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Just End It

Recently from Jesse Walker:

In practice, CVE’s efforts are already focused overwhelmingly on Muslims. But the big question here shouldn’t be which groups ought to be the program’s targets. It’s whether the program should exist at all. No matter whether it’s aimed at Islamists, white nationalists, or anyone else, the CVE approach has two big problems.

First: It rests on the idea that the best way to root out terrorism is to fight “radicalization.” This idea has support among both Democrats and Republicans, but the evidence supporting it is sparse. When investigators at the British think tank Demos (not to be confused with the U.S.-based liberal group of the same name) spent two years studying the differences between violent and nonviolent radicals, they found that while nonviolent radicalism can be a stepping stone to terrorism, it can draw people away from terrorism too. Meanwhile, there were other forces pulling people into terrorism that didn’t have much to do with ideology at all. Other probes have reached similar conclusions. So the focus here is all wrong: Radical ideas do not usually lead to violent tactics, and violent tactics do not emerge only from radical ideas.

Second: That focus can lead to some serious civil liberties problems. “Even though the agencies running the programs promised that they wouldn’t use CVE for intelligence purposes (as they did in earlier iterations of it), the program itself is designed to teach community members, teachers, police, social workers, and religious leaders to identify and report to law enforcement people showing signs of ‘radicalization,'” comments Michael German, a former FBI agent who now hangs his hat at the Brennan Center for Justice. So in practice, he argues, you get “soft surveillance,” and that surveillance “is intended to suppress ideas, which is likely to cause more problems than solve them. It encourages the identification, reporting, and ‘treatment’ of people with bad ideas, which will only lead to misuse of security resources and deprivation of civil liberties.”

Needless to say, that sort of surveillance can itself radicalize people. So CVE also runs the risk of contributing to the very process it’s meant to stop.

–Jesse Walker, Don’t Rebrand the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Program—Just End It
Reason, 2 February 2017

Shared Article from Reason.com

Don't Rebrand the 'Countering Violent Extremism' Program—Just …

The question shouldn't be which groups the program ought to target. It's whether the program should exist at all.

Jesse Walker @ reason.com


Don’t Send In The Clowns

You are going to think I am making this up, that this is a joke. I am not making it up; it is not a joke. I received this e-mail at 2:03pm on Tuesday from the Auburn University Public Safety & Security Department. This is a straight-up copy and paste job from the e-mail.[1] It is possibly the most amazing thing I have ever received from the campus cops.

From: Auburn University Public Safety & Security
Date: Sep. 20, 2016, 2:03pm
Subject: Rumors of Clowns on Campus

Auburn University Community:

On Monday evening the university and Auburn Police Division received a few reports of people dressed in clown costumes on campus. There were also several social media posts that suggested the same. We have seen similar reports of clown sightings at other universities and towns across the State of Alabama and the Southeast.

Auburn Police officers were on patrol and immediately responded to the areas reported but were unable to locate anyone. Auburn Police will continue to patrol our campus and investigate any suspicious activity. We are not aware of any danger or threat to our campus community.

We also had a report of students walking around looking for people dressed as clowns. For your safety, we strongly encourage you to leave this job to Auburn Police. Please use good judgment and avoid wearing clown masks, as it could be perceived as a hazard or threat to others.

We urge our campus community to be vigilant and always report anything suspicious by dialing 911. If you have information or questions, you can call the Auburn Police Division’s non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.

Another resource that is available to students is the free Rave Guardian app. Features of this app include the ability to send tips and photos to Auburn Police or set a safety timer to allow friends and family to help look out for your safety. Get the app and register with your AU email to maximize the features available.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind you about the Night Security Shuttle which provides safe on-campus transportation and operates from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. (while the Tiger Transit is not running). To request a ride on the security shuttle, please call 334-844-7400. This on-campus service is free to our campus community.

The safety of our students, employees and visitors is our priority and we will continue to do everything possible to keep our campus safe.

Over at Reason‘s Hit and Run blog, here’s Jesse Walker on the Great Clown Panic of 2016 as it comes to higher education and secondary education in Alabama.

Shared Article from Reason.com

The Clown Panic Comes to College - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Auburn University has issued a public-safety bulletin about the clown menace. Read it here.

Jesse Walker @ reason.com


The Great Clown Panic of ’16 began in August, you’ll recall, when children at an apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina, claimed to have spotted some malevolent clowns in the woods, sparking city-wide chatter about clown conspiracies. Before long, the delirium was spreading across the Carolinas. In Winston-Salem, two kids claimed that a clown carrying candy had tried to lure them into the forest; not long after that, in nearby Greensboro, a man called 911 to report a clown, who he then supposedly chased into the woods with a machete. (“Officers responding to the call could not find the clown,” the local News & Record reported.)

The meme[2] had marched into Georgia by mid-September, when two Troup County residents claimed to have seen some clowns trying to lure kids into a van, then confessed that they had made it up and were charged with making a false report. Last week a Georgia girl was arrested for bringing a knife to her middle school. She said she needed it to protect her from the clowns. By then the currents of coulrophobia had flooded into Alabama, where Facebook posts about the clown threat prompted schools across the state to go on lockdown, and where yet more hoaxsters were eventually arrested.

Now the Alabama wave has hit the world of higher education. . . .

. . . Amid this cascade of hoaxes, pranks, and schoolyard rumors—and possibly, at some point, a sighting of an actual professional Bozo on his way to a birthday party—there have been exactly zero confirmed cases of harlequins plotting to kidnap or molest children. But you knew that already.

Meanwhile, in the Lee County high schools, it looks like a teenager, allegedly a young woman at Beauregard High School, used the clown panic to get on social media and make threats of a school shooting, either against Opelika City Schools or against Beauregard High School or against Beauregard Elementary School. The Lee County sheriff said there is no evidence that the threat is credible, but Beauregard schools announced they’ll be under a heightened sense of awareness for the rest of the week, which means, more or less, that they’ll be swarming the campus with cops from the sheriff’s office; and Opelika City Schools placed schools on lockdown yesterday. The sheriffs office announced that they had used tracking technologies to identify, track down and arrest the female student allegedly responsible for the video (We used technology available to us to identify who she was. –Sheriff Jay Jones.) They will be charging her with felony charges for making terroristic threats. Meanwhile, people in the newspaper comment threads are more or less overtly threatening to shoot people for wearing clown suits, and newsmedia stories continue to relay reports of an amorphous clowning menace lurking in the shadows of social media and the dark edges of the piney woods:

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office isn’t the only agency in the area to receive reports of creepy clown threats.

LaGrange police took to Facebook to warn the public about several calls they received Set. 12 about clowns in a van and wooded area trying to talk to children. There were also threats made on Facebook media the previous weekend from “clowns” threatening to commit crimes at LaGrange schools.

Police determined that the threats were not credible. By Friday, they arrested four people who allegedly made “creepy clown” threats toward LaGrange High School.

Two were arrested in Troup County Sept. 14 after falsely reporting creepy clown sightings in Hogansville, Ga.

–Sarah Robinson, Hundreds checked out of Lee County schools following ‘creepy clown threat’
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, September 21, 2016

And in the superstore parking lots of Alex City:

Clown sighting at Walmart proves unfounded

Wednesday afternoon a customer at Walmart on Highway 280 called police to alert them to a person dressed as a clown in the parking lot.

The caller told dispatchers that she saw a male, dressed in a clown costume in an older model red pickup truck with a confederate flag showing in the back.

. . . Officers were dispatched to the parking lot, but found the vehicle empty when they arrived. They backed off and waited for the occupant of the vehicle to return. But when the owner returned, there was no white makeup, no red nose, no rainbow wig and not a single balloon animal. The man wasn’t even wearing size 24 red shoes.

After questioning the man for a few minutes, police left and the man went on his way, and was seen dialing a cellphone to tell someone what had just happened.

While this turned out to be nothing, Alexander City Police issued an alert via social media on the subject.

“We have received social media messages in reference to clowns posting threats on social media pages” a post attributed to Deputy Chief Jay Turner reads. “The threats have not been credible and as written in the article it takes a considerable amount of time to investigate the alleged threat.

“The easiest solution is to change your social media security settings and only allow those you know to post on your social media page; this will eliminate receiving posts from these fake profiles being used in this current fad of clown hysteria.”

Elsewhere, police are locking people up when they track them down.

After threats were made to schools in Baldwin, Bibb, Calhoun, Escambia, Etowah, Geneva, Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery counties, there have been several arrests. A 16-year-old from Pleasant Valley, an 18-year-old in West Blocton, 22-year-old Makayla Smith and two juveniles from Flomaton and four Geneva juveniles, three students at Geneva Middle School and one Geneva High School student, have all been arrested and face charges. Several are charged with making terrorist threats.

–Mitch Sneed, Clown sighting at Walmart proves unfounded
Alex City Outlook, September 21, 2016

  1. [1]If you want some corroboration, here is the Plainsman story issued about “Clown Sightings on Campus” shortly after the e-mail blast was sent out.
  2. [2]Sic. There’s no such thing as a meme. —Ed.

Welcome, Reasoners

Since my article on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Walmart, and alt-labor is appearing this morning at Reason.com, a fair number of y’all passing by may be readers who are more or less new to the blog.

Shared Article from Reason.com

Free-Market Labor Wins Wage-Boost Victory

Economic liberty shouldn’t simply assume a pro-business stance, or discuss only the privileges government extends to unions.

Charles W. Johnson @ reason.com


So–welcome! I’m Charles W. Johnson; often, I write online under the handle Rad Geek. (Not because I’m trying to hide who I am, but because it suits me, and because sometimes it helps me avoid being confused with some folks I am not.) I’m an individualist anarchist, living in Alabama. I write this blog, I co-edited (together with Gary Chartier) the left-wing market anarchist anthology, Markets Not Capitalism (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia: 2011). I write occasional columns for libertarian and anarchist outlets including The Freeman, Reason.com, Free Voices, and The Industrial Radical. I publish a lot of small-press anarchist and left-libertarian literature through the Distro of the Libertarian Left. If you’re new to the blog here, and trying to get oriented, here’s some things you might find interesting to read, which will give you some broad idea of where I’m coming from, and what I care about.

I’ve written a lot over the years about the C.I.W., both basic event coverage of some of their main campaigns, and also a fair amount of my own commentary on what I take to be the significance of their use of social protest and state-free, market-based methods in their activism.[1] If you’ve come here from the article and you want to read more about the C.I.W. or the context of its campaigns, I have some links, both to my own writing and also to a number of other sources that I consulted while preparing the column on the recent Walmart victory. Those are at the bottom of the post, though, so feel free to scroll right down past the following, which is mostly just orientation on me and where I’m coming from.

Speaking generally, I am a market anarchist: I am radically opposed to any invasion of economic liberty and to the state as such, and I am in favor of freed markets, free exchange, voluntary association, open competition and individual ownership of property. But, unlike many pro-capitalist libertarians, I argue that one of the likely and important features of freed markets is their tendency to cut against socioeconomic inequalities, to provide a space for economic alternatives to status-quo corporate capitalism, and to undermine and replace traditional top-down firms or employer-employee relationships. The kind of things I believe are often called free market anticapitalism or left-wing market anarchism. For more on what I mean by all that, and why I believe it:

I also think that rambunctious nonviolent social activism, worker-owned enterprises and radical labor unions, based on voluntary association without government privilege, and an anti-authoritarian culture of worker solidarity, are all an important part of a flourishing free market.

Since Walmart is at the center of the story, I should say that, while I am immensely pleased to see Walmart signing an agreement for the Fair Food Program, I think that many of the common criticisms of Walmart’s business model, exploitative labor practices, and economic dominance are justified, and that I would be quite happy in general to see Walmart constantly confronted and challenged with some really vigorous and uncompromising competition, social criticism and alt-labor organizing and activism. I say this not because I object to business, or to low prices, or whatever, but because I object to highly centralized state-capitalist business models that depend on, and heavily exploit, corporate welfare, eminent domain, and other favors from corporatist local governments.

More broadly, much of my writing on economic questions aims to focus attention on the relationship between the economic privileges granted by the State, class, poverty, and corporate power.

I am an Anarchist. I don’t care about smaller government, or limited government, or about Constitutions, or about electing libertarian candidates to political office. I am the farthest thing possible from a conservative. I believe in abolishing the State as such, and in doing so through the practice of education, solidarity, and direct action.

As an Anarchist, and as a human being, I am utterly and irreconcilably opposed to all forms of government warfare.

I believe that the nationalistic violence of the warfare State is closely linked with the paramilitary patrols, police state, and nationalistic violence of government border controls — which are nothing other than international apartheid. See for example:

I also believe that the violence of the U.S. government’s imperial military abroad is closely linked with the repressive violence of (increasingly militarized) paramilitary police forces within the U.S. See for example:

And as a feminist I think that the violence of men’s wars and of men’s law enforcement are closely linked with the violent ideals of masculinity and patriarchy that men are brought up with in our society. For more, see:

I’m against all forms of Intellectual Property restrictions, which represent not genuine forms of property, but a grant of monopoly privileges over the minds of other people — which I view both as tyrannical in themselves and also as immensely, lethally destructive in the effects of the coercive monopolies that they grant:

Thanks for coming on down; I hope you stay a while, do some reading, and enjoy the blog. So, come, let us Reason together . . . .

Further reading on C.I.W., the Fair Food Program and Alt-Labor

As I mentioned, I’ve been following the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program for over a decade now. Here are some other articles that I’ve written on C.I.W.:

And here are a bunch of things that other people have written, which I consulted at some point or another recently while preparing my column, and which you might find useful as elaboration, context or backdrop about C.I.W., the Fair Food campaign and the creative activism used to win it, or the development and direction of alt-labor groups in general.

  1. [1]Full disclosure: besides having written frequently about the C.I.W., many years ago I was also indirectly involved in setting up an organizing workshop for C.I.W. that led to an impromptu radical cheerleading picket at our local Taco Bell in Auburn.

Auburn police department contact sports

Officers will have 100 contacts per month, minimum … 40 of those may be warnings for traffic, the other 60 will be divided between: traffic citations, non-traffic citations, field interviews and custodial arrests …. Do not be the one that does not get 100.

–Sgt. Trey Neal, Auburn Police Division, Auburn Alabama.
Recorded by officer Justin Hanners, qtd. by Tracy Oppenheimer, Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas
Reason TV (July 24, 2013).

Oh, hey, look, my hometown’s in the national news again. This time it’s for the contact quotas handed down from the police division’s chain of command. The requirements for ticketing and arrest quotas required more contacts[1] every year than there are people in the city of Auburn. The story has hit the news because Justin Hanners, a former police officer in Auburn, says that he was fired by the police department in retaliation against his objections to the quota policy, and to the over-use of police force and arrests that it was producing. After making some contact with local CopBlockers in Auburn, Hanners got his story to Reason TV.

From the story in the Opelika-Auburn News:

Back in 2010, when Chief Dawson came in, immediately afterward, they started telling us that we had to have two tickets a day and two warnings a day on average and if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t get promoted, we would get bad evaluations and if we continued to not do it, we would get written up and ultimately fired, Hanners said in a phone interview with the Opelika-Auburn News.

Hanners said he initially wrote a complaint about what he thought of the alleged quotas, but was soon suspended for other reasons and put on bike duty.

They went back seven months on my computer where I told a joke to another officer and suspended me for four days and made me forfeit two days of annual leave, Hanners said, who added the other officer was not punished.

Hanners said while on bike duty, which he claimed involved patrolling the interior of Auburn University, he was still force[d] to comply with the alleged quotas.

By directives, I’m not even supposed to be writing tickets, but my supervisor told me in my bike duty that I had to have just as many tickets as officers in cars, Hanners said.

–Drew Taylor, Former officer claims Auburn police division quotas
Opelika-Auburn News (July 25, 2013)

Since the story came out in the press, spokes-flacks from the city government have issued rote denials and slimy Oh-we-can’t-comment-but… insinuations about Hanners’ personnel file from the City Manager’s office. Assistant City Manager James Buston admits that the sergeant said everything that was on that tape but that it wasn’t official policy. (But, you know, if it were official policy, it’d be O.K., because it’s kind of challenging them to do what they are supposed to do…). The Office of Charles Duggan, City Manager of Auburn, says The message that there is a quota was wrongfully conveyed through supervisory channels to at least one patrol shift — which of course is a long-assed way of saying that there was a quota while denying responsibility for setting it — but insists that there is an unfounded accusation being leveled by Mr. Hanners. Because, when ex-chief Dawson told the city government that this story was going to hit the press, the city government hired another government investigator to look over their records and tell them that all was O.K. Tracy Oppenheimer at Reason responds to the denials here. Public Safety Director Bill James, for example, put the following in writing:

To make 100 contacts, which include among others, traffic stops, issuing warrants, field interviews and arrests, requires about two contacts per shift hour. Making two contacts per hour is not unreasonable and still seems to leave a lot of time to perform other duties that are detailed in your job description. Your supervisors as well as I have an expectation that each employee needs to be productive during their time on shift.

–Auburn Public Safety Director Bill James, Re: Grievance
Correspondence with Officer Justin Hanners (November 20, 2012)
Quoted by Tracy Oppenheimer, Auburn Cop Fired for Resisting Quotas Gets Online Support; City Officials Deny Deny Deny

Buston also claims that Reason did not offer the city government an opportunity to respond before they put the video together. Oppenheimer’s story shows that this is false, and that Capt. Tom Stofer of the Auburn Police Division specifically said that the Division refused to comment. As for the insinuations about Hanners’ personnel file, besides the note about the retaliatory shift to bike duty, here’s some more elaboration on what happened to him.

“Well, the day my grievance was over, I get called into the Chief’s office, and was told that some evidence I presented was from an internal affairs investigation and the gag order had been placed and I wasn’t supposed to have it. So then the Chief, who is the suspect in my grievance, now starts an internal affairs investigation into me and my partner to see if we somehow compromised his own investigation into his own wrongdoing where he had found he had done nothing wrong. So in this investigation, they found that we had violated a gag order and that I had violated the city’s reporting policy by reporting these people. And they ultimately fired me for it and suspended my partner who gave me a statement that said everything I was saying was true.”

–Justin Hanners, qtd. by Tracy Oppenheimer, Auburn Cop Fired for Resisting Quotas Gets Online Support; City Officials Deny Deny Deny

Here as elsewhere, cops protect their power. Support your neighborhood CopWatch.

  1. [1]When you hear about police departments setting requirements for making contact with individuals on Auburn streets and sidewalks just think of contact in the sense that ice hockey or American football are contact sports.

“Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

From a recent submission to Reason’s Brickbats column:

Mark Chase got a federal court order allowing him to paint on Ocean City, Maryland’s boardwalk without a license. That didn’t impress Baltimore police, who arrested him for painting at the Inner Harbor without a permit. When Chase complained that the permit requirements violated his constitutional rights, and officer told him “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

And of course the officer was right. So: to hell with the law. And to hell with paper constitutions that can do nothing effective to restrain it.

You can quote your constitutional rights all the way to the station-house, but it won’t stop you from getting good and due-processed whenever a cop feels that you’re on the wrong side of The Law. Which, of course, means nothing more or less than on the wrong side of Law Enforcement. Paper constitutions don’t do anything to hold back police abuse; only a culture of popular resistance, social accountability for abusive cops, and hard-driving community activism do that.

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner (1870). No Treason No. 6. The Constitution of No Authority

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