On coups and cowards

On coups and cowards

By Paul Woodward, June 1, 2021

As often as Trump and his QAnon acolytes might bleat about “cancel culture,” they must also delight in the fact that even after getting kicked off the leading social media platforms, the mainstream media still provides them with a megaphone.

It makes little difference how many times the words “lies” and “false” get inserted into the reporting, the message still gets telegraphed both in terms of its seditious content and just as importantly as purported declaration of resistance.

The net effect is that in the eyes of sympathizers, claims of stalwart patriotism can be sustained in a self-proclaimed heroic struggle against dark, oppressive forces that have taken control of America. Never has silence been this loud.

The media performs this role because journalists are no less susceptible to outrage than anyone else and because addictions are hard to break.

The problem, however, is that this cadre of agitators (we all know their names) is repeatedly being given the opportunity to poke the nation and then promptly disavow the transparent implications of what they are saying.

Treason, racism, anti-Semitisim, and a relentless assault on democracy, are advancing on multiple fronts, while those leading the advance have the liberty to obscure their intentions through insinuation and doublespeak. Hatred of foreigners is gradually being displaced by hatred of other Americans. “True” is code for white and “patriot” code for right-wing.

If there’s going to be an attempted military coup, however, it’s not going to be led by confessed felons, embittered retired generals or other blowhards.

The conspirators (if they exist) can formulate their plan, recruit participants and then face the consequences.

But until they do that, the stage and social media antics of the Trumpsters should be reported, if reported at all, as merely that: antics.

This is as much about performance as it is about politics. And the performers are just as much in love with the headlines as they are with the applause.

The QAon-friendly character (Michael Flynn) currently in the spotlight is no doubt reveling in the latest wave of attention, but a much more serious issue than his expressed support for a coup is the question that Colin Powell raised two years after Flynn got fired as DIA chief: how he “got that far in the Army?”

Flynn is one of several retired generals whose affection for Trump seems to have eclipsed their loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.

If the Pentagon is still infected by high-ranking officers who have doubts that American democracy must be protected by an apolitical military, then such individuals need weeding out.

The military needs to own, examine, and tackle its political shadow.

If it doesn’t, then the sanctified status of a former high rank will continue to offer cover and legitimacy to those who deserve neither.

And then there are the unknowns — the violent actors who crave infamy more than fame.

The last twenty years of futile American wars have surely spawned tens if not hundreds of Timothy McVeighs-in-waiting.

If any of them engage in some spectacular attack and we subsequently learn their motives, it’s more likely that an honest account would reveal they felt empowered by Trump and yet inspired by ISIS and Al Qaeda.

It’s not that the foreign terrorism of the last two decades offered philosophical inspiration to America’s right-wing extremists, but in terms of method, the jihadists have demonstrated the capacity for small groups of highly motivated individuals to rock governments.

Anyone who claims the right to use violence to bring about political change inside a democracy is clearly a threat to democracy and yet almost a third of Republicans in a recent poll agreed that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to save the country. Clearly, this represents a massive lack of faith in democracy.

So what happens if there is an act of domestic terrorism modeled, let’s say, on the 2008 Mumbai attacks?

“True American patriots” have zealously protected easy access to the necessary weapons and combat-hardened former soldiers are scattered across the whole country.

The January 6 assault on the Capitol wasn’t enough to persuade the GOP leadership that political violence is unacceptable.

Must the agitation continue unabated until there is an even more catastrophic event? And even then, were this to happen in Washington DC or any other major American city, would there then be millions of Americans elsewhere who mutter, “they had it coming”?

The Pentagon doesn’t just need to weed out its Michael Flynns. It needs to address the fact that for decades it has unwittingly provided training for would-be and actual domestic terrorists.

Nevertheless, any organization that trains its members how to kill people, is trapped in the moral ambiguity of determining when those it arms are allowed or forbidden to pull the trigger. The gun itself becomes the locus of authority and its owner implicitly believes they then have a right to kill.

What are the basic rules? Want permission to kill foreigners? Then join the military. Want to be able to kill other Americans? Then join the police.

Just want to own a gun?

The fact that in so many states it’s easier to buy a gun than it is to vote, speaks volumes about the precarious condition of American democracy.

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