Archive for January, 2015
The old phrase “feels like someone’s walking on my grave” came to mind in the past 48 hours when I read news about the writer/director of an indie film in production, Gray State, being found dead in his home, along with his wife and five-year-old daughter, in what local Minnesota police are calling “suspicious circumstances.” The physical circumstances in which David Crowley and his family were found dead, apparently undiscovered for weeks, suggests David Crowley of Apple Valley, MN, murdered his wife and daughter then took his own life.
David and Komel Crowley / Image credit: Instagram
For several years David Crowley’s life was focused on making an indie suspense thriller with a lot of thematic similarity to my own new indie suspense thriller, Alongside Night, of which I’m the writer/director. Both our movies focused on events following the collapse of the dollar leading to a near-future America in which constitutional rights are dead and those who resist the new fascistic order are being rounded up and sent to FEMA-run detention facilities.
Both David Crowley and myself had appeared as Skyped-in guests with Alex Jones on his radio/Internet show, and received his praise for our cinematic efforts in defense of American liberty.
Both David Crowley and myself found ourselves locked out of Hollywood studio interest for our films.
There is one difference.
David Crowley was a 20-something first-time feature filmmaker who had produced only a concept trailer meant to raise production financing. By contrast Alongside Night was my second feature film, based on a novel I wrote in my 20’s, about David Crowley’s age when he started work on Gray State. My novel was published hardcover by a major New York publisher in 1979 with major literary endorsements, positive major reviews, and several awards picked up over the succeeding decades. Consequently I found the financing to cast known stars and complete production on my movie that David Crowley, despite a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise seed money, never did before his tragic death.
The violent death of a vocal opponent to the United States government in these post-9/11 times of secret Homeland Security warrants, arrest and indefinite detention of persons who with the stroke of a pen are classified as enemy combatants, and intrusive government spying gives way to the unthinkable: what if David Crowley didn’t take his family’s and his own life but was murdered by a clandestine operation and the crime scene engineered to cover up a political murder?
I am just paranoid enough for that possibility to scare the bejeezus out of me.
On the other hand, what if David Crowley lost hope of reaching the goal of a finished movie that I had already achieved – and in his despair lost his mind?
Neither prospect makes it easier for me to sleep at night.
But when Alongside Night does achieve commercial success in its general release later this year, I now feel that I’m not doing it only for my own cast, crew, producers and other supporters, but for David Crowley’s as well.
This appeared yesterday as an opinion piece in The Daily Journal, Vineland, New Jersey.
Daily Journal Editor’s note: Federal officials say Silk Road was an online anonymous black market for buying and selling illegal drugs. The FBI shut it down in 2013.
After watching the Ross Ulbricht trial kick off last week in Manhattan over his role in Silk Road, I felt compelled to share these views. As a Hollywood/Las Vegas-based novelist and filmmaker of “Alongside Night,” this story brings up a debate over online commerce and the dangers of too much government regulation.
Whether or not Ross Ulbricht is Silk Road’s founder, the Dread Pirate Roberts (or one of the Dread Pirate Roberts, remembering that in William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride” the Dread Pirate Roberts was a title for multiple pirates), the founder of Silk Road did in real life what the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre in both my novel and movie “Alongside Night” do: create, maintain, and protect a free marketplace from coercive interference by violent criminals, cartels, and governments.
This is not a coincidence since Silk Road’s founder wrote explicitly1 that “Alongside Night” directly inspired Silk Road. As the author and filmmaker, it makes me feel that my fictional story has real-world impact, and if done within the moral and legal guidelines as portrayed in my novel and movie scenario, I could not be prouder.
Just because someone with power declares an item of commerce contraband does not make it harmful or illegal. Recently the EPA, based on the mega-fraud that the natural plant-breathing gas carbon dioxide is harmful, outlawed the manufacture of wood-burning stoves. A blacksmith who made wood-burning stoves and sold them through a Silk Road-type of marketplace would be exercising rights the American Revolution was fought to establish but that the government violates.
Is selling marijuana wrong? Several states say using marijuana is fine for recreational use and many more say it’s fine for medicinal use. Yet the federal government, which is supposed to do only things listed in the Constitution, has several massive agencies to interfere with trade in pharmaceuticals — the FDA and the DEA foremost among them. Find the word “drug” anywhere among the listed powers in the Constitution. You won’t. They’re not listed in the Constitution. Therefore any act of Congress or regulation promulgated by the Executive Branch is null and void from its passage or declaration, and any enforcement of these illegal acts and regulations is abuse of power under color of law — a federal crime in Title 18 Section 242 of the United States Code.
Add marijuana to one more thing the government shoves into underground marketplaces like Silk Road, but which it has no business prohibiting in the first place.
How about selling untaxed cigarettes? A death penalty was just meted out by New York City police for that — before even an indictment, much less a trial or conviction.
Selling lemonade without a permit?
Selling farm-fresh milk that hasn’t been boiled?
Oh, but the people are too stupid to make their own judgments about what they should put in their bodies. We the enlightened elite know better and if you don’t do exactly what we say. Well, we already have more people in prison than almost any other country on earth.
Room for one more.
“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Who said that? Look it up.
J. Neil Schulman
Writer, director “Alongside Night”
J. Neil Schulman (based in Los Angeles and Las Vegas) is the author of 10 books, including three novels. He is the writer/producer/director of the near-future suspense feature film “Alongside Night” (out in a limited release), which he adapted from his 1979 novel of the same name.
1 footnote text
“I read everything I could to deepen my understanding of economics and liberty, but it was all intellectual, there was no call to action except to tell the people around me what I had learned and hopefully get them to see the light. That was until I read “Alongside night” and the works of Samuel Edward Konkin III. At last the missing puzzle piece!” —”Collected Quotations Of The Dread Pirate Roberts, Founder Of Underground Drug Site Silk Road And Radical Libertarian,” Forbes.com
Update February 4, 2015:
Wired Magazine: “Silk Road Mastermind Ross Ulbricht Convicted of All 7 Charges”
Photo Courtesy Ulbricht Family
Recently, inspired by police being in the news, I used my Netflix subscription to watch some first-season episodes of Dragnet 1967 and 1968’s Adam 12, both of them created. produced and directed by Dragnet‘s Sgt Joe Friday, Jack Webb.
If you’re not old enough to remember, these two cop shows are classic episodic dramas. Dragnet, which started in 1949 as a radio drama and ran for nine years on black-and-white 1950’s TV before this late-60’s “in color” return, follows two LAPD detectives, Joe Friday and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan, later Col. Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H).
A Dragnet spin-off co-created by Webb, Adam 12, follows two LAPD patrol officers, Officer Pete Malloy played by Martin Milner (who’d earlier starred as the hip drifter Tod Stiles on Sterling Silliphant’s Jack Kerouac-inspired Route 66) and Officer Jim Reed, played by Kent McCord, his first starring role.
Jack Webb was a cold-war liberal, which in the 1960’s meant that he was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking social conservative equally against communists, racists, and drug-using hippies. He believed in law-and-order, and was both pro-police and pro-military, though he never served as either (unlike Star Trek‘s very liberal creator, Gene Roddenberry, who served as both a World War II combat pilot and an LAPD officer).
To say that Jack Webb was “by the book” described both the philosophy he imparted to his loquacious police characters and his own production methods, which were Roger-Cormanesque in their efficiency, with a lot of standing sets, minimal takes, and a stock company of character actors often re-used.
As a libertarian I find the anti-drug (especially marijuana) propaganda in Dragnet 1967 ludicrous.
Jack Webb was a drug-warrior in the tradition of Harry J. Anslinger, who headed up the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. But when Jack Webb said he was for law and order he meant it. His shows had zero tolerance of police corruption, grandstanding, criminality under color of law, or incompetence, and when he showed police doing their job “by the book” it meant not even bending the law. In the very first episode of Dragnet 1967, “The LSD Story,” Webb’s script (credited as John Randolph), broadcast 48 years ago this week, portrays the LAPD detectives unable to make an arrest for possession or use of the drug because it was not on a schedule of illegal substances. Sgt. Friday bemoans his inability to “save” underage kids from this menace — but, ultimately, he obeys the law which says it’s legal.
Adam 12‘s Officers Malloy and Reed won’t even make an arrest when the law says it’s a misdemeanor they haven’t personally witnessed but ask the female witness to make a citizen’s arrest.
Everyone gets read their Miranda rights.
That utopian view of police wasn’t true in 1967. It’s not true today.
But, from a perspective of half a century, Jack Webb’s squeaky-clean LAPD — which doesn’t tolerate shooting unarmed children, strip-searching the elderly, or torturing a neo-Nazi suspect even when his stolen dynamite is about to go off in an elementary school about to be integrated — is a model for how police should look at their jobs.
The framers of our form of government had had quite enough of officers occupying their cities, and today’s paramilitary police departments were never what they had in mind for crime control. They literally believed that the police power was in the hands of a vigilant population who took enforcing the law into their own hands. Most police powers until recently were still in the hands of the civilian population.
But if we’re going to have occupying armies roaming our streets, I’d much rather they be honest and professional officers not scared of their own shadows, rather than the psychotic uniformed and never-liable thugs we’ve recently seen in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and Cleveland, Ohio.
The last showing of Alongside Night was Oct. 23, 2014 in Spokane, WA. The movie is not yet available on Blu-Ray, DVD, VOD or streaming. As of now the movie is two-and-a-half months past its last public availability, awaiting general release via wider theatrical and the above-mentioned home-entertainment media later this year.
So how is it that within the last ten days — two-and-a-half months after its last screening — there have been 75 IMDb ratings for the movie, a dozen of them posted in the last 24 hours, 22 of them from non-U.S. users — and 59 — 78.7 — of these votes are the lowest possible rating of 1 out of 10? This gives Alongside Night an IMDb rating of 2.4 out of a possible 10 and gives a false-flag impression that an audience that has seen the movie has rejected it. The intent is an attempt to discourage further distribution by giving potential vendors the impression there’s no market for it.
This trolling of Alongside Night on IMDb is nothing new for the movie’s writer/producer/director — me. It follows from the same action against my previous movie, Lady Magdalene’s, by anonymous attackers with multiple sock-puppet accounts.
I haven’t been subject to lethal terrorism such as the firebombing then shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but there are Internet-based opponents to my libertarian-themed film-making who have had me in their sights for years and they’re still at work.
I don’t have the resources to penetrate their anonymity and stop them as was done with the cyberattacks on Sony for producing The Interview.
Alongside Night portrays the Dark Net as an asset for free speech and free communications. Is there no one at Anonymous to out these anti-libertarian trolls?
Addendum January 15, 2015:
I wrote to IMDb’s Help Desk:
Spoofed IMDb ratings for Alongside Night (2014)
by – email@example.com (5 Jan 2015 12:52:16 PM)
Alongside Night is not yet in general release and has only had limited screenings via TUGG, the last of which was October 23, 2014. The movie has never been available on DVD or VOD or any streaming service. Yet, in the last week, 56 IMDb ratings have appeared, 41 of them a rating of “1”, and 8 of them from outside the United States where the movie has never been seen.
These IMDb ratings have appeared at the same time trolling of the IMDb message board for Alongside Night has resumed
If IMDb has any interest in making sure its ratings are by individuals who have seen the movie these ratings are clearly from anonymous spoof accounts from trolls who wish to launch a cyberattack on the movie to create an artificially low rating that can be quoted across the Internet.
I request that IMDb investigate the accounts posting these spoofed ratings and remove any rating that can not be linked to a real person.
J. Neil Schulman
Managing Member, Alongside Night LLC
IMDb’s Help Desk responded:
Re: Spoofed IMDb ratings for Alongside Night (2014)
by – IMDb Help Desk (7 Jan 2015 01:52:15 PM)
Thank you for contacting us.
Once we determine that a film has been completed and released (or screened at least once) we allow users to vote on it.
Based on our information, the film has been screened at least once. Therefore we can’t remove or block votes for it.
Please be aware that individual votes have different weight on the user rating, and that our voting system is design to detect attempts to stuff the ballot and adjust the rating accordingly when generating the weighted average for a title.
For more information, please refer to http://www.imdb.com/help/show_leaf?votestopfaq
The IMDb Help Desk
IMDb has zero interest in honest user ratings for movies. They defend anonymous sock-puppet trolling of their ratings. Nobody interested in accuracy in media should give IMDb’s ratings any credibility whatsoever.
— J. Neil Schulman, January 15, 2015
See my earlier articles here:
Reason Magazine editor Matt Welch, also one of the regulars on Fox Business Network’s libertarian-themed evening show The Independents, writes at Reason‘s Hit & Run Blog about those using the Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, “So no, we’re all not Charlie—few of us are that good, and none of us are that brave.”
I wrote, produced, directed, and played a comical jihadi in a suspense comedy feature film titled Lady Magdalene’s, starring Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series.
Lady Magdalene’s won three film-festival awards: “Best Cutting Edge Film” at the 2008 San Diego Black Film Festival, “Audience Choice – Feature-Length Narrative Film” at the 2008 Cinema City International Film Festival held on the Universal Hollywood Citywalk, and “Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals” at the 2011 Anthem Film Festival/FreedomFest held at Bally’s Las Vegas. I accepted this last award with Rand Paul in the audience.
The movie tells the story of federal agents on the trail of a domestic al-Qaeda plot thought by Homeland Security agents as a potential nuclear attack on Hoover Dam and centered around a Nevada Brothel. In addition to Nichelle Nichols in the title role, characters in the movie include the Director of al-Qaeda, a young American jihadi working for him, and one of his agents, a beautiful Persian woman embedded as a prostitute at the brothel. The character I play, Ali the American, is played as a convert to Islam who’s a comical dupe.
Anyone think this movie might possibly be offensive to Muslims?
The movie has been trolled so badly it has an IMDb rating of 1.8 out of 10. The trolls engineered a cyberattack that trashed all Wikipedia articles about me and the movie. When Lady Magdalene’s was on sale as a DVD and streaming video on Amazon.com the user reviews were so badly trolled by sock-puppet accounts that I decided to pull the movie from sale and posted it for free on YouTube, where as of this writing it’s received 85,832 views.
The cyberattacks on me have slopped over to my new movie, Alongside Night, where sock-puppet accounts are now giving the movie lowest-possible spammed ratings with the hope of preempting the movie’s pending general release. News flash: it won’t work.
Of course Matt Welch doesn’t hold up Lady Magdalene’s as a shining example of a libertarian filmmaker not allowing himself to be daunted by possible retribution and standing up for free artistic expression, even though Nick Gillespie interviewed me at FreedomFest about the movie in 2011.
Matt Welch: I’ve been “Charlie” for years. When will the so-called libertarian media notice?
I’m neither a conservative nor a supporter of the Republican Party. I’m a non-party libertarian — and I expect to be a principled non-voter in the 2016 presidential election — either that or vote for any minor-party candidate as a protest vote against the two major parties.
In 2008 I voted for the anti-War candidate Barack Obama to defeat the apparently more pro-war John McCain. My crystal ball was apparently not working well at the time.
So when in this article I identify a PBS program I just saw as Democratic Party liberal propaganda — a question framed by its producers in such a biased way that a preordained conclusion is inescapable for anyone not seeing the method of propaganda being used — it’s not because I’m favoring an outcome of Republican or right-wing enhancement.
In the January 6, 2015 edition of PBS’s documentary series Frontline — tonight’s episode titled “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA” — the program graphically and emotionally portrayed a problem of gun violence — dead children and grieving parents at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — plus a severely wounded Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and surrounding fatalities in Tucson, Arizona — and the solution to this problem, increased barriers to civilian access to firearms, being stymied by the lobbying of the National Rifle Association.
Before we proceed, a question. Can you identify the source of this quote, a description of a police agency, as “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms”?
Was it the Reverend Al Sharpton talking in 2014 about the Ferguson, Missouri or New York City police?
Uh-uh. It was the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, writing in 1995 about the federal agents who killed unarmed women and children at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas.
For which the NRA was attacked by liberals.
Suppose PBS’s Frontline producers wanted to do a show about the use of automobiles in America, and showed only a Red Asphalt type of gruesome vehicular fatalities — never mentioning even for a second all the times people got where they were going safely, usefully, and conveniently. Suppose there wasn’t a single example in this documentary about the use of automobiles in getting to work or going on a family vacation. Further suppose that the documentary juxtaposed these obviously destructive automotive death traps with profiles of the American Automobile Association and their powerful Washington lobbyists? Would one reasonably conclude we were seeing a one-sided propaganda piece?
Or let’s imagine PBS’s Frontline producers did a program about Alan Turing, and focused only on his conviction for indecency as a homosexual breaking long-established British law, and never mentioned that Turing developed the computer breaking the Nazi Enigma machine code that led to an earlier defeat of Germany, saving about 14 million lives? Would this qualify as propaganda?
PBS just did a show which showed us victims of gun-related violence and tugged at our heartstrings. But there wasn’t a single example such as that of my father, violinist Julius Schulman, who on several occasions saved himself and a Guarnerius violin made 1716 in Cremona, Italy, from Boston and New York City muggers, because he was armed with a handgun that he merely had to display to fend off gang attacks late at night as he returned home after a performance.
My father’s case is not mere family anecdote but is supported by criminological statistics finding that Defensive Gun Uses vastly outnumber uses of guns producing tragedy. I’ve written about this extensively. On the website I maintain, The World Wide Web Gun Defense Clock, I support this statement, and provide a link to a free PDF copy of my book, Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns.
There is nothing new or special about Frontline‘s propagandistic approach by which the good guns do in the hands of righteous people is eclipsed by the bad guns do in the hands of criminals, psychos, and terrorists.
But that’s because modern liberals on the left, like modern neocons on the right, worship absolute power to promote their totalitarian agendas, and the ability of a well-armed people to shoot back is their nemesis.
If you’re interested in a documentary that shows what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story,” I strongly recommend the documentary Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire, narrated by Ice-T.