Things become very interesting when you realize there’s really nothing new under the sun. Once you realize that all this has happened before, and will happen again if run unchecked, the possibility opens of learning something from history.
Let’s take Ku Klux Klan as an example. They were not inherently evil; at least, seeing other people as evil is only helpful in justifying one’s own righteousness. What is helpful, however, is to try understanding the group dynamics and the social mechanisms responsible for forming such a group. While the (evil) people are gone, the group dynamics remain, and will cause the same thing to happen again.
Painting somebody as evil only helps when you need to feel good and justified about your own actions. Do you think the Klan viewed themselves as evil? Honestly? No? Good, then we’re gettings somewhere here. Painting another human being as evil only helps in justifying doing harm to that human. However, everybody is usually looking out for some kind of interest — be it their own, that of their family or community, that of a perceived social order, or in cases I personally detest, something supersititous. (Millions have died in religious wars for believing in a fairy of the wrong color.) Everybody generally sees themselves as good.
When a large enough community feels like society’s justice system can’t uphold their values, they will take it upon themselves to uphold the values. This is what I mean by the Klan not being inherently evil; they were defending a way of life that they thought were objectively better, and saw themselves as good people.
In doing this, they needed several layers of protection. They were established townsfolk, good providers and respected citizens, who had been upset with people in town who acted in ways that didn’t match their values. The conductbreakers were seen as evil, and they were the good ones who would set things straight again, so that everybody could lead shiny, happy lives ever after. So, some anonymity was needed: a cloak. An ugly cloak, but still, an easily recognizable cloak. A group identity, one group voice, and anonymity for the individual members.
Their means of pushing their values was one of setting examples. If you didn’t adhere to their values, you would be a target. You would be singled out for violation of their standards of conduct. They would not forget, they would not forgive, and you would be attacked. Usually by sabotages to your property or, more commonly, to the services you would provide to others.
There is, of course, the question of whether they were striking from a position of strength of from a position of underdog, and that striking from an underdog position would make it more justified. I would argue that this is only a matter of perspective. The group will always see themselves as underdogs, but in reality, they may be the incumbent power in their particular town or battlefield. Even further: if they were not the incumbent power, they would lack the capability to organize and strike in the first place.
Overall, the message to the community was clear: “if you do not adhere to the [read “our“] code of conduct, you can expect us to pay a visit.”
This is the antithesis of democracy and freedom of speech, but that is not my point. Armed conflicts can and do arise when groups disagree with each other and they cannot resolve their differences through democratic conflict resolution. My point is that there is little new under the sun.
UPDATE: A comment suggested that I might be referring to the Pirate Party sticking to threats and violence. To be super clear: That will never happen. This blog post is not a threat. The Pirate Party does not threaten, intimidate, silence, nor attack: that would be quite the opposite of, well, everything we stand for. The point of this blog post is to say that people are people, and that sorting people into good and evil does little to help long term.