The Non-Violent March To Threaten Violence

As readers have probably noticed, I’m on something of a campaign the last few days to train a spotlight on the revolutionary rhetoric and gun-brandishing of many Second Amendment activists and “constitutional conservatives,” which has leeched over into standard conservative and GOP messaging to an alarming degree. Like anyone shining a spotlight into previously dark shadows, I’m not always familiar with what I’m seeing. That’s definitely the case with Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War vet and omni-libertarian who is planning a non-violent march of armed citizens on Washington for Independence Day to show, best I can tell, that resistance to the demands of people like him that government radically retract its size and scope will eventually face real fire. Here’s Paul Szoldra’s write-up of Kokesh’s scheme at Business Insider:

Adam Kokesh, 31, is planning a July 4 rally of pro-gun activists openly carrying rifles from Virginia to Washington as an act of “civil disobedience.” The plan, according to his Facebook event page, is to march across Memorial Bridge with rifles loaded and slung across the back “to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated [and] cower in submission to tyranny.”

The invite continues, stating, ” … This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”

Kokesh writes that if 10,000 attendees RSVP by June 1st, “we have the critical mass necessary to pull this off.” He said he wants to have at least 1,000 actually marching in the event, and as of this writing, more than 1,400 have said they were going.

As the headline at Karoli’s post on this plan at Crooks & Liars rightly says: “Marching On DC With Loaded Rifles: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

But even if no violence ensues, this exercise is actually typical of an awful lot of the stockpiling-guns-to-resist-tyranny talk on the Right (and on rare occasions, the Left) these days. It’s actually the inverse of what Kokesh says: it’s an effort to intimidate political opponents with the threat, if not the immediate actuality, of violence. Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying guns to your nonviolent protest? The point, it seems clear, is to make extraconstitutional claims for the legitimacy of the “constitutional” protests against Big Government. We can peacefully debate, the potential “armed resistance” forces suggest, this or that aspect of gun regulation or Obamacare or drone policy or taxes or “welfare looters” via conventional politics. But in the end, our conviction that your “progressive policies” represent “tyranny” trumps all civil discourse, and that’s when the shooting may start.

And that, of course, is why this sort of talk is not limited to anarchists or even to the kind of “constitutional conservatives” who really do think the policies of Calvin Coolidge or Grover Cleveland or the doctrines of John C. Calhoun came down from heaven and were enshrined eternally by the Declaration of Independence. Consciously or unconsciously, regular conservative politicians see this sort of militancy as a crucial difference-maker (or in times of Democratic political success, an “equalizer”), and so they exploit it. It’s all fun and games until people start getting killed.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.