Monday, January 4, 2016

The Oregon insurgency has already failed

"These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States." - David M. Ward, Harney County Sheriff
None of this should come as any surprise to anyone at all familiar with the American militia movement: it's the standard game plan of right-wing insurgency. You find it everywhere, from the insane fever dreams of right-wing comments sections to the hilarious alternative history of mainstream militants like Kurt Schlichter. The problem is always the same: the federal government is obviously way too powerful for any local club of grandpa gun enthusiasts to overcome. And their solution is always the same, too: domino effect. Local rebellion sparks national rebellion sparks military coup.

This of course simply declares as a non-problem the most difficult problem of large-scale politics: mobilization. As a rule, local incidents do not metastasize into larger ones. Activists and communities are so alienated and isolated from each other that it's almost impossible to get them to make significant investments into broader concerns. You can get them to make symbolic gestures and trivial investments into online fundraising campaigns, but it's extraordinarily difficult to get them to do anything more substantial - particularly when their personal interests are at stake only implicitly or indirectly.

That Bundy's militia largely failed even in its local recruitment efforts testifies to just what a futile enterprise all of this actually is. As I elaborated elsewhere, the history of militant insurrection against the federal government is entirely a history of failure - and usually, a history of catastrophic, embarrassingly inept failure. This campaign has already failed to earn any significant national solidarity beyond the belligerent rhetoric of aging #tcots, and the savvier ones are already distancing themselves from its inevitable collapse.