Guest post from Emma, an MSS member.
I and my partner recently moved to a new house. It went relatively smoothly aside from the usual stress of packing, unpacking and remembering what addresses to change, that sort of thing. After the move a large volume of post for the previous owner kept arriving at our address. At first I diligently gave it to the estate agent to forward on as we didn’t have a forwarding address. After a while this became irksome so we began just returning to sender. Alas the deluge of post continued and I began to recognise some of the return addresses and some worrying looking ones (with red ink) didn’t have a return address.
I found that most of the letters were from creditors of the previous owner seeking repayment of various debts. They were threatening and I must admit I would have been scared to receive them if they were addressed to me. The previous owner is apparently in some financial distress and I found myself feeling quite sorry for them and the difficulties they were presumably having.
Following the financial crisis more and more people have found themselves in this position and there are fewer and fewer places where people can get help and advice given cuts to public services and legal aid.
For example, in 2013 all legal aid for debt matters was taken out of scope – meaning that it is very difficult to get professional advice with debt matters. In the same way that we see people given a terminal diagnosis turning to miracle cure peddlers in the form of Burzynksi or ‘Yes to Life’, in the debt world the equivalent is the Facebook page and website ‘Beat the Bailiffs and the Banks’ (BTBATB). At the time of writing this group has over 20,000 members. Every day there are dozens of requests for help from people who have received letters similar to those being sent to the previous owner of my house.
This group seeks to assist those who are being contacted by creditors and third party debt collection companies, promising that you can essentially ‘get out of debt free’. It offers advice and assistance on how to deal with correspondence from creditors and visits from bailiffs. This initially sounds like a valuable public service, filling the hole left by cuts to charity funding and public services. However the advice given by the members is often highly dubious at best and down right dangerous at worst. For example, a recent comment referring to debt collection letters on the page read as follows:
‘The System created the NAME you see upon pieces of paper that arrive at the location you use. The System wants you to believe that you ARE the NAME and are responsible or liable for the NAME. The NAME can ONLY be used to act in commerce with the rest of the System. Man/woman cannot do this. So ALL these pieces of paper that you believe have some sort of pwer over you really really don’t if you can relearn who you really ARE.’
…Makes sense right? Clearly not – this reads like complete nonsense unless you are familiar with the ‘Freemen on the land’ or ‘Sovereign Citizen’ movement. Like many alternative modalities or conspiracies it can appear fairly confusing and uses a lot of very odd words and CAPITALISATION. However, at its most basic, to quote from Rational Wiki:
Freemen hold that we are all subject to a massive international legal conspiracy perpetrated for the profit of the elites, but you can hack the system if you just use the right form of words. They believe only in their version of natural law, which they call “common law.” In practical terms, they believe this means they do not have to pay taxes, debts, mortgages, etc. because we were all deceived and if you say the right form of words, this fact will be accepted! Think of it as people trying to use a real life cheat code.
Freemen believe that they as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being are separate from them as a ‘legal fiction person’. Society wrongly treats these as the same, however they can be separated if you use the right ‘hack’. They believe this legal fiction was created via your birth certificate when you were born, and that all debts, fines and tax obligations are linked to the ‘legal fiction person’ – so if you can separate yourself from it, you instantly become free from these debts. Obviously.
The second main tenet is that all public bodies (including councils, the police and DVLA) are corporations who operate under contract law. This of course includes the government, and therefore all statutes created by parliament are simply rules regarding relationships between corporations… Still with me?
So, given that statutes are rules for corporations, only corporations are subject to them. You as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being are obviously not a corporation so clearly cannot be bound by statues. Hence the government creates a ‘legal fiction person’, ‘strawman’ or ‘corporation’ for you, in the shape of your birth certificate. It is this ‘legal fiction person’ that they write to when they ask you for things like council tax, TV license fee or fines for dropping fag ends. If you correspond with them you ‘consent’ to the use of your legal fiction and become liable for its debts.
The bottom line is then that if you refuse to associate with your NAME then none of the obligations that you think apply to you (having a driving licence and insurance if you drive a car, paying council tax, repaying loans and fines, driving at the speed limit, picking up your dog’s poo.) don’t. Therefore if you find yourself being hounded by debt collectors as long as you can separate this NAME from you as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being the simply debt disappears. Magic!
The other important aspect is the idea that words and their meaning are inviolable and, essentially… well, magic. They will often refer to the definition of words within ‘Black’s law dictionary’ which they consider canonical – even despite the fact that they are often using archaic and/or American definitions of words. For example if you refuse to use your name ‘John Smith’ and instead use ‘John of the Smith Family’ or ‘John::Smith’ then the government ‘corporations’ cannot contract with you… and so you get to drive at 90mph without a driving licence.
Or there is the idea that when you end up in court over your refusal to pay council tax, the court is not a Court de jure (of the common law) but an admiralty court because corporations use maritime law (for some inadequately explained reason) which therefore can’t apply on the land – hence the ‘on-the-land’ part of ‘Freemen on the land’. Given that a court can’t apply on the land, Freemen believe they therefore attempt to trick you into consenting to maritime law. How do we know this is the case? Well, as with any good conspiracy, they just can’t help but leave subtle clues all over the place. For example, I learned from ‘Freedom… Is More Than Just a Seven-Letter Word’ why so many words associated with the courts are water related:
‘The idea that, when your mother’s waters broke, you came down the Birth Canal, and can therefore be considered to be a small ‘ship’. Because of this you were given a Berth Certificate (although, to hide this, they write it ‘Birth’, but the pronunciation is exactly the same), because you can be considered to be a small ship ‘at berth’. A ‘berth’ being the place where a ship is moored.
If you are called into a Court, you will be expected to stand in the Dock. A Dock is also another name for where a ship is moored. The basic idea is that, if a ship is impounded (in a Dock), then the Owner will appear to sort the situation out. This is synonymous with you, as a Human Being, being the Owner of your legal fiction ‘ship’. When you ‘appear to sort the situation out’ they can have your body, and do what they like with it. For example, cuff you and send you to prison, should they decide there is a necessity to do that.’
“Freedom… Is More Than Just a Seven-Letter Word” – Veronica Chapman (page 88-89)
You might think this is the nichest of nonsenses, yet there are a number of examples of this philosophy failing, and failing spectacularly. Wesley Snipes ended up in prison when he argued that he didn’t need to pay income tax based on Freemen principles. A divorce case from Canada in 2012 was lost by the husband after he tried to argue that the Canadian government had a large amount of money in a secret bank account that used his legal fiction as collateral, and his ex-wife’s settlement could be taken from that. It is a long judgement but the judge (with the patience of a saint) goes through the basic tenets of this philosophy and explains why they are false. It is well worth a read.
The only examples of a successful use of the Freemen philosophy are either anecdotal, concern courts or debt collectors becoming exasperated by the tactics employed by Freemen or relate to debts that would likely never have been pursued in any event. There are many videos on Youtube and embedded on the BTBATB page claiming they show Freemen winning in court… when all they actually show is Freemen wasting court time and frustrating proceedings. Sadly, this has become an escalating problem in county courts as more and more people resort to representing themselves and turn, unfortunately, to often the only advice they can obtain – that of the Freemen. Unfortunately, so persuasive is this nonsense that even publications like the Guardian have regrettably been known to publish articles by people pushing these ideas.
So, ultimately, what is the harm of this way of thinking? Surely these people are just annoying banks and bailiffs who are already society’s villains, trying to protect the poor and the vulnerable, right? Who cares?
Well, the problem is that convincing people who are vulnerable due to financial difficulties not to deal with them properly, or even convincing people to actively break the law by driving without a driving licence can lead to criminal sanctions. There are plenty of examples of people attempting to use Freemen principles and ending up in prison.
What’s more, this philosophy is often closely linked to conspiracies decrying the machinations of the New World Order or declaring that money isn’t real (I’m looking at you, Zeitgeist). In addition, thinking along these lines can leave you open to all kinds of defective thinking. In just the past few months I’ve seen posts on the BTBATB page explaining:
- The Paris shooting was an inside job organised by Zionists
- The Paris shooting was an inside job organised by the royal family to deflect attention from the sex scandal with Prince Andrew
- The Boston bombings was an inside job
- The Peshawar school shooting was an inside job
- The Sandy Hook school shooting was an inside job
- 9/11 was an inside job
- 7/7 was an inside job (because of the numerological references to 7 obviously…)
- Vaccinations are dangerous and cause illnesses
- Social services steal children from those who disagree with the government
- Schools brainwash children to accept authority
- We are being sprayed with chemtrails
- Cannabis oil is a cure for all illness – particularly cancer – and is being suppressed by big pharma (Cancer Act anyone?)
This, for me, underlines the problem with conspiratorial thinking. I have all the sympathy in the world with the view that the banks got away with messing things up royally in 2008. As a legal aid professional, I believe that the Government’s policies of cutting benefits and public services are often unfair and damaging. The idea of getting back at them all is a very seductive idea, which I completely understand (incidentally the word ‘understand’ doesn’t mean what you doesn’t mean what you think it means, according to Freemen). Working in legal aid, I have seen the number of people I am able to assist getting smaller and smaller, and I get paid so little that I have to put in significant unpaid overtime to represent clients well. However, believing that using the equivalent of a kind of legal magic spell can solve all your debt issues can quickly lead you to fall down a very dangerous rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking – one that could lead ultimately to a prison cell.
If you are experiencing difficulty with debt it’s important that you don’t get bad advice or ignore the situation. Free, non-magic advice and assistance can be sought from a number of sources such as National Debtline.