Marc Emery: Fresh From Prison, Focused, and Intellectually Lethal

May 28, 2012 by  

When a government imprisons the advocate of individual freedom for disobeying a tyrannical law, does the advocate emerge from prison broken, or more powerful? A recently-discovered cassette tape audio recording just released online from the archives of the Freedom Party of Ontario suggests the latter, especially if the advocate in question is Canadian activist Marc Emery. (Click here to listen now)

Beginning June 7, 1988, Emery spent 4 days in jail for having refused to pay a $500 fine that was imposed upon him by a court for having opened his bookstore on a Sunday, contrary to provincial law. He had opened his store as an act of civil disobedience, in conjunction with his efforts as Action Director of the Freedom Party. In the face of organized proponents of the ban on Sunday shopping – including organized religion, organized business interests, and all three of the political parties holding seats in the Ontario Legislature – Emery was the front man for Freedom Party of Ontario’s lonely, but ultimately successful, campaign against the Sunday shopping ban (NOTE: that history of Emery’s and Freedom Party’s years-long campaign against the Sunday shopping ban can be seen in the documentary “The Principle of Pot”: here, here, and here).

In the audio recording released today by Freedom Party of Ontario, Mario Circelli – then host of “Radio Docs”, a program that aired on 94.9 CHRW FM, in London, Ontario – mentions that Emery has just been released from jail to join him on the program (that makes June 10, 1988 the most likely date of the broadcast). Arguably, the fact that Emery has just emerged from jail can be heard not so much in Emery’s voice, as in his words on the program. This is Emery in what I regard to be his finest form.

Those who have seen the documentary “The Principle of Pot” will be familiar with the fact that Emery changed his strategies and tactics for effecting social change in the years following his 1988 jailing. Eventually leaving Freedom Party and electoral politics in late 1990, he largely turned away from trying to make philosophical arguments in support of individual freedom, and eventually turned instead to a narrowed focus on a single destructive and unjust law: cannabis prohibition. His latter strategy involved using a scatter-gun approach, in which Emery would use any argument available – whether medical, statistical, whimsical, or what have you – so long as it raised passions against the government and its war on “the pot-people”.

For those seeking effective philosophical advocacy of individual freedom in general, Emery’s libertarian, anti-prohibition arguments usually have offered only spotty evidence that Emery understands the proper philosophical underpinnings of individual freedom. However, the recording released today by Freedom Party of Ontario should lay all doubts to rest. This is the pre-pragmatic Emery; the philosophical Emery; the unabashed rational egoist, ripping the holier-than-thou veneers off of the de facto evil desires and philosophies of his fellow debaters. Judge Emery’s latter efforts how you will, but don’t fall into the trap of assuming, falsely, that Emery was ill-informed.

If you’re at all like me, Emery’s performance in this one hour debate will both bring a smile to your face, and stoke your drive to speak and write and otherwise advocate for rational selfishness, individual freedom, and capitalism. Sit back, turn it up, and enjoy. But be forewarned: there is a considerable likelihood that you’ll find yourself bewildered, and angered, that Emery is currently sitting behind bars – again – because of the very sort of people he was debating in this 1988 radio program.

I close with a request: if you have the time, and the careful diligence to do it right, please consider transcribing the audio to text. If you then send it to me at, I will add the full text of the debate below, with credit to you.


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