“Try to realise it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you.” –George Harrison
When you take political philosophy classes you eventually get to the point where you read Niccolo Machiavelli. It’s really unavoidable. One of the things I’ve talked about with my daughter is the concept of a “money line”. Essentially, it is the line all writers are hoping to find. They are the poignant lines we remember from our favorite songs and poems. They are the lines that live on forever in literature. They quite literally stand on their own.
For Machiavelli the line was the infamous, “the ends justify the means.” The line is so iconic that most people could scarcely say what the title of the book was. Hell, most people probably identify the line before they identify Machiavelli. The rest of us hope to get there someday.
These thoughts came to mind when PBS released a poll about the events on January 6th. Tomorrow will be the anniversary of that event and a year later we can’t even get any kind of agreement on what to call it. We certainly can’t get agreement on the implications of it.
Ultimately, it is a disagreement on ends and means. For those that never took a political philosophy class, the ends refer to the goals of a particular action. The means refer to how the goals are obtained. The poll results above certainly tell us a great deal about how some people view ends and means.
The 25 percenters represent the hardcore membership in the modern day GOP. They are the ones that excuse the events on January 6th and somehow decry what had happened in the cities around the country the previous summer when Black Lives Matter and Antifa protested police brutality. The difference of course is one of both ends and means.
Even if we accept the narrative that protesters were solely responsible for the acts of vandalism in the summer protests, those acts were not central to the protests. The vandalism and violence were not ends. In fact, they weren’t even the primary means to the end. They were unfortunate byproducts of so many people involved in something that wasn’t exceptionally organized.
As most of my readers know, we can’t accept the premise that the protesters were responsible for all of the violence and vandalism. Conservatives are overwhelmingly adept at the concept of projection. Accusations of voter fraud, vandalism, and violence are there because they do those things themselves. The first clue should be their insistence that BLM and Antifa were infiltrating the crowds on January 6th. The notion is ridiculous and yet makes perfect sense when you consider it in this context.
The modern day equivalent to ends and means would be bugs and features. Was violence on the 6th a bug or a feature? We know it was a bug for the summer protests. We know this because it actually detracted from the goals of the protests. We know this because right wing insurgent groups used the tactic of drumming up violence and vandalism to derail their aims. Of course, while we know of some isolated incidents of right wing provocative action, we don’t know if the majority of the violence and vandalism were inspired by insurgents.
What also know is that violence and vandalism were features of the attack of January 6th. It wasn’t an unfortunate byproduct of people exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly. It was wholly necessary so that they could reach the end of their action. They wanted to prevent the legal counting of electoral votes. They hoped it would be returned to the states and thrown into the House of Representatives. They wanted the rightful victor to be replaced by their guy. Ends and means and features and bugs. That’s the key to this whole thing.