On Taxes, Violent Revolution, Michael Medved, and the Late Mr. Stack
posted at 8:42 pm on February 18, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
On today’s show, Michael Medved said something fatuous.
Yes, I know this is hardly news enough even to raise an eyebrow; he has done it many times before, and he will continue to do it. To be fair, he also says things now and again that are unusually perceptive; but to continue our brutal fair mindedness, I have never heard him utter profundity, a feat Dennis Prager occasionally achieves.
Medved’s dilemma is twofold, ideological and pragmatic. His first ideological impulse is often leftwards, towards collectivism, relatively big government, and a nanny state; then when he stops to think about it, he veers right. But too often, while trying to “justify” the thin veneer of conservatism that beshrouds his underlying urge towards liberalism, he stumbles into a fugue of semi-desperate defensiveness.
My gut feeling is that Medved, because of his left-liberal background, is always just a little bit ashamed about being a capitalist and a social conservative; so he must continually prove that he hasn’t actually betrayed his idealistic roots. When his “liberal conscience” gives him an attack of the guilts, it drives him to launch into a hectoring, sometimes whiny explanation cum apology. Michael Medved is forever trying to prove to his old friends that he’s not really a running-dog imperialist fascist.
Pragmatically, he may know what to do; but fear gets in the way. In the present case, he seems quite nervous that if he raises the question of revolution, even to shoot it down as completely unwarranted and risible in today’s America, everybody will point at him, and through him, at conservativism itself, chanting, “shame, shame!”
But we’re Americans; we’re driven by courage and optimism, not fear and a soul-sapping premonition of defeat. We cannot be afraid to think about the “unthinkable,” lest the day of the unthinkable come as a thief in the night. Courage, Michael; courage.
Eh bien. So he was speaking about Joseph Andrew Stack III, that nutjob who unsuccessfully tried to murder his wife and stepdaughter, then flew his private plane into an IRS building in Austin. Evidently, some callers in the previous hour (I wasn’t listening then) expressed some sympathy with Stack, either with his lunatic suicidal “protest,” the hallucinations found in his mushroomy “manifesto” — or merely with the idea that excess taxation is oppressive. Three paragraphs of Stackism are more than enough to get the general idea:
While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.
Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.
And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!
(This should put to rest any idea that Mr. Stack was a conservative; this reads more like a loony-left, anti-corporatist, populist screed, à la the Unabomber.)
Medved had to walk a tightrope in response: He agrees with the last point (taxes are too high) but of course rejects the first two. In his zeal to reassure America that Michael Medved is not a Stackist, that Stack isn’t (I mean wasn’t) a conservative, that the Tea Party movement isn’t violent, and that Republicans don’t stand for flying Piper Cherokees into federal buildings, the Sage of Seattle went a skosh overboard.
He stated that even discussing revolution crosses a “tipping point” where one’s credibility is utterly destroyed; that it’s dangerous and mad even to imagine resorting to violence to “make progress” in America. When someone called to remind him of the American Revolution, Medved was at great pains to lecture that our Founders weren’t up in arms over taxation per se, but rather over the loss of local control over government, when Great Britain decided to wring us dry to pay for the French and Indian War.
True enough on the last; but doesn’t that argument admit that there are, then, legitimate reasons to revolt? If not taxation, then when a remote federal government seizes sufficient power from the more accessible, local governments. That is, when government shifts from being of, by, and for the people to being an oppressive foreign element imposed upon the people from outside.
My impression is that Medved would shun talk of revolution even in the latter instance, at least within the United States. But I don’t mean the America of today; we’re nowhere near the point where revolution is a legitimate option… and I sincerely doubt we ever will be, to a large extent because of wonderfully American, government-limiting phenonomena like California’s Proposition 13, the Reagan Democrats, and Tea Partiers.
But let’s hypothesize; imagine if an American president signed a treaty making America a member of the European Union; and suppose a runaway Senate quickly ratified the treaty. Suppose we began overturning state and local laws, regulations, and protections to impose international diktats emanating from the unholy ménage à trois between Strasbourg, Luxembourg, and Brussels. Suppose the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and American sovereignty itself remained as paper promises only, our sacred rights and liberties supplanted by what could only then be called one-world government; and that all peaceful means of reform were outlawed and made useless.
Would that be enough for Medved to consider the merits of violent overthrow of what our government had become?
I honestly don’t know. It should be more than enough, in my opinion; but Medved imprinted “Summer-of-Love liberalism” at a very early age, and I don’t think he’ll ever entirely surmount it.
Liberals in the 60s almost invariably advocated for pacifism — while their radical leftist allies urged bloody revolution. The former cannot have been unaware of what the latter demanded and frequently fomented; yet liberals still refused to break with their pals. I can only conclude that secretly, liberals saw the extremist left as their shock troops, their Basij; whether they admitted it to themselves or not, the idea, conscious or subconscious, was that the establishment should be passive while the Left rampaged through the streets.
Radical and revolutionary impulses can never be controlled by suppression; they can only be defused by responding to them… not just militarily but ideologically. We cannot win a war against radicalism without first winning the war of ideas. On the other extreme, unless we develop a general metric of revolution, we also cannot know when we have reached the real tipping point… the inflection point where revolution becomes not only thinkable for the huge majority, not merely inevitable, but a moral duty.
We see many examples in the world today; their follies and furies allow us to grope for our “general metric of revolution”:
- Messianic fanaticism. Clearly Iran has passed that tipping point; can any honest advocate of American ideals dispute that theocracy in Iran is already odious enough that Persians are justified in seizing control, even violently, and hurling the mullahs into the abyss? With the will, they will have the strength; whether they have the will is debatable.
Military dictatorship. Ukrainian President-elect (pending the election appeal) Viktor Yanukovych says that Ukraine should not join either NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO); the latter — comprising the Russian Federation, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — is the successor to the Commonwealth of Independent [sic] States, which arose from the ashes of empire in the old USSR in a desperate attempt to salvage Russian hegemony.
But suppose Yanukovych betrays his promise and signs the CSTO treaty, inviting Russian troops into Kiev… in essence, handing Ukraine back into servitude to the Russian bear. That would give Russia practical veto-power over any future change of government back to independence; and that too would give casus belli for revolution.
Economic oblivion. Zimbabwe is still “led” (cannibalized is the better term) by a madman, Robert Mugabe, even after the so-called “power-sharing agreement” with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimbabwe is in a state of true economic collapse, something that Americans have never experienced — not even during the Great Depression, where unemployment never topped about 25%; in Zimbabwe a year ago, it ran about 95%.
They also have one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in human history, far more even than the Weimar Republic that immediately preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany; in 2008, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate was estimated to be in excess of 230,000,000% (yes, I did indeed mean to type two hundred million percent). Just a year ago, Zimbabwe announced a “fourth” Zimbabwe dollar, which was to be exchanged at a rate of one new dollar for one trillion “third” Zimbabwe dollars.
Mugabe has responded to this crisis by trying to massacre all whites remaining in the country, seizing their farms and other property, and declaring that all of Zimbabwe’s troubles stem from continued “colonization.” In this case, the madness of Mugabe has metastasized, leading the entire nation into mass psychosis. This is another, albeit darker moral justification for revolutionary overthrow, no matter how violent: It’s hard to imagine any new government that would not be infinitely better than the utter chaos, without form and void, that prevails there today. It truly is Hell on Earth.
I reiterate: America is nowhere near political discontinuity on the scale of the countries listed above; we are not at the point where “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer,” as the late and unlamented Mr. Stack would have us believe.
What do all three examples have in common? That the state has formally banned and violently suppressed all peaceful means of redress. That is the only case where, by defintion, “violence… is the only answer.”
That must be our primary metric:
- If opposition candidates are allowed to run; and if they win, allowed to assume office;
- If dissidents and ordinary citizens are allowed to peaceably assemble, protest, petition the government, get on TV, and suchlike;
- If residents are still allowed access to the courts to appeal government decisions; if the Supreme Court still strikes down government power grabs, at least some of the time; and if those judicial decisions are accepted, however grudgingly, by the political leaders;
- If civil liberties are still protected at trial, in worship, in speech, and in other circumstances; if the police and military still feel bound by those limitations on their power and do not routinely ignore the law;
- If ordinary civilians are still allowed to possess the means of resistance, including arms;
- If interstate travel — or in extremis, emigration — remains unrestricted, thus allowing people to move or even leave the country…
Then you still have a free country. Redress of any set of grievances is still available, given sufficient support within the population; violence against the government is uncalled for; and terroristic acts against the symbols of society and ordinary people is a monstrous moral and social evil.
We cannot shy away from thinking about revolution, and we must not swallow our thoughts without voicing them. Without open, frank discussion, with no idea taken “off the table” before ratiocination even begins, we would have no defense against well-thought-out, cleverly articulated radicalism that demands a hundred RPMs, revolutions per minute. Without grabbing the bull by the tail and looking bloody insurrection in the face, nothing will stand between us and the Bill Ayers and Joseph Andrew Stacks of the world.
Regardless of Michael Medved’s frets and fears, we must put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Let’s talk, and stop worrying that pondering revolution and concluding that it’s preposterous in today’s America is going to “destroy the credibility” of… Americanism.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…