Resistance to Authority

December 11th, 2013   Submitted by J. Michael Haggard

small_information_items_213Whether one is being interviewed by a potential employer, or interrogated by a state sanctioned “authority,” just as the words interview and interrogation should be viewed as synonymous and are thus interchangeable (and should always be thought of in this manner), so too are the application of techniques to resist the divulgence of information interchangeable between the two venues. Thinking of an interview as desirous (from the perspective that one is usually thrilled to be called to an interview after submitting a resumé or job application), and thus harmless, while attaching malevolence only to the term interrogation, may lead one to a false sense of security when one’s interrogator uses kindness to extract information or one’s interviewer suddenly changes tactics and utilizes a more forceful tone or body position mid-stream to the interview.

The technique part of resistance techniques, infers I think, some level of skill. “No,” most certainly can be aligned with the concept of resistance, but how far will that get one, when one’s desires are not only to resist, but also to resist while avoiding or minimizing pain and/or discomfort to ourselves, or those we care about. In Wendy McElroy’s “Non-Cooperation as a One-on-One Strategy,” a key factor to all subsequent determinations revolves around the concept of compelled compliance (force), and what level of deprivation an individual is willing to endure relative to one’s responsibility to others. If simply saying “No” to one’s adversary were enough to deter him from further interfering in one’s life, then a higher level of resistance skill would be moot. Conversely, if one believes he may find himself subjected to a more hostile environment at some point in the future than that where a mere “No” will suffice, then it may be beneficial to investigate further methods of veiled resistance.

Avoidance is by far the most clandestine and effective form of resistance. If an agency is unaware of one’s presence, how can it offer any aggression from which to resist? Even within the military’s own S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training (upon which this article is premised), it is stated over and over again that avoidance is one’s best alternative. Resistance and escape become irrelevant if one is never captured. The problem with avoidance however, is that at some point, the avoidance will most likely lead to a compromise of principles beyond a level that can be tolerated. A military example might be the capture of a team member by an un-overwhelming force. Avoidance would dictate continuing on without the captured member, but how would this effect the remainder of one’s life? Conversely, how would being captured affect the remainder of one’s own life? A more societal example might be witnessing the attack of a female co-worker by two assailants in the company parking lot. One might surely be killed or severely injured by the assailants if interference is offered, but could that person live with their action (or more appropriately – inaction) if they had done nothing for fear of their own life and the co-worker was raped or murdered?

It is often one’s own principles that negate the path of avoidance due to the tremendous distress caused to freedom loving people when their freedoms are compromised. Resistance, and in particular concealed resistance, offers not only a way of slowing an interrogation, but also perhaps, a way of slowing the impetus of the state’s tyranny. Just as an error in resistance during an interview may lead to greater discomfort, so too may an error in an act of non-compliance, of non-cooperation, lead once again back to the position of compelled compliance.

It’s important to note that from its inception, the resistance portion of SERE school was developed, monitored and enhanced by various psychologists. Of a deeper context than need be explored here, there are many ties linking SERE training and the developers of its curriculum to torture procedures implemented at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. As such however, one can, without a great leap of faith, recognize the logic that the key to combating a mental attack is sound mental preparation. From one developer’s own notes comes the idea that one must have “conviction of purpose.” Fortunately, this should not be a problem for most Libertarians and Anarchists.

Although one’s conviction of purpose can be enhanced through continued study, education and understanding, make no mistake about the premise of engaging those compelling compliance while in a hostile environment. Engaging debate over one’s principles can be appropriate in a non-hostile environment from both an opportunity to practice perspective, as well as an opportunity to perhaps sway another’s perception of reality. In a hostile environment however, the captive or coerced individual will not be in control of any external factors, and this will have a seriously debilitating effect on his persuasiveness. The only factor that remains under one’s control in a hostile environment, is one’s internal processes, and this is where fortification must occur.

In the military, time is a critical component of an interrogation (due to communication requirements with Headquarters and contingency for compromise planning), however, excluding the statist badge wearer’s shift, time for the statist may not be critical, which unfortunately works to the “hostages” disadvantage. Fortunately, whether one is simply speaking with a local bureaucrat, or has been detained along side the road for additional revenue, or is actually being detained by a more hostile state representative, speaking slowly will be invaluable. Do not answer any question immediately (assuming you’re even inclined to answer at all). Remember, it has been made a law that you cannot lie to the police (despite the fact that they can and in fact are encouraged and trained to lie to you), so if you are going to answer their question at all, you do not want to lie.

Pride and ego are not just detriments to one’s successful conclusion with a state affiliate, it is also the name given to one of many specific interrogation techniques. When one’s thoughts come quickly, it is challenging to speak slowly, but it will not be transparent to an interrogator if this begins later in the interrogation. In fact, it will be a giant red flag that he is now on the right path. Pausing before answering any question, even, and especially your name, gives one time to think. It establishes a precedent, the “norm,” and it will also ruin an interrogators ability to establish a cadence. As the interview wears on, this precedent will be needed as the subject becomes more and more tired.

Note: A cadence during an interrogation is when the interrogator asks a successive number of easy, irrelevant questions (while maybe even slapping their hand in time upon the table), and then throws in a question that actually matters. Waiting to answer and talking slowly will thwart this technique.

As mentioned previously, the external environment will not be in one’s control, however, the consequence of this can be used as a stalling technique and should be utilized consistently from the beginning so as not to alert the interrogator to a sensitive area when one’s first complaint is lodged three hours into the session. If an answer to a question is harmless, then wait, ask for clarity if it won’t appear readily antagonistic, and then answer the question…slowly. If an answer to a question is to be avoided and time is needed to think, stall by complaining. For example: I’m too hot/too cold; I’m hungry/thirsty; I can’t remember because I’m too tired/sleepy; when can I call (whomever); your scaring me; am I going to jail?; I need to pee/Can I use the restroom?; why are you keeping me here?; when can I go?; etc. Look to the external environment for clues to these types of delaying questions. Lastly, when answering a question, if you are able and have the skill for it, ramble on about nothing for as long as possible…tell a story (literally).

Resistance to authority begins in the mind. One’s convictions are key to surviving…anything. Every confrontation one encounters elicits some amount of misgiving, some amount of fear, and this fear can be paralyzing. Moving into one’s mind, where the conviction runs deep, will help one to persevere. Beyond avoidance, most of the SERE school resistance techniques are of primary value during hostile encounters, but many of these techniques can be practiced in day-to-day encounters with local, less hostile statists. Perhaps, with a little luck and enough people practicing delaying tactics against statist agencies, the end result might just be a further mucking-up of an already inefficient statist organization. If nothing else, the encounter will at least frustrate the errant statist, while serving as excellent resistance training and providing some small satisfaction for the initiator of such tactics.

7 Responses to “Resistance to Authority”

  1. Brian DrakeNo Gravatar says:

    I’m sorry, you’re asserting that an interrogation and an interview as the same thing? On what grounds?

    An interrogation is unilaterally imposed and most often, imposed on a literal captive. A job interview is a mutually consented-to meeting where both parties are free to leave at anytime and also BOTH parties are free to decline consent to the offer of the other should their dialogue reveal the terms of the proposed economic exchange are not desirable. What’s the connection?

  2. Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:


    I enjoyed the alternative perspective you provided me regarding interrogation/interview.

    I’ve had 20+ years of thinking from a military perspective and only 3 or so from the new perspective of voluntary interactions and non-aggression.

    Upon further reflection however, I suspect that even from the voluntary interaction perspective, where either party is free to leave at anytime, there still exists the potential (on both sides) for information (intelligence) which each party does not wish to divulge; that each party may consider critical to compromising the outcome of the interview from the direction in which they wanted it to proceed (i.e. “I want/need this job” or “I really need to get someone hired for this position”).

    Further, I would agree with anyone who framed this as dishonest or deceitful, because ultimately, that’s what it would be.

    That being said, I would certainly agree that resistance techniques should only be used in an interrogation (where it is not mutually voluntary) and that honesty should be the policy when the interaction is mutually voluntary (such as an interview), but be cautious in one’s thinking and analysis of determining just exactly which circumstance one is involved in at any particular moment.


    • Brian DrakeNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the response. Your perspective is much clearer to me now and I appreciate your clarification.

      My suggestion would be to try to keep a clear line of division when communicating concepts of consent versus coercion, since the prevailing worldview intentionally tries to conflate the two all the time.

      Just because an exchange is consensual doesn’t mean other people are entitled to full-disclosure (outright deception is a different matter and depending on context, could be fraud) and each person has their own threshold of what they prefer to keep private. So your advice can certainly be applied to a consensual exchange where one side is “prying” more than the other side prefers. Just be careful not to lose sight of the consensual nature of the exchange, which is fundamentally different from what SERE is preparing you for. “I’m sorry, that was an intrusive question and I’d prefer to not answer it.” is not going to result in physical punishment or other un-consented-to consequences in an interview, whereas “hey, Mr. Interrogator, do you mind if we take a pee break?” is clearly something else 🙂

      • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:


        I agree and appreciate your broader view and differentiating between the two.

        This line of thinking has caused me to recollect another “middle area,” where one isn’t exactly free to leave, but neither are you in a strictly “voluntary” situation. An example of this might be when one’s supervisor or other such authority calls you in to ask you about circumstances within the work place. Specifically, something about a co-worker perhaps.

        The main problem with these types of circumstances is something I call “fear of reprisal.” Fear of reprisal (especially over keeping one’s job – or not) often stops many people from doing what is right (whether that’s turning in an abusive supervisor or reporting an inappropriate co-worker).

        I believe the concept of “fear of reprisal” is much more hostile than “you’re prying” more than I’m comfortable with, but much less hostile than “I’m going to hit you if you don’t tell me what I want to know.”

        Honesty also plays into all of this, but once again it’s tempered with what amount of compliance can one afford relative to one’s circumstances (family or others relying on you) while always trying as best as possible to maintain integrity to one’s principles.

        • Brian DrakeNo Gravatar says:


          Here again I would caution drawing a stark line between consensual activity and non-consensual activity. “Reprisal” in the context you present is just another way of saying another person may choose to alter their behavior in a way that I don’t prefer, but is not aggressing against me. This is a consequence of the fact that other people have just as much right to act upon their preferences, within the realm of their property and the consensual use of the property of others, as I do.

          The reality is that in human interactions as in physics, actions cause reactions and this is unavoidable. There are two basic categories which all interactions fall within, consensual or non-consensual. As long as the actions and the reactions are within the consensual category, then no injustice has occurred, even if the outcome is not desirable to one of the parties.

          So if I’m an employer, and you’re my employee, I am paying you because I value what you bring to the table. If I want that to include “ratting out” your co-worker, that’s then my condition for continuing to employ you. I’m not obligated to employ you, nor am I violating anyone’s consent if I choose to cease employing you for any reason (barring contractual requirements).

          Like anything in life, the employee needs to decide what they value more. “Doing the right thing” or staying employed. But this is certainly not a unique or unfair situation exclusive to employment. All of life is about choosing between different options and weighing the costs and benefits.

          My main point is to be careful not to choose words that are more susceptible to equivocation than others. “Hostile” and “reprisal” can be used to describe consensual activity, but they’re more often used to describe physical threats or violence primarily in context of non-consensual activity. Though it’s technically correct to say a situation where you have to choose between your job and doing what’s right is “hostile”, it’s absolutely not the same as a situation where you’re being threatened with aggression (actions that violate your consent) and it’s just too easy for people to conflate the two when you choose to communicate like that.

          I guess I’m getting to the point where I see we don’t necessarily disagree, but maybe I’m just being nitpicky about semantics. However, spending quite a lot of time discussing these topics, I do see that the lack of care in choosing words often leads to confusion, and creates openings for attack by detractors and it’s often best to just avoid such unnecessary misinterpretation by emphasizing conceptual distinctions and choosing vocabulary that is less likely to be misread (by mistake, or by malicious intent). That’s clearly my opinion though, so take it or leave it as you will.



  3. Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:


    I too was thinking as I read your latest that it seemed we don’t necessarily disagree on anything substantial. In fact, I also believe that choosing one’s words carefully are imperative to avoiding confusion and more importantly to me, hurt feelings. Conflict resolution is a subject that I hope to learn a great deal more about and honesty and the words one’s chooses are, I think, central to effective conflict resolution.

    Again, most of my life’s experiences are within the framework of a military structure and as such, one does not often have the freedom (or perhaps more precisely, does not recognize what amount of freedom they possess) that I feel you express in your illustrations. My life in the “civilian” work place (in conjunction with a greater understanding of principles of freedom and non-aggression) has been very liberating. One cannot very well leave the confines of a submarine while submerged. I’m not trying to be flippant by that statement; I just mean to say that despite one’s initial voluntary engagement, there may well be circumstances in which one is essentially trapped.

    It was very enlightening to me when I first came to understand the consensual arrangement between an employer and employee. This came to me when I learned that what I “own” in the employer/employee relationship is my labor and that “my” job is really owned by the employer. It is the employer’s “job” and I enter into a consensual agreement whereby I trade my labor for money to do the work that my employer desires to have done. I further understand that at all times, it is the employer’s job; he owns it (I also recognize that you know all of this).

    In the military (and I imagine most all statist organizations), the entire structure is fairly corrupt (like Ayn Rand’s examples of trading for favors). There is no “employer,” so to speak, only a complicated infrastructure of employees maneuvering for power, authority, privilege, favor, or just to be left alone (going along to get along). In this environment, I have witnessed over-and-over again, a person attempting to do what is right, whose life becomes horrid because doing what was right brought them into opposition of someone who held substantial organizational power.

    I meant my article to be an attempt to follow-up on some of the ideas presented in Wendy McElroy’s “Non-Cooperation as a One-on-One Strategy.” There were so many ideas presented in that article that reminded me in general of certain skills that I was unaware of, until discussed in SERE school. I thought I’d make an attempt to share some of those ideas and although they’re tailored for hostile environments, I think many of the techniques (used in perhaps subtler forms) would be of value during unwanted intrusions and/or interactions with the state. Also, this was the first time I’d ever written anything for anyone other than school or the military and I wanted to say that I’m grateful for your feedback and participation (If you hadn’t commented, I wouldn’t have had any comments). Thank you! 🙂


    • Brian DrakeNo Gravatar says:


      You’re welcome for the feedback.

      Thank you for contributing your point of view by writing the article. The phrase “One cannot very well leave the confines of a submarine while submerged” was well used and communicated the complexities of the US’ “voluntary” military that those of us who have never enlisted might not always understand.

      Peace to you too,