Sunday, July 22, 2007

Anti-Social Networking Sites

It's hard to find something new to say about the Internet rhetoric of tax resisters Ed and Elaine Brown beyond the fact of it, as it is described in articles such as The Boston Globe's "Tax resisters find allies in cyberspace." The Browns face incarceration for failing to report over 1.3 million dollars of income associated with her dental practice.

With the help of user-generated media makers like John Stoddard Klar of Christian Words Unchristian Actions and the producer of the IRS Standoff Video that has promised breaking-news coverage of the FBI's siege of the couple, the Browns identify themselves as part of a larger political movement. Klar also encourages his viewers to watch the film America from Freedom to Fascism, which has a strong anti-technology message that exploits anxiety about electronic voting machines and the implantation of microchips in interactions in everyday life.

Another supporter, former Arizona congressional candidate Mark Yannone, produces a pro-Brown blog, along with dozens of other Blogspot blogs on subjects that range from academic freedom to the grammar of Standard Written English to the use of the sugar substitute Splenda.

The Browns are also being encouraged to embrace martyrdom for the tax resistance cause by Ruby Ridge leader and survivor Randy Weaver. (You can read the much redacted FBI report about the fatal standoff with Weaver's family, which killed his wife and one of his children, in the official Ruby Ridge file on the FBI's Freedom of Information website.)

The Browns' would-be media empire includes a website, Show Us the Inherent Law, and a MySpace page called Time2MakeaStand that features online videos with cheesy computer-generated 3D models and Star Wars style graphics.

Links to campaign literature for Libertarian Ron Paul, who is running for President as a Republican in the 2008 race abound on the Browns' websites. Because the Browns have embraced a form of off-the-grid pseudo-environmentalism and say that they don't want their tax revenues to support an unjust war in Iraq, some progressives are also surprisingly sympathetic to the duo.

I strongly believe in the principles of civil disobedience, which means that protestors have to be willing to go to jail for their beliefs. Civil disobedience is not about going out in a blaze of glory; it's about making a statement by letting the law take its course. I'd rather see myspace pages, YouTube videos, and blogs from those who resist the law by accepting its consequences rather than those who fantasize about armed revolt. For example, when Thoreau refused to pay taxes out of opposition to the Mexican-American War and slavery he peacefully served his time in the lock-up, which was admittedly very short.

Certainly, going to jail or not for tax evasion can be a matter of income, social capital, and even class. When I worked at a delinquency prevention center for the California Youth Authority decades ago, we would sometimes have these sweet, powdered society ladies who had tried illegal tax shelters and were caught and thus had to do hundreds of hours of community service as punishment, along with paying their hefty fines. Jail is probably a better alternative for the Browns, who would probably be ill suited for any community service at this point, since they've apparently stopped paying property taxes to their local government as well.

Granted, as a public employee, I'm certainly not a neutral party on the question of support for government infrastructure and its fiscal requirements, and I resent people who say that professionals shouldn't be paid for educating our citizens' children. But the Browns should at least acknowledge that at one time or another, taxes to government programs have supported most of the communication technologies that are spreading their message and the portable and energy-efficient means for being off the grid that they are still able to exploit after being cut off by the authorities.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Mark Yannone said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Yannone said...

Hi Liz,

I can't imagine what is "anti-social" about standing up for freedom, truth, justice, and hard-fought rights. Perhaps the phone rang when you were typing "anti-socialist," which would be accurate and anathema to most government employees these days.

Aaron Russo's movie is titled America: Freedom to Fascism. Once you watch it, which you can do without charge online, you will see that it is not an anti-technology documentary. The only anti-technology folks left in America are the Amish, and even they are more accurately described as being pro-sustainable technology.

Another advantage of watching Aaron Russo's movie, America: Freedom to Fascism, is that you will discover that Ed and Elaine Brown have been obeying the law and are not tax resisters or tax evaders. Attorney Tommy K. Cryer just proved that in his own case in US District Court in Shreveport, Louisiana. He's not alone. Former IRS employees who actually read the law are saying the same.

I'm happy to read that you support the idea of civil disobedience. But when the law enforcers have become criminal, the idea of "the law taking its course" is reduced to a sweet dream, the stuff of fairy tales and Cub Scout jamborees. Too often, civil disobedience is met with deadly force. Today's Rosa Parks might not get off the bus alive. That would be called an unfortunate accident, a consequence of serving the greater public good.

Thank you for your good work.

Mark Yannone
yannone.blogspot.com

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and who is in charge and control of OUR government if we the people are not? Who are the facists? CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS MET WITH VIOLENT BEHAVIOR from those that are being disobeyed. The enforcers of inequalities are getting paid by someone.
Tax is not bad in and of itself. It is who is using our money for their own gain that is the source of the problem. If true protest is the focus of their behavior,then fine. Not paying property taxes is just greed. Ask the well off that build a new house and put up a ladder at tax time who they spend the "saved money" on. One must look carefully for the benefit and who it serves (not just the words used to excuse the behavior)before deciding whether to suport it or not. Pat or kneejerk responses serve no one.
Things like death or beating for someone such as Rosa was protected by law once upon a time, therefore it seems civil disobedience can work, sometimes at least. So just obeying or not obeying the law is not an indicater that one is being right or rightious or that the law is just or not.
As far as "anti-social" one would think anything that is detremental to any part of society would qualify. Who's freedom. who's truth, who's justice and who's hard-fought rights is the barometer of value here. If they do not serve us all, then someone is getting shafted.

8:30 PM  
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2:09 AM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

The other comments here are certainly welcome, but unfortunately I have had to turn comment moderation back on -- at least temporarily -- in response to the spam commercial content from "Vera." If you are attempting to post a genuine comment, and the Blogger interface prevents you from doing so, please notify me as soon as possible, and I'll try to correct the problem. I encourage diverse points of view and try not to stifle opinions, even those that contradict and correct the statements on this blog.

2:41 AM  
Blogger bob c said...

it was not an attempt to spam or hide by me when I submitted a comment as anomymous. Just a mistake. Although at this time SOME may not beleive me, I am not "VERA". I will be more careful clicking in the future. Sorry Liz.

5:02 AM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

Hi Bob C,

Just to let you know, anonymous comments aren't a problem either. I can understand that with political and cultural issues that are controversial taking a stand publicly can cause problems for some readers.

I just hate spammers.

3:15 PM  

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