A Quick Guide to Anarchy for Journalists

It might help the reputation of anarchy and anarchists if anarchists did a better job of communicating with the press. As an effort in that direction, here are some points that I think it might be helpful to make:

1. Not all people who call themselves anarchists agree. The core meaning of the word anarchy (from Greek word anarchos, prefix a, meaning "not," "the want of," "the absence of," or "the lack of", plus archos, meaning "a ruler," "director", "chief," "person in charge," "commander." -The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy] attracts people from a variety of political ideologies. Due to the intrinsic nature of anarchy it would be hypocritical for anyone proclaiming to be an anarchist to postulate a central "official" doctrine for anarchy. There is nothing to prevent anyone from claiming to be an anarchist then espousing his or her own view of what an anarchist world would look like.
See: What does it mean to be an Anarchist?

2. Anarchist thought is seeing a resurgence as the "big government" solutions of the traditional left appear to run out of steam. Central government programs increasingly seem to favor repressive police state solutions to social problems. Some have commented that anarchy offers an ideological refuge for those tired of seeking solutions through more and more national legislation. Anarchists often focus more on immediate day to day issues in their communities.

3. Anarchy is not intrinsically violent. Most journalists would consider it unprofessional to cast aspersions on all Catholics or Jews when a person who is Jewish or Catholic commits a crime, yet such restraint is often abandoned when an admitted anarchist commits a crime. While a significant portion of the anarchist community rejects "propaganda by the deed" as ineffective and counterproductive, most would argue that a person has the right to defend themselves and others from violence initiated by police agencies. Many would ague that blind allegiance to hierarchy in a society is a cultural construct that will not be altered by violent means - and that in fact violence often is used to justify more state authoritarian control.

4. Anarchy is becoming more attractive to young people, perhaps because they are coming into a society that is increasingly criminalizing their behavior. They experience the criminal justice system first hand when they try smoking, try alcohol, try marijuana, resist dress codes and curfews, or even demand uncensored Internet access. In past generations, what might have been considered "sowing one's oats" is now grounds for detention and fines. It is only natural for young people to be attracted by a political philosophy that advocates minimal government intervention in personal affairs and asks that all authority be open to question.
See: "The Scapegoat Generation: America's War on Adolescents" by Mike Males and
The new anarchists By Geov Parrish, Seattle Weekly, September 2 - 8, 1999

5. Anarchy has a history. Few realize the contributions of anarchists to such labor movements as the 8-hour workday or the formation of the ACLU. When Emma Goldman was jailed for talking about birth control this was considered normal. Many of the personal freedoms we now enjoy were fought for by turn of the century anarchists. Historians have often preferred to view history through the prism of capitalist-communist dualism while ignoring the nuances of political thought in the early 1900's.
More about Anarchist history and theEmma Goldman Test

6 Anarchist thought is part of an historical trend toward the decentralization of power. Even major corporations have come to realize that "top down" hierarchical structures are no longer responsive in a changing world, and that to remain competitive, they must adopt decentralized management structures. The Internet itself, it has been argued, represents a close to anarchist topology by virtue of its minimal central control. Change in social organization is frightening to many people - especially when they are used to the comfort of hierarchical structures and it is unclear how they will fit in a changed world.

7. Anarchy provides a new intellectual framework on which to judge the legitimacy of institutions. Noam Chomsky has commented that it is incumbent upon all authority to justify itself. Most institutions in our society base their legitimacy solely on their historical existence without acknowledging, that in a Democracy, their ultimate legitimacy rests on voluntary acceptance of their authority by those who vote. The Declaration of Independence acknowledges this principle by stating that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government". In the 21st century, the legitimacy of institutions will undoubtedly become a major issue as people find themselves affected more and more by institutions over which they have no voice.
See: Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Marxism & Hope for the Future

Rp 05-Aug-99

A Press contact for further information about anarchism:
Chuck0 - chuck@tao.ca

anarchist_censorship.article Article on anarchism on the internet and commentary about the innacuracies and censorship of anarchists

See also: Background about this site

Add/View comments to this page

Action Network