Je Vous Dis, Merde! 38: Anticoercion, Nonviolent Protest, and Permissible Force
Here are the opening paragraphs of a story published in The Washington Post last Monday:
By Kyle Swenson 28 August 2017
Left-wing counterprotesters clashed with right-wing protesters and Trump supporters on Aug. 27 in Berkeley, Calif. Violence erupted when a small group of masked antifa and anarchists attacked right-wing demonstrators. (The Washington Post)
Their faces hidden behind black bandannas and hoodies, about 100 anarchists and antifa — “anti-fascist” — members barreled into a protest Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.
Jumping over plastic and concrete barriers, the group melted into a larger crowd of around 2,000 that had marched peacefully throughout the sunny afternoon for a “Rally Against Hate” gathering.
Shortly after, violence began to flare. A pepper-spray-wielding Trump supporter was smacked to the ground with homemade shields. Another was attacked by five black-clad antifa members, each windmilling kicks and punches into a man desperately trying to protect himself. A conservative group leader retreated for safety behind a line of riot police as marchers chucked water bottles, shot off pepper spray and screamed, “Fascist go home!”
All told, the Associated Press reported at least five individuals were attacked. An AP reporter witnessed the assaults. Berkeley Police’s Lt. Joe Okies told The Washington Post the rally resulted in “13 arrests on a range of charges including assault with a deadly weapon, obstructing a police officer, and various Berkeley municipal code violations.”
Etc., etc., etc.
Now as Caitlin Johnstone pointed out in her characteristically edgy and incisive follow-up piece on Tuesday 29 August, “Hmm… Corporate Media Now Turning On Antifa As Police Militarization Increases,” there is very good reason to believe that corporate-driven mass media are engaging in some serious mind-control tactics about just which morally reprehensible protesters — white supremacist neo-Nazis in Charlottesville?, or “masked antifa and anarchists” in Berkeley?— we’re supposed to be hating, and when.
But in this little essay, I want to focus instead on the moral dimensions of all this.
Suppose that some white supremacist neo-Nazis engage in acts of violence against innocent people.
That’s rationally unjustified and immoral, yes?
Now suppose that some “masked antifa and anarchists” engage in acts of violence against innocent people.
That’s also rationally unjustified and immoral, yes?
So what’s shared by both camps, such that what they’re each doing is rationally unjustified and immoral?
Right, acts of violence against innocent people.
Q: Why are acts of violence against innocent people rationally unjustified and immoral?
A: Because they violate respect for human dignity by treating people as mere things.
Now acts of violence, as such, are different from forcing people to do you want them to do, by using threats of violence or other significant non-violent harm — say, by getting them fired from their jobs.
But that’s rationally unjustified and immoral too, yes?
Q: Why is forcing people to do things to do what you want them to do, by using threats of violence or other significant harm — say, by getting them fired from their jobs — rationally unjustified and immoral?
A: Because they violate respect for human dignity by treating people as mere means to your desired ends.
Let’s call any treatment of people as mere things, or as mere means to your desired ends, whether by acts of violence, threats of violence, or other significant harm, coercion.
Even more precisely now, I’ll define coercion as follows:
either (i) using violence (e.g. injuring, torturing, or killing) or the threat of violence, in order to manipulate people according to certain purposes of the coercer (primary coercion), or
(ii) inflicting appreciable, salient harm (e.g. imprisonment, termination of employment, large monetary penalties) or deploying the threat of appreciable, salient harm, even if these are not in themselves violent, in order to manipulate people according to certain purposes of the coercer (secondary coercion).
Then, as people who universally respect human dignity, what we all should be doing is rejecting and resisting coercion in all its forms.
That’s what I call Anticoercion.
Q: Does Anticoercion imply quietism, so that when you’re confronted by coercion you just sit there passively and do nothing, while evil people do evil things to innocent people?
A: Hell no.
Here’s what I argued last week:
The highest value of free speech is manifest when we exercise the liberty to engage in peaceful criticism of, protests against, and resistance to, any and all violations of respect for human dignity, which especially include individual and collective violations of human rights and other immoral uses of political power.
This morally and politically exemplary kind of free speech is not merely “speaking truth to power,” because, over and above truth as such, it is also ethically-driven by a wholehearted commitment to the highest intrinsic moral value of respect for human dignity and peacefully rebellious.
In other words, it follows from Anticoercion that we should all be engaging in nonviolent emancipatory protest against any and all types of coercion — e.g., against white supremacist neo-Nazi coercion
According to Gene Sharp, there are at least 198 different methods of nonviolent protest.
As a proponent of Anticoercion, I support any of the 198 methods of nonviolent emancipatory protest, provided that it does not include defamation of an individual’s character or slander of individuals more generally, or secondary coercion backed up by threats of significant non-violent harm — such as firing people from their jobs just because they espouse white supremacist neo-Nazism.
In other words, Anticoercion also fully respects the moral limits of free speech.
Among the 198 nonviolent protest methods and their specific applications, one of my personal favorites is making fun of Nazis.
But what about the use of force by nonviolent emancipatory protesters against coercion: is it ever morally permissible?
And that’s because what I call minimal sufficiently effective, last resort, defensive, protective, and preventive moral force is morally permissible.
More precisely, it is morally permissible to use force, as a last resort —
either (i) by using the smallest sufficiently effective level of physical force or threat of physical force,
or (ii) by deploying the smallest sufficiently effective threat of appreciable, salient harm,
in order to defend against, protect against, or prevent, oneself or someone else being primarily or secondarily coerced, or having their human dignity otherwise violated.
In particular, it is rationally justified and morally permissible to use minimally sufficiently effective, last resort, defensive, protective, and preventive moral force for the purposes of —
either (i) self-defense,
or (ii) humanitarian intervention in order to save innocent people from having evil things done to them by evil people.
So, don’t be a white supremacist neo-Nazi, because they use coercion.
And don’t be antifa, because they use coercion too.
Instead, be Antico.
And, as always, to anyone who seriously disputes the soundness of this argument,
Je vous dis, merde!
“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.
1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):
· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.
2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):
· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.
3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):
· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.
Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.
The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.
Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.
(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.
(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.
(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.
(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.
(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.
4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):
· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.
· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.
· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.
5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):
· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.
6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):
· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.
· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.
7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):
· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.
· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.
I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.
Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.
Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 1 September 2017