Civil Liberties

The American Anti-Revolution

Revolutionary violence is as American as an apple pie we threw away

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Last spring, University of Hartford historian Robert Churchill released a new book about "libertarian political violence and the origins of the militia movement," To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant's Face (University of Michigan Press). He should have waited a year. This past week the book's subject matter came roaring back to the forefront of American politics, as politicians and their friends in the media policed the acceptable limits of dissent in a democratic republic.

Notably, this week also marked the April 19th anniversary of both the government crime—the assault on Waco—that most inspired the rise of the 1990s militia movement that Churchill's book explains and contextualizes, and the private crime—the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City—that sapped all the momentum from that movement.

Churchill's book provides interesting historical context for both the 1990s and now. The same forces of expansive government that first helped inspire a militia movement and later generated hostility towards that movement are again actively casting suspicious eyes on anyone who says that the modern U.S. government is in any respect tyrannical or clearly overstepping its intended constitutional bounds.

Churchill, as a historian, could see the '90s militia phenomenon in context—and that context was uniquely American. The notion of armed resistance to tyranny that the '90s militias came to embody was not marginal, alien, or frightening; it is one of America's defining original attributes. This is a nation, after all, born of a civic armed insurrection, one that had the support of a substantial body of the people.

As Churchill puts it, "as a historian of early America I found achingly familiar [the '90s militias'] assertion of a right to take up arms to prevent the exercise of unconstitutional power by the federal government." That's because the spirit of the colonial revolution was kept alive and used as ideological support for violent action and rhetoric at various points in our history. Churchill tells these stories with gripping detail and he neither cheers nor vilifies those who chose to take up arms at various points and for various reasons against constituted authority in America.

Like the Oath Keepers, a militia-style coalition of current and former military, police, and other public officials recently profiled by Reason's Jesse Walker, America's original Federalists (who favored a powerful central state) were convinced that the militia would be the final bulwark of American liberty by refusing to allow the enforcement of unconstitutional law. Indeed, that idea of an armed citizen militia resisting the depredations of the state has been a mainstream idea in American history from the very start.

Churchill doesn't claim that armed insurrectionary violence was ever popular or mainstream as an active cause, however. The three stories he tells that occurred before the 1990s—Fries rebellion of 1798-99, the Sons of Liberty conspiracy in Indiana and Illinois of 1864, and the anti-Roosevelt (and anti-Semitic) Black Legion of 1936—are instead examples of a small minority acting against the general attitudes of their respective times.

In tracing the shifting attitudes toward insurrectionary violence from the American Revolution to the '90s militia scare, Churchill will strike a chord with readers who are elegiac for America's original libertarian purpose, those who feel the loss of a citizenry that was once genuinely passionate about civic liberty and limited government. As Churchill puts it, in the steps from the Civil War to the New Deal to now, American civic life and politics became about "the principles of necessity, loyalty, and national preservation" that had displaced "the libertarian ideals of the American Revolution."

A libertarian polity need not resort to violence to defend its liberties. It is always better for everyone if it does not have to. Thomas Jefferson had enough faith in the inherent peaceful, civic libertarianism of his people that he believed that armed insurrection would not be accepted in America, but nor would it be necessary. As Churchill quotes from a February 1798 letter by Jefferson, forceful opposition to government action "is not the kind of opposition the American people will permit. But keep away from all show of force, and they will bear down the evil propensities of the government, by the constitutional means of election and petition."

From a Jeffersonian perspective about the nature, powers, and extent of government, Americans in the last century have utterly failed to live up to Jefferson's expectations. But even pointing that out now is enough to get you lumped in with the very violent forces Jefferson believed Americans would rightly abjure.

See, for example, former president Bill Clinton in The New York Times, who directly links an idea that is unequivocally true—"the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them"—with convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh's 1994 crimes.

Similarly, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, current intellectual heroine of left-liberal "tough common sense," took a much-noted stroll this week through the mind of McVeigh via old jailhouse interviews. And that's of special news relevance today, Maddow says, because "nine years after his execution, we are left worrying that Timothy McVeigh's voice from the grave echoes in the new rising tide of American anti-government extremism."

Why are we left worrying about that? Not because any such violence has occurred or has been convincingly threatened by modern "anti-government extremists," but because people like Maddow keep telling us we should be worried. Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post sums up the current state of the fear, while taking an on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand approach to this week's nostalgic debate between Clinton and his old nemesis Rush Limbaugh over whether right-wing rhetoric or government murders are more to blame for McVeigh's crimes.

"The 42nd president is out there saying that the current climate reminds him of the period before the Oklahoma bombing," Kurtz writes. "Limbaugh is accusing him (and Barack Obama) of libeling radio talk-show hosts. And the debate has broadened to include Sarah Palin and her 'reload' rhetoric, as well as the Tea Party."

Kurtz is correct: Fear of the '90s radical right is back like it never left. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center (whose role in selling an inaccurate, race-based vision of what inspired the '90s militias is explained by Churchill) has issued a fresh enemies lists of vaguely dangerous right-wingers. Mainstream-as-you-get political pundit Joe Klein is tarring nonviolent political critics of Obama, such as Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Fox News superstar Glenn Beck, as being guilty of sedition.

It's all part of what Jesse Walker aptly identified back in June 2009 as a "brown scare" characterized by overblown fears of "far right" violence. As Walker notes, by failing to check the idea that strong rhetorical opposition to government growth is comparable to McVeigh's bloody deeds, we're "mak[ing] it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the right, just as the most substantial effect of a red scare was to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the left."

In his detailed writing on this topic, Walker has accurately fingered what are probably, in terms of their danger to human life and liberty, the most dangerous paranoids on the American scene: the "paranoid center," those who always ensure that, Walker writes, the "list of dangerous forces that need to be marginalized inevitably expands to include peaceful, legitimate critics."

Sam Tanenhaus, in The New York Times this week, revisits a decade-old idea of the "radical center" which allegedly will rise to reclaim American politics back from the "extremists" of both parties—an idea that ignores the fact that trends in foreign policy, civil rights, and government spending have been pretty much the same no matter what party runs the executive or legislature branches. Though Tanenhaus explores the idea at some length, he doesn't really explain a detailed set of ideas or a guiding philosophy of governance behind this "radical center," which thus comes across as nothing less than a tenacious and militant defender of a juiceless and destructive status quo.

This is exactly why there are those other radicals, the ones not of the middle: the middle way has led us to an untenable, unhappy, unsustainable method of governing and a nation facing imperial exhaustion and a promise-driven bankruptcy. The things the '90s militias feared—militarization of police, expansion of the surveillance state, violent enforcement of victimless crime laws, expansion of the federal government beyond any recognizable constitutional limits—have continued apace. 9/11, as Churchill notes, created a temporary re-establishment of a pure 100 percent unquestioning Americanism even among the types attracted to militias—though thankfully that spell has faded.

Churchill writes perspicuously of how modern liberal pluralism uses "a combination of cultural authority, exclusionary rhetoric, and influence within mass media institutions to contain the ideas, personalities, and organizations of the Far Left and Far Right and wall them off from the public sphere." What the likes of Clinton, Klein, and Maddow realize, to their great chagrin, is that that power is faltering in the age of the Internet, with the cable news networks aiming for smaller targeted ideological audiences. This makes them so angry they feel it necessary to conflate or link their ideological enemies with mass murderers.

My colleague Radley Balko has been this past decade's most tenacious chronicler of what Churchill rightly identifies as one of the prime motivators of modern American militias: violent paramilitary police tactics that violate individual rights and put American citizens at risk. So it's no surprise that Balko had the most important critique of Clinton's recent comments in the Times.

As Balko writes, he does not

feel the least bit of responsibility for acts of anti-government violence, past or future, even when they're committed in the name of one or more ideas I might otherwise endorse.

Because fundamentally and categorically, I repudiate the use of force and violence to impose my beliefs, political philosophy, or policy preferences on other people. Until you can say the same thing, Mr. Former President (and we both know you can't), you can spare me your goddamned lecture.

Balko's conclusion damns both the modern state and its political and commentariat defenders who are sweating at the thought that unwashed masses, some of them armed, seem miffed at outrageous expansions of government power.

Churchill's book—as well as any serious study of the grievances and reactions of proto-Americans in the Revolutionary Era—make it clear that a spirit of some value has been more or less beaten out of the American people, both by ideology and by force. Indeed, it was not unknown in late 18th and early 19th century America for citizens to rise up and firmly discourage certain victimless crime laws from being enforced.

An America where, as Churchill writes, "the libertarian memory of the American revolution was transformed from a mainstream creed to a badge of extremism" and in which "unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the nation state" has become standard may be more conducive to domestic peace and order—at least in a tautological sense. But that transformation also enables a destructive set of policies, both overseas and domestically, that are more damaging to the property and liberty of Americans than any militia member or Tea Partier, however angry or irrational, will ever be.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man (BenBella), Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs), and Gun Control on Trial (Cato Institute).

NEXT: Relax, It Can Always Get Worse, Chapter XXXIV, Featuring The Smurfs in 3D

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  1. one of the prime motivators of modern American militias: violent paramilitary police tactics

    What chance does a militiaman have against a force that has access to superior arms unavailable to citizens?

    Face it, we’re fucked if our fellow citizens with Authoritah decide to side with the fed.

    1. We lost in Vietnam. And one of the reasons was that the US lacked the backing of it citizens, which it would also lack were the citizens of the US to turn against (and take up arms) against their government.

      1. “We” didn’t lose. The empire did. Besides, the GI was no match for the Viet Cong.

        1. Bullsh*t! Charlie got his ass kicked every time he attempted to go toe-to-toe with even US draftees (who consituted only about 28% of total US forces). When Charlie appeared to have “won”, it was because he used the typical guerilla tactic of not only hiding among the civilian population, but using them as shields and using the most innocent among them, women and children, as weapons.

          We lost because Lefties like you, enforced their political will upon a tired and gutless LBJ.

          Read some history, will you?

          1. Libertymike: You are absolutely right on two counts. We were winning the Tet offensive but the Left Stream Media spun it just the opposite. Walter Cronkite singlehandedly turned public opinion in the liberal/wrong direction. Harry Reid tried the same thing in Iraq, but the new media, citizen patriots and dedicated soldiers proved him wrong. You are also right the left seeks to destroy America. Thanks for your enlightened comment. We patriots refuse to go lightly. I can see November from here.

            1. I hate to tell you this WeReallyWon, but the American people were against the Vietnam war because of a draft that was sending thousands of Americans (against their will) to die in a country that meant nothing to them. To blame the media for our ‘loss’, is about the stupidest comment anyone could ever make.

              1. I hate to tell YOU this, NiceOne, but you’re wrong. We won every single battle in the Vietnam War, and the VC leadership had already issued an order to surrender that was on its way to being delivered to us when we inexplicably pulled out. We didn’t lose that war; we threw it away, and we threw it away because the talking heads in our news media lied to us at every turn of that war – just like they did in Iraq. As someone said above, read some history.

                1. No offense, but how could the VC leadership issue anything in 1975 when the Viet Cong were effectively wiped out after the Tet Offensive? And why is this being argued here in the first place?

                2. A heartfelt rejoinder, Jen. What part of it was addressed to Nice One: “the American people were against the Vietnam war because of a draft that was sending thousands of Americans (against their will) to die in a country that meant nothing to them”?

                  A salient point to remember: we have all-volunteer armed forces now, which is a very different thing than then – a lottery system where citizens were conscripted under threat of prosecution. This, and the fact that the war itself was in a barely recognized place and for an ostensibly altruistic goal, there was no way to sustain public desire to maintain the war. If you were young, there was a very real chance of being forced to serve, potentially against your will. When shipped to the conflict, there was a real chance of injury, disease, or death. No parent would feel good about that.

                  This translated into a collapse of popular support for those political positions. You could (and seem to be) arguing that the agitprop of the media was performing a fifth column of undermining public support and perhaps that was the force multiplier needed for the NVA to succeed, but I’d argue that the fundamental count of dead conscripts was making that point as well.

                  In any case, once the political threshold was reached, the only thought was to get out and cut our losses (not S. Vietnamese losses mind you). We may have won every battle, but the public’s desire (and therfore political will) was not in that fight, for whatever reason.

                3. Surely you jest Jen. On what planet do you reside? Only in your imagination did we win “every” battle in Vietnam. I was there and witnessed first hand a few lost battles.

          2. Charlie got his ass kicked every time he came up against U.S. troops? Oh yeah? Did you live through the Vietnam War, or are you just parroting what you heard in school?

            Pleiku? The Ia Drang? LZ Albany? Our troops got licked plenty by the VC (not the NVA, who also did their fair share of killing U.S. troops on a wholesale basis), who at the time were armed with Thompsons, M1 carbines they knocked off in village forges, and captured Japanese Arisaka rifles, French rifles, and OSS-supplied U.S. small arms.

            1. Charlie really got his BigBooty-hot kicked?
              I never knew that..

          3. Hiding behind the civilian population and using them as shields is just plain awful to say the least.

      2. I’d like to hope, but i just don’t think i have it in me.

    2. A large force of resistance wouldn’t have anything to fear from the militarized police. They simply are not equipped to handle a large force of armed people in sustained contact. It’s the military we’d have to fear, but I’m not confident that we wouldn’t have mass defections from the military in the event of a legit revolution, or that we wouldn’t have significant enough numbers of Oath Keeper types to render much of the military useless in direct action. I’m also sure enough that we would have a long enough stint of annoying guerilla tactics which would make Big Military spin in it’s shoes (think of the problems the insurgence in Iraq and Afghanistan).

      I don’t know that a revolution could win in any kind of direct action against the government, but we’d give it fits enough to perhaps incite change (or, more likely, incite something much closer to lockdown USSR style).

        1. LOL @ wolvorines..
          Relevant: BigBootyHot lol

          This was really funny

          Thumbs up from me !!

    3. Much of the military’s more awesome firepower would be extremely difficult to use in such a situation. What are they going to do, just lay waste to their own neighborhoods or cities? To get one or two guys with rifles?

    4. What chance does a militiaman have against a force that has access to superior arms unavailable to citizens?

      U.S. Military, ~500,000 warfighters v. more than 80,000,000 gun owners.

      The technical term we former infantry officers use for attacking with odds in excess of 1:150 is “suicide.”

      1. So, a rusty AK-47, a Wal-mart ghillie suit and a trench fort is a match against an M1 Abrams?

        In the end, it will be the idea of using armed force against fellow Americans in addition to a protracted and expensive campaign that would carry the day and not force. Many of those gun owners might cast their lot with the government and some will just sit out of it all.

        1. Wal-mart ghillie suits are a Force Multiplier.

        2. So, a rusty AK-47, a Wal-mart ghillie suit and a trench fort is a match against an M1 Abrams?

          An Abrams has a crew of four. So it would be one tank going against 150 X 4 = 600 various firearms. (I personally have a choice, and would probably go with my M-1A which is not rusty.) And we aren’t going to be fighting a pitched battle from fixed positions, so we won’t need to dress up. We will need to cook up some IEDs, but that’s simple enough to do with what’s in any kitchen.

          Ask an armor officer how long he would expect the tank to survive. The answer will be in minutes.

          In the end, it will be the idea of using armed force against fellow Americans in addition to a protracted and expensive campaign that would carry the day and not force.

          Absolutely. I don’t think the U.S. military will ever agree to attack average U.S. citizens. But calculations like that above are a part of the “protracted and expensive campaign” equation. It’s a “belt and suspenders” thing.

          1. A dud 155-mm shell, re-worked to go off when an Abrams rolls over it will put paid to the tank and its crew. The VC taught us that one fifty years ago.

            Look how well IEDs have demoralized the American people and caused them to defang the current US military effort.

        3. During WWII, a certain Yugoslavian partisan leader was asked how he and his guerrillas with their old bolt-action rifles hoped to deal with German tanks. He answered something along the lines of, “When the Germans get out of their fancy tanks to take a piss, we will shoot them with our old rifles.”

      2. U.S. Military, ~500,000 warfighters v. more than 80,000,000 gun owners.

        The 2nd Amendment is there for a reason, is all I’m saying, and it’s not because Thomas Jefferson was some kind of firearm collector or deer hunter.

    5. Wylie, you forget the first lesson: There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people.

      You are assuming that people would obey those orders. See Oath Keepers.

      You are assuming that a militia that outnumbers all the troops the US can field (80 million gun owners. 3% = 2.4 million) can be stopped and still leave anything or anyone to rule over.

      You are assuming that the militia, many of whom are prior service, would fight a stand up battle against the strengths of the US military.

      1. And you are assuming the US military would willingly and without conscience, use their force against a US civilian population, with whose political views the military is more in tune. I have a real hard time believing that! I always recall that scene from “Dr Zhivago” when troops headed to the front are met by survivors from the front returning. A moral dilemma ensues and the troops respond to their idealogical bretheren, not the authority of the State.

        1. Remember Kent State? That was possible because of the marginalization of protest and alienation against the protesters. Fortunately not all of today’s alienated are easily portrayed as dirty hippy SDS communists, even if some are portrayed as fat NASCAR-loving racist Bubbas.

          I think there are particular conditions needed for troops to fire on civilians. Arranging for ATF / FBI to shoot at agitprop-defined White Supremisist gun-running Criminals (Ruby Ridge) or child-molesting Jim-Jones-style religious fanatics (Waco) is not that hard to do as long as the message is popularly received.

          Stalin’s answer was to garrison troops from distant provinces in the areas to be controlled. China’s approach is to make sure that the tank squads sent into Tiananmen were from areaa far from Peking – and probably those who didn’t much care for students anyway.

          All of the above are probably the best reasons to push back against the current dissent==sedition eqiuivalence being enmemed these days.

    6. Maybe one militiaman hasn’t much of a chance, but what about one miilion?

      “Remember, remember the 2nd of November, Democrat treason and plot.
      I see no reason for Democrat treason to ever be forgot!”

      We’ll remember and vote on November 2nd.

    7. “What chance does a militiaman have against a force that has access to superior arms unavailable to citizens?”

      The American military is having a difficult time in Iraq and Afghanistan against people who mostly “spray and pray” shooting around a corner without even looking let alone aiming, while using a fully automatic weapon.

      American citizens in 2010 by far and away have the most arms, ammunition, and gear of any nation, and except for a handful of nations, we also have more training. If a popular armed revolution was begun it would likely end quickly and relatively bloodlessly. The real problem is not being able to destroy the government in combat, but to be able to create and implement a superior system. In light of the considerable amount of division and class conflict the government has been able to create in this country it should seem that if the federal government was removed it would be impossible to establish a lasting peace and means of obtaining law and order.

      1. This I believe is one of the main reasons that citizens will not take up arms. barring two different sinarios.
        1.people start to believe that the outcome of a civil war would create individual state countries that will offer better local control. or
        2. the government does something so egregious that the people have to act

    8. Whatever happens guys, remember one thing – the revolution will not be televised.
      Gill Scott Heron RIP

  2. For far too long, the notion that the state must play a vital role in our lives has benn part of the “center,” radical, or otherwise.

  3. You didn’t loose in Vietnam. Political goals were not achieved, but loose, you didn’t, by any military means.

    1. The Viet Cong kicked ass. The empire was slapped upside its head and got a bloody nose.

      1. Lord. A public school grad I’m betting.

        By no measure, military or cival, did the VC “kick” anyone’s ass Mike. Believe this. I was there. Crack a book.

      2. After the Tet offensive there weren’t enough VC left to take over a kindergarten. South Vietnam was defeated after a massive invasion by the North Vietnamese Army after the U.S. abandoned them.

        1. You must admit though: Tet was a great way to get rid of the southern VC for the benefit of the northern NVA commisars. I’m sure all those dead VC saved some energy that would have been expended by Hanoi on the purges that would have been needed later.

      3. tenletters and LarryA are right. Our GIs were perfectly capable of winning in Vietnam, but the people were turned against the war by the constant harping of the liberal media shouting “quagmire” and “unwinnable war”. Come to think of it, this kind of all sounds familiar.

        1. There was never any clear, final, objective for the U.S. in Viet Nam. That’s why we lost.

          1. That’s why we lost.

            What we lost in Vietnam was good people (some of them my comrades) MIA, KIA, and WIA. We gained boatloads of people who have mainly proven to be good, productive citizens who understand the value of freedom.

            It was the people of South Vietnam and surrounding countries like Cambodia who really lost. As in genocide running into the millions. That wasn’t the military’s fault, and the guilt will not be charged to their account.

    2. I don’t know how on Earth you can qualify Vietnam (or any war) as a “win.” Even if the US military piled up more dead “enemies” than they did, war never results in a “win.” Ever.

      If you truly believe that, then it’s obvious most of you have never met a veteran, let alone been raised by one. If you truly believe that wars have “winners” and “loosers” [sic], then you are incredibly naive.

      Let’s ignore the tremendous financial burden that war takes on a country.
      Let’s also ignore the fact that war makes for really shitty foreign policy. Let’s ignore the fact that our war mongering, neo-colonialist policies have resulted in some of the worst overseas atrocities (holla at me, Pol Pot!).

      Let’s just assume you have no issues with any of that. If you truly love and support the troops, you would never condemn them to the life they have after seeing and participating in horrific crimes overseas. My father was a Vietnam vet, and that fucking war robbed me of an opportunity to ever have a real relationship with him. The man I was raised by was clearly damaged by the shit he saw and likely was a part of.

      Even assuming that “we won” Vietnam by military standards, I don’t know how the hell you can term it a “win” in any sense of the word.

      Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath for any response that doesn’t include the terms or phrases “liberal leftist faggot,” “dirty hippie,” “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!” or “troll.”

  4. All this talk of Vietnam. I got pretty pissed when i learned how much unexploded ordinance we were generous enough to donate to the people of Southeast Asia.

    At least Iraq and Afghanistan won’t have such long lasting reminders of our presence, once we finally leave. I mean, they’re already tired of the DVDs we brought over.

    1. Of course they won’t have as much ordinance laying around. They use it for IEDs.

      1. I read that as LEDs and was all “Oh, well that’s good at least.” It made way more sense once my brain got the acronym right. *highfive*

  5. “Notably, this week also marked the April 19th anniversary of both the government crime?the assault on Waco?that most inspired the rise of the 1990s militia movement that Churchill’s book explains and contextualizes, and the private crime?the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?that sapped all the momentum from that movement.”

    Odd. I thought it coincided with Lexington and Concord. When British soldiers attempted to disarm the citizenry, the ARMED citizenry had a better idea. Did this guy ever take American History??

    1. The American Revolution was in 1776, before Google.

    2. The 1776 citizenry had no democratic option to vote George III out of office.

      Besides, equating the assault on David Koresh’s Waco compound with Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a Federal building is a little rich.

      1. The Framers, knowing an armed citizenry acts as a (perhaps final) deterrent to abusive government (whether elected or imposed), crafted that Second Amendement. Whether George was elected or ordained is immaterial. My guess is, some, if not the majority of the framers would be ok with Stinger Missiles and M1 Abrams in the hands of the citizenry.

  6. and the private crime?the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?that sapped all the momentum from that movement.

    1. The militia movement was seen as “violent” because members carried guns and the national media equated that with being violent. (Deja vu.) Militia groups never caused anywhere near the amount of actual damage radical environmental groups did.
    2. By the time the Murrah Building was bombed all the militia groups had been infiltrated to the point that if the undercover LEOs didn’t show up they couldn’t get a quorum.

    1. Oh? Which building did “radical environmental groups” blow up?

        1. Thats It? lol

      1. Timeline of Earth Liberation Front

        This should get you started, genius.

        Lots of linkies to other stuff there, too, if you are so inclined.

        1. Over at MediaMatters, the consensus on this violence subset is “well, they just destroyed property, so it’s okay”.

          Earth Liberation Front gets a pass by the left, but being a FairTax supporter = you’re cookin’ up plastic explosives for your next visit to the IRS.

      2. Which building did militia groups* blow up?

        *McVeigh was not part of a militia group.

        1. Liberals never mention me as one of their own. I’m so lonely and forgotten by my own people.

          1. I appreciate how much you liked my work, but you are the very definition of a lone nut.

            That Tim McVeigh guy? He’s everyman… on the right, of course.

            Damn that was easy.

            1. That’s what I’ve been saying on my MSNBC show!

      3. How about torching houses and cars? Does spiking trees in order to kill or maim loggers do anything for you?

  7. 2. By the time the Murrah Building was bombed all the militia groups had been infiltrated to the point that if the undercover LEOs didn’t show up they couldn’t get a quorum.

    +10

    Very good!

  8. More to the point. McVeigh hung around the Michigan Militia and courted membership…and was rejected.

  9. I actually have very little worry about another revolution breaking out, as far as confronting the military is concerned.

    Now, it’s true, there ARE some dirtbags in our military who get off on power and fear (hell, I’ve got some of those people in my own family).

    But I’ve known quite a few people who’ve been in the army. They all went in for one reason: they wanted to make a difference. They wanted to protect the freedoms they enjoyed at home, and wanted to liberate from tyranny those abroad.

    If the same government they fought for were to become representative of the very things they fought against, their would be defection in DROVES.

    1. Remember that the oath we took upon entering military service was to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

      Not Congress, not the President, not government. The Constitution.

      Your typical military officer is a person with extensive knowledge of history, particularly military history, and who takes oaths and honor seriously.

      1. If I recall correctly, this fidelity to the (Honduran) constitution was the reason why the Honduran military sacked their president when he started in with the Chavista nonsense last fall.

        That Obama and most on the left didn’t get this point and called it a “coup” says volumes about their view of government.

      2. LarryA: Thank you for your service and commitment to the Constitution and Freedom for our citizens and the world. Your view may become more important than ever as the Won now gets to pack SCOTUS with his chosen.

      3. Remember that the oath we took upon entering military service was to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

        We did take such an oath, and stupidly believed it. As did the Col. (I believe)who refused to serve (under a French commander) with the U.N. as a “peace keeper”. His obviously sincere oath didn’t compel him (he reasoned)to serve under a foreign command, while protecting a foreign land. His obvious sincerity landed him a court martial, loss of pension and dishonorable discharge.
        You have to learn to read between the lines.

    2. I agree Adonisus, I can not think of any situation where a large scale war would happen between the US Military and any US citizens. I do think it would be possible to use the Military against “dangerous” militia groups though. If the Gov’t prepared the population ahead of time they could get away with it. Propaganda goes a long way. Which makes the whole idea of silencing dissidents or someone with different opinions even more scary.

      1. Good thing media news outlets are spreading across the internet, making TV, newspaper, and magazine news obsolete. Easier to control the few major media outlets than to control a hundred thousand small ones.

  10. Having family members in militias, I can assure you these groups have more to do with living in a fantasy world than with any coherent political thought.
    If they spent half the energy and money they devote to their “survival” nonsense in participating in the political debate, they would realize that they are basically paranoid.

    1. Knowing the difference between militia members and survivalists, I suspect that your family hasn’t spoken to you in years.

  11. “perspicuously?” when’s the last time you saw that word in a sentence…

  12. According to SPLC and the “fusion center” geniuses, every Ron Paul voter/Liberty Restoration Project member/non-RepubliCrat voter is a potential militia member.

    Which seems to be fine with the Tonys of the world.

  13. In response to Balko’s idiocy–and it is just that:

    “I repudiate the use of force and violence to impose my beliefs,”

    I reply with Mills:

    “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

    And I recommend to Balko the “Gods of the Copybook Headings.”

    1. I’m sure that the guardsment who fired their Garands at Kent State were quite sure that they were firing on the enemy, even if rounds happen to hit random passers-by.

      They likely were filled with moral certitude (or certain enough to take the weapon off-safe and pull the trigger), as was the govenor of Ohio who put live 30-06 in their hands.

      It would be difficult to rationalize that one-sided engagment as an exercise in anything other than Tiananmen in miniature, and not too many think that was a good idea (or maybe I circulate in the wrong crowds). Or is this representative of a decayed and degraded state of being?

      1. I’ve had a theory for years now, that there are people in both major parties who would LOVE to see another Kent State-style shootout… so that the cycle can be completed ahead of schedule, and the almighty fedgov can finally put the clamps to the notion of dissent against whomever happens to have the reins of power at the moment.

        I half-expected it to happen during the Bush regime, but there’s a 50/50 chance Dems could hold all the power when the hammer needs to fall.

        1. One quibble – “shootout” implies rounds traveling in both directions, which was not the case at Kent State. There weren’t even Molotov cocktails being thrown (though there might have been rocks – not sure about that).

          “Massacre” is probably closer to the point – after all the Boston Massacre resulted in five dead (eleven casualies, three dead immediately, two dying later) whereas Kent State resulted in four dead (and nine wounded – a large percentage of which would have died given eighteenth century medicine).

          1. My bad. Thanks for the input.

      2. They fired on people who were riotously in league with the people setting fires and bombs–it was not in evidence they were peaceably assembling.

        “It would be difficult to rationalize that one-sided engagment as an exercise in anything other than Tiananmen in miniature”

        Except that they received and instantly obeyed orders to shoulder arms as soon as they had halted the riot, and halting that riot was their only goal, not suppressing peaceful dissent. So no, nothing like Tiananmen at all.

        IOW, in an leftist’s wet dream Kent State is morally equivalent to Tiananmen. I know you need it to be–to justify your worldview–but it ain’t.

        You might also consider the ultimate success of the rioters cause led straight to the “success” of the Khmer Rouge. Nice goin’ there, hippies.

        1. I saw no reason for those guns to be fired at Kent State.

          1. Are you claiming there was no arson, looting, or other rioting associated with the people who refused to disperse? Are you saying they were dispersed? Are you claiming that firefighters didn’t have their hoses stolen while in use and slashed? That those same firemen were stoned by the Kent State mob?

            They were not peaceably assembling, the riot act had literally been read to them, and they gathered anyway for their violent protest. Those are classically good enough reasons to shoot.

            And then the hippies’ ultimate success lead to the murder of millions in Cambodia, and they and their current political heirs are one and the same with the SLA, the Shining Path, and the Weathermen.

            I can’t be persuaded to shed a tear for them, they were too stupid and hurtful to humanity.

            1. The arson of the ROTC building occurred two days before the shooting. Those who were fatally shot we at ranges from ~270 to ~350 feet from the guardsmen. There was no shooting at the guardsmen.

              Remind me – why are you contending (on a Libertarian website) that protesters and bystanders deserved to be shot? Is the premise that anyone we see, when sufficiently pissed-off, is a legitimate target?

              Or are you busy deciding what the next targets should be?

              1. I said the protesters were in league with the arsonists, and they were, not that any one of them set the fires personally. There were no “bystanders”, the place was under curfew, it was not legal to be in attendance to the protest, a consequence of the protesters not being peacefully assembled–as you admit–in the then recent past.
                “There was no shooting at the guardsmen.”
                I didn’t say there was, did I? Do your mobs only shoot people? Or do they ever overwhelm even armed men who won’t fire, and then beat them to death? Arson’s a felony for a good reason, and the protestors were in league wit those arsonists. They were on notice to demonstrate their peacefulness and legality by going home. They didn’t and got shot for there trouble. There wasn’t one person shot who wasn’t breaking the law, and it’s a just law and one invoked then for excellent reasons and ample justification for it.
                “Remind me – why are you contending (on a Libertarian website) that protesters and bystanders deserved to be shot?”
                Because even people who pretend they are libertarians–but who haven’t read enough history to know what can work deserve to have a little reality whiff past their nose.
                “Is the premise that anyone we see, when sufficiently pissed-off, is a legitimate target?”
                If they are mad enough to show support for arson, looting, and throwing rocks at firemen in defiance of the riot act–I can’t get upset about it.
                “Or are you busy deciding what the next targets should be?”
                You have a substantive counterargument to make or are you just going to troll?

                1. You’re obviously going to have to explain the justification for the guardsmen to respond with lethal force to mere taunts.

                  You’ve stated that the dead weren’t arsonists on the day they died, and it is very doubtful that the dead (three of whom were at ranges substantially further than 300 feet) posed any risk to the guardsmen with any thrown rocks.

                  So, no proximate danger to the riflemen, no atrocious felony in progress to be prevented. Did the govenor declare martial law and issue shoot-to-kill orders for tresspassers? I don’t think I’ve read that anywhere.

                  Do you have any rationale for your support other than the dirty hippy qualities of the protesters? I’m sure enough agitprop can be applied to make reactionary fatass bubbas the next highly desirable target demographic for your sort of precision designation.

                  In fact, wasn’t that the point of the OP? That the establishment powers that be are frightened of the current insurgency of Tea drinkers, and that the conflation of dissent with sedition is just why your sort of rationale is dangerous for the nation – or at least for the protesters, given your sort of excuse-making for repression by the State?

      3. “Or is this representative of a decayed and degraded state of being?”

        As far as it goes, yes, hippies are representative of a decayed and degraded state of being–they rejected the truth that liberty comes with responsibility. That never works.

        1. Fuck – I could have shot back. At least then I would have deserved being shot in the chest. Serves me right for being a dirty hippy!

          1. And if you’d fired in support of as evil and unintelligent a cause as the “hippies” did, I’d still spend a breath to wish you damned to hell.
            100 million minimum dead in the service of the same impulse that animated the hippies. The Weathermen, the Sendero Luminoso, the Khmer Rouge, Mao, Stalin, the Kims of NoKo, them are your best buds aren’t they?

    2. And I reply to you with a simple “fuck war.”

      I like mine better Mills’.

  14. I don’t fear violence from libertarians, but I most certainly fear violence from people who pretend to be libertarians.

    While most of these types are all talk and no action, a few intelligent and motivated ones could easily create a force of cannon fodder from the ranks of the sign-carrying morons.

  15. The fact of the matter is, you’re more likely to have your door kicked and and be killed by the police than you are to have any kind of “terrorist” action brought against you.

    1. That is, terrorist action not endorsed by the state, since military-style police raids are designed, in fact, to create terror…

  16. Brian, a minor quibble. In the 8th paragraph, it’s the “original libertarian purpose” which is elegiac, not the readers.

  17. Mr. Doherty,

    Please explain how the Oath Keepers are a militia style group.

    We have nothing to do with militias, as you can read Section 311, Title 10 USC, paragraphs 31 and 32. Our membership is completely separate from the unorganized (2nd Amendment) militia, nor will we ever attempt to form an “Oath Keeper” militia.

    Our mission is to educate other active serving servicemen, police and firefighters of their Constitutional obligations, and remind them that merely following orders is no defense for violating the rights of the people.

    Nothing more.

  18. Truer words were never spoken.

    Subject: Confederacy of Fools

    “The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the presidency. It will be easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails us. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVAhr4hZDJE

  19. Obama is the Master of the Progressives:

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  20. Obama is the Master of the Progressives:

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  22. “Thomas Jefferson had enough faith in the inherent peaceful, civic libertarianism of his people that he believed that armed insurrection would not be accepted in America, but nor would it be necessary…”

    Hey, we talking about the same Thomas Jefferson?

    “What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that his people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

    1. Yeah i had a question about that. I am pretty sure jefferson was all about the citizenry putting the government back in its place by force.

      1. Most of Jefferson’s quotes seem fairly schizo when you pluck them from the entirety of his career. Earlier Jefferson seems to be more coherent, once he became enamored with the French revolution and his own power I think he lost the plot a bit.

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  24. Let them take arms indeed, and start locally.

    You see, to a liberal, gun control is the theory that a woman found dead in an alley, strangled with her own pantyhose, is somehow morally superior to an armed woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.

    1. Guns don’t kill people, pantyhose kills people. Nobody’s banning L’eggs!

  25. My $0.02 on the whole Kent State-U.S. troop crackdown on civilians convo:

    The mere fact that the National Guard were called in means either A) some serious shit was going down or B)The Governor was a maniac, because the National Guard are not policemen…they are martial law.

    (That said, I don’t think the shootings were justified. I think it was an tragedy for both the victims and the guardsmen who were put in that situation.)

    Anyhoo, in a broad popular uprising I think you’d see much of the army and guard siding with the people (if not starting the ball rolling). But in isolated and piecemeal uprisings, I think they’d be perfectly capable of killing their fellow Americans.

    Guardsmen are specifically sent from other areas or states just for that reason, so they won’t literally be neighbors with those they’re trying to subdue.

  26. I’m a bit surprised that Mr. Churchill chose to focus on right-wing violence when so much organized violence in American history comes from the Left, such as the IWW and other groups in the labor movement, the SDS and its offshoot the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Black Panthers, numerous recent violent groups such as the Spartacists, various anti-globalist groups, and so on.

    I guess if it’s Left, it doesn’t count as a “militia.”

    1. If they talked about the IWW they’d also have to talk about how Pres. Progressive (Wilson) felt free to imprison all sorts of folks like Mr. Wobbly (Eugene Debs) for speaking out against the draft.

      It just doesn’t fit the Red vs. Blue pit of doom in which we currently swirl – so, no mention.

  27. “. . .and the private crime?the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?that sapped all the momentum from that movement.”

    A little Basic Physics should raise questions as to the “Private Nature” of that crime.

  28. The Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t bad because its full of left-wing nuts, they’re bad because the end up belittling racism and bigotry by attacking non-violent government protestors. Such actions highlight their true nature.

  29. The government had a report on left-wing violence in America a few years back. The report actually found that left wing organizations are responsible for about 2/3rds of the political violence in America.

    1. I forgot to mention the EarthFirst!ers and their ilk and the practice of spiking trees that, when cut down and sawed in the mills, cause high-speed saw blades to disintegrate and cut up lumber workers. Also environmental arson caused by groups such as ELF, another group that could arguably be called a “militia.”

  30. Support for the American rebellion was about equally divided among 1)supporters, 2)opponents, and 3)indifferent.

  31. Support for the American rebellion was about equally divided among 1)supporters, 2)opponents, and 3)indifferent.

  32. Americans easily forget their founding and they condemn violence other peoples use to gain their freedom. One shining example is the North of Ireland. The IRA has every right to drive the British out by force just as we drove the British out of America and the violence 200 years ago was a lot worse. In Boston, we killed one soldier a night to put terror into them and it worked. They never knew when the Sons of Liberty would strike. Redcoats were a great target and they still are. We should not judge others because they have to use violence when we started that right here in the USA.

  33. If someone is that interested in committing violence and I dont think they should be, they should use violence against liberal intellectuals not the government.

    1. Talk about missing the point.

  34. I think you’d see much of the army and guard siding with the people. But in isolated and piecemeal uprisings, I think they’d be perfectly capable of killing their fellow Americans.

  35. Nice article it was a very good read!

    @ Watch Hockey Online, you seriously think that the military would kill their own people?

  36. Interesting article and I can see all points but most fail to see that under the right circumstances all men are capable of many things what it really comes down to is each persons breaking point as to what they will do

  37. Interesting article even more interesting is the variance of comments about it

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  39. Churchill’s book explains and contextualizes, and the private crime?the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?that sapped all the momentum from that movement.

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  44. It is interesting that when the other side has a way of fighting back, the first side is always more reluctant to throw the first punch.

  45. It always seems that when the other side has the means to defend itself people think twice about starting a fight.

  46. we have lost vietnam.
    which it would also lack were the citizens of the US to turn against against their government.
    but war is not a good solution.

  47. That is, terrorist action not endorsed by the state, since military-style police raids are designed, in fact, to create terror…!!! Agree!

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  52. he Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t bad because its full of left-wing nuts, they’re bad because the end up belittling racism and bigotry by attacking non-violent government protestors. Such actions highlight their true nature.
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  69. The IRA has every right to drive the British out by force just as we drove the British out of America and the violence 200 years ago was a lot worse. In Boston, we killed one soldier a night to put terror into them and it worked

  70. What are u talking about? What history? My family house is older then any american history.

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  78. I think violence in this day in age is not really achieving much good for anyone… it can be argued that past revolutions had to resort to it – but if society is to evolve as it HAS TO if any of us are going to survive… violence and aggression as a principal needs to come to a halt – and the culture of America is violent and aggressive in so many ways, I am Canadian and not saying we are so much better but people – learn how to think… grow forwards not back

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  82. Why Does history always sound like nothing new? Or is it nothing knew???

  83. With the exception of The Correct to Bear Arms: The Rise of Americas New Militia, by Jonathan Karl (1995), this is actually the very first book on the constitutional militia movement which is actually not piece of a campaign of demonization by those utilizing the stake within portraying constitutionalists as threats to the established order. Churchill not only does the beneficial work of tracing the movement back to the American Revolution through an almost unbroken line of militia revivals, but also convincingly debunks the critics and shows how their pretended scholarship is actually weak or disingenuous. It is the book long overdue which deserves to be read and understand by each and every thinking American. It should also be understand by people today elsewhere within the globe, since it presents a view of political thought which lies at the foundation of most republics of the modern times.

  84. War by itself is procces by the human for evel reasons. With war great powers are making great money and take the control over the human lifes.

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  86. Good discussion going on here.
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  88. sekarang adalah bukan era lagi memperjuangkan ideologi dengan kekerasan. bagi saya ideologi dapat diperjuangkan dengan segala macam cara tanpa kekerasan…
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  89. now is not the era of ideological struggle with the violence anymore. for my ideology can be fought with all sorts of ways without violence …
    only a fool would use violence …

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  110. Much of the military’s more awesome firepower would be extremely difficult to use in such a situation. What are they going to do, just lay waste to their own neighborhoods or cities? To get one or two guys with rifles?

  111. Nice read, you’re so right. In my opinion America is messed up.

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  113. War by itself is evil ….
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  123. Very nice editorial piece. I had no idea about Churchill doing that.

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  133. Wherever there is a revolution, there is violence and I think that it is the same for each civilization. We can think romantically about revolutions but the fact is that dramatic revolutions involve overcoming great resistance.

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  134. Very interesting reading this indeed. Churchill was a great man..

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  136. Just look at the actual state in Great Britain right now, it is bad, very bad.

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  145. Just look at the actual state in Great Britain right now, it is bad, very bad

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