On the topic of guillotines and false equivalencies

if i recall correctly, sophie scholl of the white rose was executed by the nazis with a guillotine.

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Correct. For some odd reason, the hand-wringers seldom acknowledge that the guillotine is as much a symbol of right-wing populist violence resulting from economic inequality as it is of left-wing populist violence. One could be forgiven for thinking it a “tell” about their political priorities.

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I assume the complaint now is something along the lines of “hey, you’re ‘just joking’ about killing exactly like the far-right tr0lls do”.

The key difference, of course, is that the far-right has proven itself more than willing to follow 7p on its “jokes” by killing its opponents for real. What’s the current count on facsist and antifa killings in the U.S. again?

Tu quoque is even more fallacious when the quoque doesn’t actually exist.

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And there comes a point where it’s too much fun.

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That brings back fond memories of teaching my precocious 9-year-old niece about guillotines and their associated history a few years back by building one with her using components from one of her Lego “Friends” playsets (which meant lots of bright pastels in the grim device). She was delighted, and her parents were howling with laughter when we showed them our work (complete with smiling minifig head in a basket).

I’m sure that made us all just as bad as Nazis, amirite?

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image

I hope I don’t come off as sounding dismissive or like a jerk here, I’m really hoping to engage.

I get the sense from what you write that you have a reasoned objection on moral grounds to using images of violence to promote a political idea. But I’m not exactly sure, like maybe you see this as a tactical issue of promoting politics, like you feel this using violent images to counter violent images is blurring rather than sharpening distinctions. I also wonder if this is actually personally affecting you, like do images of guillotines disturb you? (And I’m not claiming these are on the only possible reasons you are saying what you are saying, they are just the ones that come to my mind)

I think some of the criss-crossing threads of this discussion deal with the first two issues. On the reasoned, moral objection the reception you’ve gotten for that argument is the one you’ve gotten, the point has been made, and (I know this is just my opinion) the odds that someone walks away with with a more enlightened position on the matter have hit diminishing returns. On the tactical issue I think the rebuke about using civility against fascists and oppressors is dead on. It’s always much better to resolve things peacefully than with violence, but when someone’s intent is to harm you, not repelling force with equal force is basically just submitting to abuse.

If anyone personally finds images of guillotines disturbing I can really get that. It’s hard for me not to empathize with the last instants of life of a person blinking as the blood drains from their head. I mean, I imagine they are probably in a complete dissociated state and not even really themselves in any meaningful way, but it’s hard not to think of what it would be like to look up at the sky knowing that not only this is it, but you really are just a broken machine and that entire thing that you think of as you is about to turn off like a switch. It’s horrific.

When I think about the elite people running society into a further and further unequal dystopia, I don’t hope they have their heads cut off, but I do curse them for creating a situation where that might happen. Our obsession with the killing of kings is just another kind of reverence for kings. In a violent revolution the harms are going to go far beyond a few human deaths (because that’s all the elite are, humans). The whole society is going to turn on itself in a massive witch hunt for the disloyal (to one side or another) and the violence will be catastrophic. The new rulers will probably be as bad or worse than the old ones. No one knows if they are going to end up being a target of the violence (okay, some groups like transgender people know they are). No one wins.

For me guillotine images are a momento mori. We are in dark, grim times and horrible things are going to happen. There’s a part of me that wishes for a revolution but there is also a part of me that is so afraid of death that I think of killing myself just to get it over with. I don’t speak for anyone by myself, obviously, but I hope that helps to explain what people mean when they talk about “false equivalency”. Violent images in support of Trump are targeted at people who are glad that children are being held in cages and sexually abused by their government-funded captors and people who are looking forward to shooting up a church full of black people or a nightclub full of gay people. Images of the guillotine on this site are targeted towards people who feel the need for a concrete symbol of their intangible and intolerable sense of the dark times we are in.

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That’s an excellent way of putting it.

[related: before drafting my will, I offered my skull as a memento mori to a few relatives I thought would appreciate it. No takers, alas, so the new instruction is for my skeleton to be donated to one of the academic institutions I attended, where I can hang grinning in perpetuity in some classroom. Whether it comes to pass is another matter, but not one I’ll have to deal with]

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As far as I know, that number is still:

It takes a special kind of obtuse self-absorption not to know the difference between actual implied threats and people making silly jokes at someone’s expense.

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Sure does.

I’m sure those “good people on both sides” who would stomp my head as soon as look at me are really quaking in their boots over me, aren’t they?

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The left is perfectly capable of lots of violence as shown through history. You are right that currently in USA it’s the right that is responsible for the significant violence, but do we have to wait until a left wing activist kills someone before warning about the dangers of theses threatening images? Have you considered the possible consequences of a Marinus van der Lubbe today?

I have an objection about using images that seem to promote use of violence, even if the ones who post them claim it’s just a joke, because no matter the intention there is the risk both that people on the other side will feel threatened and act accordingly, and that you encourage people on your own side to use actual violence. At best it’s polarizing encouraging people on both sides to hate and fear each other.

As I recently stated, using a picture of a guillotine as a “Memento mori” in a context where you make it clear you use it a a historical analogy for how society can collapse into bloodshed if things get bad enough is fine.

To make it more complex there’s also all the people in the middle. The open fascists who would want to go around lynching blacks and killing journalists are not that many, and the goal has to be to isolate them, not make the left look just as bad. I understand people who don’t accept nazis marching on their street, but violence is a tactic that has to be used sparingly as a last resort.

I think you mean you “sometimes” have an objection to images that will make people feel threatened.

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I’m having trouble finding any guillotines for sale…

One would think that, if images of guillotines were actually inspiring people to act out what the images suggest, then there’d be a market demand for guillotines, which would cause some entrepreneurs to start selling them. But nobody is!

Seriously though, I think a guillotine image is more likely to inspire people to do some reading than it is some killing.

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I have some nifty stickers, if you want…

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I don’t know, but they seem to be getting more common.
image

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I am now very curious about the context and origin of that photo… but not enough to start being serious.

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You just have to know where to look.

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I saw it on TheChive. Reverse image says its from a blog of a couple of guys surfing the subways in Paris.

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That makes a weird sort of sense.

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Your quote could be straight from a 1932 German centrist. How’d that turn out, again?

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