When the “yellow vests” protests gained momentum, it excited many people because it looked like an idealized a populist revolution where an angry crowd chases out an corrupt government. Instead it should have been a lesson on why an angry crowd will never ever inflict meaningful change.
Those on the Right can learn a great deal from this movement and what it achieved, and where it failed. If anything, we benefit from observing social outrage movements closely and calculating how to adapt them to conservative goals.
Understanding Revolutionary Activity
In one of the ironies of history, Americans — denizens of a country created through a revolution — know little about revolutionary activity. The Left knows that every government, every nation, every culture that is not 100% under their control is their enemy and must be subverted and taken over, while on the Right people think that it is “their country” and “their nation” and “their culture” and that they already sit in an exceptional niche in history. That assumption leads to all sorts of myths and urban legends about how the Founding Fathers were somehow conservatives or how conservatism itself can even be revolutionary. The end result is boomers wearing three pointed hats that clean up behind themselves when they have a demonstration with the same fervor with which they would hand over their guns to a cops while babbling something about muh thin blue line.
These people would most likely grow angry when you tell them how John Adams was basically an Antifa activist lawyer, how years of street gang activity, crime, smuggling and shadow government laid out the foundational for a continental congress that later looks so civilized in oil paintings and to which what today is Canada wasn’t invited because, well, you can’t possibly think of everything. The Gadsden Flag is not a symbol of tax cuts but a gang sign of people much closer to the Trinitarios, Sureños, or Latin Kings then to the modern American conservative movement. Killing the tax collectors of the crown was for them most likely about whether those collectors carried any tax money and less about revolutionary zeal. Maybe in two centuries, whatever equivalent to the armchair Rambo conservative then might exist will have Lucky 13 ink in his face, talking about credit default shortages for middle hive dwellers in Megacity One.
Understanding a Peoples’ Mentality
France has a strong protest culture because two centuries ago they had this stupid revolution against a king, but it ended up just giving them an emperor anyways while still managing to be the epicentre of the cancerous egalitarian ideology that grips Europe to this day. Later protesting students toppled the government of Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s, swinging the nation further toward Full Soviet. Unions, labor organization committees and that sort of thing remain strong in France and the French have the mentality that if they want something, they just have to threaten the destruction of property or chimp out over a few days and then they will get it. Strikes are common and because everyone is somehow affiliated with the Left or an organized strike one way or the other the sympathy for such measures in the population is high and people who otherwise would be negatively affected by the strike are usually understanding and cooperative towards it.
That leads to a very impulsive, almost choleric, and short-sighted political culture that dug itself in a hole long ago. You just have to look up the numbers and you can see the end of the project of an egalitarian state.
The Cause Célèbre
Social outrage movements build up steam over time until there is a point when someone or something turns that rolling snowball into an avalanche. This Cause Célèbre usually grows out of a minor event that has huge symbolic value, or reaches the most people even if the actual effects would be rather small.
In France it was a gas tax that the government of Macron introduced to finance the reforms the people voted him into office for. This tax was aimed at the middle class workers who lived outside the major cities to escape its diversity, yet they commuted every workday to these places where the economic centers are. This provoked a protest movement where people demonstrate because they want to afford to be able to get to work so that they can work and pay all those taxes, but still have their bourgeois escape homes in the countryside. Occupy Wallstreet started out similarly. Occupy Wallstreet started out in Israel as a rent protest movement because people could no longer afford to live in the packed city of Tel Aviv and so they started to pitch tents in the city park.
From an aristocratic mindset, this is absurd. The “right to work,” to pay taxes, and deal with stress just so that you can afford material stuff and toys and vacations to distract yourself is an absurd bourgeois concept, and yet it is useful. The landed gentry was in best case rather poor or worse in debt and sure money is nice to have but there are more important things, and that is what separated the gentry from the commoner. Also both the “yellow vests” protests and the Occupy movement were first started by women, usually of an advanced age. Having older women as the face of a movement in its early days draws more people, because no one expects trouble where women and women in an advanced age are. Its sounds more like a hen coffee party and not something where the cops crack your head in.
The Target Demographic
A revolution needs human fuel. If a cause does not generate outrage across a great spectrum it does not gain momentum. The cause of the “yellow vests” in form of the gas tax created outrage among the middle class bourgeoisie, while on the other hand the poor and angry do not even own cars. Occupy outraged the poor and angry who could not afford the city anymore, but the middle class still could. In the end both poles are necessary. You need the financial and material support of the middle class, and you need the bodies of the poor and angry.
Outraged middle class bourgies are neither talented street fighters nor are they backed up against a wall where they have nothing else left than the fight. The best they can do in an actual street fight is serve as meat shield. Among the poor and angry the tactical skills are at best thin, but no one misses these people if they get turned into minced meat and they have the material motivation to physically go somewhere and break stuff, even if their only actual motivation is to steal things. The people who do the actual dirty work are not high minded liberals but thugs. Hooligans are in the first line when social order breaks down as well as other street gangs and similar organizations.
When the middle class Facebook activists staged a sit-in at the Tahrir Square in Cairo they set up a stage where some blogger wanted to give a talk until the Muslim Brotherhood showed up and chased them away. Despite their transparent claims that “This is our thing now,” the protesters knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would seize the square anyway; they just had to wait until the middle class Bloggers went home because mama made them dinner.
Washington’s Continental Army was not staffed with patriotic Yankee Doodles but with the urban poor, with immigrants who didn’t really know the meaning of the enlistment papers they signed, with runaway serfs, deserters from other armies, criminals and press-ganged volunteers.
When you read literature that circulates in the patriot movement you get the impression its all about guns and camouflage fatigues and hiding in the woods larping as soldiers. This stuff is the worst. If you think revolutionary activity is buying tactical gear on amazon and your tenth semiautomatic AR-15 you basically can go right to the FBI headquarters, walk in, go to the desk guy and ask him if he wants to arrest a “dangerous dissident” today. These activists are the people you see at public events wearing tacticool gear and doing open carry on streets that they don’t own or control and where they are strangers to the surrounding public. The Militia culture is pure commercialized cancer and the right wing equivalent to corporate pride month products in rainbow colors.
The Left is organized and setup to break the law every day. They control the universities, from there they control the courts, from there they control the police; they control the government, they control the media. They can attack from every direction at any time. The FARC called that “la combinación de todas las formas de lucha,” the combination of all methods of struggle. They have legal teams to defend even the most amateurish violent antifa criminal, like bike lock guy, they control courts to give measly sentences to the most amateurish violent antifa criminal, like bike lock guy. They have universities that employ even the most amateurish violent antifa criminals, like bike lock guy, like the pencil neck nerd who pointed a gun at James Fields. Former Weathermen terrorists later worked as professors and got invitations to the White House.
Any revolutionary movement needs legal infrastructure and business infrastructure. A commercial front is important to supply oneself with hardware and to have legal employment for people involved in revolutionary activity. Where do you think would the money come from to pay full time revolutionaries? Patreon donations maybe. One does not buy heavily taxed tactical toys on Amazon when a commercial infrastructure makes supplies more economical by purchasing them wholesale. The corporation buys in bulk and sells it tax-free and cheaper to its loyal people. This was a practice done often by businesses in Europe where one could find remnants of the feudal lord and servant structure, like in Spain. One better finds way to organize such an enterprise if he doesn’t speculate that Chick-fil-a donates parts of its motor pool for gun trucks.
The American Right idealizes living in a rural culture instead of an urban one, but most of them depend on the cities, which creates this horrible bastard creature of suburban living. It lacks the strict social pressure you would encounter in rural areas, and it gives access to the commercial and cultural hub of the close city. But as staging area these places are completely useless. You can see in every police chase video how with one ghetto bird and its thermal camera such an area can be controlled. I personally think this trope of the Right is a leftover of the American pioneer Calvinism where one builds spread out farms that shine like the candles on a chandelier against the dark forest where the savage heathen lives. Afrikaners did the same and look where their isolated little farms got them. Forget that idea of individual Abrahamic patriarchies. Now you are the savage heathen in the dark forest, creeping up on civilization.
The “yellow vests” movement started in the countryside, where as mentioned the bourgie middle class worker bees have their little bourgie escape homes, and then it moved to urban centers which are built around government infrastructure which is linked with taxation and traffic control. During that time, around 60% of all speeding cameras in France were destroyed and they set fire to toll stations and a few local administrative buildings.
Then they started to protest in Paris, which is tactically not so smart because that city was designed with eighteenth century style revolutions in mind so the streets are rather broad so that you can’t build barricades. It was not an important battlefield anyway and rather a controlled steam valve where people can burn down private property and can have catch-up games with the police.
A successful revolutionary movement needs the duality of staging protests in the urban centers with one hand while carving out pieces of territory in the countryside or other urban areas where the police presence is low because all the cops are busy elsewhere. For the purpose of distraction every social outrage movement that fields enough bodies can do it. Everybody knows the picture of the Vietnamese monk barbequeing himself during a Buddhist student protest clashing with police and military in Saigon, yet very little people know that both sides were heavily infiltrated by the Vietcong who during that moments took over more and more villages in the countryside.
The “yellow vests” basically brought down commercial traffic across France simply by shutting down the roads. They didn’t get any resistance from anyone else because, as mentioned, sympathy to strikes in France is rather strong. So everyone tolerated it until it would really reach a critical point where food would be running out and the “yellow vests” themselves did nothing to really take up Area Denial measures like destroying a road, installing permanent roadblocks, setting up temporary checkpoints, setting up fortified checkpoints, picking out government employees on these checkpoints, denying the government to function while setting up their own proto-government structure.
One complaint that followed every “yellow vest” activity around like a bad smell was their bemoaning that the press coverage of their activities was “unfair.” This showed yet another aspect of their attitude of impotent entitlement. Every organization needs to be able to produce its own propaganda. The press will never report in your favor; they wanna see burning cars and your little grievance issues do not interest them anyways except as just another story before the next ballgame or cat that can play piano comes along.
On the other hand, the propaganda videos that armed groups in Syria and Iraq produced were effective. Boomer conservatives shook their fists and called them names, but these groups were conquering territories for themselves while the only thing that lardy Boomers barely control are their porches and bladders.
During the early days cocial media platforms were full of “yellow vest” live streams which were… all boring nothingburgers. Yet, these live streams had people glued to them who would debate live in attached chat rooms what next would or should happen instead of getting off their asses and doing something. These people would have nothing else better to do anyways.
The Left usually attacks journalists that are not 100% on their side and they have good reasons to do so. Live streams or cameras could capture pictures of their foot soldiers committing crimes. When they allow journalists, these journalists cooperate with them and will later blur out pictures of Antifa activists for example and write favorable headlines like “Cannibal Violence at Trump Rally” and the like. Some “yellow vests” figured that out later and chased off these parasites with their cameras out for pictures they could sell to stock footage websites. The right would be well advised to find its own voice and drown the others out instead of waiting for the media to be fair to them. This is not a marketplace of ideas or some fru-fru woo like that; this is a battlefield.
The right has often the wrong impression that muh thin blue line is somehow on their side because they don’t commit crimes and they want law and order. But the cops are on whichever side pays their wages. They will never turncoat away when they have mortgages unless one can offer them a better deal and instant monetary benefits. But usually they are not worth it anyway. The good aspect of them being ordinary, rather mediocre people is that they perform at a normal mediocre level and have a low breaking point. The suicide rate among the French police is rather high and spiked again this year, but the suicide rate among many branches in France in general is very high. An entitlement culture does not leave space for the ability to suffer hardship. The simplest thing here would be to use these social outrage movements to simply keep the pressure up on the cops until they decide its not worth it for them or they off themselves.
In the case of the “yellow vests” the protesters simply encouraged the cops by chanting to commit suicide, in contrast to the Maidan protest where eighteen police officers died either of health reasons related to stress, or the protesters outright killed them. The killing of police officers in relation to such social unrest that turn into organized insurgencies usually occurs during the clashes in the street, but when individual police officers get stopped at a checkpoint on their way home or to work. For this reason, the authorities bring in riot police from another part of the country and barrack them away from the community where the riots are raging.
During the “yellow vest” protests the French police deployed not just riot police but also their Brigade Anti-Criminalité, a police unit that usually operates in the diverse parts of Paris. These guys in their semi-civilian semi-riot cop gear get deployed as snatch and grab troops who go among the protesters and just grab and arrest people who either committed crimes or are suspected of doing so. And the protesters could not do much to counter these few thugish bodysnatchers. This is not a line of plastic shields you can blow off steam against, this is a small squad of brawlers, psychologically hard boiled through years of fighting among the diversity, with helmets and clubs that descend and seize a single victim before disappearing again. This tactic proves highly demoralizing for the average person participating in these protests.
The French police are known to be rather brutal and even though you don’t get an Algerian swimming lesson anymore, they will deploy the force of the state if you don’t do what they tell you. Among the “yellow vests” many injuries were suffered, some of which were inflicted by the police, who will deploy the force of the state if you don’t leave an area that is declared to be cleared and you ignore multiple demands to leave the area, but many others were inflicted because the pissed off middle class bourgie is not a talented street fighter. And so when the police throw teargas, they will attempt to throw them back, instead of kicking them into a fire so that the teargas burns up, and so they attempt the same when the cops then throw flashbang grenades that will rip your Hand off if you touch it. And so hands were ripped off and more complains were made and so justice was demanded from the same government that they just protested against because it is so unjust.
For a revolution you don’t need guns as much as gunmen. During the “yellow vests” protests many Americans commented the happenings with their typical romanticized fantasies about muh guns. The gun laws in France are rather relaxed by European standards and shotguns can be bought after a two-part safety course attended at your local department. Black powder revolvers are free at the age of eighteen and they would be good enough to secure better hardware. If you were serious about such activities, there would be enough possibilities. And let us not forget that during the protests a full auto assault rifle was stolen from a police car and has since disappeared. Either it will collect dust in some attic somewhere or it might even find its way into the hands of the next Charlie Hebdo shooter because whoever stole it sold it to the sort of people who buy black market guns.
But this is just guns, and every time somebody brings up the topic of guns in relationship to such events, you can guess already that person knows little of what they speak. Guns did nothing for the American people than to protect their right to buy more guns. They lost almost every inner city in the country to hostile foreign groups who now are battling it out among one another. Protection from crime is a weak argument, since that sort of crime nests and breeds in the places the white Americans ran away from in the first place. Also, the little toy guns the US government allows you to have are not war fighting material anyway. The AR-15 is a toy they give you to play with since it looks like the gun real soldiers have, but its chronically unrealistic since it has a totally mutilated bolt system to prevent the conversation into full auto. Every time they find that gun with an active shooter it had jammed. You see even during the Branton Tarrant video that his AR-15 jammed two times. This is not so problematic if you gun down unarmed soft targets, but in a firefight that could be the end.
If these militia larping guys were serious, which they are not, they would focus on the easy modifiable AK, mortars, mines, hand grenades, and drones. The most casualties in war get inflicted by artillery and IEDs, not fancy pants small arms with red dot, but fancy pants small arms with red dot sell better than landmines made out of scrap and trash.
The day of the “yellow vests” died down and ended like most things with a whimper instead of a bang since people have more to lose than to win if things would really escalate. A couple of hundreds are left over now after thousands of arrests the courts will work through hundreds of cases where people will be fined and sent to prison. One by one in the coming years, nipping away bit by bit.
What the protests achieved in the end was appeasing a few bourgeoisie aspirations for more material wealth and money that will either raise your taxation status or will be eaten up by inflation in two years anyway.
If one looks for examples how to topple a government, one is better advised with the Maidan revolution for all its flaws. But for that you need people who are more familiar with poverty, who lack the braggadocio attitude of the French and who can suffer through way higher body counts. The West does not produce these anymore when even the most spergy loser can munch tendies in mamas basement without the fear of possibility that the local warlord will simply press him into a labor corps until he drops or some first wave crack unit. For a revolution, we need things to fail catastrophically so more basic survival protocols — fight or flight — kick in with a large segment of the population.