I know, I know: I never manage to remain silent for that long. Well, it’s not for lack of the intention.
I’d like to entertain a thought here in public: a thesis not yet completely formed, but which has both considerable appeal and an aura of danger about it. I first touched on it more than two years ago:
The existence of a monopoly doesn't mean that there's no other source for the thing monopolized; it merely means that the monopolist has been granted the exclusive privilege of providing that thing legally, backed by State law and State power...in other words, by State violence. Indeed, all monopolies are monopolies on violence. In particular, a State that isn't conceded a monopoly on the presumptively legitimate use of violence is merely one of two or more contenders for power in a civil war.
As I contemplate that passage today, it strikes me that there’s an application to our current political turmoil –sorry, it didn’t end with the election; just ask Ivanka Trump – that deserves to be explored. Indeed, I think it must be explored at once, and not just by me.
I’ve noted before that when I write I’m often talking to myself, for my own benefit, about the subject of the piece I’m writing. That’s as true when I write fiction as at any other time. For an illustration, here’s a snippet from On Broken Wings:
Tiny looked up as the door to the interrogation room opened. A tall, slender man in a close-fitting pinstriped suit strolled in. The badge that dangled from the breast pocket of his suitjacket bore the insignia of a captain.
"Well, hello there, Mr. -- Tiny?"
Tiny glared up at the policeman. "Hello to you too, Captain. Do please excuse me for not getting up and shaking hands."
The policeman chuckled and waved it off. "Don't apologize, my good man. I've been in your circumstances and I understand the difficulties."
"Oh, you do? Well, unless you plan to murder me outright and dispose of my body, do you understand the kind of shitstorm that's going to hit this place when the D.A. hears that you've kept me down here for six hours, without benefit of counsel, in handcuffs and leg irons, for running a red light?"
The police captain smiled. "Ah, but will he still feel the same after he's heard about your failure to yield the right of way?"
Tiny glowered but said nothing. The policeman pulled out the chair opposite his, turned it around and dropped into it in pulp-fiction detective style, leaning forward against its backrest. He seemed pleased with himself. "Local legend puts your bunch's headquarters at the old World War Two muster barracks in Woodlawn."
"That's not much of a secret. We're there a lot. No one else wants the place."
"I'm sure you've helped that along in little ways. But it's not your domestic arrangements I've come to talk about. My name's Magruder, by the way."
"I've been putting together a little program for the troubled youth of our precinct, you see, and it seemed to me that you and yours might want to apply for places in it."
Tiny guffawed. "Have you been down in the controlled-substances evidence room alone, Captain?"
"Oh, I admit we have to stretch the common understanding of 'youth' a trifle to make room for some of the participants. But this program makes such contortions worth everyone's while. It's a real departure from previous practice." Magruder's smile brightened. "You see, it springs from a new understanding we've come to here in Onteora, about the crucial difference between being a criminal and being in trouble with the police, and how the one need not necessarily lead to the other."
Tiny was immediately alert.
It's Smalley's racket. They're going to start Smalley's racket right here!
The policeman rose from his chair, squatted down next to Tiny, and set about unlocking the shackles around Tiny's wrists and ankles. The Butcher chieftain watched him warily, but made no movement. When he'd finished, Magruder returned to his seat and dropped the irons on the table before him. They made quite a pile of steel.
"Manacles have more than one function. In some situations, they protect a policeman from a miscreant he's just apprehended. In others, they emphasize the power of the police to do whatever they want to those who've come under their scrutiny. Which of the two functions do you suppose was intended here, Tiny?"
Tiny said nothing.
"In just a few weeks, Onteora's, ah, boisterous class will have been divided into two elements. The first of those will have police guidance, and police assistance through many of life's more troubling moments. The second will be the object of a campaign of elimination, in which the first will be expected to take an active part. The price of being in the first category rather than the second is quite modest, considering the worlds that it will open up to you. So where would you rather be?"
"Captain Magruder," Tiny said conversationally, "have you spoken to Commander Eric Smalley of Buffalo District G lately? I mean, personally?"
The policeman's eyes went wide.
"You might want to drop him a call. Be sure to mention my name. And afterward, we can skip all the snake-oil patter and get down to rates and areas of immunity. Because I know your little scheme better than you do. I helped Smalley perfect it."
Magruder sat a moment in silence, then rose and went from the room without another word. As the door closed behind the police captain, Tiny called out, "Send him my regards, would you please?"
I wrote that more than twenty years ago. What “Smalley’s racket” refers to is another police commander’s offer of predation licenses to selected criminals and criminal groups. Simply pay the commander an agreed-upon amount every month, and he’ll cheerfully look the other way as you plunder the law-abiding. To make your license even more valuable, he’ll crack down extra-hard on your unlicensed competitors.
This possibility is inherent in the State’s monopoly on violence. Moreover, it applies in a particularly striking manner to offenses committed for political reasons.
Today, for reasons any regular reader of Liberty’s Torch will already be familiar with, certain groups possess a de facto immunity to prosecution or other forms of correction for certain offenses against others. Indeed, anyone who tries to obtain redress against a member of such a protected group will usually suffer for doing so.
We’ve seen the “Black Lives Matter” thugs get away with everything but outright murder. We’ve seen Muslims get away with blatantly privatizing a public street for their “prayers.” We’ve seen left-liberals harass and assault conservatives, especially conservative speakers, without regard for the consequences...of which there have usually been none.
Adolfo Calero, a leader of the contras, was scheduled to speak at Harris Hall. Outside and inside the building, demonstrators were shouting and chanting their protests at Calero's very presence on campus.
About 10 minutes before Calero was to speak, Barbara Foley, an assistant professor of English and American culture, walked up to the microphone on the stage and said: "This monster that they're bringing here tonight is not a human being. . . . He had no respect for the free speech, much less the right to live, of the people that he slaughtered . . . with the backing of the CIA. He has no right to speak tonight, and we are not going to let him speak. He should feel lucky to get out of here alive."
When Calero arrived, someone -- not Foley -- threw red paint on him, and the roars of rage directed at him were so overpowering that he was unable to give his talk.
Of those who disrupted the event and assaulted Calero, only Foley was penalized in any fashion...and all that happened to her was that she was denied tenure.
Try to imagine a situation of this sort with the ideologies reversed: i.e., a left-liberal spokesman being harassed and assaulted by conservative activists to prevent him from giving a public talk. Is it plausible that the relevant authorities would have treated the offenders so gently? Doesn’t this imply that a license of sorts has been granted to the Left by the monopoly power on violence?
Inasmuch as it’s common for prominent conservatives and Republicans to be treated as Adolfo Calero was treated, and for the perpetrators to suffer no adverse consequences, the matter is of some importance.
The Ivanka Trump / Jet Blue incident makes it plain that the Left will use its de facto license to harass and wound its ideological opponents all the way to its limits:
- Against Republican officeholders;
- Against conservative activists;
- Against the families and friends of the above categories;
- And against their identifiable supporters.
Any private persons who attempt to intervene to enforce the norms of public order and civility will be blamed for all of it.
In particular instances the relevant authority might accede to the license only reluctantly. It might have every good intention, but lack the resolve required to act. The results are what matter: we on the Right will be “progressively” intimidated out of allowing ourselves to be known and heard.
My first encounter with what I’ll call the Gigio effect, was in a mailing list for writers, where I dared question the insanity of a well-respected pro who said that George Bush (personally) had raised the price of stamps to ruin her (personally) in her efforts to sell used books through Amazon.
There are levels of insanity I can’t tolerate and couldn’t even while in the political closet. So I pointed out the sheer insanity of this, the inefficiencies of the post office and probable causes for it.
The list went silent. I figured tons of people were cussing me behind my back (this was when GB’s name was after all like invoking the devil.)
So, I shrugged, figured I’d be kicked out of the list and went for a walk. When I came back my email was full of “Oh, thank you, for saying…” ALL OF IT IN PRIVATE MESSAGES.
The senders ranged from raw beginners to established pros, but no one would challenge this lady’s illusions to her face. Only me.
So how did the private messages make me feel? They made me roll my eyes.
I swear 2/3 of the list PMed me to say they stood with me, but in public, not a peep. They were all so scared, you see, of the imagined disapproval of “all the rest of them.”
Later in the same essay:
I can’t push you and I won’t. If you want to keep your opinions — left, right, moderate, libertarian, anarchist — hidden, it’s your job. I am not the keeper of your soul.
However, I want you to think of the dark and dank place that fear and that suspicion and the constant spying lead.
And then I want you to think of how good it would feel to get off your knees, stand on two feet, look your tormentors in the face and say “No more. I’m free. My thoughts and my opinions, my beliefs, my tastes, my friends are my own. You have no power over me. Not now, and not ever again.”
Inspiring stuff...but how many on the Right, aware that the Left possesses that de facto license to damage its political adversaries and is more confident than ever about it, will stand up and be counted? Especially considering that significant portions of our 88,000-plus governments are allied with the Left and will lend it whatever power they possess?
We’re a few weeks from composing our tax returns. Think about it then.