Things That Don’t End Well

Regarding this weekend’s planned coup d’etat, I bring you this quote —

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both. — Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951)

In The Book (Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World) I turn to this quote several times in discussing mass movements and religious violence. It seems to me that the holy cause/fanatical grievance combination is at the center of just about any violent mass movement I can think of, whether political, religious or other.

For example, when people hear about violence perpetrated by a religious faction there’s a common assumption that religious doctrine is somehow at the center of the animosity, that I think that is rarely the case. This is especially true on the “fanatical grievance” side of the equation. The roots of the Islamic jihadist “fanatical grievance” have more to do with history, culture and politics than with Islam, for example.

In the book I devote a large part of a chapter looking at violence being perpetrated by Buddhists, including monks, in Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka. These violent mass movements make a particularly good case for my theory, because there is absolutely, positively no justification for what they are doing in Buddhist doctrine. The Buddha was far more uncompromising about not causing violence than were the various authors of the Bible, for example. There is some limited allowance for self-defense, but being an aggressor in a violent situation is a clear violation of the dharma. Yet there are Burmese and Sinhalese Buddhist monks fomenting violence and declaring they are doing it to “defend Buddhism” in their overwhelmingly Buddhist countries. To understand where this is coming from you have to look at history, politics and culture (which I do, in the book).

Note that a “holy cause” doesn’t have to be religious. Nationalism and patriotism will do, especially when mixed into belief in the presumed virtue of racial or ethnic purity.

Another common factor in violent and/or totalitarian mass movements is a kind of messianic worldview, or a belief that current struggles will lead to a glorious destiny. This doesn’t have to involve religious doctrine; you can see messianism in the communist and fascist movements of the 20th century. Where religion is present it can act as a kind of accelerant, however. When people believe their cause is not only just but holy, it’s a lot easier to light the fuse or pull the trigger.

The point is that, as absurd as the “American Spring/Bundy Ranch” crew might be, all the violence factors are present. And I don’t see anything on the horizon that is likely to discourage them. Even assuming the May 16 coup d’etat is a dud, they’re likely to keep trying.

What they lack, which is notable, is some genuinely charismatic and articulate leader who is smart enough, or at least tethered to reality enough, to organize these clowns and grow the movement beyond fringe status. I think Ted Cruz could fill that role, if he wanted it, although I suspect even he realizes that if the public ties him to right-wing domestic terrorism he can kiss his political career goodbye. However, that could change in the future. And if it ain’t Ted, it could be somebody else who steps up. We’ve been lucky so far.

Even without a charismatic leader, barring unforeseen developments I suspect the anti-government militia movement will grow increasingly violent as participants become increasingly frustrated. We can’t assume they’re just going to go away.

Along these lines, do see “Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women.” It’s interesting that a common factor in fundamentalist religious movements is an obsession with keeping women under control and thoroughly subjugated. Here we see gun rights extremists targeting women who oppose them. It may be this is because more women than men are stepping up to oppose them, but one wonders if there isn’t something else going on with them than merely feeling opposed.

40 thoughts on “Things That Don’t End Well

  1. I have a few thoughts on this:
    1) I think part of the reaction is women are seen as easier targets by these guys. I often find people with control issues basically punch down – or THINK they are. They’re cowards.
    2) They’re also probably surprised to see women in positions of leadership and thus the supposedly easy targets are not. This further frustrates them.
    3) I’m guessing a lot of it not all of these guys are older, white guys – the people frustrated with a changing world that suddenly doesn’t hand them everything. They seek easy targets (#1) and can’t handle that supposed easy toargets have power (#2)

    Power is what the entire gun-focused culture is about now. It’s about people wanting to feel they’re powerful and have an edge over their fellow man – by being ready to kill a bunch of people. What it comes down to, simply, is guys who think they have no power at least wanting the option to shoot a bunch of folks. Leaders are glad to whip that up – and of course sell more guns.

    Gun culture in the U.S. is going to go badly in the next few years. It’s hard to imagine it getting more bonkers without actual public shootings, and my guess at some point that will happen – a group will gun down some people they don’t like, feel justified, try to even be media heroes. I expect that will be the peak, with most of the country (and many gun owners) recoiling in disgust, but there will be a phase where many an American just won’t be able to process how bad this is.

  2. “Note that a “holy cause” doesn’t have to be religious. Nationalism and patriotism will do, especially when mixed into belief in the presumed virtue of racial or ethnic purity.”

    And that’s why I’ve always hated the mantra that America is an “Exceptional” country – because that comes from the same poisoned well of superiority, in the “soul.”

    Thankfully, David Duke is not only getting long in the tooth, but doesn’t really have enough charisma.

    I, too, think Ted Cruz-ader fits the bill.
    But he may wait until enough gun and Christianista loons call out to him, before he a run for President.

    Hopefully, he won’t hear their cries in 2016.

    When President Obama leaves the White House, things may calm down again.

    But a Hillary Presidency, while probably taking most of the racial element out of their fear and hatred – will substitute that with misogyny.
    “Sweet Jesus, after that N*gger, we get a c*nt!”

    So, sadly, it would probably take a Republican winning the Presidency to settle these loons down – like what happened after the White Fascist Supremacist’s who sprung-up and acted-out under Clinton, and then went back under their rocks while W was Preznit.

    Of course, having a Republican President brings up other bad possibilities.
    Maybe even worse ones, than roving gangs of tiny-puckered gun-loons – for women, minorities, non-Christians, the old, the young, the handicapped, etc.

  3. Maha, I’m enjoying your book.. It’s put me under conviction.. But it won’t deter me from defending my tribe. 🙂 It’s a strange realization to perceive that I’m not me.

    • Swami — You must have gotten into Chapter 4. I hope that anyone who actually gets through most of it would be so kind as to leave a nice review on Amazon. 🙂 Well, unless you don’t like it, of course.

  4. maha,
    That video/audio link is ROTFLMAO X INFINITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It makes the public access parts in “Wayne’s World” look like scenes from a movie by Spielberg!

    I’m waiting for the part where I see these armed assclowns heading into DC squeezed into the seats of an old pick-up, with their Cat and Caterpillar caps bobbing up and down to some rancid song by Ted Nugent.
    I’m thinking, “Stormtroopin'”!

    • gulag — While I was watching/listening some guy called in and said he was with this big crowd of protesters. Then he started to describe how he was having sex with four Marines. He was cut off, but not before he gave a pretty graphic description.

  5. Your book does sound very interesting and thoughtful, as I would expect. Someday, I’ll have to download it and then read it of course.

    The gun culture is one reason, we’re thinking of pulling up stakes. I think Fang is right and we’ll see worse coming a long in the next few years, or sooner.

    I guess these attempts achieving a grand scale event mostly amount to fundraisers, a chance to meet and greet other wackatarians and see what kind of weaponry the other lads are sporting. But, among the few hundred that may show up at an event like this there can always be one or two true believers who really don’t have anything to lose. Seeing their moment dissolve in front of them one more time might be more than they can take. If a few shots are fired, even by accident, it could get really crazy.

  6. “We can’t assume they’re just going to go away”

    They will go away once they get their white “Christian” man back at his rightful position of power atop the federal government. It’s not the government they hate so much, it’s the colored fella in charge. I asked a right-wing acquaintance of mine why the BLM was never a problem when the bu$h crime family was in charge? I got the usual “you blame everything on bush” response! So they will go away eventually but they want a confrontation with the Kenyan usurper before he leaves!

  7. uncledad,
    See my comment above – they’ll only calm down if a Republican becomes President. And they’d be happier if that Republican was a male.

  8. Goatherd:
    Though I see violent incidents coming, I think they’ll be the last bloody gasp so they’re not worth pulling up stakes over. A LOT of these guys are talk, its a tiny minority that will truly get violent. When that happens expect a culture shift, albeit a contentious one.

  9. but one wonders if there isn’t something else going on with them than merely feeling opposed.

    They need to go purchase a good dick stretcher.. Their attachment to the 2nd amendment is a socially acceptable justification to mask their true feeling of impotency and inadequacy in being a man. Maybe if they would just validate one another in a circle jerk ceremony of male bonding they wouldn’t have to stand on street corners making it look bad for us guys who are secure in their masculinity.

  10. I cannot stream videos at work, so I cannot monitor the progress of the patriots. But the local stations are reporting that there are torrential downpours in the city with flooding in low lying areas.

    Does this mean that the damn coup is going to be rained out?

    • Does this mean that the damn coup is going to be rained out?

      The Washington Times is reporting that the organizers are disappointed with the turnout. They are blaming the weather and also a disinformation campaign that redirected a lot of people to Nevada. However, they must have gotten lost, because there is no news from Nevada. Maybe they’re still on the Interstate.

      They must have had some clear weather today, though, judging by the photos at Raw Story. Even so, these guys are not exactly Valley Forge material.

  11. Ed,
    A snowy and bitterly cold winter didn’t stop George Washington and his Continental Army from spending months at Valley Forge, freezing, to continue the Revolution.

    I’m sure if it had rained instead, he would have understood why virtually no one one showed up, and told the ones who where there to go home, and cancelled the Revolution, just like these modern day Patriots!


  12. Does this mean that the damn coup is going to be rained out?

    It means they better keep their powder dry.

  13. OH NOOOOOOOO’S!!!!

    There’ll one less gun loon at that “10-30 Million ‘MORAN!’ March” on DC today.

    He got himself a bullet-proof vest, and decided to have his friend shoot him in it to test it.
    She missed, and killed him.
    And now, this 18 year-old woman faces homicide charges.

    I’d say it was more like she’s guilty of aiding and abetting in committing an act of ‘Assisted Darwinism.”

    RIP – “MORAN!!!!!”

  14. Early returns are in on ‘The 10-30 Million ‘MORAN!” March” on DC today.

    At a minimum, for their optimists, they’re about 9,999,900 or so short.
    For their pessimists, they’re about 29,999,900 short.

    I have a suggestion for “The New Gadsden Flag:”
    Instead of having “Don’t Tread On Me” under the coiled-snake, it should say, “Don’t Laugh At Me!”

    Tiny putz’s, with big weapons.

  15. “Don’t Laugh At Me!”

    Too funny. You should put that one in production now, what a bumper sticker!

  16. I checked out the steam briefly with “The Last Poets” in mind, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.” It wasn’t.

    For some reason the link to TPM won’t come up. But, I am very sorry to hear about the man who was killed in the shooting incident. I am far from an expert on guns, but, I was taught the rules of gun safety. It definitely seems that a lot of people who own guns really lack a realistic concept of how dangerous they are, as in the case of my former neighbor who shot himself in the knee. As in the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” in some people it breeds carelessness. Guns become toys or fashion accessories. People do a lot of stupid things. But, when they do stupid things involving a gun, the consequences tend to be a lot worse. My wife sometimes offers the headline, “Idiot Killed Doing Stupid Thing.”
    But, it’s still a tragedy

    It’s okay, Fang, we’re getting near retirement age and the farm and animals will be too much for us. We are looking for one more big adventure and some of the current craziness here provides a pretty good excuse to move on. You’re a short time on the Earth and a long time in it.

  17. Is the old cop dude from New Hampshire marching in the rain? The one who said “Obama’s near”? How about Sheriff Arpaio? Ted Nugent?

    Yes, I have a list.

    And I am picturing them like turkeys in the barnyard, faces to the sky, slowly drowning.

  18. Oh, and I need to correct my earlier comment.
    My apologies.

    They said ’10 to 30 million.”
    Well, they were right!
    Of course, it was MUCH closer to 10 people, than it was to 30 million.

    Now, who will they blame for the failure of their “10-30 Million ‘MORAN!’ March” on DC today?

    My guess is the following:
    #1 – President Obama.
    #2 – The Libtard Lame-Stream-Media.
    #3 – Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and other ball busting beyotches.
    #4 – The moochers, takers, parasites, slugs, and leeches, who were on the highways – NOT going to work, but to stores to pick-up their T-bones and malt liquor – and blocked the REAL ‘MURKIN’ PATRIOTS from getting to DC in a timely manner.
    #5 – Muslims, and Sharia Law.
    #6 – Anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

    Any other suggestions, folks?

  19. “They are blaming the weather ”

    Well yeah, fighting a tyrannical regime can wait till the sun shines! Also we don’t want any of those mobility scooters shorting out! What is that the six volt?

  20. “OY!

    I forgot the LGBT folks!”

    Next time they should join forces with Dykes on Bikes and get a better turnout.

  21. “They are blaming the weather”. The ” fighting season” gets shorter each year. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

  22. I’m trying to figure out what (if anything) is significant about this non-event. I tuned in to the streaming broadcast late – not much but a guy running his mouth from his Winnebago about what a success it all is.

    At the end of the day, there were nearly 50 thousand viewers. Live stats are at the bottom of the screen. You tell me what the numbers were mid-day. BTW, depending on the U-stream play, they pay about 25 cents per viewer hour.. so do watch or let it run in the background muted.

    This wasn’t an event endorsed by the puppet masters. If the Koch brothers had bankrolled it, they would have bussed clowns in from all over, lodging & meals paid for. If it was a sanctioned event, FOX would have been promoting it for months. So it was a fringe non-event which highlights the frustration of the rank and file that Obama hasn’t been impeached. They are calling for the removal of Boehnor, too. (because the House has not moved to impeach?)

    Swami put out a link to a document thru a religious web site. (see the previous post, but you may need an airsickness bag if you read it) The sales pitch was to fanatical christians (lower caste ‘C’ on purpose). The conflation of religion and politics in a secular country is a bit scarey.

    When I managed restaurants years back, the waitresses hated the Sunday day shift tips. Church-goin’ bible thumpin’ christians are long on proselytizing and short on tipping. They are cheap. Was this a factor in the failure? It costs $17 per day just to park a car in DC. Rooms start at $100+ – there is no way to do this on a budget.

    So if you put together a event to remove President Obama, and invite fundies to come out to DC (on their own dime) to listen to a lot of talk-talk under the premise Obama will come out of the White House and surrender the keys.. there are limits to the scope of miracles even fundies can believe in. So they will tune in for free on U-Stream and watch for it. Just in case it happens.

    Free speech allows you to assemble on the Washington Mall and call for the removal of the president. Do it with guns (which are illegal in DC) and you may find that the courts will hand out hard jail time. There is a legitimate legal question if calling for the removal of government officials, paired with the presence of guns, constitutes insurrection. It may be that organizers are serious when they instruct the followers – ‘No Guns’.

    That may be a huge factor in the low turnout. A lot of these guys who talk big about radially changing the government thru revolution can’t – I mean can’t – operate in an environment of protest without guns. They feel naked and impotent. I don’t think Ghandi or MLK was ever thrilled to confront an armed opposition with nothing but their convictions as a shield. Doing it gave them the high moral ground – the heavier the abuse, the higher the moral ground.

    If there was a bigger surge at the Bundy Ranch than the Washington Mall, the difference (IMO) is guns. If so.. it’s a huge psychological ‘tell’ about the movement.

  23. Judging from the photo that uncledad posted, they really should have held the event at the Bundy ranch, where there could be plenty of beef on the grill and a few defibrillators at the ready.

    It’s kind of sad really. When that much distance opens up between reality and the world as you perceive it’s time to check into the Happy Castle. I can see why the NRA would be so vehemently opposed to mental health screening.

    By the way, uncledad, I enjoyed the recording of your punk band. That was a clever song.

  24. Some ass clown on Facebook yesterday stated there is a revolution coming and asked me which side I would take when the shooting starts. I said the side with the warthogs, ac120s, and the hellfire missiles. I reminded him he was advocating an insurrection on a public forum which is monitored by the NSA. He said I was a stupid liberal that was twisting his words because that’s what liberals do.
    My response was “keep honking, I’m reloading”.

  25. “I enjoyed the recording of your punk band”

    Thanks I wrote that song about old rushbo back in 1991, he’s still spewing the same BS tofday so the song is timeless?

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