The Italian Government is endorsing the use of vigilante groups to enforce immigration laws.  One volunteer force, the Italian National Guard, got all excited, went to the uniform shop, and came back looking exactly like Mussolini’s fascist Blackshirts.
They’re giving vigilantes everywhere…


… a bad name

The word vigilante comes from the word vigilance. Your local neighbourhood watch group doesn’t get vigilante status however, because there’s more to it than just looking. Vigilantes deal in justice. From arrest through to punishment without any of those paperwork-producing interim steps.

My idea of vigilantes is shaped strongly by Hollywood.  I see Dexter carving up the sickos of Miami, and I know that Miami is a safer place for it.  If Dexter just called 1800-Crimestoppers, the TV show would be a fairly niche sort of a product, and Miami would be at the mercy of the slow march of conventional justice.  

Likewise, Gotham City’s regular police forces, under Commissioner Gordon, have their burdens significantly alleviated by the interventions of Bruce Wayne’s well-equipped alter ego.  Why can’t real life be so nice?  Why do all the people who aspire to be vigilantes have to be right-wing nut-jobs?

Take these guys, for example:


It’s the Minuteman project. Named after the Independence-era citizen’s militias that could be readied in ‘one minute’, the movement comprises retirees, drifters and other underemployed types patrolling the USA-Mexico Border, spotting Mexicans trying to get through, and are supposed to then report them to Border Patrol. But they carry guns.

Jim Gilchrist started the project after the September 11 attacks. But even he now says:

“I have found, after four years in this movement (…) I very well may have been fighting for people with less character and less integrity than the ‘open border fanatics’ I have been fighting against,” he said. “And that is a phenomenal indictment of something I have created.”

Buffy never ended up with a bunch of confederate whackos wresting away control of the vampire slaying machinery. The Ninja Turtles knew that their ranks were pure. The Phantom walked alone. And so I have developed my theory. Group vigilantes = bad. Individual vigilantes = good. I like to call them indivigilantes.

I will have to make an exception for this guy though:

Jack Idema was pardoned by the Afghanistan Government in 2007. He had been locked up in 2003 and sentenced to ten years jail for a range of crimes.

In 2003, Idema, a retired special forces soldier, independently ‘invaded’ Afghanistan in a sort of parallel movement to the US forces. He began ‘capturing terrorists’, which he held and tortured in his own private prison.

He had regular meetings with journalists where he would insist on his official bona fides and try to sell them his story. He would regularly ring the Department of Defence and provide ‘intelligence’.

In May 2004 Idema turned one of his prisoners over to the US forces, who decided the man was not the person Idema claimed, and promptly released him. He was arrested by Afghan Police shortly thereafter and held until 2007. He was pardoned by President Karzai in April and emphasised his instability by refusing to leave the prison until July.

The whole messy affair is thrown into sharper focus when you realise that Idema has a long history of fraud convictions, was in a ‘support role’ in his brief stint in the special forces, and used to own a paintball supplies firm. Uh-oh.

Does not meet the criteria for an indivigilante. Ah, real life, you are so disappointing!

For more funny vigilantes:

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Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

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