From the publisher: A toxic harvest

by Joe Courter

Just as we were getting the Iguana done for the Jan/Feb issue, the nation’s Capitol came under attack by a mob of people misled into thinking their side had not won the election because of it being “stolen.” I believe we actually got away lucky, it could have been very different. 

Suppose there had been fully armed riot police guarding the Capitol and they’d opened fire, killing and wounding dozens of people. 

Suppose the invasion had been more “successful” and they had captured Congressional leaders, holding them for ransom or even killing them. Even a physical occupation and stand-off, delaying ratification of the election … what would we be talking about today? 

Instead, committees have formed up and will be tracing what actually happened in an orderly way. As we saw from the impeachment hearing, the trail will not be hard to follow. The constitutional processes worked, just barely. 

The impeachment hearings were impressive, some great young members on the House team. The outcome went predictably due to the quality of the Republican senators and their devotion to Trump, but it was a great airing of the record from which further investigations and history can build.

So how’d we get here? Much was made about “the Big Lie,” referring to the “Stop the Steal” claims that actually go back to 2016 and Steve Bannon. They did not need to invoke it then. But the idea of creating and using big lies has been present in US politics for much longer. FDR had big lies told about his idea of Social Security. LBJ the same with regard to Medicare. The Right has been lying about progressive social policy changes since well before FDR.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson, whose daily postings on Facebook are required reading for me, addressed this in her Feb. 17 post marking the death of Rush Limbaugh. 

The rise of Rush owes much to the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under the Reagan administration’s FCC. By the end of the 1980s, Rush was on 650 stations. He caught my ear early on trips up and down I-95 to see family in New Jersey. I listened to him quite a bit, a sort of perverse fascination. 

(I also remember another vile right wing propagandist who had a 1987 TV program, Morton Downey, Jr. Ironically, in 1984 he had  hosted a radio show in LA, was fired, and was replaced by Limbaugh. Downey’s style of bombast and ridicule played to an over the top reactionary live audience to me, then,seemed how authoritarianism could rise. With Trump rallies, we could see it manifest before our eyes.)

Rush on radio was a huge force in the ’90s against the Clintons. Social media weaponized this progression, and people could climb into information silos, giving actuality to what Rush used to say; ignore other media and just listen to him. Trump just took the concept and ran with it; thus the “fake news” term could be a blanket condemnation, because there were now other sources to go to: both political Right and Christian Right. The seeds were being sown for what we saw on January 6.

Honor Rush with the flag at half staff? Hell no! Kudos to the Mayor of St. Pete for saying no. Likewise Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried. I trust local leaders would reject this notion, too. Gov. Ron DeSantis’s intentional provocation is a tasteless Trumpian tactic, red meat for his base and designed to drive us to distraction. Hopefully in 2022 we can resoundingly reject him at the polls.

Meanwhile, get vacc-ed if you can, keep masking, avoid indoor crowds, and stay positive; we are all in this together. And if that stimulus check comes and you don’t need it all, put it to friends and neighbors who do.

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