Means “going in circles”
June 10th, 2022
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
When it comes to stuff like treason, sedition, resistance, whatever you want to call it, there is an old saying: “It is unwise to shoot at the King—and miss.” The logic is simple enough to follow: if you’re going to overthrow the government, make damned sure you have a solid shot at pulling it off, because kings (and governments in general) tend to take a dim view of insurrectionists. A real dim view. A “hang, draw and quarter” sort of dim view. There have been any number of revolutions in human history, and they rarely end well for the would-be revolutionaries. Even when they WIN it often goes poorly—Mao, Hitler, Lenin and Pol Pot conducted vast, murderous purges of their own in the wake of seizing control of their respective countries. It seems that if you’ve betrayed your country once, you are seen as a bit of a risk of being a repeat offender.
For all the romanticism and (sometimes) idealism, being a revolutionary is a shit way to make a living.
For these and other reasons (including the approbation of neighbors) most revolutionaries are fairly circumspect about being, well, revolutionaries. Not only do they have to deal with an unamused government, but social circumstances that foster rebellion usually foster deep schisms amongst the insurrectionists, with the result that your deadliest and most treacherous enemy might not be the palace guard, but the guy at the next table who is making IEDs for the Cause. There’s also the fact that it’s rare for more than a third of the general population to support revolution, and usually it’s a far lower percentage than that. Most people have jobs, families, some stability, and don’t want to trade it in for party proctors and kangaroo courts that need a steady stream of imagined enemies to paper over the failures of the new regime.
So it’s kind of unusual for the terminally disaffected to run around yelling that they’re out to overthrow the government and they’ve got the flags and bibles and guns to do it with. T’aint healthy to be sayin’ that sort of shit.
Until 21st century America, that is. Between Faux News and Donald Trump, the country got a special kind of revolutionary, a short bus rider with a big mouth and a small brain. These guys tended to run around saying stuff like “overthrow the government!” and even more puzzling, the ones smart enough to keep their yaps shut suffered having such loud fools in their ranks.
I was puzzled when I heard over the past few days that the Department of Justice had filed indictments of seditious conspiracy against a dozen or so leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. It wasn’t because I thought these two groups were innocent of such activities: it’s just that in the entire history of the country after Benedict Arnold, no government had made that sort of charge stick outside of war time. Proving intent is nearly impossible in most cases. So it’s rare. It’s very rare.
The first two hours of the January Sixth Select Committee hearings last night showed what an overwhelming case the government had against the leaders of those two groups. Not only did the committee have a plethora of emails and videos (!) and testimony showing clear and evident intent to assault Congress, but they showed that, contrary to the fiction that they were so worked up by Trump’s speech that they just got overenthused, they didn’t even hear the speech—they had already started their march on Congress before Trump started whipping up the crowd. The weapons and militia gear and so on? Oh, just the sort of stuff tourists usually carry, right?
The attack on Congress was premeditated and carefully planned. Subsequent hearings ought to tell us who the insurrectionists liaised with in the Trump administration.
The DOJ is carrying out a deft divide-and-conquer approach to Trump’s insurrection. Go after the brown shirt crowd first: that’s where you’ll find the biggest mouths and the smallest brains. The committee showed just how solid a case they have last night. They produced solid evidence that Trump knew his claims of an election steal were, in the words of Bill Barr, “bullshit” and dropped hints of similar proof of efforts to overthrow the election at the state level, and a bombshell leak that at least four Republican congressmen begged Trump for a pre-emptive pardon in order to avoid criminal culpability.
There’s an old Flemish proverb: “We must hang together or we shall all hang separately.” A similar quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but Franklin, like most good political theorists, pinched most of his juicier quotes. The Mob has its code, and street gangs have “Snitches get stitches.” The committee, and the DOJ are kicking apart any possible unity amongst Trump’s minions—not just the SA thugs in the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, but the inept clowns that Trump brought in to run the government in his name.
Everyone will be watching the committee over the next two weeks, of course. If the next five broadcasts are as sensational as this first one, then this will be the biggest story of its type in American history.
What makes this different from Teapot Dome or the attempted Putsch against FDR or Watergate is that the leaders of this mob don’t have enough brains to shut up and slink back into the shadows. Trump doesn’t think his followers are fools; he knows they are fools. But the drawback is that they don’t do subtle. So Trump has to tell them to keep taking bullets for the cause. Which exposes him, of course.
But that will only take him so far, especially since he routinely betrays his followers. (Including January 6th, when he promised his crowd he would lead them to the steps of Congress, and then sneaked off back to the West Wing to watch events unfold on television). Congress, and presumably the DOJ, are exploiting these weaknesses.
The committee meetings should remain utterly fascinating. But the really entertaining show is going to be amongst Trump’s supporters and followers, especially the ones who have been criminally complicit and are now feel as exposed as a no-pants-in-class nightmare. They are going to turn on one another, and that should make for an entertaining, if very messy show.
Don’t bother popping corn for this: just hold the bag up in front of the TV with the news on, and watch it pop itself.