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This post is part of a new “Student Spotlight” SFL blog series in which we honor the best and brightest student activists in our network by highlighting the top student, group, and event of the week and share their accomplishments to inspire other leaders to step up their game in advancing the cause of liberty. 

Congratulations to Jason Byas, Grayson English, Wade Craig and every member of OU S4SS (Oklahoma University’s Students for a Stateless Society) for being chosen as SFL’s Group of the Week! Learn more about their group from Jason Byas:

About OU S4SS

OU S4SS believes that genuinely effective anarchist activism must be devoted toward building a new society in the shell of the old. This means political action should be devoted toward providing avenues for circumventing or alleviating state repression, creating alternatives to services people currently rely on the state for, and disrupting the everyday assumptions, beliefs, and practices through which people submit to the state. Ultimately, this cannot be planned ahead of time with very much detail, and it largely involves people using their highly individualized knowledge of time, place, social circumstances and personal skills.

As college students, most of our opportunities for effective political action are going to fall under the “disrupting the everyday assumptions, beliefs, and practices through with people submit to the state” category. The word “disrupt” here is key: the very concrete consequences of more abstract concerns must be made clear, and must be stated bluntly. This forces people to seriously confront their deeply held assumptions about the world in a way that more surface-level discussions cannot.

A perfect example of this is OU S4SS’s protest last semester against CIA Director John Brennan having been invited to speak at the President’s Associates Dinner as a guest of honor. S4SS made a point to frame its protest as one not just against Brennan’s excesses, or even just against Brennan. It was against Brennan’s role altogether, and against the war culture that allows Brennan to be officially celebrated as a guest of honor at OU. Not only was our protest heavily covered by campus media, but it changed the conversation at OU. Rather than accepting the decision to honor Brennan as normal, students began to feel comfortable voicing their discomfort. So much so that the student newspaper ran an unsigned editorial stating that they agreed with us.

Another good example of OU S4SS’s emphasis on disruptive activism is its ongoing commitment to on the spot military counter-recruitment. Whenever recruiter activity is spotted by S4SS members, those of us who are available arrive on the scene to distribute material on why not to enlist. Once this even resulted in the recruiters leaving out of frustration. By actively combating military recruitment through peaceful resistance, rather than standing down as recruiters try to snarl fellow students into being used by a machine of mass-murder, OU S4SS forces fundamental questions about war and its nature. It also forces questions about why the military treats those it uses so poorly, and why recruiters have to do so much lying to get people to join.

Another, less provocative example of this strategy geared toward disruptive education is delivering very general talks on the topic of anarchism to various groups within the community. OU S4SS members have been invited to speak (and have spoken) at both to Liberty on Tap – Oklahoma City & Liberty on Tap – Tulsa, as well as to AP Government classes at a local high school. Since the sorts of things that offer the best opportunities for disruptive education are also the sorts of things that typically are most uncomfortable to do alone, S4SS also serves an important role in providing a community for anarchists on OU’s campus.

Main Focus

OU S4SS focuses on those areas where the state is at its most repressive: its core functions of police, military, prisons, and monopoly law. We also see state authority as intimately connected to other cultural centers of domination, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and authority in the workplace. Thus, we also devote a good deal of our activism toward those issues as well.

Past Events, Present Enrollments & Future Plans

This semester, S4SS has continued its focus on disruptive education. For example, when two of our members were one of many witnesses to a police beating that occurred on campus, we immediately put out a public statement condemning the violence. This initial statement was picked up by local news media, garnering much attention. As a result, Grayson English (one of the two S4SS members who witnessed the beating) was invited to speak on the topic of police brutality at two separate events. The first was a rally against police violence at the state capitol building, put on by S.P.I.R.I.T. (the Society to Protect Indigenous Rights & Indigenous Treaties). The second was Groovefest, an annual music festival in Norman, OK that tries to draw attention to human rights issues.

At both events, Grayson and OU S4SS emphasized its opposition to the police as such, and that the root problems of police brutality are inherent to the police as an institution. This approach was met with surprising amounts of applause and approval both times. Even for those still inclined to disagree with our “ABOLISH THE POLICE” banner, it at least forced more serious discussions about the problem.

This strategy of emphasizing the fundamental issues also proved especially important in this case. After OU S4SS’s initial statement, we received an invitation to discuss the matter with Chief Keith Humphrey of the Norman Police Department and an attorney for the city of Norman. According to them during our discussion, NPD’s actions were not only perfectly within the law, but in fact legally obligatory. The police attempted to issue the man a citation, which he refused to sign. This was taken as a refusal to appear in court, which then legally obligated them to place him under arrest. He resisted arrest, which forced them to beat him into submission.

So on the one hand, we have the police perfectly following standard procedures, and procedures that seem necessary to maintain the sort of authority they have over the public. On the other hand, we have the simple, obviously unjust fact that a man was beaten for refusing to sign a piece of paper. Because OU S4SS refuses to hide its anarchism, and because we refuse to argue on terms that assume the legitimacy of the police, we are able to bluntly identify what happened that day. Officers acting on behalf of Norman PD committed assault and battery. The fact that their status as police officers required that assault and battery means that the police are inherently unjust, not that their actions were justified. We issued another statement to this end, which campus media briefly noted in their coverage of the incident.

OU S4SS also continues to serve as the editorial board for TheNewLeveller, which is a bi-monthly newsletter for S4SS chapters beyond just OU. It channels periodicals like Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty, Moses Harman’s Lucifer, the Lightbearer, Murray Rothbard’s Left & Right and Libertarian Forum, and Roderick Long’s Industrial Radical, by providing a voice for the most radical, overt, and unrelenting statements of market anarchism.

Typically geared towards students and younger activists, The New Leveller has published submissions from across the United States and even outside of it. These have included published articles from SFL Campus Coordinators Jason Byas, Grayson English, Nathan Goodman, Zoe Little, Benjamin Blowe, Elizabeth Tate, Cory Massimino, and Andy Bratton, along with a forthcoming article by Seth Jenks. Content ranges from fiery polemics to careful treatments of complex issues, but at all times, The New Leveller tries to combine rigor and passion. The next issue is (very) late in production, but should be coming out soon. Submissions of 500-1000 words are always welcome, and can be sent to the.new.leveller@gmail.com.

S4SS has also been holding a series of open-ended public discussions on specific anarchist topics, including prison abolition, protection without the police, the impossibility of a just war, with potential future topics on gun control, the ethics of property, and the role of markets in a free society.

Much of S4SS’s activism is reactive – for example, the Brennan protest – and is therefore difficult to plan far in advance. However, one instance of that reactive activism is certain: as long as the military continues to recruit on OU’s campus, OU S4SS will continue to do on-the-spot counter-recruitment.

Also, S4SS is in the middle of planning of a very quickly upcoming week of “Keep the Vote Home” activism, in response to pushes for voter participation in midterm elections. The message will not just be a reminder that voting is useless towards effecting real change (though that will also be part of it), but an invitation to look towards alternatives. There are countless other avenues for engaging with one’s community, addressing social problems, and protecting yourself from bad laws than voting. These methods are also typically much more effective ways of doing those things, and electoral politics tends to waste resources that could be better used elsewhere. In short, there is much more to politics than policy, and much more to political action than voting.

Another event will be S4SS’s yearly Ask an Anarchist Day. While much of this event just involves tabling, it has proven to be extremely successful. By highly publicizing it beforehand, Ask an Anarchist Day provides an opportunity to show students and other members of the community that anarchists are not the crazed, violent enemies of the public than they’re told. It further helps to show that visions of a free society without the state are not as utopian as they might seem.

Last year, we extended this to a week, culminating with a “What Is Anarchism?” lecture delivered by Charles W. Johnson of the Center for a Stateless Society. Going off that success, we intend to once again go for a full week, this time likely culminating in a panel discussion like the one Appalachian State University S4SS did for their Ask an Anarchist Day last year.

Throughout this semester and the summer before it, S4SS has also had a number of successful social events, including tofu cook-outs and pizza parties. These events served as forums for casual, informal discussion of anarchism, radical libertarianism, and other topics related to S4SS. For those interested, informational pamphlets were made readily available.

Learn more about OU S4SS here!

 

Written by SFL Campus Coordinator Associate Monica Lucas.

It was mid-September of my sophomore year in college, and I had just come back from an uneventful summer. The only thing I could really say for my two month intellectual hiatus was that I had attended an IHS seminar, and I loved it. As I was sitting at my desk in my dorm, my roommate typing away next to me, I still had a subtle pang to keep learning. Libertarianism was something I’d always identified with, but that I just didn’t understand. How would I come to understand it? I didn’t know any other libertarians on campus. None of my professors were liberty-oriented. Apart from the one glorious week of intellectual stimulation at the IHS seminar, I had never been exposed to any libertarian thought.

Serendipitously, I received an email that day from IHS informing me of an organization called Students For Liberty and the Regional Conferences they would be hosting that fall. Lucky me, there was one taking place only two hours from my school.

I wasn’t sure if I should attend it, though. It would mean I’d have to drive to a new city—Pittsburgh, which is old and run down, right?—and rent a hotel room. And I’d have to dress up in business clothes. Shouldn’t I be studying that weekend, instead of spending the time traveling to an anonymous conference to hang out with people I didn’t know? Something pulled me there, though, and thank goodness it did.

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One of our speakers for the upcoming 2015 ISFLC  on February 13th-15th will be Tom G. Palmer!

Tom G. Palmer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and director of Cato University, the Institute’s educational arm. Palmer is also the executive vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and is responsible for establishing operating programs in 14 languages and managing programs for a worldwide network of think tanks. Before joining Cato he was an H. B. Earhart Fellow at Hertford College, Oxford University, and a vice president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. He frequently lectures in North America, Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America, India, China and throughout Asia, and the Middle East on political science, public choice, civil society, and the moral, legal, and historical foundations of individual rights. He has published reviews and articles on politics and morality in scholarly journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Ethics, Critical Review, and Constitutional Political Economy, as well as in publications such as Slate, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Die Welt, Caixing, Al Hayat, the Washington Post, and The Spectator of London. He is the author of Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice, published in 2009, and the editor of The Morality of Capitalism, published in 2011. Palmer received his B.A. in liberal arts from St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland, his M.A. in philosophy from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and his doctorate in politics from Oxford University.

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The follow is a guest blog post from  SFL Campus Coordinator Tuck Kennedy.

With the Obamacare exchanges fully in place, an efficient, consumer-oriented health system becomes less of a possibility. We can change this by explaining the downsides of government-run health care and by convincing our campuses that market-based reforms are the way to go. Outlined below are some activism tips for this topic.

Information:

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This post is part of a new “Student Spotlight” SFL blog series in which we honor the best and brightest student activists in our network by highlighting the top student, group, and event of the week and share their accomplishments to inspire other leaders to step up their game in advancing the cause of liberty. 

Congratulations to SFL’s student of the week, Alieu Bangura! He is a  senior at the University of the Gambia majoring in Computer Science. Alieu is also a founder and Program Coordinator of Students For Liberty in the Gambia.

How did you find out about SFL?

I found out about SFL through the Charter Teams Program. I also recall having signed up to receive newsletters. I learned more about it through Irena Schneider, the International Programs Associate, and since then I have been building a strong group that advocates  liberty.

Who are your favorite figures or topics in liberty? 

What sorts of projects and activism have you been working on or done recently? 

Shortly after the AEB retreat in Ibadan, Nigeria, I got my group together and proposed that we should have at least one event per month. We have had two major events: the  Leadership, Liberty and Enterpreneurship Seminar  and a Talk at the American corner on the topic, “Africa And Her Blame Game.” Our next project is a march pass to make our voices heard, calling for freedom of speech. This will be followed by a Regional Conference in November.

The SFL team knows that you have received criticism and threats for spreading libertarian ideas, could you tell us more about that?

It happened sometime ago in 2013 when I was still a trainee CT member. Taking advantage of an invitation sent to me from a youth group in the Gambia, I used the platform to formally introduce SFL to the audience.  The response was really positive, until someone posing as a participant threatened me and tried to talk me out of SFL for no genuine reason. I stood my grounds to what I am today and my belief never changed! I went on to receive emails from anonymous senders who never signed their names.

The recent threat was more like an open letter to me. It wasn’t signed yet again and this time I got it from one of SFL-Gambia’s members. According to her, a guy in a car stopped and handed the letter to her because she had an SFL T-shirt on. She further went on to say the guy didn’t say much. The whole content of the letter can be accessed on my Facebook timeline here.

I just can say that I am really happy everything went well in the end and that I got support from SFL.

What has been your favorite aspect (or aspects) about your involvement with SFL so far?

One of my favorite aspects of my involvement with SFL is that I have discovered my passion for  entrepreneurship, capitalism, and free markets as well as the training and exposure I have received to the libertarian movement. SFL made me realize I could tap onto my keyboard not only to write source codes and do HTML or CSS, but also to inspire others through blog posts and articles.

What are your long-term goals once you are finished with school?

I recently joined the Atlas Leadership Academy in the hope that I will be exposed to even greater avenues for pro-liberty activism. Apart from my wish to work for SFL, my long term goal is to be able to start as many civil society groups in diverse regions in the world to help spread the message of liberty. In a nutshell, I want to make activism a career. My aim as a leader is to advocate for liberty throughout my time and beyond!