The Citadel

This is The Citadel, one of a myriad  hyper-libertarian utopia projects based upon the idea that if you just get enough people with the same views and values in the same place, then everyone will live happily ever after. It’s unusual compared to most grandiose pipe dreams of this type in that it’s actually situated within the country of origin itself, rather than an attempt to create a new one from scratch (often called seasteading). It’s a sort-of hybrid between the usual attempts of creating an autonomous floating tax-dodge, that emphasises independence and tight community, and the Free State Project, which attempts to create a libertarian utopia only via the democratic process, by migrating like-minded voters to the same region.

By no means am I saying this is going to work. These projects never do. The FSP is one of the largest and best known, but is moving at the pace of an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping, having only got a thousand or so signatures pledging to do it and no one actually doing it. Meanwhile, the most successful seastead (based on longevity) is arguably Sealand, which when you look into it reads more like a situation comedy than a serious attempt at starting a country/state. Hell, even the 1978 invasion of Sealand by Dutch and German  mercenaries reads as quite hilarious despite the injuries and actual seriousness of the situation. The history of Sealand should be accompanied by the Benny Hill theme tune.

Nor am I saying that this sort of thing is a good idea. After all, critics of the libertarian view often point to Somalia as a pime example of government-free paradise and we all know that there’s nothing wrong with that place. Not at all. When you bung a load of people together assuming they’ll just get on and mind each others business, you’re setting up for failure. Good luck trying to kerb the rapid spread of disease when you realise there aren’t any hygiene regulations keeping unscrupulous individuals in check.

And don’t immediately assume some form of consumer natural selection, or the Invisible Hand, will fix all this. Shops in the UK have been selling “beef” burgers featuring horse meat (a problem mostly due to the accountability and traceability of the product rather than any factor about what animal people are consuming) for months and sales weren’t magically hit. Now imagine how much such retailers could hide in the name of profit margins and meeting demand if they weren’t regulated on any level. Got that? That’s the natural consequence of living in “Liberty” Town for you. It may sound like a weak argument from over-simplified and cherry picked examples, but the entire concept of these gated (or walled) communities based on live-and-let-live principles works purely on trust. And evidence suggests that we simply can’t trust people not to start preying on the vulnerable with some scam or another.

Speaking of scams, back on topic. The Citadel is likely to join the ranks of other laughable failures. Or, at least, it’s unlikely to advance to the point where it can be even considered a failure. So far there’s a website and a pipe dream to go with it, in its current state there’s little or difference between The Citadel and the layout for a D&D game, so if it fails to produce a great big castle at the end of the decade, no real harm done. Except to the dignity of people who may have fell for it and signed up in all seriousness, intrigued by the prospect of being required to carry a gun to the town centre at all times (yes, that’s in the Agreement you have to sign, more on that later).

There area  few specific areas of the project worth looking into, though.

The language used by the people who think this is a good idea is really interesting. They repeatedly refer to their marks, I mean, potential Residents, as Patriots – capital P and all – as if this automatically makes it a Good Thing. Remember, people who would fall for this sort of con, I mean, erm, proposal, are the kind who are easily swayed by such flattery. Say the right words and they’ll be yours. Kiss a few babies and they’ll worship the ground you walk on. Agree with all their prejudices and enhance their fears and you’ll be raised up to the level of a visionary. Call them any positive word you can think of and they will flock to you to be part of such a club.

But Patriots? Really? I’m not political philosopher, but last I checked “Patriot” referred to someone who was loyal to a country, or that loved a country unquestioningly. Now, regardless of whether unquestioning patriotism is a good thing or not, somehow I don’t see it as entirely compatible with building a whopping great big wall around your town specifically to isolate yourself from that country. Surely, Patriots want to live in their country, not try to put a barrier between themselves and the rest of it. After all, a Country or State is a group of people all banded together, it can’t exist without basic kinship and co-operation. The way The Citadel is set up to work (not that it will work, of course) means that the suckers drawn to it would be pledging allegiance not to America – a legitimate State by most acceptable and meaningful definitions – but to the personality cult of its self-appointed community leaders and the ideology they claim to represent. That doesn’t really sound like Patriotism. Unless it’s the kind of Patriotism you’re using only to lure in the people who think Alex Jones tells it as it is.

Now let’s look at the layout for a moment. The designer clearly has no interest in looking at the realities of building a realistic community, and instead has focused on everything to do with the pseudo-romance of building a castle. In reality, it’s more feudal than anything else, based on concepts rightfully buried in the past. The logistical difficulties of walling off two square miles of land from the outside world are immense. To fortify on that scale is a grander project than building the town itself.

Why build a wall anyway?

The answer to this appears in the mission statement of the Citadel where it hints at “man-made” catastrophes, and this goes beyond the “power failures” mentioned on the front page and into economic collapse and invasion. Yes, these people are the paranoid nuts who think the US is literally just days away from government (specifically the Kenyan Muslim Atheist Homosexual, Barack Obama) coming to take their guns by force. Personally, of course. You can see that plain as day from their advert telling people to buy an AR-15 “before it’s too late”.

But back to the walls and a quick history lesson on fortifications. Walls allow people to retreat behind a barrier from an invading force. It keeps the bad guys out and at bay, so that the population couldn’t be mercilessly slaughtered. The trouble being that walls could only encompass the smallest amount of space, and couldn’t really include things like fields and farmland. Hence the way to take on castle walls was to simply surround them and starve the population out. Disease and famine became rife during any siege, and often techniques to exploit this were used by invaders. Techniques such as lobbing dead and rotting carcasses over the walls to help spread pestilence. Walls only let you stay alive long enough for reinforcements to arrive and wipe out the besieging army. The idea of castle walls repelling invaders directly basically ended the day gunpowder was invented. The ability to throw heavy metal or stone cannon balls at greater speeds than catapults and trebuchets ever could reach, and the sheer kinetic force of such weapons, meant that walls had to change. From an average of only a metre thick at the time of bows and arrows, to 4-5 metres by the time cannons were a realistic and common threat. The layout of defensive walls also had to change to react, and walls become something that had to be structured by design as well as brute thickness. The layout of the average later fortification looks nothing like the artists impression of The Citadel, nor the medieval castles that it seems to be based on. It seems to suggest that the strongest physical threat the designers want to ward off is a crossbow. And Communism, of course, as if potential invaders are going to throw nothing bigger than The Little Red Book at them.

The realities of any modern fight that this structure would have to work against are much different. In short, that cute little “inner defensive wall” is going to last less than 6 seconds against an F-22, or an M1-A2, or even a drone strike, as that would be far more efficient. They’d be better off forgetting the wall and trying to build some actual social amenities… No, wait, that would be a little too close to socialism. Indeed, dispense with the walls and build larger bunkers, or individual basements and shelters for each home. That is something that might be realistic. It would still be based purely in the spirit of paranoia The Citadel is born from, but it would at least be true to the realities of modern defences.

But why worry about this? After all, this isn’t a serious endeavour, that much is plain to see. It’s just a publicity stunt for a gun shop, III Arms. Let’s review the evidence that even the founders of this project aren’t entirely convinced that it’s going to actually happen.

  • “III Arms” being emblazoned on the layout impression.
  • The III Arms factory getting pride-of-place in the design.
  • The “get an AR before it’s too late” advert all bold as brass at the top of the website, linking directly to III Arms.
  • The III Arms factory being at the very top of the list of features of the Citadel, as if it was a higher priority than things like houses.

…and finally, the Patriot Agreement. It’s all well and good having plans and designs, but it’s these contracts and agreements that form the meat of trying to form a new community based on ideology. The “agreement” uses the usual sort of magical wording to make it seem like a Constitution, no different to the Facebook meme of “I hereby declare by this communique…”. It’s all there. Number-by-number clauses, the entire thing being prefixed by “we the people”, and the general wording of each clause. It tries to make it look like a nice tight legal document, but it really isn’t. The content does nothing of the sort. Firstly, a matter of confusion. Is it voluntary, or not? The wording suggests voluntary, but the context suggest obligations. It says you take it freely, but you must take it. How does a voluntary obligation that you must agree to make any coherent sense? If you opt out, are you still in the group, or not? What rights do you get, or by opting out does it mean you’re just acting like any other sane person and just not involved at all? It’s all unclear, and obfuscated by the kind of language that makes it seem like these people believe agreements and contracts consist of just magic words.

At best, we can accuse them of naivety with respect to how communities work. Their entire nod to the concept of law and governance is covered in a couple of lonely sentence at the end of the agreement, where it says disagreements will be presided over by an arbitration panel. But of who? And how? And how do we prevent favouritism and unfairness? Or are these things just how hyper-libertarian culture should work? Presumably, The Citadel runs by US Law, in which case how is this Agreement amending that, and does it really overrule local, state and federal laws? Can the FBI or ATF come in and investigate their arms stashes? Will their defence drills include shooting at local police? Who knows.

Instead of this sort of essential clarification, the Agreement, the apparent pseudo-constitution of the Citadel, is dedicated entirely to firearms proficiency. In fetishistic detail it explains how everyone must use a gun, and demonstrate their use of it. Not just any gun, but a range of handguns and rifles – all of which are happily sold by III Arms – on a range of targets. So, serious endeavour, or an advert for a gun shop? Most sane people will probably spot that it’s the latter from this alone.

Defence drills, military training, battlefield medicine. All of this is enshrined in he agreement – basically all people joining the group are actively conscripted into the militia of the collective. Quite how such enforced militarism matches up with the concept of live-and-let-live liberty isn’t explained. This is do-as-you-please, without infringing on the rights of others, keep your nose out of other peoples business, liberty. A simple concept to grasp until you realise it’s not always that  straightforward.

How is freedom compatible with conscription? Where are the provisions for getting food, doctors, educators, maintenance, infrastructure, fuel, lighting, heating or social events? Why are the obligations of people simply restricted to shooting a rifle and not on gathering resources to live? Life in the Citadel looks far from free, and more harsh and boring. By the content of the agreement it’s a near-Fascist militaristic state. Everyone can wield a gun to defend themselves against invaders, but no one will be able to defend themselves against simple starvation, or illness, or getting old.

Everything in the concept relies on there being an America outside the walls to support it, which doesn’t exactly bode well in the face of the massive economic meltdown that it’s supposed to survive. “Provisions for a year” isn’t going to help there. You need self-sufficiency, and simple stockpiling that paranoid lunatics involve themselves in won’t help. What’s the power source, and how do you fuel it? I can assume based on inference from other Right Wing groups that renewable energy isn’t on the cards here, windmills and water wheels are a bit too Commie, a bit too Hippy and Pinko for them. Which, naturally, is just denial about where oil and other fossil fuels actually come from. And let’s not even begin on the hard work required to make sure water is drinkable.

This little project, even though it’s never going to come to fruition, has nothing to do with forming a utopian community to get away from Marxists and socialists, nor about surviving an economic apocalypse, and everything to do with worshipping the cult of the gun. Buy your AR-15 before it’s too late!


One thought on “The Citadel

  1. LOVED this. I’m in the middle of writing a post right now about a similar post-apocalyptic commune I almost got dragooned into joining as a fundie and the Citadel is figuring into my thoughts on that subject. Not surprising that one of its organizers is a con artist and ex-felon who is, weirdly, not actually legally allowed to possess a firearm.

    Their comments page was a hoot, if you ever check it out. One guy who seems to have some background in civil engineering was asking a lot of questions about just where they were planning to get their water from, how they figured they had the legal authority to mint coins, and why they had a prison on the premises when they had no legal right to detain people against their will, and the organizers didn’t seem to be in a hurry to address such questions (I’m guessing “high treason’s a bit more serious an endeavor than simple confidence games” figured prominently into their reluctance). Another questioner was clearly a troll–he was so gung-ho and happy to join up and so gleeful about how he’d finally have “religious freedom”–to be Muslim. It was hilarious to see the other commenters back away from him at that point. I haven’t heard much of the project in the last few months, so I’m forced to go with the easiest explanation, that this whole sham was a con to get people to give these predators $200 sign-up fees and give a gun store some easy publicity.


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