Ancient Insurrections and Ours
Plus, the right's new crusade against corporate speech.
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Ancient Insurrections—and Ours. BRET DEVEREAUX on why would-be tyrants keep trying until they succeed.
There are always risks in drawing comparisons across vast chasms of time and culture, and of course there are more recent insurrections—including from our own country’s history—which we can study and learn from. But if we can stretch the scientific metaphor of laboratories of democracy, the sheer number of little, self-governing, somewhat democratic states in ancient Greece is valuable. There are, after all, comparatively few modern democracies and most of those democracies are fairly young; the United States is arguably the oldest. By contrast the Greek experiment in self-government ran for centuries and was repeated hundreds of times in different ancient Greek states. That robust “data set” allowed more observant Greeks to notice recurrent themes both in how self-government functioned and how self-government failed.
Among the ways self-government might fail, the most common, repeated in numerous poleis, was the emergence of a tyrant—another Greek coinage, by which they meant merely one-man rule; tyranny would gain its negative reputation from the actions of Greek tyrants, but the term was initially a neutral descriptive term for one-man rule. No astute Greek would have any problem identifying the events of January 6 as a step in the path by which self-government falls into tyranny; attempting to seize the center of government with a mob of supporters was a standard tactic for would-be tyrants. Indeed, in Athens the would-be tyrant Kylon attempted to seize power in exactly this way in 632, storming the Athenian Acropolis with an armed mob during a religious festival, though the attempt failed. Some two centuries later, a similar coup launched by the Four Hundred—the Athenian elite—seized control of the state by arriving as a mob and dispersing the Athenian boule, the supervisory council which oversaw the Athenian assembly and the closest thing Athens had to a congress. Such efforts are farcical only until they succeed.
Yes, there was a riot at the Capitol, but keep your eye on the ball: Trump tried to destroy American democracy. He literally tried to steal the election. Jonathan Karl joins Charlie Sykes on today's podcast.
The Right’s New Legal Crusade Against Corporate Free Speech… CORBIN BARTHOLD analyzes the bad laws, dizzying hypocrisy, and fantasies of the past and future.
Conservatives have soured, to put it mildly, on corporate free speech. Last spring Senator Mitch McConnell urged “corporate America” to “stay out of politics.” (He later backtracked, perhaps realizing that he is not one to talk on the subject.) “Big Business has gone hard left,” Senator Ted Cruz recently protested. At the Federalist Society’s national convention last month, many top conservative lawyers questioned corporate political power. “Massive corporations,” one speaker asserted, are seeking “to destroy American freedom.” Vivek Ramaswamy, a tech entrepreneur and critic of woke culture —he is the author of the new book Woke, Inc.—endorsed the left’s objection to Citizens United v. FEC (the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that conservatives loved). In political debates, he said, “every person’s voice and vote” should be “weighted equally, unadjusted by the number of dollars they control.”
As David Brooks observes, the right is coalescing around a new project: “using state power” to “humble the big corporations” and “push back against coastal cultural values.” But vowing to enact laws that tame woke capitalism is one thing; crafting and passing legislation another; and ensuring that that legislation is constitutional yet another.
ON THE JUKEBOX: Richard Ashcroft’s C'mon People (We're Making It Now) Live on BBC Radio 1.
Southpark nails it. You know they wrote this well before the Omicron variant, right?
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