Monday, December 18, 2006

12.18.06 – “Abolitionist”? Nah, I’m Still An Anarchist

Glen Allport wrote a column at Strike the today whose thesis is that the term "anarchism" is bad. Not anarchism itself mind you, (i.e. opposing states and statism), but the label "anarchist" because the definitionally illiterate in the mainstream media equate anarchy with chaos and violence. And STR's owner and publisher apparently agrees with Allport too, given his endorsement in the tag line ("recommended" [to read] ), and making the column the first item in the article list.

"Civil society", says Allport, "requires nothing less than complete abolition of initiated coercion. If history and current events teach us nothing else, they teach us that initiated coercion is evil, and that when used widely and systematically (as every government does) it becomes, all too often, an evil of epic proportions. All excuses, schemes, and rationalizations for initiating coercion against others only create more coercion. We’ve tried 'the divine right of kings.' We’ve tried 'dictatorship of the proletariat.' We’ve tried 'democracy.' It doesn’t matter how you dress it up: initiating force or threats of force against peaceful human beings is a crime, and creates nothing but injustice, violence, and misery. Using the term ‘abolitionism’ points out that ALL forms of initiated coercion must go; belief that it is necessary or benign to initiate coercion for this or for that reason, or in some special manner, is delusional and dangerous.

So call me an abolitionist, please. I hope you will consider joining me in use of the term."

I guess it doesn't occur to Allport that the politically illiterate journalists, pundits, and academics will eventually conflate "abolitionist" with the anti-slavery movement in American history and begin to say, "[W]hat a crock! We don't have slavery in America any more. So what is this all about?" And then go on to dismiss or misinterpret what "abolitionists" must be about. And so the circle of misstatement is again complete.

Here is the email I sent Allport in re his column.

I agree with what you wrote here somewhat, but here is what I see as the problem. What will prevent politically illiterate mainstream journalists, academics and the punditry from redefining your new terminology negatively as well? As Ayn Rand famously noted 'A is A.’ If you don't believe in states or statism you are an anarchist by definition, and so calling yourself an ‘abolitionist’ changes nothing. So in the end, what is the point? To draw people into the freedom movement by making a name change that embarrasses them less? Good luck with this, but I don't think it'll work. You can call it a calamari sushi roll if you want to, but in the end you're still eating squid.” (12.18.06)

Life is short, and so you have to choose your goals and objectives carefully if you expect see any results in your lifetime, and this particular word game that Allport suggests we all enter into seems to me to be a sure bet to end up being a major and ultimately futile and time consuming waste of effort. That's how I see it anyhow.

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Quexalcote said...

That's about what I thought when I read that article too. After years of avoiding calling myself an anarchist, I've finally decided that it works just fine, and (particularly with people who already know me fairly well) it doesn't cause any confusion that I might be a wild-eyed bomb-thrower. It actually seems to be a lot less confusing than the term 'libertarian', which usually makes people think of an extra mean-spirited republican.

The Anarchist Flamethrower said...

The main issue for me is the whole "respectability thing." I have never thought that anarchy or anarchism will become a mass movement now or later, so I'm not especially concerned about what the sheep will think.
However STR and Allport do. Go figure.
To paraphrase Marx (Groucho) I don't want to belong to club that'd have me as a member.