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The Numbskullduggery of the Capitol Rioters

I don’t often make up words, or approve of those who do. But “numbskullduggery” was irresistible.

It came to me as I was thinking about the numbskulls who stormed the Capitol on January 6, as the dirt on them continues to populate the news cycles. So far, everything I’ve heard confirms what I thought from the start. These were mostly brainwashed losers, up to the kinds of mischief losers get up to, but on a much larger stage.

Yes, some were organized, though not very well. Yes, some were armed, but hadn’t thought through the consequences. Yes, some had military training, but don’t seem to have been very good at it.

In other words, numbskullduggery says it all. These guys were not ready for prime time.

And when I say “guys,” I’m being gender-neutral. This was an equal-opportunity idiocy, and some of the women who’ve been implicated make me question my assumptions of female superiority. Some of these ladies are right up there on the numbskull-meter with their male counterparts, even though — if I may generalize — they seem to carry fewer weapons. I guess that’s a plus, at least in terms of the sentencing guidelines.

How numbskullduggerous were these guys? Let’s do a quick risk/reward analysis:

On the risk side, they risked their own money. They traveled to DC, so they had to get there, stay there, eat a few meals, then get home — and DC isn't cheap. Some had to scrape the cash together. Some probably missed work. Some were fired from their jobs shortly thereafter.

They also risked Covid, though most probably didn’t give that a thought. Is there a correlation between the numbskulls’ hometowns and any infection spikes two weeks later? I bet the data exists.

Finally, a few lucky ones risked lengthy prison terms, though again it’s not clear that this risk was considered going in.

So all told, the risks were high. The rewards, however, were pathetic. Actually, they were zero.

For all the numbskullduggery, exactly nothing was accomplished. They didn’t stop the certification. They didn’t take over the government. They didn’t install Trump as dictator. They didn’t secure presidential pardons for themselves. They didn’t capture or kill any congresspeople. They didn’t hang Mike Pence. And Trump didn’t pick up their legal bills.

They did succeed in running up costs — enormous sums of money that will have to come from our taxes. And theirs.

No matter how you look at it, it was a stellar underachievement.

And it was oddly open-ended, for a supposedly military operation. It wasn’t dispersed by an opposing force. The “captured” territory wasn’t held more than an hour or two. The whole thing just petered out, with all the “insurgents” retreating. It must’ve been dinnertime.

While the ineptitude was remarkable, ineptitude only partly explains it. Mostly, they didn’t accomplish their goals because there weren’t any goals to begin with. No goals, no plan, no logic, no manifesto, no philosophical underpinning, no vision of a better tomorrow.

But in the absence of these things, there was an amazingly effective Donald Trump swindle — the best since Bernie Madoff. They all bought in — literally, with their credit cards — to the big lie, to the make-believe election theft. That lie was all they had to know about objectives, strategy, and tactics. It was never about anything but Trump, specifically about his flimflam PAC, which is still taking in donations at record levels.

It’s this remarkably transparent stupidity that goes a long way, I think, toward explaining why we were all so unprepared — not just the police, the whole country.

I think we all had a collective failure of imagination. Much like 9/11. We were all taken by surprise because we didn’t take the threat seriously.

We were all aware of the possibilities. The stories were out there. Social media was buzzing. Mainstream media was talking about it a week before the attack. Everybody knew numbskulls were converging on DC. But we underestimated their stupidity.

Even those of us who could imagine the worst didn’t think these guys had it in them. We just assumed there would be some sort of loud demonstration. That they’d proclaim whatever drivel they needed to proclaim. And then they’d go away.

It wasn’t that we — or the FBI or the Capitol police or the DC police — didn’t see it coming. It’s that we dismissed it as bullshit.

And it was. It was bullshit from start to finish. It was guys loaded up on testosterone. Guys with guns, zip-ties, and a social media swagger to live up to. This was not ISIS or Al Qaeda. There was no grand crusade, and nobody willing to die for one. There was only a Trump con, fueled by the macho rhetoric of guys who spend too much time with Fox News. Guys too dense to see how they’ve been played, both by Trump and the whole Republican party.

Which is not to say their threat isn’t real — stupidity has a strong tradition in American history. We’ll need to pay more attention going forward. And we’ll need to keep spending taxpayer money to protect elected officials, government personnel, and public property for some time to come.

But that’s only because these fools have tactical weapons and a modicum of military skills. Not because they have any groundswell of support.

There’s no simmering population looking to topple the current government. Not with that government sending out $1,400 checks to everybody — including the numbskulls. Not with that government rolling out vaccinations at breakneck speed, so we can get this damn virus off everyone’s backs — including the numbskulls.

So I don’t think the threat is sustainable. As Trump wanes in stature — which is inevitable — the numbskulls will find themselves all dressed up with nowhere to go. The macho posturing and the pretense of a rigged election can only go so far. It was always a weak position, and it will only get weaker with time.

Meanwhile, there’s something about the words “twenty-year felony count” that focuses the mind. Or at least it should. With the coming flood of arraignments and indictments, we’ll be looking at a new national pastime. We’ll be able to follow all our favorite numbskulls as they engage, first with the law enforcement community, then with the judicial and penal systems.

The lesson here is pedestrian, but these guys seem to have dedicated their lives to not learning it:

Numbskullduggery does not pay.

 

Comments

  1. I believe you have coined a synonym for "nincompoopery."

    ReplyDelete
  2. What these numbskulls did on January 6 came closer to overturning the election results than anything anyone else did between Election Day and Inauguration Day. We don't know anything like the full story of what Trump and his WH team was doing that day to parlay the actions of these numbskulls into something useful to them.

    I doubt that Trump spent the several hours of the occupation of the Capitol reading the Analects of Confucius. So far publicly, we know of two brief snippets of conversations that Trump had, one with Tuberville, and another with McCarthy, but it seems breathtakingly unlikely that no one else called him those 3-4 hours in order to get him to do something about the insurrection. Just the snippet of the McCarthy phone call we know about, that Trump upbraided him because the numbskulls seemed to care more about stopping the steal than McCarthy did, sure sounds like a negotiating point. "Do x, y, and z, and I will call off my faithful dog patriots." It is entirely possible, and seems to me the most likely explanation of the failure of the numbskulls to do much to exploit their occupation of the Capitol, that they were instructed not to do more than they did, until further orders, and those orders never materialized until in the end their handlers told them to just go home.

    Sure, those foot soldiers were idiots and numbskulls. You need people who believe absurdities to commit your atrocities, and the sort of people who believe absurdities can prove lacking in general common sense and specific tactical skills. But we are far from a position to understand the outcome that day as resulting from their tactical failure, vs the strategy of the people directing them keeping them from doing more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points, and I look forward to hearing which WH people were involved in issuing or not issuing those orders (Mike Flynn?). But I think you're giving everybody too much credit. I don't think there was any real plan at any point, least of all by Trump. He was just the pyromaniac, setting fires so he could stare at the flames. If they'd succeeded in taking the Capitol (a) there's no way they could've held it even for a night, and (b) Trump had no clue what the next step was even if they succeeded. As Lawrence O'Donnell asked just last night, "Were they crazy or stupid or both?"

      Delete
  3. These were all a bunch of Trump’s catchfarts. I didn’t invent the word “catchfart”; I found it one day while browsing through my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s defined as a lackey or servant, so-called because of the customary habit of walking behind the master.

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