Dear Reader (Not including “Via Getty,” the biggest jerk of them all),
They picked a specific, historically significant date to launch their attack. It was organized and coordinated. Officials knew an attack was possible but didn’t prepare. Four people were killed. Almost instantaneously, the attack became a political and ideological football.
I’m talking about the raid on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. The Obama administration, heading into a presidential election, dissembled, obfuscated, and lied about the nature of the attack. Officials pushed the idea that the attack was really a spontaneous response to an obscure anti-Islamic video. Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, even told the families of the dead that she wouldn’t rest until they brought the maker of the video to justice. They eventually arrested him on unrelated charges. Democrats and a cooperative media launched a major “national conversation” over the limits of free speech. The idea that mobs of terrorists were somehow or somewhat justified in murdering Americans if they were sufficiently offended was widely debated by Very Serious People.
On Wednesday, we saw a right-wing Benghazi. The analogy isn’t perfect; I don’t think Trump planned a violent attack on the Capitol. He was merely cavalier about the possibility. Though, I could be wrong. Thanks to Trump’s cowardly definition of manliness, he often winks and nods that he wouldn’t mind violence. And when people act violently on his behalf, he has a history of offering his approval. Indeed, if reports are true, he was reluctant to put an end to the siege once it started.
Regardless, it was obvious that violence was possible, even likely, especially after the president tweeted on December 19, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” All of the usual thugs, bro-warriors, and unaffiliated idiots had been flexing for weeks. “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism,” a barbarian lacking self-awareness declared on the Red-State Secession Group Facebook page.
Most people on the right have condemned the violence. But much like those who wanted to make Benghazi about a rogue offensive video, much of the right-wing media complex is falling into its comfort zone, blaming the attack on the mainstream media, Twitter, and “elites” who don’t like Trump supporters.
It’s not that these people claim the violence was good. The “it was a video!” crowd didn’t actually endorse the attack on Benghazi, either. Rather, the insinuation is that this was inevitable and understandable because—fill in the blank: the elitists, media, Democrats, the establishment, Trump-bashers, or whoever else you can imagine said mean things about Trump supporters.
For others, the real issue is the double standard from the same crowd of elitists and wokesters who didn’t sufficiently condemn the violence from Black Lives Matter protesters. This is the slop they really love to wallow in.
The most cynical and grotesque form of this argument goes something like this: Trump supporters sincerely believe that the election was stolen, therefore mocking the idea that it was stolen is offensive, elitist, bigoted, condescending, or inciteful. The same people who giddily encouraged their viewers, readers, and constituents to believe a lie now argue that this is what you get when you call them liars or dupes. Here’s Pete Hegseth explaining why you need to understand the root causes of right-wing rage.
Well, calling Mohammed a pervert is offensive to Muslims, but that didn’t justify the Benghazi attacks. And none of the things these people want to talk about, including the left’s very real double standards on violence, make a mob assault on the Capitol more forgivable.
One of the central tenets of conservatism is that there’s a difference between an explanation and an excuse. I’m happy to concede that many in the mainstream media shamed themselves waving away violence during the BLM protests. I’m happy to concede that progressive elites have contempt for lots of regular Americans and Christians; I’ve probably written 100,000 words on this point over the last 20 years. All of these things can be true, it still doesn’t shave an onion skin from the layers of outrage we should feel about a mob beating a cop to death with a fire extinguisher. It doesn’t subtract a feather’s weight of opprobrium from a president orchestrating an effort to steal an election by peddling lies and conspiracy theories, never mind from his willful incitement of a crowd to act on that lie.
Condemning the media or Democrats for their inconsistency when it comes to violence is fine by me, but only if in the same breath you condemn the president for the same inconsistency. The president celebrated an attack on a reporter, pardoned war criminals, cheered militias intent on “liberating” Michigan, and the vice president had to cut him out of the chain of command to get the National Guard deployed to put down an insurrectionist mob that, again, murdered a cop and scrawled “Murder the Media” on a door inside the Capitol. If you don’t acknowledge these things, you’re just providing cover.
Also, let’s not overlook the profound category error that has run wild among Trump apologists for four years. Everything they say about the New York Times—or CNN, or the Washington Post, or the Kroger Coupon Sampler—could be 100 percent true. You know what still wouldn’t be true? The New York Times isn’t the president of the United States of America. You can look it up. The Times doesn’t take an oath to uphold the Constitution. It doesn’t have the power to deploy troops.
If President Biden were to say in his inaugural address, “Republicans are evil,” and Rachel Maddow replied in his defense, “What about what OANN said about Democrats,” the same Trump apologists who’ve been spraying pro-Trump flak into the airwaves for the last four years would scoff at such absurd whatabouttery—and they’d be right.
I understand that Trump has spent his entire presidency as an “outsider” media critic and Twitter troll, but that doesn’t mean the standards we apply to other media platforms is the standard we’re supposed to apply to the president. “What the orange did isn’t so bad, because the apple broke the rules” is a childish argument.
One of the more popular phrases on the right is “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” coined by Ben Shapiro.
It’s a pithy summation of a central conservative argument going back at least a century. My favorite version of it comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, “There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.” I always read Emerson as saying that it’s a bit rude when conservatives point out the factual problems of liberal pieties. Sort of like answering honestly when your wife asks, “Do these jeans make me look fat?”
For instance, in debates over sex differences it’s considered mean to note that the fastest or strongest men are going to be faster or stronger than the equivalent women. When Larry Summers noted that there are, statistically speaking, more male geniuses (at least in math) than female ones, he lost his job at Harvard for merely—and meanly—stating the truth. (I should note, there are also way more male idiots than female idiots, but that fact doesn’t offend progressives as much.)
Broadly speaking, progressives argue from ought, conservatives from is. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when we decry political correctness. As a Yale student wrote in the school paper during one of the campus free speech controversies, “I don't want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”
Conservatives mock “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and “snowflakes” who can’t handle hard truths. How many books have been written about liberalism’s “victimization cult”? How many careers have been made by saying things that offend liberal sensibilities? Well, who’s the party of snowflakes now? Stripped of all their lawyerly evasions, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz endorsed the idea the election was stolen not because they actually believe it, but because the voters they crave want to hear that it was. They all prattle about the “voices of the unheard” and whine about the mean things people say about them or Trump. How much mileage have they gotten out of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” thing?
Here’s Ainsely Earhardt matter-of-factly claiming that all 75 million people who voted for Trump are “scared.”
Well, first of all, as I noted in today’s column, it’s literally impossible for 75 million people to go “unheard.” Those 75 million people have a vast media complex and one of the two major parties speaking for them. If Donald Trump hadn’t cost them two Senate seats in Georgia, they’d be even more heard. Moreover, not all 75 million of those people are Trump-worshipping MAGA heads. Some of them—many of them—thought voting for Trump was the lesser of two evils; they voted against Biden. Similarly, not all 75 million of them are thin-skinned snowflakes who can’t handle hearing that Trump lost and that the election wasn’t stolen. But as we’ve learned from college campuses, treat people like they’re delicate little flowers and they’ll behave that way.
Besides, there’s a difference between being heard and not wanting to hear anybody else who disagrees. That’s what the “feel my pain” snowflakes say every day on college campuses. “Don’t tell me I’m wrong. Don’t tell me there are facts that contradict what I want to believe.” “Don’t tell me Trump actually lost. I want my fictions and my feelings confirmed, and if you contradict them I’m a victim and you’re an ‘oppressor.’”
Remember this woman, who all of the “liberal tears are delicious” Twitter tough guys love to mock?
The only difference between her and the mob swarming the Capitol on Wednesday is that she went home. She didn’t storm the Capitol. She didn’t murder a cop. She didn’t smear her feces on the wall to own the cons.
President Trump is a whiner. He takes offense at disagreement and thinks flattery and loyalty to him are more important than facts or reality. He thinks it’s unfair when events or facts are inconvenient or don’t ratify his narcissism.
He even thinks Supreme Court justices should be loyal to him, not the Constitution. Conservatives spent decades arguing that the “living Constitution” is an evil concept that places the progressive agenda above the meaning of our founding document. Progressives argued that the Constitution ought to mean what we want it to mean. We said, “Nope the Constitution is what is, if you want it to say something different, amend it. Don’t ‘breathe new meaning’ into it.”
But you know what? At least the progressives believe what they’re saying. You can have an argument with them about it. Trump doesn’t know squat about the Constitution; he just thinks it should mean whatever’s best for him, and he surrounded himself with liars who said Pence could steal the election. But Cruz and Hawley know that what Trump was trying to do was unconstitutional and would, if successful, gut the Constitution and perhaps even democracy. They simply lacked the courage to tell the snowflakes what they don’t want to hear, so instead they lent aid and comfort to the atrocity this week.
And his biggest fans have internalized some or all of this. When Trump tried to bully Brad Raffensperger into stealing the election on his behalf, the immediate response from the anti-anti-Trump brigades was to whine that Raffensperger’s facts conflicted with their feelings and fantasies. It was mean that Raffensperger broke the rules—and the one thing we know Trump fans really care about is fidelity to the rules.
My favorite effort was the lowbrow bro-indictment that Raffensperger had violated “man code.”
I bring that up because it’s funny, but also because invoking “man code” in the service of the most unmanly public figure in my lifetime is a perfect distillation of the damage Trumpism has done to conservatism. By swaddling populist crybaby-ism in muscle-bro testosterone, Trump and his defenders have defined masculinity as angry snowflakism. Don’t you dare say we’re wrong! Don’t you dare speak ill of the avatar of our victim status! We don’t want to hear that he’s an unpatriotic and sybaritic con man who wears makeup and likes it when other people fight for him to prove how manly he is.
Our feelings don’t care about your facts.
Various & Sundry
Canine update: I got home from Hawaii Thursday morning, and the girls were very happy to see me. We had to leave the critters with a new house sitter and while they’re in fine fettle, I think there was a lot of norm-breaking. It seems like Pippa conned the sitter into a lot of tennis ball play in the backyard. When I got home there were dozens of tennis balls all over the backyard and Pippa’s expectations were even greater than before.
I have more updates, but I’ll save them for the solo Remnant podcast I’m going to record in a minute. I didn’t plan on taking so much time off from the podcast, but early Christmas Eve morning I got the tragic news that my late brother’s wife had passed away. I’d write about that here, but it feels like too much of a gear change after the above tirade. It was a very difficult time for all of the obvious—and some non-obvious—reasons. One of the more minor consequences was my podcast schedule, but it is in the process of returning to normalcy.
And now, the weird stuff