Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Divide and Conquer

In the news lately is a discussion of how the Obama administration is on the attack with certain groups, such as Fox News, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the insurance industry. Their modus operandi is to divide and conquer: separate the the "bad guys" from the "good guys" in a group, and constantly disparage them.

To the White House press, they've insisted that Fox News does not report on real news, and that real media would only report what was given them by the White House. Instead of dealing directly with the Chamber of Commerce, they deal with individual companies. They separate insurance companies out from the rest of the health industry.

This attempt to divide and conquer has a long historical basis. If you can divide your enemies, they cannot long stand against you.

The Jacobins used this strategy during the French Revolution. Initially, they began their attacks on the royalists, those loyal to the king. They enlisted the help of the media of the day, the newspapers, and the mobs. Turning the mobs first against the "far right" royalists, allowed them to have moderates join them in their overthrow of the Bastille and the execution of the royal family.

Once the royalists were either dead or in exile, the Jacobins continued in their grab for absolute power. They now focused on the moderates. Moderates fled in droves. The French hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette, fled to America and lived there several years until the dust settled.

The Jacobin revolution continued, gaining steam as the mobs went from one extreme to a new extreme. Instead of "liberty, equality, fraternity" the French Revolution turned into a slaughter. Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities clearly showed the differences between London and Paris: civilized versus savage, law versus chaos, rule of law versus mob rule. Innocent people were guillotined in Paris, drowned by the shipload off the coast, and staked down en masse in the country side to be killed by cannon. Kangaroo courts replaced courts of law. Mobocracy determined who was the "bad guy" from day to day, with the rules continually changing.

The only thing that could stop the run away train was to impose a dictatorship. Napoleon Bonaparte was able to establish order where the Jacobin radicalism could only create chaos. Real freedom would have to wait for another day, decades later.

The American Revolution was different. With the creation of the Constitution, rule of law was quickly established. Though imperfect, it allowed a framework within which individuals could attempt to succeed in their personal endeavors. Allowing for amendments, means allowing for change as needed, but it would be careful and deliberate change. When followed as written, it did not allow room for mob rule or extremists to gain control. This is why health care has taken time to work: Congress is made up of a variety of individuals who are to represent their constituent base. Radical change does not happen often in this realm, enabling a stable foundation people can rely on and expect.

However, if certain radical political groups on the right or left were able to "divide and conquer" effectively; gaining power over the press, over business, and over the minds of the people, we could easily see ourselves devolve into the Jacobin madness that destroyed any hope of a successful French Revolution. Such madness occurred in some regions during the collapse of the Soviet Union, allowing radicalism to prosper for a time, only to collapse and be replaced by a strong dictatorship, once again.

While President Obama may not be a radical, there are plenty of radicals on the left of him, who would love to gain absolute power of the process. Nancy Pelosi is just one of many who would love to impose their form of radicalism on the nation. Let's ensure we all stay well informed on the issues, knowing all sides of the debate. And let's ensure no one is out to demonize or destroy our nation piece by piece, as the Jacobins did during the French Revolution.

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