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Beware of Those Who Would Burn Down the House to Kill a Spider: The Danger of Starting at the Conclusion

The original name of my Substack was, "They Killed Brotherbeat." It was a reaction to the permanent suspension of my original Twitter account, followed soon after by my Medium account. In April, due to changes in the wake of Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter, now X, my permanent suspension was lifted. I expected to find myself embarrassed by some of my former assertions once the account was returned to me. My experience has been quite different. It is possible I will find embarrassment by drilling down deeper into my Twitter history. I had already rejected many of my leftist positions based on just so explanations of social conditions like police brutality, the need for reparations, and systemic racism. These were the most likely source of embarrassment. What I found instead was the beginning of wrestling with what has become my apathy over electoral politics. 

I still feel uneasy that my advocacy for Bernie essentially led, through his concession, and unwillingness to address the glaring cognitive issues, to Biden. I parted ways with Bernie over his endorsement, because I was unconvinced that Biden was a better option to Trump. I feel that the current state and direction of the country justifies my reticence to accept his advice to support Biden. Aside from the political commitment, Bernie and critics of the Democrats, like Adolph Reed and Cornell West, declared Biden a better option than Trump because of a similar impulse that led to my embarrassing just so leftists positions. They started at that conclusion, in this case, that Biden was better and reasoned their way backwards. More than being just embarrassing, positions that start at the conclusion have the potential for extreme harm with political power behind them. Consider everything we now know about WMD or the public health response entirely focused on the failed inoculations and the still hidden consequences in terms of excess mortality and rate of injury.

On returning to my account I found numerous leftists with positions exactly identical to the center of the Democrat Party on issues ranging from the war in Ukraine, vaccine mandates, masks, shutdowns, censorship, and sex changes for adolescents. Instead of seeing any parallels to the way that Bernie's campaigns were treated by the Democrat Party, they applaud the indictments of Trump, glad to finally prove that no one is too big to face the consequences of the law. Forget that Trump is being charged with things others have been guilty of doing or based on novel interpretations of law that potentially criminalize free speech and the relationship between lawyer and client. Starting with the conclusion is unprincipled and avoids reckoning with the trade-offs of the conclusion, until those consequences become unavoidable. It is not hyperbolic to suggest that there will be unexpected consequences to weaponizing the justice system against the primary political opponent of the current president, as well as his supporters, who represent half of the voting public. The only people who have argued with me that not a single indictment is politically motivated also still believe that Russia made Trump president. The irony of still believing in a manufactured attempt to unseat a legally elected president while also wanting to imprison him for something routinely done, the contestation of an election, is completely lost on them.

These people applaud and laugh at every conviction of a January 6 defendant, shouting with a disturbing glee, "they fucked around and found out." They no longer see those individuals as fellow Americans or even political opponents, but as terrorists intent on destroying the country who should be stripped of the benefits of citizenship. They will still note the treason of secession leading to the Civil War while promoting the expulsion of half the body politic. It should be noted that the half to be expelled is the disproportionately armed half.  

They justify their epicaricacy by starting at the conclusion that January 6 was an insurrection. If it was an insurrection, it was obviously never meant to be successful. It would be the first conducted by an unarmed crowd consisting of a large proportion of women and senior citizens. This also leaves aside that the entire day would have been different with the presence of more police or the National Guard. When you start with the facts, viewing each defendant as an individual with individual motivations and culpability for only for his actions rather than as part of a planned insurrection the political nature of the convictions becomes stark. This is especially true if you compare the difference between the treatment and number of J6 defendants to the treatment of J20 defendants, arrested attempting to disrupt Trump's inauguration, or rioters from the BLM protests during the summer of 2020. It becomes even more obvious if you compare the treatment of those arrested for violent offenses or destruction of property during the J20 or BLM protests to the treatment of Stephen Horn or sentencing of Enrique Tarrio. Horn entered the Capitol Building as an independent journalist to document the historic event. He was charged as a protestor, like many others entering the Capitol that day. Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, never entered the building because he wasn't in DC on January 6. He was sentenced to 22 years for his role in the riots.

In his Substack, Michael Shellenberger noted that on the same day Tarrio was sentenced, the Justice Department argued to a judge to reduce the sentence for Montez Lee to 10 years. Lee faced a recommended 20 year sentence for lighting a man on fire during the BLM protests of 2020. Federal prosecutors brought charges against 1,146 of the 10,000 people in DC on January 6. Many experienced long periods of solitary confinement and their bonds were refused while awaiting trial. Of the 10,000 people arrested during the summer of 2020, charges were brought against 300. From a series of protests and riots resulting in two dozen deaths and over $2 billion in damage, according to Shellenberger, approximately 90% of charges were dropped. The only person sentenced for the J20 riots, Dana Powell, spent four months in prison for breaking windows and assaulting police. Offered the same largesse as BLM rioters, their criminality dismissed because of their ostensibly justified anger, or J20 defendants, who actively planned together to do what J6 defendants are accused of doing, with those associations stricken from the record by judges, J6ers would have fared as well. After all, Jacob Chansley, called the Qanon Shaman, was released 18 months early after footage of police escorting him through the building was broadcast. It was hardly the harrowing life or death scene for police that we had come to expect from the media depiction of the day.

In the end, it is not about Donald Trump or his supporters. It is about the survival of the nation and its values after he has long left the national stage. It should be clear to anyone objectively considering the Trump presidency and the current set of indictments that the people who consider Trump an enemy to their interests are willing to break any institution to get him. They invented Russiagate to remove a legally elected sitting president. While less dramatic, it was a more legitimate attempt at insurrection than anything that happened on January 6. It is equivalent to burning down a house to kill a spider. It may kill the spider, but what's left? In this case, I am not sure there is an inferno large enough to kill the spider without spreading beyond all control. I am agnostic on the idea of Trump's guilt because I am agnostic on the question of whether his actions are being criminalized or if he has been truly criminal. It does not matter. If no one is above the law and it is so important for even former presidents to face accountability, why stop with Trump and a bunch of charges requiring novel interpretations of the law and challenges to the first amendment? What is the statute of limitations for extra-judicial slayings of US citizens or torturing prisoners of war? Why is no one focused on crimes that are so obvious the action corresponds directly with the name of the crime? It is because adjudicating those crimes would be about the difficulty of balancing justice and not just what is politically expedient in the moment, regardless of consequence.


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