Bomb-Throwing Anarchists

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Anarchist 3508.jpg

Mad Stan: BLOW IT ALL UP!
Terry McGinnis: Keep it down, Stan. We're in a library.
Mad Stan: You think this is a joke? Look around, Batman! Society's crumbling! And do you know why?
Terry McGinnis: Too many overdue books?

Mad Stan: Information overload, man! As a society we're drowning in a quagmire of vid-clips, e-mail, and sound bytes! We can't absorb it all! There's only one sane solution: BLOW IT UP!

The old terrorist stereotype.

Anarchism is an umbrella term for a bunch of views that advocate the reduction or elimination of hierarchic power.

Since the 19th century, after anarchism began to take form as a social movement, news, propaganda, and fiction have vilified anarchists as maniacs who just want nothing but chaos, destruction, and anarchy. Anarchists often fill the role of Terrorists Without a Cause.

The "bomb-throwing" image of the anarchist was locked into the mindset of the public after the 1886 Haymarket Square riot in Chicago, where eight anarchists went on trial for a bomb that was thrown at a rally (not to say that these eight anarchists threw it, as some weren't even at the rally and were rather targeted for being influential anarchist figures in Chicago). Most people had probably never paid much attention to one of the 19th century's many radical social movements before, but the sensationalized spread of the incident left a negative impression in media for a long time.

Often depicted with excess facial hair, or wearing a mask.

Traditionally equipped with a Cartoon Bomb, described by one stock image-hosting site as an "old-fashioned anarchist-style round bomb with burning fuse."

Subtrope of Strawman Political.

Compare Mad Bomber, Dirty Communists, Ludd Was Right. See also Anarchy Is Chaos for an aversion.

Examples of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists include:

Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Cowboy Bebop had the Teddy Bomber, a character existing only to be a bounty to be chased and fought over by Spike and Andy. He constantly tries to outline his manifesto but the two egomaniac heroes ignore him in their scrap to prove superiority over the (practically identical) other. We discover that in the end, his bombing was an attempt to call attention to, and level, the vast inequalities in society.
  • Gintama has Katsura.

Comics[edit | hide]

  • V from V for Vendetta partially counts. He is an anarchist, and he is quite mad, but unlike the other examples of this trope, he does have some empathy and does not mindlessly destroy everything.
    • Moreover he's The Hero.
      • Given that Alan Moore is himself an anarchist, albeit of the non-bomb throwing variety, this isn't surprising.
      • Word of God (the author, not the artist, anyway) is that V is not necessarily The Hero: readers are supposed to decide for themselves.
  • Batman villain (and obvious V Expy) Anarky is also a subversion. Sure, he's regularly put against Batman, but he's able to explain his motivations clearly and is often painted as more of an Anti-Hero who just happens to think violent means are okay against certain targets. He even had his own book for a few issues. As of late, however, there seems to be a new guy behind the mask who hews closer to this trope, and the actual Anarky is stuck in a technopathic coma seeking revenge. The original author is apparently not pleased with this development.
  • The Trope Image is taken from Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the United States, part of his Cartoon History of the Universe series, humourously lampshaded the common stereotype of anarchists as mad, bearded bombers ("smell like garlic... foreign accent... burning fuse") during the 1880s Red Scare after the Haymarket Bombing.
  • Referenced in Tintin: The Scepter of Ottokar. When Tintin sneaks into the palace to warn the king about the plot, he is captured by guards in the middle of a ball. The guests are told that Tintin was an anarchist, causing one of the guests to faint.
    • Of course the book was written around the time when anarchists were practically synonymous with terrorists.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight describes himself as an "agent of chaos" and talks about anarchy rather a lot - and does love Stuff Blowing Up - but it's pretty obvious he doesn't have any real politics apart from doing things For the Evulz.
    • The Joker was more of an Illegalist, a type of French anarchism where crime is considered the only true expression of anarchy. Essentially For the Evulz is the Joker's political cause, as he thinks everyone should be like that.
    • He seems to fashion himself as a sort of dark trickster figure, particularly in opposition to Batman as an upholder of law and order (thus the Joker would aspire to unlawful and chaotic acts).
  • The Vin Diesel vehicle xXx had a group of these as its villains, who intended to launch a chemical attack against several cities to provoke a world war and cause all order to break down leading to global freedom... somehow. The hero, on the other hand, has almost exactly the same social philosophy without the "killing people" part.
  • The Weather Underground (2002)
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex (2007)
    • Technically they were Communists (mostly Marxist-Leninists), not anarchists, but they managed to pigeonhole themselves in the whole "anti-establishment radicals are insane" stereotype.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Older Than Radio example: Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent has some straight examples and some subversions:
    • The main character, Mr. Verloc, is a spy for the czarist Russian government infiltrating a group of anarchists in London. His boss wants to provoke a crackdown on anarchists by the British government by getting anarchists to blow up the Royal Observatory. Verloc eventually converts his brother-in-law, a mentally retarded teenager, to violent anarchism in order to have him commit the crime.
    • Michaelis is a retired Bomb Throwing Anarchist who has become convinced that anarcho-syndicalism will succeed without violence. He is portrayed as very well-intentioned but not very bright.
    • The Professor, the purest example of this trope in the book, is a Nietzsche Wannabe who gives Verloc a bomb. He despises Michaelis's idealism and wants to create a world where the strong have free reign to crush the weak.
    • The story also includes the grotesque figure of Karl Yundt, who is expresses himself thus: "I have always dreamed of a band of men absolute in their resolve to discard all scruples in the choice of means, strong enough to give themselves frankly the name of destroyers, and free from the taint of that resigned pessimism which rots the world. No pity for anything on earth, including themselves, and death enlisted for good and all in the service of humanity -- that's what I would have liked to see." He has long since forgotten what he hoped to build in place of the old order.
  • From about the same era (1908, to be precise), the anarchists in G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday are actually proud of being devoted to destruction as an end in itself, considering partisan terrorists weaklings. "The outer circle are sad because the bomb did not kill the king; the inner circle are glad because the bomb killed somebody."
    • The Man Who Was Thursday is actually a Christian parable of sorts. The "anarchists" are not rebelling against society but against God.
      • And most of the alleged anarchists are merely disguised as such. The full title is The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare.
  • This is a staple of the era, so much so that the titular short story of H. G. Wells' first collection, The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, mocks the idea of an anarchist committing bioterrorism.[1]
    • Again, this is an example of making anarchists in general crazy terrorists who believe in nothing, instead of just the few lone-wolf bombers and gunmen who really existed. They had definite plans, even the few terrorists.
  • Former Russian Socialist Revolutionary bombist (see Real Life, below) Boris Savinkov eventually wrote an autobiography that was more or less true to the less nihilistic outlook of his party (which wasn't anarchistic in the first place anyway) and a fictional novel where the protagonist is a Blood Knight and virtually a Bomb Throwing Anarchist.
  • Of course, there needs must be named the "protagonist" of Thomas Pynchon's Against The Day, the dynamite-happy anarchist Webb Traverse, and his nitroglycerin liturgy against the railroads.
  • In Native Son, Bigger and his friends see a movie in which the hero is attacked by a bomb-wielding Communist.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Whenever anti-globalization activists or environmentalists (of any stripe) show up on Law & Order or other Police Procedurals, they are invariably this. If the producers wish to explore their motivations, they will turn out to be Well-Intentioned Extremists who believe Utopia Justifies the Means, but undergo a Villainous Breakdown or Epiphany Therapy in response to a Kirk Summation.
  • The Anarchist in the Blackadder the Third episode "Sense and Senility", who actually throws a Cartoon Bomb at the Prince Regent, while ranting about such industrial inventions as the "Going-up-and-down-a-bit-and-then-moving-along Gertrude".
  • In his acting debut, Justin Bieber (of all people) plays unhinged anarchist Jason McCann on CSI. He's a troubled teenager, with personal issues on top of a long list of others. He's appeared in two episodes of the 11th season, but is unlikely to appear in any more, because in the episode "Targets of Obsession" (the title itself poking fun at Justin's superstar status), Jason is shot around eight times, and killed by the police who corner him as he holds a man hostage on the road. Self-Deprecation at its best, good on Bieber for being a good sport.
  • The 1900s version of Casualty had a storyline based on an explosion in London thought to be the work of Russian anarchists/communists, and the police invade the hospital receiving room looking for the perpetrators, subjecting anyone of vaguely Eastern European extraction to intense questioning, one of whom is injured in the conflagration...before the explosion is revealed to have been due to gas.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Music example: Punk rockers often invoked this trope, posing as Bomb-Throwing Anarchists. The Ur Example may be the band Sex Pistols, whose famous song "Anarchy in the UK" goes as follows:

I am an Antichrist
I am an anarchist
Don't know what I want but I know how to get it
I wanna destroy the passerby
'Cause I wanna be
Anarchy!
In the city!
Mwahahahaha!

    • Note that we say The Sex Pistols posed as this type of anarchist. Later punk bands, such as The Dead Kennedys, do give voice to actual anarchist politics, relying more on snide humor and political activism than shock value.
  • Of course, before The Dead Kennedys was Crass, which is likely the ultimate example of an actual Anarchist Punk Band.
  • Fugazi invoked this trope with black humor in the song "No Surprise".

(hey) Lock eyes shared plan / No c.i.a. / could understand
It comes as no surprise / We're destabilized!

  • Humorously celebrated in "It's Sister Ginny's Turn (To Throw the Bomb)" (also seen as "It's Sister Jenny's Turn"), a folk song which dates back to the early 20th Century and is attributed to Joe Hill, recorded by The Glencoves in 1963 and Leslie Fish in 1987:

In an old chemist's attic, so dreary and so mean,
Oh, smell the fearful odor of nitro-glycerine.
They're busy busy building bombs, and filling cans with nails
And little starving kiddies set up this tearful wail:
Oh, it's Sister Ginny's turn to throw the bomb;
The last one it was thrown by Brother John.
Poor Mamma's aim is bad and the coppers all know Dad,
So it's Sister Ginny's turn to throw the bomb.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The cover of Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, features a pair of anarchists, one of whom is brandishing a Molotov cocktail. The protagonist characters are all basically bomb throwing anarchists.
  • In Planescape Revolutionary League faction has a number of members who believe in "overthrow the status quo now," without worrying about what's going to replace it. On the other hand, their motives could be considered better than say, the Sinker fraction of the Doomguard, who worship entropy and destruction for its own sake, or the Xaositects, for whom "having a plan" isn't really an option.
    • On the other hand, the Free League faction is more or less made up of not-bomb throwing anarchists, being a loose association of individuals trying to get with their lives without the other factions telling them what to do. They even organize themselves in a non-hierarchical way.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade averted this in two ways:
    • The Brujah clan, once known as a clan of passionate philosopher-kings, who tended more towards impulsive radicalism in modern nights. While the clan tends more towards the "throw a brick through a Starbucks window" school of anarchy, however, it does have its share of passionate intellectuals who prefer to argue the merits of anarchy rather than enforce it with their fists.
    • The Anarchs, a general faction of vampires who believe the Camarilla are a bunch of outmoded feudal lords with their heads up their butts and the Sabbat are a band of psychopaths. They institute their own systems and fight to establish baronies free from Camarilla control, with political systems varying from baron to baron.
      • It should be notable that by the mid-nineties in which the setting is set, the only Anarch holdings left in the world is the US West Coast, which is being invaded by the Sabbat from Mexico, the Camarilla from the east, and the Kuei-Jin coming in by boat from the west, which showcases just how successful the Anarchs are.
  • The Jammers from Feng Shui definitely fit the trope, with a fondness for blowing up Feng Shui sites in order to carry out Battlechimp Potemkin's dream of a world without chi.
  • Paranoia features the secret society "Death Leopard", a coalition of pseudo-anarchist party-animals.
  • 7th Sea has an entire Secret Society of Bomb Throwing Anarchists with its own splatbook. While the Rilisciare's reasons for being anti-authoritarian (nobles in the setting have access to sorcery that is causing the barrier between the physical world and Hell to slowly weaken, and non-powered nobles have a history of betraying the Free Thinkers) are clearly stated, the society's history includes the point where they extended their enmity to include anyone with power, even mundane political power. Plus, all the good explosives abilities and equipment are in their splatbook (including the "Arson" and "Bomb-making" skills and a coat with hidden explosives in the buttons).

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • The play Last Meals has in one of its vignettes a Timothy McVeigh Expy with a thing for mint chocolate chip ice cream. He is shown making a speech to the camera and does an Unflinching Walk from a building he has just blown up, while eating his ice cream.
  • The play The Just Assassins by French writer Albert Camus explores the moral issues faced by a group of Russian terrorists plotting to kill the Governor General of Moscow by throwing a bomb at his carriage.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Scribblenauts, "terrorist" and "anarchist" are represented by the same character model.
  • In Urban Chaos: Riot Response the main villains are a bunch of anarchist pyromaniacs called "The Burners" who kill indiscriminately, wear painted hockey masks, and are really brainwashed employees of a corporation who want to "burn the city alive" to "make the country pay for its exploitation of 3rd world countries."
  • Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun has a variety of "Crime buildings" that can appear if your crime spending gets too low, one of these is "anarchist bomb-throwers" that greatly increases the chance of a "Political assassination" event.
  • The Freakshow in City of Heroes are a group of anarchistic cyberpunks who take more than a few hints from Project Mayhem.
  • Aversion: Ryan from The Nameless Mod looks like he's just a Terrorist Without a Cause at first, who happens to be fighting against the Big Bad of the game. But when you talk to him and learn that he's an anarchist, he explains his motives, he comes off as much more sympathetic, and it makes him into a different type of character.
  • The Intellivision game Bomb Squad uses this as the premise behind the game. One of these has planted a really big bomb under downtown and you're set to disable it. While you and your pal are trying to disable it, he taunts "It won't be easy!" in what might be an East European accent.
  • The Followers of the Apocalypse from Fallout: New Vegas are an anarchist faction that averts this trope. Mistrusting organized governments, they provide technological and humanitarian aid equally to all, and urge the player character against actions that would give a government full control over the Mojave Wasteland.
    • Played straight by Samuel Cooke of the Powder Gangers. He seems to have no real long-term plans except for making bombs to harass the NCR with aside from joining the Great Khans (who also hate the NCR). He's actually the only member of the gang that shares this mentality, as the ones near the NCR Correctional Facility are just raiders while one of his henchman wants to surrender before Cooke drags them all to their death.
  • The villain from a few Game and Watch games was named the Wily Bomber, and (due to the monochromatic color scheme) even managed to look much like the above picture.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Cooks from Templar, Arizona, a gang of people who intentionally turn peaceful demonstrations into riots, mostly with scare tactics, but occasionally with flammables.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Baader-Meinhof Gang (claimed to be anarchists in the West German media because they were bombers). Enforced insofar as they played to expectations as gun-crazed psychos, squandering any popular sympathy for their cause. For more information, see The Baader Meinhof Complex, the events behind the film are analyzed here.
    • The RAF (Red Army Faction, not these guys) actually had some measure of popular support: a poll showed about 25% of Germans under 40 felt sympathy for them and as many as one in ten youths was ready to hide one of its members.
    • That must have been when they were still only blowing up department stores instead of people (which they resorted to in their later years).
  • The Weather Underground fell into the same trope; despite consciously attempting to avoid being portrayed as crazed bombers, they assumed that "bringing the Vietnam War home" would radicalize America. Instead, several of them ended up blowing themselves up in Greenwich Village (although most of the Weathermen merely dropped out, and the former leadership were mostly pardoned) and had a similar film, The Weather Underground made about them.
  • Real life example: Anarchists assassinated President of the USA William McKinley, Sadi Carnot (the President of France), Jose Canalejas (Prime Minister of Spain) and King Umberto I of Italy.
    • We should note, however, that all of the said leaders ordered violent actions themselves, usually against labor unionists, or in the case of President McKinley, crushing Filipino nationalists and striking American workers. The former is named The Forgotten War by some.
    • Locked up striking workers in boxcars in the Arizona Desert, IIRC. Had an actual anarchist done something like that, they'd be writing tropes about it today. Said rule generally applies, of course.
    • Leon Czolgosz was generally accepted as not an anarchist within the anarchist community and he was rejected from the general culture and movement along with his actions. Most anarchists though had mixed feelings from sympathy like Emma Goldman the anarcho-communist (whose political lectures Czolgosz attended and claimed an inspiration from) to outright rejection from the individualist anarchist Henry Bool. Some even thought Leon was a spy because at meetings he went to he seemed to lack any knowledge on the subject of anarchism and many anarchists thought he was a secret spy for the police (which is the real life inspiration for Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent). Spies and agent provocateurs (infiltrators who committed or instigated violence to discredit radicals) were a constant concern, suspected of entrapping people.
    • An Italian anarchist also assassinated Elizabeth ("Sisi") the Empress of Austria in the same period.
  • Another example from Real Life: Anarchists were also the first suicide bombers (although some historians argue that the "suicide bombings" were really just incompetent anarchists setting off the bomb too soon).
    • The Red label is used because the Anarchists and Communists had a tenuous alliance, including a degree of cooperation during the October Revolution, which only broke down after the Bolsheviks consolidate their power in Russia and began to suppress the Anarchists and Left-Communists.
      • It's important to note that Anarchism and Communism started out as extremely similar ideologies. The anarchist movement has been leftist and 'red' (For example, the anarchist Emma Goldman was referred to as Red Emma) for most of their history, with the least communistic strain being individualist anarchism and mutualism, which is still essentially a libertarian socialist thread, albeit one that also supports an unfettered free market. It does this by replacing 'property' with 'possession' of capital. Not until recently have there been 'anarcho-capitalists', and a large part of the anarchist movement does not consider them to be anarchists at all.
  • The Trope Namer came from an incident on May 4, 1886 called the Haymarket Riot Massacre Affair where during a rally in support of striking workers recently gunned down by police and Pinkertons, someone threw a bomb at police, killing one of them. Eight anarchists were put on trial for this and the internationally publicized trials led to the caricature of the Bomb Throwing Anarchist.
    • Four of the anarchist leaders were sentenced to death, and one killed himself in prison. Interestingly, no one actually knows who did it, and it seems like they never will - however, one of the main theories is that it was an agent provocateur. For that matter, the initial blast only killed one police officer; the other causalities were due to the police opening fire on the crowd, and, apparently, themselves (it was dark.) One report put the number of civilian deaths at around 50. The Other Wiki, of course, has more information and details. There were no charges over these deaths, and indeed the anarchists on trial were charged with inciting the violence through their writings or speeches, rather than committing it directly.
    • A statue of the officer killed by the bomb, erected in the square, has been defaced and repeatedly blown up as recently as the 1970s. Its current incarnation is installed in the Chicago police station.
    • At the time, "mad bombers" were all assumed to be anarchists, and vice versa, based on the notoriety of the assassination attempts, hence the origin of the stereotype. Ironically, in reality, most anarchists at the time were basically council communists—the people who wanted Russia to be run democratically from the ground up by workers councils. They all got killed by Lenin. So basically, anarchism at the time was another name for communism without the dictatorship part, not nihilism. (In the US, they briefly took over East Saint Louis during a General Strike and turned local governance, mail, etc. over to the Unions until the Federal soldiers seized control of the city). The same thing happened with the Seattle General Strike in 1919.
    • The 1910 Los Angeles Times Bombing was linked to attempts to unionize the iron workers, but were commonly called Bomb throwing anarchists.
  • Italian anarchists and revolutionaries of the Turn-of-the-Century seemed to be particularly Ax Crazy when compared to others, and it wasn't rare for them to attack rulers from other countries that had no relation whatsoever with Italy or even sympathised with it.
  • Late 19th-early 20th century terrorists in the Russian Empire were and still are popularly known as "bombists" due to their love for home-made explosives. Of course, far from all of them were anarchists (the Socialist Revolutionaries - eSeRs - outnumbered them as time went on), but then again, many of them were pretty nihilistic in character if not in their party ideology and otherwise fit this stereotype quite well.
  • Not to mention that one of the revolutionary movements active in Russia at that time actually was the Nihilists, who considered all authority and hierarchy to stand in the way of free choice.
  • Czar Alexander II of Russia was killed by one of these, the twist being that he was killed by the second bomb thrown at him after the first failed. And that he was killed the very day he'd agreed to call a constituent assembly, among more reforms.
    • Calling the constituent assembly probably wouldn't have changed his assassins mind, he had done the same thing almost every time there was a major political upheaval and he disbanded it every time it disagreed with him.
  • In Ancient Rome, it was those dastardly Christians who were held to be fervently wishing for the demise of the state, and blamed for the fire that destroyed Rome, along with promoting class mixing and attacking the state-sponsored religion; resulting in centuries of persecution. They were also called atheists, as they rejected the civic gods of the state religion, including the "divine" Emperors.
    • In fact, many Biblical scholars interpret the Book of Revelations as an anarchistic screed foretelling the fall of the Roman Empire.
    • Somewhat more plausibly in the 14-16th century, when some of the peasant revolts during the Reformation were anarchist. The leader of the Anabaptists was drawn and quartered for proclaiming that he would rather the Turks invade Germany (a realistic proposition at the time) instead of having self-proclaimed Christians rule by force. In England in the 1300s, William of Ockham's seminary students were Socialists of sorts who tried to eliminate all rulers in England and set up... they weren't sure yet. Their Peasant's Revolt nearly deposed the monarchy in the 1300s, but was turned back at the gates of London. The leaders then met with the king to discuss reforms. He promptly killed them all, promised reforms to their followers (that never happened) and pardoned them, staving off any further revolt. The Diggers in the English Civil War were also essentially Christian anarchists and Actual Pacifists, meaning they didn't last long when the government cracked down. This was also when the word "anarchist" was used the first time in the modern sense, referring to such radical groups.
  • Anarchists were blamed by most of the media for turning the relatively peaceful 1999 WTO protests into a riot.
    • Have also been blamed for frenzying the police during the more recent Occupy Movements on the West Coast area.
  • In Greece, Anarchy has a long and violent history. Check The Other Wiki for more details.
  1. A Bacteriologist, after a bit of prompting, shows a young man a vial containing a live culture of cholera, then leaves the room momentarily to answer the door, his return quickly followed by the visitor apologizing for wasting so much of the Bacteriologist's valuable time and leaving. The Bacteriologist then notices that there's something missing. One Yackety Sax-worthy taxi chase (one taxi for the anarchist, one for the Bacteriologist, and one for his wife with his hat, shoes, and overcoat) later, the vial breaks in the anarchist's hand and the anarchist decides to act as the first carrier and drinks what's left, at which point he feels free to exit the cab, yell "Vive l'Anarchie! You are too late, my friend. I have drunk it. The cholera is abroad," and walk off into a crowd. On the ride home, the Bacteriologist reveals that he had just told the anarchist that the vial had contained cholera to impress him, while it actually contained a bacterium that turns animals blue.