So What Exactly SHOULD You Be Doing?

There’s a certain peace in accepting a situation as it is, as I talked about yesterday. For many who still believe that camo and rallies are the way to change the status quo, acceptance means, on some level, taking away their purpose. I get that it’s a hard thing to accept; if you’re not ‘working for the cause,’ what else is there?  When you’re suddenly not spending insane amounts of time and (often someone else’s) money on the ‘fight for liberty,’ what are you supposed to do with yourself? It can cause some severe psychological effects for those who are engrossed in it.

I get that sentiment. My own thought progression has occurred over several years as well.  I’ve done the rally thing, the open activism thing. I’ve given speeches at events and sang the anthem in front of tens of thousands in DC. At each and every action, my heart was 100% in it — I believed in the necessity of fighting, and the hope that we could change things.

Over time, those beliefs were challenged again and again by watching what was going on around me. I can’t tell you how many times I had to find a way to either cease being ignorant, or cease being honest.  Little by little, the books I read, the things I saw, the facts I had to accept changed me.

Throughout that time, I’ve approached people I didn’t agree with and asked them to explain their position. I’ve studied the feedback I’ve gotten on various articles and taken the time to study the viewpoints of those who disagreed with me. I’ve tried to take all of that to heart and truly learn from it. I’ve said before — and just said again this morning — I’d rather be factually correct than be ‘right,’ and that means having to be brutally honest with myself when it’s possible I’m wrong.

That process means that some things I’ve done, I won’t do again. It means my involvement with certain communities or groups had to end. It means that I no longer agree with viewpoints I once shouted from the rooftops. Sometimes that knowledge is a bit embarrassing, quite frankly.  In most cases, however, I don’t regret it because it was a place on a journey that is ongoing.  I don’t want to remain stagnant, I don’t ever want to reach a place in my quest for knowledge where I think I’ve “arrived,” and can now retire to meme-sharing and pontificating in comment threads. I want to continue to learn, and to help others around me learn as well.

There is much more to all of this than we realize, and there’s no way any of us will ever know every single aspect of it all. But I think it’s a noble undertaking to give it every effort to try, to read and study and learn from those who are smarter than we are, or who have much to teach.

It takes a certain humility to do that — and I sometimes struggle with that because I’m human. It requires setting aside feelings and desires and even emotional needs in order to seek facts, objectivity, and analysis.  Sometimes it even requires setting aside personal dislike of a messenger in order to truly hear the message. There is something to be learned from everyone — even if they are a cautionary tale.  I daresay I’ve learned just as much from watching poor examples set by others (or even myself) than I learn from the solid role models — the numbers of which seem to be dwindling by the day.

What is ‘the answer?’ I’m not a guru. I know what I know, and I’m painfully aware of what I don’t. For me, the answer is to continue to seek truth — not the warm and fuzzy stuff that makes me feel good about ‘fighting for liberty,’ but the cold, hard truths that let me know exactly where I’m at, what needs to be done, and how I can get it accomplished.  Right now, that means training on my firearms and associated things, but it also means learning how to breed chickens for positive traits. It means learning how to get the absolute most yield out of a garden plot — and how to preserve that yield in a variety of ways. It means understanding the ins and outs of graywater recycling and networking with neighbors to create avenues of trade.  It means learning how to create medicines with the bounties of nature, and how to grow all of those components yourself. It also means a lot of reading — everything from philosophy to history to logic to how-to manuals on a host of things I wouldn’t normally have the faintest idea about how to accomplish.

That sounds like a lot of work — and it is. Oddly enough, however, when I stopped going to rallies and yapping on FB groups and getting on a thousand conference calls and organizing various actions, I suddenly had a lot more time to focus on the things that will help me prepare for a situation I cannot control and cannot stop.

I still believe in liberty. I still agree with privacy and the right to have the government leave me alone. I still believe all of those things. I also, however, believe that our time is best spent working on the things we CAN change, the things we CAN accomplish — and all of the things on that list come under one heading:

local, local, local.


No, the WaPo Isn’t Giving Kudos to the Militia

The recent article in the Washington Post about the militia “commander” who says he went to Charlottesville to defend free speech is being lauded as the return of good press for the militia. Some on Facebook have even gone so far as to claim that the WaPo is giving the militia “kudos.”

This could not be further from the truth, and it’s a dangerous belief that needs addressing in a firm and blunt way.

I’m about to break down this article and show you that not only is it a well-constructed piece of anti-gun, anti-patriot propaganda, but it’s also Exhibit A in the neverending case titled “Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Talk to the Media.”  In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say it’s also Exhibit A in the case titled “Why Certain People Should Never Represent Your Overall Group.”

For those who’ll say I’m ‘punching right,’ or targeting a good man for ridicule, I’ll simply say this: He put himself out there. He wanted that attention, he wanted the platform, and in accepting that platform he also, by default, accepted all that comes with it. If you cannot read this with an open mind for facts, then you’re part of the problem.

I’m not even going to touch the militia authority issues inherent in this. My friend JC Dodge already handled that here, here, and about fifty other places on his site.  I’m merely talking about the propaganda/representation angle in this article.

Start With the Title

The title of the article is “Militiamen came to Charlottesville as neutral First Amendment protectors, commander says.” This should have signaled to everyone that it would not be a complimentary piece.  Why? Because it includes the phrase “commander says.” This means the WaPo author is saying, “We all know what they were actually there for, but THIS guy is lying and saying differently.”  Or, more to the point, “Hey folks! We interviewed one of the crazies that were at Charlottesville and he’s saying he was there to defend free speech…can you believe this guy?” It sets the tone for all that comes after.

It Just Gets Worse

The first sentence of that article is:

Of the harrowing images televised nationwide from Saturday’s white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, one of the more chilling sights, amid hours of raging hatred and mayhem, was of camo-clad militiamen on the streets, girded for combat in tactical vests and toting military-style semiautomatic rifles.

What exactly about that sentence is in any way condoning, supporting, or offering “kudos” to the militia? Here’s a hint: It’s not.

  • It uses the word “chilling” to describe their appearance, an inherently negative word.
  • It specifically calls out their “military-style semiautomatic rifles.”
  • It announces that they were “girded for combat,” which implies that they wanted to engage in combat.

It’s easy to interpret things the way we want to see them. The problem is, while some of you might read that and think, “Oh, gee, the WaPo says we are WARRIORS,” you need to read that without your biases. The author isn’t saying anything of the sort. He’s saying “You, Mr. Public, should be afraid of these people.” But let’s keep going, because the author isn’t done.

Photos and video of the heavily armed cadre — a relatively small force commanded by a 45-year-old machinist and long-ago Navy veteran from western Pennsylvania — spread rapidly on social media, raising fears the clash of hundreds of neo-Nazis and counterprotesters might end in a bloodbath.

What’s being said here?

  • They mention he’s a machinist and “long-ago” Navy veteran, and there is a subtle insult there, both of his vocation and his service. In other words, this guy is a freaking machinist, he’s not even in a career field conducive to security work, and he was in the military like, ages ago so that doesn’t even count.”
  • They purposely link his “relatively small force” with “fears” that the rally “might end in a bloodbath.” Again, the underlying message here is that these guys are scary and were all about violence.

Next we have the ‘commander’ talking about his “show of strength.” Well, judging by the title and first two lines of this article, their intended “strength” came across a lot differently to the audience. As a friend pointed out to me this morning:

A polo with the unit logo, some pressed cargo pants, shined boots, a decent haircut, and a pistol that looks like its seem use in a holster is all you need to send message of strength.

Someone might want to mention this to the camo crowd; not that anyone’s listening. but let’s move on.

The fact that no shots were fired, Yingling said, was a testament “to the discipline of the 32 brave souls serving under me during this particular operation.” In a telephone interview Sunday, he sought to dispel “the absurd idea in the public’s mind” that his group of “patriots” was allied with or sympathetic to the white nationalists.

Mistake: Crediting discipline for them not opening fire.  That’s basically the same as saying, “Hey we could have shot people, but we’re disciplined so we held ourselves back. You’re all very welcome.”

Eroding the Credibility

Then there’s the part where WaPo says he “sought to dispel” the “absurd idea” about them being sympathetic to white nationalists. The phrase “sought to dispel” is a lot different than “dispelled.” It means, for the record, that he tried and failed. The WaPo is once again saying, “yeah he SAYS this, but we all know it’s BS.” In addition, the commander makes a point of reminding everyone that the 32 “brave souls” were “serving under me.” That will become a common theme as we move forward.

Many militia units in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have “mutual defense agreements,” Yingling said. Because he has overseen several militia responses at contentious gatherings in recent months — helping “keep the peace” at right-wing public events in Boston; in Gettysburg and Harrisburg, Pa.; and at an April 29 rally in Harrisburg for President Trump — Yingling said the commander of a Virginia militia asked him to organize and take “tactical command” of the Charlottesville operation.

An entire paragraph devoted to “I’m in charge and here’s why.” Note the quotes around phrases like “keep the peace” and “tactical command.” That’s not the author quoting the commander, that’s the author using selective phrasing to mock the commander.

“He had never handled anything like this,” Yingling said. “And given the volatility of the event, it was not a good place to start.”

See the theme yet?

When his group arrived in Charlottesville, “we put our own beliefs off to the side,” Yingling said. “Not one of my people said a word. They were given specific orders to remain quiet the entire time we were there. . . . Our mission was to help people exercise their First Amendment rights without being physically assaulted.”

…except they got “drastically outnumbered.”

“Jacka—s,” was how he described both sides, meaning the white nationalists, who billed the gathering as Unite the Right, and the counterprotesters, many marching under the banner of Antifa, for “anti-fascist.” Yingling also criticized police, saying that officers were poorly prepared for the violence and not assertive enough in combating it and that they should have enlisted the militiamen to help prevent the mayhem.

On what authority, pray tell? Did the camo and rifles impart some kind of special authority? Because claiming you’re a militia sure doesn’t, as Dodge and many others have pointed out about a million times.

He said several of his troops were battered and bloodied, having been attacked by people on both sides of the demonstration, yet they did not retaliate.

So they got their butts kicked? They turned the other cheek? Hey, we showed up looking like we just came from Frank’s Military Surplus to defend free speech, and we got “battered and bloodied” but we didn’t retaliate.

Now, I need to also point out that there’s some prime-grade stupid in the remarks of the police and authorities here as well. The Secretary of public safety said, “The fighting in the street was sporadic. But soon after it started, we began to have conversations about when to go in.” Really? Hey guys, people are killing each other out there so let’s talk about what we should do. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

And then we get back to the commander, who is apparently in contradiction mode.

Yingling called the weapons “one hell of a visual deterrent” to would-be attackers from either side.

So, according to this guy’s own words:

  • They were there to defend free speech and defend people from assault.
  • They carried loaded rifles and chambered sidearms which were a visual deterrent to attackers.
  • They got battered and bloodied and did not retaliate.

Those points don’t make sense.

In addition to having overall command of units in Pennsylvania, Yingling said, he is the leader of his home unit, the Light Foot Militia Laurel Highlands Ghost Company, based near his home in New Derry, Pa., about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. The Ghost Company has about a dozen members, he said.

More discussion on this commander’s level of perceived power. The readers who are plastering this all over Facebook miss the part where it’s being portrayed in much the same mock-serious way as one might interview former presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, or the lady who sincerely believes that Cleopatra lives on in her cats.

But here we get to the coup-de-grace, a one-two-three punch meant to destroy whatever credibility the commander had.

A Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Yingling said he was an aviation machinist’s mate for three years before leaving the service in 1993 as a petty officer third class, meaning he was four rungs up the enlisted ranks.

One. This guy was a nobody in the military, only four rungs from the freaking bottom. Keep your own knowledge out of it – read it like someone who isn’t familiar with the military and is already predisposed against it.

“I joined the military to avoid the addictive lifestyle of my parents,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I was raised in a VERY dysfunctional, abusive home. The military gave me the structure I needed.” After his discharge, however, “I quickly fell right into the lifestyle I had known all my life with my parents. I quit going to church, I started using drugs and alcohol, heavily becoming addicted to both. It started a . . . downward spiral which led to an eventual suicide attempt.”

Two. Heartwarming stories about overcoming adversity and addiction are for reality shows like The Voice, not for an interview with the media trying to explain why someone is credible and should be trusted with firearms in the public square. If anything, this will get used later to push the “SEE? These patriot people are former drug addicts, alcoholics, suicidal…”

Then, in 2008, President Barack Obama was elected. Yingling said he was drawn then to right-wing, anti-government extremism.

Aaaand THREE. While the commander said later that he said “anti-corrupt government,” not anti-government, it doesn’t matter. The media did what the media does, and no one cares what he actually said because the article says what it says.

When I was interviewed for Lies of Omission, one of the questions all of us were asked was whether our activism and/or liberty beliefs came as a result of Obama being elected; that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about the movement – that we’re all racists who just hated Obama because he was black. We all laughed at how preposterous the idea was, and every last one of us treated it like the idiotic and false idea it was. Yet here Mr. Commander hands that exact vindication to them on a silver platter, and the author does the expected thing – he uses it to paint him as a racist with his own words. He’s done.

In the interest of this somehow not being any more of a book than it already is, I’ll skip to the end paragraph.

“We knew what we were walking into,” he said on Facebook Live. “We knew what the results were going to be. And yet we walked in anyway. We weren’t afraid. And we didn’t give a good damn about our image or about what anybody thought about us. And I still don’t.”

Great. You knew what the results would be and you did it all anyway.  You got the exact effect you expected. That’s not noble, it’s not something you should be getting back-pats from your peers for. It means you knew that your presence would be a) ineffective, b) send a certain message, and not the one you think; and c) you’d get whacked around by protesters and thrown out by police. If you knew all this and still went, there’s only one reason: you wanted the attention.

I’m glad he’s so open about not caring what anyone thinks, because it means the rest of us can point out that he screwed the pooch so thoroughly that it’s now dead and rotting. This so-called commander accomplished nothing good for the movement. He did, however, achieve the following:

  • Told the public that a former drug addict who basically radicalized because Obama got elected is now in charge of all the armed ‘militia’ forces in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
  • Told the public that it was only their ‘discipline’ that kept shots from being fired.
  • Told the public they all knew exactly what would happen when they showed up, and did it all anyway.
  • Told the public that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.

He must have missed the part where he needs the support of the public in order to win.

But hey.  Never mind that.  There’s another rally soon.

The Problem With Leading…and Following

Note: I started this article four weeks ago. Since then, I was dealing with a family emergency, so I wasn’t able to finish it until now. Imagine my (un)surprise when a month later, it was still timely, because there’s still drama.


As I write this, it’s a day ending in ‘y,’ so there’s drama du jour in the “patriot movement.”  As usual, it’s yet another brouhaha about rumors, feds and schemes. (Kind of sounds like it should be sung like the old Cher song about gypsies and whatnot.)  

Meanwhile, a 2-minute stroll through social media shows that the same people who claim to not want tyranny are desperately searching for a regional/national leader in the movement who will tell them what to do. Such folks completely miss the point.  Contrary to popular opinion, a new George Washington will not rise suddenly from the militia ‘officer cadre,’ fresh from the rank he just gave himself and ready to lead teeming national masses of patriots from his secret bunker in Nebraska known as MiWeCOM.  

Think about it.  On one hand, you have all of these people screaming about freedom and rights and the “soul’s right to breathe,” to steal a line from Good Will Hunting. Those same people, however, are running around following people.  They need the safety of a group doing it all right there with them. They post the memes and run their mouths on various sites, as if by doing so they are both affirming their own worth to the movement and contributing their own noise to the echo chamber.  Neither things really accomplish much, but social media “activism” is still somehow the most-used “tactic” in the movement’s arsenal — and I use the term activism in the loosest of ways. 

It’s a nasty truth, but if people read more, learned more, knew themselves better, they wouldn’t need someone giving them marching orders for activism. They’d already know what to do, and they’d already be doing it.  There wouldn’t be this never-ending cannibalism, because it wouldn’t matter what so-and-so was doing; people would be far too busy taking back their own towns and counties to worry about what Joe Blow in the next state over was doing.  There wouldn’t be this constant need for group validation.  Basically, you’d have a whole bunch of individuals, choosing to segregate and/or coalesce into small, effective local groups of their own choosing by whatever means or criteria they deem necessary, for whatever one-time, short-term, or long-term purposes they decide.  Maybe they do stuff as a group. Maybe they do stuff as individuals. The point is, they don’t need to be told what to do, and they don’t need to have everyone see them do it.

There are groups here and there who are working within their own counties. They’re running for local offices; they’re cleaning up highways; they’re working directly with the community in a host of ways — including forging a professionally courteous relationship with local first responders and law enforcement.  They have learned the single most important thing in a guerrilla-type conflict: Without the support of the people, you will lose. They’re ensuring they have that support.

What does your national group have? Are you seen as morons who call for snacks after ill-advised actions? Are you being completely mocked and not taken seriously by a good portion of the country? Or are you focused on building a reputation of integrity, dependability, and clear-headedness in your own communities and among your own neighbors? While some think that being called “Y’allQaeda” is a badge of honor, it’s actually a pretty decent indicator that you’re failing at the popular support aspect.

Some groups aren’t known as groups at all; they’re just regular folks, contributing in their own ways, under the radar; they’re the ‘go-to’ people for information or resources. They’re the folks who can get you things, or can get a message from one place to another. They’re the ones responsible for a whole bank of cameras suddenly not working, or billboards getting defaced, or posters appearing everywhere.  You don’t see them, and that’s how they like it. You do, however, see the results of their work.

People who need the validation, who are unable to think for themselves, are ripe for the picking because they can be steered and manipulated — it’s that simple.

And what about so many of these leaders? 

There’s always someone who wants to be in charge, who thinks that leadership means taking over wherever they go.  You’ll notice that these people often equate volume with leadership, and there are plenty of people who will follow that, even if a few moments of research and/or critical thinking would dispel their starry-eyed worship of their favorite hero or patron saint of the moment. 

There are other types of ‘leaders,’ too,  who think that it’s their job to make sure everyone knows that THEY are ditching their job for the day/week/month to go do “patriot stuff,” and that’s what ‘real commitment’ is.  In fact, that type of guy also expects a few other things.  If you’re not as committed as he is (you know, because you decided to go to work that day and provide for your family, for instance), then you should be donating to his cause, because after all, freedom is expensive and the least you can do is support the people who are truly committed.  If he’s really gung-ho, he’ll even make noises about how the movement should be ‘thinned out’ and the people who ‘aren’t committed’ should be ‘kicked out.’ You know, because that’s his call to make, as the SuperGeneral Grand McPoobah of the Liberty Ranger Wolfpack Wild Operator Corps.

It’s all become some popularity contest, where your value to the cause is apparently determined by how long you can get other people to pay your bills for you while you leave your own family, job, and responsibilities in your local area to go ‘protest’ somewhere.    Meanwhile these are often the same folks that ridicule the Left for bussing in protesters to events.  And of course, in all ‘patriot’ activities, pics or it didn’t happen. You can’t get credit for what no one saw, you know.

Let’s extrapolate some of this to a different scenario.  Imagine that you’re a member of a charity group based in the inner city of Chicago. Your focus is caring for the homeless, the sick and hungry.  You have a good number of people, and a lot of donors for the cause. In short, you could get a lot of work done — and you do. You travel all over the place, giving talks and organizing protests about hunger and homelessness.  This morning, in fact, you step over the elderly homeless man who sleeps in your building’s doorway as you look at your phone and make sure you’re checked in for your flight to Denver, where you’re giving a speech about how elder care is failing in America. What’s wrong with this picture?

How much more could you get done if you simply stayed in your own community and LOOKED AROUND?  How much could you accomplish if you stopped looking for someone to hold your hand and lead you to the Promised Land Of Liberty, and just started reading the writings from people who already wrote down exactly how to do it?  How much stronger would we be as a movement if we stopped looking to others for validation and started doing what needs to be done even if no one sees it? 

If you want to truly be self-governed, then lead yourself first. Learn the information you need to know in order to understand BOTH sides of liberty — the duty first, the right second (and for the record, that’s a LOT more information than just the Constitution or Declaration of Independence).  Learn how to think critically, to set emotion and narrative aside to get to the truth — even if it means you need to shift your belief and/or actions. Don’t follow men; if you perform the due diligence of study, you won’t need to.  Mankind is self-interested at best, and straight up evil at worst. 

Your worth to the movement is not based upon how loud you are, how far you’re willing to travel to protest, or how much money you donate to this cause or that cause.  It’s not based on how strongly you defend this person or that person on Facebook, and it’s not found in your tattoos, your bumper stickers, or your memes.  It is, however, found in your ability to understand information, your willingness to seek it, and your desire to use it — regardless of who knows who you are and what you’re doing. 

Some of the people worth most in this movement are acting as individuals, within their own communities. They are also silent….and very, very busy.