Frequent HoT junkie Seth Cohn just offered another view on the whole Russell Kanning deal that Ian already covered. From the
“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” according to the late Barry Goldwater. I’m sure Russell Kanning agrees with that sentiment, and because of that belief, he is sitting in a jail cell. He’s likely on a hunger strike by now, and protests calling for his release are already in the planning stages. I won’t be at any of those protests though, because as much as I like Russell as a person and fellow liberty activist, he’s in the wrong, this time, in my opinion.
Last week, Russell was arrested while attempting to pass out flyers to IRS agents, which compared Bush to Hitler and asking them if they wanted to be a part of that evil, or if, instead, they would quit their jobs. Released right away, he went back, this time without his flyers, and attempted again to enter the IRS office. Arrested yet again, he then publicly announced that he would not attend a court hearing the next day. On Monday, federal agents came to his home, where Russell was seized and taken forcibly to a Federal Court in Concord, to answer to an arraignment hearing. Russell made clear he would refuse to cooperate with the proceedings, he didn’t want a lawyer, and if allowed to leave, he would not voluntarily return to the court. As a result, the trial was held right then and there, and after being found guilty on 4 of 5 charges (essentially disobedience of the officers and disruptive conduct) he’s now being held in jail until his sentencing, in early September. The sentence could be as high as 4 months in jail and twenty thousand dollars.
Russell has a history of doing non-violent civil disobedience activism. He’s taken to dressing in overalls and bearing a pitchfork, evoking some archetypal farmer, yet formerly, he was an accountant, and among other things, now publishes a small newspaper. He holds protests and events without permits. He burns flags and hold up picket signs along the roadside. He refuses to argue before a judge or post bail, and pleads guilty when charged with a crime, rather than fight it, because he refuses to acknowledge the court’s right to try him in the first place. When he attempted to board an airplane, without any identification and without submitting to a secondary search by security, while carrying his Bible, Constitution and an airline ticket, he was arrested and pled guilty to trespassing. No one was hurt, and if he’d been allowed to pass, his flight would have been uneventful. When he and his wife were holding signs protesting eminent domain and President Bush, in Manchester on a public street corner, they refused to move to a ‘free speech zone’ and were arrested. Those charges were later dropped.
Russell wrote before going to the IRS offices: “I don’t plan on hurting people, but I am resisting them and might mess up the office. I don’t think it is infantile, but maybe I am wrong. I do call it tilting at windmills. I have chosen to begin with the IRS. Jesus Christ overturned the moneychangers tables. I will try to turn over the tax collectors desks. I might even use a big magnet (a weapon of mass destruction). I am trying to break laws and certainly disturb the peace.” This potential threat of violence is why the officers were waiting for him in the first place last week, and at the first sign of his intent to commit that act, they stepped in and arrested him.
I think Seth has a point here. There’s nothing wrong with civil disobedience, and there’s plenty wrong with the notion of “free speech zones.” But going so far as to threaten property damage? In the name of God? Maybe if Kanning was Jesus Christ Himself. But that’s pretty much against Christian Anarchism, in just about every meaningful sense of the term. And it’s certainly not libertarian.
Seth’s got the right idea here. We shouldn’t be apologists for this sort of thing; we should apologize for it instead, lest we be associated with mayhem, property damage and extremism.