Johnny Rotten vs. Russell Brand: The Blasphemous Case for Anarchist Voting

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The recent war of words between legendary Sex Pistols punk rocker Johnny Rotten (real name, John Lydon) and comedian Russell Brand highlights an interesting schism that we have in the “liberty movement” as well. In case you hadn’t heard, the infamous singer of “Anarchy in the UK” strongly rebuked Russell Brand’s latest advice that people ought to refrain from voting since democracy has failed. Brand wants you to reject voting in favor of social action akin to what the Occupy Movement has been doing. Lydon went so far as to call Brand a “bum hole” for telling people to abandon voting (I guess he hadn’t read my article on my idea of the “non-passive aggressive principle” yet).

Having been libertarian for a couple decades now, I can already hear the howl of the orthodox anarcho-capitalists/agorists siding with (gasp) Russell Brand on this. The echo chamber of rehashed bromides and pre-digested thoughts inside my skull sounds something like this:

When was an election ever decided by one vote?”
85% of Americans disapprove of their Representatives in Congress.”
If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal.”
Statist!”

Well, as lovely as those pithy phrases may be, often times they are poorly used as a short-cut to intelligent thinking, a place-holder for individualistic expression, and I am especially looking at many of the post-Ron Paul Revolution newbie libertarians. The irony seems to be lost on many of the ‘holier-than-thou’ neophyte anarcho-capitalists that only came to be anarchist as a direct result of the “statist” political efforts of Ron Paul. If it weren’t for Ron Paul’s efforts to get elected, they may never have heard of the likes of Rothbard, Mises, et al.

This brings me to my point, I am anarchist/libertarian and I tend to agree with both John Lydon and Russell Brand in this dispute. Not because I think the political system is awesome or because I am a “statist” but because I am in favor of anything and everything that peacefully increases individual liberty. For example, in Colorado and Washington state, thanks to law changes individuals can now recreationally smoke marijuana without the risk of SWAT teams maiming people with a flashbang grenade or shooting family dogs. In my opinion, if you are serious about liberty you will use whatever peaceful means you have available; that means voting, protests, boycotts, slacktivism, education, whistleblowing, etc.

Look, non-voters have traditionally made up the largest segment of Americans and this country is still in the shitter. The fact is sometimes voting works and sometimes it doesn’t. So because I am willing to use the state against the state itself, does that mean I get my anarchist membership card revoked? My take on individualist anarchism may be different than yours but I find that voting and using the electoral process for pedagogical purposes (just as Ron Paul did) can be another viable tool in my toolkit for sticking it to the man. Does that make me “unprincipled” to be an anarchist that uses voting to help neuter the state? Maybe, but I suppose that is what is so great about being a Discordian Libertarian – I have my own way of looking at libertarianism. Hail Eris!

About Author

Jake Shannon

Jake Shannon (1973 - ) was born in Colorado and has worked in a hodgepodge of professions including "Quant" (i.e., financial mathematician), serial entrepreneur, Discordian Pope, radio talk show host, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Utah, Luchador (i.e., mexican wrestler), and Comedy Hypnotist before settling upon pursuing an unwitting vow of poverty as an independent writer, practical magician (Chaos Magick) and more importantly, as a stay-at-home dad (his greatest accomplishment by far). He currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah (which still surprises him) with his lovely wife, three bright children and three loyal dogs.

  • Tim

    Russel Brand is an idiot and Lydon isn’t. So…