It is easy to watch a series like this and suspect the modern anarchy movement guilty of a flawed or miscalculated sociology. But I am sad to say, sadder after watching this series, that it is not a particular sociology that is at the root of this tragedy. That could conceivably be re-engineered. Rather, it is a moral pathology that hated a loving Lawgiver who alone holds the key to our escape from bondage.
I have a reasonably high tolerance for uncomfortable television and movies, maybe a higher tolerance than I should, but the first thing I would say about the HBO Max series The Anarchists is that it is not for the faint of heart. In this case, though, the tough stomach required is not due to excessive violence, cringey sexual content, or other common factors in objectionable material. The series is tough to watch because it directly touches on elements of human depravity that are unpleasant to engage. It shines a light on a certain darkness that can creep over the human soul that is more than I bargained for when deciding to watch the documentary. And yet, out of the very depressing reality that the series covers, a lesson is to be discovered of profound importance for the intellectually curious and morally rooted.
The Anarchists is a look behind the scenes at a group of American-born anarchists who took refuge together in Acapulco, Mexico, leaving behind their careers and domestic roots for a life committed to autonomy. Eventually, select members of these anarchistic refugees start an annual conference called Anarchapulco. The documentary covers the rise and fall of the conference, dovetailed with the rise and fall of this community. The gripping drama that is both tangential to and at the root of this group’s implosion is the murder of a drug-dealing fugitive member of their community, and the eventual suicide of the PTSD-suffering veteran widely believed to have been complicit in the murder.
The tensions are heightened by the sensational real-life drama that defined this community—murder, drugs, inordinate alcohol consumption, scandal, fraud, corruption, violence, lawbreaking, and all the rest. Yet the filmmakers include some modest level of the philosophy of anarchism to seep through as well, allowing the leaders of the movement to state their case for a society disconnected from rules, norms, and institutions.
The filming of this sect could ideally have led to a provocative documentary on an iconoclastic group of intellectually eccentric adults. Perhaps the filmmakers (and the subjects of the documentary themselves) could have crafted a series that evaluated the pros and cons of anarcho-capitalistic thinking, countercultural philosophy, and the capacity for human autonomy unhindered by the laws of nature and the laws of men. But alas, like the philosophy of anarchism itself, such a documentary was doomed from the beginning, assured only of ending in the chaos and despair this series had to highlight. Missing from the Acapulco anarchy movement was a framework for liberty rooted in morality and ordered love. Ultimately, what was palpably present in the Acapulco anarchy movement was the fate of all human autonomy untethered from the law of God and awareness of the basic human condition.