January 23, 2010

Ban Everything You Don't Like

Banning is Tyranny
I've often been amazed at how folks who seem to have an otherwise normal appreciation for freedom and liberty can be so quick to want anything they don't like made illegal. I suspect that some of this authoritarian facility is greased by a subtle semantic distinction. They don't want to throw smokers in jail, they just want smoking banned. See the difference? Somehow the idea of banning something is more palatable than making the same thing a crime. Case in point:

My brother in law and his wife are hippy types. Laid back and easygoing in most respects, they once told me they were on their way to a demonstration to ban convenience stores from displaying soft porn on shelves where kids could see them. Who wants kids looking at dirty pictures for free, right? But if you love liberty, you won't be so quick to ban anything but your own kids from going to the offending store. Why not let everyone else do as they please?

I asked my hep cat relatives why they were so tyrannical. They couldn't see it; they were just banning offensive behavior. I suppose if the demonstration organizer had instead said he wanted to see convenience store owners why wouldn't comply with a new law hit with stiff fines and jail time, maybe even put out of business, they would have reacted differently.

When an action or thing is banned, the implication is that it will just go away. Criminalization makes the would-be tyrant think of continuing offenses and a raft of institutions (cops, lawyers. judges, juries, jailers, parole boards, etc.) kept busy enforcing the new criminal law. Of course, this distinction is almost entirely illusory, based only on a real but archaic semantic difference.

Looking into the etymology of the verb 'to ban' reveals that it originally was a proclamation or pronouncement. Saying the word makes it so, almost like magic. Think of the 'banns' of marriage. Passing a law against the same action or thing has no such magic. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
ban (v.) O.E. bannan "to summon, command, proclaim," from P.Gmc. *bannan "proclaim, command, forbid" (cf. O.H.G. bannan "to command or forbid under threat of punishment," Ger. bannen "banish, expel, curse"), originally "to speak publicly," from PIE base *bha- "to speak" (cf. O.Ir. bann "law," Armenian ban "word;" see fame). [Emphasis mine]
If you want something banned, you only want it to go away. No muss no fuss, no bother; you are just doing good. On the other hand, if you say 'there oughta be a law' like the folks in the old comic strip, then you are a tyrant. Go figure.

Don't be suckered in by people and causes that say they want to ban this or ban that. Even if it is only un-mowed grass or 'unusual lawn ornaments' these folks want banned, they are nonetheless tyrants. If you love liberty and want to live free, don't tyrannize your neighbors. What goes around comes around.


  1. It's still statism, even if it's understated.

  2. dahlink r u talking about US??? we thinks so.
    the demo WE went to in a prev. century was to ENCOURAGE STORE OWNERS not to carry offensive (to us and many others) exploitative (SERIOUSLY SO!!) material. i was the photographer documenting the action. the action was: these ppl/we said: we wish you wouldn't carry this crap, this is why we don't like it (see: non gringa women bound and chained, 1984 penthouse). then the ladies (and they were) ripped up the maqs and threw the pieces around.... a great show for the tv news. then they/we (aah, the mixed perspectives of the participant observer!) picked up the trash, PAID FOR THE MAGS, and moved on to the next store, with a trail of cameras .... is this facism or banning? i don't think so! we/they were providing public entertainment and raising an eyebrow on a slow news day? maybe... writing in haste now. will think this over. u 2! we are big fans of your use of the written word, so much so that u are invited to be part of our dream team imaginary newspaper, which exists in part...right here! CIAO!!

  3. BY THE WAY if u r talking 'bout us, we are NOT laid back! we are high strung hippie types...probably too high strung to be allowed to b called hippes. we are probably mutant throwback BEATNIKS come to haunt the world.

    yes we proclaimed (see: your definitions) a request to banish. no LAW involved, old in law! and NOT like this place in which we live, where we've gotten busted for cats "at large" and (tsk tsk) for a garden where this stupid city thinks another parking space should be.

    we might be with ya more than ya think, mister out law.

    sleep tight! we'll be up trying to lay back, but so non easygoing we'll be grinding our teeth, screaming in dreams, and chewing our cuticles.

    ciao and MIAO, yew old cat!

  4. "My brother in law and his wife are hippy types. Laid back and easygoing in most respects, they once told me they were on their way to a demonstration to ban convenience stores from displaying soft porn on shelves where kids could see them."

    Perhaps we had some discussion before the demo. My recollection is that after the action we were watching the tv coverage together. This demonstration was not influenced by the Dworkin/MacKinnon "porn is BAD and should be ILLEGAL" position, but rather by the perspective of Nikki Craft, who is pro-nudity and pro-sexuality, but concerned about violence directed toward women and violent images that, some contend, contribute to such violence. The Rampage Against Penthouse organized by Craft's group, Citizens for Media Responsibility Without Law, was a response to an article which featured photos of Asian women wearing carved wooden demon masks, bound with ropes and hanging from trees. (See Melissa Farley's article at http://nostatusquo.com/ACLU/Porn/rampage1femicide1991.pdf for a more complete description of these photos.) Although the goal was to limit the availability of certain kinds of publications, that group advocated discussion and persuasion rather than the imposition of a ban. It must have been successful to some degree, since you are still discussing it many years later. For more details go to http://www.nikkicraft.com/ and scroll down to 1983. Perhaps the tv coverage we were viewing did not adequately convey Craft's perspective adequately.

    As far as I recall, the only person who was charged in the Iowa City action was accused of chalking slogans on the sidewalk (violence in the media=violence in society=violence in the media, etc. etc.) His comments in court included the observation that the words would be gone with the first rain, and asked whether they intended to bust every hopscotch game in town. The culprit was Osha Gray Davidson, who has written several books since that time.

  5. Stateless (or understated) statism. I like the concept, Jeffro.

  6. OF & rr:You cats were the best examples I could think of when I wrote this post. I agree that you are properly beatniks. Beatniks that were, like so many Americans, sidetracked by Viet-Nam. Thanks for filling in the blanks.

  7. Drinking? Only spring water.

  8. Remember the TouchPlay controversy in Iowa? These gambling machines were banned in convenience stores because parents didn't want innocent children exposed to the sight of bored adults drinking sodas, coffee, and feeding money into them.

    Now it seems Iowa is really short on tax revenue so lawmakers are thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring those machines back if they were "regulated properly". Statism for sure.

  9. TouchPlay. It even sounds dirty. Folks had to do it right in front of their neighbors in convenience stores.

    Keno parlors are what Iowa needs. A place where only kindred gather, serves food and has a bar. Nebraska has some nice ones.

    Don't call them TouchPlay parlors.

  10. It sounds like you're trying to ban TouchPlay.

  11. Geez, Bones! I don't want to ban anything. TouchPlay sounds dirty, Keno sounds like exotic European gambling (to Iowans). Fact is, I can't imagine how I could care less about what the Iowa legislature does to screw their constituents.

  12. I'm going to attribute the wording of my last comment to a sleep deficit, which I think I've remedied in the last 2-3 hours. My recharged brain knows well enough you don't want to ban anything, PT.

  13. Heck, I woudn't even want to ban banning.

  14. So I guess you would be against the Frenchie's plan to ban the niqab and the burqa?

    Personally I think it is a good idea. Imagine that, the French having the guts to do this? It's not something I can imagine Canada, USA and the UK doing.

  15. CG: "So I guess you would be against the Frenchie's plan to ban the niqab and the burqa?"

    I'm not against anything the French do in France.

    Personally, I wouldn't ban any sort of clothing choice. But I wouldn't ban folks who felt threatened by masked women from forcibly unmasking them, either.

    Its best if everyone feels free and acts that way.

  16. These would be the same people who promote tolerance in public schools?


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