The National Rifle Association — that group that simultaneously claims to uphold the right to bear arms for the purpose of resisting tyranny while calling for more government employees to be heavily armed, with no cognitive dissonance — has a new president, James Porter. As if he were a “progressive”-derived stereotype of an imagined high ranking NRA member simply brought to life, he’s a white male in his 60s from Alabama who refers to the Civil War as “the War of Northern Aggression”. Over at the Political Animal blog, Ed Kilgore hears this bell and gives the expected reaction:
Am I perhaps being unfair to these people in suggesting that they are behaving like America-haters and are flirting with treason? I don’t think so. Porter and those like him could dispel this sort of suspicion instantly, any time they wanted, by just saying: “Let’s be clear: the kind of ‘tyranny’ we are arming ourselves to forestall is something entirely different from anything Americans have experienced since we won our independence—a regime engaged in the active suppression of any sort of dissent, and the closure of any peaceful means for the redress of grievances. We’re not talking about the current administration, or either major political party, as presently representing a threat of tyranny.”
I’m not holding my breath for any statements like that to emerge from the NRA, or indeed, from the contemporary conservative movement. (emphasis mine)
While the NRA holds no claim to consistency when it comes to defending liberty, Ed here is calling for Mr Porter to, in order to calm the nerves of those picturing right-wing armed rebellion, make what is a testable claim: that suppression of dissent is a pre-Revolution thing, nothing they’re claiming to see now or even that has been the case. Let’s test that claim, shall we?
- Sedition Act of 1798: printing harsh criticisms of then-president John Adams could get you put in prison.
- Sedition Act of 1918 (yes, there were two of them): voicing opposition to the war, or “insulting or abusing the U.S. government” could get you put in prison. Eugene Debs found this out the hard way.
- 1920’s: people still being arrested for speech.
- 40’s and 50’s: loyalty oaths, criminalizing party affiliations, “Are you now, or were you ever, a communist?” (the accusations even extended to people who merely thought blacks should be treated as equal citizens).
- COINTELPRO…just put it in a search, ffs.
- …and of course we remember the Occupy crackdown. Singular, not plural, because it was a national effort coordinated with the FBI — with the involvement of several of the finance companies being protested, and the Federal Reserve.
Suppression of dissent “entirely different” from the American experience? Sure, if you never said anything, swallowed whatever you were fed & didn’t happen to be a member of any group defined on sight as un-American. Otherwise, suppression has been there all along in some form. Funny of Ed to suggest James Porter should say different, since if he did then that’d further solidify the Stereotypical Base Conservative archetype by injecting historical cluelessness on the basis of race & class privilege, with a Colbertesque sheen to it even.
That the definition of tyranny to people like Mr Porter boils down to “a black Democrat is in the White House” does not mean all is well. Has it really ever been though? Or is punishing dissent as American as denying people you disagree with apple pie?