A Tiny, Insignificant Rebellion

in anarchy •  last month

As a result of things I’ve learned over the last twenty years, I accidentally notice a lot of little things having to do with human perception and psychology, especially as they relate to authoritarianism. I witnessed an example yesterday, which in one way was a very tiny, insignificant event, but was still an interesting study in obedience and psychology.

At the Phoenix airport, having just been "e-stripped," then groped, and then having a TSA doofus rummaging through our stuff, almost making us late for our flight to Mexico (to do our stuff at Anarchapulco), Amanda and I—and several hundred other people—were being herded around like cattle, when something reminiscent of the Milgram experiments happened (though in a very mild, subtle way).


One drone with a badge told a bunch of us “general boarding” rabble to walk down a particular set of cattle chutes—oops, I mean, “roped off lanes”—and we did, until there were four parallel lines of livestock—oops, I mean, “people”—right where the other drone demands to see “zee papers.”

But as we were standing there, a different badge-wearing drone asked a person if he was flying first class, and he said no. The badge-wearer then declared that that person was in the wrong lane, and told him to switch. The mere peasant started to comply, while saying that the other TSA drone (my word, not his) told him to be there. Then Amanda and I responded with the same thing, saying we were general boarding too, and the other guy told us all to go down this way. Then everyone around us said the same thing. For a moment, no one moved.


So right there you have a case where there are two conflicting instructions from two different “authority” figures, creating a sort of equilibrium. As Stanley Milgram found in one of the variations of his experiments, in such a situation (e.g., where one “authority” figure tells someone to zap a stranger, while a different “authority” figure tells him not to), pretty much everyone does the right thing. The reason for this is simple enough: the two contrary “pulls” from disagreeing “authorities” (in the mind of the mere peasant) cancel each other out, and then the person has to use his own judgment (heaven forbid) and make the decision himself.


So basically a dozen or so people just outright ignored the “authority” person in front of them, who was telling them to change lines. There was a brief, very subtle tension, as if no one was quite sure what to expect, or what to do. But most of us showed no signs of obeying. Then, seeing that she had lost “authority” in the eyes of the people in front of her, and had lost control, the badge-wearer just kind of quietly backed off and walked away. And we all went on our merry way (through the rest of the whole fascist rigmarole).


Now, I suspect that almost no one there (including the badge-wearers) actually pondered any of this, or noticed anything significant about it—they were all just sort of following their psychological instincts—but it was still interesting to watch (at least from the perspective of a weirdo like me, who is fascinated by the dynamics of the authoritarian mindset).

As trivial an event as it was, in a way it was a tiny little act of civil disobedience. It was a bunch of people just deciding to “over-rule” what a “government” agent was telling them to do. So yes, at some point, normal people will just ignore stupid and arbitrary dictates of a supposed “authority,” even when they still believe in “authority.” Yes, in this case they only did it when another “authority” figure had previously given them permission, so it wasn’t exactly a William-Wallace-esque uprising.

Nonetheless, I think that, when this happened, suddenly this uniformed representative of “government,” in the eyes of the people around us, transformed into an unnecessary, somewhat clueless mere mortal, who didn’t really need to be obeyed.

Now if we can just get everyone to realize that about every agent of the state, in every situation, we’d be in good shape. (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

(As an aside, when we later arrived in that supposedly inferior, scary, not-so-free country of Mexico, we showed them our passports, handed them dumb little forms, and after that there was a grand total of zero screening. No metal detectors, no scanners, no pat-downs, no one going through anyone’s baggage. Imagine that. And, amazingly enough, that didn’t lead to chaos and mayhem.)

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(Larken Rose is a speaker, author and activist, having advocated the principles of non-aggression, self-ownership and a stateless, voluntary society for over twenty years. Donations to help support his articles, videos and other projects can be made by PayPal to "larken@larkenrose.com" or by Bitcoin to 13xVLRidonzTHeJCUPZDaFH6dar3UTx5js.)

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The concept about two conflicting instructions creating a sort of equilibrium sounds interesting. This was a good read!

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@larkenrose ohh WOW, glad I’m a follower.
I often look at my work place in this same manor of context. When I try share my analysis of how the dynamic break downs of power happen and how the ensuing chaos could have been avoided to my coworkers... well they look at me like I’m crazy.

I like to “toy” with authority figures so at times I will provoke said situation by being the opposing opinion yet I myself am not an authorized in anyway to give instructions, tons of fun.

I am known to be a disturber of the peace and the authority leaves me alone because of it, no one wants me to lead others by my example. Yet I feel it is a necessary tension to keep the powers at be in check and not so high on their horses.

Your post goes well with my slogan, speculating one of those officers was out of line.
Brutally Honest Always Beats a Lair


Indeed, i considers myself also "that" guy at every work I had (Not much, 3 stable jobs for over 3 years each) and I'm always willing to find someone who enjoy breaking down to it's tynniest possible analizable scene each authority figure to the point where he's no more than just a guy with a diferent job. And i'm usaly also looked as a leader for those who support this kind of thoughts but doesn't have will enough to do it, or a crazy by those who love to follow their boss ideas and never think of a possible alternative.


True that, I went through 2 jobs a year till I found baking! Bakers are crazy in general so I fit right in. My first employer was not ok with me, we had multiple falling outs and was chosen to leave when a layoff came up. Current manager respects me enough because of my no bs work ethics to just leave me to it, I end up instructing my direct leadhand around a fair bit with no arguments. But the owner is a whole different story, I hope it’s a mutual understanding to leave each other alone 😬.


I don't ussualy understand the owners, if things are going good there's no need for them to show up, the less I see'em the better I work.

Dude, You just won a follower, if ther's something I love more than (true) anarchy is psychology applied to it. Or something like that, is kinda hard to me express such an idea in a foreing lenguage, anyhow, thanks for having such a beautifull mind :)

authority at some places is the need of the hour ..but i think in most of the cases it is overrated


"Authority" is the bane of humanity, and is needed nowhere, ever. Sometimes DEFENSIVE physical force is necessary, but that requires no badge, no "law," and no special "authority."


What is needed is responsibility! Not deference to authorities

Very interesting posts I like it very much.

Its funny how the rule of authority often breaks down once people realize the authority figure can no longer make reasonable demands. Naturally, humans will only be pushed so much before they break and revolt.

Interesting psychological evaluation. People are conditioned from early childhood to respect authority and do what they say, believing that the authority would never have them do something that is considered wrong. However when adults are confronted with a demand from a person of authority we (should) immediately consider the risk vs reward reactions of what we are being asked to do. If the demand is harmful to ourselves or someone else we should refuse, but here is the tricky part people will all act differently based on their interpretation of the consequences of refusing that demand, most would do the act even if it hurt others as long as they themselves are not hurt. We all should know what is right and what is wrong. If we all stand together for what is right and not worry about the consequences, we than can defeat the authoritarian few.


Not that we all should know what is right and what is wrong. We all know what is right and wrong, it is left for us to act on it. Will I hate wasting my emotional resources, I don't give in easily for authoritarian most especially when I absolutely sure I am right

I am recalling a certain scene near the end of Atlas Shrugged, where the guard watching the tortured John Galt refuses to make up his mind to allow Dagny Taggart to pass. So she shoots and kills the guard.


"Who am I to judge?"



Then, seeing that she had lost “authority” in the eyes of the people in front of her

Those "authority" figures only have as much authority as we the people give them... Quoting one of my favorites movies :

“People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” - V for Vendetta

Now if we can just get everyone to realize that about every agent of the state, in every situation, we’d be in good shape.

That conditional about, what about when said agents arent agents of government, like the president, congress, cops, judges and military, and they are merely agents of a corporation pretending to be government by deceptively similarly named title as a lawful government e.g. State of Ohio vs Ohio State?

What good would it do if the basic misunderstanding is not only in the role of sovereign vs servant as it pertains to people but theres the confusion about the very nature of "government" and subsequently any solution which confuses the Republican Construction with a Corporate Charter hardly will solve anything but will certainly continue the confusion especially when the private for profit corporation is expected to be a public service, born from consent and limitations and carries liabilities unlike a corporation who owes allegiance only to the shareholders and if they hold monopoly they can bilk the shit out of their costumers.

I remember first grade outside the school when we were getting split up into classrooms and thinking "cattle", the side effects of leaving behind the village life and becoming another dude in the multitude is the risk of being the asshole who doesn't know how to queue, how to fall in line.


Sovereign individuals ftw!

it was really great to read out your blog because I am new here and looking for your guidance hope you will guide me support me @fruityfizza

Another great article. Thank you.

It's always been easier to go into another country than it is to came back home. Keep us posted on how great things go when you attempt to come back.

Very interesting histry

Very useful, thank you for sharing with us. Gotta resteem. :)

The awsome thing the rat picture with a sword really wonderful,
Upvoted and encouraged to view my latest post.

Rise of the sovereign individuals!

TSA is the new "brown shirts"

The TSA is the biggest joke, it is not about security it is about dehumanizing all the middle class people who never make it to jail or the military. If you look at Milgram's work there were only a few situations where he was able to get high levels of compliance, if everything was not just right people would refuse their directions.

Hey larkin, love your work and thanks for sharing that observation.

When you've got a track record like the T.S.A. all of your "commands" should be ignored. They have a less than 5% chance of stopping any illintended bad guy. Security theater is the best case senerio, mass training for F.E.M.A. camps at worst.

Loved it ! And I feel like I’m the only one who analyzes situations in that way, great post thanks for sharing👍🏽

Thanks for the great article. I have gone through the rigamarole a couple of times in the past six months. It is always an interesting study in human psychology. I love your analysis of the scene. For some reason your endearing terms for the agents got me laughing. From another 'weirdo like you.'

Great article, Larken! Thank you for all that you do! I'm so happy to hear you're off to Mexico for Anarchapulco and I'm so pumped to hear what you've got to say there! I wish I could make it this year, but I have solid plans to make it for next year and attend your presentation as well as others. I'll definitely be interested in attending your seminar/workshop for Candles In The Dark next year if it's happening again! Thanks again for everything you do!

Earth is flat, research it.


Nothing anywhere is flat, not even atoms, let alone the Earth; flatness only exists as a mathematical fiction.

Fantastic blog . You are superb..

Excellent example of Milgram and I do like the photo used. The balancing stones and fulcrum perfectly summing up the psychology visually here. Center point of choice without actually making one; such no-choice implied in fact as the perfect choice. Evoking singularity of consciousness that overrides the cognitive dissonance placed before it, and thereby overcoming the matrix:)

This day I spent my emotional energy and resources wisely. Gone are the days I get so infuriated with issue like this. While I still hate it like cheat, I always try to keep calm and wonder if things like this can ever never existed

I abosulutly agree,recently i had two jobs and im looking for better.The authority that children get in their chilhood period from older people to correct them is important and affect in their life to avoid problems , great work mate i support u

I do not know much how the border have security alert, you have good security in your country,in Indonesia you can go anywhere after coming here, in the urban area we can gardening and planting together with local people 😂😂

Yola Pleasant to share space with you this week
Have you watched ADAM RUINS EVERYTHING He's a favorite of mine Check out the episode about Security Theater :)

The problem I see here is a misconception of you. You are not a weirdo. The cattle and the drones are already signed for that job. You try to understand using your selfimagined thinking and know therefore at least a lot more how and when you do it. So, who is the weirdo? - The guy that knows whats happening or the crowd of "lifestock"? - as you call them in a very appropriate way. In fact, if this dumbasses don't have their commando drone they just manage to run in weird circles, and that is only the best case scenario. Thanks for the nice story. Rather die than comply :)