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Since I've already posted about a fairly tangible resistance method and a tactic that's a bit controversial, I thought I'd go more in the direction of something that bloggers could buy into pretty easily.  First, a reminder:

Activism, by definition, cannot be done online.  At best you can be an online advocate.

Advocacy is a necessary thing, and I certainly do not dismiss the utility of the blogosphere and twitterverse in that arena.  But let's not have any illusions that nice rants online do not equal picking up a musket (metaphorical or otherwise).

With that caveat in mind, I'd like to  consider rejection of authority as a tool in our efforts to effect change. 

This is a sub-category of political noncooperation (from Gene Sharp's The Politics of Nonviolent Action):

Political noncooperation is the third subclass of methods on noncooperation [the others being social and economic, like the Move Your Money campaign]; these methods involve refusals to continue the usual forms of political participation under existing conditions.  Sometimes they are known as political boycotts.  Individuals and small groups may practice methods of this class.  Normally, however, political noncooperation involves larger numbers of people in corporate, concerted, usually temporary suspension of normal political obedience, cooperation and behavior. 


The aim of the political noncooperation may be to achieve a particular limited objective or a change in broader government policies.  Or it may be to change the nature or composition of that government, or even to produce its disintegration...

The political significance of these methods increases in proportion to the numbers participating and to the need for their cooperation for the operation of the political system...

Political noncooperation may take an almost infinite variety of expressions, depending on the particular situation.  Basically they all stem from a desire not to assist the opponent by performance of certain types of political behavior.

One way to refuse cooperation with a regime is to engage in Method 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance:

In many situations, the making of speeches and the publication and distribution of literature which call on people to undertake some form of nonviolent noncooperation or nonviolent intervention themselves become acts of defiance and resistance.  This is especially so in those countries where any call for resistance, especially for illegals acts of resistance, is itself illegal or seditious.

Now sedition is a rather subjective thing, and often used too loosely to describe a variety of acts (e.g., Michelle Malkin loved throwing the word around, and so do liberals these days).  I think for our intellectual exercise today we can apply it in a more colloquial sense as "advocating stuff that upsets the status quo," so it could include rebellious progs calling out Obama and the Dems on HCR, for example.

I can't allow any seditious discussion take place without bringing up the quintessential practitioner, MK Gandhi.  A year before his arrest for sedition, he wrote in Young India on March 30, 1921:

If sedition means disaffection towards the present system of Government, it is a virtue and a duty. But we do not need to preach it...We cannot paint the system blacker than it appears to the average audience today. All we need do is to show the people the way to destroy it. That way is self-purification. We shall put the Government in an uncomfortable corner...

Hitherto the word "revolution" been connected with violence, and has as such been condemned by established authority. But the movement of non-co-operation, if it may be considered a revolution, is not an armed revolt: it is an evolutionary revolution, it is a bloodless revolution. The movement is a revolution of thought, of spirit. Non-co-operation is a process of purification, and, as such, it

constitutes a revolution in one’s ideas. Its suppression, therefore, would amount to co-operation by coercion...

Inaction on our part will kill Government madness. For violence flourishes on response, either by submission to the will of the violator, or by counter-violence. My strong advice to every worker is to segregate this evil Government by strict  non-co-operation, not even to talk or speak about it, but having recognized the evil, to cease to pay homage to it by co-operation.

I don't know if that specific article was used as part of the basis for the sedition charge, but certainly his writings in Young India in general were.  Fans of Attenborough's movie might remember a stirring court scene that encapsulated the trial which ended with this statement (necessarily summarized in the film):

I know that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk, and if I were set free I would still do the same. Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also last article of my creed. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am sorry for it. Their crime consisted in the love of their country.

I am here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest Penalty. In my opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil. I am here to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be the inflected upon me for what in law is a deliberated crime and what appears to me be the highest duty of a citizen.

The only cause open to, judge, is either to resign post and thus dissociate yourself from evil if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is evil and that I am innocent or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the public weal.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, though he was released early because of illness (he was 53 at that point and had ended a fast just prior to his arrest on March 10).

We in the US have had a long history of trying to suppress dissent via sedition laws--almost as long as our nation has existed.  From the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in during John Adams' tenure in 1798 to the Sedition Act of 1918 under Woodrow Wilson to the Smith Act that was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt and remains on the books to this day.

Lest you think charges of sedition are in the remote past:

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico...demanded an explanation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for investigating a federal employee who published an editorial critical of the Bush administration in a local newspaper.
In her letter to the weekly Alibi, Laura Berg, a clinical nurse specialist, criticized the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War, noting that, "as a VA nurse working with returning...vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder."  She urged readers to "act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."
In September 2005, VA Information Security employees seized Berg’s office computer because they claimed "government equipment was used inappropriately...during government time for drafting an editorial letter."  No evidence was recovered to support that belief.
"The VA had no reason to suspect  Laura Berg used government resources to produce her editorial," said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson.  "She signed the letter as a private individual.  From all appearances, the seizure of her work computer was an act of retaliation and a hardball attempt to scare Laura into silence."
In a November 9th memorandum to Berg, Mel Hooker, Chief of Human Resource Management Service at the VA, conceded that no evidence was found implicating the use of Berg’s work computer in the writing of the editorial.  However, he justified the investigation by saying "the Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition."

A year later, Rep Jane Harman (D-CA36) introduced the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, a lovely little bill:

Odette Wilkens, the executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, a constitutional watchdog group, compared the legislation to the McCarthy Commission and to the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which infiltrated, undermined and spied on civil rights and antiwar groups during the 1950s and 60s.

"The commission would have very broad powers. It could investigate anyone. It would create a public perception that whoever is being investigated by the Commission must be involved in subversive or illegal activities. It would give the appearance that whoever they are investigating is potentially a traitor or disloyal or a terrorist, even if all they were doing was advocating lawful views," Wilkens said.

Terrorism is the new sedition, seems to me, and Code Pink or anybody who talks about altering the existing order could be accused of it.  Harman's bill was passed by the House but fortunately died in committee in the Senate and apparently has not been reintroduced.

But I digress.  Regardless what legal framework exists, we all must be seditious in calling for change through individual and collective actions to disrupt the current power structure.  As it stands, GOP obstructionists and Democratic corporatists are actively preventing passage of meaningful healthcare reform, and simply relying on standard electoral politics is not going to get us anything but more of the same.

It can be depressing these days as we're stymied on so many progressive issues: Obama is escalating an increasingly deadly and unpopular quagmire; marriage equality has been rejected by ostensibly friendly States; MoveOn, labor and other supposedly liberal entities work furiously on their cognitive dissonance as they justify the bribes they've accepted to support the Healthcare Deform Act of 2010.  When I despair I think of something Thomas Jefferson wrote at the time of the Alien and Sedition Acts (with many apologies to my dear friend Hecate and her co-religionists):

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it's true principles. It is true that in the mean time we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war & long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, & then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are the stake.

So keep patiently, passionately preaching revolution, and don't forget to actually participate in it.  I'll keep posting ways to do so and hope you'll join me in some merry sedition in the process...


(Post at Pax Americana, Dohiyi Mir, Green Mountain Code Pink, Corrente and Daily Kos.)

PS--The Army's thrown an Iraq vet in the clink for some anti-stop-loss hip hop lyrics, but he's not being charged with sedition under Article 94 of the UCMJ.

Originally posted to NTodd on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 12:15 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  I want to propose an analogy to you (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      N in Seattle, DWG, skohayes, DaNang65

      Saying that we need stronger and more activism while labeling it "sedition" is like saying that we need stronger and more effective efforts at seduction and calling those efforts "rape."  Deliberately choosing the inflammatory and (I'd like to believe) inaccurate term for what you want to do sucks all of the oxygen away from your argument, which I suggest is a big reason why it has not ignited here.

      "Sedition" is bad.  You may think it's cute to appropriate the term.  It isn't.  It certainly won't advance the sort of revolution (or seduction) you favor.

      •  sedition as used in the diary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think for our intellectual exercise today we can apply it in a more colloquial sense as "advocating stuff that upsets the status quo

        Come on now.

        Move Your Money The truth is too big to fail. Justice is too big to fail. Peace is too big to fail.

        by Burned on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:51:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Come on? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You first?  I noted how loosely the term is used and was up front about my intention to apply a lax definition myself.  Look at the people who have been charged with sedition in our history, and you'll find that advocacy of social/economic/political change is oft equated with sedition.

          •  Don't get the wrong impression (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NTodd, Nightprowlkitty

            Seneca Doane is a lawyer (I think) and can argue stupid shit for days.

            I think I said what you just said. But to Seneca.

            Move Your Money The truth is too big to fail. Justice is too big to fail. Peace is too big to fail.

            by Burned on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:02:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ah (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Burned, Nightprowlkitty

              Nesting is the real enemy.

            •  Yeah, I'm a lawyer (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and I can argue smart shit for days too.

              But by all means, go back to claiming the rubric of "sedition."  When you're done with that, "treason" is a big ripe target, just sitting there to be appropriated....

              •  You're going at it all backwards (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Seneca Doane

                You think the purpose of choosing words in argument is to sway others; your interlocutor thinks the first purpose of choosing words is to satisfy the speaker's inner needs.
                Silly you.

                Pat Robertson has made a pact with the devil, and the due date approaches.

                by DaNang65 on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:33:07 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not really (0+ / 0-)

                  I don't know what inner needs you think I'm trying to meet, but it's an interesting mild form of ad hominem on your part.

                  Really, when is seduction ever considered rape (other than by the rapists to meet their inner needs)?  Whereas history is replete with examples of change advocacy being considered sedition.

                  •  I already gave you the example (0+ / 0-)

                    Interracial consensual sex -- seduction, if you will -- was once considered rape by governing forces in this country.  More recently than 1964, by the way.

                    •  Yes, I recall that (0+ / 0-)

                      And now it's not because of nonviolent efforts to effect social change, including court challenges like Loving.

                      Interestingly enough, that was part of the point of analysis about Harman's Radicalization Act of 2007.  Perhaps click some links, consider the larger point(s) and not be so quick to just leap on a single word.

                      This is a blog, not a court of law.  It's a place to discuss and brainstorm.  Imagine the kind of thread we could've had if you weren't so hung up on a single aspect of the post, compelled by a strange need to show how smart you are (ooh, you got the Glory reference!  I never would've guessed since you made an earlier allusion to Alice!).

                      •  Do you consider Loving to have been "seditious"? (0+ / 0-)

                        I think that that's -- well, a strange appellation to choose.  Try "patriotic."

                        A few last points:

                        (1) I was responding to the title of the diary, not exactly a trifling aspect.  "Sedition Must Become our Creed."  You shouldn't write that if you don't expect backfire.

                        (2) "Strange need to show how smart you are"?  Your reply was witty; I therefore tipped my hat to it.  I also appropriated it for my own nefarious argumentative purposes, but that was to discuss (which we were doing) rather than to self-aggrandize.

                        (3) I got here eighty-five minutes after you posted and wrote, right up top, the ninth (of what are now 47) comments, hoping to do a little to prime the pump for you here, knowing your other work.  Diaries here, after all, are more likely to be read if they have received more comments.  The thread we could have had if I (and perhaps a few others) hadn't come in here to mix it up a bit would have remained about eight comments long.  No need to thank me.

                        OK, I've explained myself enough.  Have a good evening.

              •  Honestly Seneca (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I meant pulling the one little bit out of the diary and going off on it, which you are prone to do.
                I'm well aware of your writing abilities and what they can accomplish, for good or for your own entertainment.
                It wasn't meant to be derogatory in a personal sense.

                Move Your Money The truth is too big to fail. Justice is too big to fail. Peace is too big to fail.

                by Burned on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:02:30 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Reaaaaaally? (0+ / 0-)

          I think that for our intellectual exercise today we can define "torture" colloquially as Humpty-Dumptyist torquing of words that have actual meanings.  Help Stop Torture!

          •  There's Glory for you! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Just because the Smith Act hasn't been used for prosecution since 1964 doesn't mean that advocating wholesale resistance can't be considered seditious.  Further, it certainly does get people talking about what is revolutionary and what isn't.

            So you could keep quibbling about the hook, or you could maybe suggest ways large or small that we can resist the corporatist regime that denies us civil rights.

            •  Depending on what you mean by (0+ / 0-)

              "wholesale resistance," there would be no reason for the government to trot out the big guns to make you a martyr.  The government could probably handle whatever you would be likely to generate with its laws against trespassing, malicious mischief, and resisting arrest.  The government is really good at preventing revolution.

              Now, I'm all for resistance where appropriate (and it's often appropriate), but I don't feel the need to call myself a bloody revolutionary in the course of doing what I can.  There's Glory for you, and it's self-indulgent crap.  (By the way: yes, I did get your reference, touche.)  Another tip: don't plan revolutions on blogs.

              •  Yes, you're wicked smart (0+ / 0-)

                I enjoy parsing shit as much as anybody, but really, you're a piece of work.  I congratulate you.

              •  The revolution will be blogged (0+ / 0-)

                I appreciate your concern for my well being, but part of the Gandhian approach is being transparent, putting the opponent on notice.  So when I was detained in the Hart Senate Building, for example, I refused to give out my SSN as one of the 13 cops requested and instead gave them my URL.  And I blog a lot about my illegal war tax resistance and such.

                I'm sorry you think it's self-indulgent.  Me, I'm just experimenting with the truth.

                •  Good for you on the SS# (0+ / 0-)

                  They didn't have the right to ask for that (unlike your name.)  That's not revolutionary, in my book, but it's rightful resistance.  Where we seem to differ is that you want to call yourself a revolutionary.  I don't care what I'm called; I care what I do.

                  If you care about the truth, maybe try the label "aspiring revolutionary."

      •  Horrible analogy (0+ / 0-)

        Way off base.  I'm not trying to be "cute" or anything.  Anything in the existing legal framework that advocates change to the power structure can, and has been, labeled 'sedition'.

        •  Saying "horrible analogy" is not an argument (0+ / 0-)

          and your lack of argument here isn't surprising.  That you're "trying to be cute" is the kindest explanation I can muster for proudly claiming the mantle of "sedition."

          It doesn't matter that "some people" have labeled any change to the power structure "sedition."  Many of those same people once labeled (and perhaps still do) interracial sexual activities as "rape" -- even within marriage -- yet I don't see you co-opting that term on this basis.  Is that analogy fitting any better now?

          •  Back at ya (0+ / 0-)

            Posting an analogy isn't an argument at all and didn't deserve much of a response, yet I did offer my logic so I guess I did make an argument.

            It doesn't matter that "some people" have labeled any change to the power structure "sedition."

            Uh, yeah it does.  Sedition is all about how the power structure views your activities.

            Many of those same people once labeled (and perhaps still do) interracial sexual activities as "rape" -- even within marriage -- yet I don't see you co-opting that term on this basis.

            Of course you don't see me doing so.  I'm talking about revolutionary change.

            Is that analogy fitting any better now?

            It scans even worse now.  Bravo.

    •  Your examples of sedition being loosely defined.. (0+ / 0-)

      are a bit odd. How is it that Messrs. Limbaugh and Perry were not proposing acts of sedition, even strictly defined? Since when was calling for the military to overthrow a democratically elected President - their own Commander in Chief - anything other than sedition?

      And, somewhat less importantly, to call Joe Klein a liberal is strange as well. He's certainly a Democrat, but have you seen some of the shit he's willing to spew about lefty bloggers, etc?

      I'm not against calling for a drastic change in our political system. I just think your way of arguing for it is somewhat haphazard.

      •  I did say it's subjective (0+ / 0-)

        Unless Beck and Limbaugh are saying that shit seriously every day not in the studio but on the streets, I'll call it more theater than sedition from my POV.

        And yeah, I guess Klein isn't a lib.  It's all relative, I suppose.

        As for arguing for change, this isn't a single argument.  I've been writing about it across many blogs and posts.  This is simply looking at one of the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Resistance and seeing where it might fit in an overall context.

  •  Ugh. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places...arousing and persuading and reproaching you.-Socrates

    by The Navigator on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 12:31:45 PM PST

  •  it can be done (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Here's my old diary talking about how we brought down the other evil empire.

    Of course we will have Fascism in America, but we will call it Democracy. - Senator Huey Long

    by Marcion on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:31:06 PM PST

  •  Thinking about this some more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    When it comes to actions that cross the line. Many on this site, myself included, feel that Erick Erickson has advocated an illegal act, a form of sedition by your definition, in getting people on his side of the political spectrum to non-violently disrupt the political process. Does what your proposing lead to a necessary increase in lawlessness?

    I guess the question is are people willing to spend time in jail/prison to achieve their political ends? Has it become that desperate in this country that that is a reasonable course of action?

    I stand by the truth, that way I don't have to be near any Republicans.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:35:26 PM PST

    •  Civil disobedience (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Burned, ontheleftcoast

      I've found that few people are willing to do what Indians proudly engaged in: courting arrest and other acts of disobedience.  Certainly the tea baggers aren't.  One reason I joined Code Pink is because my friends do such things, though many on the left roll their eyes and call their actions 'stunts'.

      I have not courted arrest, though I've been detained by the Capitol Police and had some run ins with the IDF.  I'm wiling to accept it as a risk, but not actively try to get thrown in jail yet.  It's a powerful tactic, though.

      •  That over used "Freedom's just another word" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NTodd, Burned

        line is somewhat appropriate here. Twenty five years ago I had nothing to lose, part time job, no family, no house. Now I have a wife and family to support, I can't afford to risk that. So I have to work from the legal side of the line. I joined antiwar marches but not ones that I thought would cross the line. Perhaps risking the now for the future of my kids might be something that needs to be done. At the moment I don't think it is necessary. The closest I get to sedition is donating to organizations that are willing to look the other when it happens.

        I stand by the truth, that way I don't have to be near any Republicans.

        by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:13:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Everybody makes choices and plays a part (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sharon, Burned, ontheleftcoast

          I know lots of people are in that same boat.  Certainly my partner Ericka has banned me from getting shot at by the IDF at least until our son is 6 months old, I'm pulling back from trips to DC to focus on VT issues, etc.  Other people make different decisions based on their own moral calculus and assessment of their abilities and the risks.

          I sometimes get yelled at for my stridency because people think I advocate everybody do what I do all the time, when really all I want people to do is challenge their assumptions and step a smidge out of their comfort zone.  I also always include myself in the collective failures because I know I'm a slacker.

          Everybody has a threshold and just needs to find it!

          •  You may just be the most rational revolutionary (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I've ever chatted with. One of the things about the political process that drives me nuts are people that think their part in the process stops on election day and doesn't start up again for a year or more. Activism like showing up at town halls, writing letters, donating to causes, all has an effect on the political process and needs to happen 365 days a year (I'll give them Feb 29th off). Don't quit, apathy and ignorance are the real enemies.

            I stand by the truth, that way I don't have to be near any Republicans.

            by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:26:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  My biggest pet peeve! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              people that think their part in the process stops on election day and doesn't start up again for a year or more.

              That very thing drives me up the wall!  It's part of why lobbyists win.

              You don't have to be Cindy Sheehan or Medea Benjamin, just fucking show up outside the voting booth sometimes.

  •  If I wanted to live in a place like Somalia.... (0+ / 0-)

    well, I'd just moved to Somalia....

    I used to have a signature but it disappeared and I just couldn't be bothered writing another so please feel free to ingore this.

    by second gen on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:38:54 PM PST

  •  Wrong target (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It is not the government we must oppose but the corporate pirates who control it.These are the ones we must confront more vigorously (but non-violently).

    We need bold activists who will infiltrate enemy headquarters, get hold of the data and put it online. Evidence of their crimes is readily available on their computers. We just need some folks to go and get it.

    Is it not written "There's a lot goes on we don't get told."? (Lu Tze)

    by MakeChessNotWar on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:44:25 PM PST

  •  Which is it? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Regardless what legal framework exists, we all must be seditious in calling for change through individual and collective actions to disrupt the current power structure.

    A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it's true principles.

    Or perhaps it is patient sedition. A good tactic against the Health Care Industry?

    Heads in the clouds are just as detrimental as heads in the sand.

    by A Voice on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:05:15 PM PST

    •  Patient sedition (0+ / 0-)

      I think TJ was a little too passive in his formulation, but as a revolutionary I think he gets special dispensation.  In the end, the A&S did help him win politically!

      I would be patient and not despair, knowing as Gandhi said that all tyrants fall--to help foster that end, I'd be seditious, amongst other things.  One must also accept defeats and not give up the cause because of them...

  •  Thanks for posting this stuff. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sharon, Nightprowlkitty

    It's timely.
    Something's in the air lately.

    Move Your Money The truth is too big to fail. Justice is too big to fail. Peace is too big to fail.

    by Burned on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:19:01 PM PST

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