Does Modern Revolutionary Rhetoric — Even From the Right — Inevitably Sound Marxist?

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55 Responses

  1. Patrick says:

    Ken, you're pretty far off base here.

    The rhetorical tropes you cite were used by American agitators from Andrew McDonald to the John Birch Society to Huey Long to William Jennings Bryan to the Know-Nothings to the Greenback Party to Andrew Jackson.

    I could cite complaints by Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and Catiline that mirror those you cite. The rhetoric of class-based antagonism only sounds leftist today because that's where the agitators to whom educated people pay attention have been for the past fifty years. American agitators of the extreme right, such as Birch, have advocated voting restriction since Pol Pot was a gleam in his Gulag's eye.

    Your question would be more accurately phrased: why do people who want to overturn the establishment, today, sound like people who wanted to overturn the establishment in the past? Not quite a tautology, but close.

  2. SB7 says:

    Question: is that inevitable?

    Yes. Revolutionary mass movement of all stripes — Left, Right, nationalist, socialist, religious, class-based, ethnic-based — are all mass movements first and ideological second. Their form follows the function of revolution. I'd refer you to Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer."

    I know this comment sounds axiomatic, but I don't want to try to justify it since it would only be a pale imitation of Hoffer. Better to go directly to the source.

  3. Ken says:

    Patrick: in other words, rather than modern revolutionaries of this century echoing classic Leftist revolutionaries of last century, both are appealing to a unified and pre-existing tradition of revolutionary rhetoric?

    Is the proposition, then, that there was nothing particularly new in Marxist class critique?

  4. Patrick says:

    Is the question whether Marx wrote nothing new (he did), or whether the most successful followers of Marx did nothing new (they did), or whether the followers' rhetoric wasn't substantially new (it wasn't).

    As I said, it goes back to Catiline if not further.

  5. John David Galt says:

    As one on the right, I'd like to try to answer this.

    First of all, I place myself somewhere between your categories 2 and 4. I don't believe the situation is nearly so desperate as to call for war, but it is too far gone and the corruption too endemic for merely voting them out to be the answer. So there will probably need to be at least some civil disobedience (hopefully without any force on our side) and a lot of officials, including many now protected by immunity while they're in office, need to be tried and go to prison, at least for corruption and in many cases for violating their oaths of office or even treason.

    Our system has gone off track primarily by the courts disregarding the Constitution because it was convenient. Slaughterhouse and the cases featured in "The Dirty Dozen" are the best examples, and those decisions all need to be reversed, whether by the Supreme Court or by new constitutional amendments. But most of the bad changes in our system have happened since WW2, and do not reflect the will of the voters but rather the power of lobbyist money to direct legislation (and regulation-making). It's gotten so bad that the vote no longer matters. 57% of the population still opposes ObamaCare, but 97% of the political class wants to keep it in place.

    We're in a class struggle, between America's producers and those receiving government checks. And the latter group have much more effective lobbying because they can use unions to extort political contributions from any of their co-workers who disagree.

    How would you go about ousting such a self-sustaining corrupt group from power?

  6. Tam says:

    What kills me is when some pudgy little militiaman announces from the safety of his sofa that, come the revolution, we must be hard and not spare our class enemies, be they Democrats or the evil RINOs!

    I always want to ask them if they know how to say it in the original Russian…

  7. jb says:

    John David,
    The problem runs deeper. 57% oppose Obamacare, but few (supporters and opponents) understand it. The fact that a majority of the country dislikes a policy they barely understand, while the political class blows around huge amounts of misinformation about it (again on both sides), doesn't mean that the will of the people is subverted by the policy's remaining in place–it means that the will of the people is rendered meaningless by the dearth of information.

    The real scandal is that brought up by the "read the bill" people–laws are being passed that no one understands well enough to meaningfully oppose or support.

  8. Ken says:

    JDG, I appreciate your thoughtful and direct comment, as I've appreciated your past history of comments here.

    A couple of thoughts in response:

    1. The founders were so concerned about the misuse of the accusation of "treason" that they defined it and created specific procedural safeguards for people of accused of it, and put those right into Article III, Section 3. I submit that their definition ("Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort") cannot be reconciled with the accusation that politicians have committed "treason" by, for instance, adopting an expansionist interpretation of the Commerce Clause, or engaging in "judicial activism. " I suppose one could decide to say that the "Enemies" of the United States are its own politicians, but that strikes me as unprincipled and circular, and an effort to engage in precisely the sort of use of accusations of treason to enforce domestic political orthodoxy that the Founders were concerned about. It would be odd, to say the least, to punish politicians for engaging in a revisionist approach to the Constitution by engaging in a revisionist approach to the Constitution.

    2. Hooray for engaging in civil disobedience, so long as you accept the consequences (the classic form) rather than saying "we can't be punished because this is what we believe" (the modern let's-break-windows-at-Starbucks-to-smash-the-state form).

    3. I understand the complaint that politicians voted for Obamacare even though a majority of the populace opposed it (respectfully, I think 97% is an exaggeration). I just don't know how we can reconcile such complaints with the fundamental structure of the United States as a republic rather than a pure democracy. It seems to me that the Constitution already has a system in place — voting the bums out. Treating our failure to vote the bums out as a bug rather than a feature necessarily involves the "false consciousness" notion I describe above. How do we reconcile that?

  9. aczarnowski says:

    I think that's a decent rundown of the rhetorical classes. Like many here, I don't think there's a lot new under the sun with this. Though to JDG's admission I will say I didn't read Ken's classes as a progression. More like different wrenches in the tool box useful for different fasteners.

    I haven't seen a fastener to date requiring the big #5 wrench, but I won't claim it isn't out there rusting to a bolt as we banter.

    Revolutions, those with bullets and without, are a mess. And the language of revolutions (i.e. rhetoric) maps to the problem space (to pull a turn of phrase from Larry Wall).

  10. Imaginary Lawyer says:

    We’re in a class struggle, between America’s producers and those receiving government checks.

    Setting aside the Randian buzzwords, how do you divide those groups so neatly? Is the factory worker who builds machines forty hours a week a producer, or is he in your second group because he received a tax credit for his dependent children? If he's laid off, is he a producer because he receives an unemployment check?

  11. Federale says:

    I guess that sort of arguement makes George Washington a closet socialist as well.

  12. Piper says:

    I find it very hard to accept the "union extortion is on the rise" argument when union membership has declined from roughly 30-33% of the workforce to 12% of the workforce in the past 40 or so years. I'd wager union extortion was worse then (or does anyone really think the Teamsters of the 60's had less influence than SEIU today?). Are there problems with Unions? Sure. But whether those problems have changed significantly over time? Hmmm…

    I'll buy the argument that public sector unions' power has risen, but if that point is to be made, then the decline of the private sector unions has to be addressed, and I suspect that the weight of that decline has been larger than any increase in the public sector with regards to political sway.

  13. Marie says:

    As soon as I started the second half of your post, I started thinking "Isn't he just asking why revolutionaries sound like revolutionaries?" Left, right, it doesn't matter. At some point they wrap around and run into each other. What's interesting is how strongly the revolutionary right reviles the very movements they echo.

    It seems to me that it goes hand-in-hand with the revolutionary right's insistence, against all evidence to the contrary, that the Nazi's and other fascists were leftist. I haven't seen a whole lot of leftists trying to deny that communism is a leftist ideology; why are the rightists so desparate to deny their own extreme manifestation?

  14. Avocat0 says:

    Ken, you fail to recognize a fundamental difference between leftist revolutionary rhetoric, and that of the so-called right wing. And I'm surprised you're missing it.

    When Marxists whip up the revolutionary fervor, they typically roam the countryside, seek the support of the peasants and non-landowners, and ultimately seek a climactic confrontation with the government by marching on the capital (e.g., Havana).

    When "certain limited elements of the modern American Right," in your words, speak of revolution, it's passive in nature. In other words, they (okay, I'll admit, we) will be waiting for the government to come to us. Molon labe, and all of that. Win or lose, our climactic confrontation is not going to take place by marching on Washington, but rather, in our own backyards.

    Think about it.

  15. Tam says:

    Yeah, why anybody would claim that the "National Socialist Worker's Party" was leftist is completely beyond me.

  16. Ken says:

    Avocat0, I'm in no position to disagree with you about what YOU mean by a word. But your description doesn't really jibe with most of what I've been reading by other people about what THEY mean. Take Confederate Yankee's series of posts, linked in my post.

  17. Imaginary Lawyer says:

    Avocat0, can you please re-read Ken's post without the offense at being compared to liberals?

  18. Patrick says:

    When Marxists whip up the revolutionary fervor, they typically roam the countryside, seek the support of the peasants and non-landowners, and ultimately seek a climactic confrontation with the government by marching on the capital

    What? Marxist revolution had its greatest success in the October Revolution, which was a very urban affair led by bourgeois lawyers. You've never heard of the Paris Commune or the Spartacist uprising, I take it?

    A revolutionary works with the material that he's given, whether it's in the streets or the fields.

  19. Marie says:

    Really, Tam? The entirety of your understanding of a group or organization resides in their name? You pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to the goals they espouse, the enemies they choose, or the beliefs they claim? Fascinating.

  20. Patrick says:

    Mussolini began as a socialist, and pursued a lot of the same goals as socialists of the time. His fascist movement was influential on the NSDAP, which formed a state pretty closely modeled on Soviet institutions.

    When discussing extremists, it's often useful to consider them to along an anarcho-authoritarian axis rather than "left" or "right," if one is using models at all.

  21. Marie says:

    Wait. Are you suggesting that extremists should be viewed on the anarcho-authoritarian axis, and non-extremists should be viewed on the left/right axis? I usually think in terms of both those axis, and then add the third axis of "calm and reasonable" to "wacko extremist".
    But I still like the entire idea of the left/right wraparound – you go far enough to either extreme, and you meet in a big mess of violent crazy.

  22. Marie,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#Economic_policies

    Economic fascism is defined as the private sector owning the means of production, but being directed by the state for the state's ends. I.e. private ownership but state control.

    Economic fascism and corporatism are typically defined very similarly, but I *personally* draw a distinction between the two. Both involve very heavy state control and direction of the economy. However, I view corporatism more as the state being coopted by corporate interests *for the good of the corporations*, whereas fascism is the state directing economic activity *for the good of the state*. Judged this way, the modern Republican "pro-business" party would fall under the former, while most of the modern Democratic party would fall under the latter.

    Either way, economic fascism is by definition a system of extreme state control over the economy. Most of the grassroots American Right (and in particular the libertarian wing) have no desire to implement such a system.

    Social/political fascism is very highly nationalist, though, and you can easily support a claim that the modern Republican party fits that mold to a T.

  23. Ken,

    I think you need to draw a distinction with the goal of the American small-government Right (i.e. the more libertarian wing) and that of those Marxists.

    The socialist revolutionaries were collectivists by nature. They viewed the Revolution as deciding what *we all* will do, not just what they wanted to form voluntary communes to do. They were fundamentally exercising power over *MY* actions.

    The small-government American Right, on the other hand, is largely trying to protect their own rights from that of the collective. I.e. I view voting as useless not because I don't see it as a way to make collective decisions, but rather because I see the negative impact of *your* vote on *my* freedom. As far as I'm concerned, you folks can have all the democracy you want, but when you start imposing your collective choices upon me, I have a problem.

    Thus, I see a fundamental difference between revolution to force everyone to do what you want (the Bolsheviks) and revolution to stop others from being able to exert force over you (the American War of Independence).

  24. Tam says:

    I dunno, what would you call a political system that called for a centrally-planned economy and complete government control (usually extending to actual ownership) over education, the media, and the transportation system?

    I dunno, what would you call a political system that called for a centrally-planned economy and complete government control (usually extending to actual ownership) over education, the media, and the transportation system?

    I had no idea that the left/right axis was determined by fear of gay cooties and belief in odd Zionist conspiracies.

    You're missing the point Tam. Fascist revolutionary movements in the 20th century sought to control the economy, speech, and thought for the purported benefit of a race, whereas socialist revolutionary movements of the 20th century sought to control the economy, speech, and thought for the purported benefit of a class.

    That makes all the difference.

    As for your cheap shot about gay people, note that socialist revolutionaries have always fought for LGBT rights, and always will.

  25. aczarnowski says:

    Thanks for the clarification Brad Warbiany. Beware those libertarians. They want to leave everybody alone!

  26. Patrick says:

    Sorry Tam, I destroyed your comment by hitting the "edit" button rather than the "reply" button. I can't recover the full comment.

    It happens. Fortunately 95% of the comment is encapsulated in the blockquoted section.

  27. Tam says:

    Sorry Tam, I destroyed your comment by hitting the “edit” button rather than the “reply” button. I can’t recover the full comment.

    All that's missing is the part where I acknowledged being a simple peasant on the right, drooling slightly while waiting to be told my opinions by Glenn Beck.

  28. Ken says:

    All that’s missing is the part where I acknowledged being a simple peasant on the right, drooling slightly while waiting to be told my opinions by Glenn Beck.

    MOUNTAIN DEW AND CHEETOS!!!!

  29. Ken says:

    The small-government American Right, on the other hand, is largely trying to protect their own rights from that of the collective. I.e. I view voting as useless not because I don’t see it as a way to make collective decisions, but rather because I see the negative impact of *your* vote on *my* freedom. As far as I’m concerned, you folks can have all the democracy you want, but when you start imposing your collective choices upon me, I have a problem.

    Thus, I see a fundamental difference between revolution to force everyone to do what you want (the Bolsheviks) and revolution to stop others from being able to exert force over you (the American War of Independence).

    Brad, I think there are very distinct voices on the Right calling for revolution; a taxonomy was too big a task for this post.

    Suffice it to say that I feel very differently about libertarian-style revolutionaries, who want to get the government out of the business of individuals, and federalist-style revolutionaries, who want to get the federal government (and the federal courts, with their incorporation doctrine and imposition of the Bill of Rights against the states) out of the business of the states, so the states can be more free to get back into the business of regulating the personal lives of their citizens. One good signifier for the difference is how the revolutionaries talk about the role of judicial review.

  30. Ken,

    Point taken. Libertarians tend to look at the incorporation doctrine as a good thing, a way for government to extend the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to lower levels of government. Federalists of the Right tend to look at it more along the lines of stopping the local "will of the people" from deciding issues, conveniently ignoring the fact that those decisions may step on the rights of others. (Oddly, the exact same people that cheer Heller and especially McDonald completely oppose the incorporation doctrine as applied in the Prop 8 ruling. Wholly inconsistent, IMHO.)

    I guess the difference between libertarian revolutionaries and federalist revolutionaries is that the libertarians want to be free of control entirely, while federalists want smaller entities in order to be more likely to actually win control of the entity.

    Obviously you know which side I'm on.

  31. Ken says:

    TJIC, thanks for the long and thoughtful response at your blog. I recommend it to everyone.

    I posted a response, which I will copy here (it also somewhat addresses Brad's point):

    Thanks for the thoughts, tjic. For the record, I didn’t invoke you in category 5 because, your fondness for “rope” rhetoric aside, I didn’t think you feel into the category of people calling for indiscriminate killing.

    Just a few comments:

    Though my post offered a taxonomy of different styles of calls for revolution (rhetorical, trolling, and sincere) it didn’t offer one for the different reasons people on the Right call for it. Among the reasons are yours, which I would characterize as libertarian-style — primarily concerned with getting the government out of the grill of individuals. You’re a man of strong faith, and strong beliefs about good policy, but you are equally strong in believing that it is not the role of the government (federal or state) to impose those values on individuals. That distinguishes you from the people who want federalist-style revolution, whose objection to the government imposing moral or social codes upon citizens is that the feds shouldn’t do it but the states should be free to. My citation to two notable Scalia cases was a coy reference to this: I’m more worried about the society dreamed of by people who think that the First Amendment ought not prevent the states from banning flag burning, and that we ought to have a revolution to “recover” that “state’s right.”

    Revolutions do not intrinsically increase personal freedom. Their impact on personal freedom depend upon the ideology of the revolutionaries. Some revolutions very substantially impair personal freedom. Some (only some) of the American Right envisions a revolution that aimed at restoring the “right” of the people to pass laws imposing moral and social codes on their fellow citizens. To them, our system impairs their collective freedom when judicial review prevents them from limiting the individual liberty of their neighbors.

    Yes, of COURSE the fantasies of Leftist would-be revolutionaries involve grotesque limitations on individual freedom — just different kinds.

    You’ve identified the limits of the right to vote as a means of preventing tyranny. I suspect you’d also assert that judicial review, as it is currently constituted, is also inadequate. (And, to the extent we’re talking about using judicial review to limit the scope of government power, rather than protect rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, I think you are correct.) I think they create a conundrum, however. If we posit a moral right to violent revolution when voting and judicial review do not defend what we see as our rights based on our interpretations, what can be our response when the guy who wants free bacon sandwiches, and his friends, use violence to force the government and taxpayers to fund them? Is it merely “let the strongest revolutionary survive?” I don’t think it is an easy philosophical question.

  32. Marie says:

    TJIC –
    You don’t agree with the choices of your fellow citizens, so you think it’s appropriate to scare them into doing what you want by threatening violence.
    You admit you can’t win at the ballot box, nor in the arena of public opinion, so you are fine with using violence to achieve your political goals.
    You have no problem with the idea that a minority should use violence to overthrow the peaceful government chosen by the majority.
    You have no problem with using threats of violence to force your fellow citizens into bowing to your demands.
    You don’t “see killing people as the point of a Revolution”, but you are fine with killing whomever it takes to get your way.

    What happens if, after you destroy the current government through violence, the majority of the remaining citizens decides to rebuild a similar government, of which you again disapprove? Do you just start the slaughter up again?

    If a sufficient number of the majority enemy are not properly terrorized into accepting your rule over them, will you just continue to kill them until they are either properly terrorized or there are few enough of them that they are a subjugated minority?

  33. Ken says:

    Marie:

    Though I disagree with some of TJIC's points, I don't think your critique necessarily satisfies some legitimate issues he raises. To wit: what if what you want is to be left alone by the government, and the majority won't leave you alone, and judicial review does not protect you?

    What if you live in a post-revolution Texas, and you want to be able to sleep with the consenting adult of your choice, without being put in jail. Texans want to put you in jail, and think that their "freedom" includes the right to make laws putting you in jail for things they don't like. Is it comfort then that Texans have voted to do it? Is it a response to a call for revolution, in that circumstance?

  34. aczarnowski says:

    Marie, I understand you to believe the majority is always right, morally and otherwise.

    I am deeply saddened by this.

  35. Tam says:

    Marie,

    "You have no problem with the idea that a minority should use violence to overthrow the peaceful government chosen by the majority."

    Even if that majority were to, oh, I don't know… elect a disgruntled Austrian artist, to use an example from up-thread?

    Are you willing to stipulate that there are times that the majority is wrong? Like when they support Jim Crow laws or want to stamp out gay cooties?

  36. Marie,

    Allow me to respond, as someone who is ideologically very close to where TJIC is (without the Catholicism, though). Bear in mind that some of the examples I use below (drug use, gay marriage) are areas where he and I have disagreement about the morality in question, but are in concert regarding the proper role of government (i.e. absent) in those matters.

    You don’t agree with the choices of your fellow citizens

    TJIC may have moral qualms over some of the choices of others, but for the most part has no belief that his disagreement should bar them from making those choices for themselves.

    However, when those choices are making choices FOR TJIC, there is conflict.

    so you think it’s appropriate to scare them into doing what you want by threatening violence.

    If a burglar comes into my house in the middle of the night, is it wrong for me to threaten to shoot said burglar? TJIC equates the IRS with that burglar, and the elected representatives who empower the IRS as part of the same criminal enterprise.

    You admit you can’t win at the ballot box, nor in the arena of public opinion

    Again, TJIC doesn't believe that the ballot box is a legitimate way to take away HIS freedoms. Some freedoms are simply not subject to a vote or public opinion. It is thus illegitimate coercive force to even decide these questions and impose the decision upon TJIC through democracy.

    You have no problem with the idea that a minority should use violence to overthrow the peaceful government chosen by the majority.

    "Peaceful government"? I presume TJIC has no qualms with peaceful government, but I suppose he's got a *MUCH* narrower definition of that than you do. A peaceful government doesn't threated to lock you in a cage if you don't give them their demanded tribute, or if you choose to ingest substances it doesn't approve of, or if you decide that whether or not you purchase health insurance is YOUR decision and not subject to their mandate, or if you want to engage in peaceful commerce that just happens to be sex for money.

    What you call a peaceful government is usually peaceful to those in the majority, but is quite violent to those in the minority — whether directly through coercion (i.e. throwing nonviolent drug users in jail) or indirectly (such as limiting equality of rights through Prop 8 in CA).

    You don’t “see killing people as the point of a Revolution”, but you are fine with killing whomever it takes to get your way.

    I believe that his post largely focused on killing those who are part of the apparatus (gov't) that is infringing on his rights, and not beyond. I.e. if a mafia gang is coming to rob your house, it would be morally justifiable to kill the robbers, the mid-level bosses, all the way up to the head of the family, but not the wife or kids of said mid-level boss.

    What happens if, after you destroy the current government through violence, the majority of the remaining citizens decides to rebuild a similar government, of which you again disapprove? Do you just start the slaughter up again?

    It depends on whether that government limits its actions to those who consent to it, or whether it again infringes on TJIC's freedom.

    If a sufficient number of the majority enemy are not properly terrorized into accepting your rule over them

    TJIC has no desire to rule over them. He desires to stop THEM from ruling over HIM.

    You assume a "peaceful government". Anarchists, like TJIC and myself, believe that the government has already begun the war on us. It conducts that war every day by making decisions for us that we believe it has no authority to make over us, extorting us for a portion of our income (and myriad other payments) for the privilege, and threatening to lock us in a cage if we don't comply with their demands. We are not claiming the right to commit violence against others, but we are very unhappy when voters decide to hide behind a ballot box to commit violence against us.

  37. Imaginary Lawyer says:

    I believe that his post largely focused on killing those who are part of the apparatus (gov’t) that is infringing on his rights, and not beyond.

    We are not claiming the right to commit violence against others

    Well, make up your mind.

  38. Sorry, IL, that second sentence should read:

    "We are not claiming the right to initiate violence against others."

    I was invoking the non-aggression principle.

    The gov't is initiating, making response self-defense.

    A short primer on the non-aggression principle is here.

  39. Ezra says:

    So, essentially your argument is that you don't want to be part of a State unless it means your narrow needs? Do you really think that is a viable proposition? I would argue that in the world today that is functionally impossible. I want to play in the NBA, but I'm 5'10 and can't jump. I think our wishes are equally feasible.

  40. Ezra,

    No, I don't think it's a viable proposition today. We have an economy that is built on large, intrusive, active government, and if you simply topple it and make it disappear immediately, our entire society will crumble. We have spent a century moving from small government to the modern leviathan, and it was an incremental process. I personally, as a pragmatist, believe that the only way to undo this is a gradual, incremental process allowing the free market to gradually supplant current government functions, rendering them obsolete, and eventually as you pare away the layers, you will eventually get to a point where the elimination of the government would be feasible. Of course, when the government is 10% of its current size, you also lose pretty much your whole justification for armed rebellion against it as well, as it ceases to be something that intrudes upon your freedom enough to warrant violence.

    Within the political process I see little hope for reversing the trend of government. Outside the political process, I see little hope for success in an armed rebellion. So I'm actually pretty fatalistic about our chances for ever rescinding the state.

    That doesn't mean the state isn't a violent criminal organization that is undeserving of our support.

  41. Ezra says:

    It's funny, but I bet my mistrust of the free market is almost as strong as yours of government. Something tells me we are both right.

  42. Imaginary Lawyer says:

    We are not claiming the right to initiate violence against others.

    Ah. The "He started it!" principle.

  43. SPQR says:

    Revolutionary rhetoric all sounds Marxist because the Marxists spent the last century on reforming all revolutions with 7.62×25 rounds to the back of the head until everyone got the slogans right.

  44. Marie says:

    Ken – If you want to be left alone, I would think your choices are to PEACEFULLY convince your fellow citizens to leave you alone, without threatening to start killing whomever you determine stands in your way; to PEACEFULLY convince your fellow citizens to change the government so it leaves everyone alone; to find an area with enough people who agree with you to leave the union with you; or heavens, novel thought, to go somewhere where you like the government better.

    There are people who’ve withdrawn from society without harassment. Until they start mailing bombs to people, they seem to be left pretty much alone.

    If I lived in a post-secession Texas, I’d move to someplace else. (Hell, if I lived in Texas today, I’d move someplace else!) Assuming that the majority of Texans agreed to seceed, rather than simply having the secessionists slaughter everyone who disagreed with them, of course.

    My point is that TJIC did not say he could see the need for threats of armed revolution (ie, killing your fellow citizens) in some FUTURE where Tam’s next Hitler has taken power. He said he sees the need for threatening killing now, today, when he simply disagrees with the type of government his fellow citizens have chosen. I have a real issue with people who feel it’s fine to kill other people based on differences of political opinion.

    Aczarnowski, I understand that you’d rather believe that then acknowledge my actual point, and that is, of course your choice. No, the majority is not automatically right, but I don’t think the best solution to non-violent wrongness is to threaten to kill people. That you seem to not be bothered by the whole “let’s start killing if we don’t get our way” attitude deeply saddens ME. Oh, hell, no it doesn’t, because I have no clue who you are, and I’m well aware the crazy runs deep in this world.

    Brad – I grasp that TJIC has a very… different interpretation of the world than I do. He sees violence where I see non-violence. In his mind (and perhaps in yours as well?) paying taxes and killing people is the same thing, so yeah, why not just start shooting? I am NOT reassured by promises that he’ll only kill people he thinks needs killing. I saw how attacking the IRS that played out in Oklahoma City.

  45. Patrick says:

    This discussion would be more interesting if you people would just admit that you're really debating the merits of Robert Heinlein versus Isaac Asimov.

  46. Chris says:

    Point to Patrick.

  47. aczarnowski says:

    Marie, is there anything you are willing to fight and die for?

  48. Ken says:

    Patrick — if I take the Heinlein route, do I have to engage in sex with relatives, or is that optional? Because they're a unappealing lot, quite frankly. I don't think anyone has to have sex with anyone in an Asimovian universe, except perhaps with robots, which would be okay, I guess, as long as they're programmed properly and don't use Vista or something. If my choice of a fundamental philosophy regarding my relationship to the state is going to result in some Radio Shack hussy going all blue-screen-of-death in the middle of chowing on my Johnson, It's going to impact my thinking by a piece.

  49. Patrick says:

    Ken, you're missing the point, as usual.

    The point is that in a Heinlein universe, you COULD have sex with relatives, if that's what turned you on and it was consensual and everyone was of age, and that would be your business. Of course if you had sex with relatives against their will, or they were children, your neighbors would lynch you.

    In an Asimov universe, you could not have sex with relatives, at all. But the government, ruled by a self-selecting council of wise men, WOULD force you to have sex with robots, if that was deemed necessary to the stability of the galactic empire. You would believe that you had chosen to have sex with robots, but in fact you would have no choice, as your desire for robot sex would have been implanted by psycho-historical manipulation, hundreds of years before you were born.

  50. jared says:

    In addition to "violent crazy" and "non-violent non-crazy," one must admit the likely existence of "non-violent crazy" and "violent non-crazy."

    The idea that it is always a person's moral duty to walk away (because one is always able?), to the ends of the Earth if necessary (because there is always somewhere else to go?), to avoid confrontation with a harasser (however immoral the basis of the harrasser's claims of authority?) strikes me as…"non-violent crazy."

    Hence the prevalence of the "last stand in one's own back yard" scenario.

    But where that construction sparks revolutionary tendencies, I think, is in two realizations:

    1. Having obtained clear and legal title to a back yard of sufficient square footage should not be a prerequisite for last-standing.

    2. If a person is just not up to the task of last-standing him- or herself (health issues, youth, decades of pacifist indoctrination) does that person therefore deserve to endure a lifetime of harrassment, or is it legitimate for another able person to do some last-standing on his or her behalf?

    These are merely the minority's parallels to the majority's claims that "local police" and "national armed forces" are legitimate.

    It also strikes me as…incomplete…to define "peacefulness" as the lack of personal open violence against line-of-sight targets. By paying taxes to a government executing wars abroad, where the killing of noncombatants is among the undisputed results, what level of personal responsibility or moral burden does a taxpayer accumulate?

    I guess my point is: "crazy" is what we all want to avoid, but one starts to drift quickly toward "crazy" territory exactly when one thinks his or her own claim to moral legitimacy is clear.

  51. Patrick,

    Count me in the Heinlein camp, with the caveat that I currently have no interest in having sex with relatives, and do not expect such interest short of reaching 500 years of age (and even then only with relatives who aren't alive today — even if I can time travel — because the thoughts are still "icky").

  52. Ezra says:

    Jared,

    who decides when "crazy" is justified. I definitely have a different answer than Brad or Patrick, and probably than Ken. Which of us is right? You are also talking on a personal level, but folks like Ken is describing are suggesting a movement, an organized campaign. You seem to be trying to cover people like Mark Epstein with some sort of preemptive "Castle" doctrine.

  53. Patrick says:

    The wonderful thing about Jared's vision, Ezra, is that Jared, you, and I can all decide for ourselves who is crazy.

    Under your vision, a government board of experts, nominated for staggered seven year terms by the President and confirmed by vote of the Senate, is assigned to oversee the Federal Craziness Commission, in which administrative law judges determine who is crazy, based on Craziness Criteria as set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations after propagation of the proposed Craziness Criteria following a period of public comment. Those found to be crazy by an administrative law judge may appeal for a declaration of sanity to the United States District Court, upon payment of a sanity bond and production of the record at the Craziness hearing at their own expense. Appellants would be well advised to hire an attorney specializing in such matters, as the Federal Craziness Council will be represented by staff attorneys or the Department of Justice, depending on whether a constitutional Craziness issue is raised.

  1. August 11, 2010

    [...] at Popehat, Ken has posted a very thought-provoking question about the American Right's rhetoric lately regarding armed rebellion. He delves into two [...]