Extra! Extra! is back! It’s been a wild three weeks and sometimes the news becomes more than we can bear. But we’re back, and we’ll be moving to a biweekly schedule moving forward.
So much has happened, and in many ways it feels impossible for me to not look at everything through the lens of the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. This is just one of those times where it’s as much as I can do to look at all the many ways America is, quite simply, falling apart right now. So this week’s Extra! Extra! is pretty much limited to American news: several angles of breaking down everything that’s horrifying about the insurrection, the Trump administration’s parting shots and how COVID continues to rage amid American incompetence. If there’s pressing international news we’ve missed please do share in the comments.
The Staggeringly Long List of Culpable Parties
Rachel: I agree with the overall thrust of this article, which is that the Republican party is beyond the point of no return in terms of its ability to publicly denounce the actions of its leaders that are objectionable even to their own stated values of country & party. I do, however, differ on the details of their analysis, which is that the failure of the GOP to join the Democrats en masse in impeaching Trump is “confirmation of how in thrall to Trump the Republican Party remains.” I don’t think the party or at this point almost any individual members of it are ‘in thrall to Trump;’ I don’t think Trump as an individual has had any real internal power for quite some time, even since before the election. All the internal sources say that Trump’s own staff has been avoiding him; now that he doesn’t have the carrot of future staffing in a second term to dangle, he has no leverage. The GOP is certainly in thrall, but it’s not to Trump; it’s to his base, and the critical mass of agitated white nationalists that he’s allied himself with. Multiple GOP members of congress said they received death threats related to their voting to impeach, something many progressive members of congress, especially representatives of color, are very familiar with. The GOP made a pretty literal deal with the devil to get the level of unchecked power they’ve had for so long, and the violent, ruthless groups they’ve made it with are open to turning on them at any time.
Natalie: This feels a bit like that Spider-Man meme, doesn’t it? The one where one Spider-Man is pointing at the other Spider-Man. Except here, it’s one set of accomplices to the insurrection is pointing fingers at another set of accomplices to the insurrection. After all, two Capitol police officers have already been suspended and many more are under investigation for their actions on Jan. 6th. This is a case of pot, meet kettle, if I’ve ever heard one.
That said: there seems to be prima facie evidence, at least, that some members of Congress aided the insurrectionists. A few of those arrested have pointed the finger at three members who helped organize the rally: Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama. Both Biggs and Brooks have denied those allegations. The Buzzfeed piece notes allegations from Rep. Mikie Sherrill that some of her Republican colleagues led “reconnaissance” tours on the day before the insurrection and we know that Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado used her twitter feed during the insurrection to update her QAnon followers on the Speaker’s whereabouts.
None of it is conclusive yet — not by a long shot — but there’s a lot of smoke and where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Natalie: It’s unsurprising to me that the Squad — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — have been as clear-eyed about the danger the insurrectionists — and those who enabled them — posed to the members of Congress. Since being labeled enemies of the far right, they have had to hire additional security and work under constant threat. They know danger when they see it.
What’s increasingly distressing — aside from the simple fact that these women are subjected to this treatment in the first place — is that the threat is coming from inside the House (literally). It’s not just the insurrectionists climbing through shattered windows that these members have to be scared of, it’s their fellow members of Congress. Frightening.
Himani: I knew a woman in college, once, who would talk idyllically of joining the army, going to Iraq and shooting up a lot of people (this was the final years of W. Bush, for context). As the only brown Asian person in our department, I was always extremely disturbed by this sentiment expressed by one of the few people who actually talked to me and otherwise treated me decently (which is really more than I can say for most of the other students or my professors in my department, but I digress). I think I’m going to upset a lot of people when I say that I’ve always felt it takes a certain amount of dehumanizing of other people to be part of military operations knowing that your job will entail going to a different part of the world you don’t actually know anything about and then coming up with justifications for murdering them. And then the leaks started coming out about a fraction of the atrocities committed by U.S. military personnel in Iraq, and another fellow student in my department who was formerly part of the military very much took the attitude of “yea, that’s not great that this was leaked” as opposed to “it is horrifying that U.S. committed these acts of torture and debasement.” So imagine my surprise at reading that there’s a problem of extremism within the U.S. military and among veterans and that it’s been largely ignored and dismissed.
And as for the police, well — there really isn’t any more to say about that. The problem of white supremacy having a stronghold over police organizations is so well-established and has been reported on so, so many times that really I think it came as a surprise to no one when a video was posted showing Capitol police officers practically holding the door open for the heavily armed and violent mob.
In an interview linked further down, a Sri Lankan writer says “And, the violence of your culture, which has always been projected outward, is now falling in.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot because he is completely correct. See, this is the slippery slope of justifying all those civilian deaths abroad and all those Black lives cut short at the hands of law enforcement and their accomplices. The definition of who can hold power, who is human, — simply who is allowed to live, becomes infinitely narrower, and it’s only a matter of time before you, too, end up on that list of people it’s better to just kill rather than to reason through disagreements with. Which, as the insurrectionists are being prosecuted, it’s become undeniable that is exactly what they were there to do.
Natalie: So, I come to the table with a bit of a different perspective on military service than Himani…in part because so much of my family’s served and my existence literally would not have been possible without it…but we’ll save that conversation for another day.
But this does harken back to something I’ve talked about in EE before: a 2009 report called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment”, released by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.
Republicans lost their shit about it, Democrats folded like cheap suits and the report was shelved…but now it feels like something we should’ve listened to, right?
Natalie: I thought it was interesting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is certainly no friend of the president, spoke out in defense of him keeping his social media accounts. Via a spokesman, she called Trump’s removal from Twitter “problematic.” France’s Finance Minister chimed in too, saying, “The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy.”
I understand the concern about a “digital oligarchy” and, certainly, that’s something I’d want to guard against…but the thing with Trump and other right-wing users that have seen their accounts banned in the last week: TWITTER AND FACEBOOK ARE PRIVATE ENTITIES — THERE’S NO FREE SPEECH GUARANTEE HERE — AND THEY’VE ALLOWED TRUMP TO VIOLATE THEIR TERMS OF SERVICE FOR YEARS.
Sorry, I’m a little mad about that.
Himani: In some ways, this particular bit of news and all the follow up with Amazon Web Services finally dropping Parler and Twitter blocking several QAnon Accounts has angered me far, far more than pretty much any other thing I’ve read. Plain and simple, this is too little, far too late.These are empty gestures now as everyone is trying to distance themselves from the wreckage they had a hand in creating. And the emptiness of those gestures becomes increasingly apparent as other sources show how Capitol protesters are still able to fundraise through… Amazon and, completely unsurprisingly, Paypal.
And yet somehow, amazingly, in spite of everything, Republicans continue to whine about “infringement” on their First Amendment rights.
Per Natalie’s comments above about the response from European leaders, a lot of people want to act like this is going to herald in a new era of censorship on the internet. But the internet is already censored. It’s just not censored for straight, white, cis people who hold jobs we haven’t demonized.
Natalie: In my home state of North Carolina, the governor has mobilized 350 National Guard members to assist law enforcement in Raleigh, where Inauguration Day protests are expected, and sent another 200 headed to Washington, D.C. to support the federal efforts. These are 550 national guardsmen that could be spending their time helping the state effectively distribute the COVID vaccine to North Carolinians who qualify for it.
The lies and incompetence of this current administration continues to negatively impact us all.
And… They’re Still in Power
Natalie: They’re going to try to do so much damage over the next few days, just because they can.
Natalie: Five words: Get. Rid. Of. The. Filibuster.
The Hypocrisy, It Burns
Himani: And in his final sweep, Pompeo is hard at work to do as much irrevocable damage to non-white people around the world as he can. These actions would be egregious in any context, but they’re particularly hard to bear witness to right now, given that terrorists raided the U.S. Capitol last week with the intent of killing countless numbers of people but hey they aren’t really “terrorists” because they’re not brown, right?
As William Saletan wrote for Slate this week, “Republicans are tough on terrorism until the terrorists are Republicans.”
Natalie: Since you brought up Pompeo, I couldn’t help but flag this story about him packing up his ball and going home after Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called Pompeo’s boss “a criminal, a political pyromaniac who should be sent to criminal court.”
The View from Outside: “A First World Shithole Country”
Himani: Patrick Gathara spares no words for how badly American democracy has failed and he is absolutely, undeniably correct. As he writes: “[America’s] election system was an anachronistic mess long before the storming of the Capitol. Its imperial presidency is still the stuff of third world nightmares and its sycophantic legislature is reminiscent of our daytime realities. It may have more stuff and bigger guns, but at heart the west is simply a richer version of the rest.”
Himani: This is probably the best perspective I have read on the events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol last week. For me, as I was in some amount of denial and numbness to the news that was coming in, reading this interview with Sri Lankan writer and podcaster Indi Samarajiva really communicated the severity of the situation in the U.S. right now, and his palpable frustration with American exceptionalism is something I can deeply relate to. But perhaps the most poignant part of the interview, for me, was this observation:
“You guys have been inflicting all of this trauma on the world and now the chickens have, to a large degree, come home to roost. … I don’t mean that the rancor is coming home to roost. I mean, that’s sort of the militarization of your society, the violence of your society. A lot of the people who would have attacked your Congress, they might have been serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, causing God knows what problems to the people there. The militarization has come to your borders. Your militarization at the edges of your society has come home to roost. And the violence of your culture, which has always been projected outward, is now falling in.”
Nevertheless, They’re STILL Contesting Election Results…
Oh, And Stay Tuned for Further Disenfranchisement Out of Wisconsin
There Is No More Denying Disparities in Policing
THREAD: powerful people want you to think this is a serious investigation into and pursuit of accountability for the capitol mob. it's not. (1) https://t.co/zDHjYuTyw3
— Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) January 14, 2021
Rachel: This lawsuit is an unprecedented step, the first time in history a state AG has sued a police department; AG James’ statement is pretty scathing: “There was ample ability and opportunity for the city and N.Y.P.D. leadership to make important changes to the way that officers interact with peaceful protesters, but time and time again, they did not… They did not train, they did not supervise, they did not stop officers who engaged in this misconduct. …And they did not discipline them either. Instead, they failed the people of the City of New York.”
However, at the same time, it’s hard not to feel like in material terms, this isn’t enough. From the NYT: “If Ms. James is successful, a monitor would join another already keeping watch over how the city implements changes to its stop-and-frisk policy. In 2013, a federal judge appointed a monitor after finding that officers targeted and stopped Black and Hispanic people without sufficient legal reason in violation of their civil rights.”
So, even if this lawsuit is granted, the outcome is… a monitor? In addition to the already existing monitor, which clearly hasn’t worked? In addition to being ineffectual, a new monitor would be one more avenue through which money and resources are actually being routed into policing, and another office that’s invested in the continued existence of police (and in fact, their misconduct) so it can keep funding. This isn’t a dig at AG James’s office; it’s just a reflection of how limited the options are in terms of ‘reforming’ this institution.
Things That Happened Before the Insurrection That Already Laid This Bare
Oh, And We’re Still in a Pandemic
And Other Areas America Is Struggling…
Things Are Really Grim Right Now, But Here’s a Little Uplifting News
Rachel: Both this news and the protests in Poland have been so affirming and uplifting to me; very moved and heartened now and always by the power of the people working together to change things!