Who Would You Shoot?
The right continues to fetishize political violence
In response to yesterday’s Morning Shots Rorschach Test about vaccine giveaways, I received more than 1100 emails. You people broke my inbox. But thank you! I’ll summarize your reaction in our special weekend newsletter.
The last resort?
American Greatness likes to think of itself as the “intellectual” home for MAGAWorld.
Despite its dalliance with raw racism, and a fetish for sedition, American Greatness’s roster of contributors includes such right-wing luminaries as Victor David Hanson, Seb Gorka, David Harsanyi, Conrad Black, Roger Kimball, Mark Bauerlein, Josh Hammer, Ned Ryun, Dennis Prager, and Salena Zito.
It also recently published an endorsement of military coups by a retired military guy with close ties to TrumpWorld.
So perhaps attention should be paid.
American Greatness’s latest offering is a piece headlined “Why I Need an AR-15,” by Daniel Gelernter (not to be confused with his non-crazy father, David.)
What the article lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in the specificity of its threat.
“The current administration in Washington, D.C. is not elected and is not legitimate,” Gelernter writes.
As if confirming this fact, they’ve surrounded themselves with barbed wire and soldiers carrying machine guns. In so doing they implicitly acknowledge the danger posed—to them—by an armed and angry population.
Which brings Gelernter back to his need for an AR-15.
“An AR-15 is not just a tool of last resort: It is a declaration that the last resort exists, a reminder that there are outer limits to the abuse of power.” (Emphasis added.)
To be sure, we’ve heard this sort of thing before. Second Amendment advocates have long insisted that we need guns to be able to fight back against an oppressive government.
But they’ve enjoyed the luxury of vagueness. They seldom have to explain exactly how they think their guns would be used to overthrow the government, or how it would go in a pitched battle between The Real Amurica and the U.S. Military (which has tanks, machine guns, rocket launchers, and fighter planes).
Nor does Gelernter explain how that would work out.
But it does not take any in-depth exegesis to recognize that he is directly linking the threat of armed insurrection to the Big Lie about the election. Gelernter flatly denies the legitimacy of President Biden, and therefore of the entire Administration.
The “last resort” is obviously armed insurrection, and the AR-15 would not simply be for show.
This raises some obvious questions:
In a violent insurrection using AR-15’s, who would Daniel Gelernter and his colleagues at AG shoot? Who would they be willing to kill?
Capitol Police Officers?
Secret Service Agents?
Members of the FBI?
Election Officials? Journalists?
Members of Congress?
The Vice President? The President?
Or is this just all cosplay and MAGA masturbation?
But at some point the rhetoric moves beyond cosplay to deadly reality. Today we get this. Via Reuters: “Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers.”
Election officials and their families are living with threats of hanging, firing squads, torture and bomb blasts, interviews and documents reveal. The campaign of fear, sparked by Trump's voter-fraud falsehoods, threatens the U.S. electoral system. …
Late on the night of April 24, the wife of Georgia’s top election official got a chilling text message: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.”
A week earlier, Tricia Raffensperger, wife of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had received another anonymous text: “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.”
That followed an April 5 text warning. A family member, the texter told her, was “going to have a very unfortunate incident.”
A few days ago, I wrote about the ongoing threat of coup-talk. But it is also worth remembering how the threat of political violence was building before January 6
Flashback to this newsletter on December 11, 2020:
There will be blood. Via Erick Erickson: “Activists Begin Doxxing GOP Officials for Assassination.”
A website went live this morning, but has already been deleted. However, whoever started the website has taken to various alt-right websites to circulate the private information of Republican officials in Georgia for attack. It appears explicitly designed to target them for assassination… the targets include Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Head of Voting for Georgia Gabe Sterling, and even employees of Dominion Voter Systems.
The website showed their private email address, home addresses, and pictures of their homes. Each target includes a gun sight marking over their heads.
Christian Vanderbrouk wrote about the “pro-insurrection intellectuals” who had helped lay the groundwork for political violence.
Published just days before the November presidential election, “The Police and Us” [also published in American Greatness] argued that it was time for conservatives to start “hurting cops.”
Alas, the Left has shown that hurting cops tends to make them your friends. Hence, if you want respect from police who you do not control, make sure you give them lively reasons to fear you.
Conservative activist Ned Ryun (who ironically served as a member of Trump’s Advisory 1776 Commission) wrote….
History tells us that at some point if a country cannot settle its differences like civilized people at the ballot box in a system they trust, they stop talking with ballots and start communicating with bullets. [Emphasis added]
In December I also wrote about a lawsuit by Chris Krebs, the former cybersecurity boss who was fired by Trump. The suit was a graphic warning about the danger of political violence and how it's already deforming Republican politics.
In great detail, Krebs' lawsuit lays out the reaction of social media users on the right-wing site Parler after he was labeled a "traitor."….
"Why waste a bullet, just smash his head in with rock," another user said. "If we make an example of one of these traitors then we might get rid of all the rats that are still hiding in the darkness," a third intoned. Around two dozen such messages were included in the filing.
Here’s more from the lawsuit, just to give you a flavor of the ugliness out there:
@Fixitwm posted: “Traitors that are treasonous should be shoot [sic]. No if about it!”
@Planejane37 posted: “He said you should be shot & I agree.”
@Spraguep36 posted: “Shoot him at dawn.”
@JHHenry2112 posted: “Can I pull the trigger??? Pretty please, please please please???”
Exit take: On the “intellectual right,” the guardrails continue to fall.
The more things change.
I had some thoughts:
The beating heart of the Republican Party is to embrace this Big Lie to cast doubt on the election, and to use that then as an excuse to change the laws. And as we’ve said before, we can roll our eyes and treat the Arizona audit as a joke, but a clown with a flamethrower still has a flamethrower.
And the danger of this is that this is spreading from state to state. And as those soundbites illustrate, you don’t actually need to have any evidence that there was a problem for the Republican governors and legislatures to embrace the Big Lie… There is no logical connection to it except that this is now become–this has now become gospel in the Republican Party. And it is not just Arizona.
ICYMI: The Boston Globe is making the case for prosecuting Trump. “Saving American democracy for the long run requires a clear condemnation of the Trump presidency,” the paper’s editorial board writes. “That means making clear that no one is above the law.”
Norms in a democracy are only as good as our willingness to enforce them.
After the precedent-busting, lawbreaking presidency of Donald Trump, Congress needs to pass new laws to constrain future officeholders. That’s the case the Globe has made in this series: curbs on the pardon power, safeguards against nepotism, broadening the power of Congress to investigate the president, protections for whistle-blowers, requirements that presidents make financial disclosures to root out conflicts of interest.
All of that is crucial to protect Americans against a repeat of the last four years.
But imposing stricter rules on future presidents, by itself, is clearly insufficient. Those presidents also need a clear message, one that will echo through history, that breaking the law in the Oval Office will actually be punished — that ethics policies and legal requirements, both the existing ones and those Congress will hopefully enact in the future, are more than just words on paper.
Trump’s presidency didn’t just expose glaring legal weaknesses: It also made clear that our institutions are incapable of holding presidents accountable for breaking even our existing laws. If Congress had played the role the Founders envisioned, by removing Trump from the presidency after his criminality became clear in the Ukraine affair, that might have been enough of a deterrent to scare future presidents straight. But lawmakers didn’t.
So now there is only one way left to restore deterrence and convey to future presidents that the rule of law applies to them. The Justice Department must abandon two centuries of tradition by indicting and prosecuting Donald Trump for his conduct in office.
1. Not My Party: Trump’s August Reinstatement Delusion
Trump is telling people he might be reinstated by August? Why do I have to do this? I thought we were rid of him. Can’t he just go away?
People love to say that we Never-Trumpers are obsessed with Donald.
And yeah, maybe I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how a racist game show host almost ended our democracy. Ya got me. But honestly I would give anything, anything for him to just go the f**k away. That way you and me, we could talk about something else. Like UFO’s. (Spooky.) Or Jokić. (MVP.) Or Olivia. (It’s a bop.) Or the infrastructure package. (Substantial.) But we can’t, because this a*****e won’t let go of the ghost like every other normal, responsible political loser in history.
2. The Ransomware Problem Shows That Russia Is Either a Rogue State or a Failed State
Kristofer Harrison in today’s Bulwark:
Any casual observer can see an increase in the operational tempo of ransomware attacks, as well as the increase in their ambition. Two of the most recent attacks—the Colonial Pipeline and the JBS meat producer attacks—were systemically important enough that they caused macroeconomic ripples for America. It does not take too much imagination to realize that these attacks, if not stopped, could cause political hiccups for the administration by putting a drag on the economy. They could even be used to interfere in future U.S. elections.
How many ransomware attacks do we need to witness before the Biden administration makes the uncomfortable connection that Putin’s Russia may not be all that dissimilar from the Taliban’s Afghanistan? Biden’s entire agenda for his upcoming Russia summit should be to give Putin a chance to give up the hackers, and to make clear that if he does not, the United States will take care of the threat—a process that will not spare Putin’s government.
I think we have a winner in today’s contest for Most Awkward Exchange on Cable Television.
Word salad politics.