Special to TLE
I was condemned by the governor of New Hampshire last week.
It started when the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire invited me to
give the dinner speech at their annual convention in Nashua last
Saturday, Sept. 28.
I spoke about my latest book,
The Ballad of Carl Drega
a collection of non-fiction essays detailing real-life attacks on liberty and
freedom in modern America.
Roger Talbot, a reporter for the Manchester Union-Leader, took me
aside and suggested the controvery now raging over the book in New
England may result as much as anything else from the cover, a painting by
which depicts Boston rebels in a darkened church in
the early 1770s, passing out muskets in preparation for the Boston Tea
Party, or the successful resistance to Gen. Gage's attempt to seize
unregistered assault weapons at Lexington -- except that Scott
improved on my original conception, depicting the arms being handed
out not as ancient flintlocks but instead as modern-day AR-15s, like
the one used by New Hampshire killer Carl Drega in August of 1997.
Any piece of artwork can be interpreted many ways, of course. But I
agree with readers who tell me the cover -- with a rifle being handed
toward the viewer as the militiamen mill about with their newly issued
arms -- asks, "Have you considered what you might be willing to do to
defend our liberties ... and when?"
Roger's story ran in the Sunday, Sept. 29 edition of New Hampshire's
www.unionleader.com/Articles_show.html?article=14506&archive. It begins:
"NASHUA -- For Libertarians, the message in a book with a cover
illustration that portrays North Country killer Carl C. Drega as a
modern-day patriotic Minuteman is that government needs to respect the
"About 50 activist members of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire
attended the party's 30th annual convention yesterday at the Holiday Inn.
"The keynote dinner speaker was a Nevada author and newspaper
columnist, Vin Suprynowicz, who wrote a book titled, 'The Ballad of
Carl Drega.' The book retells the story of the man who killed four
people in a Colebrook shooting spree as an introduction to a series of
essays on what Suprynowicz views as the loss of personal freedom to
the oppressive encroachment of government.
" 'What happened in northern New Hampshire in 1997 was terrible,
something that should never happen, but people don't see the full
story. We need to see the full story, not to glorify Carl Drega,' said
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Babiarz of Grafton.
" 'Vin is adamant in his book that Carl Drega shouldn't be praised,
but when we create a government situation where more people are
desperate and there is no judicial relief for them, when the system is
not fair for them, they are going to blow up sometimes and innocent
people get killed. Government officials must realize they are servants
of the people and that the constitution is our guide and we have to
treat people with respect,' Babiarz said.
"Howard Wilson of Andover, a candidate for the N.H. House in District
35, said he had read both of Suprynowicz's books. His first was titled,
'Send in the Waco Killers'.
" 'Drega was pushed beyond his limit,' Wilson said. 'The thing is when
the government exempts itself from the regulations it imposes on thee
and me and then requires thee and me to jump through hoops to get to
our own property, as Drega was, there is something very, very wrong.'
"The subtitle of Suprynowicz's 696-page book is 'Essays on the Freedom
Movement, 1994 to 2001.' His musing covers a wide and critical
spectrum -- from the seemingly ever-present regulation of government,
to taxation, the war on drugs, environmentalism, the public school
system, the right to private property and the rights to bear arms.
"Suprynowicz ... works as an assistant editorial page editor at the
Review-Journal newspaper in Las Vegas, writes a syndicated column that
runs in about 20 small western-state newspapers. ...
" 'I am not -- repeat, not -- advising anyone to go forth and start
shooting cops and bureaucrats,' Suprynowicz wrote on page 23 in the
book that begins with the story of Drega who lashed out with a gun
after years of frustrating legal duels over what he considered the
government's intrusion into his privacy and his right to do what he
wished with his property.
"Drega was 36 on June 21, 1971, when selectmen in the North Country
town of Columbia refused him a permit for the house he was building on
property off the west side of Route 3 in that town. That was the
beginning of a quarter-century of struggle over various property and
tax issues that pitted Drega against a system he believed never gave
him a fair hearing.
" 'Needless to say,' Suprynowicz wrote, 'a quasi-literate product of
the government schools (with) no lawyer, his filings became a laughing
stock both in the courts and in the newspapers to which he sent
copies, begging for help.'
"Drega was 62 on Aug. 19, 1997, when he shot dead two state troopers
who had stopped his rust-encrusted truck; a lawyer and part-time judge
who had opposed him as a town official; and a newspaper editor who
tried to stop him. Two other lawmen where wounded before Drega died in
a shoot-out with about 20 officers in the woods in Brunswick, Vt.
"Last night, Suprynowicz told New Hampshire's Libertarians that 'we
still retain a lot of freedoms in this country. The way to make sure
we don't lose any more is use the ones we have. ...' "
The Associated Press moved a shorter, rewritten version of the Union-Leader's
story on the regional wire that day. Just as messages used to
grow garbled in the old children's game of "telephone," The AP
typically condensed reporter Talbot's already creative description of
"a book with a cover illustration that portrays North Country killer
Carl C. Drega as a modern-day patriotic Minuteman" to simply "a book
that portrays North Country killer Carl C. Drega as a modern-day
This, in turn, led to a press release being posted Sept. 30 on New
Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen's official Web site
headlined: "Governor Appalled at Attempts to Excuse Carl Drega."
The release reads: "Gov. Jeanne Shaheen released the following
statement on the appearance of Vin Suprynowicz, author of the 'Ballad
of Carl Drega,' this past weekend in New Hampshire:
" 'I am horrified that anyone would attempt to find excuses for the
actions of Carl Drega. Carl Drega was not oppressed; he was unwilling
to follow the law. Carl Drega was not a modern-day patriot; he was a
murderer. He killed four innocent people, New Hampshire State Police
Troopers Leslie Lord and Scott Phillips, Judge Vicki Bunnell, and
Colebrook News and Sentinel editor Dennis Joos. They were the true heroes."
I wrote a polite response to Gov. Shaheen, thanking her for attending
my talk -- since I knew she surely wouldn't have condemned my message
without hearing it -- but chiding her for not identifying myself so
that I could have autographed her copy of my book -- explaining I was
further confident that she would not have condemned that
without having read it.
(Memo to the irony-deprived: Gov. Sheheen did not attend my dinner
speech, nor -- I feel safe in concluding -- has she ever read a single
word of my book.)
Within a few days, Michelle Dumas of Somersworth, N.H. had written in:
"Dear Vin, I know you probably have better things to do than worry
about what some small Southern NH newspaper prints, but I wanted to
let you know about a nasty, small-minded editorial that was printed
last night (Oct. 3) in the Foster's Daily Democrat regarding your talk
at the NH convention.
www4.fosters.com/news2002/oct_02/oct03_02/comment/editorial_1003a.asp, Michelle had found
"There is no way to justify murder ...
"It's easy to see why so few people take the Libertarian Party
"Libertarians held their annual convention last weekend and their
keynote speaker was Vin Suprynowicz, author of 'The Ballad of Carl
Drega.' Rosalie Babiarz says the author 'looks at people who have been
pushed to the edge and asks, "What can we do to prevent people from
being pushed over the edge?" '
"Babiarz's husband, John, the Libertarian Party's candidate for
governor, implies Carl Drega was society's victim -- someone who
existed in 'a government situation where more people are desperate and
there is no judicial relief for them.'
"Carl Drega slaughtered five people in Colebrook five years ago. ...
Carl Drega was insane. There is nothing a democratic republic could
possibly have done to drive him to commit such a series of outrageous
acts. At best, he was delusional. At worst, he had devolved into a
savage animal -- an animal society had every right to destroy. ...
"Suprynowicz uses the story of Carl Drega as an introduction to what
the author views as the loss of personal freedom to the encroachment
of government. A look at Suprynowicz's Web site,
www.privacyalert.us, gives us cause to worry more about
anarchy than the expansion of oppressive government.
"While Suprynowicz emphasizes that violence is not the answer to the
real and imagined threats perceived by Libertarians and other fringe
elements of the political arc, a view of his thinking is clear in a
passage from his current online offering:
" 'Now the sun is setting. The few of us who remember what real
freedom was, and who wish to see that legacy preserved and passed on
to another generation, no longer have the luxury, the remaining time
and wealth and opportunity, to "save the world." At this point, we've
got to concentrate on saving our own children and grandchildren,
teaching them there's a reason to keep our gold and our guns and our
liberties -- and showing them how.'
"It is horrible to think of Carl Drega as a patriot or even someone
who represented a cause. Carl Drega was a madman who was unable to
live in a society constructed for the benefit of common good. It is
unthinkable to see him or anyone like him as representative of
"It takes someone who is intellectually dead to view Carl Drega or
anyone like him as representative of the legitimate frustrations of
the people of New Hampshire or other Americans."
Interesting. Whether or not Carl Drega was insane, the little New
Hampshire daily goes much further, here, actually asserting that
anyone who ever forcibly resists government actions to deprive us
of our constitutional rights must be insane by definition,
since "There is nothing a democratic republic could possibly have done
to drive him to commit such a series of outrageous acts."
This is a notion ponderously dangerous and evil. Germany's Weimar
Republic was, without doubt, a "democratic republic," which elected
Hitler and the Nazis in a fair polling. Does that mean no resistance
to the Nazis could be justified -- that anyone who tried to resist
them can be judged "insane"?
Robert E. Lee resisted the armed force of the United States. Whether
or not his cause was just (and I can't find anything in my copy of the
Constitution that bars secession), does that mean he was insane? If
so, he's surely the most prominent insane person in American history
ever to have a major university named for him.
If the Founding Fathers believed there could never be any cause for a
sane man to take up arms to defend himself against abuses of authority
by a "democratic republic," why did prominent New England federalist
and founding father Noah Webster write in 1787, "Before a standing
army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost
every kingdom of Europe. [But] the supreme power in America cannot
enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people
are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular
troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States"?
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las
Vegas Review-Journal and author of the books
Send in the Waco Killers and
The Ballad of Carl Drega. For information on his books or
his monthly newsletter, dial 775-348-8591 or visit Web site