Classic J Neil

Classic J. Neil: The Pitchman and the Oracle

This article was published on The World According to J. Neil Schulman in 1996. My treatment of inadvertent “spamming” is long outdated; but I reprint this article here because the fundamental truth about the problems an “indie” has in getting a message out is more true than ever.

Are you a bigot?

It won’t surprise me if you don’t think so. Bigotry, to most people, means intolerance of, or discrimination against, a person on the basis of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, gender, or what used to be called a handicap and now, using a euphemism for a euphemism, we call “challenged.”

The assumption that drives the social disapproval against bigotry is that the object of the bigotry not only has no choice about her or his condition, but that this condition is an ephemera to the person’s true worth. We obviously have no choice about our particular mix of chromosomes, so discrimination against one of us on the basis of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, gender, and physical or mental incapacities seems unfair.

Nowadays it’s not only socially acceptable, but socially encouraged, to be intolerant of people who engage in activities which are generally regarded as anti-social. Right-thinking people, often thinking themselves tolerant, would pour a glass of water on someone’s cigarette if he lit up in a restaurant, and would likely be applauded by other people who think themselves tolerant.

There is equally little tolerance for the man or woman who wears an animal’s fur as a coat but, practically speaking, there seems to be more tolerance for people who wear animal skins tanned into leather. Maybe the reason is that if you splash red paint on some “rich bitch’s” fur coat you might get sued, but if you splash red paint on a biker chick’s leather jacket, you’ll be talking to your lawyer from a hospital burn ward.

But if there is one class of people whom almost everyone seems to agree it’s okay to be nasty to, it’s the person who gets in your face and wants to give you a message. If the message is commercial, it’s coming from some sort of pitchman; if religious, from some sort of evangelist; if political, from some sort of rabble-rouser. What they all have in common is that they have no access to the monied means of communication — getting their words into books or magazines, or their message on TV, or their song on the radio. They can’t do what the big guys do which is bait a trap to get you to come to them — so they do all that’s left to them, which is to knock on doors, make phone calls, hand out leaflets on street corners, or write on bathroom walls.

In religion, do we have more tolerance for old, established religions with magnificent, centuries-old cathedrals and a millennia of pillaged statuary or the Jehovah’s Witness knocking on our doors?

In charity, are we more likely to give to some public-TV station which spends half its budget on fund-raising , or the plain-looking woman blocking your way into Wal-Mart who’s trying to raise money for a battered-woman’s shelter?

Of the three message-pushers, the commercial pitchman is likely the most despised throughout history. The late semanticist, college president, and U.S. senator, S.I. Hayakawa, in the first edition of his book Language in Thought And Action, had a chapter on “The Marginal Businessman.” Hayakawa argued that much of the popular resentment against Jews was directed not at supposed deficiencies in the Jewish religion but on the ways Jews made a living. Since Jewish dietary laws forbid the eating of game, Jews were not hunters; since Jews were often forbidden to own land, they could not be landlords or farmers. Laws commonly forbade Jews from attending universities or practicing professions. So Jews became merchants and money-lenders, rag-pickers and trinket salesmen. Hayakawa documented history showing that every struggling businessman, of any ethnicity, is despised because of his in-your-face sales practices.

Half a century ago, the small businessman was still pictured in newspaper cartoons with a hooked nose. Since that’s no longer acceptable, we are instead given the ethnically sanitized image of the small businessman as Schemer on the PBS children’s show Shining Time Station, or the greasy fast-food inventor Falafel on Hercules and Xena. But the point is the same. Small businessmen are usually shown as despicable.

Falafel, from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Falafel (actor Paul Norell), from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Who, among car salesmen, are the ones we despise the most? Is it the Mercedes-Benz dealer wearing an Italian tailored suit in a plush showroom or the guy in the loud sports jacket selling used-up wrecks off a recently vacant lot?

Are we more annoyed by chain stores situated in an upscale shopping mall or the mail-order outfits operating out of a warehouse somewhere in North Dakota that fill your mailbox with “junk mail”?

The fact is, we live in a noisy marketplace and we are all suffering from agoraphobia to one extent or another.

Agoraphobia is usually thought of as fear or dislike of open spaces, but historically and etymologically, the agora wasn’t an empty space but a bustling, jostling market with people shouting at you to sample their wares. Agoraphobia has now evolved into the fear and loathing of the unsolicited sales call.

What most people don’t seem to realize is that this fear and loathing serves the interests of those who want to control all means of mass communication. The old method of censorship used by ruling classes was to try to keep you from getting your message out by using violence against you if you said or wrote something that wasn’t approved. Since human ingenuity seems boundless, the messages got out anyway — and usually were even made sexier by being forbidden.

The ruling classes have learned their lesson from history. They don’t bother trying to suppress discontented messengers anymore. They just buy up all the means of slick communication — movie studios, TV networks, recording companies — and manufacture the messages they want you to hear. They don’t have to censor the opposition — they simply drown it out in a sea of glossy, sexy, manipulative entertainment products. And if everyone hates the pitchman, it’s because we are surrounded by them all day long.

The pitchman is on TV and radio — even on so-called “public” TV — hawking his wares. If we pay extra for commercial-free channels, she’s telling us about the next week of movies we can’t miss. He’s selling us oranges, bananas, and peanuts when our car stops at a light in Los Angeles, or trying to clean our windshield with a greasy rag if the stoplight is in lower Manhattan. He’s selling us the Los Angeles Times before the movie previews start in a Southland movie theater. He’s asking us for a handout when we get out of our car, and waiting to ask us for a donation before we enter the mall shop. She’s leaving messages on our phone answering machines. There’s no avenue of communication they won’t use.

Even the Internet.

The Internet is the most efficient means of distributing information the human race has ever invented. I describe it to people who don’t understand computers as the world’s greatest library with the world’s best card catalog. But information is precisely what those in power most wish to control. You can’t package lies to everyone consistently if there remains a single open channel for getting the truth out to lots of people fast.

A few conglomerates today own the TV and radio stations, cable networks, movie studios and movie theaters, recording companies and music stores, movie rental stores, newspapers and magazines, book publishers, telephone companies, cable companies. Now they’re moving into the Internet with World Wide Web sites.

In each of these media that these major corporations control, they can sit back and wait for you to come to them to receive their pitches. You want entertainment. They control entertainment. They don’t have to get in your face to pitch to you because they control the movies, TV shows, and music you want and will willingly approach them, listening to their sales pitches along the way.

And it’s the outsider — the real social critic, the radical, the small enterpriser, the religious dissenter — who has to get in your face and shout to get your attention away from the officially sanctioned sources of information. Let’s call the information monopolists the “Oracles.”

Here’s where I come into the story, personally.

I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer for a quarter century now. I’ve written novels, screenplays, poems, articles, short stories, essays, and speeches. I’ve won awards, had my picture in the newspaper, plugged my books on TV, had a script I’ve written produced for network TV.

I’m also in the publishing business. I can’t think of a job in the publishing business I haven’t had hands-on experience doing. I’ve read manuscripts for literary agencies and publishers, done rewriting, line-editing, and copy-editing, supervised cover jacket artwork and book design, picked out binding materials, proofread at all stages, called distributors to get orders and both shipped books out and received them back. I’ve managed to get a small press book into chain bookstores and gotten stiffed when a distributor went bankrupt, owing me for 400 hardcover books they’d already been paid for by the chain to which they’d sold it. I’ve picked up pallets of books at the printer in Vermont and driven them cross country, then loaded them into a storage locker in Los Angeles.

The essence of writing and publishing is the creation and distribution of information — which puts me in direct competition with the information Oracles. On those occasions when I have written something that didn’t offend the Oracles too badly, they’ve bought my work and disseminated it. But any time I want to get down and dirty and offer a viewpoint that doesn’t fit their vision, I’m on my own, and good luck to me trying to get your attention with the racket you’re already getting from the Oracles.

I ran into this problem when I tried to send an email letter to a few hundred people on the Internet, telling them about my world wide website which is offering downloads of books which the Oracles have decided not to publish. I chose to mail to a list of people who had openly published their names and email addresses on a website opposing Internet censorship. I sent each one a single message telling them how the book industry nowadays is channeled through one guy in New York who buys for the biggest bookstore chain — and no major publisher will publish a book of any consequence without checking with him first to see what his order might be. I suggested that when one guy sitting in an office can control what books a quarter billion people got a chance to buy, we might as well call it censorship.

And I ran headlong into the prejudice against the pitchman.

Because my message was “unsolicited” and “commercial,” I got back dozens of email replies accusing me of mailing “spam” — which is a term of art on the Internet for sending out multiple messages to unrelated public news groups or private email accounts. Most “spammers” use the Internet to pitch scams, phone sex, and CD-ROM’s offering dirty pictures. They’ll send messages to unrelated news groups, hundreds at a time. They’ll send from anonymous email accounts so Internet service providers can’t cut them off. They’ll buy lists of email addresses drawn from people who have posted messages in public news groups.

I didn’t do any of that. I mailed to a list of people who had freely self-published their email addresses in support of a cause — and I was sending them a message on a related cause. I sent them one message — and I told them that I wasn’t going to send them any more.

They didn’t believe me. It appears this was what every “spammer” said as part of the pitch. I was cursed out, insulted, threatened with legal action, and sent a huge message designed to cripple my email for about an hour. Even the most mannered and eloquent of those people who had received my email were offended by its being an unsolicited invasion of their privacy, and they acted with the zeal of white blood cells attacking a foreign DNA strand attempting to fend off my unwanted intrusion. They were guardians of the public good, defending their polity.

In other words, they were people after my own heart.

Just a few years ago, the Internet was the preserve of a few academics and government employees, free from any commercial enterprises — and those people want it kept that way. They probably feel about me how Pocahontas’s dad, Chief Powhatan, felt when he saw the Susan Constant sailing into harbor filled with English boatpeople.

But the objection to “spam” on the Internet is, at its essence, the same prejudice that ruling classes throughout history have used to maintain their power. If they can get the people to despise the pitchman, the evangelist, and the rabble-rouser, they can continue to enjoy a monopoly of their subjects’ attention spans so that our money and energy will be spent how they want it spent.

The World Wide Web is, largely, a level playing field, where the small enterpriser, the evangelist, and the rabble-rouser can enjoy messaging opportunities equal to that of the corporate Oracles. It is, perhaps, the first time in history that communication has been so free and democratic.

But the Oracles still can command attention on the World Wide Web using vast gobs of money, using Internet directories such as Infoseek and Yahoo! to display advertising banners. “Directory” is the correct name for these services — for they direct millions of people to a few select websites every day — and the Oracles maintain their grip on your attention thereby.

The small fry like me — with an alternative website — is, like the door-to-door salesman, the telephone pitchman, and the panhandler — forced into the undignified and despised job of attempting to grab your attention by any means left to us that does not require thousands or millions of dollars in advertising. And I tried sending out email about my website to some people I thought would be interested because I can’t afford to sit back and let people find me the way the Oracles can.

I will not soon try that again because the Oracles have conditioned their subjects to reject the pitchman, the evangelist, and the rabble-rouser, and I don’t appreciate getting insulted, threatened, and outright damaged by the guardians of public morals.

Which, it would appear, leaves the Oracles with their monopoly on mass communication intact and unthreatened.

Ladies and Gentlemen: the people who eat caviar have a good reason to make you hate spam. Spam threatens their monopoly on communications. If you buy from the lady who’s selling cheap oranges on the street, what do you need the overpriced produce in the high-rent supermarket for? If I can use a $12.95 a month email account to send a message to thousands of potential customers, how can they make you buy their overpriced junk with million-dollar Superbowl commercials?

It’s only by fostering your hatred of the pitchman who’s in your face with an alternative product that the Oracles can maintain their lock on your pocketbook, your vote … and your soul.

If you despise spam — the pitchman, the evangelist, the rabble-rouser — you are allowing the people who are already rich and powerfulto make sure that they brook no competition from new ideas and alternative enterprises.

If a pitchman, evangelist, or rabble-rouser has to shout for your attention, it’s a clear signal to you that what they have to say is not something the Oracles want you to hear.

If the Oracles wanted you to hear it, they wouldn’t have to get in your face. They own the media. They don’t have to shout. They already have you where they want you and they don’t want to lose you.

At some point, people who are seriously concerned about freedom of speech are just going to have to figure out whether they’re willing to put up with the inconvenience of having some nasty, ugly, cheap low-life’s like me get in your face on occasion in order to preserve your freedom of choice.

Getting in your face to tell you this is, admittedly, a nasty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Otherwise, the Oracles will own us forever and a day.

This article is Copyright © 1996 by J. Neil Schulman and Copyright © 2012 by The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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The Libertarian Case for IP

Summary:
“Ideas” can’t be property. “Information objects” may be property but information as such can’t be property. Only things can be owned. If a thing can be copied then it’s a thing. Property rights aren’t the property itself. You can’t point to a right. The debate about IP is a moral debate about human action, the same for any other property right. If you think a novel isn’t scarce, write one people beg to read.



From http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/15/copying-is-not-theft.html

The above YouTube video is probably the cleverest, catchiest, and most cogent argument in favor of eliminating I.P. laws I’ve ever seen. As a piece of advertising for a concept it’s hard to top. Bravo!

Now I will destroy it.

The argument of “Copying is Not Theft” is that by copying a novel, a song, a movie, the owner is still in possession of the original and therefore by making a copy nobody is doing anything to deprive the owner of the original of anything of value.

Clever. Very clever.

But wrong. Very wrong.

Remember the scene in the movie The Net where Sandra Bullock’s character, Angela Bennett, arrives home to find her house empty and a real-estate agent selling it? The real-estate agent has a copy of the deed to the house with a copy of Angela’s signature on it. Hey, those are just copies — Angela still has the originals … somewhere. She wasn’t deprived of anything by the act of making copies, was she?

Let’s say you graduate from medical school and get a diploma, with additional certifications so that you’re entitled to put “MD, FACS” after your name. Now, anyone copying those diplomas and certifications hasn’t deprived you of anything if they perform surgery in your name and a few patients die in the O.R. right?

Or for my last example — and you gotta love this one — you’re a scientist working at a lab that stores various viruses — weaponized anthrax, as an example — that if released could kill millions of people. Hey, you still have all your original security passes, ID’s, and clearances if someone clones your biometric data and uses it to go grab some anthrax and drop it into the Lake Mead reservoir, right?

Come on, Neil, now you’re just being arch, argumentative, and ridiculous. Get to the point — copying a book, or a song, or a movie.

I never left the point. It’s exactly the same subject.

I spend five years of my life writing a novel — go through eight drafts before I finally have it right. That’s a major investment of blood, sweat, toil, and tears.

I put it up for sale on my website as a PDF file, or on Amazon.com as a Kindle file, or get it accepted for sale through iTunes for reading on the Apple iPad.

The next thing I know, all these versions of my novel are free Torrent downloads for which I don’t get anything in return.

Oh, Neil, you still have your original. Copying Is Not Theft. By making a copy I haven’t deprived you of anything.

Except, why should anyone making a rational economic calculation pay me for something they can get for free? So people get the benefits of my five years of blood, sweat, toil, and tears, and my checking account doesn’t have money in it to pay for doctor’s visits and prescriptions needed to treat my Type-II Diabetes.

Or, I spend four years of my life and a half million bucks of my family’s dough — including fourteen cuts in an editing bay — making a movie. Then I put it up for sale on Amazon.com as a Video on Demand. Someone with software to get by any copy protection Amazon.com has takes my movie and presses it into DVD’s for sale in kiosks in Hong Kong … and, once again, as a Torrent.

Now before I even get the chance to sell my movie for commercial distribution — which might get me back the cash, talent, and time invested in making this movie so I can afford to make another one — people are getting the benefit of my blood, sweat, toil, tears, and cash … and I am prevented from self-financing my next movie.

If I invent, compose, or craft something original, it’s part of me. It’s part of my identity.

The basic libertarian principle of liberty starts with self-ownership. Preventing me from owning the sole right to offer copies of things that are part and parcel of my personal identity — preventing me from owning the exclusive right to make copies of what I make as part of my personal identity — is the destruction of my life and liberty … and quite literally could end up killing me.

Think about it. Please. None of this is theoretical for me. This is how I make my living. This is how I survive … or not.

Kyle Bennett (presumably no relation to the fictional Angela Bennett I referred to in the movie The Net) wrote in a comment on my Facebook wall this morning:

All of your examples are of fraud or trespass secondary to the copying. There’s a difference between my selling a copy of “Lady Magdalene’s by J Neil Schulman,” and selling a copy of “Lady Magdalene’s by Kyle Bennett,” or a copy that has different content than the buyer was led to believe it was.

Kyle admits that someone making a copy of “Lady Magdalene’s by J Neil Schulman” and selling a copy of “Lady Magdalene’s by Kyle Bennett” is committing the fraud we call “plagiarism.” Putting your own name on someone else’s work product without their authorization and distributing that mislabeled product as your own is misrepresenting the pedigree and provenance of that product to the end users. It is claiming someone else’s accomplishment as your own. It’s cheating.

So let’s look at the cases where you make copies of something I made and still keep my name on it. That is no longer plagiarism.

It’s now a different form of fraud, which in the art world is called “counterfeiting” and in the world of other commercial products — such as designer clothing or luxury watches — is called “forgery.”

Remember: my first premise here is the libertarian premise of self-ownership. I own my name when it refers back to me, my biographical details, my resume, my accomplishments, the proprietary artifacts I’ve used to generate my reputation, my personal expertise and taste. All of these are elements that when attached to my name make it a personal brand. Someone else using my name — my identity — for things not owned or authorized by me is committing identity theft — and I gave examples of that in yesterday’s article.

But let’s say I write a novel and put my brand — my author’s name on it: J. Neil Schulman. The first claim of authorship of something I write is my byline attached to the writing. In a novel this is on the cover and title page. I write a dedication and acknowledgments, giving the work a purpose and a pedigree. On the copyright page is a claim of ownership — in land terms the posting of a “No Trespassing” sign, to stake out the boundaries of ownership.

Often I will personally affix an additional brand enhancement — my signature. This is called an inscription or an autograph. That takes the particular copy from merely being authenticauthorized by its author — to being an object of memorabilia and gives it additional trade value in the marketplace. If the author is particularly noteworthy then under the right circumstances a personal signature can make an authorized copy many times more valuable than a copy that has merely the original commercial brand authorization.

You see this all the time in designer clothing lines, or perfumes, or celebrity photographs, or luxury watches. All of these products have enhanced market value by affixing a known celebrity brand.

The celebrity brand tells the buyer that the celebrity had personal input into the design, quality control, and manufacturing conditions of the product. The celebrity is risking his reputation if the quality control of the copy fails to meet top standards. This is an argument I made in another of my recent articles — What’s Your Bible? — when I argued:

As a professional writer whose name is his commercial brand, I can no more allow someone else to rewrite me as they like and put my byline on it than the Walt Disney Corporation can allow someone else to publish cartoons of Mickey Mouse buggering Donald Duck.

In a comment in reply to a challenge from a reader, I further wrote:

No true craftsman allows someone else to ruin their work and keep their name on it. A license that allows unlimited rewriting but keeping the original writer’s name on it is an abomination to anyone who gives a damn about the integrity of their work. Deal breaker. … I have contempt for people in any field of human endeavor who don’t care about maintaining the quality of their work product. If that makes me a snob, so be it. I call it having standards.

I have sat next to celebrities at conventions while the star signed personal memorabilia, taking cheaply manufactured objects — photographs of themselves, shirts, objects memorializing their career accomplishments — and charged up to several hundred dollars to sign it for a buyer — with lines around the block for them to do it.

Auction houses and auction websites make markets out of common objects that would be trash except for a celebrity having owned or used or once touched it.

A set of golf clubs or a box of golf balls is worth far more in a pro shop if the brand name “Tiger Woods” is on the label, because by affixing the name of the golf legend the buyer is being told that Tiger Woods had personal input into the quality of the products.

Anyone who copies that box of golf balls with the Tiger Woods label on it — without proper authorization — is committing an act of forgery.

Anyone who copies something I make without my license to make authorized copies is committing Identity Theft against me and some form of fraud against the person to whom they’re providing the copy: either plagiarism if they substitute their own brand or forgery and counterfeiting if they keep my brand name on it.

Sell knock-offs of Tiger Woods label Nike shoes to the wrong person and don’t be surprised if you get capped upside your head, mutha!

Postscript:

The questions of how copyrights, trademarks, and patents are currently defined and enforced by States are an entirely separate issue from the arguments I have been making since the 1980’s about property rights in identity and information objects.

For now I would be entirely satisfied if libertarians and anarchists recognized my property rights in the things I create and respected my right to license copies, using no other enforcement mechanism than social preferencing.

If we ever get there, I would only sign a General Submission to Arbitration with an arbiter whose legal code recognized my property rights in name, brand, identity, and information objects I create.

But if libertarian/anti-statist writers and organizations continue to deny property rights in Identity and Personal Brand — both violated by unlicensed copying of created works — the libertarian movement fails to be an effective defender of the right to self ownership — the center of all libertarian thought — and belongs in the dustbin of history along with all other failed forms of socialism that treat the individual as a slave to the wants and needs of their brothers.

Neil

Reprinted from the Journal of Social and Biological Structures, Volume 13, Issue 2, 1990, Pages 93-117

“Preface”

This article was originally my half of a November, 1983
debate, at a supper club meeting of Los Angeles-area
libertarians, on the question “Is Copyright A Natural Right?” I
revised my debate presentation for publication as a booklet
published on December 2, 1983 under the title TOWARD A NATURAL
RIGHTS THEORY OF LOGORIGHT and, on March 16, 1989, for on-line
publication through the Connected Education(r) Library, but it is
still helpful to understand that these arguments are largely
directed to libertarians who already agree with the fundamental
concepts of natural rights, or at the very least presume a
sympathy with libertarian and natural rights philosophy and
philosophers.

It is generally thought that discussion of rights is a
political or ethical issue. In fact, the argument must begin at
the level of basic epistemological and metaphysical premises and
proceed from there.

Antebellum debates on slavery hinged on the question of
whether Blacks were People, thereby having rights, or whether
Blacks were only animals, and therefore could be the property of
People. Political analyses were being made by Southerners in
which they attempted to demonstrate that, economically, slavery
was good because it benefited the Southern economy. And even
moral debates hinged on the metaphysical question: if slaves
weren’t people, but were animals, then what could be morally
wrong in owning them?

It did no good to discuss the morality or economics of
slavery until one had arrived at the simple metaphysical fact
that skin color does not definitively answer the question: What
is a Human Being?

Moral and political questions often hinge on such differing
perceptions of reality. This is one reason such discussions are
often so heated: differing premises at these levels will make one
question the sanity and logical faculties of someone who
disagrees with one’s own obvious conclusions. The feeling for
someone who has a divergent vision of reality is: “He must be
blind or crazy if he can’t see something as clear as daylight!”

So it is that on an issue involving “rights,” one feels an
opponent is not merely wrong, but unbelievably wrong. Even among
professed advocates (and practitioners, one hopes) of reason, it
makes it hard to understand how one who disagrees can be so
obstinate on so easy a question.

That there are disagreements about natural rights even among
strict advocates of them proves that the question is harder
than we might have originally thought.

Therefore, let advocates of human rights not trade insults,
but get down to the business at hand, which is establishing the
premises from which we’re arguing. Then one can either see
whether our views are fundamentally incommunicable to another, or
find basic agreements and proceed from there.

“Introduction”

I’d like to start off with an image to have in your minds
during the course of this article–and this image is a mnemonic–
a memory aid–for a point I want you to remember.

You’re in the Land of Oz, and you come across Dorothy, Tin
Man, and Scarecrow at a fork in the Yellow Brick Road leading to
the Emerald City.

Dorothy is arguing to go down one fork of the road, and
Scarecrow is arguing that they go the other way.

After the debate between Dorothy and Scarecrow has gone on
pointlessly for what seems an eternity, Tin Man turns to Dorothy
and says, “We’re never going to settle anything this way,
Dorothy. Don’t you realize that you’re arguing against a Straw
Man?”

Now, I didn’t say that just to make an atrocious pun–I want
you to keep that image firmly in mind, and I think this will
help.

The reason I started out with this mnemonic–this memory
aid–is that I don’t want to have to answer or defend all the
theories of “intellectual property,” “copyright,” and “patent
law” that I will not be advocating herein.

So let me start out by stating what I am not talking about,
when I advocate what I will eventually be defining as
“logorights.”

I am not talking about a grant of privilege from the State.
If it can be demonstrated to me (but I don’t think it can be)
that the only way the concept I am advocating can exist is
through the State granting it as a privilege, then I will concede
outright that it has no place in natural rights theory or
practice, and the concept should be abandoned.

I am also not going to be talking about a defense of ideas
as property, or defending what historically has been called
intellectual property. Whatever the merits of these concepts,
they are not part of the concept I am going to be putting forward
here. Therefore, any attack on “logorights” which involves
disproving the validity of ideas as property or intellectual
property will be arguing against a Straw Man.

What I am going to be doing is to put forward what I believe
to be a new and original concept of copyright–a word which I’ll
be replacing in a few hundred words as inadequately defined for
the concept I’m really advocating.

“Defining A New Concept”

There are two kinds of definitions that can be given.

The first way to define a concept is with a lexical
definition–that is, with a definition by other words, such as
you’d find in a dictionary.

The second way to define a concept is with an ostensive
definition–that is, with a definition abstracted by pointing out
with several examples just what it is you’re trying to define,
and demonstrating what is common to each example and can
therefore be induced from the examples as an isolated concept.

With a new concept, it’s always better to give the ostensive
definition before the lexical, so you can get an idea of some of
the contexts in which the new concept appears.

So before I give you a dictionary definition of this new
concept, I’m going to define it by example several times. I
think the best first example is to be found in the following
question:

Is computer hardware the only thing that can be property, or
can computer software be property also?

And I’d better define those terms for those of you who
aren’t familiar with computer jargon.

In computer terminology, hardware is the computer itself and
all the machinery used with it–the microprocessors, the disk
drives, the monitor, the printer–and software is all the
recorded orderings of bits–recorded information signals–that
you feed into the machinery to make it operate.

And let me be exact in my meaning: because a computer
diskette–a round piece of plastic with a magnetic coating–is
what software is usually stored on, it is common use to refer to
computer diskettes as “software”–but really, the diskette is
hardware, too–and the information on it is actually the
software.

If you don’t believe me on this last point, then listen to
the language that comes out the mouth of a computer user who
plunks down several hundred bucks for a package of diskettes
labelled “Wordstar” that the salesman said contains information
telling the computer to do word processing, if, when the user
gets it home, she discovers that she’s just purchased two
diskettes with random, meaningless characters.

Is it the diskettes themselves that the user has just paid
three hundred bucks for? If so, she just got overcharged by
several hundred dollars–she can buy a package of blank diskettes
for around ten bucks.

Okay, here’s my second example: the same concept in a
different context.

You go into a Waldenbooks and plunk down cash for a book
that says on the cover “ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.” You get it
home … and the first sentence is, “It was the best of times, it
was the worst of times.”

Now, what you bought is a book and this book has got
everything that makes a book a book: a binding, hundreds of
sheets of paper with printed ink impressions on it, and a cover.
Let’s even pretend that the book you took home has the same
number of pages, the same dimensions and weight, the same binding
and style of printing as the book with the composition called
ATLAS SHRUGGED. Do you have any just cause of complaint if the
composition of words inside the book turns out to be something
other than what the cover says? If you answer no, then you got
everything you paid for. But if you answer yes, then you are
saying that the composition of words makes this book a different
commodity from the book you thought you were buying, and
therefore you are rightfully entitled to a copy of the
composition of words labelled ATLAS SHRUGGED.

Next definition by example:

A college student figures out a way to put together a few
commonly available hardware items into a cheap device that
moistens stamps without having to lick them. Nobody ever has put
together these commonly available items in this configuration
before. Has she invented anything? Is there anything new that
didn’t exist before? Has she, in effect, performed an act of
creation?

Last example:

An artist does a design logo for a company’s product–let’s
call the product a stamp moistener called Stamplix. Stamplix
stamp moisteners are put on the market with that design logo on
it … and two weeks later the company’s competitor puts that
same Stamplix logo on a different type of stamp moistener they’re
marketing in competition.

Is that second company violating anybody’s property rights?

Now you might have already abstracted the concept from the
examples–but I have to assume you haven’t for the sake of
completeness. In the first case–software–what I was discussing
was orderings of bits; in the second case, the composition of
words in a book; in the third case, a new configuration of
materials; in the fourth case, an identifying mark.

And, what is common to each of these is “logos.”

“Logos” was a word used by the ancient Greeks. In fact,
logos was the word the Greeks themselves used for “word.” But
they meant a good deal more than that: logos meant not only
“word” but also “thought,” “speech,” “science,” “study,” “reason”
and “rational principle.” Logos meant the pattern of creation
manifest in the universe–what we libertarians might refer to as
the principle behind natural laws and natural rights.

Later on, the Christians adopted Logos to mean the Second
Person of the Christian Holy Trinity–identified by them as
Christ when according to them he visited Earth–and the Gospel of
St. John accordingly starts out, “In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Logos meant “knowledge.” It’s the root behind the suffix
“-ology” found at the end of biology, psychology, technology,
ornithology, herpetology, and radiology.

Logos is the root word behind “logic.”

Logos is also preserved in the modern words “logistics,”
“logarithm”, and “logo”–short for a commercial logogram.

In using the word “logos,” I’ll be going back to what is
meant by all those usages, all of which refer to an observable
order, array, pattern, form, or identity to be found in the
Universe.

By logos I mean exactly: an order, array, pattern, or form
of information which can be imposed upon or observed in a
material substance: specifically, a thing’s material identity.

It is the logos of bits imposed onto a blank computer disk
that makes it software. It is the logos of words in a book that
makes it a novel. It is the logos of an object to make it
perform a particular task that makes it an invention. It is
the logos of a mark that gives it the ability to identify a
particular product.

And it is property rights in logos that I’ll be advocating
in this article.

Earlier I mentioned that the word copyright is inadequate to
define the new concept being advocated: property rights in logos.

The new word I’m going to use for property rights in logos
is, as promised before, “logoright.”

Now, for me to defend a particular kind of property right as
being a “natural” right relating to the concept of identity, we
need to understand, first, what do we mean by “identity”; second,
what natural rights and property rights are in general; third,
what property is in general and how it comes to exist; and
fourth, how property rights are established and what they mean in
practice.

Only after that ground is cleared is it possible for me to
get to the case for logorights in particular; but by that point,
the logoright case will be seen as only one instance of a general
theory arguing that ALL property rights derive from Identity.

“Things and Their Observers”

Metaphysics as a study questions as one of its subjects what
constitutes an entity and what constitutes its identity, or to
phrase it more colloquially, what a thing is and what is its
“thingness.” Epistemology asks how we can know whether and what
a thing is. Where one begins and the other leaves off is the
main event in the history of philosophical debate.

Let’s start with several divergent views.

In the Platonist view, identity is not an attribute of a
material entity but, merely or not, an attribute of a Soul, or
Ego, or Mind viewing and manipulating this universe in which we
exist but not itself being a part of it. Existence does exist
but it is only the faculty of Reason that breaks existence down
into “identifiable” parts. If a soul/ego/mind perceives a
pattern on a thing, the perceived identity fundamentally remains
an attribute of the soul/ego/mind, rather than the thing itself
which is merely a poor copy of the Original. Identity in this
view resides not primarily in those Things that Exist, but to the
Consciousness which is apart from Existence.

The Nominalist view would be the same view of Identity as
the Platonists, except that the Consciousness in question is part
of Existence. But in any case, “identity” still refers to the
observation rather than that which is observed: existents still
have no identity of their own, apart from identifications made by
souls, or egos, or minds.

The view to which I subscribe, which I would classify in
this respect as Randian, neo-Aristotelian, or “Objectivist,” is
that Identity is a fundamental attribute not of Consciousness as
such, but of an Existing Entity, whether or not a soul/ego/mind
chooses to perform an act of identification of that Entity. This
is my understanding of what Identity means: that the thingness of
a thing is not only that it exists independent of our senses, but
that each entity has a specific nature, with specific attributes
and features, that makes it what it is independent of our senses.
Whether or not a soul/ego/mind is part of existence itself is
moot: in either case, a soul/ego/mind may impose an attribute on
a thing, and thereafter that attribute is an attribute of the
thing itself: something which can be observed, by that or any
other soul/ego/mind, as an objective attribute of that imposed-
upon entity.

Continuing: if an entity has within its nature specific
attributes that are its identity, then either:

(I) One or more of those attributes can be observed in or
duplicated onto another entity, making them in that respect
identical; or

(II) An attribute cannot exist twice or more, or be
duplicated: no two things could share any attribute, and
therefore each existent would be in all respects a different
entity from every other existent.

Since, obviously, (II) reduces to epistemological absurdity
instantly (if no attributes may be duplicated or shared, we would
have no way of inducing universal concepts from reality at all),
then logically an attribute, or attributes, can be duplicated.
And if all attributes are duplicated, we now have two existents
which are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing: two
separate existents are in the respect under consideration, the
same entity. They are identical.

Some corollary premises follow:

Corollary One: There are fundamentally two things a
consciousness can do with an entity: observe it, inducing
universals which construct percepts and build into concepts; or,
it can impose new attributes in that entity.

Corollary Two: If a new attribute is imposed on a thing,
that thing, in that respect, is different from the way it was
before.

Corollary Three: If a new attribute imposed on an entity
changes the fundamental nature of an entity, it becomes a new
entity entirely.

Corollary Four: In the case that a particular attribute, or
set of particular attributes, defines what a thing is, that
attribute or attributes define what is the thing itself: they are
that entity’s identity.

Corollary Five: Impose this identity on a thing, it becomes
an entity of that identity: a thing of that type. Remove that
identity, it is no longer that thing.

Now the metaphysical question on which answer my logoright
position will later rest: Are two separately existing Entities,
sharing the exact same Identity, (A) identical in themselves (that
is, metaphysically the same Entity, though observably not the
same Existent, since each exists apart from the other), or (B) not
identical in themselves but identical only to the consciousness
that perceives them.

I see the answer is necessarily (A), for the same reason
that I rejected the view that an attribute can’t exist twice or
be duplicated: if no two existents can share any attribute, and
therefore each existent is in all respects a different entity
from every other existent, then we would have no way of inducing
universal concepts from reality at all: epistemology itself, by
failing to answer the problem of universals, would reduce to
chaotic absurdity.

I also believe that answering (B) at this point, even
starting with Objectivist premises, makes one, for all practical
intents and purposes that follow on this question, either a
Platonist or a Nominalist. That may be all well and good when
discussing realities beyond our experience, but it is to the
“neo-Aristotelians” or “Objectivists” that I will be directing
the remainder of my argumentation, for I believe that regarding
the universe we find ourselves within as anything less than real
leads one quickly to a philosophical discussion suited only to
the Afterlife … which is where denying everyday reality
delivers one rather quickly.

“Natural Rights and Property Rights”

Natural rights and property rights theory has a long history
of development, but it is my purpose here to define natural and
property rights then move on, not trace their history.

And, the best short definition of natural rights and
property rights I can give you is to be found in five paragraphs
from Ayn Rand’s essay, “Man’s Rights,” in the book THE VIRTUE OF
SELFISHNESS–Copyright 1963 by The Objectivist Newsletter, Inc.,
and reproduced here under the Doctrine of Fair Usage:

“A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action–which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

“The concept of a ‘right’ pertains only to action– specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

“Thus, for every individual, a right is a moral sanction of a positive–of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations of them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

“The right to life is the source of all rights–and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

“Bear in mind that the right to a property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”

Now, Rand uses two phrases in the section I just quoted
which give us the beginnings of what property is and how it comes
about. So I’ll focus on these then expand on them in detail.

The first phrase, when interpolated slightly, is: the
product of a man’s effort.

The second phrase is: material values which are gained,
kept, used, and disposed of.

And these two phrases lead us right into the discussion of
what property is and how it comes into existence.

“The Creation of Property”

What does it mean to say that property is the product of a
man’s–or using a word I prefer, a Person’s–effort?

Do we mean property is that which a Person “creates”?

If so, we need a concept of “creation.”

We are told, by physicists and chemists, that we live in a
universe where matter and energy can be neither created nor
destroyed, but only changed. This change may include the
transformation of matter into energy–or theoretically energy
into matter–but existence does not allow us the possibility of
creation ex nihilo–out of nothingness.

If we start with this premise then it becomes curious–at
the very least–how human beings have talked casually for quite
some time about how anybody “creates” anything.

Why do we speak of engineers “building,” musicians
“composing,” architects “designing?” Each of these speaks of
people, by their actions, bringing into existence something that
wasn’t there before.

Here’s where the concept of logos comes into play again.

Creation is a Person’s action which imposes that Person’s
logos on something which exists to give that thing a unique
identity it did not previously have.

The fundamental act of creation is the act of patterning a
logos on something: patterning notes into a musical composition,
patterning words into a novel, patterning bits into computer
software, patterning ink into a blueprint, patterning steel into
an automobile, patterning images and sound into a movie,
patterning furrows into a farm, patterning flour, water, and
yeast into bread.

There are, of course, questions about greater and lesser
orders of logos that can be brought up now. But I am not arguing
that every act of creation is on an existent that previously had
no identity at all. I am merely saying that the act of creation
is the act of imposing an aspect of a Person’s identity–a
logos–on something to give that object an identity it did not
previously have.

“The Thermodynamic Paradigm”

As a paradigm, but one which I think is useful only in
proper context, let’s consider creation in thermodynamic terms as
a localized and continuing lowering of entropy.

Entropy is that universal process which takes things from a
state of greater improbabilities to a state of lesser
improbabilities–commonly thought of as the decay of order into
chaos.

Creation–the act of imposing on natural objects a logos not
naturally found–is the act of moving things from a state of
lesser improbabilities to a state of greater improbabilities.

Some specific examples: iron and carbon are both elements
found in nature–in fact, iron ore can contain carbon in large
amounts. But steel–which requires the combining of a specific
ratio of iron to carbon at specific temperatures for specific
spans of time–is rarely if ever produced by the automatic
processes of nature.

If you make iron and carbon into steel, the resulting
substance is much less probable–therefore it is tempting to use
the language of thermodynamics and say that an act of taking iron
and carbon and creating steel is lowering the entropy of that
iron and carbon. If you take that steel, and press it into
rectangular sheets of even thickness, length, and width, the
result is even less probable–therefore it is tempting to say
that the act of finding steel and creating sheet metal out of it
is lowering the entropy of that steel.

And, if you take that sheet metal, form it into the body of
an automobile, and paint it so the steel doesn’t rust, the result
is less probable still, and it is tempting to say that the act of
taking sheet metal and creating painted auto bodies is lowering
the entropy of that sheet metal.

One should resist the temptation. Taking the “lowering
entropy” argument too far into the area of physical
thermodynamics runs one quickly into problems of both fact and
theory; the comparative “entropy levels” of a car, a piece of
junk, and a chunk of ore are incalculable. Nevertheless, I
believe the “entropic” paradigm of regarding creation as a
“calculable increase in improbability” is sound within the
context of information theory, where one discusses the “entropy”
of a signal; and, in fact, I’m told there are existing formulas,
used by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), to
calculate the “improbabilities” of a signal being a “natural”
occurence as opposed to being artifically generated
“information.”

Unless one accepts a “Watchmaker” argument about the
creation of Earth–that in fact what we believe to be nature is
in fact the artifice of an earlier Creator–bridges are less
probable than rivers, symphonies are less probable than bird-
songs, and houses are less probable than caves. But regardless
of whether the Watchmaker under discussion is mortal or deity,
engineers, composers, and architects each make their surroundings
more improbable of existing than it would be without their
intervention.

For example, scientists know that Mars has water, so a
Martian river isn’t all that improbable; but photographic
evidence of an artifically constructed bridge across such a
Martian river would double the number of planets in the universe
which we would know to have hosted intelligent life … likely to
be, even without cynicism, one of the most improbable things
found.

Specifically, then, creation is the act of patterning less
improbable substances and objects to produce things more
improbable of having resulted from the automatic processes of
nature.

“Defining Property”

Now, the only sort of creation we’re concerned with in this
discussion is the creation of property–and we find that “things
rarely if ever produced by the automatic processes of nature” is
a good jumping off point for defining property.

What we may, in one sense then, define property as is: that
which a Person makes improbable enough to be generally recognized
as an “artifact.”

If you then compare this definition with the two phrases
drawn from Rand–the product of a man’s effort and material
values which are gained, kept, used, and disposed of–you find no
contradictions and a good deal of implied overlap.

Now I want to focus on Rand’s phrase “material value” long
enough to point out the following: Rand’s definition of “value”
is “that which one acts to gain or keep” and a material value
would by her definition be “something material which one acts to
gain or keep.”

Since the question of materiality is one which will come up
again later, I wish to point out that Rand’s use of the word
material in this context did not prevent her from referring to as
property things not comprised of matter such as radio
frequencies, in her essay “The Property Status of Airwaves” in
CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL or patents and copyrights in
“Patents and Copyrights,” her very next essay in that book.

Before I leave the area of defining property, I wish to
bring out what libertarian property theoretician Robert LeFevre
used for his tests in his book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF OWNERSHIP.

LeFevre asked three questions:

First, is that which is said to be property claimed by
someone?

Second, does that which is said to be property have boundary
limits?

And third, is that which is said to be property under an
owner’s control?

And these lead us to the next discussion necessary before we
get to logorights:

“Establishing and Using Property Rights”

Let me quote once more Rand’s statement on property rights:

“Bear in mind that the right to a property is a right to
action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object,
but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning
that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any
property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns
it.”

Therefore, a property right by its very nature refers to an
action with respect to a property.

The question arising in the establishment of property rights
is: what actions are required to gain rights with respect to that
property?

And, the definitions of property we’ve already discussed
provide (in no particular order) the following answers to the
establishment of property rights:

That which is to be your property must be valued–that is,
you must act to gain or keep it.

That which is valued as your property must be claimed as
property–that is, it must be publicly available knowledge that
you are declaring it your property.

That which is being claimed as property must in some sense
be a product of human effort. It must be created–that is, a
Person must take it from a state of lesser improbability to a
state of greater improbability.

The claim to the property must be defined within observable
boundary limits.

And, the property must be subject to the control of the
person claiming it.

The question arising once property rights have been
established are: what actions is the owner permitted respecting
that property?

And, the question of what actions the owner is permitted
respecting that property are dependent on the question: what
rights specifically does the owner have in this property?

The best way to show the import of this is to give some
examples:

Do I have the right to build a house on this lot and live in
it?

Do I have the right to raze the building on the next lot
over and build a three-car garage?

Do I have the exclusive right to use this driveway, or is
there a public right-of-way?

Do I have the right to eat this sandwich?

Do I have the right to divert this stream so the water
doesn’t flow to the next parcel of land?

Do I have the right to broadcast radio signals on a certain
frequency, at a certain power output, from a certain location,
during certain times of the day?

Do I have the right to take this book home from the
bookstore–and what may I do with it when I get it home?

Note than none of these actions requires the property itself
to be anything: the property right–being a statement referring
to the definitions of moral action–adheres not to the property,
but to the owner and actions that owner may or may not take with
respect to that property.

One last set of property rights concepts, and then we’ll be
ready to discuss logorights.

“Exclusive Use, Consumption, Bundles of Rights, and Properties”

From the instant a property is created and claimed by a
Person, all rights to that property are held by that Person–who
I’ll refer to as the property’s First Owner.

Since property results from an act of creation, it should
come as no surprise that the answer to the question of what an
owner of may do to a property includes its consumption.
Ultimately, an owner may exercise property rights to the complete
destruction of that property, without the consent of anyone who
does not share rights in that property.

Again using a thermodynamic paradigm, it would be tempting
to say that the entire process of owning property begins with a
lowering of its entropy, continues with maintaining its entropy
at a level relatively lower than that of the natural substances
from which it is made, and ends with consuming that property
until its entropy is as high as the condition in which its First
Owner found it–at which point it is consumed entirely and ceases
to be property as such.

What ownership of a property means is that all rights to
exploit, consume, keep unconsumed, control, destroy, trade, or
otherwise decide the ultimate disposition of a property may be
made by its owner without sharing the decisions regarding the
property–or its benefits–with anyone else.

That property–by its very nature–is owned to the exclusion
of all non-owners: any use of that property by anyone other than
the owner requires the owner’s permission.

When an owner creates a property, that property is totally
and exclusively its owner’s.

Here we have the necessity of property rights to begin with:
the origin of property rights stems from the need of adjudicating
conflicting claims about the exclusive use of something.

Since a property can only be owned exclusively, property
rights are the means of determining who holds the exclusive claim
on that property.

Utilitarians argue that these claims should be adjudicated
for the benefit of society as a whole: “the greatest good for the
greatest number.” The utilitarian premise is at the base of all
non-theistic political systems: democracy, republicanism,
communism, fascism, socialism, national socialism, and
militarism. Even the worst dictator claims to act in the best
interests of “the people” or “the will of the blood” or “the
proletariat” or “the folk.”

Libertarians, on the other hand, say that property rights
adhere not to society but to the individual Person, arising out
of the specific nature of humans having to control their material
environment in order to survive as rational beings. To survive,
a human being must be able to control the environment–that human
being’s domain. To control that domain, the human being must
identify the nature of each existent in the environment, and
arrange them all in such patterns that they contribute to the
purposes of survival and well-being.

Since the right to pursue survival and well-being is
distributed universally, no good or utility to one person or
group can be greater than the good or utility of any other person
or group. There is no possible “calculus” of good that can say
that one person’s or group’s rights outweigh another’s; a right
is a moral absolute allowing no exceptions or head-counting.

The necessity of property being, by nature, exclusive stems
from the necessity of dedicating an object to a specific
function–giving it a form to perform that function–and having
some security that the form to perform that function will not be
interfered with by someone else.

And, this is precisely what the act of creating a property
is: the act of imposing a new form on something found in a more
probable condition to dedicate it to a function that is highly
improbable of being performed without that imposition.

The creation of property, therefore, is an act necessary to
human survival–and as such the requirements of our survival as
human beings sanction our taking those actions, and those
sanctions are called rights.

Now, because the first ownership of any given property is
total and exclusive ownership, the owner can dispose of the
property in any fashion that owner sees fit.

The owner can choose to abandon the property–in which case
it reverts to a state of not being owned anymore.

The owner can choose to sell the property.

The owner can choose to break up the property into smaller
parts, and sell those parts.

The owner can turn it into junk–then call the junk art.

Switching context to the first definition of “property”
found in WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY–”a quality or trait
belonging to and especially peculiar to an individual or thing”–
it is correct to say that this property consists also of its
constituent “properties.”

And we can see from this first definition how use of the
word “property” as something belonging to an owner came about:
that which was owned was thought of as a quality or trait–a
“property” in the first definition–of the owner itself.

Therefore, it is etymologically correct to refer to each
property–each quality or trait adhering to that which is owned
as a whole–as a property as well.

This leads us to the additional possibility that an owner
may choose to break the property down into its constituent
properties–that is, each of the various qualities or traits
adhering to the property as a whole–and sell, as a separate
property, the right to exploit that quality or trait.

When this is done, a property is said to be made up of a
bundle of rights which are then broken into distinct and
separable rights–each separate right referring to a separate
action that can be taken with respect to the property in
question.

Two cases showing how “bundles of rights” are dealt with in
respect to land use will illustrate this.

First case:

If I own a parcel of land outright, then I own all the
rights–the entire “bundle”–in that parcel of land, and I may
exercise any and all of those rights as I see fit.

As I’ve said, this is the situation enjoyed by a property’s
First Owner or creator.

Second case:

However–and this is a big however: a previous owner may
have broken up the bundle of rights on her parcel of land–the
bundle of rightful actions that may be taken with respect to that
land–and sold me only the single right to build a house on that
land. The right to dig a coal mine there can be owned by someone
else.

In this case, then, the rights to the various actions that
can be taken with respect to it have been divided up by quality
or trait among more than one owner–and the owner of each
particular property right must exercise that right in such a way
that it does not interfere with rights held by other rights-
holders.

The various discrete properties taken from the original
property are still owned exclusively–but the original property
itself is no longer under the exclusive domain of a single owner.

We are now ready to ask whether there are, in fact, property
rights in logos–whether logorights can be property.

“Does Logoright Exist?”

Earlier in this discussion, I referred to the necessity of
imposing a logos on material objects as a precondition to
creating them as property.

That is not the question under discussion.

Having established that an object receiving an imprint from
a Person’s logos becomes that Person’s property–has it been
established as well that the logos which the Person is imposing
also can be owned as a separate property?

The answer is yes.

Here’s how it happens.

When a logos is imposed on matter, creating a new property,
the logos becomes a material quality of the property it is
imposed upon. Simultaneous with the creation of a new property,
the logos becomes the trait of that property to display the logos
itself, which includes the possibility that the logos can be
copied onto other matter and make that property as well.

Starting from the creation of a new property, the First
Owner has total and exclusive ownership of that property and all
its different parts, qualities, and traits: all its different
properties.

One of the properties included in this total ownership of
the created property is therefore the logos itself.

Consequently, if the First Owner–or any subsequent owner of
the total property–decides to break the property into bundles of
rights–and maintain ownership of some of those rights while
selling others–this is perfectly within that owner’s
prerogatives.

Now, this next point is crucial:

Placing any restrictions on how the owner may dispose of the
property–or its constituent properties–would deprive that owner
of the exclusive and total ownership which belongs to a first
owner.

You cannot attack the rights of a total owner to divide up
rights to that property without destroying the concept of
property being exclusively that owner’s.

And, a property right not exclusively owned is not a
property right at all.

Once the property is broken up into separate properties–
each property requiring a separate right to exploit that quality
or aspect–each property right from the original bundle of rights
can be traded separately.

Remember: rights–being moral sanctions of what action a
Person may take with respect to a property–adhere not to the
property itself, but to the owner.

If you declare that property rights are inherent in the
property rather than in the owner, then you are reduced to the
absurdity of saying that property–apart from the actions of its
owner–is capable of committing moral or immoral acts.

Thus, is is perfectly within the prerogatives of that owner
to maintain ownership to the rights in the logos–the
logorights–in that property, by valuing it, claiming it,
defending its boundaries, and continuing to control it.

“Four Tests of Property”

Let’s take those four points one at a time.

First. Is the logoright of value?

Yes. Remember Rand’s definition of value: that which one
acts to gain or keep.

The owner has either created the logos–thus demonstrating
that it is something worth gaining–or the owner maintains
ownership in it–thus demonstrating that the logoright is
something worth keeping.

If you say the logos doesn’t have value, then why does
imposing a logos on two dollars worth of computer diskettes make
them several-dollars worth of software?

A blank diskette and a diskette with a logos of information
on it are two separate goods with two separate qualities: two
different properties which can easily be told apart.

Perhaps you can’t tell those diskettes apart by looking at
them, but my computer surely can: if I stick in one diskette with
a certain logos of information on it, the computer’s display
gives me an OPENING MENU. When I stick in a blank diskette–
otherwise identical–it says: NOT A VALID SYSTEM DISK.

And if a logos has no value as a separate property from that
object which it is imposed upon, why would you be upset it you
brought home the book you thought was ATLAS SHRUGGED and found
that the first sentence was not, “Who is John Galt?”

To state the principle explicitly:

If a logos has no value in itself, then removing it from the
objects on which it is found should make no difference in the
values found in those objects.

As a corollary: the value of the logos is demonstrated by
removing it from an object and seeing whether that object is
valued as a separate good or commodity.

Second. Does the owner claim the logoright?

Yes: and here’s where the term copyright may be used exactly
for once.

Copyright is a claim of a logoright–and the claim is made
by embedding what is called a “Copyright Notice” onto the logos
being claimed–putting anyone finding that logos on notice that
the property rights in logos are owned and not open for a new
claimant.

The nearest equivalent in common law requires the posting of
No Trespassing signs on land if you wish to preserve the
exclusivity of your property rights to prevent the land from
lapsing into being a public thoroughfare.

I might also add at this point that registration of the
copyright is the exact equivalent to the registration of the deed
on a piece of land: a formal recorded proof that the property
rights are claimed as of a certain date by a certain owner.

Such registration, of course, need not be with a State, but
merely with a person, company, or organization generally trusted
to maintain such records.

As an example of private copyright registration: the Writers
Guild of America maintains an office for depositing copies of
screenplays and screen treatments as proof that a certain person
had possession of it on a certain date. Such proof is commonly
used in private arbitrations, performed by the Writer’s Guild,
regarding disputes over rights and credits.

Third. Can the owner of the logoright ascertain the
boundaries of her property rights–that is, are there limits to
that which is being claimed?

The answer to boundaries–limits–on a logos is again “yes.”
But–and this is a crucial point to be understood–limits always
are dependent on the nature of the property right being claimed.

When one speaks of boundaries of property rights in land,
one speaks of dimensions of area.

When one speaks of property right boundaries in the radio
spectrum, complaining that there are no boundaries of an
electromagnetic wave’s area would be meaningless: in defining the
limits of that kind of property, one rightly speaks of limits in
an electromagnetic wave’s amplitude and frequency.

And, when one speaks of the property boundaries on a logos,
one speaks of the limits of identity, the signal of which is
defined and limited by the principles of information theory, and
the content of such signal which must be defined by each use to
which the information can be put.

In discussing the identity of a logos as a signal, one
discusses its limits and boundaries in terms of the minimum
number of informational bits necessary to identify that logos as
a distinct creation, the resolution of a logos, the threshold of
predictability of that logos as against background noise, and
other criteria commonly used in dealing with information storage
and transmission.

In discussing the identity of the logos as content, one must
make a metaphysical argument. Since by definition, each logos
has a specific informational identity that differentiates, binds,
and delimits its nature–the qualities and traits through which
it is capable of being exploited–the boundary limits here are
set by its identity itself.

Now, I can anticipate the following question at this point:
Since a logos can be copied infinitely without depriving the
owner of the original, how can you say that a logos is a scarce
resource and therefore an economic good?

The first answer here is: The scarcity of a logos is a
function of its being, like all other kinds of property, a
product of human effort. Someone had to put work–the scarce
resource of human labor–into the production of the logos in the
first place–and storing that labor in a recorded form–
patterning the logos into a material object as a material value–
constitutes the creation of a scarce good–a property.

But the answer here that I prefer to give is: if this logos
is so damned unlimited as not to be an economic object–then why
do you want to reproduce mine?

The limits on this kind of good are not drawn by its
infinite ability to replicate itself, which is a way in which the
logos is not limited. However, just as property rights in the
radio spectrum are not limited by area but by amplitude and
frequency, the limits on logoright are not to be found in its
ability to be infinitely reproduced, but in the finite identity
to be exploited for its qualities and traits that distinguish any
given logos from any other logos.

In terms used by economists, when defining the scarcity of a
logos we must look to limits of horizontal competition between
different kinds of goods, rather than to the limits of vertical
competition within a kind of good.

The fourth and last test: does the logoright’s owner control
the logoright?

Most definitely, in three ways:

The owner of a logos controls property rights in that logos
by maintaining ownership of the logoright and “licensing”–that
is, leasing–the various rights.

The owner of a logos, through limiting the license to
reproduce the logos, is preserving the integrity of that logos.

And, the owner of a logos is using that logos as a
producer’s good to create consumer’s goods.

You hear libertarians speak a lot about human rights and
property rights–but what I’m most used to hearing about–as a
working writer–are primary rights and subsidiary rights:
hardcover rights, trade paperback rights, mass-market paperback
rights, electronic rights, first serial rights, transcription
rights, character rights, story rights, merchandising rights,
dramatic rights, movie rights, episodic TV rights, live TV
rights, radio rights, English rights, and foreign language
rights.

Each of these is a separate right in the bundle of rights
created with the original property–a separate action to be
performed by using the logos–and each one can be sold or
licensed separately as the logoright owner wishes.

“If A Thing Can Be Copied, Then It’s a Thing”

Traditional arguments against copyright have begun by asking
how one is depriving a person of her property by copying it and
using the copy, since presumably the owner still has the
original.

I submit that the first question is not whether someone’s
rights are being violated by copying but whether, in fact,
anything exists which can be copied.

If a human being isn’t performing an act of creation by
imposing an identity on an existent making it a new entity, then
there is literally no thing which can be copied in the first
place. If there is something distinct and observable which can
be copied, the case for it having been newly created by someone
is already made, and–to the propertarian who already believes
that that which is newly created is the property of its creator–
the case for exclusive property rights in that new thing follow
directly upon the self-evident axiom of property identity.

Conversely, if there is no identity to speak of, then there
is nothing there to be copied that is distinguishable from
anything else, and there is no question to debate at all. The
pro-unlimited-copying case bites its own tail in saying that that
which may be copied without limit does not exist at all, and
therefore the argument reduces itself to absurdity.

The rule by which one recognizes an axiom is that if denying
something logically requires that itself which is being denied,
then that which is being denied is self-evident. Therefore, the
pro-unlimited-copying case just reaffirms the axiomatic nature of
the material identity of that which is being copied as a distinct
entity–material identity being the definition of a logos which I
presented earlier in this article. Denying the very existence of
material identity as a distinguishable property of a thing leaves
no Distinguishing Property to debate further.

Since That which one Creates, Owns, Consumes, Buys, and
Sells is an Entity, not merely an Existent, then it is irrelevant
that the Identity (thingness, if you will) can be observed in or
duplicated onto more than one Material Existent. What a Creator
Creates, what an Owner Owns, is an Entity (including that
Entity’s Identity) and it is a reductionist argument to a thing’s
materiality as an existent, rather than its being an entity
having identity, to deny ownership because more than one existent
is involved.

The “lack of scarcity” argument fails in not recognizing
that the scarcity, on which the concepts of property
and economics rest, refer to the scarcity of an entity qua its
identity: it is scarce by being limited to its identity. It can
be no other. That an entity can be in or on more than one
existent is irrelevent to the questions of ownership.

When it comes to questions of identity, the copy IS the
original; an entity is an entity: A is A.

One may wish, at this point, to expand the discussion to
entities which are similar but not exactly identical, and put
forward the position that each copy is a different entity as well
as a different existent.

The discussion would then have to continue to take in
boundary effects and threshhold limits of which attributes define
an entity and which do not, but the principle would remain
intact. Such boundary problems and threshhold effects relate to
all questions of ownership and property–otherwise shining a
flashlight onto someone’s lawn could be considered, on the face
of it, photon invasion of that property. Obviously whether
damage is or is not done to the lawn has to be asked at some
point: this is what I mean by boundary limits and threshhold
effects.

It strikes me that the clearest illustration I can give that
property rights are dependent on a thing’s identity, not merely
on its material existence, is the following question: have I
violated your property rights if I pulverize your car, but leave
you in possession of every microgram of dust?

Answering no defeats one’s argument by reducing to
absurdity.

But if one answers yes, then what one is claiming ownership
of was a thing–an entity–and one must claim that by removing
the identity of that thing I have violated one’s property rights.
This concedes that property rights are bound to the identity, as
well as the mere existence, of a property, and if this is so,
then does it not follow that the ownership of that property’s
identity is as exclusive to its owner as everything else about
it?

Thus, to a propertarian, my logoright case is proved by the
Law of Identity alone, regardless of whether my further
theorizing regarding a thermodynamic model of property-creation
furthers my case or does not.

“Refinements and Objections”

This next section will treat some of the objections to
logoright that were brought out both during and after the debate
for which this article was originally written, and refine the
concept to demonstrate how these objections do not invalidate it.

Objection One: A logos is nothing tangible; it is an idea
and therefore not capable of being owned.

Answer: I am answering an objection usually brought against
copyrights and patents because these have been defined as the
products of ideas, and defended with the concept of “intellectual
property.”

But the theory of logorights as presented herein does not
treat logos as being a product of an idea: it is treated simply
in terms of information which is observable in material form.

“Information”–as a term used in information theory–does
not require that which is being dealt with as information to have
meaning or purpose; it need only perform a function. Information
is a mathematical, rather than a teleological, concept.

As such–speaking colloquially–we’re in a whole new
ballgame when discussing a concept of property rights in logos,
which is a discussion not of “intellectual property” but of
“informational property.”

Objection Two: By saying that only the owner of a logoright
is entitled to the profits from making a copy, aren’t you denying
the profits accruing to the labor of those who copy it?

Answer: Not at all. Copying a logos is a separate act from
creating a logos, and must be compensated separately. If I write
a logos on a manuscript, I must pay someone if I am to be
entitled to their labor in copying it–and if they copy it onto
their own materials, I must pay for that, too. This happens
every time a manuscript is taken to a quick printing store to
make copies.

However, the question really being asked is: doesn’t the
labor of copying something entitle someone to the rights accruing
to the ownership of the logos?

And the answer to that question is a clear no. That labor
is involved in copying something makes no statement and produces
no claim over someone else’s property.

If it did, the labor used in stealing a car could be used as
a case for transfer of property rights in that car.

Property rights must be determined first, then and only then
do questions about the profits accruing to labor done on or with
that property arise.

The most exact analogy here to the taking of a property,
applying labor, and producing additional properties is that of a
factory–let’s say for simplicity that it’s an automobile
factory.

The factory as a property is a “producer’s” good, and it is
owned by whoever created that factory or the owner’s market
descendants. Workers come into the factory and–applying their
labor on new materials using that factory–produce the consumer’s
good of the automobile.

Would one therefore conclude that the workers own the
automobiles they are producing?

If you say that, then you are back to “labor theory of
value” and discount the necessity of capital in the production of
goods.

Even if the workers were bringing their own raw materials
into the factory and producing automobiles, this would not be
sufficient to establish their titles over the produced
automobiles: it would first have to be established that they had
the right to use the factory as a producer’s good.

Likewise, the logos is a producer’s good for which the
rights must be obtained before it may be used to create
additional goods–whether those goods are additional producer’s
goods or consumer’s goods.

Objection Three: How can you say that a logos is a separate
property since it can be imposed on someone else’s property?

Answer: the same way that a house can be a separate property
from the land it is on.

Objection Four: What about two or more people who come up
with the same invention or story independently? Who owns the
logos then?

Answer: As I’ve discussed earlier, creation means the taking
of something from a state of greater probability to a state of
lesser probability.

To the extent which a given logos of invention or story can
be produced independently more than once, to that extent the
probability is still great enough to question whether an act of
creation has been performed at all.

One of the objections brought against copyrights and patents
can be dealt with this way: that a person being sued for
infringing on a previous copyright or patent has had the burden
of proof in demonstrating that their story or invention is a
separate and distinct creation from that which they’re accused of
infringing.

Here is precisely a case where information theory provides
answers to definitional problems that previous theories were
unable to deal with.

By using a process of correlation of the information in each
logos, one can find out precisely how much overlap exists between
them.

Only if the correlation is proven by the petitioner to be
significant enough to warrant a charge of copy infringement would
independent creation have to be established as a defense by a
respondent. If the respondent succeeds in demonstrating
independent creation, then the petitioner’s original “creation”
wasn’t inherently improbable, therefore questionable as a unique
creation–and therefore possibly not property at all–for either
of them.

In a practical sense, however, I think twin logoses of
sufficient complexity and resolution to be considered created
property at all are about as likely as a million monkeys typing
for a million years and producing the play Hamlet.

Objection Five. What about a case where a randomly
generated logos is found and claimed as property? Has an act of
creation taken place? Can there be property rights in something
randomly or accidentally produced?

Answer: Any given logos–to be considered a logos at
all–must be, in some sense, unique. The shape of a blade of
grass is neither complex enough nor uncommon enough to qualify as
a logos. Where a unique array has been produced by random or
natural processes–and a person decides, for whatever reasons–
that it is worth preserving, it is the act of preserving that
array that is the essential act of “increasing improbabilities”
which is the definition used herein for the creation of a logos.

Objection Six. What about a person who copies a logos
accidentally? Isn’t that person potentially a victim of the
owner of the logoright?

Answer: this case is exactly equivalent of an accidental
trespasser on someone’s land.

In common law decisions, it has been determined that land
must be clearly posted with No Trespassing signs to remove the
liabilities involved in a trespasser coming to harm on your land.

The “Copyright Notice” is prominently placed on a logos for
the same reason: to warn trespassers that they are responsible
for their own liabilities if they violate the owner’s property
rights.

Objection Seven. Isn’t the “Doctrine of Fair Usage” you
relied on before an admission that the exact point at which using
a logos becomes a property violation can’t be determined
objectively?

Answer: No.

The “Doctrine of Fair Usage” is a legal definition in use
under current–and admittedly statist–copyright laws.

It is a utilitarian decision that says that so long as the
use of part of a copyrighted work is educational or isn’t a
significant enough part to adversely affect the market value of
that work, it will be considered that the property owner is going
to allow this as a courtesy to the public–whether that owner
likes it or not.

Nevertheless, the utilitarian basis of this decision does
overlap similar common law decisions regarding courtesies and
rights of access in private lands–which is also a utilitarian
decision.

As a strict propertarian, I would have to say that the use
of the smallest identifiable part of a logos–that is,
identifiable by an objective process such as correlation–
requires its owner’s consent.

However, as the owner of a number of logoses, myself, I am
willing to allow “fair usage” as a general courtesy to the
public, which includes many logos owners some of whom have
logorights not protected by the State, and I am presuming–until
otherwise challenged by a particular logos owner–that such
courtesy is also being granted to me.

I do, of course, risk having to pay restitution if my
assumption of reciprocal courtesy turns out to be mistaken.

Objection Eight. Doesn’t a logoright restrict the contents
of a person’s mind? Are you going to say a logos can’t be
memorized–that is, the logos imposed on a human brain? Are you
going to then say that a person can’t use the memorized contents
of her own mind in any way she sees fit–including the imposition
of it on matter?

Answer: Assuming that the logos can be taken intact into a
human brain, then that copy of the logos has been swallowed by
that person–in the same way that if I take a diamond and swallow
it, that diamond ceases to exist as recoverable property while it
is in my stomach.

In neither case would someone have a right to violate the
boundaries of that person’s sphere of self-ownership to retrieve
either the swallowed diamond or the swallowed logos.

However, swallowing someone else’s property does not
constitute a transfer of property rights, which–being a
statement of morally permissible action relating to a property–
attach not to that property but to the owner.

Swallowing someone else’s property does not constitute in
itself a transfer of property rights to that property, even
though the owner of the swallowed property may not invade you to
retrieve it.

Moreover, if while that logos resides within you it
stimulates better digestion–that it, aids you in creative
efforts of your own–then that good digestion is yours to keep,
regardless of whatever rights the logos’s owner may have in the
logos itself.

But if the person who swallowed the logos reimposes that
logos on outside matter–if the person redraws the blueprint from
memory or retypes the novel from memory or reproduces an
invention from memory–then the logos to be found in matter must
still be regarded as the property of the logoright’s owner: in
essence, the person reproducing the logos without obtaining the
rights has just regurgitated or passed the diamond again, and the
true owner has the right to demand that her property be returned.

Objection Nine. What about the reenactment or performance
of a logos–such as singing in my shower? Since I am not copying
or reimposing on matter that logos, how can I be said to be
violating the logos owner’s rights?

Answer: Logoright is not, per se, copyright–restricting
only the right to copy onto matter. Logoright refers to any use
of a logos, each use of which is a separate right in the bundle
of rights created with the logos.

Again: “right” refers to an action which a person may or my
not take with respect to a property.

The right to reenact or perform a logos is a use of that
logos, and often–such as with live performances of musical
compositions or plays–the rightful use must be licensed from the
logos owner.

However, in all the cases of copyright I have ever heard
about, I have never heard of someone being successfully sued for
singing someone else’s song in the shower. Presumably this is
not a public performance?

I suspect the absence of such case law would survive the
demise of the State and its copyright laws, to a society which
recognizes and enforces the concept of logoright.

Objection Ten. Isn’t it a historical fact that as soon as
printing presses were invented kings began handing out copyright
protection? Isn’t this proof that copyright has always been
nothing more than another grant of monopoly by the State, and a
privilege that is dependent on the State for its existence? Even
today, isn’t it the existence of copyright laws itself that has
led to the domination of publishing by a few oligopolies?
Doesn’t a value-free analysis of the publishing market
demonstrate that eliminating copyrights wouldn’t affect authors
much since (a) most books published are for the first time and
(b) an author’s royalties are only a small percentage of the
price of a book? Since most of the income an author receives
comes up front as an “advance,” isn’t it true that an outright
sale from an author to a publisher wouldn’t make much difference
to the author anyway?

Answer: These arguments were raised by Samuel E. Konkin III
in an article titled “Copywrongs,” published in a magazine titled
THE VOLUNTARYIST in the year following the debate that sparked
this article. Since the editor of THE VOLUNTARYIST at the time
was Wendy McElroy, who was the other half of this debate, I took
her commissioning of Konkin to write on this subject as a
reaction to my presentation. Since Konkin is a long-time
libertarian ally, and one with whom I have usually sided on most
issues, I found it worthwhile to write a response to his article.
THE VOLUNTARYIST did not, however, see fit to print my response.
Some of the more general arguments contained in my unpublished
reply to Konkin have been incorporated into this version above;
the segment that I include here deals directly with Konkin’s
arguments, and I’ve eliminated duplication of text used elsewhere
in this article. I’ve also updated my reply as necessary. Those
wishing a copy of the original “Copywrongs” article can obtain it
from Samuel Edward Konkin III, P.O. Box 1748, Long Beach, CA
90801.

Herewith my reply to Konkin’s “Copywrongs”:

“To start off with, I am dubious regarding the usefulness of
concentrating on a value-free or even value-laden analysis of
copyright until a factual metaphysical question is settled: is
that which copyright protects with the status of property rights
something which actually exists, or is it, at best, a delusion
and, at worst, a vicious fraud? …

“Of course Sam did say that ‘The point of all this vulgar
praxeology is not just to clear the way for the moral question.
The market (praise be) is telling us something. After all, both
market human action and morality arise from the same Natural
Law.’

“And so I agree with Sam in principle, if not with his
application. The question is: what is the natural law here? The
answer is: the Law of Identity. …

“But even leaving this aside–if one can leave metaphysical
facts aside–Sam’s value-free economic case is standing on
quicksand, since he is arguing from empirical observation of
current market conditions–a dangerous thing for a libertarian to
do, since it can so easily be turned back against us.

“For example, we argue in libertarian theory that monopolies
can’t arise in a free market. A liberal then points to existing
monopolies. And we retort, ‘We don’t have a free market today to
point at–what you’re seeing is monopolies in a state-controlled
economy.’ And, Sam would have to agree that the market his
empirical case examines is state-controlled, since he’s arguing
that the current market is structured by, among other factors,
the current copyright laws.

“But, copyright is only one of the many ways the state has
intervened into the publishing industry. (I assert that the
effect is largely neutral as compared to a purely propertarian
marketplace since the state intervention roughly parallels the
actual property rights.) In the publishing industry, as in all
other industries, there has been endless non-copyright state
intervention: limited liability laws, anti-trust suits preventing
publishers from owning bookstores, labor laws creating union
shops, wartime paper rationing, interstate commerce regulations,
obscenity laws, tax laws, postal and shipping regulations, FCC
regulations, etc.

“I would therefore caution anti-copyright debaters of a
libertarian persuasion to be very hesitant at looking at any
current market condition and categorically asserting that any
particular factor, such as copyright, is the final cause of any
particular market end state, even though–in Sam’s observation
that most of that which is published today is for the first
time–I believe Sam has, in fact, shown a final cause which
destroys his own praxeological case.

“I would also caution anti-copyright libertarians against
assuming their conclusion in using anti-monopoly and ‘privilege’
rhetoric against copyright. Arguments against ‘monopoly
privilege’ in the exclusive ownership of a logos ignore the
fundamental difference between all property rights, which are
monopolistic in the sense of being held exclusively, and monopoly
practices, which are invasive.

“Moreover, that printing presses and state grants of
copyright protection arose at the same time in history is not
conclusive evidence that the state was not protecting that which
would be considered property in a stateless society anyway. It
is only circumstantial evidence of two events coinciding–a
‘coincidence.’ The same ‘argument from coincidence’ could be
used against any property right–proper or not–arising from new
technology under current state law. Since the state claims the
airwaves as ‘public property’ which as a ‘scarce resource’ is
licensed ‘in the public interest,’ are we likewise–by the
argument from coincidence–supposed to conclude that broadcast
frequencies are not potential property?

“But let me focus on Sam’s contention, at the foundation of
his economic case, that for Big Publishers, ‘royalties are a
fraction of one percent of multi-million press runs.’

“It just ain’t so. Let’s take, as an example, the 1986
Avon edition of my novel, THE RAINBOW CADENZA. The raw
manufacturing cost of each book–typesetting, printing, and
binding–was roughly $0.60. My royalty was 8% off a cover price
of $3.50. This is a royalty of $0.28 per book, or about 47%
added to publisher’s cost over manufacturing. Hardly negligible,
Sam.

“This is a base cost figure before they start figuring in
editorial salaries, commissioning cover art, office overhead,
advertising–all of which are start-up costs for an original
edition of a book in addition to buying ‘rights’ from the
author–before then calculating in markups to wholesalers,
shipping costs, percentage of returns, etc.

“Now, consider that without copyright protection–statist or
otherwise–four days after a book starts selling well (that’s all
it takes to manufacture and distribute an ‘instant book’) any
reprint publisher could come out with its own competing edition
of a book–at a huge discount since this publisher wouldn’t have
to pay any of the start-up costs: royalties, editorial salaries,
typesetting costs, commissioning cover art–anything other than
pure manufacturing and distributing costs. I expect that the
competitor’s copy edition could be put on the market for about
half the price of the original edition. The first publisher
would be stuck with all the risk and startup costs, then be
undersold by half by a competitor’s edition.

“In purely economic terms, what publisher would risk
investing in publishing a book knowing that if he or she hits it
lucky with a book anyone actually wants, everyone else will get a
much-lower-risk return on investment?

“The publishing industry would quickly become a game with
One Rule: Let George Do It. If you think a book might make
money, reject it. With luck, someone else (somebody real stupid)
will take the risk of publishing it first, and you can clean up
by knocking off a cheap reprint after it’s been developed and
market-tested at your competitor’s expense.

“Thus, all economic incentives would shift from being first
on the market with a product, to being second. Original
publishing would cease to be a profitable market at all. If, in
a market with copyrights, Sam sees the great majority of
publishing being first-time, and a much smaller amount being
reprint, then this statistical distribution is an effect of the
existence of copyright in the marketplace to begin with. Remove
this causative factor, making reprint publishing more profitable
than start-up publishing, and value-free deductive logic leads
directly to the conclusion that the reverse would be true:
reprint would be the rule, and original printing would be the
exception.

“This structure of publishing in a copyright-free market
would be that of a regressive industry, at first largely
parasitic on works created before the abolition of copyright
(unless we assume copyright never to have existed at all, in
which instance there is a case to be made that publishing never
would have become an industry at all) and later dependent for its
product on those persons not at all motivated by the desire to
make a livelihood out of authoring. What would be left to be
published would be the works of hobbyists, dilettantes,
psychological ‘flashers,’ and preachers. Perhaps this might
leave something worthwhile to be published–a work occasionally
by a J.R.R. Tolkien–but it would certainly never have produced a
Robert A. Heinlein, who started writing to pay off a mortgage.
Even the Tolkien case is questionable, considering how offended
he was that Ace Books took advantage of the accidental omission
of copyright on THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS to reprint
his works without his permission.

“Thus, beginning by denying the Law of Identity and the
specific nature of that which is being written and published, Sam
ends by eliminating both authorhood qua work and publishing qua
industry. Just as C.S. Lewis demonstrated how denying the
existence of objective referents for standards of subjective-
valuation would logically result in the Abolition of Man, the
logic of praxeology demonstrates how denying the objective
identity of a Created Work would logically result in the
Abolition of Creative Industry.

“And if, as Sam states, that ‘both market human action and
morality arise from the same Natural Law,’ then my praxeological
analysis should give one a pretty clear indication that my case
that copyright is protection of natural rights in logo-property
(primarily a metaphysical, rather than moral, case, since I’m
arguing that logoright derives from the Law of Identity) follows
as well.”

“An Ill-Tempered Conclusion”

Now. If after all this you still think a logos can’t be
property because it isn’t a “scarce economic good,” or if you
think creation isn’t essential to the origin of property–then
compose your own damn symphonies, write your own damn novels,
invent your own damn computer–much less figure out how to
program it–design your own damn houses, film your own damn
movies, and come up with the damned recipe for bread on your own,
–because a person who makes his or her living by creating a
logos for license isn’t going to work for free.

If logorights aren’t recognized as property, a Creator of a
logos is left with two choices: limit the circulation of the
logos only to those who sign contracts agreeing not to copy it–
and pray that someone doesn’t accidentally leave a copy
unprotected for an hour in the vicinity of a Xerox machine or
camera–or produce only the least-labor-intensive sort of logos
that can be quickly exploited in the time before someone can
undersell the licensed product by reproducing its logos without
having to pay royalties.

If you don’t think a logos is a scarce good, you’ll find out
how scarce it is damned quickly if you declare open season on
ripping them off.

And, yes. I did say “rip off.” Logorights are property
rights–and they are entitled to the same respect and protection
as property rights in land, butter, guns, cars, radio
frequencies, and gold that I have heard property rights advocates
defending endlessly.

Just as the communist anarchist argues that it is only the
monopolistic grants of privilege from the State that makes
property itself possible, so the anarchist opponent of copyright
has been arguing that it has been only the monopolistic grant of
protection from the State that makes copyright possible. Both
are making the same error.

If anything, the State is constantly violating logorights by
imposing through fiat the State’s own copyright laws on logoright
owners.

And that is why, as a propertarian anarchist, I proudly
declare that this essay is my property–herein claimed by giving
you notice that this article is

Logoright (L) 1983, 1989 by J. Neil Schulman

and anyone who attempts to violate my property rights in this
logos should expect to hear from the legal firm of Smith &
Wesson.
#

LOGORIGHT NOTICE

Logoright (L) 1983, 1989 by J. Neil Schulman

The logos in this Work is its material identity, an “information
object,” separate from the materials upon which it may be imposed
or observed, which has been created as a unique structured
artifact by its author’s labors. Since each artifact resulting
from the labor of a person is, by natural right, by decency, and
by common law, beyond all limitations imposed by sovereign force,
the morally claimable property of that being, each use of that
property must be authorized by its owner, and all unauthorized
uses of it are tresspasses of a person’s natural rights and a
violation of that person’s spirit.

The Logoright notice is an explicit marking of that object to
declare to all that it is owned.

This Work is licensed for reading purposes only. All other
rights and uses, including the right to make copies, are reserved
to its Owner.


My comment just posted on “IP: The Objectivists Strike Back!” at http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?limit=0&chunk=0&perm=593056000000002117

The reason I argue that “any conceptually identifiable ‘thing’ is ownable” — although I never put it that way — is that without identity differentiating things nothing could be ownable.

The reason that creation is the beginning of the moral case for property rights is that without creation nothing other than brute-force possession defines ownership.

As for “the obvious conundrum of people coming up with the same idea” that is just one of the questions I answered 25 years ago in my essay “Informational Property: Logorights,” newly available at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2009/12/classic-j-neil-informational-property-logorights/.

“Creation is a Person’s action which imposes that Person’s logos on something which exists to give that thing a unique identity it did not previously have. … If the respondent succeeds in demonstrating independent creation, then the petitioner’s original “creation” wasn’t inherently improbable, therefore questionable as a unique creation — and therefore possibly not property at all — for either of them.”

Another comment I just posted on “IP: The Objectivists Strike Back!” at http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?limit=0&chunk=0&perm=593056000000002117

“I would also caution anti-copyright libertarians against assuming their conclusion in using anti-monopoly and ‘privilege’ rhetoric against copyright. Arguments against ‘monopoly privilege’ in the exclusive ownership of a logos ignore the fundamental difference between all property rights, which are monopolistic in the sense of being held exclusively, and monopoly practices, which are invasive.” –J. Neil Schulman, “Informational Property — Logorights”, at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2009/12/classic-j-neil-informational-property-logorights/

My comment posted on the Austrian Economics Blog at http://austrianeconomicsblog.com/4554/ip-the-objectivists-strike-back/

There’s another side to this argument in my article “Informational Property — Logorights,” newly reposted at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2009/12/classic-j-neil-informational-property-logorights/

No one who takes property rights seriously can afford to dismiss property rights in information objects without refuting the proofs and the detailed discussion of objections I raise in this article.

Stephan Kinsella has been claiming since 1996 that he’s done so. Read it for yourself and decide whether you agree with me that he hasn’t.

From my replies to Stephan Kinsella at Query for Schulman on Patents and Logorights

I use a screenwriting program called “Movie Magic Screenwriter.” It’s not ethereal; it’s loaded on the same computer I’m writing this from, This currently existing commercial software software package can compare any two scripts and highlight the overlaps and differences between them. No speculation is involved. No counterfactuals. It merely uses a process memorialized in the Sesame Street song “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.” Only it can count higher than two.

If two scripts were written independently and correlate as the same (yes, a hypothetical), then neither one was original.

But in the real world, if you encounter this, what has happened is plagiarism, even if of an author lost to antiquity.

Creation requires something unique — a one-up. If two inventors independently come up with the same “invention,” the question arises whether what they did was not invention but discovery. The movie Flash of Genius is a great exposition of a real-life patent case which explains the process of correlation (and differentiation) between two claimants.

There is only one Atlas Shrugged.

There is only one A Christmas Carol.

There is only one The Rainbow Cadenza.

The processes of differentiation and correlation can prove whether or not they are unique creations. And if they are unique creations, they are the exclusive property of their creator.

“If the state exists, my IP claims however evaporate with the state, as do my claims to social security and medicare.”

Social Security and Medicare are state payments. Transfer of money taken by force from taxpapers.

My ownership of the things I’ve written are private property independent of the State and its copyright laws. I don’t own them because of a grant of privilege from the State. I own them because I made them and they’re mine by natural law and natural right. I took them from no one else. Their existence is dependent on one one but me. They would not exist except for my creating them.

According to Stephan Kinsella, writers make nothing and own nothing.

According to Stephan Kinsella composers make nothing and own nothing.

According to Stephan Kinsella architects make nothing and own nothing.

According to Stephan Kinsella digital filmmakers make nothing and own nothing.

According to Stephan Kinsella digital graphic artists make nothing and own nothing.

According to Stephan Kinsella Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, John Lennon, Charles Dickens, Robert Heinlein, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Ayn Rand, L. Neil Smith, and me made nothing and deserved to own nothing.

This is so ridiculous that I am ashamed that I waste my time responding to it. It is absurd and self-annihilating nonsense and those who believe it if they put this vile nonsense into effect kill the geese who lay the golden eggs — from a story by Aesop, who according to Stephan Kinsella made nothing and deserved to live as a slave.

I advocate the substitution of statist law with market-derived law, a position I have advocated since the mid 1970′s. So do I advocate the abolition of statist copyright and patent law? Absolutely — when the state’s tyrannical edicts are replaced by liberty.

All statist protection of property rights is flawed — and copyright law, patent law, and trademark law is as flawed as statist protection of any other “property” rights which involve violation of others’ natural rights.

All propery rights questions involve defining boundaries. Again, covered in my original article.

If I shine a flashlight on your land, am I committing photonic trespass? What if my flashlight triggers your burglar alarm and the ADT agents shoot you thinking it’s an intruder?

If I grow peanuts and peanut dust blows into your child’s bedroom and sickens your child who has a severe peanut allergy?

There is no property right that can’t generate extreme cases.

What I think you have most failed to understand in my defense of logorights is how high a bar logorights theory sets for a claim of exclusive ownership. Yes, my theory requires a proof of uniqueness before a property right can be claimed. Failing that standard there is no rightful claim of property right.

Stephen King’s new novel, 11/22/63, is about a time-traveling teacher who goes back in time to stop the JFK assassination.

Is his plot an infringement of my own Twilight Zone script, “Profile in Silver”?

The burden would be on my to prove that it would have been impossible for Stephen King to come up with that plot if “Profile in Silver” hadn’t been broadcast in CBS prime time, first. If I can’t, there’s no violation of my rights.

But if Stephen King has in his novel identical characters and story elements to my writing so numerous as to defy common sense for independent creation, then he’s committed plagiarism and he’s violated my rights. That’s common sense.

By the way, the only people who say that “nothing is original” are people who don’t trust their own powers of creation. That statement is the hallmark of the quitter.

Do you own a house with a county-issued deed, Kinsella? If you do, is the statist issued deed sufficient reason for you to abandon your property?

How about your car? You can’t own it without DMV permission in many states. Ooops. Statist laws. No property rights. Give me your car!

How about your kids? Agree to keep them in school so the county doesn’t arrest you for violation of truancy laws and place your kid in a state home? Or divorced and got a custody arrangement issued by a judge? Ooops! Not your kids anymore unless a statist judge grants permission.

There are no private property rights not in effect without permission of the State. You expect me to abandon my rights because the state actually allows me to keep some of my own property?

You’re not stupid. You’re not evil. You’re not trying to abolish all property rights. You’re merely mired in a three-century old Lockean paradigm of property rights that is so reductionist that it is ludicrous.












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A Shadow on the Second Amendment


I’m reprinting this for a second time here from the July 15, 2009 issue of The New Gun Week.

Gabrielle Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords

The assassination attempt made yesterday on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ) is exactly the sort of politically-motivated violence I discussed in my Gun Week guest editorial published 18 months ago. I contemplated that the target would be President Obama. That’s it’s a moderate Democratic Party Jewish Congresswoman in Arizona doesn’t change my point: that there are always what I called “demented clowns” who attach themselves to any cause, and whose identification with that cause can damage it, perhaps irreparably.

Jared Lee Loughner’s ravings on YouTube against fiat money will be used to dismiss as demented anyone who now advocates gold and silver as money, and charges the Federal Reserve to be a criminal fraud that dwarfs anything done by Bernard Madoff.

His choosing a politician who voted to expand the powers of the federal government — and who deserved a Tea Party challenge for that reason — gives sympathy to those who advocate for greater government control over our lives.

There is a message here that must be taken from it: bad things done in the name in a good cause must not be used to dismiss the rightness of the cause.

For murdering nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, and five others, may Jared Lee Loughner swiftly get a needle in his arm that delivers him to Hell.

– JNS, January 9, 2011

Anybody old enough remembers 1968 as the year the Second Amendment went into a coma.

Five years earlier, November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire in Dallas.

Then, April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by rifle fire in Memphis.

Two months after King’s murder, June 5th, 1968, after celebrating victory in the California Democratic Presidential Primary, President Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated with a handgun at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A.

Twenty weeks after the second Kennedy murder, the Gun Control Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson October 22nd, 1968, imposed federal gun controls on the sale or transfer of common firearms. Now any firearm crossing state lines had to be transferred or sold only through a federally licensed firearms dealer and records kept on buyers.

Why this history lesson?

Ever since June 26th, 2008, when the Supreme Court in its Heller decision recognized the Second Amendment as constitutionally enshrining an individual right to keep and bear arms, there’s been guarded optimism among Second Amendment proponents that a slow-and-steady march toward extinction of our rights had finally been reversed. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, which in its 1996 decision HICKMAN v. BLOCK wrote “[i]t is clear that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective rather than an individual right,” reversed itself on the basis of Heller and on April 20th in NORDYKE v. KING not only recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right but incorporated it through the 14th Amendment as one that must be recognized by state and local governments. On June 2nd the Seventh Circuit reached an opposite conclusion in NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA v. CITY OF CHICAGO, increasing likelihood the Supreme Court will have to decide between them.

But the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling was 5-4, and if the Court shifts to an anti-Second Amendment make-up, Heller could be short-lived.

Second Amendment politics is therefore still critical and politically motivated murders using firearms – particularly those identified with conservative causes – could once again swing the balance of public opinion against the Second Amendment.

We’ve had two political murders identified with conservative causes – both using firearms – within as many weeks.

On May 31st anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, using a handgun, fatally shot George R. Tiller, MD, while Dr. Tiller was handing out prayer books during services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder is reported to have been a member of the “anti-government Freemen Militia” in Topeka, and a 2005 court ruling in a custody case identified him as schizophrenic. Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita was one of only three clinics nationwide performing late-term abortions. It wasn’t the first time Dr. Tiller had been a shooting victim. On August 19th, 1993, using a handgun, anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon had shot Dr. Tiller in both arms.

Ten days after the church shooting, June 10th, James von Brunn carried a .22 rifle into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and shot to death African-American security guard, Stephen T. Johns. Motive? FBI Agent Richard Farnsworth filed a sworn affidavit that he found a handwritten note in von Brunn’s car that reads, “You want my weapons – this is how you’ll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews.”

Clearly both Roeder and von Brunn identified with conservative causes. The Right to Life movement is right wing, as are “anti-government militias.” Not only did von Brunn worry about losing his firearms but in 1981 he’d pulled a sawed-off shotgun at Federal Reserve headquarters, threatening to take the Board hostage. As author, myself, of a novel in which the Federal Reserve causes a U.S. economic meltdown – a point of agreement between this particular right-wing Jew and this particular right-wing neo-Nazi — there’s no question for me that right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are engaging in a disgustingly dishonest game of spin when they try to convince their listeners that James von Brunn’s Nazi affections are left-wing, and his anti-Semitism no worse than President Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s.

As my fellow libertarian novelist, Brad Linaweaver, pointed out to me, the Nazi Party in 1930’s Germany came to power by fusing left-wing economics with right-wing nationalism.

And as far as I know, the only thing the Reverend Wright has ever shot off is his mouth.

The issue is not whether Roeder or von Brunn were hateful and mentally unbalanced. Of course they were. Neither one could have passed a firearms background check, particularly the convicted felon, James von Brunn.

Nor is it reasonably deniable that there are as many hateful and mentally unbalanced individuals on the hard left. Mega-deaths achieved not only by Nazis but Communists – plus endless ethnically and religiously motivated killings in Ulster, Rwanda, and Sarajevo – leave few political movements free of bloody hands.

Unlike much of the rest of the world violence is still the exception rather than the norm in the struggle for American political change. But no “American exceptionalism” can shield us from political violence if we’re not as vigilant in purging the haters who join our causes as we are in pursuing our love of those values which make our lives fruitful, free, and just.

Silent tolerance of bigots and haters is an intolerable danger to our just causes – particularly when one of those causes is the deterrence to despotism the Framers intended widespread private firearms to be. Our movement has a good track record in rooting out and shunning extremists, but that’s not good enough. We also need to admit openly that evil men do walk among us, and to tell the pundits who claim to educate us that that lying in defense of our rights is no virtue.

Most importantly, we need to remain civil in disputes with our opponents, even while we fortify our backbones with steel.

The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”

It’s a lesson I learned in 1994.

While promoting my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns on the Chuck Baker radio show in Colorado Springs in August, 1994, I implored listeners to burn up Congress’s phone lines to stop passage of the unconstitutional Federal Assault Weapon Bill.

One listener was Francisco Martin Duran, who was so worked up by our feverish rhetoric that he travelled to Washington D.C. and on October 29th, 1994 opened fire with his SKS semi-auto rifle on the White House lawn. Duran was convicted of trying to assassinate President Clinton and sentenced to 40 years. Like Roeder, Duran was mentally unbalanced. Like von Brunn he had a criminal record.

Knowing that, I still now temper my rhetoric whenever I’m at a microphone.

I have as many policy differences with President Obama as anyone else in the conservative or libertarian movements, particularly with economic policies. Nonetheless I voted for Obama over the slightly-more centrist John McCain. I saw Obama’s election as an opportunity to show the world once-and-for-all that America had moved beyond its sad history of race slavery and Jim Crow. It hurts me when I receive email from a conservative friend with an animated cartoon of a shucking-and-jiving dancing Obama that easily could come from the KKK.

It frightens me when Sean Hannity churns listeners by endless harping on the President’s guilt-by-association with a 1960’s anti-Vietnam-War terrorist and oppression-legacy black minister, or calling the President’s quest for an end to violence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs “selling out Israel.”

How can Hannity claim to be fair-and-balanced when he refuses to inform his listeners that President Barack Hussein Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Israel Emanuel, is an observant Jew whose father fought with the Irgun underground in the founding of Israel and, himself, served as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf war of 1991?

I have no problem with anyone opposing any Obama policies that we consider compromise our founding principles or weaken our rights.

But neither can we Second Amendment supporters tolerate extreme rhetoric directed at a President certified as achieving electoral victory who’s taken the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The remedy provided by the Constitution, should he fail to live up to that oath, is impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate – not a knife on the floor of the Senate or rifle fire aimed at a presidential motorcade.

God help us if another demented clown — even remotely associated with any of our causes — shoots at the first black President of the United States.

I do not believe the Second Amendment could survive it.

It’s not like change can’t be inspired by civilized rhetoric.

Read Thomas Jefferson’s harshest summation about King George III in the Declaration of Independence:

“A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Jefferson didn’t even need to drop the F-bomb.

–J. Neil Schulman

Pahrump, NV

J. Neil Schulman is author of the book, Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns, of which Charlton Heston said, “Mr. Schulman’s book is the most cogent explanation of the gun issue I have yet read. He presents the assault on the Second Amendment in frighteningly clear terms. Even the extremists who would ban firearms will learn from his lucid prose.”

This article is Copyright © 2009 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.


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The Repossessed

“The Repossessed” was first performed in a dramatized reading on February 26, 1984 before the Libertarian Supper Club of Los Angeles under the title “The Psychopath.” It first appeared in its current form in Adventures in the Twilight Zone (DAW Books, 1995), edited by Carol Serling, and in my 1999 book, Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories.

Book Cover: Nasty, Brutish,, and Short Stories

He did not know until he found himself there Tuesday morning —
half past six, as he pushed aside a leather sleeve to check his
watch — that it was going to happen again. But here he was once
more, this time sitting on a motorcycle parked in front of an
expensive Spanish-style house on a quiet Beverly Hills street,
and he knew there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Nor, if
he was perfectly honest with himself, did he have any strong
desire to prevent it. But that was part of the pattern, too.

Two things were different. Usually there was only one
person to watch — and it had always been someone he knew. This
time, however, there were two — and he did not recognize either of
them.

He watched them from behind a parked car, several houses
down and across the street. Both were men, large and well-
muscled. One was clean-shaven in his mid-forties, wearing a suit
and tie. The other, ten-or-so years younger, had long hair with
a beard, and was dressed in jeans and red work shirt. Though
they were only a few hundred feet away from him, they had no idea
that he was here, watching them. But then that didn’t mean
anything. They never knew.

When talking about what happened in these encounters —
sometimes to his wife, sometimes to the police, sometimes to one
of his colleagues at U.C.L.A. — he had described the feeling as a
lot like waking up with amnesia. He knew where he was, what he
was doing, and how he was feeling — but that was all he knew. He
recalled nothing before his appearance on the scene — nothing of
who he was or how he had got there.

Perhaps as a necessary defense mechanism against being
present at the scene at all, he had become completely detached
during his own actions.

So here he found himself, watching the two men as they
looked around furtively then — trying one key after another —
attempted to break into a recent-model Mercedes Benz parked in
the driveway of a Tudor house.

Then he found himself kicking the motorcycle beneath him
into life and speeding down the street. He found riding the
motorcycle exhilarating, having no memory of ever having ridden a
motorcycle before.

Pulling the motorcycle into the driveway to block the two
men, he dropped the kickstand and dismounted casually. Neither
of the two men made any attempt to escape. Nor did either of
them seem to be at all afraid. Perhaps they knew him, he
considered. That would have been true to the pattern; often they
did.

The older man wearing the suit said, “Good morning,” and
began reaching toward his inside jacket pocket.

Immediately — and it was always at this precise moment that
he was the most detached — he found himself dropping into a crouch
behind the motorcycle and drawing a Glock 23 semi-automatic
pistol.

The older man said, “Relax, I’m just — ”

But he wasn’t paying any attention. He knew he wanted them
dead. That was all there was to it.

Taking aim on the two men, he quickly shot each of them — the
younger man in his chest, the older man in his stomach.

Even through their contortions of pain, he could see
astonishment on the two men’s faces as they crumpled to the
blacktop in front of the Mercedes.

He found himself walking calmly over to their fallen,
bleeding bodies while lights began coming on inside the Tudor
house. But he did not care whether anybody was watching. He
aimed his pistol once again and carefully shot each of the men in
the head.

He awoke suddenly, in a cold sweat as usual.

It always took a few seconds, after these dreams, to
reorient himself. He was home, in bed. Everything was all
right. He hadn’t even awakened Michele this time; she was still
asleep, next to him.

Two emotions flooded him immediately. The first was an
oppressive guilt for having just killed two men in cold blood.
The second was an immense relief: he had been at home asleep,
dreaming. He hadn’t shot anybody.

He reached for the spiral notebook he always kept at bedside
to record his dreams, and immediately checked the digital display
on his clock radio for time and day. It was Tuesday morning —
half past six.

Michele turned over and opened one eye. “Jerry?” she said.

“Go back to sleep,” he told her, writing down the day and
time in his notebook.

“Not another one?”

“Go back to sleep, honey. You don’t have to be up for
another hour.”

Michele brushed blond hair off her face and sat up suddenly.
“Jerry! Who — ?”

“Nobody we know,” he said. “I don’t even know why I was
there this time. Maybe this one was only a nightmare.”

“Oh, thank God,” Michele said.

“Go back to sleep,” he said once again. “I want to get this
down while it’s still fresh. You can read it at breakfast.”

But he had said this only out of habit. Neither of them had
ever managed to fall asleep again after one of his dreams.

Michele adjusted the pillow behind her and pulled up the
strap on her nightgown. “Jerry, who was it this time?”

He sighed. “A pair of car thieves,” he said. “They were
shot by some guy on a motorcycle.”

“You were the man on the motorcycle?”

Jerry nodded, half distracted already; he was busy writing
it all down.

For maybe the fiftieth time since they’d been married,
Michele asked, “Why are you always the killer?”

Jerry continued writing. “I wish I knew,” he said. “I wish
to God I knew.”

#

The first of these “dreams” had been when Jerry Keller was
thirteen, growing up in Natick, a town eighteen miles west
southwest of Boston — a small town as only Massachusetts can breed
them. A town which in the early sixties had still not recovered
from the dwindling of its manufacturing industries and would not
reap the benefits of the computer industry until the next decade.
The town whose Army Laboratories had produced K-rations and Space
Food Sticks. The town whose favorite son was a local boy who
played baseball for the Washington Senators. A town with more
banks than almost anything else — and more churches than banks.

A town that wasn’t expecting murder and didn’t believe it
when it happened.

The boy who had been killed — Billy White — had been from a
working-class family that had lived in the town for over a
century. Perhaps his parents were the only ones who truly
mourned him; Billy’s ninth-grade teachers at Coolidge Junior High
School knew him as a troublemaker and a terror to the younger
boys. He had been suspended from school once for beating
up a seventh-grader in the school cafeteria. But what school
officials never learned until after Billy’s death was that the
seventh-grader he had beat up had been a holdout from Billy’s
protection racket which had fifteen other boys forking over their
lunch money.

Jerry had been one of the fifteen.

It had happened on a school day one January while Jerry had
been home sick with the flu. Jerry had been asleep, around eight
a.m., when he found himself — in a dream as realistic as his
waking hours — behind the wheel of a blue station wagon driving
along Cottage Street. Seeing Billy White on the side of the
street walking to school, Jerry had found himself twisting the
wheel and accelerating directly toward Billy White. The
speedometer read close to fifty miles an hour when he hit.

Billy’s body broke like a doll’s as it was tossed in an arc
over the wagon, and landed in a heap on the street. The station
wagon continued speeding off … and Jerry Keller had awakened in
a cold sweat, alone in the house.

His mother had come home from the bank, where she worked as a
teller, at her usual four o’clock, and had told Jerry that she’d
heard at the bank that his schoolmate, Billy White, had been
killed on his way to school that morning by a hit-and-run driver.

Jerry had told his mother the dream he’d had that morning —
including the information that it was a blue station wagon which
had run Billy down — but she didn’t take it seriously; there had
been no witnesses and nobody knew what sort of car had done it.

Later that evening, Jerry repeated the story for his father
just before the family turned on Eyewitness News to hear that
Natick police had identified the hit-and-run vehicle as a blue
Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon — owned by a man with
several previous arrests for drunk driving.

But Jerry knew that the driver had not been drunk behind the
wheel — and that the car had been aimed at Billy White
deliberately.

Though his parents eventually came to believe that through
some clairvoyance Jerry had witnessed his schoolmate’s death,
neither of them could accept Jerry’s conviction that the boy had
been run down deliberately, and Jerry’s father forbade him to go
to the police with his story.

The incident might have been forgotten entirely had not —
six years later in Vietnam — Private Jerry Keller dreamed the
fragging of his lieutenant through the eyes of some fellow
private, only to be awakened with the news that Lieutenant Hall
had been killed during the night by an enemy fragmentation
grenade.

Three years after that, psychology undergraduate Jerry
Keller — asleep in his dorm room one midnight — had been inside the
heroin addict who mugged and stabbed to death one of Jerry’s
Columbia University professors. He remembered feeling rage
against Professor Simon, even after he turned over his wallet,
and a sudden, definite desire to see this smug motherfucker dead.

And U.S.C. doctoral candidate Jerry Keller had been
unconscious in his car, after being rear-ended one night on the
transition road from the San Diego to the Long Beach Freeway,
when the next encounter had taken place. Once again, the murder
weapon was an automobile; but this time when Jerry awoke — in Long
Beach Memorial Hospital — he felt none of his usual disgust for
the killer who had taken possession of his unconscious mind.

This time, the murderer was a union official taking the exit
a minute or so after Jerry’s accident. The murder victim was not
the driver of the pick-up truck that had rear-ended Jerry, but
the drunk who — wandering across a freeway exit ramp at eleven
p.m. — had caused Jerry to slam on his brakes.

Jerry knew only this about the union leader’s motives: the
drunk standing on the side of the road looked a lot like a scab.

The frequency of the dreams had accelerated after that.
There had been fourteen of them in the last five years. Until
these car thieves, though — if it turned out the incident had
actually happened — the pattern had always been the same.

The murder victim was always someone Jerry had seen at least
once — a loan officer at the bank where Jerry and Michele had
their checking account, a famed psychiatrist lecturing on the
benefits of electroshock therapy at a symposium Jerry was
attending, a third-grade teacher at his son’s school whom Jerry
had met at a P.T.A. meeting.

The murderer — whenever he or she could be found — had always
turned out to be someone familiar with violence from the wrong
side.

And Jerry had always felt the killer’s emotions, seen
everything from the killer’s point of view. He found himself
inside the killer only moments before the crime, never had access
to any other memories the killer had, and could never see
anything not seen by the killer at the time.

Four years earlier, Jerry had decided to begin relating
these dreams to the police.

Sergeant David Englander, a homicide detective with the Los
Angeles Police Department, at first had agreed to see Jerry only
because the man making these claims to impossible knowledge was a
respected psychology professor from U.C.L.A. But since that
initial meeting, Jerry had provided information that had led
police to killers in five cases — and in two of them, information
Jerry provided had caused police to reclassify as homicides what
had previously been thought accidental deaths.

Of course, news of his abilities had eventually leaked out
to the press, and for a time Jerry had been besieged with
phone calls from police departments all over the world for help
with unsolved murders. Over and over again, Jerry had calmly
explained that he had no abilities of use in investigating any
murder which he had not dreamed about, and he had no way to make
himself a hidden witness every time somebody decided to knock off
somebody else.

The only lasting significance of this press coverage was the
tag which a national weekly tabloid had provided Jerry — and which
colleagues in the psychology department used to rag him during
faculty meetings. A clever headline writer — looking for a
capsule term that would describe a psychology professor who could
telepathically enter the minds of killers — had dubbed Jerry “the
Psychopathic Keller.”

He wished sometimes that he could witness the murder of that
headline writer; to Jerry’s mild regret, the man had remained
unmurdered and in perfect health.

#

That morning, after Michele had left to drop the kids at
school on her way to work, Jerry phoned Sergeant Englander.
Thrown into close proximity over a long period of time, the two
men had become friends. “I’ve had another one, David,” Jerry
began his call.

“Who, when, and where?” Englander asked.

“A motorcyclist shooting two car thieves grabbing a
Mercedes, this morning at six-thirty,” Jerry said, “on a
residential street in Beverly Hills.”

“Jesus Christ,” Jerry heard Englander say softly.

Jerry’s heart sank as whatever hopes he had of this latest
one being just an ordinary nightmare faded away. “You’ve got
one?”

“Can you drive over to my office?”

“No, I can’t. My — ”

“You have classes today?” Englander interrupted him.

“No,” Jerry said. “But I’ve got office hours for students
today between ten and noon. And my — ”

“Expect me at your office at noon, Jerry,” Englander said.
“I’ll buy you lunch.”

“For Chrissake, David,” Jerry said, “what was it?”

“Haven’t you turned on a TV or radio this morning?”
Englander asked.

“No,” Jerry said. “The dream woke me at six-thirty so I
shut my clock radio off before it went on.”

Jerry could hear Englander sigh over the phone. “At six-
thirty this morning, Ray Laughlin, a five-year California Highway
Patrol motorcycle officer, was — for some unknown reason — in
Beverly Hills. He shot and killed two collection agents taking
back a Mercedes.”

Jerry couldn’t manage to say anything.

“Yeah,” Englander said, and hung up.

#

“‘Psychopath,’ Ms. Webster,” Jerry told the red-haired grad
student sitting across the desk from him, with her legs
provocatively situated, “is not the favored term anymore.
‘Sociopath’ is the preferred word nowadays. Of course the media
have given me a personal reason for disliking the older term.”

Jeanette Webster barely smiled. “But, Dr. Keller,” she
objected, “isn’t the real question whether either term has a
scientifically verifiable meaning? Isn’t psychopath — or
sociopath, if you prefer — a useful word to describe a person who
has never internalized society’s taboos against killing?”

“I don’t see that as a question at all,” Keller said, “if by
‘scientifically verifiable’ you mean a proposition you can test
in the laboratory. ‘Conditioning’ is a word we can test — either
a rat will or won’t, with predictable regularity, learn a maze
given the proper reinforcement. I know of no way to test for
behavior which — ultimately — is disdained when performed by
private individuals for personal reasons, but which is perfectly
acceptable throughout most of the world when performed by that
same individual in an official capacity.”

“Isn’t that a rather value-laden viewpoint?” Jeanette asked.

“Is it?” Keller shot back. “I give you as example the
federal agents who raided the Branch Davidians at Waco. The
original Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents opened fire first
on a house containing children. The FBI took over the operation
and proceeded to torture these same children with the amplified
sounds of rabbits being killed and endless repetitions of Nancy
Sinatra’s song ‘These Boots are Made For Walkin” — this last
named is torture above and beyond the call of duty. Finally,
either by deliberate intent or by criminal negligence, the tanks
being used to insert CS gas into the house sparked the fire that
destroyed them all. Both the governments’ agents and the so-
called sociopath see their acts as justified — and consequently,
feel no remorse about them. Both of them see themselves as the
disinterested agents of forces outside their control. Convince
me — aside from our understandable personal preference that people
shouldn’t randomly kill one another — that there is any observable
difference between the act of the official killer and the private
killer, and I’ll consider ‘psychopath’ or ‘sociopath’ a useful
scientific term.”

Keller looked up and saw a large man in a somewhat worn suit
standing in his doorway. He rose, ending the interview. “I’d
like to see if you can answer my objections in your next paper,”
Keller told his student.

Jeanette Webster stood up, nodding, grabbed her booksack,
and left.

Sergeant Englander walked into the office.

“How does The Source appeal to you?” the Detective asked
Jerry.

“Okay,” Keller said. “But you’re eating my sprouts.”

#

They started discussing the case while walking across
U.C.L.A’s lush Westwood campus to the parking lot.

“Jerry, this one just doesn’t make any sense,” Englander
said. “We’re not talking about a corrupt cop on the take from a
car-theft ring. Everyone who knows Laughlin says he’s a Boy
Scout. That’s not just a figure of speech; the guy’s a Boy Scout
troop leader. The two men he shot, they check out clean, too.”

Jerry shrugged. “What does Laughlin say?”

“He doesn’t remember anything after going on duty. Says he
has no idea how he even got to Beverly Hills.”

“All I know, David,” Jerry repeated, “is that it was
deliberate. I know. I always know.”

“Couldn’t you be mistaken for once?” Englander asked. “The
way I had it figured, Laughlin follows these two guys for some
reason and sees them breaking into a car — doesn’t know they’re
repo’ing it. One of the repo’ agents starts reaching for his
I.D., Laughlin thinks he’s going for a gun, and shoots without
thinking. Possible?”

Jerry shook his head. “David, I know the desire he felt —
the determination to kill. And — if you don’t want to go by
feelings — I saw him walk over to them while they were on the
ground and shoot each of them in the head.”

“Christ.” Englander sighed. “That’s what one of the
neighbors said, too. But why?”

“You know I never know why,” Jerry said. “I’m in there — God
only knows how or why — I tell you what I feel and what I see.
That’s all.”

“Yeah,” Englander said.

They came to the visitor’s section of the parking lot.
“Where’s your car?” Jerry asked.

“Right over there,” Englander said, pointing to an unmarked
Dodge. “But can we take your Porsche? I love riding in those
things.”

“I don’t have it anymore,” Jerry said. “I tried telling you
on the phone this morning. I got four weeks behind on the loan
payment and the bank repossessed it last week.”

Sergeant Englander looked at Keller carefully. “That’s the
psychic link we’ve been looking for!”

Keller looked startled. “What do you — ”

Englander rushed on. “Is it possible these were the same
agents who took your car?”

“I suppose it’s possible,” Jerry said slowly. “It would
make sense. I was wondering why this one didn’t seem to fit into
the pattern. Yes. Yes, now that I think about it they would
have to be.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Sergeant Englander shook his head
ruefully. Then he thought another moment, glanced over to his
Dodge, and said, “Listen, instead of driving over to The Source
for lunch, how does walking over to The Good Earth sound to you?”

“Okay,” Keller said. “But you’re eating my sprouts.”

#

It wasn’t until the next morning at half past six, while he
was shaving, that Sergeant Englander thought it was too much of a
coincidence that his friend Professor Keller had always met the
victims he saw killed — and in several cases had good reason to
resent them. Englander stopped shaving, with his old-fashioned,
straight razor poised mid-air in front of the bathroom mirror,
while he realized that he was so long coming to this conclusion
because it horrified him so much.

His horror was not caused only by the thought that a close
friend might be a cold-blooded murderer, although that was
certainly part of it. What really horrified Sergeant David
Englander was his realization that there was no means in the
legal code under which he operated — from the United States
Constitution on down to the daily operating procedures of the Los
Angeles Police Department — for investigating, indicting, trying,
or punishing a criminal who did not rely on physical means. If
Jerry could enter other people’s minds and make them commit
murder, then how on Earth could a criminal justice system which
relied entirely on witnesses and physical evidence do anything
about it?

It couldn’t, Englander concluded; and even more horrifying
was Englander’s knowledge that if Jerry Keller was able to commit
murders which society’s legal system was powerless to prevent,
that it would be the duty of Sergeant David Englander to resort
to extra-legal means to stop a mass-murderer: Sergeant David
Englander would have to become a murderer, himself.

But there were even-more-horrifying moral questions,
Englander, considered. If Jerry was asleep while he was
committing murder, then how could Jerry be considered responsible
for his own actions? And if Englander killed Jerry to prevent
him from committing further murders, wouldn’t he be killing a man
who in his own conscious mind was innocent?

Or would he have to leave out the moral question entirely,
and kill Jerry the same way — and for the same reasons — that one
shot a rabid dog?

As he stood there before his bathroom mirror, David
Englander knew that what he was contemplating was in violation of
every objective standard by which he had lived his life. He knew
that what he was considering was illegal. He knew it would be
viewed as immoral — that it might, in fact, be immoral. He knew
that there was a reasonable chance that no matter how carefully
he acted, if he killed Jerry he might be caught, tried,
convicted, and sent to the gas chamber.

Sergeant David Englander also knew that he had already
pledged his life to the protection and service of his community.
He knew that if he became utterly convinced that Jerry was a
mass-murderer, then it would be necessary for Sergeant David
Englander of the Los Angeles Police Department to set aside his
badge — and his feelings for a friend — and to execute Professor
Jerry Keller.

“You’re right, Jerry, you’re right,” Englander said aloud to
himself, as he recalled the conversation he’d overheard the day
before between Jerry Keller and his graduate student. “There
isn’t any difference between a psychopath and an executioner.”

What David Englander had failed to take into account, as he
spoke these words to his bathroom mirror, was that it was half
past six in the morning, and Jerry Keller would still be asleep.

Thus, Englander was completely taken by surprise when he
looked into his bathroom mirror and saw not his own face but
Jerry Keller’s.

Sergeant David Englander was only slightly more surprised
when he watched his right arm, living its own life, drawing his
old-fashioned straight razor directly toward his throat.

Copyright © 1994 by J. Neil Schulman. Copyright © 2010 by the J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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The Twilight Zone: “Profile in Silver”

This is excerpted from my book Profile In Silver
And Other Screenwritings
(Pulpless.Com, 1999).
– JNS

Profile in Silver Title Card
Profile in Silver Written By Card

I got the idea for “Profile in Silver” while driving to a lunch meeting with Robert Jaffe of Vista Films, the production company that was attempting to find a studio to finance All the King’s Horses. Over lunch at Hamburger Hamlet in late 1983, I pitched Rob the idea as a feature and he loved it, but aside from sharing my notes with him, nothing concrete ever came of the pitch.

I also told the idea to my friend Alan Brennert and, two years later when Alan was on staff as executive story consulant for the revived Twilight Zone, and I was living in New Jersey, Alan phoned me and asked me if I could write my script for it at under an hour’s length for the show. I said yes and Alan assigned me to write a story outline.

For the first time, I was officially employed as a Hollywood screenwriter. But I was still living 3,000 miles away, and that was a significant element in everything that followed.

“Profile in Silver” was controversial, inasmuch as nobody at that time had ever used the JFK assassination as a plot element in a TV show, or portrayed President Kennedy and his family in a fictional context. All previous portrayals of John F. Kennedy had stayed extremely close to real life, from PT-109 to The Missiles of October.

How things have changed now! Oliver Stone’s JFK portrayed the assassination from the point of view of New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, who believed in a conspiracy. Quantum Leap put us inside the body of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the series lead character, Sam Beckett, changes history by preventing Jackie Kennedy from being assassinated, also. The X-Files has the Cigarette Smoking Man assassinating JFK from an underground sewer and setting up Oswald as a patsy. And NBC’s new series Dark Skies has JFK assassinated because he’s been told the truth behind the UFO landing at Roswell. I sometimes wonder whether any of these projects could have made it past industry executives if “Profile in Silver” hadn’t been on CBS prime-time first.

Alan was concerned enough with the JFK element that I wrote two versions of the story, one with real names and history, and another version with what Alan and I called a “Greek Tycoon” approach, where the events and names were fictitious but close enough to reality that everyone would know what we were doing anyway. The Greek Tycoon had been a recent movie which had fictionalized Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis using just that approach.

I wrote the outlines and Alan submitted them to Carla Singer, who was the executive at CBS Entertainment in charge of developing The Twilight Zone before it actually aired. Carla turned it down, on the grounds that using the JFK assassination as a plot element was in bad taste. Alan told me we would try again after the show was on the air and a different CBS executive was in charge of the show, and told me to develop a second story for the show in the meantime. I did, and it became “Colorblind.”

Carla Singer turned that down, also. I was the only writer who had had any stories rejected, which caused Alan and Harlan Ellison, who was on the show as a creative consultant, to write several long memos to CBS complaining about being made to force the show into a straitjacket.

When Twilight Zone made it onto the CBS schedule, Carla Singer was replaced as overseer of the show by Tony Barr, who approved me to go to script on “Profile.” But there were several story restrictions, the most emphatic was: the second assassin had to be removed from the story. Tony Barr’s memo, which Alan read to me over the phone, said, “The CBS television network is not going to rewrite history.”

Harlan wanted me to fight to keep the second assassin in, but there were other story elements I was more concerned about keeping in, most specifically, JFK’s discussion of political power with Professor Fitzgerald on Air Force One. Alan fought for, and kept in, the story elements I most cared about.

I wrote two drafts of the script. I wrote the second draft after a telephone story conference with Alan, Harlan Ellison, story editor Rockne O’Bannon (who later wrote the movie Alien Nation), executive producer Phil DeGuere, and producer James Crocker.

Then, because of a production deadline, and my being 3,000 miles away where I couldn’t meet their production needs, Alan did the final polish himself.

The main change that Alan introduced in his polish was taking the futuristic scenes from the beginning of my second draft and placing them in 1963. This was done because of the budget limitations on attempting to portray the Harvard campus 200 years in the future. I missed the parallel frame of having the story begin and end in the same future classroom, but Alan preserved a lot of that by beginning the story in a similar Harvard classroom in 1963, with Fitzgerald lecturing on inflation during the American revolution. Alan and I are both American Revolution history buffs, and Alan had pleasantly surprised me by taking a conversation the two of us had several weeks earlier and using my half of the conversation, almost verbatim, as Fitzgerald’s lecture to his 1963 students.

Alan also felt that having Fitzgerald be too specific about the future in the Oval Office conversation with JFK was too distracting from the emotional content of the scene, so he cut that dialogue. It made the script less explicit about the author’s political intent in writing the story, but dramatically stronger.

A word to budding writers: you have to be a top-level producer to have the control over your own screenwriting that a novelist takes for granted.

I flew to Los Angeles for the two-weeks filming of “Profile in Silver,” and the experience was wonderful thanks initially both to the Twilight Zone production staff and director, John Hancock. John’s major work has been as a stage and feature film director–Bang the Drum Slowly, Weeds, and Prancer among them.

John and I hit it off right away because my father is a violinist who had played ten years in the Boston Symphony, and John Hancock, a Harvard graduate himself, had been a violinist while at Harvard and had been concertmaster of the student orchestra at the Boston Symphony’s summer residence, Tanglewood. I developed a warm relationship with him on the set, where he gave me a personal education in directing, with such wisdom as, “When the Director sits down, production comes to a halt.”

John didn’t sit down more than a couple of minutes for the entire shoot.

John invited me to stand as close to him as I wanted to during the entire shoot, and frequently consulted me about my opinion, in essence giving me authorial input into the final form of the production. John also invited me to discuss my interpretations on the scenes and characters with the actors.

I ran lines with Barbara Baxley, who had been cast as Dr. Kate Wang just 24-hours before her first scene, and hadn’t yet had time to understand the time-travel elements of the story. Additionally, the character had been written for an Asian actress, but due to an error in the CBS casting memo describing the part, the talent agency representing most Asian actors had never sent over any Asian actresses in the right age-range to read for it. I improvised dialogue implying that “Wang” was a married name and Barbara added the words “a phrase my husband taught me” to cover the change in her ethnicity.

I also got a chance to discuss character elements both with Lane Smith, who played Professor Fitzgerald, and Andrew Robinson, who played JFK.

One of the first scenes filmed was the scene in Fitzgerald’s office when Kate Wang materializes, and they discuss Fitzgerald’s upcoming trip to Dallas. Lane was having trouble with his extensive speeches in that scene because Lane has a natural Southern accent which he was having to change to a Boston accent for the role. I suggested to him that he let his natural accent come out in the office scene, because it would be exactly like an actor coming out of a role for Fitzgerald to talk with someone from his own time.

Lane took my suggestion, with John Hancock’s approval.

I also got a chance to discuss my story intents with Andy Robinson before the scene between JFK and Professor Fitzgerald on Air Force One that set-up the entire emotional context of the story.

Through interpretation, Andy was able to restore much of the meaning of my earlier drafts, even with JFK dialogue that was no longer explicitly in the Oval Office scene.

Many people have wondered why Andy Robinson, who had been best known as the bad guy Scorpio in the Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry, had been cast as JFK. Andy told me that he had played JFK, previously, replacing William Devane in the Broadway production of the satirical anti-war play, MacBird.

(Devane, who starred in The Missiles of October about the Cuban missile crisis, later went on to play a time-travelling historian in a TV movie who was trying to prevent the JFK assassination — but could never prevent it. That movie was based on a book written after my original 1983 outline for “Profile,” and was produced after “Profile” had already been shown on CBS.)

There are several milestones in the production of “Profile in Silver” that are worth mentioning.

The first is that I wrote into both drafts of my script JFK delivering the speech he was scheduled to give on November 22nd, 1963 at the Dallas Trade Mart. As filmed, we hear the speech in the background on the car radio, as the secret service agent is accompanying Fitzgerald to Love Field to meet Kennedy. Andrew Robinson recorded the entire speech so that CBS sound editors could lay it in the background of that scene. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only time that the speech JFK never got to make has ever been delivered by anyone in a motion picture or theatrical production.

Also noteworthy about that speech is that CBS’s broadcast standards department sent a note to the Twilight Zone production staff questioning the authenticity of the Dallas Trade Mart Speech. The note said the speech didn’t sound like authentic JFK. How time changes our perceptions! I had gotten the Trade Mart speech from a book of JFK speeches, and it’s what you would expect: a speech meant to kick off JFK’s bid for re-election in 1964.

CBS broadcast standards didn’t have a single question about the authenticity of the speech I have JFK give at the end of “Profile,” in a Harvard classroom 200 years in the future. I made that speech up completely, but it was inspirational in tone — the way we remember JFK’s speeches through the lenses of time.

I was also able to make use of a wonderful coincidence. November 22nd, 1963 was a Friday — and on the CBS schedule for that night, as usual in its 7:30 PM time slot, was the original Rod Serling Twilight Zone. All regularly scheduled programming for that night was pre empted by the JFK assassination in the universe we lived through — but in the universe in which my futuristic history professor prevents the assassination, CBS decides to end its news coverage of the day’s events just in time for that evening’s airing of The Twilight Zone.

In the scene in the Treasury inspector’s office where the secret service agent who found the Kennedy Half Dollar is having a fellow Treasury agent inspect the coin, we hear a special news bulletin cut back to regularly scheduled programming, and we hear the opening notes of the famous Twilight Zone theme just as the scene cuts to the Oval Office and JFK says he finds Fitzgerald being a Soviet spy “hard to believe.”

Later, in the Dallas hospital scene after the assassination, in the filmed version, you can see a white-coated doctor looking directly into the camera for a moment. That doctor is Yours Truly, who submitted to a 1963-style short haircut just before the scene was filmed, so I could pull an Alfred Hitchcock. I was not overacting. John Hancock told me to look directly into the camera, and I was just doing what the Director told me.

As edited by John Hancock for broadcast, “Profile in Silver” came in at 26 minutes and 52 seconds. Scenes are short and cut quickly, so it plays more like a theatrical motion picture than an episode of a TV series. It took ten days to film and cost about $900,000 to produce — very expensive for a TV series in 1986. When commercials were inserted, it broke the half hour and came in at 35 minutes — which left the balance of the hour for “Button, Button,” starring Mare Winningham.

USA Today ran a feature on “Profile in Silver” in its March 3, 1986 television
column, and I was interviewed about the show by Gene Burns on a Boston radio talk show.

Lane Smith, who plays Professor Fitzgerald, went on to play Nixon in a TV biography, the prosecutor in My Cousin Vinny, and a corrupt senator in the Eddie Murphy comedy The Distinguished Gentleman. Lane now plays Perry White on Lois & Clark.

Andrew Robinson, who plays JFK, can now be seen (through a thick layer of theatrical appliances and makeup) as Garak, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In a recent interview in Psychotronic Video, Andy Robinson spoke extensively about how much playing JFK in that episode meant to him, and how much he liked the script.

Alan Brennert, who bought the script and polished it, later shared an Emmy as Supervising Producer for LA Law, and is now writing feature film scripts.

And Carla Singer, who as the first CBS Executive in charge of the revived Twilight Zone turned down the story for “Profile in Silver”?

When she finally saw it, she changed her mind, and decided it was one of the best episodes.

CBS must have agreed: the hour containing “Profile in Silver” was the only one which they ran three times in prime time, before the show went into syndication, where it has run another dozen or so times in a half-hour edition.

That third airing of “Profile in Silver” was seen by the veteran TV producer who gave Rod Serling his first job in television. He thought my script was one of the few that carried the spirit of the original Twlight Zone series, and that’s how I got the assignment for The Mars Story.

I have written two novels, short stories, and articles published in major magazines and newspapers. But the power of television is such that even a single episode of a series show that never got more than mediocre ratings after the first week or so has been seen by so many millions of people that it’s probably the only thing of mine that most people have ever seen. The episode has been syndicated worldwide and sold on videotape overseas. I was in Paris just a few weeks before it was broadcast there.

It may only be 26 minutes and 52 seconds long, but if a writer has to be remembered for a single script, I’m delighted that the one I’m remembered for is “Profile in Silver.” — JNS, 1999


THE TWILIGHT ZONE
“Profile In Silver”

(First Draft)
by J. Neil Schulman

FADE IN

EXT. CAMPUS – HARVARD UNIVERSITY – 2163 A.D. – DAY

SERIES OF SHOTS and SUPERIMPOSED TITLES–
“HARVARD UNIVERSITY2163 A.D.”
to establish. Even almost two centuries in the future, Harvard
still has ivy-covered buildings and students running late to class–or
taking advantage of warm, sunny weather to study outside. The only
obvious indication of a future century–aside from odd clothing and
hairstyles–is that after a group of students climb into a beat-up car
and rev the engine, the car shoots off vertically.

INT. “DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY” LECTURE HALL

and this, too, has changed little. Students are seated at tablet
armchairs listening to a lecture. That is, those students who aren’t
catching up on sleep or secretly finishing work for their next class.
Delivering the lecture is their professor, DR. JOSEPH K. FITZGERALD, a
handsome man in his mid-forties, whose suit and hairstyle is obviously
professorial, but still, somehow, futuristic. While he lectures, as a
nervous habit, Fitzgerald is flipping a silver coin in his hand.

FITZGERALD
Living today in worldwide freedom, peace, and
prosperity, it’s almost impossible for us to
comprehend political violence two centuries
ago. The Twentieth Century was a time of
world wars, brushfire wars–the everpresent
threat of nuclear war. Genocide, riots,
hijackings, tyranny–political terrorism. But
there was one event which encapsulates the mad
violence of that period: the assassination in
November, Nineteen-sixty-three of the American
President, John F. Kennedy.

A STUDENT wearing a LETTER SWEATER raises his hand with perhaps a
touch of arrogance. Fitzgerald recognises him.

LETTERMAN
Your ancestor, Professor Fitzgerald?

FITZGERALD
Yes, I am proud to say. While I can hardly
expect you to approve the politics of that
insane era, John Fitzgerald Kennedy rose above
the insanities of his time by being a man of
vision and a man of courage. Most important
to you, John F. Kennedy was a Harvard man.

STUDENTS laugh appreciatively.

When they stop, Fitzgerald waves his hand in an odd way; suddenly the
lights dim and WE SEE FILM PROJECTED behind him: STOCK NEWS
FOOTAGE of that fateful day in Dallas–the motorcade, the shots, screams,
the limousine tearing out into traffic.

FITZGERALD
(continuing over film)
There have always been unanswered questions.
Was Lee Harvey Oswald the assassin? Was there
a conspiracy? Did this relate to other
political killings of that era–Diem of
Vietnam, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King?
Until now, we could only speculate.

Fitzgerald pauses, then resumes flipping his coin nervously.

FITZGERALD
(continuing)
After trying for six years, my historical-
research grant from the Rand Institute has
come through. I leave for the past tonight.
In the next lecture, I hope to bring you some
firsthand answers.

As Fitzgerald continues lecturing, his VOICE FADES AND
WE HEAR:

NARRATOR
Dr. Joseph Kennedy Fitzgerald, a Professor of
History at Harvard … descendant of a man who
graduated Harvard and went on to make some of
the history the Professor teaches. In a few
hours, Dr. Fitzgerald will make a journey back
in time to a fateful day in history …
November twenty-second, Nineteen-sixty three.
Dr. Fitzgerald is searching for an ending to a
history lesson. But the ending he finds will
go beyond history … it will go beyond
politics … it will stretch the limits of
human courage. Perhaps it will stretch even
the boundless dimensions of …

CLOSE ON THE COIN

as it drops into Dr. Fitzgerald’s hand. WE SEE that it is a 1964
KENNEDY HALF DOLLAR.

NARRATOR
(continuing)
… The Twilight Zone.
CUT TO:

ESTABLISHING SHOT “RAND INSTITUTE FOR TEMPORAL
STUDIES”
– NIGHT

a formidable-looking hi-tech glass-and-steel office complex, still
active at night, its sign also glowing in the darkness.

EXT. “TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT PLATFORM” – NIGHT

which looks like a sports arena during a night game, with a floodlit
riser at its center–the PLATFORM. But except for two TECHNICIANS
sitting at a control console near the Platform, it is vastly empty.

We follow Dr. Fitzgerald–now styled and dressed in a suit-and-tie
appropriate for 1963–as he walks toward the Platform with DR. KATE
WANG, a distinguished, Chinese woman in 2163 garb.

On a table near the Platform are a MAN’S LEATHER BELT with a
rectangular buckle, a SIGNET RING, A WALLET, AN ANALOG
WRISTWATCH, and what looks to be a 1963 MODEL 8-MILLIMETER
MOVIE CAMERA. Wang shows Fitzgerald the Belt first–it matches his
1963 suit.

WANG
We’ve imbedded the temporal displacement
circuit inside the belt, and hidden the
control panel in its buckle. Proper I.D. in
the wallet. The wristwatch is your computer.

Dr. Fitzgerald puts the Wallet into his jacket, then starts putting on
the Wristwatch and the Belt.

FITZGERALD
Will it tell time?

WANG
That’s a very old joke.

FITZGERALD
Sorry. Where have you hidden the emergency
homing circuit?

WANG
In a Harvard signet ring. If the displacement
circuit in the belt fails or is separated from
the ring it will home back here directly.
We’ve set it on five minutes failsafe.

Dr. Fitzgerald nods, placing the Ring on his right hand. Wang hands
Fitzgerald the “Movie” Camera. He straps it over his shoulder.

WANG
An F-minus-infinity retina, auto-zoom with
three-sixty peripheral. Only a fifty gigabyte
disk, but you won’t need more. Ready?

FITZGERALD
I’ve been ready for the last six years.

WANG
Feel lucky you’re going at all. After the
Sodom and Gomorrah meltdown, our insurance
premiums tripled.

Fitzgerald’s only reaction is to frown and step onto the Platform.

Dr. Wang joins the Technicians at the control console. The console
starts to VIBRATE with the force of great amounts of energy being
gathered; the Platform starts to PULSE in changing colors.

CHIEF TECHNICIAN
Dr. Wang, I read a few grams unexpected mass.

WANG
What is it, Joe?

FITZGERALD
A family keepsake–a good luck charm.

Fitzgerald reaches into a jacket pocket and pulls out his KENNEDY
HALF DOLLAR. Dr. Wang walks up to the platform and examines it.

WANG
It’s dated one year after your destination.
Against policy.

FITZGERALD
But not strictly forbidden. No anachronisms
found in any historical document. I ran a
full search.

He puts the COIN back into his jacket.

WANG
(wary)
Don’t get involved back there, Joe. You’re an
historian. Stick to your job.

FITZGERALD
(smiles)
What are you worried about, Kate? Afraid I’m
a revisionist?

WANG
(seriously)
Frankly, yes. You have a very Chinese view of
ancestor worship.

She steps back to console and nods to the Chief Technician.

CHIEF TECHNICIAN
(to Wang)
All circuits test positive … Tachyon
modulation positive … Phasing five point
five nominal … Plasma bottle charged …
Displacement on command–Ready.

WANG
Go.

The Chief Technician nods to the Second Technician who pulls a lever.

CHIEF TECHNICIAN
Energized.

On the Platform, Dr. Fitzgerald flashes bright red.

CHIEF TECHNICIAN
(continuing)
… We have temporal coherence.

Suddenly, Dr. Fitzgerald shrinks to infinity and a super-powerful
laser beam shoots up from the platform to the starlit night sky,
punching a hole in Time.

FLASH CUT TO:

EXT. DEALY PLAZA – DALLAS – NOVEMBER 22, 1963 –
JUST BEFORE 12:30 PM

as Dr. Fitzgerald materializes on the sidewalk near the Grassy Knoll,
just as the Presidential motorcade is approaching.

A TEXAN does a double-take as Fitzgerald pops in next to him.

TEXAN
(to Fitzgerald)
Where in Sam Hill did you come from?

FITZGERALD
(off-handed)
Boston.

Before the Texan can get any further into it, Fitzgerald lifts his
“movie” camera up to his eye and starts recording. The Texan goes
back to watching the approaching motorcade.

FITZGERALD’S POV THROUGH RANGEFINDER

VARIOUS SHOTS as he ZOOMS IN ON the open Presidential limousine and
sees (our actor) PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY.
[NOTE: for reasons that will become apparent later, the two Actors
playing KENNEDY and FITZGERALD should bear strong physical resemblance.]
To the President’s left–our actors–JACKIE KENNEDY (in her famous pink
suit), on the jumpseat in front of JFK, TEXAS GOVERNOR
CONNALLY. SECRET SERVICE AGENT GREER is driving the limo,
SECRET SERVICE AGENT KELLERMAN is on Kennedy’s right.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT RAY KINGMAN is walking alongside the Presidential
limo, on Fitzgerald’s side of the street.

Additional limousines follow in the motorcade with more Secret
Service, VICE PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON (our actor),
press and dignitaries.

Crowds line the street, waving flags, shouting greetings to the
President.

A “DALLAS POLICEMAN” (our actor) steps into Fitzgerald’s POV and

pauses.

Fitzgerald ZOOMS CLOSE IN on the crucial window of the TEXAS
SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY COMPANY, and WE SEE (our actor)
LEE HARVEY OSWALD taking aim with a rifle on the Presidential
limousine
.

FITZGERALD’S POV – IN RAPID SEQUENCE

THE “DALLAS POLICEMAN” is surreptitiouslywith his pistol still
holstered
raising his pistol.

Oswald FIRES his rifle, hitting Texas Governor Connally–the SOUND of
the SHOT is delayed.

The “Policeman” now has his still-holstered pistol aimed directly at
JFK’s head
.

SMASH CUT TO:

RAPID SEQUENCE – FITZGERALD AND THE “POLICEMAN”

as Fitzgerald drops his camera onto its shoulder strap and instantly
realizes–emotionally–that the man in front of him is not a Dallas
policeman but a Second Assassin–and this assassin is about to murder
John F. Kennedy.

To Fitzgerald, for the first time, this is no longer the dispassionate
study of the long-dead past: this is happening now. He hesitates,
realizing that he’s just an observer, then the emotional pain becomes
too great.

FITZGERALD
NO!

And with that bellow, Fitzgerald leaps forward onto the disguised
gunman just as he FIRES.

RAPID SEQUENCE – SECRET SERVICE AGENT KINGMAN

as he HEARS Fitzgerald’s shout and spins around just as the
“Policeman” FIRES, to SEE Fitzgerald jump him.

RAPID SEQUENCE – FITZGERALD AND “POLICEMAN”

As Fitzgerald tackles him, the “Policeman’s” GUNSHOT is redirected
away from Kennedy’s head and impacts harmlessly on the limo.

RAPID SEQUENCE – SCREAMING BYSTANDERS

At the SOUND of the two GUNSHOTS.

RAPID SEQUENCE – IN LIMO – AGENT KELLERMAN

as he throws himself onto JFK and Jackie.

Agent Kingman and ANOTHER AGENT arrive at the spot where Fitzgerald
has tackled the “Policeman”. KINGMAN grabs Fitzgerald and pulls
him toward the President’s limo; the other Agent holds the assassin.

RAPID SEQUENCE – KINGMAN AND FITZGERALD

AGENT KINGMAN
(shouting to
Fitzgerald)
Come on!

RAPID SEQUENCE – THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMO

as Kingman pulls Fitzgerald onto the Presidential limousine just as
everyone realizes that Governor Connally has been shot.

KENNEDY
(to agent driving)
The Governor has been hit! Get him to a
hospital!

AGENT GREER
(driving; to radio)
I’m pulling out!
LONG ON THE LIMO

as it pulls out of the motorcade and accelerates.

BACK IN SPEEDING LIMO

as Kingman and Fitzgerald are settled in the front seat, quietly
TALKING to each other in the b.g. WE SEE Fitzgerald reach into his
jacket, take out the Wallet, and hand a 1963 Harvard “Faculty I.D.
Card” to Agent Kingman.

AGENT GREER
(continuing; to radio)
Alert Parkland Memorial Hospital that the
Governor will be there in four minutes.

President Kennedy nods, satisfied, then notices Agent Kingman and
Fitzgerald.

KENNEDY
(to Kingman)
Mr. Kingman, who is this man?

AGENT KINGMAN
Mr. President, this is Dr. Joseph Fitzgerald,
one of your constituents from Harvard. He
just saved your life.

KENNEDY AND FITZGERALD

as they look at each other for the first time.

KENNEDY
(warmly)
Dr. Fitzgerald, Harvard, and I, are in your
debt.

CLOSE ON FITZGERALD

as he realizes the full impact of what he has done.

CUT TO:

EXT. EMERGENCY ENTRANCE – PARKLAND MEMORIAL
HOSPITAL – DAY

as the limousine pulls up. A stretcher crew immediately takes the
wounded Governor out.

JFK gestures to Agent Kellerman that he wishes to get out of the
limousine, but Jackie stops him.

JACKIE
You can’t do any good in there, Jack.

The others wait expectantly for a moment while JFK decides, then
Kennedy nods determinedly.

KENNEDY
(to Greer)
Mr. Greer, radio ahead to the Dallas Trade
Mart. I’ll speak as scheduled.

AGENT GREER
Yes, sir.

CUT TO:

INT. THE DALLAS TRADE MART

where President John F. Kennedy is delivering the luncheon address
that history had never intended him to give.

Dr. Fitzgerald stands on the sidelines, an historian still, recording
it all in his “camera.”

KENNEDY
We in this country, in this generation are–by
destiny rather than choice–the watchmen of
the walls of world freedom. We ask,
therefore, that we may be worthy of our power
and responsibility–that we may exercise our
strength with wisdom and restraint–and that
we may achieve it in our time, and for all
time, the ancient vision of peace on Earth,
goodwill toward men.

MASSIVE LUNCHEON AUDIENCE (FROM STOCK FOOTAGE)

There is APPLAUSE.

CLOSE ON FITZGERALD’S FACE

as he realizes that Kennedy’s vision was destined to be fulfilled–but
will it be, now that history has been changed?

PRESIDENT KENNEDY AGAIN

KENNEDY
(continuing)
That must always be our goal–and the
righteousness of our cause must always
underlie our strength. For as was written
long ago: “Except the Lord keep the city, the
watchman waketh but in vain.”

As APPLAUSE greets the end of Kennedy’s speech, we

CUT TO:

SIDE WINGS OF TRADE MART

As JFK, Jackie, Vice President Johnson, Fitzgerald, and the rest of
the Presidential entourage are walking out.

AN AIDE rushes up to the Vice President and addresses Johnson
frantically.

JOHNSON AIDE
(breathless)
Mr. Vice President, we’ve got more problems!
Tornadoes have sprung up all around the state!
One is heading here, another just ripped its
way through downtown Austin, and another just
hit your ranch!

JOHNSON
(grimly, to Aide)
Better get the choppers ready, son.

The Aide runs off.

JOHNSON
(continuing; to
Kennedy)
Mr. President, if I were you, I’d hightail it
back to Washington and mind the store. It
looks like fate is set on spoiling our
barbecue tonight.

FITZGERALD

He knows it’s not fate that’s doing this.

ALL AGAIN
KENNEDY
(tersely)
Take care of your people, Lyndon. Let me know
how I can help.

JOHNSON
Yes, Mr. President.

Johnson rushes out. Kennedy turns to Fitzgerald.

KENNEDY
Dr. Fitzgerald, I can use an extra Harvard
professor in my Brain Trust right now. Are
you free to be my guest at the White House?

FITZGERALD
(shocked)
Uh, yes, sir.

KENNEDY
Then let’s get going. This is turning out to
be “one of those days.”

As they rush out of the Trade Mart, we

CUT TO

EXT. (LOVE) AIR FIELD – STORM – AFTERNOON

as strong rain and winds surround AIR FORCE ONE while it takes off.

STOCK FOOTAGE – TORNADOES

As they wind their way through Texan cities.

EXT. AIR FORCE ONE – BREAKING ABOVE CLOUDS – AFTERNOON

to ESTABLISH.

INT. AIR FORCE ONE – IN FLIGHT

this time, not carrying a flag-draped casket and a just-sworn-in new
president, but with JFK still alive and well.

Jackie is sitting forward, being interviewed by a reporter.

Kennedy is sitting catercorner to Fitzgerald in a living room area.
Both men have drinks. Agent Kingman is seated nearby, reading.

AN AIDE comes up to the President.

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Mr. President, news out of Texas is bad.
Parts of Dallas, San Antonio, Austin–gone.
Hundreds dead, more missing. The Lieutenant
Governor is requesting federal disaster
relief. The only good news is that Parkland
Memorial was untouched. Governor Connally is
out of surgery in stable condition.

KENNEDY
Thank God for that, at least. Okay, get the
paperwork going. I want disaster relief on my
desk before I go to bed tonight.

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Yes, sir. One more thing. In addition to the
fake policeman Dr. Fitzgerald apprehended,
Dallas police arrested a man named Lee Oswald.
They’ve charged Oswald not only with shooting
the Governor, but with murdering a Dallas
police patrolman.

Kennedy nods seriously.

KENNEDY
Thank you.

The Aide leaves. The historian from the future can’t resist asking.

FITZGERALD
Mr. President, do you have any idea–

KENNEDY
(interrupting)
Jack. Men who’ve saved my life call me
“Jack.”

FITZGERALD
(delighted)
“Jack.” … I’m “Joe” to everyone but my
students.

KENNEDY
Good name. My Dad’s name. Also my late
brother’s.

FITZGERALD
(emotionally)
I … know.

KENNEDY
You were asking something?

FITZGERALD
(nods)
If you have any idea who would have reason to
shoot at you?

Kennedy takes a sip of his drink before answering.

KENNEDY
Considering the awesome power wielded by the
President, who wouldn’t? Two centuries ago,
the Founding Fathers tried to set things up so
we wouldn’t have a king anymore. Now, because
we’re always a pushbutton away from war, the
President has been stuck with more power than
any king in history. It’s no wonder my
administration has been called “Camelot.”

FITZGERALD
Like King Arthur, you had to win your office.
It must gratify you, no?

KENNEDY
What gratified me was getting the world
through the Cuban Missile Crisis in one piece.
Providence was with us that time. But
Scripture tells us to “put not your trust in
princes.” Maybe someday people will take that
good advice.

FITZGERALD
(drily)
That would leave you unemployed.

KENNEDY
This job gives me few moments of great joy.
I’ll tell you, Joe, after I’m out of office
what I’d best like to do is help you Harvard
professors find a way to beat nuclear bombs
into plowshares.

FITZGERALD
(with certainty)
A century from now, nuclear bombs will power
rocket ships.

KENNEDY
(nods)
We’ve studied that idea. But how do you
prevent enemy nations from regarding nuclear
rockets as weapons?

FITZGERALD
(offhanded)
Insurance companies. Next century, people
will replace nation-states with insurance
companies.

KENNEDY
(laughs)
You have a wicked sense of humor, Joe. I’ll
have to tell that one to Senator Goldwater
when I see him.

Fitzgerald is puzzling out that remark when the Aide returns.

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Mr. President, there’s a radiophone call for
you from Defense Secretary McNamara.

KENNEDY
(rising)
Excuse me. (still chuckling) Insurance
companies.

The President gets up and walks aft, leaving Dr. Fitzgerald alone with
his thoughts. Without thinking, Fitzgerald sticks his hand into his
jacket pocket, pulling out his Kennedy Half Dollar, and automatically
starts to flip it in his hands.

Suddenly, the plane is hit by turbulence, and Fitzgerald misses

catching the coin. The coin rolls to where Agent Kingman is sitting.

Agent Kingman sees the coin, and looks up to meet Fitzgerald’s frantic
gaze; Fitzgerald looks away quickly. Kingman picks the coin up.

CLOSE ON KINGMAN

as he sees what the coin is.

KINGMAN AND FITZGERALD

As Kingman–seeing Fitzgerald trying to look innocent–realizes that
this must be Fitzgerald’s property.

AFT AGAIN

as President Kennedy returns to the seat next to Fitzgerald, JFK
passes his Aide and waves him over.

KENNEDY
(quiet but urgently)
Listen carefully. I’ve just placed our
Strategic Forces on Yellow Alert. Set up an
Emergency Cabinet meeting for tonight at ten.
Rusk is on a plane to Japan–see if you can
get him back. Tell Bundy, Taylor, Sorensen.
And Bobby! But act normally and do it
quietly–I don’t want the press onboard to
know anything’s wrong.

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Yes, sir.

As the Aide leaves, Kennedy straps himself in again and turns to
Fitzgerald, likewise speaking quietly but with urgency.

KENNEDY
How familiar are you with the history of our
Berlin situation?

FITZGERALD
Completely. My specialty is this era.

Fitzgerald sees Kennedy’s confusion and corrects himself quickly.

FITZGERALD
I mean this area. Why do you ask?

KENNEDY
Soviet troops just captured West Berlin. The
Russian premier is demanding we pull our
forces out of the rest of Germany or they’ll
kill every American in Berlin.

FITZGERALD
(shocked)
But Khrushchev never would have done that!

KENNEDY
(nods with finality)
Premier Khrushchev was assassinated today.

On Fitzgerald’s startled look, we

CUT TO

EXT. AIR FORCE ONE – ON THE GROUND – AFTERNOON

as the door opens. The Secret Service, JFK and Jackie, Fitzgerald,
the Warrant Officer with the “Black Bag,” and the rest of the
entourage begin deplaning.

AGENT KINGMAN

as he watches Fitzgerald getting into the Presidential limousine with
the Kennedys, then LOOKS DOWN again at the mysterious Kennedy Half
Dollar. Kingman slips the coin into his pocket then walks up to
another SECRET SERVICE AGENT.

AGENT KINGMAN
I need to do some research at Treasury before
it closes. Can you spare me?

The Agent nods.

THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMOUSINE

as it departs.

CUT TO

EXT. THE WHITE HOUSE – THE LIMOUSINE ARRIVING – AFTERNOON

as JFK and Jackie get out of the limousine first and two children run
to meet them: six-year-old CAROLINE and three-year-old JOHN, JR.

CUT TO

CLOSE ON THE COIN

as we see it being held in a man’s hand.

WIDER – INT. OFFICE – AFTERNOON

as Agent Kingman is sitting across a desk from another TREASURY MAN.
The T-MAN is looking at the coin through a watchmaker’s loupe screwed
into his eye, then removes the loupe and leans back in his chair.

TREASURY MAN
Remarkable. Utterly remarkable. I’ve never
seen counterfeit work this faithful to Mint
standards. Whoever did this is a real artist.

AGENT KINGMAN
Then it is a counterfeit? It’s not something
our Mint has in the works for next year?

TREASURY MAN
Of course not. How could it be? Other
countries stamp reigning sovereigns on their
coins, but it’s against U.S. law to mint the
image of any living person.

AGENT KINGMAN
Could it be a practical joke of some sort? Or
a prototype of a campaign handout? Maybe one
of the President’s brothers … or the
Republicans …

TREASURY MAN
I doubt it very much. They’d have to know

it’s a felony … and possibly treason, since
it implies President Kennedy is going to die
by Sixty-four. This man who lost it … you
saw him save the President’s life?

AGENT KINGMAN
Absolutely. Or I wouldn’t have allowed him
anywhere near the President until his
credentials had been confirmed.

TREASURY MAN
And were they?

AGENT KINGMAN
(nods)
I checked during the President’s speech.
Matched Fitzgerald’s prints with FBI. Clean.
Checked Harvard, Internal Revenue, the Army.
All in order. But that’s the really odd
thing. The documents are all there, but I
can’t find anyone who’s ever heard of
Fitzgerald. It’s like somebody got into the
records and just dropped him in. And yeah, I
checked with CIA. They’ve never heard of him.

TREASURY MAN
It wouldn’t be the first time the Company
didn’t tell us about one of their Spooks.

AGENT KINGMAN
Maybe. Still, this Harvard professor is
Johnny-on-the-Spot to save the President’s
life … he loses a coin that shouldn’t exist
… he’s got three of the President’s family
names … he even looks like the President.
Now, with a crisis more dangerous that Cuba
coming on, the President is confiding in this
stranger like a long-lost brother. If you ask
me …

Suddenly, the office starts shaking violently with a rolling motion
Californians are too familiar with … but that shouldn’t be happening
in Washington D.C.

An earthquake. Lamps fall over, fixtures swing …

Kingman and the T-Man both jump up, startled out of their wits.

AGENT KINGMAN
My God … an earthquake in Washington?

CUT TO

INT. OVAL OFFICE – THE WHITE HOUSE – SAME TIME

as JFK sits behind his desk talking on the telephone … and the
earthquake hits here, too.

Kennedy drops the phone and jumps to his feet … and by doing so
saves his life again as a massive BOOKSHELF topples onto his chair
where he was sitting
.

The Presidential Aide runs into the Oval Office in a flash, as the
RUMBLING DIES AWAY.

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Sir, are you all right?

KENNEDY
I’m fine! Find out if my kids are okay!

The Aide runs out. Kennedy pulls the phone out from under some books
and picks up the receiver again.

KENNEDY
You still there, Bobby? (beat) You’re damn
right we felt it here! (beat) Yeah, I’ll
talk to you later.

The President hangs up just as the Aide returns.

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Nobody hurt, sir … the children weren’t even
really frightened. I’m afraid the First Lady
isn’t doing quite as well … we just lost
half her favorite bone china.

KENNEDY
(almost smiling)
Tell her to break out the paper plates!
(more serious)
What the Devil is going on today?

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
I don’t know, sir. But my father’s a minister
and I can bet you his sermon this Sunday is
going to be on the Apocalypse … if we make
it to Sunday.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

as he wearily drops his face into his hands. HOLD on him, then

CUT TO

INT. WHITE HOUSE GUEST BEDROOM – FITZGERALD

as he turns a lamp upright again then starts talking to his Wristwatch
Computer, rubbing his back as if it’s been injured.

FITZGERALD
Resume program … Last parameter, three-
times-ten-to-the-ninth non-parallel vectors.
Compute time-line status.

WRISTWATCH
(Voice like HAL 9000)
After pressure release by tornadoes at
intervention site, Stable Two was achieved by
Khrushchev assassination.

FITZGERALD
Stable, my aching back! What about the
earthquake just now?

WRISTWATCH
Shockwave backwash from first intervention in
time line. No major effects.

FITZGERALD
All right, then. With Khrushchev
assassination as Stable Two, give me worst-
and-best-case outcomes on this time-line, with
assigned probabilities.

WRISTWATCH
Worst-case scenario: Three-hundred megaton
nuclear exchange between the Superpowers
within nine days, resulting in total
annihilation of biosphere. Probability:
seventy-seven percent. Best-case scenario:
surrender of Western Europe to the Soviet
Union within six years, resulting in collapse
of Soviet economy. In desperation, Soviets
blackmail West for food, West is provoked into
agro-bacterial war between the Superpowers,
resulting in total annihilation of biosphere
within century. Probability: twelve percent.

FITZGERALD
There’s only an eleven percent possibility of
avoiding total war on this time-line?

WRISTWATCH
Three percent. Eight percent
includes all other scenarios leading to–

FITZGERALD &
WRISTWATCH
–Total annihilation of biosphere.

GIRL’S VOICE (O.S.)
Why are you talking to your watch?

Fitzgerald looks up, startled.

IN DOORWAY – CAROLINE

as she walks into

GUEST ROOM – FITZGERALD AND CAROLINE

FITZGERALD
Because it gives me smarter answers than I get
from most people.

CAROLINE
You should talk to my Daddy instead. He gives
me smart answers on everything.

FITZGERALD
(smiling wistfully)
Yes, I’m sure he does.

JACKIE’S VOICE (O.S.)
Caroline, dear! It’s time for your dinner!

CAROLINE
(answering)
I’ll be right there, Mommy!
(to Fitzgerald)
I talk to my pony Macaroni, sometimes. But I
never get any answers. See ya!

Caroline ducks out.

Fitzgerald checks the corridor, then resumes talking to his
Wristwatch, more quietly.

FITZGERALD
Since this time-line is non-viable, give me
all options for repairing original time-line.

WRISTWATCH
There exists only one viable option for
repairing original time-line. The
assassination of President John F. Kennedy
must occur as history originally recorded.

ON FITZGERALD’S HORROR

as the thoughts of the little girl he just met–and the answers she
gets only from her “Daddy”–hit him hard. He drops his face into his
hands exactly like JFK did.

CUT TO

INT. THE OVAL OFFICE – NIGHT

JFK is alone, in his famous ROCKING CHAIR, puffing on a cigar and
thinking. A TELEVISION next to his desk is on in the b.g., a CBS
TELEVISION SPECIAL NEWS REPORT.

ANCHORMAN (ON TV)
–certainly an indication of a conspiracy by
Soviet hard-liners. However, the tornadoes in
Texas and the earthquake in the Capital would
certainly have to be put down to one of those
unbelievable coincidences that you meet so
often in the news business.

There is a knock at the office door. (TV SOUND continues UNDER.)

KENNEDY
Come in!

Agent Kingman enters.

KENNEDY
Hi, Ray. (Indicates chair) Take a load off.
Want a drink?

AGENT KINGMAN
Thank you, sir, but I’m still on duty.

KENNEDY
I won’t tell on you.

Kingman remains standing and smiles … letting us know that this is a
game the two of them have played before.

AGENT KINGMAN
Mr. President, I have some concerns about Dr.
Fitzgerald. I’ve checked with Harvard, and
even though they have him in their records as
a full professor on sabbatical, nobody there
has ever heard of him. It’s possible that Dr.
Fitzgerald is a spy.

KENNEDY
For who?
(with terror)
Yale?

AGENT KINGMAN
(used to being
straight-man)
I don’t know for who, sir, but I wouldn’t
eliminate the Soviets. I can’t think of a
better way to get an agent close to the
President than to set up an assassination and
have your man save the President’s life.

KENNEDY
(shakes head)
I know people, and Joe Fitzgerald is no Soviet
spy. Also, the Soviets are subtler than that
… if they wanted to pull something this big
they’d use sleeper agents who’d been in place
for twenty years.

AGENT KINGMAN
There’s more, sir.

Kingman reaches into his pocket, pulls out the KENNEDY HALF DOLLAR,
and hands it to Kennedy.

AGENT KINGMAN
(continuing)
Dr. Fitzgerald lost this on Air Force One.

CLOSE ON KENNEDY – IN PROFILE

as he LOOKS at HIS OWN FACE IN PROFILE on the half dollar.

KENNEDY
I think someone is taking this Camelot stuff a
bit too far.
(beat; more
seriously)
All right. You’d better get Fitzgerald in
here.

STANDING IN DOORWAY – FITZGERALD

Fitzgerald has his “camera” strapped over his shoulder.

FITZGERALD
I was already on my way here, Mr. President.

OVAL OFFICE – ALL

In the b.g., WE HEAR

CBS ANNOUNCER
–This concludes this CBS News Special Report.
We now return to our regularly scheduled
programming.

Kennedy gestures Fitzgerald into the office.

KENNEDY
Dr. Fitzgerald, were you part of an
assassination conspiracy in Dallas today?

FITZGERALD
No, sir, I was not. But I knew about the
assassination before I came to Dallas.

AGENT KINGMAN
(to Kennedy)
Excuse me, sir.
(to Fitzgerald)
Where did you get that coin?

FITZGERALD
It’s been in my family for almost two hundred
years.

KENNEDY
You’ll pardon me if I say that’s a little
unbelievable.

IN THE B.G.., we HEAR the original “Twilight Zone” THEME MUSIC and:

ROD SERLING’S VOICE
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which
is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as
space and as timeless as infinity. It is the
middle ground between light and shadow–
between science and superstition–

FITZGERALD
(gesturing toward TV)
People of your generation should have paid
more attention to the classics.

KENNEDY
My generation? You’re the same generation as
me!

Fitzgerald walks over to the TV set.

ROD SERLING’S VOICE
–And it lies between the pit of man’s fears
and the summit of his imagination. It is an
area which we call–

Fitzgerald switches off the set just before we hear the words “The
Twilight Zone.” Then he faces his ancestor directly.

FITZGERALD
No, Mr. President, I am not. I am of a
generation that won’t be your age for another
two-hundred years. I am a time-traveler from
the future … and your direct descendant by
two converging lines.

KENNEDY
(concern)
Dr. Fitzgerald, the matters we are discussing
are much too serious for you to joke about
them.

FITZGERALD
I’m not joking, sir.

Fitzgerald picks up his camera.

In a split-second, Agent Kingman has his gun out, pointed at
Fitzgerald.

FITZGERALD
(calmly)
This isn’t a weapon.

Fitzgerald points his “camera” toward the wall–away from both
Kennedy and Kingman–and turns it on.

IN FRONT OF WALL – KENNEDY GIVING SPEECH
AT TRADE MART

in a Full-size, 3-D, Full-color and Sound Playback.

KENNEDY HOLOGRAM
We in this country, in this generation are–by
destiny rather than choice–the watchmen of
the walls of world freedom. We ask,
therefore, that we may be worthy of our power
and responsibility–

KENNEDY AND AGENT KINGMAN

as they watch this phenomenon, open-mouthed.

KENNEDY HOLOGRAM
–that we may exercise our strength with
wisdom and restraint–and that we may achieve
it in our time, and for all time, the ancient
vision of peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.

ALL AGAIN

Fitzgerald turns the “camera” off and the Kennedy Hologram

disappears.

Kingman holsters his pistol again. After a pause, he speaks first.

AGENT KINGMAN
Mr. President, request permission to go off
duty, sir.

KENNEDY
Granted. For both of us, also.

Kingman immediately goes over to the liquor and pours three stiff
drinks. He hands one each to Kennedy and Fitzgerald.

FITZGERALD
(to Kennedy;
automatically)
Your health.

He has time to ponder his remark as the three men drink.

Fitzgerald and Kingman draw up chairs. Kennedy breaks the tension
in the room.

KENNEDY
(to Fitzgerald)
Insurance companies, huh?

FITZGERALD
(smiles)
That’s only a transitional phase. By my time
we’ve put together a social system I’m sure
you’d consider much-more bizarre than that.
But we have achieved your dreams. We’ve
eliminated war, poverty, and tyranny. Your
dream of humankind moving into space has
become a reality … I took my graduate degree
out near the orbit of Jupiter.

KENNEDY
I never thought humanity would achieve that
sort of Utopia.

FITZGERALD
It’s not even close to being Utopia, sir.
We’ve taken the Biblical advice about not
putting our trust in princes, but we haven’t
beaten our swords into plowshares. We just
finally got it through our skulls that it’s
safer to avoid princes with big swords.

Kennedy gets up (Kingman and Fitzgerald rise immediately) and JFK
starts pacing near his desk. He is still holding the Kennedy Half
Dollar and he looks at it thoughtfully.

KENNEDY
You come from the future. Did you come back
to tell me what I’m supposed to do about the
Berlin crisis today?

FITZGERALD
No, sir.
(suddenly choked up)
I … didn’t know about that.

KENNEDY
(surprised)
Didn’t know? How could you not know?

Kennedy looks at the Coin one more time.

ZOOM IN ON THE COIN’S DATE – 1964

WIDER AGAIN

as Kennedy sees it and suddenly realizes what it means.

KENNEDY
You came to Dallas to observe an
assassination. My assassination.
(almost swooning)
Dear God in heaven.

Kennedy looks down and sees–on his desk where the earthquake left
it–a copy of his book, Profiles in Courage.

KENNEDY
This Berlin crisis would be the end of the
world, wouldn’t it?

Fitzgerald nods.

Kennedy picks up Profiles in Courage, then puts in down again,
firmly. When he speaks again, it’s with the firm resolve of a P.T. boat
commander.

KENNEDY
You’re here, which proves that it wasn’t.
You’ll have to take me back. Can you take me
back? Can you make it like it was intended to
be?

Fitzgerald drops his head forward. Then he looks up again and removes
his Harvard Signet Ring, extending it toward Kennedy.

FITZGERALD
You’ll have to put this ring on.

KINGMAN
(alarmed)
Mr. President!

KENNEDY
Agent Kingman, stay out of this!

FITZGERALD
(beat)
If there’s anyone you need to say goodbye to–

KENNEDY
(gently)
I couldn’t make myself leave them if I did.
And they wouldn’t remember, would they?

President Kennedy takes the ring, closes his eyes, and slips the ring
onto his right hand.

KENNEDY

as he flashes, on-and-off, bright red, and
freezes in place.

WIDER AGAIN

KINGMAN
What’s happening to him?

FITZGERALD
You’ve taken an oath to protect the life of
“Lancer.”

KINGMAN
Only Secret Service know that code name for
President Kennedy!

FITZGERALD
Yes.

Kingman understands.

KINGMAN
What do we have to do?

FITZGERALD
(after pause)
We’ve got to go back.

After several long beats,

CUT TO

EXT. DEALY PLAZA – DALLAS – NOVEMBER 22, 1963 –
JUST BEFORE 12:30 PM

just as the Presidential motorcade is approaching.

THE TEXAN

watching the approaching motorcade. This time Fitzgerald is nowhere
around.

VARIOUS SHOTS

on the open Presidential limousine, AS BEFORE.

AGENT KINGMAN

as before, walking alongside the Presidential limo, but suddenly–
momentarily–he FLASHES BRIGHT RED.

VARIOUS SHOTS

Additional limousines follow in the motorcade.

Crowds line the street, waving flags, shouting greetings to the
President.

The “Dallas Policeman” steps forward and pauses.

ZOOM CLOSE IN

on the crucial window of the TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY
COMPANY, and WE SEE (our actor) LEE HARVEY OSWALD

taking aim with a rifle on the Presidential limousine.

RAPID SEQUENCE – THE “DALLAS POLICEMAN”

surreptitiously–with his pistol still holsteredraising his pistol.

RAPID SEQUENCE – OSWALD

as he FIRES his rifle, hitting Texas Governor Connally–the SOUND of
the SHOT is delayed.

RAPID SEQUENCE – THE “POLICEMAN”

as he now has his still-holstered pistol aimed directly at JFK’s head.

RAPID SEQUENCE – LONG ON THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMOUSINE

as WE SEE a FLASH OF RED LIGHT surrounding the limousine.

RAPID SEQUENCE – THE DISGUISED GUNMAN

just as he FIRES.

RAPID SEQUENCE – SCREAMING BYSTANDERS

At the SOUND of the two GUNSHOTS.

RAPID SEQUENCE – AGENT KINGMAN

as he jumps onto the Presidential limousine.

RAPID SEQUENCE – FRONT SEAT OF
THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMO

AGENT GREER
(driving; to radio)
The President’s been hit! I’m pulling out!

RAPID SEQUENCE – LONG ON THE LIMO

as it pulls out of the motorcade and accelerates toward the hospital.

CUT TO
INT. SIDE ROOM – PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

as a gurney holds A SLAIN BODY COVERED BY A SHEET.

Agent Kingman is next to the gurney in conference with an
EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR.

DOCTOR
Of course there were serious head wounds, but
still, that doesn’t account for–

AGENT KINGMAN
Use logic, Doctor. It couldn’t be anyone else
… and the country will be traumatized enough
without raising silly questions about the face
on that body. This man is President John F.
Kennedy–got it?

The Doctor pulls back the sheet on the body … and we

ZOOM IN ON

THE SERENE FACE OF DR. JOSEPH K. FITZGERALD.

CUT TO

INT. LECTURE HALL – HARVARD – 2163 A.D. – DAY

as WE SEE THE BACK of a man dressed in 2163 garb, delivering a
lecture–in a wholly distinctive voice–to the HISTORY CLASS.

LECTURER
History records many facts … some of them
right, some of them wrong. But let the record
show that, in any age, good or bad, there are
men of high ideals … men of courage … men
who do more than that for which they are
called upon.

CLOSE ON THE LECTURER’S HAND

as WE SEE that on it is A HARVARD SIGNET RING.

LECTURER
(continuing)
You will not always know their names. But let
their deeds stand as a monument, so that when
the human race is called to judgment, we may
say–this, too, was humanity.

REVERSE POV

and WE SEE that the MAN delivering the lecture is JOHN F. KENNEDY.

THE STUDENTS

as they RISE TO THEIR FEET IN APPLAUSE, WE HEAR:

NARRATOR
A fitting tribute of the sort only to be found
in … The Twilight Zone.

FADE OUT


The Twilight Zoze Season 1 (1985 - 1986)
The Twilight Zone: “Profile in Silver” is available on the DVD collection, The Twilight Zone – Season 1 (1985 – 1986).

A fan has posted it onto YouTube.


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Classic J. Neil: Justifiable Insanity


Originally published March 9, 2001 in The Sierra Times

In “I, Mudd,” a famous episode of the original Star Trek, a robot is confused into burning out its circuits by being given a logical paradox of the sort, “Everything I say is a lie. I am now telling the truth.”

In an experiment as famous to college students as “I, Mudd” is to Trekkies, behavioral psychologists used repeated electrical shocks to induce psychosis in a laboratory animal by first conditioning the animal to avoid one part of its cage by repeated shocks when it sat there then randomly changing the location of the charge so the animal couldn’t find a safe place to sit.

Within the past week we saw 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams charged as an adult in the murders of two students and shootings of 13 others at Santana High School in Santee, California. We also saw 14-year-old Lionel Tate sentenced to life without parole in Florida prison for the first-degree murder of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick, committed when he was twelve.

Both of these recent events reflect the dramatic shift, within my lifetime, of American attitudes toward the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. When I was in school in the 1960′s it was an unspoken given that the American criminal justice system was humane and modern in that we no longer hanged or imprisoned children, as was common as recently as the nineteenth century.

Instead, we regarded juvenile offenders to be worth saving. With a loving environment and regular psychoanalysis, they could be restored to society and given a second chance. A separate court and detention system was maintained for juvenile offenders in which they would be given schooling and therapy until they were adults, then their records would be expunged and they would be released with a fresh start.

Even for adults, liberals used to argue for compassion and rehabilitation in our criminal justice system. We no longer had prisons; we had “penitentiaries.” The root word “penitence” united the Christian and the Freudian liberal in a desire not to compound the loss to a crime victim’s life with further loss inflicted upon the misguided “offender,” who was assumed to be salvageable.

Today, the above attitudes seem both quaint and ludicrously impractical to most Americans, usually regarded as an atavistic artifact of a progressive utopianism discredited by harsh reality. We have seen inner-city drug-selling gangs where elder gang members, playing the law like a violin, direct their youngest gang members to commit the most serious crimes, knowing that if caught they won’t be charged as harshly.

After the Columbine High School massacre and other school shootings, murder, even mass murder, by teenagers is no longer unthinkable; and we have even seen children as young as seven being tried for murder.

In today’s political climate, no mainstream political figure wants to be perceived as soft on crime. Liberals have conceded the criminal-justice playing field to conservatives, pausing only occasionally on sentencing inequities caused by race, or an occasional weak libertarian objection to excessive sentencing for victimless crimes, and the usual trumpeting for more gun control. Along with an attitude of “zero tolerance” towards adult criminals has come a belief that if you commit an adult crime, you should be tried as an adult no matter what your age.

The problem with this last belief is that it is wildly inconsistent with every other attitude we have about children and young adults.

Nobody who declares that a juvenile offender who commits an adult crime, and should therefore be tried and punished as an adult, turns around and suggests that a 12-year old who can pass a driver’s test should be licensed to drive.

Nobody suggests that an 11-year-old boy who can write computer code should be allowed to quit the fifth grade and go to work full-time for Microsoft.

Nobody who would want us to imprison a 13-year-old girl who shoots her classmates would want any of her non-criminal 13-year-old classmates to be legally able to consent to sex with a 25-year-old man she meets in a bar, hop in his car to marry him at the Chapel O’ Love in Vegas, pull the lever on a slot machine while she’s waiting for the minister, buy a pack of Camels and smoke one, and sign the mortgage for a condo in The Lakes.

Am I really the only person in this public policy discussion who sees the inconsistency, the double standard, the hypocrisy — the blatant injustice? We are to take a person considered too young, too inexperienced, too lacking in judgment — not an adult by any other measurement or standard — and treat that person as an adult for the purposes of punishing them, because nobody running for office can risk looking “soft on crime.”

My father’s mother, Anna, was born in 1890. She was married to my grandfather, Abraham, in 1903 and had her first baby, my uncle Bernard, in 1904. My grandfather was born in 1878. According to his autobiography, he started working as a construction laborer while still a child, came to America by himself when he was 16, and by the time he married my grandmother he was a prosperous businessman in the New York garment industry.

Do the math. At age 25 my grandfather impregnated a 13-year-old girl. By today’s legal standards my grandfather was a child molester who would have spent many years in prison and my grandmother would have been forbidden ever to see him again. This would have made it more difficult for me to be writing this, because my father was my grandparents’ fifth child.

I constantly hear that things were different then and we can’t apply the same standards today. That is certainly true. For all of human existence, up until the last few minutes, you were an adult when you could biologically reproduce. Older children had family responsibilities and younger children were given whatever responsibilities they could handle for their age. By the time you turned 13 you were an adult for all intents and purposes except, perhaps, for voting, which was considered an exceptionally important duty reserved only to elders and other wiser heads. You will find no shortage of 14-year-old boys in the annals of war; today if a teenager brings a construction-paper gun to class he is suspended from school.

We have abandoned standards regarding the transition from childhood to adulthood that served the human race well for countless millennia and replaced them with arbitrary standards based on utopian theories that for the most part have already been abandoned; yet the standards live on.

We infantalize adults, depriving them of all rights and powers; then declare that they are adult enough to be punished when they outrage us. We replace tests of adulthood based on accomplishment or ability with arbitrary, one-size-fits-all ageism; then wonder why every once in a while the most gifted and sensitive among us go crazy and decide to kill as many of the rest of us as they can manage.

If a dog can be driven insane by inconsistent patterns of electrical shocks, why are we surprised when teenagers are driven insane by an inconsistent patchwork of rules which treat them as an infant in one moment and an adult the next?

The last thing we would want to admit is that the vigilante judgment of fifteen-year-old Charles Andrew Williams, that everyone he encountered at school was representative of a criminally insane society and deserved to be put out of their misery, might have more than a grain of truth to it.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: Medical Technocracy


Originally published in 1995 on The World According to J. Neil Schulman


If you hang around fringe political movements, as I’ve done for the last quarter century, you’re constantly getting a sense of déjà vu — “been there, done that.” Bring up any current political controversy for discussion, and within a couple of minutes you’ll be deluged with several centuries of forgotten political movements who were essentially saying the same thing.

You don’t have to go back further than the period surrounding the two world wars to find the Technocrats.

The Technocrats believed that the world should be run by the men who understood the technology that was transforming the world. Those who weren’t competent to do so would just have to take a back seat and let the experts decide things for them.

Interestingly, the Technocratic movement lost a lot of its luster when men such as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler took their ideas and tried putting them into practice. Of course, any Technocrat still around might complain that their ideas were misunderstood and never really tried out. This is the sort of complaint one gets from obstinate followers of Karl Marx when one points out the body count every time some regime calling itself Marxist tries to put those ideas into practice, too.

But the Technocratic movement has survived; it just isn’t called that anymore, and it has some new homes.

Nowadays, you can find the Technocrats hiding out at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Note this quote from David Satcher, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, writing in the November 5, 1995 Washington Post: “Because it typically focuses on human behavior, research on the prevention of disease, injury and disability often broaches matters that are controversial and on which people feel strongly — subjects such as firearms, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, job safety, environmental hazards. If scientists cannot look deeply into such matters without having their characters impugned, research will be inhibited, and ultimately the public will suffer.”

And pay attention to this quote from Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, writing in the December 5, 1991 issue: “A decision about whether such mildly restrictive [gun control] measures are adequate or whether access to firearms should be more severely restricted is in many respects similar to the medical decisions physicians make every day about disparate choices. Such decisions depend on an objective assessment of the benefits and risks (and costs) of the relevant options and the weighting of these countervailing values. In medicine, this kind of analysis is often applied to decisions about using diagnostic tests, drugs, and other therapeutic approaches. Benefits are assessed in terms of the accuracy of tests and the efficacy of treatments, and risks in terms of morbidity and mortality. When one choice yields benefits that clearly outweigh the risks we embrace it, and when the reverse obtains we reject it. When the comparison of benefits and risks fails to yield an unambiguous choice, we develop either a formal or an informal benchmark, or threshold, based on the benefits and risks, that defines how a procedure or treatment should be used. We would use the procedure or treatment when our suspicion of a certain disease exceeds this threshold, and we would avoid it when it falls short of the threshold.”

To an old-fashioned classical liberal, a humanist, a libertarian, or even a populist, whose movements disposed of Technocracy as an approach worth taking seriously years ago, this discussion has already reached its conclusion. Doctors Satcher and Kassirer are condemned out of their own mouths as closet Technocrats. They want the money and power to determine what people do with their lives, and they claim the expertise to do a better job of telling people what’s good and bad for them than people could figure out without their studies, statistics, and charts.

It’s a pseudo-intellectual con game that Cambridge professor C.S. Lewis was wise to in 1958, when he wrote in his article, “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State,” “Again, the new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge. If we are to be mothered, mother must know best. This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets. Technocracy is the form to which planned society must tend. Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects.”

Pay attention to the sleight of hand used by the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: firearms, smoking, job safety, and environmental hazards are all now to be lumped in with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as subjects which doctors claim they can cure … if only we give them enough money to study them … and the political power to impose their cures upon us. Medical doctors are now to be regarded as priests, social workers, inspectors, and police. Medical schools will replace anatomy and physiology with courses on theology, criminology, nuclear physics, and ballistics. Murderers won’t be punished but lobotomized. A rapist shot by a woman who refuses to be his victim will be just another shooting victim to the compassionate physician.

And to Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., the decision of whether you want to defend yourself from the psycho breaking into your house, or dial 9-1-1 and pray that the police get to your bedroom before he does, isn’t one you are competent to access. No, Dr. Kassirer will decide for all of us. He will analyze your sickness then tell us what pill will make us better. And why should we object — did we object when we gave him the power to tell us what drugs we could take into our own bodies?

Ladies and gentlemen, do you see your folly yet?

There are men among us who regard you as lab rats and suckers. They intend to run experiments on you — and they expect you to pay for it to boot. They think they are gods because they can saw into a man’s chest without puking. They think you are too stupid to run your own life … and they know just the geniuses to take over.

Not me, Dr. Kassirer. You’re not my doctor — I wouldn’t trust a quack like you. Get your hands out of my pocket, Dr. Satcher. I don’t trust you with my money because I’ve seen the bogus science you’ve bought with it … studies which count up dead bodies to determine whether guns save lives … studies which can’t tell the difference between an accident, a murder, or a suicide … studies which make no distinction between an honor student and a 13-year-old serial killer.

Technocracy was discredited because whenever you give some men the power to make the rules for everyone else, you just get another group of tyrants.

The question is before Congress to take funding away from these tin gods who think they know how we should run our lives, and want to make white lab coats into royal robes.

As far as I’m concerned, it will be an advance to both science and humanity if we not only take away their next paycheck, but make them pay back the grant money they’ve already wasted on their pipe dreams.

Either that, or make them spend the rest of their lives in inner-city clinics, giving babies immunizations.

That, at least, they were taught how to do in medical school.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: The Pitchman and the Oracle


Originally published in 1996 on The World According to J. Neil Schulman


Are you a bigot?

It won’t surprise me if you don’t think so. Bigotry, to most people, means intolerance of, or discrimination against, a person on the basis of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, gender, or what used to be called a handicap and now, using a euphemism for a euphemism, we call “challenged.”

The assumption that drives the social disapproval against bigotry is that the object of the bigotry not only has no choice about her or his condition, but that this condition is an ephemera to the person’s true worth. We obviously have no choice about our particular mix of chromosomes, so discrimination against one of us on the basis of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, gender, and physical or mental incapacities seems unfair.

Nowadays it’s not only socially acceptable, but socially encouraged, to be intolerant of people who engage in activities which are generally regarded as anti-social. Right-thinking people, often thinking themselves tolerant, would pour a glass of water on someone’s cigarette if he lit up in a restaurant, and would likely be applauded by other people who think themselves tolerant.

There is equally little tolerance for the man or woman who wears an animal’s fur as a coat but, practically speaking, there seems to be more tolerance for people who wear animal skins tanned into leather. Maybe the reason is that if you splash red paint on some “rich bitch’s” fur coat you might get sued, but if you splash red paint on a biker chick’s leather jacket, you’ll be talking to your lawyer from a hospital burn ward.

But if there is one class of people whom almost everyone seems to agree it’s okay to be nasty to, it’s the person who gets in your face and wants to give you a message. If the message is commercial, it’s coming from some sort of pitchman; if religious, from some sort of evangelist; if political, from some sort of rabble-rouser. What they all have in common is that they have no access to the monied means of communication — getting their words into books or magazines, or their message on TV, or their song on the radio. They can’t do what the big guys do which is bait a trap to get you to come to them — so they do all that’s left to them, which is to knock on doors, make phone calls, hand out leaflets on street corners, or write on bathroom walls.

In religion, do we have more tolerance for old, established religions with magnificent, centuries-old cathedrals and a millennia of pillaged statuary or the Jehovah’s Witness knocking on our doors?

In charity, are we more likely to give to some public-TV station which spends half its budget on fund-raising , or the plain-looking woman blocking your way into Wal-Mart who’s trying to raise money for a battered-woman’s shelter?

Of the three message-pushers, the commercial pitchman is likely the most despised throughout history. The late semanticist, college president, and U.S. senator, S.I. Hayakawa, in the first edition of his book Language in Thought And Action, had a chapter on “The Marginal Businessman.” Hayakawa argued that much of the popular resentment against Jews was directed not at supposed deficiencies in the Jewish religion but on the ways Jews made a living. Since Jewish dietary laws forbid the eating of game, Jews were not hunters; since Jews were often forbidden to own land, they could not be landlords or farmers. Laws commonly forbade Jews from attending universities or practicing professions. So Jews became merchants and money-lenders, rag-pickers and trinket salesmen. Hayakawa documented history showing that every struggling businessman, of any ethnicity, is despised because of his in-your-face sales practices.

Half a century ago, the small businessman was still pictured in newspaper cartoons with a hooked nose. Since that’s no longer acceptable, we are instead given the ethnically sanitized image of the small businessman as Schemer on the PBS children’s show Shining Time Station, or the greasy fast-food inventor Falafel on Hercules and Xena. But the point is the same. Small businessmen are usually shown as despicable.

Who, among car salesmen, are the ones we despise the most? Is it the Mercedes-Benz dealer wearing an Italian tailored suit in a plush showroom or the guy in the loud sports jacket selling used-up wrecks off a recently vacant lot?

Are we more annoyed by chain stores situated in an upscale shopping mall or the mail-order outfits operating out of a warehouse somewhere in North Dakota that fill your mailbox with “junk mail”?

The fact is, we live in a noisy marketplace and we are all suffering from agoraphobia to one extent or another.

Agoraphobia is usually thought of as fear or dislike of open spaces, but historically and etymologically, the agora wasn’t an empty space but a bustling, jostling market with people shouting at you to sample their wares. Agoraphobia has now evolved into the fear and loathing of the unsolicited sales call.

What most people don’t seem to realize is that this fear and loathing serves the interests of those who want to control all means of mass communication. The old method of censorship used by ruling classes was to try to keep you from getting your message out by using violence against you if you said or wrote something that wasn’t approved. Since human ingenuity seems boundless, the messages got out anyway — and usually were even made sexier by being forbidden.

The ruling classes have learned their lesson from history. They don’t bother trying to suppress discontented messengers anymore. They just buy up all the means of slick communication — movie studios, TV networks, recording companies — and manufacture the messages they want you to hear. They don’t have to censor the opposition — they simply drown it out in a sea of glossy, sexy, manipulative entertainment products. And if everyone hates the pitchman, it’s because we are surrounded by them all day long.

The pitchman is on TV and radio — even on so-called “public” TV — hawking his wares. If we pay extra for commercial-free channels, she’s telling us about the next week of movies we can’t miss. He’s selling us oranges, bananas, and peanuts when our car stops at a light in Los Angeles, or trying to clean our windshield with a greasy rag if the stoplight is in lower Manhattan. He’s selling us the Los Angeles Times before the movie previews start in a Southland movie theater. He’s asking us for a handout when we get out of our car, and waiting to ask us for a donation before we enter the mall shop. She’s leaving messages on our phone answering machines. There’s no avenue of communication they won’t use.

Even the Internet.

The Internet is the most efficient means of distributing information the human race has ever invented. I describe it to people who don’t understand computers as the world’s greatest library with the world’s best card catalog. But information is precisely what those in power most wish to control. You can’t package lies to everyone consistently if there remains a single open channel for getting the truth out to lots of people fast.

A few conglomerates today own the TV and radio stations, cable networks, movie studios and movie theaters, recording companies and music stores, movie rental stores, newspapers and magazines, book publishers, telephone companies, cable companies. Now they’re moving into the Internet with World Wide Web sites.

In each of these media that these major corporations control, they can sit back and wait for you to come to them to receive their pitches. You want entertainment. They control entertainment. They don’t have to get in your face to pitch to you because they control the movies, TV shows, and music you want and will willingly approach them, listening to their sales pitches along the way.

And it’s the outsider — the real social critic, the radical, the small enterpriser, the religious dissenter — who has to get in your face and shout to get your attention away from the officially sanctioned sources of information. Let’s call the information monopolists the “Oracles.”

Here’s where I come into the story, personally.

I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer for a quarter century now. I’ve written novels, screenplays, poems, articles, short stories, essays, and speeches. I’ve won awards, had my picture in the newspaper, plugged my books on TV, had a script I’ve written produced for network TV.

I’m also in the publishing business. I can’t think of a job in the publishing business I haven’t had hands-on experience doing. I’ve read manuscripts for literary agencies and publishers, done rewriting, line-editing, and copy-editing, supervised cover jacket artwork and book design, picked out binding materials, proofread at all stages, called distributors to get orders and both shipped books out and received them back. I’ve managed to get a small press book into chain bookstores and gotten stiffed when a distributor went bankrupt, owing me for 400 hardcover books they’d already been paid for by the chain to which they’d sold it. I’ve picked up pallets of books at the printer in Vermont and driven them cross country, then loaded them into a storage locker in Los Angeles.

The essence of writing and publishing is the creation and distribution of information — which puts me in direct competition with the information Oracles. On those occasions when I have written something that didn’t offend the Oracles too badly, they’ve bought my work and disseminated it. But any time I want to get down and dirty and offer a viewpoint that doesn’t fit their vision, I’m on my own, and good luck to me trying to get your attention with the racket you’re already getting from the Oracles.

I ran into this problem when I tried to send an email letter to a few hundred people on the Internet, telling them about my world wide website which is offering downloads of books which the Oracles have decided not to publish. I chose to mail to a list of people who had openly published their names and email addresses on a website opposing Internet censorship. I sent each one a single message telling them how the book industry nowadays is channeled through one guy in New York who buys for the biggest bookstore chain — and no major publisher will publish a book of any consequence without checking with him first to see what his order might be. I suggested that when one guy sitting in an office can control what books a quarter billion people got a chance to buy, we might as well call it censorship.

And I ran headlong into the prejudice against the pitchman.

Because my message was “unsolicited” and “commercial,” I got back dozens of email replies accusing me of mailing “spam” — which is a term of art on the Internet for sending out multiple messages to unrelated public news groups or private email accounts. Most “spammers” use the Internet to pitch scams, phone sex, and CD-ROM’s offering dirty pictures. They’ll send messages to unrelated news groups, hundreds at a time. They’ll send from anonymous email accounts so Internet service providers can’t cut them off. They’ll buy lists of email addresses drawn from people who have posted messages in public news groups.

I didn’t do any of that. I mailed to a list of people who had freely self-published their email addresses in support of a cause — and I was sending them a message on a related cause. I sent them one message — and I told them that I wasn’t going to send them any more.

They didn’t believe me. It appears this was what every “spammer” said as part of the pitch. I was cursed out, insulted, threatened with legal action, and sent a huge message designed to cripple my email for about an hour. Even the most mannered and eloquent of those people who had received my email were offended by its being an unsolicited invasion of their privacy, and they acted with the zeal of white blood cells attacking a foreign DNA strand attempting to fend off my unwanted intrusion. They were guardians of the public good, defending their polity.

In other words, they were people after my own heart.

Just a few years ago, the Internet was the preserve of a few academics and government employees, free from any commercial enterprises — and those people want it kept that way. They probably feel about me how Pocahontas’s dad, Chief Powhatan, felt when he saw the Susan Constant sailing into harbor filled with English boat-people.

But the objection to “spam” on the Internet is, at its essence, the same prejudice that ruling classes throughout history have used to maintain their power. If they can get the people to despise the pitchman, the evangelist, and the rabble-rouser, they can continue to enjoy a monopoly of their subjects’ attention spans so that our money and energy will be spent how they want it spent.

The World Wide Web is, largely, a level playing field, where the small enterpriser, the evangelist, and the rabble-rouser can enjoy messaging opportunities equal to that of the corporate Oracles. It is, perhaps, the first time in history that communication has been so free and democratic.

But the Oracles still can command attention on the World Wide Web using vast gobs of money, using Internet directories such as Infoseek and Yahoo! to display advertising banners. “Directory” is the correct name for these services — for they direct millions of people to a few select websites every day — and the Oracles maintain their grip on your attention thereby.

The small fry like me — with an alternative website — is, like the door-to-door salesman, the telephone pitchman, and the panhandler — forced into the undignified and despised job of attempting to grab your attention by any means left to us that does not require thousands or millions of dollars in advertising. And I tried sending out email about my website to some people I thought would be interested because I can’t afford to sit back and let people find me the way the Oracles can.

I will not soon try that again because the Oracles have conditioned their subjects to reject the pitchman, the evangelist, and the rabble-rouser, and I don’t appreciate getting insulted, threatened, and outright damaged by the guardians of public morals.

Which, it would appear, leaves the Oracles with their monopoly on mass communication intact and unthreatened.

Ladies and Gentlemen: the people who eat caviar have a good reason to make you hate spam. Spam threatens their monopoly on communications. If you buy from the lady who’s selling cheap oranges on the street, what do you need the overpriced produce in the high-rent supermarket for? If I can use a $12.95 a month email account to send a message to thousands of potential customers, how can they make you buy their overpriced junk with million-dollar Superbowl commercials?

It’s only by fostering your hatred of the pitchman who’s in your face with an alternative product that the Oracles can maintain their lock on your pocketbook, your vote … and your soul.

If you despise spam — the pitchman, the evangelist, the rabble-rouser — you are allowing the people who are already rich and powerful to make sure that they brook no competition from new ideas and alternative enterprises.

If a pitchman, evangelist, or rabble-rouser has to shout for your attention, it’s a clear signal to you that what they have to say is not something the Oracles want you to hear.

If the Oracles wanted you to hear it, they wouldn’t have to get in your face. They own the media. They don’t have to shout. They already have you where they want you and they don’t want to lose you.

At some point, people who are seriously concerned about freedom of speech are just going to have to figure out whether they’re willing to put up with the inconvenience of having some nasty, ugly, cheap low-life’s like me get in your face on occasion in order to preserve your freedom of choice.

Getting in your face to tell you this is, admittedly, a nasty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Otherwise, the Oracles will own us forever and a day.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself …”


Published September 19, 2001 — a week after the 9/11 attacks — in The Sierra Times

A lot of people whose only exposure to history is from sound bytes are familiar with the phrase “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and they know that these words were spoken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They probably think FDR originated this statement in one of his speeches during World War Two. But he said it during his first inaugural address on Saturday, March 4, 1933, six years before the beginning of World War II and over eight years before the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into that war. The cause of the fear FDR was referring to was the economic depression America was in when he took office. Roosevelt was warning America not to let the economy be paralyzed by their fears. As a libertarian I may disagree with his solution, but FDR’s warning was valid.

It struck me that President George W. Bush has told us that America is now in a war against Terrorism. What is terrorism if not the goal of producing a paralyzing fear?

And nowhere has fear been more effective in creating paralysis than in the American airline industry.

On the day of the attack, when terrorists seized and caused the destruction of four American passenger jetliners and successfully used three of them as weapons of mass destruction, the FAA grounded all American aviation. Airports were shut down. Flights into the United States were sent back or diverted to Canada. Foreign airlines were told not to attempt to land in the United States.

It was several days before there was another commercial flight. By that time, one financially troubled American airline company, Midway, had already declared bankruptcy. Americans who couldn’t travel in their own cars were using any other means of transportation possible to avoid flying: trains, buses, rental cars, limousines, taxicabs.

And no wonder! New airport security regulations have made even a flight without a terrorist a nightmare. At Los Angeles International Airport it is now forbidden for private automobiles to pick up or drop off passengers at a terminal. The Skycaps are now jobless since all baggage must go through additional inspections. The electronic ticketing that had become so popular and had simplified boarding procedures is now as cumbersome as the old paper ticketing.

The average wait at a ticket counter before one may even proceed to one’s flight is averaging between two and three hours for domestic flights and up to six hours for international flights. Then one must proceed through security checkpoints where the possibility of a full body cavity search is possible if one is found to be carrying a forgotten nail file or a plastic letter opener. Carry-on baggage is being eliminated from many flights, requiring that upon arrival one must go through the incredible hassles of retrieving one’s bags from the carousels, with even more time delays and all the well-known problems of lost, stolen, and damaged bags worse than ever.

Virtually no one contemplating these facts is choosing to travel for pleasure, and many businesses are instituting new policies reducing or eliminating the necessity of their employees flying on company business. Some corporations have even instituted a policy that exempts any employee who chooses from flying on company business, period.

Only a week after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, all the commercial American airline companies are within weeks of declaring bankruptcy themselves. They have cut back on scheduled flights by 20 percent already, and have begun layoffs of airline employees that may top 100,000 jobs eliminated within days.

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D, Missouri) has called for Americans to save the airlines by boarding planes again. He is, in essence, suggesting that Americans suck it up and forget their fears of terrorist attacks in order to save the American airline industry.

But it is not the fear of the American people that is destroying the American airline companies. We have learned about the heroic passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, disarmed by longstanding Federal Aviation Administration policy but having heard what other hijacked airliners were being used for, making an unarmed attack on the only person who knew how to fly the plane — the pilot-hijacker who had already murdered the United flight crew — in order to prevent the passenger jetliner they were on from being crashed into buildings and murdering thousands of their countrymen.

Nowadays there is an agreement between the terrorists who capture jetliners to use them as weapons of mass destruction, and those who are calling for sealing airline pilots into their cockpits no matter what happens in the passenger compartment. That agreement between the terrorists and the counter-terrorists is that the passengers, the reason for the existence of the jetliner itself, are as expendable as dumping jet fuel. The metal is now more important than the flesh.

It is not only at airports where “fear itself” is going to paralyze us. We already fear, and will fear more, taking our loved ones to concerts, sporting events, high-rise buildings, theme parks, government buildings, and many other places that are tempting targets for terrorist reprisals, once the armed forces of the United States engage the enemy overseas. We fear that public gatherings could turn deadly from terrorists with bombs or strategically placed machine guns. We fear that the enemy is already among us with horrific weapons of mass destruction including biological agents, chemical weapons, or even nuclear bombs.

President Bush was correct when he told us we must get back to work.

Congressman Gephardt is right when he tells us to suck it up.

But it is not the fear of the American people that is the threat to our economic and community life. It is the fear of our policy makers, including Congressman Gephardt, that is the main problem.

We all remember the grade-school teacher who, hit by a spitball while writing on the blackboard, punished the whole class because she didn’t know whom the perpetrator was. Our leaders are acting like that teacher.

Because there are a few — very few — terrorists among us, and our government’s investigators doesn’t know who they all are, our policy makers are punishing all of us. They are treating all of us like terrorists. Our leaders are terrified of the American people and in their fear it is they who are paralyzing our national life and our economy.

It’s time we told them they have to trust us again.

If anyone needs to suck it up, it’s them.

For years I have spoken about the necessity of restoring the Second Amendment to its intended purpose of regarding the armed citizen as an asset, rather than a liability, in the struggle against crime and terrorism. During peacetime my words have largely succeeded in rousing only the choir. I am hoping that now we are at war against an enemy within us, my words will have impact among those of my countrymen who have thought them unwise.

Americans with guns can prevent many, but of course not all, of the scenarios by which terrorists can damage us further. It can prevent the terrorist taking over of subway cars, trains, and buses. It can provide an effective means of stopping the machine gunning of crowds before mass casualties occur. It can prevent a truck stop, or a tanker truck carrying flammable liquids or hazardous materials, from being turned into an enemy asset. It might prevent the takeover of tollbooths at a bridge or a tunnel.

And yes, as I have said repeatedly this past week, letting airline passengers with badges, and licenses to carry concealed firearms, on board with their guns, checked only for the proper ammunition that will not cause critical damage to airliner control surfaces, can make sure that the next time passengers need to take on hijackers, they might be able to avoid having to crash the plane in order to save those still on the ground. They might be able to land safely themselves and get medical help for the casualties.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

President Bush, his cabinet, our governors and mayors, our legislators and city councils, and the ladies and gentlemen who serve in our civil services: we are your countrymen. If you can’t stop being afraid of us, if you can’t trust us with a gun when our enemies can take over a critical asset with a box cutter, then how can you ever expect us to stop being afraid and return our country to normality?

Note, March 8, 2010:

I wrote this a week after 9/11, before there was even a Department of Homeland Security.

Obviously airline security is even more invasive and no more effective.

Obviously the airlines are still in trouble.

Obviously nobody listened to me.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Sillygisms


Updated from the version published June 11, 2000 at KeepAndBearArms.com


As the author of two books on the “gun rights” issue, I must conclude that I have been less successful than I had hoped in making my feelings clear about the NRA, the Second Amendment, and even guns themselves.

When all is said and done, I really don’t care all that much about the NRA, the Second Amendment, or even guns.

The NRA could cease to exist tomorrow, and my political activities would be unaltered. As a matter of fact, I have been embarrassed in the past by the NRA publicists’ apparent inability to convey my beliefs to the media, American intellectuals, and most urban professionals.

The Second Amendment could be repealed tomorrow, and it would make no change whatsoever in my political beliefs. I believe that Americans have no greater right to keep and bear arms than anyone in any other country that doesn’t have such a right written into its constitution. The Second Amendment is irrelevant to the existence of the right to keep and bear arms.

Tomorrow, all the privately-owned guns in America could be grabbed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, then melted down into a mountain of slag, and my ultimate political goals would be unchanged. The absence of guns would not stop me from pursuing the same personal and political goals that I do now.

Those who want to ban guns think I care about the NRA, the Second Amendment, and guns. They think if they can marginalize the NRA, so that it is regarded as an extremist organization such as the Ku Klux Klan, they will be free to repeal the Second Amendment. They think if they repeal the Second Amendment, they will be free to pass all the laws they like banning the private ownership and possession of guns. They think that if they actually succeeded in collecting all the privately held guns in America, they will be free from violence, free from fear, free from extremists who oppose their oh-so-benevolent plans to remake society in their image.

I’m here to tell them that not only do they not have a good sense of reality, they don’t even have a good sense of what motivates the people they think of as enemies.

I am personally motivated by my belief in inherent human rights. I’m an advocate of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe people have the right to pursue their own lives free from tyranny, regardless of whether the tyrant is a schoolyard bully, a street thug, a violent family member, nosy neighbors, or armed bureaucrats.

I’m seeking a society where property rights enable people who disagree with each other’s lifestyles to live in peace with each other.

I want a society where a gay bar can peacefully coexist next door to a Seventh Day Adventist church — and as long as the blow-jobs are kept behind the closed doors of the gay bar, and the Seventh Day Adventists keep their prayers for the souls of the gay men on their side of the property line, they can live as neighbors.

I want a society where channel 44 is Jimmy Swaggart and Channel 45 is Baptist Babes in Bondage–and I can unsubscribe to whichever channel I find offensive.

I want restaurants and bars to be free to cordon off smokers’ sections and non-smokers’ sections — and saloon keepers are free to make a rule that in the smokers’ section you have to smoke.

It is only respect for the demarcations of private property that enables people who despise each other to coexist. For many people, it is only the fear of retaliation for violating someone else’s rights that motivate respect for them. In the real world, there is no respect without deterrence.

Each of us has the right to defend the rights of life, liberty, and private property, if necessary applying violence against those who threaten or first use violence to violate those rights. A right that cannot be exercised is no right at all. A right which is not yours to defend belongs to no one.

These are fundamental principles. The problem with those who want to ban guns is that they do not have the ability to think in principles. They think not in syllogisms but in what I’ve termed sillygisms.

A sillygism is a sequence of statements which appear logical but which produce nonsense.

For example: People who die after jumping out of airplanes are almost always wearing parachutes. Therefore, if people jump out of airplanes without parachutes, they will be safer. That’s a sillygism.

This may seem obviously ludicrous to you. But I can point out to you studies conducted by people with doctorates and medical degrees, and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine, where the logic is just as silly: People who die from a gunshot wound more often keep a gun for protection than people who don’t. Therefore, if people don’t keep guns for protection, they will be safer.

The sillygism is the same for both parachutes and guns. People who jump out of airplanes need parachutes far more often than people who don’t. The failure of a parachute to save a jumper’s life in a few cases doesn’t mean that jumping out of a plane without a parachute is safer. Most of the time parachutes save the jumper’s life.

Likewise, the failure of a gun to save a victim’s life in a few cases doesn’t mean that living in a dangerous world without keeping a gun for protection is safer. Most of the time, the availability of a gun will save the victim of a criminal attack.

It is a love of life, liberty, and the property rights that protect pursuit of one’s own concept of happiness that motivates me politically.

It is an historical study of what has been necessary to secure fundamental human rights that dictates where I devote my energy to shape the future.

It is an understanding of the usefulness of guns in defending the rights of the individual that causes me to defend the Second Amendment as a political barrier to the unilateral disarmament of the private individual.

And the NRA being the only well-funded, popular institution that defends the Second Amendment is what causes me to support that organization, despite its failure to convey my beliefs to the media, American intellectuals, and most urban professionals.

Destroy the NRA, and I will be no less enthusiastic about preserving human liberty. I will merely see it as necessary to organize fresh grass-roots support to preserve the Second Amendment.

Repeal the Second Amendment, and I will be no less committed to the right of the people to keep and bear arms. That right precedes the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution is merely a contract among the American people in an attempt to secure this and other rights. If that contract is broken, it may be assumed that I am no longer bound by the terms of that contract — and I will start renegotiating until I secure acceptable terms.

The American Revolution which began on April 19, 1775 at the old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts was such a renegotiation.

Ban private guns — send armed bureaucrats house-to-house to collect them all — and my right to self defense will be lessened in no way. There are weapons other than guns that can be effective in combating even the best armed and most tyrannical government. In countries where guns are few, home-made bombs are many. There are chemical propellants other than gunpowder that can be effective in aiming and accelerating small objects at a target, and drilling holes in it.

In an America with common household things including aerosol oven cleaners, laser pointers, microwave ovens, light trucks and vans, GPS navigation, and iPhones, you seriously don’t want to piss off millions of Americans who believe they own guns to keep the government under the people’s control. We’re peaceful and law-abiding now because our right to defend ourselves with guns is politically secure.

Here’s a sillygism for them: They think gun owners are dangerous. But they also think it is safe for them to try taking away guns from millions of gun owners.

Maybe they should try thinking that one through again.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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