(en) Part 1-Patriot Militias, Neo-Conservatives...

Shawn Ewald (shawn@wilshire.net)
Tue, 18 Nov 1997 15:19:58 -0700

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This essay comes from the june issue of The Leveler, a Los Angeles Anarchist newspaper. It's in two parts.

The essay is acutally older than that I believe (written last year I think). It raises important issues about right-wing militias, however, the solutions the author offers near the end of the essay are a bit of a letdown IMHO. --------------------------------------------------- PART ONE ---------------- Patriot Militias, Neo-Conservatives, And Neo-Libertarians by Drifter "Bob" for @nt Press News


Recently, the long simmering conspiracy theories that have always existed on the lunatic fringe of the far-right here in America have been metamorphosing into a variety of surging mass-movements, organizations, and popular trends, to the great surprise and indeed alarm of most Americans, especially, of course, those in the center and left of the political spectrum. The movements associated with this are growing in influence, power, and militancy, and continue to be underestimated and misunderstood by the mass-media and the professional opinion shapers. They may, in fact, reflect general world-wide trend which could influence the next major series of transformations of the human condition...

Nowhere can one really find an accurate analysis of these movements in my opinion, despite the proliferation of simplistic evaluations which are being bandied about everywhere in the wake of recent events, and I think it is important for those of us on the far-left, particularly (small l) libertarians, to try to reach a profound understanding of the nature of this phenomenon for what it really is. This is true whether your goal is to fight this thing, to influence it, to benefit from it's presence, or to anticipate and prepare for it's many consequences (for anarchists I think there will be many consequences, both negative and positive).

For about the last year I have been studying the new pseudo libertarian right, spending a lot of time reading about it in both the mainstream and underground media, and also talking to people who are on the fringes of some of the constituent movements in various forums on the internet, and other location in 'cyberspace'. Through the course of hours of virtual arguments interviews and study, as well as a few face to face conversations, I have formed some opinions of the real nature of this thing and of our potential role in its development, existence and influence. I can also guess at some of the possible outcomes and influences it will have in the future. Before I describe my own opinions though, I'd like to analyze the ones you are probably already aware of.

There are basically 4 current views of this thing which are espoused by the 4 major players who are interested in it: the Establishment Right; the Establishment Left; the grassroots right (that is to say, for the most part the militiamen and 'patriots' themselves, as well as Nazi's and fascists further out on the fringe...); and the grassroots or far-left. None of these groups in my opinion has an accurate grasp of the nature of the movements which have arisen, the agendas or origins of the body of theory that lie behind them, or especially of the forces which are driving them and giving them all those ideas and energy, seemingly out of thin air.


The Conservative Perspective

The Establishment Right understands it the best probably, though they of course are missing the point quite a bit so far, thank goodness. In their opinion (to use their language) this is a popular cultural and political counter-revolution against the extremes of social liberation and the resultant breakdown of society, and a fundamental rejection of the manipulation of the media and the 'cultural elite'. Basically they see it as the pendulum getting ready to swing very far over to the right at a time when people thought it was heading to the left, all the further and harder because it was so unexpected.

By putting this spin on the situation they have been able to successfully (so successfully in fact that they may have scared themselves.) tap into the stream "anger" and seize a huge amount of legislative power in the government. By withdrawing the old school party hacks and presenting more radical, more demagogic new political candidates who echo some of the buzzwords of the new movement, and by adopting some issues popular with the grassroots of the right wing, such as second amendment rights, orthodox Christianity, and various forms of cultural or racial bigotry, they have managed to seize hold of the keys to the candy store.

Having been given these keys by the grassroots, the Establishment (or "Paleo") Right politicians are busy looting it on behalf of their corporate sponsors, with even more frenetic zeal than you might expect - as if they were afraid this golden opportunity was nothing but a dream likely to be snatched out of their greedy hands at any moment. Their enthusiasm is tempered only by a certain uneasiness about the powerful and mysterious forces which so suddenly and so unexpectedly gave them this opportunity, an uncertainty which may prove to be well founded in the long run.

The Conservative politicians are delighted to pass any number of laws denying welfare to practicing witches, prohibiting the use of Soviet Military vehicles on Interstate Highways, or forbidding members of the Georgia National Guard from wearing blue helmets and swearing allegiance to Zionist conspiracies, but eventually their new allies are going to start wanting some type of action which will lead to an inevitable conflict of interest. Obviously, any sweeping changes which will benefit middle and working class Americans are likely to adversely effect not just minorities and "special interests" but the real constituency of the Establishment Right: the Corporate Plutocracy. When this happens, the shit is going to hit the fan, because the Paleos won't, of course, be able to move against their financial backers and the chances are that they won't of course be able to double-talk the "Patriot" element of their constituency indefinitely either.

This is the key to the whole thing, which I will explore in more depth in a minute: some of these people just aren't buying the bullshit anymore, regardless of how sophisticated or subtle it is - it's not longer enough, they are going to want concrete improvements in their lives. If they don't get them, especially when their lives are in fact made palatably worse as a result of all the Robber-Baron legislative initiatives sold to them by their friends in the Establishment, they will turn elsewhere for satisfaction.

The Liberal Perspective

The Establishment Left is even more unprepared and less cognizant of the nature of this thing. For years the mainstream left has bemoaned the diminishing levels of popular enthusiasm for or participation in the "Democratic Process" (i.e. universal suffrage), a fact which they attribute in a rather elitist manner to the indifference and stupidity of the electorate in general.

They hold this view in spite of the fact that most of them freely admit to the rampant ideological stagnation of both parties in the political system, and to their own personal awareness of the Machiavellian realities which pull the strings of the power brokers on the Left as well as the Right.they still expect citizens to enthusiastically embrace "the lesser of two evils" in spite of the fact that they know the mainstream left is virtually as bankrupt as the right.

It never occurred to anyone in the mainstream Establishment, on either end of the conventional political spectrum, that people were voting by not voting - that they chose "none of the above" because THEY MEANT IT, not just because they were trying to be cute. The failure by just about all politicians other "representatives of the people," such as the media, to recognize this fact is perhaps due to an unwillingness on their part to accept the reason for it: many people are beginning to realize that the current political system is incapable of meeting their needs, and it is now starting to look like older techniques of what Noam Chomsky calls "manufacturing consent" are losing some of their effectiveness.

Due to their ignorance of and perhaps hostility toward this vast political, social, and cultural trend, the Establishment Left - especially the democratic party and the "liberal" elements within the media - have positioned themselves as supporters of the reactionary opposition to it, on the side of government authority.

This may be because they do not want to face the kernel issue of the new right. It represents a new philosophy among people in the in the world which neither wing of the current establishment may be able to ultimately address. This is a problem faced by politicians in some other countries as well, a new idea is growing in influence and acceptance in several points around the globe, spreading from the ground up despite (or perhaps because of) the total lack of support for it in the conventional wisdom, and because of this as much as it's very nature it recognizes no ideological leaders in the mainstream.

One characteristic of this trend is the recognition of a new axis on the political grid, which may change the shape of political struggle and ultimately perhaps change the social structures which rule the world. This new dimension is of course that of liberty versus authority, which is becoming increasingly important to many ordinary people, as reflected by some of the strongest new political trends in the world right now: the libertarian center-right "Northern League" Party in Italy, which is currently the most important political force in that country, the left libertarian Zapatista movement in Mexico, and our own government-fearing right wing "patriots" here in the U.S., not to mention various other fairly large left-libertarian anarchist movements in countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Spain, and Greece.

Adding the libertarians vs. authoritarian axis to the standard 2 dimensional political landscape of the 20th century helps break the deadlock that ha muddled peoples understanding of political realities and allowed various governments or other forces to use "lesser of two evils" rationalizations to support unpalatable agendas. Thus, any confusion related to such contradictory concepts as the United States supporting dictatorships in Latin America on the basis that they are "democratic" due to their opposition to Communism, or from the other perspective of various "Communist" dictatorships being somehow revolutionary due to their opposition to Capitalism, can be seen in a new light: regardless of whether Guatemala is theoretically right-wing and North Korea is theoretically left-wing, they are both clearly hellish authoritarian dictatorships which no one in their right mind would want to live in.

This new distinction is often just as important to regular citizens as the more traditional economic one (Capitalism vs. Socialism), though it is normally totally ignored by their political leaders, and they have finally begun to learn on their own, for some interesting reasons, that despite the various rationalizations and rhetoric they are fed to the contrary, the unchecked growth of State authority in their own Nation could be as much of a threat as the menace of Communism or Imperialism from abroad.

The Radical Left

Unfortunately, it looks so far like the majority of organizations and individuals in the relatively moribund North American left-wing opposition are no more astute in their reaction to this thing than the Democratic Party, if anything they are even more enthusiastically jumping on the LAW AND ORDER bandwagon in their fear of it. This is of course not entirely without good reason - like many similar populist trends in the past the current new Right does have some affiliation with the more rabid Nazi-type groups and political theories.

However, the new movements do not appear to me to be merely a reincarnation of the John Birch Society. The core of these movements are not in my opinion highly sympathetic to extreme fascist-type beliefs, at least not yet, and the size and depth of them probably preclude simply writing the entire phenomena off as a right-wing aberration, nor do I believe the grassroots left will greatly benefit from an alliance with the secret police. After all, gun wielding citizens militias are not a new thing in this country. They were once a highly effective tactic of certain progressive groups.

The last important incarnation of this was the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in the 1960's. The Panthers were in fact were using the same constitutional grounds that the militias cite as a legal basis to conduct armed patrols of crime stricken neighborhoods in efforts to weed out drug pushers and the like, and to monitor the activities of the local police in armed groups.

Rather ironically, the anti-gun laws which have been bugging red necks in the American Right Wing for the last 20 years were originally enacted in order to interfere with the activities of the Black Panthers here in California. Basically given the choice of having a real-world constitutional right to bear arms and allowing black "militants" to do the same, the racist American Electorate of the 1960's agreed to forfeit their own rights.

Now they are having second thoughts, obviously, and while I'm not suggesting that the far-left start a whole bunch of their own paramilitary militia organizations right away, I do think that the opportunity to pick up the dialogue on some of these issues, such as grassroots democracy, community autonomy, etc. where the Panthers left off should be explored.

In fact one of the cases often cited by "patriots" as a classic example of government terrorism are the whole series of underhanded acts that the FBI fairly blatantly employed (e.g. COINTELPRO) in its efforts to stamp out the Black Panthers in the 1960's and early 70's, ranging from illegal wiretapping and searches to deliberate frame-ups and cold-blooded assassinations (not to mention the similar suppression of relatively mainstream groups such as the American Socialist Party).

Why not bring these sorts of things out further into the public discourse? Just because these people attribute the dangerous aspects of government or big business to say, Martian conspiracies doesn't mean that widespread awareness of some of the specific facts and issues related to their more alarming activities can't represent a valuable asset in the struggle against them. [Believe it or not, there is a popular document available on almost all the patriot domains on the Internet comparing the suppression of the Black Panthers with Waco.]

Furthermore, by abandoning this whole thing to the right-wing and consorting with the enemy as it were in order to defeat it, the underground left may be conceding the initiative and in some ways the ideological high-ground to the extremist-right, and this could have very, very dangerous consequences, obviously. If the goals of economic and social justice are not likely to be well served by raising a hue and cry for "Law and Order," perhaps they can be met by community empowerment and a return to real grassroots democratic organizing techniques of the type pioneered by the Wobblies in the 1910's, and by the Panthers and S.N.C.C. in the 1960's and early 70's.

The Worldview of a "Patriot"

The unpopularity of the "Law and Order" approach is in fact what sparked the creation of the modern Right-Libertarian movement in the first place. The American Libertarian Party was founded in the early 1970's by a bunch of republican businessmen who could not reconcile themselves to Richard Nixon's authoritarian "Law and Order" policies. They advocated a new philosophy which attempted to remain faithful to capitalism and "The American Way" while expressing an increasing abhorrence of the alarming growth of the authority of the State. (It's rather ironic that this rebellion from within the ranks has really given the republican party its strongest ideological foothold over the last 15 years or so.)

Needless to say, since the State in this country (especially during the Nixon Administration!) often appears to be the docile tool of Big Business, it took some pretty weird intellectual gymnastics to build a theoretical base for this new philosophy. The new "Libertarians" had to bend their whole worldview to suit the increasingly obvious malevolence of certain aspects of our society, of in fact the upper echelons of this society, without breaking it, i.e. without broadly rejecting the system itself.

Conspiracy Politics

Originally, the new Libertarian-Right was able to fit all evidence of increasing government authority and anti-democratic legislation within the framework of "socialistic" agendas of their ideological enemies: the Democratic Party and the "liberal media" (sponsored by the distant specter of international Communism). Over the years, however, the apparent facts began to get harder to fit into this framework.

It seemed like regardless of who was in power, Conservative Republicans or Liberal Democrats, Capitalists or Socialists, the march toward despotism continued unabated. But rather than taking a more radical view of the system at large to explain this apparent growth of malevolent bureaucratic forces and authoritarian legislation as characteristic of say Monopoly Capitalism or the inherent nature of State Bureaucracy, the new right began to construct increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories to explain the phenomena.

The strength and the appeal of this thing was so great however that people were willing to buy some pretty strange theories and go along with it. The reason for this is because of the broadening of what I call the "Bullshit Gap."

To put it simply, the increasing ability and desire for rapid lateral communication through such means as the public mail, the underground press, telephones, fax machines, short-wave radio, and now the Internet has enabled large sections of the general public to begin to form their own conclusions about the nature of reality. Perhaps not surprisingly, these opinions, derived from direct perceptions of the world, (i.e. research, and observation of individuals), and reinforced by comparison with the observations of neighbors and friends, differ to a large degree from the "official" reality paradigms presented by the Government, the Media, and all the various corporate, social, and political entities who wish to shape and guide public opinion for their own ends.

Waco Wake-up

One of the biggest gaps between the officially recognized worldview and reality as these people see it is in the realm of increasing government authority and the threat this poses to democracy. Regardless of whether you may think this is a valid perception, there is enough information available (especially recently after the release of government documents to the general public in the early days of the Clinton administration) to convince hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans that there is an increasing danger. Certain events such as the Waco Texas debacle have dramatically raised the alarm of common folks from the level of the theoretical to the real and visceral, much to the confusion of the media and others.

This actually is a common type of reaction historically. It is the same kind of event that ended an era of hardcore union-busting when strikers and their families machine-gunned en-masse in the Ludlow Massacre, forced prison system reforms after the slaughter at Attica, changed the public opinion of the Anti-War movement after protesters were shot at Kent State, threw support behind the civil rights struggle after numerous lynchings and bombings in the Deep South, and has caused innumerable riots and insurrections throughout the history of America. Citizens don't like seeing other citizens get killed, once that starts, it's time to re-evaluate everything they are being told.

The incident at Waco and a few other eerily similar Government acts over the last few years caused a lot of people to begin casting about for a new worldview that would not excuse what they saw as Government murder and oppression. Many folks encountered the increasingly libertarian leaning body of right-wing conspiracy theories and urban/rural legend that was already forming a new and fairly sophisticated if quirky philosophy in the grassroots. The once narrow, reactionary, intolerant ideology of the far-right had undergone a quirky evolution which allowed elements of it to find this niche among the American psyche.

Conspiracy legends are becoming an effective tool of this populist trend for a variety of reasons. To the common citizen, they are entertaining, mysterious, exciting, and may serve as a back door into the normally inaccessible worlds of politics, history or economics. To an organization, they are often viable tools in the long run because far from being written in stone, they can be abandoned and re-invented to fit the changing facts as they present themselves, therefore they can be very useful in constructing a sophisticated ideological rationale for a wide variety of agendas.

The power of these ideas is reflected in the significant influence they have had in the increasing unpopularity of some of the most important "progressive" global political events in the last few years, in spite of lavish praise by virtually every outlet of media, Right, Left or Center.


Forest Gump and the New World Order

Thus the creeping growth of ant-democratic forces in the government bureaucracy, the alarming agglomeration of Capitalistic power vis-=E0-vis GATT, NAFTA, and the EEC, the sinister overtones of the much vaunted Pax-Americana or "New World Order," and the increasing political influence of unaccountable and undemocratic international Banking agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank are all seen as threatening phenomena by the grassroots Right much as they are by the grassroots Left.

This is very frustrating to just about all of their "representatives" in both political arms of the mainstream, each of whom views reality through differently colored spectacles and sees these things as signs of progress. The consensus in the media and the establishment intelligencia is that the common people are invariably motivated by short-term greed, backward orthodoxy, or other forms of stupidity, and are completely incapable of understanding the "Big Picture" or ultimately even acting in their own self-interests. There is a universal desire on the part of these folks that the ignorant masses would stop agitating and causing trouble for their betters and let them engineer these things for their own good.

The American political and social elite envision an ideal type of citizen which they have represented in the movie Forest Gump: pious, loyal, patient, and mildly retarded, with a head full of quaint colloquialisms and little else, devoted to a lifestyle of family values, hard work, self-sacrifice, and quiet suffering. A Gump-American would certainly be willing to forfeit control of his destiny to the economists and technocrats who have the Harvard and Yale educations needed to understand the issues of the day, and when necessary they wold be glad to translate the reasons for the various austerity measures he will have to endure into amusing Gump-dialect, so that he could explain them to his family.

But the ruling elements of society have underestimated the ingenuity and energy if not the innate wisdom of the average American citizen. For a long time their tactic has been to act in spite of rather than in accordance with the wishes of the electorate, and this attitude became so prevalent that in some cases little effort was made to thoroughly convince the masses of the need for these various measures beyond the point immediately necessary to win ratification of them.

Part of the electorate has seen through some of the weaknesses in the rather half-hearted arguments of their leaders, and is beginning to form it's own opinions. Perhaps more ominously, they have developed a new cynical outlook which insulates them from some of the manipulative techniques of the past, thus rendering them virtually immune to that type of influence, for better or for worse.

Thus the American male of the 1990's is in fact turning out to be a lot different from the wistful fantasy of Forest Gump. The role model many seem to be emulating is closer to a character from a Charles Bronson movie: a suspicious, creepy loner with a borderline psychotic personality which hints at the potential for sudden violence, and armed to the teeth with the knowledge and the equipment to be potentially dangerous. Now many of these guys are getting together in large groups, broadcasting their dark speculations over the short-wave radio and the Internet, comparing evaluations of the government and the ruling institutions, and not liking what they are seeing one bit through their infrared binoculars.

Influencing an Influential New Movement

If this sounds a little scary, it should. This whole phenomenon naturally doesn't just boil down to a steady march toward liberty and grassroots democracy. There are some very sinister undertones to this thing, and it probably presents as much of a threat as an opportunity to North American society, and to the human condition in general.

The new populist movement is in many ways wiser and hipper that they are given credit for, but they are also obviously the victims of some alarmingly ridiculous group-think which can be merely childish or absurd, but also poisonous, malignant, deadly. To some degree this is sort of a cancerous outgrowth of the residual trailer park prejudices and ignorance they have brought with them into their new philosophical domain, but there are also some more sinister reasons which can only be understood with a more detailed understanding of the way their system works.

These movements are built on a new model of social organization, a de-centralized, fundamentally leaderless system. Their ideological foundation is a web of fairly sophisticated (if often ridiculous) theories, standing arguments and supporting "facts" which exists independently of any specific institution or group, and has evolved in a rather organic fashion (hence the bizarre directions it sometimes takes) from the original platform of the Libertarian party and other influential predecessors further out in the lunatic fringe, into the colorful, multifaceted paranoia-mythology we see today.

Rather than leaning further and further towards fascism as one might expect, its natural has actually been to drift from the far Right to a more culturally moderate, libertarian direction over the years, though that tendency is not unopposed.the usual nature of a leaderless, decentralized ideology gives the movement certain innate strengths as well as some weaknesses which may help explain the seemingly contradictory tendencies within it.

Naturally, just because a movement or a body of theory is without centralized leadership does not mean it can't be influenced or infiltrated - to the contrary, in some ways it is more vulnerable to this sort of thing as long as the party interested in doing so understands the rules of the game. The key to effectively shaping opinion within this movement is to accurately understand how it interacts with the outside world.

As an example, one of the most effective methods used in the past to convince people of something was to quote statistics. The new populists however have become keenly aware of the fact that statistics can often be misleading, as is proven a thousand times a day on TV commercials, and they have come to the point that they tend to reject out of hand almost all arguments based on statistical facts. True to their individualistic roots, they prefer anecdotal testimonies to broad statistical analysis.

This reflects both a strength and a weakness of their thinking, on the one hand they ignore the "big picture" and cheerfully incorporate the most contradictory elements into their theories. On the other hand they may be too crafty and too suspicious to be easily fooled by glib doublespeak for long, and their constant active examination of all available information related to their pet issues ensures that, without careful supervision, their theories will tend to move closer to reality over time.

The clever sound-bites which were for so long the most effective method of manufacturing opinions from the centralized communications media have been undermined by a new, much more in-depth, much more independent type of communication which can only be influenced by carefully and laboriously crafting clever arguments that can stand up on their own merit to the meticulous analysis of thousands of suspicious individuals.

-end of part one- __________________________ Radio4All: http://www.radio4all.org/ The A-Infos Radio Project: http://www.radio4all.org/radio http://radio4all.web.net/

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