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L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE

Number 870, May 1, 2016

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The Royal Age of Gotcha
by L. Neil Smith
lneil@netzero.com
Publisher and Senior Columnist

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I have always been extremely interested in 16th century England, a period when Europe was engaged in a great bloody struggle to become Western Civilization, the era of William Shakespeare and Elizabeth I, a time when praying from the wrong book (the one with the semicolon on Page 87, instead of a comma) could provide your enemies—who didn't really give a rodent's rear about the theology involved—with all the excuse they needed to have you shortened or incinerated at the stake.

It was the Royal Age of Gotcha.

By the 18th century, America's Founding Fathers, who gave us the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, believed we were beyond all that gotcha nonsense, but they were wrong; they had made a mistake. We had a Bill of Rights, sure enough. Because it consisted of a series of amendments to the original Constitution, it superseded that august document, and became the highest law of the land.

And what was their possibly fatal mistake? They had neglected to provide a suitable penalty for violating that highest law of the land. One may speculate whether that oversight was deliberate or accidental—the Bill of Rights was written, after all, by political allies of Alexander Hamilton, America's first crony capitalist, no real friend to individual liberty, but it was written, mostly, to assuage the misgivings of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and their anti-Federalist "republican" comrades who hadn't wanted the relatively powerful central government that the newly-fledged Constitution mandated. Nevertheless, nearly every tragic failure of principle in American history can be attributed to that strange, unfathomable omission.

The history of government agents violating the rights of citizens is long and grim, starting with the Adams Administration's Alien and Sedition Acts, through Lincoln's war against the South, including "scares" of various kinds regarding Germans and communists, not to forget the evil and basically illegal internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two. When I was young, the merest suspicion that somebody might be reading the wrong type of political magazine could get that person fired, or even imprisoned. I saw it happen, myself. And it was unimaginably worse if you were homosexual, a trait which, however unpopular at the time, should have been protected by the Ninth Amendment.

Employing force, or the threat of force, to support and protect whatever orthodoxy may be current still goes on today, the most recent example being the Obama Administration's Attorney General, Loretta Lynch (and critics accuse me of giving villains melodramatic names) and the lengths she has said she's willing to go to in order to stop individuals and groups from questioning the highly profitable, albeit completely fraudulent, proposition of global warming, or "climate change".

Popular science characters from David Suzuki to Bill Nye "the torture guy" have been calling for this Draconian measure for years. One is forced to wonder what Mr. Wizard would have done. To my knowledge, no specific punishments have been mentioned yet, although our times are mostly known for consent decrees, heavy fines, and imprisonment as a last resort. Yet somehow, Lynch's rhetoric still reeks of the stretching rack, red-hot tongs and pincers, the beheading block, and the burning-stake. Not only that, she is rounding up the Attorneys General of as many states as she can—about twenty, at last count—to carry out the same kind of atrocity at their level of authority. Climate heresy will be stamped out, is their view, even if it costs us our very civilization. We became gleeful torturers recently in various Middle Eastern struggles, why not resurrect the Inquisition?

As with so many other government outrages over the past years, since 2001, it would seem that there isn't anything that reasonable, civil liberties-respecting individuals can do about Lynch's vile machinations. However, after the War Between the States, Congress passed the following two laws, ostensibly to enforce the rights of newly-freed slaves against the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups, but perhaps also to protect the rights of conquered Southerners against Northern aggression. (It has been ventured by some revisionist historians that the Thirteenth Amendment is worded the way it is, not only to outlaw black chattel slavery, but military conscription, as well.)

U.S. CODE, TITLE 18, SECTION 241


"If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death."

U.S. CODE, TITLE 18, SECTION 242


"Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death."

If Lynch's scheme fails in any way to qualify her for a prison cell—or even the gallows—I can't find it in these extremely plain, straightforward words. Indeed, it seems to me that the great bulk of government practices, these days, is illegal. I would be willing to file charges myself, right now, except that I can't quite figure out who to file them with. Who has the power—and the inclination—to slap bracelets and leg irons on the U.S. Attorney General?

At the very least, an unflinching demand for the arrest and trial of any elected or appointed official attempting to deny American citizens of their Constitutional rights, employing the position of power he occupies, ought to be made a portion of the Libertarian Party platform, otherwise, the LP will have proven itself the weak imitation of the Republican Party many individualists have always thought it to be.

I suggest we start small, with a simple graffito suitable for bumper stickers, t-shirts, and for chalking on university walls and sidewalks where it can send fragile little undergraduate numbnutses reeling into blubbering fits of shock and outrage, reminding them that, in the real world, there are no "safe spaces", and that, sooner or later, their Progressive mentors are going to jail, preferably in an Alcatraz federal penitentiary refurbished just for them.

The graffito:

241
242

One final note: as this story began to attract angry attention across the country, the Attorney General, or one of her spokes-goblins, hastened to the press to inform them that these measures were not intended to be applied against ordinary individuals, but against big nasty fossil fuel corporations—oil, and especiallty coal—and their gigantic media flacks. My question is this: even if we were to permit an insanity like this, in the Age of the Internet, how could you distinguish, logically and legally, between the big guys and somebody like me, who's been preaching at this tiny pulpit for two decades?

Hey, Loretta—gotcha!


L. Neil Smith Publisher and Senior Columnist L. Neil Smith is the author of over thirty books, mostly science fiction novels, L. Neil Smith has been a libertarian activist since 1962. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE "Free Radical Book Store" The preceding essays were originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. Use them to fight the continuing war against tyranny.


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