The Match

Write Your Own Words #7

This is a long article, reviewing The Match, and also reviewing its author, Fred Woodworth, and my friendship with him. Like much of what I write, it will be of no interest to most people.

If you’d like a TL/DR (“too long, didn’t read”) summary before clicking away, it’s this: The Match is remarkable, and recommended by me. If you're normal, you'll hate it. If you're not, you'll love it. You can get a copy from the address at the bottom of this page.

♦ ♦ ♦

Fred has led a rough and largely solitary life, and he’s published The Match since 1969. He produces it entirely by hand, using old-school typesetting and printing machines. Physically, you have likely never seen a publication like The Match

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The Match
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Intellectually, you've probably never read a publication like The Match. Fred has some unusual opinions — he is opposed to the concept of authorities telling us what to do, opposed to government, opposed to religion, and opposed to people who push government or religion.

What doesn’t he oppose? Freedom. 

Fred believes in freedom, and not the cliché of “freedom” spouted by wingnuts and libertarians and Mel Gibson in Braveheart. No, he believes that ordinary people like you and me should have the freedom to do what we wish, so long as we’re harming no-one else.

Most Americans take freedom for granted, and don’t give it much thought. Fred gives it much thought.

He’s an eccentric in other ways, as well: He doesn’t own a computer, has never used one, doesn’t have a website or an on-line presence, doesn’t use email, Twitter, or Facebook, and you can’t buy The Match at his Etsy shop because he doesn’t have an Etsy shop and never will.

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A disclaimer: As already confessed, Fred is a friend of mine. We’ve never met, but we’ve corresponded over the years, and often our letters have been long, and personal. He knows me better than most in-person friends, and at least as well as anyone in my family. We go way back, so I’m trying to be fair in this article, but I’ll never be impartial. I love the guy.

In the 1990s, I hired Fred to print my zines. After he’d printed perhaps a dozen issues, my life suddenly went to shit, with a rapid confluence of medical, legal, and personal issues. I would’ve been bankrupt, but filing bankruptcy is too expensive — I couldn’t afford it. I owed Fred several hundred dollars for publishing work he’d already done, but I couldn’t pay him, so I didn’t. Didn’t explain it, either. I simply dropped out of Fred’s mailbox, same as I’d dropped out of my high school and my family. Gone.

Stiffing Fred and vanishing instead is one of many things in my life I’m ashamed of, but there it is.

Years went by, and my situation improved. When I could afford to pay the debt, I still didn’t, though, and eventually I convinced myself that Fred must be dead — he’s older than me, and I should be dead — so I let myself forget about the debt.

A few weeks ago, I learned that Fred’s alive, and still publishing The Match. I was whacked with a powerful urge to send for a copy — and to apologize to Fred, pay my damned debt, and eliminate a big blot of embarrassment from my psyche. Life goes in cycles and so does money, and now it’s again a debt I can’t really afford to pay, but I finally did the right thing and paid it anyway. Plus an ample self-assessed surcharge. 

I didn’t keep a copy of what I wrote to Fred when I mailed him the money, but it was something approximating the above. One page, handwritten, maybe 100 words.

Fred being Fred, he replied immediately and at length, with two pages of typewritten, single-spaced text I won’t be reprinting, because I don’t have permission and it’s none of your business anyway. I’ll summarize it, though.

He wasn’t mad at me, and said he’d never been mad at me. For the past 20+ years he’d only wondered and worried about me, because he knew about all the health and legal and financial issues. He’d suspected I was dead or in hiding, and was delighted to hear that I’m alive.

In his letter, Fred told me some of the highlights and lowlights of his life since the 1990s, and asked a few questions about my life. In person, he probably would’ve bought me a beer. He also said thanks for the money, but it wasn’t necessary, and he sent several recent issues of The Match.

So yeah, the man is a mensch. 

♦ ♦ ♦

For as long as I’ve known him, and much longer, Fred always called himself an anarchist, but he’s become disgusted with anarchists who use that label as a trendy gimmick or without really respecting or even understanding what it means. It’s not just a circled-A sticker on your skateboard, kiddo.

Now, The Match has lost the “an anarchist journal” subtitle it had for almost 50 years. It’s just The Match, starring Fred and his opinions — which remain anarchist opinions, only without the a-word.

I’m sure the change came from the heart, and this never occurred to Fred, but it’s probably good marketing, too. After a century of lies, smears, and bullshit propaganda, to most people the word 'anarchist' means a man with a bomb and a lit fuse.

Fred's anarchy is not about blowing stuff up. It’s only about letting people be free.

♦ ♦ ♦

That’s Fred and me. Now, let’s talk about The Match. Specifically, the latest issue, #122, Summer 2021.

Reading through the first copy of The Match I’ve seen in ages, I was disappointed when Fred started with anti-mask, anti-vaccine, and anti-mandate rants. Sigh. I am so damned weary of fools refusing the masks, refusing the vaccine, fighting against common sense and calling it “freedom.”

That's not Fred, but it made me uncomfortable.

He lists numerous incidents where people have had bad reactions to the vaccines, and certainly that's true and unfortunate. It's also ordinary. Some small percentage of humans have allergies or a bad reaction to any medication. If that's your rationale for refusing, you'll also need to refuse aspirin, and all modern medicines and treatments developed since.

Plainly, Fred is wrong about the dangers of the vaccines. On other aspects of COVID, I understand and appreciate Fred's perspective. Often, I think he's right. Often, I think he's wrong. Always, it's an interesting challenge to my preconceptions.

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In one column, Fred distills his COVID opposition to its barest bones. I've reprinted three paragraphs in the sidebar here which I believe captures the gist of his arguments.

Fred is against government mandates, which makes sense for Fred — he's all about freedom, and mandates are the opposite.

You must wear a mask? 

You must quarantine? 

You must close your business? 

You must take a jab in the arm? 

These are extraordinary measures, almost unfathomable for Americans, pre-2020. What the fuck? This Is Not Freedom! is a valid response, especially when it comes from someone who seriously believes in freedom — unlike the QAnon nuts who shout "Muh freedom!" but don't know what the word means.

I'm not an anarchist. In a pandemic, I believe the government's role is to protect public health, and civil liberties may be sidestepped as needed.

Fred is an anarchist, though. He's spent his entire adult life arguing for freedom in virtually all situations, and now that includes COVID. He is consistent, never wavers. Fred is the only person I know who can make a principled opposition to the pandemic mandates, and that response ought to be heard and considered.

Similarly, I'm not too worried about the crackdown on anti-vaccine or other chatter deemed incendiary, on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media I don't read anyway.

Fred is opposed to that, and of course he is. He prints his magazine on his own press because many years ago he took The Match to print shops, and they refused to publish it. Live through that a few times, then teach yourself to operate your own printing press, then spend fifty years repairing ancient equipment because that’s the only way your work can be published, and you bet your ass you'll be pissed off when YouTube yanks thousands of videos, and Facebook squashes countless pages. That's an important perspective to consider.

To be clear: I’m in favor of shutting down such anti-vax and anti-fact sites, up to and including Fox News. I'm also in favor of a robust, fierce debate on the idea. Slippery slopes can be slippery, so I want someone to argue against me — someone like Fred.

Onward, to The Match’s many non-COVID pages — the stuff I agree with 99%, which is most of the magazine. 

The Match’s coverage of police brutality has always been stellar, and in this issue there are some “who the police beat” reports I hadn’t read elsewhere. Fred’s take on the trial of Derek Chauvin is brilliant, and enlightening.

Something I’ve always loved in The Match is Fred’s precise breakdown of bullshit in news coverage. He’ll quote from media coverage of something, almost anything, and unpack the loaded language, restore the actual meanings of the words misused, and show that these allegedly “impartial” journalists are definitely pushing a perspective. Some such reporters don't even know it, I think — it's that thoroughly ingrained in their thinking. Some reporters do know it.

Kent Winslow dissects an alleged anti-racist expert whose writings actually seem kinda racist.

Iris Arnesen writes about life in commie China, and the ridiculous and that government terrifying surveillance, censorship, and ceaseless pressure to keep people in line.

There’s a heartbreaking story of a harmless street person, one of so many living their lives with everything they own in a shopping cart. Fred has seen this guy often, spoken with him occasionally, but the last time he saw him he was being hustled into a quarantined tent city “for his own good,” to protect him from COVID. You just know, someone like that might not survive in such a place. 

Samantha Price writes a dynamite article about The D.I. and Full Metal Jacket, two movies that memorably portrayed the ritual dehumanization and indoctrination of Marines at boot camp, versus the actual facts of boot camp, which are much worse than what's seen in those movies. I’m slightly annoyed, because writing this article has been on my to-do list for years, and suddenly I was reading it instead. Ah, well, it’s better what I would’ve written, anyway.

Ms Price (again) writes a great article puncturing the widespread but unsubstantiated faith in psychiatry and Sigmund Freud. I’ve always wondered why Freud's ideas (and they’re ‘ideas’ much more than they’re ‘science’) were so quickly and widely accepted in America, so I read that article twice.

I R Ybarra writes a funny and magnificent negative review of a book about education, written by a profoundly bad teacher who mistakenly believes he’s a profoundly good teacher. Reading it, I winced for the man’s students.

As always, The Match closes with pages and pages of letters from readers, all worth reading, and some with pithy replies from Fred.

♦ ♦ ♦

The listed price for a copy of The Match is “free,” but unless you’re frightfully poor or in prison, please send some cash with your request. I would suggest five bucks for a single copy, or twenty dollars for a several-issue subscription. 

It has to be cash. Fred doesn’t have a bank account, and without a bank account there’s nothing he can do with a check.

Despite anything you've heard, sending cash through the mail is not a problem. Simply fold a piece of paper around a fivespot, so the green can't be seen through the envelope, and send your address to 

PO BOX 3012
TUCSON AZ 85702.

And finally, let's run the numbers:

• 52 pages, stapled.
• No ads.
• Prose with b/w illustrations and a color cover.
• Reading time: About 8 hours, spread over a week and a half because I needed to reflect, and sometimes needed to walk away.

I read every word, though. You don't skim The Match.


Write your own words

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  1. I recognize most of those author names from 25 years ago. My copies should be arriving any day now.

  2. Everyone has the right to decide how to live their life. If what they choose doesn't endanger other people who are also trying to live their lives -- like refusing to wear a mask.

    1. I agree. We're living in a society, as George would say.


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