Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: More on the Jan. 6 hearings

John Nichols of The Nation applauds Chairman Bennie Thompson’s use of the word “coup” in describing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The message was that the deadly January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump “was not a spontaneous riot.” It was the product of a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and to keep Trump in office as an illegitimate pretender to power. And, the chairman of the January 6 Committee explained, “Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy. And ultimately, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down to the Capitol and subvert American democracy,”[…]

This was not a military coup d’état in which the generals of the armed forces employ their weaponry in order to remove the duly elected president or prime minister of a country. This was a self-coup, another form of coup d’état, in which a leader overrules the other branches of government in order to assume illegitimate and illegal power.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the scholar of fascism and authoritarian leaders who teaches history at New York University, immediately recognized the significance of the committee chair’s statement. “Kudos to Chairman Thompson for calling it a coup,” she said, shortly after Thompson finished his remarks. “Some still call it a riot, which does not capture the larger political design of overturning our democracy.”

Peter Bergen of CNN interviewed British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested about his embedding with the Proud Boys.

BERGEN: So, you reached out to the Proud Boys.

QUESTED: Yeah. We called up the Proud Boys. On November 4, 2020, when President Donald Trump falsely claimed that he won the election before a winner had been declared, we were like, “Oh, here you go.” Because one of the fundamental tenets of America is having a peaceful transfer of power. I called up Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys. He liked the film “Restrepo” that war reporter Tim Hetherington, Sebastian [junger], and I made together. And he just said to come down. So we went down to DC on December 11, 2020 and started working.

BERGEN: When a revolution happens, even the revolutionaries sometimes have no idea what is going to happen. To what extent did the Proud Boys know this was going to happen on January 6?

QUESTED: I don’t know. We did definitely look at the Proud Boys and say, “Well, are Proud Boys Jacobins? Are they Brown Shirts? Or are they football hooligans?” Or is it just Trumpism? Because that was a very unifying factor throughout the Proud Boys. There are no RINOs in the Proud Boys. It is the cult of Trump, and they were the muscle.

Marcela Garcia of The Boston Globe explores how anti-blackness among Latinos can lead to them joining white supremacist organizations.

The go-to explanation is the “Hispanics are not a monolith” mantra, which, while accurate, also feels a tad superficial. Sure, my identity and political views as a Mexican American raised in Mexico but living in Boston for the past two decades are likely to be different from a second-generation Mexican American from McAllen, Texas, or a recently-arrived Venezuelan refugee in Miami. It’s how some of the Proud Boys’ appeal to Latinos in the Miami area has been explained: Cubans and Venezuelans’ fear of communism and socialism made them turn to the Republican Party and, in some cases, drove them to become right-wing activists.[…}

While it may still be shocking for people to learn who the leader of the Proud Boys is — a Latino who, as the Capitol attack unfolded, reportedly took credit for it, writing in an encrypted text, “Make no mistake. We did this” — this isn’t the first time that Latinos have been involved in a self-identified, self-professed white supremacist collective, according to Hernández. Other examples of Latinos linked to white nationalist groups: Juan Cadavid, originally from Colombia, took part in pro-Trump violent clashes in Southern California in 2017; Alex Michael Ramos, a Puerto Rican from Georgia who beat a Black man during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, also in 2017; and Nick Fuentes, the young white nationalist influencer of Mexican American descent.

What drives a non-white person to take part in violence against racial minorities? “What’s the best way to distance yourself from feeling like you’re part of an oppressed group? It’s to align yourself with those who are part of the oppressors,” said Hernández. Additionally, whiteness has been very elastic throughout history, she said. “People who today we think of as white people with Italian American or Irish American ancestry were, at the turn of last century, viewed as non-white. Whiteness sort of expanded to include them.”

Manuel Roig-Fanzia of The Washington Post Magazine discloses that during Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein searched through Attorney General John Mitchell’s home office at the behest of his wife, Martha Mitchell.

On this particular Sunday, Martha was calling Woodward with an invitation. Her husband, recently indicted for a second time in the cascading Watergate scandal, had left her, moving out of their Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan. Would Woodward and his reporting partner, Carl Bernstein — she always pronounced it, incorrectly, as “bern-STINE” ― like to come up and look through her husband’s home office?

Woodward, discussing the episode at length publicly for the first time in an interview at his Georgetown home, said he did not want to miss such a rare opportunity. The sequence of events shows Mitchell at her most swaggering but also offers a glimpse at the reportorial techniques that made Woodward and Bernstein two of the most celebrated journalists of the 20th century. […]

Satisfied that they were working with a solid source and were on firm legal ground, Woodward and Bernstein headed for the airport and caught the Eastern Air Lines shuttle to New York. When they arrived midafternoon, Martha Mitchell greeted them at the door of her Fifth Avenue apartment. She held a martini in her hand. She was “gracious” and “a little drunk,” Bernstein recalled. Mitchell gave the reporters a tour of the well-appointed space with its floral print sofas. Then, she pointed down a long hallway. John Mitchell’s office.

“Have at it, boys,” she told them. “Please nail him. I hope you get the bastard.”

Now that is a dish that was served ice cold, lmbao.

Paul Waldman, also of The Washington Post, wonders about the reasons behind the rampant crime wave in rural America.

So how do we explain this? None of the things conservatives blame for crime — progressive prosecutors, lenient Democratic politicians, police feeling disrespected by racial justice protests, a lack of religious piety — are present in these places.

If — as we’ve all been told again and again — voters are fed up with “soft on crime” Democrats and are ready to “send them a message” in November’s midterm elections, to whom should a message be sent about the rural crime wave? And what should that message be?

The causes of the rural crime wave are as complex as those of urban crime, but at heart they’re about the pandemic. It isolated people from the friends, family and institutions that traditionally provide support. For many it caused sickness and grief. It elevated everyone’s stress level, brought new mental illness, left people feeling angry and powerless. Many took those experiences and tensions out on each other. […]

My guess is that they wouldn’t say it’s a failure of political leadership. After all, in many if not most of the affected rural areas, every public official — from the sheriff to the mayor to the county council all the way up to the House member, the senators and the governor — is a conservative Republican.

Melissa Gira Grant of The New Republic warns that Pizzagate-like conspiracies are now targeting all LGBTQ people and can take place in any city.

Now, a little more than five years later, 25 percent of Republicans identify as believers of the Pizzagate successor QAnon, and the far right’s capacity for street violence has grown. At the same time, where once most elected Republican officials would at least nominally distance themselves from Pizzagate-pushers out on the fringe, that wall has largely eroded. Across the country, GOP lawmakers have waged a legislative crusade targeting queer and trans kids, smearing opponents as “groomers,” language that rhymes with the “pedophile” claims that inspired the attack on Comet Ping Pong. And where once the targets of these conspiracy theories were largely confined to a select group of Democratic lawmakers and their allies, the fearmongering—amplified by Fox News and prominent conservative social media accounts—is now targeted at all LGBTQ people, from national figures to members of your local community. The stage is set for a Pizzagate in any city.

Ms. Grant was writing about the incident at a Pride event in the Oak Lawn section of Dallas last week but sure enough…

x

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Bible-browbeating bigots is nothing new at Pride events; I’ve encountered them. Armed neo-Nazi white supremacists, however, is something rare.

Be careful out there.

Inside Climate News reports on a study that concludes that “divisive” cultural issues and disinformation campaigns is delaying action on climate change.

A team of researchers and environmental advocates are urging governments and Big Tech companies to do far more to stop rampant online disinformation campaigns, which they say aim to delay action on the climate crisis by intentionally dragging the issue into the culture wars now dominating Western politics. Failing to stop such campaigns, the groups warned in a new report, could further splinter unity at November’s climate talks and jeopardize a global effort that has struggled to slash planet-warming emissions.[…]

The report, which analyzed hundreds of thousands of social media posts over the last 18 months, found that despite promises from tech companies in recent years to crack down on the spread of “fake news” on their platforms, posts with misleading or false information about climate change continue to flourish online. It also found that much of the disinformation is coming from a small group of actors who wield a large sphere of influence online and have found success in sowing doubt over the urgency of global warming by tapping into populist sentiments such as distrust in scientific experts and wealthy elites, as well as a nationalistic and isolationist view of global politics.

For example, the analysis found 6,262 Facebook posts and 72,356 tweets where users blamed other countries for climate change while deflecting the responsibility of their own country. Posts from Western countries tended to highlight the shortcomings of China and India, claiming they were not doing enough so there was no point in anyone acting. The study also found 115,830 tweets and 15,443 Facebook posts that called into question—often inaccurately—the viability and effectiveness of renewable energy technologies.

Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon write for Foreign Policy that Russian war crimes in Ukraine are so vast and unprecedented that efforts by various Ukrainian and international organizations to investigate and prosecute cases are becoming chaotic.

“The national legal system, even with an effective prosecutor’s office, couldn’t cope with 15,000 cases,” Oleksandra Matviichuk, a leading Ukrainian human rights lawyer and the head of the Ukraine-based Center for Civil Liberties, told Foreign Policy during a recent visit to Washington. “And remember, we are a country still at war. We have limited resources.”

There are so many alleged Russian war crimes that the investigative response is also unprecedented. The ICC, the premier intergovernmental body tasked with prosecutions of war crimes, has dispatched 42 investigators to probe possible war crimes in Ukraine, its “largest-ever” team of experts to carry out such a task. Other European countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Poland, joined Ukraine in setting up a so-called Joint Investigation Team to cooperate on war crimes investigations, while the U.S. government is funding complementary efforts to document war crimes and support Ukrainian organizations dedicated to doing so. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a leading multilateral organization, has also established an expert mission to document human rights abuses. In Ukraine, meanwhile, the prosecutor general’s office has brought forward several war crimes trials against captured Russian soldiers and is investigating thousands more, while civil society groups are training volunteers on how to properly document evidence of possible war crimes, effectively crowdsourcing the early stages of investigations for future cases.

There’s a growing concern among some U.S. officials and Ukrainian activists that all these concurrent efforts could eventually trip over one another and may start doing more harm than good—that is, unless there’s a central hub set up to coordinate all the work. “It’s been a little bit chaotic,” conceded one U.S. official working on supporting efforts to document war crimes in Ukraine, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. (Van Schaack, for her part, insisted that these efforts are “decentralized,” but not chaotic, because each group is in constant contact with one another to coordinate their work.)

Rajeev Agarwal of The Diplomat writes about the efforts of India and Iran to reset their diplomatic relationship.

India and Iran share close historical ties from the times of Persian Empire and Indian kingdoms. Iran is an important nation in India’s neighborhood and in fact, the two countries shared a border until India’s partition and independence in 1947. Iran is also important to India as it provides an alternate route of connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asian republics, in the absence of permission for India to use the land route through Pakistan.

India-Iran relations have, however, witnessed ups and down over the decades, mostly owing to factors that go beyond strictly bilateral issues, like the stoppage of oil imports from Iran after May 2019 owing to U.S. sanctions following the revocation of the Iran nuclear deal, India’s close relations with Israel, and Iran’s ties with China, including signing a 25-year strategic partnership agreement. There are other sticky issues, too, like Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen launching drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and UAE, both close partners to India, or Iran’s statement on the Modi government’s abrogation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution, which gave special status to Kashmir. Iran on its end has not taken kindly to India succumbing to international pressure of sanctions on Iran. However, both countries have tried to keep their engagement above such occurrences and maintain a cordial trajectory of bilateral ties.

Despite the rather subdued engagement with Iran, there are a number of areas of convergence and enhanced engagement for India to consider. Afghanistan presents one such opportunity. The Taliban government has largely been isolated since it took over Kabul in August 2021. Iran was one of the few countries that did not withdraw its embassy from Kabul and has continued to keep its channels of communication open with the Taliban. India, on the other hand, was quick to wind up its embassy in Kabul but has now indicated that it is keen to reopen its embassy in some form shortly. A delegation from India met the Taliban foreign minister in Kabul on June 2. Iran and India have collaborated already in the past on Afghanistan and Iran’s role as a viable direct land route to Afghanistan is undisputable. India and Iran have the potential to forge a common and effective policy of engagement with Afghanistan in the future.

Finally today, Robin Givhan of The Washington Post celebrates the art of photographer Gordon Parks and those that are inspired by him.

Parks died in 2006 at 93, but his artistic impact is as potent as ever. He was a Black man documenting the highs and lows of his people, as well as the broader world. His legacy is expansive, arguably more than any other Black photographer’s. He moved through life wearing cowboy hats, leather bombers and ascots, breaking racial barriers, opening doors for others. His work explored issues of inequality and poverty that still haunt us, launching conversations that continue in art, politics and activism. And most important in 2022, Parks and his foundation help subsequent generations of Black artists see themselves, their communities and their possibilities more clearly. Examining their art, and looking at the ways in which it relates to the work Parks was doing more than 50 years ago, helps us to better understand the impact of history, human nature and systemic racism on our lives today. It also reminds us to pay attention to the simple joys of everyday life.

At a time when the country is spinning in circles trying to make sense of race, ward off inhumanity and define social justice, Parks’s artistic heirs are uniquely positioned to shed light, offer guidance and question the status quo. They’re doing so with heartening audacity and blessed urgency.

“It’s not that I see so much of him in one artist. I see some of him in a lot of artists. I feel Gordon is ubiquitous,” says writer Jelani Cobb, one of the executive producers of a recent documentary on Parks and incoming dean of Columbia Journalism School. “He’s one of those people who may not have the answer, but he helps you understand the right question.”

Everyone have a good day!

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