Will the “Final” Revolution Be Started by Second Amendment Absolutists?

Gun-porn kitsch or talisman of the "final revolution?"

Gun-porn kitsch or talisman of the “final revolution?”

“A new American revolution is long overdue. 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. Should one whole year from this July 4th pass while the crimes of this government are allowed to continue, we may have passed the point at which non-violent revolution becomes impossible.

“The time to sit idly by has passed. To remain neutral is to be complicit, just doing your job is not an excuse, and the line in the sand has been drawn between the people, and the criminals in Washington, D.C. While some timid souls will say that it is too early, that we can solve this problem through democratic means provided by government, that current levels of taxation are reasonable for the services provided, and that the crimes of this government are merely a tolerable nuisance, it may already be too late.

“While there is risk in drastic action, the greater danger lies in allowing this government to continue unchallenged. So if you are content with the status quo, stay home, get fat, watch the fireworks from a safe distance, and allow this Independence Day to pass like any other. But if you see as we see, and feel as we feel, we will see you on the front lines of freedom on July 4th, 2013 for this, The Final American Revolution.”

Signed, Adam Kokesh, May 23, 2013 from a cage in the Philadelphia federal prison.

In the summer and fall of 2011, I watched with excitement as the Occupy movement spread from Wall Street to Main Streets across the nation and, surprisingly, then the world. It was thrilling to watch a movement to change the way everything is done not only launch and spread but so quickly get deep into the consciousness of people all over the globe. Even the most powerful news media, though claiming at first to be uncomprehending of its aims, were taking its ideas about the  politics of inequality and the corrupting influence of money seriously. It felt like a world-historical revolution was being born right in front of our eyes.

Then came the winter of 2012 and Occupy, most of its camps having been forcibly removed from their reclaimed public spaces, seemed to lose its momentum and its influence. Media still talk about the 99% and the tyranny of debt  and pay closer attention to the misdeeds of the bankers, but by and large, Occupy fell out of the public eye. When it resurfaced briefly after Sandy, the media mostly ignored the powerful message it was sending that where the austerity-obsessed governments were failing, people power was succeeding. Occupy Sandy was made to look like a group of civic do-gooders.  Occupy’s radical Strike Debt program to buy defaulted medical debts and forgive them and its ongoing battles against residential foreclosures were all but completely ignored.

It’s easy to forget that just because the revolution is not being televised, there might still be a revolution going on.

Meanwhile, over closer to the right, there is serious talk of a revolution brewing. Witness the statement that opens this post, from one Adam Kokesh, a former Marine, “anarcho”-capitalist-style Libertarian, radio host and instigator of the Open Carry March, which threatened to bring together 5,000 armed, locked, and loaded Americans to parade on Independence Day 2013 through the streets of the District of Columbia , where unauthorized  carrying of weapons is a crime, and whose chief of police has vowed to arrest anyone found in violation of the law. While cooling his heels in a Philadelphia prison cell after an incident at a federal park (more about that below), Kokesh decided to cancel the march. He is now calling for “The Final American Revolution“, the outline of which can be gleaned from the statement above. Liberal Democrats who had once tended to celebrate Kokesh for his many run-ins with the military during the Bush years, are now calling him a laughingstock. Actually he’s too complicated for such a simple dismissal.

Kokesh is an Iraq war veteran who saw combat in Fallujah in 2004, and as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, he has a history of rather spectacular dissent. A Ron Paul supporter (not too surprisingly, except for that “anarcho” bit of his biography), he famously disrupted John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2008 holding a sign reading  “McCain Votes Against Vets” on one side and “You can’t win an occupation” on the other. Interestingly, Kokesh has a sort of love-hate relationship with the Occupy movement, particularly with the camp in D.C., where he set up a tent to join in the occupation in the fall of 2011.  His YouTube page is loaded with sometimes snide takes on his former comrades. But part of his announcement of the “final” revolution included a paragraph that certainly speaks in part (albeit in some  grandiloquently self-important tones) to those of us who were moved by Occupy:

“When a government has repeatedly and deliberately failed to follow its own laws, violated the fundamental human rights of its citizens, threatened the sanctity of a free press, created institutions intended to eliminate privacy of communication, waged war at the behest of special interest that threatens the public safety, killed hundreds of children with drone strikes, imprisoned and destroyed the lives of countless individuals for victimless crimes, stifled economic opportunity to maintain the dominance of the financial elite, stolen from the people through an absurd system of taxation and inflation, sold future generations into debt slavery, and abused its power to suppress political opposition, it is unfit to exist and it becomes the duty of the people to alter or abolish that government by whatever means necessary to secure liberty and ensure peace.”

Another anomaly: in 2011 Kokesh was given a show called “Adam vs. The Man” by Russia Television, which he later had to give up because of his unabashed support of Ron Paul in Election 2012. Better known as RT, the cable network’s English-language version RT America has featured programs from such lefty critics of American government policies as Julian Assange,  Max Keiser, Alyona Minkovski (now of Huffington Post Live) and media critic Abby Martin. In a column about RT America when Kokesh’s show was still on the schedule, Slate’s Dave Weigel said “the RT model has no prouder defender than Kokesh.”

“Truth is the best propaganda,” says Kokesh, restating the network’s pitch in his own terms. “I love it! I really love the concept of that. It’s funny: People say we’re hiding shit as a network. No, no—we put the fact that this is propaganda right out front. We’re putting out the truth that no one else wants to say. I mean, if you want to put it in the worst possible abstract, it’s the Russian government, which is a competing protection racket against the other governments of the world, going against the United States and calling them on their bullshit.”

Two weeks ago, Kokesh was arrested with a colleague at a monthly demonstration (Smoke Down Prohibition) sponsored by NORML in favor of legalizing marijuana at Independence Park  in Philadelphia. The government claims he “forcibly assaulted, resisted, opposed, impeded and interfered with officers and employees of the United States… in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 111” when National Park Service officers tried to take a marijuana cigarette from a protestor Kokesh had locked arms with. Supporters claim all of the charges are spurious and hint that Kokesh was targeted by the feds because of the Open Carry March. In fact, this video seems to show pretty clearly that Kokesh was not resisting, despite being pushed and shoved by rangers and police. He was  released on Monday when the charges were downgraded from a federal felony offense to a “citation which I refused to sign,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Played hardball. Won. ”

Since his release, Kokesh appeared on the radio show of Pete Santilli, the notorious conspiracy theorist who recently drew the attention of the Secret Service when he said he was “supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.”  (Interesting choice for an outlet there, Adam. So you’re sure you’ve want the violently misogynist on board, are you?)  But what he said there was kind of telling, to put it mildly:

KOKESH: A lot of people have raised criticism about well, you can’t just end the federal government. Well you can’t keep it going either. Look at it, it’s going to collapse under its own weight. We are an empire in decline and if we don’t do something about this now, like an orderly peaceful dissolution, it’s going to be a chaotic collapse.

I’ve always said this as libertarians from our analysis of government when we say, hey you know what, we need to reduce the coercion in society, reduce the tyranny and the force and the fraud that is government. I’ve always thought when we’re saying is, look guys we can do this the easy way or the hard way. And this is sort of like, hey guys, last chance to do it the easy way.

I can certainly sympathize with Kokesh’s sense of frustration over the state of things in 21st Century America.  I can even understand his disgust. I don’t think I can get with his revolution, though. I can’t see myself marching with those gun-worshiping misogynists deluded enough to think they might convince the folks in their state capitols they have  one last chance to help dissolve the United States or they’ll be back next year with loaded weapons to dissolve it more forcefully. And, let’s face it,  though the fans on Kokesh’s FB page seem to share with him some part of the broad range of issues he’s advocated for–anti-war, anti-imperialism, anti-bank, anti-prohibition–this appeal for an armed revolution is really going to hit just one segment of his fan base: the 5,000 (at most) Second Amendment absolutists who were eager to join his illegal weapons display in Washington. Of course there will also be Tea Partyers playing dressup–any chance to dust off the old tricorner, you know.


I can’t see even the normally self-deluded “anarchos” joining their brother Kokesh in this campaign. Why would they want to “collect” like loathsome collectivists to bring the government of this tired, corrupt  old country down when the shiny new never-been-governed world of seasteading awaits?

As for Kokesh’s former comrades on the Occupy left… naaah! Not very likely. And the sad thing is, so much of what Kokesh is angry about is precisely what the Occupiers are already dealing with in their already-in-progress revolution. Interesting that in his appearance at the Smoke Down at Independence Hall, Kokesh quoted “Camus” (though it’s probably a misattribution): “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” This is the revolution already underway in the Occupy movement, the revolution that cannot be captured on film or YouTube video.  David Graeber, a sort of anarchist theorist for Occupy, put it this way:

Well the reason anarchists like direct action is because it means refusing to recognise the legitimacy of structures of power. Or even the necessity of them. Nothing annoys forces of authority more than trying to bow out of the disciplinary game entirely and saying that we could just do things on our own. Direct action is a matter of acting as if you were already free.

The classic example is the well. There’s a town where water is monopolised and the mayor is in bed with the company that monopolises the water. If you were to protest in front of the mayor’s house, that’s protest, and if you were to blockade the mayor’s house, it’s civil disobedience, but it’s still not direct action. Direct action is when you just go and dig your own well, because that’s what people would normally do if they didn’t have water. In this respect the Malagasy people are totally engaging in direct action. They’re the ultimate direct actionists, but they’re also in a situation where it’s much easier to get away with it.

There’s this idea that people in power will never give up power voluntarily, therefore it will end in battles on the streets – but I always point out, it’s not like a bunch of anarchists are going to military defeat the 101st Airborne Division. Anyway they have nukes. The only plausible scenario for revolution is when it comes to the point that the forces of order refuse to shoot. For most revolutions in world history that is what ultimately happens.

If I were Kokesh, I’d steer away from the “anarchos” who are leading him to crackpot-land and get back to anarchist basics. Think about what Graeber is saying here and what you thought Camus said. Free thyself. That’s the only revolution you have a hope of winning.

One thought on “Will the “Final” Revolution Be Started by Second Amendment Absolutists?

  1. Wow. When I first read the armed revolution statement of this guy, I wrote him off as just another NRA nut job. Thanks for this informative and very thoughtful post. Like you, I was very excited by the Occupy movement, and tried to lend my support. One of my concerns at the time, though, was that such an open movement was attracting malcontents of all kinds. (Which my kids assured me was sort of the point.) I hope that you are correct in believing that there is, in fact, a revolution of sorts happening underground.

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