What happens when the State has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force: The Anti-Defamation League agrees with the late, unlamented National Socialist regime that this Jewish woman about to be murdered holding her child had no right to take up arms against the government that ruled her.
If our nation were to descend into the abyss of genocidal state terror, the so-called Anti-Defamation League (ADL) would remain a dutiful instrument of state policy for as long as the ruling class had use of that despicable organization.
If a mass-murdering oligarchy arose that made optimal use of the existing instruments of regimentation, repression, and liquidation, the ADL's leadership would slavishly ingratiate itself with that clique.
Under the circumstances I describe, the ADL's top leadership would scruple at no compromise of its professed principles. If this meant winnowing out “anti-government” elements from within the Jewish community, so be it: Foxman and his comrades would eagerly help to cull out those Jews who worship the God of Abraham rather than the Almighty State (as politically protected collaborators did during World War II).
Had they been present in the Warsaw Ghetto, Foxman and his comrades would have done what they could have to prevent the heroic uprising against the Nazis. At no point would the ADL's leadership have countenanced, much less organized, any effective armed resistance to genocide.
I am not engaging in facile speculation. I am taking the ADL at its word and applying the principles contained in the amicus curiae brief submitted by that organization (in collaboration with many others of its ilk) in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.
Under the civilian disarmament ordinances of the District, Dick Anthony Heller, a police officer, was permitted to carry a firearm while on the clock as a government employee, but not to own and use a handgun or rifle for self-defense as a civilian in his own home. (.pdf) (Heller's specific job, incidentally, is guarding federal judges.) He challenged the District's law in court, losing the initial trial but winning in federal appeals court.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on this case later this year, and the decision it will render is expected to be the most significant ruling on the right to armed self-defense since the US v. Miller decision seven decades ago.
As I see it, the Heller case uniquely lays bare for inspection the often concealed premise of all civilian disarmament laws: Since the State must have a monopoly on the use of force, only agents of the State can be permitted to carry weapons. Thus only when Heller was dressed in a State-issued costume was he was permitted to pack a gun. When dressed more respectably in the clothes of a productive private citizen, Heller lost whatever magical property inheres in those who work for the tax-consuming class, and was thus forbidden to carry a firearm.
This arrangement is a nearly perfect inversion of the social order envisioned in the Second Amendment.
By recognizing a right inherent in “the people” to own and carry arms – a right as innate to the individual as freedom of speech or religion -- the Second Amendment unambiguously denied government, whether state or federal, a monopoly on the use of force. By specifically reserving to each state the power to create a “well-regulated militia” (which can, under certain circumstances, be called into the service of the “united States in Congress assembled”), the amendment was intended to preserve the means for the states to protect their inhabitants from invasion, insurrection, and the aggression of the central government.
In its brief, the ADL sniffily dismisses the idea that the Second Amendment “protects a right to overthrow the government when some unspecified number of individuals, in their unguided discretion, decide that the government is `tyrannical.'”
The Warsaw Ghetto, prior to the Uprising: Bucket-headed government officials had the guns, innocent civilians had none -- just as it should be, according to the ADL.
Are these people even dimly aware of the fact that this is exactly what was done by the American Patriots of the former British Colonies? And, given the recurring totalitarian horrors of the past century, is it impossible for these people to imagine circumstances in which armed revolt would be the only alternative to genocide?
The ADL brief insists that “any effort to overthrow the government is `treason' punishable by death” and snarks that we “ought not to read the Second Amendment as arming the populace to commit what the Constitution itself deems a capital offense.” Here the authors of the brief are being deliberately obtuse, I suspect: “Treason” as defined by the Constitution refers to adhering to the enemies of the united States, not in withdrawing one's consent to be ruled by the central government. And the “enemies” referred to in the text can include – indeed, always include – those in Washington who work to subvert the Constitution.
James Madison, who obviously knew more about the Constitution than does anybody in the employ of the ADL, pointedly acknowledged that one explicit purpose of the Second Amendment was to enable the states to mount an insurrection against the central government should doing so be necessary in order to protect individual liberty.
April 19, 1775: Anti-government extremists riot, firing on the constabulary sent to enforce a ban on illegal assault weapons. Or at least, that's how the ADL must view the events that took place at Lexington and Concord.
In Federalist essay number 46, Madison acknowledges the validity of this “Insurrectionary Theory” of the Second Amendment. In the event that “traitors” -- that's Madison's word – aggrandize the central government's power “beyond the due limits” and buttress their position with a standing army, the individual states and the armed citizens thereof would have the means to conduct a successful rebellion:
“Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men [at the time Madison wrote those words]. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” (Emphasis added.)
A vital and little-appreciated application of this principle is the right of state militia to withdraw their participation in wars not waged for the defense of the united States. Witness what happened in the War of 1812 when many state militia units, whose members were eager to repel British aggression, refused orders to invade Canada in what they properly considered a venture in cynical, opportunistic aggression.
That revolt prompted war hawks in Congress to consider a conscription bill, the prospect of which prompted Daniel Webster – yes, that Daniel Webster – to extol the principle of states' rights. The threat of conscription helped precipitate the abortive Hartford Convention of December 1814, in which New England states threatened to secede from the Union.
It might have struck war-battered President James Madison as acutely ironic that his government was dealing with something similar to the scenario he outlined in the forty-sixth Federalist essay. But all of this makes perfect sense when it's remembered that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were produced by men who had fought and won a war that began when an informal but well-armed citizen militia forcefully repelled an effort by their government to confiscate their firearms.
The ADL, however, perceives the only “right” protected by the Second Amendment to be that of each state to exercise a monopoly on force – or, better stated, a federally guaranteed exclusive franchise on force within its boundaries. Citing the conclusion of a justifiably obscure historian, the ADL's brief insists that “the rebellion of a people against a government established by themselves is not justifiable, even in an extreme case....”
If the ADL had its way, the Bucketheads would once again have a monopoly on the ownership and use of firearms.
Those are words that would have warmed what passed for the hearts of the Nazi officials who presided over the perfectly legal and orderly extermination of millions of people – disarmed people, of course.. Those words compose a pious admonition to servility that could have been preached by any of the prostitute pastors in the Nazi-dominated church of “Positive Christianity” -- the founding text of which was an artfully dishonest reading of Romans 13. And tragically, those words are probably a faithful recreation of advice given by German Jewish leaders to their followers even as the death camps took root and the cattle cars started to run.
As Benjamin Ginsberg points out in his utterly indispensable book The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State, “to the very end, many German Jews could not believe that the German state would fail to protect them from the excesses of Nazi fanatics. The historical dependence of Jews upon the state .... gave rise to a Jewish philosophical tradition, beginning in the 17th century with Spinoza ... in which the state is glorified and seen, essentially, as a kind parent worthy of total obedience” (page 13, emphasis added).
What if German Jews had not been indoctrinated with this dogma of “total obedience” to the State? It's impossible to see how things could have turned out worse for them had they been taught to resist the encroachments of a criminal government, rather than entrusting their fate to it. And it is the latter option that the ADL would endorse.
As expressed in a press release, the ADL's view of the Second Amendment dictates that state governments must “protect their citizens' lives, liberty and property by regulating the purchase and possession of firearms.” For “regulating” we might as well read “forbidding.”
You see, in the mental universe inhabited by the ADL, government does not threaten the “lives, liberty and property” of the citizenry; this is the exclusive business of “bigots” and “extremists” in the private realm, categories that are best defined as “People the ADL doesn't like and wishes to suppress, including – but hardly limited to – actual bigots.”
“Gun violence and the caching of dangerous weapons are commonplace among extremists,” lisps the ADL press release (and yes, it is possible for written prose to lisp). “If states lose the right to regulate firearm ownership, it would help violent bigots in their efforts to create an America based on hate and intolerance.”
This assumes, of course, that government policy-making and law enforcement organs have been entirely purged of people inclined toward “hate and intolerance” -- a happy assumption to which practicing adults are immune. And it must be noted that the ADL, to the best of my knowledge, has never condemned gun violence perpetrated against innocent people by state agents.
One would think that the ADL would take an interest in the epidemic of government-inflicted gun violence against black Americans carried out via the “war on drugs.”
One would think such a thing, that is, were he foolish enough to credit the ADL's sincerity and honesty.
Those willing to grant the organization the benefit of the doubt should read its Heller brief, in which the ADL – after spending decades execrating the supposedly invidious motives of those who support federalism (in its original meaning) and protecting the reserved powers of the states – suddenly emerges as the self-appointed defender of “states' rights.”
That's right: The urbane sophisticates at the ADL have gotten their Bull Connor freak on. They've stuck a wad of chaw in their cheeks and defiantly hoisted the “State's Rights” banner. Sure, next week they'll probably return to form, denouncing Ron Paul as a crypto-Klansman because of his defense of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. But for the nonce, the ADL is firmly in favor of “states' rights”– at least for the purposes of defending the “right” of a state, acting as a fully owned subdivision of the federal government, to disarm its inhabitants by force.
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Mark Pitcavage, head of "fact-finding" for the ADL, was employed by the "SLATT" program of the Justice Department's Institute for Intergovermental Research. Through SLATT -- State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training -- Pitcavage helped indoctrinate state and local police about the supposed dangers posed by "right-wing extremists."
Behind its facade of respectability, the ADL has always acted as a quasi-private secret police agency, compiling dossiers on people both public and private and urging various punishments on those it considers its enemies. In recent decades it has helped to inflict Orwellian “hate crime” laws on many communities, and worked alongside other self-appointed “watchdog” groups to indoctrinate police about “hate” groups (which in practice means any group of people hated by the ADL). So it's hardly surprising, in a way, that it would embrace civilian disarmament with such intemperate fervor. Clearly, their priority is to enhance the power of the State to deal with their enemies.
This perspective is an outgrowth of an attitude that can properly be called a species of Holocaust denial – not the denial of the event, mind you, but of the mechanism that produced the mass killing of Jews and others by the National Socialist regime. As High Church Statists the ADL wants to privatize that atrocity by blaming it entirely on the bigotry of hateful individuals; meanwhile, the organization works diligently to build the Total State and equip it with everything it needs to carry out future endeavors in political mass murder.
A reminder: My new book Liberty in Eclipse is now available.
Dum spiro, pugno!