One the features of the modern age, something most people think is a good thing, is that armed rebellion is no longer practical, even for the most disaffected. If you were a young man in Serbia just before the Great War, armed revolt was all that was on your mind. If you were a young man in Germany at that time, you may have grown up hearing stories about how your grandfather fought in the 1848 revolution.
Today, a young man would know organized violence only if he was in a street gang, the army or maybe the police. Terrorism is something we experience, but only through our televisions. If you live in the West, the odds that you will experience a terrorist attack are astoundingly low. If you look up some of the stats and do a bit of math, falling off a ladder or drowning in a bathtub are far more likely than being a victim or terrorism.
Part of this drop in political violence is prosperity. Mexico, a poor country by modern standards, leads the world in obesity. It’s hard to ¡Viva la revolución! when your hands are full of churros. I grew up in real poverty, but today’s poverty means basic cable and the low end iPhone, a condition the poor used to think was beyond their grasp. Prosperity, it turns out, is the best weapon against the revolutionary.
That does not mean people are happy with the current arrangements. The political ructions we see all over the West are not without cause. Lots of people are unhappy with their government so they are trying to elect people that promise to change things. UKIP in Britain, AfD in Germany, Trump in America, the Real Fins and so forth are essentially just protests. Supporters look past their eccentricities because they are trying to make a point to the legitimate parties.
There’s also the fact that armed revolts tend not to work. Americans, for example, are not looking to overthrow representative democracy or the Constitutional order. If anything, they want to restore those things. Therefore, burning down the capital and hanging the politicians are not on the menu. Middle-class people in middle-class countries prefer other ways to force change on their political classes.
Of course, there’s also the fact that the custodial state is pretty good at tamping down trouble now. If a public figure gets too aggressive in his vitriol, then he is accused of being Hitler or his private affairs are made public. Maybe some of his professional failures are brought to light. In a mass media culture, it’s pretty easy to find something to use against someone in order to diminish them in the eyes of the public.
Manufactured campaigns are regularly orchestrated against public figures in order to shame them into compliance. In authoritarian hellholes like Canada, they put comics on trial for telling the wrong jokes. That sends a powerful message to anyone who has thoughts about rocking the boat or organizing resistance to the ruling order. Long before a revolutionary leader could get going, he will be shamed off the public stage.
My bet is the assault on Trump, for example, is just getting started. If you look at National Review, it has given itself over completely to spreading every crackpot smear about Trump imaginable. By summer, the party media organs will be talking about Trump as if he was a current a slave holder and member of the Aryan Brotherhood. They are trying to ostracize the man, by ruining his name.
It strikes me that protest is going to have to change in order to be effective in the custodial state. The tools of the state are simply too effective at disrupting anything that resembles armed rebellion. Protest candidates and protest parties are increasingly walled off from having an impact on elections. Fear of being ostracized puts anyone with something to lose on the sidelines.
Revolt in the custodial state, I suspect, will be a loosely organized disruption. The Black Lives Matters is a good example of things to come. They show up and make a nuisance of themselves at some managerial class venue, then leave. They don’t do enough to get arrested and they do their act in such a way that the “name and shame” response is pointless.
Now, Black Lives Matter is stupid and pointless, but the tactic is useful. What’s to stop the Christian working at the courthouse from “accidentally” slowing down the process of issuing marriage licenses to gays? What about people systematically lying on government forms? In isolation, these things mean nothing, but cumulatively they can cause all sorts of headaches for the people in charge.
There’s also the fact that in a mass media culture, things like Black Lives Matter get massive coverage. This invites imitation. When idiotic things like “planking” can catch on in days due to the lubricant of mass media, imagine how cool forms of protest can sprout up and create mayhem. As Steve Sailer points out, the Million Muslim March into Europe is just a big flash mob.
My thinking here is that the custodial state is relying on tools that can just as easily be used against it. The massive bureaucracies needed to manage the inmates are vulnerable to some idiot throwing sand in the gears. The mass media tools used to nudge the population can just as easily be used to encourage ad hoc idiots throwing sand in the gears.
This is not a fully developed idea, but I’m wondering if the current ructions may be due to the inherit instability of the custodial state. Maybe the reason Europe, for example, is not shutting off the flow of migrants is they can’t shut it off. Maybe the reason the main parties are under assault is they can no longer respond to their voters. The feedback loop is broken so the public is migrating to outsiders.
To wrap this up, the custodial state may be good at walling off traditional forms of protest, but it is also good at fostering the sort of protests to which it is most vulnerable. These are the low-tech forms of hooliganism that bedeviled the Soviets but updated to the mass media age. A million white guys ticking the box for “Afro-American Female” is both fun and subversive.
If a million Muslims with iPhones can bring down Europe, imagine what a million smart guys can do when they have time and a full spectrum understanding of how it all works.