Something To Ponder …

Our nation has become a frightening place in the last two weeks since domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol on January 6th with the intention, it is now known, of doing bodily harm or even killing some of our elected officials such as Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence.  And now, only five short days from the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, we know that the terrorists have even more mayhem planned for the days before, during, and after the inauguration. 

While I am not an alarmist, this situation has me frightened for the lives of Biden, Harris, and members of Congress, but also for the continuity of our government, for the future of this nation.  Law enforcement dropped the ball last Wednesday and I cannot help but wonder if they will be able to keep our lawmakers and our new President and Vice President safe next week.

Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week, has written a well-researched column outlining some of the threats and possible solutions, both immediate and long-term.  It is well worth spending a few minutes to read …


Do Democrats realize the danger they are in?

ryan-cooperRyan Cooper

Democrats, already rattled by nearly falling into the hands of a violent mob during the attempted putsch at the Capitol on January 6, are facing the possibility of worse happening soon. Democratic members of Congress were briefed on three different additional conspiracies to overthrow the government on Monday, and at least one member has faced harassment by Trump loyalists out in the wild.

One has to wonder: Are Democratic leaders able to face how much danger they and their party are really in, or what it might take to preserve their lives?

As I’ve written previously, the fascist mob was within yards of seizing members of Congress on several occasions during the January 6 putsch. If the guns, pipe bombs, flex cuffs, and literal gallows they carried are any indication, many members would have been hurt or murdered by the putschists — as they did murder one Capitol Police officer, as well as seriously injuring some 15 others. Now the extreme right is plotting new conspiracies to overturn democracy during the Biden inauguration, including by assassinating Democratic members of Congress or President-elect Biden, according to the new leadership of the Capitol Police. One plot “would involve insurrectionists forming a perimeter around the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, and then blocking Democrats from entering the Capitol ― perhaps even killing them ― so that Republicans could take control of the government,” writes Matt Fuller at HuffPost. One Chicago man has already been arrested for allegedly threatening violence against President-elect Biden.

What’s more, law enforcement agencies are clearly less than trustworthy. There were many off-duty cops and members of the military involved with the putsch, and already several Capitol Police officers have been suspended for fraternizing with the putschists. Meanwhile, a Secret Service agent is under investigation for unhinged social media posts accusing Democrats of treason and stealing the election. For every member of law enforcement dumb enough to get caught doing that, it’s probably safe to assume there are several more with similar views but who keep such thoughts to themselves.

Even if we think it is comparatively unlikely that the vast security apparatus will fail to protect the new president at least, there is still a major danger to the Democratic rank-and-file. Backbenchers get no Secret Service protection, and a pack of Trump supporters — who have been constantly whipped into a frenzy with inflammatory lies from half the Republican Party elite — were reportedly on the verge of violently attacking Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) at Dulles International Airport before security intervened (though Correa says those same security officers failed to even take down the names of his assailants).

What is most urgently needed right now is for elected Republicans and conservative media to tell their constituents the truth, and deescalate the situation — admitting that Biden won the election fair and square, and telling conservatives to go home and try to win the next election instead of threatening violence. This would be far too little, far too late, but it might avoid major bloodshed. Unfortunately, it is also exceedingly unlikely given that President Trump has gone back to doubling down on his rhetoric that incited the mob in the first place, and many Republicans are now whining about impeachment and the lack of unity they themselves created, so more unilateral options are needed.

Luckily, there are a great many legal and regulatory actions Biden and the incoming Democratic Congress could do to crush right-wing extremism. For instance, the far right runs on a flood tide of oligarch money — the app Parler, on which much of the putsch was organized, was funded by the notorious ultra-wealthy Mercer family — which could be taxed and regulated. As Alex Pareene suggests at The New Republic, “Rigorous audits and reclassification of 501 nonprofits would do more to disrupt right-wing organizing than any new domestic terror law as interpreted and enforced by our current security state.”

Perhaps most effective immediate step would be squelching the spread of extremist propaganda, which genuinely appears to be driving much of the nutcase behavior we see around the country. Look into the history of the putschists, and in virtually every case one finds someone who melted his or her brain watching conservative YouTube, or people who are themselves conservative media personalities. I have argued that rolling back Section 230 (which protects internet companies like Facebook from being held legally liable for the material that is posted on their sites) would expose the social media behemoths to titanic legal liability, and force them to remove all extremist content — probably causing them to shrink drastically in the process, which would be its own benefit.

Finally, Democrats could conduct a purge of all the right-wing extremists in law enforcement and the security apparatus. Rather than passing a new domestic terrorism law, they could excise the fascist sympathizers from the FBI, Secret Service, NSA, and so forth, and use existing legal authorities to smash far-right political structures. The Capitol putsch was already a massive crime spree, all is needed is to enforce the laws that are already on the books.

On the other hand, it is worth noting how the space of possibility shrinks if anti-democratic extremism is allowed to metastasize. Eventually, meeting force with force becomes the only option available. This was the case by 1860, just after the Republican Party had been formed to combat slavery, when a small group of men calling themselves the “Wide-Awakes” took to protecting a Republican campaign in Connecticut. Soon there were copycat organizations springing up across the North, and the Wide-Awakes became a sort of paramilitary wing of the Lincoln campaign — serving as security for Republican events, conducting big marches through towns and cities, and recruiting thousands of young people to the anti-slavery cause. (As historian Matt Karp argues in a big article for Catalyst magazine, the Wide-Awakes were just part of a massive organizing campaign that united the Northern working class under the Republican anti-slavery banner.)

Few historians believe that the Civil War could have been avoided without splitting the U.S. in half. But today, untrammeled violent conflict could still be avoided — if the Democrats are willing to mobilize the vast powers of the American state to protect democracy and freedom from the fascist threat. It seems like a long shot, but let’s hope that being in literal physical peril motivates them to get over their usual timidity.

13 thoughts on “Something To Ponder …

    • True, but … when we fail to accept the responsibility that accompanies any freedom, including freedom of speech, then we risk losing that freedom altogether. I think that when baldfaced lies lead to incitement to riot, that goes beyond free speech, and may well cause us all to lose part of that ‘right’. Sigh.

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  1. The rollback of section 230 to make online media liable for content such as lies and incitement’s to violence sounds like a very good idea. Facebook and Twitter etc would shrink. There’s a lot of good things that perhaps Biden can do for the country so you don’t want to get all balled up with punishing people. The truth will come out and we will somehow process all the ugly facts.

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    • I mostly agree with you, that we need to look forward, rather than be so wrapped up in punishing people for the past that we cannot see the future. But, I also think those who have attempted to overturn the voice of the people to overturn the Constitution, must … MUST be held accountable, else others will see that there were no repercussions and will do the same … or worse.

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  2. These suggestions go too far, I think, for a nation founded on freedom of speech, belief, etc. Granted, the MAGAts need to be tamed, but rounding them up as a class sounds like reverse McCarthyism. You cannot just force 74,000,000 people to change or die. The Catholics tried that with the Spanish Inquistion. Just because we believe we are the better people here does not make it so for everyone. I want peace. I want understanding. I want unity. But not by force.
    Education is the best way, but it is probably too late for that. Meeting violence with violence is not the answer.

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    • I think that when the responsibilities accompanying freedoms, whether it be freedom of speech, or the right to bear arms, are disregarded, then the freedom itself is subject to being reversed. There can be no freedom of speech, if responsibilities to be truthful aren’t observed. Yes, education IS the best way, but it seems that about half of this nation did not receive an education and are blindly ignorant. Sigh. Democracy is not carte blanche … rights are not without limitations.

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      • Rights have responsibilities, I will not deny that. But those responsibilities are generally not spoken, or clearly defined. Even in my personal philosophy, I only know my responsibilities because I have encountered events where my actions became clear to me as the events were happening. Once experienced, then I know, but until then, it’s a guessing game.
        I am not saying this to exonerate anyone, but more to note many people just don’t know, and have never thought about it. In regular society, as you grow up, you are given rules, and laws, and you are told to follow them. But telling is not a good teacher, especially when the authorities, or writers and keepers of the laws, break them at their own leisure, and pleasure. That tells everyone else they can also break or bend the rules and laws according to their needs.
        This is why I hate any governing bodies, including religious bodies. They tell, they do not teach. If persons are allowed to learn why on their own, or at least to to learn to understand the purpose of the rule or law, there is more chance of their being responsible.
        In today’s societies, very few people, relatively speaking, understand or live their responsibilities. And this is why I believe in responsible anarchy. I govern myself, for the betterment of life. All life. And every living being needs to discover this on their own terms and time.

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        • I can only speak for myself, but my conscience helps me understand my responsibilities as part of the human species, even where there are no clear definitions as written by men. Many people these days seem to be without a conscience to guide them. To me, someone who thinks only about their own pleasure, who does not feel a sense of responsibility to not only other humans, but other species, is lacking a conscience, is lacking any depth. In a perfect world, a world where everyone had a conscience and heeded it, did what they knew to be right, then no, we wouldn’t need governments and laws. But, my friend, our world, our species, is far from perfect. And getting further by the day, it seems. We cannot simply allow people to do as they please, and expect them to do the right thing, for 75% of the time, they won’t. Like it or not, none of us live in a bubble, but some 7 billion people share this planet and it has been proven there must be guidelines to keep us all from killing each other.

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          • You miss my point, I think, Jill. Scaring people into obeying the law, or forcing them to obey the law, does not help them to learn how to make good choices on their own. Our societies do not encourage self-contemplation, or self-learning. We need to give the power back to the people, that is what I am promoting.
            Further, we have to take power away from those people who believe themselves to be above the law. For now, they are the role-models whom people look at to emulate, and they are piss-poor role models, for all that!

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            • I would agree that anybody who thinks himself better than others, or considers himself to be above the law, should have no role whatsoever in governance or law enforcement. And yes, some people will always act with compassion toward others, will never steal or kill, but we both know those people are in the minority. If you can figure out a way that people will never harm another without laws and rules to keep them from it, I’m all ears. But, I don’t have any desire, given what I know about human nature, to live in a society where there are no rules, no guidelines for behaviour toward others. This is likely one of those things that you and I will never see eye-to-eye on, and that’s okay … we don’t have to agree on everything.

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