Re: Terrorist Entropy vs Extropic Liberty
Sat, 3 Aug 1996 07:49:39 -0400

Ian's post about terrorism prompted some random thoughts:

First, as a matter of my own personal practice, I find it is usually not
fruitful to comment on the weight of evidence in any particular pending case
that has interest to the general public (look at the billions of wasted words
in connection with the OJ Simpson case ...). This is because both sides in
the actual case have a strong interest in *advocacy* rather than
truth-seeking (that's how the system is supposed to work, after all) and
unless you're involved in the case personally as party, judge, advocate or
juror, you're unlikely to see anything like a balanced presentation of
evidence. While a "fair" legal journalist may attempt to present a balanced
subset of the evidence and arguments, taking that journalist's presentation
as a basis of opinion is just accepting her work as a substitute for the
gestalt of a trial. As we say down here in Tejas, no matter how thin you
pour the pancakes, they always have two sides. That's why we have trials.

An aside: For what its worth, Ian, one of McVeigh's lead lawyers, Michael
Tigar, is known to me to be a tough, bright, creative and highly capable
lawyer. Tigar will see to it that McVeigh gets the fairest possible trial,
leaving no stone unturned and exploiting every weakness and error in the
state's case. I don't know anyone on the prosecution side of the case, but
chances are Tigar's twice the lawyer any one of them could ever hope to be.

That said, however, Ian has referred to something that has troubled me. I've
noted a disturbing phenomenon when discussing extropianism and transhumanism
with folks who are either aware of the ideas themselves or not: Through some
memetic mapping process, people seem to somehow link these movements with the
violent fringe crazies of the "militia movement". Unfortunately, it seems
that the wild-eyed "militiamen" have become icons in the public consciousness
that stand far too close to the concept of liberty.

I can't claim to have made anything like an in-depth study of the so-called
militia movement. But what I have read and seen doesn't impress me. I can
say their "legal" writings I've seen on the Net don't cut the mustard for me:
By and large they seem to be a mish-mash of half-baked caricatures of the
traditional common law and ideology from the time of the US Revolution,
pasted together crudely to reach the results they want without any real
analysis of the ideas they borrow and steal. The so-called "common law
courts" they have put together seem more like kangaroo courts thrown up as
rationalization machines to publicize their ideas, rather than tribunals for
resolving disputes, the only legitimate purpose of a court. In this they
serve exactly the same purpose as Stalin's show trials: Ideological theater.
Nothing is more threatening to the ideal of law.

Beyond this, the "militia movement" seems far too broad to generate much, if
any good. Most of its adherents seem to accept unquestioningly that a
powerful state should exist; they just don't like the one they happen to live
in and claim the right to violently oppose its policies. That's bad medicine
in my book. Furthermore, there are undeniable racist and fundamentalist
religious currents in the militia culture, absolute anathema to extropians.

Ian writes:
> It is possible that terrorist events could be used as modern day Reichstag
> fires, establishing the pretext for massive increases in police state
> powers, "new anti-terrorist powers" to be brought to bear against
> "anti-govt hard-liners."

I don't doubt for a minute that this is true.

> In fact, that is exactly the result. It
> would be too easy -- well, no, .. it IS too easy. But only as long
> as people do not question and examine the gov't / media story.

I, too, cringe at the infringements of personal liberty that both mainstream
political parties are falling over each other to implement in the name of
"anti-terrorism." But there doesn't need to be a "statist conspiracy" for
this to have happened. In fact, this is probably just the natural result of
the market for votes operating unconsciously on the sellers of "political
goods" (can you tell I just finished "The Machinery of Freedom"???).

I've constructed a little alarm in my mind that goes off whenever the "Hitler
meme" is invoked. The rhetorical power of images of Nazis is so great that
I'm suspicious of their use. Those images should be used *very* carefully so
as no to debase the currency of historical analogy. If you call Bob Dole a
"fascist", you don't have anything left to distinguish Herman Goering.

Finally, of course we should "examine the gov't/media story". That is why we
have public trials. But let's recall that the trial *will* be public and the
public will be treated to a view of Michael Tigar's talents in defense of Mr.
McVeigh. Contrary to the rhetoric of the militiamen, this isn't Berlin or
Moscow in 1936.

Greg Burch <> <> or
"Courtroom - A place where Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot would be
equals, with the betting odds favoring Judas."
-- H.L. Mencken