We’re in the situation we’re in because people are ignorant and easily deluded. I refer to rampage shooters and terrorists both, exploited and manipulated into committing their ghastly acts, as well as to you the reader. It’s an unpleasant truth, but in order to combat it, we’ve prepared a short summary of some history that everyone really ought to know. The diligent reader may learn how they are being manipulated and by whom — and perhaps even do a little independent thinking.
It’s a bit of a reach, I know, but I have faith in you.
Today’s rampage shooters generally fall into two broad categories: suicidal overgrown children who act to take out their frustrations over being abused and bullied, and nihilist terrorists like the Highland Park and Christchurch shooters. The first group is the province of social work and cultural change, and do not fall within the scope of this article. The second are being radicalized online through ignorant misinterpretation of the revolutionists of two centuries ago, and act without any understanding of the associated history.
One hundred seventy years ago was a time of great social upheaval. The American Civil War was not the only conflict of the period; the whole world was aflame with the fires of revolution, both politically and philosophically. This was the age of Marx and Engels, of Garibaldi, the Third Republic of France, the anarcho-syndicalists in England, the rise of labor movements and the birth of modern communism. 1848 was the Year of Revolution, and over fifty countries were affected. In today’s terms, that’s half the world.
Revolutionist thinkers of the time based their theories on social inevitability, on the concept that the level of societal evolution would generate social change of its own accord. The idea was that, since the industrial workforce needed more education, they would gain a commensurate level of enlightenment along with it. Over time, the vast majority of people would demand better conditions for themselves and their families.
The entrenched industrialists who controlled the new industries would of course resist this; the workers would want more than could be provided. It is a fundamental truth of capitalist economics that there can never be enough luxuries to go around; it is less that there are too few resources (though that’s likely true) than it is that there must always be a lower class and a privileged class, each to provide incentive for the workers by their own example. It is, likewise, a fundamental tenet of revolutionary philosophy that the lowest classes will exist in a perpetual state of revolution.
The logical flaw in both of these schools of thought is the presumption that people are bound to their classes, and that their class determines their action. Each of these propositions is true in the aggregate, but it is always, in every case, the individual that chooses to act. That the choice is almost always made the same way by each of these individuals in no wise negates the validity — and, over time, the cumulative effect — of their freedom of choice.
It was to influence a large number of these individual choices that one particular pamphlet was published; you’ve heard of it, but you’ve likely never read it. It’s called the “Communist Manifesto”, and it was written not to express a philosophy honestly but rather as propaganda designed to encourage discontent and then revolt in the working classes, especially among the disenfranchised poor. It ends with that famous line, “Workers of the world, unite!”
The anarchist movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s in large part embraced the philosophy of “Propaganda of the Deed”, expressed cogently by Bakunin thus: “…we must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda.” The idea was twofold: first, that any randomly violent act would inspire others to violence; second, that each such attack would force governments and established societies to react oppressively, further angering the disenfranchised. The two reactions, it was theorized, would soon and inevitably create a sustained culture of violent revolution.
It didn’t work.
World leaders and prominent industrialists were frequently targeted for assassinations in the mid-1800s. Dozens of attempts were made over several decades; many succeeded in their immediate goal. Labor movements became more and more violent, and governments invariably reacted to oppress their own people.
But the results of so many bombings and shootings were sufficiently brutal that they failed to inspire emulation. Instead, reaction from society was harshly opposed to any cause that openly embraced individual acts of violence as a force for social change. Labor movements grew increasingly active, but in the face of the response they actually began to lose ground against opposition from both without and within, as ordinary people became repelled by the horrors preached by the revolutionary leaders.
It is notable that none of the anarchist movements succeeded in their greater aims. A great deal of social change did occur, and much was due to the attention given certain causes by the brutal violence — but in most cases those reforms which were instituted were weakened by the societal backlash. It is estimated that many of these causes were set back by decades.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 marked the end of common acceptance for “Propaganda of the Deed”. It was successful because it was carried out not by a populist uprising spontaneously generated by anarchist acts, but instead by a carefully orchestrated military and paramilitary coup undertaken by trained and disciplined cadres. It was organized, swift, limited — and therefore effective. It did not transpire according to revolutionary doctrine.
To this day, revolutionary organizations that embrace the outdated anarchist principles are common, and they remain ineffective. Successful revolutions have mostly followed the Oktobrist model of the Russian Revolution. Castro’s revolt against Batista, the Revolutions of 1989, the successes of the “Arab Spring” in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen — all of these were carefully orchestrated along the same model. Apparent spontaneous activism was brought about intentionally, not by acts of terror, but rather through intelligent use of protest, counterprotest, rebound against repression, and extremely precise organization.
It is worth mention that those who preach violent terrorism rarely participate. They are notoriously careful of their own skins, because they know all too well — who better? — that men are mortal. The exception that proves the rule, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claimed until his death to be Sultan of an Islamic State, demonstrated a great deal of personal courage in battle — but not in acts of terror. No, that’s for the expendable footsoldiers, not for the generals, not for the imams, not for the preachers of violence and hate.
Those who have been convinced to undertake acts of terror are as much the victims of these preachers as those they shoot, or bomb, or behead. They have been told to commit unforgivable acts on the premise that they will help the Cause (whatever the Cause happens to be); they have been promised absolution for these deeds, but those promises are unfounded even by the tenets of their own faith. And the acts themselves will never accomplish any of the goals they are told are the eventual objects of their actions.
Random, non-orchestrated acts of terror are usually foolish. They are ineffective at their stated goals, which makes them counterproductive. Historically, they accomplish nothing — nothing except individual destruction and the effects of murder on countless individuals, always including the perpetrators.
On the eleventh of September, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four aircraft. Three were flown into buildings; the fourth was brought down by passenger reaction. In total, nearly three thousand people were killed.
The stated goals of the organization which claimed responsibility were as follows:
- to end US support of Israel
- to end US sanctions against Iraq
- to remove American troops from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East
- to resist pro-American governments in the Middle East
- to protest acts against Muslims in Somalia, Chechnya, and Kashmir
The United States since invaded Iraq, sent vast military force into the Middle East, has supported Israel vigorously, and now has more allies than ever in that region. Somalia has been devastated internally; Chechnya has been subdued and reabsorbed into the Russian Federation; Kashmir remains divided — and none of the three was significantly impacted by the attacks.
The only direct result was a crash in the American economy, the start of a global downturn that impacted stock, bond, and commodities markets. And those who knew about the attacks in advance and played the markets appropriately made vast sums of money. This is not mere conspiracy theory; the financial involvement of certain organizations and several magnates, including at least one Saudi prince, has been established. Much of the funds have since been impounded and regained — and, for the tinfoil-hat crowd, it’s been convincingly demonstrated that the old money behind the world banks lost rather than gained; the international bankers did poorly out of this.
Can it be said that these thousands died solely to make people rich? Not really, no. They died as sacrifices to a failed revolutionary philosophy, one that should never have been practiced in the first place. What makes it worse is that anyone with any serious knowledge of history can tell you that these philosophies have been known to be incorrect for years, and that the people preaching terrorism mostly know it too.
Protest is effective. Revolutions succeed, especially when the people support it. Governments can be overthrown, tyrants unseated, social change enacted. But terrorism — anarchic violence — does not work.
Terrorism is dumb, people.
A Side Note
As this is being prepared for publication, it occurs to me that there are two things that terrorism does accomplish, and I call on those few who read this to resist these, for they can be said to be the true goals of the puppet-masters behind the terrorists.
First, you will feel pressured to compromise your own freedoms. Your governments will act to oppress you, because that’s what they always do in reaction to terrorism. It’s what every government has done every single time in all of history. Resist this! Do so nonviolently, peacefully, by writing letters to your representatives, by social interaction both in person and online — but resist.
Second, you will see a rise in racial hatred against those of middle eastern descent, and religious intolerance toward those who are Muslim. This is the single most powerful recruiting tool employed by al-Qaeda, ISIL, Daesh. You must not give in to it.
The terrorists themselves, the media, your own government — they are all being manipulated by the men behind the terror. Don’t let yourself be used as a tool of these preachers of hate.
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