Links and Comments: Political Matters This Week: 11 Feb 2021

This is the week Trump is being impeached for inciting a riot and invasion of the Capitol, and Republicans, supposedly the party of personal responsibility, are going to let him get away with it. Nothing to see here, they say. They are showing themselves to be not a party of principle, but an authoritarian cult (perhaps because they realize they cannot win on issues). They will live in infamy.

I repeat that I compile links like these not because I am a partisan hack. It’s because I aspire to be a student of history, and of human psychology. It’s because recent events in American history are examples of patterns in history, and of inclinations in human nature, that are always present. The authoritarian tendencies of Trump and his followers, and the mob violence of recent events, are continuing patterns throughout human history, and will never go away. At best they can be marshaled through education, the lessons of history, an awareness of human psychology, an awareness of the errors in how we perceive the world. But education is work and has to be redone with every generation; the default human nature is authoritarian tribalism, which sometimes resists education (or at best, filtered “home education.”) In deference to tribalism of one sort or another, especially religious, many people in the world avoid education that would challenge it.

NYT, Nicholas Kristof: Can We Put Fox News on Trial With Trump?, subtitled “Even if we can’t impeach media companies, we can do more to hold them accountable for sowing sedition.”

“Given all the damage that Fox News has caused and the threat that it remains, they absolutely should unbundle Fox News,” Carusone told me. “It’s not a news channel. It’s a propaganda operation mixed with political smut. If people want that, they should be forced to pay for it the way that they pay for Cinemax.”

Also, there are numerous lawsuits against Fox News, and their stars, from the Smartmatic manufacturer of voting machines, for defamation.

CNN: Voting technology company Smartmatic files $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell over ‘disinformation campaign’.

This is one way the conspiracy theorists on the right can be brought down. Lawsuits: because they lie.


Slate: If Trump Wasn’t Calling for Insurrection, What Was He Doing?, subtitled “His lawyers don’t seem to have an answer.”


Washington Post: Sadly, Fox News can’t be impeached.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte: House Democrats make their case to Senate Republicans: Trump duped his rioters — and he’ll dump you, subtitled “Trump impeachment trial, day 3: House managers remind Senate Republicans that Trump will never repay their loyalty.”


NYT: Party of Personal Responsibility Declines to Hold Person Responsible, subtitled “Does the G.O.P. have the spine to rein in Marjorie Taylor Greene?”

The original title was “Marjorie Taylor Greene Apologized and Got a Standing Ovation. Seriously.”, subtitled, “Once again, the party of personal responsibility declines to hold the person responsible.”


NYT, Frank Bruni: Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Republican Perversion of ‘Freedom’, subtitled “She’s playing the victim. Don’t fall for it.”

I’m not joking: These lawmakers are ridiculous. But they’re ridiculous in ways that illuminate two themes that keep growing brighter — or maybe I should say darker — in Republican politics now. One is the reflexive attempt to divert attention from the florid craziness in their own ranks and own base by screaming “communist,” “socialist” or “radical left.” The other is to claim that they’re protecting freedom when they’re sanctioning nonsense.


The Atlantic, David Frum: There Is No Defense—Only Complicity, subtitled “Republican senators are shrinking before the eyes of the whole country.”

With this insight about Marco Rubio, who continues to support Trump and dismiss the impeachment allegations. My bold.

Rubio knows that Republican senators who defy Trump have a way of ending up as ex-senators. And so he abases himself again and again to defend Trump. He appeared on Fox News Sunday on January 24 to denounce this second impeachment trial as “stupid.” And in his February 9 video, a senator who often speaks out against authoritarian corruption in China, Cuba, and Venezuela positioned himself as its apologist here at home—dismissing accountability for the January 6 attacks as a “waste of our time.”

But here’s the important thing, the big reveal: As he delivered his message, Rubio looked absolutely miserable. Watch it yourself and see what I mean. Rubio looked equally miserable on Fox News Sunday.

Unlike so many of his fellow senators, Rubio has no double face. He has no guile and no game. His face displays his feelings. And he is feeling this.

Those feelings are not leading Rubio to do the right thing. He has already committed to do the wrong thing, as will so many other Senate Republicans. But he’s not happy about it. He’s angry about it. He knows he’s being inscribed as one of the villains of American history, one of the saps and weaklings of the American present. Trapped, helpless, and embarrassed, he seethes with resentment about a predicament he cannot see a way to escape.

And he is not finding it.


Here is what Republicans are becoming:

The Atlantic: There’s Nothing Fun or Funny About Marjorie Taylor Greene, subtitled “QAnon and space lasers might be ludicrous, but they are also gateways to far more dangerous ideas.”

People tend to embrace conspiracy theories because they’re experiencing fear, ostracism, or a sense of losing control. They seek stories to explain what’s happening in a way that suits their needs and convictions, and those narratives become sources of power, validation, even superiority. Perhaps, then, given the country’s diversifying demographics and liberal mores, it’s no surprise who is flocking to conspiracy theories: people like Greene, who are white and on the right. Despite their enduring privilege, many white Americans feel left out or left behind. A sprawling disinformation ecosystem—including Fox News, Breitbart News, YouTube channels, and Facebook groups—reinforces their grievances ad nauseam.

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