Saturday, June 14, 2014

This is not a good thing

There is something important that needs to be addressed. Recently, as most of you know, there was a shooting in Las Vegas where Jerad and Amanda Miller killed two police officers on their lunch break in a CiCi's Pizza, then walk to a nearby Walmart where they ordered everyone out of the store and killed a third person who was carrying a concealed weapon and attempted to confront them. Police arrived at the Walmart to confront the shooters, a shootout between them commenced, and the couple eventually committed suicide (although some reports suggest that Jared may have been killed by police). Jared and Amanda Miller have since been identified as anti-government activists. Their cry as they entered the Walmart was, "This is a revolution."

While this event troubles me, there is something that troubles me even more. And that's the reaction I'm seeing to this shooting from a number of other activists, who appear to be supportive of the killing of these police officers by these two idiots. I've seen it on several sites and pages that I frequent, but it might be exemplified best by an article I found posted on CopBlock's Facebook page by Christopher Cantwell, entitled "Dead Men Don't Start Revolutions" (CopBlock has since removed the article from their page). In this article, Cantwell criticizes the Millers for drawing bystanders into the shooting and for killing themselves, but at the same time says that they were perfectly justified for killing the cops, because according to him, "It is by definition, impossible to murder an aggressor. It is an act of defensive, retaliatory, or preventive force, not aggression, to do violence to people who have no doubt harmed peaceful people, and will no doubt continue to harm peaceful people. Every free man, woman, and child has every moral and ethical right to use violence to put a stop to such threats, and the world is a better place without these two police officers victimizing the public." And in the Facebook post linking to this article I saw several assenting comments to this point.

For those not familiar with Cantwell, he advocates violence as a necessary tool to bringing an end to the police state, and openly admits that he celebrates the death of cops. And he isn't alone, as I'm seeing a frightening number of activists sharing his sentiments. Not all by any means, but a sizable group of those whose comments I have observed. Let me be clear that employing violence as it is necessary for defense against aggression is completely appropriate. And Cantwell certainly tries to hide behind a distorted view of defense to justify his position.

An act of aggression by someone does not automatically give you the right to take their life. For one, it is arguable that most people have, at one time or another, acted in aggression to one degree or another – which would make most people's lives forfeit. If someone steals a pack of gum from your store, that doesn't give you the right to shoot them in the back of the head as they run away. It does give you the natural right to use necessary force to stop them, apprehend them, retrieve your gum, and bar them from ever entering your store again. Shooting the fleeing gum thief would be murder by any reasonable standard, and therefore it is possible to murder an aggressor. The objective of defense is to preclude an imminent act of aggression, to stop one in progress, to obtain reasonable assurance that it will not occur again, or to procure reasonable restitution for the act – it is not to kill the aggressor, get revenge, or 'make an example' out of them.

An aggressor who is not currently in the act of aggressing has the natural right to a fair trial and due process. They have the right to face their accuser, plead their case, and have it be considered impartially and objectively by their peers. The have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Denying them of this right is itself aggression, and taking their life in the process is murder. So even if you make the case that these officers had committed acts of aggression while on duty, and even if they were preparing to go back and do the same, shooting them while on their lunch break was just plain murder. It is unjustifiable use of violence, and it is aggression by any sane definition. Defending their murder is advocating aggression.

Police aggression is a problem, and one that needs to be dealt with. But it can't be used as a rationale to justify the killing of random cops. The Non-Aggression Principle implies that every person has the right to self-defense against an aggressor, or to defend another consenting party from the same. It does not grant you automatic and complete ownership over the rights and life of the aggressor. That is turning the NAP on its head to justify aggression. And when you twist law to unjustly deny a person their rights or to assert ownership over them or their life, when you arbitrarily inflict your judgments on them without due process of some sort, and when you unilaterally proclaim that everyone in a certain class of people is worthy of death, there is a word for that – statism. These are basically the same kinds of tactics and attitudes used by police and the government to oppress people. If the state is an arbitrarily appointed body that inflicts its rules on others through aggressive violence, then these so-called 'anarchists' who advocate such violence are nothing more than statists who are fooling themselves, and they are no different than the police they so hate. That includes Cantwell, who calls himself an anarcho-capitalist. The path that they are taking is one that, if they succeed, will inevitably replace the current rule-by-violence system of government with a brand new rule-by-violence society of a different sort. Just where the violence is more decentralized, at least in theory.

The violent revolution these guys are calling for is a bad idea for practical reasons, on top of the ethical reasons. It's very bad tactics to go after your opponent where they are strongest, and there is no point where the state is stronger than in the arena of violence. They have gotten quite good at it. Go study out the 2003 invasion of Iraq some time and look at the casualty figures. Less than 200 lost their lives on the coalition side, whereas Iraqi forces may have suffered as many as 30,000 fatalities. That's a huge margin between the two sides. And now they have drones and all sorts of other new toys they didn't have 11 years ago. If you are foolish enough to go pick a fight with a force like that without comparable training and equipment, your Darwin Award will be well earned. By all appearances, the powers-that-be want a fight. They've certainly militarized the police enough to seem like it. It would be very convenient for them to get rid of political dissenters and an excuse to crack down martial law style.

And that's what concerns me the most. If these idiots continue to promote violence, and if more violent attacks like those committed by the Millers take place, then it is likely to result in a crackdown from the government, police, and even military that could completely undo all of the work that activists across the country have been doing to pry us free from government-by-violence. People are making headway, more people are waking up and becoming aware of the problem, but all that could be undone overnight if some gun-toting whack-jobs hand the powers-that-be enough evidence to convince the people that everyone who opposes the government is a dangerous violent lunatic, and thus gets the public support necessary for such a crackdown. You want to see a ban on guns, militarized police searching house to house across the country, and full on martial law? Violence and promoting violence will help ensure it. Personally, I'm in no hurry to see that happen.

If ethics are not a good enough reason to support nonviolent civil resistance, then tactics should be. From a tactical standpoint, it is usually the best policy to focus on your adversary's weak points. And with the shamefully low approval ratings of our government, its deflating air of legitimacy, increasing unrest, the broken election system that ensures two-party rule, the broken legal system, the sinking economy, growing disenfranchisement with the public, and overall government dysfunction – it should be painfully clear where the weak points are. Civil resistance is very effective at striking those weak points hard, and, contrary to the ignorance of some, has been sufficient by itself to topple many a tyrannical government in the past. If you have doubts, I encourage you to read "From Dictatorship to Democracy" by Gene Sharp. This book will explain civil resistance and its advantages in dealing with tyrannical governments better than I ever possibly could. Frankly speaking, it's the only tactically viable path to ending rule-by-violence I have yet seen.

CopBlock, to their credit, has removed Christopher Cantwell from their team. This was the right thing to do, and as far as I'm concerned, it vindicates them of any wrong in this matter. CopBlock, here, has been a good example of how to deal with those calling for violence. And I think we should all follow this example. If we can agree that rule-by-violence is wrong, intolerable, and must come to an end, then we should speak out against anyone promoting, justifying, or committing acts of violence, except in defense. If they won't see reason, then we shouldn't associate ourselves with them, or any group or organization which does, lest it damage the legitimacy of our own positions. I believe we need to make a deliberate point of drawing a clear and well-defined line between those who advocate non-aggression, and those who advocate using violence to enforce their will on others. Because the media and the powers that be are already trying to lump us all together and use this shooting against us. And that is not a good thing.

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Recommended viewing:
So You Want to Topple the US Government?
Revolution: An Instruction Manual