Post and Pre

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place.

– Timothy Snyder “The American Abyss

This week’s featured posts are “Sedition and Free Speech” and “The Capitol Invasion is Both an End and a Beginning“.

This week everybody was talking about the Trump insurrection

Most of what I have to say on this topic is in one of the featured posts. But I only briefly touched on the friendly reception the insurrectionists got from some of the police, and didn’t mention the racial angle at all.

Joy Reid nailed that point, contrasting her own experience in Black Lives Matter protests with the untroubled demeanor of the Capitol invaders:

The reason these people were so unafraid of the cops … the reason they could so easily and casually, with their cameras on, film themselves throwing things through the walls of our Capitol, our property, going inside the Capitol, sitting in Speaker Pelosi’s office, casually take pictures of themselves, have that played on Fox News — they know that they are not in jeopardy. Because the cops are taking selfies with them, walking them down the steps to make sure they’re not hurt, taking care with their bodies — not like they treated Freddie Gray’s body.

White Americans aren’t afraid of the cops. White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they’re committing insurrection. Even when they’re engaged in trying to occupy our Capitol to steal the votes of people who look like me. Because in their minds, they own this country. They own that Capitol. They own the cops; the cops work for them. And people like me have no damn right to try to elect a president. Because we don’t get to pick the president, they get to pick the president. They own the president. They own the White House. They own this country.

So when you think you own it, when you own the place, you aren’t afraid of the police, because the police are you. And the police reflect back to them: “We’re with you. You’re good. We’re not going to hurt you, ’cause you’re not them.” I guarantee you if that was a Blacks Lives Matter protest in D.C. there would already be people shackled, arrested, or dead.

As soon as they realized the attack on the Capitol — which everyone in the world saw coming — was a public-relations disaster, Trumpists began blaming it on Antifa, inventing the ridiculous story that antifascists impersonated Trumpists and committed all the actual crimes. The Washington Post traced the provenance of this conspiracy theory.

The genesis for the assertion appears to be an article published by the right-wing Washington Times that claimed that a “retired military officer” had provided information from a firm called XRVision that used facial recognition software to identify several people who invaded the Capitol — and that two of them were linked to antifa. A third was “someone who shows up at climate and Black Lives Matter protests in the West.”

XRVision spokesperson Yaacov Apelbaum corrected the story:

“XRVision didn’t generate any composites or detection imagery for the Washington Times nor for a ‘retired military officer,’ ” Apelbaum said, “and did not authorize them to make any such representations.”

What happened, Apelbaum explained, was that the firm “performed an analysis on the footage” and, in doing so, was able to identify three people. “We concluded that two of individuals … were affiliated with the Maryland Skinheads and the National Socialist Movements,” the firm determined. “These two are known Nazi organizations, they are not Antifa. The third individual identified … was an actor with some QAnon promotion history. Again, no Antifa identification was made for him either.”

XRVision did create graphics comparing people who had been at the Capitol with other photographs, Apelbaum said, which “were distributed to a handful of individuals for their private consumption and not for publication.”

One of the graphics includes a photograph of two people that can also be found on the website Philly Antifa. As noted by Twitter user Respectable Lawyer, though, the reason the photo of those people is on the website isn’t that they are antifa, but that they were believed to be fascists.

So: the people identified were fascists, not anti-fascists.

and removing Trump

My post on the Capitol invasion ends with the idea that democracy needs to defend itself vigorously against fascism. We can’t even appear to give in to the attitude Joy Reid posits: that the fascists “own this country”.

That idea has two pieces: The identifiable people involved in the attack need to be charged and sent to jail, and there has to be some kind of consequence for Trump inciting that riot. The first piece got off to a bad start, when rioters were allowed to mingle in front of the Capitol for hours and then head for home on their own, rather than being arrested. But law enforcement and the social-media hive mind are identifying a bunch of these people now, and some are being arrested. We’ll see if they get what’s coming to them.

As for Trump, Democrats are insisting that he not be allowed to leave office honorably: He needs to resign or be removed by Pence using the 25th Amendment, or get impeached again. Republicans want to just let his term run out, and are trying to play the “unity” card. Keven McCarthy tweets:

Impeaching the President with just 12 days left will only divide our country more. I’ve reached out to President-elect Biden today & plan to speak to him about how we must work together to lower the temperature & unite the country to solve America’s challenges.

This spirit of unity was nowhere to be found when McCarthy voted to disenfranchise millions of Democrats Wednesday, even after Trump had incited a violent insurrection. Any Republican who puts forward such an idea needs to be challenged: What are you going to do to promote unity? What concessions is your side offering to make peace?

You want to lower the temperature, Kevin? Get Trump to resign. That would save a lot of grief all around. In the meantime, Democrats should continue with impeachment. McConnell will no doubt drag his feet to delay a vote past January 20 and then claim the case is moot. But that’s on him. Democrats should at least try to do the right thing.

Some conservative voices are joining the chorus. American Enterprise Institute Fellow Matthew Continetti writes in National Review:

There will be time to sort through the wreckage of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. There is not as much time — a little less than 14 days — to constrain the president before he plunges the nation’s capital into havoc again. Incitement to trespass, harassment, and destruction cannot go unanswered. The Constitution offers remedies. Pursue them — for no other reason than to deter the president from escalation. There must be a cost for reckless endangerment of the United States government. Trump must pay.

and the post-Christmas Covid surge arrived

Friday, new cases topped 300K for the first time, coming in at 315K. The previous day, deaths topped 4K for the first time, coming in at 4027. The 7-day average on deaths is now 3200, and still going up. In general, deaths lag cases by a week or two, and track at about 1.5% or so. So the 300K cases is consistent with 4,500 daily deaths before the end of the month.

I have hopes that the cases and deaths will start to drop sharply before long. I base this not on the vaccine, which continues to roll out slowly, but on my bargain-with-God theory. I think a lot of people knew they were taking irresponsible risks over Christmas, but offered God a deal: “Just let me get through the holidays, and I’ll be good.” I think masking, staying-at-home, and social distance compliance is probably picking up now.

and free speech (and its consequences)

The other featured post discusses the implications of Twitter banning Trump, and Josh Hawley losing his book deal.

and oh, by the way, the Democrats captured control of the Senate

Wednesday was a busy day. I woke up to find that Raphael Warnock had won his race against Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff was ahead of David Perdue. Later that day Ossoff’s race was called, producing a 50-50 Senate that VP Harris will tilt to the Democrats. The late vote-count increased the margins in both races, with Ossoff ahead now by 1.2% and Warnock’s margin over 2%, big enough that a recount is not necessary. Georgia law allows Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger until January 22 to certify the results, after which both new senators should be sworn in.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a nice ring to it.

and you also might be interested in …

The editor of Forbes calls for “a truth reckoning”, which requires consequences for Trump’s hired liars. Ordinarily, a White House press secretary stands to make millions after rejoining the private sector. Trump’s should not.

Let it be known to the business world: Hire any of Trump’s fellow fabulists above [Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, Kayleigh McEnany] and Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie. We’re going to scrutinize, double-check, investigate with the same skepticism we’d approach a Trump tweet. Want to ensure the world’s biggest business media brand approaches you as a potential funnel of disinformation? Then hire away.

This has got to hurt: The Professional Golfers Association doesn’t want Trump’s baggage.

“The PGA of America Board of Directors voted tonight to exercise the right to terminate the agreement to play the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster,” said Jim Richerson, PGA of America president, in a statement. Holding the tournament at Trump Bedminster, Richerson said, would be “detrimental” to the PGA of America’s brand and put the organization’s ability to function “at risk.”

As if to bookend the images of white domestic terrorists freely roaming the Capitol, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that the officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times would not be charged with any crime.

Watching Graveley’s statement to the press as it happened, I was not in a position to immediately confirm or refute the points he was making. But I was struck by the tone: He was speaking as a defense attorney for the cops, trying to persuade the public rather than inform it.

The great NYT reporter Neil Sheehan died this week, freeing The Times to publish the full story of how he got The Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg.

and let’s close with the best new thing of 2020

Rachel Maddow used to close her show with an upbeat segment called “The Best New Thing in the World”. The new things were usually off-beat and not terribly momentous, but just made you feel good to think about them. I have such a new thing here: In March of 2020, the South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher had its photo published for the first time in the 130 years since the species had been described. “It has eluded scientists for over a hundred years because of its behavior. It is difficult to see as it perches quietly and darts invisibly from perch to perch.”

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  • jh  On January 13, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Except it’s a larger problem. Fascists (aka conservatives) have an entire ecosystem and pipeline to move socially fearful (aka socially conservative) and fiscally stupid (aka fiscally conservative) to support authoritarian style politicians. It’s those long hours of hearing conservatives lie to truckers and normalize their abnormal ideas. It’s their repeated indoctrination sessions from all their media sources on tv or online. They hear hours and hours of “the libs are evil”. They don’t have the brain power to withstand that. Most humans can’t but conservatives are particularly vulnerable to this messaging. (the left isn’t. Look at how fragmented it is. You have leftists sneering at Biden. You have moderate liberals who say “No way” to Bernie. You have Yang fans. You have commies and socialists and democratic socialists. There are a billion and one ideas and groups in the left. There’s nothing in the right except hatred and fear.)

    The messaging is always the same. Remember the good old days. Make Germany Great again, Make American Great AGAIN. It implies that we once were “great” but something happened that was caused by some enemy. This enemy is a strange enemy because it is both weak and strong. It’s that jewish neighbor who sells bread but also some jewish banking cabal that wreaks some global conspiracy.

    This non-stop alternative reality is destroying the US. We have a nation that has a substantial group that are mentally ill. (yes, I believe that conservatives are mentally ill. The Joint chiefs of staff had to post a public letter affirming their support for the peaceful transfer of power. This is unprecedented. This only occurred because conservatives in your neighborhood, conservatives in elected offices, conservatives on courts, conservatives in television and journalism, conservatives in media all worked together to create this conservative fascist monster Frankenstein that is going on a rampaging murder spree.

    The fact is that Twitter and Facebook were too little too late. Google was too little too late. Their blind worship of “free speech” ignored the dangers. They didn’t understand that with every freedom comes responsibility. This is something that the left intuitively understands. This is something that conservatives will not be able to understand because they are too selfish to understand it. Those tech lords allowed themselves to be useful idiots for the malicious bad faith conservative actors. (Oh, let’s add in the rich folks who fund the marketing for the newest version of trickle down. There will be a new phrase for “jobs creators” which will glorify a Mercer or a Koch. there will be yet another re-vamp of the “welfare queen in the black neighborhood” trope. We will see another hyping up of some mysterious phantom caravan of brown people. That’s what the Heritage foundation or other conservative think tanks do. They’re just PR marketing firms that create wordy commercials to sell old bad ideas as something new and trendy.)

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