Inspection- Militias

I have been asked my opinion of an article. Please feel free to click on that link I just provided whenever you want. But don’t forget to return here to get another; rather different, opinion.

As someone I’m sure the writer would mislabel as a “liberal” I also think militias have been somewhat maligned; not that they don’t deserve the elephant’s share of the blame for those over generalizations. After all, from McVeigh to camps in Idaho… amongst many places… there have been plenty of seedy, ignorant and plain “out there” elements in the movement. Perhaps I should have typed “movements,” since to characterize them as all in one “movement” is also a bit unfair.

So, no, I am neither claiming “all,” or even “the majority.”

I am all in favor of militias, but not so much “loosely regulated.” Hence: “a well regulated militia.” Well, actually what we have now is unregulated. I believe in gun ownership, but maybe it’s time gun owners start honoring the other part of the Second Amendment too? Maybe training our youth to not only use guns for hunting, but to defend our nation if need be, is crucial.

No, I’m not in favor of banning anything. If any group wishes to wander around the woods as an unregulated militia, hey, I’m all for it: even the most obnoxious ones. Now if they start banging on my door and demanding I agree with them… or else… that’s a problem.

My father taught me how to use guns, the NRA how to respect them. That’s right: the NRA; back when they were less political. Gun owners could also add “how to defend your country” too… and consider possible National Guard for themselves, or their children. It’s time the National Guard actually be “national” and not some toy to send away from the very nation they are supposed to be protecting. In my opinion, it’s not just “time,” but should always have been. Much like Switzerland, training our children, and ourselves, to be part of defending it; on our soil: at least some kind of public service, is a good idea. Militias could help with that and help form the beginnings of an at home Guard. Meanwhile, if pols really want to invade an Iraq, or commit American lives to the absurd tasks of defeating “all terrorism,” or far worse “all evil,” then they should put their jobs on the line by asking for the return of the draft… not risk national security by sending what is supposed to be “national” offshore.

So I do support the idea of militias, and parents actually training their children to possibly be part of one if they wish. But the bad press has less to do with the media than it does with actual actions, actual wackos… people who climbed onto the militia movement and taken it for a ride into the hellish depths of inevitable bad press. Oh, and The Turner Diaries: a book passed around a lot by (not all) militia members, didn’t help either: a book whose premise was that militias would collectively create another Revolution that resulted in every non-Aryan person, and anyone who didn’t support fundamentalistic, “Christian” racism, being lined up and hung from light poles, shot in the head. At the end of the book mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and children were lined up around the nation and slaughtered in what was supposed to be a “happy” ending. Anyone who didn’t fit the profile was exterminated.

Yes, it was a work of fiction. Never under estimate the power of such prose when it is popular within any movement. And never under estimate the power of the media to take the cheap and easy route: using that popularity to help codify image.

And writers like Dave Duffy wonder why militias have an image problem? I have no doubt many are smart, concerned citizens. And like Mr. Duffy, I too have a problem with news magazines and how they cover the news. Only probably from a different perspective: a Communications/Mass Media major. I think they’re less skewed than just very bad at what they do.

I’m not claiming it’s fair that this paint brush used by the media is rather broad. But militia types are not the only groups to suffer under such. Neither are just Right Wing groups. I just wish we would stop providing the paint.

To be fair, no matter how you cover the news these days you’re going to offend someone, and someone is going to claim you have some ulterior motive: either socialist/commie/pinko driven, or Reich Wing/military-industrial/fascistic driven.

Mr. Duffy compares tree spikers and the Unabomber; using them as “liberal” examples, with how the militias have been treated by the news. The tree spiker comparison I can see. Their actions can be dangerous and enough to drive them and everyone else up; and down from, a tree. But the image here… and image here is crucial… is not one of people marching around with guns: seemingly ready to take over a nation because it doesn’t follow their interpretation of the Constitution. And, Mr. Duffy, there are those on the Left just as concerned about the Constitution as those you defend are. I applaud both for doing so, as long as they don’t start pointing guns to enforce their opinions.

And the Unabomber? Well to compare one psychotic loner/hermit to many groups of militia members organizing around guns and their opinions regarded how off base our nation has become, is more than a stretch… it’s absurd. Even amongst the few liberals I know who think some of the Unabombers writings made valid points, they consider him a homicidal wacko who had to be caught and deserves to be in prison.

A comparison with Eric Rudolph might be more apt, though he was protected by militia types, right wing extremists and those friendly with the more extreme elements in the militia movement. Ted was pretty much a lone wolf protected by no one on the Left, though like some who sympathize with the sentiments expressed by the “heroes” in Turner who belong to militias, some on the Left saw some glimmer of sense in the Unabomber’s writings.

So while Mr. Duffy complains about over generalizations and poor media image when it comes to militia-types, would it not also be fair to complain that he conflates the Unabomber and tree huggers with all Lefties, or even just left of center folks?

Don’t add to the mischaracterization, Mr. Duffy. Doing so does not help the valid points you wish to make.

Think of it this way. I was never a hippie, but I knew many intelligent, thoughtful; less than drug addled, hippies in the 60s. But what is the cliche’d image hippies have that most of society buys into? I think you know. I absolutely know. You see I wear a tie dye in my shows for children because they are colorful and keep their attention. I didn’t even know tie dyes had anything to do the The Grateful Dead. Not my type of music back then. But I’ll bet you can guess how many assumptions I have to combat on a daily basis when I run into someone in a store or on the street. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. This last Thursday some woman waved a peace sign; yelled out “peace man,” and danced in circles like she was at Woodstock. I don’t think she even heard the truth when I told her.

Not uncommon when combating cliche-driven images: about militias, hippies and many, many other groups.

Go back to one of my first comments: the excesses of the hippie movement are pretty much the reason why this label has been slapped on them. This is the original source. Just like the paint used to make the poor image militias have was provided by the extremes in that movement. The media simply uses what’s given in a way that sells their product because we give them those cliche’s through our excesses.

We make it easy for them.

The problem here is that not only does the media go for the easy assumptions and cliche’s, but we as a species do too. It’s a perfect match made in some “Heaven” that must be only populated by stupid people who refuse to think for themselves.

For the rest of us? Hell.

We are driven to find labels to slap on people so we can individually convince ourselves of our own righteousness, our own excesses. All Irish immigrants are lazy good for nothings. Blacks are shiftless. Militia types are bomb throwers. Hippies are dunderheads. And then the media jumps on so they can sell these labels in an image driven culture. Just get the flapper/hippie/militia/fundamentalist/Jewish/Gay/Socialist… whatever, jar down from the shelf. Now we “know” all women in the 20s did weird dances, all broke bankers jumped out of windows in the 30s, and all hippies were brainless, tie dye wearing, drug addicts. Oh, and all militia-types are all fat, toothless, brainless fertilizer bomb makers who want to blow up your little baby’s day care because that’s a justifiable loss in this “war.”

Not.

This quote from Mr. Duffy’s article made me chuckle…

If you are liberal, you get good press; if not, you get tagged as a racist, extremist, or nutcase. It just makes me so mad I could spit.

I can quote back the exact same sentence; altered slightly, by those I’m sure Mr. Duffy would consider “liberals.” It has been typed ad nauseam, all over the web and in letters to the editor. I guiltily admit I have typed some variation more than once.

To rinse and repeat… it must be tough being in the mainstream media these days. I just can’t feel sorry for them. In part they made this all worse when they abandoned objective journalism: they started focusing in on selling labels and stopped reporting on the people behind the cliche’s. When I was minor part of the media in the 70s; more so the 80s, this could have been compared with “rip and read.” It requires no work and no thinking. And, unlike “rip and read,” it sells.

So I do agree with Mr. Duffy. I hope the militia becomes more “mainstream.” I just have a suspicion we might disagree on how to get there.

-30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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