There were a lot of striking things about that weird Joe Biden speech the other night. First and foremost, it was a spectacular failure of optics, which is what the political class from which Biden hails is supposed to be so brilliant. For some reason, Biden and his team decided he should address the American people in front of an Independence Hall in Philadelphia — the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — lit up in blood-red lighting: a particularly Nuremberg aesthetic given its subject – as we will come to – was the supposedly proto-fascist threat posed by the Trumpist right. But the speech was also a spectacular display of brassneck — a tirade against authoritarianism that only underscored the “respectable” authoritarianism that Biden himself helped usher in.
Building on his recent shameful comments about the supposed “semi-fascism” of former President Trump and his supporters, Biden framed the modern Republican Party in his speech as a threat to America itself. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” he thundered. “Not all Republicans, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans,” he kindly conceded. “But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is being dominated, pushed and bullied by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that’s a threat to this country.” Given that 74 million people voted for Trump in 2020 — the second-most Americans to ever vote for a presidential candidate, second only to Biden in that same election — one wonders who does or does not count as Republican MAGA. Yet the effect has been to make Hillary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” comment look cute by comparison. Biden has essentially branded large swathes of the American public as domestic terrorists.
He unrolled a long list of the usual scare stories about Trumpism, ditching what might be legitimate criticisms of Trump and his wildest supporters in favor of painting a picture of a grim fascist hellscape. . ‘[H]”History tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and willingness to engage in political violence are fatal to democracy,” Biden said, in a not-so-subtle nod to the 1930s. “January 6”, the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021, has been talked about a lot. But while the Capitol riot was a lopsided, anti-democratic display, fueled by Trump’s conspiratorial nonsense about the election being “stolen” from him, it was not an “insurgency,” as Biden claimed. said in his Thursday evening speech. It was a strangely carnivalesque riot that went seriously wrong. Most Trumpists wandered around the Capitol aimlessly, posing for self-incriminating selfies.
Of course, that didn’t stop “January 6” from being turned into a new 9/11 – a comparison that Vice President Kamala Harris explicitly made – and the vindication of a new wave of authoritarianism. This is where Biden’s rhetoric comes in. Since taking office, he has made fighting “domestic terrorism” a priority. In June 2021, his administration released the first-ever national strategy to combat domestic terrorism, pledging new resources to combat this ill-defined threat. When you hear FBI officials and agents talk about homegrown terrorism, it seems to encompass both racist mass murderers and a much broader and more vague category of “those who subscribe to extremist anti-government and anti-government ideologies.” authority”. Nevertheless, it seems that it is the latter – with “January 6” in mind – which particularly worries the administration. Indeed, it is striking that this Democratic-led crackdown on extremism was sparked not by, say, the racist Charleston church shootings of the late Obama years, but by a big, mindless riot during of which the only person shot was a Trump supporter. .
Naturally, there are those who think that this unprecedented new focus on so-called domestic terror – this mobilization of state resources to target the activities of broadly defined groups of American citizens – does not go far enough. Some have criticized Biden for not introducing a comprehensive domestic terrorism law, an idea he floated early in his presidency. Perhaps in response to such criticism, a new Justice Department unit to combat domestic terrorism was announced in January. Yet the atmosphere all of this has created has had a chilling effect – not only on the activities of certifiable extremists, but also on dissidents more broadly. Contrary to various denials by Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI agents were even reportedly sent to investigate parents who protested school boards over critical race theory and mask mandates imposed on their children.
The shock of Trump’s election, and with it the revelation that millions of Americans either disagree with or dislike DC as a whole, seems to have legitimized censorship in the minds of democratic elites. And I’m not just talking here about the short-lived Disinformation Governance Board, an Orwellian initiative of the Biden administration that collapsed earlier this year after a month — presumably after officials remembered that this thing called the First Amendment still exists. Even before Biden came to power, spurned elites pushed for the voices of Trumpists to be silenced, often pressuring private actors to do their bidding. The best example was Trump himself, who was kicked off major social media platforms after “January 6”. While the Capitol riot was the excuse, the mass bashing of Trump followed years of Democratic elites demanding he be censured. And of course there was the story of the Hunter Biden laptop, an explosive New York Post scoop released ahead of the 2020 election alleging corruption by Joe Biden and his crack-smoking son, Hunter. Twitter and Facebook deleted the story as “intelligence experts” reflexively dubbed it Russian disinformation. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed last week that Facebook’s removal of the story followed a visit by FBI agents, who warned the company that a slew of Russian misinformation was in the works. road. When it arrived, the Hunter laptop story seemed to fit the bill, Zuckerberg said.
This revelation is worth dwelling on for a moment, especially in light of Biden’s latest comments on the MAGA threat to freedom and democracy. Here we had US state security agents who basically relied on Big Tech companies to censor certain content. As a result, a story that might well have influenced the outcome of the 2020 election was suppressed from much of the digital public square, while Democratic politicians and former intelligence chiefs cheered on Big Tech. If that’s not an authoritarian threat to democracy, I don’t know what is. In the case of Twitter, users were banned from sharing the link at all and the Job, the oldest American daily newspaper, was blocked on its account. All of this completely blows away the old Big Tech censorship deviation – that it’s just private companies doing what they want – and shows us how much this fusion of the security state, sections of the class politics and big business is destructive in American life today. Dissent can be crushed with incredible speed and efficiency, while federal authorities and politicians can keep their hands clean.
Trump’s electoral death did nothing to satisfy this appetite for censorship. Democrats continue to use the power of their offices and allied corporate media to try to limit the scope of debate. Tech CEOs continue to be dragged before Congress every year or so to be reprimanded by Democrats, upset at the slow progress in silencing people they don’t like. Leading House Democrats have even begun writing to cable companies, demanding to know why they are still carrying right-wing channels like Fox News, Newsmax and OANN – a move condemned by Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr as “legislating “. by header’.
It’s a recurring story from the Trump years. The Donald says or does something high-handed or anti-democratic, then his furious opponents show him how it’s really done. Where he is showy and incompetent, they are brutally effective. And while he may have a few groups of conspiratorial protesters on his side, his opponents have large swathes of Big Tech, corporate media and the American security state. They also have the White House, which makes Joe Biden’s alarmism the other night even more paranoid and ridiculous about the threat posed to the republic by the MAGA hat hordes. America feels caught between competing authoritarianisms. But right now, one is infinitely more threatening than the other.
Tom Slater is editor of dope. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_