Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Genius of Cody Wilson

After somehow managing to let the news-pot boil over, I finally got around to listening to several interviews with Cody Wilson; one of the founders of Defense Distributed. It's probably been hard to pick up a periodical within the last few months that didn't have some piece of the evolving story on 3D-printed firearms. Well, Cody happens to be the man behind that particular story (at this point). And I came to find that he was a delightfully peculiar individual.

I had heard through other circles that Cody had political tendencies and persuasions that I might identify with. At least rhetorically, that held out to be true...almost surprisingly true. Although our intellectual paths are pretty divergent, it was hard for me to disagree with the vast majority of his points. He had seemed to reach conclusions that I would say are at least compatible with my own. And I've been somewhat delighted by the confusions of others as to what his positions and intentions are. It's mostly the interviewers that seem thrown off (even the ones that are clearly somewhat adept). But the bafflement extends, from what I've read, to even large swaths of the anarchic community that he nominally identifies with. And, charmingly enough, he seems all-too aware and accepting of it.

Many of these talks and interviews brought about the same pseudo-consequentialist concerns about the relationship between freedom and potential realities. His answers were somewhat tailored to the particular audience. Sometimes he answered directly and forthrightly. Other times, his answers seemed somewhat intentionally bound up in the sympathies of the people he was addressing that particular day. But no matter how labyrinthine the responses were, they never seemed disingenuous or opportunistic  They seemed tailored to show some amount of acceptance of those peoples' concerns, while at the same time pushing those criticisms up against other tenets of their supposed values. Say what you will about the man, he seemed to know exactly what he was doing - or at least what he was trying to do.

All that being said, there was an occasionally (and I might note, amused) dismissal of some of the more common contentions at different points. I'm sure we could chalk some of it up to the fact that he had answered these same objections many times before, or that he felt his audience wouldn't be very partial to the direct answers he wanted to give. But there was clearly something else going on here as well. His apparent reason for dismissing a lot of the questioning was that it was pointless. You can tell that he was somewhat frustrated that the interviewers weren't grasping that particular point. I think a lot of people would see such dismissals as childish. But I think it's actually kind of genius - and reflects the larger part of his actual contribution to freedom.

The beauty of that contribution, from my point of view, is that it bypasses the discussion and takes political deliberation (effectively) off the table altogether. And that's the whole point. That's why it's significant. In that sense, many of the questions being asked of him become pretty trivial. If you ported this political situation to the analogy of a chess game, Cody just called checkmate and now he's listening to his opponents caution him about it. He has short-circuited the process. The question is no longer in play. So while the justifications might be interesting and/or important (which I believe they are), his particular answer has quite effectively dissolved the entire weight of the question.

That is Wilson's legacy. And I think, unfortunately, that it's a victory of a level that most people haven't really managed to grasp yet. I suspect that will change in the years to come. And, on that level, maybe it's not particularly important that we fully understand him or his intentions. What is important is how such developments have effectively moved political goalposts. It loudly echoes the clarion call; these walls of power will crumble from within.

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