Quantcast

Molon Labe! | The Nation

  •  
Rick Perlstein

Rick Perlstein

Where the past isn’t even past.

Molon Labe!


Protesters, some armed (L), attend a pro-gun rally as part of the National Day of Resistance at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 23, 2013. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

I hate the idea of the “news cycle”—that notion, beloved of the Washington gossip sheet Politico, that there are properly two or three maybe five stories that everyone is or should be talking about in any given day; that is, if you know what is cool. That atrophies thought. It kills off any active attempt to grasp the multiple contexts that shape our public life. It actively turns news into gossip. Which is just the speed of the Washington political press corps. Very few of them think to scan the horizon to suss out stories and issues that might emerge. Instead, information outside the very few narratives they consider worth carrying around in their heads just gets discarded. Let me flag two stories that fell through these gargantuan cracks. They may some day turn out to have portended bigger things.

Remember Buford Rogers? Of course you don’t. The media was too busy flooding the zone last month with news on the terrorists who happened to be Muslim to give more than a drop of attention to a white Minnesota man who flew the American flag outside his mobile home upside down and, in the first week of May, was arrested in an FBI raid that uncovered a cache of pipebombs, Molotov cocktails, and firearms. “The FBI believed there was a terror attack in its planning stages,” a spokesman said. What happened next? I didn’t know—beyond a single paragraph in the National Briefing, The New York Times hasn’t mentioned the case; The Washington Post ran the same AP dispatch at six paragraphs—until I found my way to an item on the site Heavy.com—and learned that “Bucky” had started something called the “Black Snake Militia,” and said such charming things on his Facebook page as “The war is here tsa agents are doing random cheeks and shooting people for no reson,” “ever one better get your guns ready cuz there comeing FEMA,” “this is not bullshit just cuz its not in your back yard yet doesnt mean it wont b soon,” “the NWO has taken all your freedoms the right to bear arms freedom of speach freedom of the press cheek the shit out for your self this is fucking real,” “together we can fight back they wont take me down with out a fight i hope that you wont go down easy eather,” and “weve already started fighting im shure youl hear about it in a bad way.[sic]” No one yet knows whether Rogers is acting alone.

Here’s another story I’ve been watching—which, like the foiled Minnesota terror plot, I only learned about from the good folks at Talking Points Memo, who are great on this stuff: “Chaos erupted outside the New Hampshire statehouse this week when pro-gun protesters showed up at a gun control rally—and one of them ended up getting zapped with a Taser and then arrested.”

Reading that scared me. Here’s why. Back in 2010, when the nascent Tea Party began rallying in public places, a legend was frequently seen on T-shirts and signs: “Molon Labe.” That means, “Come and get them,” or, literally, “Come and take”—a reference to the words of defiance supposedly spoken by King Leonidas when the Persian Army demanded Spartans surrender at Thermopylae. In the contemporary context it refers to the paranoid fantasy of gun nuts that liberals are out to disarm them. The words curl within them an implication of violent defiance—for instance as articulated on this lovely item. Shamefully, Senator Ted Cruz sent out a dog whistle to these folks at the Republican convention, in his keynote speech’s story of the Battle for the CIty of Gonzales: “When General Santa Ana demanded that they give up their guns and the cannon that guarded the city, they responded with the immortal cry, ‘Come and take it!” “

The “Molon Labe” mini-cult is cousin to the Tea Party practice of carrying weapons to political rallies. Both symbolic acts have the savor of wish-fulfillment—a macho fantasy akin to Black Panther discourse in the 1960s, in which a willingness to face down the pigs became proof of political manhood. It recalls the far-left longing during the same period to “heighten the contradictions”—to force violence in order to impel otherwise apathetic people to chose sides in what they hope will become an apocalyptic war. Thus my fear reading that tidbit from Manchester. I wonder if the next time a cop takes a taser to a pro-gun protester, one or more of them will unholster their arms and decide it’s go time. Together we can fight back they wont take me down with out a fight i hope that you wont go down easy either.

And what will happen next? Then, and only then, these simmering issues will enter the consciousness of the “news cycle”-sniffers. As for now, the name of the tasered firearm fan who was shouting down his Republican senator for daring to vote for background checks, John Cantin, didn’t make either the Post or the Times.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Well, here’s an early warning. On July 4, a group calling itself the “Final American Revolution” (apocalyptic enough for you?) plans to march from where gun laws are lax, across the bridge to Washington, DC, where they are strict—to heighten the contradictions: maybe, just maybe, if we’re lucky, the cops will arrest us and the Final American Revolution can begin at long last!

On Facebook, 5,983 patriots have RSVP’ed. They have 4,961 “maybes.” Pray for peace. And pray that someone in the mainstream media will start paying attention.

[Late breaking update: the march has been cancelled—moved, the organizer promises, to state capitals instead: “This revolution has been brewing in the hearts and minds of the people for many years, but this Independence Day, it shall take a new form as the American Revolutionary Army will march on each state capital to demand that the governors of these 50 states immediately initiate the process of an orderly dissolution of the federal government through secession and reclamation of federally held property.” His name is Adam Kokesh. Remember it.]

Yes, guns are a right. But do they have to be?

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.