A movie directed by Chris Smith
From the onset I need to say a couple of things. First, the review puts me in the uncomfortable and unpopular position of defending taxation. Sort of. The second thing is that I am going to tear apart what amounts to a hundred minute long conspiracy theory.
Aaron Russo states two things: the 16th Amendment to the Constitution not being truly ratified and that there is no statute in the federal code to require people to pay federal taxes. That’s it. Throughout the documentary, he interviews people who share his views—except for a former commissioner of the IRS who isn’t so much interviewed as bullied.
He starts by saying that the 16th Amendment (The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes and incomes, from whatever source derived without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration—verbatim) was never ratified and is, thereby unconstitutional. The amendment and the Federal Reserve Bank were created in1913. The Federal Reserve Bank was a group of large banks set on controlling monetary flow. From there Mr. Russo uses several experts on taxes, the Constitution, federal criminal laws, vote rigging, and an expert on a type of nanotechnology. He traces the 1913 information through to nation ID cards and implanted chips.
To the best of my abilities of being fair, that is the summary.
I write this toward the end of 2008 where there is a banking failure due to the latest bubble (a financial instrument that was backed with mortgages that, when they began to default rendered the instruments worthless—these banks are seeking a “bailout” or other form of insurance to open up frozen lines of credit). I have to say that because the documentary was released in 2006. If these banks were all powerful, why would they need any help at all? There is a huge controversy due to this because a large portion of Congress and the constituents don’t want to “bailout” banks that took extremely risky measures and now want a government cleanup. The rest (also sizeable) don’t like the idea but understand that if little or nothing is done, then the likelihood of a true financial collapse increases daily. Again, if the banks controlled so much then why would even one bill before the House fail? I mention this to put the documentary in a current political/financial context that just adds more loose brick in Russo’s argument. I fully admit this is unfair, but what follows is all in contemporaneous to the documentary.
There is little I love more than picking a conspiracy theory apart. There are so many here I am slobbering, spoiled by choice as to where to begin. Before I get to the specifics, I need to point out that I regularly fact check and debunk essays by former Judge Roy Moore (typically weekly but for the past several months he has either written nothing or nothing worth taking on). So I have a couple of years of epinions practice doing this.
All I really have to say to destroy the argument, and thus the film is: Like it or not, the 16th Amendment was properly ratified. Mr. Russo never claimed that J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford (who wasn’t a banker) and others bribed the various legislators from the several states, but it would be the only thing he could say to refute the fact that the 16th Amendment is constitutional. His proclamation came in the first five minutes of the film, since he gives no evidence otherwise his argument fails. That is all I must say, but I am giddy with desire to rip more of it apart that I will continue. If you would rather just stop here, you have the tool you need to determine whether to watch the documentary or to take it seriously.
What follows an be considered part of the review or not. I write it here instead of in a separate essay because I do not want to recreate a context for another, separate essay.
Russo then takes on the creation of the Federal Reserve system which was a government regulated quasi-private bank. Mr. Russo said that the act creating the Federal Reserve was passed at Christmas break when most senators were away for the holiday. He ignores that the bill had to pass the House and the president had to sign it, so it doesn’t really matter that one house of Congress pulled a fairly common move of voting with barely a quorum. Further, he claims, and I cannot refute this, that the system was created to centralize power via control of the monetary system. Well fifteen years later, the whole thing came apart. If these men and their banks were so powerful as to control the money, would the market crash of 1929 have happened and taken a dozen years to fix? There is no mention of this. There is also no mention that Mr. Morgan made a VERY public point of going to the exchange and buying a huge amount of shares to try to keep the market from crashing. The market held for a couple of days but crashed anyway. Mr. Russo leaves this part out. Again, if Morgan was one of the principles, then why would his piece of propaganda fail?. . . Oops, sloppy “journalism” again.
For the next fifty minutes or so, in a poor version of Michael Moore (and if he does a poor job of that, then you know the “in your face” will be more like “kind of near your face” “journalism”), he interviews those who support his views while vilifying the few who will give him time. His focus is on a statute that gives the IRS the right to require you to file a 1040 (this is very important and will figure shortly). Apparently no one can find the law. There are any number of laws in the federal criminal code as to how to collect taxes from those avoiding paying, but, apparently there is no law requiring you to file a 1040. Pardon me, but the 16th Amendment is clear and requires no further specific statute about what forms have to be used or what they are named, just that the government can make requirements, adjustments, refunds, and repeal of any sorts of federal tax laws. A specific statute would be moot on its face. The only way to support that filing a 1040 is voluntary is to prove the amendment is illegitimate—since he cannot do that, there is no need to find a specific law.
(The 14th Amendment restated the 5th Amendment but reiterated that ALL states had to comply; the 15th Amendment gave voting rights to former slaves, and all black men over 21. If the 16th Amendment required no specific law saying that you had to file taxes, then why were the Voting Rights act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 necessary? While people may hate to pay taxes, no state contested the amendment. Since the 14th and 15th Amendments were essentially forced on the former Confederacy, those states believed they could do an end run around the Constitution and did so for 5 generations. The two Acts had to be passed to ensure that ALL states had to follow the amendments ratified after the Civil War. Had no state contested these amendments, then there would have been no reason to have the two acts; therefore, this is why there is no reason to have a specific statute requiring people to file income taxes.)
Among his interviewed are several former employees of the IRS. As with most assertions in the documentary, there is little context as to why they left. The implication is that they left as civil disobedient heroes—we have no idea if that is true or if they were just really bad at what they did and were using different fora to explain why their former employer is a bully. No one likes the IRS so there would be no difficulties finding someone willing to stand on the business end of a camera to gripe.
Russo mentions a 1040 as if it were the only form. One thing that films such as American Freedom to Fascism and other conspiracy theories rely on is a strange slight of hand/speech. Neither the amendment nor the initial code had 1040 as the magic form, so there may very well not be a law saying that everyone had to submit one of the several different 1040 forms. However, one can easily assume that there are specific laws requiring you to file any number of the dozens of other tax forms—each of those must be passed through the same bill-to-law process.
Before I get to the really, truly odd parts, I want to mention a review Mr. Russo had with Texas Representative Ron Paul (a Republican who is extremely close to being a Libertarian that he may as well call himself that). Once again, out of temporal context, Representative Paul ran for president in the 2008 cycle. Among other things, he ran on a platform that requested a return to the gold standard. One would assume that he knew what the gold standard was and the minutiae of the tax code before running (he was/is an intelligent man, not at all a cook or shoot from the hip person), yet he could not, during the Russo interview, point to any part of the tax code requiring anything. What Russo fails to do is to explain that Rep. Paul is against nearly all forms of regulation and taxation. Those are his views and I respect him, but Russo leaves out these cogent facts. Oops, his bad.
From here, he goes to voter fraud, a national ID card, a conspiracy about the Iraq war, and implantable chips.
The film shows a hearing that is apparently about whether the electronic voting machines used in Ohio during the 2004 election could be rigged. The assertion was that the machines could easily be controlled to return any result the “hacker” wanted. I have no argument with the concept, the problem is that the hearing’s film quality was terrible and it never showed who was speaking, so there is no reason to believe that the film of the hearing concerns voting machines at all.
As far as Iraq goes, it is similar to the notion that the 16th Amendment is invalid. Here is a direct quote “The war in Iraq is an attempt by the Federal Reserve and their partner, The Bank of England, to control the Middle East and make it part of the new world order.” Read that again. If you a conspiracy skeptic, anytime you hear or read “new world order” you can be assured that the information prior to it and what follows will be a paranoia dream.
Then he goes into a national ID card. At the time the film was made, the idea was argued and was potentially to take place starting in May of 2008. This is not the case. What happened in May of 2008 was a requirement that Americans have a passport to return to the US from places where that was previously not required (Canada for instance). People who do not desire to leave the shores of any of the 50 states are not required at all to get a passport. Also, the idea of a so-called national ID card has been argued for decades and has been scuttled every time due to privacy issues. Plus, even after the terrorist attacks, the majority of the population so deeply opposed to this requirement it is all but unthinkable that we would ever face it.
Then comes the little implantable device “the size of a piece of rice” that can be implanted in the body and transmit your location. There are two issues here. The first is that if we are opposed to a national ID card it is an entirely untenable argument that we would submit to having anything implanted in our bodies. The second issue is who would do the tracking.
The so-called “only” expert on the issue says that companies can put little implantable devices on the packages or the items that a person buys that their privacy is gone, that the fact they use a Mach 3 razor is both known as is the location of the bathroom where it resides. I have no doubt that this is technologically possible. So those wanting to track us aren’t government agencies but manufacturers. You can’t just walk into a store and someone stick a transmitter into your body without your knowing it. You can buy something that can be tracked though. But here you run into cost for one and privacy for another. If, say, Proctor and Gamble (mentioned in the film) planted tracking devices in their products then the cost of building the devices, renting space on a satellite, and paying for the machinery and people would be enormous and would have to be passed to the consumer. Further, if this information ever got out, I would imagine that P&G wouldn’t be in business for much longer.
How did we go from the 16th Amendment to the Constitution to tracking devices? Got me. I can say that the quick way Mr. Russo does it is by saying that bankers wanted total control over money and that the government now wants to use its power to track each of us.
Even if the idea that the 16th Amendment is invalid, America: Freedom to Fascism is so poorly presented, I can’t consider it being even the tiniest bit factual or even relevant.
I cannot leave out the last bit of text that solidifies the true level of paranoia: “Now that you do understand what happened in 1913 and how it is leading to world government the future depends on you. Will you choose freedom or slavery? Government is the servant, we are the master.” True, and too many of us either opt not to use this power or to use it poorly--this has always been true.
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