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

Why Armed Right-wingers Were Able to Shut Down Michigan’s Legislature

As you may have heard, Michigan has canceled its legislative session:

Michigan closed down its capitol in Lansing on Thursday and canceled its legislative session rather than face the possibility of an armed protest and death threats against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer…

The gathering, meant to advocate opening the state for business despite the coronavirus pandemic, followed one April 30 that resulted in pictures of protesters clad in military-style gear and carrying long guns crowding the statehouse. They confronted police and taunted lawmakers…

…For the past week, lawmakers have been debating how to safely enable lawmakers to work and vote in session while the state’s laws allow people to bring firearms into the capitol building. The debate grew more tense in recent days as some lawmakers read about threats to the governor’s life on social media, which were published in the Detroit Metro Times.

Let us understand the context: Protesters from the left-wing in legislatures are routinely arrested. The charge is generally something like “disturbing the peace.” Police can always find a way and an excuse to clear protesters if they want to.

The police have SWAT teams, they can call in the national guard if necessary. They could wait for the next time the armed protesters come and arrest them. There’s a chance of violence, of course, but there are ways to do this that protect legislators.

This is clearly intimidation of elected officials. It would not be tolerated from the left, but it has not only been tolerated from the right, it has been allowed to succeed.

Now there’s an argument, and one for which I have sympathy, that politicians should be scared of the people, rather than the other way around. One can cavil, and note that the majority of the public supports isolation orders, so this is a case of intimidation from an armed minority.

But what’s more interesting to me is that it has been allowed. The protesters could be shut down if the government wanted. There might be some violence, but the US is routinely willing to be violent, so that’s not what’s stopping the government.

Violence and threats from the right are seen as legitimate; they are seen as having the right to be violent. “God, Guns, and ‘Merica.” The right has arrogated to themselves glory and right and violence. They say that violence is ethical and moral in defense of freedom, and that people who are violent and defenders of America and goodness are right-wingers.

Violence is a right-wing thing in the US and it is a good thing. Right-wing violence is legitimate to Americans; they have a right to be violent.

The left are godless, communist hippies who don’t have a right to be violent. They don’t join the cops or the military, they are not associated with legitimate violence. Most left-wingers have spent 60 years, since the 60s, explicitly saying that violence is always bad and never justified. Much of the left rejected Antifa, the people willing to fight fascists, because violence can never either be moral, or according to most left-wingers, even effective. The majority of the US left believes that violence is always bad and doesn’t work as well as non-violence.

This wasn’t always the belief. Unions fought from their earliest history right through the 70s; they would take on the police and union busters. The left fought. In the early 70s, the left was setting off multiple bombs a day; they ran rings around the FBI, who could not stop them. The 60s left-wing insurrection didn’t end because the cops won, it ended because the left itself decided to stop using violence.

A sea change happened in the 60s and 70s, one where the legitimacy of violence was rejected by the left, and violence was gifted to the right. The end of the draft and the left-wing hatred of all violence meant that the left gave the military to the right-wing. Cops have always been right-wing, of course, but the draft had meant that the rank and file military included many left-wingers. It also meant that people on the left had violent skills, taught courtesy of the military.

That ended. Meanwhile, the right, including the most far-right, encouraged their people to join the military and the police, to learn the skills and to make sure those institutions were run by right-wingers from top to bottom.

So there are two likely reasons the Michigan legislature gave into violence: (1) They think that right-wing violence is legitimate, and; (2) They don’t trust the police or national guard to stop the right-wingers, with whom they sympathize and whom they support.

Meanwhile, only two parts of the left believe they have a right to be violent: Antifa and the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers have taken to being armed escorts for those legislators they support.

Those who disarm, those who believe fanatically in non-violence, always exist at the whim of those who believe in violence and are good at it.

This is the position the left has put itself in in the US and many other countries: disarmed, bad at violence, with no influence over the violent organs of the state and almost no tradition or skill in violence in the few organs it still has influence over (like some unions).

Some of this weakness was caused by the right–as with their gutting of unions in the 80s. But much of it is because the left both believes that violence is always wrong and that it is ineffective.

Michigan is the fruit of those beliefs.

And, children, history is a record of violence often working. Sometimes non-violence works, yes, sometimes it even works very well. But effective violence, especially if it is perceived as legitimate, is also a winning strategy.

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May 15th US Covid Data


Open Thread


  1. marku52

    Government is losing all legitimacy and respect. Michigan caves in front of a gang of thugs, and CA caves in front of the oligarch Musk.

    Good work guys.

    Are the Black Panthers still a going thing? or was that back in the 60s…..

  2. Joan

    I recall MLK Jr was considering resorting to violence if the movement’s non-violent tactics didn’t work, yet he is remembered as being only non-violent. But his goal wasn’t to be peaceful, his goal was to win. I’m curious how many lefties in America got certified to own handguns in 2016, thinking there might be civil unrest should Trump lose and the Trumpers rise up.

  3. S Brennan

    [Short Version]

    The right didn’t castrate the “left/liberals/progressives”, the “left/liberals/progressives” did that to themselves.

    The “left/liberals/progressives” were unwilling to serve back in Viet Nam, no they did not protest the war for the first 3.5 years, only after deferments were withdrawn and the “left/liberals/progressives” faced the possibility of going to war did the “left/liberals/progressives” scream bloody murder. And don’t tell me what you read in some “widely acclaimed” book. I was there and later when I served, I never met a “left/liberal/progressive”.

    And if “left/liberals/progressives” were true peaceniks I wouldn’t have a problem with it but, for the last 30 years “left/liberals/progressives” have been gung-ho to send the working class off to war, hence the animosity. What “left/liberals/progressives” on this board do not care to understand is, Trump has not started a war while Obama started three wars and ginned up the AF-PAK* war.

    *what Obama called “the right war”.

  4. krake

    Hell the hell yes, good sir.

  5. js

    And: THE COPS ARE ON THEIR SIDE. The cops aren\’t on the lefts side. That has to be figured in when you think violent threats from either side will be treated equally, if only the left was more willing to use violence. But they have support from law enforcement, who are right wing thugs.

  6. js

    Of course they should just ban guns in the state capitol period. So it still makes a very strong case for gun control, if one was on the fence about it before.

  7. GlassHammer

    I wish I could find the videos but shortly after Occupy Wall Street took off there was a viral video of a cop (maybe campus police) just casually pepper spraying a row of protesting college kids in the face while they were seated. Right after that the protesters confronted the campus administration on video by…. silently staring at them as the walked into their office.

    That’s the left’s strategy, hit your enemy with the Care Bear Stare.

  8. Benjamin

    One of the reasons that the American Left turned from violence as a legitimate tactic is that it well learned the lesson that ‘the first one to suggest violence is always the undercover cop’ (and I suspect this is also a large part of the edgelord Antifa nonsense).

    I think it also took to heart that the success of the civil rights and anti-war movements succeeded largely on the back of peaceful protest. Despite the large amount of attention they receive in popular culture, as far as I can tell Malcolm X was never more than a fringe weirdo in a silly cult, and the Black Panthers were an interesting anomaly in a number of locales, but nothing more. They were completely dwarfed by the non-violent movement. I suppose the argument would be that they loomed large in the nightmares of moderate Liberals, exerting a political influence completely out of proportion to their actual size and power, but I’m not really convinced by that argument.

    I just want to distinguish between the concept of legitimate political violence and the historical American context specifically. Because there absolutely are scenarios where it’s justified. The October Revolution against the Russian Provisional Government immediately springs to mind.

  9. Ian Welsh

    Non violence worked once in the 60s, the left’s major leaders were assassinated (violence!) and the movement fell apart.

    Non violence works when it’s either a genuine mass movement capable of shutting things down, or it is “negotiate with us, or deal with the violent guys.” Usually both. Gandhi was non-violent and we forget that there were plenty of violent guys working for independence.

    “Deal with me, or deal with them, and you Brits are over-extended.”

    But yeah, the US is a police state, and the people who run the police state are right wingers. They tolerate right wing violence and threats, and crack down hard on left wingers.

  10. Chipper

    Imagine the different reaction (of everyone) if the people showing up heavily armed at the capitol were black.

  11. DMC

    I think that what Ian was saying was that the cops were on the right wingers side and that he spent a couple paragraphs developing the point.
    As to the notion that the left has abandoned the threat of violence, I’d say that yes, they had indeed and that’s the principal reason they have been reduced to a mere fringe. I mean “Left? What left? All I see are Democrats.” Without at least the implied threat of violence, the PTB will just ignore you. When you can get an assembly of a couple of hundred thousand, 80% of whom are visibly carrying long arms(bolt in the pocket, clip in the other pocket)then you’ll get their attention. That way, even the national guard will be intimidated.

  12. Joan

    @GlassHammer, that happened at UC Davis.

    @S Brennan, Vietnam happened before I was born, so I’m too young to relate, but isn’t that really a class argument, not left vs. right? Upper middle class and rich corporate Democrats love sacrificing the working class, sure, but I consider Dems to be center-right. A lot of young lefties are working class themselves, or whatever you call the bs gig economy, stringing together freelance contracts to scrape by, etc. They are what Ian would call the precariat, which is why they feel no loyalty to the dems. I stand to the left of Bernie, for example, and consider Obama to be center-right.

  13. someofparts

    and as I pointed out in comments on another post, this is helped along by our media

    Mayday we had a strike at the local Target. Easy to follow on the twitter thread the organizers were using. Yet not one word of mention by any of the local television news outfits, although they did mention the showdown in Michigan. The revolution will decidedly not be televised.

  14. someofparts

    Also, I wonder how many of us on the left are armed and just know to keep quiet about it among our liberal peers. My ex-boyfriend worked with Klanwatch and he is absolutely well-armed even now.

    None of which is the same as having the level of combat training one gets in the military. Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station did a long post on militias once. He pointed out that people with serious military training deplore them because they break and run when faced with actual combat conditions. Wright explained that it takes all the training in the world to get any normal person to run toward people who are shooting at you instead of running away.

  15. Willy

    People buy on emotion and rationalize the result. Sophisticated technologies have been developed to build on that basic concept.

    The corporate right successfully targeted and captured Jesus, the military, the Founders and the common folk wisdom. Dem elites saw how lucrative that was and followed.

    Now we have a left that tries to reason with a brainwashed mob which is armed and ready with nonsensical arguments like “Stalin!”, “Venezuela!”, “homos!” and “freedom!”. When I suggest that a smarter government might have progressives one on side and fiscal conservatives on the other debating over best fit solutions, just like we see with some of the more successful of married couples, it’s all just noise to them.

    I think a well educated, experienced and soundly reasoning mind has to learn how to detach themselves from their rational self, and understand the basics of monkey brains.

  16. krake

    Not long guns. However useful, they are really only good for getting yourself zip-tied, doxxed and locked away on terrorism charges, if you aren’t a “Patriot” with a buddy in the Oath Keepers. You might manage to twig out some NYC based journalists before you are disappeared.

    Long guns, right now, mean “right wing”. Those feckos won that contest of signs and symbols.


    The French Doctor’s Remedy. Mr. Tepes’ Reply. Red Emma’s Whip. Ernesto’s Assembly. Momma Jones’ Axe. The Longshoreman’s Midnight Burnout. The Hillside Tribunal.

    And, it should go without saying, the utter willingness to use them.

  17. krake


    Age is probably the chief determinant. Then, geography.

  18. krake

    The cops are not usually the ones installing cameras, manufacturing barricades or riot gear, or any of the tools of the carceral panopticon. Cops are just a network of licensed gangs with EULAs and budgets. Their job is to protect property, and when they cannot do that, people lose faith very quickly.

    Private companies with CEOs, board members, identifiable mgmt teams and distribution networks control the production. And benefit from the protection racket. In real time, with real addresses, and subject to, well, unplanned disruptions.

  19. nihil obstet

    I’d extend what Joan said to politically motivated violence generally. It’s about class. The people in charge come in two beliefs: those who support right-wing violence and those who say they oppose all violence but seem unable to go beyond wringing their hands at it, like Nancy Pelosi clapping sarcastically at Donald Trump having given him extensive additional powers.

    Violence hurts. These right-wing gun toters would stop toting guns if they were seriously prosecuted. I don’t think you can see lefty gun toting as equivalent, given the penalties that the lefties would face that the wingnuts don’t. We’re not going to take over the government in a violent leftist victory. Instead, we lose the support of the majority of the population. And we end up in pretty horrible prisons. It’s hard to see what that would accomplish.

    There’s a reason most revolutions start with food riots. When violence is the only way to get the necessities of life, there’s a chance that enough people will join you to make a difference. Otherwise, it seems like useless martyrdom.

    However, I do think we should stop making non-violence a fetish.

  20. S Brennan

    Joan the fact that you thought that “class” has no place in a leftist thought shows how successful the propaganda is.

    Without “class” their is no basis for a left/liberal/progressive label…Issues that the working class care about are adamantly opposed by the commenters here. And that is why “left”/”liberal”/”progressive’s” who show up here during an election cycle to proselytize are just wanking themselves.

  21. anon

    “So there are two likely reasons the Michigan legislature gave into violence. One: they think that right wing violence is legitimate. Two, they don’t trust the police or national guard to stop right wingers they sympathize with and support.”

    This photo says it all, doesn’t it?

    Much of police and national guard would be protesting with these right wingers if they weren’t on the job. They sympathize and support them and that’s why the legislature in a way is correct in not trusting the police to keep them safe.

    I saw other photos where the police didn’t seem at all angry or tense around these protestors even though they were carrying assault weapons. They were very gentle with them. If these were white liberals like Antifa and people of color – Black Panthers, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims – storming the capitol with guns, some of the protestors would have certainly been killed and many more arrested. The legislature would not have shut down if the left had protested, even if they had been violent and came with guns, because the police wouldn’t have allowed it.

  22. Mark Pontin

    Yes: the Left’s default to non-violence is fundamentally naive. But, no: the simple recourse to violence won’t provide an effective solution in the U.S.; to think it will is equally naive.

    In the real world, yes, there *was* a recourse to violence in the U.S. at the end of the 1960s after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and any number of lesser lights in the Black Panther party, alongside the 1968 Democratic convention, had made clear that no hope of peaceful change existed.

    In the real world, again, over 2,500 bombings occurred in one eighteen month period in an eighteen-month in, IIRC, in 1972-73. For those interested, a decent book on the period is DAYS OF RAGE: AMERICA’S RADICAL UNDERGROUND, THE FBI, AND THE FORGOTTEN AGE OF REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE by Bryan Burrough (2015).

    And in the real world, finally, this violence continued for more than a decade and accomplished essentially nothing. From this two essential points suggest themselves to realists —

    [1.] Since indiscriminate violence accomplished nothing, intelligently targeted violence would first of all be necessary. Target the essential weak points in the system’s functioning and the psychopaths at the top. It could be done relatively cheaply, were one seriously motivated.

    *I hereby testify I am NOT so motivated. I repeat: I am NOT so motivated.*

    But *just hypothetically* for an easy instance, a sufficiently motivated actor could obtain the sort of radioactive materials existing in hospitals, turn them into pellets for a BB gun, go up on a roof overlooking Wall Street, and fire them off, thereby creating an expanded version of the kind of incident that Chechen leader Shamil Basayev created in Ismailova Park in Moscow in 1995 —
    Chechen Rebel Claims He Planted Radioactive Container in Moscow Park

    Such an act would shut down Wall Street at the least, if the responsible actor(s) announced it; if unannounced, then it would have the long-term effects it would have. Where access to critical institutions isn’t so easy, such as to the HVAC vents on the headquarters buildings of certain organizations, drones will provide that and will, besides, carry all sorts of things. K Street could be a target zone. And so on.

    *And LE reading this, don’t take these concepts up with me; take them up with the Sandia Labs government scientists who discussed these and other such possibilities with me. Because they’re all perfectly obvious to anybody who applies critical intelligence to risk/security analysis of technical and civic instrastructure.*

    Fundamentally, as Taleb points out and as COVID19 is revealing, the institutions and structure of the system currently running the U.S. aren’t robust. No surprise: psychopaths mostly don’t do long-term planning. However ….

    [2.] Unfortunately, you also face the reality that in the U.S.the problem’s scope and scale is far more intractable that just a few psychopaths currently at the top.

    Take a look here ….

    Michelle Malkin
    I will not take the Gates Vaccine. I will not bow down to jack-booted globalists. I will question the corrupted public health industrial complex & its financial conflicts of interest. I will use my platforms to share silenced views of whistleblowers & dissidents. #FightTheCensors

    Or here —

    Or here —

    Or here. Worth watching the minute long vidclip on the link’s other side and notice that at least 75 percent of the crowd are at least mildly obese and therefore at risk for COV19 —
    Nick Puckett
    Happy Mother’s Day from C& C in Castle Rock, where the owner said this is almost double a normal Mother’s Day.

    And so on and on and on…

    In short, Trump — or H. Clinton — or any the top dog American psychopaths didn’t come from nowhere, but rather *are* the U.S., or at the very least one central strand of its culture. It’s psychopaths and bullies and conmen all the way down in America, and it has been for 400 years.

    For example, to state the obvious: the Founding Fathers instigated a ‘War of Independence’ in 1776, which fact cannot be entirely unconnected to the reality that they were almost to a man slave-owning oligarchs and in 1772, four years before, the British empire had made clear with the Somerset case that it would be winding down slavery in British imperial territories–

    So a central strand of U.S. culture is institutionally psychopathic and produces a substantial demographic who are *proudly* and utterly self-centered, crassly materialistic, uneducated and stupid. There’s plenty of data on this. So what then?

    Well, let’s stay with the issue of slavery in the U.S. During the Civil War, Northern society ladies used to approach Sherman and ask, “General, when will this dreadful war end?” Sherman would answer very specifically: “When we’ve killed another 280,000 white Southern males.”

    Sherman understood clear-headedly that this was the size of the population in the U.S.whose entire human identity was bound in the Southern male plantation lifestyle of dueling, fake Walter Scott-style chivalry, etc. and who would rather die than work for a living, Northern capitalist lifestyle.

    And in the real world that’s what happened. They were killed; the Civil War ended.

    And that’s the scale of the U.S. problem. A central strand of U.S. culture has produced a substantial demographic who remain historically and proudly what one might call — if one were inclined to be judgmental — human scum. Their entire human identity is bound up with being that and they would rather die than change.

    Violence — at least, on any realistic scale — is not a solution to that.

    Long-term, one ray of light is that this population is to some extent stupid and self-culling or, in the Right’s own charming phrase, a “self-cleaning oven.” As the U.S. federal state decoheres, COVID19 will be succeeded by other pathogens as the climate crisis proceeds. This population’s refusal (see Malkin above) to accept vaccines, contract tracing, etc. will tend to isolate — even quarantine — them in Red states.

    And in the real world that’s as good as it gets.

  23. NR


    We don’t have to imagine, it happened in California in the 60s and Ronald Reagan (!) quickly passed gun control laws so it couldn’t happen again.

  24. Ché Pasa

    Let’s not kid ourselves. These yay-hoos have killed people, are killing people, and will continue to as long as they are allowed to. Their threats of violence aren’t empty, though the threats are made by (mostly) cowards who would run away screaming if they were ever confronted by the police or civilians with equal firepower. When Antifa has gone medieval on their asses they whined and cried and fought like wusses. And yet in a fight at the California capitol a few years ago, the Antifa they stabbed were arrested and charged, not the yay-hoos. Charges I believed were dropped, but still. That just goes to show…

    The tactics used are time worn and can be effective. After all, when the gunners assembled at capitols during the 2000 election recounts they were openly threatening civil war if GW wasn’t declared president forthwith. This threat was communicated to Scalia — who had accepted the Bush v Gore case for the Supremes — and he communicated it to the rest of the court, which oddly enough ruled (lawlessly) in favor of Bush. Tea Partiers have used similar tactics and very often got their way.

    If there were an active Left and they used similar tactics, we don’t know whether they’d win or not. Antifa is anti-fascist which isn’t necessarily Left, but even if it were, they typically do not try to intimidate authorities in order to get their way. They intimidate and fight with fascists.

    When the Black Panthers marched into the California Capitol with guns in 1967, it sent so many shock waves through the legislature and powers that be that gun control legislation was passed almost immediately. If they had been a white militia, though, I doubt there would have been more than minor huffing and puffing about it.

    Race does matter in these confrontations as does class. The implicit threat from these yay-hoos is that if they don’t get their way pronto they go shoot something/someone up, which they do often enough to keep people on edge. There is nothing like that on the Left, not even Antifa, though there once was. The Weathermen were active terrorists during the upheavals of the ’60s, and there were others were not afraid of or dismissive of using violence.

    Need to point out, though, that most were arrested or killed by police, many in ambush. These assassinations were certainly clarifying. So clarifying that the survivors mostly surrendered, and some of those are still in prison.

    Once the leadership was eliminated, most of the more leftish rebel outfits evaporated and have never been reconstituted.

    During Occupy, I got into an argument with Mark Rudd, one of those Weathermen who had surrendered, served brief time in prison and was released and who decried use of violence in pursuit of political goals. He was particularly upset by Antifa, and declared that even wearing a face covering bandana was “violence.” Now we’re all supposed to wear face coverings. I wonder what he thinks now.

    He abjured his violent past, and like many others believed that nonviolence was the only path to durable political change. For a time, “Lambert” at NC made a fetish of nonviolence as defined by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan in “Why Civil Resistance Works.” In fact, I believe they didn’t say quite what he thought they did, that nonviolence was always the only answer, but they were eloquent scholars of the topic.

    The fact that legislatures, governors and yes, courts will often immediately yield to the demands of those with guns (if they’re white and male and yell enough rightist tropes) needs to be recognized, though.

  25. Z


    People buy on emotion and rationalize the result.

    Brilliant. I’d add identity, but that’s all a part the same bag: feeling good about yourself.

    Just a degree deeper in manipulation.


  26. Peter VE

    I’m a life long left libertarian. I’m also a member of a Unitarian Church, and most of the members are part of the PMC. My church sponsored an event where an artist melted down guns and made them into garden tools.
    Which means I was I was surprised as hell when many members of the church congratulated me when my daughter enlisted in the Marines. Maybe they weren’t sincere, but maybe they realize that the left needs people trained in violence.

  27. bruce wilder

    of course, class is an issue. duh.

    Consider, what is class? It is a social relation founded on an economic relation or vice versa. chicken-and-egg there.

    The core of the left up until 1970 or so consisted in people who made their living, derived political power from representing and, yes, “fighting” for the working class against the rich, the capitalists. And, they often made common cause with the professional classes, which were also organized and had their own version of unions in professional associations.

    By the mid-1980s, “fighting for you” was just the cliched, dreary rhetoric of Democrats who had no intention of doing any such thing.

    The neoliberal turn on the left was a surrender, yes, but a career strategy of speaking for the poor or working class was looking barren, and alternatives were on offer. The “eternal struggle between . . . two principles — the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings” was looking like a bad bet on one side and a very good living on the other.

    A genuinely talented politician who is willing to cast her lot with the working classes is rare, because, frankly, it does not pay. the resources to sustain an organized effort are not available. there was a time when there was a material basis for a principled, critical reformist liberalism seeking social and economic progress, and not just in the institutional form of unions: in academe, in mainstream churches, in the professions, in small-scale civic do-goodism, in machine politics. A lot of it may not have looked very left on the surface: a lot of it was stylistically conservative. But, the economic foundation to sustain criticism from the left existed, making it possible for more than a few to participate in republican self-government in opposition or at least tangentially to malevolent wealth.

    you can say it is because the left has lost its stomach for violence, and that may be so, though I think what passes for left in the U.S., the less than worthless Democrats, lack the ambition to govern. their stomachs would be missing too many fine meals and fancy third homes if they chose to govern instead of pose.

  28. Willy

    On a conservative blog they presented Obama’s and Gores oceanside homes as proof of the inept corruption of the left.

    I try to tell working class Republicans that those two are functionally, moderate corporate Republicans, in the grand scheme of things. And MSNBC, the “Communist News Network” and the New York Times are not leftist news outlets, and that they should instead recognize that Jimmy Dore or Robert Reich or Ian Welsh are closer to what’s actually “left”. Nobody is a Stalinist these days, anywhere.

    It seems a simple task, but it’s harder than it seems. It’s hard to get an easily conditioned people to at least get their definitions correct. It seems they need to ‘feel’ what their forbearers apparently did when they called African Americans “niggers”, a feeling of false superiority.

  29. Eric Anderson


  30. Hugh

    What we are seeing are the spasms of a dying political fiction . Angry white men are already a minority. All this flailing about–Trump, AR-15s–are signs of weakness. They never really called the shots. With their declining living standards, it is getting increasingly hard for them to even pretend they ever did. They are reduced to cheap, stupid theatrics. They talk about rights, always their rights, but in any straight up democratic process, minus voter suppression, gerrymandering, a stacked judiciary, they lose. The future is against them. The numbers are against them. Reality is against them. Covid-19 doesn’t care about their hurt feelings or their anger. They are setting themselves and a lot of us up to get sick and die because, far from being stand tall Marlboro men, they are too selfish and childish to do otherwise. They’d rather gnaw on the bones of old grudges than do the hard work of actually making a better life for themselves, –and making a better life for others? that their well-being is tied to the well-being of the rest of us? That hasn’t entered their darkest dreams.

  31. Stirling S Newberry

    “Yet one way of recognizing the dead is taking place all around us, even under our strange and isolated conditions. In the search for plague literature these last few weeks—the welcome if grim resurgence of interest in Albert Camus and Daniel Defoe, Boccaccio and Thucydides—we have perhaps overlooked its simplest form. The obituary is an ancient genre, sometimes arranged into verse but more often written in prose, originally carved into stone, then recorded on scrolls, and lately printed in newspapers or hosted on Web sites”

    Casey Cep, New Yorker, May 14, 2020

    “Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
    Shovel them under and let me work—
    I am the grass; I cover all.

    And pile them high at Gettysburg
    And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
    Shovel them under and let me work.
    Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
    What place is this?
    Where are we now?

    I am the grass.
    Let me work.”

    Sandburg, 1918

  32. Krystyn Podgajski

    Since the left is “supposed” to be pacifist, if they suddenly start using more “violent” methods they are going off script and it ruins a narrative that is useful to people in power.

    The reaction and lack of reaction by the sate is not about violence, it is about controlling the story line.

    Both the left and right want one thing, for the state to help them. If the left and right figure this out we can join together and both get what we want.

  33. Dave Dell

    The end of the draft (and the end of raising taxes to pay for endless wars) has had serious consequences, some of which have been alluded to in the comments above.

    Yes, a number of the “proud boy” types have purposely joined the all volunteer military and after discharge the police force. I don’t have an opinion on their military service but I sense, without data although I’d like to see some, that they make terrible policemen. My interactions with the uniformed police have given me the idea that, on the whole, they are not very bright. How many proud boy types have made detective rank? I don’t know and I wouldn’t know where to begin to find out.

    As a Vietnam veteran, progressive, from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, third generation Union I’ll have to get by with far less weaponry than I had in Vietnam. My various (mostly inherited) rifles, shotguns, and pistols will have to do. They’ll have to be clutched in my arthritic hands as I march with my 70 year old bad hips and knees and back to what? The defense of the state capital? Sorry, my dancing days are done.

    I guess the problem, as I see it, is that the hoped for rebellion has not come to pass. As time flits by in their lives and they have to pay rent, mortgages, utilities, etc., basically live a life of unassuming mediocrity very similar to mine, their insurrection instincts heat up the fragile pressure cooker in their brains. They want that race war, the war against the libs to start. Start now. Some act on it. I fear that the proud boy police act on it at the slightest prevarication.

    Don’t know who said it but… The IQ of a mob is the lowest IQ in the mob divided by the number of people in the mob. When they mob together, stupidity reigns.

  34. Eric Anderson

    Hat tip to @UserFriendly for boosting over at naked capitalism.

  35. Jan Wiklund

    The key phrase is that violence (from ordinary citizens) can succeed when it is thought to be legitimate (among ordinary citizens).

    If it is not, it can not. The state has always recourse to more violence than any group of citizens – except during a revolution.

  36. Ché Pasa

    Re: Mark’s very cogent exposition on violence/nonviolence in response to situations and events:

    1) It’s good to remember that what we think of as “Wall Street” is theatre. The real action takes place well out of sight, electronically, and “shutting down” Wall Street requires monkey wrenching or pulling the plug on that operation, which no one has quite figured out how to do — or if they know how, they haven’t done it. Blowing up the Stock Exchange building tomorrow would have almost no effect on Wall Street besides making more theatre and thereby feeding the media maw with… fluff. Dramatic fluff to be sure, but… fluff.

    2) We’ve been living through one institutional failure or collapse after another for decades. The result now is bad, but it’s been bad for a very long time, and so far it’s not entirely clear anyone has thought through either restoration or replacement for those failed institutions that once gave (most of) us a sense of purpose, progress, security, social cohesion, etc. Their collapse is more or less universally accepted.

    3) The rebels against the coronavirus mitigation efforts are a very small minority — so far. They are not even close to a popular movement, and the more Trump, the media and Rs in general try to gin up some sort of populist uprising against mitigation “tyranny” the more foolish/mad the rebels appear. That doesn’t mean they won’t eventually become a popular movement (vanguards, stranger things and all that) but they certainly aren’t now. Nevertheless, at the Walmart in the next town over from me yesterday, 90% of the customers were not wearing masks/face coverings in part because the state now requires face coverings in public, whereas the week before, when face coverings were only recommended, 70% or more of customers wore them. The urge to rebel is strong, and it can easily go any direction.

    4) A violent rebellion from the right is always a potential but it’s hardly necessary when all power is already in rightist hands, and the mere threat of rightist violence is enough to force government to yield. The smoldering fires on the Left — to the extent they exist — may never burst into flame so long as there is no possibility for success. Since the extinction of the Soviet Union, there’s been little possibility for a successful and enduring Left revolt/revolution. It doesn’t mean it can never happen, but it will take very different conditions than we see now.

    5) And yes, the virus is part of an opening salvo in nature’s attempts to curb humanity’s folly. As responses become weaker, as in the example set by the US, nature will eventually come out on top, no?

  37. Eric Anderson


    I agree with you. Perhaps the fact that I live in one of the reddest counties in one of the reddest states clouds my judgment. What’s clear, however, is that a cornered animal will always fight.
    And as Jim Morrison said:

    “The old get old
    And the young get stronger
    May take a week
    And it may take longer
    They got the guns
    But we got the numbers
    Gonna win, yeah
    We’re takin’ over
    Come on!”

    It may be 5 to 1. But if the 5’s are so fractured in their response to the 1’s with the guns, the 1’s will win every time. Can there be any doubt how fractured the 5’s are? “Crawling across the floor with a flower in their hand. Trying to tell me know one, understands.” Trading in the hours for a handful of dimes? And, still not making it in their prime?

    Given these circumstances, the 1’s have the potential to do tremendous damage. That’s what I was alluding to in Ian’s last post. Come election time, heads are going to explode. Either: (1) the changing of the guard, (2) the struggle to remove the current guard if he resists, or (3) the backlash to the protests if the current guard wins, will get messy.

    I think we all knew as soon as Trump was elected he wouldn’t go peacefully.
    I predict only violence will remove him if he loses.

  38. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Another problem:

    Why should the individual risk any number of bad things, up to and including premature death, in a rebellion–when even if one does both survive and succeed, one will merely have replaced the existing predatory oligarchy with a different predatory oligarchy, “justified” by a different ideology, as in every “successful” Marxist revolution ever?

    “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”

    Not exactly the same people, but the same kind of people.

    Unless one has realistic hope of becoming one of the “new bosses”, it seems foolish to try.

  39. krake

    Frankly, I don’t care what voters think. These people are, as a rule, perfectly willing to tolerate – no, embrace – endless war, mass incarceration, toxic pollution, data mining, a sprawling kleptocracy operating in name and with complete exposure, police militarization, institutional racism, concentration camps, planned disequity, criminalized labor, gangster banking, the continuing exploitation of first nations, Christian nationalist patriarchy, Bezos, Musk, Buffet, the Waltons, and the gleeful emiseration of non-white people – all in exchange for “good schools”, corn byproducts, cheap meat and wi-fi.

    That’s why we’re on the cusp of actual fascism, in the midst of a pandemic, the majority of its deaths avoidable, still provoking Iran to war, picking unwinnable fights with Beijing, banned from travel to most of the world, with cascading ecosystem collapses all around, and our actual working class literally dying to make the repulsively rich richer.

    The electorate? Feckem. It’s fight or die, now.

  40. bruce wilder

    What we are seeing are the spasms of a dying political fiction.

    Fictions, yes. Dying? Hmmm. Hugh knows his fiction by heart and loves reciting it. Does he know that the corporate Media points its camera with the intention of prompting Hugh to speak his lines? I expect he does. Still he seems to enjoy playing his part.

    We are so propaganda-soaked, the possibility of reasoning together and acting together is eclipsed by retailed narratives and fantasies.

    Ours is a backward-looking time. The templates and types are all drawn from historical fictions, tropes of our imagined past. We are not simply distracted, we are habitually distracted. Our distractions are more familiar than reality. We just want a story.

    We ought to be engaged in building a new world, a political economy that can save the world. Unlike the old in many, many ways. And, significant numbers of the politically active (none here are this bad thankfully) are worried about a sexual incident 27 years ago.

    The Russia,Russia,Russia narrative was falling apart this week around the Flynn prosecution ending. That seemed to drive politics for more than two years. And, now the people who told us Trump had to go are running a corrupt fool with manifest dementia!

    Fascism might be an improvement.

  41. krake

    “It’s good to remember that what we think of as “Wall Street” is theatre. The real action takes place well out of sight, electronically, and “shutting down” Wall Street requires monkey wrenching or pulling the plug on that operation, which no one has quite figured out how to do — or if they know how, they haven’t done it. Blowing up the Stock Exchange building tomorrow would have almost no effect on Wall Street besides making more theatre and thereby feeding the media maw with… fluff. Dramatic fluff to be sure, but… fluff.”

    Agreed, fundamentally.

    But. The futures, stocks, margins and dividends are in/from real goods, products and commodities, which require real world production, distribution, and management.

    The supply chains and nodes are soft. The management hierarchies are very, very soft.

  42. Mark Pontin

    Ché Pasa wrote: “what we think of as “Wall Street” is theatre.”


    ” The real action takes place well out of sight, electronically, and “shutting down” Wall Street requires monkey wrenching or pulling the plug on that operation, which no one has quite figured out how to do — or if they know how, they haven’t done it. ”

    In this context those same Sandia scientists I talked to about the BB pellets discussed EMPs, which I’m afraid is kind of nation-state-level kit. You’d also have to know where ‘the real action’ is. It turns out its central location is the suburbs of Chicago.

    This is an interesting piece overall from Donald MacKenzie, a technology sociologist, last year in the London Review of Books —

    Just how fast? Donald MacKenzie on the increasing speed of high-frequency trading

    ‘About half of all buying and selling on many of the world’s crucial financial markets is now automated high-frequency trading. HFT is ultrafast … I ask them just how fast that currently is: … what’s the minimum time interval between the arrival of a ‘signal’ – a pattern of market data that feeds into an HFT algorithm – and an HFT system responding to the signal by sending an order to buy or sell, or cancelling an existing order? … Data released last September by Eurex, Europe’s leading futures exchange, indicated that the speed is now 84 nanoseconds (billionths of a second): sixty times faster than it was in 2011.

    ‘In a nanosecond, the fastest possible signal – light in free space – travels just thirty centimetres, or roughly a foot. That’s the fundamental physical limit now shaping what we might call the infrastructure of financial capitalism ….

    ‘…a tower – essentially a large pylon – in the grounds of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s computer datacentre, which is in the city’s outer suburbs. At just over 100 metres tall, it looms over the low-rise buildings of the datacentre ….

    ‘The CME is the world’s most important financial exchange, with no real rival in the US or internationally. It trades ‘futures’ …

    ‘There was a considerable stir … in May 2017 when the financial news service Bloomberg published a photograph of a diesel generator in a field beside the road that runs along the north side of the CME datacentre. Connected to the generator was a short pole carrying two small antennae. That the two antennae were facing slightly upwards gave the game away: it was an ‘uplink’, which could transmit microwave signals to, and receive signals from, a nearby microwave tower … Jump Trading (a leading HFT firm) had paid $14 million for the field.’

  43. Jessica

    Gandhi’s non-violence was also related to his attempting to gain independence from Britain without changing the structure of Indian society. He was trying to maintain control by the Brahmans and not let any control pass to warrior types. This also included maintaining the caste system, which might well have exploded and been transformed in a violent independence movement.

  44. bruce wilder

    You are a remarkable fount of misinformation and misleading narrative, Jessica.

    Gandhi was not himself of the Brahmin varna and he was opposed to the concept of “untouchability” by which the Dalits had been made an oppressed class. Reactionaries have misused his protest against a British constitutional initiative that would have extended communal voting privileges to the Dalits. Communal voting was introduced to privilege Muslims and divide the movement for Indian self-rule, its extensions were seen to further that strategy.

  45. Jessica

    I rely on Dr. Ambedkar for his critique of Gandhi’s policies on caste.
    “Annihilation of Caste: An Undelivered Speech 1936”
    I believe that Dalits themselves to this day consider Dr. Ambedkar one of their foremost historical leaders.
    The India to which Gandhi helped deliver independence was very dominated by the same upper castes that dominated it before independence. The price for that is being paid now.

  46. Consider also the experiences of civil rights advocates Robert and Mabel Williams.

  47. bruce wilder


    I think you should make greater allowance for the possibility that Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was, as we might say, “talking his book” as a leader strongly identified with a socially-distinguished but also diffuse minority, and at odds with the Forward Castes of the Congress Party over a constitutional issue introduced by the British and doing what he could to gain concessions to those he represented and to his own base of political power.

    If you want Gandhi’s views, you must at least consider what Gandhi said and did, and in context.

    Also, I would recommend extreme modesty with regard to anyone’s ability to fathom or judge the cultural politics of varna and Jāti and the complex system of reservation that has arisen from it.

  48. StewartM

    Coming late to this discussion, some points:

    1) Revolutions (and violence from below) only succeed when the state either bankrupted or has had its military forced destroyed by war. An even badly functioning state (say, Russia, 1905) will always crush any would-be revolutionaries by force.

    2) “Gandhism” usually only works in the two cases where:

    a) there is an authority above the oppressors that can be won over; Gandhi was appealing to the British people back in the UK; not the British colonial overlord; MLK was appealing to the people outside the segregationist South, and had success there but ran into trouble when trying to overturn de facto segregation in the North:

    b) there *are* more radical, and possibly more violent alternatives that the PTB will have to face if the MLKs and Gandhis are suppressed. In such cases, then peaceful reform stands a better success.

    3) Given 2b above, it’s important not to turn on your potential allies on the ‘extremes’. This is a mistake the left constantly made, especially in the US, turning on the Communists and making even socialism a dirty word. Not that the right does NOT respond in kind, the Republicans have protected tne Neo-militia, white surpremacist, and ‘sovereign citizen’ groups from scrutiny or condemnation (because there is a definite overlap of these with ‘mainstream’ Republican politics).

    When your ‘extreme’ allies are not so ‘extreme’ then you begin to sound reasonable. The Right in the US understands this while what passes for the “Left” here does not.

    4) The Right’s ability to wage violence is overrated. Yes, they hug their guns, but for the same reasons that militias don’t typically make good fighting forces these guys–while violent,perhaps–over overrated.

    For starters, they’re paranoid and turn on each other at the slightest provocation—I know personally of a local instance where a friend’s girlfriend was involved with an Aryan Nations group, and on suspicion of a member being a plant they nearly beat him to death and she and all them got prosecuted on attempted murder charges. With Robert Matthew’s “The Order” in the 1980s, the reason they got caught was they similar, they turned on some of their members who they thought might be ‘snitches’ who promptly *did* become snitches because they (correctly) figured that they were safer in FBI custody than with their ‘comrades’.

    The other thing is that their technical prowess is overrated. Locally, a KKK member at a rally shot himself dead while giving a demonstration to his comrades about–and I’m not kidding–*gun safety*.

    5) The Right always accuses the Left of weakness because the Left generally wants to eschew violence. Before the Civil War, Southerners told each other that “One good southern boy is worth ten Yankee hirelings” and Hitler too disparaged the entry of the “weak” Americans into WWII. As J. F. C Fuller once noticed, there’s *nobody* that fights better or more efficiently than democracies in war. Or, as Sam Houston tried to warn Confederates:

    Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche

    The Left’s relative reluctance to embrace violence should taken as a sign of weakness at one’s peril, because if war does come, they typically fight war pretty dang well.

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