Chaos or Community?

    January 9, 2021

    Martin Luther King asked us this question in 1967, not long before his assassination. After witnessing January 6th, we ask again. We are in a pivotal moment, again, in this country, and now, exacerbating the civil unrest, is a radicalized population with instantaneous virtual connection and unmitigated amounts of disinformation and conspiracy. For those engaged in the disinformation exchange, these are not theories, it is reality.

    Social media platforms are suspending, and they’re too late.

    Whistleblower Christopher Wylie (think Cambridge Analytica and pink hair):

    Platforms like Facebook have been responsible for digitally segregating Americans for years. To move forward, we need to apply de-segregation principles to social media. That starts with regulating Facebook’s underlying digital architecture and design.

    Truly, though, does anyone see them doing this anytime soon? No. Profit and power is their mantra.

    A recommended read essay from author, and Yale history professor Timothy Snyder. His book, On Tyranny [2017], needs to be on your bookshelf.

    Here’s the link to his essay published today in The New York Times Magazine.

    Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.


    My own view is that greater knowledge of the past, fascist or otherwise, allows us to notice and conceptualize elements of the present that we might otherwise disregard and to think more broadly about future possibilities. It was clear to me in October that Trump’s behavior presaged a coup, and I said so in print; this is not because the present repeats the past, but because the past enlightens the present.

    Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history.


    When Senator Ted Cruz announced his intention to challenge the Electoral College vote, he invoked the Compromise of 1877, which resolved the presidential election of 1876. Commentators pointed out that this was no relevant precedent, since back then there really were serious voter irregularities and there really was a stalemate in Congress. For African-Americans, however, the seemingly gratuitous reference led somewhere else. The Compromise of 1877 — in which Rutherford B. Hayes would have the presidency, provided that he withdrew federal power from the South — was the very arrangement whereby African-Americans were driven from voting booths for the better part of a century. It was effectively the end of Reconstruction, the beginning of segregation, legal discrimination and Jim Crow. It is the original sin of American history in the post-slavery era, our closest brush with fascism so far.

    If the reference seemed distant when Ted Cruz and 10 senatorial colleagues released their statement on Jan. 2, it was brought very close four days later, when Confederate flags were paraded through the Capitol.

    W.E.B. Du Boise, 1st edition, 1935, Beinecke Library:

    The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?


    If Trump remains present in American political life, he will surely repeat his big lie incessantly.


    America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good.

    From journalist Maria Ressa:

    What happened Jan 6 in the US is a logical consequence of the radicalization, the “seeding & spread of conspiracy theories enabled by social media. It’s time to demand accountability. (Facebook is a behavior modification system.)”

    Washington Post

    A radicalized Air Force vet, Obama supporter, “and after years of personal travails, Ashli Babbitt believed she had found a cause that gave her life purpose. Within hours, that cause would bring her life to a violent end.”


    ‘Some far-right activists are already calling for retribution over the death of Ashli Babbitt. “We’re not putting up with this tyrannical rule. We will return on Jan 19th, carrying our weapons in numbers that no standing army or police agency can match.”

    From Jane Mayer at The New Yorker:

    Bobby Pickles, a purveyor of far-right T-shirts, joined the horde of balding dudes in dad jeans at the Capitol, because Donald Trump, he says, is “like punk rock.”

    He explained that after his father died, in 2015, he sought out new male camaraderie. The Proud Boys filled a vacuum. He claims to have joined not because they are a hate group (as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center) but because “they were seeking something.” He said, “I came to the realization that Trump was awesome, and that I had been brainwashed.” From right-wing podcasts and YouTube, he said, he has learned that “the pandemic is a scam,” and that “we live in an inverted dictatorship run by the Deep State and globalists.”

    “We couldn’t really see the President, we were listening on our phones & when we heard him say, ‘Go to the Capitol,’ we all were, like, ‘Yeah!’ So directed, Pickles & his group began marching. “Things are escalating. I hate to see what happens next.”

    The Guardian

    From Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London:

    The storming of the Capitol in Washington is a wake-up call for states around the world, writes the mayor of London

    he events at the Capitol building in Washington were shocking, but sadly not that surprising. Yes, President Donald Trump incited a fascist mob to try to violently overthrow the legitimate outcome of a democratic election – but this was the tragic yet inevitable consequence of the far-right movement the president has built and fostered over the last five years.

    Trump pitted his own citizens against each other. He preyed on genuine economic suffering. He lied to stoke fear of those who are different. He denied basic scientific facts about Covid-19 and refused to act to save lives and jobs. He separated children from their parents. He used people’s religion as a reason to ban them from coming to the US. He gave equivalence to far-right racists and anti-racist protesters. He denigrated women and denied many the right to choose what they do with their body.

    And he also undermined and delegitimised the fundamental pillars of democracy – equality under the law, the freedom of the press, an independent judicial system and, ultimately, even elections themselves.

    ragically, the warnings were deliberately ignored by too many supposedly mainstream politicians, commentators and observers around the world, including here in the UK. Some greedily eyed an opportunity for their own advancement, which they valued more than the long-term health of democracy. Others were simply too scared of the consequences of doing the right thing and challenging the ugly new populist and nativist political movements that Trump spawned.

    Donald Trump’s defeat is not the end of his brand of far-right politics. More than 74 million voted for him in November. Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Andrzej Duda in Poland and others are from the same mould. As are a growing group on the fringes of the Brexit movement.

    People on both the left and right must show no hesitation in challenging racism and discrimination, be fearless in speaking up to protect all minority groups while promoting equality and focus relentlessly on tackling the economic inequalities and lack of opportunities that create a fertile breeding ground for the far-right – challenges that will only get harder after the pandemic.

    We should tell truly inclusive patriotic stories about our national identity that show the genuine diversity of both our history and modern societies. And we need to be clear that compromising with those on the other side of the political aisle is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is essential for the health of democracy.

    Full piece:

    Love is Everywhere banners placed in Downtown Boise, Idaho.

    The Guardian also published an opinion piece by Daniel Ellsberg. It’s important read, especially if Donald Trump is allowed to stay in office prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration.

    “I will always regret that I did not do more to stop war with Vietnam. Now, I am calling on whistleblowers to step up and expose Trump’s plans.”

    Daniel Ellsberg was the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the US government had lied to the American public about the Vietnam war.

    resident Trump’s incitement of criminal mob violence and occupation of the Capitol makes clear there is no limitation whatever on the abuse of power he may commit in the next two weeks he remains in office. Outrageous as his incendiary performance was on Wednesday, I fear he may incite something far more dangerous in the next few days: his long-desired war with Iran.

    Could he possibly be so delusional as to imagine that such a war would be in the interests of the nation or region or even his own short-term interests? His behavior and evident state of mind this week and over the last two months answers that question.

    The dispatch this week of B-52’s nonstop round-trip from North Dakota to the Iranian coast – the fourth such flight in seven weeks, one at year’s end – along with his build-up of US forces in the area, is a warning not only to Iran but to us.

    In mid-November, as these flights began, the president had to be dissuaded at the highest levels from directing an unprovoked attack on Iran nuclear facilities. But an attack “provoked” by Iran (or by militias in Iraq aligned with Iran) was not ruled out.


    I have little doubt that such contingency planning, directed by the Oval Office, for provoking, if necessary, an excuse for attacking Iran while this administration is still in office exists right now, in safes and computers in the Pentagon, CIA and the White House. That means there are officials in those agencies – perhaps one sitting at my old desk in the Pentagon – who have seen on their secure computer screens highly classified recommendations exactly like the McNaughton and Bundy memos that came across my desk in September 1964.


    I am urging courageous whistleblowing today, this week, not months or years from now, after bombs have begun falling. It could be the most patriotic act of a lifetime.

    In memoriam.

    USA Today

    Brian D. Sicknick, 42, the youngest of three sons, was from South River, New Jersey. He graduated in 1997 from Middlesex County Technical Vocational High School and joined the New Jersey Air National Guard that year.

    Sicknick deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1999 in support of Operation Southern Watch. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he served in Kyrgyzstan in support of the war in Afghanistan. While stateside, Sicknick served in the 108th Air Refueling Wing out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, his brother, Ken Sicknick, said.

    He was honorably discharged in 2003, according to Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey National Guard.

    Sicknick “wanted to be a police officer his entire life,” Ken Sicknick said. He “served his country honorably” and made his family “very proud,” Sicknicksaid. “Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember.”

    Sicknick died “due to injuries sustained while on duty,” U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement. On Wednesday, he “was injured while physically engaging with protesters,” police said. He returned to his division office and collapsed, then was taken to a local hospital where he died around 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

    Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke to the Associated Press.

    The murder investigation begins.

    Five people lost their lives, countless others were injured, all directly related to January 6th, 2021.

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