In which Uriel engages in incitement.
Yesterday morning James T. Hodgkinson went to Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia where twenty-plus Republican congressmen and staffers were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game charity event. Once there, he pulled out his M4 Carbine rifle and shot up the game. Five people were hit and injured. A sixth was injured as well, but not from a bullet wound.
Although the police haven’t determined motive, the guy was a Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and frequently expressed his outrage of Trump and the Republican party on social media. He had been monitoring the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park schedule, and is believed to confirm with the players that they were Republican representatives and interns before mustering his firearms and attacking the players. A garage mechanic who talked to him Tuesday was a bit concerned, considering how enraged he was.
Hodgkinson, you tool.
To be fair, anyone who engages in political violence is a tool with very few exceptions. Rampage gunmen, rampage truckers, suicide bombers, all tools. US employees within CIA drone-strike programs probably recognized they’re tools (…of the United States — It doesn’t help that Predator pilot team members are not treated well). But they too, like the rampaging singletons, only weaken the causes of interest to the United States and strengthen the ones they attack.
After considering a number of approaches for this topic I considered making a list of tips for would-be revolutionaries and rampage killers looking to further an ideology or political cause. But really they all come down to one working tip:
Before you plan your attack, or if you’re already planning, before you further devote any more time and energy to your effort, consider the following:
• Violence does nothing for your cause. Bertrand Russell, perhaps at his cheekiest, said War does not determine who is right, only who is left. When we go to war, it is, in fact, at the expense of our own causes in favor of the destruction of someone else’s, typically a rival cause, or one that is in direct opposition. War doesn’t destroy an enemy cause, rather it attacks those people currently actively pursuing to further it. Like the heads of a mythical hydra, others come to replace them, oft in greater numbers, more determined, more clever, more devoted to their ultimate triumph.
• Targeting innocent civilians (even if incidentally or accidentally) is terrorism. (United States CIA drone strike programs, I’m looking at you right now.) No matter how righteous your intent is, innocent casualties are going to be seen as delegitimizing you and your cause and anyone else that identifies or associates with it. Yes, this is logically a tu quoque (you also) fallacy, but that doesn’t matter. A cause’s base will love it unconditionally, but the public will only regard a cause as having righteousness or the moral high ground so long as it doesn’t have a history of psychos killing innocent civilians in its name. Hint: Disparaging the fallen (say, calling them militants) doesn’t make it all better (especially when your militants include grandmothers and children. This insults not just the victims but also the public you’re trying to fool.)
• Attacking the enemy vindicates their cause. There’s a saying that dates (at least) back to the 1960s and the assassinations of JFK, of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. If they’re shooting at you, you must be doing something right. Shooting at people is one of the fastest ways to draw to them (or their colleagues) a rush of new recruits, monetary donations and new resources. Seriously, even punching white supremacists (as entertaining as that can be) ultimately gives them more public sympathy.
• Going on a murderous rampage only shows the world you’re a kook. This is to say, when Hodgkinson decided to shoot up a Republican baseball practice, he was driven more by personal problems and internal conflicts than he was by political identity or affiliations. Some of this is hinted in his unemployed, homeless conditions. Much like Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, 1976) it was only a matter of luck and opportunity that he targeted Eugene Simpson Stadium Park rather than a Starbucks or a university or a Christmas party.
Yes, right now the public is still trying to process why he did it, to find order in a maelstrom of circumstances. Those who want to use him to disparage Democrats or liberals are eager to declare him sane and with clear intention. But this is the same line of logic that tied Scott Roeder’s assassination of Dr. Tiller to Bill O’Reilly’s ongoing campaign to discredit Tiller’s practice. Lone wolves are driven to lone-wolfdom long before they choose a particular target. And as Syed Raheel Farook and Omar Fateen have shown us, circumstances, opportunity and psychosis are typically what decide a killer’s target than the influence of media or ideology or political cause.
• Murdering innocent civilians shows you’re one of the worst kinds of asshole. Specifically, it shows that you don’t give a fuck about the interests or basic rights of the human beings around you, to the point you don’t even respect their right to live. According to Nietzsche, Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. (Take care when fighting monsters, lest you also become a monster.) Whether you hate most wealth-and-power-pandering politicians, or Islamic-extremist terrorists, or abortion-clinic bombers or white-supremacist bigots, in resorting to a violent attack you are debasing yourself to their lowest level. And yes, this includes everyone along the Predator drone-strike change of command from the guy that insists some village has to be firebombed down to the pilots who pull the trigger. You are monsters, the lot of you, for what you do.
Alternatives To Shooting Up a Venue
Seriously, there are way better alternatives than driving a truck through a parade, or blowing up a plaza, or firebombing an abortion clinic, or barraging a village with hellfire missiles, no matter what your objectives are. We are driven easily to anger, considering how many people are out there being dicks, and we are fed the message continuously that violence gets results (usually because violence makes fictional stories far more entertaining than non-violence. But fiction really goes by a lot of crazy rules that are different than reality.) But it really doesn’t. It only makes matters worse for everyone and everything you hold dear. (Or more accurately, everyone and everything that you once held dear.)
As a point of disclaimer, part of the problem, of course, is understanding what your motivation is. In the Muslim tradition of Jihad (meaning struggle or effort), military or violent jihad (jihad bis saif) is regarded by most scholars as a fast-track jihad in contrast to the alternatives. It takes more work to pursue jihad over a (long) lifetime than to martyr one’s self (or to risk early death on the battlefield)*. That said, rampage killings typically have the subtext of suicide behind them. Survivors from the IRA have reported that arriving at a suicidal mental state was a natural part preparing to follow through with an attack. And provoking law enforcement responders is an effective means to accelerate circumstances that eliminate alternatives to suicide… or to get someone else to finish the job.
Notably, the greater jihad is regarded (though not by all Muslims) to be the struggle against one’s self. The struggle inward, of the heart and soul, rather than outward, by the sword, so these two tend to express themselves as diametrically opposed to each other.
• Consider seeking consultation. This should be obvious, but it isn’t, and the suffering that brings about suicidal states can be disorienting. Suicide is typically considered by those who suffer from a lot of pain or anxiety or concern for their own well being. (Often justifiably so!) If you can spare the effort to do a websearch, you may find you have access to benefits advocates, psychiatric personnel, support groups, religious advisors and so on that might be able to help you out of dire external circumstances or process any internal ones. There’s a common phrase (now a tired one) in the suicide support community Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. In my own experiences with major depression, the gloom seems not only permanent, but retroactive, so even the effort of looking can seem insurmountable. Yet, if you can muster the energy, or find a friend to help, or call a suicide hotline and get them to do it for you (many suicide-prevention services will!) see if you can find and rule out support services before checking out of life permanently. By recovering enough to work for your cause, you can do far more for it alive than a single spectacular rampage ever could.
• Consider suicide as a political statement. I hesitate to suggest this because we in the United States are not used to the idea of suicide as protest. We don’t even commit ourselves to death-by-starvation when it comes to our hunger strikes. When Charles R. Moore set himself on fire in Grand Saline, Texas on June 23, 2014, the public just shrugged at it. It would require a critical mass of such protests before they’d be effective or even recognized as protest. Still, China freaks out over incidents in Tibet, and self immolation as political protest remains a contemporary practice, worldwide. Enough incidents toward a cause might draw attention to the intolerable suffering caused by the status quo.
• Consider sabotage. Sabotage of infrastructure, not terror attacks are the meat and potatoes of a resistance campaign against an occupying enemy. Revolution and resistance are not war against the people, nor war against the soldiers who defend and protect the establishment, but war against the system and the elite few who benefit from it at the expense of everyone else. Hence partisan activity against an occupying enemy tends to center around sabotage of the infrastructure on which that enemy depends. Ideally you would aim to cause damage that inconveniences the enemy more that it inconveniences the people, but the point is to get them to spend more on trying to stop you than you spend evading them (in proportion to your respective budgets). Volumes have been written about the philosophy and methods of sabotage campaigns, of revolution and of counter-insurgency, so it’s worth a trip to the library (or your web-browser) to bone up on what you’re doing and how. Destroy things, not people. Expect a long, high-risk road to victory.
• Consider assassination. (Again, United States, I’m looking at you.) Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln (War is merely the continuation of policy by other means) according to Carl von Clausewitz. While violence should be a last (or at least late) resort, it is sometimes necessary, especially when opposing belligerents are bent on violence, themselves. The lesson of the chess (yes, the game) is that only the king matters. Capture the king and the game is over. Only he’s going to use all his available resources to obstruct that effort. So it is with anyone that holds power: Few are willing to give it up willingly, even if doing so is better for society as a whole. And in response to that Assassination is the art of bypassing all those pesky units and pieces and resources through subversive action to attack the king directly. And by doing so, (in theory) one circumvents the whole war.
The problem is, in most matters of politics, individuals are replaceable. Kings have heirs. Officers have subordinates eager for a chance at leadership. As much as The Allies fantasized (and historians still fantasize) about the assassination of Hitler during WWII, the Führer would be replaced, likely with someone more competent.** (Hitler was egotistical, temperamental, opinionated and by the end of the war beset with Parkinson’s. And still, few would dare contradict him.) Similarly, in current times, while many Democrats (and no small number of Republicans) want to see Trump impeached, he is likely to be replaced with someone more useful to the Republican legislature while they have majorities in Congress. In the meantime, Trump’s ongoing shenanigans serve to slow down the Republican agenda to a crawl and make an ongoing mockery of the GOP. My point being: Be extremely careful who you target for assassination, because it can easily backfire.
In military terms, assassination is a matter of force-decapitation, that is, attacking command so as to leave the troops without organization. In the short term, killing an officer disorients as the ranks reorganize, but in the long term, assassination can weed out reckless officers for cautious ones, and supply the force with dead heroes from which to draw inspiration. Assassination is the flip side of that quote above about If they’re shooting at you..: if you’re considering assassinating someone, it’s because you think they’re doing something right, and you hope their successor going to fail to resume that policy.
This means you will need to study your target, and be very sure that he’s the one that’s irreplaceable.
And don’t miss.
And minimize casualties, ideally to zero. The United States has a policy against assassination thanks to some botched attacks on Fidel Castro which were super embarrassing. Instead we use a policy of Targeted Killing which is to determine where a target is, and bomb that zone.
Don’t do this. Once you have civilian casualties, you’re back to rampage killing again, and being an asshole to the rest of humanity.
* As a westerner, a skeptic and an atheist, I still feel insecure about my (limited) knowledge of Islam. This explanation of Jihad is at best second hand: My understanding of matters Islam are the culmination of internet research and occasionally asking a practicing Muslim at the local grocery store. Similarly my Tai Chi instructor found my attempts to rephrase Tai Chi concepts in more California-dialect-friendly terms to be quaint and amusing but invariably insufficient. So it’s quite possible that I completely jumbled up the concepts regarding Jihad as well.
** The July 20 plot (in 1944, attempted by Claus von Stauffenberg) was the closest anyone ever came to assassinating Hitler, and is the topic of numerous movies, documentaries and books. A secret civilian sect within Berlin realized they needed to overthrow Hitler’s regime from within Germany before the Allies came, lest all Germans get associated with the evil fucks who were gleefully massacring Jews. (They were right and were blamed along with the party-line Nazis.) The plotters organized and implemented several attempts on the Führer. But Hitler evaded many attacks by pure luck. Eventually security was tightened so as to make assassination nearly impossible. Only in the Stauffenberg plot did they arrange a large enough coup to replace Hitler’s regime with their own. Interestingly, Stauffenberg was a Thulian as per Nazi mythology, and believed in German racial supremacy. He just believed that massacring the lesser people was taking things (way) too far.