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$5 to overthrow the US government
March 4, 2010 8:12 AM   Subscribe

There is a law in South Carolina that forces any subversive organization to register before the Secretary of State. Penalties for refusing to do so include a fine for up to $25,000 and 10 years imprisonment. You can download the form here.

The Guardian has additional information.
posted by Omon Ra (37 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Have the Tea Baggers registered yet?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:15 AM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can one of the SC MeFites take care of getting the site properly registered? TIA.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:15 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


sense, make this, does not.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:23 AM on March 4, 2010


I think they're being ironic. I can't believe anyone would make this law without a keen sense of absurdism.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:25 AM on March 4, 2010


Do you or your organization directly or indirectly advocate, advise, teach or practice the duty or necessity of controlling, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, the state of South Carolina or any political division thereof?

Wouldn't this make every single political party in existence a subversive organization?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:26 AM on March 4, 2010 [14 favorites]


From the form: Do you or your organization directly or indirectly advocate, advise, teach or practice the duty or necessity of controlling, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, the state of South Carolina or any political division thereof?

Uh, wouldn't all political parties find themselves guilty of this: "Advocat(ing) . . . the necessity of controlling . . . the government . . ."

This is a transparent effort to chill radical speech.

South Carolina says: "Oh, it's fine if you want to talk like a revolutionary, just put yourself on this list. What, you don't want to be on the list? Well, then you'd better watch what you say, buddy."
posted by General Tonic at 8:31 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) This story circulated weeks ago, and more damningly 2) you're misreporting it.

The law in question dates to the Red Scare (when such laws were common). Like all other such laws, it's unconstitutional and unenforceable -- and you won't catch anyone enforcing it. Groups that register under the law are doing it as a publicity stunt or a joke (see the bottom of the Guardian piece).

It's flagrantly wrong to characterize this law as "forc[ing] any subversive organization to register," because the law has no force. That the law is still on the books is a quirk of our system of judicial review -- when the courts rule a law unconstitutional and thus unenforceable, they do not strike the law from the statute books, that being a legislative function. The SC legislature has not yet gotten around to repealing this law, although I think it's on their legislative agenda.

Nonetheless, suggesting that the law is still alive -- as you do above -- is the worst kind of ignorant panic-mongering.
posted by grobstein at 8:34 AM on March 4, 2010 [19 favorites]


It's low-hanging fruit to point out that this is the law the state that saw the first shot fired in the Civil War.
posted by workerant at 8:34 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's probably not really any different from the Marijuana Tax Stamp; they don't actually expect anyone to sign up, but it provides them with additional criminal charges to levy if they catch someone doing something they don't like.
posted by quin at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


. . .when the courts rule a law unconstitutional and thus unenforceable, they do not strike the law from the statute books, that being a legislative function.

Huh, they also haven't gotten around to removing that 1950s-era PDF form from the official South Carolina Secretary of State's web site.

-
posted by General Tonic at 8:38 AM on March 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


I have to pay $5 to submit that form?! That's outrageous! I'm going to march on South Carolina and demand lower subversive filing fees! Right after I file as a subversive organization bent on subverting South Carolina!
posted by DU at 8:38 AM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Awesome. Now we're imposing civil penalties for failure to register our intentions prior to engagement in unlawful activity? Looking forward to seeing the "Tax Fraud Registration Act" or the "Premeditated Murder Registration Act" or even the "Intent to Exceed the Speed Limit Registration Act". Soon we can enjoy new revenue streams from inadequate policing of the intentions. Hell, maybe they could just put a running meter on the side of the confessional.

Of course, something tells me that the "Declaration of Semi-Official Travel for the Purposes of Illicit Extramarital Intercourse with a Foreign National Registration Act" won't get a governor's signature in South Carolina.

Call it an intuition...
posted by felix betachat at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2010


This regulation is in the same realm as marijuana tax stamps and stupid visa questions. If you make it a legal requirement to say people are doing X you then have an extra charge against people who are doing X but didn't tell you. In essence, they've made subversion a clerical crime. This dumb law dates to the 50s. I wonder if it'd stand up in court now? Freedom of expression has limits.
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2010


grobstein, I found it funny, more than alarming (though General Tonic is probably right, it could be used to chill radical speech at a moments notice). I just find it amusing when a bureaucracy tries to control things that by definition are uncontrollable. I'm sure there's a law somewhere that forces anarchists to register as such.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:40 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to seeing the "Tax Fraud Registration Act"...

Way ahead of ya.
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on March 4, 2010


grobstein's right. This law doesn't "force" anyone to do anything. Here's a whole host of other stupid South Carolina laws, including dance halls not being allowed to operate on Sundays, "a person must be 18 years old to play a pinball machine," and my favorite, "When approaching a four way or blind intersection in a non-horse driven vehicle you must stop 100 feet from the intersection and discharge a firearm into the air to warn horse traffic."

I do like this however:

Another $5 well spent was received from the "American Citizens for the Extermination of South Carolina," which says it believes "the US should use its nuclear arsenal to detach SC from the mainland, use heavy ships to tow the state into the Atlantic and sink it and its political idiots."
posted by blucevalo at 8:43 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another $5 well spent was received from the "American Citizens for the Extermination of South Carolina," which says it believes "the US should use its nuclear arsenal to detach SC from the mainland, use heavy ships to tow the state into the Atlantic and sink it and its political idiots."

Nah nah nah, you boys have got aholt of the wrong form there, is what you've done. You need Form 37x0373B, Intent to Submarine a Political Entity.
posted by DU at 8:45 AM on March 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


A better take on the law is here, including the news that a Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation to repeal it, saying he heard "somebody suggesting that we had passed this thing just recently in order to go after Tea Party activists, or some foolishness like that."
posted by TedW at 8:49 AM on March 4, 2010


It's low-hanging fruit to point out that this is the law the state that saw the first shot fired in the Civil War.

By a legislature that still flies the Confederate flag of treason in front of the State House. That's what cracks me up.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:51 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have seriously considered registering myself as "An Educator." That's subversive, no?

I think they're being ironic. I can't believe anyone would make this law without a keen sense of absurdism.

Oh honey, bless your heart.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:54 AM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nonetheless, suggesting that the law is still alive -- as you do above -- is the worst kind of ignorant panic-mongering.


Actually, wouldn't the worst kind be drafting this kind of law in the first place?
posted by stenseng at 9:00 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


They'd be fools to repeal this law, it's free money. Think of how many people here will pay $5 for a sockpuppet they use maybe once or twice.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:02 AM on March 4, 2010


An organization means more than one member, right? So I wouldn't have to register as a lone subversive.

The notion of having anyone else join me totally goes against my philosophy of sovereign individualism, and as a Nation of One I decline to recognize South Carolina as a legitimate state.

Good luck catching my sovereign ass anywhere NEAR your backwards ass territory, but if for some insane reason I do, I'll be sure to fire a couple shots in the air so y'all know I'm comin'.
posted by chronkite at 9:16 AM on March 4, 2010


I think they're being ironic. I can't believe anyone would make this law without a keen sense of absurdism.

Oh honey, bless your heart.


Hey, now! No need to get mean.
posted by grubi at 9:22 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


someone should send in a registration form and sign it francis wilkinson pickens
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you or your organization directly or indirectly advocate, advise, teach or practice the duty or necessity of controlling, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, the state of South Carolina or any political division thereof?


I just played "Power to the People" and "Revolution No. 1" on my iPod. I sent them 10 dollars accordingly.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 9:31 AM on March 4, 2010


Yes, but "Revolution No. 1" was reactionary, not subversive.
posted by blucevalo at 10:01 AM on March 4, 2010


Wait, is this a 59 year old law that has just been "rediscovered"? Or was it just passed last year, as most outlets are reporting?

It makes a difference: The former is just an old, dumb law that was never taken off the books, of which we have Plenty. The latter would be intended to stir up teh freedom luvin Tea Party types -- ironically, the law itself is an act of subversion in modern context.
posted by LordSludge at 10:20 AM on March 4, 2010


quin : It's probably not really any different from the Marijuana Tax Stamp; they don't actually expect anyone to sign up, but it provides them with additional criminal charges to levy if they catch someone doing something they don't like.

And just like the marijuana tax stamps, the only people who will actually sign up will do so as a joke, so they can hang a form on the wall and brag "Hey, check it out - I officially count as a subversive!".

/ has several friends with marijuana tax stamps for the same reason
// in fairness, you probably could score at least a few joints if you busted those same friends.
posted by pla at 10:35 AM on March 4, 2010


Hm. Seems like the thing to do would be to flood their inbox with thousands upon thousands of joke forms, then publicizing it in order to further highlight the absurdity of the law. Anybody up for some civil action?
posted by Toby Dammit X at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2010


Wait, is this a 59 year old law that has just been "rediscovered"? Or was it just passed last year, as most outlets are reporting?

I just ran up to my firm's library and checked an out of date printed copy of the South Carolina Code. It had the section, along with the listed citations for the section in the 1962 code, and what I think was a 1951 citation, which was, I presume, to the original bill. (I say presume because I've never looked up a SC law before, so I have no idea what their sessions law citations look like).

In short, it's an old law.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:42 AM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Including TedW's source, this was also on NPR yesterday: S.C. Bill Would Repeal Terrorist Filing Law. The entire "story":
Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. In South Carolina lawmakers are looking into repealing the state's Subversive Activities Registration Act. The law dates back to the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era. It requires any group that advocates overthrowing the U.S. government to register with state officials. Some worried it could be used against conservative activists today. No one had actually registered until last month when word of the law made the news. About 10 groups have filed as a joke.
posted by josephtate at 11:19 AM on March 4, 2010


Guess I should say: I put "story" in scare quotes because it was one of NPR's in-between-the-news-funny-bits.
posted by josephtate at 11:21 AM on March 4, 2010


You are dumb's admission that he, and many other bloggers, got het up in error about this story.
posted by stet at 11:42 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


grobstein: Nonetheless, suggesting that the law is still alive -- as you do above -- is the worst kind of ignorant panic-mongering.

Yeah, that FPP caused rioting all across the nation!!! (Seriously? Surely even you can think of worse kinds of ignorant panic-mongering.)
posted by coolguymichael at 12:00 PM on March 4, 2010


Metafilter: Pay $5 to register your subversive behavior
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:12 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


“$5 to overthrow the US government”
Same as in town.

“The SC legislature has not yet gotten around to repealing this law, although I think it's on their legislative agenda.”
Flying the rebel flag – still basically ok too.

"When approaching a four way or blind intersection in a non-horse driven vehicle you must stop 100 feet from the intersection and discharge a firearm into the air to warn horse traffic."
Man, I’d love to follow this law. KA-BLAM! *Siren* What? Look, officer, the code clearly says…

Some old junk still on the books in Illinois. We still have the river going the other way despite an order from the supreme court.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:21 PM on March 4, 2010


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