They only have the power you give them

William and Mary fans demonstrate the impotence of so-called authority:

Tens of thousands of green and gold feathers are being distributed to students and alumni at the College of William & Mary in an independent newspaper’s act of defiance to an NCAA ruling that the school’s logo including two green and gold feathers amounts to “hostile and abusive” imagery.

The ruling was made a year ago, but the school also has refused to challenge it, so officials with “The Virginia Informer” said they, with contributions from several alumni, are paying for 30,000 feathers to hand out over this weekend.

“I am glad that we have the opportunity to help show our love for the college and our team and also send a message to the NCAA that despite their official actions, there is nothing they can [do to] stop us from using the symbols we want to use,” said Joe Luppino-Esposito, editor of the newspaper.

The dirty little secret of all government is that it doesn’t actually have anywhere nearly as much power as people believe it does. It’s a combination of bluff, selective enforcement and collective hallucination. The NCAA and William and Mary can assert whatever it likes, but the symbol remains the symbol as long as the people believe in it.

It can’t stop anything, at most it can only deal with a few of the most obvious violations of any given policy. This is why it and its parasites live in terror of free individuals, as they know that the crowd is capable of turning on them at any time. The innovation of keeping it fat, dumb and happy is a clever and civilized one, but as the example of Rome showed, this can only work for a limited period of time.

Eventually, the clock runs out.