Originally published at: Is This How We Treat Our Heroes? | Free Keene
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking since my arrival at Fort Devens to serve my 18 months of government-mandated vacation, and one of my favorite things to remember is that final week of Porcfest, where I spent time with my liberty family a mere two days before starting my prison sentence. I have, of course, been aware of certain issues that developed after that year’s final Porcfest day–notably, after the Soapbox Idol event. After all, I was there as a judge, and I saw it all first-hand, with better-than-front-row seats, and I really only have one question:
Is this how we treat heroes of the liberty movement?
To call Jeremy Kauffman divisive is as much of an understatement as calling me controversial, but on one point there can be no division or dispute. Jeremy built LBRY, a real-life tool that is immune to government censorship as no other platform has ever been, and from that spawned Odysee, a web-based front-end to the protocol that brought much of this unrestricted content to the masses. What Ross Ulbricht did to make drug use safter, Jeremy did to help protect information from overbearing states (and what state isn’t overbearing?). If this was his only contribution to bettering the world for liberty, I would argue that it is more than enough, but he has not been content to merely hand over a widely used censorship-resistant video and file sharing protocol and platform, has he?
Jeremy has further run for office (unsuccessfully, but that’s really of little practical importance), helped others to do the same, promoted the Free State Project, served on FSP, Inc.’s, board, and, most importantly, stood against the SEC and all their might, when Kraken, Binance, and other much more powerful people and companies with significantly more resources and dozens of their own attorneys failed to. I must confess that I’ve never been investigated by the SEC (to my knowledge), but every libertarian worth their weight in Goldbacks knows by now how vicious, vitriolic, and vile the SEC and its chair, Gary Gensler, are. And while I don’t know what it feels like to battle the SEC, I spent nearly 15 months waiting on a promised superseding indictment that would (and did) bring more charges against me, and through that period I repeatedly turned down plea offers. I then spent an additional six months or so awaiting trial (before having my motion to dismiss denied, whereupon a plea deal seemed to me the most sensible route to take), and through all of this there was always an upcoming hearing, a next conference, threats of escalation, promises of destruction (made by the government and its agents), and unrelenting tension. After this was an additional six months awaiting sentencing, and an omnipresent Sword of Damocles whose devastation could not be divined in advance.
It is impossible to convey what this does to the soul.
I can’t image that his battle with the SEC was any less horrific than my battle with the U.S. attorneys, and especially after the superseding indictment I became so strained that I was never far from a breaking point. I snapped at countless people who did not deserve it, and, while I was always quick to recognize my failing and apologize, one cannot un-snap at people. And let’s be honest–the man Jeremy snapped at during Soapbox Idol absolutely deserved it. I had a number of (admittedly, less harsh than Jeremy’s) responses myself, and was ready to eviscerate the man over his bigoted, anti-trans nonsense, but Jeremy was quicker to the draw.
Is Jeremy Kaufman an alcoholic? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Many of the people who have alleged this have struggled with their own substance abuse disorders–what was that thing that Christ said about throwing stones? Even if it is true (and, again, I do not know or care), it would mean only that his battle with the SEC–the one that cost him countless dollars, immeasurable years of his life, as well as the company that he’d built over the course of many years–left him a “bitter and angry alcoholic.” Is this really how we treat our heroes? With all the love, compassion, and gratitude of the United States Government for its soldiers? “Thank you for your service, sorry about the PTSD, depression, and anxiety, and loss–lulz, and the substance abuse disorder. Our bad, but get lost. But TYFYS. Now kindly go drink yourself to death quietly somewhere so that you don’t tarnish our brand that’s more interested in restricting nudists who have never bothered anyone than in helping one of our heroes.”
I want to believe that we, as a community and a society, are better than that, but evidence seems to suggest otherwise. how many of our community have written Ian Freeman? How many have written Ross Ulbricht within the last 12 months? I ask because I can count on one hand the number of New Hampshire libertarians who have written me, and I wish I could believe the explanation that I am simply disliked; alas, though, I know in my heart the truth: out of sight, out of mind.. How quickly we forget Jeremy’s numerous and invaluable contributions to the world–and to our own community!
Is a history of service an everlasting excuse to be a jerk? Certainly not. But if we value someone and care about them, when they go astray we should react with kindness and with compassion, not scorn and condemnation. And besides, maybe a jovial “good times were hand by all!” rant competition at a liberty festival, where shrooms can be purchased within sight of the competition, isn’t the best venue to trot out one’s dead son like a macabre marionette, to dance around and shield the speaker from criticism, especially after misgendering him on a stage where it is known that a trans judge is eager to respond.
But perhaps it’s best that I didn’t get the chance to speak, because in that moment I wouldn’t likely have shown that dude the same love, compassion, and understanding that I’m now asking the liberty community to manifest toward Jeremy Kauff
man. We’re no longer in that moment, though, and have the benefit of nearly six months to reflect on events while letting emotions cool, and I would ask the liberty community to do exactly that: to show love, compassion, and understanding toward someone who fought indescribable battles with the U.S. Government.