Sunday, March 07, 2021

Declaring An "Armed Insurrection" Empowers The State To Employ Military Force Against Citizens

greenwald |  Perhaps the most significant blow to the maximalist insurrection/coup narrative took place inside the Senate on Thursday. Ever since January 6, those who were not referring to the riot as a “coup attempt” — as though the hundreds of protesters intended to overthrow the most powerful and militarized government in history — were required to refer to it instead as an “armed insurrection.”

This formulation was crucial not only for maximizing fear levels about the Democrats’ adversaries but also, as I’ve documented previously, because declaring an “armed insurrection” empowers the state with virtually unlimited powers to act against the citizenry. Over and over, leading Democrats and their media allies repeated this phrase like some hypnotic mantra:

But this was completely false. As I detailed several weeks ago, so many of the most harrowing and widespread media claims about the January 6 riot proved to be total fabrications.

A pro-Trump mob didnot bash Office Brian Sicknick’s skull in with a fire extinguisher. No protester brought zip-ties with them as some premeditated plot to kidnap members of Congress (two rioters found them on a table inside). There’s no evidence anyone intended to assassinate Mike Pence, Mitt Romney or anyone else.

Yet the maximalist narrative of an attempted coup or armed insurrection is so crucial to Democrats — regardless of whether it is true — that pointing out these facts deeply infuriates them. A television clip of mine from last week went viral among furious liberals calling me a fascism supporter even though it did nothing but point out the indisputable facts that other than Brian Sicknick, whose cause of death remains unknown, the only people who died at the Capitol riot were Trump supporters, and that there are no known cases of the rioters deliberately killing anyone

(Two FBI operatives have since anonymously leaked that it is looking at a “suspect” who may have engaged with Sicknick in a way that ultimately contributed to his death. But nothing still is known; Sicknick’s mother claims he died of a stroke while his brother says it was from pepper spray; and all of this is worlds away from the endlessly repeated media claim that a bloodthirsty pro-Trump mob savagely bashed his head in with a fire extinguisher.)

What we know for sure is that no Trump supporter fired any weapon inside the Capitol and that the FBI seized a grand total of zero firearms from those it arrested that day — a rather odd state of affairs for an “armed insurrection,” to put that mildly. In questioning from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Thursday’s hearing, a senior FBI official, Jill Sanborn, acknowledged this key fact:

 (The “one lady” who died referred to by this FBI official was Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed Trump supporter who was killed when she was shot point blank in the neck inside the Capitol on January 6 by an armed Capitol Police Officer).

The key point to emphasize here is that threats and dangers are not binary: they either exist or they are fully illusory. They reside on a spectrum. To insist that they be discussed rationally, soberly and truthfully is not to deny the existence of the threat itself. One can demand a rational and fact-based understanding of the magnitude of the threat revealed by the January 6 riot without denying that there is any danger at all.

Those who denounced the excesses of McCarthyism were not insisting that there were no Communists in government; those denouncing the excesses of the Clinton administration’s attempts to seize more surveillance power after the Oklahoma City courting bombing were not denying that some anti-government militias may do violence again; those who objected to the protracted and unhinged assault on civil liberties by the Bush/Cheney and Obama administrations after 9/11 were not arguing that there were no Muslim extremists intent on committing violence.

The argument then, and the argument now, is that the threat was being deliberately inflated and exaggerated, and fears stoked and exploited, both for political gain and to justify the placement of more and more powers in the hands of the state in the name of stopping these threats. That is the core formula of authoritarianism — to place the population in a state of such acute fear that it acquiesces to any assertion of power which security state agencies and politicians demand and which they insist are necessary to keep everyone safe.