The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Democracy Is a Way of Avoiding Violence

Democracy is intended to provide a legitimate way for change to occur, a way which does not require violence.

We vote, and what we vote for is done.

To the extent that the people get more or less what they think they are voting for, democracy is working.

When people do not get what they think they are voting for, democracy is not working.

If democracy does not work for long enough, the government comes to seem illegitimate–people may have voted, but they didn’t vote for what they got.

It is for this reason that endless austerity, or candidates who are hypocrites and do not do what they said (or very strongly implied) they would do, are a problem.

They destroy democratic legitimacy, and when that legitimacy is gone, people start wanting a government that “works.” They become willing to go to demagogues and men on horseback. They become willing to engage in revolution and violence.

They are correct to do so. Democracy which does not translate the will of the people into the acts of the government is not democracy worth having.

Or, more briefly:

Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.

— John F. Kennedy

This is why Trump. This is why LaPen. This is why the Golden Dawn.

Democracy can regenerate itself. FDR in 1932, for example. But then there were also Mussolini and Hitler. This is not a specious example; it can happen “here,” wherever here is.

Cynical elites, who do what they know won’t work to give people what they want (neoliberalism never providing prosperity), are doing profoundly evil work: They are undermining the very basis of democracy and in doing so they are destroying the peace.

They will reap as they have sowed.

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  1. Everythings Jake

    Hence the rampant shock among mainstream media at the anger and “violence” of those in Las Vegas against the Democratic NV “leaders” who shifted the outcome of the primary. The rush to condemn Sanders, now doing a delicate dance to condemn the behavior without distancing himself from his supporters. The requirement for polite discourse, the marginalization and condemnation that immediately follows and deviation from that rule, is a suppression of legitimate anger and rage that eventually can only be expressed in four letter words and, lamentably, when elites fail to respond, in physical violence.

  2. CMike

    Everythings Jake writes:

    …anger and rage that eventually can only be expressed in four letter words and, lamentably, when elites fail to respond, in physical violence.

    Whoa. Let’s keep in mind that there are some intermediate options between hurling four letter words and resorting to physical violence. Acts of civil disobedience promoted before and after with some public relations/media savvy would be one of those options, others would include boycotts (the targeting of a randomly selected firm within an industry like finance or fossil fuel), coordinated default by private borrowers, mass demonstrations (with a willingness to block traffic) in support of a specific demand (not a hodgepodge of them or a not explicitly named one), damaging (not just spray painting) the property of a major corporation, or work stoppages that would range from an organized call in sick day at a place of business to a general strike.

    In the meantime liberals/progressives/the left needs to be persuading their fellow citizens to reject the blue pill version of political news and opinion being administered to them by the Main Stream corporate Media, and to find alternative media sources to rely on, instead.

    To sum up, before a last gasp resort to physical violence, the left might want to give a go at finally engaging in some sustained, sophisticated activism over the medium term. The problem for the left in the U.S. is that its members can’t give up the romantic notion that they can rely on the disjointed acts by the self-appointed to take on the oligarchy. A coherent, forward moving political movement requires an identifiable leader or three to coalesce behind, and we’re going to need him, her, or them out in front of our movement for a lot longer than one campaign cycle to make the changes that need to be made.

  3. “Let’s keep in mind that there are some intermediate options between hurling four letter words and resorting to physical violence.”

    I’m not sure that’s precisely what you meant to say, since the step from one to the next is pretty small, and the “civil disobedience” you seem to prefer is not within that gap.

    Nor is civil disobedience a reasonable option when there is a time and place at which something is supposed to be done and that time and place is passing into history with the event being fraudlently accomplished against the majority will. There is no “medium term” for any “sustained, sophisticated activism” when an election is being stolen in the present moment.

  4. Shh

    Indeed, this is not only a right, but a duty. This principle underlies the entire premise of US Law and one need look no further than the Declaration of Independence.

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    The gubmint will tell you you’ve had enough and never cease to be amazed when your appetite is smaller than theirs.

  5. realitychecker


    That would have been great advice if offered ten or fifteen (or twenty or thirty) years ago. In fact, such was frequently offered but never heeded. We are where we are due to our own laziness and lack of focus and commitment.

    In the meantime, the corporatist oligarchy has relentlessly buttressed and fortified their position vis a vis regular folks. To the point where incrementalism such as you recommend is no longer viable, and , in fact, is just what the oligarchs hope we will settle for–i.e.., any progress realized by such glacially slow methods will be barely distinguishable from a raw preservation of the very status quo the Establishment relies on.

    Democracy is disintegrating before our very eyes–more dramatic responses are now required, because time has become a critical factor. And what the Establishment whines about is the best indicator of what it is that they truly fear–I am certain that their true concern is not the maintenance of church-appropriate civilities lol.

    IOW, the frog must finally make a decision as to whether to continue to submit to the slow boil, or to finally jump out of the pot.

  6. paintedjaguar

    @Everythings Jake ” The rush to condemn Sanders, now doing a delicate dance to condemn the behavior… ”

    There was no behavior to condemn!! The entire mainstream media apparatus is flat-out lying about this (surprise). THERE WAS NO VIOLENCE IN NEVADA, except the violence done to democracy by the Nevada Democratic machine. Sanders supporters were rightly and vocally angry at the suppression of democratic procedure. Period, full stop. No chairs were thrown, no physical violence occured AT ALL (one person may have fainted or had some sort of medical event, one man lifted a chair over his head and shook it… then put it down). The information is there, on YouTube and blogs, although Hillary’s paid trolls are busy trying to pollute the information stream with memes that are the polar opposite of the truth — such as claims that Bernie’s people were trying to “change the rules”. It was Hillary supporters in the Nevada Dem apparatus who actually did that, along with other things. Hence the angry response. It had little to do with the loss of a couple of delegates for Bernie.

  7. different clue


    What I have read over the last day or so at Naked Capitalism tends to support your understanding of events. This appears to have been a carefully crafted setup by the Clintonite Forces acting through their Nevada Democratic Party . . . . precisely in order to drive Sanders supporters to visible rage in order to get that rage on camera for future propaganda usage.
    In other words, this was a Mainstream Democrat/Clintonite psy-op in furtherance of the longer range Democrat/Clintonite Information Operations agenda.

    The Sanders campaign strategists and tacticians should find a way to educate all their supporters on what psy-ops are, what Information Operations are, and what kind of appearance the Clintonite psy-operatives are working to craft around the Sanders Campaign and its supporters. The Sanders supporters should be instructed on how Clintonite meme-traps are designed, and how to avoid stepping into them.

    Another question arises . . . were some of the Screaming Sandernistas really undercover Clintonites planted in the crowd to perform the “cop throws rock” function? Is there any way to find out?

  8. S Brennan

    CMike has written some stuff that I like, but…

    The need of many “liberals” to have the protest of tyranny tailor-match each particular observer’s aesthetics leads to paralysis of the body politic.

    Edmund Burke related, “all that tyranny needs is for men of goodwill to do nothing”.

    Those who take the risk to oppose tyranny must not only face the evil itself, but those legions of self-indulgent bourgeois critics for whom everything must be to be to their liking for them not to sit on their collective ass and effectively indulge tyranny’s excesses.

  9. paintedjaguar

    FYI, here is the only documented instance I’ve found of a chair leaving the ground (not thrown) or any other act more “violent” than shouting and fist shaking.

    Second video on page @ a little past 00:04:30 —

    or directly from the filmer’s Facebook page —

    See also this article which partly explains how the media blew this up:

    The bull-baiting psy-op hypothesis gets some credibility from the way Barbara Boxer’s speech trolled the Sanders contingent, although this could be attributed to general asshollery:

  10. Patricia

    different clue, the Clintonista meme was thought-up before hand and carefully passed to all the nation’s media who gladly delivered it. The meme is a bald-faced lie.

    No one, no matter how knowledgeable/expert in psy-ops, can keep others from lying. It’s what one does afterwards….

  11. tony

    Pirates had a democracy. Which makes sense, because if you are going lead a bunch of armed killers without outside support, you better have their consent.

  12. Ronald Showalter


    Hah! So, you’re going to start educating the bourgeois Left about psyops and media manipulation NOW

    – not 6 months ago after Paris/Brussels,
    – not 2 years ago during Ukraine, Syria, Pussy Riot etc etc
    – not 5 years ago after the Arab Spring all over the ME
    – and not 10+ years ago after 9/11

    but NOW because your wholly Establishment candidate for POTUS is getting treated unfairly – sniffle, tear – as he runs to be the nominee for one of the decrepit institutions that dominates the putrid American political system?!!

    Just now, you and NakedCapitalism and the rest of the Bourgeois Justice Weague are steaming mad?!!!!

    What a joke.

    Hey, here’s a REALLY different clue, brother: the ENTIRE Presidential Race – Bernie included – is a psyop, one carefully crafted to keep nominally intelligent people interested and participating in a Spectacular farce so that they don’t really get off their asses and start to do something about it.

    No, but really Bernie’s the real deal, huh?


  13. highrpm

    Those who take the risk to oppose tyranny must not only face the evil itself, but those legions of self-indulgent bourgeois critics for whom everything must be to be to their liking for them not to sit on their collective ass and effectively indulge tyranny’s excesses.

    2 immediately come to mind:
    rachel corrie
    helen thomas

  14. highrpm

    @ ronald showalter,

    one carefully crafted

    i won’t give the establishment even that much credit. rather, it’s blatantly obvious when one spends 5 min of downtime that politics is syndicated television entertainment, all and only for viewer audience revenues. united states democratic government devolved to raw vicious capitalism. overlooking his stupid christian beliefs, william guy carr was on the right track with his 3WW conspiracy theory. (Pawns in the Game)

  15. Cripes

    I disagree with Obama’s remark about the Trump candidacy that this “isn’t a reality show.” That’s precisely what our primaries and elections are.
    So yeah, Ronald has a solid point.
    Still, the fact that millions of people have coalesced around Sander’s Medicare for all, $15 for all, higher education for all platform is very significant and needs support.
    I’d rather push to the left under a Sanders than Clinton administration.

  16. Patricia

    Ronald, no one in my circles thinks Bernie is in any way radical. To show up, he couldn’t be. But he is better than what has been available for a long while. That is not nothing.

    The ‘Bourgeois Justice Weague’ is steaming mad merely over Sanders? Not sure who the bourgeois are, these days, but the people I know aren’t primarily angry about him. Their rage is about living at the raw end of rapacious capitalism, scraping by with filthy hands and feeling desperate futility about our planet. This primary gives it temporary outlet and has clarified contours for young people.

    It seems you think that no one has tried their best in their lifetime. Sometimes blame offers an illusion of control over failure. I’ve done that; it doesn’t help. We are a foolish species and don’t deserve to continue, but what happens and what is deserved are not often aligned, so we’ll see. The young people won’t let things settle again.

  17. different clue

    @Ronald Showalter,

    Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

  18. different clue


    You are correct at some level. Still, Sanders people in a public place have a choice about how they wish to respond to various Clintonite setups and provocations with the social media running.
    And since MSM is losing credibility, and social media and also Parallel Media . . . such as Naked Capitalism . . . is gaining credibility, evermore people will turn to those places. The Sanders group should regard the social media and the Parallel Media as two among the several brainwar battlespaces in which they must engage the enemy.

    By the way, Darwin will decide if we are a foolish species which doesn’t deserve to continue. Meanwhile, we do what we do. And as I have noted in prior comments, “ModernDustrial Man” is not the only word in human species. If ModernDustrial Man creates a semi-hypoxic atmosphere, it may still have enough oxygen in it to where the Native Andeans and Native Tibetans can survive at sea level after the rest of us have died. In which case, our foolish species will continue on and on and on . . . . from an Andeo-Tibetan survivor base.

  19. Ron Showalter

    @ hprm

    I also forgot to add to my list of psyops that the entire Occupy movement was a sophisticated domestic version of the Color Revolutions/Arab Springs so when I hear that the Establishment is too filled w/ incompetence/greed/laziness to successfully carry out large scale psy-operations aimed directly at the seemingly savvy/erudite/discerning, I beg to differ. Successful operations are those that only need a few string-pullers creating situations where everyone else’s nature tendencies can then be exploited – i.e. they uncritically see what they want to see and act accordingly.


    “The young people won’t let things settle again.”

    Not until they are pissed off enough to deny themselves the teat of their own mind control will I believe that the masses are pissed off enough. See any kids throwing away their glimmerboxes/smart phones? Getting offline? Funny, that the psyop-Snowden’s (there’s yet ANOTHER horseshit fairy tale) didn’t really scare people to maybe, actually think of the need to get OFF-line, not just try and use a government created salve – e.g.. Tor – so that they could keep sexting and otherwise piss away their neurons.

    Yes it is ironic that I’m on an Internet site stating this but DC’s comment about having people begin to see the light b/c there just may be – gee, really? – something weird going in our society on is decades late and the evidence has been there for all to see.

    Everyone clear your own eyes and then help clear someone else’s.

  20. Cripes

    Yes, we know about has-bara and color revolutions, the Powell memo and the influence of pervasive electronic media surveillance.

    Now are you happy?

  21. Patricia

    Ron, apparently you don’t know any honest ethical people, young or otherwise. Be worth the effort to poke around. They are out there.

  22. Cripes

    Well, it’s undeniable that nefarious forces, allied with a supra-national elite power complex, have been infiltrating, co-opting, sabotaging and neutralizing popular resistance for a very long time. All over the world. And staging fake ones, too.
    But the desire of people to seek redress is authentic.
    Shouting “you’re all dupes!” In a crowded theatre is, well, what they do over at Rancid Honeytrap.
    You could share modest proposals as to how this difficulty is overcome.
    We, or at least I share your pain.

  23. Patricia

    DifferentClue, social/parallel media are their metier. Thus uploaded convention vids, long and short. They are more knowledgeable than you realize, I think. Open anger to a small nasty action within the broad corrupt political machine—that’s placing a marker.

    We are beyond civility but not yet at violence. But it seems the politicos want violence now. They push for it, making it up ‘as if’. Sandernistas (or whatever they will call themselves) know that—which is why a couple of guys hugged the man who shook the chair in the air, calming him. May they remain nimble while they have time.

    Evolution, like Darwin, is brainless. Living humans, having them, can’t seem to stop wrecking stuff—well, some of us do and most of the rest take no notice until everything’s in shambles. Such ill-fitting dangerous creatures! Prospects are dim and painful. Maybe next time around someone will evolve into something better than neither/nor. In the Andes, Nepal or wherever.

  24. anonymous coward

    Democracy: a power sharing arrangement between the crafty, deceitful rich and the stupid, gullible poor. Opinions are voiced, interests are pitted and counterpoised, favors sought, influence bought, debates, ballots and elections are held in an expensive, noisy, perpetual search for the common good, which is invariably discovered to consist in the continued enrichment and idleness of the fortunate few and the ever more onerous labor and poverty of the hapless many. The only democratically legitimate form of government the world has ever known, as anyone blessed to be living in a democracy will be quick to tell you. For those not living in a democracy, for anyone unfamiliar with democracy, or for anyone experiencing difficulty or frustration with the concept, it may be helpful to recall a snipe hunt from your childhood. The main difference here is that snipe actually do live in the woods, somewhere.

  25. Hugh

    Elites commit violence all the time. When they do, thousands die and millions suffer, but this violence is seldom acknowledged as such, because the gatekeepers of the discourse are the elites. So workers’ wages must be suppressed and their jobs shipped to China, because competitivity and efficiency. But when billionaires and corporations make their money from creating monopolies, jacking up prices and slashing quality, when hedge fund managers and “activist” investors skim billions in completely unproductive ways, when private equity guts viable enterprises, carves them up, dumps employees, loads them up with debt and then sells them off, this is the natural order of things. Steal trillions from the middle class? You’d have to be a commie to notice. Besides, the rich EARNED every single penny they have. Suggest repatriating a dollar from a billionaire, and that’s it. You are a thief and a commie.

    When our elites wage war, those wars are always necessary. And if you criticize them, say they were based on lies, are pointless as well as endless, then they call you stupid and naive and accuse you of dissing the HEROES who have fought and died in them. Then they will spend hundreds of billions on gold-plated boondoggles, like the F-35, and skimp or eliminate the pensions and benefits of those HEROES they just hid behind.

    As someone mentioned above, the first violent act that night in Nevada was when the Democratic chair stole delegates. But the violence began long before that. The whole Presidential selection process was rigged from beginning to end. And before that the whole political process, the officeholders and pundit class, were there ensuring the status quo of rich and elite looting should be protected at all costs.

    All this is violence, but the only violence our elites recognize is anything which challenges their wealth, power, and privilege.

  26. No two democracies have ever declared war on each other. So that bit certainly works. The EU is not a democracy and is in grave danger of declaring war on Russia.

    Otherwise we have always known that democracy works best in the negative, ie. it enables you to get rid of useless or dangerous politicians. It does not however help you elect competent ones. The people only learn the hard way, and even then cannot usually understand the technicalities of the solutions required. Look at the UK’s EU referendum for example. Neither side really understands what the economics of it are, and now even Bloomberg has got is laughably wrong!

    Ordinary politicians are selected by voters who always emphasis the local dimension. As a result Parliament is stuffed full of over-promoted parish councillors who haven’t a clue what they are about at Westminster. And that includes airheads like Cameron and Osborne. The voters tells us the problems, and their views must always be respected, but we need elitists (ability, not class) to give us the solutions.

    I have now registered as an official independent referendum campaigner. See my leaflet at

  27. markfromireland

    @ John Poynton May 19, 2016

    No two democracies have ever declared war on each other. So that bit certainly works.

    A comforting myth, but a myth nevertheless.

    List of wars between democracies

  28. tony

    That myth probably came about because the democracies were mostly all allies of the US. And apparently, arranging a coup when the democratically elected government does not do what you want does not count.

    Of course, if you count overthrowing govenments as acts of war, there have been plenty.

  29. Patricia

    Head like a hole
    Black as your soul
    I’d rather die than give you control
    Head like a hole
    Black as your soul
    I’d rather die than give you control

    Bow down before the one you serve
    You’re going to get what you deserve
    Bow down before the one you serve
    You’re going to get what you deserve

    God money’s not looking for the cure
    God money’s not concerned about the sick among the pure
    God money let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised
    God money’s not one to choose…


  30. Seas of Promethium

    You could share modest proposals as to how this difficulty is overcome.

    Well for one thing, people could openly acknowledge the difficulty instead of politely ignoring or outright denying it. That way everyone wouldn’t be faced with trying to overcome it solely on their own devices.

    And for another thing, people could refrain from shouting down others when they do the first thing.

  31. EmilianoZ

    Yep, even Justin Trudeau showed there was a violent streak in him:

    His actions are being reviewed by the House of Commons committee on procedure and House affairs. Hopefully he’ll be impeached.

  32. different clue


    I hope you are correct about the Youngers being proficient with all the new digitally force-multiplied media. I am 59 years old myself, and but a lost analog refugee in this digital world.

  33. V. Arnold

    Looking back over my long life (71 yrs) it seems “democracy” is a tool of violence; not a way to avoid violence.
    The U.S. has consistently sledge-hammered the world with democracy. There is something profoundly wrong with democracy; especially the way the U.S. has hijacked its principles to it own violent ends to dominance.
    Just looking at our own “real” history of being a democratic government is certainly a very ugly picture.
    Canada has fared no better.
    Democracy as an ideal sounds great; but in reality is too easily perverted and corrupted because of its reliance on humans, whose nature is anything but peaceful…

  34. Steeleweed

    Democracy only works for the good if it’s real. We’ve got a fake democracy.

    When it come down to revolution, my money’s on the people who’ve been on the bottom; who’ve dealt with hardship and poverty and oppression. They have more motivation, are more inured to difficulty and have had to develop a stronger stomach for violence.

  35. CMike


    Utter rubbish. The crackpot Oswald was the lone gunman. I’d guess Paul Craig Roberts is having a little fun, at this late date, doing his part as a libertarian in keeping those among the 60+ year-old Democratic cohort who latched onto a sense of powerlessness during the years following the Kennedy assassination in their alternate reality.

    Read some Chomsky, the other side’s just been better, and far more methodical, at selling capitalism and, its soulmate militarism, than social welfare liberals and lefties have been at selling an alternative. Granted, the right’s massive financial advantage goes a long way in explaining their success but those in that camp would tell you that’s exactly the point.

    (By the way, at the time of his death “pay any price, bear any burden” JFK was hotter to be a Cold War warrior than LBJ, and Kennedy was never going to be as politically powerful as Johnson was after the country rallied behind him, and the Democratic party, in foreseeable fashion in the aftermath of the assassination, so there was no reason for dark actors in the military to think they would have had anything to gain from the succession.

    The embrace of the idea that the military killed Kennedy has long been an out for hero worshippers to explain away his role in getting the U.S. more deeply involved in Vietnam and one of many stories which use the intercession of unseen forces to explain away the failures of what has turned into a feckless and soulless Democratic party.)

  36. V. Arnold

    May 24, 2016

    Wow, your insulting dismissal of someofparts is rude at best.
    David Talbot’s new book; The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government is very interesting at least and well researched at best.
    Oh, and PCR didn’t say the military killed JFK, so get your facts straight please.

    And, to say Lee Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy doesn’t mean he didn’t pull the trigger.
    Talbot’s book goes a long way towards supplying answers based on known history, which is to say historical facts. The Dulles brothers have a long and winding history in U.S. foreign intrigues, so-to-speak.
    Those who don’t know history are doomed to ignorance…

  37. CMike

    Here’s what Paul Craig Roberts is offering up:

    The CIA, the Joint Chiefs, and the Secret Service concluded that JFK was “soft on communism.” So did the Bill Buckley conservatives.

    JFK was assassinated because of anti-communist hysteria in the military and security agencies.

    The Warren Commission was well aware of this. The coverup was necessary because America was locked into a Cold War with the Soviet Union. To put US military, CIA, and Secret Service personnel on trial for murdering the President of the United States would have shaken the confidence of the American people in their own government

    Does that clear things up for you V. Arnold?

  38. CMike

    Oh, and Paul Craig Roberts also wrote:

    Oswald had nothing whatsoever to do with JFK’s assassination. That is why Oswald was himself assassinated inside the Dallas jail before he could be questioned.

    Oswald was shot in the jail’s garage because Jack Ruby was having nervous breakdown and in his distressed state of mind thought that by killing the assassin he’d be a hero. Ruby entered the building not knowing what he was going to do. We know this because of the precise timeline that’s been constructed for the strip club owner, a timeline that includes Ruby leaving the dog he was devoted to locked in his car while he sought the opportunity to see Oswald marched by him for the second time since his arrest.

  39. V. Arnold

    May 24, 2016
    Does that clear things up for you V. Arnold?

    No, not really; yours is your opinion not backed by anything linked.
    My mind is not made up; concluded; just viewing the new revelations as they happen to be presented.
    Have you read Talbot’s book; have you read the history of the Dulles brothers; if not, then what exactly do you have on offer?
    Not much from what I can see, except your personal opinion, which is worth the price of the electrons you spend posting…

  40. different clue

    Maybe Oswald fired a shot,
    and thought that he was acting alone.

    Maybe the ice was swept for him,
    and he was just a curling stone.

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