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"And yet, if we were to tear the existing social order down to the studs, that would also mean grappling with well-armed white supremacists, who have their own plans for who and how the law ought to protect and bind. "

Excellently put, well said

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Apr 24Liked by Dave Karpf

"I have no combat skills."

I don't think this observation is quite to the point, because it plays to the trope that "only the strong survive" etc. The underlying fact is your later observation that as an individual, you have (almost) no agency. "In this world, a man - by himself - is nothing." No matter how much of a mean motherfucker you are, no matter how well trained or how well armed, no matter your Navy SEAL experience, whether you survive a civil war is mostly a matter of chance. Pajama Boy may well outlive you. And to the degree it is not a matter of chance, it is this: the best people die first. Those who are willing to take a risk to help others actually do suffer from that risk.

I agree with everything else though.

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Rules for Radicals keeps popping up. Which means I should read it.

In my conversations with students - there are firebrands in engineering - and my 20-30 something friends, I have tried to show why burning it all down is harder in the long run than perseverance in advancing change.

I’ll sharing this with that in mind.

Thanks for the review.

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Well, and harder on your psychological well being. There are so many leftist thinkers and writers online who I used to admire who had all talked themselves from Occupy onwards through the Trump years into believing the Revolution was just an election cycle away. Then in 2020 when it didn't happen they collapsed into bitterness and nihilism.

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Apr 24Liked by Dave Karpf

I haven't seen CIVIL WAR yet, but it reminds me of a movie that I saw not too long ago, NEW ORDER (2020), a Mexican film that takes place there in some possible current or near-future timeline, and seems to cover much of the same territory: there is a revolution, enacted in much violence and senseless bloodshed, and in the aftermath there is a lot of chaos, confusion, and actually more violence and senseless bloodshed (also a lot of physical and sexual torture, which I'll forewarn as a "Trigger Warning"), to where it is "resolved" in a way that doesn't allow any of the protagonists to be heroes, just passive witnesses, or worse, instruments to a means to an end.

It still kind of haunts me...

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Apr 24Liked by Dave Karpf

I only know one person who understand what happens when society falls apart. She was a middle class 13 year-old. Her mom was an administrative assistant at a university. Her dad was an auto repair mechanic. Life was ordinary. One night, men came to their house, arrested her father, and took him away. Nine months later (I don’t know any details) her father was released and the family fled Bosnia to cousins in Germany. Three years later, they re-settled in the US. Societies can fall apart. Ordinary people bear the brunt of the harm.

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I've read and heard from ex-Yugos that part of the reason that the grief around Marshal Tito was so enormous was that most people understood he was the only thing holding the whole country together and that something like Bosnia was inevitable from then on.

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Apr 24Liked by Dave Karpf

This is the first positive review of Civil War that I've seen, and it's an interesting take. Movie critics focus on it as a movie, and so look askance at the lack of world building to support the narrative and justify absurdities like a joint California/Texas succession. But as straight-up agitprop, I imagine it's a banger, as the kids say, a blood-soaked meditation on the fragility of civilization and the United States of America as a going concern in particular. Sounds like Cormac McCathy's The Road, which also takes pains to avoid an explanation for the conditions the protagonists struggle through, focusing on the chaos, chance, and human nature freed from the chains of civilization as a result of war, the bringer of chaos. An old story with a fresh coat of paint.

In this case, war in America, the Homeland. Something last seen in the War of Northern Agression some 160 years ago. So the temptation to frame the fighting as a civil war was overwhelming. But fighting to what end? McCarthy The Road dodges the same question (a bit more successfully, since he doesn't have the baggage of the current culture war that Civil War embraces) so you're left with an exhausting marathon of horror and loss. Lessons to be learned I guess, but what that baggage includes is a need for answers, not lessons. Well, liberals want answers and resolution. MAGA want vindication. Neither will get what they want from this movie.

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It was NOT a war of northern aggression.

It was a war of White Supremacy.

Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, on slavery and the Confederate Constitution, 1861

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition…

“The negro by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system…

“It is, indeed, in conformity with the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances or to question them. For His own purposes He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made ‘one star to differ from another in glory’.”

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[John McBain gif] "Dot's da joke".

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Coulda workshopped the 'joke' a little bit, then.

Then again 'dots da joke', in context, is a joke about how awful the comedian is, so with enough layers of meta, maybe it comes around again.

Anyway now I get to sit with the sudden realization that meme referencers are so media illiterate they got a dead-simple Simpsons joke entirely backwards. So there's that.

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Apr 24Liked by Dave Karpf

As always, nothing means the same to everyone except when you see your loved ones torn to pieces through the intentions of those possessed with ideology driven by righteousness, power and greed. I am too old to fear the possibility of Civil War in my life, but I have warned my immediate family about its possibility. Nothing is worth killing for but there are those who would disagree.

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Eh, I'm a little tired of the "Now imagine that it's happening to white people!" trope that takes a historical or ongoing issue and creates a scenario in which it would affect wealthy white Americans. I agree with you on what the movie was trying to do, and it succeeded to some extent, but it came off as so overly simplistic that instead of being emotionally affected by it I felt distanced by it. I didn't have any reaction to the president's death because I didn't know if he was a tyrant or if he had been trying to hold the country together in the face of widespread succession. That feels like an important distinction, even if the message of the film is that revolution is always messy no matter which side you're on. I will always prefer an unapolagetically political film like 'The Battle for Algiers' to a film that doesn't have much more to say about violence beyond that it's bad.

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author

That makes sense. It resonated for me, doesn't mean it'll resonate for everyone. I also didn't have a reaction to the president's death, but that meant the movie left me sitting with that lack-of-reaction. And, upon reflection, I think leaving me to sit with that was an effective artistic choice.

I also don't watch a lot of war movies though. Entirely possible that this is a more well-worn trope, and thus less effective/less affecting upon those who do.

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"Now imagine that it's happening to white people!" Yeah, l get that also. When I get annoyed with it, I ask myself how else we can aid people's desire and ability to access or build compassion and empathy for those who aren't in their "in-group?" The, "It could happen to you!" thing goes some way toward doing that, although I agree it's not a great tool.

It's hard-wired into humans to have an in-group for which they have empathy and concern and for which they'll fight to protect. The unfortunate other side to that coin is that it's also hard-wired into us to not trust those who aren't in whatever our group consists of (belief system, family, town, state, nation, for instance), to the point where we hate them and dehumanize them, cementing them in our minds as "other."

Somehow we need to work around that by making our in-group far larger and more diverse than it will naturally be for most of us. For instance, our in-group has to include the people who currently have to camp on the street downtown in my city. I see no other way to solve that problem. People have to stop seeing them as "other" and learn that they're our neighbors as much as the folks next door.

There are different kinds of revolution, I keep reminding myself. Expanding people's compassion to include everyone (or at least far larger numbers of people) is a revolutionary thought and working toward it is a revolutionary act. Success in that direction affects absolutely everything. Every bit

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Should have had a spoiler warning there. Also, my mistake for reading through the comments of a film I haven't had a chance to watch yet.

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Apr 25Liked by Dave Karpf

"There is a complete lack of political worldbuilding in the movie.": For me, I'm afraid that makes the movie uninteresting. What's this war about? What do these combatants think they're fighting for? With respect to the civil war that actually happened in the ironically named United States of America, the answers to these questions are well known*. With respect to the movie, in the absence of answers to these questions, how is it plausible?

I'm not just nitpicking. Yes indeed, "The people who buy guns tend to wear MAGA hats. The people who join police forces also tend to wear MAGA hats on their days off." As do the people who join the border patrol and many of the people who join the military. So why would the outcome be civil war? Who's going to fight back against the fascists with enough force to make any difference? As far as I've seen, "antifa" is little more than a bogeyman of fascist agitprop. If there's a there there at all, it seems pretty puny.

Far more likely, it seems to me, is a fascist takeover, first gradual - it's already started - then sudden, like the one described in William Allen's book "The Nazi seizure of power". That takeover definitely involved violence; for example, Allen remarks that by 1932, "Political violence was becoming a permanent institution ... between July 1 and July 20, there were 461 political riots in Prussia in which eighty-two people were killed and over 400 seriously injured." However, that's a long way from civil war, at least as I'd use the term; for example, a conservative estimate of the death toll from the Syrian civil war is over 350,000 people**. There was no civil war in Germany, because much as in the USA at present, the opponents of fascism were numerous but disorganized, irresolute, and otherwise weak.

I had the misfortune to be raised and schooled by what are now called Republican base voters. Even after four years of Cheetolini, I think most nice, liberal-ish Americans still don't grasp what they're up against. I'd welcome movies - or practically anything else - that seriously tried to shake them out of their complacency.

*Despite the efforts of people like my mother, who grew up in Jim Crow North Carolina and remembered it fondly, to obfuscate the matter.

**https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-58664859

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Apr 29·edited Apr 29Liked by Dave Karpf

I've yet to see Civil War, but from this review it sounds similar in spirit to one of my all-time favorites, Ingmar Bergman's "Shame". The movie tracks ordinary people trying to survive as a civil war begins to break out. We're given no information about the politics of the revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries. When the revolutionaries show up, civilians are made to support them out of fear for their lives. When the counter-revolutionaries clear out the revolutionaries, those civilians must answer for why they supported the traitors. It is horrific, and deeply human.

To that last point about who has the guns, January 6th was sobering on this front. I hung out in radical circles when I was younger (never participated in much myself, but many of my friends did), and everyone was always talking about "the revolution". January 6th is what you get if you take lefty radicalism and replace the lefties with paranoid libertarians. Not pretty.

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Apr 24Liked by Dave Karpf

Here's the poem sent from poetry foundation today, seems like y'all were channelling each other's wavelengths.

https://poets.org/poem/public-speech?mc_cid=015ec25a22&mc_eid=fa5353a04f

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I haven't yet seen the film, because I got sick. But, I agree on principle that the film doesn't have to make sense from the standpoint of our politics. In fact, I suspect it works better with the proposterous alliance between California and Texas, because this allows you to discard the how and why in your mind and just focus on what happens as a result.

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Ironically, I agree with what you say about the movie... and that's precisely why I think it fails.

It may be a cautionary tale for the odd firebrand-leftist you meet each year on your campus and it may be a useful, if blunt, tool to teach them that the revolution won’t be anything like they imagine.

But then, this begs two questions.

One, did we needed a 50-million dollars movie for that? I don't think so. You seem to do a perfectly fine job and I don't think that your once-a-year firebrand-leftist would really be enough to ressuscitate the Weather Underground.

Two, what about the other side? What about the firebrand-right-winger? What does the movie say to them?

I'm afraid that the movie is so hellbent on scaring liberals and people on the left that it basically tells the firebrand-right-winger they are right to want a civil war.

Take the scene in the petrol station. In a few lines of dialog (something like "we knew each other in high school... he didn't talk to me much back then"), the movie basically tells the disenfranchised low-education white trash that he would finally be able to get his revenge against the more popular/more successful guy who was snubbing him in high school.

Then, the sequence in the "safe" town comes to tell the militia men who dream themselves as vigilantes and heroes of their little town that, yes, they could be the people who keep their town safe.

Then, in the Jesse Lemons sequence, the movie is explicitely showing that a civil war would be the occasion for a ethnic purge. That's litterally what the readers of The Turner diary wants to see.

And finally, you've got the assault on Washington and the White House. This sequence is basically what Qanon followers fantasizing about "The Storm" are dreaming of.

So the way I'm seeing it, Civil War wants to scare some people who were neither motivated nor numerous enough to start a civil war. But by doing so, it vindicates groups who may not be motivated and numerous enough... but are definitely more motivated and more numerous.

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Someone will have to grapple with the well-armed white supremacists eventually..

This post sums up everything I hate about liberals. "I hate white supremacists but I will support them against revolutionaries because it could be worse."

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Wow, Saul Alinksy, a name I haven't heard in years. I liked his Rules for Radicals. He wasn't trying to save the world, just to make the world a little bit better. He was a tactician. He had goals and methods. I remember watching Occupy Wall Street and waiting. I figured eventually someone would articulate a goal and start applying pressure towards obtaining it. It never happened. It was all theater. We need less theater.

I'm reading Revolutionary Spring about the 1848 revolution in Europe. It was part of the same war. As now, there were the conservatives with their mystical natural order and the radicals who want to create a new world. The revolution was crushed, but it was the liberals, many of whom participated in the revolution, who helped make things better afterwards. They could only take baby steps, but Bismarck wasn't talking about universal health care and wage and hour laws because he was a saintly guy.

As George Orwell ended his essay on Charles Dickens, "It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls."

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One thing I find disappointing in many of the reviews of this movie is the reference to Iraq's civil strife without acknowledging that this very country is the reason for the strife in Iraq and so many other countries. There's an *almost* acknowledged arguement of "Gosh I hope the horror we've visited upon many other countries in the last 70 years doesn't come back to haunt us at home!"

And while I'm certain there are overzealous (and probably annoying) young radicals in every semester of David's classes, I also find offense in the equivocation of people who crave some violent catharsis as being indistinguishable from those willing to state that the political & economic structures of the US are deeply flawed and therefore we must envision & fight for structures that are fundamentally different.

If a few hotheads in a college class are able to throw the country into civil war then I submit that the whole system was already thoroughly rotted through before they registered for the class.

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