A style to the discourse
So on Tuesday Lambert linked to a post on OccupyChicago and the Adbusters editorial that was brewing up more violence versus non-violence debate that we are all heavily invested in. In the comments, Lambert wanted suggestions for the style of discourse that violence advocates used, so that we could have a better understanding of what we were dealing with when that style of discourse appeared.
Below is my very poor and basic attempt to start that discussion, based on the Adbusters editorial and some of my own readings from violence advocates in the past. It's by no means complete, and I would put each and every term I cite here up for debate to make sure that it is what I (and maybe others) think it is, so that we can be sure of what we're saying and how we should deal with it.
The list of stylistic ticks and use of language includes:
Questionable legality: One of the common things I see in lots of discussions with violence advocates is this muddying of the waters of what is legal versus illegal. This was on display very early on in the Adbusters argument, when Michah White commented on the "ostensibly illegal" acts of blocking traffic and "occupying space," as he put it in his article. What is ostensibly illegal about blocking traffic? I'm pretty sure that's just flat out illegal. It's illegal in my town, and I'm sure it's illegal in your town too. And I love his weasel words here, "occupying space." What kind of space are we talking about? Public space, which we have a constitutional guarantee to assemble in? Or private space? He never specifies and I don't think it's very safe to assume he's talking only about public space there. One of the recurring themes I see in non-violent protesters is that they NEVER shy away from the illegality of their actions (when they perform them). Most non-violent protesters know when they're breaking the law and do it willingly, with the understanding that they will likely be arrested for it.
Police are always the enemy: I've never heard a violence advocate talk about the police as part of the 99%. It is always an us versus them mentality, setting up good guys and bad guys and wonderful other plain as day moral certitudes.
Heroes versus thugs: Similar to the one above, and producing the same moral certitudes, this one is about the actual violence advocates themselves. Heroes of the movement get into a battle against jackbooted thugs, taking it to them and winning the day. Of course you never hear about tomorrow, or the consequences of their actions which often involve the arrest of non-violent protesters caught up in the fight, as well as collateral damage and loss of reputation/local support.
Changing the paradigm: This was another trope that was laden heavy at the end of the Adbusters editorial. The notion that these black bloc (where did the k in block go?) or whatever violence advocates were suddenly going to cause a shift that would lead to a swelling of their ranks and a takeover of the movement. I tend to see this crop up the most when it's usually one or two tiny isolated incidents of violence that break out. As though these small tiny acts will suddenly cause a rising up of people in the streets, magically overwhelming the war machine deployed specifically and especially to put down such an event. As if this magic shift in opinion will be all that's needed to overcome that machine and we're just on the edge of an entirely new world order. Where have I heard this before?
So these are the things I hear a lot of when I'm reading about people in favor of using violence (I also agree that any other weasel words i.e. "diversity of tactics" are just that). I hope this will contribute to the conversation a bit, and look forward to anything anyone else can add to the list.