Fools, Dupes, and Knaves: a quick primer on the modern antiwar movement.

I plan to be using these categories quite often in the next few months – or years! – so I think that I should define my terms, here.  It is vitally important that, when you are showing your disapproval for someone, that you be as precise as you can be about why you disapprove.  After all, it would never do to let a Knave skate by on an improper Dupe designation, or have a Dupe be mistaken for a Fool.  Also, one other note: ‘antiwar movement’ here is defined as being the people who actively march, support, and/or attempt to change public opinion on our current foreign and political policies.  Your Aunt Peggy who doesn’t like it when we send troops abroad to places where they’re getting shot at*, and who happens to say so at Thanksgiving dinner, is neither a Fool, a Dupe, nor a Knave.  Unless she’s giving money to Code Pink, or something.  In which case, I’m sorry to hear that.


Anyway, the designations:

  • Fools. These are the True Believers.  Hardcore progressive activists (low- to mid-level cadre), sincere radical Marxists, red diaper babies, half-brainwashed college students majoring in Useless Major Identity Studies, nomadic agitators, anybody who smells of paper-mache… these are the folks who believe what the Knaves tell them.  These are the people who are upset right now that the Democrats abandoned their cause in 2009 just as soon as Obama took office… and the same people who will uncritically welcome back the Democrats in 2017. They are sincere. They are also stupid, and are useless for anything except giving a Knave money.  Do not bother with them: they are not even worth extended mockery, let alone any attempts at conversion.
  • Dupes. The Dupe shares a characteristic with the Fool – they were sincerely against the war – but while the Fool is typically derived from one of several dreary Marxist or crypto-Marxist stereotypes, there is not really a standard Dupe.  Some are disaffected Republicans who weren’t big on intervention; some are nostalgic Democrats; still others had issues with war aims, or strategies, or tactics, or even the personalities of the people running the GWOT.  What every Dupe does have in common is that they were all conned by a Knave into thinking that either the antiwar movement, the Democratic party, or both were actually interested in the Dupe’s pet cause. As were the Fools, of course: but a further difference between the two groups is that a Dupe can in fact realize that they were Duped.  They tend to get usefully angry about that – which is something to consider; even if you can’t convert one, it surely wouldn’t be that difficult to encourage a Dupe to take out their anger on a deserving target, no?
  • Knaves. These are the ones who never believed in the first place, or who didn’t believe in whatever Cause he or she followed as much as he or she loved the money and power that could come from said Cause.  You can really, really easily identify a Knave these days: that guy over there?  The one who screamed about Bush’s War?  The one who is now impugning the patriotism of everybody who objects to Obama’s latest actions in Syria and Iraq?  Yeah, that guy’s a total Knave.  Most Democratic politicians are pretty much Knaves, as are the people actually running the groups that the Fools congregate to: Knaves don’t let Fools be in charge if they can help it, and the few Fools that get that far are quickly turned, or eased along down the road.  One thing that Knaves do share with Fools is that there’s no point in trying to convert one.  Or, more accurately, trying to convert one is kind of stupid.  Even if you did, how can you trust a Knave?

I hope this helps. One last thing: some people’s reaction in the past is to say that there’s a fourth group: people who are all three.  But that’s just… name-calling.  What I’m doing here is labeling three groups that are in fact distinguishable from each other – which is also name-calling, only I’m being essentially accurate in my definitions.  At any rate, the goal here is to do things that are useful, not things that make us feel good…

(Image via Shutterstock)

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Can’t say that I’m fond of that, myself.



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