I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Vigilantism comes out of the closet

In our previous post, we talked about the surging right wing fascination with vigilantism and the apologist stance taken by many right wing bloggers concerning the profiling and harassment of Muslims. There's another one I'd like you to take a look at, and it's a beauty. Clayton Cramer decides to stop pussyfooting around with all of the caveats and political niceties and just comes right out in favor of vigilantism to put those damned followers of Islam in their place. Besides, as the stalwart Cramer points out, our country has a long, fine and respected history of vigilantee justice. (Emphasis mine.)
America has a long history of vigilantism, and contrary to how some on the left try to confuse vigilantism with lynching, they are quite different institutions. In incidents such as the South Carolina Regulators of the eighteenth century, of the California gold fields, in San Francisco in 1851 and 1856, vigilantism has often been more a form of popular tribunalism than lynching.
I'd like to give you a few moments for your head to stop reeling from that barrage of insanity, but a shortage of time forces us to press on and take apart these manic ramblings. (Sad, isn't it, that we now live in a country where such analysis is even needed and the author can't simply be written off as a potentially dangerous loon and provided with a nice new jacket with arms that tie in the back?)

Very well, then. Here we go. First of all, in the very few and exceedingly rare cases where there might have been some justification for limited, short term vigilantism by citizens, it's found pretty much exclusively in our early history where there was little to no effective government in place to provide adequate legal protection to the citizens. The South Carolina Regulators movement which Cramer admires so took place in the 1760's. We weren't even a nation yet. Granted, those regulators seemed to have been filling a pressing void in governmental protection and were later recognized for their service against gangs of outlaws. However, as so often happens, their fellows allowed others in nearby areas to spread that sort of "movement' and it quickly went where such activity almost always leads.

Next door in North Carolina, they quickly took up a Regulators movement of their own. They didn't care for the tax assessment policies in the area (and probably with good cause, I must admit.) But rather than turning to any sort of appeal process or electing new officials who would be more responsive to the needs of the tax base, they decided to go the vigilantee route.
Efforts to reform the assessment of taxes and fees were unsuccessful; the courts and assembly were not responsive and seemed to favor the causes of the wealthy tidewater elements. Regulator groups arose to close down local courts (which in this era were analogous to county commissions) and suppress tax payments; rioting broke out in several counties. In May 1771, Governor William Tryon led militia forces against the Regulators and defeated them handily at Alamance Creek.
This is hardly the worst of it, though. What about that (in)famous vigilantee movement in San Francisco in 1856 of which Clayton is so admiring? There were groups of citizens who thought that prostitution and gambling were getting out of hand. A couple of men wound up being killed in disputes over the moral compass of the city, and the two shooters (James King and Charles Cora) were PUT IN JAIL because of it, pending their trials. A large scale vigilantee committee was formed.

Now, Lord forbid any of you evil lefty Democrats should go confusing vigilantism with lynching. Shame on you!
Outraged citizens organized a Vigilance Committee, which ultimately enrolled over six thousand men, particularly merchants, clerks, and skilled workers' –groups whose members were likely to be permanently settled in San Francisco. These men included most of San Francisco├é’s white ethnic groups, with the notable exception of Irish Catholics who were virtually excluded.

The vigilantes'’ first act was to raid the jail, where they captured both William Casey and Charles Cora, –King'’s murderer and the man who best symbolized all that King had fought against in his reform rhetoric. As King'’s funeral procession wound through the city on May 22, Casey and Cora were "tried" before the executive committee and hanged.

During the next three months, the committee hanged two more men and exiled over two dozen others (mostly Irish-Catholic Democrats) for alleged political crimes. In addition, the vigilantes conducted illegal searches, suspended the law of habeas corpus, confiscated federal arms, subverted state and local militias, sought to oust elected city officials, and even imprisoned a justice of the state supreme court.
See? No harm done! It's just a form of "popular tribunalism" as Clayton Cramer so aptly points out. What are you progressives getting your panties in a bunch over anyway?

It's almost refreshing to see somebody like Cramer come out of the closet and endorse this sort of activity as a way to control all of the followers of Islam on the planet. I mean, you nearly have to admire that sort of adherencee to a line of insane rhetoric and devotion to whatever the "cause" of neoconservatism has deteriorated into. And this is still America, at least for the time being, so people such as Cramer (just as the KKK et. al.) must be allowed to freely air their views. But he also serves as a useful tool for people still clinging on to some semblance of sanity to call out the right wing Cheney supporters for exactly what they are: fear mongering hate merchants.

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