Notes on What an Anti-Authoritarian Action Network Would Look Like

  1. It aims to help impede & reverse the spread and intensification of Authoritarianism.
  2. It encourages citizens to lead, to influence both the civil society and its institutions, here and abroad, and to provide resources to these ends.
  3. Network leaders would proselytize & recruit other leaders from among their own social and professional spheres, including neighbors.
  4. Leaders would act would engage elected officials and political groups seeking support for Anti-Authoritarian candidates & causes elsewhere.
  5. Leaders would support organizations and movements, domestically and internationally, that fight against Authoritarianism.
  6. Leaders would support other leaders repressed for their activism, e.g. Amnesty International’s Prisoners of Conscience, & Freedom House’s Champions for Freedom.
  7. As Authoritarianism has adopted new forms of domination to succeed in today’s world, anti-authoritatrian leaders will learn how anti-democracy has evolved & how it is best countered.

Guns & Authoritarianism

The issue means life & death, not of the statistical kind, but sudden and violent – just what Hobbes described as the most primal human and political motivation.   An overwhelming majority of the country wants common-sense reforms.    The actual policy results, however, have taken us in the opposite direction.  We’re a more pervasively armed society, w/ fewer restrictions on the ability of dangerously unfit people to acquire weapons of immense destructive power.

That’s all frustrating enough, but worse, advocates of reasonable gun control have been traduced, charged w/ intending to make modest reforms the first domino in a chain leading to a totalitarian state devoid of individual liberties.

That’s all infuriating of course, but over time has a more corrosive effect.   It’s bred cynicism, alienation, and a sullen apathy leading not just to a withdrawal from political activity, but to a loss of faith and allegiance to the institutions of democracy.   That’s the domino abt which we should be concerned.



Not a Platform, a Process

Beginning to think abt how to reconcile w/ disaffected rural voters, I search-engined my way to articles arguing that a radically progressive agenda championed by uncompromising candidates and advocates would turn a red electorate blue.  A related thread agrees w/ the need for an avowedly progressive agenda, but despairs that it will actually attract rural voters who’ve decided to ruin themselves by ignoring their economic interests in favor of a romantic commitment to restore the white dominance of a bygone era, choosing guns over butter, as it were.

The despair is fully justified, but the analysis is muddled. Non-metro voters have given up on Democrats simply bc Democrats have given up on them.    The party’s concluded there’s no there there in rural America, “there” being a synonym for money.  The money’s on the coasts.       Large blocs of voters are on the coasts.   The party’s heart and soul moved there too.   Yet it isn’t so much that monied elites have pushed the party’s agenda to an unpalatable social left, it’s that the party’s up and gone, moving to be closer to its money.

As a consequence, riddled w/ panic & guilt, the party belatedly remembers it’s homecoming weekend & spasmodically leaps into action.    There’s a hopscotch listening tour, a Howard Dean specialty.   An endeavor to find a menu of policies that ought to sell in provinces.     And of course there’s gobs of polling, especially before elections.

There is however no disguising the fact that half-hearted compensatory gestures reflect rather than restore the breach.    Divergent views on LGBTQ rights for example stay divergent because there’s no real connection between highly visible urban advocates & the LGBTQ community in non-metro areas.   That community, by the way, includes friends, family, and workmates.   These are people who don’t want to see the people they know & love confined to the closet.

Same w/ guns.   Rural communities can be engaged around the issue of safety productively if doing so isn’t couched in condescending and punitive terms.   Broadening the issue of high rates of unskilled labor immigration to focus on its impact on wages for less skilled domestic labor is a crucial missing link to the urban un- and under-employed.

The challenge is not designing a centrist agenda, it’s adopting an approach to party sufficiently grounded in the constituencies it hopes to represent that it knows the interests ideological issues obscure.    That’s a people-to-people problem.   It’s involving people in the discussions (months’ worth) required not just to get those interests articulated but to get them heard by other non-rural constituencies.




Finding Like & Unlike Minds

One reason the tide of Authoritarianism is washing up all around us is that we’re not talking to one another in ways that count as real dialogue.   Either we’re content to confirm the views of friends, allies, and associates expecting to have our own views validated or we’re taking turns deploring one another’s views.   Neither is the stuff of civic discourse.

Among the reasons is the moralistic lens through which we see now see politics & the degree to which that lens has become decidedly monochromatic.   Further, we mostly encounter these views as disembodied from their possessors who we generally don’t live near, work with, or worship among those who don’t think as we do.

The Network’s begun w/out the knowing the remedy for this condition.   How should we reconvene these conversations?   To what end?   Is there a way to avoid having them fall apart into recrimination & hostility?  All questions for which I don’t have answers, but I have an idea abt how to get an answer.

Find people apt to disagree.   That’s a start.   Then ask something w/ a view to finding something abt which we do now agree.   That might be that we’re in a mess.   “Looks like we’re in a mess, don’t you think?”    Maybe stay there for a while, avoiding either diagnosis or prescription.


Take Action Now

Amnesty International – Create or sign petitions

Ongoing Political Action

Rohingya Refugees
Special Election PA18 Conor Lamb vs. self-proclaimed Trump before Trump


Asma Jilani Jahangir
Bassel Khartabil
Liu Xiaobo
Srdja Popovic

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Anti-Corruption Foundation – Alexey Navalny
Arena – An effort based at the London School of Economics to combat disinformation efforts
Center for NonViolent Actions and Strategies
Freedom House
Human Rights Watch
National Endowment for Democracy


Alliance for Securing Democracy – Dashboard & more
Authoritarianism Goes Global
Primer on movement building to oppose Authoritarianism
Breaking Down Democracy – The Contemporary Authoritarian Toolbox


Anne Applebaum – scholar, journalist, activist
Isaiah Berlin – Message for the 21st Century
Erica Chenoweth – Why Civil Resistance Works
Richard Feynman
David Frum
Abraham Lincoln
Yascha Mounk
Michael Oakeshott – a short take
Karl Popper – The Open Society
Dr. Gene Sharp – Leading Researcher/Theoretician of Authoritarian Resistance
Mario Vargas Llosa