The Anti-Authoritarian’s Dilemma

By Ben Bartee

A lifetime spent in opposition to illegitimate authority is a lifetime spent on the wrong side of the power balance. The establishment, by definition, is forever at the reins of power, while the anti-authoritarian perpetually finds himself on the outside looking in.

Such is the anti-authoritarian resistance fighter’s cross to bear.

Resistance to undeserved power, in short, is an uphill battle with no let-up; it never gets easier. The anti-authoritarian is fated to play the role of the Rebel Alliance to the Empire forever – outgunned, out-financed, and outnumbered.


The archetypal anti-authoritarian in art.

Once the Death Star is blown to ashes and the Empire disbanded, the struggle loses its allure to the anti-authoritarian hero. The torch of conflict, once the odds become more favorable, is picked up by beings of lesser moral fortitude.

There is no guarantee of victory for the anti-authoritarian; on the contrary, defeat is usually imminent. The true hero chooses battles exactly because they are seemingly unwinnable against the well-oiled forces of institutional oppression that inevitably pull at the levers of social control.

As the leftist journalist Chris Hedges puts it, “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.”

Bullies prevail because standing up to them takes a moral courage that few possess. Defying illegitimate and inhumane social norms enshrined into both written and unwritten law is, by definition, illegal and dangerous.

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Even just exposing, let alone resisting, the crimes of illegitimate authority can cost the anti-authoritarian his or her life. At the very least, derision, mockery, scorn, and ostracization come with the territory.

Consider the case of Bradley Manning, an army private from Oklahoma who exposed the intentional slaughter of civilians and Reuters journalists by American Empire stormtroopers in Iraq in 2007.

Manning, regarded as a brave whistleblower in anti-authoritarian circles, leaked the video and other classified materials to another icon of the global human freedom movement, Julian Assange. Assange then published the video, titled “Collateral Murder,” in various outlets.

Instead of applauding the important work of Assange and Manning to bring the crimes of the US government to light, the bootlicking corporate press lambasted Manning. They called him a traitor. MSNBC — the infamous cable news hive of careerist deep-staters like CIA Torture Chief John Brennan – called for Manning’s extrajudicial execution.

Whatever vague rhetorical support that agents of American Empire offer for a free press, when the rubber meets the road, their actions undermine their façade. The anti-authoritarian whistleblower, as with any entity that challenges establishment power, is relegated to the margins of society.

Government actors working as PR agents for the Empire leak sensitive information to the corporate press as a routine matter of business. Rather than being fired for these leaks — which are often just as illegal as Manning’s — Empire PR agents are rewarded with promotions and praise.

The difference between state-sponsored PR leaks and unsanctioned leaks that expose government dirt is that, in the former, leakers are rewarded with future contracts in the revolving government-consulting-media door. The latter, the true hero, is threatened, imprisoned, and tortured.

So, with so much disincentive to challenge the supreme power of the state, the natural question becomes:  why would anyone do it?

The high risk-to-reward ratio for moral conscience is precisely the equation that power-brokers wish to instill in the mind of any peasant who considers rebellion. They know that the cross is too heavy for most to suffer.

Character assassination is another weapon in the Empire’s arsenal to combat those who refuse to support them, or at least to passively accept their dominance.

When Julian Assange published the largest single release of state secrets in history, including the Collateral Murder video, he leapfrogged every US government adversary overnight to claim his #1 spot on the Deep State enemy list.

Swedish authorities – known for their close Cold War ties to American Empire – promptly issued a warrant for Assange based on razor-thin allegations that he had raped a masseuse in a hotel in 2010. In 2019, the government was forced to drop the case due to lack of evidence – but not before Assange’s name was irrevocably tied to rape in the minds of the TV-viewing public.

Julian Assange

The essential opposition to the anti-authoritarian hero, the yin to his yang, is the opportunistic power-vulture. In a world of depravity and cowardice, there are far more of the latter than the former.

The vulture has no discernible moral code that binds his actions.


The vulture lifestyle is certainly more convenient than a moral one — the vulture claims personal glory (often wrapped in a flag) without ever having to earn it, while the hero enjoys no widespread acknowledgment of his bravery but suffers the full weight of the power structure’s punishment.

Whereas the hero must weigh moral considerations to plot the proper course of action that satisfies his conscience, the vulture feels no such constraints — there is no circumstance the vulture won’t exploit for tactical advantage.

The vultures among us are the ISIS hostage-takers, the Hezbollah hospital-rooftop gunmen, and the chickenhawks of the US political establishment who could never be bothered serve in a foreign war themselves yet enthusiastically send the working class’ sons and daughters to fight and die in them anyway.

Washington D.C.: the ultimate swamp of cowardice and depravity

Electoral politics is the ultimate refuge of the degenerate vulture class. Your congressman is almost certainly one himself. There is virtually no man or woman of moral integrity within ten square miles of the U.S. Congress. Their careers, in fact, depend on their servility to power – the job attracts vultures as no other.

Honest people become builders, creators, and helpers. Honorable Americans belong to its ranks of construction workers, teachers, firefighters, and farmers. In 2020, normal Americans need heroes more than ever.

Ultimately, here is the anti-authoritarian’s dilemma: he must calculate that the personal risk he incurs by challenging illegitimate authority is outweighed by the societal benefit and the ease of his own conscience.

Source: The Daily Bell

Ben Bartee a Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs. Contact him via his portfolio or on LinkedIn.