Let me state at the outset that my faith in Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who seems like the ultimate Good Time Charlie of American politics, to do what is necessary to successfully deal with what’s happening in Atlanta is … limited.
I’m being kind.
I don’t expect Kemp to follow my advice. But I invite you to take a quick vacation to a slightly different world, a world in which Republican leadership of a red state (and Georgia is still a red state; if you don’t agree, just look at the composition of its state legislature, statewide elected officials, and congressional delegation) actually means something.
If that reference is a bit too obscure for you, here’s a recap. Starting in 1532, a group of anti-Catholic radicals settled in the town of Münster, in the Westphalia region of northern Germany, and distributed pamphlets among the poor calling for the absolute equality of man in all matters — mostly notably the distribution of wealth. The pamphlets had it that the poor were the elect of Heaven and, by golly, they ought to reap some benefit from that. This was the creed of the early Anabaptist sect, who were absolutely the Antifa of their day, and the Münster Anabaptists were led by a radical Lutheran pastor named Bernard Rothmann.
These guys eventually figured out that God was calling them to take political power over the town, and when the locals had been sufficiently converted to the new radical egalitarian faith, they managed to sweep the local elections, depose the old-line magistrates in charge, and elect one of their number, a wealthy wool merchant named Bernhard Knipperdolling, as the mayor. This turned Münster into a magnet for the Anabaptists who flooded the city, including a couple of ne’er-do-wells — a tailor from Leiden named Jan Bockelson, known as John of Leiden, and a baker from Haarlem named Jan Matthys.
It didn’t take long before the Anabaptists greatly outnumbered the old-line Lutherans and Catholics in Münster, and, after Rothmann called for mass adult baptisms, they were busy dunking folks in every water repository they could find — which was quite uplifting for many and generally harmless for the rest. But when rebaptism became compulsory, and the zealots began rampaging through cathedrals and monasteries and smashing statues and other icons (boy howdy, this stuff is starting to sound familiar, amirite?), the adults elsewhere began to take a more jaundiced view of what Bockelson and others were calling the “New Jerusalem” in Münster.
Here’s where we introduce Franz von Waldeck, who was the Catholic bishop of Münster. Von Waldeck was among those not gaining much enjoyment from the happenings in his town; in fact, the Anabaptists showed him the city gate and insisted that he reside on the other side of it. He took his expulsion with a deficit of good cheer, in fact raising an army and laying siege to the city.
And this is where 1534 comes off a little differently than 2023. Because when von Waldeck’s men encircled Münster, Matthys, who fancied himself the new incarnation of the angel Gideon, led a band of Anabaptists (reporting is sketchy on the subject, but if you want to think of them as wearing all black, including black masks, you’re welcome to do so) outside the city gates in order to raise the siege. That didn’t go so well, as Matthys’ force was quickly encircled and routed, and the good bishop had his head removed and placed atop a tall pike for all of Münster to see. In case that wasn’t quite demonstrative enough as a signal of his displeasure, he had Matthys’ genitals nailed to the city gate.
But wait, there’s more to the story. Because while the Anabaptists were having trouble expanding their little Münster Autonomous Zone, they were for a time quite successful in bringing about social change within it. Knipperdolling, the mayor, was busily preaching a number of things that sound a bit familiar: that men are not justified by their faith in Christ; that there is no original sin; that infants ought not to be baptized and that immersion is the only mode of baptism; that everyone has the authority to preach and administer the sacraments; that men are not obliged to pay respect to magistrates; that all things ought to be in common; and that it is lawful to marry many wives.
He didn’t quite say all cops are bastards, but that wasn’t quite yet a thing in the 16th century. You get the general gist, though.
And Knipperdolling was the moderate of the group. He managed to talk Matthys out of a plan to murder all non-Anabaptists in Münster; Knipperdolling’s idea was just to demand they surrender their property to the collective and then submit to being dunked or get the hell out of town. But after Matthys’ career as a social justice warrior came to a suboptimal end, John of Leiden — Bockelson, that is — took over as the grand poo-bah of the New Jerusalem. And Bockelson didn’t play quite so well with Knipperdolling. They quarreled in a short power struggle, which ended in Bockelson naming himself king — he very modestly referred to himself as the New David — and Knipperdolling being thrown in prison to cool his heels. But that kerfuffle was resolved with Knipperdolling accepting a job as vice-king and Münster’s chief executioner of heretics, and Bockelson marrying Knipperdolling’s daughter along with a whole host of other women.
Sixteen, to be exact. Though before you marvel at his ability to spin plates, let’s understand that it’s said that the prospective 17th Bockelson bride, an unfortunately obstinate woman named Elisabeth Wandscherer, was repaid for her refusal to join his harem with a beheading in the marketplace. King John the Tailor had passed a law, you see, that obligated all the Münster women to accept the first proposal of marriage made to them, which certainly changed things up a bit.
This was a pretty heady triumph for a 25-year-old who a year earlier was measuring people from crotch to ankle.
But alas, it didn’t last. While the Anabaptists did achieve social justice, in that, other than Bockelson’s little ruling elite, the citizens of Münster were all equally starving under the siege, Münster quickly fell into ruin. And by June 24, 1535, the Münster Autonomous Zone met its end when the good bishop and his army stormed the city, routed its defenders, and rounded up the rebellion’s leadership. And on Jan. 22, 1536, Kniperdolling and Bockelson and the other ringleaders were tortured and executed with great fanfare in the town marketplace, their bodies placed in cages that hung from the steeple at St. Lambert’s Church for the next half-century.
We operate in a bit less dramatic of a fashion nowadays, and, as I said, I don’t have much faith that Brian Kemp will feel a calling to copy the way of Bishop von Waldeck. Instead of sieges and nailing testicles to city gates, we have “white flight,” “municipal bankruptcy,” and “federal indictments” as a way of policing totalitarian heresies. Those are more in keeping with modern sensibilities, to be sure.
But there’s a problem with that: our experience seems to show that modern ways, humane though they may be, are a bit less effective in proving to the fanatics that their theories don’t work. Bishop von Waldeck was able to restore Münster to market economics and civil society in just 18 months and there is no such timetable for Atlanta.
Not given the damage Antifa, not to mention the former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, has already done. Don’t forget that the current insurrection in that city is merely a redux of 2020, when Antifa loons burned out the headquarters of CNN downtown; now, CNN has said they’d vacate the place for some reason. And in a “watch what they do, not what they say,” the media organ had on its air Monday a “freelance journalist” named David Peisner who said, “I do think that you keep using these words violent, violent, violent, violent, and it gives the impression that — the only violence that are — the only acts of violence against people that I saw were actually police tackling protesters.”
This while images of a burning cop car and black-clad goons throwing rocks at the Atlanta Police Foundation building played on the screen.
Well — surprise! — Peisner turns out to be raising money for a domestic terrorist named Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who shot a Georgia state trooper at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center and found himself unable to sustain normal body temperature or a heartbeat after the predictable reaction.
One longs for von Waldeck. That clearly not being in the cards, Kemp might at least send the state troopers or even the Georgia National Guard into the Atlanta Autonomous Zone to inflict a modicum of violence and incarceration among the insurrectionist Antifa mob before this affront to law and order destroys what remains of his capital city.