Things Worth Getting Mad About
Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days ago I spent the better part of my afternoon staked out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building. I was there mostly by accident. It had been a slow day at TAC H.Q. and my editor suggested that I could go down to the protest if I wanted, to see if there was anything worth covering. I figured I might enjoy the chance to stretch my legs.
Around the time I started getting bored the cops started beating hard on the protestors up front, and then all hell broke loose. A few hours of chaos ensued, until some unknown impetus drove most of the crowd back westward up Pennsylvania; I learned as we walked that a woman had been shot.
I wrote about what I had seen a few days later. For the most part, I just relayed images from the day without passing any judgment. The response to that method was interesting: About half of the readers were furious that I would be so sympathetic to the vicious rioters of the Capitol Insurrection, and the other half were outraged that I would paint so unflattering a picture of the heroic patriots who marched on the Capitol that day.
The truth is that I don’t have strong opinions one way or the other. For one thing, I am not willing to get too worked up in defense of unrest the main instigators of which include people whose behavior and relationships to federal law enforcement still remain disturbingly unexplained. Consider, for example, Ray Epps, the subject of extensive investigative work by Revolver News and of questions posed by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) to Attorney General Merrick Garland; or the man in a bicycle helmet whom video shows initiating the window-smashing that ended in the shooting of Ashli Babbitt, only to be welcomed behind police lines once things got out of hand.
But neither can I partake in the panic over a supposed desecration of the Temple of Our Sacred Democracy. I do not think democracy deserved any temples in the first place. The incredible extent to which the liberal establishment has blown this out of proportion—right down to the manner of reference as “1/6,” a less than subtle gesture toward 9/11—is enough to convince me that theirs is not the side I want to be on.
In a year chock-full of op-eds, Twitter rants, soapbox grandstanding, and miscellaneous wailing and gnashing of teeth, no instance of 1/6 hysteria has been so egregious as a New York Times editorial published this weekend under the headline “Every Day is Jan. 6 Now.”
The editorial opens with a typical bit of melodrama:
One year after the smoke and broken glass, the mock gallows and the very real bloodshed of that awful day, it is tempting to look back and imagine that we can, in fact, simply look back. To imagine that what happened on Jan. 6, 2021 — a deadly riot at the seat of American government, incited by a defeated president amid a last-ditch effort to thwart the transfer of power to his successor — was horrifying but that it is in the past and that we as a nation have moved on.
Of course, the only blood shed that day was that of Mrs. Babbitt, a troubled woman and U.S. veteran who was fatally shot by Lt. Michael Leroy Byrd of the Capitol Police, a man whose actions have previously demonstrated that he is literally too stupid to be trusted with a gun. Two people died from health complications in the vicinity of the Capitol, a third from a drug overdose, and a fourth (Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick) from stroke the following day. All have been eagerly counted in the death toll of the day by mainstream media, but they died at the Capitol riot in much the same way that a few hundred thousand people over the last couple years have died with Covid-19.
But the Times can’t let facts get in the way of a good story. This smoke-and-mirrors…er, “smoke and broken glass” opening leads into a lengthy tirade about the grave threat to Our Democracy as “the Capitol riot continues in statehouses across the country, in a bloodless, legalized form that no police officer can arrest and that no prosecutor can try in court.” They are referring, of course, to nationwide efforts by Republican legislators to pass commonsense election-security measures.
It is something less than reasonable to describe voting regulations with which you happen to disagree as a form of “bloodless, legalized” riot. But this is what they genuinely believe. Any attempt to challenge their hegemony—even an expression of displeasure with the prevailing order—is a moral abomination on par with flying passenger planes into towers. It is entirely consistent with the worldview of the liberal elite that a few people strolling through the halls of the Capitol (menacingly) and committing some mid-level vandalism would be taken as the defining crisis of 21st century America, or at least of 2021.
This is what we should be mad about. Not, say, the more than 100,000 Americans who died of fentanyl overdoses in 2021. Certainly not the fortunes Nancy Pelosi and certain colleagues accrued by basing their personal investments on information obtained through congressional service. Don’t get mad about the hundreds of thousands of American infants who were slaughtered by licensed physicians in 2021. Don’t get mad about cratering birth rates or soaring divorces or the lowest prospects in recorded U.S. history for widespread homeownership. Don’t get mad about the relentless march of Covid tyranny or the hand it’s played in transferring the last dregs of American wealth into the coffers of megacorporations. Don’t get mad about the fact that Jeff Bezos’ net worth jumped by more than 56 percent between 2020 and 2021, from $113 to $177 billion. Don’t get mad about the continuing revelations of oligarchic manipulation of the 2020 election. And whatever you do, don’t you dare suggest that any of this had anything to do with the discontentment so viscerally registered at the Capitol a year ago.
I wrote of the mayhem on the Hill back then:
There is palpable rage here, and not just among the QAnon fanatics or the rioters up front. It is about more than the election. Donald Trump is merely a focal point, as are (in the opposite direction) Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Their fury is aimed at a system they feel failed them—or worse, worked exactly as intended. Impeach Trump, indict rioters—that anger is not going away. What’s happening on the Capitol steps, with tens of thousands gathered, feels dangerously close to a legitimacy crisis. Commentary later will call this a dark day—or a disgraceful end to the Trump years, the tragic culmination of escalating, dangerous rhetoric and conduct—but on the ground it feels far more like the beginning of something than the end of anything. When Congress reconvenes at night, the establishment will be openly hardened against the right-wing resistance that boiled over today. Some will declare it dead, banished from the GOP. But there is something here that will not go away.
The ruling class insists that there is nothing to be angry about except for anger itself. It’s little wonder the explosion of that anger took them so completely by surprise, and even less that almost nothing has been done in the year since 1/6 to resolve even one of its causes.