Monday, March 29, 2010

I always fail the analogy portion of tests.

I wanted to call this some variation on Tim McVeigh, John Brown, Oklahoma Bombing, Fort Sumter, Charlie Manson, Race War, Columbine, all linked together in some clever analogy and then when I looked at it I simply couldn't make head of tail of it. And yet I think there's something there. Basically, I'm inclined to think of McVeigh, John Brown and Charlie Manson as all acting out various scenarios which include violence and some idea of vindication or explosive follow on violence. With the exception of Brown's acts-and that's arguable, nothing happened because of McVeigh or Manson any more than anything happened because of the Columbine killings. I think we can argue that some violent acts really do produce a serious knock on effect politically but in the modern era when a separatist movement goes up against a modern nation state the separatist movement generally loses. Even though some violent acts appear to take place within a context which may lead us to worry that this is just the thin end of the wedge, the "last straw" for some fringe group that is actually very seldom true.

SteveM and I are having an interesting discussion down below in our own comment thread about just how worried we should be about another Waco, or rather the right's respone to the Hutaree arrests as if they were another Waco. I just wanted to bump the discussion up to a new thread to see if we could get some good conversation going about whether that is likely, whether we have the right analogies, and where people see the violent right wing fringe actually going over the next few years.

My own take on this is that Waco was an important mobilizing moment for fringe groups, but they have accomplished little with that excitement/mobilization as long as they stayed out of electoral politics. To the extent that anti government sentiment/John Birch style hysteria has been mainstreamed that preceeded Waco and continued to grow post Bush because of things other than Waco and among communities that had been unimpressed, or uninvolved, in Waco. The modern day teabaggers are not at all the kind of people who were formerly involved in real separatist movements, although they may have been pro gun, or anti abortion. As far as I can see from the interviews many of them were apolitical, highly conventional and conformist to what they understood as mass culture.

I agree with Steve that arrest and conviction of a fringe group like the Hutaree people may result in the conversion to extremism of a Tim McVeigh type--and such a person may be effective in blowing up a building or two, and killing lots of people. But in both the long and the short run I'm not worried that cracking down on the Hutaree people will result in much more than that. I think its highly significant that the Michigan Militia's, when faced with a serious show of force by the Federal Government, quickly decided that today was not the day to die for someone else's plots. I think the event horizon for such last stands turns out, for the majority of people, to always recede into the distance even if their rhetoric would convince you that they are on the brink of turning violent any minute.

Charlie Manson also intended to foment a civil war/race war--and he killed a bunch of people--but the political effect of his attempt was null. Tim McVeigh killed a lot of people, but he was caught right away and although he became a rallying cry and a hero to the far right he turned off a lot of people to that level of violent insurrection, too. Again, nothing much came of his act politically or perhaps I mean electorally.

But what do you all think? What does/did Waco mean to people you knew in your political circle? What do you think the Hutaree arrests will mean for a) fringe, extremist right wing organizing and b) mass political right wing organizing?


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