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Particularly catching on in the prison population
August 1, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

The Sovereign Citizen Movement (or Redemption Movement) in the US is based on a theory that the federal government has pledged each and every American citizen, as a fictitious "straw-man" corporate person, for collateral, and that you have the right to assert your "sovereign citizenship," free yourself from liens and taxes, and claim hundreds of thousands of dollars lent to the government in your very own name. This is accomplished by a number of pseudo-legal filings, mailings and renderings of your own name, intended to make you a Free Man on the Land. Although not yet mainstream, believers are becoming more active and visible, from the recent violent deaths of movement leaders Jerry and Joseph Kane (previously) to the rather less threatening Basil Marceaux (dot com), who pledges to get rid of the "gold-fringe flag" (previously).

Although I picked links to make the movement easier to understand, perhaps you would rather have links impossible to understand, in which case may I recommend the website of David Wynn Miller, who has retooled the grammar of the English language in the cause of freedom.
posted by Countess Elena (72 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Um. Where to begin. I give up.
posted by blucevalo at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is particularly low-hanging fruit, isn't it?
posted by eclectist at 12:55 PM on August 1, 2010


There's nothing new here, and my sources in the IRS and state taxing authorities tell me that there's not much of an uptick in people using their specious arguments. When I did tax work, I only came across a couple in four years...and what happened to them is what happened to everyone else who tries their silly gambits-- they lost, they got hammered financially, and they went to prison. The pseudo-legal filings gained some traction 20-30 years ago (the wackos created "common-law courts" that would would issue fake judgments and orders), but most states now have laws that make pretending to be a court a crime.

This is a good source that tells you what happens in real court if you try this sort of thing with the IRS.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 12:56 PM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


I remember hearing about this many years ago. My uncle had some friends who were really studying it. They said that when you made yourself independent you were entitled to receive the money the government had in your name. Supposedly anything under a million dollars would be given over without question, but any more than that there was some really vague threat of assassination. Oh, and the way to free yourself from financial obligations was to claim a copyright on your own name, which would make it illegal for anyone to send you mail (for some reason).

It was interesting, but even to twelve-year-old Internet-less me it sounded like a scam.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 12:56 PM on August 1, 2010


AWESOME! Miller's site has both a quantum dictionary AND a quantum thesaurus! Now I'm even closer to solving Timecube without having to peel off dimensions and reapply them in the correct sequence!

Also this makes the private silver currency people I knew back in the day look positively SANE by comparison.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:59 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Southern Poverty Law Center on "sovereigns."
A report by The Washington Monthly notes that the ongoing trial of four Baltimore rap promoters for murder, racketeering, weapons possession and illegal drug distribution has been stalled for years by the defendants' use of sovereign-citizen defense tactics. The four men — Willie Mitchell, 30, Shelly Wayne Martin, 31, Shawn Gardner, 30, and Shelton Harris, 25 — face life in prison but continually disrupt hearings, firing their lawyers and launching lengthy tirades about how they are neither defendants nor subject to the jurisdiction of the court. The four men mount a defense based on the claim that the court is only prosecuting their "straw men," or legal twins, and holds no authority over their "flesh and blood" persons.

Four years after pre-trial hearings began in 2004, the African-American defendants continue to tie up courts using fringe legal theories developed by white supremacists that assault the legitimacy of the 14th Amendment, which gave full citizenship to freed slaves. The irony is not lost on presiding U.S. District Court Judge Andre Davis. "You have invoked ideas formulated and advanced by people who think less of you than they think of dirt," Davis says at one point to defendant Shawn Gardner. "The extremists who have concocted these ideas that you are now advancing in this courtroom are laughing their heads off… . When you complete this [legal] suicide, they will honor you because you are doing their work, better and more effectively than any of them ever dreamed they could do."

posted by Sticherbeast at 1:03 PM on August 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


I sure hope some major political party realizes that these people are their only remaining supporters, and brings their ideas to the forefront of our political discussion with the media conglomerates they own!
posted by interrobang at 1:03 PM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Gold, fringe indeed.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:07 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


That David Wynn Miller site is just chock full of TimeCubey goodness.
posted by Decani at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2010


This is utterly incomprehensible.
posted by flippant at 1:19 PM on August 1, 2010


"You have invoked ideas formulated and advanced by people who think less of you than they think of dirt,"

Seems to be keeping them out of prison, though.
posted by clarknova at 1:21 PM on August 1, 2010


Oh damn, where was the thing I read about this a while back - there was a barking mad essay with all kinds of puns on "admiralty" law, conflating "berth" (of a ship) with birth of a citizen and so on... It was just schizophrenic, magical thinking all the way through. People who think like this are beyond unreachable. You don't make eye contact and if you do you back away smiling.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:22 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seems to be keeping them out of prison, though.

That's what blows me away the most. Four years of delay? What's the whole story here? How is this just?
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2010


Appeals take a long time. Especially if you appeal absolutely everything, on completely frivolous grounds, just to take up time.
posted by kafziel at 1:25 PM on August 1, 2010


This is the kind of thing my dad would go for in a heartbeat.
posted by Peach at 1:28 PM on August 1, 2010


I understand that appeals take a long time, but the naked frivolity on display is something else. Hunh.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:30 PM on August 1, 2010


believers are becoming more active and visible, from the recent violent deaths of movement leaders Jerry and Joseph Kane

Normally death renders one less active and visible, but what do I know...
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:33 PM on August 1, 2010


Mr. Show had it 10 years ago: "Welcome to New Freeland. Stay Out!"
posted by dammitjim at 1:33 PM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Man these guys have some serious schwag.
posted by clarknova at 1:41 PM on August 1, 2010


Sticherbeast wrote: "I understand that appeals take a long time, but the naked frivolity on display is something else. Hunh."

It's not at all unusual, at least when there are corporations involved. See Tivo v. Echostar for one shining example. The arguments are different, but the effect is the same. It is more unusual in criminal cases against individuals, however. Usually the attorneys refuse to use these sorts of arguments, as they are subject to sanction for raising frivolous issues.
posted by wierdo at 1:42 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


My neighbor's son was telling me about some sort of loophole that allowed you to actually create your own money or notes or something, and that the people who did this were going to let him in on it, eventually. I emailed him and said it sounded sketchy. The last thing I heard was that his parents, who had payed off their house, had to get a mortgage to cover his losses. It seems like it would have been easier just to have gone to school and gotten a job than to spend your life looking for loopholes and instant wealth.

These people are the political equivalent--looking for some magical release from institutional control and authority in any form. There are weird issues with southern honor woven through this too. It's weird, because the people writing this crap are taking seriously the idea that authority is derived almost entirely from language, and pushing it to its illogical extreme. There's something fascinatingly deconstructive about that.

I personally fantasize of a world without 30-year mortgages. Apparently a handful of people asked the banks who held their mortgages to show proof of ownership, and the banks were unable to do so, resulting in a sort of legal limbo for the home and no mortgage payments. /rambling
posted by mecran01 at 1:45 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Disappearing mortgages.
posted by mecran01 at 1:46 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Too Weird for The Wire: How black Baltimore drug dealers are using white supremacist legal theories to confound the Feds is the whole Washington Monthly report mentioned in that SPLC link.
posted by zjacreman at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not just a US thing any more. I've seen online references to this theory from believers in Canada and the UK, and recently here in NZ someone tried this as a defence in court too. Naturally, the Commonwealth mutant variation involves posting a statutory declaration to the Queen and claiming to be subject only to English common law before William and Mary...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2010


It has kept them out of prison in the sense of being housed in an actual correctional institution as such, but they were in jail the whole time living with all the restrictions of jail. In addition they face additional charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
posted by humanfont at 1:53 PM on August 1, 2010


Too Weird for The Wire:

Yup. As seen on MetaFilter.
posted by rtha at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought that Miller guy sounded familiar.

Language Log posted about him appearing in an Australian court.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:05 PM on August 1, 2010


So this is basically the legal equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going "la la la la I can't hear you!"
posted by fshgrl at 2:35 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


From i_am_joe's_spleen's link:

..I am the judge in 1988 who wrote the mathematical interface on all 5,000 languages proving that language is a linear equation in algebra certifying that all words have 900 definitions through this mathematical algebraic formula...

What kind of judge is he, you might ask? "he is a judge of the world court and he can step in any court and rule."

I can only assume that, while in court, he wore something fitting his high stature. Like these official world judge glasses I found.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 2:38 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


FREE WESLEY!

Oh wait, a black man doing this? I'm not sure that's allowed.
posted by meehawl at 2:40 PM on August 1, 2010


Man, every profession has its bizarre fringe element. I remember reading a real live physicist's blogged response to some crazy basement dwelling dude who had come up with his own GUT or something. It's like, mathematicians have time-cube guy, lawyers have these guys, and us theological-types have whoever Sarah Palin's current pastor is.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:48 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


fleetmouse: I believe you are thinking of people like Jordan Maxwell (crazy YT link). He starts in on the berth/birth thing around 2:30. Also check out his claim that birth certificates = stock certificates. Good times.

And, as a bonus, it seems there is an overlap between this line of thinking and the fetishization of upper-case letters.
posted by dhens at 2:49 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The last thing I heard was that his parents, who had payed off their house, had to get a mortgage to cover his losses.

If my kid incurred enough losses, by following some whacked out legal theory that promised instant riches, that I had to mortgage my house to cover them... would I be a bad parent to say "We'll visit you in bankruptcy court, son!"?
posted by fatbird at 3:08 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of a moment in the American version of The Office where the ridiculous boss character (Michael Scott), comes out of his office and yells to the office "I DECLARE BAAANKRUPTCY" and then goes back into his office.

comedic gold
posted by atrazine at 3:12 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like, mathematicians have time-cube guy, lawyers have these guys, and us theological-types have whoever Sarah Palin's current pastor is.

I feel like there is a good AskMe there.
posted by empath at 3:18 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought of doing a post on the Los Zetos raid on Laredo today (the take from Josh Marshall et al.), but couldn't deal with checking out the original sites, nor mange to keep from editorializing in the post. This is even better.

Is anyone really able to get anything from that David Miller site? Do I need to allow some more java scripts, or are you all just pretending?
posted by Some1 at 3:24 PM on August 1, 2010


If my kid incurred enough losses, by following some whacked out legal theory that promised instant riches, that I had to mortgage my house to cover them... would I be a bad parent to say "We'll visit you in bankruptcy court, son!"?

Familial love should not preclude self-defense. One wouldn't allow one's child to batter one's body; neither should one allow one's child to batter one's financial security.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:27 PM on August 1, 2010


Casey Serin, that I am facing foreclosure mortgage scamming criminal, is also involved with this movement. He uses an 'accepted for value' stamp to 'pay' his past due mortgages and taxes and has signed up for FreedomClubUSA to turn his debt into 54 times it's value. Seriously.
posted by Tacodog at 3:32 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh dear and fluffy Lord, :JUDGE: David-Wynn: Miller's site is like a bug light to the moth of my intellect.
posted by Michael Roberts at 3:32 PM on August 1, 2010


Note: There is some loud background music on the FreedomClubUSA's website...
posted by dhens at 3:36 PM on August 1, 2010


Just when I thought they couldn't get any kookier and nonsensical, they come up with accepted for value. Thanks for that link. I hadn't heard of that particular scam before.
posted by wierdo at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2010


Oh right, sorry about the music thing. I usually have my sound turned off. Also, I should have said, "convert his debt into income * 54." FreedomClubUSA's Red Lite [sic] due date has been consistently pushed back, delaying funding of their members. And they've been doing this for years.
posted by Tacodog at 3:47 PM on August 1, 2010


There were a couple of these people who used to hang out on the local BBSes when I was in high school (so, early 90s). I still have kind of a soft spot for them, because they were among the first to teach me an extremely valuable lesson about the futility of arguing with people online.
posted by moss at 3:56 PM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


It kinds of reminds me of the kids who insisted "If you just punch a hole in the phone card at just the right spot, you can make free phone calls!" or "If you just wave a magnet around the coin slot in the right way, the machine will give you free soda!", despite never, never being able to actually demonstrate their methods coming to fruition.
posted by Jimbob at 4:12 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Naturally, the Commonwealth mutant variation involves posting a statutory declaration to the Queen and claiming to be subject only to English common law before William and Mary...

Wow, what a bad idea. Have they not heard of The Bloody Code?

The only question is would dodging taxes be considered High Treason? If not, they'd only be hanged by the neck until dead. If so, it's Hanged, Drawn and Quartered.
posted by eriko at 4:24 PM on August 1, 2010


When you find yourself using language for something other than good-faith cooperative communication, for instance, when giving a deposition to a hostile legal opponent, it immediately becomes clear how meaningless words are without a shared objective. That's when it depends on what the definition of "is" is. Every word is an obstruction by default, without the unspoken agreement, that we are indeed hoping to communicate. It's like the way all math collapses to a = a, if you aren't trying to do something productive.

It's really not so clever to point at these contradictions and inconsistencies -- slippery instability and confusion is the global condition within which we all try to find some purchase moving forward.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:44 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It has kept them out of prison in the sense of being housed in an actual correctional institution as such, but they were in jail the whole time living with all the restrictions of jail.

And that didn't last forever. They were sentenced in March 2009. One got 33 years, the rest got multiple life sentences.
posted by Slogby at 4:46 PM on August 1, 2010


It kinds of reminds me of the kids who insisted "If you just punch a hole in the phone card at just the right spot, you can make free phone calls!" or "If you just wave a magnet around the coin slot in the right way, the machine will give you free soda!", despite never, never being able to actually demonstrate their methods coming to fruition.

Those at least have some sort of internal logic- magnets do indeed have an effect on machines. The trick in question is bogus, but still.

This is more like, "You can get free soda want if you write 'All the soda in the world, copyright God' on a piece of paper and tape it to an empty bottle of Dr. Pepper."
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 4:50 PM on August 1, 2010 [22 favorites]


"You can get free soda want if you
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2010


Reading this stuff feels like the modern equivalent of paying to walk through Bedlam to look at the lunatics.
posted by dilettante at 5:49 PM on August 1, 2010


The last thing I heard was that his parents, who had payed off their house, had to get a mortgage to cover his losses.

If my kid incurred enough losses, by following some whacked out legal theory that promised instant riches, that I had to mortgage my house to cover them... would I be a bad parent to say "We'll visit you in bankruptcy court, son!"?


I don't know this for sure, because it's not something I can really bring up, but I got the sense he might have borrowed the money for the initial investment from people who don't care a whole lot about bankruptcy court.
posted by mecran01 at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2010


From the first link: Sovereign citizens also widely use fictitious financial instruments such as phony money orders, sight drafts and comptrollers' warrants. Believing paper money to be invalid, the movement easily justifies the creation of entirely new forms of "money." From "Public Office Money Certificates" in the early 1980s to the money orders and warrants of the 1990s, this has been a particularly popular tactic because it potentially allows the sovereign citizen to get something for nothing whenever a government agency, bank, business or private citizen mistakenly accepts one of the bogus instruments.

For a minute there I thought they were writing about Goldman Sachs.
posted by mecran01 at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


So. Will these folks have an investment consulting service advertised on Glenn Beck soon? (or should that be glenn beck?)
posted by yeloson at 7:12 PM on August 1, 2010


the sovereign citizen to get something for nothing whenever a government agency, bank, business or private citizen mistakenly accepts one of the bogus instruments

I'm pretty sure you're thinking of craigslist.
posted by ryanrs at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is nothing new and the only remarkable things about the sovereign citizen / pro se / constitutionalist movement are:
1) it's never been well or widely reported, so people are always shocked when they find out about it
2) it's no news to anybody in the tax business and you will find this bullshit debunked on numerous tax sites on the web. Here's one.
3) it's always mutating with slightly different twists to the bullshit. People who've never heard of it react like it's big news. Nope, same old toilet, slightly different stain.

The roots are most strongly tied to the Christian Patriot movement, a form of white supremacy tied up with Christian Identity (most people knew Identity as Aryan Nations.) It's got nothing to do with Christianity, instead it's a perversion of British Israelism (a minor 19th century cult that believed the British are the descendents of Lost Tribes and thus God's Chosen People.) The American version known as Christian Identity (meaning the identity of Jesus as an Aryan and the Jews as the literal offspring of Satan - did I warn you this was twisted?) was cooked up after WWII by a few people hanging around racist preacher Wesley Swift.

The main two characters in this little drama were William Potter Gale (see Daniel Levitas' biography of him, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right) and Richard Girnt Butler.

Of the two, Butler was more widely known because of the publicity he gathered while he led the Aryan Nations. The Wikipedia entry on Butler is sketchy and lacking in detail. A much better source is James A. Aho's The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism.

As well known as Butler was, William Potter Gale was far more influential though almost unknown outside of the racist right at the time of his death. Gale more or less single-handedly synthesized the bizarre reinterpretation of the Bible that became known as Christian Identity. He also recruited Butler and indoctrinated him. When Wesley Swift died in 1970, a power struggle broke out between Gale and Butler over who would lead the Identity movement and particularly, who would get the assets of Swift's church. Butler grabbed the money and ran for Idaho, where he founded Aryan Nations, Church of Jesus Christ, Christian. Gale withdrew to Mariposa, CA, where he dabbled in various anti-government activities until his death in 1988.

Most people understand the militant white supremacist movement in America in terms of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. The Klan/nazi faction is best known but least numerous. The largest component of racist extremism is the legacy of William Potter Gale and his creation of Christian Patriotism. The earliest Christian Patriot group Gale formed was the California Rangers, an underground paramilitary group that briefly flourished in the early 1960s. The Posse Comitatus, militia movement of the 1990s, the tax protest movement (the subject of this unfocussed fpp) and the curious blurring of the terms Christian and white in the American far right are all traceable back to Gale.

Gale was disgusted with the Klan and neo-nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell. He regarded them as costumed clowns who would never be able to create a mass following. Gale promoted Christian Patriotism as a form of super-American racial nationalism with a strong emphasis on localized nativism.

The clearest expression of Christian Patriotism was the Posse Comitatus. The wiki article is incorrect regarding Mike Beach as the founder. Beach took Gale's work and publicized it, but Gale clearly preceded Beach. In the period before his death, Gale combined his ideas about the Posse with tax protest and sovereign citizen ideas, calling his creation The Committee of The States. One facet of the CoS was its paramilitary arm, the Unorganized Miliita. it took nearly 13 years for Gale's notion of an underground guerilla army that used the insurrectionary theory of the 2nd Amendment as it's main recruiting tool to catch on nationally. When it finally did, it was mostly though the efforts of Identity believer and Christian Patriot, John Trochmann of Montana.

Here's a self link to something I wrote about 15 years ago on Christian Patriotism.

The SPLC link "Return of the Sovereigns" in the fpp is really not very accurate. What is going on is the normal cycle of activity of the extreme and racist right. You'll note that that article is about a year old. Most of SPLC's publicized work is directed towards their fund-raising strategies, so they tend to be behind the curve. They certainly were tardy during the 1990s with the militias.

Since the 1920's with the second generation of the Klan, every decade with the exception of the 1940's and the first decade of this century have seen an upswing in racist extremism. The lull in the 1940's was mostly due to the war and the unpopularity of nazi-style anti-Semitism and racialist politics, but the links that formed during this period between the Klans and the German-American Bund laid the groundwork for the marriage of Klans and neo-nazis during the 1960s. The recent lull has been due to the implosion of the Y2K hoax, which immobilized much of the financial assets of the Patriots in "preparedness" supplies for an apocalypse that never happened. Then, just as they were preparing to emerge from their holes, 9/11 came down. There were a handful of incidents where Christian Patriots got stung by FBI agents posing as Muslim terrorists and the natural paranoia of the movement took care of the rest.

Now with the election of a black president and the fizzling of the Global War on Terrorism, the Christian Patriots are once again coming out the woodwork. They have heavily infiltrated the Tea Party movement. Much of the paranoid conspiracy-mongering going on in the Tea Party is just retreads of Christian Patriot tall tales, many of which date back to the 1960s and have been recycled two or three times.

The current cycle will likely peak next spring. The usual pattern is for the Patriots to ride on the energy of electoral cycles and then the more violent ones will have a temper tantrum (usually in the form of mass killings) in the spring after the federal elections. You may recall the last cycle turned violent in 1995, six months after the right-wing frenzy gained the Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the Depression. The crazies like Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph don't have any investment in electoral politics, but they are activated by political agitation and take the hot air coming from the far right as encouragement and approval for their own extremism.

It could - theoretically - be possible to short circuit the next spasm of right-wing violence, but it would require a vocal and public campaign to clearly and forthrightly withdraw any impression of public support for extremist violence. Given the bloviators on Fox and the various local radio hate-talkers, this is a pretty faint hope. Instead, as nucleophilicAttack recently noted over on MeCha, the exact opposite seems to be taking place, as symbolic violence and its apologists seem to be on the upswing.

Seems pretty grim to me. Based on the all-American impulse to excel, I'm just hoping the bastards don't top the Oklahoma City score. It seems that they will want to try.
posted by warbaby at 7:28 PM on August 1, 2010 [256 favorites]


yeloson wrote: "So. Will these folks have an investment consulting service advertised on Glenn Beck soon? (or should that be glenn beck?)"

Are you talking about his straw man? In that case, it's GLENN BECK. As in United States v. GLENN BECK
posted by wierdo at 7:29 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really wonder how the motivation behind these things breaks down:

1. People who are new to it and don't know it doesn't work.

2. People who know it doesn't work, but who stick with it because they think they're right in principle even if every court in the United States disagrees with them.

3. People who know it doesn't work, and know that it's basically bullshit, but they hate the government and are happy to do anything to stick it to the proverbial man.
posted by lore at 7:48 PM on August 1, 2010


O my. This makes the cash backed by ore/anti-Federal Reserve Note loonies look well-reasoned in comparison.
posted by anotherbrick at 7:51 PM on August 1, 2010


I guess another way of putting it is that it seems strange to "debunk" these legal theories. Dudes are spending the rest of their life in jail, there's your debunking. Try it and you'll get your own personal debunking courtesy of the federal courts. It's like debunking the "machetes aren't actually sharp" theory to someone bleeding out from a head wound.
posted by lore at 7:52 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really wonder how the motivation behind these things breaks down

I can't help but think that this relates to the fact that the mentally ill are over-represented in prisons in the United States, and a mentally ill person is more likely to be in prison than in a hospital for treatment of his or her illness. Add in genuine insanity to gullibility, and I think you've got a recipe for so many kinds of crackpot badness it's hard to express.
posted by graymouser at 8:02 PM on August 1, 2010


I guess I've always thought of this kind of thinking as cargo cult law. That is, people first observed the legislative and judicial processes, and their outcomes in the form of text, and concluded that

(1) statutory law and case law are both made of words;
(2) arguments succeed because they are, in some sense, persuasive; and
(3) verbal precision is important, hence the notion of the loophole.

They then turned (1) into "I can make my own laws by writing them down" (cf. free soda from God), (2) into "My argument is valid because I am very emphatic about it," and (3) into an endless series of quibbles about things like fringes on flags. Take these three mutated ideas, beat them into a heady froth, and hey presto! Nonsense.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 8:11 PM on August 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


There are several notable things about Christian Patriots:

Unlike neo-nazis, the Klan and skinheads, it is very rare for someone to leave the Christian Patriot movement. There are a lot of hypotheses, but nobody seems to know why this is. But once in, there doesn't seem to be any way out.

Among Patriots who run afoul of the law, there are disproportionately high percentages of people with a history of head injuries. There are also high percentages of Patriots with histories of committing incest or child abuse. Again, the anomaly has been noted but no explanation has been established.

I have speculated in the past if the lack of exits from the movement might be related to the intense self-inflicted paranoia among participants. In times of political tension with the Patriot movement, there are notable increases in suicides, murder-suicides and suicide-by-cop (particularly vehicle stop shootings.)

It seems possible that the endless obsessing over conspiracy theories, delusional thinking and paranoia (many will tell you they are being watched by the government, their phones are tapped, satellites are tracking them, etc ad nauseum) actually causes neurological changes, irreversible ones. If you've spent much time among them, one thing that is striking about their behavior is how once they've been set off, they can't seem to control themselves. It's sometimes very scary to see how worked up they can get over things that are absolute nonsense.

Carl Drega is a good example of somebody who made themselves murderously crazy with this stuff.
posted by warbaby at 9:11 PM on August 1, 2010 [15 favorites]


If you're a poor, not very educated person in this country, then you've probably been fucked over by small-print legalese on more than a few occasions. When you can't parse your credit card contract or your lease terms, then you likely experience those convoluted sentences as powerful, mysterious weapons. And if your truck just got repo'd because some guy in a suit wrote a sentence with 17 commas, well, you might try to get in on that action.
posted by ryanrs at 9:14 PM on August 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


David Wynn Miller is the new Gene Ray.

His writing may be incomprehensible, but the logic perpetrated by some of the other sites seems to border on mainstream social science speak. Careful enough study might even allow one to understand his language, or more interestingly use it a text to project one's lunatic pet marxist/feminist/millenial/Christian theories and views. The degree to which my undergraduate history education prepares me to pervert language for my own ends is bush league compared to the heights virtuosos like these guys have achieved.

I would probably pay a hundred or so dollars to go to one of these seminars if tI found one nearby.
posted by LiteOpera at 10:00 PM on August 1, 2010


Hi, first post.

I remember back in the mid 90s, my dad went to a golf course frequented by the Freemen. (A militia group, infamous for a shootout with the FBI in Montana.) There was a Freemen compound on the outskirts of town. They were quasi Christian, I imagine that they identified with the Christian Patriot ideology.

Anyway, these guys were like a heavily armed version of multi level marketing sales people- "as a business owner, this will benefit you...". They were always trying to tell my dad that he should go to the state capital, renounce his U.S. citizenship, become a "citizen" of our state, and therefore avoid federal taxes. But to do this, you needed to pay a $38 filing fee, which could only be paid in coins, since paper money isn't real.

The $38 fee was made up out of whole cloth, they did some numerology voodoo on the Constitution to come up with that number.

They developed a cartoon character based on this kind of person.


Oh, and the disappearing mortgages link? I thought the response of the lawyer for the banks was hilarious- that it's a waste of time to make the banks actually prove with legal documentation that they own the note on the house. I'd love to see a lawyer argue that point for just an average person. Sheesh.
posted by Leta at 3:46 AM on August 2, 2010


I think this was an episode on Family Guy, where Peter seceded from the US and declared his property and house his own country. Then he started getting friendly with dictators, had them over for a BBQ. It did not end well for him.

Life imitates cartoons, only funnier.
posted by mermayd at 4:41 AM on August 2, 2010


i_am_joe's_spleen: Naturally, the Commonwealth mutant variation involves posting a statutory declaration to the Queen and claiming to be subject only to English common law before William and Mary...

eriko: Wow, what a bad idea. Have they not heard of The Bloody Code?


I wonder if it goes back further than that? Coincidentally, I'm reading A Radical History of Britain, which talks about a tradition in English politics of harking back to King Alfred, and the common law of England prior to the "Norman Yoke". Certainly, the English versions I've seen of the 'Freeman' argument cite the "common law" as something distinct and separate from civil law.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:56 AM on August 2, 2010


[few comments removed earlier - trolling considered harmful - if you guys want to talk in insults, go to metatalk or email please.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:39 AM on August 2, 2010


that it's a waste of time to make the banks actually prove with legal documentation that they own the note on the house.

Prior to the shenanigans with the mortgage business I'd agree with you, but I suspect there's a non-zero chance that any particular bank can't produce the paperwork for some subset of mortgages...
posted by mikelieman at 10:12 AM on August 2, 2010


Shortly before the runoff primary election, [House Representative R-S.C.] Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here's what took place:
I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, "You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!" And I said, "Please forgive me. I'm just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.
posted by meehawl at 12:17 PM on August 3, 2010


DA: Paper terrorists stealing homes
When a new family moved into the mansion on South Goddard Road in south DeKalb County, residents just assumed they were “city folks” too busy to meet neighbors. Georgia Power and the water company came out, but 87-year-old Helen Goddard never saw the residents. “We know everyone around here. But they were quiet, no knocking on the door to introduce themselves,” said Goddard, whose husband’s family has lived in the area for centuries and are the namesake for the road. The only time Goddard saw her next-door neighbors was when they were being led off in handcuffs. Prosecutors say the $1 million brick home next to the Goddards’ farmhouse is one of at least 19 properties that have been taken over by a sect of anti-government extremists involved in criminal behavior. They call themselves “sovereign citizens” and believe they are immune to state and federal laws. They assert, among other things, that banks can’t own land and that any home owned by a bank – including the thousands throughout Georgia – is free for the taking.
posted by meehawl at 1:41 PM on August 19, 2010


"The FBI says the national movement has been around for decades and has ties to the Nuwaubians, a black supremacist group that started near Augusta. Nationally, sovereign citizens, which originated as a white supremacist group, have been connected to multiple insurance fraud and tax evasion scams, along with some violent crimes." - from the preceding "paper terrorists" article
This illustrates the bizarre incompetence of the FBI in dealing with these white nationalist movements, the first thing they do is dredge up some minority copy-cat and make that the lead. They did exactly the same thing in the infamous Megiddio Report. the fact that they are still doing this means the vulnerability to attacks is something the FBI is unable to address.
posted by warbaby at 8:51 PM on August 21, 2010


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