Nearly 60 percent of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records for 125 defendants with sufficient information to detail their financial histories.
The group’s bankruptcy rate — 18 percent — was nearly twice as high as that of the American public, The Post found. A quarter of them had been sued for money owed to a creditor. And 1 in 5 of them faced losing their home at one point, according to court filings.
The financial problems are revealing because they offer potential clues for understanding why so many Trump supporters — many with professional careers and few with violent criminal histories — were willing to participate in an attack egged on by the president’s rhetoric painting him and his supporters as undeserving victims.
“I think what you’re finding is more than just economic insecurity but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor who helps run the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab at American University, reacting to The Post’s findings. “And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day.”
The message for Democrats
Note the use of that word “precarity,” a term we’ve frequently used in describing the victims of 21st Century unbridled capitalism, a system in wealth is equated with virtue, and in which the poor and the marginalized are simply suckers, the dregs of of an all-against-all social Darwinian struggle.
In the 1930s, people in similar plights were the backbone of the Democratic Party, mobilized and energized by a vibrant left and the politics of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
And they are the same people abandoned by the Democrats starting with Jimmy Carter and even more by the neoiliberal regime of William Jefferson Clinton.
Abandoned by the Democrats as the party shifted to the Right, they were the natural prey for the rhetoric of Donald Trump, and so desperate they were willing to grasp at the thinnest of reeds with the hope of escaping a flood of debt and finding high ground.
By merging itself with the pastors of deeply reactionary but deeply media savvy megachurches, the Republicans made a pact with the devil, who arrived in the person of Donald Trump, a man who rejected the Sermon on the Mount and indulged in almost everything Christians once considered abominations.
And the greatest boost to his fame was The Apprentice, a show based on the rawest form of social Darwinism.
Trump promised change in jeremiads, a form familiar to any student of the Bible, and because most reactionary Christians fervently hope for the imminent onset of the End Times.
If the Democrats are ever to reach these people, the party must revive some of the fervor it possessed in the 1930s.
And his Christian followers would do well to remind themselves of a Bale verse, specifically Luke 16:13:
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Watching the events of 6 January from start to finish and the current unfolding of the impeachment trial, it’s become clear that the American system is broken, leaving only the question of whether it can be repaired without the shedding of copious blood, or if the country is headed to a befuddled senescence that invariably accompanies the end of empires.
There can be no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind that Trump incited the violent insurrection, building on a foundation of five years of violent rhetoric and the repeated open declaration of his support for violent actions against those who challenge his lies and self-serving distortions.
With the Senate Republicans almost certain to block conviction, the specter of Donald Trump will endure long after his demise.
But how have we come to this pass? And what does the future hold?
Author, journalist, and Yale lecturer Jim Sleeper looks at the historical and behavioral roots of our dilemma in this powerful essay published in openDemocracy:
Trump’s impeachment trial already shows how far US democracy has been undermined
Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is as confusing to many Americans as it is to others who are following it from abroad. The US Senate, which will try him, is not a criminal court, much less the International Court of Justice that some people wish it were on this occasion. Although Trump’s offenses are more egregious than those that were charged against him in the first, failed trial in 2020, he’s no more likely to be convicted now than before. That’s true even though the Senate chamber itself was part of the crime scene this year, as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, and senators were among the targets and witnesses.
The present confusion has two fundamental causes, one constitutional and divisive by design, the other more opportunistic than malevolent.
The constitutional cause, which arises from the fact that the US is a federation of 50 semi-sovereign states, frequently leads to institutional obstruction in national politics. When a president is impeached, charges are brought by the House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress, but tried by the Senate, the upper body. Senators can remove the president for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but only if two-thirds, 67 of them, agree. But unlike jurors elsewhere, senators are elected to their positions, and each represents a particular state. They tend to be bound less tightly by their individual consciences, by the evidence, or by deliberation with other senators than by the voters who elevated them to their six-year terms in office.
Can beleaguered Americans rejuvenate their civil society to curb the poisons that Trump has carried into their politics?
Rational deliberation is skewed also by the fact that senators’ votes count equally, even though they can represent vastly different numbers of people. California, whose 40 million residents tend to elect relatively liberal Democratic representatives, sends two senators to Washington. So does Wyoming, whose population of less than 600,000 tends to be heavily right-wing and Republican. Whatever that imbalance does for state sovereignty, it produces a polity in which roughly 70% of US citizens, who live in states such as California, New York, Texas, and Florida, are represented by only 50% of senators.
The present Senate, controlled narrowly by Democrats, will need to find 17 Republicans to achieve the two-thirds vote to convict Trump. It won’t find them in today’s bitterly polarized polity, no matter what evidence and arguments Trump’s prosecutors present.
The consequences were anticipated by Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and a manager of Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, when he warned senators that if they don’t allow clear evidence and reason to determine what’s right, “it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is … If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”
If the Constitution facilitates deep division, so does an even more powerful sower of confusion. Trump’s characterization of impeachment proceedings as “political theater” mirrors the performance that he himself has staged ever since his defeat in the 3 November election. He staged it most fatefully on 6 January, at the rally that preceded the assault on the Capitol, showing his swooning, raging devotees a chillingly powerful film (assessed as proto-fascist propaganda by the Yale philosopher and scholar of fascism Jason Stanley) just before they began their assault, many of them videotaping it, unintentionally providing their and Trump’s prosecutors with useful documentation.
It’s strongly reminiscent of Joseph Goebbels’ tactic of accusing anti-fascists relentlessly of offenses that Nazis were committing far more often and more brutally. It also highlights the danger in seemingly apolitical, anodyne commercial forces – such as the appropriation of personal data by internet platforms and the rampant financialization of workplaces and homes – that turn active citizens into cogs and pawns.
A steady evisceration
On Trump’s ascent to the presidency in 2017, I summarized Edward Gibbon’s account of the analogous rise of ancient Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, who eviscerated what was left of the Roman Republic’s principles and liberties. In Gibbon’s account, Augustus knew that “the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom. A feeble senate and enervated people cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion.”
Augustus “reformed” the Senate by blackmailing and brutalizing some of its members: he expelled those “whose vices or whose obstinacy required a public example” and persuaded others “to prevent the shame of an expulsion by a voluntary retreat”. This terrified the rest so that they surrendered to the tyrant. Trump similarly terrifies senators, threatening to depose any who defy him, directing his mobs to replace them with more servile Republicans in the party’s primary elections.
“The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive,” Gibbon reflected. It was almost as if he anticipated a time when Americans, trapped like flies in a spider’s web of sticky-fingered but seductive surveillance machines, would ignore the insinuation of what he called “a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire”.
The more subtly impoverished and imprisoned people are by casino-like financing, predatory marketing, and media such as Rupert Murdoch’s that teach them to scapegoat others, the more they seek relief in pills, vials and empty spectacles that leave them too ill to bear their sicknesses or their cures, capable only of occasional eruptions and cries for a strongman. Trump is less the primary cause than the accelerant of a derangement of society that preceded and molded him.
“It is quite terrifying when rational exchange is totally blocked by steely-eyed, unlistening dogmatic assertion,” the president of Yale, Kingman Brewster Jr, told my class shortly before our graduation in 1969. He recalled that in 1937, before entering Yale, he’d traveled “through National Socialist Germany,” where he “was taken in hand by a stormtrooper deputized to be hospitable to unwary young foreign tourists. We sat at a café on Unter Den Linden. I, of course, began to argue about National Socialist policy … Suddenly I realized there could be no argument, not because of the censorship of fear but because of the dogmatic dictate which said … ‘it is so because the Fuhrer wills it so.’
“Dogmatism is the enemy of a moral society,” Brewster added, “for without the morality of reason it is hard to see how there can be any higher standard than passion and force. And if passion and authority respond to no checkrein of reason, then neither authority nor its victims can avoid a crude confrontation of naked power.”
Can beleaguered Americans rejuvenate their civil society and sustain new social movements to curb the poisons of malevolence and mindlessness that Trump has carried into their politics? That will require more than a trial or a pie in Murdoch’s face.
The video was believed to have originated from an account associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. But the study by Cardiff University found two China-linked accounts had shared the video before this. Twitter has since suspended one of them.
The same Chinese network has spread anti-US propaganda, including calls for violence in the run-up to the 6 January storming of the US Capitol building by a pro-Trump mob. Afterwards. It compared the west’s response to the DC riot to political protests in Hong Kong.
Moore from the study by the Crime and Security Research Institute of Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park:
On US election day (03/11/20), a misleading video of a man filming himself allegedly burning Trump-voting ballots on Virginia Beach was detected circulating across several platforms. Although the ballots were later revealed to be samples, the video quickly went viral when Eric Trump’s official Twitter page shared a link to it a day later, with this version alone receiving more than 1.2 million views.
Initially, the video was widely assumed to originate from a QAnon-associated account, but the Cardiff University investigation has uncovered evidence that two China-linked accounts, one of which has since been suspended by Twitter, shared the video prior to this. Researchers believe this led to the content, which continues to be shared today, gaining significant spread.
OSCAR’s initial research into this network began seven days before the US election. Detailed in the first of two reports, the team uncovered more than 400 accounts engaging in suspicious activities. These were forwarded to Twitter, which suspended them within a few days.
The team’s latest analysis contained in a second report has revealed a number of additional accounts associated with the network which are still operational, suggesting it is more complex and resilient than previously estimated. Their findings show operators reacted quickly to the events in the Capitol on 6 January by introducing a new range of high quality, English-language propaganda videos targeting the US within hours of the violence taking place.
There is strong evidence of links to China; posts include use of the Chinese language and a focus upon topics suited to Chinese geopolitical interests. More recent analysis shows the accounts were solely active in Chinese office hours; there was limited activity during a Chinese national holiday; and English language use appears to have been derived from machine translation tools.
During the Cold War, America’s leaders saw nothing wrong with electoral interference, so long as the United States was conducting it. Dov Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, has identified 62 American interventions in foreign elections between 1946 and 1989. The large majority—like Russia’s in 2016—were conducted in secret. And, overall, America’s favored candidates were no more committed to liberal democracy than their opponents; they simply appeared friendlier to American interests. In 1968, for instance, Lyndon Johnson’s administration—fearful that the people of Guyana would choose a socialist, Cheddi Jagan—helped Jagan’s main opponent, Forbes Burnham, win an election marked by massive voter fraud. Burnham soon turned Guyana into a dictatorship, which he ruled until his death in 1985.
U.S. officials sometimes claimed that the left-leaning candidates America worked to defeat were more authoritarian than their right-leaning opponents. But as the Boston College political scientist Lindsey O’Rourke notes in her forthcoming book, Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War, “There is no objective truth to their claim that the leftist parties” the U.S. “targeted were ‘inherently antidemocratic.’ To the contrary, many of these groups had repeatedly committed themselves to working within a democratic framework, and, in some cases, U.S. policymakers even acknowledged this fact.” The University of Kansas’s Mariya Omelicheva, who has also researched America’s Cold War election meddling, told me she “cannot think of a case in which America’s democracy concerns superseded its national-security concerns.”
For the Chinese, keeping America in turmoil is logical, given the Trump administration’s hostility to the Asian giant. And domestic turmoil in the U.S. helps keep attention diverted from China’s increasingly aggressive push for dominance in Asia, most recently seen in it’s latest anti-Taiwan moves today.
Prior to 2020, the QAnon movement was largely considered a niche phenomenon in Germany. But within a year, Germany has become home to the largest QAnon community outside of the English-speaking world.
The German government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, such as lockdowns and social distancing measures, prompted QAnon influencers and far-right sympathizers to stoke fear and propagate the movement’s conspiracy theories on social media platforms.
The Dubai-based messenger service Telegram became particularly popular among QAnon supporters, largely as a result of its lax policy towards cracking down on extremist content.
In December, the Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation found that German QAnon groups and channels hosted on Telegram had experienced significant growth during the first lockdown of the pandemic in March 2020.
Back then, Qlobal — now today’s largest German-language QAnon channel — had roughly 21,000 subscribers. Three months after, it had garnered more than 110,000 users. The channel now boasts more than 160,000 followers, with other QAnon groups and channels mirroring the rise in interest.
According to estimates provided by the Amadeo Antonio Foundation, there are at least 150,000 QAnon followers in Germany — and that figure is steadily rising. However, gauging the size of the QAnon community is difficult, largely because estimates lean on public online engagement.
QAnon’s presence in Germany second only to the U.S.
A 2 September report in Foreign Policy offered some numbers of the group’s presence on German soil:
Germany has the second-highest number of QAnon believers after the United States. NewsGuard has identified more than 448,000 QAnon followers in Europe. On YouTube, Facebook, and Telegram, accounts dealing with the QAnon conspiracy have over 200,000 followers in Germany alone. Telegram Channels related to QAnon (such as Frag uns doch! WWG1WGA and Qlobal-Change) have gone from 10,000 to nearly 200,000 followers combined in the past five months. The German-language QAnon YouTube channel Qlobal-Change has over 17 million views. Public figures such as the former national news anchor Eva Herman, the rapper Sido, and Hildmann have all expressed sympathy with the conspiracy theory. The German pop star Xavier Naidoo, a former judge on the German version of American Idol—Deutschland Sucht den Superstar—regularly shares QAnon content and tearfully lamented the supposed shadowy globalist sex-trafficking ring on YouTube.
In Germany, most QAnon followers are people under 50. This tracks a pattern in Germany’s anti-establishment right. In the 2019 elections in the East German states of Brandenburg and Saxony, voters under 50 supported the AfD more than any other party. Establishment parties were only able to cling to power because of overwhelming backing from voters over 60.
Many of these conspiracist groups risk violating Germany’s constitution, which has limitations on anti-Democratic and pro-Nazi speech owing to the country’s dark past. Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann pointed at QAnon’s use of anti-Semitic tropes. (Imagines of supposed conspirators drinking the blood of children draws directly on medieval anti-Semitic conspiracies that led to pogroms in Germany.) Vocabulary associated with QAnon-adjacent conspiracies has also been drawn on by the right-wing terrorists responsible for the June 2019 assassination of Walter Lübcke in Kassel, the October 2019 synagogue attack in Halle, and the Hanau shisha bar attack that left 11 people dead and 5 injured this February. In June, Germany’s federal and state interior ministers began thinking about a strategy to combat coronavirus-based disinformation and conspiracy theories, including raising questions around the constitutionality of some of them. A strategy should be adopted at their next meeting in the fall.
Using AI tools developed by data company Textgain, we analysed about half-a-million Twitter messages related to QAnon to identify major trends.
By observing how hashtags were combined in messages, we examined the network structure of QAnon users posting in English, German, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. Researchers identified about 3,000 different hashtags related to QAnon used by 1,250 Twitter profiles.
Every fourth QAnon tweet originated in the US (300). Far behind were tweets from other countries: Canada (30), Germany (25), Australia (20), the United Kingdom (20), the Netherlands (15), France (15), Italy (10), Spain (10) and others.
We examined QAnon profiles that share each other’s content, Trump tweets and YouTube videos, and found over 90% of these profiles shared the content of at least one other identified profile.
Seven main topics were identified: support for Trump, support for EU-based nationalism, support for QAnon, deep state conspiracies, coronavirus conspiracies, religious conspiracies and political extremism.
Hashtags rooted in US evangelicalism sometimes portrayed Trump as Jesus, as a superhero, or clad in medieval armour, with underlying Biblical references to a coming apocalypse in which he will defeat the forces of evil.
Overall, the coronavirus pandemic appears to function as an important conduit for all such messaging, with QAnon acting as a rallying flag for discontent among far-right European movements.
Storming the Reichstag
When QAnon members stormed the Capitol in Washington on 6 January, they were following a precedent set on 29 August 2020 in Berlin, when German QAnons were in the forefront of an attempted takeover of Reichstag building, the seat of Germany’s national legislature.
Unlike the subsequent action across the Atlantic, Berlin police were able to block the assault.
The August 29 demonstration was publicized by various far-right media, for example by the magazine Compact, which offered the whole front page of its September 2020 issue to tie together “Querdenken” with the “Q” of QAnon—the absurd conspiracy theory popular in the US, claiming that (democratic) politicians are kidnapping children to extract a rejuvenating substance (adrenochrome) from them, which also has fallen on fertile ground in Germany. The headline reads: “Q – Querdenker – Will the freedom movement topple the Corona dictatorship?” Compact’s editor, Jürgen Elsässer appeared together with a prominent figurehead of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, Martin Sellner.
One of the main QAnon promoters in Germany, Attila Hildmann, a vegan cook and (former) TV celebrity, who has earned the nickname of “Avocadolf.” According to Deutsche Welle “The vegan chef claims Adolf Hitler was a “blessing” compared to Angela Merkel, accusing her of preparing a global genocide.” He had been detained by the police in front of the Russian embassy during the August 29 demonstration.
It was, of course, the burning of the Reichstagbuilding on 27 February 1933 that led to the Enabling Act that gave Adolf Hitler the dictatorial power he needed to wage war on the world.
Der Spiegel makes the Nazi connection
As Just Security noted in a report filed ten days after the Reichstag assault, “The QAnon conspiracy theory has now spread to neo-Nazis in Germany.”
Germany’s leading news magazine, in a post-Reichstag takeover attempt report published 24 September 2020 noted the disturbing parallels.
QAnon’s followers spread disturbingly familiar themes: a supposed conspiracy of rich elites, including many Jewish businesspeople, targeting the rest of the world; a supposed group of corrupt left-wing politicians infiltrating democracies; journalists who spread propaganda as accomplices to the powerful. These centuries-old fictions from the right-wing, anti-Semitic fringe have been spread into the international public sphere via 21st-century media – part Dreyfus Affair, part Dan Brown.
QAnon is on its way to becoming the most dangerous cult in the world – the first ideology to come from the digital realm and to emerge from an online niche into real life, aided by Donald Trump-supporters and right-wing demagogues. The “Q” cult is fueled by one or several anonymous users who regularly post to the web and who claim to have access to top-secret U.S. government documents – a claim that is more than questionable.
Just as disturbing is how QAnon builds on age-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that, centuries ago, claimed Jews drink the blood of Christians and seek to control the world. At the same time, the movement’s potential for violence is also becoming clearer. In March 2019, a QAnon believer shot an alleged mafia boss in New York because he believed the man was a member of the “deep state.” In April, U.S. police officers took a woman into custody who had threatened Hillary Clinton on Facebook because she had allegedly abused a child. In 2018, a man in Florida sent mail bombs to prominent Democrats whom he believed to be members of a “deep state” conspiracy.
The gunman in the central German city of Hanau who killed 10 people and then himself in February alluded to topics circulating in the QAnon cosmos. In a YouTube video, he argued that there were subterranean military installations in the U.S. where children are abused and killed and where the devil is worshipped.
QAnon followers also played a role in the storming of the Reichstag, the seat of German parliament, in Berlin in late August by a group protesting the authorities’ measures to control COVID-19. Naturopath Tamara Kirschbaum, who called on people to run up the building’s stairs to the entrance, is identified online as a “freelance employee” of Qlobal-Change, a portal of QAnon followers. She describes herself as “the voice” of the “X22 Report,” a YouTube show about QAnon-related topics that is also translated into German. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German domestic intelligence agency, in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia classifies her as a member of the Reichsbürger (or “citizens of the Reich”) scene, a group that does not believe in the legitimacy of the modern German state.
The Pentagon’s strange refusal to dispatch National Guard troops to retake the Capitol took a dark turn today when the Washington Post confirmed that despite previous lies, the brother of an ousted Trump adviser who advocated a military takeover of the election was in the Pentagon room when top brass fielded a call from trapped officials in the Capitol.
The military’s outright lies raise countless questions, most prominently the question of what the hell was going on in that room when the nation’s military, sworn to protect the Constitution, refused to help a branch of government created by that very foundational document.
The Army falsely denied for days that Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, the brother of disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn, was involved in a key meeting during its heavily scrutinized response to the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Charles Flynn confirmed in a statement issued to The Washington Post on Wednesday that he was in the room for a tense Jan. 6 phone call during which the Capitol Police and D.C. officials pleaded with the Pentagon to dispatch the National Guard urgently, but top Army officials expressed concern about having the Guard at the Capitol.
Flynn left the room before the meeting was over, anticipating that then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who was in another meeting, would soon take action to deploy more guard members, he said.
“I entered the room after the call began and departed prior to the call ending as I believed a decision was imminent from the Secretary and I needed to be in my office to assist in executing the decision,” Flynn said.
The general’s presence during the call — which has not previously been reported — came weeks after his brother publicly suggested that President Donald Trump declare martial law and have the U.S. military oversee a redo of the election. There is no indication that Charles Flynn shares his brother’s extreme views or discharged his duties at the Pentagon on Jan. 6 in any manner that was influenced by his brother.
Gen. Flynn’s brother, the QAnon fanatic
Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served a mere 17 days as Donald Trump’s first National Security Adviser as was fired over his role in establishing ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Back on 7 July 2020 CNN reported on the ex-generals QAnon ties:
In a video posted online over the weekend, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is seen using phrases and slogans that are hallmarks of the baseless QAnon conspiracy movement. He also tagged his post with a QAnon hashtag.
Followers of QAnon believe there is a “deep state” within the US government that is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. According to the conspiracy, the cabal is largely run by Democratic politicians and liberal celebrities — and Trump is trying to take them down. Flynn posted the 53-second clip to Twitter on Saturday, which was the July Fourth holiday.
In the video, Flynn leads a small group in reciting a generic oath of office, the same oath taken by members of Congress. After finishing the oath, Flynn says, “Where we go one, we go all!” His post included the hashtag #TakeTheOath, which he recently added to his Twitter bio as well.
These elements of Flynn’s post — the oath, paired with the catchphrase and hashtag — are distinctive to the QAnon movement and are used widely by its followers, experts say. Flynn never explicitly mentions QAnon in the video, and his lawyer claims his phrasing is innocuous.
Then on 29 December came this, reported by the Daily Beast:
Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is going all in on the QAnon conspiracy theory, promoting an online store to sell QAnon hats and T-shirts, the proceeds of which will benefit his partnership with a prominent QAnon booster.
Flynn’s drawn-out legal battle with Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned him into a hero for QAnon believers. Many QAnon supporters, who rely on mysterious online clues to construct a worldview where the Democratic Party and other institutions are controlled by a cabal of pedophile-cannibals, claim that Flynn is “Q”, the anonymous figure behind the conspiracy theory. They also took a previously obscure Flynn quote about the American military’s “digital soldiers” as their banner, adopting the phrase to refer to QAnon believers themselves.
Flynn started to more aggressively court his QAnon fans this year, taking the “QAnon oath” in July and appearing on QAnon podcasts after receiving a pardon in November. Along the way, Flynn once again became an adviser to Trump, reportedly urging the president to impose martial law in a recent, heated Oval Office meeting.
Flynn aligned himself even further with QAnon on Tuesday, endorsing a T-shirt website called “Shirt Show USA” that sells QAnon gear and other “official” Flynn-themed merchandise. The website’s offerings include camo trucker hats, T-shirts, and sweatshirts with the phrase “WWG1WGA,” a reference to the central QAnon motto, “Where we go one, we go all.”
The disgraced general then amped up, as the Military Times reported 3 January:
Less than two weeks after being pardoned, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn took to the airwaves to suggest President Trump could impose martial law and deploy the military to re-run the election. Apparently, this proposal intrigued President Trump, who invited Flynn to the White House to hear more. According to most accounts, Trump did not embrace the ideas further, once he heard other advisers and government lawyers argue forcefully against the proposal. But the fact they were ever raised and entertained is extraordinarily alarming.
By expressing these views publicly and in the Oval Office, Flynn tried to give the military the central role in determining the election outcome — a role the Constitution does not assign and that senior military leaders have been at pains to avoid for the past year. Flynn used his own rank and military status to lend credibility to ideas that are manifestly illegal and harmful to the Republic.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville quickly responded by issuing a statement that implicitly disavowed both Flynn and his suggestion of martial law. They stated, “There is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.” This statement echoed similar ones that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has been making since the summer. A handful of retired generals and admirals have also criticized Flynn, but the overall response from this group has been muted, perhaps out of fear that such criticism could backfire by goading the President into taking this action precisely because he is being told he should not.
A curious blindness to overt fascists
It’s simply amazing how tolerant the defense establishment is when it comes to white nationalists.
We’re old enough to remember the days of the McCarthy Red scare, when simply having a close relative associated with an alleged communist front group was sufficient cause to deny security clearances.
Back in the mid-1960s when we reported for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, we interviewed a man with a top level security clearance as a defense contractor central to America’s nuclear program who was also the organizer for the local chapter of the American Nazi Party. After my story came out exposing his dual roles as nuke-builder and local top Nazi, he kept his job and his clearance.
Of course that was also the era when the head of the nation’s rocket-building effort was a former SS officer who designed rockets for Adolf Hitler.
This isn’t to say that Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn shares his brother’s delusions.
But the Pentagon’s refusal to send help to the besieged legislators is an indelible stain on the Pentagon, and deservedly so. And lying about the presence of Flynn’s brother when the generals were listening to the plea from the Capitol has got to make one wonder what the hell was going, especially in light of their refusal to send help.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” ― George Orwell, 1984
In a document that night have been created by George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission, a panel of far-Right historians advised by the likes of Ben Carson and Mike Pompeo, has crafted a truly Orwellian document, The 1776 Report.
The White House released the report on Monday of the presidential 1776 Commission, a sweeping attack on liberal thought and activism that calls for a “patriotic education,” defends America’s founding against charges that it was tainted by slavery and likens progressivism to fascism.
President Trump formed the 18-member commission — which includes no professional historians but a number of conservative activists, politicians and intellectuals — in the heat of his re-election campaign in September, as he cast himself as a defender of traditional American heritage against “radical” liberals. Not previously known for his interest in American history or education, Mr. Trump insisted that the nation’s schools had been infiltrated by anti-American thought and required a new “pro-American” curriculum.
The commission formed part of Mr. Trump’s larger response to the antiracism protests, some of them violent, that followed the June killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
In his remarks at the National Archives announcing the commission’s formation, Mr. Trump said that “the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.”
The commission’s report charges, in terms quickly derided by many mainstream historians, that Americans are being indoctrinated with a false critique of the nation’s founding and identity, including the role of slavery in its history.
It’s a document, in short, that will be applauded by the same Trumpsters who invaded the Capitol.
A remarkable and tragic overthrow of a democratically elected government in the United States more than a century ago bears eerie parallels to the 6 January insurrection in the nation’s Capitol.
White resentment, lies about an honest election and inflammatory media played their part in both events, and their resonances evoke a tragic and unealed legacy from the nation’s past.
Kathy Roberts Forde, Associate Professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Kristin Gustafson, Associate Teaching Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Washington, Bothell examine one of the darkest moments of American history in a report for The Conversation, the open source academic journal written in everyday English:
A white supremacist coup succeeded in 1898 North Carolina, led by lying politicians and racist newspapers that amplified their lies
While experts debate whether the U.S. Capitol siege was an attempted coup, there is no debate that what happened in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, was a coup – and its consequences were tragic.
These two events, separated by 122 years, share critical features. Each was organized and planned. Each was an effort to steal an election and disfranchise voters. Each was animated by white racist fears.
And each required the help of the media to be successful.
Those who study Reconstruction and its aftermath know the U.S. has deep experience with political and electoral violence. Reconstruction was the 12-year period following the Civil War when the South returned to the Union and newly freed Black Americans were incorporated into U.S. democracy.
But few understand that the Wilmington coup, when white supremacists overthrew the city’s legitimately elected bi-racial government, could not have happened without the involvement of white news media. The same is true of the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, 2021.
The news media, it turns out, have often been key actors in U.S. electoral violence. This history is explored in a chapter one of us – Gustafson – wrote for a book the other – Forde – co-edited with Sid Bedingfield, “Journalism & Jim Crow: The Making of White Supremacy in the New South,” which comes out later this year.
A major obstacle lay in his path to the governor’s office. Several years earlier, Black Republicans and white Populists in North Carolina, tired of Democrats enriching themselves off public policies favoring banks, railroads and industry, joined forces.
Known as Fusionists, they rose to power in the executive branch, the legislature and the governments of several eastern towns, but most importantly, the thriving port city of Wilmington, then the largest city in North Carolina.
Wilmington, with its majority Black population and successful Black middle class, was a city that offered hope for Black Southerners. Black men had higher rates of literacy than white men, ran some of the city’s most successful businesses, such as restaurants, tailors, shoemakers, furniture makers and jewelers, and, to the dismay of Democrats, held public office.
Using anti-Black disinformation spread through newspapers and public speeches across the state, they would whip up white racial fears of “Negro domination” and “black beasts” that preyed on the “virtue” of white women. The goal: drive a wedge in the Fusionist coalition and lure white Populists back to the Democratic fold.
The press and political power
The News & Observer, the most influential newspaper in the state, was the Democratic Party’s most potent weapon. Its editor called it “the militant voice of white supremacy.”
For months in advance of the November election, the paper ran articles, editorials, speeches and reader letters telling lies about Black malfeasance, misrule, criminality and sexual predations against white women. White newspapers across the state, from big cities to tiny hamlets, republished the News & Observer’s content.
“The prevalence of rape by brutal negroes upon helpless white women has brought about a reign of terror in rural districts,” the paper said. Daniels admitted years later this claim was a lie.
Knowing the power of images, Daniels hired a cartoonist to create viciously racist images for the front page.
Roughly a year after Rebecca Latimer Felton, a prominent white Georgian, gave a speech advocating the lynching of Black men for their supposed assaults on white women, white newspapers across North Carolina reprinted and discussed it for days to gin up racist hostility.
The National Rifle Association, threatened with dissolution by a state-filed legal action in New York, has filed for bankruptcy and declared it’s fleeing the Empire State for the Lone Star state and reinventing itself.
The National Rifle Association on Friday filed for bankruptcy, a sudden development that could help the gun rights group escape a lawsuit by New York’s attorney general seeking its dissolution.
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court in Dallas, and said it plans to reincorporate in Texas to escape “a corrupt political and regulatory environment” in New York, where it is now incorporated.
“Texas values the contributions of the NRA, celebrates our law-abiding members, and joins us as a partner in upholding constitutional freedom,” Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre said in a letter to members. “We seek protection from New York officials who illegally abused and weaponized the powers they wield against the NRA and its members.”
The NRA was sued in August by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused LaPierre and other senior leaders of self-dealing and mismanagement, and said the group’s activities violated state laws governing nonprofits.
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court in Dallas, and said it plans to reincorporate in Texas to escape “a corrupt political and regulatory environment” in New York, where it is now incorporated.
So what was at issue
From the New York Attorney General Letitia James’s announcement of the litigation, issued 6 August 2020:
The suit specifically charges the NRA as a whole, as well as Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer with failing to manage the NRA’s funds and failing to follow numerous state and federal laws, contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA.
In the complaint, Attorney General James lays out dozens of examples where the four individual defendants failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel. In addition to shuttering the NRA’s doors, Attorney General James seeks to recoup millions in lost assets and to stop the four individual defendants from serving on the board of any not-for-profit charitable organization in the state of New York again.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” said Attorney General James. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”
So why Texas?
Not only does the Lone Star State lead the nation in gun ownership, it also has the largest group of people granted licenses to carry concealed firearms, the so-called “carry permit”:
According to a 6 April 2018 report in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “more than 1.2 million Texans have licenses to carry”:
Texans in their 50s applied for or renewed the most licenses, 61,963.
After that, Texans in their 40s claimed the next largest number of licenses, 60,358, followed by those in their 30s, who picked up 54,380.
These Texans “are still really young and active in our society and they may believe that they are in need of protection,” Guerrero said.
Texans in their 60s received 51,776 licenses last year and 20 year olds claimed 37,054 licenses. At the same time, 24,353 Texans in their 70 and, 3,416 in their 80s picked up their licenses. And 152 people in their 90s received their gun licenses as well.
And the NRA will find a legal welcome in its new home.
Officials in Texas — which is known as both a gun-friendly and debtor-friendly state — welcomed the NRA’s announcement Friday, embracing the NRA’s stance that it is fleeing a “toxic political environment” in New York.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in a tweet, celebrated the announcement: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” Other conservative Texas lawmakers also welcomed the news.
But bankruptcy experts said the NRA’s filing is less of a physical relocation and more of a legal play to avoid a potentially disastrous case in New York.
The move to Texas, legal experts said, will likely be on paper. “They probably figured they’d have a more friendly judge in Texas,” said Josh Wolfshohl, a bankruptcy attorney at Porter Hedges LLP in Houston.
And there’s another reason we suspect for the NRA’s corporate move, illustrated by this graphic from Truth in Accounting’s statedatalab.org:
The lone star state had a total of 95,269 registered firearms in 2017 according to the U.S. Department of Justice. This figure comes from the total amount of registered machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, and any other weapons. However, this estimate is suggested to be much higher due to the fact that Texans are not required by law to register their firearms.
This number has increased by about 45% since 2014, and by more than 70% since 2011. The 50 State average is moving steadily, hovering around 20,000 in 2017. At the current rate, by 2018 Texas will have more than 100,000 registered firearms; just for comparison, in 2017, Hawaii only had around 568.
Fun fact: In May of 2013, the Texas House approved a bill to dub May 4th as Gun Day, which allows college students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses.
Financial woes and QAnon ties
The NRA has been battling a host of lawsuits as well as the New York litigation — costing the NRA an astounding $100 million — and it’s running out of cash, leading to a radical decline in spending on the November election, though the NRA did dump $4.2 million into supporting Trump, and poured $12.2 million into campaigns to discredit Joe Biden.
Their efforts came at as time when supporters had pared back on giving to the group by a significant margin.
The National Rifle Association cut salaries and programs in 2019 to keep up with a drop in membership and soaring legal bills.
Membership dues to the NRA fell more than $57 million—or 33 percent—between 2018 and 2019, according to a copy of the group’s latest annual report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. While contributions remained steady, the group was unable to make up the gap in funding from other sources and saw overall revenue fall by about the same amount. In response to the falling revenue, the group cut expenses across the board by more than $73 million—or 17 percent—with legislative programs and public affairs taking the largest hits even. Legal costs rose by 52 percent to more than $33 million.
Like many political advocacy groups, the NRA’s membership and fundraising tend to fluctuate based on election years. Membership dues in 2019, however, were also down more than $15 million—or 11 percent—from the previous non-election year of 2017. The group’s expenses also fell about 7 percent compared to 2017. The group still ran a $16 million deficit in 2019 before contributions with donor restrictions are factored in.
Support for Lauren Boebert: For years, the NRA has supported Boebert –– a QAnon supporter who is now running for Congress in Colorado. The NRA has run “a segment on her gun-themed restaurant,” promoted a video of her confronting Beto O’Rourke at a town hall, and interviewed her for its “member spotlight” series.
Endorsed state legislature candidates: The NRA has endorsed Rob Chase, a candidate for the Washington House of Representatives; Susan Lynn, an incumbent in the Tennessee House of Representatives; Anthony Sabatini, an incumbent member of the Florida House of Representatives; and Suzanne Sharer, a candidate for the Arizona State Senate. All have shared QAnon content.
NRA board members embrace QAnon:
Ted Nugent: Nugent, a longtime NRA board member, has twice shared a QAnon YouTube video on his Facebook page.
Jay Printz: Printz, an NRA board member since 1998, shared a video from one of “the biggest QAnon accounts across multiple platforms” on his facebook account.
Leroy Sisco: Sisco, who has been on the board for over a decade, has “shared four YouTube videos to his Facebook account from QAnon-affiliated channels.”
Robert Mansell: Mansell “shared on his personal Facebook account the Orwellian Chronicle video with the description ‘It’s time to wake up. Q.’”
Willes Lee: Lee, the NRA’s Second Vice President, has retweeted the “Eyes on Q” account and wrote on Facebook that “Q” was “relatively behind the scene until Dem leaders & #enemyofthepeople media pushed back HARD against stories of all these liberal pedophiles & the national anti trafficking efforts.”
Extremists ready to fill the void
Even should the NRA pack up its tent and slip away, there are plenty of other groups even more extreme eager to fill the gap, including the Virginia Citizens Defense League [VCDL], as Mother Jones reported last month:
Several groups have already ramped up their operations over the past year, such as Gun Owners of America, a national group that former Texas Rep. Ron Paul once called “the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington.” Van Cleave says the VCDL has “been working quite a bit with” Gun Owners of America on both state and national issues. “I think what’s going to happen is as the NRA ends up being pretty crippled for a while, there are other organizations that are going to step forward,” he says. “There’s not going to be a void there, somebody’s going to fill that.”
Two armed men from Virginia were arrested outside of the Philadelphia Convention Center on November 5 after police received a tip about plans to raid a “truckload of fake ballots.” One of the men, Joshua Macias, co-founded the group Vets for Trump and had attended VCDL’s Lobby Day rally in January, according to a review of his Twitter account. In a video taken during the rally, Macias can be seen, with a bullhorn in hand, firing up a crowd of hundreds on a downtown Richmond side street: “There are veterans out here…who made an oath to defend this constitution against foreign and domestic enemies!”
And a disclosure
Growing up in Kansas and Colorado back in the 1950’s I joined the Cub and Boy Scouts, which had very close ties with the NRA.
During my Boy Scout years in Colorado [all two of them] my troop took firearms instruction from the NRA.
I did modestly well, even winning a patch for my jacket:
Back in those days, I saw a lot of a bumper sticker declaring “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
I’m not in favor of banning firearms for much the same reason, and if I had a bumper sticker today it would read: When guns are outlawed, only crazy Republican white nationalists will have guns.”
Think about, especially in light of 6 January 2021. . .
One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks to lobby the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme.
Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer John M. Dowd has marketed himself to convicted felons as someone who could secure pardons because of his close relationship with the president, accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a wealthy felon and advising him and other potential clients to leverage Mr. Trump’s grievances about the justice system.
A onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, and agreed to a $50,000 bonus if the president granted it, according to a copy of an agreement.
And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization.
Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric may be his biggest gift to the new far-Right media channels his words have spawned.
By granting them access to his press conferences, endlessly tweets linked to their coverage, and his feud with Fox News, he has shoveled millions into the pockets of professional propagandists by vastly expanding their audiences.
According to Nielsen television-viewing figures shared with Press Gazette by Newsmax, its total audience reach grew from 9m in July 2020 to 24.3m during election month. In addition to these figures, Newsmax said it recorded 115m online streams on its free over-the-top (OTT) channel in November – a 511% increase on the previous month.
Newsmax said that December was its highest-rated month ever, and that the first week of January – a period that included the 6 January pro-Trump protests-turned-riots in Washington – set new prime-time records, although it did not provide specific figures.
The news group also says its app, Newsmax TV, has been downloaded 4.3m times since election day.
According to online analytics firm SimilarWeb, Newsmax.com attracted 63m visits in November – up from 15m in October. In December, it fell only slightly to 62m.
It was a similar story for Thegatewaypundit.com, which saw its traffic jump from 29m to 57m between October and November before dropping slightly to 56m in December.
One America News Network’s website traffic jumped from 6.5m in October to 18.4m in November and fell slightly to 17.6m last month.
Cultural Civil War 2.0
Communities are based on narratives, stories that shape and fine our identity.
We have personal narratives, family narratives, group narratives, and larger meta-narratives.
Back in the 1950’s during my childhood, the shapers of metanarratives were schools, churches, vlubs and other social organizations, and the news media, primarily community newspapers and radio at the time [television came later].
The news media focused on the community, covering politics, police news, clubs, schools sports, and other community activities, and newspapers covered community events in far greater depth than they do today, in part because of classified ad revenues [long since migrated to eBay and other online media] and the advertising dollars spent by locally owned and operated newspapers and radio stations [all local radio had news staff back then, unlike today].
But with the onset of the Internet, everything change, and far more sensationalistic.
On one level, news media became delocalized and politicized. But more critically, this meany that next-door neighbors no longer shared a common stream of information. Instead, each of us is presented, thanks to the targeting tools of the online media giants, with a news stream that contains little or nothing of the “news” consumed by out neighbors.
One indication of this stream of parallel news universes can be seen in a new study of online news media from the Pew Research center:
Among 11 social media sites asked about as a regular source of news, Facebook sits at the top, with about a third (36%) of Americans getting news there regularly. YouTube comes next, with 23% of U.S. adults regularly getting news there. Twitter serves as a regular news source for 15% of U.S. adults.
Other social media sites are less likely to be regular news sources. About one-in-ten Americans or fewer report regularly getting news on Instagram (11%), Reddit (6%), Snapchat (4%), LinkedIn (4%), TikTok (3%), WhatsApp (3%), Tumblr (1%) and Twitch (1%).
These lower percentages for news use are in some cases related to the fact that fewer Americans report using them at all, compared with the shares who use Facebook and YouTube. If we consider news users as a portion of a site’s overall user base, some sites stand out as being more “newsy” even if their total audience is relatively small. Twitter, for example, is used by 25% of U.S. adults, but over half of those users get news on the site regularly. And 42% of Reddit users get news regularly on the site, though it overall has a very small user base (15% of U.S. adults say they use Reddit). On the other hand, YouTube, though widely used, sees a smaller portion of its users turning to the site for news regularly (32%).
Two charts illustrate the nature of the online mediascape.
The first graphic shows where folks seek out their news online:
The second, and more fascinating chart reveals how much we actually trust the content to the online news we peruse:
More form the report:
Most Americans do not say news on social media has helped them better understand current events. The largest segment, 47%, says it doesn’t make much of a difference, while 29% say that it has helped their understanding and 23% say it has actually left them more confused. This largely reflects responses to similar questions in 2018 and 2019, when a minority said that social media news helped them better understand current events.
Such is where we are, living in a world where the tools that once brought communities together now serve to divide us.
It’s payback time. The Republican rift in the state Senate came to a head Tuesday when Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan demoted three Republican senators who have backed attempts to overturn the presidential vote in Georgia over baseless allegations of irregularities.
When the bloodletting was over, state Sens. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, Matt Brass of Newnan and Burt Jones of Jackson were sapped of their political influence on the second day of the winter session.
As our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports, Duncan stripped Beach of his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee, while Jones will no longer lead the Insurance and Labor Committee. Neither will serve as even a rank-and-file member on the two panels they once led.
And though state Sen. Matt Brass of Newnan will still be a committee chairman this term, he was shelved to a lesser posting. Instead of serving as chairman of the committee that is set to redraw the political map later this year, he’ll oversee a banking committee.
None of this was much of a surprise. The three aggressively promoted President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud, and pushed efforts to overturn the outcome that ran afoul of Duncan, who has called out the phony narrative.
When legislators who’ve taken an oath to uphold their state’s constitution violate the oath, punitive action should follow, especially when it comes to ensuring the sanctity of the franchise.
Given Georgia’s long history of disenfranchising Black citizens for a century after the Civil War, we have to applaud the Republican Lieutenant Governor for his actions, given that Black voters gave Biden his ket victory in the Peace State.
The president spoke to reporters for the first time since a pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol last Wednesday, leaving five people dead. Democrats accuse him of stoking violence and could vote to impeach him on Wednesday.
“So if you read my speech, and many people have done it, and I’ve seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it’s been analysed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump insisted at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, ahead of a trip to Texas.
What people thought his remarks appropriate?
Sadly, the question was never asked. But given that he’s been holed up with nothing but fellow unindicted co-conspirators, you can guess.
“If you look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places, that was a real problem,” he said.
When asked directly on Tuesday morning if he would resign with just nine days left in office, Mr. Trump said “I want no violence.”
He did not address his own role in inciting the mob of Trump supporters. Instead, the president framed himself as a victim, calling impeachment a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”
“I think it’s causing tremendous anger,” he said.
The Capitol takeover was just the beginning
We are seeing the opening round of a new civil war.
The people who broke into the Capitol, including those who entered intent on murder, we just the opening wave of a tide of violence incited over the past five years [including the 2016 original campaign season] of five years of manipulation by a soulless egoist willing to use any tools to ensure his enshrinement in the national memory.
Trump is a genius when it comes to one thing: propaganda, and while people often compare him to Hitler, a much more accurate comparison is with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s most devoted acolyte and the first master of modern media.
Goebbels was the master of the pithy communique, the branding of enemies with pithy and memorable catchphrases designed to pigeonhole and neutralize his enemies.
The classic example is Bernhard Weiss, the vice president of Berlin police during Goebbels’ years as head of the Nazi Party in Berlin.
Weiss struggled to control the violence of Nazi stormtroops [the Sturmabteilung, or SA] before the 30 January 1933 Nazi takeover of the German government.
Goebbels called the Jewish Weiss “Isidore,” rather than the Germanic Bernhard, and blasted him for defending the “Jew’s republic,” the term he used to describe the government under the Weimar Republic.
Like Trump, Goebbels was a master of contempt and the inflammatory epigram. Before taking power, Goebbels welcomed the hostile press his remarks ensured, noting the attacks in his diary, often followed by this phrase: “The main thing is, they’re talking about us.”
And Goebbels and Trump both played to the same base. To quote the German propagandist: “We will never get anywhere, if we lean on the interests of the cultured and propertied classes. Everything will come to us if we appeal to the hunger and despair of the masses.”
The danger in the police, military
Today’s news brings us word that an officer of the Secret Service, the ageny charged with protecting the president, has been caught posting Tump support on Facebook, even in the aftermath of the attempted putsch.
The Secret Service indicated Monday that it was investigating an officer who posted comments on Facebook in which she accused lawmakers who formalized Biden’s win of treason and echoed Trump’s conspiracy theories about the rigging of the election.
According to images provided to The Post, the officer posted a meme on Facebook of Trump shaking hands with himself in the Oval Office, titled “Here’s to the Peaceful Transition of Power.” The day after the attack on the Capitol, a comment posted in the officer’s name ridiculed efforts to remove Trump from office and accused lawmakers who were formally accepting the electoral college vote of “committing treason on live tv.”
It read in part: “Good morning patriots! Yesterday started out beautiful and as usual Antifa soured the mood and attacked police and an Air Force veteran was murdered….It’s OFFENSE time finally!!”
This revelation comes after the Secret Service already announced it was moving agents out of the presidential detail because of their avid support for Trump and his agenda.
As the Independent reported on New Years Eve, “The Secret Service is planning to make changes to the presidential security detail before president-elect Joe Biden comes to power, amid rising concerns that some current personnel may be Donald Trump loyalists.”
Just as alarming are new reports of suspicious conduct by the very officers assigned to protect the Capitol building, the U.S. Capitol Police.
Several U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the demonstration last week that turned into a deadly riot at the Capitol, according to members of Congress, police officials and staff members briefed on the developments.
Eight separate investigations have been launched into the actions of Capitol officers, according to one congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the status of the internal review.
In one of the cases, officers had posted what Capitol Police investigators found to be messages showing support for the rally on Wednesday that preceded the attack on the complex, including touting President Trump’s baseless contention that the election had been stolen through voter fraud, the aide said.
The question of community police reliability
And now, with Trump’s supporters vowing armed sieges of all 50 state capitals, the question of police reliability is being raised, and with good reason.
First consider this Police Magazine 2016 poll conducted before Trump’s 2016 electoral victory. Only serving law enforcement officers voted, and their sentiments were clear:
No poll was conducted last year, but we suspect Trump’s supporter woulhave been even greater, given the national wave of anti-police protests.
So what about now? What about what happebned in Washington?
Around the country, police departments are following up on reports of off-duty officers spotted in Washington, D.C. The Seattle Police Department has put two officers on paid leave as their presence in D.C. is investigated.
Let’s not forget the the Federation of Police, the largest union representing officers in the U.S. has always been in Trump’s camp, endorsing him in both of his White House runs.
Michael Zoorob of Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science examined the role of the Federation of Police in Trump’s 2016 Republican primaries and found that regions where union membership was concentrated, votes shifted from George Romney to Donald Trump.
Throughout American history, police have gravitated to right-wing, law-and-order politicians and ethnocentric groups: “The police find few segments of the body politic who appreciate their contribution to society… i f they do, they find this appreciation among conservatives, and particularly the extreme right” (quoting noted sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset’s 1972 study “The Politics of the Police.”). Trump fits this mold. In one primary debate, he said, “Police are the most mistreated people in this country. . .We have to give power back to the police because crime is rampant.” Trump’s win was thus a relief. The FOP leader in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania—traditionally a Democratic stronghold—cheered that “We, law enforcement, and the people needed this win.”
Several vocal police unions have endorsed President Trump, there have been several reports of uniformed police officers expressing explicit preference for the president in public, and there have been complaints of coziness or bias shown by some officers toward armed right-wing groups and self-described militias. The incidents have added to an already heightened climate of tension across the country.
Already the focus of anger because of a rash of police killings of unarmed Black men and women, the police are more defensive and more angry than at any time since the 1960’s. In other words, they’re armed, and many of them may be dangerous.
The threat from America’s military
The police and the military are the two organizations entitled to use armed force.
And like the police, the military too harbors a hard core of radical extremist, inckluding members of the Klan and other organizations dedicated to the repression of people of color, religious minorities, and politicians they oppose.
In 2012 alone, a member of the Missouri National Guard was arrested for providing weapons for and running a neo-Nazi paramilitary training camp in Florida, two soldiers were arrested after murdering a former soldier and his girlfriend in an attempt to cover up their assassination plot against then-President Barack Obama, and a Marine Corps scout sniper team in Afghanistan posed with a Nazi SS flag. A 2014 Vice News segment showed the KKK was actively seeking to recruit U.S. military veterans, and a few were answering their call.
A majority of U.S. military personnel who’ve committed domestic terror attacks have been veterans, not active duty. According to the same New America data, 21 military veterans were identified as having committed or attempted an act of violence as a right-wing extremist between 2001 and 2013. While some were radicalized before or during military service, others seemed to first participate in far-right extremism after leaving the military, while they searched for identities as civilians.
White nationalists, the military, and protests have a history together. For white nationalists that have infiltrated the military, protests are the perfect opportunity to incite a race war. Many groups view a race war as a way to destabilize and overthrow the US government and establish a white ethnostate. White nationalist groups encourage their members to join the military for weapons expertise and recruit military members for their access to weaponry.
During the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., a Marine assaulted multiple people, bragged about it online, and returned to duty. ProPublica made the Marine Corps aware of the video evidence, at which point the Marine faced the equivalent of a misdemeanor trial.
In the last three years, every military service publicly dealt with an active duty member with an extremist affiliation. Most cases are discovered, not by the military itself, but from media outlets, volunteer internet sleuths, and the FBI.
The role of veterans in the newly proliferating militia groups — which sometimes are steeped in racism and other times steeped simply in antigovernment zealotry — has increased over the last decade, said a dozen experts on law enforcement, domestic terrorism and extremist groups.
Although only a small fraction of the nation’s 20 million veterans joins militia groups, experts in domestic terrorism and law enforcement analysts estimate that veterans and active-duty members of the military may now make up at least 25 percent of militia rosters. These experts estimate that there are some 15,000 to 20,000 active militia members in around 300 groups.
A more recent report comes from Politico, posted yesterday:
A 2020 survey found that more than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members reported witnessing first-hand examples of white nationalism or other ideologically-driven racism.
“To an even greater degree than in previous surges of extremism,” he added, “the Internet has played a role in the present one, with extremist content found on websites, discussion forums, chat rooms, social media, messaging apps, gaming and streaming sites, and other platforms.”
Pitcavage recounted a litany of incidents involving right-wing extremists in the ranks over the past few years, including: troops offering to teach how to make explosives and target left-wing activists, joining pro-Nazi organizations and traveling to Ukraine without orders to train with a right-wing militia. A Florida National Guardsman even founded a neo-Nazi group.
In February 2020, Military Times reported on extremism in the armed forces, and the results are not reassuring:
Last fall, the names of several service members, veterans and potential military recruits were found among users of the neo-Nazi forum Iron March after activists leaked an internal database connected to the group. Around the same time, Army investigators opened an inquiry into a Reserve operations officer in connection with racist, anti-government screeds calling for extreme violence he allegedly posted online. That investigation is still ongoing.
“We’re seen groups encouraging members to join the military, to get training in weaponry and survival skills,” Miller said. “It’s something that they really value.
“We also know that hate groups and white supremacy groups are actively recruiting military members. If they want to use violence to push the country into a race war, they need people with a knowledge of firearms, explosives and other military skills.”
Their report accompanied the latest of the publication’s surveys on extremism in the military, and they discovered a dramatic rise in soldiers reporting first-hand contact with white nationalists and other racists in the ranks:
Anyone who thinks that dramatic rise in 2019 was unrelated to Trump’s violent, racist rhetoric is living in an illusion.
Remember the Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was the Roman army’s most elite unit, a force entrusted with protecting the person of the Roman emperor.
But the Praetorians went far beyond their statutory role, killing at least emperor and forcing the installation of others.
The real question for today is what about the police and the military, the latter-day incarnations of the Praetorians.
And remember, the extremists in the military include snipers and other skilled in long-range murder.
Are we, like Rome, an ethnically diverse nation riven with rivalries and heading to slow collapse? And will today’s Praetorians intervene as they did long before?
A fascinating story broke today in the Kansas City Star about Missouri Senator Joshua David Hawley, perhaps the most defiant voice of all in the drive to overturn the Joe Biden presidential victory:
Hallmark Cards is asking Kansas City area U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall to return employee donations following last week’s riot in Washington, D.C.
Employees and retirees of the Kansas City company pool financial contributions through the Hallmark Cards PAC, donating to political candidates at the local, state and federal levels.
Over the last two years, the group donated $7,000 to Hawley, of Missouri, and $5,000 to Marshall, of Kansas, officials said.
Both Republican senators have been widely condemned for supporting baseless allegations of voter fraud in the November presidential election. Those claims fueled supporters of President Donald Trump to storm the capitol building last week. Six people, including two U.S. Capitol Police officers, died in the aftermath of the violent attack.
“Hallmark believes the peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind,” Hallmark spokeswoman JiaoJiao Shen said in a statement. “The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company’s values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions.”
In multiplespeeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.
The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words reprovingly: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”
In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. Mr. Hawley is not shy about making the point explicit. In a 2017 speech to the American Renewal Project, he declared — paraphrasing the Dutch Reformed theologian and onetime prime minister Abraham Kuyper — “There is not one square inch of all creation over which Jesus Christ is not Lord.” Mr. Kuyper is perhaps best known for his claim that Christianity has sole legitimate authority over all aspects of human life.
“We are called to take that message into every sphere of life that we touch, including the political realm,” Mr. Hawley said. “That is our charge. To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!”
Hawley hews close to traditional fascism
Fascism in its original form was authoritarian, but also included programs for lifting the lower economic classes, unlike it’s modern variant, which combines authoritarianism with strongly pro-corporate policies.
As Sheri Berman, professor of political science at Barnard College, writes about European fascists of the first half of the 20th Century, “Fascists insisted that states could and should control capitalism, that the state should and could promote social welfare, and that national communities needed to be cultivated.”
Similarly, as Emma Green writers in a 24 November 2019 Atlantic profile of the senator:
He is totally comfortable citing statistics popular on the progressive left: the fact that 70 percent of American wealth is held by the top 10 percent of households, according to the Federal Reserve, or that working-class wages have stagnated compared with the rapid wage growth among top earners. When I asked him whether he sees himself as a Bernie Sanders or a Donald Trump–style politician, he laughed loudly—for all of Hawley’s rhetoric, he’s nowhere near a flirtation with socialism. But he clearly admires the work of upsetting the political order. In his 2008 book on Theodore Roosevelt, Hawley wrote approvingly that the former president “talked as a conservative, but harbored the political ambitions of a radical.”
But unlike Hitler and Mussolini, who suppressed religion in their countries, Hawley is an ardent evangelical, so it is no surprise that the church becomes the deciding authority in his vision of an ideal political system.
He is also militantly opposed to abortion, a foe of Obamacare, a bag fan of Trump’s border wall, and anti-union,
He’s also no dummy, graduating summa cum laude from Stanford and the holder of a law degree form Yale.
Hawley, who harbors presidential ambitions, was one of only six Republican Senators to back all the pro-Trump electoral college challenges in the Senate. His fanaticism in the face of all evidence is the learest sign of what a Hawley presidency would be like: A Trump with a brain and an agenda both more coherent and more dangerous than the man whose job he fought to save.
Fourteen senators before the invasion had signaled that they’d support challenges. Afterward, a half-dozen of those changed their minds. And it was Hawley still leading the way. Taking to the Senate floor that Wednesday night, he was unapologetic about questioning election results, despite the fact that McConnell had warned earlier in the day that if the objections overturned results, that would put democracy “in a death spiral.”
“I hope that this body will not miss the opportunity to take affirmative action to address the concerns of so many millions of Americans,” Hawley said when debate finally resumed, explaining why he was protesting Arizona’s results.
What he and others fail to mention, and what became sharply clear after the violence of Wednesday, is that the “concerns” Hawley speaks of didn’t arise because of how the election was carried out. Trump’s own former attorney general said he saw no major issues, and dozens of court challenges affirmed the results. It was Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen, tacitly supported by lawmakers such as Hawley raising questions about how elections were conducted, that drove such “concerns.” They ultimately manifested in a historic breach of democracy.
“You say it and say it and say it and say it,” Biden said in the wake of the attacks, about Senate Republicans’ culpability in getting to this point. “The degree to which it becomes corrosive is in direct proportion to the number of people who say it.”
Hawley wasn’t the first GOP lawmaker, nor will he be the last, to question democratic norms without evidence in the Trump era and post-Trump era. But he made himself the most prominent, and that’s why he’s being singled out.
Hawley, then, represents not commitment to truth, but the remorseful hunger for for power on behalf of a Christofascist vision, one in which he becomes President of a Calvinist state committed to a global religious crusade to be governed by dictates defined by him.
We leave the final comment to the creator of this graphic, found on Reddit:
More than three hundred of the nation’s leading historians and constitutional experts have called for the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Signatories include well-known names, including Garry Wills, Laurence Tribe, David Rosner, Rick Perlstein, Dave Garrow, Thomas Sugrue, John H, McWhorter, Claudia Koonz, Todd Gitlin, Taylor Branch, and many more
As American historians and constitutional scholars, we support the impeachment and removal of President Donald J. Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump has defied the Constitution and broken laws, norms, practices, and precedents, for which he must be held accountable now and after he leaves office. No future president should be tempted by the example of his defiance going unpunished.
One of Trump’s earlier abuses of power did result in his impeachment on December 18, 2019, for attempting to coerce a foreign power to interfere in the U.S. presidential election of 2020. But since November 2020, Trump has refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, something no president before him has ever done. Instead of engaging in the peaceful transfer of power, he encouraged an insurrection by a mob of his supporters on January 6, 2021, urging them to march on the U.S. Capitol, to “fight,” in his word, and halt the constitutionally prescribed process of counting the Electoral Votes that would confirm former Vice President Joseph R. Biden as President-Elect.
By fomenting violence against the Congress and seeking to subvert constitutional democracy, which resulted in the killing of a Capitol police officer and the deaths of several rioters, Trump has violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. He is a clear and present danger to American democracy and the national security of the United States. He has disqualified himself from continuing to serve out even his few remaining days as president, as well as from ever again holding, according to the Constitution, “any Office of honor, Trust or profit under the United States.” We urge members of the House of Representatives to conduct a speedy impeachment and the Senate to hold a prompt trial as the Constitution stipulates.
Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University’s Department of African and African-American Studies’ is perhaps the country’s best known moral philospher.
In this sobering episode of RT America’s Contactwith Chris Hedges he offers his assessment of last week’s violence at the Capitol and its implications for the country’s future:
America’s existential crisis
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to moral philosopher, Dr. Cornel West, about what we can learn about America’s existential crisis after witnessing enraged supporters of Donald Trump storming the Capitol to try and halt Congress’s counting of the electoral votes to confirm the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
From an essay by Emma Ashford, senior fellow in the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, writing in Foreign Policy:
Wednesday’s insurrection worsens two concrete foreign-policy problems for the United States. First, it will increase the likelihood that other governments will be wary of any binding commitments or in-depth cooperation with the United States. Four years of Trump have already convinced countries in Europe and Asia that U.S. commitments may not be worth the paper they are written on, particularly in an increasingly partisan environment. The Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Paris climate accords were all victims of a shift to a more partisan, seesaw form of foreign policy. This week’s violence in Washington and the broader political turmoil since the November election have added to those concerns that future U.S. elections may not even be free and fair.
Second, it increases the likelihood that other countries will start to see the United States as a risk factor in the international system rather than a stabilizer. There is something to this fear: U.S. actions in the Middle East since 2001 helped to destabilize it, contributing to Europe’s refugee crises. U.S. sanctions policy has often been costly and unpopular with other countries. And the Trump administration’s brinkmanship over the last few years—with Iran, North Korea, and even with China—has been far more destabilizing than stabilizing. The risk of a U.S. leadership untethered from public scrutiny, or a nation that retains a massively powerful military while its domestic politics become ever more erratic and undemocratic, is one that other countries cannot take lightly.
We would note that for many countries, the U.S. has been anything but a stabilizer.
The first major action of the the newly formed Central Intelligence agency involved fixing an Italian election, setting a precedent for further remote-control coups in countless countries, most notably Iran, where it set off a chain of events still resonating today.
Corey Robin is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center and one of America’s most perceptive cultural critics.
In an essay for Jacobin, the considers the likelihood of the proposed second impeachment of Donald Trump and what he believes is its best possible outcome, picking up on one extremely relevant thread in the ongoing discussions::
There are a lot of references today to Reconstruction, the Lost Cause, and all that, but whether or not today’s Republican Party is like the white supremacist cadre of former slaveholders and their allies, it’s very clear that today’s Democratic Party is nothing like the Republican Party that smashed the slaveocracy and then sought, through a multiracial coalition of Jacobins and proto-comrades, to reconstruct the South, to completely transform the society in which formerly enslaved and newly subjugated peoples could sit as equals in the temple of democracy.
Where does that leave us? Where we were before: in a moment of extended suspension, an interregnum between an old world and a new. I see real possibilities, in theory, for the kind of confrontation with the Reagan order, and could imagine an impeachment battle leading to the kind of confrontation within the Democratic Party that we need for a realignment. Whether it will come, I don’t know.
I don’t quite see the political forces necessary to turn these political battles of impeachment into a larger question of the social standing of citizens. But sometimes those necessary forces are summoned, to our surprise, through the very fact of struggle or limited political battle.
If it comes to impeachment, that would be my hope.
Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was the most dramatic Nazi antisemitic action before the Holocaust, an orgy of violence and destruction that saw 267 German synagogues burned, thousands of Jewish-owned businesses destroyed, and more than 30,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps on the night of 9-10 November 1938.
The orgy of violence and destruction captured the world’s attention and stripped Nazi Germany of any pretense of civility.
And one famous America born whose father was both a member of the Nazi Party and an officer of the German police state has a chilling reminder for Americans:
Governor Schwarzenegger’s Message Following this Week’s Attack on the Capitol
This is my message to my fellow Americans and my friends around the world after January 6, 2021.
By officially opening up Taiwan to diplomatic contacts with the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has presented the incoming Biden administration with a major political mess, certain to disrupt the relationship with America’s largest trading partner.
When the Red Army defeated Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek’s Koumintang forces in 1948, Chaing and his followers retreated to Taiwan, declaring themselves the real government of China, a fiction maintained by the U.S. until Henry Kissinger paved the way for Richard Nixon’s trip to China and the opening of diplomatic relations.
Ads part of the deal, the U>S> recognized the regime in Beijing as China’s legitimate government, ousting China from its seat on the U.N. Security Council and handing it over to the mainland.
As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to cut off diplomatic relations with the Taiwan government.
But now it’s all up for grabs, with China certain to be outraged just as the Biden team takes office.
The United States will end its decades-old restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced, a move in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration that is certain to anger China.
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the US State Department had for several decades “created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts”.
“The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing,” he said. “No more.”
It was not clear what the change means in practice, with Pompeo saying executive branch communications with Taiwan will be handled by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which is owned by the US government and serves as the de facto embassy on Taiwan.
Trump and his team have made an effort to throw so many obstacles in the path of the Biden team that much of their first year in office will be devoted to cleaning up messes.