Sovereign Citizens: The Rise of Pseudolegal Extremist Movements

“Sovereign Citizens,” “Freeman on the Land,” and “Kymatica”

The recent killings carried out by the white supremacist, terrorist Jeremy Christian in Portland, Oregon brought national attention to many of the extremists living in the United States.

Despite all of this attention, however, the average person still might not be familiar with the details of some of the other extremist “movements” that continue to operate under the radar in the US, and abroad, year after year.

This blog is going to introduce two similar “pseudolegal” movements known as the “Sovereign Citizens” and the “Freeman on the Land” (FOTL). It will also look at the New-Age film “Kymatica,” which acts as an introductory video to the ideology of these movements.

The only real difference between the sovereign citizen and the FOTL movements is that sovereign citizens are considered by the FBI to be the larger, more dangerous group with an estimated number of 300,000 plus adherents as of 2010 (MacNab 2012).

Since the 1970s, the sovereign citizen movement has had a history of perpetuating violence against law enforcement and many have been caught running money scams or committing any number of other white collar crimes. Not to mention, “According to a survey of law-enforcement personnel,[12] in 2014 Sovereign Citizens are now regarded as the number one terrorist threat in America” (RationalWiki 2017).

On the other hand, the FOTL is a relatively new nuisance, “with the term only being coined around 2005 by Canadian tax protester ‘Robert-Arthur:Menard’ to describe a person who is literally (except not at all) a ‘free man’ on the land where they live” (Rothschild 2013).

The “colon” punctuation in the name “Robert-Arthur:Menard” is a side-effect of adhering to these faulty belief systems; but more on that a little later.

The most important takeaway from either of these pseudolegal movements is that they always fail in court and the second that you start using dated, “out-of-place,” or obscure language with a law enforcement official you will be treated as if you’re a potential threat; law enforcement have been educated on the ideologies, tactics of both the sovereign citizen and FOTL movement (Berger 2016).

YouTube is filled with sovereign citizen fail videos, spoiler alert: it always ends with broken car windows.

The pseudolegal defenses, tactics used by sovereign citizens and FOTL do not work, it’s that simple; there’s no “get out of jail free” card. There is no such thing as “word magic” and doing “your own research online” does not exempt you from the realities and consequences of living in a lawful society.

A succinct paragraph that sums up FOTL consequences via RationalWiki:

“No freeman arguments have ever succeeded in court;[10] some courts have even explicitly ruled that the term ‘freeman on the land’ has no legal significance when the argument is raised.[11] Actually using the arguments gets people into worse trouble, including fines, asset seizures, contempt convictions and criminal records, and the few cases touted as ‘successes’ are almost entirely for reasons unrelated to the freeman arguments.[12] However, this doesn’t stop freemen from claiming that it works” (RationalWiki 2017).

If you’re just hearing about these things for the first time, then do yourself a favor and don’t fall for it. If you’re just learning about it for the first time, then you should probably stop wasting your time “doing your own research” and by no means should you ever pay for “advice” from any kind of “guru.”

In the article, “5 common crimes committed by sovereign citizens,” author Chris Meyer starts with a review of what the “Redemption Theory” and a “Strawman Birth Certificate” are. Meyer then goes on to reveal the five “most common fraud crimes of sovereign citizens”:

  • Income Tax evasion
  • The redemption scheme
  • Selling fraudulent documents
  • Financial fraud schemes
  • Intimidation and obstruction of law enforcement (Meyer 2017).

A quote from Ron Usher, of the Society of B.C. Notaries, paints a picture of the basic demographic of the FOTL, sovereign citizen movements:

“it appeals to the angry male whose life isn’t working out very well. You get this spiral of legal mess that the only person that’s benefited is the person who’s taken their money for the seminar teaching them how to do all this. It looks like desperate people spending their last nickel on bad advice” (RationalWiki 2017).

And it’s as simple as that, do not waste your time or money on such wishful thinking and do not try to apply any of these things in real life unless you’d like to have a criminal record and a lot of extra hassle.

An Overview, History of the Sovereign Citizen Movement:

The “sovereign citizen movement” began in the early 1970s with a group called, “the Posse Comitatus,” but the ideology of the movement did not mature until the 1980s. By the end of the 1980s the Posse Comitatus had faded away but ended up creating a new movement; the ideology of which evolved to be centered on a massive conspiracy theory (ADL 2010).

The FBI notes that are any number of variations to this conspiracy theory but basically, by whatever scenario the conspiracist chooses, they claim something along the lines of, “the federal government is operating outside its jurisdiction and they are therefore not bound by government authority—including the courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, and even law enforcement” (FBI 2017).

According to the text in the Anti-Defamation League’s Special Report, “The Lawless Ones: The Resurgence of the Sovereign Citizen Movement,” sovereign citizens believe that:

“today there are really two governments: the “illegitimate” government that everyone else thinks is genuine and the original government that existed before the conspiracy allegedly infiltrated it. They claim allegiance to the original government and disdain the “illegitimate” one. To them the original government was a utopian minimalist government which never interfered with the citizenry; in their fantasy history of the United States, they believe that people followed ‘God’s laws’ rather than ‘man’s laws’” (ADL 2010).

The ADL’s Special Report goes on to explain the “colon” punctuation that we see in the name of the creator of the “Kymatica” film, “Benjamin: Stewart,” and how common it is “for sovereign citizens to use punctuation in their name—such as commas, colons, and semi-colons—to separate their first and middle names from their last name, which many think is their ‘government-given’ name” (ADL 2010).

Ultimately, “The result of sovereign citizen ideology is that its adherents believe the government (including police and the judicial system) has no jurisdiction over them. They can rationalize disobeying or ignoring virtually any law, major or minor” (ADL 2010). This means that sovereign citizens are a danger to law enforcement, and pose a threat to the general public, since they believe they can pick and choose which laws they will or will not obey.

The fact that some sovereign citizens are frauds who perpetrate scams, such as renting out foreclosed properties to unsuspecting victims, is more than just a nuisance to society. It upends the lives of the ones who are defrauded and creates an unnecessary drain on local resources.

In general, the personality types attributed to the sovereign citizen movement are: “people who are financially stressed, people who are angry at the government (especially government regulation), and con artists or people who want ‘something for nothing’” (ADL 2010). And on that note, it’s time to get back to the 2009 video “Kymatica.”

Regurgitated propaganda, the uninformed opinion of one man:

I watched the conspiracy-tinted flick, “Kymatica,” in the summer of 2011, which was about one year after it had been uploaded to YouTube. It’s interesting that the Anti-Defamation League noted that since, “the summer of 2010, Americans have witnessed a wave of anti-government sentiment sweeping the country” (ADL 2010).

Anyway, this conspiracy film is listed as a “documentary” by “Benjamin: Stewart” (a.k.a “Daniel: Stewart”); the whole double-name thing and “colon” punctuation has to do with the strange content, beliefs he espoused in this video of his from 2009.

Lately, “Benjamin: Stewart” has been writing and selling books, like his most recent pseudoscience tome, “Superhuman Genesis,” which he self-published under the super-duper normal name of Ben Joseph Stewart.

Regardless of what name he chooses to go by, Mr. Stewart did manage to create an uninformed “documentary” that could be misinterpreted by the gullible as leeway to start putting themselves above the law or, as he suggests, not be governed by anything other than their “own consciousness.”

Misleading people on such important legal, life topics by spreading misinformation is probably one of the more regrettable things you can get manipulated into doing; but it does happen.

To elaborate on the “Person=Person” featured image at the top of this blog is a passage from “Kymatica,” which occurs at 28:01 minutes into the video and talks about the “word magic” that enslaves us all:

“This Admiralty Law changed the meaning of the word, ‘person,’ from a natural living person to a corporation. Driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, auto-insurance forms, building permits, gun permits, work permits, tax filing documents, birth and death certificates, traffic citations and many other forms of documentation that were once believed to be absolutely necessary only apply to: ‘persons’ or ‘corporations.’”

Some of the other transcribed selections from the video “Kymatica,” that span about eight minutes total, will be available in a follow-up blog post. These selections can be summarized as a soft-sell introduction to a range of conspiracy theories, beliefs and pseudolegal nonsense that comprises the ideology of the “Freeman on the Land,” with a bit of an overlap into sovereign citizen ideological territory.

The target audience of this FOTL film appears to be young adult to adult males who are in the middle to lower classes; the sovereign citizen movement tends to be more popular among middle-aged or older males.

This particular brand of paranoid conspiracy is aimed at all manner of things these demographics may or may not have a problem with, such as: speeding tickets, gun permits, insurance forms, having to provide and carry a valid driver’s license that they have to suffer in line at the DMV for…basically a few issues the Tea Party would rabidly support and some normal-ass stuff from everyday life that everyone has to deal with if they want to be apart of a functioning society.

In his Skeptoid article, “The Legal Gibberish of ‘Freeman on the Land,’” author Mike Rothschild summarizes the FOTL movement fairly well:

“In fact, none of what FOTL attempts to use has any legal effect. The laws it cites have long been superseded by other statutes, and its nonsensical concepts of strawman personas, notices of intent, not “standing under” understanding, nautical gibberish and lawful rebellion have absolutely no standing in any court in any country in this century. And every FOTL attempt to use this soup of crap to get out of paying taxes, fines, rent or insurance has failed” (Rothschild 2013).

There are no excuses, no ways of getting out of living under the same laws that apply to everyone else. The real kicker is that none of this is new, many of these ideas have been around for decades and none of it works.

Regardless of what the unqualified creator of this New-Agey conspiracy film claims: arbitrarily or repetitively questioning a law enforcement official while failing to comply with any request, or order, will invariably result in an arrest; resisting or any further obstruction is only going to make it worse.

Furthermore, using dated or “out-of-place” language that you found while “doing your own research” on the internet is only going to raise red flags and result in more unfavorable treatment whether it’s during a routine traffic stop or when you have “your day in court; there’s no such thing as word magic.

Without further ado, I mean, here’s much ado about nothing, “Kymatica”:


Sources:

ADL. “The Lawless Ones: The Resurgence of the Sovereign Citizen Movement.” Anti-Defamation League Special Report: August 09, 2010. Website: https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/combating-hate/lawless-ones-sovereign-citizen-movement-2010.pdf

Berger, J.M.. “Without Prejudice: What Sovereign Citizens Believe.” George Washington University’s Program on Extremism: June 2016. Website: https://cchs.gwu.edu/sites/cchs.gwu.edu/files/downloads/Occasional%20Paper_Berger.pdf

Conroy, J. Oliver. “They hate the US government, and they’re multiplying: the terrifying rise of ‘sovereign citizens.’” The Guardian: May 15, 2017. Website: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/15/sovereign-citizens-rightwing-terrorism-hate-us-government

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. “Sovereign Citizens: A Growing Domestic Threat to Law Enforcement.” Federal Bureau of Investigation: September 2011. Website: https://leb.fbi.gov/2011/september/sovereign-citizens-a-growing-domestic-threat-to-law-enforcement

FBI. “Sovereign Citizens Sentenced: ‘Stole’ Vacant Homes and Filed False Claims to Intimidate Officials.” Federal Bureau of Investigation: May 09, 2017. Website: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/sovereign-citizens-sentenced

Holley, Peter. “‘Ya’ll can’t do nothing to me,’ accused cop killer tells judge, using ‘sovereign citizen’ defense.” WashingtonPost: March 03, 2017. Website: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/03/03/yall-cant-do-nothing-to-me-sovereign-citizen-accused-of-killing-police-officer-tells-judge/?utm_term=.1b170f582309

in5d.com. “KYMATICA – FULL LENGTH MOVIE – Expand Your Consciousness.” YouTube: July 31, 2010. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AanQ2mY2jjc

Kymatica. Stewart, Benjamin. 2009. IMDB. Website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2469524/

MacNab, J.J.. “What is a Sovereign Citizen?” Forbes: February 13, 2012. Website: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jjmacnab/2012/02/13/what-is-a-sovereign-citizen/#441f8ffd6012

Meyer, Chris. “5 common crimes committed by sovereign citizens.” PoliceOne.com: May 31, 2017. Website: https://www.policeone.com/community/articles/360819006-5-common-crimes-committed-by-sovereign-citizens/

The RationalMedia Foundation, Inc. “Do your own research.” RationalWiki: January 11, 2017. Website: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Do_your_own_research

The RationalMedia Foundation, Inc. “Freeman on the land.” RationalWiki: May 30, 2017. Website: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Freeman_on_the_land

The RationalMedia Foundation, Inc. “Sovereign Citizen.” RationalWiki: February 04, 2017. Website: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sovereign_citizen

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Author: Reality Challenged

I have created this blog to record, analyze, investigate and report on the ideas, events, and people that would otherwise mislead you and waste your time.

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