Whereof One Can Speak 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦

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Would an Assassination Help?

According to news reports, someone violently assaulted Paul Pelosi, the 82-year old husband of Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House (who is second in line for the presidency). Mr. Pelosi survived, but got a fractured skull and other injuries. The person arrested for the assault appears to have been seriously delusional:

The San Francisco Bay area man arrested in the attack on … Nancy Pelosi’s husband filled a blog a week before the incident with delusional thoughts, including that an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird, according to online writings under his name.

[He] also published hundreds of blog posts in recent months sharing memes in support of fringe commentators and far-right personalities. Many of the posts were filled with screeds against Jews, Black people, Democrats, the media and transgender people [Washington Post].

We can assume the attacker was intending to injure or assassinate Nancy Pelosi, since he apparently asked her husband “Where’s Nancy?” She wasn’t there, she was in Washington. But that’s probably why her husband was allowed to go to the bathroom, where he happened to be charging his phone. That allowed him to call 911. The 911 operator then heard conversation between Pelosi and the other man. That led the operator to alert police, who responded within a couple minutes and witnessed the assault [Politico]. I suppose, understanding that Nancy Pelosi wasn’t there, and seeing that he was about to be arrested, it seemed like a good idea to eliminate Pelosi’s husband instead.

Nancy Pelosi has been demonized for years by the Republican Party and right-wing propaganda outlets like Fox News (Vox has an historical summary). It’s not surprising that somebody who’s been told over and over that a powerful woman, in league with various dark forces, wants to destroy America decided he had to do something about it. Given the intensity of right-wing attacks on Democratic politicians in recent years, it is surprising that there haven’t been more assaults and assassination attempts.

One question this episode raises is whether the assassination of a high-level official like Nancy Pelosi or President Biden would tone down right-wing rhetoric. Could it even break the hold of the most extreme Republicans on their party? Would it be a sufficient shock to the system that some voters — possibly the so-called “moderates” who have trouble deciding which party to support — would turn away from the Republican Party?

For a time, people thought the January 6th assault on the Capitol was bad enough to make people switch sides. But it doesn’t seem to have had that effect (otherwise the polls wouldn’t be so close). For one thing, the insurrectionists walking the halls calling out to Nancy Pelosi weren’t able to find her and bludgeon her to death. They didn’t find Vice President Pence, one of their other targets, either.

The early indications are that Friday’s attempt to maim or kill the Speaker of the House by someone steeped in right-wing propaganda won’t have much of an effect. An alternate reality is already being created:

An online forum devoted to former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s right-wing radio show alerted its 78,000 subscribers to “very strange new details on Paul Pelosi attack.”

Roger Stone … took to the messaging app Telegram to call the assault on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband an “alleged attack,” telling his followers that a “stench” surrounded mainstream reporting about the Friday break-in….

The skepticism didn’t stay in right-wing echo chambers but seeped also into the feeds of popular online personalities, including Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk.

“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” he wrote Sunday morning, pointing his 112 million followers to a sensationalist account of the episode published by a site known for spreading right-wing misinformation. 

The rush to sow doubt about the assault on Pelosi’s husband illustrates how aggressively influential figures on the right are seeking to dissuade the public from believing facts about the violence, seizing on the event to promote conspiracy theories and provoke distrust….

These merchants of misinformation, said Carl Cameron, a former longtime Fox News political correspondent, deceive their massive audiences using rumors and lies about everything from the integrity of elections to the details of a police report. “They are creating a dystopia wherein lying and physical violence become part of our politics,” he said.

Dinesh D’Souza … aired falsehoods and innuendo in a viral Twitter thread suggesting the attack on Paul Pelosi was a form of intentional misrepresentation sometimes referred to as a “false flag”…. “The Left is going crazy because not only are we not BUYING the wacky, implausible Paul Pelosi story but we are even LAUGHING over how ridiculous it is,” he wrote early Sunday morning. “What this means is that we are no longer intimidated by their fake pieties”….

Musk [Twitter’s new owner] also appeared unconvinced by the official story… In response to a tweet from Hillary Clinton condemning the attack and claiming it resulted from “hate and deranged conspiracy theories” spread by Republican politicians, he pointed instead to a story in the Santa Monica Observer claiming without evidence that Paul Pelosi was drunk at the time of the assault and “in a dispute with a male prostitute.” Musk, who later deleted the tweet, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The website of the Santa Monica Observer, described by fact-checkers as a low-credibility source favoring the extreme right, was offline Sunday morning. But an archived version of the story promised to explain “what really happened early Friday morning in San Francisco”. It unspooled a lurid tale about nudists and a tryst gone terribly wrong….

Apart from our personal experience, we all learn by paying attention to trusted sources of information. If your sources of information are corrupt, you get a skewed view of reality. That’s why it will take more than an attack on the Capitol or a botched assassination attempt — or something of world-historical importance like the climate crisis — to change some people’s minds.

His Future and Ours

Salon interviewed George Conway, a Republican lawyer married to the infamous Kellyanne Conway (press secretary in the former administration) and who became known as an ex-Republican critic of the ex-president. I had a reaction to his closing comments.

How do we balance political expediency versus legal necessity? The law takes time, but [the former president] is an imminent danger to American society right now. Something needs to be done, and we are running out of time. 

At the end of the day, we have to follow the legal system and apply it evenhandedly — but that should be done as expeditiously as possible. The Justice Department has clearly come around to that understanding. They are now expanding their investigations of Jan. 6, [his] other alleged crimes and related matters at the highest levels. I don’t think it’s going to take them very long to put together a case on the classified documents. And I don’t think they have a choice, even if they wanted to resist prosecuting him. It’s going to be sooner rather than later. [He] could easily be under both federal and state indictment at some point between Election Day [Nov. 8] and New Year’s Day.

What do you think is going to happen with these criminal cases? Does he take a plea bargain? There’s this fantasy among some liberal folks that [he] does a perp walk and goes to prison. I don’t see that happening. If anything, [he] pays fines and takes a plea deal. Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice will not put a former president in prison. 

I don’t believe that [he] is going to plea bargain. I think he could go to prison, but it is more likely that he will serve home confinement. In all likelihood, he will be convicted of multiple felonies. I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a perp walk, but I don’t think it’s a fantasy either. There’s a good chance that [he] will end up with a felony conviction. I know he has cut deals in civil cases, but that’s just writing checks. To reiterate, I do not believe that [he] will plead out. This all goes so much to the core of [his] identity that he will try to tear the country apart before he settles one of these criminal cases.

That is a powerful statement. 

[He] will incite violence on his behalf. He will try to pretend it is something spontaneous. Does [he] have enough power and influence over his followers to threaten the republic? I don’t think so. But I do think it’s enough to be dangerous.

What are you most concerned about? And what, if anything, are you hopeful about, regarding the country’s future?

What keeps me up at night is the violence that [he] could potentially cause. The danger of violence will increase as the 2024 election approaches. What gives me hope is that the legal reckoning is coming…. I am hopeful that the American people will be so exhausted by this whole saga that they will be drawn toward all the things that tie us together as a nation and people. Of course we may disagree with one another, and do so passionately. But in the end we are all Americans, and we have more in common than divides us. I hope we can get back to that and heal….

First, nothing keeps me up at night except the desire to stay up.

More importantly, when the former president is finally indicted somewhere, the authorities will let him show up with his lawyers and hear the charges. He won’t ever be in handcuffs or a cell. If he accepts a deal or is convicted, he’ll get house arrest, not prison, and then may leave the country.

Right-wing violence is always a threat (much more than left-wing or Islamic violence) but my biggest short-term concern is that Republicans will do well-enough in upcoming elections, either legally or illegally (by ignoring the results), that — with the help of radical reactionaries on the Supreme Court — they’ll consolidate minority rule. They’ll change the laws in enough states to make it very hard for them to lose (and the laws to be changed back). Add that to their built-in advantages in the Senate and Electoral College and elections won’t matter much.

The only hope I have is that once enough members of my generation die off, fewer voters will watch network or cable TV and be misled by right-wing and corporate propaganda or local news that “leads with what bleeds”.

My longer-term concern (although it becomes shorter all the time) is the climate crisis and the many ways a warmer climate will affect life on Earth. But it doesn’t keep me up at night.

On that subject, however, here’s an article from the MIT Press called “How to Fix Climate Change (A Sneaky Policy Guide)”:

We may already have a “miracle” fix for climate change. [It’s] a planetary emergency. We have to do something now — but what? Saul Griffith, an inventor and renewable electricity advocate (and a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant), has a plan. In his book “Electrify,” Griffith lays out a detailed blueprint for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment. Griffith’s plan can be summed up simply: Electrify everything. He explains exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid, and adapt our households to make this possible. Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on a private rocket ship to Mars, but the rest of us, Griffith says, will stay and fight for the future….
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