A Just So Militia

Introduction: This is a video posted to Youtube on October 26, 2021 by a social media personality going by the name Cramersez. The original video was clearly developed for TikTok, though I cannot find a direct link to it.

Key Facts: Militias figured prominently in the thinking of America’s leadership in the American revolution and the early years of American government. They were a significant theme in the development the Second Amendment. Modern paramilitary organizations in the USA often present themselves as militias, but they lack the institutional connections of colonial militias, Modern militias are often associated with right wing extremism and in some cases, domestic terrorism. Anti-(Federal)-government themes are a prominent part of the rhetoric coming out of modern militia.

Text: This Youtube video does not come with the option to produce a transcript, so this is my transcription. Anyway, the argument runs as follows:

“I’m going to say it again. Do you know why the Federal Government and state governments are so afraid of militias? Because militias, their only purpose for existing is to protect our rights. That’s it. They don’t want to take power. They don’t want to be governors. They don’t want to be presidents. They are only there to protect people’s rights, in case the government refuses to do so, like in Michigan, where a lady at a school board meeting begged the sheriff to protect their rights, begged the sheriff to intervene, and protect their children, and the sheriff said; “Fuck you.! I’m not going to do that; I’m going to side with the people who sign my check.” That’s why the militias are there. So when the law, when our politicians, when our so-called leaders, when they stop abiding by the Constitution, that’s what the militias are there for. And that’s why they are afraid of them.”

ANALYSIS

Comments: I spent a few minutes trying to find the specific incident in Michigan to which Cramer was referring here, but I couldn’t determine whether or not any of the stories I found were the specific story in question. This too is one of the features of sloppy rhetoric like Cramer uses here. His laziness makes work for those critics who might take him seriously enough to check. Conversely, it doesn’t take much effort to agree with him.

Statements: There is a lot of grouping here. The redundant assertions are obvious enough. Cramer also makes use of parallel construction, but that still leads to separate statements in at least one instance (statements 3-6). In others, it means, the opening clause of a single statement is repeated with minor variations. These must be grouped up (statement 8). Finally, I grouped up all of the elements of the story he told about a woman in Michigan (statement 7). Were I to go into detail on that story, I would of course prefer to break that up into distinct claims.

[a] I’m going to say it again.

[1] [This is the reason] the Federal Government and state governments are so afraid of militias.

[b] Because

]2] militias, their only purpose for existing is to protect our rights.

[2] That’s it.

[3] They don’t want to take power.

[4] They don’t want to be governors.

[5] They don’t want to be presidents.

[6] They are only there to protect people’s rights, in case the government refuses to do so,

[7] like in Michigan, where a lady at a school board meeting begged the sheriff to protect their rights, begged the sheriff to intervene, and protect their children, and the sheriff said; “Fuck you.! I’m not going to do that; I’m going to side with the people who sign my check.”

6] That’s why the militias are there.

8] So when the law, when our politicians, when our so-called leaders, when they stop abiding by the Constitution, that’s what the militias are there for.

[c] and

1] that’s why they are afraid of them.

Diagram: The specific conclusion of this argument poses an interesting question. It’s tempting to see the claim (statement 1) that the only reason governments are afraid of militia is their sole purpose is the conclusion, because he seems to frame that as his central thesis. Yet, the notion that militia exist solely to protect the rights of American citizens (statement 2) seems to be a more robust claim with more direct relevance to actual political questions. So, I am inclined to treat that as the conclusion of the argument. From there, we get two major sub-arguments; one focusing on the motives of militia (4+5->3) and one focusing on the specific way Cramer things militia activity might be triggered (7->8->6) Both lead to statement 2.

The second of the two main arguments is worthy of a little comment. I take statement 7 to provide anecdotal evidence for the conclusions Cramer wishes to draw about the purpose of militia. It (putatively) establishes the need for extra-governmental action. Statement 8 is describes the principles he thinks would apply in cases like that, and this then leads to statement 6, which is simply a more succinct expression of the same thing. This then leads to statement 2, which is even more succinct.

Discussion: This argument raises the following themes; Anecdotal Evidence, Begging the Question, Cherry Picking, Inference Indicators, Just so Narratives, Misplaced Concretism, Suppressed Evidence, Redundant Assertions, Unsupported Claims.

Anecdotal Evidence: Cramer’s use of a single story to support his claim is an example of anecdotal evidence. That his story is unsourced and told in highly partisan terms is an additional problem. Even if his account of the Michigan example is accurate, this does not prove that militias would help in the matter, and even if they could, this does not prove that they pose no threats to others or that their sole purpose is protecting people’s rights.

Begging the Question: Cramer is trying to prove to us that militias are not dangerous, but his central argument consists merely in the assumption that their only purpose is benign. This is a circular argument. Likewise, his anecdote assumes the woman in his story was right about the issue and that the sheriff in question was refusing to do his job. This too begs a number of questions about the actual dispute in his example, questions made more difficult to nail down by his complete lack of any concrete reference to the actual story. Insofar as a just-so narrative is his central stratagem in this argument, the whole thing hinges on his ability to frame the narrative in terms which match the desired outcome. The entire post is an exercise in begging the question.

It does seem quite likely that militia members will describe their intervention in any aspect of American politics as being warranted by the defense of individual rights, but this merely means that is the story they will tell. Whether or not individual rights are being infringed upon is another question, and whether or not militia activity is likely to help is yet another. In effect, Cramer is telling us about the narrative that militia will bring into a conflict, but this does nothing to reassure us that they will not do so for specious reasons.

Cherry Picking: Everything that makes this anecdotal evidence, also makes this argument an example of cherry picking.

Inference Indicators: The use of ‘because’ indicates an explanation indicates an explanation is forthcoming. It does not introduce a reason as would normally be the case. It could be viewed as a conclusion indicator if this were abductive reasoning, but Cramer doesn’t really give us a reason to believe this is the best explanation for government fear of the militias. He simply presents that as an obvious fact. In the end, this ‘because’ isn’t really an inference indicator at all.

Just So Narratives: Cramer offers no real argument for his claims that the only purpose for the militias is the protection of rights is to protect people’s rights. He does not examine other possible motives for joining a militia, or other possible uses for militia, nor does he present any reason to dismiss concerns about domestic terrorism. He simply tells a story in which their single-minded purpose is assumed rather than proven. Cramer does give us an anecdote in support of the possibility that militia could be used for such purposes, but that does nothing to answer other concerns about militia. In effect, the single-minded purpose of militia enters this argument as an artifact of story itself. No evidence in support of that single-minded purpose enters into his argument.

Misplaced Concretism: Simply put, governments are not afraid of militias. Governments are not afraid of anything, because governments do not have emotions. Government officials may fear militias, but so can individual citizens. Cramer’s decision to treat governments as though they had the qualities of persons allows him to recontextualize the fears of actual people in unrealistic terms, effectively attributing them to an abstract and malevolent entity. This makes it much easier to deny the fears.

A similar problem applies to his references to the purpose of militias. Cramer makes a seamless transition from talking about their purpose (which could be understood as formed by actual people) to claims about what ‘they’ want, His comments on this theme are not precisely about the goals of membership, but neither are them limited to the characteristics of organizations. In effect, he is still talking about militias even as he is talking about them in terms of real human motivation.

Suppressed Evidence: Cramer’s account of militia does not address the connection between militia and domestic terrorism which is a large source of concern . The exact nature of this connection is of course debatable, but Cramer does not address it in any way. He simply ducks the issue.

Redundant Assertions: Statements 1 and 2 are both repeated twice.

Unsupported Claims: Cramer provides no evidence in support of his specific take on the anecdote. Neither does he support his assumptions about the exclusive purpose of militias. His claims on these subjects remain unsupported.

Evaluation: The argument fails for multiple reasons, most of which have already been mentioned above, but to address the specific argument.

Statement 7: There is no reason to believe Cramer’s account of the story is accurate. There is less reason to believe it establishes a need for militia action, and still less to believe that this is the only reason militias exist.

Statement 1 commits the fallacy of misplaced concretism. It also remains unsupported insofar as Cramer provides no reason to believe that the sole purpose of defending rights is the specific reason governments (or actual people) are afraid of militia.

Statements 4 and 5 also commit the fallacy of misplaced concretism, and there is no reason to believe they are true, Neither would their truth prove that militias constituted no threat to anyone who wasn’t taking people’s rights.

Final Thoughts: Neither the Federalnor the state governments fear anything. Actual people do, and it is actual people who suffer the consequences of domestic terrorism which is intimately connected to the modern militia movement. Oklahoma City should have established this once and for all.

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