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06/29/2004 Archived Entry: ""

I love this woman! No, no - I am not outing myself, I'm speaking of Mary Lou Seymour and her Liberty Action of the Week. That woman is indefatigable - a real role model for those on the verge of burning out, a psychological state toward which I drift on occasion. I have frequently included precises of her weekly LATW on McBlog but this week's message about "Guerilla Activism" is too exuberant and well-expressed for me to do anything but reprint it in full.

Mary Lou

"Last November, I did a column on `Freeway Blogging,' the mostly West Coast `guerilla activist' practice of posting large, easy to read and obviously homemade signs on America's freeways, as one of the last outlets for individuals to express themselves to the masses. Got an email from a reader in NYC this week which really cheered me up!

"'My Brother and I have decided to dedicate our summer to freeway blogging anti-Bush/war signs. We are very passionate about getting the truth out there and making people open their eyes. I was just wondering if perhaps you had any good ideas for us to put on some of our many signs. We have made basic, 'Bush Lies' signs and ones about Michael Moore's new film and one about the Patriot Act. Any help is greatly appreciated.'

"Not only is Freeway Blogging spreading to the East, but this column is apparently spreading into the anti-war left ... since I am lousy at thinking up slogans myself, I sent this lady a link to the wonderful TheBumperSticker.Com web site, which features hundreds of catchy slogans "for the libertarian in all of us" imprinted on bumper stickers, from "Let's sacrifice Bush for the good of the whole" and "Visualize world tyranny" to "Conscription is slavery" and "Empire is expensive." If any of y'all have any other suggestions, send them in and I'll post them on the Blog.

"Freeway blogging is only one of the many manifestations of what is generally referred to as "guerilla activism" -- activism that is done often on the spur of the moment, often by a "cell of one or two," always "unsanctioned by the state" (`no steenking permits'), and usually not even sanctioned by an organization (except perhaps a loose-knit one with no "shiny badge wearers" in charge).

This past week we saw fantastic example of guerilla activism ... Ernie Hancock and the "L Factor" gang and the wildly successful SpaceShip One, Government Zero action. Ernie and other libertarians put together the idea, action plan and signs on a shoestring budget, traveled to the space launch, and managed to stir up enough attention to get the now-famous SpaceShip One, Government Zero to the pilot during his `victory parade' ... thus spreading the libertarian meme nationally and internationally.

For those interested in "tangible results" of this sort of activism, here's a bit from Ernie's `Executive Summary': After the craft landed, everything settled down, an impromptu 'spacecraft' parade for the crowds: Burt Rutan ran over to Ernie to get the sign, and handed it up to the pilot as they were parading SpaceShipOne. Rutan specifically wanted that sign, as he had already been told about it, it turns out. Rutan asked Ernie if he could have it for the press briefing, Ernie tells him sure, there are more. Ernie and the gang later got into the press room, they got to show off all the signs and banners to the national and international press. They got into the hanger, Barry Hess got his picture taken with SpaceShipOne. A stack of the WLA newspapers made it into the press briefing room. In total, beyond meeting Rutan, it seems Ernie got to meet Paul Allen, Richard Branson (of the 'Virgin' brand), Dennis Tito (flew on Mir), and probably several other Billionaires. The Libertarian messages seemed to resonate with one and all. Barry Hess is supposed to write a newspaper article for a Florida paper about this experience."

On the other side of the country, activist Jim Lesczynski, of "Guns for Tots" and the "Great smokes giveaway" fame, has announced that the Manhattan LP will gather on the Great Lawn on Central Park on the eve of the Republican National Convention to protest the Iraqi war and occupation and the PATRIOT Act ... WITHOUT "permission."

"If you ask the government for permission to protest it, you deserve to be told no," said Manhattan Libertarian Party chair Jim Lesczynski, referring to the city's denial of United for Peace and Justice's request for a permit for a massive protest on the Great Lawn on August

Help Jim spread the word about this "unauthorized protest" (permits? we don't need no steenkin' permits!) throughout the Net, and, stay tuned for further developments. The "in your face" brand of activism practiced by the MLP is a very effective outreach tool in the time-honored tradition of "how to get a mule's attention: (first hit him on the head with a 2x4)" ... and is the solution to the age-old problem of "non-mainstream movements" ... how to get covered by the press? MAKE NEWS.

But you don't have to "clank when you walk" (like Jim and Ernie) to be able to practice guerilla activism. For those of us who shrink from the limelight, there are many unobtrusive yet very effective ways to be a "guerilla activist." The time-honored practice of "Simon Jestering" for example, spreading the freedom meme with catchy slogans on cards, signs, and stickers. The SJ website offers a "starter kit" to download SJ business cards, sticky labels and election signs.

Side note here: Whatever you may think of electoral politics (and many believe that participating in electoral politics just gives your stamp of approval to the whole process), from an activist point of view, election year, particularly a Presidential election year, is a golden opportunity for outreach to promote changing our culture to one of freedom. During election year, the general public is, for once, focused on thinking about "public policy:" the issues that affect us all and the electoral process itself. Election year gives us a chance to get "our ideas" into the public debate, and, the election itself gives us a way to "score" how well our memes are spreading. And, of course, if the "protest vote" for a freedom-oriented candidate is big enough, it can drag the winners, kicking and screaming, in a more freedom-oriented direction.

SIDE NOTE TO MARY LOU'S SIDE NOTE: As one of those who believes that voting is "a stamp of approval" and a sanctioning of the electoral process, I disagree with the possibility of using Presidential candidates as a way to spread libertarian messages. For a very brief explanation on why I disagree with ML on this point, click here.

So, for example, those who may be interested in spreading the "Michael Meme" (Badnarik for President), could go Simon Jestering using Badnarik quotes. For those who don't mind a bit more visibility, here's a quick "guerilla activist" action idea ... leaflet theaters showing Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore's Hundreds fill theater to see Fahrenheit 9/11 anti-war anti-Bush flick). OK, OK, I think Moore is a jerk of the first order and a socialist dog too:-) ... but his movie is turning out HUGE numbers of theater goers, ("Hundreds fill Theaters") who already are sympathetic to anti-interventionism and anti-war memes, but who probably have NO idea in this world that the Libertarian Party's candidate, Michael Badnarik, is the only real anti-intervention "choice" on the ballot this November. Unfortunately, at the time I write this, the Badnarik campaign doesn't appear to have a specific "anti-war" flyer as yet, but, you can certainly make your own (or check back at the Badnarik site to see if they have one when you need it).

There are always opportunities for a "guerilla activist;" the trick is to not WAIT for someone to "tell you its OK" or WAIT for a group or organization to give the "go ahead." Just DO it. But, to be successful, as in almost every endeavor, preparation is half the battle ... for tips and tricks on everything from leafleting to impromptu rallies, and from writing press releases to being arrested, see my article "Taking Action." And if you'd like to share "war
stories" or action ideas with the readers of this column, send them in!)"

Best to all,

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