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The Stockholm Bloodbath or Why Killing Off the Rebel Leadership Hardly Ever Works

King Christian the 2nd of Denmark has finally succeeded in putting down the Swedish rebellion. The King invites the rebel leadership to his palace to work things out, but this is the third time he has had to fight these rebels so he must have been thinking, "If I cut off the head of the snake then the body will die," Instead of negotiating, he has them all imprisoned or beheaded... including several bishops. What the King doesn't realize is that by acting in bad faith he has sown the seeds of destruction for his union of Scandinavian kingdoms. The sons of these rebels are still alive and they will remember this day. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Not all organizations have leaders who give orders. A good example is the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda. Whenever the #1 or #2 Al-Qaeda leader is killed does it EVER stop the organization? No. It's like the police breaking into a meeting of the self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous and shouting, "Who's in charge here?" All the police will hear is laughter because NO ONE IS IN CHARGE, yet here in Austin, Texas there are over 425 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every single week. If you can't understand how that can happen without a leader then you can't begin to understand how Al-Qaeda is organized. I suggest reading the book "The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations" by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. I've provided a link below to a video lecture from one of the authors explaining how it works.[3] [4] [5]

The Revolt of the Communities of Castile

The communities of Castile have been uncomfortable with the King of Spain, Charles the 5th, because, frankly, he had been raised in Flanders, and when he took the throne he brought his friends and advisors from Flanders with him. The rule under his mother, Joanna the Mad, had been chaotic and with the death of her father, Ferdinand the 2nd of Aragon, the people felt like they were being ruled by a foreigner. When King Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor, he moved to Germany, thus making him an ABSENT foreign ruler. Riots ensued and to add oil to this fire, they chose Joanna the Mad to rule them all. By next year the rebellion will turn against the landed nobles and the rebel leaders will be executed after the Battle of Villalar [VEE-yah-lar]. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This same year, during the Bloodbath of Stockholm, King Christian the 2nd of Denmark had the leaders of the Swedish rebellion imprisoned and beheaded, so what is the difference? The difference is that the Castillian rebellion was a straight up battle. The rebels lost and naturally the leaders lost their heads. This was expected, if gruesome. King Christian had invited the Swedish rebel leaders with the implied promise of protection during negotiations. The King negotiated in bad faith and thus, his subjects found a good reason to be faithless in return.

On the Freedom of a Christian *

The Rev. Father Martin Luther is excommunicated this year after writing three scathing rebukes of the Catholic Church and Pope Leo in particular. All of these are in print and making the rounds in public. This third pamphlet contends that a Christian is both a free lord and a dutiful servant. Thus Christians are no longer COMPELLED to follow God's law but FREELY do so. To explain what he means takes many words so follow the link below and read the full text but one point he is making is that one is not saved by works alone. Thus compelling someone to perform a ritual to rid one of sin without first repenting in one's heart negates the ritual. In other words... sprinkling a little holy water on an evil person does not make him holy. Accepting money as if it were a sin sacrifice at the Temple does not absolve one of sin without the corresponding change of heart. [8] [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
While Martin Luther implies that the state has no business in the conscience of the individual in his faith in God, people will continue to think of the state as the embodiment of God's will right into the 20th century and beyond. Even with the modern secular state, if you substitute "God" for "government," the rhetoric sounds like the preachings from any pulpit... help the poor, the sick and the hungry. You are a steward of the earth, the waters, the plants and the animals. Nag, nag, nag. I'll take that from God, but not from government.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1520, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Stockholm Bloodbath - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 15 February 2015. “King Christian, who had already taken measures to isolate Sweden politically, intervened to help Archbishop Trolle, who was under siege in his fortress at Stäket, but he was defeated by Sture and his peasant soldiers at Vedila, and forced to return to Denmark. A second attempt to bring Sweden back under his control in 1518 was also countered by Sture's victory at Brännkyrka. Eventually, a third attempt made in 1520 with a large army of French, German and Scottish mercenaries proved successful.”
  2. The Stockholm Bloodbath!. History and Headlines (2015). Retrieved on 15 February 2015. “Having succeeded in his military intervention, Christian subsequently summoned key Swedish leaders to a private conference at the palace on November 7, 1520. Rather than treat his guests as, well, &lquot;guests,&rquot; on November 8, 1520, Christian's Danish soldiers essentially kidnapped various Swedish nobles from the palace and imprisoned others. Thus, began the Stockholm Bloodbath or Massacre, as it is alternatively known.”
  3. The Starfish and the Spider. YouTube (2015). Retrieved on 15 February 2015.
  4. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. Portfolio Trade. ISBN 9781591841838. 
  5. Hill Country Intergroup Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting Locator. AustinAA.org (2015). Retrieved on 15 February 2015.
  6. Revolt of the Comuneros - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 11 December 2014.
  7. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 11 December 2014.
  8. Pope Leo X (June 15, 1520). Exsurge Domine (CONDEMNING THE ERRORS OF MARTIN LUTHER). PapalEncyclicals.net. Retrieved on 10 February 2015. “Therefore we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and all of the above penalties and censures. Yet, with the advice of our brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son returning to the embrace of the Church.”
  9. On the Freedom of a Christian - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 February 2015.
  10. LETTER OF MARTIN LUTHER TO POPE LEO X. Internet History Sourcebooks (September 6, 1520). Retrieved on 10 February 2015. “Wherefore, most excellent Leo, I beseech you to accept my vindication, made in this letter, and to persuade yourself that I have never thought any evil concerning your person; further, that I am one who desires that eternal blessing may fall to your lot, and that I have no dispute with any man concerning morals, but only concerning the word of truth. In all other things I will yield to any one, but I neither can nor will forsake and deny the Word. He who thinks otherwise of me or has taken in my words in another sense, does not think rightly, and has not taken in the truth.”
  11. CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. Internet History Sourcebooks (1520). Retrieved on 10 February 2015. “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

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