I couldn’t help myself. I let out an audible groan last Friday night while watching an old Vin Diesel super spy movie on cable. The flick’s called XXX, and its bad guys, who are plotting to biochemically handiwipe all humanity, are identified as “anarchists.”

Sheesh! This is why we anti-statists have such big PR problems.

Back in the 1980s, the late Marshall Fritz suggested we expunge forever from our movement lexicon what he dubbed the “A-word.” He said it stirs up visions of chaos, lawlessness, terrorism, and other naughty stuff.

Of course, Fritz also had problems with words like liberty and freedom, which he called negative “void words,” absent of content. He argued that people hate a vacuum, so we should offer them “self-government,” not liberty.

As silly as that idea was, Fritz made a fair point about the A-word. It’s pretty damn powerful. Even used properly, it’s usually misunderstood. My friend Zack told a co-worker recently that he considers himself an anarchist. She was horrified that he associated with “neo-Nazi skinheads.”

And be honest. At one time or another, haven’t you intentionally misused the A-word for its shock value, or just for the fun of it? Caught in a pointless political debate, it can be a real blast to drop the A-word and watch your pompous adversary blink, sputter, and maybe even pass a Starbucks latte through his nose.

But none of this, including the lousy image the A-word suffers thanks to movies like XXX, should deter us from this truth: anarchism is the best description of our philosophy, and anarchists are who we are. Sure, libertarian may be a more palatable word, and I use it often. But in the long haul, libertarian has been corrupted by the Libertarian Party and other advocates of a limited “night watchman state,” not to mention a few TV celebrities and radio talk hosts who use it loosely. And like the A-word, libertarian is even now being demonized by politicians and Big Media.

There’s no better term for the “no government” position than anarchist. And there’s real value in saying exactly what we mean and speaking truth to power. When we rely on “less offensive” synonyms, we start to dilute the honest radicalism of our ideas. Worse yet, watered-down language eventually waters down our mental processes. We begin to lose the vigor of our argument, and our focus drifts.

Saul Alinsky, the great Leftist union and community organizer, once wrote about the tactical use of words:

“To pander to those who have no stomach for straight language, and insist upon bland, non-controversial sauces, is a waste of time. … We approach a critical point when our tongues trap our minds. I do not propose to be trapped by tact at the expense of truth. … To travel down the sweeter-smelling, peaceful, more socially acceptable, more respectable, indefinite byways, ends in a failure to achieve an honest understanding of the issues that we must come to grips with if we are to do the job.”

I keep it simple. I call myself an anarchist.

Granted, doing so can be a tricky business, as my pal Zack found out. Judging your audience before unleashing the A-word is always a good idea. That’s why months of light political discussion may pass before I fully “show my hand” to an acquaintance. During that period, based on the progress of our relationship, I may call myself a libertarian, a Jeffersonian, or a radical individualist, if I label myself at all. More often than not, my “identity” gradually becomes clear without me even mentioning the A-word. “Why, you’re advocating the absence of government altogether!” my friend will finally say. “You’re an, an…” And I’ll just smile and nod. By that time, we’ve been sharing ideas productively. On the other hand, if I detect that my companion believes anarchists are “neo-Nazi skinheads,” I’ll sidestep the A-word either entirely or until I’ve had a chance to diplomatically redefine it for them.

So if you agree with Thoreau that government is best which governs not at all, don’t fidget and mumble about being a “self-governor.” Declare what you really are. Call yourself an anarchist — and do it with confidence.

But don’t expect everyone to applaud if you blurt it out at the next Rotary meeting.