How NOT To Win (Part 1)
Author’s Notes: This will be the first of an ongoing series that will highlight libertarian “activism” fails and give advice to what will actually effectively promote liberty. In addition, the link about the event I’m criticizing does contain lots of vulgar language, you have been warned.
As you may know, the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts just passed an ordinance in a town assembly that bans profanity and punishes offenders with a $20 fine. The law is obviously unconstitutional and the town has earned national ridicule for passing it. If the law is ever challenged in a Federal court, it will be tossed out. Just the thought of a lawsuit, along with the national ridicule the law is causing, will likely cause the town to reconsider it, if it is even ever enforced.
Now enter into the mix, Z-list celebrity Adam Kokesh. The last time he was actually being talked about, it was when he was contemplating the murder of Mitt Romney in order to secure Ron Paul the GOP nomination for President. Now like how a moth is attracted to a bright light, Kokesh is trying to preserve his pseudo-celebrity status by staging a self-promoting stunt. He has called for a “free speech demonstration” in the town of Middleborough.
The “demonstration” will consist of basically a bunch of people cursing and generally using vulgar language to “protest” the law. Not only are they actually making fools of themselves instead of proving a valid point, they probably won’t be arrested and charged under the law they’re protesting but instead under simply disturbing the peace.
If this was really an attempt to draw attention to the violation of the First Amendment, what should really happen is just one person would defy the law, preferably incidentally. They would be fined and contest the citation in court, carrying it up the courts. Then, a First Amendment attorney would get involved and threaten to sue the town in state and Federal court to strike the law down, which would incur the town hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
The threat of the Federal lawsuit in most cases is enough to get the town to think about changing the law. Or, you would come in and try to persuade the town’s residents to see the error of their ways and change the law at the next possible town hall meeting. You do that by actually the hard work political campaigning entails such as going door to door and phone banking. You also try to persuade by writing letters to the newspaper, calling talk radio, and yes even writing blogs about the issue.
But this “demonstration” is not really about free speech, it’s about Adam Kokesh. This is a symptom of a major problem in the liberty movement in particular and really all political movements in general, which is that personalities dominate over the issues. Instead of actually doing something constructive to promote and expand liberty, he engages in ineffective and embarrassing publicity stunts like this. A few dozen people cursing in front of a town hall for 30 minutes will not promote free speech or individual liberty in general but will reinforce the stereotype that libertarians are classless, anti-social lunatics.