Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Tyranny Fantasy

I've neglected this blog in recent months. My life has been...challenging, and the remarkable collapse of the American federal government under Trump has sucked all of the air out of the room. It's hard to think about various issues, even really important ones, when every morning Twitter delivers a new set of atrocites and blossoming fascism. But I wrote a piece about the upcoming political campaign, and in the course of coming back to teh Blogger, I found a comment on a piece I wrote some time ago about the 2nd Amendment. Now I'm not here to pick on commenters - I LOVE commenters - even though this one has a bit of a problem with coherence.

But I was taken by this comment because it reflects a common argument among second amendment maximalists. And the argument is offered in such sincere seriousness while taking what amounts to two opposite and logically incompatible positions that it always fascinates me. Notice the use of the phrase "Government Tyranny", used multiple times in a single paragraph. It's a descriptor of some set of events that is so broadly understood and accepted on the far right that they really believe it needs no explanation.

But what are they describing with this phrase? What set of events in the United States are they anticipating that would place them in open warfare with the US government? The commenter refers to the slaughter of billions and billions of people - but what historical precedent are they examining? Sure, we can think about Armenia, we can think about Nazi Germany, we can think about Stalin's Soviet Union, we can think about Rwanda - but do those historical events apply somehow to the largest, oldest, most successfully established democracy in the world? What established democratic nation can we look to that has somehow fallen victim to 'government tyranny' to such an extent that it's citizens found themselves in open warfare with their government? Not Syria. Not Egypt. Not Libya. These were nations that HAD authoritarian, tyrannical (if you will) governments, nations where the people had no hope for their children or their future.

Sometimes they invoke some kind of 'economic meltdown' that leads to widespread looting and the collapse of American society. But they never describe what events might cause such a 'meltdown', falling back on phrases like 'runaway inflation' and 'Wiemar Republic', neither of which do they seem to understand either economically or historically. Fueled by some kind of fascination with Zombie movies and stockpiling weapons and supplies coupled with a barely suppressed desire for an opportunity to kill lots of black and brown people without paying a legal price, they envision a world where cities are in ruins and only them and their heavily armed friends will survive, killing looters and defending their compound from the ravenous hordes.

Do they not understand that American service people take their oath to the constitution seriously? Do they not understand that the US is comprised of 50 State governments in addition to the federal government, each sovereign and each with dozens or hundreds of armed law enforcement agencies and a military force controlled by the governor? Do they not understand that America has strong, mature democratic institutions that would short-circuit any descent into whatever they imagine 'tyranny' represents? Apparently they do not.

But wait - it gets weirder. If we give them even a small benefit of the doubt - if we, as a thought experiment, postulate that this 'government tyranny' is underway - then we can examine the key claim of the argument. So in this near-future America, cities are in ruins from rioting and looting, people are dying in huge numbers, there is no law enforcement, everyone is on their own while the government relentlessly hunts down the rebel leaders and puts entire communities into prison, labor and re-education camps. But wait - the brave 2nd amendment crew, in their 5.11 Tac Vests, boots and MOLLE gear, with their ARs and AKs and pistols are coming to the rescue.

Of course, this is government tyranny. You know - the US government. Predator drones circle out of rifle range, watching everything. A team planting IEDs at night is clearly visible in the thermal sensors, and a Hellfire missile obliterates them. A raiding party approaches a government installation, and a circling AC-130 kills all of them in 45 seconds - they never fire a shot. The tyrannical government sends troops into Memphis to round up the rebel leadership. The brave Tennessee fighters get their rifles and shotguns, paint their faces and send platoons into the streets to ambush the government troops. But the troops are riding MRAPs and Bradleys and Strykers, covered by precision artillery fires from the nearest firebase. Again, drones have seen the brave freedom fighters setting their ambushes. As the artillery barrage tears apart their positions, the government troops roll through, with machine guns and anti-tank rockets mopping up the remains of the resistance. The fighters never saw a single dismounted infantry unit to target with their rifles, and without air, armor or artillery of their own, they are all dead in an hour.

So there you have it. In the same breath, they tell us that American government tyranny is a real thing, and is very likely if not inevitable, and that they need their poodle-shooters and street-sweepers to stop it. The thing these two scenarios have in common is they are both ridiculous fantasies. There is no mechanism where a mature democracy would descend rapidly into open rebellion and warfare, and there are no weapons in civilian circulation that can have even a minor, temporary effect on a modern combined arms force.

So when they tell you they need their guns to protect us all from 'Government Tyranny', they are describing a situation that cannot occur, and a solution that cannot be effective.

Good job, guys.

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