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The GOP Becomes The D*ck Pic Party
Thomas Massie shows off his stuff
On Sunday afternoon, Bill Kristol paid homage to a fading political tradition. “Bob Dole's death makes me think of other great figures of the modern Senate, senators like Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, Howard Baker, Pat Moynihan, John McCain, and Dole.” And he quoted from the Book of Genesis:
"There were giants on the earth in those days...Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown."
I, on the other hand, was talking about d*ck pics.
I think I should explain.
The Packers had a bye-week, so on Sunday afternoon I was on a panel asked to discuss this tweet posted by Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie just days after the latest mass school shooting:
This, obviously, had nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas, and really was not about the Second Amendment, either. His flagrant display of firepower was intended to trigger, and flaunt.
It was, in other words, the gun zealot’s equivalent of a d*ck pic.
MSNBC anchor Lindsey Reiser piped up: “Sorry, everybody, I’m not sure we can say that, Charlie!”
Sykes, founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and frequent MSNBC contributor, apologized for “being offensive.” But he added, referring to Massie’s equipment: “He’s basically trying to show off. He’s trying to trigger to get the reaction.”
He added: “That is not designed to make a serious argument ... It is designed to show off in this fetish kind of way.”
The website “Raw Story,” reported: “Charlie Sykes stuns MSNBC host with lewd description of Thomas Massie’s gun photo as like pic of his privates.” And, for that, I suppose I should apologize.
Massie is a not a serious man, and his performative assholery did not deserve a serious or respectful response. Posting this photo has the same relationship to responsible gun ownership as sending out a d*ck pic does to genuine romance.
Unfortunately, it also seems to capture so much of what the post-policy, post-governing GOP has become these days.
His Christmas tweet — with its callous and vicious indifference to the latest gun-related tragedy — was not about any coherent idea at all, but it fits a pattern. As the GOP becomes an ever-more unserious party, its pols increasingly compensate for their various inadequacies by flaunting their hardware.
For a certain class of GOP politicians, this gun cosplay is a subset of their obsession with faux toughness. But it also reflects the way that triggering memes have displaced the business of governing, or even the attempt to govern. Who needs statesmanship, when we can text out pictures of our big guns?
It should be noted that, at one point, Massie himself seemed to understand what was happening. Back in 2017, he explained:
"All this time, I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans. But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand [Paul] and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren't voting for libertarian ideas—they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along."
Now, however, Massie seems intent on snatching the “Craziest SOB” title back for himself. But the competition is fierce.
Who, after all, can forget this great moment in American statesmanship? When Ted Cruz fried up some bacon on the barrel of a machine gun, because, well, you know.
And, of course this:
And, um, this:
One final thought here:
Bob Dole was genuine war hero. He didn’t dress up as a soldier. He was one. He was a member of a generation for whom weapons of war were not props, but deadly realities.
He was the real thing. Thomas Massie, on the other hand, is a clown, who feels the need to show off his stuff.
The next coup… has already begun.
Make sure you read the cover story in the new Atlantic. “January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.”
Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.
The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.
I believe we’ve talked about this
It’s about time. Via the NYT:
WASHINGTON — Members of the select congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol are pressing to overhaul the complex and little-known law that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies tried to use to overturn the 2020 election, arguing that the ambiguity of the statute puts democracy itself at risk.
The push to rewrite the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — enacted more than a century ago in the wake of another bitterly disputed presidential election — has taken on new urgency in recent weeks as more details have emerged about the extent of Mr. Trump’s plot to exploit its provisions to cling to power.
Mr. Trump and his allies, using a warped interpretation of the law, sought to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to throw out legitimate results when Congress met in a joint session on Jan. 6 to conduct its official count of electoral votes.
It was Mr. Pence’s refusal to do so that led a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters to chant “Hang Mike Pence,” as they stormed the Capitol, delaying the proceedings as lawmakers fled for their lives. Members of Congress and the vice president ultimately returned and completed the count, rejecting challenges made by loyalists to Mr. Trump and formalizing President Biden’s victory.
Believe everything and nothing
Over the weekend, the far-right Patriot Front staged a “Bizarro Rally in Downtown D.C.” Via the Daily Beast:
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A group of white supremacists stormed through downtown Washington, D.C. on Saturday evening, bearing American flags and mildly menacing plastic shields while marching to the beat of a snare drum down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial…
But don’t believe your eyes here. Dinesh D’Souza is insisting the whole thing was a “false flag.”
And, of course, MTG is also making the same claim.
Once again I’m reminded of the indispensability of Hannah Arendt, who explained the “curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism” in demagogic politics.
Arendt explained the phenomenon this way:
In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true...
This mixture of gullibility and world-weary cynicism, Arendt wrote, dispelled “the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds.”
Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.
The masters of this sort of propaganda understood that they could change their stories with impunity, because they would see their deceptions as a form of 8-dimensional chess.
The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness."
Remarkably, she wrote that nearly 70 years ago, long before the rise of our own alternative reality media ecosystems. But Arendt understood the endgame here; a tsunami of lies isn’t aimed at getting people to believe what the propagandist is saying. Rather, it’s to induce chronic disbelief, or an indifferent shrug. Who knows what to believe? Who cares? What is truth?
“The result of a consistent and total substitution of lie, for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, “ wrote Arendt, “but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.”
1. Facing Economic Collapse, Afghanistan Is Gripped by Starvation
Nearly four months since the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan is on the brink of a mass starvation that aid groups say threatens to kill a million children this winter — a toll that would dwarf the total number of Afghan civilians estimated to have been killed as a direct result of the war over the past 20 years.
While Afghanistan has suffered from malnutrition for decades, the country’s hunger crisis has drastically worsened in recent months. This winter, an estimated 22.8 million people — more than half the population — are expected to face potentially life-threatening levels of food insecurity, according to an analysis by the United Nations World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization. Of those, 8.7 million people are nearing famine — the worst stage of a food crisis.
2. Seven days: Following Trump’s coronavirus trail
From the day he tested positive until his hospitalization, Trump came in contact with more than 500 people, either those in proximity to him or at crowded events, not including rallygoers, according to a Washington Post analysis of the president’s interactions during that period.
That seven-day window reveals a president and chief of staff who took a reckless, and potentially dangerous, approach to handling the coronavirus, including Trump’s own positive test.
3. For Democratic Allies Against China, Biden Should Look to Eastern Europe
The Summit for Democracy provides an opportunity to valorize good behavior by Washington’s Central and Eastern European allies. For the United States, the full backing of “new Europe” in its effort to contain China is certainly not enough. But it has the potential to be the beginning of a new values-based coalition, without which there’s little hope of defeating Beijing’s totalitarianism.
Double negatives. How do they work?