Skip to main content

The 'Christian militia' and sedition

My knee jerked a little bit this morning when I read in the New York Times that members of the Hutaree "Christian militia" are being charged, among other offenses, with sedition. My reading of American history is that sedition charges -- usually "seditious libel" charges -- have been brought here mainly in cases where the government sought to punish dissent rather than any real attempt to bring down the government.

Still, if you define "sedition" as the "stirring up of rebellion against the government in power," then the Hutaree -- if you believe the federal government's allegations -- seem to fit it. In the charge of "seditious conspiracy," the government says the Hutaree

did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to levy war against the United States, to oppose by force the authority of the Government of the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force any execution of United States law.

These allegation have to be proven, of course. But if true, they do seem to fit the definition.

So why does this seem so ... weird?

I think it's because the term "sedition" does have such a fraught history in this country, used mainly (it seems to me) to punish anti-war dissenters and mostly harmless leftists than genuine revolutionaries. "Sedition" has been a means of punishing thought crimes in this country, in other words.

And it's something that presidents and prosecutors have, in recent decades, seemed to avoid: My quick Google research can find no record of sedition or seditious libel charges for at least a half-century in this country. (UPDATE: A friend points out it's merely been 20 years since there's been a seditious conspiracy charge in this country. Still: That's fairly rare.) That's been true even through the attacks on Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center, and even as Americans like Jose Padilla, John Walker Lind and Adam Gadahn have taken up arms in the service of American enemies.

It seems, at first blush, that the "sedition" label might well fit the Hutaree. But given the history, it still makes me a little bit uncomfortable. And it frankly presents a bit of a challenge to the Obama Administration: It is, politically, continually fighting charges of "tyranny" from the right. Accurately deploying a "sedition" charge does not make Obama a tyrant -- but it will surely make it easier for the righty fringe to portrary him as one.

Comments

J said…
Well said, sir. Does *inappropriately* deploying charge of sedition a tyrant make?

I'm not suggesting that's what has happened; these guys do sound like nutjobs, but only time will tell (I hope) whether the charge fits any crime, or is just a way to rally hostility toward those who are crazy and rightwing. Because there are more than a few groups who are crazy and leftwing, too.

Popular posts from this blog

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Interesting:
Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…