The Flaccidity of Modern Marxist Revolutionaries
It is quite an undertaking to execute (as opposed to, say, simply murder) a sovereign. Certainly, the nation's accuser, Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, could not but have trembled, just a little, preparing himself to walk out into the chamber of the National Convention, such as it was. And, without doubt, those many years ago in the chill of December 1792, the French son of a lawyer must have cleared his throat quite pointedly before admitting to the National Convention the theretofore unprecedented "Rapport sur la conduite de Louis XVI depuis le commencement de la revolution, fair par Robert Lindet au nom de la commission des vingt-un." ("Report on the conduct of Louis XVI since the beginning of the revolution made by Robert Lindet in the name of the commission of twenty-one"), a literal narrative of the Convention's version of their grievances against the royal person, and the "Acte enonciatif des crimes de Louis" ("Act of enunciation of the crimes of Louis"), crude sort of 33 point indictment against the Bourbon monarch that was distilled from that narrative.
It would be quite difficult to overstate the degree to which the atmosphere in the France of 1792 was charged. The National Convention, for example, faced open hostilities between waring revolutionary factions inside it, the Jacobins and the Girondins in particular. This was severely complicated by the presence a wound-up and even slightly power-mad population that regularly exhibited a level of blood lust- certainly aroused by the surprisingly effective press and pamphlet infrastructure1 2 that characterized the French Fourth Estate at the time- that seriously alarmed the more moderate (relatively speaking) contemporaries of the French revolutionary elite.
The drafting of the report itself had so exhausted its author- Jean-Baptiste Robert Lindet worked on the project with fervor day and night without sleep to the point of exhaustion- that, on December 10, 1792, he collapsed and took to his bed leaving it to Charles Jean Marie Barbaroux, another member of the Commission of Twenty One to present the report formally to the Convention on the next day.
The Convention adopted the report along with the "Acte enonciatif" and hauled Louis XVI before them on December 11, 1792.3
It would be a mistake to ignore the serious complications that would have plagued the darker dreams of a less ethically challenged revolutionary body. Just a year before, in response to a pattern of justice dispensed by the French kings that was perceived by the Revolution as unreasonably arbitrary, Louis Michel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau had presented the Criminal Code of 1791 to what was then called the Constituent Assembly. It purported to limit prosecution to "true crimes" and not acknowledge "ces délits factices, créés par la superstition, la féodalité, la fiscalité et le despotisme" ("those artificial offenses created by superstition, feudalism, taxation and despotism").
The Code itself had been strongly influenced by the work of Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria-Bonesana, the Italian author of the 1764 work "Dei delitti e delle pene" ("On Crimes and Punishments") that, among other things, denounced the death penalty and torture and became almost a founding document of modern (that is, post-Enlightenment) criminal justice thought and practice. Cesare's work also played a fundamental role in the adoption on August 26, 1789 of the "Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen" ("Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen") the document purporting to define the universal, individual and collective rights that would be steadfastly assured by the just and benevolent guardians of the French Revolution.
Of course, the Declaration had, in turn, been deeply influenced by the works of Rousseau and the Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu. This noble origins story created a rather severe problem for those champions of the rights of man that, these noble and seminal principles notwithstanding, thought that Louis XVI would probably cut a more dashing figure were he about a foot shorter.
It was this conflict, the friction between the more moderate factions within the Convention that could at least claim some- even a vanishingly small- allegiance to the grand Estate of the Intellect the fathers of the French Revolution had inherited from the Enlightenment, and the more reactionary forces within The Revolution, that radicalized the Convention even further.
With respect to the judging of Louis XVI itself, the conflict manifested itself in the form of endless arguments of procedure with respect to the upcoming trial. The individuals comprising Convention and, to a much greater extent, the senior members thereof were represented by a disproportionately high percentage of lawyers. This is never a good sign.
Clearly, there were no precedents for putting a sovereign on trial. Moreover, the Criminal Code of 1791, in addition to the inconvenient fact of its raison d'être being the elimination of arbitrary justice, was very specific on the rights of the accused. It was highly procedural in its requirements and necessitated the adoption of a formal indictment against the accused by a specially impaneled "jury of accusation," a jury that was subject to very specific and detailed rules of evidence and exclusion- and the accused was entitled even at this stage to lawyers.
If an indictment were returned then the accused would be brought to trial by a jury composed of entirely different members from the jury of accusation and the accused was to be afforded sufficient time to prepare a defense and given access to the evidence to be used against them prior to the trial. Finally, the trial was to be conducted in public.
The Rapport sur la conduite de Louis XVI simply ignored procedure of any kind, and instead read like a mini history of The Revolution. Between this and the insistence of the Convention that, damn the torpedoes, Louis XVI would be put on trial, the end result was embarrassingly predictable: With the exception of the public requirement every single right granted by the Criminal Code of 1791 was violated and, moreover, Louis XVI's first exposure to the accusations against him (many of which were not actually violations of any criminal law in France) was on December 11, 1792 when they were read to him on the first day of his trial. Minutes after they were read he was confronted with each particular and compelled to answer.
Even before that point, worried that the transport and appearance of Louis XVI would itself cause problems, the Convention engaged in a rather base bit of theater:
The coach carrying the king–apparently the mayor's coach–would be accompanied by an escort that was a small army. A troop of gendarmerie would lead the procession, with three cannon and an ammunition wagon. Then would come a double row of infantry, each three men deep, in the middle of which would roll the coach carrying the king. The rear guard would be composed of a detachment of cavalry of the line, with three additional pieces of artillery. Every man under arms on December 11 had to carry a special card, issued by the Commune, identifying him, his section, and his right to be there. Each of the handpicked escort would be supplied with sixteen cartridges. The route to the Convention was cleared of all traffic, and it was a route that ran through the heart of Paris. All the Parisians were thus encouraged to contemplate their former king about to confront his accusers. Anyone found on the night of December 10 or the following day without proper identification in the form of a citizen's card issued by his section was arrested on the spot.
All the citizens the journalist Prudhomme saw on the streets were armed. Indeed, anyone found without arms was sent back to his section. Just as the Parisians were to be impressed by the republican solemnity of the occasion, so too were they to be impressed by their own remarkable display of strength. And this revolutionary population in arms would also serve as a warning to the crowned heads of Europe who were anxiously watching the trial.4
Prior to dethroning Louis XVI there had been an effort to establish a constitutional monarchy- an effort most often associated with Gilbert du Motier the Marquis de Lafayette, who had been a General in the American Revolutionary War as well as the origin of the present French tricolor- or at least some uneasy peace with the sovereign, though probably a newly anointed duc de Chartres instead of Louis XVI. Certainly, as far back as 1791 there was an increasing sense that matters were slipping into lawless chaos. Clearly sensing the danger, Louis XVI attempted to flee France in an incident that would famously become known as the "Flight to Varennes." Increasingly, centrists like Georges Jacques Danton, the first President of the Committee of Public Safety, found themselves resisting some of the more carnivorous angels of The Revolution's nature.
Danton's concern can be seen plainly in his efforts to delay the trial and his discussions with, for example, Charles Malo François Lameth (himself a constitutional monarchist and something of a moderate):
Can a king under indictment be saved? He's as good as dead when he appears before his judges.5
Robespierre's address to the Convention just about a week before the trial about summed up the contrary, and eventually prevailing, view that, having gone this far in contravention of law and right, they better damn well finish the job:
If the king is not guilty, then those who have dethroned him are.... The Constitution prohibited everything you have done.... Prostrate yourselves before Louis to invoke his clemency.6
Of course, that would never do.
Georges Lefebvre went so far as to call the act of dethronement itself the "Second French Revolution."7 The French people had, after all, gone so far as to effectively force Louis XVI to adopt the new constitution in 1791; a document that the assembly had drafted without any royal input and one that explicitly recognized the sovereignty of the king.
That it took, perhaps quite literally, two revolutions to finally work up the political and popular will to dethrone the last Bourbon king and perhaps even a third to summon the courage and political mandate to execute him is instructive. In this context, it is difficult not to laugh at the last particular in the Acte enonciatif:
...vous avez fait couler le sang des Français.
...you have caused the blood of the French to flow.
As if The National Convention were some sort of clotting agent....
But then, dear reader, consider, just for a moment, the particulars of the indictment against the doomed Louis in the light of modern contexts, a theme that will pervade through the latter half of this piece. Consider charge number sixteen:
L’armée de ligne, qui devait être portée au pied de guerre, n’était forte que de cent mille homes à la fin de décembre; vous aviez ainsi négligé de pourvoir à la sûreté extérieure de l’État....
The army of the line, which should have been brought to a war footing, was only 100,000 strong at the end of December; you thus neglected to provide for the external security of the State....
Obviously, the contours of the interface surface between King and Subjects were in active- even violent, or perhaps especially violent- flux in 1792. But it is interesting to notice that even those revolutionaries that history would eventually brand as hysterical and mob-like (the early histories of the French Revolution being written primarily by landed English scholars that found themselves horrified by the populist movement even before the Reign of Terror began) recognized in their Monarch the duty to provide for national security, and considered a negligent attitude towards its maintenance a criminal offense- even if nowhere in French law was it so listed.
Vous avez chargé vos agents diplomatiques de favoriser la coalition des puissances étrangères et de vos frères contre la France; particulièrement de cimenter la paix entre la Turquie et l’Autriche, pour dispenser celle-ci de garnir ses frontières du côté de la Turquie, et lui procurer par là un plus grand nombre de troupes contre la France.
You charged your diplomatic agents with favoring the coalition of foreign powers and your brothers against France; and particularly to strengthen peace between Turkey and Austria, in order to excuse the latter from supplying its frontiers on the Turkish boundary and thereby to procure for it a greater number of troops against France.
Yet in matters of foreign affairs, clearly the legislature felt itself empowered to participate. And who would bear the criminal responsibility in the event the legislatures well-intentioned meddling brought war to the country and "...caused the blood of the French to flow"? Alas, these were the years before the War Powers Act and the Second War Powers Act of 1941 and the Presidential line of succession, so such questions must remain unanswered. Or at least as unanswered as the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. But then, who needs a line of succession or exigent executive authority when a land campaign spans years and years? There's plenty of time to consult with the legislature, no?
And then there was the price of military failure. To wit, charge twenty one:
Vous avez confié le département de la guerre à Dabancourt, neveu de Calonne: et tel a été le succès de votre conspiration, que les places de Longwy et de Verdun ont été livrées aussitôt que les ennemis ont paru.
You entrusted the Department of War to Dabancourt, nephew of Calonne; and such was the success of your conspiracy, that the positions of Longwy and Verdun were surrendered as soon as the enemy appeared.
Then there is the beginning of charge number five:
Vous avez prêté, à la Fédération du 14 juillet un serment que vous n’avez pas tenu.
At the Federation of 14 July you took an oath which you have not kept.
Ah, if only there were an enforceable modern equivalent.
Consider charge fifteen:
Vos frères, ennemis de l’État, ont rallié les émigrés sous leurs drapeaux; ils ont levé des régiments, fait des emprunts et contracté des alliances en votre nom: vous ne les avez désavoués qu’au moment où vous avez été bien certain que vous ne pouviez plus nuire à leurs projets.
Your brothers, enemies of the state, have rallied the émigrés under their colors; they have raised regiments, borrowed money, and contracted alliances in your name; you disavowed them only when you were quite certain that you could not harm their plans.
The sins of the father....
Charge thirty one:
Vous avez laissé avilir la nation française en Allemagne, en Italie, en Espagne, puisque vous n’avez rien fait pour exiger la réparation des mauvais traitements que les Français ont éprouvés dans ces pays.
You allowed the French nation to be disgraced in Germany, in Italy, and in Spain, since you did nothing to exact reparation for the ill treatment which the French experienced in those countries.
One is reminded of certain leaders in 1933.
But beyond the particulars of the charges, their lack of formal criminality or the lack of a structure to put the Louis on trial, the king was guaranteed inviolability and immunity under the constitution in force at the time- as Robespierre dryly noted. The French Constitution of 1791 adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man discussed supra as its preamble, but the body of the document provided in part:
Chapter II - On the Monarchy, On the Regency of Ministers
Section One - On the Monarchy and the King
Article 2 - The King's person is inviolable and sacred; his only title is King of the French8
Louis XVI could have been forgiven, perhaps, his overconfidence in 1789 when he purportedly declared:
Le peuple français est incapable d'un régicide.
The French people are incapable of a regicide.
Indeed, Louis XVI invoked shades of his inviolability and the murderous nature of his show trial immediately during his exchange with the President of the Convention on December 11, 1792. Refusing to legitimize the proceedings by declining to participate in the trial at all hadn't gone well for Charles I a century earlier (a topic finem respice will discuss infra) so rising to his own defense likely seemed like the only real option left to the king.
Ironically, he engaged in this back and forth from the same chair he had been sitting in a year before when he accepted the Constitution of 1791, the document that enshrined his inviolability:
Le président Barére: Louis, le peuple français vous accuse d’avoir commis une multitude de crimes pour établir votre tyrannie en détruisant sa liberté.
Vous avez, le 20 juin 1789, attenté à la souveraineté du peuple, en suspendant les assemblées du peuple, en suspendant les assemblées de ses représentants, et en les repoussant par la violence du lieu de leurs séances. La preuve en est dans le procès-verbal dressé au « Jeu de paume » de Versailles par les membres de l’Assemblée constituante. Qu'avez-vous á répondre?
The King: Il n'y avait aucunes lois dans ce temps-lá qui existassent sur cet objet.
The President, Barére: Louis, the French people accuse you of having committed a multitude of crimes in order to establish your tyranny by destroying its liberty.
You did, on June 20, 1789, attack the sovereignty of the people by suspending the assemblies of the people, by suspending the assemblies of its representatives and by repelling [them] by violence from the place of their assembly. How do you respond?
The King: There were no laws in those days on this subject.
Louis XVI's private papers had also been illegally seized and presented as evidence without following the criminal procedure rules of the time and the Convention made great show of being outraged when he refused to identify the signatures on the many papers they presented as evidence of his misdeeds (several were forged) as his own.
Truly, the handwringing on display and the trouble of a public trial (which proceeded to gleefully violate not only the constitution but the even the central tenants of the founding documents of the revolution itself) is all theater. True, it was perhaps theater that was necessary to work the powers that be into a froth of sufficient virulence to apply the National Razor so inelegantly to the neck of Louis XVI, but then that is the point- and the trial along with its implicit effort to disguise mob rule as something legitimate carried with it many dangers that a swift, quiet summary execution would not have.
On this note, correspondence between Lord Grenville, then the British Foreign Secretary, and Colonel Monro, his spy in France, is quite interesting:
I assure you this conduct [of the king] has made a considerable revolution in the minds of the people here, and those that were perhaps indifferent to what had passed before begin now to regret the approaching and most probable loss of a sovereign, whose life they considered as sacred: papers are publicly hawked about saying in his praise what would have cost a man his head, had he dared to utter so much some weeks ago.9
The gist is clear: Don't fuck around when you're planning to execute sovereigns. Even at their lowest point, you might find the tide turned.
Of course, the well-read finem respice reader knows the end. But it is instructive to notice that Robespierre voted first, and did so while declaring:
The sentiment that led me to call for the abolition of the death penalty is the same that today forces me to demand that it be applied to the tyrant of my country.
One must be humanitarian in order to temporarily dispose of the inconvenience of humanitarian ideals to achieve uniform humanitarianism, we suppose.
Note clearly this hypocrisy, for it has many, many modern parallels. Some of which we shall address presently.
But these quibbles aside, it bears notice that there is a distinction between killing a king and killing a sovereign. Without doubt, on January 21, 1793, Louis XVI was anything but a sovereign:
...is this really the same man that I see being jostled by four assistant executioners, forcibly undressed, his voice drowned out by the drums, trussed to a plank, still struggling, and receiving the heavy blade so badly that the cut does not go through his neck, but through the back of his head and his jaw, horribly?10
As if to prove the point, before they tried him the revolutionaries had stripped Louis of his title, branding him instead "Citoyen Louis Capet" ("Citizen Louis Capet"). So while the Convention killed King Louis XVI and then cut off the head of Citizen Louis Capet, after a fashion the sovereign endures- at least in a faint and nostalgic way- when one reads the transcript of the preparations, deliberations and disposition of his trial. Louis XVI probably expected he would be put to death but, at least to finem respice's way of thinking, his defense exposed the National Convention for the lawless pack of murderous hypocrites they truly were and in so doing caused that rank and ugly perversion of the "Rights of Man and of the Citizen" by its very authors to be enshrined in the record such that 219 years later anyone can still see it, if not learn from it.
More than a hundred years earlier, the English also felt they understood the import of ritual in their practice of ritual regicide. Accordingly, they established the High Court of Justice for the Trial of Charles I and proceeded to indict him for:
...accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same ends hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented....
And so on.
Marking war against Parliament at least has a treasonous feel to it, but treasonous or not, Charles Stuart had the royal charisma going for him. The French may have found sovereignty easy to supplant, but the for the English a bit more finesse and artifice was necessary. This was particularly so after the House of Lords opposed the bill establishing the High Court of Justice in Order to Try Charles I for High Treason (they were subsequently removed to provide for the bill's easy passage) and then refused to authorize the trial itself (Parliament just passed the bill on its own initiative anyway and called it an "Act" carrying the full force of law- a term that formerly required passage in the House of Lords along with the Royal Assent, which was obviously not forthcoming).
Rampant absenteeism plagued Parliament, prompting them to authorize 135 commissioners to try the king and enacting a quorum of 20 (just shy of 15% of the total) with, of course, the forced absence of any potential sympathizers. As a court packing legacy, Roosevelt was bush league in comparison.
Charles I, of course, played the sovereignty card, but more aggressively than Louis XVI's later attempt, responding to the call for a plea thusly:
I would know by what power I am called hither. I would know by what authority, I mean lawful. There are many unlawful authorities in the world; thieves and robbers by the high-ways.... Remember, I am your King, your lawful King....
He refused to plead, which Parliament took to mean "guilty," and like many former heads of state before him, went to his death protesting the legality of the movement that supplanted him.
There might not be a superior hand to play for the former monarch (and likely former sovereign) in such an instance. For his part, Oliver Cromwell had to stack the viewing galleries and "jury" to condemn Charles I to death. He had to "cheat," as the French Revolution later would and as virtually all revolutionaries must.
This nuance, the "cheat" part, is axiomatic. The power of the sovereign is the power to "cheat." That is to deviate from or meld the rules the govern interactions between men and women. This is the root from which sovereign power flows.
In Charles I's time this mandate flowed from god:
No learned lawyer will affirm that an impeachment can lie against the King... one of their maxims is, that the King can do no wrong.
In the case of Louis XVI, no matter where the divine right of French Kings had once originated, the Constitution of 1791 certainly should have enshrined his mandate.
In "modern democracies" it is said that such authority flows from a "mandate" from the people, presumably based in the results of the last election. But consider the scope of the power thereof:
A friend of finem respice, trapped in the confines of the United States recently forwarded a screenshot of the shipping options available for an particular online purchase. To wit:
Please select one of the options:
United States Postal Service
Priority Mail $15.55
United Parcel Service
That the United States Postal Service (to cite just a single example) still exists is a monument to the cheating prowess of sovereigns. The power to exclude competitors by diktat (the Post Office enjoys a monopoly over First Class Mail in the United States where clearly any number of firms have demonstrated the ability to provide that service cheaper and faster), the power to change the rules (the accounting routinely used by the United States government would land the management of a private firm in jail), and the power to destroy competitors (by seizure, taxation or regulation).
Private actors that attempted to avail themselves of these liberties would quickly find themselves without any liberties at all, which is the reason that the populist movements that killed Louis XVI and Charles I took pains (though not obviously successful ones) to strip their sovereigns of sovereignty before delivering the blade.
And the reverse is also true.
Granted with the mandate of the population a sovereign wields terrible power, and does so with impunity and typically with immunity from later prosecution. The only way to wrest sovereignty from the sovereign is to, likewise, cheat like a sovereign. In the case of Louis XVI those shortcuts took the form of popular revolution and the actual physical control and confinement of the head of state when the postmaster of Sainte-Menehould recognized the king and sounded the alarm. (Oh, what ignominy to be done in by the post office). In the case of Charles I, by losing a civil war by force of arms.
One sees this pattern ("One must cheat like a sovereign to become a sovereign.") everywhere. One also sees a number of sovereign pretenders that, for whatever reason, find themselves simply not up to the task. And this brings us to the central focus of these discussions: Anonymous and Wikileaks.
Interestingly, "post-modern" progressive movements seem caught in a very Marxist approach. They spend a great deal of time hand-wringing about their victimhood, the victimhood of demographics they feel might support their cause and are therefore worthy of outreach, and generally decrying the "cheating" that the sovereign has (or that a multitude of sovereigns have) been engaging in for the last 30 (or 300) years, albeit with the explicit or implied mandate of her subjects/citizens.
It is in this way that Wikileaks, for example, can hyperventilate up a room full of oxygen exposing the "revelation" that the United States might want (quelle surprise!) to indict it. Or that Anonymous works itself up into a froth over the shocking news that private research firms like Stratfor pay and manipulate informants for information, as if the New York Times or the Washington Post, the Socialist Worker, or indeed Wikileaks and Anonymous themselves, have never used sex, money or quid pro quo to steal data or hit "submit" on a scoop. Or, more recently, the earth shaking flash that the FBI (the horror, the horror!) planted a mole in the Anonymous hierarchy over a year ago.
It would be one thing if Wikileaks and Anonymous explicitly objected to the methods employed by sovereigns and refrained from the hypocrisy of using such methods themselves. But it is clear they do not, or at the very least they view the unsavory means at the disposal of their enemies as justifying some greater end, given that they themselves are rabid with chicanery, theft, wire fraud, credit card fraud, social engineering, forgery, and spin. What they object to is the fact that they are not sovereigns. They lament that they cannot compete on that level because, for instance, they cannot compel Visa and Mastercard to shut down international payments to Stratfor. They object to a lack of a level playing field between emergent, digital political movements (like themselves) and sovereigns.
This explains much of the apparent hypocrisy exhibited by the two organizations (if they can be formally called such). Demonizing Stratfor (which one might crudely label a private intelligence agency- but really looks no more different than a fleshed out and retail version of any global macro fund's research desk- and a poor one at that) while lionizing each other for essentially the same activities. It is the kind of thing that permits Wikileaks to protest that the illegally obtained Stratfor leaks at one point passed through a computer that may have been provided to the FBI's Anonymous informant by the FBI. As if to say "Look how corrupt the FBI is for not stopping our illegal conspiracy faster!"
Even Wikileaks can only bring itself to admit that alleged conduct by Statfor "may be illegal." By way of contrast it is pretty clear that many of the activities of Anonymous and of other Wikileaks sources are plainly illegal. Given the rumors of indictments and the like we may also discover, quite soon, that Wikileaks' operation is, by itself, illegal.
Presumably, Wikileaks and Anonymous take the position that "cheating" (in the sovereign sense) is only to be entrusted to qualified individuals, and that no sovereign is presently possessed of the credentials to meet the standards of this obscure entrance exam.
There is hardly a government that hasn't been subjected to the ire of one or both of these groups at one time or another. The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Iraq, Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, Iceland and even Switzerland have found themselves in the crosshairs at one time or another.
To what end?
Most obviously the most recent (there have been several) Wikileaks motto "We Open Governments" holds few clues. While one might make the argument that dumping the email queues of Stratfor is "opening governments" because of ties to the United States government in terms of sources, former government officials now Stratfor employees, and the like. But the same could be said of any large corporation in the United States, what with the crony capitalist ideal close to the perfection of realization. And yet, how to explain the host of other, non-governmental targets Wikileaks has chastised, including the United Nations, supporters of Anthropomorphic Global Warming theories, Bank of America, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Twitter, FIFA, and Julius Bär is difficult if government secrecy is the target.
Of course, this conflict is easily resolved by recognizing that government secrecy isn't the real target. So what is?
It might be best to describe the political leanings of Wikileaks as an organization by using the term "Leftist-Opportunist." But, on reflection, "organization" is something of a silly characterization for Wikileaks since, despite the third-person tone of, for example, the official Twitter account, Wikileaks is Assange. And more so than Jobs was Apple.
Certainly, it would be difficult to expect that the level of megalomania demonstrated by Assange in public, not to mention the much more severe, if anecdotal, descriptions of his private megalomania that eventually leaked out to the press, would permit Assange to relinquish the Wikileaks Twitter password to a third party. That realization renders many of Wikileaks' Tweets more than a little creepy.
But who or whatever controls the public scribblings of Wikileaks, you don't have to go very far back to detect quite a bit of political schizophrenia. Remember that Wikileaks has apparently been kicking around in one form or another since 2006 and started irritating people even before the release of the military equipment register (effectively permitting a good extrapolation of the theater-wide order of battle) for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan in 2007 or Scientology's secret "bibles," in March 2008 (perhaps an early connection to Scientology digital foil "Anonymous"?)
What had mostly likely actually been a politically agnostic (well, that might be pushing it) leak facilitator began to take on a very directed tone after the "Collateral Murder" disclosures in April 2010. Wikileaks, once prone to leak anything that benefitted the center on over to the center left and the left, had found a friend in the anti-war movement. Any anti-war movement.
It isn't difficult to imagine that the period might have been characterized by a huge inflow of new talent and resources from the anti-war left and its many offshoots. And this may well have been the fork after which the former libertarian crypto-anarchist found he was more popular (with both sexes) as a neo-marxist anti-war crusader. And then, as the PR battle was joined, as an anti-American crusader. And here be dragons.
Picking a fight with the military industrial complex is not an unreasonable means to garner marxist street-cred. It is, however, somewhat old hat. But, in being old hat, as a practice it is often accepted and tolerated in ways that other quasi-revolutionary causes will never be. Who, after all, is for war?
But it isn't hard to imagine that Wikileaks flies flags of convenience that change with the wind and the sea. Climategate emails (and by the by it is important to remember that, despite self-serving claims to the contrary, Wikileaks had nothing to do with that story breaking and only piled on to mirror the files once they were already released) were published because that is what Wikileaks had. Likewise, the Afghanistan equipment registrar weren't published as a consequence of a years-long investigative journalism project undertaken by Wikileaks. They were published because that's what Wikileaks had at the time. It is what had fallen into their lap.
If anything, Bradley Manning picked Wikileaks by accident. It was the accident of the Afghanistan release that drew Manning to Assange and Wikileaks. But so it was. And Wikileaks found its cause of convenience.
But perhaps things went too far. It is one thing for a private quasi-press organization (and again, this is pushing it) to release classified materials to stop a war. It is another for a private organization to take on a sovereign head to head. Enter: The State Department Cables.
Hillary Clinton simply cannot catch a break. It is not like her husband's predecessors in the Oval Office were any more chaste, that's for certain. Monica Lewenski's sexual antics come off as a hard PG film compared to the yarn of the Kennedy White House woven by Mimi Alford. And to lose the primary to the most trite and random Senator from Illinois one could dream up and then have him pass the sweeping healthcare nationalization that was her baby, well that simply must sting. But then, finally, to be relegated to the position of Secretary of State (John Boehner is presently in front of her in the Presidential Line of Succession)? Ouch.
And then came the Wikileaks State Department files.
A few words on the sanctity of diplomatic communications:
This is simply one of the most sensitive places you can strike a sovereign. To expose this material en masse is an outright declaration of war. You are asking for the worst kind of trouble. And you have angered a sovereign. And sovereigns cheat. It is illustrative maybe to recognize that, depending on where you ask, the big take away from these disclosures seems to have been: "Wow, the State Department can write." Was it worth it?
Of course, desperation has begun to set in. And so the new, overt union of Wikileaks and Anonymous (clearly they had been connected covertly long before) should be seen in this context. Wikileaks is the dying gasp of the Commission of 21, skewing evidence from, and penning sweeping indictments- that enjoy not even the most modest connection to the law of any land- against the larger powers that offend them. But also ravaged by internal squabbles, plagued with incurable hypocrisy, burdened by the need to paint every patch of rust with three coats of a bright shade of chartreuse, and most likely not long for this world. Assange cuts the picture of a particularly pathetic Danton- albeit with a much more severe (perhaps even eventually fatal) case of narcissism and substantially less personal integrity and restraint. And this is really saying something, as when Danton was guillotined in April of 1794 his last words reportedly were to his executioner: "Don't forget to show my head to the people. It's well worth seeing."
Of course, Wikileaks has in Anonymous their Committee of Public Safety. Illegally seizing papers and correspondence to forward to the Commission and leaving in their wake the wreckage of their passage: deleted servers and theft.
But they have, both of them, in a fit of almost inestimable hubris, bitten off more than they can chew. They have both begged for the attention of the powers that be. Now, having secured it, they wallow in propagandized self pity and appeal to the Marxist psyche that idolizes and then worships victimhood. If they were seeking martyrdom they are likely to find it.
The thing about admirable practitioners of civil disobedience is that they were entirely willing to serve their sentence for their offenses in furtherance of their cause. And the causes they adopted were carefully selected, pursued with calculated strategy, and winnable with the forces on hand.
The thing about The Revolution and the English Civil War is that the anti-authoritarians won- no matter what the cost. Murderous thugs, for certain, but one never heard Cromwell whining about how unfair it all was.
Neither Wikileaks nor Anonymous possess the admirable traits of these movements or the resolve of Cromwell or The Revolution. It is impossible to admire them even in this horrible, if determined, company. Instead, one simply hopes that their wishes for martyrdom might be granted quickly and with a minimum of whining in the interim so that we can all get back to business.
Anonymous would do well to remember that Robespierre was executed a little more than three months after Danton, but only after a botched suicide attempt that left his jaw shattered and deprived him of the power to speak. At the end, when the executioner ripped off the bandage that was the only thing holding together what was left of his face, Robespierre's horrific screams continued unabated throughout the execution- until the blade of the National Razor finally shut him up for good.
- 1. The works of Darnton on this subject should be considered mandatory reading: Darnton, Robert "An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris" (Presidential Address to the American Historical Association) Volume 105, Number 1, The American Historical Review (January 5, 2000).
- 2. See Also: Private, Equity, "Let Them Eat High Speed Rail," finem respice (March 28, 2011).
- 3. Jordan, David P., "The King's Trial: The French Revolution vs. Louis XVI," The University of California Press (1979).
- 4. Jordan, David P., "The King's Trial: The French Revolution vs. Louis XVI," The University of California Press (1979).
- 5. Lefebvre, Georges, "The French Revolution from its Origins to 1793," 2d. Routledge (May 18, 2001).
- 6. Lefebvre, Georges, "The French Revolution from its Origins to 1793," 2d. Routledge (May 18, 2001).
- 7. Lefebvre, Georges, "The French Revolution from its Origins to 1793," 2d. Routledge (May 18, 2001).
- 8. Constitution de 1791.
- 9. Jordan, David P., "The King's Trial: The French Revolution vs. Louis XVI," The University of California Press (1979).
- 10. Mercier, Louis-Sébastien "Le nouveau Paris" (1800).