2012: Maybe the Mayans Were Right

Lots of  “end of the world” hype preceded December 21st, 2012, the end of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar. In China, the impending date even occasioned mass arrests of supposed “doomsday cult” members — probably run-of-the-mill religious or political dissidents, of course, but that the regime would pick such a tie-in as the latest justification for its usual activities indicates that the Mayan legend gained considerable depth of social and media penetration.

Some of the less bombastic analyses of the “Long Count” phenomenon noted that it didn’t necessarily mean the end of the world, but merely the end of a long historical cycle, to be followed by a new paradigm. Now, I don’t buy into the Mayan mythology for any purposes, but it occurs to me that 2012 may indeed have been a turning point of sorts.

This year, for the first time in my own life and  in a nearly century or so so far as I know, the term “anarchist” started popping up as more than an aside in conventional media narratives. It’s been gaining ground for the last decade or so with e.g. references to Black Bloc activists at WTO demonstrations and such, but this year it began to move toward center stage.

As the Greek state found itself besieged and nearing complete disintegration under the burden of its politicians’ debts, the media used anarchists as their first bete noire, highlighting their involvement in that country’s counter-“austerity” protests.

In April, one of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s security operations (you know, the ones where they incessantly hector a few unstable people to commit violent acts, then swoop in to save the day when they finally get a bite) netted four “anarchists” for agreeing to blow up a bridge in Ohio. Nothing unusual about the operation per se — the FBI is by far the most prolific group of terrorist plotters in the world — but we must keep in mind that the “perpetrators” aren’t randomly picked. The FBI chose “anarchists” because they wanted to highlight (read: manufacture) a particular threat.

The trend continued all year long, culminating in December when the Southern Poverty Law Center reached into its magical “scare the bejabbers out of liberals so they pull out their checkbooks” hat and pulled out … drum roll, please … “anarcho-capitalists.”

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “anarcho-capitalists” are the slightly addled step-siblings of market anarchists (slightly addled because they conflate “capitalism” with free markets, incorrectly positioning themselves on the “right” — that is, the wrong — end of the left-right political spectrum).

The SPLC attempts, with some success (mostly due to a hare-brained “right populist” electoral strategy launched back in the late 1980s and early 1990s by “anarcho-capitalists” Murray N. Rothbard and Lew Rockwell, in collusion with conservative politician Ron Paul), to link “anarcho-capitalists” with the right-wing “Patriot” movement.

What’s interesting about the SPLC’s scare play is not that the connection, however tenuous, exists. It’s that SPLC thinks it can effectually wave the anarchist black flag as a bloody fundraising shirt.

To grab a military intelligence term, this is what’s known as an “Enemy Activity Indicator.” SPLC’s selection of fundraising hobgoblins usually runs in tandem with — sometimes a little ahead or a little behind, but in the same general areas as — the state’s own security theater playbill. And they prefer to run a little ahead so that they can claim “canary in the coal mine” status when the next Big Scare cranks up.

It’s hard to say whether 2012 was an indicator of actually surging anarchism, or of the state’s intent to use anarchism as the excuse for its next “big push” toward totalitarianism. If I had to guess, I’d say the answer is a little big of both … and that these phenomena tend to fuel each other.

At 365 years of age, the Westphalian nation-state is fraying around the edges and brittle at its core. Every day, it becomes more clear that the state as we know it cannot successfully compete with the non-state networks now operating in every political and economic sector worldwide. The stateless society isn’t just looking more and more theoretically viable, it is openly emerging as the paradigm of the next long historical cycle.

Stand by for interesting times.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory