“Fun And Games Until People Get Killed”: Constitutional Conservatism’s Non-Violent March To Threaten Violence
As readers have probably noticed, I’m on something of a campaign the last few days to train a spotlight on the revolutionary rhetoric and gun-brandishing of many Second Amendment activists and “constitutional conservatives,” which has leeched over into standard conservative and GOP messaging to an alarming degree. Like anyone shining a spotlight into previously dark shadows, I’m not always familiar with what I’m seeing. That’s definitely the case with Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War vet and omni-libertarian who is planning a non-violent march of armed citizens on Washington for Independence Day to show, best I can tell, that resistance to the demands of people like him that government radically retract its size and scope will eventually face real fire. Here’s Paul Szoldra’s write-up of Kokesh’s scheme at Business Insider:
Adam Kokesh, 31, is planning a July 4 rally of pro-gun activists openly carrying rifles from Virginia to Washington as an act of “civil disobedience.” The plan, according to his Facebook event page, is to march across Memorial Bridge with rifles loaded and slung across the back “to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated [and] cower in submission to tyranny.”
The invite continues, stating, ” … This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”
Kokesh writes that if 10,000 attendees RSVP by June 1st, “we have the critical mass necessary to pull this off.” He said he wants to have at least 1,000 actually marching in the event, and as of this writing, more than 1,400 have said they were going.
As the headline at Karoli’s post on this plan at Crooks & Liars rightly says: “Marching On DC With Loaded Rifles: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
But even if no violence ensues, this exercise is actually typical of an awful lot of the stockpiling-guns-to-resist-tyranny talk on the Right (and on rare occasions, the Left) these days. It’s actually the inverse of what Kokesh says: it’s an effort to intimidate political opponents with the threat, if not the immediate actuality, of violence. Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying guns to your nonviolent protest? The point, it seems clear, is to make extraconstitutional claims for the legitimacy of the “constitutional” protests against Big Government. We can peacefully debate, the potential “armed resistance” forces suggest, this or that aspect of gun regulation or Obamacare or drone policy or taxes or “welfare looters” via conventional politics. But in the end, our conviction that your “progressive policies” represent “tyranny” trumps all civil discourse, and that’s when the shooting may start.
And that, of course, is why this sort of talk is not limited to anarchists or even to the kind of “constitutional conservatives” who really do think the policies of Calvin Coolidge or Grover Cleveland or the doctrines of John C. Calhoun came down from heaven and were enshrined eternally by the Declaration of Independence. Consciously or unconsciously, regular conservative politicians see this sort of militancy as a crucial difference-maker (or in times of Democratic political success, an “equalizer”), and so they exploit it. It’s all fun and games until people start getting killed.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2013
A former Marine, candidate for Congress, and self-defined libertarian radio talk-show host has sparked some controversy over a Facebook event gone viral. Adam Kokesh, host of Adam vs. The Man, created an event on Facebook entitled, “Open Carry March on Washington #OpenCarry130704” to promote an individual’s Second Amendment rights. In a July 4 march from Virginia to D.C., the participants will pass Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House—all while carrying their loaded guns.
According to the Facebook page, over 30,000 people have been invited, more than 1,500 have confirmed they will attend, and nearly 1,500 have declined — and the numbers are continuing to grow.
Virginia’s lenient gun laws grant protestors the right to publicly load their guns within state lines. Since Washington, D.C. has strict gun laws, law enforcement may be able to arrest any Open Carry March participants if they cross state lines with their loaded guns.
The description on Kokesh’s Facebook page states, “This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”
Kokesh said that the event website needed 10,000 supporters and at least 1,000 confirmed marchers by June 1st for the march to take place. This goal was met Monday afternoon, when Kokesh posted an update confirming that he’d reached the required number. “Now that it’s undeniable that this is going to happen, allow me to make clear how. There will be coordination with DC law enforcement prior to the event,” he wrote. “Failing to provide that commitment to safety, we will either be informed that we will only be allowed up to a certain point where we would be arrested. If this is the case, we will approach that point as a group and if necessary, I will procede [sic] to volunteer myself to determine what their actual course of action with someone crossing the line will be at which point fellow marchers will have the choice of joining me one at a time in a peaceful, orderly manner, or turning back to the National Cemetery.”
Kokesh is a former Marine who received a general discharge, one step below an honorable discharge, after wearing his uniform to an anti-war protest. His radio talk show on Russia Today, a Russian-sponsored network that is critical of American policies, was canceled after he supported and fundraised for Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign. Kokesh stands for anti-government policies and his past run-ins with authorities show he is not afraid to make a statement for the sake of his political cause—in fact, two of his latest tweets include: “It’s time to abolish the US federal government,” and “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
There is no doubt that Kokesh’s views have become a bit extreme and radical—marching across Washington D.C. militia-style is just one way his ideology is sadly rubbing off on right-wing gun nuts across the country who relentlessly believe the government is trying to take away their guns. It is still uncertain if Kokesh will actually go through with the march, or if the event will achieve what he hopes. After all, arguing to uphold one law he enjoys by breaking another and triggering arrest wouldn’t make him a hero or patriot — it would make him a criminal.
By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, May 6, 2013
There’s even more exciting gun news today, coming from a small nonprofit organization called Defense Distributed. They announced that they have successfully test-fired a gun made almost entirely in a 3-D printer. The only part that wasn’t 3-D printed was the firing pin. And the bullet, of course. Now previously, people had made gun components in 3-D printers, but prior tests of entire weapons had been unsuccessful. This raises some rather troubling questions, which we’ll get to in a moment. But first, here’s their short video, which shows the firing and construction of the gun, inexplicably interspersed with shots of World War II-era bombers: http://youtu.be/drPz6n6UXQY
They may call this thing “The Liberator,” but it’s a little too impractical to be able to liberate anyone at the moment. It’s probably highly inaccurate, and it holds only one bullet. But this is more a proof-of-concept than anything else, and if you want to, you can go to their website and download the plans, then print one out on your own 3-D printer.
Defense Distributed is run by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old law student, gun enthusiast, and libertarian. There’s a Q&A with him from a few months ago here, and if you read it you’ll see he sounds pretty much like any Ron Paul acolyte. His motivations aren’t all that important, because if he didn’t do it, it was only a matter of time before someone else did. You may be asking, is this legal? And the answer appears to be yes. There is a law called the Undetectable Firearms Act which prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of any gun that won’t show up on a metal detector, but Defense Distributed handles that by including in the design a piece of metal in the gun’s body. You can figure out how tough that would be to get around.
As it happens, the Undetectable Firearms Act is expiring at the end of this year. There will be an effort to renew it, particularly in light of this development, and it would certainly be interesting to see the NRA try to argue that being able to print out a plastic gun in your basement is the very essence of the liberty for which the Founders fought so bravely. But you know what? I’m guessing the NRA won’t oppose a renewal of the UFA at all. They’ll be happy to support it.
And why would that be? Well, who’s the most threatened by the idea of people making their own guns in large quantities? The gun manufacturers, that’s who. And in recent years, the relationship between the NRA and the manufacturers has grown so intertwined that there’s virtually no distinction between them. So don’t be surprised if we see the NRA come out in full-throated support of new restrictions on 3-D printed guns.
Now, let’s address the technological question. Even if there isn’t much point in 3-D printing your own gun right now, the technology is in its very early stages. If you want to get a 3-D printer today, you can pay $2,000 for one from MakerBot, the most popular brand, or you can get one for as little as $400 from some other companies (the one Defense Distributed used was a used industrial model, somewhat more expensive). 3-D printing boosters predict that as the technology improves and prices come down, before long—maybe 10 years, maybe 15—3-D printers will be as common a household appliance as microwave ovens. And let’s say the technology does improve, to the point where you could print out a full, working version of a Glock or, if you had a huge printer, an AR-15. And instead of paying $500 for the former or $1,000 for the latter, it’d cost you maybe five or ten bucks for the material and that’s it. Why not make a hundred of them? Or a thousand?
MakerBot doesn’t allow plans for guns on its Thingverse, the biggest forum for trading 3-D printing plans. But that doesn’t matter; if it’s on the Internet somewhere, people will find it if they want to. And even if we made them illegal, you could break that law without involving any accomplices. If you had a gang, you could outfit them with more guns than they could possibly want. The technology may be just developing, but the possibilities are pretty frightening.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 6, 2013
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has established himself as one of the Republican Party’s most influential members, and a legitimate early contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016. But the biggest hurdle to Paul’s ascension as a national leader may be the man whose vast political network enabled his improbable rise in the first place: his father, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.
The elder Paul attracted legions of diehard supporters with his longshot 2012 bid, cementing his role as the public face of the GOP’s libertarian wing — a mantle that was neatly transferred to his son after the latter’s highly publicized filibuster over the Obama administration’s drone strike policy.
But his campaign also shed light on the darker aspects of Paul’s past, such as his series of racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic newsletters, and his close association with white supremacists and neo-Confederates, among other unsavory characters.
Now Paul’s disturbing connections, which he vehemently denied during the 2012 campaign, are on display for all to see at his new think tank, The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
As James Kirchick reports in The Daily Beast, the institute’s board is stocked with all manner of 9/11 truthers, supporters of authoritarian regimes, anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, and more. Among others, Paul’s associates now include:
—Lew Rockwell, a member of the right-wing fringe whom Paul explicitely disavowed during his presidential campaign, and who recently compared law enforcement after the Boston Marathon bombing to Nazi stormtroopers.
—John Laughland, who denies that the Bosnian genocide ever took place, and maintains that former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was convicted by a “kangaroo court.”
—Eric Margolis, who denies any conclusive proof linking Osama bin Laden to the September 11th attacks, and instead suggests that they may have been “a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up.”
—Michael Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer who has described American Jews as a “fifth column” intent on sabatoging American foreign policy to benefit Israel.
—Walter Block, who believes that the Confederacy should have won the Civil War, and believes that America’s current foreign policy can be blamed on “the monster Lincoln.”
Those five names barely scratch the surface of the unsettling information that Kirchick has uncovered in his must-read article.
Although Ron Paul never had a realistic chance of winning the presidency, he still recognized that he had no choice but to disavow his connection with this rogues’ gallery of lunatics to legitimize his candidacy. But now, while his son has a very serious chance to compete for the Republican nomination in his own right, the senior Paul is drawing these disturbing figures closer than ever.
This presents a very serious problem for Rand Paul, who has presented himself as the man who can reverse the Republican Party’s dismal performance with minority voters, particularly African-Americans. Given his own troubling statements about the Civil Rights Act, the Kentucky senator would have already had trouble convincing voters that “the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights.” With his father openly partnering with neo-Confederates, that mission — along with Paul’s equally critical task of hanging on to the moderate and independent voters who have inflated his poll numbers — may be totally impossible.
Starting with his surprising decision to endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign before his father had ended his own, Rand Paul has taken great pains to present himself as more mainstream than his father, and consequently as a more realistic presidential candidate. But as long as his father persists with his fringe right-wing activity — or unless Rand Paul does the unthinkable, and publicly disavows his father — Rand may never come any closer to the presidency than Ron.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 26, 2013
Upon arriving Thursday at CPAC, the first thing said to me, squealed by a cheerful young conservative activist, was an admonition to “go upstairs, because Dick Morris is about to speak!” The following day, I could listen to the musings of Donald Trump (I skipped this, as did almost every other attendee). And Saturday, to end on a rousing and inspirational note, a speech by Sarah Palin. While Trump has the Apprentice on NBC, Morris and Palin have recently been fired from Fox News.
As I wrote on Friday, the ossified ideas offered by the former Fox heads were loudly challenged by Sen. Rand Paul’s insurgent movement of socially-tolerant Republicans. While the old guard complained about being unfairly treated by the press corps, Paul excited the crowd with a heavy dose of libertarian ideas slickly packaged for a conservative audience. CPAC organizers kept out New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the gay activist group GOProud; perhaps they should have been paying more attention to Paul and the party’s libertarian wing.
On Saturday, Palin was dismissing as a liberal media slander the idea that conservatives were locked in an internecine ideological battle. The conference was full of reporters, she complained, “here to write their annual ‘conservatives in crisis’ story.” She doesn’t believe that the Republican Party is rudderless and beset by infighting—in a state of crisis—but there she was, the not-even-one-term governor turned reality television star, excoriating Republican consultant Karl Rove from the stage, along with the rest of those faux conservative quislings and quitters. From the big name speeches to the small panels discussions, there was virtually no mention of the Bush presidency (though conservative fossil Phyllis Schlafly managed an attack on George W. and George H.W. Bush from the dais). But there is most certainly not a crisis within the conservative movement.
“Fresh ideas,” one young Republican told me, “we need fresh ideas.” Yes, well. The conference would effectively close with the rather stale Palin, whose folksy incoherence always manages to always fill the seats, and a Breitbart.com-sponsored panel at which those who has been “uninvited” by CPAC (meaning not that they were barred, but that they weren’t invited to speak this year) could complain about the horrible mistreatment they’d endured at the hands of the conference organizers .Among that group was semi-pro conspiracy theorist and blogger Pamela Geller, who’d earlier charged that the annual conservative gathering had been “corrupted” and “compromised by Muslim Brotherhood activists.”
Palin’s speech was standard fare in comparison. There was the star of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” mocking the “reality television” world of Washington DC. Reading off of a TelePrompTer, she asked the president to “step away” from his TelePrompTer and “do your job.” And then she hoisted a 7-11 “Big Gulp” — evidently unaware that the drink would have been the one exception to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stupid regulation of big sugary drinks (thankfully halted at the last minute by a local judge).
Palin’s speeches are routinely described by her foes in the “lamestream media” (possibly the most irritating political neologism of the past decade) as “entertaining” and “crowd-pleasing”—descriptors that conservatives deploy too, and which the reader should always translate as “hopelessly devoid of ideas.” The “aw-shucks” tone, surplus of words ending with an apostrophe (the “amen, sista’’’ she offered to Margaret Thatcher, for instance), heavy reliance on one-liners that would make Shecky Greene cringe, and endless references to gun racks, dog sleds, and moose were all intended as a reminder just in case you forgot that she was from, to use her own, tired phrase, “real America.”
It’s transparent shtick, but for reasons this fake American fails to understand, the audience loves it.
And that’s always the takeaway from CPAC: it’s an event for activists (not intellectuals) who manage the rote recitation of keywords and fulsome references to conservative heroes. Sure, there were some interesting “breakout sessions” that transcended the rah-rah stump speech, but the stimulating ones I attended were sparsely attended.
This isn’t a conservative problem so much as it’s a problem with American politics. After Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster, even those pundits who disagreed with the Kentucky senator expressed relief that real ideas were being substantively debated on the senate floor. It’s a perennial suggestion that Washington needs something approximating Prime Minister’s Questions, in which Britain’s parliamentarians pepper their leader with questions and insults. Palin might be a hypocrite on this point, but American politics does indeed all too often resemble a reality show. (In comparison, the United Kingdom’s defense minister, William Hague, wrote a critically-acclaimed biography of Pitt the Younger, while Tory star and London mayor Boris Johnson is a newspaper columnist, former editor of The Spectator, and author of a novel and a work of history).
Like many CPAC attendees, Palin believes that the party doesn’t need new ideas, because those ideas—immigration reform and gay marriage, for instance—would supposedly betray conservative principles. Keep losing elections, but lose with dignity.
But it’s also that Palin isn’t in the ideas business. She is, as loudly reaffirmed in her CPAC speech, a peddler of resentment, and a worldview of conservative victimology obsessively focused on the media gatekeepers and corrupt political consultants they see distorting a political message that, if not interfered with by liberal ideologues, would be embraced by most all Americans. It’s a common theme at CPAC: it’s not our ideas, it’s how the media distorts our ideas. Circling the conference center was a truck sponsored by the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, displaying the message that the “liberal media” was “censoring the news.”
Perhaps Palin is correct that events like CPAC get a tough time from the media, but spending some time in the company of right-leaning journalists one realizes that CPAC skepticism is a bipartisan thing. Indeed, there were few conservative journalists or intellectuals—excepting the ideological insurgents of the Breitbart crew and assorted right-wing blogs—I spoke to that held the conference (or, in some cases, its attendees) in high esteem. As one conservative journalist told me, the conference had successfully transformed from “a conservative freak show into a general freak show.”
After three days at CPAC, one could have almost forgotten that the previous decade of Republican politics ever happened, when the party prepared for a permanent majority and a long war against Islamic extremism, circled the wagons in defense of George W. Bush, and believed complaints about civil liberties were deployed as a cudgel to undermine the president. If CPAC is an indicator of the state of conservatism—and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s much more than a poorly executed media event—then expect this civil war to be long and bloody.
By: Michael Moynihan, The Daily Beast, March 17, 2013