth. I think that it may be, at least in part, based in the sexist notion that only women can take care of children and men are too “rough and tough” or whatever to handle children delicately like they need to be (do you see the infantalizing returning and now intersecting with sexism?).

Yes, sexism hurts men.

But, again, is Nichole choosing this because Ms. Adkins and others see him as a man? Or is it because of the scare of pedophilia that, I agree, seems overblown in this specific case?

It’s not clear why but I can certainly understand why Skenazy would reach this conclusion. I could certainly see it being the case but if all we have to go on are insinuations and implications then this evidence seems weaker then Skenazy is hoping it will be.

And even though I tried to reconstruct Skenazy’s argument more charitably she again says “any man” instead of “some men” or “most men”. I’m not sure if she’s just doing it for rhetoric purposes (likely) or actually believes it’s all men which seems to be a apriori ridiculous claim or assertion to make. Regardless her evidence so far isn’t compelling enough and mostly seem to rely on knee-jerk emotional reactions than cautious study and analysis of his reasoning.

Further, what do all of these single cases prove? Just because someone in Worcester and someone in Idaho (allegedly) targeted someone because they were male (which isn’t clear to me, but even if it was I would require more evidence on a larger scale to accept Skenazy’s conclusion) doesn’t necessarily entail that this is a larger societal issue.

That conclusion just doesn’t seem to follow to me. There are other explanations (which I’ve tried to give above) such as inftalization of children, panic over pedophilia and so on.

Skenazy is determined to prove her point though, she says next that:

Maybe the daycare center felt it had to be extra cautious, to avoid lawsuits. But regular folk are suspicious, too. Last February, a woman followed a man around at a store berating him for clutching a pile of girls’ panties. “I can’t believe this! You’re disgusting. This is a public place, you pervert!” she said—until the guy, who posted about the episode on a website, fished out his ID. He was a clerk restocking the underwear department.

Okay…so let me get this straight.

Someone carries panties in stores while other customers are around…how often exactly? Like, would this be something someone would expect? And why weren’t the panties like…in a box? I’ve done retail before and I’ve never seen them done while customers are in the store (specifically girls and women’s underwear).

I’m not saying that the story isn’t true (I’m sure it is) but it just seems like something someone wouldn’t expect to see. You can also usually tell a clerk is a clerk because they’re often dressed in a certain way that the customers may not tend to be.

Regardless, let’s accept this as true and presume that it was because he was a man (a safe assumption here, perhaps)…so what? Does a guy who gets called a pervert for carrying around girls panties in a store somehow mean that all (or even more charitably, most) men are presumed perverts?

Could anyone see this situation and think,

“Wow that woman only targeted him because he was a guy! What a jerk!”

Like, if I saw someone carrying around girls panties and they were a full grown man with no children nearby and they didn’t look like an employee maybe I’d be weirded out and maybe I wouldn’t, I don’t know. It’s never happened to me or anyone I know.

But, like, I don’t think it was unreasonable for this woman to presume something was going on. I probably wouldn’t have said anything and just thought it was a bit weird…but either way does this situation prove much? I’m not really convinced it does. I mean, it can prove people are quick to judge in certain situations but honestly I don’t see how this woman is blame-worthy let alone indicative of some bigger social issue Skenazy has yet to prove.

We’re going to move on though:

Given the level of distrust, is it any wonder that, as the London Telegraph reported last month, the British Musicians’ Union warned its members they are no longer to touch a child’s fingers, even to position them correctly on the keys? Or that a public pool in Sydney, Australia last fall prohibited boys from changing in the same locker room as the men? (According to the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the men demanded this, fearing false accusations.)

Skenazy’s case may seem stronger here because now she’s citing examples outside of the US which maybe makes her claim stronger than most (all?) men are suspect of being pedophilic. But it’s really just the same sorts of “evidence” she has cited before. Individual and story/news based cases that have gotten a lot of attention and are therefore indicative of a larger problem in some way.

Now Skenazy is just extending her weak foundation for basing evidence to other parts of the world. But the fact of the matter without knowing more about these situations, without having empirical evidence or studies and even just without only flooding the reader with news stories Skenazy just doesn’t have much to offer here.

There is an interesting part which is contained in the last part about false allegations. If the men were concerned about false allegations then that begs the question: was that a reasonable concern? How often do false allegations for pedophilia happen in Australia, exactly? Elsewhere? Skenazy doesn’t give us any references or citations to determine for ourselves which is another sign of a troubling article.

I can’t find a good claim from a quick Google search, at least for Australia. In case anyone is wondering why I’m not giving you any statistics to munch on.

Skenazy continues by referencing (of all things) Fox News to make his point:

What’s really ironic about all this emphasis on perverts is that it’s making us think like them. Remember the story that broke right before Christmas? The FBI warned law-enforcement agencies that the new Video Barbie could be used to make kiddie porn. The warning was not intended for the public but it leaked out. TV news celebrated the joy of the season by telling parents that any man nice enough to play dolls with their daughters could really be videotaping “under their little skirts!” as one Fox News reporter said.

It’s unclear who “celebrated” by telling parents about men playing with dolls but this is a pretty common way to keep the gender binary in line anyhow. So I suppose I wouldn’t be too surprised if a bunch of places did this.

But…I mean, are we surprised that Fox News said that? Are they a representative sample of the larger media reaction? I don’t know, Skenazy is, as usual, not very helpful with the details. I think she just wants emotional reactions and outrage.

And sure I’ve got a small amount of outrage…but it’s more to do with this poorly argued article than anything else.

Skenazy tries to close up his case further by citing the “climate” these attitudes

This queasy climate is making men think twice about things they used to do unselfconsciously. A friend of mine, Eric Kozak, was working for a while as a courier. Driving around an unfamiliar neighborhood, he says, “I got lost. I saw a couple kids by the side of the road and rolled down my window to ask, ‘Where is such-and-such road?’ They ran off screaming.”

Well…did they run off because he was a guy or because stranger danger?

One of the other huge problems with Skenazy’s “evidence” is that a lot of it has pretty easy alternative explanations you could draw from the situations. Thus making her conclusion seem a lot less likely than she’d like it to be.

Another dad told me about taking his three-year-old to play football in the local park, where he’d help organize the slightly older kids into a game. Over time, one of the kids started to look up to him. “He wanted to stand close to me, wanted approval, Dad stuff, I guess. And because of this whole ‘stranger danger’ mentality, I could sense this sort of wary disapproval from the few other parents at the playground. So I just stopped going.”

And that’s not the worst.

Here, Skenazy’s “evidence” is reduced to an individuals vague feeling of disapproval from a few of the other parents. So instead of, like, explaining the situation he just stopped going?

At this point I’m just flabbergasted. It isn’t even that her examples don’t prove her premise in the least (even if charitably interpreted) but her evidence is just poorly argued from start to finish and often aren’t conclusive enough to obviously and clearly only point to her interpretations of the events.

Let’s finish this up:

In England in 2006, BBC News reported the story of a bricklayer who spotted a toddler at the side of the road. As he later testified at a hearing, he didn’t stop to help for fear he’d be accused of trying to abduct her. You know: A man driving around with a little girl in his car? She ended up at a pond and drowned.

We think we’re protecting our kids by treating all men as potential predators. But that’s not a society that’s safe. Just sick.

Okay, that’s just plain irresponsible. I understand the reasoning but holy crap, what would you rather have, a toddler being abducted by an actual child molester or you who know you know isn’t one?

Again, I get not wanting the stigma but it’s debatable whether that would have happened to begin with and what’s much more likely is that a toddler might accidentally do something to hurt themselves.

To finish up, Skenazy seems to double down on the worst possible iteration of her claim which is “all men” and again she seems to hold to it. But even if I downgraded his premise via guarding terms (e.g. most and many instead of all) nothing she’s said has really proven that much.

Wrap-Up

Some of the problems I noticed in that article were:

  • Sensationalism
  • Small sample size
  • Misinterpreted Results
  • Lack of empirical research/studies/data
  • Overly news-worthy based and anecdote based (“the plural of anecdotes isn’t evidence”)

A lot of this adds up to a really underdeveloped and poorly argued for article.

Hopefully my review of it and me pointing out the particular problems helps you realize what makes an article better or worse in some capacity.

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