An interesting show premiered on CBS last week. “A Person of Interest.” If you didn’t see it I suggest you watch the first episode on your computer.
It’s based on two premises I know very well, but write very little about. They have to do with part of my business, and raise some points as how to combat an increasingly criminal Left when law enforcement fails.
One of those (vigilantism) I disapprove, under most circumstances, while the other (an X-factor that can stifle otherwise successful criminal practices) I very much approve.
A few general observations:
Vigilance committees have been part of our history for a long time. They most often sprang up in the west, especially boom towns, where rough and hard people rushed in long before any established law and order could. Mark Twain described Virginia City in 1867 as having a saloon every fifteen steps, several brothels, three opium dens “…and some talk of a building a church.” And everyone was armed to the teeth.
In San Francisco during the early days of the Gold Rush, vigilantes marched into lore by ruthlessly putting down lawlessness, only to eventually find themselves on the wrong end of the same law they helped usher in because they too crossed the line.
This is a common problem with vigilante groups. As a rule vigilante gangs never seemed to know when to stop. After dispatching criminals, they often would take out after personal enemies, as they did in California, or merely with people who disagreed with them. One of the Montana vigilante groups was reputed to have hung one man just for disagreeing with their previous hangings. Sound sort of KKK’y to me.
We see “heroic” vigilantism showcased in film and television all the time, and of course, with script-writers, it’s easy to overlook this fundamental problem vigilantes have; that power corrupts and can turn good men with righteous outrage into bad men easily.
To get out in front of those dark psychological sub-currents, DC Comics just decided to make them all super-heroes, of whom we all approve, since we all know that power never goes to super-heads.
Hollywood usually wants to make vigilantism only heroic when justified, as in the 2008 film, Taken, where Liam Neeson comes out of retirement to rescue his kidnapped daughter in France, then comes home and hangs his gun up as if nothing had ever happened. He kills a bunch of people in a bunch of different ways.
But Hollywood has never been able to establish a set of firm, moral guidelines as to what is, and is not justified. It just assumes we (the audience) do, when, it becomes increasingly obvious many of us don’t. For the parent and the leftwing kid saw two entirely different movies in Taken.
The Vigilante Left
Vigilantism, by definition, is a crime, a situational crime, measured against a set of situational ethics, which we all know can go both ways. The Left has long accepted its “right” to break the law and dispense justice on the basis that rule-makers are corrupt and illegally constituted themselves. Hired union hooligans use this kind of thinking all the time.
To some, every act that came out of the Bush White House was illegal because of his “illegally” being certified the winner in 2000, justifying both civil disobedience (Thoreau) and dishing out punishment (vigilantism) as well.
Vassar Bushmills always says that the defining mark of “the law” is in knowing when to hang up your guns at the end of the day, for the lawman has something invested in a civil society the criminal usually does not. I agree with Vassar (and Batman) on this account, for provocateurs and actors on the Left compare favorably with roughs and thugs of another time, who do what they do because they think there will never be any consequences to pay for their actions.
As the old saw goes about the measure of a man’s character; i.e, what he will do if he knows he won’t get caught, some people will do anything when the opportunity presents itself. Modern politics has provided that. And what we’ve found out, they usually don’t get caught.
There are bad people in the world. Mean people will steal, kill, rob or just get even…just so long as they won’t get caught. To some men, the law is the only retardant to not try a thing. Remove that and it’s Katie bar the door.
These types still exist. And these days they are most often for hire.
I doubt “A Person of Interest” will last very long, as the writers will have a tough time keeping a gimmick-less program like this fresh.
But for now it’s interesting, for while it showcases heroic vigilantism it also presents the more subtle and powerful “X-factor,” and one updated to modern technology, which is novel.
There is much to be said in our business about being able to go about “watching and waiting” while no one (the bad guys) knows you are watching and waiting, and being able to wreak havoc and mayhem on their plans, simply because they don’t know you’re there.
In my view, this is one of the most powerful tools for fighting the Left, especially those who now feel they can cross any legal line with impunity. When they aren’t looking for you, don’t see you, can’t recognize you as a threat, or know your name, or that some one else has a dog in their crime (fight), you have immense power.
There are two general ways to use this X-factor. One, like Batman, let them know you’re there, and may be watching, only they don’t know your true identity. Dressing Goth helps, I suppose. Being able to sulk on tall buildings also helps. Or, two, you can be so random, as I suspect is the sub-premise in “A Person of Interest,” they still won’t know you’re out there after you’ve come and gone.
“A Person of Interest” is about deterring single crimes…and not against a criminal enterprise (such as unions or the Left). After dispatching the bad guys it sends no broader signal or message to other criminals, (“We’re here”) that someone out there is lurking or coming to get you. Next week, they’ll be off to another city, and another altogether different set of criminal circumstances.
This doesn’t help us combat the Left, inasmuch as there needs to be a message pinned to (almost) every “act,” so that the perps and their cohorts will understand a cause-and-effect. “I did a bad thing and I got a whooping. Maybe I’ll think twice next time.”
So our task requires more subtlety.
Saul Alinsky showed us that you can accomplish many things without becoming a vigilante in the strictest meaning of the word. You don’t have to break the law, or break a leg.
But neither do you need (or want) to get a website and take up a phony moniker, like Captain Rage. To be in the shadows means to be in the shadows. That’s what it means to be an “X-Factor” and as long as you are truly in the shadows you can do most anything. You must distinguish between three general classes:
Criminals for hire who know they are breaking the law. They are always looking over their shoulders. There are several ways to increase their over-the-shoulder apprehension and reduce their effectiveness;
Criminals-of-the-heart are often self-deluded individuals, who believe their actions are sanctioned by a higher authority (certainly not a cosmic God), but also that their actions are without consequence. There are dozens of ways to apply consequence to their actions, making the experience less enjoyable and appetizing. They won’t spend as much time looking over their shoulders as thugs do, but they do remember prior bad experiences. Bummers;
Criminals inside the system, i.e, government officials. They often are facilitators for the other two groups above, and are usually cowards toward both exposure and discomfort. Although difficult to target directly, they are mostly cowards, so easily deterred by fear and apprehension spreading through and trickling up from their hired minions below.
The Man Who Never Was
This title is from a book about a WWII operation in which the Allies faked the death of an officer carrying secret papers about a planned invasion of Italy. It worked.
I’m happy to report that Major Martin has returned (we’re old friends), and we’ll be working together, along with others, to put together a detailed program to develop X-Factor vigilance cadres around America who can go about stirring up all sorts of trouble of the Left.
What they don’t see can hurt them.