Pride and Passion Part I: Historical Parallels to Political Violence
The Roman Republic existed and functioned for a period of time unparalleled by any other single form of non-Monarchical government in Western History. The fall of that Republic is discussed more often than its duration, and sometimes completely overlooked for the ‘Fall of Rome’ which could be more accurately labeled as ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ and not of the Republic itself. A year in particular when discussing this article on I which would advocate the reader to research would be ‘The Year of No Consul’, or sometimes more precisely called ‘The Year of Turmoil’. During the first stages of decline of the First Triumvirate (Julius Caesar [the mind], Pompey Magnus [the might], and Crassus [the money]) there was a period of time in Rome where the city itself, the Eternal City and foundation of the Republic and center of culture and power for the entire Western World, was under the direct control of two men not even of the Triumvirate who employed ‘Gladiators’ (Mercenaries, more accurately in this case) as a form of informal security.
Why is this important? Why drone on about an instance of mob-rule in ancient history? Well keep that question in mind while considering the political climate not only in the USA, but other prominent ‘Western’ countries. Up until this point, political violence was relatively normalized for the average Roman Citizen. Pushing and shoving was not uncommon when discussing politics, and the odd tavern brawl over Catonian (conservative) vs. Caesarian/Pompeyan (Reformers/Progressives) was not uncommon even before those two factions had risen to prominence. But this particular period saw political violence used to create absolute chaos in the streets that took direct military intervention to solve, and the deaths of many people along the way. The corpses of thugs, politicians, and the average citizens and plebs would line the streets. Murder became a daily occurrence. Hostage taking and ransoms were not uncommon. Two particular men representing the two factions were the ones to rise. Sparing you their full Roman names, let us simply refer to them as ‘Milo’ (conservative) and ‘Clodius’ (reform).
Clodius was indeed the first to draw the sword, though swords were forbidden inside the city and province of Rome at the time, and use them to directly influence a vote by no other actions than simply massacring a crowd of plebs assembling to vote on a law proposed by the senate… That law? Allowing ‘Cicero’ (a wonderful person to read on as Liberalists) to come back from banishment imposed on him by violent radicals a few years before. But Cicero as a moderate was unwelcome in the current political climate by various factions, and even though the bill passed in the senate with support from Pompey himself, Clodius suddenly came up with the funds to hire a small army of mercenaries to massacre anyone even attempting to vote on it. Indeed, Tribunes of the Plebs were harmed as well which was a death-penalty offense. In response, Milo formed his own band of mercenaries to counter-act the mob-rule that would soon overtake the city. Both bands of mercenaries were hard to pin down, hard to force anyone to take responsibility for. Both Clodius and Milo assumed plausible deniability for all crimes committed, regularly accusing the other of the worst actions taken (including the murder and rape of children on the street).
The Result? Did Milo’s mercenaries make a difference? No. In fact, while it didn’t make things worse in terms of the violence being done, it made day-to-day functions of life nearly impossible. A perfect example of how responding to street-level illegal political violence with your own version is not only a quick descent into madness, but will fundamentally counter-act your goals as both sides will begin to twist things politically through intimidation and violence to keep their faction alive. Another good argument for why a state-mandated officer(s) of the peace is/are needed, as they can best exercise control over these situations since their goal is not to harm (or shouldn’t be), but to maintain stability. Responding with street-level political violence against other groups using street-level political violence will never reach the goal you think it does. It makes violent resistance on both sides inevitable, rather than an inexcusable course of action.
Eventually the situation in Rome was only solved by direct military intervention from none other than Pompey Magnus himself. A second time within 20-30 years that Roman Soldiers were required to march the streets as a state security force just to make sure the average citizens could function without fear of one of the violent mobs seeing them as reasonable targets. It was actually Milo’s death that sparked the final tinder for this action, seeing him as a martyr, the Senate had finally had enough. Political violence begetting political violence, on and on into a cycle that made dictators the most reasonable option for Rome to follow just for stability.
I thank you for bearing with me through that historical recitation of what might seem like a long rambling non-sequitur. However I think with the subject at hand it is a critical example of how people that seek their own fame, and the control of others, willingly employ political violence as a tool to control the flow of events. People that tend towards a specific political outcome will use these tactics. Keep these principles and examples in your mind, and let us delve deeper into the modern ‘Milo’s Boys’ as I have identified them myself.