People keep calling the would-be kidnappers of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer “far right,” but are they really? What they seem to want is chaos for its own sake:
The seven men were said to be affiliated with an extremist group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, and the state’s attorney general accused them of collecting addresses of police officers in order to target them, threatening to start a civil war “leading to societal collapse” and planning to kidnap the governor and other government officials.
One of them said, “I just wanna make the world glow, dude. We’re gonna topple it all, dude.”
Whatever sort of political program that represents, I can't see how it is conservative. It springs from such a deep hatred of our world, such a profound sense that our lives are intolerable, that civil war and the collapse of civilization seem like rosy alternatives. Yes, it is mixed up with racism and hatred of bossy liberals, but mainly I hear longing for the Apocalypse. For escape form the misery of 21st-century life at any price.
Another thing that puzzles me about these characters is their utter lack of planning for the future they claim to want. They think they can somehow change the world with one simple act:
Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f*****' Governor. Just grab the b****. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it's over.
Over? How? You think the whole establishments is going to roll over because you kidnapped one mediocre governor? Have a little more respect for you enemies than that.
I keep seeing this longing for a radical break, some act that would make a definitive before and after, that would bring an end to our age and usher in a new one. That's what Timothy McVeigh was after when he drove his truck bomb into Oklahoma City. One big explosion, and then it would happen.
What would happen? Really, what? They talk about civil war, uprisings, killing everyone in the government, all utterly vague and unfocused. How would they live? They don't even do basic things like stockpiling food and ammunition.
No, really, it isn't over. It just goes on. The FBI comes, the ATF, the state police, and if that doesn't work then they come with the drones and the hellfire missiles and the 82nd Airborne.
It's a crazy, childish fantasy, made tragic because these children have guns and bombs.
Predictably, it's just the press trying to blame "white supremacists" or the "far right" for things that left-anarchists are doing:
Please explain why anarchists are leftists. Isn't a rightwing position to drive for limited government, while the left wants government safety nets in many areas?
In fact, please explain in what what anarchists fit anywhere on the political spectrum from left to right. I would have said their drive is to shatter the spectrum entirely.
Anarchism has historically been considered Leftist, because it has been seen by some as the ultimate expression of individual freedoms.
That said, I view Anarchism as being something that exists at both ends of the spectrum (if we're going to insist it's a spectrum at all). It's about being so radically opposed to the status quo and having so little faith in existing or proposed alternatives, that you believe the world is irredeemable and must be destroyed.
People think "conservatism" means "pro-status-quo", but much of right-wing politics is actually about opposing the status quo. The further right you go, the more you get into views of the world as it currently is as being "fallen", and needing to "return" to a mythical past which never existed outside of people's imaginations.
"Conservatism" should arguably be called "regressivism", to match up with the progressivism of classical liberalism.
But both kinds of desire for change, when taken to their logical maximum extremes, lead to anarchism - a rejection of all that currently is, a denial of the possibility of reform in either direction, and a shift toward apocaylpticism.
I would say you're right about this. The NYT article insinuates the kidnap plotters were right-wing, basically by devoting most of the article to describing the right-wing militia hostility to Whitmer as part of the "context." It never clearly states that, at least so far, the authorities aren't saying where in the spectrum this group might actually fit (if it fits anywhere meaningful). The article's actually a pretty shameful job on the part of the NYT (and I'm a liberal!).
That said, it would be just as misleading to describe them as "anarchists" in any but the most general, literal sense, because that does imply a sort of anti-government-inflected Leftism that goes back to the 19th century. These guys may hate antifa almost as much as they hate Whitmer. Or they may not.
And THAT said, it is also true, as John says, that we're seeing a lot of relatively non-ideological, what you might call chaosism. Some of this is white racist, and some of it is insurrectionary anarchism, and some of it is pure LARPing (as John so well described it). Tim McVeigh, it should be said, wasn't just trying to foment chaos; he was operating from the racist template in The Turner Diaries. But, as has been much reported, there was over the summer a fierce debate among the Boogaloo folks between those who wanted to support BLM as opponents of the police, and those who are too hostile to non-whites to support them even when they're against the police.
When you get into these types of people, the little ideological divisions can get quite bewildering.
I'm reminded of the assassins who killed Walter Rathenau in 1922. They hated him as a Jew and as someone they blamed for Germany's loss of WWI (he had been essentially in charge of Germany's economy during the war). Violent nationalists, authoritarians, anti-Communists, and fanatical anti-Semites. Some ended up as Brownshirts. But at least one of them hated the Nazis so much that he once punched Goebbels while screaming, “It wasn’t for swine like you that we shot Rathenau!”
As others have pointed out: technically, anarchists exist on both ends of the political spectrum. They're on the opposite side from authoritarians (which also exist on both left and right). Back in my wild-and-crazy-and-dumb youth, I was a right-anarchist. Huge fan of Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, Strike the Root, and considered myself a little bit of a Tolstoy-ist. That crowd also tends to idolize Thoreau. What it comes down to, is if we all respect each other's property rights, then there's no need for government, and government is in fact oppressive.
Yeah, that's pie-in-the-sky bull*&^t, but I was 19 and I didn't know any better. Gotta grow up sometime.
These guys in MI don't look *anything* like the right-anarchists I'm familiar with. They look more like the fungus Seattle has been breeding since the G8 summit back in what? 1999? That is definitely left-anarchist: the black hoodie, A-in-a-circle (otherwise known as the A+hole), squatting, perpetual-protesting, window-breaking hooligans. Their version of anarchism seems to be "we do whatever we want to whomever we want, and if you don't like it, it's because you're a capitalist exploiter and you deserve it".
I'm open to the idea that these guys are some other kind of anarchist that I'm simply not familiar with. It's not a group I've heard of before, and there are all types of crazy.
For what it's worth, I don't think the left-anarchists of Antifa and BLM are particularly left, so much as they're a raging band of useless overeducated underemployed misfits who couldn't find anything better to do with their lives so took up public whining and tantrums as a vocation. But since the actual political left seems keen on keeping them as pets... may as well continue to classify them as "left", no?
"we do whatever we want to whomever we want, and if you don't like it, it's because you're a capitalist exploiter and you deserve it"
So basically Libertarians, just with the excuse reversed?
"we do whatever we want to whomever we want, and if you don't like it, it's because you're a communist and you deserve it"
Really, in both cases it boils down to "I want to do X, but people won't let me, so I'm going to kill them, because they must be authoritarian tyrants, because I should be obviously allowed to do X!". Some people are simply unwilling to accept that it's impossible to have unlimited freedoms so long as you live in society with other people.
Your freedoms have to end somewhere, because if they don't, they infringe upon someone else's freedoms. You want to smoke in public, other people want to not be poisoned against their will. You want to speed and run red rights, other people want to driving to be as safe as we can make it. You want the freedoms given by loose gun laws, but children want the freedom to not live in a society where they are in constant danger of dying in a school shooting.
Some freedoms have to be limited to accommodate others, and the least important freedoms are the ones that get the axe. Your freedom to not wear a mask is nowhere near as important as other people's freedom to not be needlessly put at risk of a deadly pandemic, and so your freedom gets revoked for a bit.
Anarchists want freedom for themselves, and damn everyone else whose freedoms they trample to get it. Everyone's an Anarchist until they're the ones being victimized. Once they're staring down the barrel of a gun, suddenly they're all for government.
Whoops - that comment above is mine. My bad.
Both Fox News and CNN are reporting that this small group call themselves the Wolverine Watchmen. Both sources say they have little online presence, so it's hard to find ready quotes from them, but Fox quotes the New York Post quoting the "commander" (his term, apparently) of the group as saying "A well-armed citizenry is the best form of Homeland Security and can better deter crime, invasion, terrorism, and tyranny," and "Everyone is welcome, regardless of race, creed, color, religion or political affiliation, provided you do not wish to bring harm to our country or people." CNN quotes the government affidavit as saying they are connected to Boogaloo. Fox seems to cite the Daily Beast reporting neighbors of a rural property where they used to gather saying they would mainly engage in firearms practice.
So, to me they look like a pretty standard militia group combining hostility to government and an obsession with guns and gun rights. There is, of course, a huge variety among such groups. Some are very hostile to the Left and/or to non-whites. Like much, but by no means all, of Boogaloo, this group doesn't seem to be to follow that racist and anti-Leftist line. Some are very hostile to all law enforcement, but some seem pretty friendly especially to local law-enforcement. The latter can be found guarding businesses as a self-described police supplement during BLM protests, where they have been seen trading supplies and complements with the police, and, in the famous Kenosha incident, shooting protesters.
To sum up, some of these gun-focused militia groups are really consistently hostile to government down the line. Groups like that seem to me, FWIW, to be outside traditional Left-Right categories.
That said, many of these gun-focused militia groups do seem to be more Right-inflected in the sense that they hate liberal government specifically, the kind that tries to take away their guns and make them do wussy things like wear masks and take anti-bullying classes in grade school.
Where the Wolverine Watchmen fall in this spectrum seems unclear at this point--but they do seem to fall into this spectrum. They don't seem to have much to do with Left Anarchism of the Occupy or Seattle protest type, or Right Anarchism of the Objectivist and/or paleocon and/or Anarcho-Capitalist type that is often called libertarian.
It didn't occur to me earlier, for some reason, but does anyone else find it wildly suggestive that they called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen?
There are two incredibly well known cultural reference points for "Wolverines" in American popular culture - one is the comic book character from The X-Men, and the other is a literal armed militia of scrappy, salt-of-the-earth, gun toting rural Americans fanatically devoted to "protecting the American Homeland" who are the protagonists of the ultra-jingoistic 1984 film Red Dawn.
Guess which one I think was the basis for this group's name choice. Hrrrmmm!
Red Dawn is a perennial favorite among pro-violence, anti-government, gun nuts. It's also darkly apocalyptic, practically reveling in establishing an utterly absurd scenario in which NATO is dismantled, America has no allies, Mexico falls to a communist coup d'etat, and the US military is seemingly nowhere to be found as Soviet forces parachute into and occupy the mountains of Colorado seemingly unopposed (and for no clearly discernible reason).
And isn't it curious that people might be turning to Red Dawn for inspiration while under a president whose actions have distanced us somewhat from NATO and our major allies, who has slandered Mexicans and proposed walling off the border, who has repeatedly disrespected and misused the American military, and who has allowed an atmosphere of often apocalyptic conspiracy mongering and xenophobia to flourish?
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