“Moonshine trial ends with split verdict,” the headline read.
It caught my attention as I seldom peruse the various political rags and news sites. I consider them complete wastes of time filled with Stalinist (or fascist depending on the source) political drivel, progressive mentality and centrist statism of the worst order. The article was no surprise to me in the mountain South however. Certain traditions won’t die.
I read of the recent case in my home county with a shit-eating grin. The woman defendant in the case was charged with a sundry of drug and alcohol charges after calling 911 to seek help for her husband (who suffers from PTSD) who was threatening to kill himself. Upon arrival on the scene, it was calm, and officers directed their attention to marijuana paraphernalia and what appeared to be illicit, untaxed whiskey.
After the state’s instrument of prosecution built an elaborate narrative of ruthless drug dealers and rumrunners, with logs of customers and sales, and these people being a grave threat to society, their case collapsed. All charges came back not guilty, save one, which we’ll get to momentarily. It appears the drugs on site were used to treat PTSD and traumatic head injuries. (I would be remiss to also point out they found other drugs, including morphine, but these were ‘legal’ with a state granted prescription) The ‘customer log’ was merely a log of money she owed to a couple people who they borrowed from when they were on hard times.
It was a classic case of Jury Nullification. Many of the juror’s and would be juror’s were asked if they thought marijuana should be legal and if they did, could they judge the case based on the current law. So much for that, eh?
One other charge came back with a hung jury. This was the charge related to the possession of what they claim is approximately 20 gallons of illegal alcohol.
The ironic twist to this part of the case was that the defendant claims it was her inheritance from the late Popcorn Sutton, the infamous Smoky Mountain moonshiner. The defendant claimed that the liquor in her possession was legal and the taxes had been paid on it. Let me remind you that the alcohol tax amounts to approximately 40$ per gallon. For comparison, a gallon of gasoline nets the feds approximately 20 cents.
How could this be? Taxes paid on moonshine whiskey? The defendant stated that the local sheriff’s department knew she was in possession of this whiskey since 2008 and has never bothered her about it. She produced receipts that the taxes were paid in court.
To step back a little bit, Popcorn Sutton was arrested in 2008 and allegedly had in storage units, approximately 800 gallons of whiskey. When you are convicted with this type of thing, part of your sentence nearly always includes a fine, which is for the back taxes “owed” to the ATF/Treasury Department. My guess is that the defense is making the argument that the fine had been paid therefore the taxes are paid. Should said liquor not be legal to possess?
On a side note, I’ll allow the readers to draw their own conclusions about the efficacy and intelligence of involving the local constabulary in the initial call out to begin with. Lessons appear to have been learned.
While all this is a rather interesting like something out of a television show, it is indicative of something much deeper. The traditional legacy of resistance is still alive in the region.
Throughout its history, the federal government and its local apparatchiks in the Statehouses and county courthouses have waged varying degrees of warfare against alcohol. Ranging from the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790’s, to various iterations of excise taxes on distilled spirits, to the dry laws and prohibitions, locally and nationally. Yet the whiskey rebels have always won out. They remained ungovernable.
Nearly every section in the Appalachian region has a tale or 10 about local bootleggers shooting Revenue Agents, overturning convictions in the jury box, or openly flaunting of revenue laws. This is not to count the millions of gallons of clandestinely made liquor made over the last two and a half centuries.
And these tales do not always center on whiskey per se. “Dog” Underwood of Haywood County, NC was known for being a huge sugar smuggler during WWII when sugar was rationed, to supply illegal liquor operations. Many folk’s who couldn’t get sugar during the time, took to using sorghum molasses in place of sugar in production of whiskey and especially Apple Brandy. If you didn’t have a sugar connection, that is. This operation was not unlike John Hancock’s when you think about, except perhaps the difference in scale. Dog Underwood’s funeral was said to have been one of the most attended funerals in the history of Haywood County. You do the math on that.
Historically many remote areas of the mountains were literally denied terrain to the various revenue agents, sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcers as I have written about extensively here, here and here.
People who remain stuck in the left / right paradigm and who can only grasp political methods to attempt to solve current problems are doing themselves a grave disservice by not seeing at least a shimmer of hope in these unconventional methods of trying to attain a smidgeon of their humanity back. I’ll ask which is more effective; voting for the same politicians, that have given us the biggest and most powerful state in the history of the world for the last couple hundred years or the beauty of the setting someone free by nullifying the judges instructions and the unjust law on a jury?
The District Attorney’s questioning in the jury selection demonstrates almost a knowing fear that the tax cattle in the jury box might not convict based on the states law, but will also take into account the morality of the law its self.
The DA is quoted in the news story: “I asked you if you think marijuana should be legalized, I asked you if moonshine should be legal to possess, and I asked you to question these for a reason,” [she said] “I really didn’t care about these answers. There’s several of you on the jury that gave the answer yes. The follow-up question was the important one. It was can you set these beliefs aside and follow the rule of law as the judge gives it to you?”
No, Ms. Prosecutor, some cannot set aside morality and the written law. This is not Hitlerian Germany where “Befehl ist Befehl.”
A recurring theme is a critique of a common theme in my essays, that there is no final liberty solution. I stand by this. Trumpite neoliberalism, fetishism of Pinochet style Death Flights, nor rallying behind the career NY liberal businessman in the White House (who suddenly discovered populism) will save America. It’s a sinking ship and its time to get off. I focus on a post-freedom exodus strategy.
The Final Liberty Solution will never be attained because everyone has a different, subjective concept of what that is. We cannot get 5 threepers, libertarians or constitutionalists to agree on enough to have a meaningful coalition, how can you obtain a free country that will suit all 310+ million people on the land mass that the US state occupies? History has shown that things constantly revolve. It is largely the documentation of the struggle against Power. I do not see this paradigm changing anytime soon, if ever. Do not take this to say that I do not believe in self-defense, even of the collective sort.
Appalachian Anti-Statism exists, yet the allergy to authority has waned. Districts from GA to PA continually vote for local corrupt incumbent politicians because these politicians shake their hands once every 2 years at the community store. The Whiskey Rebels remain, but they stay underground. Cultural forces have essentially nullified many drug laws. Property taxes are paid to the county that are continually raised by the corrupt politicians they vote for, but folks work off the books and family farmers take every Ag deferment they can get.
These people are probably not ideologically pure and infallible. I doubt the folks on the jury in the story at the start of this essay have all studied David Friedman on the consequentialist case for the unhindered market nor read a paper from a think tank about the harmful affects of the war on drugs. They just knew that the state has no right to decide what people should put in their bodies.
Nor were our often-lionized historical heroes ideologically pure. Thomas Jefferson talked liberty but believed in the death penalty for polygamists. George Washington fought a war to have a Free America, yet he marched his army against his own people who rebelled in the 1790’s Whiskey Rebellion for the same reasons they rebelled in the 1770’s and 80’s against Britain. Need I mention he also wore false teeth made from the teeth of his slaves?
Early American fighters even held (dare I say it) some ideas that would be commonly found on the modern left today. The egalitarian notions of some of the frontier rebels were not that far removed from some of the ideas that cornerstone leftist politics. Many even fought in the Whiskey Rebellion while peering through the looking glass of class conflict and wanted to make the rich pay their “fair share.”
Herman Husband, the pacifist veteran of the Regulator Rebellion in North Carolina and who was instrumental in raising the Liberty Pole at Brunerstown during the Whiskey Rebellion, advocated for progressive taxation on the rich and fiat money. All while “Liberty and No Excise!” flew on his Liberty Pole. Tom the Tinker was known to target not only enforcement agents, but also the property of those who registered their stills with the government during the Whiskey Rebellion. They were seen as collaborators. He would be just as quick to bust up a registered operation as a revenue agent would bust up an illegal operation.
One of the main contentions among the Whiskey Rebels in the Forks area of Western Pennsylvania was the fact that the Chief Revenue Inspector at the time, General John Neville, also happened to be the biggest distiller and peddler of alcohol in the entire region. In classic Military Industrial style, he also ran a defense firm to supply western military garrisons. One of his chief products was of course whiskey. He initially opposed Hamilton’s excise tax on distilled spirits, but soon realized the tax would be able to squash the competition and allow him to keep the monopoly he held through the military contract. He received a 450$ per year as Revenue Inspector as well as 1% on whatever his deputies collected in tax revenue from his neighbors. This in the classic libertarian mantra funneled money from the poor to the rich bondholders and from the military into mercantilist cartels. All of these concepts relating to ‘privilege’ in this context were a major focus later for classical anarchists, traditional leftists and left libertarian types.
Michael Collins can be looked at as a mastermind in the art of the Guerrilla, but he was essentially a socialist and the Ireland he freed, turned into a socialist republic, albeit one free from the British. Confederate and Union Guerrilla’s can teach many lessons but don’t over look the targeting of civilians they nearly all engaged in.
The printable gun remains probably the most revolutionary act of symbolic and emancipatory politics in the 21st century. Surely the Liberator is not a Cajunized CZ Shadow II, but the fact remains the irrelevance of the gun control debate has been illuminated. They cannot be controlled. This idea was originally conceptualized and tossed into the digital libertarian space by a guy who studied nothing but post-left anarchists, French social theorists, Critical Theory, Marxist intellectuals and left libertarian types to arrive at the idea to print a gun in the first place. He argued on a European news broadcast that the printable gun and the idea of distributing the means of production to the masses are as anti-capitalist as they are libertarian.
During the Vice printable gun documentary, one can see a copy of Kevin Carson’s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy” on the counter. It has always struck me as unique that the idea to print a gun to subvert an entire regulatory infrastructure didn’t come from someone in the “Patriot” movement. They are focused on electing a Republican president that will take their guns I guess. The irony that a man who was the product of the intellectual left created their ultimate fear in real life is about a satisfactory feeling as one can have.
I mention all this merely to demonstrate that one can learn lessons from various people or groups and adjust as needed in the tactical application of their own Liberty craft. If one finds irregular warfare of interest for academic study, you cannot engage in that study without most of the focus on leftist insurgencies. After all they are the revolutionaries.
Despite being a conquered and occupied people in these united States, often rays of hope shine through like this Moonshine Trial. We need to latch onto this natural allergy to authority and nurture it back into its once former glory. We need to remember that Middle American Radicalism is embodied in many ways and from often very diametrically opposed groups of people.
Historian James C Scott writes extensively on retreating from the state’s grasp as a proven method of remaining free. You can extrapolate those theories into a modern context and you’d be amazed at what you can throw together. The notion of Tribal Stoicism may appeal to some. Going back to the land in classic Whole Earth Catalog fashion may appeal to others. Expatriating appeals to other classes of people. Sea steading might appeal to others. Using Bitcoin and the dark web may be a tactic that gives folks a solution set to a specific problem. The Republic of Rojava in Turkish Kurdistan may appeal to some of a more leftist bent and is a current case study in anarchical ‘state-craft’ and defensive strategy. It may be something to look at for those wanting to create a Libertopia, and to study how they may be able to “keep it,” to hearken back to Ben Franklin at the Constitutional Convention.
Instead of funneling ever more money into the coffers of this or that candidate or political party, focus on things you can actually change. Invest those dollars in your own infrastructure. Put all that time you spend at GOP events into honing your own skills. Control what you can control.
Just because there is no final liberty solution, doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be prepared for any sporty events that are all the more likely to come as the days go by. Trump’s true colors are showing. The budget he supports is 300% higher than the last one Obama supported. Much like team sports, the usual suspects will remain and cling to their faction, but the truth is quite clear to the intelligent observer. Peter Schiff who accurately predicted the 2008 housing collapse is presenting a case for a perfect storm in the next several years with the stock market bubble, Bitcoin bubble, bond bubble and ever more debt. These are just more events on the timeline of the slow collapse.
If you claim to be a steward of your own self-protection but you do not carry every day and do not have an appropriate skillset to support that, you are wrong. If you claim self-reliance but are not making a concerted effort in a personal secession mission away the systems that bind and oppress, you are living a lie. If you claim to be a man of the new resistance ready anything from a guerrilla conflict to an EMP, but you cannot ruck 1 mile, you are a joke. But you don’t need to be. Get to work. Its simple but it ain’t easy. No one is coming to save you. Be unconquered.
Orange Cheeto Benito-in-Chief is calling for a myriad of gun control laws and bans. “Heil Trump, heil our people, heil victory!” is what Alt Right-tard Richard Spencer said when Trump was ascending to be the Savior of White Identity and liberty. Heil Trump indeed. Oh the irony. The patriots are still rallied behind their guy using slogans such as ‘well its better than Killary…” Keep telling yourself that. The gloves are off folks. Will you remain unreconstructed?
Montani Semper Liberi.
About the author: John Meyers traces his Appalachian ancestry back nine generations to the 1750’s. He lives with his family on the high ridges of the Smoky Mountains.