Devil and Angel

What starts with a big lie may have diabolical  consequences.

I understand there were a lot of decent people gathered in Washington Wednesday at the urging of the President with an assurance that things were sure to get “wild.” This was supposed to be a protest of the final congressional confirmation of Joe Biden as President and the formal passing of the presidential baton. This movement has been based on a big lie since even before the November election when Trump was cynically pumping up skepticism of the voting process— just in case he lost. He was covering his bases, not only as rationalization for losing but, more likely, so he could claim to prevail by a landslide, a boast increasingly important to him since losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

To this day, he still claims he won this time with zero factual evidence— and by a landslide at that. He kept telling the lie over and over again, a technique developed to ultimate effectiveness by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It incited a formerly democratic nation to do horrible things, leading to the mass extermination of Jews who were blamed for all the ills that had befallen Germany in the aftermath of World War I.

That’s how it works. Declare an enemy and then repeat it over and over, no matter how often the facts indicate otherwise. It requires manufacturing your own “alternative facts,” as coined by former Trump counselor, Kellyanne Conway. That has been the Trump formula, and it is no coincidence that he has alienated former allies and, at the same time, embraced dictatorial governments traditionally our enemies.

Enough about Trump. He has, at last, shown how dangerous he can be.

My concern is about the people who had stuck with the big lie, nurtured by chat rooms, discussion groups plotting sedition and far-right pseudo-patriotic websites to believe they are involved in some sort of pure cause to save America. Busloads of people from all over the United States, including my rural county, joined the huge convergence in D.C. Among them were elected state and local officials. Our group was led by municipal leaders, a county commissioner and, worst of all, a district attorney who was elected to enforce the law, not break it. Did any of them storm the Capitol, literally destroying property in doing so? I hope not, but they were there, and many of them came back speaking glowingly of the bonding experience they enjoyed with singing choirs and some really nice people.

I’m sure there were nice people there. I know a few of them. Some were sincere in their mission, because they have fallen prey the Trump’s big lie, bolstered by the Proud Boys, Q’Anon and other right-wingers vowing to take back America. They have labeled faithful supporters of American Democracy and the system that makes it work as the real traitors because we are somehow going along or subverted by this huge unproven and improbable conspiracy. It is unproven, they contend, because it is so deep and so masterfully orchestrated. The less you can prove, the deeper the conspiracy. You can’t win that argument.

Committed as they were to their cause when they made that ill-advised expedition to the heart of our government, apparently to interfere with, discredit and somehow override confirmation and “take back the steal,” they were quick to blame anyone but themselves for what happened.

The “Antifa response” was suddenly all over the social media, starting in the early morning hours, and it was clear where these apologists were getting their facts— from far-right websites, pseudo-journalists and commentators.

If they were ever interested in the truth, the time is now after this dangerous demonstration, seemingly intent on overthrow, to sit back and do something we all should be doing. Educate ourselves and go to nonpartisan fact-checkers who expose falsehoods incubated and disseminated by liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. It’s not about our opinions. It’s about the facts we use to fashion our opinions. The choice of the word “fashion” is not accidental. One of the problems is we can still come up with different opinions based on the same facts, but facts are still the best place to start.

It supports the oft-quoted Isaac Asimov statement: “My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” It’s an anti-intellectualism and fractured definition of democracy that seem to prevail among much of our population, especially among my generation, the angry old white guys (not exclusive to males).

Fault-Finders Refuse to Include Themselves

So within hours of the wholesale condemnation of the Wednesday sedition, unconvinced Trump supporters were blaming the bad stuff on Antifa (anti-fascist), the far left equivalent of the Proud Boys. One source of this was an item in the politically conservative Washington Times headlined, “Facial recognition firm claims Antifa infiltrated Trump protestors who stormed capitol.” That firm was XRVision. The item that was quickly scooped up by apologists to divert blame for the take-back-the-steal protest that careened off the rails.

Then there was a Tweet the next morning by Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who made this claim:

“Please, don’t be like #FakeNewsMedia, don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol. Wait for investigation. All may not be (and likely is not) what appears. Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics,” — Brooks tweeted Jan. 7.

And now the blame-someone-else game was off and running.

On Thursday morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took to Facebook to proclaim that the people who overtook the Capitol were members of Antifa, not Trump supporters.

“Those who stormed the capitol yesterday were not Trump supporters. They have been confirmed to be Antifa,” Paxton, who unsuccessfully challenged the results of the Pennsylvania election, wrote. “Violence is not the answer.”

Paxton’s source of information was the Washington Times article. By Thursday morning, Trump apologists were inspired to push this alleged conspiracy on their respective Facebook pages.

Their justification? It came down to the following.

“Not our fault. We were just there for fellowship and to listen to music and speeches when these Commie liberals slithered in, pretended to be us, got us all fired up and turned us into an unruly mob.”

One problem, other than the inanity of that excuse. XRVision’s supposed facial recognition of two of rioting protestors as Antifa never happened. What they did identify were individuals associated with “two known Nazi organizations.” The company demanded a correction from the newspaper and got one that fell a little short. They replaced Antifa with “extremists” in their retraction.

In the midst of all this, there was an unsubstantiated report by Paul Sperry, who hyped the false Washington Times article across the internet. He claimed to receive a text from an undercover FBI informant confirming “at least one ‘bus load’ of Antifa thugs infiltrated peaceful demonstrators.”

By the way, the most visible among the Capitol invaders, the shirtless dude with painted face and horns, was quickly labeled by protest apologists as Antifa. Fact checkers revealed his name was Jake Angeli, also known as “Q’Anon Shaman.” A Shaman is defined as a medicine man or “a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world… who practices magic or sorcery for purpose of healing, divination and control over natural events.” Healing was apparently the furthest thing from his alleged mind on Wednesday.

The point is that the Antifa argument does not hold water and is just another strand in a collapsing web of lies used to justify what has been a relentless attack on our democracy. It is also another example of a lie that keeps on growing and, with or without Trump, it will continue to threaten, as declared in the old Superman intro, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”