When Kelly Voluntaryist and I (after having found myself suddenly working as her newly-employed assistant and videographer) decided to embark on a semi-spontaneous road trip to tour our new home “state” of New Hampshire in a truck with a missing headlight and a tail light that was out of commission, we were (of course) expecting some sort of encounter with at least one officer of law enforcement. Being from the veritable police state of New Jersey myself (and Kelly from the equally third reich-esque Arizona), there is inevitably, unfortunate though it may be, some degree of reasonable paranoia invoked by the practice of traveling in a vehicle that serves as such a bulls-eyed target for agents of oppressive bureaucracies. So naturally, the two of us expected to receive some degree of harassment and initiated aggression by men in badges who were surely to be armed to the teeth with an arsenal of various instruments for the implementation of state-sanctioned violence. In the seemingly mundane reality of the oppressive nanny colony known as the twenty-first century U.S.A., these men are more commonly referred by the average citizens as “police officers”. We, however, prefer to call them what they really are: members of an oppressive gang of a monopolizing and uniformed circuit of organized crime.
When I first caught view of the flashing blue lights indicating the initial instigation of the agents’ hostility, I felt an instinctual pang of dread (despite the confidence I hold in the peaceful nature of my personally constructed policy of ethics). Immediately, I shrugged it off, and took some pleasure in noticing that before I had had time to even consciously assess the predicament, I had reached for the iPad in my messenger bag and opened its video camera application.
In an attempt to express the invaluable knowledge that has protected myself and others from many of the potential abuses of power by the hands of the working agents of the state, it is perhaps necessary to the reader for me to emphasize the imperative necessity of having a camcorder with both audio and video capabilities on hand at all time. In a modern society where the rigged bureaucratic system of control (and unfortunately, the justice system as a whole) tends to favor those working on behalf of such an illegitimately obtained system of “authority”, a video camera is by far the most powerful tool of self-defense available to the common victim of governmental aggression. Even if one is still brutalized and/or kidnapped and caged by a badge-wearing hired gun of the state, in the long term it is ultimately wiser for a victimized individual to be able to provide legitimate and viable evidence in court of any mistreatment(s) that may have resulted (and nearly always do[es] result) in any encounters with workers in the field of “law enforcement”. And despite the staggering numbers of the many judges that tend to ignore the misdoings of officers due to their friendly allegiances to one another, with a good enough lawyer, such video evidence could potentially make or break a pending legal case. This potential usage of such footage to defeat aggressions by the irrational lawmakers, as well as the agents who enforce their corrupt and draconian policies, can sometimes (perhaps even very often) be the saving grace of a would-be victim of governmental aggression. For this reason, having a camera on hand at all times is quite obviously essential (especially for those particularly inclined to engage in acts of civil disobedience) to the preservation of one’s well-being. And with the advancements in modern technology, many recorders have become light in weight (as well as small enough) to be transportable at all times with little to no inconvenience to the bearer.
One other key point to be emphasized here is the unprecedented recent circuit court ruling in the case of Glik vs. Cunniffe. Glik had unwittingly happened to witness and film via his camera phone the excessively violent beating and arrest of a nearby man by a Boston police officer. In a police state such as I happen to unfortunately live (and I do indeed speak for myself as an individual in this instance), this would be hardly surprising. However, Glik was promptly arrested for “wiretapping”, and thus began a lengthy legal battle that nearly cost him his freedom for the rest of his waking life. And all of this debate occurred over an entirely non-violent action (but hey, when 86% of the prisoners in the united states are in confinement for non-violent crimes, that notion is anything but shocking as well, sad though it may be to have to accept). In a world where a select few are privy to the false authority and illegitimate extra rights granted by official government costume garbs, it’s hardly far-fetched to entertain the notion, however briefly, that maybe this unethically privileged class of men would dislike any possibility of being held accountable for their misbehaviors. And in a system where the gang members are all buddies, from the judges to the enforcers, down to the lowliest of meter maids, it’s even easier to imagine that maybe they might look out for each other, as friends in any other profession might very well do.
And while it has become increasingly uncommon (and in fact, even rare) that justice is fairly and honestly delivered by the robed ringleaders who reign mightily supreme from their pedestals at the forefront of every court, a beacon of respite from the encroachments of the state was thrown to the citizens of the land mass commonly known as America like a bone scrounged from the unsightliest dregs of the end of the night’s unwanted table scraps. The court ruled, almost bafflingly, that any individual still maintains his or her first amendment right (a word which here means, “privilege”) to audio and video record public officials while they conduct their publicly funded duties. To fancy a court ruling that not only obeys the constraints of the structure of law that established the very existence of the “justice” system in the first place (the long-forgotten and now mystically fabled national relic known as the United States Constitution, which you can probably stll pay to see in a museum somewhere alongside various other ancient artifacts and a plethora of other dead things) is a stretch for many to imagine. The even stranger prospect that any such court ruling might even side with the liberating bare-minimum principles of basic human natural law is an even more foreign concept that is yet more difficult for me to even begin to attempt to wrap my head around, as I am shamelessly and vocally faithless concerning the potential for any conceivable benefits to come about as a result of the state and its coercive “services”. But perhaps I’m beginning to sound redundant, as my stance on the matter has probably already been inferred by the readers of this article (should there have been any readers at all).
Regardless of my opinions, the final ruling issued by the courts read as follows: “[A] citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”
I feel (as unhappy as I am to have to admit it) as though this legislation has managed to sustain for all of the subjects ruled by government what is essentially a privilege–and perhaps only a temporary privelege, at that. Such government-granted permission may merely be a temporary luxury, perhaps doomed only to become as fleeting as any other permissions that have been granted and then once again prohibited by the state (for some examples of this irrational behavior, consider alcohol, aspartame, and ephedra). And given the fleeting nature of the many temporary liberties allotted out to the public by the state and its bureaucrats, the reality that such an essentially self-protective right to record could inevitably be snatched away by treacherous hands that are at their best desperate for more money and at their worst, greedy for more power can be most favorably deemed a slippery slope into the trenches of a larger and more authoritarian government. Naturally, stronger words could (and perhaps ought to) be used, but I’ll leave that for the reader to discern for his or herself.
So, embracing our momentarily-granted privelege (one which is really just a manifestation of the natural law inherent in all individuals) to record, we immediately began filming as the officer stepped out of his cruiser and moved towards the passenger side window, safely off the road and standing cozy on its shoulder. I rolled my window down and stuck my iPad as close as I could to his face so as to appear as intent upon filming as possible, though not personally intimidating. The tactic appeared to work; he seemed nervous.
After muttering some jargon about the many reasons he pulled us over, he handed me some paperwork and requested that I pass it over to Kelly (the vehicle’s owner and operator). I did so, and we opted to press the officer with a few further questions.
“Hey, what’s your name and badge number?” Kelly inquired, to which he merely stuttered that it was “written at the bottom of the complaint” before beginning to turn away.
“Hey, can I ask you one question?” she continued, but he had already turned to make his escape. I’m unsure as to whether or not he even heard us as we asked him that question.
We laughed uproariously and prided each other in our deflection of the efforts of this particular “public servant”. Sure, Kelly received a ticket, but who knows what might have happened, had we been less prepared and mentally equipped to deal with such authoritarian harassment? The point is that the camera kept us safe, and often serves to protect many others from the worst instances of aggression at the hands of the exceptionally priveleged individuals capable of enforcing the will of the state.
I encourage each and every individual out there to act in a similar fashion when confronted with such outrageous displays of ill-gotten power. Using a camera, and the as-yet-upheld inherent right to record public officials as they go about their duties, individuals have an oppurtunity to effectively prevent instances of aggression at the hands of government officials. And while this method may not be perfect, it is as its very least the best defense one can take to resist oppression, tyranny, and the runaway abuses of an agency that holds the utmost monopoly over the use of violent force. Good luck to all, and please keep filming–police accountability can be achieved in our time.