This post will be written in short sentences. I know it isn’t my usual style. Bear with me, please. I made a promise.
Back on the aspirin-between-the-knees post, SilentBob asked how I could be such a hypocrite. In the memes I collected was a SomeeCard threatening to knee Foster Friess in the balls. He wanted to know why that would be acceptable when threatening to kick a blogger in the cunt was not.
I asked Bob to spend some time thinking about what Friess was doing. His response was that I was just making digs at Friess. I can’t tell you whether any thought was actually involved on Bob’s part. He clearly didn’t make the connections, so I promised to explain.
Here’s the thing about violence, Bob: It’s a tool. If you think about it as a big bad taboo thing, you’re destined to go wrong. If you think violence just means words you shouldn’t use, you’re going to mess up. No way to avoid it.
It’s a dangerous tool, yes. That means we usually limit its use to the state and limit the state in its use. We make exceptions to that, however. One of those exceptions is for self-defense.
If Friess directly tried to attack my genitals, no one would cry if I kneed his balls. (Yes, someone would, possibly Bob. This is not a symptom of a healthy culture. That’s another discussion.) The attack on my genitals in this case is very slightly more abstract. So is the card. They remain proportional.
Even making no exception for self-defense, there are reasons to use the rhetoric of violence here. The state only maintains its monopoly on violence by embodying the interests of its citizens. A government that stops doing that stops being a state. At what point this happens is up for debate. What is not debated is that at some point, revolution becomes justified. Violence becomes a tool available to private citizens again.
This is where Bob’s, “Oh, you just have to keep talking about what a bad person Friess is” falls apart completely. Friess’s words didn’t end up on TV news randomly. His words are news because of his influence on government. Friess runs Rick Santorum’s SuperPAC. Thanks to regressive taxation policies and the ridiculous Citizens United ruling, Friess has a highly disproporionate voice in our public affairs. He is an unelected part of our government.
What is he doing as part of this government? He is supporting Santorum, who is trying to strip reproductive rights from half the population. He is also supporting Congressional efforts to dismantle our civilization. That was the point of his news appearance and his statement.
That is not hyperbole. The simple fact is that societies in which women control their own fertility do better in every measure–that can be applied in this lifetime. Any government that undermines that control is acting against the best interests of its people. Any government that does that loses its monopoly on violence.
It is worth reminding the complacent powers that be of this fact from time to time. That is where the rhetoric of violence is used to proper effect. Nor should anyone expect to use it without cost. If I talk revolution, I expect the government will pay attention to me. I expect it will do what it can to restrain me. That is my cost.
So, Bob wants to know, how is this different from a “joke” threat to kick a blogger in the cunt because you don’t like what she told you to do? Three ways.
- The hypothetical blogger is (as Bob stipulated) making no threat to this person’s control of their genitalia.
- The hyptothetical blogger is (as Bob stipulated) in no position to govern this person’s genitalia.
- Historically, people who have made such “joke” threats have insisted that these threats not be taken seriously. They’ve refused to take responsibility for their own behaviors.
So there you have it. Open threat of revolt against an invalid government versus a shrinking, cowardly “I don’t like what you said, so nyah.”
Understand the difference yet, Bob?