Posts tagged Conservatives

Punch a hippie in the face for Freedom

flag-protest-punch

See if you can spot the Freedom in this photograph.

There are no enforceable laws against flag desecration in the United States. There have been no such laws for over twenty five years. But bring up flag burning and a lot of American nationalists — especially, it seems, political conservatives — will get pretty heated about their right to beat people up who express Patriotically Incorrect political views, or to beat people up just for being a dirty hippie. This kind of appeal to crude instinctual violence only goes so far however, so if the conversation goes on, many of them (more, it seems, in the last few years) will come around to make a claim that it is actually illegal to burn a U.S. flag, and that people can be arrested for doing it. They are completely mistaken about that claim. But it’s interesting, and a bit scary, that they are so pervasively and repetitively and insistently mistaken.

Let’s set aside for the moment the question of whether or not there’s anything wrong with burning a U.S. flag in protest. And let’s set aside for the moment whether or not there’d be anything wrong with burning a U.S. flag in protest if it were illegal. We’ll come back to that later, but it’s a separate question.

Those who claim that burning an American flag is illegal rarely cite a source for this claim. If they do, they will normally point to something like 18 USC 700, on Desecration of the flag of the United States.[1] What they don’t seem to have noticed is that 18 USC 700 has no legal force. It hasn’t had any legal force for two and a half decades. It’s still printed in copies of the U.S. code, but both that law, and any law substantially like it, were struck down as violations of free speech rights a quarter century ago in Texas v. Johnson and United States v. Eichman. This is not a new development. It’s been the case for decades.

Shared Article from oyez.org

UNITED STATES v. EICHMAN (1989).

In 1989, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act which made it a crime to destroy an American flag or any likeness of an American flag which may be “commonly displayed.” The law did, however, allow proper disposal of a worn or soiled flag. Several prosecutions resulted from the Act. Eichman set a flag ablaze on the steps of the U.S. Capitol while protesting the government’s domestic and foreign policy. Another prosecution (United States v. Haggerty) resulted from a flag-burning in Seattle protesting the passage of the Flag Protection Act.Both cases (Eichman’s and Haggerty’s) were argued together.

oyez.org


The claim that flag-burning is illegal or punishable by law is pure nationalist political mythology. There is no enforceable law against flag desecration in the United States. If you claim that there is, you’ve been misinformed, and you are spreading misinformation.

Now, of course, even if there were an enforceable law against desecrating or burning a flag, your own property, whenever you see fit to do so, that law would be a petty tyranny, an obvious and stupid invasion of people’s basic rights to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Using force to censor and curtail basic freedom of speech and basic property rights is wrong, and fundamentally unjust, no matter what the law says.

If it were illegal to burn flags, then every one of us would have a perfect right to burn flags in defiance of the law, as an act of civil disobedience against unjust restrictions on free speech. Laws that elevate the symbolism of a piece of cloth over the rights of living people to the integrity of their own minds, their own bodies, and their own property, — laws that propose censorship and punitive force against those whose peaceful protests offend the delicate sensibilities of Patriotic Correctness — deserve nothing but contempt and defiance, whenever and wherever they exist.

But of course they don’t even exist in this case. They’re pure mythology. But myths are created and repeated because they serves a political and cultural function. There’s something worth noting in the fact that so many of the self-appointed Home Guard have a manifest felt need, that they so badly want to believe in a government that can and will use violence to punish offenses against the dignity of their national flag, even in spite of what they could have found out with two minutes’ research on the Internet. This kind of violent Patriotic Correctness is, of course, nothing more than bullying and violent censorship. A form of bullying and violent censorship where many of the bullies and the censors so desperately feel the need for government support that they will conjure non-existent laws to back up their burning desire to punch a hippie in the face. The saddest thing of all is that they will tell you that they do this because the flag means so very much, and it means so very much because it stands for freedom. That should tell you something about the kind of American Nation, and the kind of freedom, that they are so exercised to protect against the scourge of peaceful protest and free speech.

My own view of course is that sedition and open disrespect for the government are American traditions, and they deserve to be honored.

Happy Revolution Day weekend.

So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen!William Lloyd Garrison

Also.

Small-government conservatism (Facebook Macro edition)

Here is an image that was recently being passed around on a conservative, Tea Party group on Facebook.

HERE IS ALL I WANT:

OBAMA: GONE!

BORDERS: CLOSED!

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH!

CULTURE: U.S. CONSTITUTION & THE BILL OF RIGHTS!

DRUG FREE: MANDATORY DRUG SCREENING BEFORE WELFARE!

NO FREEBIES TO: NON-CITIZENS!

ALSO…

BALANCED BUDGET!

TAX REFORM!

TERM LIMITS FOR CONGRESS & SENATORS!

ONLY 86% WILL SEND THIS ON. SHOULD BE 100%.

So, just to re-cap:

Conservatarian: Here’s all I want: a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT, the harshest possible BORDER FASCISM. GOVERNMENT ENFORCED LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS. A culture of CONSTITUTION FETISHISM, PUBLIC REVERENCE FOR STATE FOUNDERS and LEGALISTIC NATIONALISM. DRUG PROHIBITION and RIGHT-WING SOCIAL ENGINEERING THROUGH THE WELFARE SYSTEM. Also, SAVING THE WELFARE STATE FOR U.S. CITIZENS WHO CONFORM TO MY FAVORED LIFESTYLE CHOICES. And 100% CONFORMITY ON QUESTIONS OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IMPORT. I’m for small government!

So, seriously conservatarians, if this is what you want, what you want hasn’t got anything even remotely to do with liberty. If you thought that this did have something to do with liberty, then you need to re-think some of your life choices.

Nationalism is the death of liberty.

Universal health care does not mean government health care.

I’ve seen this note that I wrote a while back at ThinkProgress.org popping up here and there on the Internet. I’m glad that people have found it useful. Since it is currently locked up in a horrible Facebook-based dynamically transcluded comment thread thingy, I figured that I would re-copy and re-print here, so that the point, if it was worth making, can have a something of a real home on the Internet. The comment was in reply to a reply to Matt Yglesias’s reply to Roderick Long’s reply to a conversation between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul about healthcare policy. Roderick (rightly) thought that Paul’s answer to the questions betrayed a serious mistake about how to think about free-market healthcare. Yglesias (wrongly) thought that Roderick was encouraging libertarians to avoid the important question. A commentator called ds_at_yglesias chimed in:

If you oppose universal health care, you by definition support letting people who can’t afford health care die.

Most conservatives are socialized to not say such things in public, but of course they believe it.

—ds_at_yglesias, 15 September 2011, 7:39pm

Of course, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about saving the reputation of political conservatives. But there’s an important conceptual issue for anti-authoritarians. So I replied (emphasis added):

Maybe so. (Certainly, there are plenty of conservatives who are all too comfortable with — or even enthusiastic about — a lot of needless suffering in the world.)

But I hope that you realize that not everyone who supports universal healthcare supports government healthcare, and not everyone who opposes government healthcare opposes universal healthcare. The one might follow from the other if the only way to get universal coverage were by means of a political guarantee of coverage. But that’s not so: there are folks who oppose government healthcare because they think corporate healthcare is awesome and they don’t mind if people die; but there are also folks who oppose government healthcare because they support non-governmental, non-corporate universal coverage through grassroots social organization and community mutual aid. (See for example http://radgeek.com/gt/2007/10/25/radical_healthcare/ or the closing sections of http://www.thefreemanonline.org/headline/health-care-debate-meaningful/.)

Of course, that leaves open the question of whether they (we — I’m one of ‘em) are right about the best means for getting universal coverage. Maybe social means are inadequate; or maybe there is some reason, which has yet to be mentioned, why governmental control is preferable, as a means for getting it, to voluntary associations for mutual aid. But whether the position is right or wrong, it’s certainly not one that can be answered simply by defining it out of existence, as you do when you pretend that the only alternatives available are (1) corporate coverage of only those who can afford it; or else (2) universal coverage by means of government mandates; as if there were no (3) universal coverage by non-governmental means.

—Charles Johnson, 16 September 2011, 10:32pm

Also.

Re: On the Road to Nowhere With Johnson and Paul

On the Road to Nowhere With Johnson and Paul. Center for a Stateless Society (2011-05-05):

Is it just me, or is the silly season of electoral politics — the presidential election cycle — arriving earlier and earlier in each successive four-year stretch? Last time around, it was nearly Memorial Day of the year preceding the election before pundits started speculating about when the obvious odd...

I have only two real objections. First, it just isn't true that Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work. They've spent decades being the most militant faction in favor of bigger, badder, more violent government. What they actually say is that government doesn't work at helping people, so government ought to be killing and torturing and imprisoning people instead. Lots and lots of people.

My second objection is that ABBA is a marvelous band and if what Gary Johnson and Ron Paul were actually planning to do was just to sit in a car all night listening to ABBA cassettes, I'd think they were pretty cool guys with a remarkably good social agenda.

As Harsh as Truth and as Uncompromising as Justice

The Rally to Elevate Tone of Voice Over Substance. On ALLiance (2010-11-16):

So Jon Stewart had his rally the other day. From what I can tell, it was a great promotional event for his TV show and a great party for a lot of college-educated people. Don’t get me wrong; I love Jon Stewart, love the Daily Show, and I love the...

As Jeremy puts it: "I suppose only a loudmouth boor would point out that these policies kill, maim, imprison, plunder, and deceive people everyday – but really, we should keep our voices down! For the country!"

The problem with the National Discourse is not extremism or severity, but thoughtlessness, and the Discourse is thoughtless because it has been Nationalized -- i.e., corralled by the limits of state policy and electoral politics, and subordinated to the ends of a thoughtless power-play between entrenched political parties. Thoughtlessness can take the form of blowhard shouting; or it can take the form of blowhard mealy-mouthed "moderation" and compromise for the sake of political comity. The last is, right now, the primary rhetorical function of liberal discourse -- to portentiously utter conventional wisdom, half-hearted excuses, and Beltway political nostrums, in Sensible, modulated tones, so as to establish a perimeter of acceptable opinion which falls roughly within the range of opinions among Barack Obama's political advisors, with Sarah Palin or John Boehner as the only recognized outliers.

Fuck that noise. Real thoughtfulness means principled thoughts, and having principled thoughts means being willing to accept, and insist on, radical thoughts when they are called for. Hopelessly confused moderation is simply the political etiquette of the status quo, and a dare-I-say immensely privileged refusal to seriously confront the problem of the entrenched power and daily violence of the endlessly self-excusing corporate liberal state. Radical thoughtfulness has no special reason to accept those excuses or defer to the conventional idiocy that limns the boundaries of political liberal and political conservative discourse alike. The only way out is a discourse that is not nationalized, but humanized; and human discourse requires some real talk about what the imperial state -- its armies, its wars, its laws, its police, its checkpoints, its borders, its political lies -- is doing to real people every single day in their real lives, while bellowing blowhards argue about Reviews of Strategy, Comprehensive Reform, Border Security, Economic Recovery, National Security, National Priorities, and the rest of the utterly dehumanized talking-point discourse that characterizes politics in all of its nationalized forms. Sometimes that will look like rudeness. Sometimes it will involve calling a politician a liar -- and a killer to boot. And all for the better: who are these assholes, that they would deserve anything more polite? Radical thoughtfulness requires, above all else, a will to honesty. And honestly, the truth right now isn't very pretty.