The chopper and the hussar

Can we violate the law to maintain public order?? This is the question posed by vigilantism evoked by this remarkable comparative work on the summary justice in the safe moment.

Researchers at CNRS in political sociology, respectively specialists in Russia and the Indian subcontinent, probing police excesses and urban violence, Gilles Favarel-Garrigues and Laurent Gayer study the transnational problem of self-proclaimed vigilantes. Proud to punish follows a double perspective which goes from citizen-vigilantes to punishers in uniform; from the fight against delinquency to social cleansing (p. 20).

By crossing political philosophy with legal, police, media and film sources, investigating the internet and social networks, sensitive to pop culture and the imagination of summary justice which illustrate films and news items, the authors problematize the devices of vigilantism social. Security patrols, social defense militias, death squads: our world is taken over by punitive fever.

Punishing fever

In dialogue with Keep an eye on and punish (1975), We must defend society (1976) and The Abnormals (1974-1975) by Michel Foucault, mixing the theses of thepunitive excess by the American sociologist and jurist David Garland with those of Didier Fassin on the punishing passionthe two researchers do not just give a sociology book on self-justice which undermines democracy.

The work indeed formulates a lucid diagnosis through the prism of the security debate: In France, rather than in the emergence of a situation where the state would franchise the right of the sword to vigilant ready to fight, the most immediate threat to democratic freedoms seems rather to be the consolidation of a security regime which, to remain contained within the rule of law, would nonetheless empty it of its substance (p. 280).

Can we define vigilantism?? We could return to fiction. Since the 1930s, the North American superhero has embodied him. N in the comicsTHE pulps and cinema, he personifies self-justice in the face of police laxity or corruption. Between Spanish California and Gotham City/New York, solitary avengers, descendants of Robin Hood, Zorro by Johnston McCulley (1919) and Batman by Bob Kane (1939) embody the vigilantism. However, under the mask of impunity and fear, they aim for good. Guardians of customary order (Spanish monarchy, American democracy), protecting the widow and the orphan, tracking down the scoundrels, opposed to evil, they correct inequity through popular justice.

Clean up society

In reality, vigilantism is quite different. Born in the United States, worldwide (South Africa, Australia, Colombia, United States, India, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, France), vigilantism resorts force in order to repair wrongs or enforce standards (legal standards or moral prescriptions), in the name of a reference community (p. 26). Private violence peaks in authoritarian regimes, but also in societies exhausted by neoliberalism.

There The figure of the vigilante is that of a white man, reactionary and xenophobic, protecting his property and the honor of his people against the scourge of delinquency. (p. 12). Police officer, prosecutor, judge and executioner: he embodies the entire criminal chain. Deploring state laxity, he acts to achieve the dirty work of public health (pp. 195-200).

Colombian or Mexican death squads, survivalist self-defense leagues USApedophilia punishers in Russia, Roma trackers in France, Filipino killers: the vigilantes opt fordirect action of social regulation. The one who animatesFighting organization of Russian nationalists when it beats up foreign residents, anti-fascist and human rights activists, liberal journalists and lawyers (p. 123-134).

Purge the scum, destroy pests: vigilantism aims at social prophylaxis which inspires assassins in Russia and southern India. Consolidated in the Latin American continent (Salvador, Colombia, Brazil), the authoritarian link of economic liberalism, the vigilant strike the subversives, the poor, the downgraded and the undesirable ethnic groups. More than once, the police apparatus is inspired by it, notably in Brazil under the military dictatorship (1964-1985)Death Squad Rio de Janeiro against malandros (good nothing).

With private funds, the militia multiplies summary executions in a terrorizing drama. In Colombia, the skull and crossbones are engraved on the corpses of human slag accompanies the reporting note on the theft committed or drugs consumed (p. 198). In Nigeria, Bakassi Boys kill the machete. In the Bolivian BarriosTHE vigilantes burn alive asocial. In India and Pakistan,Encounter Specialist executes suspected criminals. Everywhere, the same obsession: clean up society like the Brazilian paramilitaries and their Colombian avatars of the operations of limpieza (pp. 34-37, 39, 77, 183-217).

Often, vigilantism goes digital (Digilantism). Social networks make it easier to naming and shaming pedophiles whose profile is posted online: The Paedophile Hunter (pp. 45, 49, 50). At the beginning of XXIe century, Marksim Martskinkevich, alias Tesak (The Chopper)skinhead and youtuber nonazi is an overactive activist in Russia. Host of social networks, he publishes the images of beatings and emigrant murders which he claims. After serving a prison sentence, he reoffended in 2009 with Occupy Pedophilia on a vigilant show with advertising. The Chopper wants to defend the civil society. Died in prison in 2020, the moral entrepreneur exaggerated scum (pp. 23-28, 63-65).

Vigilantism also draws the battlefield of popular justice Maoste obdience. Like the FARC in Colombia or the Argentinian Montoneros, the vigilantes present themselves as radical revolutionaries. They set up the people's court then decimated them class enemies the machete or Kalashnikov. Revolutionary justice is the supreme form of proletarian vigilantism (p. 168-178).

Vigilante violence reaffirms racial subordinations and social hierarchies to contain insecurity. In 2019, near Bobigny, after racist campaigns on Facebook against the Romanian child thieves, Roma are beaten by social defense proslytes. The camp of Gypsies and the supermarket parking lot became a lynching zone which was the origin of vigilantism (p. 67-69.).


The culture of Mobocracy Or law of the crowd nat in South Carolina around 1767 with the Regulators , both police officers, judges and executioners (p. 67-106, 297). Soon, these committees citizen vigilance practiced lynching, the authorship of which goes to the Puritan judge Charles Lynch (1736-1796), tobacco planter in Virginia and colonel during the War of Independence. He adopts the summary justice of whip, tar, feathers and rope. From then on, according to many westerns like the twilight masterpiece The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) by William A. Wellman, the Lynch's law targets horse thieves, poker cheats, rapists, child kidnappers, rebellious blacks and Indians.

William Wellman, The Ox Bow Incident

After the Civil War, the abolition of slavery destroyed the plantation and revived lynching in the deep South until around 1960. In front of the cheering crowd, thousands of black proletarians accused of a real or imaginary crime against a white man or woman were executed. Violating the rule of law, lynching offers the feverish mob the ability to kill.

There street justice bruises the bodies of deviants for their actions (theft, rape) and for their be (ethnic origin, social status, sexual orientation). Ally of the dominant, the lyncher targets the protester: activist, defender of human rights or the environment, journalist, intellectual. In 1940, the song Vigilante Man by Woody Gunthrie accuses vigilant who repress American trade unionists. William Faulkner highlights the consensus and the horror of lynching in Intruder in the Dust (1948) superbly filmed in 1949 by Clarence Brown under an eponymous title.

Clandestine or visible like death squads Colombians, on the border or in a neighborhood, illegally liquidating public enemies and social rejects, self-proclaimed vigilantes supplant the state's right to punish. On the one hand, they reinforce the ultra-security policy of the state lax; on the other, they floutideal correctional of criminal justice. Their referential alliance goes from the oppressed proletarian to the dominant classes via the honest people.

If the right to kill is last resort of state sovereignty, the vigilante monopolizes it with the degradation and torture of asocial. This security terrorism and social intimidation revives the torture logic of the Ancien Régime, analyzed by the Foucauldian anthropology of Keep an eye on and punish (1975).

Dirty Harry: The Legal Outlaw

Uniformed vigilantes practice summary justice as much as the film series Dirty Harry popularized in the insecure climate of the 1970s in the United States. Expeditious cop in Magnum Force by Ted Post (1973), Inspector Callahan nevertheless faces even more expeditious colleagues who shoot down Los Angeles delinquents without warning. Around social defense, this punitive police is a vigilantism unsuitable for the police institution.

Against the rule of law, the police become a outlaw legal. There police discretion describes the capacity for police discernment. However, the cop's moral dilemma is crucial. Will he use bad means for the just end? Since the 1930s, this ontological concern has been that of police vigilantism which designates the violent illegalities of the North American police. Lpolice self-justice there is one collective phenomenon, organized and integrated into the state apparatus (pp. 223-228). Recently, African-Americans Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were executed by racist police officers. These vigilant in uniform defended the social order and the white community against black peril.

Social cleaners desecrate democracy. When the political authority tolerates or encourages vigilantism, like President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, it brings the rule of law back to the vigilante and torture state of the Old Regime. Militia, death squads, supremacist activists: the self-proclaimed avengers are hijacking the monopoly on state violence for the benefit of extrajudicial punishment for public order. They stage punitive obstinacy on the asocial. Sometimes, they dream of major actions to clean up the township or take back the suburbs.

Take back the suburbs

Believe homophobic and anti-fminist against decadenceGregory Leroy, alias The Hussarsells in Poland anti-terrorism training and paramilitary training to stem the Islamist secession of cities in France. Permissive on the possession of firearms, Polish legislation favors Spartan vigilantism militias.

Amazing video Take and hold a city HLM (Hussar TV) advocates the Reconquista of lost territories of the Republic French (Ibid., p. 277). Secure the planade, patrol in front of the rental bar, take back the 11-story tower of the dormitory town: this will be the task of the units of 60 vigilant surarms. If the rule of law had become authoritarian and allowed private violence to be used by vigilante thugs, it would open the social floodgates of lynching and civil war.

Necessary reading is this lucid book of political anthropology on security fear and punitive fever. We read there that democratic freedoms are today shaken by a political convergence of unprecedented magnitude. It is about the alliance between the summary justice of Robin Hood with dirty hands and the security reinforcement which forges the new alliance of liberal and authoritarian states.