In Memory - Sam Konkin, revolutionary man
Recently I've had a number of people die on me, generally unexpected. This is always difficult for me to deal with. As an optimist and a doer and shaker - or so I see myself - I assume that if there's a problem, then there's a solution. But then there's death. Some things simply cannot be undone.
One recent loss was a delightful 23 year old woman who I only knew over the phone. However, Kortney Zeman made such an impression that I was truly shocked and saddened to hear that she had died of hypothermia in a sudden storm in the mountains. It was almost unimaginable, and, of course, I kept thinking, with no logic to it, that there must have been something I could have done. I attended her memorial at the Regen House, where she had lived with a crew of fellow environmental radicals, mainly notorious for the recent, apparently unfounded, raid by the FBI in connection with the lot full of RVs that was torched by someone or other who left "ELF" graffitied around the crime scene.
The Regen folks didn't strike me as likely culprits, frankly, and, since then, in point of fact, the cops have arrested a couple of other guys for the torchings who apparently had no connection at all to Regen. They did do quite a job of creating a memorial for Kortney, with photos, poetry by and about her and a long night of remembering her. The best one can do in reality at this point. Those of you who saw "Zardoz," may contemplate the idea that other options might be forthcoming shortly as technology improves. For more details on this, check out the transhuman or extropy sites.
I was reminded of other young women that I knew who had died. One of them was a plucky girl who would never have won any beauty contest, but got by on personality and brains, and would have made the perfect lover for me if I had been so lucky or had any sense way back around 1968. I introduced her to pot, and was so blind that I skipped right by several references and ignored the patch over one eye as we smoked in my attic hideaway that one day. She had so little time left, and she wanted EVERYTHING!!! And she deserved it. But it was too late. I never saw her again, and all I know of her name is BJ. A whole world lost in her passing...
Then there was Laura Patrick, as far as I can recall now a near clone of China Beach's Dana Delaney, both in looks and personality - at least of the character in China Beach. Laura was the kind of girl that guys have a special name for - a "real sweetheart." Meaning, a girl that could not conceive of deliberately hurting another living being. Not that she was a prude, by any means. Just someone you could absolutely trust your life and honor to. The kind of woman that men die protecting.
Around 1970, again, and I came across a huddled group of her friends, weeping inconsolably. While she was on summer vacation from college, where she was barely surviving financially, as her family was far from wealthy, she was out driving with her five brothers when a drunk crossed over into her lane and hit them head-on, killing all six of them. The drunk survived. Laura still lives in my memory and that of perhaps a couple dozen others. I wish sometimes that there is that infinity of parallel universes that Hawkings suggests, some of which have Laura living out her life, happy.
I hardly knew these people, in reality, but most of us, I think, tend to grok people quickly, as a whole. Some people are instantly likeable. Some people we fall in love with in the first thirty seconds and never forget. Others we only learn to like over time, as we get past a prickly surface, and annoying quirks to the core person. Sometimes we are totally fooled, for a while, anyway, which is what the professional sociopath is about. Death puts a stop to the expectation of further revelations and forces us to sum up what a person meant to us and what they might have meant, had the life gone on. It suddenly makes us aware of all the lost opportunities, and should serve as a useful reminder not to let other such opportunities slip by.
Now I hear today that Sam Konkin is gone, with whom I spent hundreds of hours, and much discussion and debate. Who could have imagined it? A unique individual, as well as one of the really knowledgeable sources who had put all the background information on the BIG conspiracies of corporate fascism together. Not perfect, Sam often misjudged other people in his personal relationships - usually to the positive, and it often cost him dearly when they betrayed him. Like the drunk who murdered Laura, many of those who sucked up to Sam and played off his personal tolerance and refusal to believe the worst of anyone survive him. I do not envy them. They had the opportunity of a lifetime to enrich their lives by association with Sam, and they blew it. Sam always seemed larger than life, creating his own mythology around him. He radiated a cheerful calm wherever he went, with a humorous quip or story always at the tip of tongue, and an unlimited enthusiasm for life and the revolution. Just unbelievable to think of him dead...
(See the Jeff Riggenbach obit for some additional details on Sam's life and work.)
Also, try the Reason Foundation's comment site for a string of remarks, obits, and details on Sam and his impact.
I met Sam at the First Southern Libertarian Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1971. While I'm sure that no one expected it, this particular conference set a number of paths into which many, many, future events would track. Virtually all the big idea people of the new, radical, largely anarchist libertarian movement were there. I recall meeting Sam, his sidekick and intellectual trigger man, J. Neil Schulman, Bob Cohen (self-styled "anarcho-chauffer"), as well as Jarret Wollstein, who gave a terrific anarchist analysis of the fundamental problems with the state, and then an equally bad and destructive advocacy of a "libertarian ethic" (which STILL haunts us today) and then the New Banner Institute crew, with whom I would spend the next several tumultuous years plotting anarchy and Montessori education.
There was even a contingent of Bob LeFevre fans from California, who were so sadly outclassed intellectually by the East Coast groups following Rothbard or Rand, that they pretty much shut up and left after no one even wanted to attend their party. My life, as well as a few hundred others, was rechanneled by that single event, and Sam correctly perceived its significance at the time.
In the backdrop of the conference, however, a more sinister scene played itself out, one that would echo down the years of my and Sam's lives. Sam and his crew decided to get a taste of the "Old South." As Sam told me years later, he had been strongly influenced by an elementary school teacher, a young woman from the deep South who apparently doted on young Sammy. Transplanted somehow to Canada, she recreated an ante-bellum wonderland in her tales to her young charges, evoking the kind of deep spiritual lies found in "Gone With the Wind."
Setting a pattern for so much of his later life, Sam grafted his childhood infatuation with this pretty young teacher onto his later political theorizing, turning the slave-holders into benighted paternalistic heroes for independence. The Civil War became a glorious struggle for Southern independence against the onrushing Northern mercantilist corporate state. Not that Sam ever displayed any signs of racism... Despite his connections with the notorious Institute for Historical Review, Sam was about as rational on the issue of race as anyone I've ever met, and various Jews, blacks and other ethnicities were as close to him as anyone.
Thus, however, as would characterize Sam's entire intellectual and spiritual life as I witnessed it over more than three decades, a romantic vision transfigured a more ugly reality. Yes, the United States of the North was an evil empire of mercantilist proto-fascism, with Lincoln the champion for virtually every manner of the tyranny that emerged later in fascist Italy or NAZI Germany. The deep South, however, was hardly any kind of utopia. Slavery was and is an ugly, brutal, evil institution, combining murder, kidnapping, theft, with the loss of every vestige of human dignity and hope. The evil motives of the ultra-wealthy Northern political puppeteers, disguised as patriotism and abolitionism (but only when patriotism later flagged under the truly horrific rates of casualty), in no way ameliorated the deep spiritual evil of the Southern racism and slavery.
So, here we have Sam, attending the premier forum for the advancement of freedom in modern history, culminating his trek with a visit to an Atlanta restaurant specializing in recreating a never-existed dream embodying the exact opposite, from the black children dressed in little knickerbockers - is that the correct term? - uniforms, black with striping and little billed caps, exactly like one of those offensive little statues you used to see on people's lawns or by the front entrance, greeting the guests, to the entire panoply of a strange, twisted excuse for evil.
Years later, at Sam's Long Beach "Anarcho-Village," I slept on Sam's couch under a huge Confederate flag stretched across the wall. Ironically, I had a dispute with a black neighbor over a continuously barking dog during that period. The neighbor at one point called the swat team in, alleging that I had threatened him with a gun. (Not true.) Now imagine me trying to explain myself to the Long Beach cops while sitting under Sam's Stars and Bars.
When I moved to Long Beach, CA, in early '76, from Columbia, South Carolina, I naturally went first to the "Anarcho-Village," just West of Cherry on 7th street, and frankly a dump. But the core of Sam's "New Libertarian" crew were all there - J. Neil Schulmann, Victor Koman, Bob Cohen, Charles Curly and Andy Thornton. Nearly every night was packed with intense argument about theory, strategy, history, art, science fiction. During the days, while my funds lasted, I read thru as much of Sam's library as I could stuff into my brain, including Max Stirner's "The Ego and His Own," which influenced me strongly and helped me uncover the repressive mental habits that I still nourished in myself. In the years to follow, the local non-LP (Libertarian Party - "PartyArcs" (Sam's designation)), or, better, anti-LP libertarian movement gravitated to Sam and his following, and, for well over a decade, the Anarcho Village was a center of libertarian anarchist thought and plot.
Sam, himself, had fled from New York City with his little crew after an abortive attempt to sabotage the Libertarian Party, the details of which are probably available somewhere still as he documented them in print in either his "New Libertarian" magazine or his later "New Libertarian Weekly," (Click here and then do a text find on New Libertarian) for which I wrote several articles. He considered the New York fiasco merely a stepping stone to greater effort, and, from everything I heard or overheard, continued nationwide plots to destroy the LP via his various "New Libertarian" associates for at least as long as I kept in close contact.
I had learned to trust Sam after the State of South Carolina had cracked down on the New Banner Institute, alleging child abuse, around 1973, but in fact, as the County Solicitor John Ford declared to all and sundry at their first court hearing, out to get "those atheists" off the streets of Columbia - as well as putting a stop to all that "race mixing." (We had kids of both of the top S. Carolina black politicians - "I.S." Levy Johnson and Tom Broadwater - in our College of Early Learning.) Oddly enough, most of the libertarian movement appeared to have accepted the state's charges without the slightest question. Sam alone, among influential libertarians nationwide, stood up for the Institute.
(The charges were all later dropped, and that County Solicitor - for whom it was said that "he would doubtless die in office - one way or another," such was his popularity among the Bible pounders - was voted out of office, largely because of the outrage over his attack on the Institute. The parents of the kids in our school - mostly non-libertarian themselves - virtually made it their life's work to defeat the man.
This is even more impressive when one considers that the same Richland County Solicitor had utterly smashed the local very large and active New Left Anti-War movement, by planting his agents among them, then arresting them on bogus charges of selling drugs at their anti-war coffeehouse, and then prosecuting them, while never mentioning that among the defendants, privy to all the private meetings with the defense attorneys, were his paid informants. At least one of that era's victims, Brett Bursey, spent serious time in a state prison for his anti-war work and is still today working his way through the appellate system on some of them dating from the Vietnam war, which illustrates - to me, anarchist, anyway - how futile that state (generic "state", including federal, state, local) court system route generally is. I'm always amazed to hear people expressing dismay over the fact that their enemies haven't given them a fair shake.)
I slept on Sam's living room couch for about six months from my arrival in Long Beach in '76. It was both a happy and unhappy time. I thoroughly enjoyed the radical hotbed atmosphere, but I found myself alienated more and more from the subjectivism and power plays that permeated the group. I had just escaped from a psycho-drama in Columbia, South Carolina, in which the New Banner people (those who had not been purged by their Great Leader or his Perfect Romantic Partner wife - who he later kidnapped) had been involved in a nationally televised kidnapping, the details of which are so bizarre that if I described it, no one would believe me, I suspect. For the previous year, I had lived in daily fear for my life from people who were gun nuts for real - and all I wanted to do was start a revolution, please.
On that very first night I spent in California, at the Anarcho-Village, I almost turned around and drove back to the East Coast. I had come to California because it seemed from a distance that here was where the revolution would really be happening. I had formulated several possible revolutionary strategies and assumed that people here would be eager to hear of them and would have ideas of their own to present and defend.
In hindsight, I think that few Californians appreciate how the rest of the country perceives them. At the University of Georgia, we all heard about the wild parties, the rampant drugs, the anti-war radicalism, etc., the intellectual fervor, centered at Berkeley, but assumed to be part of the "California scene." So, we tried to compete, naturally. I suspect that we did a lot more in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia, than Berkeley ever dreamt of. To illustrate, in 1975 a wave of "streaking" hit college campuses nationwide. Frat cats, and some sorority girls taped little wings to their ankles and then dashed madly across campuses in the nude.
At the University of South Carolina, the news of California streakers aroused the competitive spirit. Instead of a few rare instances, dozens of streakers of both sexes constantly raced about eluding the typically fat, middle-aged campus cops with ease.* However, the university authorities had learned their lesson from the war protests. Official opposition just encouraged the typical hormone-charged college student. So, they co-opted it, staging an official streak-in, with a band, bleachers and a start and finish line, and, sure enough, hundreds of students of both sexes showed up for it, and that ended the streaking. (Sure wish video cams had been around back then.)
*The general capabilities of South Carolina law enforcement during this period could hardly be underrated. The Keystone Cops were more competent. On the University of South Carolina campus, local gang bangers marched around wooden-leggedly, with lock cutters stuffed up their pants. The Campus Cops could not touch them, allegedly, without further evidence, and thus there was a huge trade in stolen bicycles. Worse, there was a long, high, elevated ramp over the athletics area in a deep little rift valley behind the campus. Somehow, multiple rapes of coeds were occurring on this ramp at night, mostly by black males from the projects just past the end of the ramp, and no one could figure out how to stop it. While prostitution was definitely illegal, as well, it was booming all around Columbia. And when homosexuality was legally still a felony, Columbia boasted one of the largest and most active gay communities on the East Coast. There were stringent blue laws as well, with liquor sales verboten after midnight - unless you were in a private club, of which there were hundreds, with membership costing typically a dollar, where you could drink all night.
The reality of the California dream is much closer to the nightmare depicted in the classic movie, "Vanishing Point." California is a bureaucratic, boring, stupid state - especially Southern California. (I do like San Francisco - a lot.) Intellectual activity is rare and actively discouraged. A party without a heated political or philosophical argument in New York City is considered a failure. In California, the hostess will angrily break up any such activity. Typical California parties feature extremely loud music, specifically to prevent people from talking. Californians are anal. They don't curse drivers that cut them off; they shoot them.
So, here I was, a newbie to the great American Dreamland. We were all crowded into Neil's tiny Anarcho Village (AV) apartment, sharing the space with hundreds of books and albums, and I got into a rant about how we could use known techniques of child-rearing, based on Montessori, to raise the intelligence of a group of children to the point that they would all be functioning geniuses. I had been researching this field since the late '60's, when I stumbled across "the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill," right about the same time that I had been reading about Montessori in the Ayn Rand Newsletter. I figured that if we got a bunch of libertarian parents together to join in on the effort, then the majority of the kids would grow up as committed revolutionaries, and, with their brains to boot, they would create the revolution for us.
Further research had convinced me that if you started with a baby, enriching the environment, providing coherent, appropriate feedback, a child of normal genetic endowment could be raised to genius level. Montessori herself appeared to be in basic agreement with the idea. She felt that one of the flaws in her system was that it started too late - age 2 or 2.5. However, she had enough on her plate with the thousands of Montessori schools worldwide, and she also could not figure out how to make a business of it, especially as she concluded that an infant should not be separated from its mother.
At the Anarchist Montessori School that the New Banner Institute (who I had met at that famous First Southern Libertarian Conference) started, the still operating College of Early Learning, we had kids aged six or seven who could read a newspaper with adult comprehension and were starting in algebra. They could find any spot on a map or globe, and discuss both the time line and logic of evolution. These kids had started with us at ages three to five. How much more powerful would a child who had had that kind of advantage from birth become?
In addition, at the CEL, we had expanded the Montessori Environment to include ethics. The CEL featured a school monetary system (on the "cookie standard"). School jobs such as cleaning tables were put up for bid. Disputes were arbitrated by the kids themselves, and the arbitrars charges for their services. As far as possible, we tried to create a working, functioning anarchist utopia within the school, and it was working!
Montessori, for those who are not familiar with her, was a revolutionary in her own right, and not "just" in education. For her, the question was how to change society. She concluded that simply passing on our adult concepts to our kids would yield successive generations of degraded knowledge, like a xerox of a xerox of a xerox. Instead, each generation must be given the tools and the opportunities to discover truths for themselves. From their own original perspective, they would have the personal power to grasp the reality of their time and forge their own dreams, building upon the past, but with new elements of their own discovery. Thus, the Montessori school is a laboratory, with equipment designed to be self-correcting. As far as possible, the learning process is based directly upon the scientific method. There are no authorities but the individual mind of the child.
Montessori believed that when people were individually weak, then societies became easily infected with corrupt ideas like Nazism, that played on weakness, offering to solve problems if only one submits and believes the Great Leader. Strong, competent individuals who knew that they could depend upon their own minds were the best antibodies for such social illnesses. Anne Frank, for example, was a Montessori child. Thus, the Montessori child chooses his or her own work in the Environment for Discovery. No one, including the directors, has the right to interfere, unless the child starts acting in a way destructive to the environment itself.
As I said, I agreed with Montessori's tentative conclusion that starting even earlier would yield even better results, and I made it clear that I was NOT suggesting putting pressure on the child. That has been the mistake of all too many who have attempted this path. J.S. Mill and William James Sidis are good examples of what happens when you force-feed a child - altho J.S. Mill did accomplish a huge amount of good work in his life, in spite of the neurotic legacy of his father's pressure.
However, returning to that fateful night in Long Beach, Neil Schulman had clearly been Sam's right hand man, and suddenly here I was, the notorious renegade "banneristi," (another term coined by Sam, of course)exactly the kind of person that Sam romanticized - as he did everyone he met, I think - into some kind of living archetype - moving in, literally. So, when I described the kind of children who might evolve, given the opportunity to fully engage and evolve their minds at the optimum age, I made the error of referring to them as "Supermen." Neil's gleeful and instant response was to shout at me, "You're a goddamn fucking NAZI!!!"
I almost left right then, and it might have been a better choice. Instead, I spent the next decade or so attempting to work with people who openly insulted me at every meeting with great moral satisfaction and glee. The first and only time that I offered to drive the Sam - and that meant Neil as well - to dinner, for example, Neil took great delight in gratuitously insulting Ayn Rand, referring to her as "that old bag." Since Neil himself has always acknowledged Rand as a primary source of his own philosophy, it's clear that his aim was at me, and he did succeed in infuriating me. Neil clearly saw me as a primary foe in his jealous clinging to Sam. In fact, a great deal of Neil's behavior over the next decade could be hypothetically explained by this simple hypothesis - drive off every other potential major ally and then you have Sam for yourself.
The libertarian movement, by 1976, had already gone through several divisive schisms. There was the Rand/Rothbard break. Then the Rand / Galambos split that resulted when Galambos, according to him in a private discussion with me, stupidly insulted Rand (without meaning to, but Galambos did that a LOT) resulting in Rand's infamous attack on her misinterpretation of Galambos's "Competing Governments" idea. This was doubly tragic in that the reason for Galambos' trip to see Rand in New York City was to get her permission to produce her major novel, "Atlas Shrugged," as a movie, which he had the funds to do. Then the Branden / Rand break up. And the split among objectivists over the limited government vs. anarchy issue. Then there was the multitude of people who had at one point been avid students of Galambos and then succumbed to his personal nastiness and the growing paranoia that foreshadowed Galambos's descent into Alzheimer’s, of which the Rand episode was relatively mind by comparison. And, finally, the LP vs. anti-LP.
On the East Coast, I had only caught pieces of this in passing, altho it always struck me as odd how the great leaders (ultimately, Great Leader (singular) after the others were all purged and the women only had one stud left), of the New Banner group were always putting down any possible worth of any other libertarian groups. Why the movement took this disastrous turn is still a mystery in many ways, but turn it did, away from useful revolutionary activism, away from critical fundamental analysis, away from organizing practical projects implementing its philosophy in the real world, and toward a competition over an ultimately shrinking pie - the movement itself.
I well recall attending the various libertarian supper clubs in the late '70's thru early '80's and the response I often got if I attributed to Rand. People felt impelled to shout me down in a fury at the mere mention of her name. I wasn't trying to use an argument from authority, nor slavishly follow any objectivist line - I had many disagreements with Rand. I just wanted to place credit where due. No matter. Any mention of her was verboten.
To get an idea of what has been lost, it is instructive to look up back issues of libertarian journals from that period. Almost invariably they included a rich want-ads section, with all sorts of fascinating offers and opportunities for projects, free-market banks, schools, grey-market vitamins by the kilogram, etc. By the mid-80's, all that was pretty much gone. What energy there was had been sucked up in political action by the Libertarian Party, ultimately burning out most of the potential revolutionaries. Sam and I both saw how potentially destructive the party could be - and ultimately was in many instances and respects. The big difference came in that I considered Sam's tactics of infiltrate, sabotage and attack to be likely to simply make it all worse, using up more valuable energy while doing little to correct the problem. I concluded that the party was there to stay, so we might as well figure out how to work around it and convince people of better strategies.
While I am a glutton for punishment and was willing to put up with insults and worse, many others did leave the local libertarian scene, and, in fact, I lay it to Sam's credit - and that of his following, to be sure, but Sam could have stopped it - that the local Southern California libertarian movement was largely destroyed and dissipated over the following decade. Neil, in particular, made a point of shouting down the speakers at local libertarian supper clubs, if they dared deviate from Sam's Agorist anti-political line, leaving many others who had come to hear the speaker fuming in rage at Neil's antics. Sam's crew took a local hotbed science fiction scene which had been strongly libertarian in its leanings and, within a few years, had converted it to "libertarians not welcome."
A classic example of Neil at his worst came at a meeting of the South Bay Libertarian Supper Club around 1978. Olivia Cole, co-star of "Backstairs at the Whitehouse", as well as several movie roles, had been promoting a local private, mostly black school and cultural center - Sheenway. Olivia is one of the really nice people of the world, and, with no idea of what libertarians were about, presented a fine overview of what Sheenway stood for. Sheenway had offered an alternative to the kids who otherwise would have spent their youths in what are euphemistically termed "schools" in Watts. While these public prisons for kids were offering an education in violence and drugs, Sheenway provided first class academic education tailored to the individual child, including Montessori pre-school and karate classes.
Sheenway had been started by Dr. Sheen as his response to the Watts riots. When he died, his daughter, Delores Blunt Sheen, with all kinds of degrees and a black belt in karate took over. She cultivated contacts with Hollywood via many black and white performers, and managed to start careers in show biz for many Sheenway students as a result, including her son, Erin, who played in "The Bad News Bears Go To Japan."
I think this is the connection to Jody Foster, who later became a strong supporter of Sheenway (Hey! I sat ten feet behind Jody at a benefit ceremony honoring people who had contributed to Sheenway, where I also got a plaque(!) for my work in getting Sheenway computer access leading to the highly successful "Computer Gang Project," financed by Richard Prior.). At that point, however, it was Jody's mother (as I understand it, anyway), Sara, who was very active in the libertarian movement, who was the direct connection between Sheenway, Olivia Cole and the supper club. Sara had been volunteering at Sheenway after hearing about them in the papers after the school had been vandalized - apparently by gangs (altho I know a different story on that, as well.)
So, Olivia gave her excellent presentation, with slides, etc., and asked for questions.... At which point Neil starts in, sneering, in a voice that would serve as a shout for most people, something like, "Well, I don't consider any school to be libertarian that has the students pledging allegiance to the most oppressive imperialist power on the planet! ... Meaning, of course, the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag, of which Olivia had shown a slide.
Olivia took it in stride, altho I'm sure it did not especially turn her toward libertarianism. However, I overheard two large men after the meeting had ended, discussing Neil as follows. One of them said ~ "You know, I haven't been so mad in years. If that A--h--e ever pulls anything like that again, I will personally throw him out on his ass!" To which the other responded, "And I will help you." I later discovered that these gentlemen were running a philosophical discussion forum focused on objectivism.
(Regarding "throwing Neil out on his ass," it probably would have taken both of them at minimum. Neil is ENORMOUS. He is tall, very large-boned, AND quite obese. A truculent Baby Huey is an apt visual metaphor. Neil is quite capable and willing to physically intimidate. Simply stepping in front of someone (or two) and thereby blocking their access to a speaker, or answering himself whenever someone near to him is being recognized by the floor (pretending that he thinks it is he that has been recognized and daring anyone to do anything about it, these and a dozen other tactics that Neil has perfected pose near insurmountable obstacles to any kind of free intellectual intercourse in his presence. Most speakers are not prepared to deal with him, and he gets quite belligerent if called on his behavior, which can be even more intimidating. Of course, there are equalizers.....
In spite of Neil - or perhaps even partially out of embarrassment for his behavior - the South Bay Libertarian Supper Club committed itself to providing a fairly large sum of money to Sheenway to allow them to put in escrow a large section of the block on which the school was located so that they could expand into a full-featured high-school. Usually, I suspect, Neil's interruptions simply served to drive people away from whatever venue he attended.
Sam's crew also severely and quite deliberately damaged the highly successful "Future of Freedom" conference series that had been started by (now congressman, but then anarchist revolutionary and pot-smoking draft resister - see the "New Republic" coverage - if you can find it, as most of the data on Rohrabacher has mysteriously disappeared - or google on: "Gene Berkman" "Dana") Dana Rohrabacher', and then revived by local activist Larry Samuels. Allegedly their motivation was based in moral purity.
Sam's crew, arrived en masse at the organizing meeting for the 2nd of the FoFCon series that Larry Samuels sponsored. I don't think that any of them had attended any prior meetings. The fix was in. They objected to the conference being held at a state university (Cal State Long Beach), and, failing to sway the conference committee on that issue, instead disrupted the meeting and prevented much-needed progress, deliberately sowing discord and setting committee members against each other. I still have an audio tape of that meeting, including Neil Schulman's classic performance, in which his interruptions went for a longer period of time than I was allowed to speak for my own presentation on reorganizing the conference financially. The previous conference had made money!! My suggestions centered around converting the con into a share-holding enterprise based on the common law trust model that Anthony Hargis was promoting.
(Note: the March 17, 2004, "Orange County Register" business section, page 2, had a short story indicating that Anthony L. Hargis has been ordered incarcerated indefinitely until he turns over the names of his customers to the local federal judge. Further info can be found by googling around on "Anthony" "Hargis" "federal" "court".
Briefly, Hargis has been in business for the past nearly three decades, offering accounts denominated in either gold or dollars for people who want to cheaply invest or hedge in gold without paying the sizable premiums that coin dealers charge. His primary focus has been on capital preservation in the face of inflation, a subject on which he has given many seminars, altho doubtless other people used his services for other purposes, such as paying bills reliably when they were out of the country on extended personal or business affairs. The feds are apparently alleging that Hargis is running a tax avoidance warehouse bank. Interesting that such a fishing expedition can take place now under the new federal mandates that allow demanding of customer records from car dealerships or just about any business, on mere suspicion of wrongdoing - to protect us from those who would take away our rights as free Amerikans, naturally...)
I felt that one of the major problems of the libertarian movement was that, although it lauded the free market as the answer to everything, it utterly failed - with rare exceptions, such as Hargis, whose gold depository is still running quite successfully today* (see note above, however) - to incorporate business models into its own proceedings and enterprises. Asking people to buy shares in the next FOFcon and offering to pay workers and speakers in such shares seemed like a step in that direction that was long overdue.
* ALH & Co. was open for business on Saturday, March 20, 2004, and is still functioning as usual as of yesterday (03/24/04). No word yet on Anthony, who is still incarcerated. The customers with whom I spoke on Saturday were mostly confident that they will be able to handle whatever the feds come up with. General belief seems to be that this is supposed to set an example. If Hargis folds and turns over his customer data for the fed's fishing expedition, then a lot of softer targets will surrender without a fight. I find it particularly egregious that while ALH&Co. is targeted on the basis of suspicion that some of his customers might be doing something wrong, there are thousands of foreign companies in the U.S., especially Taiwanese, who have one company here and one company there - totally separate, you understand? And they sell to themselves, setting the prices so that the U.S. side makes little or no taxable income, while the Taiwanese, etc., side takes all the profits and simply keeps them (minus payoffs to the local politicians to keep their market shares intact).
U.S. companies then get to pay for all the infrastructure while the foreign companies get everything for free and are able to set prices just below the point that any American manufacturer can compete. THERE's where all the money is going! And there's why all the manufacturing is disappearing. Probably half a $trillion, mostly from California, sucked right out... Do you hear me, Arnold?
Back at the FoFCon committee, Neil, however, and a couple of conference committee members, including Terry Diamond took the position that libertarian events were and ought to be altruistic acts of love, not commercial enterprises. (Terry also had personal reasons to oppose me in general.) Neil declared, "these things NEVER make money. Why would anyone invest in a money loser?" As I mentioned, the immediately prior FOFcon had in fact made money, but Neil was not interested in facts.
I had painfully - with a cut nerve in my left hand - typed up and zeroxed a several-page set of analyses and recommendation, including a cover picture showing the flow of input and output for a share-holding conference. Neil took one look at my hand-drawn illustration and, smirking, shouted, "That looks like an amoeba!," followed by a choreographed storm of laughter by the wrecking crew from the AV.
In reality, as I guessed at the time and was confirmed to me years later by a witness to the actual conspiring, Sam's New Libertarians had plans for their own conference, and hoped to kill FOFcon, the only competition. Yet again, they only succeeded in hurting the movement. Their conference never went beyond talk, and I left the con committee in disgust. (The theme and most of the events at the prior FOFcon had been my ideas.)
It was I, sad to say, who was primarily responsible, I believe, for creating the truly destructive connection between Sam Konkin's group, who were largely followers of the anarchist economist, Murray Rothbard, and the local Randian schism group following George Smith, author of "Atheism, the Case Against God." I had hoped that by bringing the groups together, since both groups were schismatic from the original source, (Sam considered himself to be a better Rothbardian than Rothbard and George was of the Branden side of the Ayn Rand/Nathaniel Branden split, and then also of the Objectivist/anarchist split) that a new synergy might emerge. Crucial problems such as children's rights might be more cogently considered from dual perspectives.
Instead, George became more and more like a religious leader to his following, and savagely attacked me in print and behind my back - once allegedly accusing me of being a likely police agent (I was living in my van at the time), in response to my various heresies. Worst of all, however, George and his lover and fellow libertarian "leader," Wendy McElroy began promoting a new concept of their own called "Sniping From the Grey Areas."
Whenever some annoying person, such as myself, would ask about issues that had not yet been resolved in libertarian theory, such as original property claims or the limits of property claims (can I claim my view out to the horizon as property, inasmuch as I specifically chose to build my hotel here because of that view? Or, what about intellectual property? Or, is property in some sense absolute - such that you can in fact store nuclear weapons in your basement without violating the rights of your neighbors - or does it consist of a bundle of provisional rights acquired through negotiation.) or children's rights, then George or Wendy, whichever (or both) happened to speaking that night at some supper club, would invoke "sniping from the grey areas" to avoid dealing with the issue and subtly damn the unfortunate who raised it. "Hey, We're the intellectuals here! Who are YOU to imply that We have missed something. Just pay your money and tell us we're Gods and shut up. OK?"
Imagine what would have happened in the sciences if that had been a guiding principle? How far would Galileo have gotten? It is precisely by looking at the cases where a paradigm breaks down that progress occurs, as in the Michelson/Morley experiments that led indirectly to Einstein's relativity, or the tiny discrepancies in the predicted orbit of Mercury that verified it. Now you see one of the reasons that most intellectual inquiry within the libertarian movement came to a virtual dead halt during the '80's, and is still largely moribund.
Of course, the energy poured into the LP vs. anti-LP battles, as well as the LP's own discouragement of non-LP activism and it's brittle stance that most of the great issues had been resolved - so we don't need any more intellectual debates, please - were also factors. However, when the intellectual leaders of a movement betray it on the most fundamental epistemological level, the outcome is predictable. George and Wendy are still major voices in the movement, as a quick googling will verify, and I have yet to see them reject that anti-thought, anti-truth position.
This kind of intellectual dishonesty - which it certainly is, as no person of the intellect and intellectual background of George or Wendy could produce so profoundly evil a concept innocently - in fact continues to be reflected in their more recent work. For example, check out this by Wendy. Note the central fallacy by which she manipulates the discussion to evade the issue. Posed the question "If there had been no other strategies possible, would you have voted against Hitler?", (taken in the context of the prior question: "If you could have cast the deciding vote against Hitler, would you have done so?") Wendy simply refuses to acknowledge the hypothetical possibility.
Yet this is not valid logic. There is nothing in the nature of reality that precludes the possibility that one might be in such a situation. Such situations - where one is placed in a predicament of being required to do something which one objects to in principle or face a much greater loss - are unfortunately all too common in a world ruled all to often by evil people. Unless one can show that the situation itself is inherently impossible, or so unlikely as to be moot at worst, one cannot simply reject such a hypothetical and retain any credibility for one's position. It is precisely by formulating hypothetical situations that isolate variables that we pin down the real principles.
However, just as in George's generally excellent primer on atheism "Atheism, the Case Against God," whenever he runs into an argument that he truly does not quite know how to answer, he gets exceedingly verbose, so Wendy falls back on obfuscation to avoid having to deal with a real logical challenge to her position. This tactic works to delude people like Sam, who was limited to the level of consistency in his critiques, as well as his overall thinking. Anyone actually versed in logic, however, can easily pick their pieces apart. And, I don't mean in the trivial sense of finding minor semantic or deductive flaws in the arguments without considering the overall validity, which is itself a hallmark of the intellectually dishonest, but rather in the sense as illustrated above, of fatally wrong argumentation that systematically incorporates fallacy in ways designed to fool the less logically educated into thinking that a real argument has been advanced.
George and Wendy are hardly the only intellectuals to take this route in the libertarian movement. Andrew Galambos, for example, was terrified that people would label him as an "anarchist," which he was, as a matter of fact, according to the commonly held definition of anarchy. He advocated a system of "governance" based on competing market agencies, with no "monopoly on force." This is anarchy as it is meant by most anarchists, historically and today. Yet Galambos, in his fear of scaring off his audiences from Los Angeles yuppiedom, who were paying him A LOT of money for his ideas, consistently damned all "anarchists." Ironically, one of his heroes, often referred to in those lectures, was Lysander Spooner. I pointed out to him that Spooner was considered the father of American individualist anarchism, of which he denied having any knowledge, even though he had extensive references to Spooner's work, especially regarding the natural law basis of intellectual property, which was a cornerstone of Galambos's philosophy. I truly doubt that Galambos did not know that Spooner was an anarchist..
Then there is David Freidman, anarchist son of Nobel Laureate and founder of the "Chicago School of Economics," Milton Freidman. David keeps using the same fallacy in his argumentation, a fallacy that I simply cannot believe he is blind to. To wit: arguing in "Liberty" magazine that people should be moral - actually, based on the "libertarian ethic" yet again, restricted to not stealing or defrauding - because one can show that living dishonestly requires an additional load of mental processing in order to conceal ones real identity and intentions.
SO WHAT??? Every career choice involves specific costs. Some people no doubt have better natural or acquired skills at dishonesty, just as others have a bent for mathematics or plumbing. If everyone tries to be a professional criminal, then obviously everyone will be worse off. But if only those people who have natural skills and proclivities choose that career path, then, if that is the only criteria, that has to be seen as a rational career choice. Thus, David's argument - posed as a general answer to the question of "Why Anyone is Moral" - fails completely.
I sent the above argument, with additional examples of David employing the same fallacy in other contexts to "Liberty" in response to David's article. I got back a sarcastic response, noting that they were returning my manuscript (which they did not.), after having a good laugh, Note that I also included in my response the REAL reason to be moral, for which the "Liberty" publishers apparently either had no interest or were intellectually incapable of understanding.
During the period of the late '70's thru early '80's, I did not see that much of Sam or the AV, as I got quite busy. I instigated the computer access for Sheenway, which accomplished what I was after, which was to demonstrate conclusively that income or ethnicity were not blocks to kids successfully learning and using computers, a position taken seriously by some influential luddite leftists under Carter. They were even proposing to bar computers from the schools and require licenses for individuals to have one at home. Their justification was that computers would pose yet another exacerbating factor in racial and class divisions in America. I proved them wrong, conclusively, and very publicly. They could talk all they wanted after the Sheenway and following Computer Gang Project, but anyone who seriously investigated would discover the facts.
Simultaneously, and while working full time and battling a Long Beach gang trying to take over my townhouse complex, I had been doing an in-depth research projects on the problems with day care. I had met Warren Olney at a "Contact" conference aimed at getting the public into public access radio and TV. There, I had asked Olney the following: "If I were able to demonstrate that it was unnecessary state regulations that did nothing to improve the safety or well-being of day-care kids that was pricing day care out of the range for low income parents, would you be willing to devote a special to it?" He said that he would, and I did.
Not only did I do what I promised, involving interviewing day care directors, including Ruth Dressor of the famous Santa Monica Montessori - the first Montessori school on the West Coast, started by Tom Laughlin ("Billy Jack") and also the head of the California Day Care Association, and attending all kinds of State sessions for day care directors, but I was able to point to an apparent conspiracy by the public teachers unions, who appeared to be financing experts in academia who would come to the regulatory sessions and try to convince the Social Services Dept. to add even more ridiculous regulations. The reason, according to the head of the Day Care Association, was that they would see a 15% increase in union membership if day care were incorporated into the state public schools.
Unfortunately, I was seriously injured on the job right at the point that I was putting everything together to take to Olney, and everything went on hold and ultimately I was never able to complete the mission.
Another factor was that I got active in the income tax resistance movement at work, where I was actually approached by other workers who were already involved. I was shamed into joining with them, even though I felt sure they would be ultimately smashed - and they were. However, I got hit from another side as well. I put on a protest of my own in front of the Long Beach Post Office at 3rd and Long Beach Blvd. on April 15th, with placards that read, " Support the American Banking Empire - Contribute Today," and, on the other side, "The Death Squads Need Your Help - Donate Here." My little camper was pulled up in front of the start of the special Income Tax lane that wrapped around the block, with a huge banner, "Support Nuclear War - Turn Right Ahead!" I noticed the bankers in their suits from the bank next door to the Post Office pointing and gesturing toward my placards.
A week later, April 22nd, I was arrested in my camper where I was sleeping in the park along with fifty or so other campers (it was still legal then and a cheap, easy, peaceful way to live), and charged with "Loitering With Children," based on testimony by park officials that I had had a camera in my possession while children were playing in the park. No victims alleged. No witnesses to any crime. It cost me the next year of my life in defending myself and about $50,000 lost on a major business deal I was unable to pursue, plus lawyer's fees. The final official court record reads "defendant exonerated."
During the period before the court declared me - not "not guilty," but officially "innocent," I was excluded from by my fellow libertarians from speaking at the Future of Freedom Conference that I had been so active in reorganizing, even though I had not been convicted of any crime and no victims were ever named, Long Beach police officers used to pull up beside me in their black-and-whites and, over their bullhorn, shout gleefully, "Hey, how does it feel to be a felon?, and for decades afterwards, my enemies within the libertarian movement - including an actual child molester who is serving an indefinite sentence in the criminally insane ward for his proclivities at last notice - told people that I was a convicted child molester.
And, at the Anarcho-Village, one of the non-libertarian members tried to convince me that he was actually a spy, working for the Long Beach Police, and that the plans were that I would surely be killed once I went to jail, as a "short-eyes." I told Sam of his claims, and Sam called him on the carpet, where he backed down and said that he was just "scaring Phil for fun." Later, he told me that if I ever told on him again, he would kick my head in. A fun guy, and incredibly popular with the ladies at all the parties that various libertarians were constantly hosting during the late '70's thru early '80's.
And, not least, there was the Iranian affair. When the hostages were taken, the rush to war seemed unstoppable. The Shah was financing out of his alleged stolen $17 billion an enormous propaganda campaign here in the U.S., with giant rallies and burning effigies of Khomeini. Carter was apparently being blackmailed meanwhile by the Savak, the Shah's notorious secret police, who were known to have committed many assassinations - mostly of Iranian dissidents - here in the U.S. without suffering any apparent consequences. Now they were reportedly telling Carter that if he didn't put the Shah back in power, they would reveal the names of hundreds of U.S. operatives within the Soviet Union, who they knew because the Iranian border had been the major conduit for American spies - and they controlled the border.
But, war with Iran would mean a 7,000 mile supply line and a war with a military that was U.S. trained, with U.S. jets, and millions of fanatics who had already shown themselves willing to die. It would be a nightmare, literally, for both sides. And then there was the Soviet Union, right across that border. This would give every excuse for the hardliner militaries factions to expand in every other 3rd world country in Africa and Asia and Central and South America. The U.S. would be tied up in Iran. And the Soviet intelligencia that fully saw the implications of the onrushing information revolution and were pushing for radical change would be shut up as the U.S. fulfilled its image as an evil imperialist.
Bad, bad, bad...
So, what to do? I had come to the conclusion, after observing how our tiny Institute in South Carolina was able to leverage events to huge political advantage on numerous occasions, that the power of a single individual is vastly underrated. This is especially true when one is being opposed by institutionalized lies, as was clearly the case with Iran. This was clearly a perfect test case for my theory.
So, I sat down with a bottle of port wine and in the course of going through it, I figured out that if I could trigger a media incident directly involving people in the hostage American Embassy, it might result in a media deluge on Teheran, as all the American media always seize on one big story and push it way past any rational limits. Putting ABC, NBC and CBS all on target zero would make it very difficult to start bombing. The only problem was that, after one lone Texas radio DJ (as best I recall) had managed to get through to the Embassy, the State Dept. had clamped down on the then monopolized phone system, giving orders not to let ANYONE through, but especially not media.
So, I called the late local L.A. (later national) talk show host, Ray Bream, who had been issuing invitations all that evening for people with any solution other than WAR! And you could tell that he WANTED to go to war SO BAD! Defend Amerika's HONOR! The local British Embassy even called in and suggested that if the U.S. would just cool the rhetoric and let things calm down that it would all work out. The Iranians weren't going to let these "students" kill the American Embassy personnel. Bream politely called them a bunch of wimps and went on with his crocodile tears over this terrible choice Amerika was faced with.
"And so, people, what choice do we realistically have. The Embassy is Amerikan territory, just as much as where you're sitting. These 'students have attacked us on our territory, and the Iranian government refuses to intercede. What more do we need as a declaration of war? We ARE at war. How we deal with it will determine the future course of our place in the world, whether anyone takes up seriously ever again... etc."
So then I got through and explained my plan to date: Let's have all the people who really don't want to see their sons, nephews, grandsons, or whoever go off to die in a thoroughly stupid and useless war with a bunch of religious nuts simply go to Teheran and talk to the students, meanwhile putting themselves on target zero and sucking in the media. Or, if they can't personally go, pay someone else. ANYONE! Whatever crazy fringe group - doesn't matter. The media will follow, and then we'll have too many Americans in the line of fire, or trying to independently resolve things and negotiate with the Iranians, and everything will become so confused that no one will know who is in charge any more.... And Bream totally lost it and flung down the phone with a CRASH! and started screaming incoherently at it....
And I knew I was onto something.
So, then I called Roy Tuckman (aka Roy of Hollywood) at the local Pacifica Station, KPFK, and explained my plan and what had happened with Bream. Roy agreed it sounded like a good idea, and suggested that I call in on Thursday night, when he would have on a special guest, Elliot Mintz, who I had never heard of.
Roy had essentially taken over his Monday - Thursday, Midnight -6AM slot from Elliot in the early '70's, after Elliot had a nervous breakdown from all the stress of handling suicides and girls who just got a letter about their boyfriend being killed in Nam and bad drug trips and all the sorrows and desperations that LA kids handed him because he was there and he could help, for real, and that's WHY they called him, of course. But one human can only take so much of that.
So this would be the first time that the one-time king of Los Angeles rap radio had been on the air anywhere since '71, and everyone was calling in to talk about Iran.... So finally Elliot says something like ~ "Ok, enough already about Iran. We're not going to solve that here tonight. It's out of our control. We can't do anything about it. So let's talk about something real and important, like what did you have for dinner tonight? And if you really want to talk about Iran, then I wish you would just call another station, because we're just frustrating ourselves with this stuff."
I was the next caller. I explained what my plan was. Elliot agreed that it actually sounded reasonable. Keep in mind that what follows is more of a dramatic reconstruction than what was actually said, as I have no tape of it. Only the tape of the actual interview with the student at the Embassy was rebroadcast (about 50,000 times).
"So you want ME to call Teheran, the Embassy and talk to the students?"
(Actually, I wanted the audience to do it en masse, but Elliot was a start.) "Uh, right!"
"And would you be willing to pay for this call?"
(Wondering desperately what astronomical sum is involved.....) "Um, well, up to a point."
"Well, how about $50? That's a film club membership. Can you swing that?"
"uh, sure, right. Ok."
So then Elliot made his famous call, that got him and Roy that AP Spot News Award, and it went sorta like this, but probably not at all accurately to the word: *
"Hello, I'd like to place a call to Teheran, the American Embassy."
"Uh, sir, we're not allowed to do that..."
"What do you mean you're 'not allowed'? Who is telling you you can't do this thing? Have you ever heard of the First Amendment?"
"Uh, sir, I could lose my job.... The State Department has issued orders that nobody gets through."
"Hey, guy, this is a radio station. This is our job. To find the truth. Ok. We trump the State Department."
"But I can't afford to lose my job. The orders specifically name news media. Let me get my super..."
"Listen, my name is Elliot, Elliot Mintz. Does that mean anything? Do you remember me from the '60's"
"Yes, I do."
"Then you have to make a choice about doing the right thing here; am I correct?"
pause.... "Sir?" .... "That's 'Elliot'" ... "Elliot? I'm putting you through now."
So Elliot got through and spent the next 18 minutes in a virtually non-communication with one of the Iranian students holding the embassy personnel hostage. And it went much like the following:
"But how does it make you feel to find yourself with the power of life and death over these other human beings, who you don't even know?"
"But.... we have found ..... that they are CIA! We have proof.... We find the documents...."
"Yes, I understand, but what I'm concerned about is how this is affecting you. How are you dealing with all the pressure that you've placed yourself in now that you may be determining the course of many other people's lives?"
"Yes..... but... we know that they are working for Shah! We know that they are agents of U.S. CIA....
And so it went....
*Update: 12/11/04. I recently heard a play-back of the famous interview on Roy's still!! ongoing "Something's Happening." Unfortunately, he was not able to include my call-in, which I would have like to have recorded for documentation, as certain evil jerks, such as the infamous likely state-agent Danny Twedt, have included in their litany of lies about me - ongoing for over two decades now - such as that I am a convicted child-molester, for which they have no evidence, no victims, much less proof - that in fact I had nothing to do with Elliot's call. Roy DID, however, positively state at the beginning of the program this past night that "Phil Osborn" nagged them until Elliot made the call. So there. I did note that my memory of the phone person's conversation with Elliot was not very close to the actual - although the substance was there.
In fact, Roy attempted to make his own follow-up call to the Embassy later that week or the next and was blocked and personally contacted by the U.S. State Department, who asked him to PLEASE (or we breaka you lega) not make any more calls to Teheran. Prior to Elliot's call, I understand that there had been one similar call by a talk show host or DJ at some small radio station in Texas, and then the State Department issued orders forbidding the phone company to allow any more media contacts through. ... end update.
But it didn't matter how it went. That it happened was the key. That call opened those media flood gates and accomplished exactly what I intended.
And how does this relate to Sam and the AV?
Well, I went to the Anarcho Village seeking support and help, as I had, after the phone call, formulated a plan to get the hostages out and resolve the whole crisis between the U.S. and Iran. I had been on the phone from random payphones to the Iranian Embassy in Washington (shut down the next week by Carter). The first time I called, they knew me already. I was also in contact with Roy at KPFK, who was initially enthusiastic about continuing a dialog with the Iranian students. I told Roy that I could probably get him thru, patching through Canada or some other foreign location, for example, or employing the use of Phone Phreaks, who could probably bypass just about any restrictions.
My plan: Have 52 of the students put the 52 hostages on a jet liner and fly to L.A., where I would meet them both with a news crew. They would make a statement to the effect that they were placing themselves at the mercy of the American people, returning the hostages as a gesture of trust and good will. All they were asking for was a fair and complete hearing into the U.S. role in the Shah's regime.
The Iranian diplomats thought it was a great idea and agreed to negotiate with the students. All I needed was just a tiny bit of help on my end.
At the AV, Neil turned the whole thing into a festival of sarcasm. "Hey, we ought to just threaten to ship them 52 MORE!" ha, ha, ha No one there was willing to even take the situation seriously. They thought of it as entertainment. "Hey, look at the new stupid statist tricks...."
One person finally did agree to help, and has requested to remain anonymous. He actually did have the capability of providing the news crew, I'm certain. That just left setting up the Iranian end.
However, at that point, almost 2 weeks from my original call to Ray Bream, I suddenly found myself so exhausted from no-sleep and stress, working at night and then running around to pay phones at all hours, wondering when some CIA or Savak agent might simply run me down on the street in the nightly fog, plus being driven crazy by the Long Beach gang that was trying to force me out of my home, playing high volume rock music 24 hours a day, smashing my car windows so that I had to hide my vehicles and commute to them by bicycle, that I could no longer think straight.
I finally realized that I simply could no longer depend upon my own judgment, such was my exhaustion, and I was unwilling to place others in jeopardy as a consequence. And then, before I could recover enough to act, the Washington Iranian Embassy was shut down by the U.S. I no longer had my contacts. Meanwhile, Roy had gotten a call from the State Dept. politely requesting him NOT to make any more calls to the Embassy. Roy explained over the air that morning, "I'm big.... but I'm not THAT big. It was over.
So, the hostage return didn't happen - until the day of Reagan's inauguration, and the rift between the U.S. and Iran deepened, and the Iran/Iraq war happened because of that rift (it could never have happened with Iran as America's ally on the Soviet border) with millions of dead, and Saddam consolidated his dictatorship, and we know the rest. And it could all have been stopped. But clearly not by the great revolutionaries of the AV. THEY completely fell down on the job and forever proved their irrelevance, with the exception of the one man who I'm sure would have come through, if I had only been able to keep it together on my end for a few more days. Sorry, sorry, sorry.... What can I possibly say?
Not that the "progressive" left comes off much better on the record. I got no more actual help, beyond the incredibly lucky concatenation of people and opportunity of that night with Roy and Elliot (who else would have understood the situation, acted on it, and succeeded in morally suading that phone operator than Elliot Mintz? Answer - nobody.) from the leftists at Pacifica. No one attempted to contact me during those lonely, desperate, sleepless days and nights while I plotted to bring it all home and end the crisis.
At KPFK, then and still, I suspect, more than is realized, there is still that Platonic elitism that drives the socialist left. It's US, the great philosopher kings, who will direct your lives for you, ignorant stupid people listening to US, the wise and beneficent. Even with all the recent upheavals and democratization of Pacifica, I note that I, and many other people apparently, have STILL not received our subscription premium gifts - not from the last fund drive, but from the one before that! And this has clearly been going on for some time - promising anything to get the money, and then, forget you! Just find some more suckers and do it again. So, no help from that side either, and they were the ones who did claim to be taking the Iranian situation seriously, playing endless impassioned oratory by revolutionary Iranian women, and non-stop documentaries on the perfidies of the U.S.-created evil regime of the Shah. No matter. Real action? Hey! Too dangerous for a philosopher king.
(A similar incident occurred about a year later, in which I stopped a war with Nicaragua, but there's apparently a 100K limit on blog articles, so you'll have to go to that sub-article to see how I did it.
(Elliot went on to be with Yoko Ono, after John Lennon's murder, or so I've heard. Roy Tuckman is still very alive and presumably well at KPFK, still running the "Something's Happening" show, with frequent live or taped interviews and lectures of such notables as the late Alan Watts or the very alive and healthy Gary Null. I ran for the KPFK Local Station Board just recently, and did pretty well, for an anarchist, I think, altho not well enough to be elected....)
Finally, by the mid '80's, Sam began to see the error of his tactics. Slash and burn politics did not nurture the development of a real revolutionary cadre. Instead, the supper clubs and forums and conferences had one by one shrunken and died. As he matured and began to make attempts to mend the damage, even speaking on a friendly basis with LP members, altho without changing his own core beliefs, he also lost the dedicated core of his following. The Anarcho-Village dissipated.
Sam meanwhile became enmeshed in a terrible relationship with a woman who had virtually destroyed the lives of several other unfortunates, including Sam's in a previous relationship with her, but he refused to believe that she was hopeless, and spent the core energy of his life in a futile war of shouts, screaming fits and daily miserable frustration, as she played off his refusal to condemn her. (During this period - the early '90's - I rented a couple of powered garages in Long Beach directly opposite the anarcho-village, where I hacked the Amiga computer and created custom videos, while living in my VW van on such limited income as is available in the gray/black market - unless you're a drug dealer or the like, anyway. Every morning and evening, I could hear the terrible screaming arguments from Sam's apartment, Sam wailing in despair, "I can't LIVE like this!")
Somehow, however, despite all the personal travails, the collapse of his New Libertarian Alliance, the legions of enemies that his tactics had created, and the crushing personal poverty as he diverted every penny into his vision of the onrushing revolution, Sam still maintained his intellectual research, his publishing and his optimistic spirit, typing one-hundred words per minute with two fingers while riding the bus to save time. When I last saw him at the Thanksgiving, 2003 LOSCON Science Fiction conference, he eagerly handed me a copy of his own daily journal of what HE considered important at the con, the "Daily Frefanzine," complete with photos and the usual in-jokes and high humor. Naturally, he had produced it and taken the digital photos from his Mac portable, wanting nothing to do with MicroSoft or Gates, who he considered a devil. About half of his former Long Beach AV crew were also attending, mostly as speakers, although not generally as part of any Sam Konkin following any longer. Several of them had moved on and become moderately successful authors or screenwriters, for which Sam probably bears much credit.
A kind of strange unreality pervaded Sam's life. Various authors have commented on the black and white universe he in which he chose to live. It went further than that. For example, the anarcho-landlord of the anarcho-village, Chris, who is perhaps the very last of the original crew to live there, was also the manager of the Art Theater of Long Beach, which played a veritable cornucopia of interesting, mostly foreign, films during the '70's and early '80's. The films were well attended by a large group of art film fanatics, and Chris was a devotee of the film art himself, perfectly suited, one might think, for his role.
Unfortunately, the Art Theater failed, and for a while became just another cheapo movie house - altho now it appears to have gotten back on track. Why did it fail? Well, partially because of the incredibly bad reviews it got from the local Long Beach press.
And why, you may be asking, did it get such terrible reviews?
Becuz: the god-damned film was NEVER!!!! IN FOCUS, YOU IDIOT, CHRIS!!! Chris - and this is a hallmark of his personality, sad to say - is of the most obdurate character. Trying to make ANY complaint to him was an exercise in self-immolation. So, tell Chris that the MOVIE is OUT OF FOCUS AGAIN, CHRIS, like it is every single night, and he saunters from the snack bar area to the rear of the theatre, looks at it from all the way back, and either says, because of poor vision, I'm sure, "Looks fine from here," or, "But if it's in focus up near the front, then it will be out of focus for everyone else sitting further back." IDIOT! Did you EVER test this theory of optics? No. Hey, I happen to have a degree in physics, Chris. I spent two semesters on optical theory. I'd be happen to explain to you why you're full of it, if you aren't willing to take on the vast enterprise of walking 50 feet to see for yourself.... Nothing worked with Chris.
Worse, often the projectionist would switch reels without ever watching to see if the new reel was properly synced, and then we would learn a new method of viewing, as the top third of the movie would be at the bottom of the screen and the bottom third at the top, and the middle gone, gone, gone.... The guy was very nearly deaf, and so, it took wasting five more minutes of the film to finally drag Chris out and up to the projectionist to ask him to LOOK AT THE DAMNED FILM!
This never changed. But Chris was such a politician and had cultivated so many locally important people, that the management could not believe that it was his fault that people were walking out, or vandalizing the seats, or throwing drinks at the screen, and attendance kept dropping. Finally, however, they caught on, and Chris was sacked.
EVERYONE at the Anarcho-Village (AV) was thoroughly aware of Chris, his personality, and his abysmal mismanagement of the Art Theater. For example, the Anarcho-Village, one of the non-anarchists had a barking dog. This dog, a big German sheppard NEVER stopped barking. In retrospect, it seems likely that this was engineered deliberately. There were numerous break-ins at the AV, including one to Sam's apartment, in which his stereo and treasured record collection were taken. My Schwinn ten-speed was stolen off the front porch, where it was chained with a heavy chain and lock, only feet from where I slept. However, I had plugs in my ears because of the psychotic dog (which also attacked several residents who stumbled across it unawares), so I never heard a thing.
This is WHY people drive cars with a boom thru the barrios all night long. Noise is physical force. By assaulting their neighbors, these criminals first establish what macho men they are, because they are able to get away with their assault - much like Neil Schulman - and then set the stage for stealing cars, house breaking, etc., as everyone is reacting by shutting out their noise, psychologically or physically. Of course, they also guarantee that no one gets a good night's sleep, which may be part of the reason why so very few of the barrio kids make it into college - even those of demonstrable intellect.
Despite numerous complaints, Chris could not justify even talking to the dog's owner until he was threatened with a law suit after a woman was attacked by the beast.
Nonetheless, because he was one of Sam's chosen people, the whole AV crew marched down to the Art Theater and put on some sort of demonstration against the evil management that had fired Chris. I think they actually succeeded in intimidating the management to rehire Chris, but I'm not certain now - it's been so long.
Another good example of rewriting reality was SAM's coverage of the 1978 Future of Freedom Conference at USC, organized by Sean Steel, (now congressman, but then anarchist) Dana Rohrabacher, and Gene Berkman (now owner of Renaissance Books of Riverside, and still very active in the libertarian movement). Noted SF author, Poul Anderson, was one of the scheduled main speakers, and I looked forward to seeing him, as I had read virtually everything he had in print. Unfortunately, when he staggered up to the podium, beer can in hand, and proceeded to swill it all over his shirt, being so drunk that he could not find his mouth, I was less than impressed. Then Poul proceeded to tell us, with what little disjointed clarity managed to slur itself out, that we should all support the state space effort, because it was too important to leave to private enterprise... After which he nearly killed himself falling off the podium. (I was later told by a friend of Poul's that he had such a paralyzing phobia of public speaking that this was the only way he could get through it.)
I reviewed that speech for Sam's publication. As did Sam - who gushed at how wonderful and cogent Poul had been in defense of anarchy in space.... For the first, but definitely not the last time, I realized that Sam lived in another world. Poul was, by Sam's declaration, a true libertarian, and a great sf writer. Thus, he could not possibly have said the things he did, or been falling-down drunk on stage. So, Sam made reality consistent again. This habit of rewriting reality to make it consistent was unfortunately so common in Sam's writing and thinking that it virtually kills any possible use of most of his reportage for future reference, which is especially sad when one considers how much Sam covered over three decades of writing, and how much he actually witnessed.
"Consistency" was, in fact, Sam's Mantra. He loathed hypocrites. I was surprised, in fact, that Sam did not get sucked up in the idiotic "Living a Libertarian Life" craze that seemed to have emerged from the Robert Lefevre camp of libertarianism. Lefevre was a local hero, the grand old man of the movement when I arrived in '76, and looked the part, with his flowing white hair and dignified, immaculate appearance. He posed successfully as a major libertarian intellectual, even though a quick glance at his voluminous writings or any discussion with his followers, invariably turned up an appalling lack of any coherent philosophical grounding. Unlike most libertarians of that period, Bob actually had some money. He was funded by a Southern textile industrialist in his efforts, and gave regular seminars to the employees. However, he said nothing about the federal tariffs and/or subsidies that industrialist received, as Sam noted more than once.
There was also classic fanatical following, including a lot of women, also allegedly with money. (In the major bio of Bob by Carl Watner that appeared after his death, it is mentioned that Bob always seemed to have a following of about 40 women who would do anything for him, whether later in his libertarian days, or much earlier, when he was a Swaggart-style radio evangelist for some strange cult of his own invention.) Thus, booking Bob ensured that the place would be packed, and he got booked a LOT, even though he never said anything that you could actually do anything useful with.
One of Bob Lefevre's last talks was at a libertarian supper club in San Pedro, at which he promised to finally explain the full logical derivation of human rights. The place was packed, and not just with the faithful. A whole crew of conservatives showed up just to get Bob's insight. Bob spent his time making his usual jokes, reading hilarious passages from the congressional record, and finally sat down, having never touched upon the alleged subject matter of the evening. I heard one of the conservatives commenting that "if that's the best these libertarians have to offer intellectually, then there's no need to listen to them any further."
The Lefevre following apparently came up with this truly nasty and absurd concept - living a libertarian life (LLL) - which meant, in practice, doing anything you wanted, but avoiding using any state services or involving one's self with any state sanctions or licensing. So, these people would ride the (state) bus, because getting a driver's license involved signing one's name and "sanctioning the state." Each practitioner of LLL had his or her own weird rationale for using some state services but not others. None of it made the least bit of real moral sense. However, it allowed them to feel that they were doing something, like the Sunday Christians. It was pure symbolic idiocy, but there are still people practicing it today, denying themselves cars, unable to ride air planes, signing their names backwards, whatever...
Another foray into the absurd came with the movie "Star Wars." Somehow in the minds of Sam and the agorists, it became a great libertarian epic which alone might usher in the revolution with its profound artistic and spiritual message. Thus, they relentlessly promoted it to all and sundry. Neil played the great theme music hundreds of times at a volume sufficient to have converted the entire welfare project nearby into anarcho-capitalists - had the theory been true, anyway. Somehow, the idea that sound actually consists of raw physical force, and that high volumes of sound such as he was broadcasting were violently interfering with many other people's lives, all in direct violation of the core libertarian non-aggression principle, never entered Neil's thick skull.
The idea that there were and could be no implicit contracts was part of the de-facto AV ethical code, and actually appears explicitly in Schulman's "Rainbow Cadenza," whose entire theme was a spin-off of some discussions with me, in which Neil completely misunderstood my position, but nonetheless used his twisted restatement of it and consequent attack on it as the core of the novel. Another example was Sam's pipe smoking. For years he defended his absolute right to pollute the local atmosphere. Or (a capital offense in my book) the AV crew's ongoing commentaries during theater showings. Since they had signed no contract requiring silence during the movie or play, they felt perfectly free to carry on conversations at normal or loud volumes. ("Oh, and remember, we're libertarians, BTW, and we have all these great ideas we'd be happy to sell you, now that you've missed half of your movie due to us." Right. How many possible libertarians were converted by the AV crew into statists? What would be their reaction the next time someone announced to them that they were a libertarian?
So far as I know, Sam never got caught up in the LLL tomfoolery, but his own stretches - like the review of Poul Anderson's talk - went quite far enough, and continue well past his demise. Many of the people who spent serious time at the AV with Sam were fine people who were seriously looking for a way to change society and had their own unique vision and take on the revolution - such as author Charles Curley. Others were just followers looking for a great leader. Still others found the AV a convenient safe house for their real activities, such as dope peddling or child molesting.
No matter, Sam found a way to include them all. Even people who only came for the parties, or the D&D games, or because they were science fiction fans or wannabe sf writers, even those of them who openly declared that they were NOT libertarians, disagreed with the most fundamental principles of libertarianism, advocated fascist statism, claimed to be agents (in one notable case) of various state investigative agencies, insisted that they had napalmed women and children with great glee in the infamous Phoenix Operation in Nam, or even initiated real violence against other AV denizens ..... ALL were embraced and declared to be honorary libertarians. Go figure.
Now, many of them have taken a page right out of Sam's book and are creating a legend out of Sam and AV. For decades, they have relentlessly promoted each other's mostly mediocre (in some cases, much, much worse - as in Vic Koman's "Saucer Sluts," which Vic billed as objectivist porn. Vic gave me a copy of the manuscript to preview, which I still have somewhere, and hopefully may never find. SS was so utterly awful that I hesitate to even use that word, for fear of unjustly insulting all the merely awful trash out there. Vic has improved, however. His "The Jehovah Contract" was merely bad, and his later work has reputedly moved into the realm of the positive, altho I will be dubious until I actually read it....) literary contributions, leveraging themselves thereby onto endless panels at sf cons.... Typically, they use the vehicle of fiction as a cloak for an anarcho-polemic, with all kinds of cute, kitschy in-jokes ad nauseum. When will it end?
Well, actually, Neil Schulman still shows some slight promise. I recently ran across a short story by him that was really quite good, and I do recall that my favorite sf author, Vernor Vinge, wrote some truly awesomely good short stories as a teenager (that are STILL totally readable and not generally even dated by new technology, which is almost unheard of!), and then did some equally bad novels, such as "The Witling," to be avoided at all costs, until he began to hit his stride with the "Peace War," which was quite good, then "Marooned in Real Time," which was outstanding, and then his major novels, "A Fire Upon the Deep," and "A Deepness in the Sky," which will spoil you for just about every other sf author - they're THAT GOOD! So, I think that there's a real chance that Neil could finally write the killer Hugo-winning novel... A small chance, but real. (Altho, after reading about his recent conversion to deism, my hopes are considerably less positive.)
Brad Linaweaver had many other mentors and influences than Sam and the agorist crew, and he is quite capable of cranking out decent novels, such as his "Moon of Ice." I don't yet see him as Hugo material, but at least he is free of the trademark silly polemicizing of the AV. On the other hand, I don't think that Sam and the AV were all that determinative of Brad's course anyway.
A few googles will demonstrate that Sam was one of the most thoroughly erudite scholars of the arcane world of political/corporate conspiracy. His memory for details of what corporate subsidiary was secretly shipping arms to what dictator was utterly amazing, as was his encyclopedic knowledge of libertarian history - a huge loss now that he is gone. Unfortunately, that whole area lies well outside of my realm of expertise, so I cannot give a detailed analysis of that part of his life - and it was a large part of Sam's life, to be sure. While it still turns my stomach to read his endless romanticizing of every twist and turn of the internal politics of the still active libertarian movement, I will miss Sam, and I will not forget him. I had high hopes that with maturity, Sam would ultimately be a major asset to the real revolution that stayed always foremost in his sights, despite all his shortcomings. Not to be. Sad.
So, in summary, what was Sam about and how do we measure the man? Sam's anti-political activism defined his life and remained amazingly consistent with his "New Libertarian Manifesto," which almost makes up in enthusiasm for what it lacks in profundity. While he did not see professional advocacy of his anarcho-capitalist utopia as a moral duty, he considered himself and a core of colleagues to be the experts in the field, and thus naturally attempted to turn his ideas into a life and a career. In this, he was occasionally successful, altho he was mostly living on the edge of bankruptcy and had to take a lot of low-paying jobs to avoid paying taxes to the hated state. At any point, with his intelligence and education - a Masters in Organic Chemistry, I believe, he could have rejoined the common herd, paid his taxes, earned a decent living, etc., but I doubt that it occurred to him as an option.
Sam did have a considerable influence, and whatever integrated digital global history ultimately emerges out of the ongoing information revolution will have many, many pointers to Sam. While he was not a great intellectual innovator, he popularized ideas, mostly good ones, and kept them alive, if only by stirring the pot. And he served as a contact point for countless other libertarians who otherwise might never had met. While, as I have outlined, Sam's influence cannot really be counted as wholly good, nonetheless, his life ought to stand as some kind of mixed lesson, worth examining if only to avoid the destructive aspects. I never personally felt any major animosity toward Sam, and it was always a delight to meet him at some conference after not seeing him for many months.
Sam genuinely thought about ideas, and honestly tried to touch the truth in all things. If anything, he is a paradigm of the era from which he emerged, the '60's, when, briefly for most people, we questioned everything and tried to reformulate our beliefs from first principles. Sam never forgot that quest and achieved enough success in that great adventure of the mind and spirit that if there is one thing I am assured of, it is that Sam was never bored and his promethean spirit always found the strength to soar over despair, when many a lesser man would have quit.
What positive value Sam did contribute to the libertarian movement consisted mainly of bringing people together. Without Sam being there as someone you could always locate and talk to, the level of contact and networking within the movement would have likely been much less. I'm sure that it would have taken a substantial effort on my part to locate the various groups, supper clubs and individuals in the local area without Sam's help, much less get an introduction to them. Sam knew everyone, and made that priceless knowledge available to his friends and perceived co-revolutionaries.
Sam, with all his faults, also had the essential characteristic of a natural leader, of being able to make other people believe in the reality of a vision. Alone and without any contact with any other credible libertarians, most people would probably have just lived their lives, without a clue as to how to implement their philosophy or any hope that it might actually lead to real change.
Sam, however, was a self-defined man, as close to an existentialist in practice as may be possible. He lived by his own rules, consistently, without expecting others to emulate him. I well recall trying to coordinate with Sam's schedule while crashing at the AV for those months. Sam lived by a hacker’s clock, basically a 31 hour day. Work 20, sleep 11. That was just one example of his personal self-definition. Sam made a lot of people all over the U.S. and internationally feel connected to a reality that offered hope - even though he often exaggerated or manufactured the "facts" or his reports. He told me once, early on, that he saw his role as being a cheerleader in keeping the movement going, and I know that he worked every day of his life to accomplish that. Whatever failures and bad results can be attributed to Sam Konkin, he cannot be faulted for effort and commitment to his own vision, and that has to be worth something.
Note: in a period starting in the mid-80's, Sam actually got some significant funding for his efforts and set up his now apparently defunct "Agorist Institute," including a downtown Long Beach office. I was at one point actually invited to submit material for possible publication - for which I would be paid!!! (I should mention that Sam was a stickler about paying his writers, no matter how much he was cutting corners in his own life. I was paid, on time, by Sam for the handful of articles I did for his "New Libertarian Notes," in '76 thru '78.) Unfortunately, while I got along fine, as always, with Sam, and had great relations with several others now connected with Sam, there were still several people whose credibility I did NOT want to contribute to. For a taste of Sam's style of writing and thinking.
Nor did I buy in then, previously or now to the "libertarian ethic" that got its launch at that famous First Southern Libertarian Conference and to which the Agorists religiously adhered. The "non-aggression principle" is derived from proper objectively validated ethical theory, NOT the other way around. A coherent theory of morality (the science of values) and ethics (the technology of applying morality to relationships with other sentient moral beings) includes non-aggression as a derivative that applies in normal social situations, excluding "lifeboats" (situations where some people must necessarily die that others may live, etc.) and many other non-normal emergency-type situations. Thus, I refrained from participating. Whatever else went on in connection with the Agorist Institute is a mystery to me, so I will let others pick up the tale from there.
The "libertarian ethic" provided the philosophical underpinning for turning the libertarian movement into more of a cult than a real philosophically grounded ideology. At one of the successors to the FoFCon, the "Dagny's Gulch" conferences organized and promoted by Dagny Sharon, Don Ernsberger, another of the founding intellectual "fathers" of modern libertarianism (how that dates us, mein Gott!), discussed his take on "children's rights." Admitting that no solution was forthcoming then (or now, so far as I know), to the dilemma of parental authority vs. children's human rights, Don stated that if one of his young children decided to play in the traffic, he would grab her and, if necessary, force her off the street. However, he was fully in agreement with the proposition that he had thereby acted with essential immorality and totally violated her rights. Still, he would not hesitate to do so!
What kind of morality is such that a principle spokesperson for it will violate it knowingly and without any further explanation or exculpation by way of rational exception to the rule? Note that I, who consider myself a radical libertarian as well as an anarchist, have no problem with initiating force in that kind of circumstance either, but I also have no contradiction to deal with, as I see the "non-initiation of force" principle as existing in a hierarchy of rationally derived principles. While it is a fundamental ethical principle of normal society among adults, there are plenty of everyday cases that illustrate its natural limits.
Children are a kind of special case, in that they naturally do not have sufficient knowledge to make good informed choices in many areas of life. However, they are perfectly capable of making choices in many other areas, and they have a right to do so. The problem is in distinguishing which is which, and that requires a guardian with much maturity. Obviously, many parents and other guardians do not have that kind of maturity, and thus we have an ongoing war with the children.
There are cases where this applies to fully sentient adults, as well. You may have special knowledge, such as that a bridge is out down the tracks while you are riding on a train. Perhaps a minor earthquake hundreds of miles away has shut down most radio, etc., and you are the only person on the train who knows of the danger. Suppose no one believes you, because of some unrelated circumstance and some people attempt to block you by force from stopping the train. Clearly, you have a perfect moral right to take whatever actions are necessary, up to and including lethal force, in order to stop the train, even though you are initiating force. NOT to do so would be immoral. The problems, again, are in the border areas, and of course, in general, it's best to err on the side of non-initiation. However, the non-initiation absolutist is left without a clue, and must act in a clearly destructive way or act immorally, by his or her standard.
The religious use of the non-initiation of force ethic leads to another unfortunate conclusion. Taken as a religious absolute, it justifies retaliatory force without limit. If the kid stealing an apple is violating your fundamental right to life!!!!, then clearly you have a perfect right to shoot him in self-defense. Taken as a civil, tort matter, however, as even the extremists generally would agree to be the case after the fact, you only have the right to take reasonable action to protect yourself and restore equity. (more on this later)....
In one of the articles that I wrote for Sam's "New Libertarian Weekly," I pointed out a central problem for professional intellectuals that I picked up from my reading of Max Stirner while I was living as Sam's guest at the Anarcho Village. In essence, the problem is that if you judge people by their ideas, then you cannot escape that judgment yourself. If you decide that person "A" is BAD because he believes idea "B," then, because you are also a person, you will correspondingly judge yourself as GOOD in the same respect because you do not hold that BAD idea. You become "idea-proud." Your worth, and thus, your invaluable self-esteem, are now subject to your ideas. How then can you afford to seriously challenge them?
So, intellectuals become addicted, become trapped by Stirner's "wheels in the head," adopt religious attitudes towards atheism, authoritarian attitudes about anarchy. Breaking free of such self-slavery is an interesting challenge. Too bad that Sam never realized the extent to which he was unfree. Or that he helped propagate that set of destructive memes.
But he did some good, as well. To know and not forget. Farewell, comrade...