In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “propaganda of the deed” — individual acts of violence intended to inspire revolution — became the signature anarchist activity. Among the prominent casualties were French president Sadi Carnot, American president William McKinley and Italian King Umberto I.
Although propaganda of the deed has faded into history as an actuality, it tends to pop up frequently in anti-anarchist demagoguery, and I can’t help but think it’s set to do so once again. Early state and media spin on the killing of Gerardo Hernandez, the first US Transportation Security Administration employee to die “in the line of duty,” already attributes “anti-government views” to his alleged killer, Paul Ciancia.
As an anarchist, I’m not a fan of propaganda by the deed for three reasons:
First, it’s strategically useless. No single act is likely to produce anarchist revolution in an environment not yet primed for such revolution.
Secondly, it’s tactically counter-productive. Anyone with the intelligence and energy to plan such an act could do so much more for the cause in other ways than getting himself killed or imprisoned in this kind of one-off project.
Finally, all such activities carry a heavy risk of “collateral damage” and we anarchists, unlike state actors, actually shoulder true responsibility for our actions instead of seeking excuses for them.
All that said, if Ciancia did what he’s accused of doing, in the manner he’s accused of doing it, whether he intended it as “progaganda of the deed” or not, he deserves the thanks and support of a grateful populace.
Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to US president Barack Obama, justified the Obama regime’s cold-blooded murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki — a 16-year-old American accused of no crime whatsoever — with the claim that if he didn’t want to be murdered, he should have “had a more responsible father” (his father, Anwar al-Awlaki, was in fact accused of crimes, although the evidence seemed pretty weak).
To riff on Gibbs: If Gerardo Hernandez didn’t want to be gunned down in reprisal for he and his fellow TSA employees’ terrorism, he shouldn’t have accepted employment as a terrorist.
Yes, TSA is a terrorist organization. Its entire purpose is to frighten travelers for political purposes — the very definition of terrorism — by subjecting them to unwanted and unjustifiable searches of their property and persons, sometimes assaulting them sexually or otherwise in the process, sometimes abducting them.
By all accounts, Ciancia was extraordinarily careful in his attack. He asked each person he encountered whether or not they worked for TSA. Those who did not were sent on their way unharmed. He shot terrorists, and ONLY terrorists, with no “collateral damage.”
I don’t have to think that’s smart, or particularly useful to my cause, to admire both the morality of the action and the careful restraint with which it was performed.
The world would be a much nicer place if every government employee dreamed dark dreams of Paul Ciancia and his potential copycats every night, arrived at work every morning with those dreams very much in mind, and aspired only to keep a low, polite profile and cause no offense until such time as he or she could leave the life of crime and find a real job.