The movement against the police, their excesses and abuses, has, in the last two years, really melded with what became Black Lives Matter. Much of this has come by stacking up the violent attacks by police, mainly on people of color, for seeming mild behavior that no one would estimate warranted moments of extreme police violence. Much of this movement has come from the ability of everyone to take reasonably good video on their cell phones and the use of social media news feeds, which allow the stories of police abuses to come one after another. On social media, Cop Block has become one of the most popular of these, gaining more than a million and a half followers on Facebook and having a full website and podcast to support it. For most of its fans it seems to be a place that is helping to feed the consciousness of police authoritarianism, and with its slant towards the police violence against people of color it has become a go-to source on the left.
Cop Block’s history is actually more complicated then just a leftist anti-cop outlet, and that history has come back as a flash just recently.
As most people will notice if they go just beyond the Facebook page, Cop Block is much more of a libertarian publication than one of general left-wing values. Amid click-bait articles about different police excesses, you will find points that actually stray from the regular anti-police narrative such as railing against DUI laws. In their recommended reading you are going to find tomes like For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, and their podcast is hosted by the libertarian Free Talk Live and sponsored by the Free State Project.
Libertarian elements often meet points with the left, whether it is with drug legalization or the anti-war movement, and this is a completely normal part of mass movement building. In this case, Cop Block seems to mainly be a part of “left libertarian” strains that are opposed to racism openly. That doesn’t make up the entirety of who Cop Block has been, however.
Christopher Cantwell was a former contributor to Cop Block who wrote awkward and violent tracts against the government and police, eventually being kicked out as a contributor and from the Free State Project for publishing an article talking about the joy people should feel about killing police. The editorial collective of Cop Block then published a response distancing themselves from Cantwell and committing themselves to the libertarian Non-Aggression Principle. Cantwell is known for his own podcast “Radical Agenda” and positioning himself with different “Alt Right” and racialist projects. His website lists himself as an “Anarchist, Atheist, Realist.” The anarchism he is talking about is hard-right anarcho-capitalism, and the realism is directly in relation to race. He delves heavily into race issues, siding with “race realists” in believing that people of color have lower IQs, are more prone to criminality, that we need to ban all immigration, that Muslims are sub-humans, and that the Jews are over represented in positions of power. His own website and twice-weekly live video broadcasts are filled with racial slurs, conspiracy theories, and mixing of American right-wing populism with the new “hip” fascism. He has joined the Right Stuff’s podcasts twice in the last two weeks, first going on the flagship The Daily Shoah and later joining Fash the Nation. On both he railed against people of color, yelling about how they were “dumb n—-rs,” “spooks,” and calling Muslim people “Kababs.” He also spent quite a bit of time ranting about how he “schooled” members of Cop Block on a recent podcast episode he joined them on. He enjoyed calling them Cuck Block, a reference to the #Cuckservative meme that The Right Stuff and others on the Alt Right have been using to say that traditional conservatives are working for the benefit of non-white groups instead of themselves.
Since Cantwell was a contributor at Cop Block previously, he was invited back to explain why he was, as a libertarian, supporting Donald Trump’s presidential bid. This was also a video episode, where Cantwell was poised in front of an anarcho-capitalist half-gold, half-black flag with a coiled snake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” line. They come out almost immediately to see if he actually believes that “to get freedom back” we need to get rid of liberals and leftists. He goes on to use Alt Right buzz points, or “hate facts” as he refers to them, such as R-K Selection Theory, Race and IQ psuedoscience, and bizarre references to evolutionary psychology. Cantwell shifts towards criticizing Cop Block for using leftist news sources like Counter-Currents News(not to be confused with the white nationalist Counter-Currents Publishing), which the co-hosts do apologize for, and for “teaming up with liberals.”
“If you think that people are just blank slate, everybody’s equal, then that’s absolute nonsense,” said Cantwell. “One things that’s wrong with Cop Block and the other Race Pimp outfits that you have teamed up with is that…you jump on board with the Black Lives Matter thing. If black people are 13% of the population and 30% of those killed by police, thus police are racist. Well that’s nonsense, you know, what’s actually happening is black people are responsible for more than 50% of the crime in America, and that is an objectively observable thing that is actually happening. And so if you are getting in trouble with law enforcement, you are getting killed by law enforcement while you are out committing a vastly disproportionate amount of crime in a country, then it makes sense that you would end up in that position.”
This is a regular white nationalist talking point, well known in crowds like American Renaissance and the Council of Conservative Citizens, where race and crime reporting statistics are overtly manipulated to make arguments that there are some type of biologically driven criminality in black people. These statistics are intentionally taken out of context, and they refuse to look at the vastly different representation of people of color in accordance to actual rates of “criminal” behavior. An example of this is with drug use, which from individual surveying is shown to be equal across races, though black and Latino people are much more represented in drug possession convictions. Crimes are most correlated to socio-economic status, and due to historic oppression and racism have tied communities of color with poverty, and therefore there is a common sense way to read the evidence. Instead, “race realists” intend to use these statistics to make really vulgar statements that there are literally differences in black and white brains that make black people driven towards “criminality,” which is an unscientific way of dividing up pre-conscious motivations and brain functions. Criminal behaviors are designated by a society and its property laws, which are not a set of “timeless principles” that some types of people are just more prone to violate. Much of early race science addressed class in the same way, using meritocratic arguments to say that people of low socio-economic class, as well as race, are in the situation they are in because they are prone to criminal behavior and low intelligence. Good breeding, a coded phrase for Eugenics, was supposed to breed out these people by using rich whites as a model for genetic superiority. People like Cantwell are resurrecting these kind of pseudoscientific embarrassments, this time focusing just on race to separate people of color from the white working class.
The Cop Block podcast hosts do their best to challenge Cantwell on these points, but, as Cantwell railed about with glee, they were not prepared to challenge rehearsed white nationalist talking points. The reality is that most people are not on guard to defend against things that are generally known to be false, such as roundly discredited race and IQ or race and crime arguments.
After Cantwell left the show, another member of the Cop Block spoke up to defend him as “having a point,” while another member, Severin Freeman, stated that they do not support the Black Lives Matter movement.
At a certain point, in 2013, Cop Block began to shift to be more conscious of the violence from “non-state actors” because of interpersonal oppression. This meant consciously addressing white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and other forms of oppression. This has not been monolithically successful, especially when people noticed some posts from Cop Block that downplayed the significance of street harassment against women. Even with those moments, there was an intentional turn to be aware of intersecting oppression and move away from a right-wing value set in their anti-police political orientation. As Peaceful Streets notes, when some founding members began to stand up to some racist and sexist responses, the far-right segment of the anti-police movement came out in droves to attack them.
This brought out vicious attacks from many who were at the intersection of some or all of the following groups: Cop Block, anarchocapitalists, Men’s Rights Movement, and Neoconfederates. One semi-popular libertarian blogger named Christopher Cantwell led the charge against the “White Knight,” “Social Justice Warriors” who dared to take offense at overt forms of bigotry. Soon, [Antonio] Buehler had hundreds of racist and sexist people attacking him for taking a stand against racism and sexism. Buehler responded by disassociating with everyone who was willing to associate with Cantwell, and this included Cop Block founder Ademo Freeman and many other members of Cop Block.
Today, Cop Block is generally set to focusing largely on cop-on-black violence, really lending to ground the Black Lives Matter narratives in the constant stream of police brutality cases. Since the shooting in San Bernadino, they have continued to perpetuate the conspiracy theory that it was actually white “crisis actors.” While these types of conspiracy theories are obviously problematic, they do shift away from the right-libertarian trend to believe that the government is “anti-white” and would never fake an attack by a Muslim.
The libertarian tradition, and by that we mean the American libertarian tradition specifically, has always sat on the fringes of the extreme right. After Murray Rothbard was kicked out of the National Review in the 1960s he briefly associated with the left-wing cultural elements that began lingering around the libertarian movement before falling into a distinctly reactionary place and began producing the Rothbard-Rockwell Report with Lew Rockwell. Anarcho-capitalism, which draws a completely different historical trajectory than anarchism as it is commonly understood, has always rubbed shoulders of neo-fascist movements in their respect for hierarchy and inequality. The Ludwig Von Mises Institute used to hold a message on its opening page listing that property means the right to “refuse service” to people or groups the owner determines. Throughout the life of libertarianism, which really does not gain steam until the 1980s, you saw a close consortium between libertarian and various intersectional movements on the far-right. The most obvious of these were the milita movement who was built on a conspiracy theology about the invading “left-wing” government. During the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas 1994, milita people, conspiracy theorists, and libertarians joined the onlookers in outrage, and it radicalized people like Alex Jones and Timothy McVeigh.
The bridge points into mainstream politics, with the anti-war politics of Lew Rockwell to the Ron Paul newsletters, allowed for far-right positions to become semi-acceptable under the auspices of paleoconservatism and paleolibertarianism. Throughout the 1990s, much of the open white power movement, including various neo-Nazi and Klan organizations, found their way into the generic “anti-tax” movement, of which people like Ron Paul were also a part. These movements later crystalized in response to changing demographics and an American President of color, and came front and center with the Tea Party.
Libertarianism itself has been a stepping stone for many in white nationalism because the mechanisms of the welfare state are associated with people of color. As the Ron Paul campaign of the mid-2000s brought libertarianism back amongst a newer generation of young people, the left-leaning cultural elements found a space again and were popularized by places like Reason Magazine and the Caito Institute. As libertarianism in this vein began to abandon its far-right cultural elements, it no longer became a safe space for various fringe right-wing ideologies. Today, you see organizations like the white nationalist The Right Stuff, the American Freedom Party, and the Traditionalist Youth Network coming out of former Ron Paul supporters, and even today institutions like the Property and Freedom Foundation and the Ludwig Von Mises Institute continue to be safe spaces for “race realists” and others in the open racialist movement.
Today’s libertarianism has distinctly different wings that are broken up more by values than by politics. This is what really separates people like Cop Block and Christopher Cantwell: a sense of what their social values are rather than what the type of political and social tools they prefer. This does not, however, mean that there is a clean break between them since they still share a certain analysis and background. Many of the people still involved with Cop Block, and some of what they publish, show a mixed consciousness about political issues. At the same time, Cop Block has made huge moves to separate themselves from many of the racist traditions that parallel libertarianism, as well as create distance between them and open racists that used to contribute to them.
Cop Block’s controversies are mainly reserved for the founder’s, Aderno Freeman, alleged wiretapping or the South Carolina’s Republican Chairperson’s “liking” of one of their posts. The foundation of their work is always going to be based on a libertarian suspicion of the government, which is founded on the idea that the state interferes with “sovereignty” and property rights. This is much different than the anarchist analysis as the state as a tool for the ruling class, which means that those on the left looking to use Cop Block as a resource need to do so with a sense of distance. What this says more than anything is that the anti-police narrative needs to be better enunciated by those on the radical left, especially taking the analysis away from reactionary minarchist politics and bringing them back to revolutionary anti-oppression praxis.
2 thoughts on “Capitalists Against Cops: Cop Block, Christopher Cantwell, and the Libertarian Paradox”
Your assessment of CopBlock.org makes us appear as a unified mass of singular belief, which is inaccurate. For instance, this piece by me does not fit in your description.
We certainly do not want to paint with a broad brush, and there is actually a lot of diversity of opinion in Cop Block, but from what we looked at there is still a strong libertarian current. Likewise, I don’t think it has been made clear publicly that the group is not singular. That may be known well internally, but it is not necessarily the public face that has been coming across.
We also want to be clear about one thing, Cop Block should not be admonished simply for having had some problematic people involved. So while people like Chris Cantwell are certainly a blemish on Cop Block’s image, we are not trying to tear you down or harm the work you do.