Capitol Riots: Anatomy of a Catastrophe II – Electoral Boogaloo

Editor’s note: this piece is bleak so we’re going to soften this up a bit with memes. It’s not going to help any, but we can say we tried.

What the actual fuck, America? I thought I was done. Once was enough, more than enough, really. I never thought I’d have to do this again, but here we are. This is your fault, so fuck everyone and here we go!

Not Again…

aT LeAsT hE’s tAKinG a sTAnd…

We just can’t have nice things, can we? Unless you have been literally trapped  beneath an actual rock for the last few days, you know what happened in our nation’s capital last week. Let’s pretend you don’t know so I can sum it up here: On January 6th, a bunch of intellectual amoebas stormed the US Capitol building and tore the shit out of it. They did this while our elected legislators sat down for the largely formal and symbolic task of certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. It’s not enough that the behavior accomplished nothing beyond embarrassing the US as a nation and highlighting just how poorly a large chunk of us understand how a democratic republic works. No. That’s merely humiliating. The tragedy is that actual people died. People that did not need to die, and people that did not deserve to die. It makes precisely zero difference how you feel about the politics or positions of the dead people, because they are dead. What matters is that our society and culture continues to fail so badly that stupid people have to die stupidly to reinforce how stupid we all are.

Let’s break this thing down, shall we?

In The Beginning…

Where to start? I suppose we should start where the problem really began. No, not the moment Cain slugged Abel over the cost of universal health care. We’ll begin with the 2020 United States Presidential Election. This was a real barn-burner, folks. The Democrats fielded their least-offensive cardboard cutout of a politician while the Republicans doubled down on their… well, whatever he is. I dunno, Vaudeville act? Cartoon character? Whatever.

Just like every other election in my lifetime, most of us did our duty as patriots and citizens. We marched out to the polls, closed our eyes, held our noses, and reluctantly made the selection we felt would result in the least horrific outcome. Well, a lot of us mailed it in this time, literally and figuratively. Anywho, we voted, the votes got counted, and the cardboard cutout won. It all really could have ended there. It should have. But it didn’t, because we are fucking stupid.

Failure #1: It’s Only Cheating if You Cheat

Target Sisters Riot

Even before the polls closed that fateful Tuesday in November, there was a great disturbance in the force. It was as if millions of idiots cried out all at once, and then they never shut the hell up. Accusations of voter fraud surfaced in many important districts that went for the Democrats. Almost all the tales were outlandish and easily dismissed by those who understood the process or took the time to examine the claims with a critical eye. A few warranted a closer look before being dismissed as spurious. Unfortunately for the United States, many (oh-so-goddamn-many) people were simply unwilling or unable to believe that a faded two-dimensional photocopy of a statesman was capable of winning a fair election against their demagog- er -candidate.

When the dust of election night settled (quite a few interminable days later), a huge chunk of the population just plain refused to accept what the rest of the country, nay, the world, already knew.

Mighty Donald had struck out.

If the drama ended there, the clusterfuck in DC doesn’t get to happen. But the drama most definitely did not end there.

Failure #2: Let it GO, Elsa.

Donald Trump is many things to many people. To some, he is a mere philanderer and cad. To others, he is a shrewd businessman. Though there is some debate about that. Okay, even his own tax returns show he’s a pretty lousy businessman. What is relevant to the asshattery that went on at the Capitol is this: much of the country thinks he is exactly what we need to become great as a nation once more. To be fair, that is a good thing to have if you want to run for president. As far as his candidacy was concerned, he was well-positioned. He was elected fair and square in 2016. Pretending that his victory in 2016 was a fluke or that he was not “your” president doesn’t make you smart or woke, either. That shit happened. Work through it like an adult. Lots of folks still support him today because what he says resonates with many of your friends and neighbors. If you can’t handle that like a grown up, you’re part of the problem.

What Donald Trump is not, is a graceful loser. Trump’s reaction to the election result was redolent of a tween who just found out that their favorite YouTube celebrity has been banned for using the N-word in the middle of a rant about Fortnite dancing. He screamed an inarticulate stream of invective, stamped his feet, and declared, “This is bullshit! It’s a conspiracy against me!”

Dear Boomers, this is a person that does exist, but you don’t really need to know beyond that. Call him “Mister Nintendo” if you want, that’s fine.

From that day hence, enormous piles of money have been spent attempting to prove that the election process in many key districts was either woefully broken or deliberately subverted by vile Democratic ninjas. To that effect, Trump and his crack team of legal experts have attacked the election results with stacks of evidence detailing the failings endemic to those districts where he lost. Well, not exactly ‘stacks.’ More like… well… none. Seriously. I want to be as fair as possible on this because objectivity is important to maintaining my extremely cynical worldview. Trump’s own people, in their own public filings, have yet to produce ANY evidence that even a single district he lost experienced fraud on any level. Here’s his actual legal scorecard:

For the record, “Appeal ongoing” means he lost and is trying again. “Denials” refers to all the cases where the judge looked at the documents and laughed in his face.

I’m going to hit this one more time so it sticks: Trump has spent millions of dollars trying to get a single fraud case to stick, and to date ZERO evidence has been presented. Literally zero. Trump has been laughed out of the courtroom in some cases. As is his nature, Trump has not let unvarnished reality affect his assertions. No quantity of humiliating court losses has fazed, shaken, or even altered the unending refrain of “Election Fraud” from Trump. If he had either the sense or the dignity to accept the evidence of his own eyes, then the riot in DC would never have occurred.

Failure #3: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

Cribbing a line from “Men in Black” for this one. It’s appropriate. 

Donald Trump’s insistence on the presence of voter fraud culminated with a speech he made to his supporters on the day congress was to certify the election results. He stepped out just before noon, and gave a rousing (rambling?) address to his assembled admirers where he exhorted them to march on the Capitol building and said things like:

“You will never take back your country with weakness… you need to show strength…you have to be strong.”

“We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue… and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… our Republicans, the weak ones… the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

Just what the chocolate-frosted fuck does that even mean? I don’t think even Donald knows for sure. He was just sort of spitting out poorly formulated word salad filled with bits of rhetorical flotsam. I mean, that’s always been a big part of his mystique. But for the crowd of angry, enthusiastic, and extremely stupid people in attendance, this could mean only one thing: The moment had arrived. The hour was at hand. The days of talking were over and it was now time to PEACEFULLY PROTEST!

Yeah, right. They went apeshit.

Whether he understood what he was doing or not, Donald Trump’s speech was merely the last ingredient in a powerful cocktail. He spent months whipping his followers into a frenzy over fictitious election fraud claims, and then with a few poorly-constructed sentences he flung the frenzied and frothing mass of blind followers into the streets of DC. Did he want a riot? I can’t really say and neither can you. I’m not sure he understood what he was doing, and his subsequent back-pedaling is not a good look. Either way, if he had kept his great orange corn-hole shut, the whole country would be better off right now.

Failure #4: Hypocrisy… It’s Not Just For Politicians

So… you have a mob of angry and unruly protestors marching toward the hallowed halls of government. What do you do? You call in the cops, the national guard, and everyone else you can and you deter those folks from taking their grievances into places that aren’t safe. It’s civil safety policy one-oh-one, right? I’d like to say that this is what happened in DC. But we all know that’s not true. In America, it seems, riot police, water cannons, tear gas, and flash bang grenades are what you do when BLACK people protest. When it’s a predominantly WHITE angry mob you let them go wherever the fuck they want, it seems.

After a long summer of protests-cum-riots across this great nation, I find myself physically incapable of extending my middle finger hard enough to express my frustration and rage over that hideous, disgusting, pants-shittingly illustrative example of how much work we still have to do as a society. If you think for one second an angry mob of BLM protestors (who don’t have a great track record of peaceful protesting themselves… sorry folks. That’s a fact.) would have made it to the steps of the Capitol unopposed you are not living in the same country I am. 

Let’s make a few things clear: Protesting is awesome. Civil disobedience can be a gray area. Rioting is a goddamn crime for a good goddamn reason. You wanna bring your grievances into the street so the lawmakers know you mean business? Great. You want to loot somebody’s liquor store? You want to burn down the Arby’s on the corner? You want to maybe kick down the doors of congress? Well then, assholes, you’ve crossed a damn line. It’s a good and fair line, too. It’s a line we all agreed on a long time ago. It’s called insurrection.

So where was law enforcement during all this? Well, DC Metro PD was on the job, so was Capitol security. They were horribly outnumbered, of course. And thus easily overrun by the throngs of “protestors.” Where was the National Guard and other federal agencies, then? You know, like they were in Portland or in Kenosha?

Sigh.

The mayor of DC begged for the national guard’s assistance, that much we know for sure. In DC, the national guard is under the purview of the Department of Defense who answers to… well… who the hell do you think the DoD answers to? That’s right, the president. Right now the Pentagon and DC officials are in a furious finger-pointing match over exactly why the DC guard took so damn long to show up. In defense of the DoD and Trump, it appears some of the blame rests with the mayor of DC’s inability to phrase the request with any clarity. It turns out shouting “We need help!” into the phone and hanging up is not particularly stellar leadership. It also looks like DC refused earlier offers of assistance from the Guard which left them out of position to respond. This has not stopped a lot of folks from claiming that Donald trump himself prevented the National Guard from responding, though as time passes it’s looking like this is merely the bleating of angry Democrats. The full complement of Guard members were eventually deployed on January 6th, far too late to stop the unfolding catastrophe, sure. But it’s starting to look like this was the result of administrative gamesmanship and partisan bullshit from every side. Which is not a good look for any of us.

In any event, a strong and organized law-enforcement presence would not have struggled in keeping the protesters out of the Capitol, and likely would have left us with nothing more than an amusing news story about some protestors in downtown DC.

Failure #5: Stupid Should Hurt, Not Kill.

Let’s get to the real tragedy. 

Five Americans died during this useless temper tantrum of a clusterfuck. One died doing his job: Brian Sicknick. He was a police officer who was dragged into the open and beaten by a crowd of real American badasses. And by “badasses,” I mean frothing pawns with neither the will nor the intellect to ascend any higher than vicious cowardice. Picture this. Put it in your brain. Imagine being the degenerate motherfucker that killed a cop with a fire extinguisher. Describe for me the type of person who just up and ended the life of a man you’ve never met, doing his job. You grab a random piece of loot, shout “hold my beer” to your buddies, and with a the cock-eyed grin of a person entirely ignorant of the relationship between actions and consequences, you take that bad boy and clock a downed cop in the head. What do you care? So what if he is entirely unaware of how brave you are (because he’s already being thumped by about ten other people) and you have no actual goal other than indulging your sadistic glee. He’s just a jack-booted tool of the leftist-socialist-zionist america-hating-antifa-sheeple anyway. Holy shit, bro, did you see me bash that cop right in his dome! High-five! MAGA baby! Yeah. It caused a stroke and he died. Nice work, asshole.

Ashli Babbitt

Then there is Ashli Babbit. A thirty-five year-old, fourteen-year veteran of the USAF. She went to Washington on the 6th to make her voice heard and take back her country. She believed in many of the Qanon conspiracy theories about election fraud perpetrated by a secret Satan-worshipping cabal, and was passionate about  Donald Trump. In her own words on January 5th: 

“Nothing will stop us. They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours …. dark to light!”

By all accounts she was a fiery, passionate person. Babbit also had a history of letting her passion overcome her judgment. Two separate restraining orders were filed against her by her husband’s ex-girlfriend in 2018. It seems Mrs. Babbit rear-ended the other woman three times and ran her off the road. Why is this relevant? Because this reflex to violent action got her killed on January 6th. She attempted to breach a barricade defended by plainclothes police protecting the very halls of congress. Despite several clear warnings and the presence of a firearm pointing in her face, she yelled “let’s go!” to her accomplices and leapt through a gap in the improvised barrier. She was shot in the chest and died later in the hospital. I have a soft spot in my heart for people who have courage to match their convictions. So few people do these days. You cannot say Mrs. Babbit lacked courage. I just wish she had been smarter. She died doing something stupid because she believed the rantings of madmen. You mad yet? I am.

Three others died of medical issues, currently unspecified. There’s probably something pithy and acerbic I could say about that, but I’m tired.

So Here We Are Again

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? How do we keep ending up in this same place? Each disaster, each crisis we inflict upon ourselves, they all have a common thread. We are an angry contentious species, us humans. There is a lot to be said for that. In many ways pugnacity is a positive trait and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

But our desire to be right and our need to surround ourselves with like-minded people has birthed a weakness that is getting exploited every day. What happened in DC on January 6th was the logical outcome for most of the people who participated. In truth, there was no other way it could have gone for them, because every step along that path they refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes. In short, Donald Trump lost the 2020election the same way he won it in 2016: Fair and square.

But his people believed in him, and they assembled some really batshit conspiracy theories to avoid accepting that. We all paid a price for that on January 6th, some of us more than others. Worse now for those who went to the Capitol, even their anointed leader has abandoned them. As is the way of all spineless demagogues, he has thrown his minions to the wolves to save himself. There is nothing left for them but to accept that they were lied to and used. Of course, many of them won’t accept it. There is always another Qanon. And the cycle continues.

Are We Doomed?

No, we are not doomed. What we are is immature and whiney. Let’s start with the waxy orange elephant in the room…

The need to believe in something is powerful. For many Americans, that something was Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, his connection to much of America cannot be understated. His supporters trusted him and believed in him enough to risk their jobs, their freedom, and even their lives to flock to his banner on January 6th. When he called, they came. When he demanded action, they acted.

Were all these people racist fascist imbeciles? No. Were many of them racist fascist imbeciles? Yeah, probably. But before you jump on your Trump hate bandwagon and begin the hurling of memes, ask yourself what the best outcome for the USA is:

A: The vicious and humiliating castigation and prosecution of these morons coupled with a lifetime of internet ridicule and infamy.

or:

B: Living in a country with many fewer racist fascist imbeciles.

Okay okay, fine…

C: Both A and B.

One of these is fun, the other is a solution to a problem. The third is my sincere hope for the future.

Did you reach out to a Trump supporter and talk to one? Do you engage in meaningful dialogue online, or do you post low-content memes spouting simplistic ad hominem across the electronic aether? Can you accept that some of the things that are important to those who supported Trump might be worth exploring? 

I can hear you already, internet hate machine. There’s just no talking to a Trumper, right? No reasoning with fascists, right?  What’s that Kyle? We punch nazis, not talk to them? Well, enjoy the next catastrophe, then. That’s how you act when you want to win, but you aren’t interested in solving the problems. It’s a Pyrrhic victory at best. That air of smug self-righteousness feels good for a while, but costs us so more in the end because nothing changes. The solution is education and elevation, and it always has been. Society improves when we bring people up, not stoop down to scrap with each other at the lowest level. Even when you know you’re not getting anywhere you are supposed to try, people. Ashli Babbit understood that, and she was pretty stupid.

But… People Who I Disagre With Are DUMB!

Everybody is born stupid, but ignorance is a choice. 

If you think you’ve got it all figured out then you are no better than the guy who believes lizard people have taken over the government. You hold positions in your head right now that somebody somewhere thinks are silly or even abhorrent. Are they? Have you checked? When was the last time you took your opinions for a spin in an environment not specifically constructed to reinforce them? 

I hear crickets. Who the hell brought crickets?

America, we do not reconcile our conflicts by fortifying ourselves into militant thought camps that riot whenever we don’t get our way. Gird your goddamn loins for some philosophical combat and for the love of all that’s holy be prepared to lose a few rounds! If the people storming the Capitol had stopped for one second to consider they might have been wrong about a few things, then this whole bullshit fiasco would not have happened. I could write ten more of these rants and it will all still boil down to the same thing:

We live in a world of instantaneous communication across millions of people, and we still can’t have a civil conversation about what really matters. How is this still a problem? Even when you know you’re not getting anywhere you are supposed to try, people. Ashli Babbit understood that, and she was pretty stupid. 

(Memes courtesy of the Capitol Riots Meme Archive on our forums, and, of course, the people who actually made them… but that’s how memes work.)