The Thing We Won’t Name

A Thursday Friday Thoughts for reasons of timeliness.

Also, tomorrow is Distaff Day and there shall be things said about that.

Warning: This is me splutteringly angry. You may not want to read on…

And here we are… it’s the first anniversary of the day a couple thousand desperate white guys attacked the Capitol Building, tacitly supported by wealthy white guys (not least in the abeyance of punishment) — on a day when we should have all been celebrating Epiphany, the revelation of light and wisdom and love. So much for that, I guess.

On this day last year, most of us were blinking stupidly at the news, dumbfounded and worrying that it may not be over and that it may not be confined to Washington DC. This time last year, I lived next door to a house with an 8 foot by 12 foot Trump sign in the yard, among other loud political messages. I am fairly certain my neighbor funded a few of those who attacked the Capitol. I was terrified, my attention fixed on CNN. So I noticed something missing in the narrative. January 6th saw the first armed mob attacking our nation’s capital since the Brits leveled the White House in 1814 — and yet we have not named it an act of war, sedition or treason.

Why? And why are there not more in the media asking why? Why do we hear quite a lot about Nancy Pelosi’s stolen letter and not very much at all about the fact that this was a blatant and open attack on our country? Why do we not name it?

We all know that the January 6th idiots were in Nancy Pelosi’s office, that there were boots propped on her desk and random things stolen — because said idiots were recording themselves and posting photos on social media while they were in the midst of their insurrection. We have names and faces and quite a few boasting diatribes posted on the web, saying exactly that they were part of an attack on the Capitol to “stop the steal”. We have not a little evidence pointing all the way back to Trump as the instigator, if not the leader, of this attack. 

So why do we not use the word treason?

Now, there were some in the media who pointed fingers back at Trump and his toadies. We learned that there was obstruction and critical delay in calling out military reinforcement. We learned that certain members of Congress were in collusion, or trying to seem so with texts and inflammatory words. We learned that Trump himself, well before the attack, more or less told these idiots to show up and be ready to rumble if Mike Pence failed to stop the certification of Biden’s election. Right down to place, time and appropriate targets. Early on, there were even some tentative accusations of treason. However, that word was quickly smothered as the message was refined.

No, this was not treason. It was a bunch of malcontent losers doing what losers always do — flailing about and failing spectacularly. It was not an act of war or sedition, not coordinated or premeditated. Those words imply thought and logic and intelligence. This was the spontaneous melt-down of droolers who have no impulse control. One word quickly became prominent in media coverage: the attack was thoroughly down-graded to a mere riot. It was nothing more than another tedious story about “those people”, the buffoons who are not us and never will be.

Of course, the media roundly excoriated the individual January 6th idiots. The English language proved wholly insufficient to unleash the appropriate level of snark. And the idiots made it so very easy to sneer. I mean, really! Antlers and face paint? Stealing a podium? Pissing on chairs? Are we 12? It’s almost as though these people were scripted to act well beyond ridiculous so that all we could see was a pack of ludicrously infantile man-babies throwing a tantrum. And that is pretty close to all the media showed us as we sat glued to our screens, worrying about Trump signs next door.

But the days turned to weeks turned to months and nothing happened. Nobody prominent lost their jobs or elected positions. Nobody was arrested for openly and flagrantly attacking our Capitol. Nobody was held accountable for inciting a riot. And the media more or less lost interest but for a few snide reports now and again.

And how many of these people have even been brought to court now, a year later? 727. Less than half the estimated 2000 that were part of that mob. Never mind those like my erstwhile neighbor who supplied funding and transportation but did not actively participate. Worse yet, as of 11 December 2021, only 50 of those brought to court had been sentenced. And of those 50, many were given probation.

One of the Justice Department prosecutors involved with the case spoke to CNN on 11 December under conditions of anonymity, saying “It doesn’t look great that we’re taking a bunch of people who stormed the United States Capitol and letting them go home. Not a lot of people are spending a lot of time in jail. But jail isn’t always the best outcome. A lot of them are getting significant terms of supervised release and probation, so they’ve got to keep their nose clean.”

Really… clean noses… poor them…

Let’s put this in starkly clear terms. Attacking the Capitol Building is, by definition, treason. All a prosecutor had to prove was that Joe Deer was present and Joe Deer would be convicted and would necessarily face enormous fines, long imprisonment and the death penalty. And we know Joe was there because Joe was openly bragging about participating in this attack. Recording himself even! Yet we’re giving these men “supervised release”. Why is this not the main element of this whole sordid story? Why is Nancy Pelosi’s office centered while treason is hardly even whispered?

Because the people who made war on our country are white men. The attackers — insurgents, if you please — will not be accused of treason in either court or headlines because, while they are attacking our country, they are defending white male privilege by spreading fear and discord — and that takes precedence. Even to the media, apparently.

On 12 July 2021, the New York Times ran an update of a February article covering the injuries suffered by Capitol police. In this updated article we learned that even the murder of a white male police officer will result in no arrests if the perpetrators are white and male. Because “[i]t is difficult to prove who sprayed irritant on Officer Sicknick.” (I dunno. Maybe the one who recorded himself aiming the bear spray?)

OK, so I don’t believe that some dumbass actually recorded himself, but they are asking us to swallow a pretty large load of disingenuousness. For one thing, the sheer volume of video and the close quarters around Sicknick at the time of attack make it unlikely that the event was not caught on camera. The aggressor may not have recorded himself, but his dumbass buddy probably did. More importantly, in most cases throughout history if crimes and offenses were committed in the course of a riot, then those leading the riot were held accountable and punished — even when they had no hand in the act. Quite a few rebel leaders have gone to the gallows for less cause than the death of a police officer in the course of duty. But most importantly, anyone involved in an act of war, treason or sedition can be held responsible for all deaths that result from that act. That’s why we execute people charged with treason; they are judged murderers. So just about anyone from Antler-boy to the Orange Menace could legitimately be charged with the murder of Brian Sicknick. But nobody has… because “it’s difficult” to name a culprit when you can’t name the crime.

And we can’t name the crime. It is part of a pattern that we are not allowed to name, that we will not even examine.

Those with power have chosen to paternalistically slap the wrists of the man-babies who attacked our Capitol. Maybe hand out a few minor prison sentences to the most absurd. But nobody will be charged with treason. And nobody will be charged with murder. This attack reinforces white male privilege by spreading fear of white male violence. And that takes precedence.

Those with power will accept the senseless destruction of public property and victim-less aggression aimed at those wielding power who are not white men. It is perfectly fine to break all the window glass and make off with Nancy Pelosi’s stuff. And so that is the media focus. Words like treason and murder are excised from the story. And nobody will look too hard at the roots of all this violence.

Because there is rot down there that we will not name.

©Elizabeth Anker 2022

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