Republicans recasting rioters as victims as they create an ‘alternate history’ of Trump’s insurrection
On Thursday, writing for MSNBC, columnist Steve Benen tore into Republican lawmakers for their increasing denial that the violent January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol even happened the way everyone saw it.
"The setting was a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 riot, which some Republicans took as an opportunity to characterize rioters as victims," wrote Benen. "Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), for example, rejected the idea that the insurrectionist violence constituted 'an insurrection,' adding that Trump's rabid mob behaved 'in an orderly fashion.' The Georgia Republican went on to say, '[I]f you didn't know that TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.' Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) blasted the Justice Department for 'harassing' suspected rioters, whom he described as 'peaceful patriots.' Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) added, 'It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.'"
"It was every bit as surreal as it sounds," wrote Benen. "For these far-right Republicans, now is the time to write an entirely new alternate history about the events of Jan. 6, with the villains recast as the heroes. The facts make pro-Trump forces look like dangerous criminals, so Clyde, Gosar, and their cohorts have decided to pretend their fiction is real."
The denial comes after some of these lawmakers, like Gosar, actively participated in the "Stop the Steal" rally that fed the riot.
"Part of what makes this so extraordinary is the audacity. The world saw the riot on television. Trump's recent impeachment trial added additional documentary evidence that had not previously been released, and reinforced the severity of the assault on the United States," wrote Benen. "We've arrived at a point in which our political discourse is so toxic, GOP members of Congress are entirely comfortable telling Americans not to believe their lying eyes. These elected officials fully expect to get away with brazenly lying about events — not from generations past, but from four months ago — confident that their allies will simply believe what they're told to believe."
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A Facebook content moderator this week described the traumatic experience of watching violent videos for hours a day -- and said that the company's own "wellness coaches" were ill equipped to help them cope.
Business Insider reports that content moderator Isabella Plunkett, who works for Facebook subcontractor Covalen, told the Irish Parliament this week that her job involves sifting through videos featuring child abuse, suicide, and other former of violence.
She also said that wellness coaches working at the firm try to ease the psychological burden on workers by having them perform activities such as singing karaoke, although she said that such suggestions were not helpful.
"These people mean well, but they're not doctors," she said. "They suggest karaoke or painting but you don't always feel like singing, frankly, after you've seen someone battered to bits."
Plunkett also described the way that her work haunts her even when she's sleeping.
"I have horrible lucid dreams about the things I've seen and for months I've been taking antidepressants because of this content," she said.
As Business Insider reports, Plunkett also described her job as trying to "train the algorithm" so that it can automatically detect and remove violent and racist content from the platform.
Earlier this year, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) held a conference titled "American Uncanceled." Organizers attempted to showcase how their political opponents are the intolerant, and that conservatives were the true defenders of the ability to speak their minds. But what would happen when House Republicans would vote on a conservative Trump critic? And what do surveys say about how the GOP faithful deal with criticism of Trump, compared to how Democrats deal with critiques of Biden?
A CPAC organizer claimed "The radical left will not tolerate any dissenting point of view." Another organizer argued "contemporary moral panic-mongers are redoubling their bullying to cleanse the culture of what they consider unacceptable opinion, which often, simply means 'conservative,'" he argued. He claimed that the hunted prey includes supporters of Donald Trump. "That is the most un-American thing I can imagine. Our nation was founded on the idea that people who disagree can still be part of a civil society."
Ironically, just before the conference, an anti-Semitic speaker was canceled before his speech. I agree with the decision to not reward these words with a prime speaking spot. But after boasting about that America uncanceled position, it was an awkward moment for the organizers.
Then came May 11, and the House Republican voice vote to purge Rep. Liz Cheney from the party's House Leadership team. There was no secret ballot or even a public discussion or debate. Some members hadn't even arrived before Cheney's ouster began. Back in February of 2021, Rep. Cheney won her House leadership position with a secret ballot by a 145-61 margin. But to support Cheney out loud in conference would be a kiss of death, according to Donald Trump Jr.
Liz Cheney wasn't dumped because she's insufficiently conservative or even holds different policy views from Trump (they are a 93% match). Her reported successor is far-less conservative. But Cheney criticized Trump's speech before the January 6 Insurrection, and doesn't believe in the conspiracy theory that claims the 2020 election was "stolen." Perhaps CPAC leaders are right…true conservatives like Cheney are going to be targeted.
"What a lot of folks are starting to realize here in the States is that President Trump really is the Republican Party," a Trump advisor said in an interview before CPAC.
The Pew Research Center found that only 43 percent of those who claim to be Republican, or lean Republican, say that elected officials who criticize Trump should be accepted within the GOP. For conservatives, it's only 37% who will be very or even somewhat acceptant of elected officials who criticize Trump.
More than two-thirds of Democrats or those who lean Democratic say that the Democratic Party should be very or at least somewhat accepting of elected officials who openly criticize Joe Biden. For self-described liberals, that Pew Research Center survey says that 73% of them tolerate such criticism of President Biden.
Some Republicans are aware of the drag Donald Trump's been on the party. He's the first major presidential candidate to finished second twice in a row in the popular vote for president since Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s. He's cost the GOP their control of the House, and now the Senate. He shifted the Republican Party brand away from their ideology of economic freedom and a foreign policy of standing up to authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea. But party members are terrified of offending him and his political supporters, the majority of whom do not support any criticism of the former president.
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