Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Vigilantism - Origins, Examples, Ideologies Of Vigilante Groups, Contemporary Vigilantism, Bibliography

Vigilantism - Ideologies Of Vigilante Groups

law violence self vigilantes

Vigilante violence is the opposite of revolutionary violence. Revolutionaries resort to force in order to overthrow the established order and create new arrangements, whereas vigilantes unleash violence to restore order and maintain the status quo. In their manifestos, vigilance committees proclaimed that their coercive campaigns were meant to halt destabilizing trends, shore up faltering structures, revive fading traditions, and buttress existing relationships. Their actions were intended to quash challenges to local elites from either below or outside.

To legitimize their lawless deeds, vigilantes argued that their ends justified their means. In order to preserve sacred traditions, enforce conventional moral codes, and further respect for authority, "honorable red-blooded, law-abiding" citizens sometimes were compelled to impose "retaliatory justice." They portrayed themselves as acting in self-defense as they lashed out in righteous indignation against "idlers," "parasites," "intruders," "corrupters," and "predators." They filled their manifestos with appeals to natural law, patriotism, and religion. Claiming that the basic law of nature is survival, vigilante committee spokesmen asserted that a right to self-preservation took precedence over written legislation and procedural guidelines in life-and-death, kill-or-be-killed struggles. In their speeches and writings, leaders and supporters reaffirmed their faith in God and country and in the ultimate sanctity of the law. But they interpreted the democratic ideals of popular sovereignty and the right to revolution as calls to action when government officials seemed inept, corrupt, or overly tolerant of criminal behavior. In their appeals to others to join their mobilization, vigilantes invoked the cherished frontier ethics of self-reliance and of male responsibility for the wellbeing of women and children. Leading elected officials, judges, lawyers, and legal scholars accepted and defended the vigilante credo during the late 1800s and early 1900s. More concerned with suppressing disruptive behavior than with respecting due process, they granted qualified approval to vigilantism's simple, direct, swift, certain, and severe punishments as a rational response to the inadequacies, delays, and uncertainties of an allegedly "ineffectual" criminal justice process (Hofstadter and Wallace; Madison; and Brown).

The Ku Klux Klan and other "night rider" groups have been the most explicitly ideological of all vigilante groups. Since the period of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, Klansmen have attacked "troublemakers" that they believed threatened their way of life: rebellious members of minority groups who did not accept their place in the local social order, civil rights activists, labor union organizers, recently arrived immigrants, outside agitators, and alleged subversives. Most of the victims of Klan terror have been African Americans, Catholics, and Jews.

Vigilantism - Contemporary Vigilantism [next] [back] Vigilantism - Examples

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

almost 7 years ago

Even al-Qaeda is closer to what I would call a vigilante group than the KKK ever will be.

Vote down Vote up

about 8 years ago

You people who are talking about racism are fools. Racism is a card played by the media. Its a card played to distract you from the real problems. Unemployment, Citizenship, Immigration. By making those issues difficult, expensive, and complicated, Big Business Benefits. The real movers and shakers in washington. They want to use you to help break the labor unions. To them illegal means you will do anything. It means you will work for less money. It means you will work without complaining. It means you will work overtime without overtime pay, insurance, or benefits. Landlords are the same. Illegals pay in cash. Illegals dont complain about bugs or rats or plumbing.

The people on the other side of the picket line want what you want. A safe crime free neighborhood for their kids to grow up and a job that pays a fair wage. If we can find the similarities in each other maybe then we can unite against the real problem. An oppression. Dont fall for that old "RACIST" bullshit. Its just used to distract you from the real issues.

Vote down Vote up

about 8 years ago

The whole reason for Vigilante justice is enforcing justice where there is none. Vigilant means always watching. And everyone should be Vigilant. Governments grow corrupt. When the criminals enter elected office, like a Southern Sheriff who is also a Clansman. The law no longer works. A person of authority can do alot of damage if evil-minded.This type of person needs to be assassinated quickly. Historically the clan opperated this way. The British East India Company forced labor into sweatshop like conditions and monopolized trade. Mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, tea, and illegal opium for 0ver 200 years. Ghandi was an organizer and revolutionary. Not a Vigilante. A Vigilante should have stopped the BEITC Immediately. We need more Vigilantes. Cut off the head and the body dies. Thats why both Kennedy's and Martin Luther King and Malcom X were all assassinated by the criminals. The corupt. The powers that be. If you dont believe the CIA was in some way involved, Then go take the blue pill.(matrix)Thats also why we need to fight the same way. As those who speak out against oppression and tyranny, are silenced. So too should we strike back at those who argue"you have to give up liberty to protect your freedom." Think about that last statement.

Vote down Vote up

over 9 years ago

*Si vis pacem, para bellum*
(If you wish for peace, prepare for war)

Vote down Vote up

over 8 years ago

The most effective way of procurring peace is to be prepared for war.



George Washington

Vote down Vote up

over 9 years ago

Israel & Tesia -

1. Being a vigilante can be argued for both bad as well as good. For example, when governments are inable to protect their people from harm, such as some countries in Africa, viligantes are the only way to protect.

2. Israel, I was born in Israel and then moved to the US. I do believe that racism is terrible and should not exist, but paying for their terrible actions by violence (i agree with Tesia) is not the way to go.

3. If you believe that the police in your country are racists, you should file a lawsuit the orderly and respectable way, and if the policemen really are racist, you should win the lawsuit.

4. Tesia - the definition of a vigilante is someone who takes punishing a crime for justice into his/her own hands. Therefore the KKK should not be considered a vigilantee group, because they did not enforce justice but rather punish people they didn't like for minimal reason. Considering the KKK as a vigilante group is pushing the limits a bit, but it is under some definition a viglante comitee.

5. Although I contradict a few of Tesia's points, overall I do agree with Tesia's will to use ideas such as Ghandi's. Peace > War.



But finally, I hope that none of you ever are in the need to make a decision in which vigilantism is necassary.

Vote down Vote up

almost 10 years ago

Israel - It's groups like the KKK that have brought such pain to our nation. Why then would you want to turn around and cause others pain? You claim to have had to suffer from racism, and for that I am sorry, but for change to happen, violence is not the answer. If anyone rises up against such groups in a violent manner, the desired result will not be achieved. Police do care, and they do fight for you. I don't know where you're from, but it isn't right to generalize all police as racist.

Vigilante groups, like the KKK, are only horrid scars and wounds on our nation. We can only benefit by people deciding to handle situations peacefully, otherwise, our nation - or any nation - will only fall into the ways of revenge, and our world will become a greater form of hell than it already has become.

Lets turn around from the idiotic ways of the negative vigilantes, and use ideas such as Ghandi's. He won India's independence with his methods of peace. Why can't we fight racism and other important issues in the same way?

Vote down Vote up

over 10 years ago

being a vigilante is a good thing

and so called blacks and hispanics should form such groups against crime because the police don't give a damn about us.....and all racist should pay for the crime they did on the people of god the hebrew israelites....