RidleyReport | It is said that silence is often louder than speech, that a voice quashed is more powerful than one left free.


So, as I undertake the third night of a six-day civil disobedience imprisonment, there is no urgent crush to communicate. But it is fitting to outline the events which led here and the cause which fires so many others to suffer a similar path.

It is Christendom’s two thousand and tenth year. But within the nation where that faith once held greatest sway, a cruel epidemic waxes. It is not a pestilence of truly natural origin, not a pestilence at all by the traditional meaning of the noun. It is a millstone fervently worn – literally celebrated – by the plurality of those who endure its crushing weight. Through its privations hapless families are flung apart, innocent souls ripped from feeble bodies and innocence itself shorn from the hearts of its unaccountable enforcers. All unfolds on the dime of the hapless worker and plundered businessman, above the graves of twenty-five thousands who died fighting a three percent document tax.

It is the grand, hungry march of exploding government authority, parading around the prison gulag which grows with every step of its progress. As these words take form its advance unfolds exponential. No truce or parley checks its dark course. Beside the New England forts which stood or fell in the first revolution, all ’round the siege lines which still mark the British surrender, lights are going out…the lights of homes stolen by State forfeiture or eminent domain, of businesses ruined by growing tax and mandate.

But the most golden beams to dim have been those of personal liberty and peaceable rebellion. Like night-blind children compelled toward the isolated candles of a primitive village, we who live for such light have found ourselves drawn toward the places where it still feebly shines. And of those places, one has stood above the others, cast a truer shadow, made possible a greater hope. It is the land English invaders lamented, a jungle of prodigious hilltops and ruthless ice.

In this unborn country, a calm revolt – or rather a series of revolts – is undertaken. Its politicians rebel (selectively) against Washington control, its people against its politicians and its media pipelines against any of the above which would muzzle them. It is a place of constructive defiance. It has never been anything less.

Toward this partially wild East, America’s most deliberate migration project since the Homestead Act enters its sixth year. Five hundred over-active refugees from the authoritarian states of “Republikrat” America link arms with New Hampshire’s native liberty community and cobble a loose but increasingly potent defense against the seemingly unstoppable march of Authority. With a calculated desperation not seen since the days of Parks and King, some clumsily follow the path of the same. To the unjust they say: Ignore us and admit the wrongness of your victimless crime edicts, or seize us and amplify our message.

There are, it is believed, several lines of defense which must be held in this manner against the encroaching cancer. Perhaps the most valuable of these is the newly decentralized exercise of press freedom. The practice of camcording official activity and placing it upon the waves of the electronic web for all to support or decry, that practice has fallen into the desperate hands of the “little people.” As a check against government abuse it is indispensable. It is, in this land of so many hills, a good one upon which to die.

Across New Hampshire, the freedom to record exists, but only in a tenuous, ambiguous form. An elderly “wiretapping” law is often cited by officials wishing to frighten from their presence the troubling light of independent recording. In courtrooms, judges are encouraged by law to permit independent taping but granted a hazardous leeway to limit the same. Some choose to expand their mandate and exert censorship over the lobbies outside their force-funded chambers. Others permit relatively unfettered access, ban cameras altogether or moodily swing from one extreme to the next.

In the twilight of 2008, videographer Tom Caruso gently presses Keene District Court for leave to film the controversial trial of a victimless defendant. The defendant approves, but Caruso’s lens captures the judge in a fit of anger. The New York documentarian has driven four hours to record this proceeding, but four minutes into it the flustered jurist’s enforcers compel him to stop. Meanwhile the defendant is hustled away and tried in relative secrecy. In protest, I report to the court with a promised course of action. I pledge that come the next such proceeding, weeks hence, I will follow Caruso’s path and endeavor to film. But I will peaceably disobey any unjust order to turn my camera off.

In the event, upon arrival, press recording is forbidden completely…both in the court itself and in the lobby outside. Lawful or not, the unsigned order has the weight of a smalltown army behind it. I am seized in the lobby, camera in hand, perhaps the first journalist to video-broadcast his own arrest live. Much of what ensues is well-known to our liberty community: The five arrests surrounding my arraignment, the more heroic and robust stand of videographer Sam Dodson, the eventual re-admission of our cameras to Keene District Court.

But it is our purpose which gives meaning to these deeds:

The purpose of accountability, holding “our” officials before the cleansing glare of a camcorder’s sunlight and saying to all who would interfere: “On the job means on the record.”

The purpose of liberty…the right of each soul to do all she pleases that harms or threatens none against their will…

And, as unprecedented government growth brushes a nation toward the cliff of collapse, the purpose of ensuring it may never be said we did nothing.

Decades after the largely peaceable struggles which brought partial liberation to the bonded peoples of India and the American South, children still asked “What did you do in the Struggle, grandpa?”

From this concrete box it is appropriate only to ask: Please do what you are able, while there is still time, to ensure that when you stand before this question, you may proudly provide a convincing answer.

Dave Ridley