Grassroots Commentary

The Vigilantes?

John Longenecker · Aug. 22, 2011

There is talk of Vigilantes in London who seem to benefit the populace one day and then seem to betray them the next. A lot of civil disturbance is going to yield up a great diversity of actions, some defending themselves, others marauding. How do you meet the marauders? Are all protestors sinister?

What are Vigilantes, anyway? Are they some of any generic body of people who break the law? Are they a lynch mob? Is the word an exaggeration of heated political rhetoric to effect change, or is it accurate?

The original Vigilantes in America were an extension of the Ku Klux Klan. Their targets were abolitionists and Republicans at a time when the Party of Lincoln was just getting its feathers. The Ku Klux Klan was the movement in favor of slavery while Republicans opposed it, and the Klan gave cover to Vigilantes who wrought terror for political purposes with added geographic reach and mobility.

When most people hear the word today, they think of people taking the law into their own hands, but this is not vigilante. Vigilante is four things.

1. Vigilantes operate outside the law and outside due process. They have no legal authority to do what they do. They do not take the law into their own hands as if it were some expedient of lawful actions, but it is not: Vigilantes simply break the law for their aims.

2. Vigilantes operated in underhandedness and without redeeming social purpose. This is distinct from opinion or any good faith mistake. Their acts were unrighteous, a wrong act fighting for a wrong cause. In this case, the cause was pro-slavery.

3. Vigilanteism oftentimes involves a killing, and an unlawful killing at that and purely for political intimidation.

4. Vigilanteism generally involves conspiracy which means intent outside of any moral self-defense. The Vigilantes were the aggressors, and could not claim self-defense at any time in their reign.

In modern terms, we do not have so-called Vigilantes acting in riots; what we do have is people protecting their community in the absence of law enforcement and we see instigators who grow the riots. Under our system, the people protecting their homes are not taking the law into their own hands, they are the law by dint of public policy and interest among other doctrines and rules.

Crackdowns? Here?

As part of the silencing of political speech, peoples around the globe see the so-called crackdowns. You see crackdowns in sweeping suppression of riots and demonstrations in other countries, but there can be no such legal crackdowns in the United States. Why not? Because we have the right of redress of grievances and the laws which prohibit riots or leaving trash or trashing a neighborhood must address individuals found guilty of such and not groups who were doing something lawful. Being noisy to be heard is not a crime, and it is a civil right to be able to speak.

You might see crackdowns for financial crimes or medicare fraud, but not in terms of political suppression of the people. Not all demonstrations are violent: violence is not common; some are instigated because they need a shove to become dangerous. Crackdowns are a policy change, not something to contain an existing riot.

Crackdowns as a policy change have the social engineering purpose of utilizing ‘crisis’ to assign blame in order to then further suppress the voice of the people under color of keeping the peace. This is why they are instigated. Silencing political dissent by crackdown is much more like the Vigilantes than anyone else could ever be. Crackdowns which reach innocent persons and deny their rights have no place in America. Gun control is an example of never touching the criminal, but taking greater control of the populace nevertheless. Crackdowns and gun control are similar, of the same belligerent mentality in that they identify a crisis and utilize it in the furtherance of agenda against the people.

Centralization then grows.

Good Samaritans are not vigilante. They do not take the law into their own hands when they respond, they are the law that is within every citizen. Good Sams meet the test of public policy and public interest while Vigilantes break the law against the public interest. Good Sams are welcome for their immediate aid to the community while Vigilantes stalk and strike against the community interest.

Of all people, officials need to know the difference. Why don’t they?

What do we do about disturbances in our cities if they should they come to the U.S.?

The answer to disturbances is not in crackdowns, but to enforce the law depending on the nature and degree of the disturbance. Remember that a crackdown is an after-the-fact political response of policy change, not something during-the-fact to affect the outcome of the disturbance. It may be made to sound necessary, but it is often not at all necessary. Why not let the people say their minds and be heard?

As a policy change, the next question for “Crackdown’ is crack down on whom? Until the culprits (such as the violent and the instigators) are even identified, there can be no real policy change in good faith. A crackdown can hardly be tailored to do any societal good until officials know first who they are to crack down on.(Unless it is purely for political purposes!)

For instance, is the dissent an outrage with some excessive governance, or it is violent looting in time of a local disaster? Are there serious property and personal crimes done by hundreds or only a few? Are the looters and rioters outside hired instigators? Are the citizens capable and willing in assisting police to keep the peace and will they be asked and allowed to participate as an asset?

And why not, actually? No need for a crackdown in our society.

A lot of discontent is because the people in the United States are not governed the way we ought to be, and this is our call, not the call of the servants, certainly. It never was. This means that there cannot be any such thing as a legitimate crackdown of dissenters in America. There can be only official cooperation with the people and no arguments about it.

There is a very broad difference between Vigilantes and Good Samaritans, not to mention citizen involvement in protecting a community. Let’s not confuse the two for political purposes.

John Longenecker has the path back to smaller government peaceably and through due process. See The Second Amendment as a Mainstream Value in digital and paperback formats.