Millions Of Black Masks is an upcoming zine composed of interviews with anarchists from around the globe, archiving their personal interpretations and experiences living with anarchy. If you would like to be interviewed and included in this oral history of real anarchists, then please contact me directly. To introduce the project on Daily Anarchist, editor Davi Barker kindly agreed to answer some questions on his life as an anarchist.
Gyorgy Furiosa (GF): What’s your situation? What are you up to these days?
Davi Barker (DB): I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my wife, Zahra Billoo and my cat, Lupe Fiasco. A year ago I left the W2 9-to-5 world and started working from a home office as a full time agorist, which means I have been finding ways to make a living doing activism and outreach in the liberty movement. Essentially I am employee of the Internet. I do some writing, some graphic design, some merchandising, and occasionally I’m invited to speak at various events. I’m the editor of DailyAnarchist.com, the Campaign Navigator of Bitcoin Not Bombs, the proprietor of ShinyBadges.com, a market agent for the Silver Circle Movie and assistant director of Muslims 4 Liberty.
GF: Can you expand on the concepts of agorism? The idea is not so prevalent in Europe.
DB: To my mind, agorism is the willingness to do what it takes to manifest a free society, even if it’s illegal, as long as it’s ethical. The term comes from the ancient Greek term “agora”. Most anarcho-capitalists will tell you that “agora” means “market place” but that’s only half the story. The agora in ancient Greece was a public open space that was used for both markets and general assemblies. The term agorism was coined by left-libertarian Samuel Edward Konkin III who envisioned a strategy of replacing all coercive systems with competing consensual systems, even if doing so was illegal, until the coercive society was eclipsed by the free society and became irrelevant. The primary operation of his vision was counter economic activity, but it was not ideologically bound. So, if the State criminalizes farming without a license and demands tribute from the licensed farmer’s earnings, the agorist farmer works under the table with fellow agorists, declares nothing to the State, and distributes his crops and his earnings as he sees fit. Whichever economic model proves most beneficial and productive will be the one the majority adopts and the one to replace the coercive model.
GF: What does anarchy mean to you?
DB: To me, fundamentally anarchy is a principled and consistent rejection of violence. I’m not an anarchist because I’m against the State. I’m an anarchist because I’m against violence. The State just happens to be the most violent institution ever devised by mankind.
GF: Does this make you a pacifist, and therefore do you reject a diversity of tactics in challenging the State’s monopoly on violence?
DB: No. To clarify, I reject aggressive violence, not defensive violence. A person has a natural right to defend themselves against an aggressor, but the State’s violence is always aggressive. Even when it is used it defense it is only possible by first aggressing against the citizenry to fund its so-called defense. All that it has it has stolen.
I have no objection to a diversity of tactics, but in my experience that phrase means many different things to many different people. I believe that the ends contain their means. So, a person cannot manifest an ethical world by unethical means. To do so only legitimizes evil. How can we say the State is evil if we take the same actions?
GF: How did you become an anarchist?
DB: In grade school anarchy was really the first political label that resonated with me, but identifying as an anarchist really upset the adults around me, and it was eventually bullied and indoctrinated out of me. In 2003 I discovered Ron Paul and had a short but ultimately unsatisfying romance with limited constitutional minarchy. In 2010 I heard a speech by Stephan Molyneux called “The Against Me Argument” which was essentially exposed the violence behind every government action, and revealed it as a monopoly on violence, as it’s defined. So, with the economics knowledge that I’d picked up from Ron Paul supporters, and ethical knowledge that Stefan Molyneux helped me articulate I had to ask myself, if a monopoly is economically undesirable, and violence is ethically undesirable, why is a monopoly on violence desirable at all?
GF: Why are you involved in Daily Anarchist, and what impact do you have?
DB: The previous editor reached out to me and asked me to become a contributor, and when he left the owner, Seth King asked me to be his replacement. As a contributor I’ve written some of the highest traffic pieces on the site. For example my article “Auditing Shooting Rampage Statistics” has gotten tens of thousands of hits, and over eight thousand comments. I’ve been contacted by half a dozen college professors interested in examining my methodology, and it resulted in a wave of radio interviews which gave me an opportunity to not only talk about gun rights, but the potential of a stateless society to mainstream audiences.
GF: How does anarchism influence your choices as an editor?
DB: As the editor I scout for new writers and review all new submissions. My primary goal is to broaden the ideological spectrum to other schools of anarchism outside the site’s anarcho-capitalist roots, while maintaining the intellectual caliber of the site.
It’s a challenge because it’s important to me to avoid stepping on the vision of the writer, but I also have to consider the experience of the reader. So there is a clear separation between what I feel is ideologically incorrect, which I save for the comments section, and what I think will be confusing to the reader or factually incorrect.
GF: Are there other factors influencing your editorial choices?
DB: In a real sense, I try to let the market decide. Every month I review the traffic of the recent articles and try to discover topics of discussion and inquiry it appears the audience wants more of. Bitcoin has been huge recently, for example.
GF: Doesn’t the role of editor give you an authoritarian presence? How do you manage that supposed contradiction?
DB: I hope not. Never had that complaint. I don’t see a contradiction. Division of labor is not authoritarianism.
GF: Anarcho-capitalism is widely rejected in Europe and not considered ‘anarchism’ at all. Could you respond to this.
DB: I don’t care what people widely reject in Europe. Anarchism is widely rejected everywhere. It’s not a philosophy for someone so easily manipulated by how other people define them. If some people don’t want to consider what I believe anarchy… so what? Even if I denied being an anarchist there would still be some people who considered what I believe anarchy, and again… so what? “Anarchist” is just a noun. People can argue about the meaning of nouns all day. I’m far more interested in verbs. It’s what people do, not what they call each other, that makes them what they are.
GF: Does anarchism impact on your life outside Daily Anarchist.com? How else are you involved?
DB: Bitcoin Not Bombs is a launching pad for charitable activities in the Bitcoin economy. We help non-profit clients connect with commercial clients so any Bitcoin raised in a fundraising drive can be spent without converting to dollars.
Shiny Badges sells parodies of state insignia so as to demystify those symbols. I sell metallic lapel pins, flags, and badges all with the liberty or anarchist theme.
Silver Circle Movie is a feature length animated film about a band of rebels who fight the Federal Reserve in part with their illegal silver currency.
Muslims 4 Liberty is an organization which explores the confluence of values we see between libertarianism and anti-authoritarian strains of Islamic thought, both current day and throughout Islamic history.
GF: Could you talk more about Muslims 4 Liberty? Are you a Muslim?
DB: I am. Muslims 4 Liberty is a big tent organization. It includes members that are minarchists as well as anarchists. The unifying feature is that it’s members are anti-authoritarian, but they come from many different cultures so they naturally exhibit many different perspectives.
GF: How does that reconcile with being an anarchist? In Europe it often requires an overt rejection of the authority of religion.
DB: I don’t find there is anything to reconcile. Muhammad was born in a polycentric tribal anarchy, and he never established a State in any modern sense. There have been anarchist and anti-authoritarian strains of thought all throughout Islamic history, and many of the enlightenment ideals that transformed Europe were borrowed from 9th century Muslim anarchists. If European anarchists think they have the authority to declare what people must believe they should probably reexamine their principles.