The AHI Enquiry’s Flirtation with “anarcho-tyranny”
On April 11th, Rosary “Club” Founder and President Devin Mendelson published “Hamilton’s Suppression of the Rosary Club” in the AHI Enquiry, complaining at length about alleged discrimination against Catholics at Hamilton. While Mendelson’s article covers a wide variety of grievances, he also made a worrying detour into a fringe political theory that deserves some focus.
Towards the end of the article, Mendelson declares that “Hamilton, like so much else in America, has been taken over by anarcho-tyranny.” Defining the term as “the tendency to selectively repress based on left-wing standards,” he claims that “anarcho-tyranny” is responsible for a double standard of discourse where secular students can make fun of chastity but the Rosary “Club” can’t be homophobic. Mendelson ends the article by claiming that “anarcho-tyranny” is the reason why Rosary “Club” was not deemed an actual club by the Administration (despite the fact that the group was only approved to function as part of the Newman Council, Rosary still calls itself a club and attended the club fair).
This isn’t the first time an AHI Enquiry article has referenced “anarcho-tyranny”: in 2020, another article defined “anarcho-tyranny” as “a condition wherein the government infringes upon the rights of citizens while failing to put down violence and chaos” and used it in reference to the Black Lives Matter protests.
Off the Hill, Charlie Kirk has argued that vaccine requirements at In-N-Out represented “anarcho-tyranny.” John Zmirak referenced the concept while comparing the government in George Orwell’s 1984 to Antifa. Michelle Malkin and Rod Dreher also think that “anarcho-tyranny” exists. Beyond this handful of right-wing commentators, however, few have taken to referencing the concept. Where does “anarcho-tyranny” come from, and what does it mean?
“Anarcho-tyranny” was coined by Samuel T. Francis as “…essentially a kind of Hegelian synthesis of what appear to be dialectical opposites: the combination of oppressive government power against the innocent and the law-abiding and, simultaneously, a grotesque paralysis of the ability or the will to use that power to carry out basic public duties such as protection or public safety.” Given this definition, it appears that the 2020 article has a better definition correctly compared to Mendelson. What it doesn’t explain, however, is why either article contained the term in the first place.
Samuel T. Francis was a 20th century American conservative writer and an intense and unapologetic racist, once declaring that “neither slavery nor racism as an institution is a sin” and that “there's reasonably solid evidence for IQ differences, personality and behavior differences” between races. Francis also believed that “the civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people” and advocated for “adequate fertility controls on nonwhites” to maintain white supremacy. In general, Francis isn’t the sort of person one would casually reference in a college op-ed.
None of this is to say that Mendelson or the AHI share Francis’ controversial views. It's just strange for campus writers to repeatedly reference a niche theory created by a fringe paleoconservative. “Anarcho-tyranny” isn’t even a particularly smart or prescient theory; the term tosses two disparate forms of government together as a catch-all for when the government (or the College) does something the author doesn’t like, making it essentially useless as an analytical tool. Who gets to determine which political actors are “innocent” or “law-abiding”? Was it “anarcho-tyranny” when police officers used tear gas on peaceful protesters, infringing on their First Amendment rights? What about when police officers are reinstated with charges dismissed after assaulting an elderly protester in Buffalo? I think that these would be examples of “anarcho-tyranny”, but I doubt the AHI Enquiry writers would.
It would be one thing if the controversial term perfectly applied to the situation at hand, but it doesn’t. Mendelson’s references to the term are especially bizarre given that “anarcho-tyranny” usually refers to the state and not a college administration (a fact that he recognizes in his article). Furthermore, no “oppressive power” has been used against him, unless you count being required to go through the same creation process that every other club is required to go through.
The Enquiry’s labored references to a flawed political theory from a fringe racist intelectual are very concerning. Given that the context and authorship of “anarcho-tyranny” are now clear to the Hamilton community, those getting paid to write for the AHI should question whether they want their articles to reference Samuel T. Francis in the future.