Armed civil disobedience and the patriot movement

I wrote a column this week over at TheDC about the Las Vegas shooters, and how, after the media has gone to great pains to trump up any connection between spree killers and the right, they’ve finally got one that seems to fit the profile:

For Sunday morning’s shooting in Las Vegas, in which Jerad and Amanda Miller allegedly shot two police officers and a bystander before the latter took both of their lives, no such dissembling is required. We appear to have on our hands a pair of bona fide right-wing terrorists — cosplaying Cliven Bundy supportersMickey and Mallory with a head full of meth and Alex Jones. Amanda Miller even claimed on her Facebook that she worked for Hobby Lobby. They’re just perfect.

Read the whole thing, it goes into some other cases and notes another shooting with a Gadsden motif. Dishonest movement bloggers like the neocon Jim Hoft react to this news by sticking their fingers in their ears and going ‘nyah nyah he was a socialist.’ But in this case, at least, it doesn’t appear that way.

One of the more interesting wrinkles in the story is their apparent support for the III Percenters — so named because that is supposedly the percentage of American colonists who took up arms against the crown. We can’t necessarily infer the significance of the connection from the fact that they ‘liked’ them on Facebook — I do too, for one thing — but they were supposedly Adam Kokesh fans too, and made it down to Cliven Bundy’s ranch, so there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that they’ve taken up significant parts of III Percenter ideology.

Who are the III Percenters? Well, have a look at this speech in Connecticut by the man who created it, Mike Vanderboegh:

I’m fascinated by Vanderboegh, for a lot of reasons. He broke the Fast and Furious scandal to Sharyl Attkisson and introduced her to the whistleblowers, for one thing. For another, when he speaks, he says very radical things, but doesn’t come across as hateful or crazy, unlike, say Adam Kokesh’s bizarre libertarian headspace in which killing cops is implicitly an act of self-defense. For what it’s worth, it’s also hard to see him abide the Millers’ fanboy bullshit; the far right is unbecoming when clothed in V for Vendetta slogans and Batman haberdashery. This isn’t about fame, or martyrdom, or the new world order, or any of that. It’s about letting those in government know that their is a limit to what the armed populace will take lying down, telling them, in the hope that it will make them change their minds, that “if you try to take our firearms, we will kill you.

In that video Vanderboegh openly advocates smuggling guns in contravention of new state laws, claims “civil war is starting us in the face” and generally acts the part of a righteous rabblerouser. He asks members of the crowd to hold up the rubber pistols he smuggled in to make a point (but doesn’t show off the actual illegal magazines he claims to have also brought), which is a stunt worthy of Abbie Hoffman.

He also relates what is probably an apocryphal account of how the fighting began at Lexington and Concord, that the patriots’ assemblies were armed civil disobedience, their commanders simply wouldn’t ask them to lay down their arms, and “someone fired a shot.” I’m not a historian so I don’t know how this squares with the settled version of events, but, as there usually is, there’s a much more apropos story from Virginia. After Governor Dunmore seized the colonists’ powder, armed companies from the South and West assembled in Indian dress at Fredericksburg, threatening to march on the capitol in Williamsburg. We’ll take Charles Campbell’s account of what came next, from the History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia:

More than six hundred volunteers met at Fredericksburg by the twenty-seventh of April, and were ready to march to Williamsburg. Gloucester and Henrico demanded the restitution of the powder, the Gloucester men threatening, in case of refusal, to seize the governor. Bedford offered a premium for the manufacture of gunpowder; the independent company of Dumfries and the Albemarle volunteers were ready for action. Dunmore renewed his threats, and was confident, as he wrote to Lord Dartmouth, the English minister, that “with a small re-enforcement of troops and arms he could raise such a body of Indians, negroes, and others as would reduce the refractory people of this colony to obedience.”

Three citizens, deputed by the troops assembled at Fredericksburg, repaired to Williamsburg for the purpose of ascertaining the real state of affairs, and to offer military assistance if desired. Peyton Randolph, in behalf of the corporation, in replying to tho committee, stated that: “Besides what has been said in his public answer, the governor has given private assurances to several gentlemen that the powder shall be returned to the magazine, though he has not condescended to fix the day for its return. So far as we can judge, from a comparison of all circumstances, the governor considers his honor at stake; he thinks that he acted for the best, and will not be compelled to what, we have abundant reason to believe, he would cheerfully do, if left to himself.” “If we then may be permitted to advise, it is our opinion and most earnest request, that matters may be quieted for the present at least; we are firmly persuaded that perfect tranquillity will be speedily restored. By pursuing this course we foresee no hazard, or even inconvenience that can ensue. Whereas we are apprehensive, and this we think upon good grounds, that violent measures may produce effects which God only knows the consequence of.”

Upon this reply being reported to the volunteers at Fredericksburg, styled “The friends of constitutional liberty in America,” they declared that it was dictated by fear, and resolved to march at all events to Williamsburg, under command of Captain Hugh Mercer, who was eager to redress the indignity which Virginia had suffered at the hands of the governor.

At this juncture Peyton Randolph happened to reach the house of Edmund Pendleton, one of his colleagues, on his route to Philadelphia, where the congress was about to meet. These two eminent men sent to Fredericksburg, on Saturday, the twentyninth, a letter advising that further action should be deferred until the congress should adopt a plan of resistance. Mercer, who had written to Washington for advice, received a reply to the same effect. One hundred and two deputies were appointed a council to consider this advice, and after a long and animated discussion it was assented to by a majority of one vote only.

It’s interesting to think about what could have happened had one vote gone the other way.

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