Retribution, Eradication, and the Coming Storm
The words of CPAC.
Hello darkness, my old friend.
If you want a preview of what’s coming our way, take a look at the vocabulary of CPAC, including the former president’s promise of retribution, obliteration, and war.
Attention, perhaps, should be paid.
“In 2016, I declared, ‘I am your voice,’” Donald Trump told his acolytes at CPAC. “Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution.”
In case anyone missed it, Trump repeated the phrase: “I am your retribution.”
It was probably the strongest line of his speech, and the threat was intentionally unsubtle and unmistakable. He would “totally obliterate the ‘deep state,” and wreak vengeance on the sinister scum who opposed him.
Ronald Reagan proclaimed “It’s Morning in America”; Trump declared, I am Nemesis.
This is not, to put it mildly, normal political rhetoric, at least in the English-speaking world. But it gives a taste of the bleak storm to come. The Atlantic’s John Hendrickson writes:
For much of the speech, Trump’s voice took on more of a soft and haggard whisper than the booming, throaty scream that characterized his campaign rallies. His language, by contrast, was bellicose.
Tonight’s address was among the darkest speeches he has given since his “American carnage” inaugural address. Trump warned that the United States is becoming “a nation in decline” and a “crime-ridden, filthy communist nightmare.”
He spoke of an “epic battle” against “sinister forces” on the left.
He repeatedly painted himself as a martyr, a tragic hero still hoping for redemption. “They’re not coming after me; they’re coming after you, and I’m just standing in their way,” Trump told the room. He pulled out his best, half-hearted Patton: “We are going to finish what we started. We’re going to complete the mission. We’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory.”
He was heavy on adjectives, devastating with nouns. “We will liberate America from these villains and scoundrels once and for all,” he said…
And he is all in on the Insurrection:
After seven mind-bending, soul-crushing years, it’s easy to get numbed by this sort of thing. But, as former congressman Joe Walsh writes in this morning’s Bulwark, we ought take this sort of language seriously. Tom Nichols agrees, writing yesterday, “We need to stop treating support for Trump as if it’s just another political choice and instead work to isolate his renewed threat to our democracy and our national security.”
BONUS: Make sure to read A.B. Stoddard in today’s Bulwark: “The GOP Field Is United: January 6th Is Not a Thing.”
ICYMI, Michael Knowles, a commentator for the Daily Wire and BFF of Ted Cruz, declared at CPAC:
“There can be no middle way in dealing with transgenderism. It is all or nothing. If transgenderism is true, if men can become women, then it’s true for everybody of all ages.
“If it is false, then for the good of society, and especially for the good of the poor people who have fallen prey to this confusion, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology.”
After Knowles was accused of using genocidal language, he threatened lawsuits and indignantly insisted that he was not talking eradicating transgender people, only transgender-ism. This was enough of a distinction that the Daily Beast changed it’s original headline “to more literally reflect the words Knowles used.” Insisted Knowles:
“Nobody’s calling to exterminate anybody because the other problem with that statement is that transgender people is not a real ontological category,” he added. “It’s not a legitimate category of being.”
But “eradicated,” is a distinctive word with distinctive connotations and associations, and we should pay Knowles the compliment of thinking that he chose it carefully, specifically, and specially for the occasion.
He could have said that we should “challenge,” “confront,” “oppose,” “resist,” or “push back against” transgenderism.
Instead, he chose to use the word “eradicate.” Oxford Languages offers a few synonyms for his word choice: eliminate, exterminate, destroy, annihilate, extirpate, obliterate, kill, wipe out, liquidate, decimate, abolish, extinguish.
So let’s try an experiment here. Imagine that we had a speaker — at an event that is definitely not meant to be CPAC — who said, “Jew-ishness must be eradicated from public life.” Or how about “Judai-ism must be eradicated.” Or, how about saying “Zion-ism must be eradicated from the Middle East.:
He (or she) might deny that this in any way suggested the eradication, elimination, or extermination of any actual Jews or Zionists. But it seems unlikely that anyone except the most determined denialists and rationalizers would swallow that explanation.
“Knowles may or may not be smart enough to realize that a word like eradicate inherently carries a hint of physical menace,” writes Jonathan Chait.
The most generous account of his argument is that he lacks the intelligence to grasp the implications of his own position. The least generous account is that he is making a winking nod to ugly and hateful forces he has no intention of holding back.
But Michael Knowles is not dumb.
In fact, he is a very smart guy, who understands the language of the right: its nuances, and its various dog whistles. Back in the Before Times (2016) he actually wrote a valuable guide to the Alt-Right, which included “8 Things You Need To Know.” (It was so good, I included it in a footnote in my book, “How The Right Lost Its Mind,” page 169.)
The first thing Knowles said we should know about the New Right?
Racism is not a fringe element of the Alt-Right; it’s the movement’s central premise.
And he offered some examples of the language and signals they used:
Sam Francis, the late syndicated columnist who famously called for a “white racial consciousness”
Theodore Robert Beale, the white nationalist blogger better known by his pen name Vox Day, who counts as a central tenet of the Alt-Right that “we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children,” which represents one half of the white nationalist, neo-Nazi numerical symbol 1488. (That phrase contains 14 words, while 8 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, which doubled represents “Heil Hitler.”)
Paul Ramsey, a white nationalist who produced a video titled “Is it wrong not to feel sad about the Holocaust?” and who seeks to revise historical accounts of the Holocaust, asking, “Do you mean that six million figure? You know that six million figure has been used many times before World War II, did you know that?”
Some other things Knowles said we needed to know about the Alt-Right:
It’s also explicitly anti-Semitic….
The Alt-Right loves Christendom but rejects Christianity. The Alt-Right admires Christendom primarily for uniting the continent and forging white European identity.
The Alt-Right wants to burn American politics to the ground. The Alt-Right most immediately opposes conservatism.
The Alternative Right asks conservatives to trade God for racial identity, liberty for strongman statism, and the unique American idea that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” for a cartoon Nazi frog.
The point is that Knowles knows the nomenclature, the memes, and the signals of the movement that now seems to have blended into CPAC/MAGAism. So, while he may not have been advocating actual genocide, or even the harm of any individuals, he knew perfectly well that he was using the sort of eliminationist rhetoric that fires up the fever swamps.
He knew his audience and the words they wanted to hear.
“When I said, like, I don’t know, it’s sort of weird that Pennsylvania managed to elect a vegetable, they criticize me as being ableist. I didn’t know what that was. But there’s always an ‘ist’. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. And apparently an ableist is someone who discriminates against those with disabilities.”
“I said: ‘Well, I’m not discriminating against any. . .’ I’d love for John Fetterman to have, like, good gainful employment. Maybe he could be, like, a bag guy at a grocery store. But, like, is it unreasonable for me to expect, as a citizen of the United States of America, to have a United States senator have basic cognitive function?”
Nota bene: A reminder that Trumpism is not merely post-truth and post-shame, but also post-even-a-shred-of-decency.
Give us a Listen
Marjorie Taylor Greene wants a national divorce. We don’t, but we asked our focus groups about it anyway. New York Times opinion columnist David French (literally) wrote the book on a possible national divorce.
1. Tim Miller Confronts Kari Lake on Her Election Denialism — And She Responds With Insults About His Clothing
Via Mediaite. LOL:
The Bulwark writer asked the election-denying Lake if it is time to change the GOP’s strategy going into 2024 presidential cycle.
“Well, they like to say we lost elections. We’re having corrupt stolen elections, okay. We’re having corrupt stolen elections,” Lake said. “President Trump won that election in 2020 — he did. There was corruption. I know you don’t believe it and don’t wanna look at it and they stole the election from me.”
When Miller pushed back that Lake’s loss resulted because her campaign failed to bring in McCain voters and moderate Republicans, Lake denied it while continuing to bring up election lies…..
Lake concluded the interview by asking Miller how old he is and then proceeded to mock his outfit.
LAKE: “How old are you?”
MILLER: “I’m 41.”
LAKE: “You’re 41 and you dress like a 13-year-old.”
You can watch here:
2. A Pitched Battle for Wisconsin Supreme Court
[With] four weeks to go until election day, the race to determine whether conservatives or liberals comprise the Wisconsin court’s majority is already the most expensive judicial contest in U.S. history, topping the $15 million record set in Illinois in 2004….
Both the Republican and Democratic parties are deeply invested in this officially nonpartisan election. Kelly, who ran his failed 2020 campaign out of the state Republican party headquarters, says he will not recuse himself from cases involving the GOP. Protasiewicz, who has received at least $2.5 million in help from the Democratic party, has vowed to recuse herself from any of its cases.
Fools and crazies.
Tucker lying? I’m shocked.