While I’m a very difficult person to offend there are things to greatly annoy me. One thing that really irks me is the state and media’s obsession with scapegoats. You can guarantee anytime a terrorist attack occurs it will first be blamed on Islamic extremists and if it later turns out the act of terror was perpetrated by a Christian nothing more will be said about it. Another scapegoat used often by the state and media are anarchists every time a mass act of violence occurs:
City officials stressed that there were isolated incidents of violence led by groups of anarchists among the protesters.
I would be happy if the media would find new scapegoats whenever an otherwise peaceful protest has “isolated incidents of violence.” Pointing the finger at anarchists every time incidents like this occur is just passe. Although I realize nothing I write is going to change the status quo I do know most scapegoats are selected based on a poor knowledge of the selectee’s philosophy and beliefs. Lack of knowledge is a frightening situation for most people which is why lesser known groups are usually the ones targeted for persecution or to be scapegoats. Realizing that a majority of people hold a great deal of misconception regarding anarchism I’ve decide to write this brief (relatively) anarchism 101 post.
First let’s find a working definition of anarchism so we’re all stating on the same page:
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be immoral, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism (known as “anarchists”) advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations.
Like any movement anarchists argue incessantly about what the “true” definition of anarchism is. These ongoing arguments have lead to so many offshoots that one can not even begin to list them all but in general there are two camps of anarchist; collectivists and individualists. Generalizing greatly, collectivist anarchists would be most closely related to the usual understanding of communists while individualist anarchists would be most closely related to the usual understanding of libertarians. In fact the extreme definition of communism involves a society absent of a state where all decisions are made collectively by those involved while an extreme definition of libertarianism involves a stateless society where decisions are made by individuals through a free market system. I would like again to strongly emphasize that those definitions are greatly generalized and I wrote them simply for basic clarification purposes.
Collectivist anarchists consist of anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalism, etc. while individualist anarchists consist of anarcho-capitalists, volyntaryists, etc. There are also those who prefer not to pigeonhole themselves into specific subdivisions and thus describe themselves as anarchists without adjectives. As you can see the term anarchist can mean a great number of things and certainly does not lend itself well to being used to describe a group of violent protesters with little or nothing else in common besides their violent actions.
A lesser known fact about American history is that our country actually had anti-anarchist laws on the books. For the sake of this discussion let’s look at what qualified as an anarchist under United States law:
(a) aliens who are anarchists;
(b) aliens who advise, advocate, or teach, or who are members of, or affiliated with, any organization, society, or group, that advises, advocates, or teaches opposition to all organized government;
(c) aliens who believe in, advise, advocate, or teach, or who are members of, or affiliated with, any organization, association, society, or group, that believes in, advises, advocates, or teaches:
(1) the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law, or
(2) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers, either of specific individuals or of officers generally, of the Government of the United States or of any other organized government, because of his or their official character, or
(3) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property, or
(d) aliens who write, publish, or cause to be written or published, or who knowingly circulate, distribute, print, or display, or knowingly cause to be circulated, distributed, printed, or displayed, or knowingly have in their possession for the purpose of circulation, distribution, publication, or display any written or printed matter, advising, advocating, or teaching opposition to all government, or advising, advocating, or teaching:
(1) the ovethrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law, or
(2) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers of the Government of the United States or of any other government, or
(3) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property, or
(e) aliens who are members of, or affiliated with, any organization, association, society, or group, that writes, circulates, distributes, prints, publishes, or displays, or causes to be written, circulated, distributed, printed, published, or displayed, or that has in its possession for the purpose of circulation, distribution, publication, or display, any written or printed matter of the character in subdivision (d).
Therefore United States law only covered violent revolutionary anarchists. As there are collectivist and individualist camps in anarchism there is also a divided opinion regarding methodology. In general there are two methods anarchists subscribe to for brining about a stateless society; violent and non-violent. Those who subscribe to the violent methodology would be the anarchists described by the media while those who subscribe to the non-violent methodology would be those who believe in changing society through education and agorism.
Now we have two general philosophies of anarchism; collectivist and individualist which each have two general camps of activists; violent and non-violent. An anarchist’s particular flavor of anarchism is determined by both his general philosophy and methodology along with other ancillary differences.
Simply put somebody who wears black clothing and a face mask, has funnily styled hair, and smashes windows doesn’t qualify as an anarchist. Anarchism is a philosophy not a lifestyle. When the state or media say anarchists started acts of violence you should take it with a gigantic grain of salt because it’s very unlikely that either police officers or reporters actually took the time to interview those who were inciting violence to discover their personal philosophies.