All culture wars involve a clash of symbols. Symbols say a lot with a little. All it takes is a piece of cloth or an extraordinary object to transmit a world of ideas. They convey identity, impact and mood.
One sinister symbol, appearing in the riots and disturbances, is the guillotine. In picking this device, the rioters have chosen a symbol that energizes their militants, frightens their opponents and represents their uncompromising ideologies.
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These revolutionaries adopt it willingly, enthusiastically and unapologetically. They know exactly what it means and use it to strike terror in the souls of those it targets.
The Guillotine Appears
The guillotine targets the American order. It is found on Portland’s chaotic streets, even in its residential neighborhoods at night, as a warning of what can be expected from revolutionary mob “justice.” It has appeared before the house of Jeff Bezos near Washington, D.C. The militants at the CHAZ/CHOP experiment in Seattle referred to it. After the Republic National Convention, protesters outside the White House displayed a guillotine with an effigy of President Trump to be beheaded.
The guillotine was the instrument of death and terror by which tens of thousands were executed during the French Revolution. Its inventor was a French physician, Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. He had hoped to develop a machine that would behead the French Revolution’s enemies painlessly and mechanically. Unfortunately, his name became almost synonymous with the wholesale slaughter that characterized the revolution that so destroyed French society.
An Expression of Revolutionary Attitudes
The guillotines that are appearing throughout the county are not functional. Thus, they are clearly meant to be symbols. Much more dangerous than its function, the guillotine expresses the ominous aspirations of leftist radicals who wish to eliminate their enemies, like the radical Jacobins during the French Revolution.
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Attorney General William Barr recently described the new American radicals that desire these changes in society. He claimed that this left “represents a revolutionary Rousseauian party that believes in tearing down the system… they’re interested in complete victory. They are not interested in compromise. They’re not interested in dialectic, exchange of views. . . . It’s a substitute religion. They view their political opponents . . . as evil because we stand in the way of their progressive utopia that they are trying to reach.”
The Overthrow of an Order
To those involved in the disorders, the guillotine symbolizes three things.
The guillotine symbolizes the overthrow of an order. The French Revolution did not represent a change of government but the radical overthrow of the legitimate French social and political order. Likewise, the guillotine’s appearance at protests shows how the present disorders seek to overthrow the American order and especially those in the upper classes. The symbol demonstrates that the riots are not racially-oriented but class-driven. It is drawn from Western history, not African culture.
Thus, the leftist militants do not want to reform or change the system. They want to destroy the entire American order. When they shout “Death to America,” they do so with all the fanaticism of Islamic terrorists that reject the American way of life. When they burn flags and bibles, they understand the significance of these counter-symbols on the American psyche and desire to inflict the greatest amount of pain.
Ruthless and Brutal
The second symbolism of the guillotine is its representation of the ruthlessness, coldness and cruelty of the revolution being proposed. It should be a cause of concern that the rioters choose an instrument whose sole purpose is to kill brutally. Moreover, the guillotine is a mechanical device designed to execute on an efficient scale.
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The instrument carries out its function anonymously, effortlessly and quickly. It was used in public as a lesson to those who might resist. The device first targeted the upper classes but soon was used against all classes on a mass scale. It represents an attitude of those that are not interested in compromise or dialog. The rioters that spew forth their hatred, obscenities and violence find in it the full expression of irrational radicalism.
By carting around guillotines in the public square and residential areas at night, the revolutionaries are saying that the device knows no limits and will search out its victims. Its decisive extermination of victims indicates there is no turning back from the course once taken.
A Mystical Experience
Finally, the guillotine symbolizes a mystical desire to change human nature and purge humanity of that which cannot change. Militants hope to forge upon its table a new society free of morals and social restraints.
During the Reign of Terror in 1793-94, Jean-Pierre-André-Amar, a deputy of the French National Convention, alluded to the “red Mass” celebrated at the “great altar” of the “holy guillotine.”
Thus, the present riots have something of this mystical element in which participants think themselves part of a movement of social transformation. They see their violent actions as a part of a Hegelian dialectic from which will come a new synthesis full of hatred for all that came before. They carefully choreograph an anti-liturgy with their black costumes, slogans and narratives. As a symbol, the guillotine expresses the inebriating climax of their desire to eradicate the past and usher in a nihilistic future.
Thus, the symbolism of the guillotine appearing at this time should make Americans shudder. It exposes the real face of the revolutionaries, who reveal their intentions in the symbol of the guillotine.
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The left should condemn this brutal symbol that terrorizes the population. The liberal media should denounce those who brandish the guillotine as peddlers of hate crimes. Liberal clergy should distance themselves from the guillotine carriers as something contrary to the teachings of Christ. The government should investigate these threats with the same zeal they would employ were similar symbols used by the right. All these sectors enter in complicity with the rioters by failing to denounce their violent actions and ideas.
No one should act as if carrying a guillotine to a protest is the most normal thing in the world. No one should write off the simulation of the murder of a standing president in the public square.
The time to act is now if we intend to prevent the sinister blade of this machine of death becoming operational. Today, the guillotine is a symbol that cultivates a desire to act according to its spirit. Tomorrow, the revolutionaries will act out their fantasies in the violence of a bloody revolution against the American order.