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The ‘Nothing Matters’ Insurrectionists

Donald Trump just sealed his presidential legacy, as dismal violence comes to the U.S. Capitol.

Thousands of Donald Trump supporters storm the United States Capitol building following a "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

What was it Thomas Jefferson said? “The tree of liberty must, from time to time, be drunk-driven into by a gaggle of faux-patriotic morons waving around banners of presidential idolatry”?

I can’t even begin to organize my thoughts on the events of yesterday, which saw the Capitol building stormed, an insurrection against the country I love, an attack on the city I’ve lived in or near for 15 years. To watch this domestic terrorism unfold on TV was to tremble with rage. To hear the response of the president—that small man, that Narcissus kneeling before a pool of gasoline—was to grow even angrier. So at risk of sounding discursive, here are a few observations in no particular order.

First, for years now, many on social media have taken a nihilistic, above-it-all attitude to anything Trump might do. The president just called Rosie O’Donnell a pig. LOL! He’s lying about his crowd sizes. U mad, bro? He just hired Anthony Scaramucci. Take that, establishment! He refuses to concede the election. AhahahaHAHAHAHAHA!!

Except suddenly it isn’t funny anymore. Suddenly his supporters are smashing windows at the Capitol building and four people are dead. There’s something singularly contemptible about the man who’s so self-deracinated as to view his own nation as a form of tawdry entertainment, who watches it deteriorate and doesn’t register anything except base humor. Yes, the Trump years have often been funny, and laughing can be therapeutic. But that doesn’t mean floating so far above them as to sneer at any and every serious concern. If nothing else, yesterday is what happens when the vitriol-cum-nihilism of Twitter spills into real life.

Second, stop claiming the attack on the Capitol was actually carried out by Antifa. Not only is there no evidence of widespread Antifa infiltration—accusations have been limited to this individual or that—much of what we do know directly contradicts the incognito theory. From the New York Times:

On social media sites used by the far-right, such as Gab and Parler, directions on which streets to take to avoid the police and which tools to bring to help pry open doors were exchanged in comments. At least a dozen people posted about carrying guns into the halls of Congress.

And:

At 2:24 p.m., after Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” dozens of messages on Gab called for those inside the Capitol building to hunt down the vice president. In videos uploaded to the channel, protesters could be heard chanting “Where is Pence?”

Yet on the refrain goes: MAGA would never do such a thing!! Wouldn’t they? Are they somehow lacking in the human frailties that have made monsters out of men and mobs out of multitudes before? Isn’t it possible that, in reacting to the extremism and brutality of Antifa, some Trump supporters have become just as extreme and brutal? What is that other than the oldest story in political history?

Third, there needs to be a thorough investigation into how any of this was allowed to happen. Washington D.C. is a police state in good times; it isn’t uncommon to come up a Metro escalator and see a cop wearing Kevlar and holding a submachine gun. Everyone knew it was possible something like this might go down on Wednesday, even if they never imagined how bad it would get. The last two times the Proud Boys have come to town, there have been casualties. Yet somehow the rioters were able to practically sashay into the Capitol building? And one video seemed to show the police allowing them in? We’ve spent untold trillions to purchase security against unseen threats, yet the worst attack on the Capitol since at least 1954 caught us flat-footed. This despite the terrorists making their intentions plain on social media. Why?

Fourth, one of the tensions inherent in being a Washington conservative is wanting to shrink the state, cut the federal workforce, while also knowing people who are employed by the government. Yesterday, that abstraction collided with that reality. The 1930s-LARPing scum who stomped through Statuary Hall viewed Washington only as The Swamp, a fetid hideout for lobbyists and elites. Yet inside the Capitol were real people, many of them staffers and service workers who are hardly making a killing. Their safety was put in danger yesterday by those so addled by tribalism that they refused to acknowledge that the cops they were shoving had a human pulse. And this from supposed populists, from #BacktheBlue crowd. For shame.

Fifth…how dare you fly the American flag while attempting to upend our republic. Take that pole and shove it up your own ass.

Sixth, whatever good policy the president has implemented, we’re now suffering through the predictable consequences of his years of trampling on norms, his vitiating the manners necessary for a functional polity among a diverse people. But he fights for us! No. He fights for himself. He includes “us” only as customers he feels obligated to repay, conservatism reduced to vulgar transaction. If he cared one whit about “us,” he wouldn’t have spent the last two months lying to “us,” claiming he definitely won the election in a landslide, endangering Republican control of the Senate, driving a wedge between the right and the rest of the country.

Instead, fueled by his words, his most diehard supporters concluded not only that we should ask sensible questions about the election, but that its theft was apparent, and so the only recourse was revolution. This is the dismal place we’ve arrived at. So now the rest of the country will gasp and recoil. The Democrats will feel emboldened and act accordingly. Wokeness will creep even farther, government will get even bigger, religious freedom will be more endangered. As for Trump, there’s been much speculation about how he’ll be remembered. Now we know that legacy will have to take into account one very dark day.

about the author

Matt Purple is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

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