What does it mean to sell out? A Personal Approach to Setting a Standard

  • Posted on: 24 April 2018
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

What does it mean to sell out?
A Personal Approach to Setting a Standard
By Samantha Aliston of the Pacific North West Country Side

Selling out is the ironic reference to giving into social convention or forfeiting a period of claimed or perceived rebellion. It’s applied mostly to hippies or punks in the mainstream. Typically in the same tone of laughing off someone’s sub-cultural phase or period where they challenged society. This tone usually mocks the audacity seen by the mainstream made by someone even trying to challenge social norms and expectations, because inevitably one must give in “so why even try? (scoff).”

It has been used a lot in mostly middle to upper class circles and sub-cultures because in many instances being able to sell out in and of itself is a privilege of having such an option to embrace capitalism. Not everyone can go from homeless punk to yuppie with ease*, but this has been the classic reference I need to make before using this term in the way I do for this article’s theme.

The general sentiment is giving up rebellion due to convenience, privilege, or comfort offered by an opposing or imposing convention. More literally I assume it’s origins are in the idea that one can be bought out despite their convictions; hence “selling out”.

I believe that for anarchists, we can use this slightly juvenile term to set guidelines for our movement to prosper and to retain long term pride in our political struggles individually. Of course with time one gets disappointed, or in other ways is forced to adapt, or make some compromises in order to survive. But I want to set here some guidelines I follow for myself, and I use in judging or choosing those I affiliate with.

I wrote this as someone who I believe has not sold out based on the standards I will lay out here. I have been punished, had my life seriously disrupted, and face a clearly unstable and precarious financial future based on decisions and commitments I’ve made as an anarchist. However at this point in my life, and due to my lack of class privilege (no family support or assets to be inherited, no property to claim, no investments made, etc.) I don’t even know how I could begin to sell out in terms of becoming a yuppy or beneficiary of capitalist society. I think this subject goes way beyond just the classic rebel punk to yuppy reference. I believe our everyday life behavior and choices as anarchists in a society that coerces hypocrisy and compromise in order to survive can help to define what it means to sell out as well.

At the risk of coming off like I am setting revolutionary guidelines (informal rules to follow) I will say I happily accept the risk and admit to doing so.

Cooperating with the state at the expense of comrades, friends, or anyone at any time is selling out. This is as anarchists politically and socially. The police are never an option to call or work with in any way. There are a few exceptions. Such as getting hit by a nice car while walking or biking. Or general road incidents that require calling or cooperating with the police. Bribing police is also ok in some instances. Also in cases of being a woman there are exceptions. If you are frightened for your life and have no support, and are victim to sexual perpetration. However if your house is burglarized, this is not a reason to call the police. To call them after the fact implies you have an expectation of arresting those who stole your property and were most likely motivated by the poverty inflicted upon them by the system we as anarchists despise. Cooperating with the police in any investigation involving petty crime is selling out.

I myself was met with one of the toughest and confusing situations in my recent past. Where I was attacked by a poor person of color, and luckily survived the murder attempt. I was in a strange situation where they would have called the police on me if I avenged the inflicted wounds, or attacked first. Or I would have faced the wrath or his tough peers who knew where I lived and worked. While in the hospital I was interrogated and harassed by police while undergoing treatment for my wound. I chose to claim stupid with the interrogation, and avoid this person and their peers. I don’t want to prioritize my violent efforts in attacking a fellow struggling proletarian, and I would never feed to my enemy someone it would love to imprison. It’s a sad situation, but we live in a sad world, and I am proud to have never snitched, and not let it frighten me. Regardless I walked away with an unintentional tattoo, but my pride in tact. For sure I don’t snitch, cause I’m not a sell out.

More intensely, cooperating with the state in its pursuits of political repression in any way whatsoever is selling out. Speaking or even trying to reason with a grand jury or visiting local or federal officer in any way is selling out. Cooperating with the state regarding a crime you have been involved with for less time in prison at the expense of a comrade or friend is absolutely selling out. Cooperating or speaking to officers of the state regarding a friend, relative, comrade, neighbor, roommate, co worker, or any other human being is selling out. Lying to the officer is not selling out, but it is stupid. Lying to an officer to help someone else is not selling out, however if you choose to lie and are eventually punished for this, cooperating in anyway after the fact is selling out. So best to remain silent, because anything they already know they know, and anything you say will be used against you in the court of law. Cooperation over the inconvenience of prison, to avoid frequent state intimidation, or any cooperation in anyway with the state that comes at the expense of fellow revolutionary comrades or the broader security of our revolutionary anarchist communities is selling out.

I was met with intimidation and threats through my years. I never cooperated and will say I never will regardless of the consequences. Even if I am old and physically incapable of even getting out of bed, not to mention for sure not being able to riot in the streets, I will happily say I won’t cooperate, because I am an anarchist, and the preservation of this tension lies in the accountability demonstrated by decisions such as this.

In our personal relationships our decisions define us as well. This applies to different parts of our personal life. Our sexual or romantic relationships are a huge area where we must challenge social convention. We must do everything to challenge the rape culture that is normalized in the patriarchal civilizations that plague the world. Assuring consent, safety, respect, and honest communication in our relationships is part of not selling out. Violating someone’s sexual expectations or comforts, or taking advantage of someone based on institutional disadvantages is selling out. Rape, sexual assault, abusing partners, or similar acts of sexual perpetration are all absolutely selling out. Refusing to take responsibility for one’s own disrespectful behavior in this realm is absolutely selling out.

We all have to hustle. Capitalism is an economy of coercion. You either are one of the lucky beneficiaries of capitalism where you are set for life, or to varying degrees victimized by it, and forced to survive it’s obstacles. This is hard enough in and of itself, factoring the relentless hypocrisy that we feel or are forced to practice in surviving it as conscious anarchists opposing the system, it can make things even more miserable and confusing. Opening a business, or making money outside of the service sector is not selling out. But say applying double standards on wages for hired immigrants, would be selling out. If you are perceivably upper class due to your income and not donating money to political prisoners or anarchist-related projects you would claim to support as an anarchist that is selling out. Money is a utility to survive, it is never to be an ambition outside of revolutionary purposes.

Practicing any social inequities such as homophobia, sexism, racism, classism, or any other appendage of the social order of today is selling out. Or actively embracing an opposing ideology of nationalist or fascist nature is selling out. Right, liberal, most left, or conservative politics are selling out. We are anarchists, it is our responsibility to preserve our tension as a movement that negates all politics that entertain or rationalize the existence of the state or capitalism. With age I believe it’s possible to become more open minded, but we know what it is we are for and against. And any seasoned anarchist can cherry pick the information they need to understand the world even from it’s own retched news sources or loud opinions. The point here is to say that to reconsider such things such as a vehement animosity and active resistance to ALL dividing social inequities or institutions that stem from eurocentric, fascist, nationalist, or authoritarian thought is selling out. Embracing any contrary analysis that leaves room for our declared enemy institutions to exist or prosper isselling out.

These are all tangible personal practices that we can retain inside of ourselves and in our everyday lives. If you are forced to adapt in some ways to continue putting food on our plates or to simply retain a functional sanity, you can always remind yourself that we are still anarchists by practicing these principles. Maybe its too risky to be in the streets. Maybe you don’t have time to go to this or that event, or make this or that project. But I firmly believe that by practicing these guidelines I set here, we can feel good about ourselves; proud, and anarchist.

*Many of us are just bound to be miserable in society due to our class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Our existence alone is a rebellion for the state and capitalism as we are evidence to it’s failure and permanent crisis.

Inspired By:



i'm really interested in this topic. where i live now there are a few older anarchists that have called the police and/or helped with political campaigns for getting someone elected. these contradictions seem obvious to me and my friends but apparently not to those who did the snitching and campaigning. this makes me wonder what it means for people to consider themselves anarchists, why they do, and what it means to them as they age? i'm glad this is out here, and would be curious to see a dialogue around this topic.

Those people never understood what the words they were using actually meant. Political science is hard.

Opening a business is not selling out? I guess it depends on the kind of business. If you are self-employed and do not employ other people, then probably not. If you start a co-op where all workers are owners, then I guess that is not selling out. But if you start a business and employ other people to work for you, and not with you, then I would call that selling out.

coops are selling out. so is yoga

Egoism comes before the ethics for me. For instance, there could be an instance where I would use the cops as a mode of revenge(the Bob Black rule). One can loose with egoism when the time arises. Other then that I do prefer to be a traitor to power.

Also egoists, as I see it, don't buy in to begin with.

Our M.I.T. study group and all computer model scenarios thrown into it point to a collapse of ideological systems and their supporting moral institutions within 20 yrs, and that a major shift to individual and egoistic orientations will win out and survive with a relatively high level of liberties and good health. Smaller individual entrepreneurial services will decentralize and dissolve the corporate hegemony as a result. We also found a greater diversity of lifestyles and an increase in the average wealth of populations from the underdeveloped countries due the decreased taxing of resources by a corrupt industrial backed government

some piece of shit wrote this: "For instance, there could be an instance where I would use the cops as a mode of revenge(the Bob Black rule)."

call the kkkops on a black man or woman? a latino? a latina? -- for REVENGE?! As if Amerikkkan kkkops don't kill with impunity every single day?

so fucked up.

Black people could benefit by calling the cops against the drug dealers who are sucking the health and wealth out of poor families. Don't bring in ethics and loyalty into this simple equation. Someone doesn't give a shit about yours or others kids, and no one else is around to stop it, so utilize the available services, grow some Machiavellian balls and don't be intimidated by some ruthless gangs threats and succumb to the fear they use to control people and get their own way. THAT'S what's fucked up!

Is how you think an acute contextual use of the cops means calling a kkkop on a black man or woman based on being a black man or a woman. The Hogshire affair involved a white leftist anti-semite who pulls a gun on you when his religion is offended.

An egoist will shit on you if and when it suits them. An egoist will shit on anyone and everyone, including fellow egoists: that's their ideology: looking after number one. Selling out is filled with caveats to be nonsensical. No one really gives a fuck if you present as anarchist or not. What difference does it make to anyone you tell you're an anarchist? Not much if any. Needs must and that's that as any egoist knows.

“that's their ideology: looking after number one.”

no, that’s you inventing one. there’s no capital S self, and no self-other split.

separations are conceptual.

what else do you like to misinterpret?

employing semantics to refute a claim about egoists? Capital S self...what the fuck? Is that like the capital E earth nonsense etc? Egoism is an ideology in that the ideas provide the way of existence...live by this 'rule' these 'rules.'

"Egoism is an ideology in that the ideas provide the way of existence"

It isn't and doesn't. Egoism entails a plurality of preferences and aspirations. Try again.

entails ideas... that's what I said....smartass! Difference is, you egoists try to deny your ideology, instead you bullshit with 'plurality of this and that. Yes, an ideology entailing ideas of this and that. Dumbass

At the end of the day this egoist ideology becomes all too familiar with that same old frontiertown capitalist ideology you've been having for centuries over there. Talk about some big egos having too big egos to introceptively psychoanalyze what lies beneath their own ethos. It's often ugly down there... and not always very supportive of our own self-pride. Stuff that makes hot-air balloons like SE's crash-land... sometimes, funnily, once after they've jumped out of panic.

Dunno what kind of trolling that is, what is it you find funny or clever in here, but this is fucking dumb ancrap transhumanist shit, that doesn't deserve any serious response.

Having ideas in and of itself does not entail ideology if we are defining ideology formally as being tied to elective formally idea PROPOSING thinking. Egoism is a philosophy more then a politics and it is not defined by a formal elect who have a means and ends based plan of achieving a state of affairs.

of ideas determining how to conduct oneself with regard to all else. The ideology of ideas instructs how one lives one's life. All this panic over egoism not being an ideology is typical of the faux-freedom. Egoism is no different to any other ideology. You can waffle and try your subtleties on gullible types who will stare all wide-eyed at your smoke and mirrors. However, many of this site will not be fooled

It also is not an idea that determines you, YOU determine the ideas, that's the point, egoism is simply the name given to this lead instructor of ideas for their own ends. If you think that having an idea as such conjoined to a preferential aspirational existence is ideology in all cases then you are a fucking idiot.

which then determine their existence. All ideas/ideologies require people to create them! So egoism is no different. Stirner simply said my ideology is not an ideology which is...an ideology. Just because Stirner may have believed he was free of ideology...which is his ideology: my ideology is to live by having no ideology which is an ideology.

You're like those annoying western oriented thinkers who say that 'you believe in meaning because you say the world is meaningless'. The problem with this kind of thought structure is that it is basically a form of debate rage quitting which ignores contingent definitions and how they come from specific constructions. Ideology is not simply having ideas, it is the conjoinment of that in combination with elective constituted positions that have a general particular homogeneity across the people who believe these ideas. People like Weber and others have given you the specific definition of ideology which is not merely having an idea conjoined to a preference of living.

"Abracadabra! and for my next trick, I will, from thin air, produce Egoism! I hear you gasp. Yes, I know, you all thought that 'Ideology The Impostor' was behind Egoism, well I'm here to prove to you all that Egoism is magic."

preferences or do egoists ego-away the cancer? Also, nanotechnology will be swarming around the inside of brain soon enough and the authorities will have access to you...they will override your egoism and so, Stirnerism and Stirnerites are both already dead. Kurzweil is coming for ya honey pie!

We knew Ziggy for several years, and often saw him at the local public library. There was always something rather socially awkward about him. We fear he might be another incel ticking time bomb. Just FYI.

It's sooo obvious, I'm going to have to go back to basic sociology 101. Ideologies are objectively arranged ideas values and morals directed at subjectivities to believe in and submit to whereas egoism is an autonomous subjective awareness and emotive relationship existing and relating freely without moral restraints to an objective society and environment. In its gained experiences the egoist develops its own personal ethics of behavior which are all unique according to the experiences and conditions of the environment in which it exists.

Yes life is like a game of polo, its not about the team, its about owning and riding the fastest pony! Or own ing your own consciousness!

Egoism is aesthetics you philistine, it has nothing to do with ideological ideas concerning organization and power.

Agreed SE yes, aesthetics as philosophy.

Don't even bother with these fools, they just like to wave their hands and think they sound clever

Selling out is a spook.

Taken as being an ethic belonging to a belief system, yes its a spook.

Awkward Google translation, slightly edited by yours truly.

Commune does not recognize any state and seeks to ensure that all the needs of the human collective, requiring organization were met by free association. The non-recognition of state is expressed in private proceedings of each of its members.
a) A member of the commune does not submit complaints to court.
b) does not participate in the jury courts.
c) does not testify in the court, except to save the defendant.
d) Does not accept subpoena in civil matters.
e) Do not perform judgments, which give him the power to harm someone.
f) Does not denounces thieves or criminals to the police.
g) does not help the police to detect or capture criminals.
h) Does not accept any job in the service of the police or of whatever government service.
i) Does not participate in any government or government assumed initiatives (eg. Superintendent of sobriety, clearly rural establishments of charity, etc.).
k) Does not participate in any symptoms of legalism of government nor any contributions by the government-initiated (eg. the proposed to rural communities public fundraising for monuments, schools, libraries).
l) If one can not refuse to take the oath (eg. in the army), it does not attach any value to it within his conscience.
m) If one can not refuse military service, however, in the event of war it behaves so as not to harm people, therefore, completely passively.
n) Does not recognize any civil rights, which the government gives in marriage over his wife and children.
o) Does not send the children to government schools.

Source: Law Associations "The Commune" with Edward Abramowski, Writings, Volume I, Warsaw 1924

Regarding (c), I don't agree with the refusal to be witness for the prosecution, if one is respecting the courts agency as a witness for the defence. It seems illogical and hypocritical to most people.

"This is all that the science of morality can tell you. Yours is the choice."
And so with all the postulation, at the end of this really long essay, it still comes down to choice. That's very vague and incomplete, because choice is determined by power and authority. Free natural choice requires no morality or ethics.

So, cooperating with the state at anyone expense violates is selling out. Yet, starting a small business, which involves cooperation with the state at others expense, is not selling out? Wat?

I kinda wished people knew what is meant by the term snitch. A snitch is one that provides the cops with info in exchange for lighter treatment from the cops and the state. Telling the cops who shot you isn't an example of snitching in anysense. Giving the cops info to fuck with someone you don't like or for revenge isn't an example of snitching either. The exceptions in this article for when giving cops info is okay, like being hit by a car, isn't all that different from being shot.

Honestly, I bet that whoever wrote this didn't tell the cops anything about the person that made a "murder attempt" because of white guilt rather than anarchist purity. The rules to pass this anarchist purity litmus test of "not selling out" is really dogmatic. Thus, I've decided the author of this article is banished from the non-existent "anarchist movement."

Well it's not the first time Petros(chemical) has laid a whole lot of regulations down in the name of his type of revolution, and his arguments are always 100s of years old and have lost relevant context.

I'm an M.I.T. educated futurist specializing in sociology and human density theory and politics, and pretty well every model spun out of the MIT super computers predict that the entire population must " Sell Out " or else die within 20 years. So it's not about ethics really, or ideologies, when have they ever actually saved anyone's ass, the opposite in fact, they have produced more suffering, incarceration and war. Our study group came to the conclusion that individual self-reliance and independence would result in the most cases or survival and liberty in the final stages.

I hope this puts an end to a stalemate in this thread. In specifically Freudian materialist ego sense, selling out in its 1960's meaning, is exchanging ethics and principles for cash. A term popularized by the Hippie movement of the time, it meant hypocrital or contradictory behavior to ones beliefs. Anyone with a moral standard they give oath to live by, or worship and obey amongst others, is capable of selling out. Therefore anyone who is amoral is incapable of selling out, this includes the Stirnerian egoist, because there is no oath or moral for them to break, and no people to which they would have made oath to or become associated with to recognise any hypocritical action.

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