A Pertinent Question

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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32 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    They coincide quite often, do they not.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew
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      @Michael Drew, it depends on if you count stuff like Amadou Diallo as government violence.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Michael Drew
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      says:

      @Michael Drew, The American Revolution, which certainly counts as anti-government violence, resulted in around 50,000 deaths (including soldiers who died of disease). Since then, the United States government has fought in numerous wars against other governments (and the Confederacy counts as another government), resulting in millions of deaths. Even factoring out the “just wars” the numbers still aren’t even remotely close.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @Mark Thompson, Hmm, based on your argumentation in the other thread I wouldn’t have guessed you’d take that position on the Confederacy, but okay. I guess I thought you were addressing the civil violence side. In any case, by no means was I claiming the raw casualty count was equal, but that seems like a fairly simplistic way of measuring what the bigger problem is, doesn’t it? And even then, I wasn’t even offering an answer to the question so much as simply observing that in terms of state violence against its own citizens, government and anti-government violence is often an inter-locking phenomenon. Often enough not, as well.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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          says:

          … are interlocking phenomena, I mean.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew
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          says:

          @Michael Drew, what if we look at, say, Prohibition? Or Prohibition 2.0?

          Do we still think that there is more violence against the state than against the citizens *BY* the state?

          And if we want to expand our view by a hair, how’s about looking at, say, the 20th Century body-count that did not involve declared wars? Asia has a very interesting history wrt State Violence that puts the anti-State Violence to shame.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            @Jaybird, Did you read where I said I’m not claiming the body counts are equal?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew
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              says:

              @Michael Drew, was there a whole lot of anti-Soviet violence that ended up with people being thrown to the gulag?

              Was Mao’s 20 million body count in response to anti-Maoist forces?

              Let’s really illuminate things and start talking about Hitler and the Holocaust. Was that an “interlocking” phenomenon?

              Or, hey, let’s look at Prohibition 2.0. Was Kathryn Johnson an example of interlocking violence?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird, So then there has never been an episode of anti-government violence, Jay?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird, sure there has.

                I just don’t see that they coincide that often… except, when folks engage in anti-state violence, the state *ALWAYS* hits back.

                The state, however, has plenty of examples of stuff like Kent State.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird, that is indeed what the state does. Hits back, and certainly often just hits, as you rightly say. You are right to say that the proportion probably does not justify my use of ‘often,’ though if you read ‘quite often’ as ‘most often,’ then that was certainly your mistake. By ‘quite often’ I just meant something like, ‘more often than we’d like,’ or ‘often enough to complicate the issue somewhat.’ I also was just thinking of the issue in terms of U.S. government(s)’ use of force against U.S. citizens in the U.S. for some reason, which was my false limitation. Even in that context, you are right there is more unjustified such gov’t violence than anti-government violence, but I also was not claiming otherwise. Only that the issues are quite often linked. (See, that’s just how it rolls off the tongue; I’m not making a quantitative assertion there.) It’s also worth keeping in mind that, while I understand that anti-government violence is the quantity that was being examined in the question, still what the state does is claim a monopoly on all the legitimate uses of violence in the territory, so uses of violence by private agents in the territory on other private agents is, at least from the state’s perspective, also entirely its concern. This is not to say all such incidents of private violence will justify the use of further violence by the state to intervene, but some will.

                Of course, if one simply sands against the state on the basis of its being grounded in violence and grant it no legitimacy beyond just being the biggest gorilla in the clearing, well, then none of this changes anything from your point of view.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Michael, my fundamental question is this:

                We know that The State *ALWAYS* hits back. In that sense, sure. They’re interlocked. Why?

                Because The State *ALWAYS* hits back.

                What proportion of The State hitting is hitting back?

                Enough for us to ask “which is more of a problem?”Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird, What proportion of The State hitting is hitting back?

                Well, a lot less if you include Maoist China and Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. But as I said even in the American context, I didn’t claim the answer wasn’t what you’re saying it is. As to asking the question, I didn’t, initially. I guess you’re just pissed at me for even taking it as a question and not as the rhetorical smackdown I was supposed to take it as.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird, The point is that the numbers aren’t even close as between state violence and anti-state violence, we are currently fighting two wars, and the thing people are freaking out over is anti-state violence?!?! It’s a WTF of epic proportions.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Right, b/c Maddow has been perfectly silent throughout her Air America and MSNBC careers on the subject of our foreign wars.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird, Well, Mark, I didn’t realize that, as your item refers directly to Maddow’s special. But certainly Bill Clinton’s government killed its share of people.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                This item, I mean.

                If this was all about what Clinton had to say last week, then you might have simply looked at the text in a post and said what you have to say about it. To whatever extent his remarks were out of bounds, that can be analyzed within the context of the remarks. Is there some way in which the greater violence of the state, violence being the basis of the state as Jason points out, means that we ought not to pay attention to or talk about private violence against the government, or against citizens for that matter? In other words, how much attention can we pay and what constitutes “freaking out”? That’s what you seem to be purporting to tell us here, unless this is just about the specific content of Clinton’s specific, in which seem best addressed by criticizing them directly, not changing the subject to state violence, which after all, is what the state is. By focusing on the quantity of violence, it seems the point being made is that the quantity of attention is out of whack. But Clinton gave one speech. If the problem is with what he said, then let’s hear what that is.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Michael Drew
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          says:

          @Michael Drew, Wrt the Confederacy, it was the state governments that seceded. Even if you consider those state governments to (somewhat paradoxically) be engaging in anti-government acts by seceding, it’s also important to note that the mere act of secession is not inherently violent.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    The state meets violence with violence, that was my only point here. I meant to make, nor did I in fact make, any equivalence.Report

  3. Avatar Katherine
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    says:

    In the United States, or in the world? I don’t have remotely the information to answer the question with regard to the world as a whole.

    With regards to the US, its wars/conflicts can be classified as, IMO:
    Revolutionary War: anti-government
    Mexican-American War: government
    Civil War: anti-government, due to being started by rebels against the existing government, and out of opposition to the results of a democratic election.
    Terrorism by racist vigilate groups for ~100 years after the Civil War: definitely anti-government. But then slavery must be noted as government-backed systemic violence.
    Spanish-American War: government
    Numerous invasions and occupations of Latin American countries: government
    World Wars: government, but not caused or started by the United States government.
    Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War: government.

    On the whole, I’d say there’s been more vi0lence by the government than by anti-government groups, but that doesn’t have a lot of relevance to the acceptability of anti-government violence. The places where it is relevant would be ones where anti-government violence is an attempt to stop government violence, in which case we’re talking about John Brown (if we accept slavery as government-backed violence) or Weather Underground, not McVeigh.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    @Michael, (dude, down here) you mistake my intent. If we want to really explore, well then! Let’s *REALLY* explore!

    Heck, let’s really get into definitional stuff.
    You seem to think that state and anti-state violence are “quite often” linked. Fair enough.

    The question is (unfairly?) asking about violence on behalf of the state vs. violence against the state and not asking about, say, non-state violence… e.g., a guy beating his wife up. Heck, in our narrative, we’ve already got a bloodied woman and the state isn’t involved at all… and when the state does get involved, it’ll send a couple of guys down to his, oh let’s really have fun, a couple of guys down to his trailer and point a gun at him and take him downtown.

    Unlinked violence at the agency of the state (and, indeed, this is violence that all of us applaud!). What percentage of unlinked violence does this represent?

    If we ask “which has been more of a problem”, it seems only fair to tie this particular balloon to the state’s side of the scale, no?

    When we get to questions like the one in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, it really gets blurry. Now we’re getting upset at the state *NOT* engaging in violence! Seems unfair to not spend so much attention on trivial issues like “Buck vs. Bell” or “Schenck v. United States” or Kelo or whathaveyou.

    Right?

    So let’s tie a whole bunch of “police protecting people” balloons to the scale on the side of the state violence.

    And let’s look, again, at the original question.

    “[W]hich has been more of a problem: anti-government violence, or government violence?”

    And, heck, let’s get rid of the rest of the world and narrow our scope down to only the US.

    And, heck, let’s get rid of most of the 18th and 19th centuries because, hey, it’s kind of unfair to talk about state-enforced slavery and the Alien and Sedition Acts, right?

    Let’s just talk about the 20th and 21st Century.

    Is that good for you? Are those the ground rules you’re looking for?Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    You seem to think that state and anti-state violence are “quite often” linked. Fair enough.

    If you’ll review my initial comment, this is really all that’s pertinent, isn’t it? I’m out.Report

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