November 10, 2010
Don't worry! There's still hope for civil war!
Libertarians typically want to be left alone. That's fine as far as it goes. But what happens when the world will not leave you alone?
If there's a civil war going on, "leave me alone" is not much of a battle cry. I am vehemently opposed to all calls for revolution or civil war, and I have been since the earliest days of this blog. While some of the calls for war are serious, most take the form of political hyperbole. Some people are less tolerant of not getting their way than others. Libertarians are quite used to not getting their way, and consequently, I think they are less likely to demand armed insurrection when they don't. (Besides, if libertarians can't be relied on to show up at meetings, what makes anyone think they'd show up for a civil war?)
Being human, we all want to get our way. There is, buried somewhere in each one of us, a spoiled, angry child ready to have a temper tantrum. Some control it better than others. Whether learning self control over that inner child that wants to throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way constitutes "adulthood" I don't know, as such a pronouncement strikes me as awfully judgmental. I don't get my way, and I'm used to it. Yet I think I am a very childish person who has yet to grow up, and learning to accept not getting my way has not helped much. I am still stubborn enough to cling to wanting what I want regardless of the likelihood of my getting it. That may mean that while I'm still a child, I'm just not given to childish displays. (At least, not in public.)
I also realize that it is unreasonable to demand that others control themselves simply because I think that's a good thing to do, but still, there are few things I find more tedious than people who throw public fits when they don't get their way, and then demand that others take their fits seriously. In that respect, I am so, so happy about the election results last week. Had the Republicans lost, by now I would be having to hear innumerable cries on the right about how the only alternative we have left is civil war, that the Declaration of Independence gives us the right to violently overthrow the government, etc., etc., ad nauseam.
Oh, I left out another related factor -- and that is anger that arises from not being listened to. I think there's a lot more of that anger right now than ever before, and in a strange irony, it comes from the fact that everyone is now free to rant publicly. While that's really nothing new (as the First Amendment is 219 years old) modern communication techniques have made it much easier than the days of standing on street corners and shouting, of using old-fashioned printing presses, or even later copying machines and faxes. Now anyone can just put his words -- whether written, spoken, or on video -- out there for the world to see. Every man is a printing press, a radio station, and a TV station. It is no exaggeration to say that all of us now have not only the equal right, but the equal technological ability to rant on a mass scale. That's a good thing, but the downside is that the vastness of this mass empowerment makes it not only more difficult for an individual voice to be heard, but it makes the audience more callused and indifferent, and less likely to listen. The result is that people only shout louder, and become more unreasonable in the hope of being heard. I've discussed the competitive nature of group dynamics in a couple of posts about activism, and I think the same principle of ramped up rhetoric applies to online speech.
As I have noticed on YouTube, fairness or justice has nothing to do with it, nor does the "importance" of the issue; it never fails to amaze me that my video complaint about a crummy mousetrap (which I gave little thought at the time) is my most watched YouTube video. It is an issue of very little importance, and I don't even think it's particularly entertaining, so I'll never be able to figure out why it has drawn over 18,000 hits. (But then, YouTube is not what I "do," so I am probably clueless.)
Here's something else I have noticed about the childish angry tantrums and calls for revolution that result from people not getting their way: if the person throwing the childish tantrum is famous, the tantrums tend to be more malevolent. This might sound counterintuitive in light of the vast democratization afforded by the Internet, but I think the problem may be that the more famous an angry tantrum thrower is, the more accustomed he is to getting his way in life, so the worse the tantrum.
I can think of few more perfect examples of this pathology than Ted Rall. His tantrums and calls for armed insurrection (and imprisoning those with whom he disagrees) have annoyed me from the earliest days of this blog. Never mind that he has been proven wrong repeatedly (his claim that Bush would cancel the elections and we would all be under a fascist dictatorship is a classic); all that matters to him is that something has happened that he didn't like, so it's time to start killing people!
I realize that his remarks are deeply offensive, and as they stop just short of specific calls for murdering people they are protected by the First Amendment, but the point here is that he is just doing what he has always done, which is to fly into a murderous rage and have a temper tantrum. Right now, he's calling for armed insurrection because he didn't like the election results. Poor baby.
The election results are actually a very good thing. They demonstrated that the system still works, and if people care enough to organize and exercise their right to vote, the political situation can change. The fact that the turnout was so much lower than the 2008 election means that the people on the right cared more than the people on the left, and more people on the left either changed their minds or else had second thoughts and stayed home.
Obviously Rall hates the fact that the system works, and that not enough people agree with his loony positions on things. I don't know how well his cartoons are doing these days, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's been feeling generally uninspired. His "Generalissimo el Busho" is about as interesting these days as Viagra spam, and he can't create vicious Obama cartoons, so where does that leave him? Stereotyping teabaggers? Even that is tired, and there are too many of them.
How Ted Rall must have hated to see Bush leave the White House at the end of his second term when he had predicted the fascist Generalissimo would cancel the elections! At the time I made a vow:
...in fairness to Rall, if the election date rolls around and there are no elections after all, I sincerely promise to reevaluate the matter.Not only were the 2004 elections actually held, but then the Republicans went on to lose the 2006 elections! Talk about adding insult to injury! First the fascist Generalissimo allows elections, then they don't go his way, and he did nothing other than admit that "we took a thumpin'" or something like that.
How outraged Rall must have been.
Perhaps because he feared the worst (i.e. the democratic system working the way it often does), he revised his thinking, and speculated that the Democrats would become little proxy Bushies, and continue Bush fascism. At the time, I anticipated the future of Rall's political, um, philosophy:
whether Bush leaves office or not, Bush fascism will forever live on. And it will all of course be Bush's fault either way. Because Generalissimo Bush, being the greatest and most brilliant fascist of all time (despite being a moronic chimpanzee) has built a permanent, undefeatable structure.How prophetic!
It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor.What that means that according to Rall, not only is Obama is worse than a fascist, he's a Bush fascist.
In Rall's world, there's always hope for fascism.
And if we can keep the hope for fascism alive, maybe we'll finally have that civil war that the people who won't listen to us keep refusing to have!
posted by Eric on 11.10.10 at 11:59 AM
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