#freebree = Lawlessness, Vigilantism And Hypocrisy

"let's run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!"

“Let’s run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!”

Various anti-gay marriage zealots vowing to defy the Supreme Court and the law of the land are un-American and wrong, but a woman who decides to unilaterally make a decision that only the elected representatives of the citizens of South Carolina are authorized to make is a hero. Such is the muddled state of thought, ethics and civics among America’s progressives. Disobey the laws you don’t like, condemn the character of those who disobey the laws you favor. No integrity, no principles, no responsibility, no coherence, just grandstanding and anarchy, aimed at cheering ideologues incapable of proportion or restraint. This is an ethics vacuum masquerading as virtue.

“Bree,” which is what pole-climbing flag-grabber Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome calls herself, is under arrest, as she should be, charged with defacing a monument and facing a fine. Good. She deserves one, and no accolades whatsoever. The Confederate flag is already under siege and on the verge of a permanent cultural taboo. Her actions would have constituted genuine civil disobedience and courage had it come before the flag was magically assigned blame for the murder of nine Charleston African Americans, to call attention to its symbolic defiance of civil rights. Coming now, Bree’s stunt is just  self-promoting vigilante theater, seeking and receiving support from the likes of Michael Moore.

There was nothing brave, productive or necessary about the flag stunt. The was a lot wrong about its message: don’t wait for the government process to work, don’t allow democracy and civil discourse to prevail, just unilaterally do what you “know” is right, and let the “ends justify the means” embracing mob celebrate. No doubt, this is the anti-Constitutional attitude the President has encouraged, but it recklessly risks fraying the seams of our democratic government, and erodes the rule of law.

Predictably, the NAACP issued an irresponsible statement in support of “Bree’s” cynical bid for 15 minutes of fame, calling her a “#BlackLivesMatter activist.” Apparently “Black Lives Matter” is an all purpose “Get Out Of Accountability Free” card that can excuse censorship, bullying, harassment of law enforcement, and now vandalism, and who will dare to question its legitimacy?

Yes, black lives matter.  So does democracy, respect for process, the opinions of others you disagree with, and the rule of law.

The NAACP’s statement said in part:

“As well as supporting the permanent removal of the flag legislatively, we commend the courage and moral impulse of Ms. Newsome as she stands for justice like many NAACP activists including Henry David Thoreau, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and numerous Americans who have engaged in civil disobedience. The NAACP calls on state prosecutors to consider the moral inspiration behind the civil disobedience of this young practitioner of democracy. Prosecutors should treat Ms. Newsome with the same large-hearted measure of justice that inspired her actions. The NAACP stands with our youth and behind the multigenerational band of activists fighting the substance and symbols of bigotry, hatred and intolerance.”

Awful. Embarrassing.

1. Translation of  the first sentence: “We support the removal of the flag legislatively, and also the removal of the flag without waiting for the process to work, because we are hypocrites.”

2. This degrades the courage of Thoreau and King, who were fighting against laws that showed no sign of abating for causes that indeed mattered, like human rights and pacifism. “Bree” was fighting against a symbolic piece of cloth that is on its way out no matter what she does, in the midst of an anti-Confederacy witch hunt (and it is nice to be able to use that term accurately for a change.)

3. Those Southern governors of yore who tried to block school integration were also engaging in civil disobedience, you know. Civil disobedience is only ethically admirable if it is used rarely and well, otherwise, it violates Kant: if everybody does it, there would be a breakdown in society. Trivial, self-aggrandizing, law-breaking with no real risk—who is going to prosecute a Confederate flag attacking black woman in South Carolina in the current environment?—is fake civil disobedience. It is unethical civil disobedience.

4. The NAACP is saluting a woman who won’t tolerate a state’s (misguided) honoring of an important part of its history, the democratic process, or the rule of law when it means she has to wait to get her way.

Vigilantes matter. They undermine society. So do those who cheer them on.

48 thoughts on “#freebree = Lawlessness, Vigilantism And Hypocrisy

  1. The NAACP should be ashamed for encouraging vigilante behavior – and of all such groups to do so!

    You are quite right to call them out. (Though I must have missed the part where Obama “encouraged” an anti-Constitutional attitude.)

    • Did you? Unilaterally changing the ACA at will, making illegal immigration legal without getting approval from Congress, waging a war in Libya after Congressional approval had expired, allowing the CIA, NSA, Justice Department and IRS to defy Congressional oversight, declaring Congress in recess when it was not to make illegal appointments to the NLRB, refusing to defend a law passed and signed into law (the DOMA), droning American citizens without due process of law…there is a reason why civil libertarians regard this as an outlaw administration.

  2. Keep on culture purgers… You’ll rapudly turn the confederate flag into a symbol of legitimate resistance to overreaching central authority. By all means keep it up.


    Of course in 3 centuries the descendant group of Anonymous can drop the idiotic Guy Fawkes masks and adopt the confederate flag.

  3. This merely presents itself as a post apocalyptic stunt as mentioned the ire is after the fact. If you wish to make a statement “Bree” should read up on Rosa Parks.

  4. These actions certainly do not honor Susan B. Anthony, who insisted her acts of civil disobedience be treated the same as any man who voted unlawfully.

  5. If I remember correctly, the flag of the CSA was outlawed after, or possibly during, the Civil War,. and the battle flag was not. Primarily, of course, because the battle flag was used simply to identify which side a particular unit was on. The U.S. also used battle flags, but, of course, they won. The problem is that the confederate battle flag was then appropriated as a standard for several markedly racist groups, like the Triple K’s, and subsequently became, itself, a symbol of white supremacy; i.e., racist. That it was adopted by a state government was, at best, unfortunate, but it’s usefulness was exhausted close to 150 years ago. Why anyone would, in modern society, fly it over a government building escapes me. That said, why anyone would attach a meaning to that flag that warranted risking life, limb and freedom by climbing a flag pole, and forcefully removing said flag, illegally, also escapes me.

    • Apply your background as a psychologist. Young, and wanting to appear hip, rebellious, and non-conformist, which is ironic considering the absolutely rigid
      conformity that their ideology demands.

  6. Somehow I knew that Micheal Moore ‘Mr Progressive’ would get involved in this mess. Micheal Moore is “a hero in his own mind” and will probably make a movie for low information voters to promote himself as even in Hollywood, many people are sick of him.

  7. She’s a hero…

    In fact, I want a monument to her in the middle of every Capitol grounds that looks exactly like that picture: she bravely climbing a flagpole to reach the Confederate flag. But it has to just be the moment before she snags the banner as it still waves.

    Yes, that monument needs be across this great land as a reminder of the kind of bravery needed to tear down symbols like that.

    • It should replace that dated Iwo Jima memorial, as representative of the face of modern-day bravery. I mean, can you imagine the courage it would have taken to have to shimmy up a flagpole and pay a $300 fine after days of bloody fighting to take Mount Suribachi

  8. I can’t believe this comment even though I was never a Marine. Btw tex, Ira Hayes was an American Indian who was one of the Marines that raised the flag and received a Marine Commendation Medal for his action on that day. Obviously the Marines felt he was good enough to serve despite not being considered a white American.

    • In fact this is so important of a brave act to commemorate, I would suggest removing the American flag from all Capitols since it historically represents oppression. Then, symbolically attach a statue of this woman to every flagpole in the act of climbing, and attach a confederate flag at the top right as her statue is about to clutch that banner to tear it down.

      I think that would be a perfect message.

    • As were the Navajo code-talkers. See ‘Windtalkers’ with Adam Beach. Most all of us are familiar with Ira Hayes.

  9. The NAACP calls on state prosecutors to consider the moral inspiration behind the civil disobedience of this young practitioner of democracy. Prosecutors should treat Ms. Newsome with the same large-hearted measure of justice that inspired her actions.

    I know this is a provocative question, but suppose the vigilante in this case had been white. I wonder if the NAACP would’ve issued a similarly supportive comment? Fruitless speculation, of course, but I can’t help but think about it. Probably makes me a raaaacist.
    On a related but totally tangential point, is there a point at which we stop generating #hashtags for every controversial thing, or must we forever be subjected to Twitter shorthand, hashtagging anything and everything that might stir a modicum of passion? I have maintained since it’s inception that Twitter is the Devil, and the reduction of American discourse to hashtags is pushing me well down the road to feeling vindicated my tongue-in-cheek simile.

    • Hashtag proliferation is the cyberspace equivalent to Ebola.

      I am sure the NAACP practices selective support – just like any other special interest group.

    • You know Charles, I would not be a bit surprised if the arsonists acted not because of the color of the skin of the congregants in those churches, and not because of intended vengeance regarding the recent Confederate flag censorship frenzy, but because of the messages being preached there – as in, “not enough rainbow.” What a gay state vigilantism has arrived at!

      • Are you SERIOUS? Small, rural hamlets, preaching the most basic form of Christianity are getting burned down – and you suspect it’s because uptown “rainbow” politics are being preached there?
        Did you read the whole story?
        Get real.

    • I don’t disagree with your main point, Charles, but did you read the article? The headline was inexcusable. In fact, TWO of the church-burnings seem to be arson, the rest may not be. Yet I have seen the figure of 6 many places. Meanwhile, I want to know if there were any largely white church burnings. In the 90’s, this was the game the media played, reporting the black church fires and ignoring (nationally) the white churches, creating a false story. Yes, even two is too many, and the fact that white churches burned, if they burned (I bet there were some), doesn’t alter the seriousness of the arson in the black communities. But the headline and the “narrative” is misleading, and intentionally so.

      • So far (4PM, checking back in) four of the churches are clearly identified as black, and three as definitely arson; the others are unclear to me on a quick search.

        You’re of course right about proper headlines, etc., but honestly – isn’t this deck chairs on the Titanic? I’m not trying to defend inaccurate journalism, but you’re highlighting the counter-reformation, not the reformation, so to speak.

        Arson in black churches in the south a week after the flag issue? Coincidence? Ya think? That kind of crime so far outranks a run of the mill story of sloppy journalism – if that is in fact true – that it amounts to misleading to focus on the lesser of the two issues.

        Where’s the ethics outrage for burned black churches?

        • Despicable, to be sure, Charles. I’m sure you didn’t mean to play “Yeah, but your side is worse!” games, but that’s how some will read it.

          Where is the outrage? It’s there, but the problem is that the South Carolina incident carried a much higher profile for whatever reason. So I think Jack can be forgiven his example, which while not as drastic as yours, makes an equivalent if less horrible point about the vigilantism. And of course, I’m sure you didn’t mean to broad-brush the South with the tar that seems to ooze from your remark.

          I guess we can all condemn the media for placing the emphasis on the wrong activity. Or perhaps we can blame the NAACP, who managed to get quoted all over the Internet for the pole climbing, but somehow managed not to get the attention of many over the churches. I’m sure they condemned it, but my newsfeed is full of the pole-climber and I have to search for the churches.

          Anyway, consider me appropriately outraged. May the perpetrators be found and brought to justice; a much more severe justice, hopefully, than awaits the pole-climber.

        • I’m just saying that I saw this before in the 90’s and there wasn’t a spike in burning black churches then, just selective reporting. If 15 churches have been burned, and three of them are black churches, I need more to conclude that the burnings are related to Charleston or each other, and so should you. The fake headline illustrates my point: how are fires started by lightning related to the race of a Church’s parishioners? Is God out to get black churches? If not, those fires are unrelated to the race/arson story. They just inflate the number. I don’t trust any source that plays those games.

          Burning any churches is awful, but burning black churches is no more awful than burning Asian or White ones, mosques or synagogues, or any other structure for that matter. At a time when only white cops shooting black suspects is being played as national news, this kind of story cannot be trusted. I am outraged that people of any race set buildings on fire. Once I am shown by a trustworthy primary source that there is an increase in attacks on black churches exclusively or disproportionately, I’ll react appropriately.

  10. Because that is the easiest path to denial of the actual hate crimes that are being perpetrated. Of course, it is reasonable to suspect backlash to the Confederate flag takedowns. But I am already real enough to recognize false flag ops. It’s pretty clear who the ascendant Nazis in this country are.

    • My reply of June 29 at 10:05 am was intended to be in reply to charlesgreen’s comment of June 29 at 9:47 am.

      • Agree. Just like in 1930 when a small percentage of the population began a move to take the government, less than 4% of the population is now dictating how Webster gets to define words.

        • Ugh. The Constitution dictates how the government gets to define who is eligible for equal treatment under the law. Webster has nothing to do with it. And if only .0001% of the population felt that blacks should be able to vote, blacks still would deserve and get the right to vote–not because the .0001% dictated it, but because the Constitution mandates it.

          • Just now, noticed that Charles appears to have been thinking that I was alluding to uptown rainbow politics being preached in the burned churches. I was probably unclear; I am like that too often. I was suspecting exactly the opposite, namely, that preaching CONTRARY to uptown rainbow politics was going on. Hence, the perfect cover existed for a false flag operation – making arson look like racism, when it was actually – using this term only here and now – “faggoterror.” Gotta burn out those Uncle Toms.

          • The Constitution dictates how the government gets to define who is eligible for equal treatment under the law.

            I’m pretty sure this isn’t what you meant to say. The Constitution, via the 14th Amendment, says unambiguously that everyone is entitled to the equal protection of the laws, not just disparaged minorities. The government gets some say in how that equal treatment is applied within the constraint that their execution does not, in itself, violate the equal protection clause.

            Sorry if that’s pedantic, but upon first reading, that statement just seemed wrong to me, and can’t be semantically redeemed by the attempt to use the concept of a definition in order to equate it to a dictionary. Equal protection, in my view, means equal, not that the government gets to pick winners and losers with Court acquiescence. I’m positive that’s not how you meant it, though.

            Yes, the courts have allowed historic and invidious violations to be redressed in controversial ways, as in affirmative action, but this is not the norm. And as time goes on, the kind of thinking that produced affirmative action seem to be falling more and more into disfavor.

            • Reading that sentence, I have no idea WHAT I was saying. It looks like I mashed up two sentences in my head and didn’t read what I actually wrote.

              In context, I think what I meant was that the Constitution defines what are the relevant terms in such controversies, not Noah Webster. In this case, the question wasn’t the definition of marriage, but the fact that the government’s endorsemnt of a discriminatory version of it violates Due Process and Equal Protection, which are the terms the Constitution defines.

              This is one of the downsides of playing ping-pong in comments on ten threads simultaneously. I need to reply to comments less often when I’m rushed, and trust the readers here to say what needs to be said.

              • As a former rushed blog author myself, I feel you deeply, Jack. I adopted the strategy you propse too late, I think, to avoid some of the burnout I am now recovering from. Your advice to yourself is solid, but don’t go too far – reader engagement by the author is absolutely necessary.

                Thanks for what you do.

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