Discover more from The Conundrum Cluster
ALERT! The Boomers are fedposting
The regime can't take much more of this
One of my most controversial and persistently attacked opinions is that I don’t think civil war, national divorce, or any kind of widespread political violence (at least from the Right) is coming in the foreseeable future. Normal one havers from across the country have rebuked me for this belief. My views, they said, were informed by where I lived (the San Francisco Bay Area). From this totalitarian Blue Zone, I could never appreciate just how angry red-blooded Americans really were. The Boomers, they assured me, were fedposting.
It's true. People are angry. Everything is getting worse. Trash and vagrants litter many public spaces. If you live in a city, the traces of out-of-control crime can be found in most areas. Briefly leaving my new idyllic rural existence, I saw someone wearing a “Fuck Joe Biden” hat at Lost Gull Fish N’ Chips the other day. Everything is more expensive. When you go outside, people look like they’re going through something rough. Tattoos, drug use, obesity—impossible to escape. It seems like a lot of people have just stopped caring. Larger and larger sections of the American public are becoming demoralized.
If you listen to CNN or the FBI or leftwing magazines, there are sinister rightwing plots to violently take over the US everywhere. Yet, this doesn’t seem to end in any kind of policy concessions or compromise for rightwingers like the ones you saw for the violent Black Lives Matter rioters in 2020, only an ever-tightening noose from the security state. Rightwingers arrested for low level offenses are given decades in jail. Despite this escalation on the part of authorities, an alleged empire of violence certainly isn’t driving conservative culture today. Far more energy is devoted to consumer choices, be they successful boycotts or popular new songs.
In fact, any scrutiny at all would tell you that rightwing violence basically doesn’t exist. Rightwingers don’t have to think about it if they don’t want to, it’s already not a part of their lives. Leftwingers don’t have to change their behavior to avoid it. They have no fear of reprisal. They’re not afraid to go out in public and advocate for some of the worst things imaginable. In fact, there are exponentially more incidents of leftist violence and support for real world violence than you see on the Right. It’s just not recorded by law enforcement and not acknowledged in the media. There is a real disconnect here. Rightwingers hear radical rhetoric and see declining conditions and think this somehow translates into real world gains for their side, despite the fact that this is not the case.
The root of this disconnect is I think two fundamental misconceptions you see time and time again from rightwingers. The first is that rightwing escalation naturally matches leftwing escalation, i.e. that the situations are somehow connected. The second is that public sentiment is the driving force behind mass political change.
I think because conservatives are generally good and moral people they have trouble accepting that this stuff is fundamentally unfair. They see leftists engaging in widespread organized violence, probably the worst since the 1960s, and they assume that there must be some equal and opposite force rising to counter it. This illusion is bolstered by the numerous rightwing militias that popped up around the same time.
The groups had many well-meaning people, and they certainly looked cool, but their actions were almost exclusively confined to standing around and watching the chaos unfold. When their behavior went beyond that, they were targeted by leftwing prosecutors. It didn’t reach 1/10000th the level of violence committed by the Left during that period, by design.
Meanwhile, their leftist equivalents were on the offensive everywhere. They did billions of dollars of damage and committed hundreds of arsons and violent assaults. The death toll from the riots is still unclear (there is a great need for a comprehensive history of this period) but is generally estimated to be around 40. In short, there is basically no comparison between the two. When leftwingers are burning down buildings, operating armed checkpoints, and attacking cops, it should not suggest to rightwingers that rightwingers are on the cusp of doing the same.
The second misconception is a more deeply-rooted one. In popular culture people are inundated with an persistent image of how revolutions happen: there is some kind of offence committed by a tyrannical or illegitimate regime, the protagonist (usually a regular guy thrust into his position by forces beyond his control) can’t take it anymore and rebels, and then this rebellion finally coalesces into broad resistance and victory.
This is not how revolutions happen, at least in the modern era. Even the popular conception of the American Revolution as a popular struggle conceals the fact that it was also backed by all colonial state legislatures and huge financial interests. This was not a bottom-up affair. These were not guys who just walked in off the street. Things did not suddenly get “too bad,” leading to a spontaneous mass uprising.
What people think of today as popular revolutions were usually engineered in some way disconnected from public sentiment. The economic situation in Russia before the Russian Revolution was improving. Their WWI record was not terrible. However, social instability from the war was seized on first by Russian liberals, who were backed by British intelligence, Wall Street, and the media, to depose the Czar. Public officials and military officers refused to do their jobs.
Crises were created out of thin air by journalists, like the supposed grain shortage in Petrograd that preceded the February Revolution. Records of the period show that there was no shortage of grain entering the city. The food disruptions were caused by panic over fears of a shortage created by the media. Later, the Bolsheviks, who were given the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars by German intelligence to fund their operations, violently deposed those same liberals and created a communist regime. Again, these were not just guys who were angry and had had enough, but rather well organized and well funded groups of professionals.
What happens when you get a popular outpouring of anger that’s not backed by any kind of systemic force? It gets snuffed out by the political police.
It’s not really covered today but there were actually years of mass resistance to the Bolsheviks that were separate from and following the Russian Civil War and departure of Wrangel’s fleet. Millions of moderates and liberals who held their noses at helping the reactionary and conservative White Army during the Civil War slowly but surely realized that the temporary Bolshevik wartime restrictions on the freedoms they had so passionately demanded from the Czar were actually there to stay.
These were massive protests. Employees at the state bank refused to allow the Bolsheviks to withdraw sovereign wealth. Thousands of workers walked out in protest of Bolshevik misrule. In 1921 the secret police reported more than 150 bloody peasant revolts against Bolshevik food seizures that left the countryside on the brink of starvation. Also that year, an entire naval infantry garrison at Kronstadt rebelled against the Bolsheviks, demanding new elections. They were backed by nearby communities. The people had had enough.
And yet, all these efforts amounted to nothing. The state bank workers’ families were kidnapped and held hostage until the bankers handed over the keys to the vaults. The hungry peasants were machinegunned. The strikers were broken up with thousands of arrests by the secret police. The naval garrison at Kronstadt was annihilated with artillery and bombers, then seized by overwhelming numbers by Red Army troops. Minimal casualties were inflicted on the communists, the regime was never on the brink as it had been when facing the Whites.
Lacking any sort of systemic way to deal with their problems, the numerous post-Civil War Russian dissidents were helpless. However many issues the White Army might have had, it was a relatively organized force capable of acting like a state in miniature. They had a chain of command, they had ways to resolve internal disputes, they could set domestic and foreign policy, they had a budget and could get loans from foreign banks. It was composed of men who had prominent positions in the previous regime. If they had won the war against the Bolsheviks, they could have replaced them at the wheel of the Russian state.
The same couldn’t be said for post-White Army resistance to the Bolsheviks. Although the hungry peasants might lynch one cruel tax collector, the Bolsheviks were always guaranteed to come back with a vengeance in greater numbers. Angry workers might refuse to show up for work, but they had no other way to provide for themselves in a totalitarian state. One large military garrison might even rebel, but once they were acting on their own authority they had no way to to turn that authority into any kind of force to change the entire nation. When Wrangel’s fleet left Crimea, the last strip of Russian soil under White control, any hope of regime change sailed with him. If a state doesn’t want to collapse, it doesn’t necessarily have to.
In short, mass anger isn’t the magic key conservatives seem to think it is. That energy has to be harnessed into something productive, that can actually change the system in a positive way. If it’s not, the consequences can be horrible.
In Utah last month, FBI agents shot and killed Craig Robertson in Salt Lake City, Utah. Robinson was a retired veteran, weighed 300lbs, walked with a cane, was 74 years old, and was caring for his mentally disabled adult son who lived in his home. He by all accounts was a warm and friendly man who was eager to help his neighbors. An FBI tactical team stormed his home and shot him to death in the early hours of August 9, 2023. They claimed he had a gun at the time he was shot, though given that FBI agents were exempted from the body camera requirements placed on local police officers, we’ll likely never know.
The raid was prompted by Robertson’s posts on Facebook. Over the last few years, Robertson made several posts using his real name and face, which are so over the top that they can only be taken as humor, threatening violence against a number of public officials. He was, in short, fedposting. He was angry about the declining state of the country and blowing off steam.
Of course, no one in their right mind would take these posts as serious threats, and no reasonable person would believe that this infirm old man, who has a disabled adult son in his home, needed to be apprehended using a pre-dawn raid by a tactical team. However, and I can’t emphasize this enough, conservatives constantly forget that we are not dealing with individuals who are in their right minds or who are reasonable. They don’t want a peaceful resolution, they want to kill you and are looking for excuses to do it. The people in charge of the US right now could spend decades shooting Craig Robertsons across the country in pre-dawn raids and never tire of it.
Ultimately, however angry conservatives may be, they just don’t take the rhetoric seriously. If we really did have a government run by Marxists and terrorists and all sorts of other bad actors (which we do), then the last thing people should be celebrating is threats posted online. This isn’t a sign of a robust and effective opposition, this is a sign of literal retardation. People are unable to express their dissent in productive ways.
As much as people online may deride “just voting Republican” if Robertson had just voted Republican, everyone involved would have been much better off. The people we’re up against are playing for keeps. You shouldn’t count on common decency to stop them from acting against you in horrible ways, especially when you give them the perfect excuse. Rest assured, the millions of MSNBC viewers cheering these murders at home don’t give a shit. Legitimate anger is being siphoned into roleplaying, which is all fun and games until someone gets killed by the goonsquad over it. Robertson’s death isn’t just a tragedy for his own sake, his disabled son needed him.
We’ve all said things online that were ill advised and we didn’t really mean. I’m not trying to get on a high horse about it. But when conservatives happily remark about how the boomers are fedposting and that means the regime’s end is nigh, don’t believe them. This doesn’t lead anywhere good. Improving the situation is going to require everyone, young and old, to tighten things up rather than blow off steam.
The Conundrum Cluster is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.