Chapter 6: A Field Guide to Strategies
The empire is ending, but that doesn’t mean we’re helpless, mere leaves in the tornado of chaos that’s to come. Far from it! What follows is a list of practical strategies for surviving, and perhaps even thriving, during the end of the American empire. This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it’s a healthy one, and most of these strategies can be combined or customized.
Personal alliances (NATO for individuals)
Perhaps you’ve heard of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Setting aside all the complex maneuverings embodied in this multilateral agreement between nations, the basic idea is quite simple: an attack on one is an attack on all. It’s a powerful idea, so powerful it forms the basis of every cohesive unit in human history.
There’s no reason this idea can’t be extended on an interpersonal level, and that’s exactly what some people are doing, myself included. I have an agreement with a small group of people that if I’m attacked in a way that goes against our shared values, these people will have my back. Likewise I will have theirs.
In other words, if someone, or some agency, wants to take me down, they will also have to take on everyone I’m in an alliance with, and then, quite possibly, take on all the people those people are in an alliance with.
I strongly encourage you to make these alliances, and I strongly encourage you to keep the exact details of them private. If it’s not obvious why this is a good idea, you’ve never had a child who treated your rules as an invitation to look for loopholes or weaknesses. You might also be the kind of person who doesn’t understand why it was a bad idea for the US, in its disastrous departure from Afghanistan, to give the Taliban a list of people it wanted them to kindly let through the airport gates to leave.
Related to this . . .
Be the government you want to replace
I’m writing this in early September 2021. The US has just withdrawn troops from Afghanistan in the worst imaginable way (what brain-dead general pulls out the soldiers before the civilians, or leaves behind enough weapons to invade another country?).
With so many civilians left behind and the Taliban checking their list of Americans and Afghan allies to eliminate, some people decided to do something. Radio host Glenn Beck, for example, set up the Nazarene Fund to airlift Christians (and others) to freedom. Apparently he’s raised $30 million and has successfully flown out thousands of people on his privately chartered planes.
Others are taking even more aggressive approaches, hiring private military contractors (mercenaries) to go on armed rescue missions.
What do you call a group that comes together to raise an army and protect the interests of its people? You got it, a government!
I should note straight up that governments don’t really like it if people within their borders form complementary (or competing!) governments. This can complicate things immensely for the mother government, especially when you have groups of Americans killing foreigners without the expressed written consent of the main government. What a mess! No strong nation would permit its citizens to do this, but we’re not a strong nation, and when the government refuses to act in the most basic way to save the lives of its citizens, that’s a gap that will absolutely attract others to step in to save their brethren.
Develop and use alternate infrastructure
There are now reasonable alternatives to most of the major social networks out there. They may not be as polished or as trafficked, but they don’t hate you, so there’s that. Among other alternatives, check out Odysee or Rumble as a YouTube alternative. Locals is a way to support individual content creators. I haven’t heard many reports of Substack censoring for political reasons yet. I also support a few podcasters on Patreon, though I’d prefer they used other services. I do most of my searching on DuckDuckGo. None of these choices, made by me alone, make much difference. But on the margin they help, and everything happens on the margin.
Cultivate back channels of communication
Speaking of the socials, sooner or later they’ll come for the accounts of everyone who opposes the system, not just the Alex Joneses who stick their necks out. Anyone who organizes a protest will be banned from messaging their friends. Then anyone who attends a protest will be banned. Then they’ll start monitoring your text messages. Then they’ll start blocking certain ones. Think ahead; plan ahead. Make sure your right to free association is able to route around their efforts to prevent it.
Other ways to act en loco governmentus
There are lots of other ways to act like a government, without being the government. You can join mutual aid societies. Or fill potholes instead of calling the city. Yes, this is money out of your pocket when it should be coming out of the government coffers you filled. And yes, that sucks. But do it often enough in a wide enough geographic area (and with the help of others!), and one of two things will happen. Either you’ll be in a place where you can demand your city government lay off construction workers and refund the money (unlikely, but not impossible), or at the very least you’ll embarrass the roads department enough to get off their asses and fix your streets. You may be stuck with a mafia, but at least you can have one that saves your car’s suspension.
Here’s another one: contribute to those mini libraries people put on their lawns. Don’t scoff at this. My librarian ex-wife used to take it upon herself to do occasional curation work on these, tossing out the soggy ones, moving around books, swapping between boxes. It may look small, but this is private infrastructure serving a public need. Get practice on something small, because we just might need to jump in on bigger projects after the fall of the empire.
Complain to the guy making your sandwich
Have you been to Subway lately? Were you aware that it recently made the second-worst-ever choice in corporate history of a spokesperson to represent it in ads, Megan Rapinoe? (The first-worst choice also goes to Subway for its pick of Jared. Look him up, but only if you haven’t just consumed a foot-long tuna on whole wheat with extra mayo.)
The corporate suits couldn’t care less that they just hired someone who’s widely despised outside of woke elitist circles. They spend all their time in these circles. You know who does care? Franchise owners. Do you know why they care? It’s not because they have time to worry about politics while managing restaurants and often squeezing on that extra mayo themselves; it’s because some large number of people have walked into their stores and yelled at them about Subway’s spokesperson. So many that you have quotes like this, from the owner of a store in polite Wisconsin: “It gets tiring apologizing.” They are now pressuring the parent company to kick Rapinoe off their field.
Call out the contractors on the Death Star
The cult-classic movie Clerks contains the following conversation about contractors on the Death Star in the not-at-all cult-classic Star Wars movie Return of the Jedi. Clerk Randal points out that when the second Death Star was blown up, it was still under construction, implying that it had lots of contractors working on it:
“A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I’ll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.”
What follows is a discussion of the morality (or immorality) of those contractors, and whether they deserved to get blown up along with everyone else on the Death Star.
An actual contractor hears the conversation and jumps in with his own experience of a job he had to decline. He comments:
“You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault.”
As taxpayers and law-abiding citizens of the American empire, we are all to some extent contractors on the Death Star. But some of us much more than others. For those in a position that’s much more supportive of the empire, it sometimes helps to point out that they do indeed have a moral responsibility for the people they work for, especially if their work consists in building a death ray. Or quarantine camps.
It’s also worth pointing out what tends to happen to contractors on Death Stars when the Jedi finally return and the rebel force strikes back. Is that contractor really prepared to go down with someone else’s ship? A job may be a job, but picking up nickels in front of a steamroller is rarely a good bet.
I’ve talked about how the Left use language. Remember that the language belongs to us, too. To me, the unvaxed are now “pures,” overly compliant people suffer EDD (excessive docility disorder), and the people peddling fake news about Covid treatments are “horse dewormers.” “Fake news” itself was a brilliant co-opting of language by the former president (though it did nothing to stop the torrent of it). I invite you to join me in calling those people wearing masks alone in their cars Covidians. Or to use the expression “cultural colonists” to refer to the people currently running their tanks over anyone who offends their sensibilities. Remember that language is politics by other means.
Also, use memes. They are the political language of our time.
Use the law
For most of my life, “There oughta be a law” has been the chant of the ignorant and nearsighted. But now, with a federal government that’s effectively unbounded in its reach, laws of self-defense are worth considering, especially at the state and local levels.
Here are a few of my suggestions, as examples only:
Given that Twitter and other social platforms ban users for ideological reasons, it should be illegal for any government official to use these platforms in an official capacity, as that discriminates against this subset of the population. Require that all official communication be done on platforms that don’t censor.
Route around immigration policy and take in refugees fleeing locked-down or communist countries.
Make your locality divest from locked-down countries, or even states.
Have the CDC branded a domestic terrorist organization (how else would you describe their doom and gloom rhetoric other than as an effort to terrorize?)
Pass bizarre, blatantly unconstitutional laws that push in the right direction. Require stores to post a big sign declaring the percentage of the items they carry that are manufactured in communist countries or ones like Australia that deny basic human rights like freedom of association. Charge a citywide “woke” tax on any corporation that moved headquarters in response to a change in voting laws. Or go all the way and restrict voting to just those people with skin in the game. (My suggestion would be to limit it to the four P’s: property owners, parents, patriots who’ve served in the military, and prisoners. And yes, that is the correct set of people to enfranchise, if we’re going to do democracy at all.)
As odd as this is for someone like me to say about the law: Get creative! Be bold. Use it as a tool to fight back. The grenade has landed in our trench. We need to throw it back, not argue about how no one should be throwing grenades. Treat this as offense and understand these laws will likely be struck down or scaled back. Suggest fines of $1 million for barring entry to the unmasked, then “compromise” at $10,000.
Many of these suggestions fall under the category of (virtue) signaling, but don’t discount the value of signaling! As we devolve into separate tribes, I want to be with the tribe that’s going to stick up for me. As with most freedom-minded folks, I’d prefer not to join a tribe or a gang. Period. I want to be left alone. But if you put me in a prison, I’m aligning with the gang that treats its members the best and is over-the-top aggressive in defending them from others.
Ten years ago, I would have been horrified at a town that declared November 25 Pinochet Day; now I would take it as a signal that they intend to fight back against the commies who at the moment are disturbingly turned on by the thought of forcibly jabbing the pures.
Use the law, but I strongly recommend against using lawsuits. Yes, after three months, or three years, you might prevail in the courts and that bad mandate will be lifted. Or maybe you’ll lose. But either way you’ll have spent huge amounts of money, time, and energy on defense while the opposition is already in your zone. Better to go with direct action. Laws that criminalize their laws. Toss that grenade back, and send it along with a tactical nuke duct-taped to the canister.
Ignore the law
To the extent that you feel comfortable doing so, and it makes sense on a strategic level, ignore any law or mandate that infringes on your freedom. Remember that lawful and moral are orthogonal concepts; one does not imply the other in any way. What matters are the consequences. Does your unlawfulness harm others, or does it make the world a better place? Likewise, if you find yourself on a jury and the defendant is charged with what should be a noncrime, by all means vote to acquit. Jury nullification is your right and your responsibility in these cases.
Get your kids out of government schools
Focus on your team, not theirs
For decades now, elected officials in both major parties have played the same game to stay in power. Yes, they will admit, they may not always be perfect in advocating everything you want. But just look at how awful our opponents are! You don’t want them to win, do you?
This often comes along with admonitions that you shouldn’t attack your own side, that you need to stick to candidates that are “electable,” and that infighting is bad for the party (and again, you wouldn’t want the other tribe to take even more power, would you?).
This line of reasoning has a kernel of truth, but only in the short term. In the long term, the only way to make progress is by playing offense, and that means being offensive, and that means making your representatives more scared of you than they are of the other tribe or of stern rebukes in the New York Times.
By my count, the Republican Party has maybe four or five people at the national level who are genuinely committed to liberty and fighting back, and the party itself spends significant energy attacking them!
So begin your purge, aggressively, with the “home” tribe. It may seem like “We need all the allies we can get” is a good idea, and big tents have space for more people. But that’s a complete misunderstanding of the moment. Numbers count, but careful with that! Every squish that your movement has to drag along is a drag. Learn from the Lincoln Project debacle. Every single one of those pedophiliac Never Trumpers was once a member of the Republican Party. Given that as soon as they left the party they embraced mainstream DNC narratives just as forcefully as teenage boys, what exactly do you think they were doing within the GOP?
This advice applies equally well to the libertarian squishes at Cato and Reason. And to be clear they aren’t all squishes, which is exactly why the best course of action is to force them to play their hands. If their biggest concern is fighting against a 10 percent increase in the corporate tax rate, then get the fuck out! If their biggest concern is opposing medicalized tyranny, then welcome to the fight! Back to that battlefield analogy I keep using: you don’t want people in your foxhole talking about how we should give those advancing Krouts half our weapons if they agree to leave us alone.
There’s another advantage to going hard or going home. Messaging matters. In times of tribal warfare, people look for verbal assurances of a willingness to fight. That’s inspiring. It’s literally attractive. Imagine you’re an outsider to the party, looking in. Are you more drawn to join by the roaring lions ready to take down a gazelle for you, or the guy at the cocktail party explaining why liberals should oppose affirmative action? Remember my comment about using the law as a form of signaling?
Enlist the hood
Though the conservative and libertarian movements have had a hard time making alliances with inner city dwellers, I’m convinced that such alliances are not only possible, but vital. Possible, because the vast majority of people who live in poor urban neighborhoods, of any ethnicity, are looking for safety and opportunity and appreciate strong family bonds as a bulwark against the perils of poverty. All of these are compatible with free markets, a reduced government role, and a strong right to self-defense. Vital, because these kinds of neighborhoods are great at protecting local cultures from broader homogenizing forces. If it’s not clear what I mean by that last sentence, look up the culture of riding dirt bikes and ATVs in Baltimore. Highly dangerous. Completely illegal. Impossible to snuff out.
I don’t have any great suggestions for outreach to these communities. I’m not a politician, and it’s been years since I lived in the kinds of Chicago neighborhoods you’d rather not see your kid live in. But reaching back to my experience there, and my time in an on-again, off-again relationship with a lady who lived in the projects, I can say with certainty that we shouldn’t dismiss the complaints that poor urbanites have about the police. No, there isn’t an epidemic of white cops killing black youths for sport, but every interaction between The Man and the residents includes an armed official, backed up by the city’s largest gang, versus a kid who may be a thug or completely innocent; either way it’s not a fair fight, and this is something the cops take advantage of every single day. They provoke, arrest without cause, and outright steal from the residents. I’ve witnessed all three.
My only direct suggestion, other than getting to know the people of your city, whatever the neighborhood, would be to suggest a law that exempts all black people from any future vaccine or mask mandates, then see how liberal politicians squirm to avoid backing it.
Lionize the courageous
There are people who make a stand against the onslaught of tyranny. Do your best to stand with them. Donate to their funds. Spread their names. Put up posters with their faces. Turn them into the heroes they deserve to be. Send out a signal to others who might stick their necks out that their sacrifices will be recognized, and rewarded if at all possible.
If you do go after the refs, go after them hard
I’ve repeatedly used the analogy of refs at a Harlem Globetrotters game to describe the way establishment journalists actually work. This means that whining about their bad calls is pointless. But this isn’t the only way to influence the refs. There is an effective level of hostility that can be brought to bear on bad faith actors, and especially on the people who employ them, that actually has an impact. Have you ever directly called up a journalist to confront them, on the phone, about a narrative-driven hit piece? I have, and it worked (to get a retraction, at least). I’ve also called newsroom editors to complain. I’ve yet to call a journalist’s spouse, but I wouldn’t rule that out. Imagine that Globetrotters’ ref was met with a thousand Washington Generals fans screaming at him about his bad calls as he leaves the stadium. That changes things.
Decouple from China
This one is easy to get started with, but hard to do completely. But first, why China? What does that country have to do with anything?
The short answer is that, unless we decouple from China, we will become China. This is especially true now that we are a crumbling empire, ripe for the plucking, and ever more indebted to the foreigners who buy our T-bills. Decades ago, I was a strong supporter of trade with the Red Dragon. My assumption was that trade would set them free and benefit us economically. Both those assumptions turned out to be true, at first! But they came with a hidden debt, and now that debt is coming due with interest.
Economic power is political power is military power. China liberalized its economy and opened its borders to trade, and these changes lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. But the resulting surplus also paid for the most comprehensive and well-funded surveillance program in history.
China learned economics from us. Now, unfortunately, we are learning control from them and slowly implementing our own version of their social credit score and great firewall. Not to mention, of course, adopting their lockdown approach to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, outsourcing our manufacturing to the East has been a mixed blessing. Cheaper consumer goods help the poor and the middle class, but not so much if they lose their jobs. In the end, the result of opening up to China is that we’re meeting them in the middle. And if our middle looks like their middle, it’s going to include gulags of one kind or another. This is not hyperbole; it’s the reality for an unknown number of Chinese citizens who, for ethical or religious reasons, are part of the outgroup.
Complete personal decoupling from China is hard. Checking labels before you buy is a habit that takes time to build, but it’s not overly hard, and often buying local means higher quality to go along with the higher price, mitigating the financial downside.
Just in case. And ni hao to all my Chinese friends!
Prep for the zombie apocalypse
Have water, weapons, food, and a fast horse to get you out of Dodge if necessary. Beyond that, there are dozens of books and websites and podcasts about prepping. My only additional comment, and I’m not alone in suggesting this, is that getting to know your neighbors may turn out to be the most valuable thing you can do.
Use social forces
This is the tool that the PL have used most effectively. It’s extremely powerful, but you know how that goes. With great power and all.
What does it look like to use social forces? It means, be an evangelical asshole. It means complaining to your local coffeeshop about its use of evil Instagram. It means telling colleagues they should change their start page from Google to DuckDuckGo. It means yelling at your parents for not deleting Facebook.
If you’re a normal human, and not a self-righteous psychopath, this will make you uncomfortable. Nobody likes that guy on the corner with the bullhorn yelling at you to repent or go to hell.
But love or hate the message, there’s no doubting the effectiveness of certain shrill voices. Small groups of highly intolerant, well-coordinated evangelicals can get a lot done. And in the modern age of social media, that coordination doesn’t even have to be explicit. So long as platforms aren’t banning a particular brand of advocacy, all it takes is for one well-known proponent to put out a particularly catchy message and everyone else in the movement will rush to retweet it.
Use extreme social forces
Here’s where it gets really uncomfortable. Don’t just suggest that your friends are working as contractors on the Death Star; force them to confront it. Literally turn your back on any speaker at any public event who is an apologist for the empire.
Sit shiva for the living, if they have gone over to the dark side. Your brother won’t let you see your nephews unless you get vaxed? As painful as it is, treat him like he’s a zombie, and in all interactions suggest that he needs to leave the Covidian cult before he becomes a permanent member of the living dead. If you can get enough of his friends and other family members on board, stage an intervention.
Don’t be an idiot
This one isn’t really a strategy, but it’s worth saying in all caps, so repeat it in your head as loudly as your inner voice can yell. Remember that Krout behind enemy lines who screwed up by mentioning his love of fermented cabbage? That was a mistake. If he was an idiot, he might have jumped up and down, declaring his eternal love of lederhosen.
The analogy of the battlefield for the cultural and human rights struggle happening right now is meant to extend to your actions. If you work at Google, and you want to continue working there for now, don’t post Pepe memes on the company forums, unless you’ve got a thousand other employees willing to back you up. In general, it’s a really bad idea to run onto a battlefield with your arms in the air and yell, “Hey, look at me!”
Also, and again this one can’t be stressed enough, only use violence in self-defense, and generally try to avoid situations where you would even have to use it.
To be as clear as possible: I don’t like this. Especially as the strategies get more and more intense, I like them less and less. I’m very much a “You do you, I’ll do me” kind of person. Live and let live. Your soul is your problem, not mine. Except our dominant cultural religion is no longer Amish in nature; it’s aggressively evangelical. Really aggressively evangelical. Imagine a pair of coked-up Mormon door knockers, working under a nonnegotiable salvation quota and carrying AK-47s strapped to their backs. Sucks, but that’s where we are at right now.
To put it another way, we are living through the death of bourgeois values (see the additional reading on reputational contagion). These are the small-shopkeeper-in-a-competitive-market kind of values. Guy comes into your store, wants to buy a pair of shoes. You don’t care about his politics. You don’t care about his race or religion, or even if he wants to try on a pair of shiny red pumps. So what? If he’s paying, you’re selling. His personal values, his reputation: those are his problems, not yours. An extreme, for-certain-caricatured version of bourgeois values lives in the joke about the tourist lost in New England who comes to a fork in the road that has two signs pointing in opposite directions, both labeled with the name of his destination city. Confused, the tourist stops his car and asks a nearby farmer if it matters which road he takes. The farmer replies, “Not to me it don’t.”
I like bourgeois values. They resonate with me, even if I wouldn’t go quite as far as the New England farmer. But that’s not the world we live in. In our world, that farmer would want to review the last ten years of your social media posts before deciding whether it was safe to even acknowledge your existence.
In our world, and this is something I’ve mentioned before in print and on my podcast, we are seeing the rise of a particularly malignant form of honor culture, with all of the downsides (including unbounded repetition contagion and public shaming) and none of the ancient safeguards (like the possibility for redemption, or a strong default to backing up your buds in a bar fight).
There may have been a time when this trend away from bourgeois values could have been reverted, but now we need to work within this cultural framework.
Each of the steps I’ve outlined is a step away from indifference to the values of others. It’s a step toward intolerance. Sometimes aggressive intolerance. Socially aggressive, in-your-face intolerance.
Using social forces in this way is divisive by nature. It’s a break-the-glass, genie-out-of-the-bottle approach. People with a live-and-let-live attitude (and yes, I’m talking to you, fellow libertarians) have an especially hard time with these measures. It goes against our nature, and it goes against our (not inaccurate) understanding that any tool we use on others can, and often will, be used against us. The problem is that one side in this battle has not only decided it’s fine to break that glass and reach for the ax inside, it’s grown to love the sound of the shattering. Like commies willing to break a hundred million eggs to make an omelet, every one of these movements is led by someone who seems to take a perverse pleasure in smashing eggs on the ground and watching the yolks soak pointlessly into the dirt.
There’s a reason people like the aforementioned Jesse Kelly keep saying we may have to choose between a Stalin and a Pinochet. I’m not interested in seeing anyone thrown out of helicopters, not even the slightest bit interested in that! But if we want to prevent that, and we don’t want a Stalin, we may need to be as socially nasty as those mobs of BLM protesters, the ones who felt entitled to march through a residential neighborhood at night, shining bright lights into houses and demanding people come out and join them in protest. That particular tactic may have backfired, but their willingness to do it should serve as an unmistakable sign of what we’re facing.
One final note about these measures, and I can’t stress this enough: As with many things, too soon is way better than too late. If you want to stop a sled from sliding over the cliff, the best time to hop off and drag it to a halt is ten minutes ago. The next best time is now.
The farther you go with these steps I’ve outlined, the more uncomfortable things become. If these nonviolent but sometimes socially aggressive methods seem hard, consider that you’ve been dropped onto one of the most genteel battlefields in history, an almost entirely bloodless one. You think yelling at your parents for using Facebook is hard? Have you heard about what people went through at Verdun? Or, as The Filter’s guest A. J. Jacobs put it, “Sometimes when life gets hard, I say, Surgery without anesthesia.”
Once you realize that the world around you has turned into a battlefield, and that you no longer have a choice not to fight (or you could surrender, which likely won’t save you anyway), walking away from that venti frappé macchiato doesn’t seem like such a big sacrifice.
Whatever you do, though, don’t go it alone. Despite what that inspiring ad campaign from years back might have said, there is no such thing as an army of one. The reason all those men were willing to charge up that beach at Normandy is because all of the men around them were willing to charge up the beach at Normandy. Courage loves company. At the collective level, it demands it.
If you’re lucky, you might just get to pick the place to make your stand. I’ve chosen mine; you are welcome to join me here and lock shields. It’s a lovely spot, so nice that I’ve burned the ship behind me, and I’ll be going into battle singing. Or dancing. See chapter 8 for more on that. But for now, allow me a moment (a short chapter, actually) to convince you that there’s only one place you want to be, and it’s here.