TUESDAY, JANUARY 12, 2021
Roxane Gay had a better idea: We were struck this morning by a news report in the Washington Post.
In print editions, the report appears atop the front page of the newspaper's Metro section. It concerns one aspect of last Wednesday's mob attack at the Capitol.
The report appears beneath the headlines shown below. With lightning speed, we thought of Roxane Gay's recent piece in the New York Times:
Injured officers face long recovery
Dozens beaten, trampled, hit with bear spray during riot at Capitol
The report describes the injuries suffered by police officers during the crazed insurrection. Hermann and Zauzmer prepared the report. In part, they reported this:
HERMANN AND ZAUZMER (1/12/21): The number of injuries suffered by police as they attempted to fend off supporters of President Trump who seized the U.S. Capitol last week runs long.
More than 58 D.C. police officers and an unknown number of U.S. Capitol Police officers were injured in the hours-long riot and assault on Wednesday as lawmakers were formalizing the election victory for Joe Biden as president. It was a battle in which police were outnumbered. One Capitol Police officer died in circumstances that remain unclear.
“I’ve talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq, who said this was scarier to them than their time in combat,” acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III said Monday...
Videos circulating on the Internet show horrific scenes, including one of an officer, identified by the police union as from the D.C. force, being dragged down stairs outside the Capitol and beaten by people with clubs, a crutch and a pole with an American flag attached. The officer was rescued by other officers swinging batons.
In a statement the day after the riot, then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned Friday, said officers were attacked with metal pipes, chemical irritants and other types of weapons. Several Capitol Police officers were hospitalized with serious injuries.
The report goes on and on, even describing injuries caused by that bear spray and also by lazers. It focuses on D.C. Police more than on Capitol Police, perhaps because the latter agency has issued few public statements in the wake of Chief Sund's resignation.
Yesterday afternoon, we watched as Nicolle Wallace described the beating administered to the officer who was "being dragged down stairs outside the Capitol." Wallace is a devotee to script, as she was in her earlier life, when her scripts targeted same-sex marriage and promoted the war in Iraq.
(Back then, she worked for George W. Bush. Today, she's one of the gods most widely loved over here in the streets of Our Town.)
What actually happened last Wednesday? In fact, many things happened that horrible day. To the extent that such a thing is possible, a full account of what actually happened will only emerge over time.
Information will always develop slowly—but Storyline can emerge, and has emerged, with remarkable speed. That's why we thought of Roxane Gay's instant essay for the Times, in which, in an act of instant self-pity, she instantly offered this:
GAY (1/7/21): On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Congress was set to conduct a largely ceremonial count of the electoral votes. There were rumblings that a few ambitious, craven politicians planned to object to the votes in several states. The president openly pressured Vice President Mike Pence to thwart the vote ratification—something not in Mr. Pence’s power to do.
But I don’t think any of us expected to see radical, nearly all white protesters storming the Capitol as if it were the Bastille. I don’t think we expected to see Capitol Police basically ushering these terrorists into the building and letting them have the run of the place for a ridiculous amount of time while the world watched in shock and disgust...
Eventually, the Times gave this essay its highest platform, publishing it in last weekend's Sunday Review. But in the very flash of an eye, Gay had been willing to appear on line, telling citizens of Our Town that "Capitol Police" (no qualifiers appended) had been guilty of "basically ushering these terrorists into the building and letting them have the run of the place for a ridiculous amount of time."
Let's repeat! According to Gay, she (and we) had seen "Capitol Police" (no qualifiers) basically ushering these terrorists into the building and letting them have the run of the place.
Plainly, that was terrible conduct. But how many "Capitol Police" had done that? Gay didn't bother to say.
Indeed, had any member of the force done that? Even now, six days later, we aren't sure we've seen any footage which could fairly be described in that manner.
As she continued, Gay treated herself to the power we described, decades ago, as "the power of pluralization." She did so by saying this:
"I don’t think we expected to see some of those police officers taking selfies with the intruders." So Gay wrote, in an instant burst of narrative construction.
Question! Did Gay really see "some of the officers" (plural) taking selfies with the intruders?
Even today, only one such instance is described in this Washington Post front-page report. Even there, the Post says it isn't clear whether the officer in question posed for the photograph, or merely allowed it to be taken.
This morning, the Post is still describing only one instance—and the probe of that incident is still underway.
Did Gay know of multiple incidents? No links supporting this apparent claim were provided in her essay when it instantly appeared, and no such links appear in her essay even today.
Gay's overall essay, rich with self-pity, was suffused with the joys of what might be called unsupported apparent overstatement. On the brighter side, Our Town's intellectual leaders were quickly assembling the Storylines we burghers would most like to hear.
In recent mornings, on MSNBC, those Storylines have been bellowed by a certain red-faced shouter. Yesterday, in an especially loco two hours, the red-faced shouter was accompanied, supported, enabled and echoed by a mob of acolytes.
Yesterday, the shouter explicitly repeated what he had shouted last week. Once again, he explicitly said that, if the insurrectionists had been black last Wednesday, Capitol Police "would have shot every one of them in the face."
The shouter may not have realized that he was slandering Capitol Police when he shouted this red-faced remark. In somewhat contradictory fashion, his gaggle was also reciting hero claims about officers' heroic actions against the other mob.
This morning, the red-faced shouter was suddenly calm. Just a guess—management had decided that it was time to scale back the lunatic tone of the program. They even began running ads again! The show's waters were suddenly calm.
That said, these manifestations are all part of an anthropology lesson—a lesson about the way we in our species tend to behave when things start falling apart.
Fellow sapiens, can we talk? As a general matter, things had already fallen apart by the time this invasion started.
We began to build this site in 1997 because we thought things had largely fallen apart even then! We're talking about the upper-end journalistic squalor which has played so large a role in this story up to this point—in the story of how a person as disordered as Donald J. Trump ever reached the White House.
(Four years later, disordered supporters of the disordered president finally reached the Capitol building.)
Within our species, what tends to happen when things have fallen apart? You're asking for an anthropology lesson—an anthropology lesson involving the all-too-human mental wiring shared by those in our species.
The psychological breakdown is most striking and most apparent in the case of President Trump. The craziest of his insurrectionist supporters are almost surely nuts too.
That said, the anthropology lesson spreads out from there, even to the streets of Our Town. Behaviors here in the streets of Our Town have helped to drive this fall right from the beginning.
Not unlike ancient history's Gaul, the anthropology lesson here has (at least) three parts. Tomorrow, we'll start with the aforementioned commander-in-chief—with the apparent "psychopathologies" the widely-praised leaders in Our Town steadfastly refused to discuss.
Tomorrow: There's pretty clearly something about what Mary L. Trump said