Had we known where things were headed, we might have set out with a better plan. It did not seem unduly ambitious: distill each passing fortnight into a comprehensible rant. Now, here we are, like Wile E. Coyote: covered with bandages, explosive residue, and chagrin.
Looking back it’s easy to see that this plan was doomed to failure. The warning signs were clear enough. Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC memo defined the battleground in 1990: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control—the Communist Manifesto of the resurgent reactionary right. “To victory, through the shameless debasement of language!”
Hobbled by corporate demands for “balance” [i.e., profit], respectable media refused to take a side—thereby siding with the vandals.
Then along came That Guy—you know who we mean. Even the pretence of coherence went out the window. When words have nearly lost their meaning, setting out to write a comprehensible rant feels as futile as building a skyscraper on a foundation of chicken soup.
Were we inclined towards melancholy, we might feel despondent. Fortunately, our ability to take things seriously went the way of the mess sergeant’s taste buds in the Tom Lehrer song. But enough with the shilly-shallying and pre-emptive excuse-making—let’s dive in to a particularly absurd fourteen days.
We’ll begin with a rare instance of clarity emerging from the fog.
On August 28th, attorney and Republican political activist Alexander Talcott died of stab wounds to the neck in his Durham home. The story made the New York Post, where commenter “Just Asking” posed this question: “The Post and the rest of the press seem strangely uninterested in discovering the name of the person who assassinated this Republican.”
As the word spread, someone going by @VoteEmAllOut tweeted, “Tragic! Another mysterious death! Fear, intimidation through murder. #bodycount. Never forget Seth Rich, Antonin Scalia, Alex Talcott, countless others who died for what they knew or what they believed in.”
Naturally we were curious, too. Diving into the online rabbit hole, we found Talcott’s trail easily enough. Exactly one year before his death, he began tweeting under the handle @Terralaunch, touting “#spacetech #vc, #STEAM education (#NFTart). Learn about, invest in businesses with revenue & growth potential on Earth + in space.” He also hyped @cognitive_space: “Cognitive optimizes and automates satellite mission management, powering the next generation of space operators.” Even the sky could not limit his imagination; he aimed higher.
Yet even Talcott’s space-related interests seemed well-grounded, compared to his apparent fascination with @ATSNFT, “A blockchain technology company building @Grapes (Great Apes).” For the blissfully uninitiated, these are digital cartoon images of simians gussied up with baseball caps, gold chains, and whatnot. It seems there is an internet subculture convinced that these have monetary value.
On February 1st, New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella announced what even the dimmest of psychics might easily have predicted Talcott died at the hands of his wife, who would not be charged because she acted in self defense. The AG’s 16-page statement told of financial distress, marital discord, erratic behavior, an attempt to separate, escalation to violence. The only surprise was the victim’s survival, which will naturally be followed by the lifelong challenge of enduring the consequences.
Ascending in scale from from a one-off local tragedy, let us visit Shelby Park in Texas. There, hundreds of Central Americans are attempting to flee the consequences of Ronald Reagan’s U.S. foreign policy in Central America, only to be met by men with guns and a ribbon of razor wire strung mid-stream along the Rio Grande.
Fittingly—since Reagan began his 1980 presidential campaign within jogging distance of the site where James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner had been murdered 16 years earlier for registering Black voters—the Park was named for Joseph O. Shelby, a Confederate General who, rather than surrender, offered the services of his 1,000 soldiers to Emperor Maximillian of Mexico.
Far less fittingly, at least as we see things, New Hampshire’s Republican Governor recently visited Shelby Park. There, demonstrating once again what is perhaps his best-honed skill, he appeared in photographs standing directly behind Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Abbott—secure in the knowledge that the Supreme Court is capable of anything when scuttling its planchette across the Ouija Board that is our Constitution—cited Article I, § 10, Clause 3 as his authority to arrogate unto himself the powers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection [CBP]. His aim, he says it to protect Texas against an alien invasion.
The next logical step will be Governor Sununu calling out the National Guard. Will he send them to Texas to defend our fellow state against powerless, penniless families? What if the Lone Star State gets frisky and declares independence? Will the Live Free or Die State follow suit? Sununu’s friends, the Free Staters, would love that.
Before we stray too far from the facts in evidence, let us stipulate that the GOP wants to keep the border more or less as it is. They learned their lesson with the Dobbs decision; they need to keep something to campaign on.
Looking back at all this, we’ve nearly frightened ourselves. How—or why—in the face of this, do we keep hope alive? Because you never really know what might happen.
Take Tuesday: the House was in the process of impeaching Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on literally Trumped-up grounds. Then in rolled Rep. Al Green [D-Texas], freshly sutured after abdominal surgery, wearing hospital blues and—the horror!—tan socks. Farce morphed into drama, and the good guys won. It’s been known to happen.