5 Times “Obeying the Law” in America was a Terrible Idea


Written by: Carey Wedler at theantimedia.org


In the midst of outrage against police brutality, cop apologists argue that to avoid police brutality, people should simply be obeying the law. This justification however, reveals itself as unwise at best (and flat out stupid at worst) when applied to previous laws in American history.

1. The Fugitive Slave Act- In times of slavery, the federal government attempted to pacify slave owners by passing the Fugitive Slave Act. The 1850 law mandated that even though slavery was banned in the North, if a Northern citizen (or government employee) happened upon escaped slaves from the South, they had to help return them to their owners. Escaped slaves were also denied a jury trial.

This law was challenged by abolitionists and decent human beings and many slaves escaped to Canada. But if all Americans had simply “followed the law,” further injustice (than was already enforced with the whole “owning” other human beings policy) would have been committed. The law was later repealed.

2. Pornography Prohibition- For as long as humans have existed, they have been interested in sex. In 1873, the federal government decided it could alter human instinct. Under the puritanical Comstock laws, pornography, sex toys, contraception, and information about contraception became illegal to send in the mail, as well as to sell, give away, or own. There is no evidence that the law stopped the human sex drive, even with the threat of up to five years in prison with hard labor and a fine up to $2,000. It eventually ceased to be enforced and was undermined by Roe v. Wade, but for years, engaging in these activities meant violators “deserved” the punishment they received.

3. Alcohol Prohibition- The prohibition of alcohol was an unpopular and unsuccessful constitutional amendment enacted in 1918. It attempted to stop people from drinking by banning liquor. It unwittingly encouraged the formation of gangs, who sold bootleg drinks while underground speakeasies flourished.

This, by the logic of cop defenders, should have been brutally punished-because those heathens were breaking the sanctity of the law! (It was repealed three years later.) No matter how nonsensical or ineffective the law, dogma to and obedience of it pervades the logic of authority worshipers. It applies today with the failed war on drugs, which like alcohol prohibition, has failed to curtail usage and created waste and black markets, as well as an excess of police violence and prison populations.

4. Sedition Acts-Shortly after the creation of the United States, in 1798 President James Madison signed theSedition Act-intended to ban
criticism of the government . It was sparked by the government’s fear of Democratic-Republican rebellion and dissent against the Federalists and accompanied other laws that persecuted immigrants.

Right out of the gate of the American revolution, the federal government was doing exactly what the Constitution was intended to prevent: running away with power. A similar law, also titled The Sedition Act, was passed in 1918 to silence dissent against World War I. It was an extension of the Espionage Act of 1917, whichObama has used to prosecute whistleblowers (the other acts were repealed). The 1918 incarnation made it illegal to

“willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States.

In both the 18th and 20th centuries, the state was attempting to crush free speech, so anyone who had an opinion (legally guaranteed by the first amendment and philosophically by natural human rights) should have just learned to shut up to avoid a beating and prison. Right?

5. Modern Day America- It can be amusing to examine old laws and point out their absurdity and injustice (this is only a small sampling that doesn’t cover Plessy v. Ferguson, the banning of Native Americans from Boston, orbans on interracial marriage, for example). But the reality is that many unjust laws are on the books today.

The National Defense Authorization Act allows the government to indefinitely detain anyone it deems a terrorist threat or having ties to terrorists. That judgment is entirely up to the state, but if those it deems dangerous try to resist, they will be violating “the law.” Is this fair? At what point do political dissidents and activists become threats to the state when the Pentagon has already stated that protesters are “low level terrorists?”

One of the major problems in American society and politics is the belief that the law is infallible, such as the cigarette law that led to Eric Garner’s murder. In spite of so many examples to the contrary, people still believe that the law is sacrosanct and to violate it is to be an immoral, bad person who deserves whatever the government does to them. This is directly contradicted by the fact that most of the laws listed in this article were eventually repealed.

Rather than glorifying “the law,” Americans should revere the morals government claims underpin them. As long as individuals view government decrees as the gold standard of ethics, however, the government will continue to destroy humanity. Perhaps it’s time to stop making excuses for police officers and politicians and instead, judge them by how they treat their fellow humans.

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  1. In number 4, the Sedition Acts, it was stated, “… in 1798 President James Madison signed theSedition Act-intended to ban criticism of the government.”
    The problem here is that it was John Adams that was president at this time, not James Madison.

  2. If you’re going to talk about history, at least get your facts right. The alien and sedition acts were signed by John Adams. James Madison wrote the bill of rights and was, along with Thomas Jefferson, a founder of the democratic-republican party. Perhaps it was a typo, but I suspect you actually know very little about the history of rights in this country (as evidenced by your mistaking Madison for Adams). Spreading errors like this plays into the hands of the autocrats by perpetually keeping people misinformed. Research, write, proof, repeat. Thanks!

  3. Why is United States so unfair ? “Oh yes, Mr. President, please take away our 1st amendment rights, like freedom of speech and taking a stand of what’s unfair to us citizens of this country and while you’re at it, take away all of the rest of the rights that our founding fathers have given to us.” *hint the sarcasm* I mean, really nigga ? I thought this was the land of the FREE and home of the BRAVE when I was born on your soil.

  4. I understand there is no structure to anonymous, although the agenda and messages seem to come from a core group of about 10 people.

    I don’t know if you believe becoming a more structured group will turn you into the types of corrupt entities you despise, or if you are concerned about the identities of the group being compromised.

    But… You could accomplish so much more with a more cohesive membership and agenda. It doesn’t look good when several of you send out separate warnings, and then nothing happens in many cases. Another warning is simply issued. It makes the group seem impotent. If you make bold claims, you must follow through. If you don’t believe you can follow through, it is better not to make such claims.

    I know the law, so I can be helpful in that way. I could also learn “ethical” hacking to assist. I believe in what you are doing and would like to be more involved.

    The one thing that irritates me the most is injustice – mine or anyone else’s. I’m tired of seeing it happen.

  5. I think people are taking this article way too out of context than it should be. Yes, I agree there are a few typos, look at your paper you wrote for your english class, I bet there are tons of typos. If you were tentative enough to actually take a browse of the site you would realize that they are looking for help. Anonymous is not trying to be some vigilantes consisting of only a few people, but a group that is building on their mistakes and establishing a foundation for their future members. That’s what any group is about, in the beginning of course, but some where along the way people lose focus because they some how have become a professor over night. I’m a poor college student, barely getting by. I have a good gpa but what does that really mean in the grand scheme of things. For what its worth to people viewing this article, provide consecutive criticism. Not some idea YOU believe is right but what is right for the people overall.

    And to the folk who manage this website, I offer my help.

  6. we are animals by nature PERIOD!!! common law is the only true law in exzitance same apply to animals by nature …. so with that said it is in my opinion that if we all helped one another for the sake of humanity and not financial gain or any other means we would be able to get a lot further then we are now so to sum it up live and let learn and true justice is an eye for an eye tooth for a tooth do unto others as u want done unto you if we ALL did this there would be no reason for the commerce assholes to be able to control us wake up people UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL MAKE YOUR CHOICE and open your mind

  7. The only time anyone should have to deal with a police is when there has been a use of force. Aside from force I can control nothing past the end of my finger.

  8. The only time anyone should have to deal with a police is when there has been a use of force. Aside from force I can control nothing past the end of my finger.


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