Playing Ducks and Drakes

The Artist Formerly Known as Feral Faun (among other things) is a visionary and a poet. Secured from material cares by state benevolence, in his rustic retreat he enjoys the independence of mind and of estate of the country squire of old. He has the time and the leisure to take the long view and take in the big picture. Above the fray, he looks down upon the less fortunate with a certain detachment alloyed with some compassion but also some condescension. The view from on high has its advantages, even, or especially, for those of us under his thoughtful surveillance. But it supplements, it doesn’t substitute for, the perspective of those of us in the thick of things. We may not see more than he sees, but we do see things he doesn’t see. In the confusion and the emotion of the moment, we may even misplace or misapply our principles, but the full meaning of principles is only disclosed in the attempt to apply them. They are practical or they are nothing. Seattle is a long way from Croatan. Concerning my altercation with Jim Hogshire, the undisputed plus the irrefutable facts are more straightforward than Squire Faun allows. It had been arranged for me, by a mutual friend (Loompanics publisher Mike Hoy), to lodge with Hogshire after a 3000 mile plane flight. After many fairly amicable hours an argument arose relating to Islam (really, not apparently), a creed to which Hogshire (unknown to me) was a convert. Hogshire threw me out at gunpoint and then (his stories vary) either called or visited the cops: he snitched. He also phoned in his version of events to Loompanics people to cover his ass and ruin my visit with them, losing me money, my major publisher and, most important, friends. With some difficulty I made my way back to my home in Albany, New York. After an incomplete recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (from which I still suffer) I first reported Hogshire’s narcotics and weapons cache to his landlord and then realizing that I had, for all practical purposes, already busted him — to the Seattle police.

Squire Faun’s first and apparently foremost argument is that my anarchist defenders have failed to admit explicitly that I acted as a police snitch. Even if that were true, what does what other people say or not say have to do with the propriety of my behavior? But anyway, it’s not true. Right from the start I’ve acknowledged that I was a police snitch. So have my so-called defenders at Badger and Popular Reality. It isn’t even fair to call these guys my (unconditional) defenders because they both criticized my resort to the police both privately and in print. Some anarchists, such as Ronald C. Tobin of The Thought, don’t even have a problem with my calling the cops, considering the circumstances. Some, like John Zerzan and Avi Naftel, are uncomfortable with my decision but think that I’m the only one who was in a position what to decide to do about my own horrific experience. When I feel forced to do something so distasteful, I don’t try to conceal it afterwards. Sooner or later a cover-up usually makes matters worse. Besides, I stand by my decision; I’d do it again. I became, because of extreme provocation, a police snitch. So what? You got a problem with that? Tell me what it is or shut up. Name-calling says nothing. Likewise the extended demonstration that my decision was premeditated is a waste of words. When did I ever say otherwise? When did anyone ever say otherwise? Premeditation makes a bad decision worse at least for moralists like Feral — but it doesn’t make a decision bad. Often it improves its quality. Squire Faun, reloading his cap pistol, took a couple more shots at me, but he’d exhausted his live ammunition along with my patience. He charges me with hypocrisy. That stings! As I understand the word, a hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another (especially if he’s aware of the inconsistency). I say I’m an anarchist. I say it, however, with more resignation than enthusiasm and yet I called the cops on Hogshire. How does that make me a hypocrite? I must have said or written somewhere that an anarchist cannot ever bring in the state, anywhere, any place, anytime, for any reason. But I have never said or written any such thing. In fact, as the Squire surely knows, I have several times said otherwise. He knows I used the state on Processed World after it tried to use it on me. He surely also knows I busted the SubGenius John Hagen-Brenner who mailed me a bomb a few years ago, something nobody, and no anarchist, has ever yet criticized me for. I have recounted these events in my first four books, putting the world on notice, to the extent I could, that if anybody ever again uses the state and/or serious private violence against me, I’ll do anything I think I’ll get away with to fuck him up bigtime. And I know lots of ways. Dont Tread on Me, get it? In retaliating against Hogshire as I did, I acted consistently with everything Ive ever said and everything Ive ever done. I dare anyone to come up with a single contrary example. A hypocrite is someone who is untrue to himself, not someone who is untrue to Feral Faun.

I am willing to concede that in some minute degree the state is strengthened by every exercise of its power every time, for instance, Feral Faun cashes his monthly disability check. Obviously he thinks that the check’s utility to him and to the Cause as an arts grant outweighs the way his cashing it legitimates what he calls our greatest enemies, the state and the economy. Apparently that falls within his as-much-as-possible exception to the no-contact-with-the-state rule. I’m not second-guessing his self-serving judgment, so why is he second-guessing mine? I might just possibly know what I need better than he does, and possibly his greatest enemies aren’t my greatest enemies. After all, he’s never even met me. But I question his sincerity.

For so sophisticated an anarchist theorist as Feral Faun, his off the pigs elevation of the police to a privileged pinnacle of authoritarian evil is awfully crude. Just because their role in oppression is the most obvious does not make it the most important. As a post-situationist he ought to be and his other writings confirm that he is aware of civilization as an integrated oppressive totality and of powerful dimensions of oppression not directly coercive, such as religion, moralism, ideology, the media, and the spectacle. When he now as he has never done before grossly exaggerates the repressive role of the Blue Meanies, he forfeits the insights of totalizing perspectives and reduces his analysis to the level of the kids fleetingly excited by the breathless exhortations of Love and Rage or Maximum Rock n Roll. It is theoretically meaningless as well as practically impossible to quantify social control. Behind every institution stands all the others. The policeman serves the landlord and the boss, but they serve him in turn. The separation of church and state is merely a matter of mutual convenience. Our greatest enemies, the state and the economy, are not only interdependent but inextricably interconnected. Even Marxists have figured that out by now.

Feral Faun has belatedly bought into the propaganda of the police themselves that they are the first line of defense against anarchy. (That is, at least, a more charitable explanation for his critique than what I think it amounts to: kicking me while I’m down.) I am an anarchist, not only because I hate to be ordered around, but also because I disbelieve most of the states’ claims to be necessary or even effective for the provision of protection and other services. In taking a masters degree in criminal justice, I was pleased but not especially surprised to find that nearly all the research suggests that policing has almost no effect on crime. They are also ineffective at what they were originally set up for, riot control; to suppress a mass disorder of any seriousness they need the military. When, unknown to the citizens, police patrols were discontinued in parts of Kansas City, it turned out that reported crime remained at the previous level, as it did in the areas still patrolled. How often does Feral even see our greatest enemy? Surely institutions like work and school do much more than the police to regiment people. And social order, such as it is, must also owe far more to voluntary sources such as custom, contract, consent and self-help than it does to official coercion.

I admit that I spend too much time on justifying myself. I must not be as supremely self-assured as I seem to sound. However, as the one Crowbar calls “the most lied-upon man I know,” I feel impelled to do what I can to counter the calumny. Early in my date with Jim Hogshire, he asked me a strange question: Why do so many people hate you? Later I realized its significance. Believing I had an unsavory reputation, Hogshire thought he could assault me and get away with lying about it. The plan would have worked if I hadn’t raised the stakes. All I could have done is place impotent moans in a few zines. No one would have lent me any effective support. I know this, because I’ve seen this show before, including one time when Feral played a bit part. It’s true that he did more than most by writing his Processed World critique but not before I’d been assaulted a half dozen times, arrested, robbed, and run out of town. Few people lent me even moral support. Most who helped were not anarchists. More anarchists hurt me than helped. The vast majority of them paid no attention, dismissed the matter sight unseen as an inscrutable feud, or waited to see who won. For Feral, who knows all this better than most people, to refer me in my time of need to anarchist solidarity — now that’s hypocritical as well as ridiculous. It so happens that in Seattle I field-tested Feral’s theory. I called, not the police, but every anarchist in the state whom I had a phone number for. The first was Jim Koehnline, who has been a guest in my home, and who had himself offered to put me up as a last resort. I told him what had happened and asked for shelter, nothing more. He refused. Later I called my good friend Mike Hoy, who has stayed with me (and I with him). Hogshire had gotten to him first with a lying version of the trouble. Hoy refused to see me my reason for being there and told me to get out of town. That’s what my anarchist friends did for me.

The libels of anarchists like Fred Woodworth, Jon Bekken and Chaz Bufe, and the acquiescence of anarchists like Feral Faun, sustain the climate of thought in which someone as vicious as Jim Hogshire might hope to get away with murder. When he dismisses assault with a deadly weapon as a personal grudge, he cheapens the value of my life and raises my risk of losing it to the next trigger-happy loser to come along. Now he has the insolence to lecture me as to who my worst enemies are! He knows, for it is an article of faith for him, that the police are our enemy in a far more personal way than anyone against whom we may hold a personal grudge. Here is ideologically induced imbecility at its most majestic. I don’t drive, but any meter maid is a greater enemy to me, and in a far more personal way, than a police snitch who nearly murdered me, who has expressed public regret that he did not, and who has sent me death threats. If he really means it, Feral has earned his SSI. Anyone in his right mind would rather that a cop trained a gun on him than for Hogshire to do that. Who’s spooked by an abstract conception of the state, not its concrete reality here? According to the Artist, my tactics of retaliation are wanting on aesthetic grounds. Snitching is unimaginative and mediated. I lacked the imagination to find an anarchistic way to carry out [my] vendetta. Apparently, so does Feral, as he suggests none, although he has had two years of leisure in which to dream something up. I had no time to play games. I had only a few days before my information got stale. It was all I had that had any chance of working. A word like vendetta again trivializes the severity of my experience as well as suggesting a false symmetry in responsibility between aggressor and victim. Only a professional spectator like Feral can mistake a life-threatening encounter for a creative challenge. What happened to me in Seattle was not a happening or a be-in. It was not performance art. It was as real as death. It is the closest I have ever come to death. And if Hogshire could set me up like this and get away with it, so can anybody just lure me in, gun me down and say I was drunk. Nobody would ever hear my side of the story. The myths which Feral and others perpetuate would legitimate my murder and dishonor me. A state pensioner sitting on the sidelines of life such as Feral can indulge in the luxury of aestheticizing anything, especially if it happens to somebody else, but I can’t. Even for someone as ingenious as myself, it sometimes happens that the imperatives of life and art are irreconcilable. On that occasion I opted for life. I don’t yet regret it. If Feral does, he can go fuck himself. He’s never walked in my wooden shoes. Writing from his rustic retreat, at a considerable distance from the nearest barricade, the recluse accuses me of cowardice! He must have me mixed up with Hogshire, the little man who needs a gun to make him feel big. Feral is sorry I didn’t get myself killed in Seattle, but I’m not. That is the only thing I could have done that would have been more courageous than what I did do. I’d rather be read than dead. The Artist is sad that the credibility of my most important book, Anarchy After Leftism, is undermined by the Hogshire scandal. If I had tried a charge of the light brigade in Seattle, I would have died there, and my most important book, if that’s what it is, would never have been written. (Feral has also made the telling mistake — and he’s not the only one — of confusing my credibility with my popularity. Credibility means believability. I’ve made my enemies, not by lying, but by telling the unwelcome truth. Hogshire, for instance, got into trouble because what I said about him turned out to be the truth, indeed, an understatement.) My idea of a coward is someone, for instance, who hides behind his anonymity when he verbally assails someone else. That makes Feral, or whatever he’s calling himself this week, a coward twice over, as he’s even too chickenshit to sign his pseudonym to his slag, much less his real name, David DeVries. (How do I know his name? Because he signed it to the fan letters he used to write to me.) I could have busted Hogshire in a cowardly way. There was no legal necessity for disclosure of my identity in the application for the search warrant. I would have enjoyed plausible deniability if I later lied about my role, because Hogshire is so brazen in his drug use that any of dozens of people could have turned him in. Instead, I busted Hogshire in an open way, fully expecting a damaging backlash. Armchair anarchists like Feral are remote from street-level urban reality and ideologically inclined to romanticize criminals. The most delusional anarchists, like the Love and Rage kids, fantasize that crackheads, career criminals and the members of street gangs are rebels without a cause, or rather, rebels without consciousness of their cause, which is what else? anarchism. Feral Faun expressly rejects this illusion, but perpetuates a related one. Even the amoral and anything but anarchist crips and bloods, he assures us, know you don’t snitch. Like shit they don’t! The gangs are mainly in the drug business. Drug dealers routinely arrange to have their competitors busted. And every addict Hogshire for instance is sooner or later a rat. According to Bob Dylan, if you live outside of the law, you have to be honest. Bob Dylan does not live outside of the law, and he is not honest. Feral Faun does not live outside of the law, he lives off of the law, and he’s not honest either. In state society, nobody lives entirely inside or entirely outside of the law. To say so is not to say anything profound, but to overlook the obvious results in foolishness.

The Badger is right: Faun’s foolery is the best critique there is of my dealings with Hogshire. And very nearly, in my opinion, the best there ever could be. As such, it pleases me. To refute it I didn’t even have to work up a sweat. My enemies (or, like Feral, jealous rivals) will undoubtedly agitate the issue awhile longer, not because there is anything to it, but to distract attention from my published ideas. That’s been tried before, it works, but only for so long. My books are even more interesting than my behavior. Soon, as has happened several times before, those who were waiting to see who won will notice that I did, and they will once again carry on as if none of this ever happened.