The chilling breeze of history

The best people only hire the best people, it’s like a thing among the best people, to surround themselves with only the very best people. At the same time, the best people often need to be the smartest person in the room, so if they are of average intelligence they’ll wind up choosing the best people who are not as smart as them, meaning they’ll be surrounded by spineless toadies, many of them dumb as a post. Makes sense.

Here are three of the best people in Germany, right after the failed Beerhall Putsch, an early Nazi attempt to overthrow German democracy [1], and the well-publicized trial for treason, before a right wing judge sympathetic to Nazi aims, that made one of them an international symbol of militant nationalism (the photo was taken in Landsberg Prison during their short stint there):

[Fuck, I love the mandolin, I just saw it. Not only the best people, but at least one of them loved music! He seems to be actually fretting a chord. Can you hear these best people singing along? I can.]

Mediocre minds often dream desperately grandiose dreams. It is not possible that destiny created me just to live out an obscure life, greatness is in my soul, leading the masses to glory is my birthright! I have been chosen, I am the Chosen One, the Savior, the only One who can make things right, the only One who can lead the terrible fight against PURE EVIL!

Critical people will view these types as deluded, insane, but true believers will faithfully follow them into the jaws of death. It has been this way from the dawn of human history, those who can convince others that the force of history has chosen them will always find a ready army.

As horrible as the glowering faces of the most threatening monsters in human history are, their smiles are far worse. The smile on the face of a violent sadist is a sickening sight. There are few things more horrific, to those opposed to things like genocide, than a beaming Nazi. Check out these fucking faces.

The Poisonous Dwarf, Hitler’s Minister of Public Enlightenment, in a buoyant mood

I know, I know. These human expressions of happiness are familiar to us all, and on the faces of history’s greatest criminals they are particularly hideous. I always had the same feeling whenever I’d see the self-hating Stephen Miller (Trump’s would-be Minister of Public Enlightenment without portfolio) or Bagpiper Bill Barr (Mr. Trump’s pugnacious Hermann Goring-style gunsel) smiling. Before that the aptly named Dick Cheney’s rare, jagged, apparently painful smile always evoked that sick in the stomach feeling. The revulsion comes from knowing what makes this type smile, the triumph of their twisted views, the suffering of others, of people they passionately hate.

Hate and resentment is good for business, if your business is uniting masses of angry people. As long as hate rages anger remains unquenchable and the loop is endless. You cannot rest, if you truly believe powerful Satanist cannibal child molesters are out to turn your home into a totalitarian Marxist state where the blood of your own children will be lustily slurped down, after they are raped by these vampires, until you join an army to root out and KILL every last member of this evil cabal.

A passionate mob is capable of the most atrocious actions you can imagine. Their passion does not need to argue with anyone, it doesn’t require evidence or fact — only faith and passion. True believers, if Christians, may think of it like the Passion of Christ [2]. Many destructive, abusive people in power wrap themselves in the pious cloaks of their religion (e.g. Bagpiper Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, Antonin Scalia, Osama bin Laden). Religion demands obedience to all-knowing, all-merciful God’s will. How do we know what God wants? Faith.

On the other side of the equation, we have decent people of good will wringing their hands, instead of taking the bold, decisive action that is needed to protect the rest of us from irrational maniacs hawking violence-inspiring lies and monetizing them. In history this has always been a recipe for the worst possible outcome. “Why won’t they accept the plain truth that we’ve proved ten times over?” they wonder. If only we could get things back to the way they were before everything was so out of control, they think, not really thinking things through.

Contrast these moderate, status quo embracing, nuance-appreciating institutionalists with the bold, passionate, reckless, history-making mold breakers admired by millions. The bold transactional liar acts with a game plan (to win it all) and lays out a worldview the average angry person can embrace. You can prove the guy is lying, but it makes no difference to the faithful, who see the world exactly as their leader does.

I’d always heard Hitler was a “failed artist” before he found his calling in German politics. This label always irked me, as I myself am a “failed artist” (though my army of fanatical followers does not begin to compare to Mr. H’s) since I stubbornly failed to monetize my talents in any way. I’ve seen few of Hitler’s art works over the years but here is one that, like Trump’s American Carnage speech (Blacks and the Socialist Left have reduced our cities to raging anarchist war zones), perfectly reveals the artist’s weltanshauung, his view of the world as a grim, scorched, treacherous battlefield for eternal struggle, a worldview that would inspire millions:

see FN 3

You can’t argue with that shit.

Fuck you, Widaen

[1]

Think of the January 6 MAGA riot/dress rehearsal at the Capitol.

[2]

The Passion of Christ is the story of Jesus Christ‘s arrest, trial and suffering. It ends with his execution by crucifixion. … The word Passion comes from the Latin word for suffering. The crucifixion of Jesus is accepted by many scholars as an actual historical event.

— the internets

[3]

The images above (with the exception of the soul-revealing shot of America’s Greatest Sore Loser) are all from episode one of Netflix’s new short series “How to Become A Tyrant”, narrated by the excellent, deadpan Peter Dinklage.

A few definitions

Some, I’m sure, will recoil from my use of the term Nazi for the public facing Republican party, with the lockstep obstructionist unity we are seeing these days. Highly partisan, sure, taking names and kicking ass, OK, sometimes a bit unfair, even unscrupulous, for sure, using the law to protect friends and prosecute, even persecute, enemies, fair enough, vindictive, all right, lying about an organized, well-financed riot to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, bad, sure, deliberately spreading a deranged lie about a “stolen” election and fundraising on that lie, not good, admittedly. Nazis though? Do I realize what Nazis actually did?

I know very well what Nazis did. They calculatingly used the rage of a suffering populace to fuel a right wing revolution in Germany and install an anti-democratic one-party government. Nazis were pioneers in the now popular technique of the Big Lie — an audacious and incendiary lie (Biden, the Clintons and Tom Hanks all fuck children and drink their blood, BLM and antifa stole your president from you!!!) to keep the rage and fear levels high. They employed street violence (brown shirt squads, kicking ass and taking names) which they defended as necessary to save the nation from radical leftists who wanted to destroy Germany. They called for the execution of all critics of Nazism (and soon got around to doing it). They had the backing of many of Germany’s top industries, who feared socialist reforms in poverty-stricken post-WWI Germany more than they did street violence in the name of the free market, militarization and, soon, vastly increased profit from Nazi government slave labor programs and the like. They instituted loyalty pledges and purged all non-Nazis from public positions, civil service, professorships, medicine, law. They went along, step by step, first “euthanizing” people in mental hospitals, then conducting nationwide pogroms against a hated minority, then taking the citizenship away from classes of citizens, then detaining them, confiscating their property, deporting now stateless “resident aliens”, etc. It was years until they had everyone ready for what they became famous for during the last three years of the war, high tech mechanized mass murder of hated subhumans. The Nazi one-party police state advanced step by step, with the support of millions of purposefully deluded Germans and the willing connivance of a fully Nazi judiciary.

So when I refer to these motherfuckers, fond of calling their Democratic colleagues “brown shirts” and Nazis (for crimes like trying to force people to take safety precautions during a highly infectious pandemic), well, I have to call a party committed to a series of absolute falsehoods (no systemic racism in US, bipartisan conspiracy to defraud the never defeated president who lost, witch hunts with no basis in law or fact, Capitol riot was a totally legal peaceful protest, taxation of the rich kills jobs, a screaming need to pass restrictive voting laws to defend “election integrity,” mask mandate = tyranny, vaccine = Nazism, etc.) and slavishly devoted to a deranged leader what they actually are: Nazis.

Some of them (Stephen Miller, for example) are literally the same as their Nazi forebears, driven by hatred and a radical desire to reshape the world according to their passionate prejudices. Most of the others, the moral mediocrities who make this scary moment possible, like many of the original Nazi party members, are simply ambitious careerists who calculate that the Nazi juggernaut is worth getting on if they want to attain and keep power.

Though he has lied about it, the former president’s first wife (he paid women he cheated on his third wife with to dummy up — no crime, no crime! His first wife retracted the claim that he raped her toward the end of their doomed marriage, retracted!!) revealed that he kept a book of Hitler’s collected speeches in a special cabinet near his bed. A friend always said his speeches, including his use of derisive, biting “humor” to reduce his many enemies to subhuman status, were remarkably similar to Hitler speeches he’d heard. I always said the clown was more like Mussolini, a strutting, posing, incompetent braggart who regards himself as a genius. Events have proved my friend was closer to the truth than I was.

In fairness to the former president, his ambitious rags to riches German born grandfather’s nationality and criminal instincts (he wound up deported from Germany) do not suggest any Nazi tendencies and, besides, he died in 1918 (of the last pandemic) before the formation of the National German Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP).

The same applies to his driven father, there is no proof that he attended a Klan rally in Queens as a young man because he agreed with their racist worldview. He may have gone as a mere spectator, the police arrest report is sketchy on which it was. It may be pure coincidence that as a wealthy builder of government subsidized (he made millions on tax breaks) middle class housing he refused to rent to Blacks and Hispanics, a practice that was not illegal until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it so. Roy Cohn got him out of that case, by settling the federal discrimination lawsuit with no admission of deliberate wrongdoing in trying to honestly preserve the segregation of his working class apartment complexes. So, you know, fair is fair.

Who are the most hated enemies of the modern Republican party and the armed militants who support the former president? Anti-fascists. I rest my case, boys and girls. And God bless these United Shaysssssh.

Hiding the truth

Every shameful practice, done by individuals or governments, is generally denied, hidden, explained away, recast as something else, blamed on “leakers” and vicious disloyalty. Often the exact opposite of what actually happened is promoted as the true story. This new false story can become a galvanizing battle cry, or the last stand of personal integrity (by the liar).

“Remember the Alamo!” is a great battle cry from American history, it mobilized the nation to fight a war against tyranny. In that story two hundred brave freedom loving Americans made a valiant stand, outnumbered ten to one by the Mexican tyrant’s army, and fought to the last man (except for Davy Crockett, who surrendered and was later barbarously executed by the Mexicans). The Americans who died at the Alamo mission became martyrs for the cause of a war against Mexico to conquer and seize a giant tract of Mexican land for the United States.

The real story of what actually led up to the doomed stand-off at the Alamo is a bit different from the myth. Americans were allowed by Mexico to settle in the northern Mexican area known as Texas. Mexico liked having a buffer against hostile Indian tribes, the Americans liked free land. They brought slaves, grew cotton, grew wealthy, everything was fine. Until 1830 when Mexico outlawed slavery. Americans reacted violently to this outrage against freedom. You see how this is going?

A full-blown war with Mexico a decade or so later, to the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo!”, territory seized for the USA, slavery continues in Texas, Texas secedes from the union 15 years later and Texans fight the US government in their glorious ongoing campaign for freedom and human dignity.

I once loaned a guy a large sum of money, a short term loan he promised to repay within days. He didn’t pay it back, as promised, and I pressed him, by then needing the money myself. Unknown to me was that he’d borrowed money from all of his friends (most soon to become former friends), including a very wealthy guy I knew well. He explained that the rich guy insisted on being paid back first, and that he was working his way down the list, to me. I told him I’d talk to the rich guy, explain that I needed to be repaid before him. I was pretty sure the wealthy guy would understand my situation (it turned out he didn’t, being a wealthy guy).

The reaction of the guy who owed me the money should have told me the whole story about him. “I can’t believe you’d be such a rat, such a fucking pussy, to embarrass me like that. You have no respect for privacy, you have no character. What a fucking whiner you are. Do not talk to him about this, it’s between you and me. If you tell him, if you betray my trust, I’ll be really pissed off.”

Years later he would max out his dead father’s credit cards for cash, bringing his wife his “pay” every week, pretending for a year to be going to work every morning when he was actually living off his dead father’s credit cards. As you can imagine, he made every attempt to hide his scam, make it look like he was actually working. When it was discovered by his wife, he had many incoherent reasons for his criminality.

A true story can be talked about, learned from. A fake story, or a buried story, is a dead end. The details of what actually happened can be discussed and the issues they raise can be resolved. The details of a myth that never remotely happened lead only to ignorant opinions and stupid decisions based on the need to keep telling the lie.

Every abuser tells his victim a story that shifts blame from himself to the person abused. “If you didn’t have such a big fucking mouth, I wouldn’t have to shut it for you.” “You want to blame me, but you should look at your own infuriating behavior, then you’ll see who’s really at fault” and so on. As long as the true details of exactly what happened are never discussed, as long as I don’t mention an inconvenient detail like you bloodied my head with a stick because you flew into a rage, we don’t have a problem. “How is it my fault that you fell down and hit yourself in the face with the ground six or seven times? Fucking grow up…”

So we have pugnacious culture warriors, the Bill Barr types (fuck that fucking bagpiping fucking windbag), who smugly insist that angry blacks have nothing to be angry or even upset about, that statistically more unarmed whites than blacks are killed every year by cops, only a small handful of unarmed blacks are killed by police anyway, and whatever other freshly pulled out of the ass talking points his type can spout. “Why talk about police violence against those murderous fucking savages when they’re killing each other like the fucking animals they are? Let’s be honest, isn’t the real problem Blacks?”

In the telling of this type, American history has been one long, unblemished march toward a more perfect nation, based on the unalienable human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of wealth. To them a simple answer suffices for all the carping, unAmerican critics of how we, as a nation, conduct, and have conducted, ourselves. The self-evident truth that “all men are created equal” should be the end of this Communist propaganda about a country that supposedly oppressed Blacks (it was the Democrats!), making racist laws for a century after the end of slavery that shamed even Mr. Hitler’s top lawyers, slaughtered indigenous people (they attacked us first!), villainized immigrants (dirty!) marginalized women (“all MEN are created equal, duh!”) fought a series of wars on the shakiest of grounds (freedom on the march!), etc.

Now we have non-profit “think tanks”, funded by a handful of right wing billionaires, who, in order to mainstream a narrative more friendly to them, write model legislation to make history denial enforceable by law. If teachers are critical of some of the counterfactual claims of America’s most powerful, well, maybe those teachers shouldn’t be working with young people. Slavery ended 156 years ago, why are we still talking about slavery? The Nazis were defeated 76 years ago, why are we still talking about Nazism? Hitler wasn’t all bad anyway, he had a great economic plan while he was getting the German war economy up and running again, he was a brilliant job creator. Sure, he may have killed a few too many Jews, but look at them… they hated Hitler without mercy…

Now we read that wealthy right wingers, who are furious that the tax records of their fellow billionaires — showing many pay virtually no income tax– were illegally “leaked.” The scandal is not the often legal tax avoidance of the very wealthy and corporations, the scandal is that some piece of shit made it public. You cannot raise taxes on the rich. You also can’t give more money to the IRS for enforcement, to catch wealthy tax cheats and put more money into the public coffers because… that’s Communism, and partisan, racist fuckery, and… uh, it’s unAmerican to start witch hunts against innocent job creators, philanthropists, the best of the best… and… uh… [1]

The main thing is, if you have a story that makes you look bad, rewrite that shit to make yourself look good. The only alternative is the things you have carefully hidden coming to light, inducing shame, and anger, even violence (not to mention accountability, God forbid!), and who needs any of that shit?

Investigators who looked into the use of federal force against peaceful protesters right before Trump’s photo op at the church didn’t interview the man who ordered the use of force.
Nothing to fucking see here!

[1] from accursed Jeff Bezos’s mouthpiece:

Over the past decade, persistent budget cuts have hurt the IRS’s ability to conduct audits, including those targeting wealthy and large corporations. Tax experts have expressed alarm that the weakening of the IRS has helped fuel the increase in U.S. income inequality, in part because the rich have more tools to dodge the increasingly weak tax collection agency . . .

. . . “Reports of increased audits, enforcement and reporting requirements raise red flags with our members,” Kuhlman said. “We would urge and encourage instead increased compliance assistance, better customer service and remedying the processing delays.” . . .

. . . The groups leading the opposition to the IRS budget increase include those that have received funds from major conservative donors, including the Mercer Family Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and Donors Trust, a donor-advised fund that gives to conservative and libertarian causes. One signatory of the letter, Phil Kerpen of American Commitment, worked for five years at Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential Koch network.

source

Authoritative authoritarianism

This concise definition of “authoritarian” is not as delightful as my all-time favorite definition — squeamish: exhibiting a prudish readiness to be nauseated — but it’s pretty good:

favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.

Synonyms are autocratic, despotic, tyrannical, totalitarian, rigid, oppressive, inflexible, and things like that.

I had a friend who was raised by a father who was openly autocratic, the mother fawningly loyal and obedient to her husband’s every firm opinion and summary dictate. The boy never had a chance, he obeyed his father resentfully, feeling helpless to do otherwise. Anger at the way his life had been dominated by his never wrong father drove him to be very much the same way in his own adult life.

I think it’s a fairly typical scenario, which is why you see graphics like this in your internet search results:

Stereotyping, Prejudice & Discrimination - ppt download

The authoritarian personality, in the crudest sense the “bully,” is described this way (as per exhaustive five second internet search):

The authoritarian personality is a personality type characterized by extreme obedience and unquestioning respect for and submission to the authority of a person external to the self, which is realized through the oppression of subordinate people.

Mod 3 authoritarian personality

One of history’s most infamous infallible authoritarians was Germany’s Mr. Hitler, whose word was German law (Fuhrer worte haben Gesetzeskraft!) during the twelve years of his Thousand Year Reich. As a boy he’d been famously abused by his father, a vicious, drunken, petty bureaucrat authoritarian who beat young Adolf regularly, and without mercy, for sport. The same goes for the current leader of the radical right in the USA, our golden-haired poster boy for authoritarian infallibility. He was raised by a certified piece of shit, and it doesn’t appear he got much love from his gold digger mother, either. No severe beatings that we know of, in fact, he seems to have been spoiled as a child, except for the endless psychological torment of being judged harshly as unqualified by the demanding, driven father who groomed you, his reluctant second choice, to take over his empire.

The authoritarian depends on his subjects viewing the world as divided neatly into good and evil with no gray area in between. This black and white worldview makes things easier, and much simpler, for everybody. You can tell at a glance who is friend, and a good person, and who is foe, and a very bad person you can do whatever you want to. Obedience to the wise leader is good, defiance of the leader’s will is evil. Also, any rule the authoritarian makes, he can change at any time, with or without notice.

There are groups whose members can obey and praise the wise leader as much as they like, they will remain hated since they are members of an out-group that can never be equal to the ideal subjects of the authoritarian. The fascist worldview depends on this hated out-group being seen as an existential threat, beyond redemption, an enemy to be treated harshly and pointed to as the reason for the autocrat’s rule. Having a few token members of these despised groups march with the authoritarian is seen as a good thing, since it has the effect of making the authoritarian’s undeniable appeal seem to cross even to the hated out-group.

Not all authoritarians are on the right, by the way, though most of them seem to be. You can have rigid, inflexible, overbearing, bossy types on the right, the left or anywhere in between. They will not allow debate unless all of their rules for debate are followed. You must use certain words only, using the wrong phrases will end the possibility of debate before it begins. Tolerance of opposing views, or views expressed differently than required, is seen as a kind of moral weakness. There are Nazi types among us, as we can see on TV every day, and there are also the same rigidly self-righteous types on the extremest edge of the left.

For the ones on the left, the phrase I like is “there is a guillotine waiting” whenever they fall afoul of the newest orthodoxy. Unlike on the right, autocratic types on the left are subject to being hoisted on their own stinking petards when the political winds change.

They may not be there in the same proportions (American acceptance of autocracy is very high among those who consider themselves conservatives, it is not widely accepted on the left) but there are these intolerant motherfuckers on both sides, often dictating the terms of debate, as this type often seems to, down to the language that may be used in these debates. Some very fine intolerant motherfuckers on both sides, on both sides…

July Fourth Masterpiece

Historian Heather Cox Richardson:

And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

For all the fact that the congressmen got around the sticky problem of Black and Indigenous enslavement by defining “men” as “white men,” and for all that it never crossed their minds that women might also have rights, the Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators clinging to the edge of a continent declared that no man was born better than any other. America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.

What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to guarantee that Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, and Irish would be permanently locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a “proposition,” rather than “self-evident.” “Four score and seven years ago,” Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans, “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In 1863, Lincoln explained, the Civil War was “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

It did, of course. The Confederate rebellion failed. The United States endured, and as people of different races, incomes, genders, and abilities began to demand that the nation honor its founding principles, Americans began to expand the idea that all men are created equal.

But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against the idea of equality, as a few wealthy men seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.

The men who adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, pledged their “Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor” to defend the idea of human equality, however limited they were in executing it. Ever since then, Americans from all walks of life have sacrificed their own fortunes, honor, and even their lives for that principle. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans of those sacrifices when he urged the people of his era to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Words to live by in 2021.

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

source

NY Times fact-finding on the Jaunary 6 MAGA riot

The New Yorks Times writes:

Day of Rage: An In-Depth Look at How a Mob Stormed the Capitol By Dmitriy Khavin, Haley Willis, Evan Hill, Natalie Reneau, Drew Jordan, Cora Engelbrecht, Christiaan Triebert, Stella Cooper, Malachy Browne and David Botti  

A six-month Times investigation has synchronized and mapped out thousands of videos and police radio communications from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, providing the most complete picture to date of what happened — and why.

By The New York Times June 30, 2021

In the six months since an angry pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, immense efforts have been made not only to find the rioters and hold them accountable, but also — and perhaps more important — to dig into the details of Jan. 6 and slowly piece together what actually happened that day.

Congressional committees have looked into police and intelligence failures. The Justice Department has launched a nationwide investigation that has now resulted in more than 500 arrests. And while Republicans in Congress blocked the formation of a blue-ribbon bipartisan committee, House Democrats are poised to appoint a smaller select committee.

Even now, however, Republican politicians and their allies in the media are still playing down the most brazen attack on a seat of power in modern American history. Some have sought to paint the assault as the work of mere tourists. Others, going further, have accused the F.B.I. of planning the attack in what they have described — wildly — as a false-flag operation.

The work of understanding Jan. 6 has been hard enough without this barrage of disinformation and, hoping to get to the bottom of the riot, The Times’s Visual Investigations team spent several months reviewing thousands of videos, many filmed by the rioters themselves and since deleted from social media. We filed motions to unseal police body-camera footage, scoured law enforcement radio communications, and synchronized and mapped the visual evidence

Here are some of the major revelations.

We pinpointed at least eight locations where rioters breached and entered the Capitol building — more than were previously known. The scenes revealed the extent of the rioters’ disregard for the law as they surged violently around the building’s perimeter and, eventually, inside.

The police were outnumbered and responded differently at various breach points, allowing rioters to break through doors using weapons like crowbars or, in some places, to simply walk through as the police stepped aside.

The multiple breaches also revealed the Capitol’s vulnerability. Despite locked doors and, in certain places, thick windows, rioters without specialized equipment were able to break in instantly in some places.

In the Senate, proceedings to certify the election results were halted almost immediately when a building-wide lockdown was called after the first breach by rioters. But we found that it took much longer for the House of Representatives to do the same. This delay appeared to have contributed to a rioter’s death.

Instead of evacuating, members of the House sheltered in place and resumed their work even as rioters overran the building. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was rushed to safety, but Representative Jim McGovern took her place presiding over the session. He told us that Capitol building security staff had said it was safe to resume.

Eventually, the House session was halted and members began streaming out of a rear door guided by security personnel. Rioters had arrived at almost the same moment, just on the other side of a hallway door with glass panels. They became incensed at the sight of the evacuating lawmakers — a situation that could have been avoided if the lawmakers had left before the mob arrived.

Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter and follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory, tried to climb through one of the door’s broken windows toward the lawmakers. A plainclothes Capitol Police officer charged with protecting the House shot her once through the upper chest. The wound was fatal.

One of the biggest questions hanging over the aftermath of Jan. 6 was whether the riot was planned and carried out by organized groups.

By identifying and tracking key players throughout the day, we found that most — even some at the forefront of the action — were ardent, but disorganized Trump supporters swept up in the moment and acting individually.

The first person to enter the Capitol building, for example, was a 43-year-old husband and father from Kentucky named Michael Sparks. He has no known affiliation with any organized groups. Ray Epps, an Arizona man seen in widely-circulated videos telling Trump supporters on multiple occasions to go into the Capitol, also seemed to have acted on his own.

Yet we also found that the crowd did include members of groups who seemed eager for a confrontation, like well-organized militias and far-right groups including the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. This proved to be a combustible mix. In the videos we analyzed, they can be seen with baseball bats and body armor, and coordinating with one another using radios. On several occasions, a calculated move by a more organized actor — for example, a Proud Boy identifying a weakness in the police line near a set of stairs — set off a surge by the mob.

Evidence collected by the F.B.I. suggests that the Proud Boys in particular were aware that they had inflamed the mob of ordinary people — and may have intended to do so in advance. Just before the assault, one Proud Boy leader wrote on a group chat on Telegram that he was hoping his men could incite the “normies” to “burn that city to ash today” and “smash some pigs to dust.” Then, after the riot, another Proud Boy leader wrote on Telegram: “This is NOT what I expected to happen. All from us showing up and starting some chants and getting the normies all riled up.”VISUAL INVESTIGATIONS: Our investigative journalists use evidence that’s hidden in plain sight to present a definitive account of the news. Get an email as soon as our next Visual Investigation is published.Sign Up

By synchronizing footage from both sides of the Capitol building, we were able to establish how crowds on each side interacted with one another.

We tracked the movement of a group of rioters from the west side of the Capitol — which faces the National Mall and absorbed most of the attendees arriving from Mr. Trump’s speech — to the opposite eastern side.

The eastern crowd had remained largely behind the barricades, but all that changed with the arrival of rioters from around the side of the building. This more violent group was the trigger that put the entire mob over the edge, spurring them to push easily through a line of officers and surround the Capitol on every front.

Most of the videos we analyzed were filmed by the rioters. By carefully listening to the unfiltered chatter within the crowd, we found a clear feedback loop between President Trump and his supporters.

As Mr. Trump spoke near the White House, supporters who had already gathered at the Capitol building hoping to disrupt the certification responded. Hearing his message to “walk down to the Capitol,” they interpreted it as the president sending reinforcements. “There’s about a million people on their way now,” we heard a man in the crowd say, as Mr. Trump’s speech played from a loudspeaker.

The call and response didn’t stop there. We found evidence of his influence once the violence was well underway. In one moment, a woman with a megaphone urged rioters to climb through a broken window by asking them to “stand up for our country and Constitution” — echoing the language in an earlier tweet from Mr. Trump. In another, as the police were pushing to clear the mob off the building, a rioter screamed at officers: “I was invited here by the president.”

One unanswered question when we began this investigation was how the police managed to reclaim the Capitol building from the mob. We found that once officers increased their numbers, armor and crowd-control weapons, clearing the rioters happened quickly and effectively.

The footage revealed that officers cleared several locations in less than an hour after being reinforced by local Metropolitan Police, Virginia State Police and other local and federal agencies that arrived with more manpower and authorization to use more powerful crowd-control weapons.

It’s a stark contrast to what we saw during the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, when federal officers were on scene from the start, already equipped with riot gear and authorized to use higher levels of force. Law enforcement’s relatively quick success in clearing the Capitol building once reinforcements arrived shows how the rioters might have been stopped far earlier with a different level of preparation — possibly preventing fatalities, countless officer injuries, over $30 million in damages.

There was another difference between the Capitol riot and those connected to this summer’s racial justice protests: Very few people who broke into the Capitol were arrested at the scene. Most were allowed to leave the building, forcing the F.B.I. to track them down later and take them into custody — a process that is still continuing today.

Continue reading the main story

Facts, anyone?

In light of the wide acceptance of Trump’s Big Lie (that his “landslide victory” was stolen by a bipartisan conspiracy against him), by tens of millions of Americans, it would appear that making a winning argument based on evidence and what you can actually prove, from a practical, tactical point of view, is a thing of the past — at least to a good 40% of our fellow citizens.

The real Big Lie, according to Trump, is that that everybody beside him, and those completely loyal to him, is lying about the rigged election he actually won in a “landslide.” The truth, Tump insists, is that a landslide victory was illegally stolen from him by massive voter fraud and a wide-ranging bipartisan conspiracy to deprive him of his rightful office and illegally install the illegitimate Joe Biden as the “president”. Hence, the rioters who stormed the Capitol January 6 had, as they believed, every right to be enraged, to fight like hell to protect their country and do what their president insisted was their patriotic duty — fight like hell to stop the steal of democracy in progress in the Capitol.

Not that long ago, facts (things that can be shown to have actually happened, things that are witnessed, that people swear to, that are recorded on cameras from multiple angles) supporting each side of an argument were weighed before deciding who was right and who was mistaken. Now, for purposes of American politics, one need only repeat the party line (“alternative facts” work beautifully), loudly and without deviation, and the “perception” of truth will do just fine for that loud minority of Americans.

If a violent mob unleashed by your party’s leader attacked you and threatened to kill your vice president, who, arguably, deserved to be punished for his cowardice and treachery, after all, you must say that there never was a lawless mob and nobody threatened violence against anybody. Anybody who says there was an armed, angry mob, 140 injuries to police, five deaths and threats to Pence and other elected officials is a bald-faced liar! Case closed, loser!

If a sitting president’s deliberate, months long, coordinated, well-funded attempt to violently stop the peaceful transition of power at the last possible moment doesn’t demand a fact-based reckoning, and accountability for the organizers and inciters of the violence, we all might as well just wait to be told where to report for re-education.

Facts still mattered in American court cases, in arguments over public policy, in basic agreement about what is reality and what is delusion, in our very recent history… (this doesn’t necessarily apply in the unappealable Supreme Court, of course, that non-political body Justice Breyer defends the impartiality of… [1])

It’s easy to forget important facts when a powerful firehose of ever more violent bullshit is constantly flooding our perceptions. Remember how Trump mega-donor Postmaster William DeJoy openly removed hundreds of mailboxes from urban areas and ordered urban high speed mail sorting machines dismantled? These moves were targeted to minimize the mail-in votes of Democrats. DeJoy was ordered to put the mailboxes back, but the high speed mail sorting machines could not be replaced, they were literally in a million pieces, already shipped somewhere to be sold for scrap. Sorry.

Polls showed Democrats were much more likely than Trump anti-maskers (future anti-vaxxers) to vote by mail during a pandemic. Trump and his mega-donor then made every effort to eliminate as much mail-in voting as possible, as he and Barr continued to spread furor with unfounded, evidence-free claims about fraud-rife mail-in voting, setting the stage for #Stop the Steal and the January 6 MAGA riot. (After the damage was done Barr claims to have told Trump the voter fraud business was “bullshit” and that he’d “suspected” that was the case even as he ordered — and announced — federal investigations of criminal voter fraud).

Trump won in 2016 by 78,000 votes delivered in key Electoral College districts in three states. One of them was Pennsylvania which he won by less than 1%. He could improve his odds of winning greatly in 2020 if he could eliminate a sizable percentage of anti-Trump votes in swing states where voting is always close. His party’s chances of winning elections are tied directly to voter suppression, particularly after Trump lost an election where he had the second highest number of votes cast, all-time, in an election that set the record for voter turnout, (during a pandemic, mind you).

CandidateYearPartyPopular vote
Joe Biden2020Democratic81,268,924
Donald Trump2020Republican74,216,154
Barack Obama2008Democratic69,498,516

The sixty baseless lawsuits challenging the 2020 elections brought by Trump and the RNC were famously all dismissed, often for lack of evidence. Sometimes forgotten is that before the 2020 election Trump and the Republican National Committee brought literally hundreds of lawsuits to stop forms of voting they felt would put them at a disadvantage. One was a federal suit in western Pennsylvania challenging the state’s plan to expand mail-in voting, and drop boxes, for an election during the second wave of a deadly pandemic. The judge ordered Trump/RNC to produce evidence of their claims that these long-used methods of voting would introduce massive fraud into the election. If they did not produce evidence, the judge ordered, they must state that they have no evidence.

The federal judge, J. Nicholas Ranjan, had been appointed by Trump and for a time it looked like he was bending over backwards not to dismiss the case. He wasn’t, as it turned out.

The Trump/RNC’s legal team’s initial response to Judge Ranjan’s order (which granted the state of Pennsylvania’s motion demanding evidence) by Trump’s attorneys was (according to Reuters):

The Trump campaign says the ballot drop box invites fraud. The federal judge asked the campaign to provide evidence of actual fraud, but the campaign declined, arguing it did not have to do so in order to win the case.

source

In the end Trump’s lawyers obeyed the judge’s order by submitting several hundred pages, screenshots and stories from Breitbart, FOX, OANN, Newsmax and similar outfits, alleging massive fraud, without presenting any actual evidence of widespread fraud. Even the right-wing non-profit Heritage Foundation’s zealous crackpot documenter of voter fraud, Hans von Spakovsky, has found a statistically insignificant number of actual voting fraud since 1984.

When Judge Ranjan finally dismissed the Trump/RNC case he wrote that since Trump and the RNC were likely to file an appeal, that he would explicitly lay out the law supporting every facet of his dismissal, basically appeal-proofing his dismissal of the evidence-free lawsuit. He did so over the course of more than 100 pages.

“Frivolous suit” is the usual term for a lawsuit submitted without any credible evidence in support. These lawsuits are designed to harass, intimidate, bully, bankrupt and they are deeply frowned on by American courts. Law students are taught that lawyers who submit frivolous lawsuits abuse the legal process, violate their ethical obligations as “officers of the court” and are subject to sanctions including disbarment.

Millions of Americans are waiting, without much hope, for the legal consequences of this wave of frivolous, evidence-free Trump lawsuits that created the “perception” that there was massive voting fraud because an angry, powerful man who has never lied told us it was true, and filed countless lawsuits. Suspending Rudy’s law license seems a few hundred wrist slaps too few.

Where the Trump-appointed J. Nicholas Ranjan demanded actual proof of fraud, the 6-3 Federalist Society majority on the Supreme Court (5 of the 6 appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote) had no such scruples before ruling in favor of their party. The “perception of fraud” was good enough for Samuel Alito to rule that perception of fraud alone is sufficient reason for, admittedly partisan voter suppression laws you can’t actually prove were passed with anything but good old partisan intent. It’s the quiet Nazis you’ have to watch out for, the silently smoldering ones, particularly when they’re protected by a robust like-minded majority of extremists.

Even (or especially) in a country where a good 40% of voters are entirely faith-based, rather than reality-based, facts need to be known. Thousands of enraged Trump supporters violently assaulted the Capitol to Stop the Steal. The procedure for calling in the National Guard had been changed by “federal officials” shortly before the riot, delaying the deployment of waiting troops that quickly stopped the riot when they arrived, four hours too late to prevent the multiple breaches of the Capitol. When the National Guard arrived, and surrounded the crowd, the riot was quickly over and, instead of the arrest of every rioter, the rioters were allowed to go in peace, no harm no foul. They celebrated their triumph, they actually did stop a joint session of Congress, and posted selfies and videos that got many of them arrested weeks later.

It is too simple a point to make that had this been a crowd of angry Black people, January 6 would be remembered as the day police and National Guard massacred hundreds of American citizens in front of the Capitol.

We are to be consoled, six full months later, that perhaps as many as half of the violent “protesters” who breached the Capitol that day and beat down police officers are facing charges for things like trespassing. Merrick Garland is no radical, after all. Now, calling for an investigation of this violence, planned and incited by the former president and several sitting Congressmen, aided and abetted by multiple senators, is a political hot potato in a land where facts are as malleable as the clay God originally formed into the first man.

On the other hand…

It may be that in following an unhinged but popular leader the now extremist GOP may have finally sealed its fate — no matter how many voter suppression laws they pass, their over the top extremism may be punished at the polls by voters determined to vote, and organizing to defeat the laws designed to disenfranchise them. Heather Cox Richardson provides a great historical echo for that proposition. It may be that, like celebrity psychopath Al Capone, it will be the former president’s greed, cheapness and true belief that he is untouchable, even for shooting someone in the face, that brings him, and his whole criminal empire, down. I can hear his faithful, should that day arrive: “For that? For that?!!!”.

For those who have the stomach for the hideous facts, here’s the NY Times visual account of Trump’s January 6 MAGA riot, very well-done — the video is harrowing [2].

see the full video here
  • Video Investigation: Day of Rage

    [1]

    “My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” [Breyer] said last month in a lecture at Harvard Law School. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”

    source

    Just ask any of your six Federalist Society colleagues about that one, Steve. I’m sure even Clarence Thomas would agree with you…

    [2]

    A few handy links from the NY Times video investigation of January 6, 2021 .

    Capitol Riot Fallout

    Barr, we didn’t forget

    As corrupt, partisan, untruthful culture warrior William Pelham Barr embarks on his rehabilitation tour, I heard a great capsule summary of Barr’s career as Trump’s penultimate Attorney General. It was delivered by this guy:

    “This is the Attorney General who interfered with the deployment of the Mueller Report, he interfered with the whistleblower in the Ukraine case, he interfered in the Mike Flynn prosecutorial decisions, in the decisions around Roger Stone, he interfered with the events of Lafayette Square, he interfered with the firing of the SDNY top prosecutor. All of those things Bill Barr was happy to do. Bill Barr was also happy to go tell Wolf Blitzer that there were reasons to question the integrity of the mail ballot. He was happy to cross all those lines, so the suggestion that he wasn’t willing to cross one final line to kneecap and topple our democracy by undermining the election, look, give the guy credit for that, but I mean… it’s not much credit in terms of his career at the Department of Justice”

    source

    The quote is from the video below, which is worth checking out. Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner points out that from the moment Barr, head of the DOJ, told Trump that his department had fully investigated and Trump’s claim of voter fraud was “bullshit”, Trump had clear knowledge that he was lying about the election. This would establish the criminal intent, mens rea, behind his actions when he continued to falsely insist (as he does to this day) that there was massive bipartisan election fraud (Republicans like the disloyal, runt governor of Georgia and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger were in on it!!!) that stole his landslide victory from him and when he organized and provoked a crowd to storm the Capitol to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying his loss.

    How does Trump reward over-the-top loyalty? By calling for his devoted poodle, Mike Pence, who finally refused to break the law in an ill-planned attempt to usher in a Trump dictatorship, to be hanged by the traitorous neck until dead. Trump had done no less to the loyal Jeff Sessions, he mocked him and gloated after supporting Tommy Tuberville’s successful ouster of Sessions in the Republican primary. What kind of schmuck listens to frigging “ethics” advice in business or government?

    Sheesh.

    Worth Remembering

    “Given Mr. Trump’s reckless actions after losing the 2020 vote [1], and the violence they spurred, the newly released emails are unsurprising. But consider that fact for a moment:

    It is unsurprising that the president of the United States leaned on the Justice Department to help him try to steal an election.

    The country cannot forget that Mr. Trump betrayed his oath, that most Republican officeholders remain loyal to him nonetheless — and that it could be worse next time.”

    source

    you people are all fucking losers, you deserve “president” Biden

    [1]

    Among these reckless actions:

    repeating the baseless, infuriating lie that the election was rigged against him and riddled with bipartisan fraud, spending $50,000,000 in advertising to promote this lie, denouncing the numerous courts that found he’d produced no evidence of voter fraud or irregularity, firing the federal appointee who certified the election as fair and clean, attacking Republicans in various states he lost for not overturning election results, leaning on state voting commissions to overturn the election, making calls (18) to at least one Republican state Secretary of State asking him to give him a break and just “find” a total of one more vote than he lost by, calling for and promoting a Stop the Steal rally in front of the White House, with a march to the Capitol to “Stop the Steal,” on the day a joint session of Congress would ceremonially award the Electoral College votes to Biden, and officially make him winner of the presidential election, encouraging anger at the “cowardly” “traitor” Mike Pence who was refusing to be bold, break the “law” and declare Trump the winner, as his crowd stormed the Capitol and chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” with a gallows erected outside, Trump, watching the mob advance inside the Capitol on live TV, tweeted:

    etcetera

    When he was impeached for these dangerous, unconstitutional actions, he denounced the “partisan” impeachment as a desperate ploy by partisan, witch hunting fraudulent [cannibal pedophile] losers. etc.

    Now there are a bunch of new voter suppression laws, in states Trump lost, to make sure what he demanded be done by Trump-loyal state legislators to reverse the election results last time can now all be legally done next time.

    Where is the moderate, judicious Attorney General Merrick Garland on all of this? On the obstruction of justice case laid out by Robert Mueller? He hasn’t really taken a public position on the seriousness of this threat to democracy.

    A word on the NY County DA race

    Alvin Bragg and Tali Farhadian Weinstein are in the lead as the votes are being counted several hours after the polls closed. We learn, with a key new fact unreported by the New York Times:

    Farhadian Weinstein recently made waves by donating $8.2 million to her own campaign, more than all the other candidates have raised, combined.

    source

    more than all the other candidates have raised, combined.

    Going back to the old bit about freedom of speech, you get as much of it as you can afford to pay for… campaign finance reform, anyone?