Insurrections, and Rumors of Insurrections

1769, Regime PsyOps, and the Iron Law of Projection

In the news this week: yet another alleged white supremacist demonstration. Such extremism, we are reliably told by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), is on the rise. (Of course, the ADL is again proving itself to be less than trustworthy, but we will table that for now.) This time, a new group called Blood Tribe—neo-Nazis, incapable of consolidation under one banner and party, ironically lack that famous Prussian discipline—is led by someone you’ve never heard of named Christopher Pohlhaus. The “March of the Redshirts,” remarkably predicted by the ADL’s Center for Extremism, took place in Orlando last week. Pohlhaus and his Nazi crew screamed Nazi things at passersby for a while and that was that. It was all very on the nose, and the small gaggle, shaved heads glistening in the Florida sun, dutifully pledged allegiance to Ron DeSantis who, you know, definitely, definitely hires real Nazis. Trump was condemned by the Redshirts for marrying off his kids to Jews. A vote for Trump is now a vote for white erasure, a position that frustrates the average New York Times staff writer’s assumptions a bit. Unless, of course, the whole point is to denigrate the only viable, if increasingly less viable, alternative to Trump because he would be harder to jail. But that, in turn, would imply that the Blood Tribers are more calculating than earnest, or, more likely, pawns in a greater scheme.

Anyway, the idea peddled by the media is that far-right extremism and violence are on the rise. That Trump is simultaneously on the rise, again, is, of course, less than coincidental to the peddlers. This isn’t a new narrative. It’s been spun for years now to the diminishment of real extremism, real imminent domestic threats to the American way of life. When it’s supposed Nazis doing the “grooming,” and not a pedophilic drag queen on Tik Tok, then there’s a problem. (And remember, “white supremacist” really meansChristian white supremacist,” just like “nationalist” really means “white nationalist,” or even “white Christian nationalist.”) Mockery of the natural order of sexuality, marriage, and family is not considered destabilizing. Pressing societal ills do not matter when you have the Beer Hall Putsch ever on the horizon. A convenient fallback narrative, but it does require demonstration, it needs teeth. Hence, constant media coverage magnifying red, brown, or black—it’s hard to keep up—shirts.

Anyone with their head on straight has but to witness the resurgent skinheads and immediately cry, “Fed!” Not because it’s outside the realm of possibility that disaffected, Reddit-saturated white men might be out there LARP’ing American History X in the interim between their Amazon shift and a lonely night in their parent’s basement. It’s just that it is not at all apparent that such cases present a clear and present national security threat as base (not based) and sad as they might be. More simply, a sensible observer might suspect Pohlhaus, Bone Face, and their kind of collaboration with intelligence agencies because, you know, they probably actually are.

The same astute observer begins to wonder at the goal here. Do earnest cosplaying pocket Nazis, as Michael Anton has aptly called them, exist? Probably. But what explains the elevated press coverage?

Simple: reification of regime narratives, viz., that 1) white Christian nationalists attempted a coup on January 6, 2021, with the ambition to illegally reinstate then outgoing President Trump and thereby thwart a very legitimate democratic election; that 2) with Trump looking for a rebound, they’ll do it again; and that 3) all this would perhaps irreparably set back the post-war global denazification project, the causa belli of the left—constant gas on that fire is required to maintain this license.

As I said, for the narrative (and threat) to be credible, the populace and regime officials alike require a constant flow of corroborating stories to be recalled later when useful as material evidence of a crisis. If qualifying stories do not organically sprout up, no matter, they can be easily conjured up. And as they emerge, naturally or artificially, the grander narrative can be incrementally constructed—it is all a conclusion in search of evidence anyway, viz., that American democracy is under domestic assault by white nationalist racist rebels. Surely any and all measures are justified when staving off a homegrown Fourth Reich, and especially their septuagenarian, swoop-haired, reality TV star führer—remember, Hitler was an artist too, though less accomplished in the medium of spray tanning!

All of this is projection, and not just in the way that American elites have always championed the eugenics, whether old or new, that animated the Third Reich’s racialist ideology. I mean more fundamentally and constitutionally.

Trump is indicted for election interference even as his opponents do the same. The right is relentlessly accused of aiding and abetting Nazis whilst the incumbent administration funds actual Nazi parties abroad to the tune of billions. Auditing elections is per se “absurd” and tantamount to a “second insurrection,” except when Hilary Clinton calls for them, or rather, labels elections totally invalid. (Note that J6 must be accepted as more than a riot for this claim to stand.) On and on we could go.

It’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy, as Adrian Vermeule famously put it once. Less obvious to some is the telegraphic nature of this behavior. They are doing what they accuse their opponents of, and that includes subversion of the constitutional order, of the American populace, and their norms, customs, and traditions, even their language.

Solomon’s proverb is overused in politics. Some things are, in fact, new. In this case, though, it applies in substance if not exact form, and the iron law of projection holds.  

All predictions of civil war are not absurd. The point here is the weaponization of unrest by the left to quash opposition. The causes of a civil war would inevitably be multifarious. But one cause, should such a tragedy come to fruition, would be the political projection of the left. That is, accusations hurled at the opposition that, in fact, reflect exactly what the left is doing if by alternative means.

In this case, racist extremist ideologues bent on sowing chaos, intra-group angst, federal-state conflict unto the subversion of the constitutional order and national unity itself. Looting and street violence continue apace. The southern border is ever porous. Foreign proxy wars drain our coffers whilst our military is literally feminized. The priests of democracy continue to subvert basic metaphysics, calling good evil and evil good. Public blasphemy is celebrated, and public piety is condemned.

But the real problem is a handful of delusional degenerates in Orlando. No, not those degenerates! Disney is a totally wholesome national treasure, a veritable fountain of virtue. We mean the tattoo-faced Redshirts, of course! They’re the ones with the strategic training, expertise, and connections requisite to execute a second insurrection, the coming insurrection for which we must prepare, and maybe even preemptively strike against. Of course, virtually no one would know that Reddit radicals sometimes emerge from their online sewer unless the media amplified them—amplification that far surpasses genuine but narrative-busting domestic threats. Thank the stars for our vigilant legacy media piping the essential stories into our eyeballs.  

I said all this is regime projection, as it has been since the inception of our nation. The purposes were the same then as now, viz., to discredit grievances and kneecap the opposition, and, most importantly, to distract from their own subversion.  

In 1769, the town of Boston issued a public appeal for relief. Signed by Samuel and John Adams, among others, the resolution charged Governor Bernard and his administration with myriad violations of the public trust and frustrations of the public good. Most importantly, Boston sought to vindicate herself from erroneous charges (“malicious Intrigues”) circulated by Bernard and his lackeys to the home government. The Boston representatives had become aware of said charges when some of Bernard’s correspondence was leaked.

Quoting from Bernard’s letters to ministers of state—humorously, Bernard had once feigned enthusiasm for transparency in his correspondence—the Boston freeman recounted how Bernard had relayed the specious claim that he had received “frequent Reports of Insurrections intended, in which it had been said, the Houses of one or more of the Commissioners were to be pulled down.” A non-violent, parade of a few “innocent, tho’ perhaps vulgar Boys” supplied corroborating evidence. When that “trifling occurrence” did not materialize into violence, Bernard surmised that the insurrection must have been postponed, but it would come to pass, that much was certain. Nameless informants of Bernard’s supported this claim. Bernard then claimed that effigies of certain officials were hung on the liberty tree, by whom he knew not or, at least, would not share such sensitive information. But the freeman of Boston had an idea:

“There was in the Time of it, a strong Suspicion in the Minds of many, that these Effigies were hung up by some particular Persons on that Day (which was to be observed as a Day of Festivity), with a Design to give a Colouring to just such a Representation as Gov. Bernard now makes—There are Persons here capable of playing such a Game; and there are some Circumstances which make it appear that such a Suspicion was not groundless.”

What were these circumstances? For one, Bernard had neglected to act on such vital intelligence. He had not prevented the erection of effigies, claiming it was too late in the evening to call upon the sheriff. Nor would he provide the names of his informants. Further, Bernard had no explanation for the fact that local townspeople removed the effigies voluntarily and without opposition (i.e., with the “tacit Consent of the whole Community”). Strange behavior for such a rebellious town so contemptuous of their government. Nevertheless, Bernard instructed his council that same day that because of this “atrocious insult,” danger and violence were imminent and of “the Necessity there was of providing for the Peace of the Town.” They all knew what that meant: “severe Measures.” Bernard’s commissioners seized upon the insurrection narrative thenceforth and in short order the king’s ministers received a request for “Protection of the Government” in Boston. And yet, even Bernard had to admit that the people themselves had removed offensive imagery and that certain town leaders “took great Pains that the Festivity should not produce a Riot.” They were even “careful to prevent the lighting of a Bonfire, because the Governor had constantly represented that as ‘the usual Signal for a Mob.’” Nevertheless, “the Joys of the Evening among the lower Sort, which however innocent are sometimes noisy, would of Course be represented as riotous.” And, indeed, Bernard did represent the festivities to the king’s men as riotous and threatening, claiming the people paraded around various commissioners’ houses chanting abuses and promises of violence. (An account that somehow lacked the veracity to convince General Thomas Gage to intervene at the time.) In multiple letters, Bernard characterized another event as “a great Riot” of a “numerous Mob” and of “long Continuance.” This referred to the illegal seizure by customs agents of a commercial vessel by the authorities which signaled to the people “that the Town should be put under a Military Government.” (The objection was to the unprecedented manner of seizure, not the seizure itself, the details of which will not retain us here.)

In the end, Bernard was able to acquire two additional regiments from Halifax to Boston for “a Purpose for which the military Power was certainly never design’d; a very dangerous Purpose, and abhorrent to the British Constitution and the Spirit of free Government, namely to Support the Civil Authority—A Measure which has caus’d continual Terror to his Majesty’s peaceable Subjects here, and has been productive of more Disturbance and Confusion than has been known in the Memory of any now living.”

“[I]t cannot be wondered at, that in a populous Town, such high Provocations, and the sudden Exertion of Lawless Power, should excite the Resentment of some Persons beyond the Bounds of Reason, and carry them into Excess.” Reactions were foreseeable to any prudent governor. But in truth, violent reactions were “the Effects which they had long wish’d-for [sic]; and induced the Ministry to order two other Regiments to [Boston].”

“This is all of a Piece, and may serve to explain the frequent Rumours of an Insurrection,” concludes the Boston appeal—it went on to summarize further correspondence similar in nature. More military regiments, summoned in the name of domestic security, would follow. The Sons of Liberty were continually maligned, accused of orchestrating insurrections. Until eventually, well, you know the rest. The siege of Boston would commence six years later.

The Boston appeal reminds Bernard that “no Man has Reason to fear the popular Fury, but he who is conscious to himself of having done that which has expos’d him to their just Resentment.” Bernard’s intimations, whether derived from malice or paranoia would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather hysterical false charges stoked resentment instigating discontent.   

Here was a man, an administration, out of touch with and insensitive to his constituency—indeed, contemptuous of them. Calous, gratuitous, and self-serving government always yields such results. What people detest is being lied about, or being forced to live a lie, self-moderating for falsehood’s sake. They hate being pawns in their own demise; being taunted like dogs. Prudent, magnanimous governors act as fathers to their people, not provoking them to anger; leading them toward virtue (if gradually); acting for their good and not private interest; seeking no pretext for unjustified, tyrannical control. Many such cases then and now. Examples of our own contemporary Governor Bernard’s could fill reams.

The warning of the Boston freemen: “[T]he favorite Point will not be carried, till the long-wish’d-for Troops arrive, to enforce [the government’s] arbitrary Designs, and suppress the Spirit of Liberty… Every Hand therefore must be set to work, and nothing will serve the Cause like continually holding up the idea of Insurrection.” Repeatedly, Bernard and his commissioners reported a “general Spirit of INSURRECTION” prevailing “not only in the Town, but throughout the whole Provinces.” Repeated petitions on this basis were made to General Gage, all based on unnamed sources and perceptions (of the “Humour of the People”) of the administration, and predicated on the necessity of “safety” from the people.

All the while, the real insurrection, the subversion of government and the safety of the people, was being orchestrated by the accusers themselves. That’s the evil irony not lost on the Boston freemen even in at that early date. Eventually, the charges of insurrection, coupled with increasingly restrictive policies to address the same charges, would instigate an actual insurrection—as the Boston appeal suggested, this may have been the intent of some all along; unrest and crises provide opportunity to break precedent.  

No analogy, especially a historic one, is perfect, but we may soon face a similar political scenario. The looming threat of insurrection 2.0 has already been conjured into being. The groundwork, supplied by neo-Nazi hysteria, is already being laid. It will be no wonder if “some Persons beyond the Bounds of Reason” dip into excess over the next year. Good magistrates would exert themselves to defuse the situation, to endear the populace, even their political opponents, to them. They would expend their political capital to promote unity, peace, and to dispel all suspicions of corruption. They would instill trust. None of our political betters are doing that. None.

Instead, they traffic in rumors of insurrections and the like—all of which require the supposition that January 6 was an actual attempted coup, but that’s for another time. Why? Because these narratives are self-serving insofar as they enable extreme, precedent-breaking measures and cast the opposition as given to insanity and bloodlust. Just look at all these MAGA neo-Nazis flooding our streets after all! Pay no mind to the increasingly crime-ridden, Democrat-run cities. Do not notice the 10,000 illegal immigrants—a modest estimate—crossing the Texas border daily. Ignore the billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars being shipped off to neo-con, nation-building boondoggles—we have to fight literally Hitler both at home and abroad, by the way! Look, instead, at those insurrectionists in our midst. They threaten the American way of life! They deserve to rot in jail without due process, and unconscionable sentences. (If all goes well, maybe they will all just do the dirty work for us.)

Thenceforth, remember, when the regime warns of insurrection they’re projecting. And the justifications for their power grabs are as they were in the days of Governor Bernard’s tenure in Boston, viz., specious claims at best and distractions at worst. When they say the constitutional order is being subverted, they’re the ones doing the subverting. It has always been thus. It’s not that the things regime actors fear can’t actually happen, nor that the proper response to all mob-like unrest (or armed insurrection) is not that of George Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion—a show of military force followed almost as swiftly by due process and pardons. True magnanimity that, the likes of which we shan’t see again, I fear. The weakness and corruption—companion qualities, not mutually exclusive ones—are marked by the fact that they do not treat unrest rationally and certainly not equitably; adherents to the established religion are permitted to violently “demonstrate,” dissenters will rot in jail even for milder forms of the same activity. Such disparities are demoralizing and cannot be long endured.

Forms of government should never be thrown off flippantly, as the Declaration of Independence warns. We should never thirst for it or fantasize about it. Prudence must always govern. Peace at all costs. Et cetera.

But it behooves us to recognize when we are being baited and played for the fool. Do not grasp for the shiny object waved in front of you. It’s a distraction. Do not gobble up the narratives being force-fed to you. Do not accept the charges against you. They are projections.

There probably are some of our fellow citizens who long for the Fourth Reich, who fantasize about a real-life Handmaid’s Tale, who thought Qanon Shaman leading them into a new Lexington and Concord, who want a real violent insurrection, who have, shall we say, a loose grip on reality. These people, however, are not the problem. And if we play along with the smart, approved narrative of imminent insurrections—always by the right, not the left, mind you—then we blind ourselves to the real subversions of the constitutional order unfolding right in front of our faces. We must be at least as half astute as the Boston freemen, but I question whether we can be.

The past three years have indeed seen much mob activity, but no insurrections. Do not fall for the narrative fearmongering as to the latter. Demand enforcement of law and preservation of order as to the former. Today, that is a radical expectation, a regime-subverting demand. Whatever you do, don’t 1) join the Feds, er, I mean Nazis in their Sieg Heil chants, and 2) don’t entertain the media-constructed stories about the same. Their purpose, in both cases—the enticement and the lies—is the subversion of order and good government, to which we are entitled. Also, 3) remember that what is dangerous at this juncture is not the pocket Nazi but the Nazi narratives being spun, and the castigation of a large swath of the populace on this specious basis. What undermines the electoral process is this stuff. What justifies kangaroo courts are these legacy yarns. How do you hack an election? It’s hard to say but it could look a lot like what’s unfolding now. To what ends? That’s a scary question to ask. In the meantime, give said approved yarns no credence. Insist that the whole of the Provinces are good citizens loyal to standing order, desirous of its return, and lovers of good governance, but no fools. Such was the plea of Boston in 1769. Such should be ours today if we want the next six years to unfold in a dissimilar fashion.  

Image Credit: “The Destruction of Tea in Boston Harbor” Nathaniel Currier, public domain.

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Timon Cline

Timon Cline is the Editor in Chief at American Reformer. He is an attorney and a fellow at the Craig Center at Westminster Theological Seminary and the Director of Scholarly Initiatives at the Hale Institute of New Saint Andrews College. His writing has appeared in the American Spectator, Mere Orthodoxy, American Greatness, Areo Magazine, and the American Mind, among others. He writes regularly at Modern Reformation and Conciliar Post.

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