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The Infrastructure of Radicalization
“But what if she died as a witness not to fact but to dream?”
WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES - JANUARY 6, 2021: President Donald Trump's supporters storm the United States Capitol.
The Toxic Dream of January 6
In his article, January 6 Was Only the Beginning, Jeff Sharlet reports on the intersection between mythology and ideology when remembering the attack on the Capitol with the role Ashli Babbitt played in it. It came together when he traveled to the Church of Glad Tidings in Yuba City, California. A church that presented Michael Flynn with an AR-15.
Yet, as Sharlet writes:
[The speaker] doesn’t mention Ashli, but I understand now why Richard at the rally urged me to come this evening. I really am learning what Ashli knew.
His visit to Glad Tidings was also the night that David Straight was that speaker.
Overall, this reality-bending journey into the world of January 6 denial and radicalization is a frightening revelation of how the infrastructure of conspiratorial rabbit holes can work. He describes the messages that the speaker, Straight, sent out to willing listeners:
Straight preaches at length on maritime law, about how legally we are all “vessels,” subject to the same regulations as ports and pursers, the ship’s officer in charge of money. Purser; person. It’s all right there for those with ears to hear. With each term he reveals secret etymologies—“deep rabbit holes.” The winding path on which Straight has come from Trump to lead us will restore to us, We the People, command of our own ships, our vessels, our bodies. We learn that by signing our birth certificates, our mothers unwittingly made us slaves. Yes, slaves. It goes back to the 14th Amendment. You may think that’s the one that ensured the rights of formerly enslaved people—“equal protection of the laws.” That’s what they want you to think. “It’s not your fault,” Straight says. You were fed fake news. Critical race theory. You don’t know that the 14th Amendment made you—true American “you”—a slave.
Of course, the Republican right-wing infrastructure is stepping in. Just two weeks ago, Tucker Carlson featured Ashli Babbitt’s widower on his nightly show and suggested she was killed for her politics. In Reason magazine, commentators rather attack the legacy media rather than the events that took place on January 6 and how the overt political grifting led us to this moment. While the anti-anti-Trump intellectuals (and open MAGA wing intellectuals) enable the academic and ideological structures to form at higher levels, Sharlet reveals the impact on the ground.
But what are the bodies in this story? Ashli. The body of Christ. The body politic. The body of “the nation.” How does that body “come apart”? The answer is in the question I’ve learned to ask the believers: “Do you think there’ll be a civil war?” They say “yes.” Some say Ashli Babbitt was the first casualty; others note January 6 as one more date in a calendar crowded with the death days of modern martyrs. All the blonde daughters of the Angel Families, the term used by the right for those whose loved ones have been murdered by “illegals”; every cop ever killed even close to the line of duty (except at the Capitol); Vicki Weaver, shot to death at Ruby Ridge by an FBI sniper as she cradled her 10-month-old baby when the feds came to take her white supremacist husband, Randy Weaver, away for selling sawed-off shotguns.
Most of the believers express some form of sorrow for what has become, in their imaginations, the fact of this coming war; some grow red in the cheek. “The spirit of 1776,” they say. You can hear the blood throb faster in their veins.
He is not shying away from how far people have come in their heads to believe that Ashli Babbitt was the “first casualty.” It is a sign of years of civic messaging irresponsibility and the reality of misled people manipulated from the higher levels when it comes to civic and economic cohesion. The author also meets people who are motivated by racial understandings of America or raw grievance from the perils of America’s modern class divisions. The cornucopia of anger and dissatisfaction culminates into a dream of what one wishes reality was and not what it actually is:
How to say then, that Ashli Babbitt is not a martyr? There’s the word itself, martyr, which means “witness,” one’s life given as testament to some larger truth. The story for which she put herself in front of the gun, that the election was stolen? Verifiably false. But what if she died as a witness not to fact but to dream? Through a glass darkly: the comfort of chaos, the relief of “issues” falling away, like a body letting go, falling backward, into conflict itself as the cause, never ending? How do you disprove that?
From people’s spiritual communities to their television choices, there exists an infrastructure of political radicalization that has been successfully built and utilized by far right-wing interests.
The violent attempt to overturn our democracy (and its enabling authorities) is an outcome and consequence of political actors forming a dependent relationship with that infrastructure - no matter how far it pushes the human beings they rely on for votes and views.
The January 6 Committee Hearings Continue
I’ve been trying to write more about larger trends in our society and history, however, the January 6 Committee Hearings have become rather blockbuster.
At least in my eyes.
The record is being set for how intricate and conscious an effort to subvert our democracy was in the highest echelons of the White House. It supplies the receipts for an outcome that was catalyzed by rampant and, arguably, the willed radicalization of parts of our country.
Too many people believed they were in a 1776 moment.
This was manipulated by a political cabal that had grown too accustomed to using disinformation and baseless appeals to tribal loyalty to cajole and move their base of support.
January 6 was the inevitable consequence:
Jeff Sharlet’s piece today is a great companion for watching the hearings. This is not just casual congressional intrigue and it is certainly not partisan. This is a presentation of the state of our union after the former president amassed his followers and staged them at the Capitol during the historically peaceful certification of electors. It was the most dramatic portion of a wide-reaching pressure campaign to intimidate Vice President Mike Pence into breaking the law and, again, subvert democracy.
At the ground level, it translates into tragedy for true believers and a continued cycle of hate:
Tim Miller of The Bulwark writes about the hypocrisy of many towards Shaye Moss:
Tim Scott Still Thinks Trump can Be President in 2024 (if nominated)
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