Why the Free State Project Expelled Christopher Cantwell

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love 11 Reasons to Draft-Dodge the Libertarian Guerrilla Army.

This past week the Free State Project (FSP) made the news again and, as usual, not in the best way. The FSP board of trustees voted to expel a member – blogger and activist Christopher Cantwell – from the organization for violating the policy against promoting violence.

In late July of this year, it came to light that the Concord, NH police department represented Free State Project members as domestic terrorists in order to bolster its application to receive funding for an armored “Bearcat” vehicle from the federal government. Since then, FSP members have been hard at work to counter this government propaganda and, in fact, to obtain a retraction and apology from the Concord police.

Just a few days after this news broke, Chris wrote a blog post in which he said that “the answer [to things like the Bearcat issue], at some point, is to kill government agents” and “any level of force necessary for anyone to stop any government agent from furthering said coercion [tax collection in the context of funding the salaries of all government employees] is morally justifiable.”

His statements generated this communication from Jody Gevins Underwood, a member of the FSP board of trustees:

Dear Chris,

The FSP Board met last night to discuss your situation and what to do. Our decision is stated below, which includes our reasoning.

Whereas Chris Cantwell has made the following public statements, been offered the opportunity to retract, and has refused to do so: “It’s a terribly unpopular thing to say, but the answer, at some point, is to kill government agents,” and “any level of force necessary for anyone to stop any government agent from furthering said coercion [tax collection in the context of funding the salaries of all government employees] is morally justifiable…”

Whereas the FSP Board believes this view exceeds the right of self-defense

Whereas the Policy and Procedure for Removing Participants (passed 7/11/04) states:

Participants may be removed for promoting violence, racial hatred, or bigotry. Participants who are deemed detrimental to the accomplishment of the Free State Project’s goals may also be removed.

Therefore, according to the Policy and Procedure for Removing Participants, the FSP Board removes Chris Cantwell as a participant and declares him unwelcome to attend FSP-organized events.

In peace and liberty,

Jody

for the FSP Board

This has generated considerable anger towards the Free State Project. Facebook status updates have been running against them by a huge margin, for what that might be worth. But I have seen no public statement by the FSP board nor any interview with a member of the board – until now. This afternoon I interviewed Jody Gevins Underwood, the board member who signed the expulsion announcement. See the 17-minute interview above.

I was on Mike Shanklin’s Voluntary Virtues Roundtable discussion this past Tuesday and debated this issue with Chris. My first question to him was:

“Chris, you knew that the Concord police there had named the FSP as domestic terrorists. And then you wrote an article, you as an FSP member, saying that perhaps we need to start killing government agents — which is what domestic terrorists do. So I’m just kinda wondering, ‘What was going through your head?’ Because, me looking at this from outside, it looks almost like you were trying to sabotage all the great work that people in NH have been doing.”

You can listen to our conversation here: George Donnelly & Chris Cantwell Debate Defense, Non Violence, and Strategies For Combating Statism

I have been repeatedly and severely critical of the FSP in the past but in this situation, I don’t think that Chris left them with any other choice. Chris set up the playing board and the pieces. He made his move at the wrong time on the wrong issue. Whatever his personal motivations may have been, his action threatened perhaps the most important FSP (as an organization, not a community) project since its founding – to resoundingly disprove this propaganda that we are domestic terrorists.

His statements also went beyond what is apparently the very limited view of legitimate defensive violence held by a number of FSP trustees. According to Jody, only violence in immediate defense of life or limb actually counts as self-defense.

Bottom line, Chris should be admonished across the board for being so clumsy and thoughtless as to suggest domestic terrorism while the organization he is a member of is waging a campaign to get the government to retract its claim that the organization is a group of domestic terrorists. But most of the people who are speaking out in support of Chris, by my unscientific appraisal, don’t have the experience in founding or administering organizations required to understand that.

Why did the FSP expel Christopher Cantwell? (1) Talk of killing government agents absent any immediate threat to life or limb exceeds the board’s view of what is legitimate self-defense; and (2) He carelessly suggested people engage in domestic terrorism at precisely the moment when the organization he is a member of is waging a campaign to get the government to retract its claim that the organization is a group of domestic terrorists. That’s my sense of it after speaking with Jody Gevins Underwood, an FSP trustee.

Clarification: It never has been and is not currently my intention to accuse Chris Cantwell of being a terrorist.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love 11 Reasons to Draft-Dodge the Libertarian Guerrilla Army.

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