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Six Takeaways from the Weirdest Two Weeks in Living Memory

I am reasonably confident that the presence of 20,000 troops in the streets of Washington will prove enough to get Joe Biden inaugurated tomorrow.

I am less confident that a selection of state capitals will see an outcome so felicitous. But then I live in Michigan, where our statehouse has already been defiled by the same menagerie of gun nuts, white supremacists, and religious cranks who’ve just gone national in such deranged fashion.

My own state attorney general, in a refreshing bit of candor, told us point blank: “The Michigan Capitol is not safe.”

Several days ago, I gave up trying to write a single coherent post about the most incoherent two weeks of my lifetime. Instead, I’m resorting to a sort of random spew — a fitting analogy for the last four years.

So, in no particular order, a few takeaways:

Defined by Stupid

Whoever heard of a popular uprising based entirely on lies and disinformation, without a shred of underlying factual content in evidence?

History usually insists that its insurrections cast light on some sort of real complaint demonstrable in the real world. Not here.

Six months ago, Trump said the election would be stolen by Democrats. He repeated it early enough and often enough, and sure enough it became the truth. It became toxic gospel for an astonishing number of people — people who couldn’t be more stupid if they’d been lobotomized at birth.

We liberals simply cannot get our brains around the bottomless stupidity we’re seeing.

The idiots who trashed the Capitol building are defined by stupid. Stupid follows them everywhere. Stupid oozes from their TVs, their computers, their phones — all day, every day.

Stupid tells them that downtrodden white people are discriminated against at every turn. That Democrats are running a ring of pedophiles. That Trump was sent by Jesus to save the constitution. That voting machines were programmed by Venezuelan communists. That Bill Gates is using the Covid vaccine to embed microchips in our bodies that will turn us all gay.

Stupidity is the overriding theme of the past two weeks — the core insight that unites everything.

The Trouble With Impeachment

Impeachment might be of great interest to history, but it’s a distraction in the here and now.

Other things are much more important. Who’s protecting the inauguration? Who’s guarding the state capitals? Who’s guarding the vaccine supply? Who’s watching for Russian hackers and Korean nukes? Which foreign power is going to poke us in the eye, knowing full well that our country is too corrupt, toothless, and morally compromised to mount a response?

But that’s looking ahead a week. We also need to look back. Who planned the riot? Who’s being arrested and charged? How many were off-duty cops? How many were on-duty cops? How many were congressmen? How many senators? Why was the vice president moved to a secure location, but the president wasn’t?

I understand the arguments for impeachment, and I’m okay with it, if for no other reason than to deny Trump the national intelligence briefings he’s entitled to as ex-president — which we all know he’d just sell. But for now, I care more about other things.

The President’s Twitterectomy

It was a medical miracle. Within minutes of Twitter excising Trump’s account, a few Republicans started growing spines. Stunted spines, to be sure, but we’ll take what we can get.

It would be reasonable to call this Twitterectomy a turning point in American political history.

It’s not just that we can now be spared Trump’s inane but incendiary tweets. It’s more that it frees craven Republicans from the longtime terror of retribution by tweetstorm — from Trump’s instant reaction to any sliver of truth slipping out in public.

Thus unencumbered, ten Republicans used their new spinal enhancements to admit that the election wasn’t stolen. Which is what passes for profiles in courage these days.

The rest of the Republican caucus remains spineless, falling back on muscle memory, continuing to spout the same lies they know get no traction in the world outside the Fox media bubble.

New Era in Security

Tomorrow, Inauguration Day, the media will revel in the faceoffs, standoffs, shows of force, insipid signage, and bad parodies of macho posturing. While these will produce a ton of anxiety, but probably not much actual violence, I’m thinking the most important weapon in the arsenal of the good guys won’t be guns, teargas, or flashbangs. It’ll be their phone cameras.

If I were the one deploying the forces guarding these buildings, I would dedicate more than a few troops to shooting as much video as possible. Capturing the faces of the insurgents will make it easy, in ways unprecedented, to identify and accumulate data about them. It might even deter them from doing something even more stupid than showing up.

This is, in its way, revolutionary. Technology now enables online sleuths to identify and track down people just from their images and social media history.

While the future implications of this are indeed scary, they would have been scary even without this defining moment. Yes, we’ll need to be cautious about using such tools going forward. Yes, putting them in the hands of governments, corporations, terrorist cells, or any other organization —  regardless of agenda — will surely have human rights implications forever.

But the tools are there. They can’t be un-invented. They can only be watched carefully.

The Rise of Self-Incrimination

Speaking of video, one of the odder developments to emerge from this whole sorry episode is the apparent willingness of idiots to provide visual evidence of their idiocy.

As terrorists go, these are not the best and the brightest. Real terrorists observe strict discipline — compartmentalizing information, enforcing need-to-know rules, restricting cell phone use, staying off social media, executing informers, and whatever else it takes to live underground for years, if necessary.

Our homegrown American terrorists, by contrast, telegraph their plans online, right down to the operational details. They dress up in stupid costumes that might as well say “Arrest me.” They spout outrageous gibberish that immediately identifies them as morons. And they dutifully send their videos up to the cloud, where friends and family can celebrate their criminality.

That they’re also sharing with the FBI seems not yet to have sunk in, but if this “movement” has any future, it’ll have to get more serious about tradecraft.

Meanwhile, all they’re doing is providing easily discoverable evidence for their own prosecution.

Who Was that Unmasked Man?

It’s also worth noting that for the first time in American history, the wearing of face coverings is not instantly associated with criminal behavior. For the first time, we can put on a mask, walk up to a bank teller, and raise no eyebrows whatsoever.

So think about the opportunity missed by these miscreants. They could have worn masks. It would’ve been seen as normal. More to the point, it would’ve made them harder to identify.

Instead, they went to “war” barefaced — wearing their MAGA hats, carrying their Trump flags, posing for cameras — all of which raised their chances of imminent exposure to law enforcement.

Not to mention Covid.


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