The Birth of A Nation  was a breakthrough silent motion picture, the longest ever made at the time — over three hours long, an innovative twelve-reel epic considered by many a kind of masterpiece, certainly a landmark of filmmaking. It was the first motion picture ever shown inside the White House , where President Woodrow Wilson, the only American president born in the Confederacy, screened it for his guests. Afterwards he wrote the gushing review above (though probably without the colorful borders).
Birth of A Nation is a history of the Civil War that portrays the chaos and suffering in the war-ravaged South during Reconstruction, after the bloody Civil War it was forced to fight against Northern aggression. According to this electrifying (and mythically fabricated) history, after the war the poor south was being terrorized by savage blacks, lording it over their former masters, raping white women. A heroic group of modern-day knights arose to free the oppressed South and defend white southern womanhood. These chivalrous knights were the Ku Klux Klan, who arrive dramatically by horseback to save the day, and not a moment too soon!
Wilson is remembered, in many history books, as a Progressive and a visionary idealist who laid the groundwork for the United Nations. Every Black person I’ve ever talked to about Woodrow Wilson recites Wilson’s Klan bona fides. A straight up racist who re-segregated the federal government and engaged in other racist mischief while in office, (not to mention the odd bits of antisemitism while president of Princeton). It makes sense that he loved the history written with lightning by D.W. Griffith, though, or course, goddamn it, it was all so terribly true!
Speaking of history written with lightning, staunch racists and the terrible truth, you recall this emerging story, the recent siege of the Capitol where anti-democratic insurgents sure enough erected a gallows outside the Capitol and, we learned the other day, a group prowled the halls looking for the disloyal Mike Pence and calling for his immediate lynching (Karen Pence is the one they should have been looking to disable if they had a problem with anything Mike does or doesn’t do).
One thing the mass media pundits are still pondering, as a thorough investigation into the riot is called for, is “what went wrong?” For some reason Congress was overrun by a white supremacist mob called for and urged into action by the president and for hours no federal back-up arrived in force to stop it, even as police were brutally attacked and several were hospitalized. A total puzzler. I guess we’ll just have to wait for authorities to figure that head-scratcher out.
You’ll recall that unlike the overwhelming anti-riot force that was immediately used to disperse peaceful protesters so that Mr. Trump could pose with a Bible, these pro-Trump revelers were allowed to break into the under-guarded Capitol and wild through the halls of the People’s House for hours before Trump-controlled federal authorities allowed the National Guard to show up, the safety of our elected government finally protected and order restored. Very, very few arrests were made, the huge mob that had ransacked the Capitol was allowed to leave unmolested, though rioters attacked police (injuring a dozen including one who died of his injuries) vandalized the place and at least one defecated in a public area of the Capitol (get his DNA and make him clean it up). The president, who watched the mayhem live on TV, reportedly with satisfaction, finally addressed them.
President Trump on Wednesday urged his supporters who laid siege to the Capitol to “go home in peace,” hours after they first forced their way into the building.
In a one-minute taped video released on social media, Trump urged his supporters to disperse. But he reiterated his false claims that his election defeat was “fraudulent,” which was the basis for the protest in the first place.
“You have to go home now. We have to have peace,” Trump said. “We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.”
“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” he continued. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”source
Trump’s lawyers (the few remaining non-rabid ones) and family members finally convinced him, as details of the riot came into focus, that the storyline didn’t look very good for Mr. Trump, added up to a likely impeachment and later indictment for incitement to riot and a sustained call for an insurrection to overturn election results that made him feel bad. The facts don’t look good for POTUS, the blood of several Americans who died in the riot, including at least one police officer attacked by the mob, appear to be on the Insurrectionist-in-Chief’s stubby hands. Somebody wrote a short statement for Trump to read, deploring the deplorable actions taken at his urging. He grudgingly read it in a recorded message, sincerely expressing his outrage at the outrage.
Trump had for weeks urged the angry crowd to show up in D.C. (to rally, packed close together, maskless and shouting, during a wildly surging pandemic) on January 6th, the day the certified votes were officially tallied at the Capitol. Trump promised these enthusiastic young extremists it would be “wild”. He was as good as his word, this time.
Listen to this excellent 2:46 evocation of what preceded the Trumpist riot:
He hosted a mass rally the night before where at least two pardoned felons rallied the crowd. Mike “Lock Her UP!” Flynn exhorted the crowd “those of you that don’t have the moral fiber in your body, get some tonight because tomorrow we the people are going to be here, and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie!” (Hilarious, really, coming from a convicted liar, the first Trump official fired by the Liar-in-Chief, for lying to Pence). The night after the rally these amped up uber-“patriots” clashed with D.C. police. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser immediately called for National Guard troops to prevent a likely riot the following day.
Mr. Trump had his interim-acting minions take no action on the D.C. mayor’s request for National Guard troops to help prevent the inevitable, what he planned and very much wanted to happen. Politics is very personal for the president and Mayor Bowser had done horrible things to him, including painting a giant “BLACK LIVES MATTER” over Trump’s footsteps with Bill Barr and the Bible, so he repaid her, that nasty, low-IQ black female. The president himself whipped up the crowd the next day, telling them: “we will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved“.
As the riot raged, with Capitol police under attack (those officers who were not welcoming to the rioters, anyway) terrified Congress members hid and made calls for help. One call was to the governor of Maryland who immediately mobilized the Maryland National Guard. The governor’s request for federal permission to deploy the troops was refused for a couple of hours as the wild rumpus continued.
People died. The images of the brutal rampage are sickening to most Americans. After the crowd erected a gallows outside the Capitol, before they stormed and sacked the People’s House, that should have been the start of anti-riot intervention. Peaceful crowds that Trump hates and vilifies have been routinely assaulted, violently and with impunity, gassed and beaten by federal anti-riot troops that have been rushed in even over the protests of state and local authorities. An investigation will show that Trump ordered, and his acting lackeys obediently ensured, that federal law enforcement stand down, right after POTUS activated the Proud, Bugaloo, PooPoo and Incel Boys, took them off stand by.
Trump didn’t want to make the statement criticizing the by now wildly unpopular riot, but he did. The words were particularly ridiculous coming from the man who provoked the violence and lawlessness and took affirmative steps to make sure the mayhem lasted for hours:
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem,” Trump said, adding, “To those who broke the law: You will pay.”
Both of Trump’s statements, of course, are lies. Most of what he says is a lie, and beyond that, he doesn’t care one way or the other what he says, he’s a “transactional” guy– he says whatever he needs to for the sake of the deal.
He does not love the mob who worships him, he loves nobody, least of all himself.
He is not outraged by violence, lawlessness or mayhem, he incites those things, pardons people who do exactly those things, like the American mercenaries who shot up Nisour Square in Baghdad killing and wounding whoever was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of their sprayed bullets . The only people who pay any legal price in Trumpworld are losers, like the mentally ill murderer Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row; he is going to get to watch her die at his command on Tuesday when he wields his power of life and death again.
Mr. Trump and his enablers are writing history with lightning. The rest of us, for the moment, can only regret that it is all so terribly true.
In spite of its divisiveness, The Birth of a Nation was a huge commercial success and profoundly influenced both the film industry and American culture. The film has been acknowledged as an inspiration for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, which took place only a few months after its release.
Birth of a Nation was the first movie shown in the White House, in the East Room, on February 18, 1915. (An earlier movie, the Italian Cabiria (1914), was shown on the lawn.) It was attended by President Woodrow Wilson, members of his family, and members of his Cabinet.
 Here’s a taste:
CORNISH: Also speaking that night was a former aide to the president, George Papadopoulos, who Trump also pardoned for lying to the FBI.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: We can’t forget, though, what Ulysses S. Grant said, there are but two parties right now – traitors and patriots.
Of course, Grant was referring to the traitors who had actually taken up arms against the United States in the bloodiest war in our history. The traitors whose flag of rebellion some in Trump’s crowd carried into the Capitol, along with actual Trump flags, which they waved while breaking through police lines, rhythmically grunting a two syllable chant with the exact cadence of the familiar “Seig Heil!” chant of yesteryear. Reason and knowledge of the past are not characteristics of Mr. Trump and his followers.
The massacred Iraqi civilians, whose unrepentant murderers Trump pardoned and had released from prison, included this nine year-old boy, Ali Kinani: