Sunday, 24 March 2013

Freemanism, Conspiracies and Legal Trickery.

(Freemanism has nothing to do with Morgan Freeman)

There is a spread of new and interesting ideas out there. People are being convinced by enthusiastic individuals that they do not have to pay their TV Licence, clampers have no right to touch your car, you do not legally have to pay your Household Charge, Property Tax or Car Tax, Toll Bridges are illegal and that Bailiffs and County Sheriffs have no legal standing in Irish law. Ultimately these ideas stem from the notion that the law can only be broken if there is an offence committed against another person, if there is a victim. This line of thinking also leads to things such as "The Strawman Theory" and other quack ideas.

These are the things that I would like to explore in this piece.

I am slightly cautious that I sound like I am defending the state and law and order here; I am not. It is great that a new layer of people, in some form, challenging the state, authority and breaking the law however we need to know whether there is any truth to any of these "Freeman of the Land" claims. My concerns are that they leading people up a broken path with a dead end and this ideology leads to nothing more than extreme individualism with a stern belief in private property and rejection of society as a collective.

I feel I have sufficiently debunked the mythical, mystical powers of the constitution in my previous post entitled Direct Democracy Ireland and Constitutional Politics and I discussed DDI's ring-wing leanings and connections in my piece called Ben Gilroy and the Far-Right. So I will not be talking about either of these things.

It is very understandable that in a society where people feel completely powerless against the state and the ruling class that they turn to all sorts of ideas and theories about the world and how it works. People are desperate to look for an alternative and to examine why the world is the way it is. I want to argue however, that besides the fact that there is no legal basis for Freemanism it also has the power to demoralise people and entrench powerlessness. If control of the world is beyond us, then why even bother doing anything to change it?

First I would like to discuss a bit about who the Freemen movement are and where they came from. Many of you will have seen various videos on YouTube with enthusiastic individuals clutching constitutions at the scene of evictions or other videos of people challenging judges in courtrooms. These ballsy individuals are Freemen, you may also see the odd name on Facebook with "oftf" or "of the family"  in between their first and second names, this is to claim that they are not the same person that appears in letters addressed to them, example: "I am not Mr. Karl Gill, I am Karl Of the Family Gill so therefore I do not have to pay college fees addressed to Mr. Karl Gill" (Strawman Theory - see more below).

The roots of the Freeman movement in Ireland and Europe can be traced to the Sovereign Citizens movement in America which emerged in the Midwest in the late 1970s. The point of this movement was to reject the federal american government as their form of governance over them. They also call themselves Organic Citizens to distinguish themselves from black people who only became citizens with the 14th Amendment to the US constitution in 1865. They refer to all other citizens in America as 14th Amendment Citizens, and see themselves as a higher, more knowledgeable, enlightened class of people. This ideology is similar to Autonomism in the sense that they reject social security cards, don't register their cars or apply for passports or drivers license. These people want to cut themselves off from the state, pay no tax and ultimately reject society at large.

In the early days it was muddled in tightly with Illuminati theories and conspiracy ideas about "international Jewry" and most Sovereign Citizens were also members of white supremacist groups. However things have changed somewhat and a lot of sovereigns and Freemen would be quite unaware about the roots of their ideology (in fact, in Ireland some Freemen hang around the left) but some key points make the connection from the American Freemen of the 70's to the Irish Freemen of today far clearer. Today Freemen in Ireland make the distinction between Common Law and Civil Law or Statute Law, demanding that they are not subject to obey Statute Law in any form because this is new law that has no legal standing under the 1922 Irish constitution (Saorstat Eireann not Bunreacht na hEireann). The claim is that it is optional whether people abide by Statue Law or not, that it is contractual and you can only be governed by it if you give your consent to be governed by it. They do not see themselves as being under the same jurisdiction as other citizens.

This is very similar to the American Sovereign Citizen movement. The sovereigns believe that common law was once secretly replaced by a new form of governance which they claim is Admiralty Law, which is the law of the sea and international commerce where there are no citizens, only slaves and masters. They feel that they are only free under the old Common Law and that is why they reject all other forms of law.

You may have heard about your birth certificate being traded as a bond on the stock market? This is one of the many claims of the Irish Freemen movement. They believe the state can sell its citizens to private companies or other states. This notion comes directly from the American movement and this is where the Strawman theory comes in. The birth certificate assigned to you at birth apparently creates a legal, fictional entity that is not you. The reason for this is so the state can fine you, tax you, arrest you etc.. by convincing you that the "paper you" is the "blood and flesh you" i.e the state creates a Strawman of your original self. All of your debts and legal responsibilities do not belong to you, they belong to your Strawman.

Only if it were that easy.

Here are some more high-profile cases where people attempted this legal trickery in court:

Elizabeth Watson attempted to represent her friend Victoria Haigh through Fremanism and was given a nine month suspended sentence for Contempt of Court.

Mark Bond was still given a three month suspended sentence after claiming he was no longer a UK citizen and therefore not liable for his council tax.

In Wexford Bobby Sludds claimed that the Gardai and the Courts were conspiring against him. In this case the Judge accepted that Bobby Sludds may also be "Bobby of the family Sludds" and used  the names interchangeable. But that didn't make a difference. He was given two suspended sentences and fined €670 for driving without insurance. 

So why doesn't this legal trickery work? Well besides the fact that to any legal minded person, it sounds like nonsense, I want to try and explain it.

We have some laws for very good reasons. We have traffic lights so people don't crash, J-Walking (running across the road) is illegal so people don't get hit by cars, it is an offence to steal from public libraries because other people may want those books etc.. just so society can run as easily as possible and there is some order to things for our sake.

Under capitalism we pay taxation on our work and the things we buy because even right wing economists recognize that we live in a society, as a collective. Societies have needs which are catered for by state bodies which can operate because we pay tax. State infrastructure such as roads and bridges, health care, education, social housing, all kinds of social welfare are paid for by our taxes. If people, not out of protest or revolt, but out of extreme individualism or greed decided to stop paying taxes then how will our needs, as a society, be catered for? Naturally as a socialist I would rather see a society based on the democratic redistribution of surplus value as opposed to central state taxation but the Freemen do not advocate a break with capitalism. They advocate people taking the individual decision to live outside the law and avoid paying ALL taxes. They would rather encourage rich people to stop paying taxes than demand that the government tax the rich.

There are some laws that make no sense and a lot people break these laws. Under age drinking and smoking, possession and consumption of illegal drugs, immigration controls, failure to pay fines due to poverty etc.. Breaking these laws is not dysfunctional, these laws themselves are dysfunctional for society and it makes sense that people reject them.

However the point in general is that the law is not OUR law, it is THEIR law and no matter how hard we try we cannot use it as a weapon against the state, it will not go in our favour. The courts will always favour the state and the ruling class ahead of ordinary people and this is just the nature of capitalist society. State law and bourgeois courts is not our terrain, we cannot win here. Obviously there are times where ordinary people can be vindicated in the courts but rarely ever against the state, and the cases where people do win against the powers that be, it is normally combined with huge levels of political struggle, industrial action or people power on the streets, such as the X-Case, but never in a non-political, isolated case.

Probably one of the most popular cases of Freemanism at work in Ireland was the video with over 420,000 views with Ben Gilroy entitled Constitution Halts Sheriff  where Ben and about 30 of his friends stand up for a man about to have his home repossessed by the county sheriff. The first thing to say in relation to this is to say fair play to them, they managed to force the Gardai and the Deputy County Sheriff to turn around and go home and the man stayed in his home.

This case is a classic example of how Freemen think repossessions and the law surrounding county sheriff's work so I will examine it in detail.

Gilroy confronting Deputy County Sheriff 

How did they manage to do this? Was it the constitution and legal rationale that saved the man his home?

Gilroy spends twenty minutes arguing with the Deputy County Sheriff and manages to make him look like a fool. The Sheriff clearly had never heard any of these arguments before and seemed very stunned about the whole thing.

Like a lot of the Freemen arguments above, the arguments Gilroy uses are quite strange.
He claims:
  1. That the man whose home is under treat due to non-payment of his mortgage did not break any laws. 
  2. The High Courts is a commercial court and has no jurisdiction over peoples homes. 
  3. The Sheriff is working under the "Old Shire Reef laws", not common law and effectively still working under the crown. 
  4. The Sheriff and the Registrar cannot be the same person (as the case happens to be in County Loais where the video was made) as there is no separation of powers.
  5. The County Sheriff is on commission and is employed by a private company.   
I want to deal with each of these in turn.

Claim 1. That the man whose home is under treat due to non-payment of his mortgage did not break any laws.

Gilroy uses the constitution to back up this point. He points to Article 40.5 of Bunreacht Na hEireann which reads: "The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with the law". This means that the home of every citizen is never to be broken, infringed or dishonored as long as that citizen has acted within the law. So the debate is really around whether this man has acted within the law or not. You would like to think that the law always stands on the same side of what we consider to be morally right however, sadly that is not the case. It is quite obvious that people are being treated horribly by the banks and taken for a ride and I am not for a second excusing the banks. Socialists agree that nobody should ever be evicted from their family home, however is is fact that failure to pay back a loan or a mortgage, no matter how extortionate it is, is illegal.

Now Freemen would argue: What law is he breaking? Where is it in the constitution? But they does not realise that a whole rake of acts, state laws and policies that are enforced by law are also not in the constitution. The constitution is only 50 articles long and about 60 pages, it does not outline and explain the whole apparatus of the state and what various state institutions can and cannot do.

Claim 2. The High Courts is a commercial court and has no jurisdiction over peoples homes.

The High Court has jurisdiction in criminal and civil cases in Ireland. The constitution states that the High Court in Ireland has full original jurisdiction in and power to determine all matters and questions, whether of law or fact, civil or criminal. This means that there is no limit or restriction either as to where proceedings should be commenced or how much money can be awarded by the High Court in compensation or damages. Gilroy also claims that the High Court cannot deal with cases of any more that €38,000 and seen as this man's house clearly costs more than that the High Court should have no part in any eviction. He is very wrong here. The High Court can hear cases involving claims for damages in excess of €38,092.14. Failure to pay a mortgage is not damages so this does not apply. 

Again the problem is what people define as criminal activity. This also goes back to the Freemen claiming that it is not illegal to not pay out on a loan.

Claim 3.
The Sheriff is working under the "Old Shire Reef laws", not common law and effectively still working under the crown.

This is classic conspiracy stuff. Again this is very similar to the American Sovereign Citizens Movement's theory about Common Law being replaced by Admiral law secretly over night in 1865/1933. The Freemen claim that County Sheriff's operate under the British Crown and somehow this has gone unnoticed by ever lawyer, solicitor, barrister, judge, law student, professor and legal expert since the history of the state. No one of any serious legal credibility has ever raised this issue. They are all members of the Illuminati I suppose.

It can safely be said that when the Irish state gained its independence all law was transferred under the Irish government.

Claim 4. 
The Sheriff and the Registrar cannot be the same person (as the case happens to be in County Loais where the video was made) as there is no separation of powers.

The separation of powers argument is only in relation to the government and the courts. Technically speaking there should be no connection between government and any courts in Ireland. This is not in relation to the County Sheriff and the Court Registrar, one can assume that local courts in Loais are just double jobbing. Probably cronyism but nothing illegal or too suspicious here.

Claim 5. 
The County Sheriff is on commission and is employed by a private company.

This is one of the many claims of the Freemen movement which you may find on "We The People" business cards handed out on protests. They also claim that the Gardai and all other state institutions are actually private companies. This is simply false. There is no legal basis for this claim whatsoever. Courts quite clearly do operate in favour of businesses and in particular big businesses such as banks but they themselves are not registered private companies. Various premises used by the courts or the Gards etc.. may be registered as commercial for various purposes but to infer from this that these institutions are actually private companies is nonsense.

So why did the Deputy County Sheriff and the Gardai simply just walk away?

Well as I previously mentioned there was about 30 people blocking a gate and standing in support of this man whose home was about to be repossessed, including one TD. Ben Gilroy was at the front and it is quite clear that he is a confident and competent individual who is also physically quite big. In the video he, in a non-threatening way, stares and shouts down the Deputy County Sheriff. There was only two Gardai in attendance outside the mans home so what else could they have done after 20 minutes other than walk away? This was clearly a victory for people power and the method of protest as a way of protecting peoples homes and nothing to do with the constitution or any legal loophole. But maybe we could do with more spoofers at protests like this.

What does all of this mean for people?

Freemanism or Freeman of the Land ideology is purely just extreme individualism and this explains why Direct Democracy Ireland and others limit their definition of direct democracy to citizens democratically putting forward Bills and recalling politicians. There is no mention of greater economic power for all people in Ireland as this would involve taking money of people without their  consent. They do not talk about revolution for the same reason. They do not recognize capitalism as a problem, rather they transfer the causes of all the bad things in the world onto a cloak and dagger type mysterious gang of people sitting in some sort of global control room pulling leavers and pressing buttons. Or some faceless individuals sitting around a board room table, these people are the ones that make the phone calls to Obama and Cameron to carry out wars and austerity programs etc..

This view of the world only serves to make people powerless. There is truth to the idea that world is ruled by a minority of people and this is what the Occupy Wall Street protesters had right: The 1%. In Ireland the top 1% of the population own 34% of the wealth. Although a class analysis goes further. It is difficult to put this in terms of percentages but it is definitively more than 1% of the population that we need to be concerned about. It is probably closer to 15% of the population that own and control industry, capital and the means of making vast profits. i.e the capitalist class.

The people who really rule the world would not fit into a board room but they might fill a football stadium. They do not sit around and coordinate with each other, but they do make business deals, run cartels and interact in a system that keeps wages low, profits from war, lobbies for privitisation and eggs on austerity as a way of achieving a smaller state to squeeze more out of people. 

Capitalism rules the world not Jay-Z and the rest of the Illuminati.

One thing that is very noticeable is that in countries where the left are historically small or weak conspiracy ideas can take hold easily. America and Ireland are just two examples and in France, Greece or Italy there does not seem to be such a scene for these ideas.

Hopefully this piece will be useful in taking on these false but yet powerful ideas and influential ideas.


Thanks for Ronan Burtenshaw for opinion and input.



  2. I have to agree with a bunch of the points you raised in there. I dont agree with your ideology but I know alot about this feeman stuff as I got to know a few 'freemen'. What I've tried to expalin to freemen is that the constitution has this "save in accordance with the law" stuff peppered throughout.. It was obviously constructed in such a flowery way to get us to think its great but we were left wide open by the drafters with that back door. It makes no sense to use the states own instruments against it as the state has the power of interpretation and in THEIR courts YOU ARE under their authority. Ive personally never come accross no racists/extremists in the freeman gang in Ireland but there are alot of hard-done by people with hard luck stories who are tired of being shafted. But their methods have absolutely no logic to them

  3. “Its easier to fool the people than to convince them they have been fooled” Mark Twain

  4. Congratulations on an excellent piece of disinformation.

    1. What exactly is incorrect about any of the information here?

  5. Hi Karl. Great article. Disinformation. The catch-all phrase for anything which can be proven logically or scientifically but which these guys disagree with! A kind of "so's yer face" argument.