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News & Editorials

Small Unit Activism

by Perry Thompson


When Patriots talk about resisting an oppressor, the most commonly discussed tactic is the "unorganized" resistance, consisting of small cells utilizing small unit tactics. The benefits of this strategy are obvious. For starters, infiltration is much more difficult. Second, the loss of one cell has almost no effect on the overall resistance movement. Third, there are no command and control problems when your entire unit can live in one tent. The fourth, and perhaps the most important, anyone can be a “cell of one” (I am borrowing that term from Claire Wolfe), even if there is no organized resistance movement operating in the area. 

But, when the discussion turns from theorizing about future military action against an oppressive regime and shifts to talk of political activism that should be engaged in now, many patriots seem to want to organize into large groups and let the groups do everything. This reliance on a large group to "do everything" is a fatal tactical error.

The advantages of small unit activism are the same as small unit operations in a military campaign, albeit with slightly different implications. Consider the freedom lover who lives in an area with absolutely no active organization to join. To some people, having no local group may be an excuse for not acting. It should be an invitation to start a group. But, if everyone thinks that all pro-freedom groups must have thousands of members, the thought of starting a new group may be too intimidating to even approach. This can be avoided by realizing that a small group of committed people can make a difference if they select reasonable goals. 

For example, suppose you would like to see firearms receive favorable coverage in the media. You could take the H. Ross Perot approach and buy half hour blocks of prime time space on major television networks. Unfortunately, most freedom activists do not have the money required for that project. But, rather than giving up, the would-be television producer should simply adjust the scale and scope of the idea. Every local cable system has a number of public access channels. The rules for these channels vary, but generally anyone wishing a produce a show must simply take a free class and may then produce any non-commercial show they desire. The show is then aired to all local cable subscribers. 

Suppose someone tried to solve the problem of financing a major media purchase by starting a project in which large numbers of gun owners would pool money to purchase network airtime. Honestly, do you believe this project would succeed? I am convinced that one of our greatest strengths would be the downfall of such a project. Freedom lovers tend to be individualists, opinionated, and often stubborn. Imagine the board of directors of such an organization trying to decide when and where to air their programs and exactly what they should say in the time they have. Internal disagreement would doom the project before it was launched.

Now, imagine that the same group of people each decide to produce public access programs in their own communities. There would be little or no disagreement because the action would be taken by cells of one, or at most small groups of friends. Because of the unit harmony possible in these small groups, the shows would actually get aired. The production quality might not be as good as the large group would have done (if they ever got anything done) and fewer people might see the broadcasts. But, something would get on the air rather than simply having a large group of well meaning people making plans and arguing among themselves. 

Let us suppose that the large pro-gun media group is able to stop arguing long enough to produce and air some programs. What if they are so successful that they begin to attract attention from very serious anti-gun activists? As a large group, they need employees. But what if one of those employees was really an anti-gun activist who took the job simply to sabotage the group. They might find that donations are lost, or programs are erased, or an anti-gun group holds a press conference “debunking” every item in their programs before they are even aired. It would be nearly impossible for such infiltration to occur among a group of friends producing a program for their local public access channel. Furthermore, even if such a group were infiltrated, only their program would be jeopardized. A similar group, producing a similar program in the next town would be able to continue unaffected. 

Finally, suppose the large pro-gun media group is formed, produces and airs programs, and avoids infiltration. Suppose the campaign is wildly successful and gun owners across the country pour in millions of dollars in donations. Now, suppose that the chief financial officer of the group is greedy and starts embezzling from the donations, or that a rival organization simply starts a rumor that misappropriation of money is occurring. Support is likely to dwindle as donors wonder where their money is going. The allegations of financial misconduct could even result in criminal investigations that might completely destroy the group. Any of these things would cause a sudden stop in the good work done by this group. However, small groups producing public access programs are not likely to have a budget large enough to ever present any such issues. And, similar to the infiltration scenario, the loss of one group does not harm any other group.

These comments are not meant to suggest that there is no place for large, national groups in the battle to preserve freedom. There certainly are projects that require the resources that only a large group can muster. I am merely pointing out that there are also things that individuals and small groups can do, and that in some ways their small size is an advantage. 

The example of producing television programs was simply used to provide a continuing illustration. Local small unit activists could engage in any of the following activities:

  • Organized letter writing campaigns;
  • Running for public office;
  • Introducing young people to safe firearms handling through neighborhood air gun leagues;
  • Providing free gun safety or self defense classes;
  • Monitoring general interest public Internet forums for relevant discussions and voicing the pro-freedom side;
  • Protesting anti-freedom activities by your local government;
  • Suing local officials who encroach upon freedom;
  • Publishing a pro-freedom newsletter with a personal computer and a copy machine;
  • Any other pro-freedom activity that you can think of.

So, if you love freedom, become a small unit activist. The steps are simple: 

1) Decide what resources you have available. This includes time, money, skills, and personnel. 

2) Identify an activity to which you can apply the resources at your disposal to take a positive step in protecting freedom. Suggested activities are listed above, but the great thing about small unit activism is that you are free to think of your own. If the idea bombs, you are not out much and can start over. Even if it is a total disaster, the entire movement is not hurt so almost anything is better than sitting idly as our freedom slips away. 

3) Do it. Choose to make it easy. Taking the plunge is what separates those real protectors of freedom from the armchair activists.

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War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. — John Stuart Mills

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