Readers-mine, there are terms being thrown around that many people do not truly understand. Some of the tweets, posts, and comments I’m reading online make me want to teach people how to use a dictionary, so I’m going to use this post to define those words in hopes of creating a clearer conversation. I am pulling all legal definitions from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States;https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2331
Essentially, this is anything that puts people in danger while violating of criminal laws that seems to be about scaring people, changing the laws and policies via intimidation, or impacting the operation of the government in a negative way through violence of some sort.
18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason: Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2381
This is when citizens of the U.S. go to war against the U.S. government or help out the enemies of the U.S. government.
10 U.S. Code § 894 – Art. 94. Mutiny or Sedition:
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who— (1) with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny; (2) with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with any other person, revolt, violence, or other disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition; (3) fails to do his utmost to prevent and suppress a mutiny or sedition being committed in his presence, or fails to take all reasonable means to inform his superior commissioned officer or commanding officer of a mutiny or sedition which he knows or has reason to believe is taking place, is guilty of a failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition.
(b) A person who is found guilty of attempted mutiny, mutiny, sedition, or failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct. (Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 68.)https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/894
This is anyone who tries to overthrow the government, uses violence or revolution to do so, or knows about the impending plan to do either of those things and does nothing about it. It is essentially a mutiny against the U.S. government.
18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious Conspiracy: If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; July 24, 1956, ch. 678, § 1, 70 Stat. 623; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(N), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2384
This is when two or more people anywhere in the U.S. get together to start a war or prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law in the U.S.
Rebellion or Insurrection
18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or Insurrection: Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(L), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2383
If you’re involved in a rebellion or insurrection (any violent uprising against the government) by either inciting it or participating in it, you are legally responsible for what happens.
Overthrowing the Government
18 U.S. Code § 2385 – Advocating overthrow of Government: Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or
Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; July 24, 1956, ch. 678, § 2, 70 Stat. 623; Pub. L. 87–486, June 19, 1962, 76 Stat. 103; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(N), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2385
This section essentially says that if you are part of a group that is trying to overthrow the government, or if you are trying to do it individually, you are trying to destroy the current government and set up a different system in its place.
a theory or system of social organization that advocates the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, capital, land, etc., by the community as a whole, usually through a centralized government.
procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.
(in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.https://www.dictionary.com/browse/socialism
This is something that people have used as a scare tactic since at least the 1800s, but it really isn’t so scary. I did a limited list below that will show you some things that you already benefit from that are Socialist programs in the U.S. Socialism is a theory about how society should function. People have used the term to mean utopianism, anarchism, Soviet communism, and social democracy. Utopianism is the first form, the form that says, “we can make a perfect society if everyone would simply share all they have with those around them.” It was developed by Sir Thomas More, the author of Utopia. In his book, people live on an imaginary island where money has been abolished and people live and work while always considering what is best for the group. He dreamed of a perfect society where everyone took care of the people and things around them and everything was equal. Anarchy is, broadly, a complete lack of government and laws after the total abolishment of the government. It is often misnamed as Socialism because people don’t understand either concept on a basic level. Soviet Communism is the one that we saw implemented by the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War and is actually quite different than the original form of Socialism due to its totalitarian dictatorship requirement for the government. Social Democracy is Socialism that maintains a Capitalist framework and people who believe in it think that both the economy and society should be run democratically in order to meet public needs instead of in order to make profits for the wealthiest members of society (think Bernie Sanders).
The one thing all Socialist philosophies have in common is the idea that the means of making, transporting, and trading wealth should be owned or controlled by the workers. Socialists believe that everything in society is made by the cooperative efforts of the people and citizens. All money and goods belong to the community, so things should be done for the benefit of the community with them. All those collectives that are owned by the people who produce an item–like the various dairy farmer collectives, or companies like The Cheesecake Factory, where workers own generous amounts of stock in the company–are practicing Socialist theory within our modern Capitalist society. It is a system that requires collective cooperation and understanding of what is going on.
Examples of socialist policies in the U.S. are essentially anything we pay taxes for. These include but are not limited to:
- The Military
- VA Hospitals
- The G.I. Bill (allows soldiers to afford higher education by using taxpayer dollars)
- The U.S. Postal Service
- Garbage Collection and Public Landfills
- Social Security
- Disability Pay
- Family Medical Leave
- Free Lunch Program (so children don’t starve)
- Minimum Wage
- Child Labor Laws
- Public Schools
- Public Libraries
- Public Parks (town, state, and national)
- Public Transportation (busses, metros, and Amtrak)
- Town or State Beaches
- Construction of Highways, Bridges, and Roads
- The Peace Corps
- The White House and the Secret Service
- State and National Monuments
- Public Street Lighting
- Police Departments
- Fire Departments
- Public Defenders
- CIA, FBI, EPA, etc. (If it’s part of the alphabet soup of U.S. governmental departments, it is funded through Socialist means)
- Farm and Business Subsidies and Bailouts
See, I told you Socialism wasn’t actually scary. The reason, in America, we’re freaked out by it actually has to do with the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the Red Scare. More on that in the next section.
Communism & Marxism
a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.
(often initial capital letter) a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.
(initial capital letter) the principles and practices of the Communist Party.https://www.dictionary.com/browse/communism
Communism is a branch of Socialism that focuses more on how different socio-economic classes interact. Karl Marx, a German political philosopher and economist as well as the father of 19th-century Communism, was incredibly upset by the disparity between the wealthy and the poor. He thought the Socialists who had come before him (the utopianists) were somewhat delusional about human nature and what was possible. He believed that the wealth gap was brought about by Capitalism and created a system he thought would fix the issues in a more realistic manner than the utopian ideal. Marx’s goal was economic equality. As a result, he thought there should be no private ownership of property because the concepts of “yours” and “mine” essentially encouraged greed and competition. During the transition from Capitalism to Communism, he thought the government should exercise control in the name of the people in order to help them become more community-minded. Marx didn’t see his ideals enacted. He simply wrote and published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, a book laying out his theory (and his disdain for the previous Socialists) in great detail. The thought that the proletariat working class would eventually revolt and take over the bourgeoisie ruling class and destroy the class system forever. As a result, the government wouldn’t have to maintain such tight control after the transition from capitalism completed itself. Marx used the terms Socialism and Communism almost interchangeably in his book and the confusion about the terms has existed ever since.
When Communism is more than a theory and is actually enacted in real life, that government control during the transition becomes a totalitarian government for the rest of time. What that means is that there is a dictator and everyone and everything is subservient to that dictator. Dictators inevitably want to do what’s best for them, not for their country. This means that the dictator gathers extreme wealth and power, his friends gain some wealth and power, and the rest of the population has to share the scraps. (I am using male pronouns for this because, to my knowledge, there has never been a true female dictator. That said, Kim Yo-Jong, sister of Kim Jong Un [the supreme leader of North Korea], is looking more and more like she may be the first female dictator in history.) This totalitarian regime is a far cry from the utopian ideal that Socialism initially endorsed and actually breeds human rights violations and leaves much of the population dealing with horrible work and living conditions.
During the Cold War, America was afraid that Communism would take over the world. Communist governments were generally unsympathetic to American concepts of right and wrong because they are beholden only to what their dictator deems right or wrong. This led to Joseph McCarthy hunting down all supposed Communists and Socialists in America between 1950 and 1954 and then putting them on trial for their thoughts instead of their actions. Since it was based on thoughts and not actions, often people were arrested and put on trial even though they had no tied to Communism or Socialism. It’s the modern day version of the Salem Witch Trials. If you were accused, all Hell broke out in your life even though what was said was often untrue, evidence was false, and investigations were poorly done. Movie stars, writers, artists, business people, and regular people of all kinds were blacklisted despite a lack of evidence. McCarthyism, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Cold War Arms Race meant that there was a real fear that the world was in danger every single day due to “the Reds” or “the Commies.” Up until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, America dealt with the impact of the Cold War. That fear is part of our modern social fabric, hence the two stereotypes of Russians in movies: The Sexy Spy or the Evil Bond Villain. That said, readers-mine, the current Communist dictatorships are not places I would choose to live because of the human rights violations that pervade those societies. Just remember though, Socialism and Communism have some very important differences.