A former fellow contributor at Freedom Democrats has composed two recent posts, My respectability vs. their legitimacy and Are you on the inside or the outside?, that cautions against radical politics moving from an abstract layer of persuasive speech to one advocating criminal activity. The underlying factor here seems to be that WikiLeaks is raising the stakes, making the abstract suddenly tangible. An abstraction is now drawing some blood…it’s a threat. The cautionary thinking here is not to overplay the hand, not to resort to advocating the equivalent of anarchist bomb throwing, which could not only make one the target of the police(the police state) but which could also threaten to criminalize the abstraction itself, or at the very least, banish it from the topic of polite society.
Now I both agree and disagree with Ricketson. I agree that “anarchist bomb throwing,” whether it’s actually throwing bombs, or executing DDoS attacks against digital targets, is a loser strategy. You can try to cast these things into a type of “civil disobedience” rationale or justify them as defensive actions against Statist aggression, but the bottom line is that they are ineffective and counter-productive. And Ricketson’s point about the “mainstream’ should be taken to heart. The thing about “American radical libertarianism” that separates it from “anarchism” in general is that in America, radical libertarianism is more or less “liberal anarchism, ” and liberal anarchism has never sought to eradicate the “petty Bourgeoisie” as a precursor to some new social order. Indeed, Liberal anarchism embraces the “petty bourgeois” tradition and embraces it as a mainstream tradition. This to no end infuriates a larger segment of anarchist radicals who operate outside the “liberal anarchist tradition.”
Where I disagree with Ricketson perhaps starts with this quote by Janet Napolitano:
“The old view that ‘if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won’t have to fight them here’ is just that – the old view,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told police and firefighters recently.
Ricketson takes his alias from Benjamin Tucker and those who are familiar with libertarian history know that Tucker, after he left the United States and emigrated to France, actually supported World War I on the basis that the German glorification of military culture was such a threat to the “petty bourgeois” liberal tradition that it had to be opposed, even by force. Here I am reminded of the old Barry Goldwater joke, “vote for Goldwater and we will end up in Vietnam.” Well, a wag or two have been known to crack back in the day, “we voted for Goldwater and sure enough, we ended up in Vietnam.” To Tucker’s Ghost I would crack, the United States went to war and yet we ended up with the very thing you dreaded.
As Orwell brilliantly elucidated, permanent war is the permanent war of the ruling class against it’s own citizens. It is a destroyer of liberalism. It is the National Security State, not anarchism, which is the threat to the mainstream of a “petty bourgeois” polite society. The horror is to contemplate just exactly what is to become of this “mainstream” under a censorship regime, when uncensored abstraction itself, by definition, is a threat.
In a permanent War on Terror, terrorism is not bomb throwing, rather it is any ideological challenge to the “Status Quo.” When Janet Napolitano states that the guns have turned inward, she doesn’t mean they are pointing at some random asymmetric violent threat, rather she means they are pointing at any systemic abstract threat to the Status Quo. They are aimed at any “institutional alternatives” to the status quo. If these “institutional alternatives” draw any blood, that is, threaten the Status Quo, those guns will fire…and it would be impolite in polite society not to pretend otherwise.
Respectability=see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil…