The Cult of Sanctified Violence

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Force — Force to the utmost; Force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant Force which shall make Right the law of the world and cast every selfish dominion down in the dust. —

Deranged mass murderer Woodrow Wilson explains his philosophy of government, April 6, 1917.  

The scientific concept of dictatorship means nothing else but this: Power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules. —

Deranged mass murderer Vladimir Lenin, agreeing in principle with Wilson. 

“What is government if words have no meaning?”

Jared Loughner reportedly posed that question to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a forum two years ago. Perhaps unwittingly, Loughner answered that question himself by murdering six people and attempting to murder fourteen others, including Giffords. In doing so, the young nihilist effectively privatized government’s central function.

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Shorn of the sophistries that provide it with a moral disguise, pared down to its essentials, political government is the systematic use of exactly the same kind of criminal violence employed by Loughner, only on a much grander scale. This was illustrated the day before Loughner’s murderous rampage, when agents of the government ruling us used a remote-controlled drone operated from the safety of an office building in Nevada to murder six people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region.

Americans were not admonished to observe a moment of chastened silence in memory of the victims of that exercise in criminal violence. This is, in part, because observances of that kind would quickly become tedious: Since 2008, Pakistan — a country with which the government ruling us is not formally at war — has endured at least 250 drone attacks, in which roughly 1,400 people have been killed.

According to the most conservative estimate of “collateral damage,” only a tithe of those slaughtered through drone strikes are “militants.”

Hundreds of civilians have likewise been massacred in the ongoing “surge” in Afghanistan, many of them in nighttime raids by “Special Operations Forces” — that is, death squads — whose behavior is not easily distinguishable from that of Jared Loughner. At least a hundred thousand civilians have been annihilated in the continuing war in Iraq, which was inaugurated for reasons just as delusional as anything that percolated in Loughner’s distressed mind.

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For those who worship at the altar of the omnipotent State, mass murder of this kind is an exercise in sanctified violence. In a 2009 interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Bill Clinton — who has repeatedly denounced “anti-government” speech as a form of criminal sedition — defined terrorism as "killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority.” (Emphasis added.) What this means, of course, is that “killing and robbery and coercion” by duly authorized agents of the State isn’t terrorism, it’s policy. 

You see, bombs and drones may demolish homes, but only “anti-government” words can harm us. This is why one of the political elite’s most urgent priorities is the control and criminalization of anti-government speech.

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Thus Rep. Robert Brady, a Pennsylvania Democrat, announced that he would propose legislation criminalizing verbal or symbolic expression that could be perceived as conveying a threat against a federal official, or an incitement to violence against such exalted personages.

“The president is a federal official,” observed Brady. “You can’t do it to him; you should not be able to do it to a congressman, senator, or federal judge…. The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down.”

That last statement, of course, is an oblique but unmistakable threat: How else would federal officials “shut this down” without the involvement of armed functionaries who would resist?

“All we’re doing is trying to protect ourselves,” simpered Brady, announcing that this new assault on what remains of the First Amendment would begin as soon as Congress re-convenes. He also reported that his proposal found support on both sides of the aisle. This isn’t surprising. For House Speaker John Boehner, the most important thing in the aftermath of the Safeway Massacre was to assert the primacy of the coercive class: “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Such acts of violence have no place in our society.”

In a similar vein, Rep. Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and former bagman for the IRA, announced plans to introduce legislation making it a federal crime for Mundanes to carry firearms within 1000 feet of a federal official. This proscription wouldn’t apply to those employed to protect those sanctified personages, of course.

If Boehner’s intent was to denounce criminal violence against the innocent, why did Boehner italicize the sanctified status of Judge Roll and Congresswoman Giffords? Doesn't Rep. King know that it's already against the law to gun down innocent people, irrespective of their occupation? Underlying both Boehner's statement and King's proposed legislation is the unmistakable intent to reinforce the special status of federal employees and enhance the measures intended to protect them from the common rabble.

The same priorities were on display in the charges filed against Loughner in his arraignment: One count of attempting to assassinate a member of Congress, two counts of unlawfully killing a federal employee, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. The crime committed in Tucson is covered by Arizona’s state laws, of course, and the victims — including all four who were murdered, not merely the federal judge and congressional aide — were all residents of the state.

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January 13, 2011