The World Freeman Society, a group that could stand to hire a new logo designer.
Canada’s jumpy spy service, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has a knack of finding real, potential, and perceived threats to our great big country and the people who live in it. It’s a tough job, and if Canadians haven’t been unlucky enough to be bombed, beheaded or held hostage much over the past decade, it may very well be that CSIS is to thank for it. But sometimes, the spooks can get a little bit over-anxious.
Last month, Postmedia reported that CSIS’s latest bogeyman was a loose group calling itself “Freemen on the Land.” The report states that the Freeman movement “has become a ‘major policing problem’ in several provinces, according to a threat assessment by Canada’s spy officials.” They’ve been described as anti-government, pro-gun, anti-capitalist and even far-right racists. Sounds pretty unsavoury.
But it’s probably not all that accurate. The freeman tries to live, more or less, outside the realm of Canadian law. That means they don’t recognize the authority of any level of government because, they say, they have not given anyone their consent to be governed. Freemen want to turn their backs entirely on the governmental architecture that frames how Canada is run.
Their contempt for government spans from taxes, which they don’t pay, to traffic rules, which they don’t feel obligated to obey. And good luck to anyone who tries to convince them different, especially if you’re a cop or any other officer of the court.
Getting into an argument with a freeman looks like an extremely frustrating experience. YouTube has tons of clips showing confrontations between law enforcement and ordinary, sometimes agitated, people using pseudo-legalese, staking their refusal to cooperate on vague references to freedom, common law, commercial law, right to property, right to consent, birth certificates, proper identification and the difference between statutes and acts and legislation. If you’re lucky, someone will mention the Magna Carta.
Based on that, yeah, you could argue that the Freemen are a policing problem because, for cops especially, they’re a pain in the balls. One judge called Freeman-based arguments “bluntly idiotic.”
But other than sharing a philosophy about the limits of government and an underlying belief in its generally sinister purpose, the freemen don’t seem like a threatening bunch. Andrew Langevin, a 52-year-old who lives outside Montreal and is a self-identifying “free man,” met up with me recently. He says he is entirely peaceful and that he and his fellow like-minded “free men”—not “freemen”—only want “to try to educate people, to get them to think.”
This is what Andrew Langevin looks like.
In fact, he doesn’t think much of people who advertise themselves as freemen. “Why would you want to exchange one slave master for another?” he asks. The Freeman movement, he says, “doesn’t exist. It’s a label attributed to enlightened and awakened individuals who have realized they’ve been hoodwinked by the system.”
The system is able to keep hoodwinking us, he says, because the media is in the hands of the government and the school system is designed to instill a mind-numbing routine of rote memorization, which crushes creativity and squashes critical thinking. It’s all done “to bring about a mentality of subservience to authority.”
This kind of rhetoric isn’t particularly new. I personally have met dozens upon wearying dozens of people who think that way. But they usually don’t go around calling themselves anything or affiliating themselves with a larger identity or group. There are similar traits seen throughout: a relentless suspicion of government and mass media, a belief in being armed (Langevin believes that the more people who walk around armed the better, and thinks that if the Newtown, Connecticut teachers were trained and armed, last month’s bloodbath could have been averted), and that they are the only ones who had the scales dropped from their eyes. Speaking to people like that, I always get the feeling that they’re implying that the rest of us, the masses, the people who work and pay taxes and vote and do the boring everyday shit we have to in order to get on with our lives, are saps. Suckers. Dupes. Sheeple. And they are there to tell us what’s what, because only they are smart enough to see the truth.
It seems to me that the Freemen won’t change much, but if you happen to be a cop or a judge and end up confronting one of these law-hating individuals, it’s possible that your job is going to become a lot more unpleasant. I’m glad Langevin, who is a nice enough guy, is peaceful. And if, as CSIS is correct and the Freeman on the Land movement is growing in Canada, I’m doubly glad we don’t have a gun culture like the United States. Combining a strong sense of righteousness and resentment with automatic weapons rarely ends well.
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