John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter VII: Of Political or Civil Society; section 92.
The State in its elemental form: The implicit threat behind all government action is made overt in this police officer's personalized headgear....
... and here's the threat made tangible: The caption to this photo helpfully explained, "Anti-war protester learns a lesson about protesting."
For the second time in less than a year, a lethal mass shooting has been carried out by an obscure and probably deranged individual of vaguely right-wing inclinations.
Last Friday (February 27), Dannie R. Baker, a 59-year-old self-described minister who followed a distant and eccentric orbit around Florida's Walton County Republican Party, shot five college-age Chilean students, killing two of them. As is generally the case in tragedies of this kind, the a police tactical unit showed up in time to collect the shooter after his victims were already dead or critically injured.
Agent of "revolution"? Accused murderer Dannie R. Baker.
Crystal Lynn, a neighbor in the apartment complex where Baker lived and the shooting took place, recalled an incident in which Baker approached her "and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrant [sic] in my house to get them out." The victims of Baker's killing spree had come to the U.S. legally as part of an international exchange program.
The "Reverend" Baker was known to the local Republican leadership, who -- to their credit -- didn't actively seek his company, although he was described as "active" in the 2004 election campaign.
Last year, party officials became concerned about a series of "disturbing" e-mails from Baker and contacted the Sheriff's office to express their concerns.
The atrocity in Florida comes just days after the conviction of James Adkisson for murdering two people and injuring six more in a killing spree at a Knoxville, Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church last July.
Murder victims: Nicolas Corp, 23 (left) and Racine Balbontin (22).
Like Baker, Adkisson was a middle-aged man of with a murky background on the margins of the Republican-aligned right. Where Baker's "revolutionary" intentions, if any, remain sketchy, Adkisson unflinchingly described his crime as an act of revolutionary suicide terrorism.
In a four-page written harangue left as a kind of suicide note-cum-political manifesto, Baker described his premeditated act as the "symbolic killings" of people connected to the liberal Democrats he passionately hated, and predicted that he would die at the hands of police in his effort to "get the ball rolling" on the supposedly worthy project of annihilating liberals wherever they could be found.
Some left-leaning activists and commentators insist that the actions of Adkisson and Baker are inspired by a tendency they call "eliminationism" -- a desire to exterminate the "other," however that category is defined. That analysis is difficult to dispute, given the way that conservatism in the Age of Limbaugh has curdled into a kind of tribalism seasoned by adolescent resentment and blended with an implacable appetite for power.
The dominant conservative critique of the Obama administration, after all, doesn't focus on its profligacy, foreign adventurism, and insistence on centralizing power at the expense of liberty; in that respect, Obama is just like his predecessor and, in some ways (at least so far), a touch less extreme. No, the critique is simply that Obama and his people are part of "Them," rather than "Us": They belong to the wrong tribe, and are exercising the power we covet.
After all, the GOP-aligned Right didn't erupt in revolutionary outrage when the Bush administration destroyed habeas corpus or created a corporatist economic dictatorship within the Treasury Department, to name just two of its myriad offenses against liberty. However, now that the power-engorged executive branch is controlled by Them, Sean Hannity has started to cultivate sedition and Limbaugh, envisioning the Republican re-conquest of the government, has started to talk about "payback" in terms that bring to mind a Khmer Rouge commissar contemplating a purge.
As somebody who considers the State to be nothing more than a criminal syndicate pursuing a monopoly, I consider sedition to be a fine and noble calling worthy of all decent and Godly people. But statists of the conservative stripe engage in purely situational sedition: They want to undermine our present crop of rulers in order to replace them, not to abolish State impositions on liberty.
That is the thinking behind Hannity's little survey about the preferred mode of insurrection and Limbaugh's crusade to bring down Obama -- to the extent that the term "thinking" describes what goes on behind Hannity's Neanderthal forehead ridge, or the process that leads to the verbal expression of Rush Limbaugh's appetites.
This isn't to say that the left is blameless in all of this. It was the left that not only legitimized but institutionalized the politics of collectivist grievance. Collectivist movements are always eliminationist in potential, and quite often in practice.
Homeland Security in Chile, 1973: Santiago National Stadium serving as an open-air detention camp for political enemies of the new junta.
The biggest difference I can see is that "right-wing"* collectivists prefer to eliminate troublesome people right away (vide the Chilean junta filling Santiago National Stadium with dissidents and other disposable troublemakers following Pinochet's 1973 coup), while left-wingers seek to "re-educate" their victims first before liquidating those deemed incapable of thought reform.
A subsidiary distinction: "Lone wolf"-style political violence is more the style of the pseudo-individualist Right, since the Left prefers a more systematic approach.
It seems likely that we will see other episodes of "lone wolf"-style armed terrorism by people like Adkisson and Baker -- comets dragged out of conservatism's Oort Cloud, or perhaps given a nudge sun-ward by federal agents of mayhem deployed for that purpose.
Given the possibility that people perceived as "liberals" will be targeted for future politically inspired violence -- in addition to the increase in routine criminal violence that will occur as the depression deepens -- a question urges itself upon us: Why aren't liberals (with a few worthy exceptions) reconsidering their opposition to the right to armed self-defense? Why aren't they buying guns, rather than supporting measures intended to take them away from others?
"Eliminationism," as practiced by the Revolutionary Left: Under the direction of a progressive lawyer named Jean-Baptiste Carrier, the revolutionary French Jacobins conducted noyades -- mass drownings of Christian Vendeans deemed ineducable and thus subject to liquidation. Perhaps inspired by the given name of the official who supervised them, these acts of mass murder, which anticipated modern collectivist mass-killings from the Soviet Union to Cambodia, were called "republican baptisms."
I suspect that the answer is this: Just as Left-collectivists prefer institutionalized armed violence through the State to "lone wolf"-style episodes of individual political violence, they believe it would be best for all of us to be disarmed apart from the sanctified agents of State repression, rather than permitting individuals to provide for their own protection.
People of that political persuasion might want to re-examine their premises before the "eliminationist" Right regains power and renders the question moot. But there is a more immediate potential threat that should command the immediate attention of all of us, irrespective of our political viewpoints. It is described by Russian-born, America-educated Dimitri Orlov, one of the wittiest and most capable exponents of what could be called "Collapse Theory."
Orlov spend a great deal of time in the Soviet Union during its painful and tumultuous transition. During the 1990s, he began to see some crucial parallels between the behavior of that crusading socialist superpower just prior to its collapse, and the behavior of our own crusading corporatist superpower on the eve of its own systemic crisis. He was present when the State's administrative system broke down at the same time the country was inundated with waves of demobilized soldiers returning from Afghanistan, or from manning the garrisons of the far-flung Soviet empire.
The collapse of the Regime's financial system will quite probably take down the administrative apparatus as well. We're barely into what will be a very long and deep depression, and already every state government faces an acute fiscal crisis, with most large cities following suit. At some point, imperial ambitions will yield to fiscal reality, and the troops stationed abroad will come home, apart from those likely to be lost should the Regime manage to lose an entire army in the Gulf region.
Police departments, both state and local, will be forced to lay off personnel, and prisons bulging at the seams will start releasing convicts (most likely beginning with those who committed violent crimes against persons and property, rather than the non-violent offenders who could be considered political prisoners rather than actual criminals).
The Business End of the State, Russian Edition: Russia's Omon police force subdues a protester. The Omon forces are similar to American riot police, albeit better educated and less pathologically violent.
The end result, Orlov explains, "will be a country awash with various categories of armed men, most of them unemployed, and many of them borderline psychotic":
"The police in the United States are a troubled group. Many of them lose all touch with people who are not `on the force' and most of them develop an `us-versus-them' mentality. The soldiers returning from a tour of duty often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The paroled prisoners suffer from a variety of psychological ailments as well. All of them will sooner or later realize that their problems are not medical but political. This will make it impossible for society to continue to exercise control over them. All of them will be making good use of their weapons training and other professional skills to acquire whatever they need to survive. And the really important point to remember is that they will do these things whether or not anyone thinks it legal for them to be doing them."
It is important to understand that Orlov's observation is speculative only as it applies to our country; what he describes he has seen in "post-Soviet" Russia.
Even after the State lost its ideological rationale for plunder, the country was still buried beneath armed men who had made a career in extracting wealth at gunpoint. Oddly enough, being clothed in the power of the State and carrying out errands of violence on its behalf didn't purge such men of the "baseness of human nature." And rather than retiring when the Soviet flag was furled, they continued in the same profession as free-lancers until they found employment in the same field under the successor Regime.
The implosion of Washington's imperial State will probably follow a similar trajectory. What rational person of any political persuasion would choose to be disarmed in such circumstances, or any others?
*I'm aware that the political "Right" on a properly defined political spectrum would refer to less government, or even the absence of that institutional affliction. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm using the term "Right" with reference to nationalist and traditionalist tendencies, as opposed to the egalitarian and "progressive" impulses that characterize the "Left." In this model, total government can be imposed by either "progressives" or "reactionaries."
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!