Robin Hooding - It Could Be Better
by Ethan Glover, Tue, Dec 02, 2014 - (Edited) Sun, Sep 10, 2017
FreeTalkLive has been talking a lot about the Colbert Report report on the "Free Keene Squad," and understandably so. This is a big deal. But there's been a lot of debate about whether this is a good or bad thing. There's a lot going on here and for that reason I can't take any particular side at the moment, but I hope to come to a conclusion by the end of this blog. Without my reasoning, I agree with both sides.
For one side, which Ian is on, it seems to be all about getting attention for the Free State Project, even if he looks like a joke, even if the whole thing is and was intended to be a joke. It's funny; they were just having fun.
The other side, which Mark is on, is that this is bad. Even if the Free State Project wasn't explicitly mentioned, it still makes the whole thing look bad. As has been said on the "all attention is good" side, people will look this up and find that this "squad" is tied to the FSP. The spike in traffic that their blog and affiliated websites are experiencing is from people who want to know what this is all about.
From a sort of SEO perspective, this is mostly a good thing. No matter what, most of the views that come to a popular site are from people who are just curious and not 100% interested in its agenda and motivations. The more views you get, the more people you will get taking an interest in the FSP and libertarian ideas in general, even if your "conversion" percentage is small. Even if most of the people coming to the sites are there to make fun of it or "hate on it," you're still helping more people find those sites who are already interested and weren't aware that the FSP existed, or who are open to the ideas.
However, you can't use that to dismiss entirely how people feel about what happened. When Mark says that he felt he looked bad because of it, you can't disregard that. It's rude, just as people have been rude to the parking enforcers during ‘robin hooding,' a form of activism I have not been a fan of since I heard of the idea when it started, and when it was getting positive (or at least fair) media coverage.
I understand that most of the robin hood videos on Freeman's YouTube channel are uneventful and show no harassment or jerkery. But most police interactions are not abusive or violent. If I get pulled over and a police officer politely tells me why he pulled me over and then asks for my license, I'll be pleased with the interaction. I won't hate him just because he wears a uniform, I'm aware of the world I live in, I don't live in a bubble. I'll return to that point later. The point is, it is right to judge an organization or group based on bad actors, especially when members protect those bad actors with excuses. (So good on those who have called these videos out for what they are.)
The first, and most talked about offensive video is Christopher Cantwell's take on Robin Hooding. Again, the majority of what he does isn't entirely bad, unless, of course, the woman he is following is laughing off her discomfort as a defense mechanism which I suspect is the case. (This is what children have to do with bullies when they're forced to go to public school.)
What Christopher Cantwell does, as featured in Colbert's video, is just plain rude. He's yelling at this woman, "We're never going to stop." You have to be empathetic to who people are, even if they work for the government. Working for the government doesn't make a person inherently evil or monstrous, this is still a person.
Would the robin hooder's do this to someone who self-identifies as a liberal but doesn't work for the government and instead works for a private business? Rude is rude; people are people. Everything we do in life doesn't have to be associated with some sort of political agenda.
I spent four years in the military, and I regret that, but I currently use the GI bill to go to a public university. Do I deserve being followed around and screamed at just because I do that? I don't think so. I've worked for the University, which gets up to 80% of its funding from public subsidies. Do I deserve to be followed around and screamed at while I'm working at the bookstore or moving some furniture around? Of course not, and I and the people I've worked with wouldn't tolerate that kind of behavior, nor should they.
There are libertarians out there who don't mind taking a government job. They may not prefer that, but they might take whatever they can get, do the work, get the money and put that into their happiness and possibly the happiness of others.
There's no justification for screaming at someone who works for the government just because they work for the government. That doesn't make any sense. They are a person; they're doing a job, that's it. Yes, what they're doing might be wrong in a libertarian world, and maybe even in an objective sense. But this is the world we live in. This is what we have to live with.
Even if that parking enforcer was a libertarian herself, there's nothing that says she has to quit on the spot. She can say, "I'm just doing my job." Because that's all it is, money for herself and her life. Even if she fully recognizes the contradiction and hypocrisy of the job itself, and I believe she does, there's nothing wrong with that. She's only a member of the world we currently live in, and she might simply have a different perspective on what violence is and the job as a whole.
Now, there's nothing wrong with going around and paying parking meters. That's great; it looks good for Free Keene. But for this kind of thing, it causes the local community to turn against you, and that's not good. What might be better than trying to get one person to quit being a meter maid only to be replaced at some later date is going through the process of having that job terminated entirely.
Robin hooder's already take donations for their ‘activism' and put those contributions back into parking meters. That's great. But why is it sold as, "We'll show those thieves!" instead of, "Here's a private way to take care of this issue without the use of force." Take that to your community centers and sell it to the community. Show them that you've got this. Show the businesses that you understand why the parking meters are there. It means more business. Show them that you can do this for them while lowering taxes and possibly giving them a part of the profits. In fact build it as something that the business owners themselves can eventually take control of it so that Free Keene can move into further privatization such as privatizing the roads completely. (Next step, take donations to fix potholes and dangerous intersections.)
Keene gets more positive popularity out of that; they get seen as good guys and it builds a business that those involved can profit from. A charitable company that offers a simple solution that works out for everyone. Not just for YouTuber's who want some views for yelling at people.
Start with the positive and be good to your neighbors. Don't just follow people around and scream at them, it's a ridiculous thing to do. It doesn't make sense, no matter how you sell it.
Second, there's Ian's video of a parking enforcer doing; well over dramatizing the situation.
Yes, this woman is acting weird, and probably doing it to cause a scene. This over dramatization could make things look worse than it already is. Maybe that was her goal, or maybe she's just one of those people. What's wrong with this video is the yelling things about the constitution and how he can do whatever he wants.
I get it; there's legally nothing wrong with what's going on here. But as an anarchist, I couldn't care less what the law says. Most libertarians care more about what's right and wrong than what a piece of paper says. This is harassment. I don't care about some stupid legal definition; I care about what makes sense, and how people feel about things. The video above is harassment because of the pressure being put on this woman when she clearly communicated it was disturbing her. She was just doing her job, and again; there's nothing wrong with being a meter maid in this current world we live in.
You might have different standards as far as morals go than the rest of the world; I know I do. So either try to change them if you're into that, or do your best to live by your standards. Yelling at people with different opinions than you is only going to grow their hatred for you. This isn't going to move anyone to quit the job, unless of course you count the veteran who couldn't control his PTSD with robin hooder's following him and driving him to the edge all day.
One of Ian's arguments is that he is only expressing his opinions of somebody's job. If that's the case, mission accomplished. You only needed to say it once. That's obviously not the case; this is plain trolling. It doesn't do anybody any good except maybe getting views. Which is sort of a good thing, but BuzzFeed gets a lot of views too, and they're not well loved and respected. (By the way, Ian runs for office all the time, if he wins and others are up to it, I'll happily travel the 1,300 miles to follow him around on the streets and call him a criminal.)
I think there is a point to be made that a goal for anarchists and libertarians to be loved and respected not only in their local communities, but the world. What we're trying to do is sell people on this philosophy, not scare them away by creating this team vs. team mentality (call it the Thin Yellow Line). Saying, "If you do this job, you're an asshole, so we're going to follow you around and harrass you. We'll tell you that you're an evil person even though you might not understand where we're coming from."
I get that robin hooding involves having some honest conversations with meter maids and passer-bys. But if someone doesn't want to accept the ideas of libertarianism, just let it be. Go find someone else who might. I don't think a good goal right now can realistically be to get government officials to leave you alone 100% and to not be taxed at all. That's not realistic. What is realistic is getting as many people as possible on your side, seeing the points, understanding the philosophy and fighting in a respectable manner for the philosophy.
Again, I get it, getting a lot of views from the Colbert Report might get some people's attention. My point is that no matter what you do, as long as you're doing something, you're bound to get a small percentage of people's attention. There are alternatives to acting like asshole's to people you don't approve of. Bad things and douchery may get views, but so do good things so long as you're willing to work for it.
The Colbert Report may not be a huge deal breaker, but it is a net loss, and I think it's clear that I've officially chosen a side on the issue. I get that you might want to have some fun, joke around and maybe laugh at yourself. But do it on your terms. Not on the terms of a liberal clown. You can have a good time without Stephen Colbert and his obviously targeted shenanigans.
Now, to preemptively answer the criticisms of this just being some empty anonymous(ish) blog on the internet, screw you. I'm working my way through my goals and agenda. I'm doing good things, and I don't need to prove myself to anybody who wants to take the points I have to make and dismissing them on account of them being in a blog. I've got my thing; you've got your thing, that doesn't mean we can't criticize each other's things.
This could have been done better, I think we all realize that. If we put away the egos, I think that becomes pretty evident.
Many libertarian activists have opted for taking an aggressive approach in the hopes of getting more attention. I've offered a better, more precise approach.