When the Rule of Law Fails: A Reprise Post

So, reading the story of this numbskull (link found through Instapundit) bloviating on MSNBC about the fierce urgency of abolishing the police reminded me of a long post that I did some years ago about what happens in a lawless, politically corrupt, violence-plagued city when the otherwise upright and law-abiding citizens get fed to the teeth with lawlessness, corruption and violence, and decide to take matters into their own hands. Brittany Packnett Cunningham, apparently noted as an anti-police activist, likely would not like what happens when citizens are finally pushed an inch too far.

The resulting post of mine was originally in three parts, but reposted here in total, below the fold. The story of the Vigilance Committee of 1856 was one that I had originally researched as providing a turn of plot for my Gold Rush adventure, The Golden Road. The hero of that novel, young Fredi Steinmetz worked for a time in San Francisco with his friend Edwin, selling copies of James King’s Evening Daily Bulletin on the streets and delivering to subscribers late in 1855, but left for the diggings before the Vigilance Committee renewed itself. The situation in San Francisco, which finally boiled over, reminds me very much of current events; naked chicanery at the polls, political corruption, a high level of crony capitalism, and criminals terrorizing ordinary citizens and going unpunished.

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Aristos a la Lanterne!

When the rage of downtrodden French peasants, living-on-the-edge city dwellers and frustrated bourgeois towards the ruling nobles and royalty final exploded into a kind of civic wildfire, there was no appeasing their collective anger. A handful of wary and fleet-footed aristocrats, or those who had made a good living out of serving the royals and the nobility fled from France in all directions. The slow and unwary made a humiliating appointment with Madame Guillotine before a contemptuous and jeering crowd, if they had not already run afoul of a mob with pikes and knives, and ropes at the foot of civic lampposts. (The fury of the French Revolution flamed so furiously that it that eventually it burned a good few leading revolutionaries themselves. As the Royalist pamphleteer Jacques Mallet Du Pan remarked pithily, “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.) For a long time, my sympathies as regards parties in the French Revolution tended to be with those who fell out with it, sympathies formed by popular literature and music: The Scarlett Pimpernel, A Tale of Two Cities, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and other tales which basically tut-tutted the madness which overcame all reason and discretion, and championed those who had the brunt of it fall on them, either justly or not. How fortunate that our own very dear revolution had been able to escape such conflagrations: Loyalists in the colonies might have suffered being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town or having to leave in an undignified rush when Yankee Doodle went to town and made their independence stick. But the jailhouse regrets of those who called up and inflamed that conflagration, even inadvertently is not my concern here.

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The Hash-Tag War

I’ve been cynically amused over the past couple of weeks at how efficiently the Laptoperati and Twitter-fixated media Powers That Be have swung to “Russia Bad-Ukraine Brave & Noble!!! Eleventy!!” since the Russian invasion-attempted-occupation-re-occupation of the place began in a big way nearly two weeks ago. How can it now be World War III already, when we still have our Covid-19 decorations still up? Watching practically every media outlet swing into action in being all sympathies for Ukraine and all-hate on Russia is … astonishing. All the parties who would have been lighting candles, holding vigils for peace, and lecturing us about how war is not good for children and other living things, and no blood for oil have changed tune without missing a beat, hardly. Suddenly Vladimir Putin is the enemy of all that is good and decent, and everyone is rushing to declare sympathy with and support of the Ukraine, declare anything Russian to be double-plus-ungood, and throwing Russian cats out of cat shows, Anna Netrebko out of the Met, and vodka with a Russian-origin brand-name down the drain. Celebrity fools with pretensions to adequacy issue hysterical demands that Russia be thrown out of NATO, or that NATO enforce a no-fly zone over the Ukraine – never mind that Russia wasn’t a member of that organization and instituting a no-fly zone would almost instantly involve the United States. The turn-around is purely astonishing to behold; a hashtag/social media war on steroids.

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The Bodyguard of Lies

It’s screamingly obvious to anyone save perhaps the most gullible in a present-day university history program, that attempting to research the events and conduct of a war – and figuring out what is happening while the war is still ongoing is an impossibility. Were the defenders of Snake Island all killed in a Russian barrage … or are they alive, and prisoners of war? Is the Russian advance going as clockwork towards their goals … or are they being turned back? Have Ukrainian fighter aircraft shot down a Russian transport aircraft? Successfully ambushed a Russian column on an unspecified mission here or there in the conflict zone? Who is coming out ahead, dead or alive, on the ground or in the struggle for the eyeballs and sympathies of the outside world, watching with unswerving attention? What are we being told, and what is there to gain from us believing it?
The grim truth is – really, we can’t really believe much of what we see or hear about the war in the Ukraine at present. No armchair generals at this group blog, merely a collection of somewhat well-informed amateur (and perhaps a sprinkling of professional) analysists trying to make sense of what we can see, dimly through the fog. Truth is a nugget of pure gold somewhere in that fog and dirt; finding it may be more a matter of pure luck.

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The Odessa Steps

The early Soviet propaganda movie, The Battleship Potemkin, culminates in a prolonged and shocking sequence of local citizens – men, women and children – gunned down by remorseless Czarist soldiers on Odessa’s famed harbor-to-town staircase. The sequence remains a shocker. (And is still studied in film schools, apparently, for being ground-breaking effective and technologically ahead of the time.) Historically, there was never such a massacre on the Steps, but the sequence served as a kind of cinematic shorthand for State brutality aimed at essentially harmless, unarmed, unthreatening civilians in a public place; civilians who were seen to be defying the authority of the State. And so the armed minions of the State acted – because even the mildest defiance of Authority on the part of ordinary workers and their families is a stab at the heart of those Authorities. They cannot brook defiance, and so out come the armed police, just as they have this week in the streets of Ottawa with regard to the truckers protesting vaccine mandates. All the forces of the law, with the cheerful approval of the Canadian established media, the intellectual and ruling class – it’s really rather breathtaking, this concentrated venom and enthusiasm for breaking heads and bones, all aimed at the workers participating in a civil and well-organized street protest. (It would seem that as far as the RCMP are concerned, Dudley Do-Right and Constable Benton Fraser both have left the building – so much for Canadian ‘polite.’)

What will happen now that the ordinary working stiffs of Canada have been so casually abused by their native ruling class; threatened with having bank accounts frozen, their means of earning a living confiscated, themselves arrested, while their pets and children given over to the tender care of animal shelters and the child “protection” authorities? How far will this protest go now, bouncing down the Odessa Steps like a runaway baby carriage? It could be that Canadians, with the ethos of being polite, courteous, and truthful, may be truly shocked, shocked to the point of open rebellion over being consistently lied about and bullied by their ruling elite. In America, our own flyover country residents are perfectly accustomed to being abused as stupid, red-necked rubes by our own elite class. It’s what we have come to expect of NPR, the political ruling class, the New York/Hollywood cultural axis and the inside-the-Beltway-Washington DC denizens; what we have come to expect of them anyway. It may be a new and shocking development to ordinary, working-class Canadians, this contempt for the working class, though. Comment as you wish.