It's always a fool's game trying to keep up with the latest right-wing outrage. Theirs is a profit-making enterprise — and the customer base is in a buying mood. In the last month or so, we've seen an unusually high volume of vomitous rhetorical spew coming from both elected Republican politicians and conservative media figures. I guess it's their way of celebrating the holidays.
First, we had Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar distributing a noxious anime video depicting the killing of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and attacking President Joe Biden. The Republican leadership shrugged their shoulders and it was left to the Democrats to take action, which they did by stripping Gosar of his committee assignments and censuring him.
In her floor speech on the subject, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., saying "The Jihad Squad member from Minnesota has paid her husband, and not her brother husband, the other one, over a million dollars in campaign funds." A few days later Boebert was caught on camera joking around with laughing supporters about Omar being a suicide bomber. She did apologize on Twitter to "anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment," but then accused Omar of anti-American rhetoric in a phone call.
Boebert and her bestie, Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., then exchanged insults with another Republican, Nancy Mace R-S.C., with Green calling Mace "trash" for criticizing Boebert and Mace saying, "bless her f--king heart," leading Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker to dub them "The Plastics" after the nasty high school clique in the movie "Mean Girls."
But despite the obvious immaturity of all those involved, that trivializes the issues involved.
This is the U.S. Congress we're talking about, not WWE wrestling. The Islamophobia openly expressed by Boebert and Greene has a toxic effect on our culture at large. As Li Zhou of Vox reported:
Researchers have indeed found that Islamophobic rhetoric by politicians has real-world consequences and has been directly linked with hate speech targeted toward Muslim Americans. If Congress doesn't impose more penalties regarding this incident, lawmakers could — whether they mean to or not — further normalize anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiment, affecting not only Muslim lawmakers but millions of Muslim Americans as well.
Of course, it's too much to expect Republicans to take any action against these people.
Rhetorical bomb throwers like Boebert and Greene raise huge amounts of money from their fans and are favorites of Donald Trump. In fact, Greene even went running to him during her spat with Mace apparently expecting him to take action against her — which he probably will. It remains to be seen if the Democrats will sanction Boebert as they have done with Green and Gosar but in an interview on Sunday, Omar said she is very confident that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take "decisive action" this week.
But for all this bigotry and nastiness among GOP elected representatives, they're amateurs compared to what's happening in the conservative media.
There's no need to recapitulate the ongoing horror that is the nightly Fox News Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham insult hours. Just know that they aren't alone. Last week, we saw an act of character assassination that goes beyond even their worst. Fox Nation host Lara Logan said that people all over the world are comparing NIH scientist Anthony Fauci to the Nazi Joseph Mengele:
It's a truly stunning statement and one which you would think would instantly garner a response from the network. But so far, crickets. She hasn't appeared on the network but they haven't said anything either. And people are asking, "what happened to Lara Logan?" the former glamorous foreign correspondent :
Actually, nothing happened to Laura Logan.
She may have joined the ranks of full-blown Fox News trolls but it was clear she was a right-winger for years when she was working for CBS. Logan had very strong opinions about America's handling of terrorism, the military and war and she didn't hide it. For instance in 2011, she appeared with Marvin Kalb at the National Press club and suggested that the US needed to get tough with Pakistan:
You take 24 to 48 hours out of your day where you target all the people who you know where they are and you send a message to the Pakistanis that putting American bodies in Arlington Cemetery is not an acceptable form of foreign policy.
In another speech to the Better Government Association in Chicago, after the attack on the embassy in Benghazi, she said this:
I hope to God that you are sending in your best clandestine warriors to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, its ambassadors will not be murdered and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.
It was more than obvious that Logan had a strong right wing point of view and that she was prone to bloodthirsty hyperbole. So it shouldn't have come as a huge surprise when in 2013 she was caught in a major scandal over a big blockbuster story on Benghazi for 60 Minutes which turned out to be a hoax. She relied on a contractor who went by the name "Morgan Jones" who said he was an eyewitness to the attack and told her that the American government was slow to respond and totally unprepared. He even claimed that he climbed the wall and fought off the terrorists in hand-to-hand combat and Logan hailed him as a hero.
It turned out this man, whose real name is Dylan Davies, was nowhere near the compound that night. In the investigation that followed it was revealed by the rest of the news media that all the facts were easily debunked but Logan failed to check them out. 60 Minutes had to pull the story and issue a retraction and Logan apologized. But she wasn't fired. In fact, she remained with the network for five more years. When she finally left she immediately started caterwauling about "the liberal media" and ran first to the far-right broadcast network Sinclair and then signed on with Fox.
Her reporting was taken as face value for years when she worked at CBS and even the Benghazi hoax scandal wasn't seen as a matter of her bias but rather a mistake even though it was right in front of them. Her show on Fox Nation today is unironically called "Lara Logan Has No Agenda."
Comparing Dr. Fauci to Joseph Mengele and calling Ilhan Omar a jihadist suicide bomber is now just mainstream right-wing rhetoric, rewarded with tons of money and attention from the base of the Republican party. And it's the natural consequence of allowing people like Lara Logan to shape the mainstream media narratives that have defined our politics for years.
Although COVID-19 has killed more than 5.2 million people worldwide — according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore — Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio continues to downplay the pandemic’s severity and claim that “real America” needn’t worry about the pandemic. But CNN’s Phil Mattingly, slamming Jordan in a biting commentary, stressed that what Jordan considers “real America” is seeing the United States’ worst COVID-19 infection rates.
On December 2, Jordan tweeted, “Real America is done with #COVID19. The only people who don’t understand that are Fauci and Biden.” By “real America,” the far-right MAGA Republican obviously means red states — and those states, Mattingly stressed, are suffering the most from COVID-19.
Mattingly explained, “Right now, the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 new COVID cases every day. That’s the highest level in two months. Is that what being done with COVID looks like?”
The CNN host went on to show some U.S. maps demonstrating how dangerous the pandemic continues to be, and he emphasized that most COVID-19 deaths at this point are among the unvaccinated — who are more likely to be in red states than blue states.
“Since the vaccines became widely available,” Mattingly told CNN viewers, “the risk of dying from COVID is 50% higher in red states than in blue states. Even on the most base, cynical level, you would think these Republican politicians would want to keep their constituents, their voters alive. But instead, there are seemingly weekly absurdities like this from Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
The “absurdity” that Mattingly was referring to was a December 4 tweet in which Rep. Greene, another far-right MAGA wingnut, posted, “Every single year more than 600,000 people in the US die from cancer. The country has never once shut down.”
Mattingly explained, “Cancer, of course, is not contagious. That is not just apples to apples; that is apples to doorknobs or lightbulbs, or pretty much any other object. That is definitively not an apple.”
Donald Trump exposed some fatal weaknesses in American democracy, and his Republican allies are working to exploit those in the next presidential election, according to a staff writer at The Atlantic.
The Atlantic took a deep dive into Trump's efforts to undo his 2020 election loss, and his ongoing efforts to game the system for a 2024 race, and staff writer George Packer tried to imagine what the death of U.S. democracy might look like and came up with two terrifying scenarios.
"If the end comes, it will come through democracy itself," Packer wrote. "Here’s one way I imagine it could happen: In 2024, disputed election results in several states lead to tangled proceedings in courtrooms and legislatures. The Republican Party’s long campaign of undermining faith in elections leaves voters on both sides deeply skeptical of any outcome they don’t like. When the next president is finally chosen by the Supreme Court or Congress, half the country explodes in rage. Protests soon turn violent, and the crowds are met with lethal force by the state, while instigators firebomb government buildings. Neighborhoods organize self-defense groups, and law-enforcement officers take sides or go home. Predominantly red or blue counties turn on political minorities. A family with a Biden-Harris sign has to abandon home on a rural road and flee to the nearest town. A blue militia sacks Trump National Golf Club Bedminster; a red militia storms Oberlin College. The new president takes power in a state of siege."
Few people would choose that violent route, Packer believes, although some Americans apparently long for bloodshed, but he believes the more likely reaction to a stolen election would be widespread cynicism that would prove fatal to democracy.
"Following the election crisis, protests burn out. Americans lapse into acquiescence, believing that all leaders lie, all voting is rigged, all media are bought, corruption is normal, and any appeal to higher values such as freedom and equality is either fraudulent or naive," Packer wrote. "The loss of democracy turns out not to matter all that much. The hollowed core of civic life brings a kind of relief. Citizens indulge themselves in self-care and the metaverse, where politics turns into a private game and algorithms drive Americans into ever more extreme views that have little relation to reality or relevance to those in power. There’s enough wealth to keep the population content. America’s transformation into Russia is complete."
There's another path, however, that could strengthen democracy -- but it requires work and imagination, Packer wrote.
"Citizens will have to do boring things — run for obscure local election offices and volunteer as poll watchers — with the same unflagging energy as the enemies of democracy," Packer wrote. "Decent Republicans will have to work and vote for Democrats, and Democrats will have to work and vote for anti-Trump Republicans or independents in races where no Democrat has a chance to win. Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration will have to make the Freedom to Vote Act their top priority, altering or ending the filibuster to give this democratic fire wall a chance to become law."
"Finding shared ground wherever possible in pursuit of the common good is not most people’s favorite brand of politics," he concluded. "But it’s the politics we need for the emergency that’s staring us in the face, if only we will see it."