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America: Freedom to Fascism

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Lemuel
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Filmmaker and former Libertarian Presidential candidate Aaron Russo's documentary America: Freedom to Fascism has opened in limited release, and I've just returned from seeing it. Briefly, the film's theme explores the legality of income tax, and the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve Act and the Constitution's Sixteenth Amendment, giving Congress the authority to collect income taxes. Objectivists are familiar with these themes, so there are no real spoilers here.

The first part of the film wades in the shallow end of the issue of taxation. Focusing just on the income tax, Russo interviews people who all claim that there's actually no law that states Americans have to pay income taxes. These include a juror who acquitted a man on trial for tax evasion, two former IRS investigators who left the organization, and a family who was deprived of everything they owned in an IRS raid based solely on the accusation of tax evasion. Russo's somewhat responsible here, going to Washington to solicit interviews from the Internal Revenue Service for some clarity on the issue. Surprise, surprise: he's refused an interview with the IRS, and when he sets up a camera outside their building to maybe catch an employee heading out for some lunch, Homeland Security shows up.

But the IRS gave him a break, and referred him to a former IRS Commissioner, the very Commissioner that wrote the current tax code. Russo innocently asks all the right questions, and when he catches the former Commissioner in a couple of glaring contradictions, he's told the interview is over. Of course, the man can't actually point to the law ...

Here's where the film takes a sharp turn from making what could be a cogent argument into the paranoid. He shows that companies have created tiny microchips transmitters, points out the looming implentation of the Real ID Act (HR 418), and concludes that we'll all be implanted with tracking devices by the government. He shows testimony from a computer programmer that states that electronic voting machines can be rigged, points to evidence of foul play in the 2004 Presidential Election, and concludes that no matter who you vote for, we're all losers. War is expensive, banks have all the money, so the Iraq war is really all about the US and UK central banks controlling Middle East oil. Russo's whole premise rests on the definition of fascism as "corporatism", or the control of the government by private interests, namely the Federal Reserve.

In the end, Russo calls for civil disobedience: don't vote for a candidate that won't promise to bring down the Fed, don't get the Real ID, etc. Suspiciously absent was a call to not file income taxes; sure, it's probably better that he didn't, but if we're in such deep trouble shouldn't we be doing more than refusing to pay attention to our government.

My evaluation of AFTF is that - outside of the convincing nature of not finding the actual income tax law - the film is sloppy and irresponsible, and like much Libertarian fare, way off the mark. The production value is horrible; granted, Russo funded the film himself, but one could get a better digital camera and a copy of Final Cut Pro for under $5,000. There's far too much reading involved as well. Quotes are splashed on the screen constantly, many of them indirect, uncited, and provided with no context other than what he gives them. A couple of his interviewees - author G Edward Griffin, author Michael Ruppert, and scholar Edwin Vieira - come off as experts, but ... well, tighten your tin foil hat and click the links.

Two things are glaringly absent in the film:

1. The blame for everything behind the Fed was put on wealthy capitalists of the early 1900s, but no attempt is made to define capitalism or even differentiate it from "corporatism".

2. While the legality of taxation is successfully challenged, the morality of it is not even discussed.

The two big errors in the film that are fresh in my mind are:

1. Claiming that President Bush has created laws that allow him to activate a totalitarian police state overnight, then rolling out a list of Executive Orders as proof. Except all the Executive Orders cited were enacted by President Kennedy.

2. When calling for civil disobedience, he flashes images of Ghandi, then Martin Luther King ... then George Washington? Washington is an example of civil disobedience?

In the spirit of Screw Loose Change, it would be nice to see a good point-by-point Objective analysis of AFTF, but I imagine that a couple of hours scouring the Oo.net forums would give one enough ammunition to see the film for what it is: the same old tired Libertarian agenda.

SynthLord gives America: Freedom to Fascism ... $$-1/2 of 5

Edited by synthlord
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Thanks for that review. I had heard about that film and was wondering if it might be good, since it was made by a libertarian and not, well, Michael Moore. From the description on the film's web site, it did seem a bit paranoid. Your review confirms my suspicions.

One wonders, how can a libertarian make a film that comes across as so anti-capitalist? It's propaganda like this that make people associate capitalism with corruption and corporatism till it gets to the point where capitalism is a bad word.

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It's not explicitly anti-capitalist, but the section on the history of the Federal Reserve was a bit irresponsible. He talks about how Rockefeller, Morgan, and other magnates "bribed" Congress into passing the Federal Reserve Act, then pushed the 16th Amendment through.

He then goes on to define fascism as corporate control of government, according to Moussolini's identification of it as 'corporatism'. Not a single time do the words capitalism or free market enter the discussions, though.

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  • 6 years later...

Has anyone else seen this Russo movie? I remember watching this last year in a us history class (and it scared me) and I just watched it again tonight (and it still scares me). The main themes being: 1. the fed is immoral and unconstitutional, and it controls the government and it's employees, 2. income tax specifically, is immoral and unconstitutional (think pollock vs. farmer's loans), and 3. more and more laws are being passed that throw civil liberties right out the window. I too would really like to see an O'ist analysis of this, especially since it's now available for free:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1656880303867390173

Edited by mdegges
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Was Russo in fact an LP candidate? At one time he was promoting the Constitution Party, a downmarket LP (which I wouldn't have thought possible until I saw it), and he may have run as one of its candidates, but I never heard of a connection to the LP.

What little I've heard about him, including the current thread, makes him look like a crank. No less for that, I'm in his debt, because he made a star of Bette Midler.

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He ran in 2004, but lost to Badnarik (funny- he's the guy recommended by the atlasphere!) But yeah, any time I bring up Russo people call him a consipiracy theorist, which is also how he's viewed in the media. I haven't looked into fact checks about his claims, but his documentaries are persuasive as hell.

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Then how have some people (most notably joe banister) gotten away with not paying their income taxes? "24 people were criminally charged by the IRS because they claimed there was no law requiring them to file an income tax return.. the jury came back with an acquittal for every one." (

) That's what concerns me, especially since wiki says that sixteenth amendment radification arguments "have been rejected in every court case where they have been raised and have been identified as legally frivolous" and "have been ruled without merit under contemporary jurisprudence." Sounds fishy to me. Edited by mdegges
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Has anyone else seen this Russo movie? I remember watching this last year in a us history class (and it scared me) and I just watched it again tonight (and it still scares me). The main themes being: 1. the fed is immoral and unconstitutional, and it controls the government and it's employees, 2. income tax specifically, is immoral and unconstitutional (think pollock vs. farmer's loans), and 3. more and more laws are being passed that throw civil liberties right out the window. I too would really like to see an O'ist analysis of this, especially since it's now available for free:

[url=http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1656880303867390173

http://video.google....67390173[/media]

The Fed doesn't control the government (the American people do, and, through the government, they also control the Fed - which is led by a politically appointed Board of Governors), and the income tax isn't unconstitutional. You're right on everything else though.

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@above: Those are the points Russo made in the movie. His claim is that the government is controlled by corporate interests (bankers are shareholders) and that it's unconstitutional (it's a monolopy, causes financial crisis, prevents growth, etc). I haven't looked into this in depth after watching the movie last night. See my above post regarding income tax.

Edited by mdegges
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The Banister article you link to in #8 says he was acquitted of some charges in 2005. The Wikipedia article about him says he was eventually found liable for taxes (not the original criminal charges) and that the appeals court ruled against him in 2008.

Russo stands convicted as a crank.

Edited by Reidy
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