The World Is Getting More Dangerous. A Lot More.
Anti-mask violence in America. A coup brewing in Brazil.
1. Danger Signs
Rishi Rambaran, 40, stormed into Principal Diane Vargo's office on Thursday with zip-tie handcuffs, according to a since-removed Instagram video. He and two friends accompanying him claimed the school broke the law when administrative officials told his kid to wear a mask and quarantine after potential exposure to COVID-19.
Wait, there’s more:
Kelly Walker, one of the men who backed up Rambaran, shared a video to Instagram that appeared to show him driving to the school.
"I'm headed to Mesquite Elementary School right now, where a friend just notified me and some others that his son was indiscriminately taken to the office to be quarantined because supposedly someone had decided he but not other kids in this classroom were exposed to COVID," he said.
"And they shoved a mask on his face, wouldn't let him call his parents, and now his dad is there," he continued. "The school is blatantly breaking the law, blatantly going against the will of the people. I think this community has expressed that they're not going to have this kind of bullying of our kids, these kinds of scare tactics."
So we have three dudes rolling up on an elementary school. Only one of them is a parent with a kid enrolled—the other two are just . . . backup? Muscle? They’ve got zip ties and they’re taking video and making demands and threatening a “citizens arrest.”
What’s important to understand here is that this isn’t a random event. This is the congealing of a bunch of stuff that’s in the air.
Kelly Walker—Mr. Instagram video from above—is big into right-wing culture:
[He] co-owns a coffee shop in Tucson with his wife and in-laws. The shop, which describes itself as “Tucson’s hub of Freedom and delicious coffee,” recently hosted a meet-and-greet with far-right author and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza. Next month, Walker, who compared Thursday’s elementary school dust-up to Rosa Parks’ struggle for equal rights, will be welcoming Matthew Lohmeier, a disgraced Space Force lieutenant colonel who was relieved of his post in May over a self-published book warning of an impending “white genocide” . . .
This is a week after a guy running for office in Pennsylvania got a bunch of press for threatening to confront and “remove” school boards by force:
And in Tucson, it’s not just these three guys. Here’s video of the principal from Mesquite Elementary reading some of the death threats she’s gotten.
In case you don’t have the stomach to watch, here’s a transcript:
Next time it will be a barrel pointed at your Nazi face. Following the guidance, you say? The Nazis were just following orders, too. Guess we will have to see what side you choose, the Americans or the Nazis. Remember, Tucson is a small community and you have a target on your back for enforcing unlawful orders.
Where do people get the idea that having students wear masks is like Nazi Germany?
"You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany," [Marjorie Taylor] Greene said. "And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about."
We’re only two weeks into the school year, but these incidents are bubbling up:
Florida man shows up to school to protest masks and take video of students. When a girl shoves his phone away, he assaults her.
Texas parent grabs mask from teacher’s face.
California parent goes on an anti-mask tirade and concludes by assaulting a teacher seriously enough that the teacher winds up in the hospital.
Pennsylvania school board member resigns after getting death threats from anti-maskers.
I don’t want to overstate the danger—it’s a big country. But at the same time, people ought to understand that a sizable portion of one political party—maybe 10 percent, maybe 20 percent, maybe 50 percent—is running around pouring gasoline and dropping matches.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and no one will get killed.
I mean, aside from the 648,779 people who’ve already died from COVID.
2. Coups Like Us
Things are not super great in Brazil right now.
First of all, Brazil has probably done worse with COVID than any developed country in the world. With a total population of only 211 million, 584,000 Brazilians have died from COVID so far. (That’s roughly 25 percent more total deaths than India, even though India has 5x the population.)
How did this happen? Because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ran a policy response to the pandemic that was disastrous.
Bolsonaro wasn’t just stupid, he was corrupt. There’s an ongoing investigation initiated by the Brazilian congress and blessed by the Brazilian supreme court. Impeachment proceedings may be in the offing. Anti-Bolsonaro protests have been happening.
Some of this may sound familiar, yes?
Bolsonaro is also at odds with the supreme court over the court’s attempt to safeguard Brazil’s democracy:
The court has authorized investigations of Bolsonaro allies for allegedly attacking Brazil's democratic institutions with misinformation online. He has called the court-ordered probes a violation of free-speech rights.
Congress and the courts also resisted Bolsonaro's attempt to introduce paper voting receipts as a backup of an electronic voting system, which he argues is vulnerable to fraud. The electoral court maintains the system is transparent and safe.
Bolsonaro's critics say he is sowing doubts so he can challenge the results of next year's election, which opinion polls now show him losing to former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva.
In response, Bolsonaro has called on his people to start their own counter-protests, starting today.
Here’s Bolsonaro saying the quiet part out loud:
Bolsonaro said on Friday the demonstrations would be an "ultimatum" to the Supreme Court justices who have taken "unconstitutional" decisions against his government.
Bolsonaro himself will be at the rallies.
How’s it going so far? Again: Maybe this sounds familiar, too?
Pre-dawn skirmishes have erupted between police and supporters of Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, as rightwing activists tried to force their way towards congress before major pro-government rallies that have put Latin America’s biggest democracy on edge.
Footage published by the Brasilia-based news website Metrópoles showed military police using pepper spray to repel a crowd of cheering Bolsonaristas in the early hours of Tuesday.
Officers can be seen wrestling with one demonstrator as the group attempted to break through a police blockade on the avenue leading to congress using lorries draped with Brazil’s yellow and green flag.
Other footage shows a police officer drawing his gun in an attempt to deter the mob and Bolsonaro supporters vowing to storm the supreme court. In one video a Bolsonaro supporter can be heard berating the police for blocking the protesters’ path. “God will make you pay for this. You communists!” she shouts.
It has come to this: America has created a template for other would-be dictators on how to overthrow democracy.
3. Jony Ive Pwned
I don’t know about you, but it was not a super-great weekend for me.1 So this is my make-you-smile contribution: Google absolutely crushing Apple. #aluminium
My Friday essay on why I’ve stopped writing about abortion prompted my last dozen conservative friends to turn on me for, in their telling, becoming pro-abortion. So far as I can tell, none of them actually read the piece. Concurrently, more than a couple readers wrote in to yell at me for being a paternalistic, anti-choice monster. Go figure.