When Radicals Take To Violence
And two viral threads
Before he was sentenced to death for pumping bullets into President William McKinley in 1901, the anarchist Leon Czolgasz was asked for his last words. “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”
As historians later pieced through his life, they found that Czolgasz had been radicalized by anarchists, including Emma Goldman, whose calls to violence the would-be assassin took to heart.
I have been re-reading some of Goldman’s orations as I’ve tried to understand the white radical insurgents who sacked the Capitol on January 6, after President Donald Trump’s speech at a Stop the Steal rally. These are the speeches that catalyzed the killing of a President 120 years before:
“I realize that most of you have but a very inadequate, very strange and usually false conception of Anarchism. I do not blame you. You get your information from the daily press. Yet that is the very last place on earth to seek for truth in any state of form. Anarchism, to the great teachers and leaders in the spiritual aspect of life, was not a dogma, not a thing that drains the blood from the heart and makes people zealots, dictators or impossible bores. Anarchism is a releasing and liberating force because it teaches people to rely on their own possibilities, teaches them faith in liberty, and inspires men and women to strive for a state of social life where everyone shall be free and secure.
What drove the assassin to anarchists? Historians suggest it was a combination of some mental illness and economic dislocation. He had lost his job and could not find one. He had lost a sense of utility. But Czolgasz didn’t lack agency. He believed that violence was a viable solution and acted willfully.
As I write this, the CEO of an American pillow company, Mike Lindell, is meeting with President Trump in the White House. On the way into the meeting, he flashed a copy of his notes, and an enterprising photographer took a snap. The words “martial law” appear. And NBC News reports that, among Trump diehards, two camps are forming: those who know that the election was lost and won’t be overturned except by violence, and those who believe that Trump has a magical plan to extricate himself and inaugurate himself on January 6.
Tens of thousands of Americans are now confirmed adherents of a totalizing ideology that has a violent siege, and a denied victory, as its cri-de-coeur. Until there is widespread deradicalization, those Americans pose a danger to the new President.
Lest you doubt that white supremacy was a core motivation for the insurrection, let National Geographic’s anthropologists explain the signs and symbols to you.
I wrote two threads last week that attracted attention, and I’ve attached them here.
One looks at what might happen if President Trump were to try and launch a nuclear weapon at Iran or Denver.
The other is a series of questions that remain unanswered about the insurrection of January 6.
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