Fables of the Insurrection

GOP lawmakers are engaged in a seditious gaslighting campaign. Fact check: January 6 was the worst attack on our democracy since Booth shot Lincoln.

IN HIS VERY FIRST BRIEFING as White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer told us a whopper. The size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration, he claimed, was the biggest of all time—bigger than President Obama’s. We had all watched the inauguration, or at least seen the pictures. What he was telling us was demonstrably untrue, a flat-out lie. And yet Sean Spicer insisted, with grumpy indignance, that Trump’s delusional assessment was the truth.

Colloquially, this is called gaslighting, from the film Gaslight: the lies are so pervasive, and so relentless, that we begin to doubt our own version of reality. What was significant about Sean Spicer’s first day wasn’t how many people showed up at Trump’s sad, mobbed-up swearing-in event. It’s that Trump, through his rumpled mouthpiece in the White House Briefing Room, was never going to tell the truth—even about trivial things we knew, from our own two eyes, were bullshit.

Over Trump’s four years in office, the lies became more consequential, the gaslighting more refined. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was better at it than Spicer, and Kayleigh McEnany turned it into an art form. The disinformation continued, bolstered by Fox News and Newsmax, OANN and Alex Jones, Facebook and Twitter, and Trump’s Republican enablers. And the lies never stopped. Trump never came clean.

He never told the truth about the (sparse) inauguration crowd.

He never told the truth about his campaign’s many contacts with high-placed Russians, including key Russian intelligence officers.

He never told the truth about his taxes. Has the IRS finished, at long last, its eternal audit? Has Godot finally arrived?

He never told the truth about his inheritance, the source of his wealth, his true net worth, his multiple bankruptcies, his outstanding debt, or his curious relationship with Deutsche Bank.

He never told the truth about his wife Melania’s immigration history: how his piece of Slovenian arm candy happened to obtain an “Einstein visa,” or how her parents, Communist Party hardliners, were allowed to take up residence here.

He never told the truth about his health. He never admitted to not being six-three, or clinically obese. He never revealed why he was rushed to Walter Reed that day in November of 2019.

He never told the truth about the dozens of women he sexually assaulted, harassed, abused, and raped.

He never told the truth about his relationship to organized crime (not that anyone in the Beltway press thought to ask).

He never told the truth about his relationship with Vladimir Putin—how often they talked, what they discussed, why he allowed those Russian jackals into the Oval Office the day after he fired Jim Comey, why he kept trying to steal away with Putin at the various international summits, why he took Putin’s word over that of the U.S. Intelligence Community, why he appeared in Helsinki at the twerp’s side with the slavish bearing of The Gimp from Pulp Fiction.

He never told the truth about Ukraine.

He never told the truth about the pandemic response.

He never told the truth about the results of the election.

And he will never tell the truth about besieging of the Capitol on January 6, or his role in the insurrection—the putsch, the coup, the worst attack on our democracy since Booth shot Lincoln.

“But all politicians lie,” you might counter. Not true! All politicians spin. There is a difference. Gaslighting is not spin. And it is toxic to the republic. Just as all mid-90s baseball players felt the need to do steroids after the chemically-enhanced success of Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds (and the tacit approval of this cheating by the feckless Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig), so all Republican lawmakers find it politically necessary to gaslight—to ape the technique of their party’s bloated overlord, Donald John Trump. To tell the truth about something as basic and obvious as the results of the November 9 election, or the January 6 insurrection, is to be shunned, as Liz Cheney found out.

Removed from her position in the party leadership, Cheney was replaced by amoral mercenary Elise Stefanik. The latter lacks even a soupçon of scruple, and has demonstrated a willingness to do anything—lie, gaslight, Jim Jordan—to obtain power. Unlike her House colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene, who clearly suffers from mental illness, Stefanik is a cold, calculating creature who elbowed her way into the GOP mosh-pit willingly, eagerly, and with her murine eyes wide open. As Heather Cox Richardson points out, “[t]his means that the four top House Republican leaders—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik, and Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)—all voted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”

GOP: Gaslighters On Parade.

When the party’s leadership are all liars and sedition sympathizers…when the GOP has gone Full Vichy…when the lone attempt at truthtelling is met with expulsion—how can rank-and-file Republicans do anything but continue the onslaught of gaslighting?

This week, we were introduced to Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Republican from Georgia, who looks like he walked out of Central Casting for “crooked used car salesman,” “college coach who throws the big game to pay off gambling debts,” or “creepy politician who gets busted for having multiple hard drives of foot fetish pornography and has to call Olivia Pope.” Here is what this seditious fuck had to say:

This hearing is called the Capitol insurrection. Let's be honest with the American people: it was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful….As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol and on the House floor and who, with other Republican colleagues, helped barricade the door until almost 3 pm that day from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you, the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. There was no insurrection. To call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bald-faced lie.

You see what he did there? Clyde didn’t deny that there were besiegers trying to break into the House chamber to do violence—he just claimed that what said besiegers were doing couldn’t possibly be termed “insurrection.” The sleazeball actually read the definition of the word from a dictionary, like he was back in eighth grade writing his first paper. It’s particularly apt that we can’t pronounce the guy’s last name without saying “lied.” Because, um, Clyde was one of the lawmakers barricading the House chamber from besiegement on January 6, a fact one would imagine he’d recall:

Another Republican, Jody Hice, also of Georgia, said: “It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” as if video of Ashli Babbitt crawling through a window like the Terminator to try and do harm to lawmakers did not exist, as if Capitol police did not also die that day.

To no one’s surprise, Paul Gosar, the Arizona dentist and bosom chum of January 6 organizer Ali Alexander, also lied, insisting that the prosecution of the insurrectionists amounted to “harassing peaceful patriots.”

And hateful Amy Kremer, the chair of Women for America First, the original organizer of the January 6 rally, has doubled down on the seditious bullshit:

They gaslight because to tell the truth is to admit that members of their party, including their lame-duck president, tried to overthrow the will of the American people—to topple democracy. But that’s exactly what happened.

Yes, Virginia, there really was an insurrection on January 6. It was planned in advance, as Kremer helpfully concedes. It was encouraged by a number of Republican lawmakers—Mo Brooks, Gosar, Andy Biggs, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Lauren Boebert, and others. As the video journalist Sandi Bachom, an eyewitness, has documented, the besiegers were led by “generals” with bullhorns, who managed the besiegers. And the lines of defense were shamefully, negligently, treasonously insufficient.

“During the Kavanaugh protests, I filmed in the Senate building,” she tweeted. “Protesters [were] not allowed to bring signs…just when the act of civil disobedience is called, they sit down start screaming, and pull out their signs, and [there] are mass arrests immediately. Amy Schumer was arrested.” On January 6, by contrast, security was lax. “The fact that anybody got inside the Capitol…at all proves it was a coordinated sophisticated three-pronged military operation,” Bachom argues. Then she provides the timeline, which demonstrates careful coordination:

  • 2:11, Northwest window is breached

  • 2:12, Southwest window is breached

  • 2:15, besiegers take the East Entrance

  • 2:30, one of the “generals” on a bullhorn announces, “THEY’RE IN!”

The defenses at the Capitol had to have been ordered to stand down by the only person who has authority to issue such an order: the President. The only thing standing between lawmakers and the MAGA besiegers were Capitol police, which report to the Senate and House Sergeants-at-Arms, and DC Metro, which report to the mayor of Washington.

While some of the more remedial besiegers took selfies, broke stuff, and smeared their shit on the walls, others knew exactly where to go and whom to seek out. Boebert, who led a tour of the Capitol the day before, tweeted out the location of Speaker Pelosi in realtime, violating an order by security not to do so.

The objective of January 6 was to keep Trump in power—or, barring that, to assassinate the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. This would elevate Senate president pro tempere Chuck Grassley or, even better for Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Acting VP. Either one might give him the pardon Pence was clearly not willing to provide.

The besiegers took Nancy Pelosi’s office. They vandalized her office. They terrorized her staff. They stole her laptop. Do I really need to spell out what these lusty disciples of the serial rapist-in-chief would have done to the Speaker, or Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, or AOC, had they had the opportunity?

Fact check:

January 6 was a planned putsch, a coordinated attack on our democracy, which took place with Trump’s knowledge and blessing.

Trump lost the election, bigly—by seven million votes.

Jared Kushner greenlighted a Blue State Genocide, because he thought he could blame the covid-19 deaths on Democratic governors and help Trump in the election (and, also, he wanted to make a buck).

Trump tried to extort the president of Ukraine, hoping that an investigation into the Bidens would help his election chances. To do this, he threatened to withhold U.S. aid.

Putin owns Trump.

The son of a mob front man, Trump has been a creature of organized crime his entire life. The only reason he hasn’t been caught is because he is a Confidential Informant for law enforcement.

Trump is a serial rapist.

Trump suffered a serious malady that caused him to be whisked to Walter Reed. I’ve heard it was stents put in place to help his blood flow. His health is imperiled by his drug abuse, poor diet, and morbid obesity.

Melania Trump is no Albert Einstein.

Trump is a serial bankrupt who squandered his ample inheritance, and is massively in debt.

The audit was always bullshit.

Trump’s campaign had numerous contacts with Russian nationals, including Russian intelligence officers who specialize in election fuckery.

Obama’s was bigger.

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Photo credit: Images in the collage by Sandi Bachom. Please follow her, support her work, and watch her videos.