The Cult of Liberal Nonviolence

Police break up Occupy Oakland. A few activists defend themselves from rubber bullets and tear gas, and receive criticism from liberals.

25 thoughts on “The Cult of Liberal Nonviolence

  1. Excellent cartoon, Ted.

    This liberal thinks that the protesters who fight back are the only ones worth dealing with or listening to. I understand that passive resistance can be effective, but in a class war against a side whose main reason for getting to their side of the war is an ability to put themselves ahead of all others at all times, it will not work. Period.

    I think the mistake we’re all working under is the misnaming of the two groups. The 1% and the 99%. First, it’s the 1%. The finance-criminals.

    The other group is the Other 1%. These are the people who have the intelligence, craftiness (the two are not the same thing), anger, compassion, and resolve.

    The remaining 98% comprise a lot of the people down at the OWS’s and a lot of the people who think they don’t have a dog in this fight.

    The Other 1% needs (and they know this) to implement tactics that will FORCE the 98% to come to the Other 1%’s side.

    In “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” there’s a scene where, after a small scuffle, a few of the governor’s private guard lay dead on the ground. One of the passers-by, coming upon the body, stops, kicks it in the face, and then moves on.

    Until the 98% feel that way about the bankers and all those who support them, and express that contempt, the system will never be fixed. The Other 1% know that, and, I hope, are working on it.

    Perhaps we should take a page from those lunatics who show up at funerals with God Hates Fags signs. Start showing up at prep school recitals. When little Janice Penelope Janiceton-Penelopeson starts her violin solo, have a few people stand up and shout: “Janice, you daddy impoverished people so that you could play your crappy violin here today. Why does your daddy hate you so much that he’d put you in this position? Why can’t he work for a living for real, instead of stealing from others?”

    That’s right. You have to play nasty. Don’t act surprised. Show up at some banker’s mother’s place. Smile. Wave. “Um? Mrs. Penelope-Smithington?” “Yes?” “You seem like such a nice person. How could you have raised such a criminal as your son. He stole from tens of thousands of people just like you. He deliberately stole from them. How can you live with yourself? I asked your neighbors about it, and several of them agreed with me that he’s an asshole.”

    Like I said. Playing nice on this one won’t work.

  2. You’re playing right into the right’s hands. They WANT you to get violent. They are MORE than prepared to crush you the instant you get violent. They’ve been salivating for years at the thought of ending Democracy and instituting martial law; the transformation of America into a fascist theocracy has always, ALWAYS been their endgame.

    All they need is an excuse. And from where I sit, it looks like you’re agitating to hand them the perfect one.

  3. To alex_the_tired:

    If you kept your posts to less than 3000 words each perhaps you wouldn’t be too tired (the only plausible explanation!) to be the heroic one “to implement tactics that will FORCE the 98% to come to the Other 1%’s side.”

  4. Whimsical,

    Two things.

    1.Going back to high school (and high school really is just about the last unifying experience a significant percentage of Americans experience) in your mind, tell me whether the following is an accurate statement: The bullies picked on the people who did not fight back. Oh, they might occasionally take a swing at someone who was willing to trade punches, but usually, the bullies stuck to terrorizing the people who had been effectively conditioned to “use your words,” “fighting doesn’t solve anything,” “don’t stoop to their level,” etc.

    This is no different. The cops (and I mean the bad cops, not all cops. In the analogy, the good cops are like the teachers in school: they should get involved on behalf of the victim, but most of them are so scared and scarred by the system’s politics, they just won’t/can’t) get off on beating up on the people who won’t fight back. Look at the stills of Tony Bologna macing people. Don’t tell me he isn’t having the time of his frickin’ life.

    2. Appeasement doesn’t work. Ask the Jews. Ask Chamberlain. Ask the kids who got bullied. The police state will simply manufacture the excuse at the time and place of their choosing. Even if you had three nuns as the only occupants of Z Park, the police would simply plant the guns, the drugs and the child porn and say, “Hey, she came at me with a switchblade. I had absolutely no choose, and the PBA will back me on this, but to shoot her in the back as she was attacking me.”

    When some cop who’s too close to climax to stop puts too much weight on someone’s neck and crushes a bound protester’s windpipe, and that person dies, how strongly worded a chant do you think the protesters should come up with?

    The protesters need to reach out to the good cops — and ONLY the good cops. The protesters need to reach out to the bankers (and their UNDERLINGS) on Wall Street who are actually ethical persons. And those small groups must bring some much pressure on the DA’s office (again, through underlings and strategic tactics) that the indictments will start.

    If the protesters aren’t going to fight to save their fellows being beaten and abused, then at least can they learn how the hell to run away from the authorities? Or is that too aggressive as well?

  5. It might be worth noting that reason the European Jews were so slow to resist the Shoah (i.e. only taking up arms when it was absolutely clear the NAZIs planned for their complete extermination) was that during through their entire history of their exile, experience taught time and time again that resistance only led to more killing. When your foe is far more powerful than you, the merits of resistance are debatable.

    It is also worth noting that the best way to win a fight is to only strike one blow.

  6. Alex_the_tired:

    1. Oh, the statement is true enough as far as it goes, but I don’t consider it an apt or accurate analogy. I think we’re talking about different scales- you seem concerned with micro, what will happen to individual protestors, while I’m dealing with macro- what will happen to the country if OWS gets violent enough to become a plausible excuse for the shutting down of democracy.

    If we’re sticking with your high school analogy we’d need to add something like- “And if you meet the bullies with violence, the schoolboard will announce its taking over all schools, suspending all the rights of the students/teachers in the name of public safety, and changing the curriculum to nothing but Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design”.

    Under those circumstances, I’d tell those being bullied to be smarter about it – or if they cant be smart, they need to take the beating rather than endanger us all. Same goes for OWS. (And really, if you’re unwilling to take a beating for your country, you’ve got no business being at an Occupy rally anyway, right?)

    2. Fallacy of the excluded middle, much? It’s not death camp submission or meeting the aggressors with violence. There’s a whole SLEW of middle ground, of much more productive uses of the time and energy of the Occupy movement. Getting violent kills the movement, and the country right along with it.

    >>If the protesters aren’t going to fight to save their fellows being beaten and abused, then at least can they learn how the hell to run away from the authorities?

    Absolutely. It’d be very difficult to make a case that Occupy is a danger to public safety (and therefore a justification to shut down the Bill of rights) if all the footage is of them running away.


    There isn’t going to be a “real” revolution, and thank God for that; a real revolution would be very different than the scenario you and Ted have in mind and nowhere near as pleasant.

    • @Whimsical:

      Your argument that the state would respond with overwhelming force to crush violent resistance misses the point.

      Revolutionaries want to radicalize moderates who don’t think the state is as bad as they claim. Therefore, they want to provoke an excessive response. State brutality (c.f. Oakland) exposes the system as monstrous.

      Provoking confrontation is essential to any radical movement.

  7. I keep remembering one of the classic lines from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”: “If you’re going to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk!”

    If you’re going to revolt, then revolt. Talking and chanting do nothing. Even a few good martyrs won’t help without action. What came out of the Kent State killings? Not too much, since far too many “revolutionaries” were too damn stoned to do anything. Okay, that was kind of a cheap shot but the point is that when it came down to it the would-be revolutionaries were too comfortable to put themselves in the danger a revolution required (I’d have to do a long bit on Boomers to flesh this thought out completely but I think I’ve made the point).

  8. “Revolutionaries want to radicalize moderates who don’t think the state is as bad as they claim. Therefore, they want to provoke an excessive response. State brutality (c.f. Oakland) exposes the system as monstrous.”

    —See panel 2 of cartoon above, and try not to chuckle at panel 4.

    Revolutionaries (versus protestors) seek confrontation with the state’s law enforcement apparatus in order to unbalance the system so that the elites in control are faced with a crisis. The crisis is this:

    A) Should the elites continue to strengthen law enforcement to quell rebellion? (increasing the risk that their “muscle”, so to speak, becomes exceedingly ambitious and attempta to seize power for itself), or

    B) Should they alleviate the concerns of the people, and thus maintain rule by common consent and maintain order with the minimum amount of expense, and risk to their status as the wielders of power?

    The Revolutionary seeks to change what is largely a lopsided, 2-strong-versus-1-weak game of tug-of-war into a more balanced three-way, 1-versus-2 game where each side is of the contest is roughly equal in strength. The idea is to create a kind of Wheel of Fortunes, or Mexican standoff, between A) the Financial Elite, B) the Control Mechanisms they employ to maintain power and privilege, and C) the People they have wrongly abused. This Wheel, like any other, revolves with momentum, and it’s the Desperation of the People, the Ambition of the Control Mechanisms, and the Greed of the Financial Elite that turn it one way or the other.

    Guerrilla tactics are used by the People in order to compel the Control Mechanisms of the Financial Elite to respond and demonstrate their incompetence, sowing dissention between the two factions oppressing the People. This dissention basically boils down to the following: the Financial Elite will claim the Control Mechanisms are wasteful and incompetent; the Control Mechanisms will respond that they have insufficient resources or liberties from the Financial Elite in order to do their job effectively. As mistrust and between the Financial Elite and their Control Mechanisms grows, both sides in this Master-vassal relationship are compelled to waste resources corrupting and undermining their opposite number, and the People, in effect, the more they actively resist, the greater the freedom they create for themselves to push and pull this wheel of competing forces.

    Do you think it doesn’t work this way? Try reading the news, or a history book.

    It’s ironic when you think about it: the Iraqis and Afghanis our government oppresses have more of the American courage and fighting spirit we admire than our own “pigs” do.

    Let’s ALL make the pigs squeal to each other, and then listen carefully when they do. Clever as they try to be, they’ll be exposing their own weaknesses each and every time.

  9. @ComradeZero

    This is not a revolution, it’s a joke. Americans don’t even understand the meaning of the word, much less have the mind of revolution. These clowns think FaceBook was the driver of revolution in the Arab Spring. Can you imagine? These idiots think revolution comes from the outside, not from within. That alone tells you what these “revolutionairies” are about. They’re a joke. In short, they want debt relief and jobs so they can be good little consumers. In fact, this is the first revolution in history that doesn’t want the system torn down, they want the masters of the system to enable them to become better indentured servants. It’s laughable really.

  10. If there is anything less effective than camping out in the cold to affect societal change, it would have to be continual self-important, pseudonymous, derisive blog lecturing about what constitutes REAL revolution.

    Especially when those being criticized are admonished to risk their lives, in approved revolutionary strategies, would be doing so only to achieve a “new society” that, apparently, must dare not offer anything but the same joblessness and crushing debt of the old one.

  11. Great cartoon, Ted ! But don’t forget that now that the US is set to use UAVs not merely to murder people abroad, but in so-called «law enforcement» at home ( – not surprisingly, Texas is leading the way), it will no longer be necessary for the authorities to employ cops who can’t get their rocks off in any other manner to beat or pepper spray or Taser or shoot protesters, which risks creating sympathies for the victims ; instead, such matters and other things distasteful to those who run things will be dealt with simply and efficiently and with a minimum of fuss by a functionary pressing a button or clicking an icon while sitting comfortably in a swivel chair. Bang ! – and pieces of bone and guts and skin and flesh make a pleasing pattern on the sidewalk ; no need to press still more people into already overcrowded gaols ! Ain’t technique – and capitalism – grand ?!!…


  12. @falco said: “If there is anything less effective than camping out in the cold to affect societal change, it would have to be continual self-important, pseudonymous, derisive blog lecturing about what constitutes REAL revolution.”

    Actually the only thing less effective than camping out in the cold to affect societal change is whining about commentary on how ineffective – and meaningless – such behavior is. Seriously, get over yourself.

    @falco said: “Especially when those being criticized are admonished to risk their lives”.

    Again, get over yourself. And take some reading comprehension courses. I don’t recall seeing anyone admonishing the OWS folks to “risk their lives”. In fact, the very commentary being made is that they clearly don’t believe what their protesting about IS worth risking their lives for. Debt relief? Jobs? The right to be obedient consumers? Hardly the stuff of revolution, and hardly risking one’s life for.

    Ted’s cartoon is more-or-less about the right to defend one’s self against violence WITH violence. My own person take on OWS is that if these people were protesting something meaningful, violence would naturally evolve from it. This is because ultimately this isn’t about jobs, debt relief, or econ 101. It’s about authority. It’s about who runs things. And if that was challenged in any real sense, there would be violence. It would happen naturally. Those in authority don’t give up authority willingly, you take it from them.

  13. Ted,

    Two questions for you.

    1. You mention the cult of liberal non-violence (and it’s an excellent summation). What victories has liberal non-violence actually achieved? Sitting here, all the victories I can think of were achieved not by non-violence (or even by violence) but by working within the parameters of the system, as crooked as that system might be. Why, after 30 or so years of continually not winning by playing with drums and holding singalongs and marches, have the progressive movements not realized that they need to develop a better set of tactics?

    2. On the occupywallst. org site, the newest entry is a poster calling for a general strike in Oakland on Nov. 2nd. Ted, you’re far more graphics-aware than I am. My initial take on looking at the poster was that although it is a technically well-executed poster, the person who designed it is tone-deaf: A poster that harkens back to the Communist propaganda posters of the early-to-mid 20th century? That’s the poster? Am I the only one who recalls how the right coined the phrase “card-carrying liberal” by slightly tweaking “card-carrying communist”? The effect was devastating and immediate: the association was unavoidable: a liberal MUST be a communist. Why do liberals continue to deliberately invoke associations in the public’s mind with communism and socialism?

    As an artist, can you discuss this?

    • @Alex,
      1. The book “How Non-Violence Protects the State” is an excellent and succinct summary of the case against the exclusive use of nonviolence as a tactic. (Important to note: even the bloodiest revolutions rely mostly on nonviolent means—national strikes, demonstrations, sabotage, destruction of property, etc.) There is simply no historical precedent for radical political change, much less a revolution in which one whole class of elites is supplanted by another, occurring solely as the result of a 100% nonviolent campaign. The Indian independence struggle, frequently cited as such a case, was NOT a revolution. If you were poor before 1949, you were poor after 1949. And it certainly wasn’t nonviolent. Ghandi’s allies carried out bombings and assassinations. Hitler was as nonviolent as Ghandi—neither man killed anyone, yet was allied with people who did. Similarly, the transition away from apartheid was not a revolution. Rich people remained rich in ANC-run South Africa. And, in any case, the ANC certainly was not nonviolent. Violence, and more often the credible threat of violence, is like an Allen wrench. You don’t use it all the time, but when you need it, you need it. Especially when you’re confronting the colossus of the state and its immense military and police force.

      2. I love Soviet and Maoist propaganda art; in fact, I collect it. But I agree with you that political agitation should reflect the culture and times of the moment for which it is created, to appeal to the masses here and now. In the US in 2011 anything that smacks of communism is at best premature. Right now the focus should be on pointing out what’s wrong–capitalism, corruption, inertia, a system that doesn’t work for most people—and urging action against the people and institutions responsible (the political and corporate classes and their institutions). Graphic arts that are effective will not cause people to look away, but draw even the skeptical nearer.

  14. Consider John Lennon’s take on this issue:
    “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you– pull your beard, flick your face– to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humour.”

    • @Onewhoreads: John Lennon’s politics were naive and hopelessly bourgeois, the result of his status as an overnight zillionaire combined with his understandable disgust at the stylistic excesses of the hippies. Unfortunately, Lennon and the other Beatles allowed their emphasis on clothes and rhetoric to obscure the overwhelming injustice of the economic system under which he prospered.

  15. Right on, onewhoreads! Refuse to play by their rules! That is why the demonstrations are irritating them – they know how to respond to violence, so go around it. By the way, it is hilarious reading the Trolls arguing with each other here! :^)

Leave a Reply