This article was originally published at americanchronicle.com on Nov. 15th, 2008.
Ian Freeman, AKA Ian Bernard, hosts quite a unique and successful talk show called Free Talk Live. His innovations in the field led me to start listening to talk radio again. His approach is simple, let anyone who wants to call in talk about anything he wants to talk about. It´s kind of a freedom of speech thing. I´ve been listening for over two years now and the range of topics is as varied as people are diverse. They´ve talked about everything from alcohol consumption to zombie invasions, from human sexual behavior to better parenting, from animal rights to healthy eating habits, but the main thrust of the show seems to center around liberty and the freedom philosophy. That seems to be Ian´s main objective, to provide freedom of speech over the airwaves. It´s refreshing to listen to a talk radio program where the host doesn´t necessarily cut the caller off and start spouting his own statist philosophy when the caller says something the host doesn´t agree with. Better than that, the calls aren´t screened beyond asking for a name and topic. I know because I´ve called the show several times. You´ll never know what the caller will say. It makes for interesting radio.
Ian more than simply talks about his freedom philosophy on a radio program, he lives it. It´s sad that there are so few people in this world who actually live the freedom philosophy, but Ian is one of them. Most people want to be free to live their own lives, and yet they wish to tell others what to do and how to live theirs. Ian is one of the few that realizes that if one wishes to live free and make his own decisions, he must allow others to do the same. At least, that´s the feeling I get after listening to him for so long.
Ian wanted to live with other like minded people. It is for this reason he packed up his life and moved from Florida to New Hampshire as part of The Free State Project. He wanted to live peacefully amongst other residents who honored their neighbors´ choices, respected property rights, and understood the concept of personal responsibility. Unfortunately he recently found out that even in "The Free State" of New Hampshire there still resides quite a number of collectivists who feel that they have the right to tell you what to do with your property and they are not afraid to use the power of the state to force you to do as they will.
In addition to owning and hosting his own radio talk show, Ian owns a duplex in Keene New Hampshire. He lives on one side with has tenants living on the other. Unbeknownst to him, his tenants had long ago put a couch out in the yard. It is my understanding that they did this for the purpose of bird watching. Furthermore, this couch was so inconspicuous that Mark Edge, his co-host, has claimed he did not even know the couch was there until it was pointed out to him. Yet this couch somehow managed to supposedly catch the attention of a female living near the duplex who allegedly became so upset at this monstrosity despoiling the entire neighborhood that she lost several nights sleep over it and finally simply had to call the authorities in to force Ian to remove the eyesore from his land.
Ok, so I was exaggerating a little with that last sentence, but you get the idea. A couch enforcer (AKA code enforcer) named Carl Patten Jr. came by Ian´s property, looked at the couch and then ticketed Ian for an ordinance violation. This is all well documented and on the ticket for ordinance violation a box marked "other" is checked and "Junk couch out on lawn" is written in Mr. Patten´s hand. I wonder if there is an actual ordinance against couches on a lawn or if Mr. Patten is just given the power to determine, using his own judgment, whether something on someone´s lawn constitutes an ordinance violation. In any case, Ian refused to submit to Mr. Patten´s authority.
Ian seems to believe in the sanctity of private property and refused to get rid of a couch that was not rightfully his, but belonged to his tenants. He also understood that although he owned the property, he was renting it out and therefore the lawn on that side of the house was also rightfully for his tenants´ use. Other people don´t seem to hold dear the concept of private property rights and think they can tell others what to do with their property. It certainly didn´t seem to matter to the authoritarians in Keene who started to demand that Ian dispose of his tenants´ property or face the hell that only tyrannical bureaucrats can dish out when someone decides to not bow before their dictates.
After some wrangling and dealing with the bureaucrats, Ian decided he would get rid of the couch (I believe with his tenants´ consent) if he could meet with the neighbor who filed the original complaint. It seems Ian was under the delusion that he was still living in the United States of America where one is allowed to face his accuser. He was told this was not going to happen and so Ian could not in good conscience comply with the wishes of the authoritarians. And so a trial date was set.
On November 14, 2008, that trial took place. Many of Ian´s supporters showed up to watch. To New Hampshire´s credit, they did allow at least one camera in the courtroom. In Illinois, the courts are so afraid that their activities will be exposed for the public to see that they don´t even allow still picture cameras or audio recording devices to be brought into the courtroom. Warning signs were posted in the courthouse for all the activists to see stating that if they didn´t stand when His Majesty the Judge entered the courtroom they would be arrested for contempt of court. That´s because judges are obviously superior to us plebeians and are humans of higher quality like royalty. I mean, it´s not like this is the United States of America where all men are supposed to be treated as equals.
If one watches the footage from the trial, one notices that the trial lasts all of about seven seconds from the time His Majesty Judge Burke enters before Ian is arrested, handcuffed, and taken into custody. His crime? It seems he didn´t sit down fast enough to satisfy Judge Burke´s demand and was cited for contempt of court. From that point, Ian was quickly shuttled into a different courtroom where cameras were not allowed. A small monitor with reportedly little sound was provided so his supporters could "see" what was happening in the other room, but they likely couldn´t tell what was going on in there. He was reportedly cited two more times for contempt of court while in that other courtroom and sentenced to 90 days in jail for those violations.
In my opinion what the court did was contemptible. I suppose since I hold that opinion and I´ve expressed it here I could be held for contempt of court also. But it is contemptible that these thugs can come into a courtroom and arrest and handcuff a man then pull him away from his supporters before he even gets a chance to sit down, let alone speak. It is contemptible that a judge can enter the courtroom in such a combative fashion as Judge Burke did and cite a man and have him jailed for a thought crime. It is contemptible that one is not able to speak freely in such a public forum and that one is not able to express contempt for a system that is obviously out of control. The power hungry, men like Judge Burke who obviously consider themselves to be better than the rest of humanity and above reproach, do not like their authority to even appear to be questioned. He showed today that he is willing to use state sanctioned thugs and act violently if he even thinks his authority will be challenged.
From listening to Free Talk Live I believe that Ian was ready to ask some poignant questions. He wanted to know if anyone was in any way harmed by his tenants having a couch on the lawn. He wanted to know who his accuser was. He wanted to face his accuser, as it is supposedly one´s right to do so in this nation. He wanted to know if authority was set up by consent of the governed, as is stated in the New Hampshire state constitution, or not. He wanted to know where his obligation to obey such silly, victimless laws came from. He wanted to know when and how he consented to the authority these people claimed they had over him. Apparently, the Keene court was not ready to answer these questions, for it was obvious they had planned on arresting Ian immediately and taking him away from his support where they could exercise the full weight of their kangaroo court. The other two contempt of court charges probably stemmed from Ian´s asking these types of questions. This, my friends, is the state of the American injustice system today.
In my youthful naiveté I used to believe that the United States of America held no political prisoners. I know better now. Ian is just the latest in a long, long list of political prisoners. The courts in this country are out of control. The court system is contemptible. It is no longer true that a man is innocent until proven guilty. In my experience quite the opposite is true and a man is presumed guilty unless he can prove himself innocent, which is why so many people take plea bargains. But nothing is worse than the contempt of court charge. It is merely a way to force compliance from someone who sticks up for his rights or the rights of others. It is a way for the court to not have to answer poignant and applicable questions about the legitimacy of their system. It is a way to keep thinking people from pointing out the flaws in the system. It is a way they can avoid answering to their critics and for their mistakes. The contempt of court charge should be outlawed. A free person should be allowed to express his contempt for a vile and flawed system.
In the courtroom, the defendant isn´t the only one that should be on trial, but the law itself should be on trial. This should be basic to rooting out bad laws. When people are not allowed to question to the legitimacy of a law in a courtroom, then where can he? Certainly not in congress where the working man is unable to spend much time and where a quorum of legislators doesn´t necessarily equal a quorum of common folk. The courts were supposed to be set up to protect individual rights, and yet more and more often they are instead violating those rights. The noose is tightening around the neck of the common man. There´s no place left for us to go.
It seems to me that the courts are scared. At least this one was. They are like a cornered animal. They are dangerous now, ready to commit violence on anyone who would dare to question their legitimacy. The freedom loving people of this country need to apply more pressure than ever. We need to shine light upon those involved with the so called justice system and expose them for the gang of thugs that they are. If enough of us shout and squabble and fuss and protest and refuse to cooperate, they will relent. Taking back our justice system, especially our local systems, so that it protects individual rights and only prosecutes crimes where there is a known individual victim would be a huge step toward taking back the rest of our government. Perhaps this movement can start in New Hampshire. Judge Burke may not know it yet, but likely he has created a new martyr for the freedom movement, likely he has helped it in the recruiting of liberty loving activists. Let this be our new mantra: "Free Ian!"