The GOP Is Nothing But a Group Psychosis Now

David Brooks has a sad. In his youth, he says, he fell in love with Edmund Burke conservatism. But what passes for “conservatism” these days is something else entirely.

What passes for “conservatism” now, however, is nearly the opposite of the Burkean conservatism I encountered then. Today, what passes for the worldview of “the right” is a set of resentful animosities, a partisan attachment to Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson, a sort of mental brutalism. The rich philosophical perspective that dazzled me then has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression. …to be a conservative today, you have to oppose much of what the Republican Party has come to stand for.

Brooks goes into an analysis of the intellectual roots of what he considers “conservatism” to be, and it’s grand-sounding stuff. Little of this bears any resemblance to anything American conservatism has been in my lifetime, however, and I am ten years older than Brooks.

For example, Brooks wasn’t even born yet when that scion of conservative high-mindedness William F. Buckley wrote a book defending Joe McCarthy. A 1954 review of that book in the Harvard Crimson called Buckley out for bullshit, in so many words, but he never recanted. Going back to the bleeping McKinley Administration, conservatism in the U.S. has stood against civil rights and ordinary people and for the accumulation of great wealth for a favored elite. Conservatives were isolationists when the enemy was Hitler and hawks when the enemy was Ho Chi Minh.  While self-identified Liberals often fall short and make mistakes, through the years Conservativism has consistently been wrong about major issues, and self-bullshit is, apparently, the primordial nature of the  American conservative mind.

Brooks has never been the sharpest crayon in the box, of course.

I should add that he’s writing for The Atlantic these days as well as the New York Times. See also his essay The Terrifying Future of the American Right, published in The Atlantic about three weeks ago, in which he exhibits glimmers of insight into the bullshit being presented at a recent National Conservatism Conference. I doubt Brooks will ever perceive his own role in paving the road to that terrifying future, but he’s only 60. Maybe there’s time.

I liked this part:

In the NatCon worldview, the profiteers of surveillance capitalism see all and control all. Its workers, indoctrinated at elite universities, use “wokeness” to buy off the left and to create a subservient, atomized, defenseless labor pool. “Big Business is not our ally,” Marco Rubio argued. “They are eager culture warriors who use the language of wokeness to cover free-market capitalism.” The “entire phalanx of Big Business has gone hard left,” Cruz said. “We’ve seen Big Business, the Fortune 500, becoming the economic enforcers of the hard left. Name five Fortune 500 CEOs who are even remotely right of center.”

What can one say, but — WTF? What comes out in quotation after quotation is that “The Left” is utterly evil and out to destroy America.  Whatever American conservatism ever was, it is now pretty much a kind of group psychosis.

The thing is, once you’ve convinced yourself that your opponent is absolutely evil and out to destroy you, you have just given yourself a big permission slip to do whatever it takes to destroy them. And not metaphorically. We should be grateful for those conservatives like Brooks and Liz Cheney who aren’t going down that road, and we on the Left shouldn’t go down it, either. But seriously, nuts is nuts.

Philip Bump writes about the Right’s love affair with Vladimir Putin, and how Tucker Carlson is rationalizing an invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

In his telling, Putin is salivating over Ukraine because the Russian president simply “wants to keep his western border secure.” After all, Ukraine might join NATO, which Carlson describes as the United States “plan[ning] to control Ukraine no matter what.” Massing tens of thousands of troops at the border with Ukraine is simply Putin acting defensively, Carlson insists, akin to “how we would feel if Mexico and Canada became satellites of China.”

Do read all of Bump’s column; it’s jaw-dropping. You should be able to read it without a subscription firewall.

It hasn’t been that long, I don’t think, since Republicans were hammering President Barack Obama for being too soft on Putin’s aggressions toward Ukraine. Seriously, that was just seven years ago. Now many American conservatives have done a complete flipflop and are saying Putin is right to act against American aggression, or something.

It’s easy to blame Trump, but IMO Trump just brought out qualities that were already deeply embedded in American conservatism. The authoritarianism, the demagoguery, the tribalism, the lack of consistent principles, have been strong currents in the GOP for a very long time, at least since before David Brooks was born in 1961 (see: Joe McCarthy). There were still not-crazy Republicans then, and some who were really more interested in governing than in raw power by any means. But the old, relatively liberal Republicans like John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller are extinct now.

See also Adam Kinzinger: Republicans Are ‘Frigging Crazy’ by Jeffrey Goldberg.

Trump: Follow the Walnut Shells, er, Truth

Rep. Devin Nunes announced last night that he is leaving Congress by the end of this month/year to take a job as CEO of Trump’s new media empire. Note that Nunes, who once sued the Twitter account of Devin Nunes’ cow, is the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee and would have become Chair if the Trump Party takes over the House next year. This is considered one of the most powerful positions in Washington. But Nunes, if not the cow, is moooving on to greener pastures.

Okay, maybe not. The media empire appears to be just another Trump scam. Judd Legum writes that Trump’s new media company is a $1.6 billion mirage that appears to be designed to let Trump get his hands on investors’ money without ever delivering a product.

One, at the moment Trump’s signature “social media” site exists as a static page that collects email addresses. A Beta version had been promised in November, but this is all there is so far:

What is known: The Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) had promised the social media site would be built on “proprietary” technology but later admitted a test site used open source technology already employed by other right-wing sites. Further, Legum writes, the only people known to be involved in building this technology are Trump and Scott St. John, a game show producer who “will supposedly be involved in TMTG’s streaming service, TMTG+, which is supposed to launch sometime in 2023.” Scott St. John is the mastermind behind “Deal or No Deal” and a bunch of other short-lived games shows I managed not to have heard of.

The investor report eventually posted a “technology team” that consisted only of first names and initials — Josh A., Billy B., Vlad N., and so on. I thought I found a woman’s name — Mortada A., a designer — but it turns out this is a man’s first name in Egypt. Anyway, there is no way to check if these guys are real people or not.

Devin Nunes is real enough, but his only known technology/media management experience is suing the fake Twitter cow.

Even better — Matt Levine writes at Bloomberg that The Trump SPAC Did a PIPE. Yeah, I didn’t know what any of that meant, either. Investopedia says that a SPAC — Special Purpose Acquisition Company — “is a company that has no commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an initial public offering (IPO) for the purpose of acquiring or merging with an existing company.” And “Private investment in public equity (PIPE) is the buying of shares of publicly traded stock at a price below the current market value (CMV) per share,” Investopedia says. This is done to raise capital for the public company, although it dilutes the value of shares. Further, PIPEs aren’t subject to as many regulations as other investment transactions. Keep that in mind.

In this case, the SPAC is Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC), which first came into existence this September. DWAC “raised $287.5 million by selling stock to investors at $10 per share,” Levine says, even though DWAC didn’t have anything to sell yet. Then in October, DWAC announced it had merged with TMTG. So DWAC is Trump’s SPAC. Levine continues,

“Trump Media & Technology Group (‘TMTG’) will soon be launching a social network, named ‘TRUTH Social,’” said the merger announcement, promising a beta launch in November. It missed that deadline. A test version of the site seemed to be just a clone of open-source social network Mastodon. TMTG’s website has a “company overview” slide deck that contains no business information and does not mention anyone involved in building its supposed technology. “This appears to be a shell company buying a shell company,” wrote Dan Primack.

Ooo, are we watching a shell game? Hey, grifters gonna grift.

Levine explains that as of yesterday, TMTG was valued $44.97 per share. And TMTG is selling stock — to DWAC — at $10 per share. In so many words, Levine says this is weird. Levine also suggests this investment — apparatus? structure? — is being set up so that Trump can keep investors’ money even if the social media empire never launches.

The grifters in The Producers had to put a real musical on the stage in hopes it would fail. This is even better; Trump doesn’t have to bother to put a real social media site on the web.

A couple of days ago, Trump announced that TMTG and DWAC the SPAC have $1 billion in capital pledged by institutional investors through subscription agreements. I don’t know if there’s any proof of that, other than Trump’s say-so. These investors have not been identified, which Forbes says is unusual. (One investor who has been named publicly is Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is reported to have given DWAC as much as $50,000.)

Elizabeth Warren, bless her, asked the SEC to look into the relationship between TMTG and DWAC over potential violations of securities laws. And the SEC is doing so, although it’s hard to see if anything will come of it.

Even so, somehow I don’t think Twitter is too worried about the potential competition.

The Long Overdue Gateway Pundit Lawsuit

The right-wing site Gateway Pundit is being sued. About time.

I’ve cited Gateway Pundit and its founder, Jim Hoft, many times over the years. GP is the place to go if you’re itching for the latest news on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Yeah, that’s still a thing. Hoft is a variation of Alex Jones, but dumber. See, for example, When Being an Obama Supporter Is Unacceptable from 2012.

News of the suit caused me to check out current headlines. Here’s a juicy one — Biden’s DOJ Releases Memo that Totally Blows Away the ‘Trump Incited an Insurrection’ Narrative. Wow, that would be a big deal. Amazing no one else is reporting on it.

So what does this memo say? This sentence —

“It is objectively unreasonable to conclude that President Trump could authorize citizens to interfere with the Electoral College proceedings…”

See? Trump couldn’t have done it. Of course, what the document is saying is that Trump had no authority to tell people to march to the Capitol and interfere with the election, not that he didn’t tell people to march to the Capitol and interfere with the election. Truly, it’s for good reason that Hoft has long been known as the Dumbest Man on the Internet.

The suit was filed by two Georgia election workers — Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss — who were singled out by Hoft and accused of stuffing ballot boxes with fake ballots for Biden. The New York Times reported,

Ms. Moss, who continues to work for the Fulton County elections board, and Ms. Freeman, a temporary employee during the 2020 election, were ensnared by the Trump-supporting media and Mr. Trump himself after Gateway Pundit published dozens of false stories about them, starting last December and continuing through this November. The stories called the two women “crooked Democrats” and claimed that they “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting those ballots without election monitors in the room.”

Investigations conducted by the Georgia secretary of state’s office found that the two women did nothing wrong and were legally counting ballots.

For example, here is one of Hoft’s stories, from December 2, 2020. What’s Up, Ruby?… BREAKING: Crooked Operative Filmed Pulling Out Suitcases of Ballots in Georgia IS IDENTIFIED. This is classic Hoft. The post is illustrated with fuzzy photos that have been doctored with circles and arrows. The text tells you that photos show you ballots being manipulated. But in truth, without the captions you wouldn’t know what was going on in the photos. Well, with the captions you still don’t know what’s going on in the photos.

Reuters has a special report about this incident and what came next — Trump campaign demonized two Georgia election workers – and death threats followed. It’s not clear whether the story about the fake ballots originated with Hoft or somewhere else. It might have originated with the Trump campaign, which fed the story to Hoft. But Ruby Freeman’s name was soon all over right-wing media. Trump himself referred to Ms. Freeman several times in his infamous call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump said, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.”

Predictably, MAGA thugs began to terrorize Freeman and Moss, who are black. From Reuters —

Freeman made a series of 911 emergency calls in the days after she was publicly identified in early December by the president’s camp. In a Dec. 4 call, she told the dispatcher she’d gotten a flood of “threats and phone calls and racial slurs,” adding: “It’s scary because they’re saying stuff like, ‘We’re coming to get you. We are coming to get you.’”

Two days later, a panicked Freeman called 911 again, after hearing loud banging on her door just before 10 p.m. Strangers had come the night before, too. She begged the dispatcher for assistance. “Lord Jesus, where’s the police?” she asked, according to the recording, obtained by Reuters in a records request. “I don’t know who keeps coming to my door.”

“Please help me.”

Freeman quit her temporary election gig. Moss took time off amid the tumult. The 37-year-old election worker, known for her distinctive blonde braids, changed her appearance. Moss often avoided going out in public after her phone number was widely circulated online. Trump supporters threatened Moss’s teenage son by phone in tirades laced with racial slurs, said her supervisor, Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron. …

…Their modest incomes left the two women with little power to defend themselves against the billionaire president and his legions of backers. After Freeman went into hiding, she initially stayed with friends. They soon asked her to leave, fearing for their own security, so she moved from one Airbnb to another, never staying in one place for too long, said a person with direct knowledge of her movements. Freeman went to great lengths to conceal her identity and location, the person said. She stopped using credit cards and started using a system for electronic money transfers that caters to people wanting to keep a low profile, the person said.

The constant threats so terrified the two women that they did not return calls from Fulton County District Attorney’s Office investigators who wanted to talk to them this summer as part of their probe into whether Trump illegally interfered with Georgia’s 2020 election, Barron said. “They wouldn’t even answer the phone,” he said.

See also Raw Story, ‘You should be hung!’ How Trump supporters drove two Georgia election workers into hiding.

This is horrible. These women must have been scared out of their wits, for good reason. This is how black people in Georgia end up dead. But Hoft shows no remorse. Yesterday he ran an article headlined Interesting. FBI Investigated Alleged Threats to Ruby Freeman but There Is No Record of FBI Investigating the Illicit Late Night Actions at State Farm Center.

We know there was no ballot-box stuffing; Georgia re-counted the ballots three bleeping times, three bleeping ways. Trump lost every time. Election officials in Georgia, including Republican officials, keep verifying that Freeman and Moss did nothing wrong. What you see in (not manipulated) videos and photos is what ballot counting looks like.

Ruby Freeman used have a small business selling ladies accessories from a kiosk at a mall, but that had to be closed. I wish Freeman and Moss all the best with their suit, which seems strong to me, and hope Jim Hoft gets taken to the cleaners. A whole lot of right-wing sites that have demonized and doxxed innocent people over the years need to learn there are consequences for causing harm.

See also:

Ben Collins, We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 04: Election workers count Fulton County ballots at State Farm Arena on November 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2020 presidential race between incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is still too close to call with outstanding ballots to count. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

It’s Not Just Abortion Rights Under Threat

It’s so hard to keep up with the insanity. The Texas Tribune reported yesterday that Texas has banned medical abortions after seven weeks of pregnancy. I thought all abortions had already been banned at that point, but I guess the whiz kids in the legislature realized they had left a loophole.

Medical abortions are done by taking a couple of specific drugs a few hours apart to induce a miscarriage. I’ve read the drugs can be obtained through the mail, with a prescription. The new law stipulates that no one may provide abortion medication “by courier, delivery or mail service.” In Texas, now you can’t even go to a pharmacy with a prescription. A physician has to hand you the drugs in person.

It’s my understanding that the medications can be obtained without a prescription in Mexico, so one suspects there is already a robust black market getting underway in Texas. Black markets are not regulated by the FDA, unfortunately. .

The abortion ban that went into effect September 1 allows for abortion in case of “medical emergency,” but it’s written so narrowly that it’s hard to know what kind of “emergency” is allowable. It’s documented that since September 1 at least one Texas woman had to go out of state to terminate an ectopic pregnancy that threatened her life. Her personal physician and the nearest hospital both turned her away because they feared violating the law.

See ‘Her Heart Was Beating Too’: The Women Who Died After Abortion Bans by Sarah Waldman at the New York Times.

If the SCOTUS ends Roe as expected, Texas rules will extend to most states eventually. I suspect only the very bluest states will be able to keep abortion legal. Red states are prepared to ban abortions the minute Roe is overturned, and purple states will be at war until the criminalizers prevail.

At New York magazine, Ed Kilgore writes that For the Anti-Abortion Movement, It’s Been a Long Road Back From the Great Betrayal of 1992. I didn’t know what the “great betrayal” was. Turns out it was the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe but allowed states to impose some restrictions, such as waiting periods, as long as they didn’t create an “undue burden” on the woman seeking an abortion.

The pro-criminalization people had expected the Casey decision to overturn Roe, and they were bitterly disappointed in what they got. Mark Joseph Stern wrote at Slate,

Casey provoked a sense of betrayal, if not outright trauma, within the conservative legal movement. It prompted GOP attorneys to develop a more sophisticated vetting process for judicial nominees under the slogan “no more Souters.” Potential Supreme Court justices are now carefully screened for their anti-abortion bona fides with thinly veiled questions about “unenumerated rights” and “substantive due process.”

Ed Kilgore ads,

This won’t-get-fooled-again sentiment culminated in the implicit deal struck between the anti-abortion movement (including its conservative Evangelical and traditionalist-Catholic religious sponsors) and one Donald J. Trump in 2016. As he sought to consolidate his control of the Republican Party following his hostile takeover of the GOP in the presidential primaries, he violated all the rules of decorum by flatly promising to appoint only Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe. Of equal importance, he published (and regularly revised) a list of potential justices from which he would choose, giving anti-abortion activists plenty of time to vet them. And most important, once he was elected, he turned over his judicial-vetting operation to the conservative legal warriors of the Federalist Society (and, to some extent, the Heritage Foundation).

In brief, the Court is now packed with several people whose entire raison d’être as Supreme Court justices is overturning Roe. They would never have been placed on the Court were they not considered “safe” on ending abortion rights. And they know it, even as they’ve carefully denied it.

Dahlia Lithwick:

Perhaps it would be refreshing if the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court no longer felt the need to lie to us. The lying, after all, is becoming nearly untenable—especially for an institution that relies on public confidence. After confirmation hearings in which they promised that stare decisis was a deeply felt value and that Roe v. Wade was a clear “precedent of the court” and “the law of the land.” there’s something sort of soothing about knowing the lying to our faces will soon be over. They were all six of them installed on the Supreme Court to put an end to Roe v. Wade after all, and that is exactly what they intend to do. There will be no more fake solicitude for women making difficult choices, no more pretense that pregnant people really just need better medical advice, and no more phony concerns about “abortion mills” that threaten maternal health. There is truly something to be said for putting an end to decades of false consciousness around the real endgame here, which was to take away a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy—rape, incest, abuse, maternal health no longer being material factors. At least now we might soon be able to call it what it is.

Linda Greenhouse at the New York Times writes The Supreme Court Gaslights Its Way to the End of Roe. The subscription firewall has been neutralized, I believe; do read it. She documents the five-alarm disingenuousness in the questions asked by the “conservative” justices. And at the end, she said, the gaslighting prize goes to Brett Kavanaugh, who asked why court’s should even “take sides.” Let states decide!

The same argument could be used to support racial segregation and an end to same-sex marriage, of course. Over many decades one of the Court’s most solemn purposes has been to protect rights of U.S. citizens from violation by state law, per the 14th Amendment. Letting states “decide” which civil rights are protected and which are not would set us back about 150 years. The “conservative” justices may be about to end a lot more protected rights than just a right to abortion.

Greenhouse added,

Can Justice Kavanaugh really believe what he said? We’ll see soon enough. Last month, the court heard arguments in a case that challenges New York’s strict requirement for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Most states have looser restrictions. New York, through its legislative process, is in a minority.

Will Justice Kavanaugh and those of his colleagues who glorify a recently manufactured version of the Second Amendment allow New York City to keep going its own way on gun safety in the name of “letting the people decide”? That’s about as likely as the chance that those very same justices will decide to keep the right to abortion on the books. In both cases, we know what they’re going to do. The only mystery is how they will explain it.

I’m sure it will be … creative.

Supreme Court: Roe Is About to Go

Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi abortion law case. Mark Joseph Stern reports for Slate:

Give this to the Supreme Court: It did not leave us in suspense. During oral arguments on Wednesday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, five Republican-appointed justices made it abundantly clear that they are prepared to abolish the constitutional right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the morning was how little Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett concealed their desire to overrule Roe. While Chief Justice John Roberts fruitlessly sought out a compromise, Kavanaugh and Barrett showed their cards: Both justices believe the court has an obligation to let states (or Congress) decide the abortion question. Neither showed any appetite for incremental steps or half-measures. They are eager to greenlight complete bans on all forms of abortion at every stage of pregnancy. And they are ready to do it now.

Anti-abortion fanatics don’t know the meaning of “compromise.”

Regarding the Mississippi case, I wrote a few months ago,

Dobbs simply puts a gestational limit on elective abortion at 15 weeks. The Roe v. Wade guidelines allow states to ban elective abortions, but not before the gestational age at which a fetus might be viable (then as now, 23 weeks). After that, the states must provide exceptions for “life and health of the mother,” and physicians had some discretion about what that meant.

There is a little fudging in the medical literature about the 23-week threshold for viability, but 15 weeks is way outside fudging range. As I understand it, if the Court allows the 15-week limit to stand, Roe is overturned. And if Roe is overturned, a whole lot of states will ban all or most abortions overnight. It may be that the justices could uphold the 15-week ban but include language in their decisions that salvages some parts of Roe, but I wouldn’t expect them to do that.

SCOTUS doesn’t necessarily have to specifically proclaim that Roe is overturned. The Roe decision argued that the state’s interest in protecting a fetus doesn’t begin until the fetus reaches a gestational age at which it might survive outside the womb. Then as now, this is generally considered to be after 24 weeks. And, of course, Roe gives physicians broad discretion to terminate pregnancies after that time to preserve “the life and health of the mother.” If states can reset the point at which elective abortions can be banned at any point in pregnancy, Roe is effectively overturned even if nobody says so. And right-wing politicians of late have shown they don’t give a hoo-haw about the life and health of the mother and are perfectly happy to let women die in the name of “life.”

Kavanaugh, Barrett, Alito, and Thomas, IMO, are nothing but right-wing political hacks; Gorsuch and Roberts aren’t much of an improvement. I’m giving Gorsuch a bit of a break only because of McGirt v. Oklahoma. Roberts is no friend of abortion rights, but he seems to understand that striking down Roe v. Wade would stir up a backlash that could damage the Court and the Republican Party.

Mark Joseph Stern wrote that Roberts repeatedly argued that the Court might simply allow states more flexibility to determine when elective abortions could be banned but leave in place some constitutional protection for abortion. Stern continued,

But Roberts had no takers. This fact became clear when Kavanaugh asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart an absurd question: “To be clear, you’re not arguing that the court somehow has the authority to itself prohibit abortion?” Of course, no partyasked SCOTUS to ban abortion, and few seriously claim that the Constitution disallows abortion. Asking such a ridiculous question allowed Kavanaugh to frame overruling Roe as the true compromise in a comment aimed at the public rather than anyone in the courtroom. “The Constitution’s neither pro-life or pro-choice on the question of abortion,” he said, “but leaves the issue for the people of the states or perhaps Congress to resolve in the democratic process.” He added that if Roe goes, some states “would continue to freely allow abortion.” (At points, Kavanaugh did not even pretend to frame these thoughts as a question rather than a comment.)

So, yeah, the right-wing hacks on the Court are most likely going to toss out the gestational age rule and let states do what they want.

See also Amy Coney Barrett Suggests Forced Pregnancy Is Fine Because of Adoption at Daily Beast. Ghastly. As Paul Waldman wrote today, the only question about the eventual decision is whether the Mississippi law will be upheld by five votes, or six.

Eugene Robinson wrote,

Roe v. Wade is an important piece of the duct tape that holds this fractious nation together, and it would be a grievous error for the antiabortion majority on the Supreme Court to rip it away. …

… Like all of our constitutionally protected freedoms, the right to choose can be restricted, but not taken away. That has been the status quo for nearly five decades, and the nation has muddled through. But if Roe is reversed — if the court rules, as its most conservative justices have argued, that no protected right to reproductive choice exists — then the political cold war over abortion will flare immediately into a roaring blaze.

Given that the justices plan to be in recess from July through September, we’ll probably get the decision in May or June. Expect the conflagration to consume the midterm election campaigns. Most not-right-wing editorialists think the backlash will hit the Republican Party a lot harder than its members seem to anticipate now.

See also Alexandra Petri, Woman savoring last few hours before getting turned back into vessel.

And do watch this segment from last night’s All In With Chris Hayes. In brief, Sen. Chris Murphy has had it with Republicans who like to praise “the sanctity of life” but won’t do anything about school shootings. “I’m at my wits end about why Republicans’ concern for life seems so limited when the choices we could make to try to protect our kids are so obvious, are so politically popular, are so possible.”

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Josh Hawley’s “Virtuous Men” Should Grow Up

A recent headline at Buzzfeed News tells us that Murder Is A Leading Cause Of Death In Pregnancy In The US. It turns out this isn’t new. I found a WebMD article from bleeping 2001 that said the same thing:

Given all the risks associated with pregnancy, it’s easy to imagine that expectant mothers are vulnerable to illnesses and even to death. But shocking new information shows that these women actually are more likely to be murdered than to die from any complications of pregnancy — or from any other cause for that matter.

“We found that homicide was the leading cause of death among women who were pregnant … and accounted for 20% of deaths among that group, compared with 6% of deaths among nonpregnant women of reproductive age,” says author Isabelle Horon, DrPH, from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who conducted a study that looked at pregnancy-associated deaths from 1993 to 1998.

Fast forward to the Buzzfeed article of four days ago:

A woman in Houston who showed an ultrasound to her boyfriend, a mother of five who was carrying a sixth child, and a pregnant woman coming home from a baby shower were all recent victims of homicide, a top cause of death for pregnant people in the US.

Pregnant people are more than twice as likely to be murdered during pregnancy and immediately after giving birth than to die from any other cause, according to a nationwide death certificate study. Homicide far exceeds obstetric causes of death during pregnancy, such as hemorrhage, hypertension, or infection.

Pregnant women “face a risk of being murdered 16% higher than women the same age who are not pregnant, the recently released Obstetrics & Gynecology journal study concludes.” The article goes on to say that most of these deaths result from domestic violence.

With that in mind, let us skip over to New York magazine, where Sarah Jones writes about Josh Hawley and the New Anti-Feminism.

The conservative movement believes men are in trouble, and they know who to blame. “The left want to define traditional masculinity as toxic. They want to define the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage and independence and assertiveness — as a danger to society,” the Republican senator Josh Hawley said during a recent speech. Thus besieged, men are retreating into pornography and video games, abandoning their traditional responsibilities, he added. …

… Hawley’s anti-feminism isn’t novel, but he is responding to a new moment in modern American politics. Conservatives have always argued that by muddying gender roles, feminism harms men and women alike. Yet in recent years, this rhetoric has acquired an even sharper edge, pitting men and women against each other as if greater freedom for women comes directly at the expense of men. For Republican politicians and their supporters, Trump’s unapologetic misogyny further expanded the borders of the possible.

Trump has a long history of associating with men accused of abusing women. More recently, he has endorsed candidates like Sean Parnell and Herschel Walker, also accused. See also Domestic violence, sexual abuse: A number of Senate GOP candidates have to answer for ugly allegations by Amber Phillips in the Washington Post.

That an ugly backstory is no longer immediately disqualifying in Republican politics is arguably a sign of how much Trump has reshaped the GOP in his likeness. Trump won the presidency in 2016 despite being accused by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment and weeks after it was revealed he bragged about grabbing women’s genitalia.

“Politics has changed,” said one Republican operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “What’s seen as acceptable has changed.”

Josh Hawley complains that manly virtues like courage and independence and assertiveness are no longer valued by lefties. I think lefties would argue that courage, independence, and assertiveness are just dandy, but we want men to stop engaging in domestic violence. And if y’all could put a sock in the mass shooter thing, that would be swell.

Seriously, righties, what’s with all the tribes of violent, threatening, politically extreme men these days? Some of these groups appear to be explicitly male — Oath Keepers, Proud Bois. WTF?

Virtuous but underappreciated men? Or thugs? You decide.

Women do take part in some of their activities, but in an auxiliary role. It’s traditional. But then there are also more openly misogynist tribes, such as the Gamers and Incels and men’s rights activists. These are tribes of men who blame women for why their lives suck.

During the Trump years a number of social psychology studies documented that men who support Trump tend to suffer from “fragile masculinity” or “precarious manhood.” See, for example, “Precarious Manhood” and Voting for Trump from Psychology Today, November 2020.

Precarious manhood refers to the fragile nature of traditional masculinity.

Traditional masculinity, as a form of social status, is “hard-won and easily lost.” A real man cannot simply be: He must repeatedly prove his masculinity.

In the U.S., Knowles and DiMuccio note, masculinity is associated by many with behaviors like “avoiding the appearance of femininity and homosexuality, seeking status and achievement, evincing independence and confidence, taking risks, and being aggressive.”

And threats to (or doubts about) masculinity often motivate hypermasculine behaviors, such as risk-taking and aggression.

The Psychology Today article also notes that these same men score high on the right-wing authoritarian scale. See also How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood.

Several decades ago, Joseph Campbell warned that American men were not being properly taught to be men. He was writing about the Greatest Generation, mind you. Boys didn’t get enough time with their fathers and older men as they were growing up, he said. They were getting their ideas about masculinity from movies, not real life.

I’ve read that this problem is something that’s been growing since the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. Before the 19th century, the theory goes, most men were either farmers or independent artisans of some sort, and boys grew up working alongside their fathers on the farm or tanning hides or shoeing horses or whatever. Changing economic models took men out of their homes and made them employees who were gone most of the time. Succeeding generations of fathers became less and less involved in the lives of their children, and this has been especially hard on boys.

Since then, things haven’t gotten better. I’m not seeing Josh Hawley’s Three Masculine Virtues — courage, independence, and assertiveness — in the guys who abuse women, join private militias, need an assault weapon to go out for a sandwich, and throw temper tantrums when asked to wear a mask or get a vaccine. I see bluster, tribalism, and aggression, not to mention authoritarianism. Most of all, I see immaturity. Too many men seem stuck permanently at the emotional age of fourteen and permanent adolescent rebellion mode. They’ve got Mommy issues, and Daddy issues, and they blame everybody but themselves for whatever they don’t like.

I’m not saying this applies to all men. Most men I know personally don’t fit this description at all. But then, most men I know personally don’t own assault weapons or wear “Hillary for Prison” T-shirts.

Daddy issues, you say? They want Trump to be their daddy, because in their eyes he’s a real man.

There’s something so sadly pathetic about putting Trump’s head on Rambo’s body. Trump must be the least masculine man to ever sit in the Oval Office. He’s a spoiled, pampered punk who never held a job or faced a real physical challenge in his life. But some men are so desperate for a daddy they’ve turned him into one, projecting all their twisted notions about manliness onto his flabby frame.

And Scrawny Josh Hawley is a private prep school brat who never met a principle he wouldn’t betray to further his ambitions. Masculine virtues, Senator? What would you possibly know about masculine virtues? Or any other kind of virtues, for that matter?

I started this post with something I’d just learned about homicides of pregnant women. Women don’t exactly rule the world yet. The pandemic has hurt women economically a lot more than men. There’s still a pay gap. Even before the pandemic women, but not men, found a lack of affordable child care a barrier to employment, and it’s worse now. We’re still underrepresented in government and business. But Hawley’s “virtuous men” resent us anyway. That’s just pathetic.

Real men grow up.

Sometimes, There Is Justice

I am relieved about the Arbery murder verdict, but I’m also sad that one right doesn’t erase a long pattern of wrongs.

The three men convicted today almost weren’t brought to justice at all. Local prosecutors, for various reasons, refused to bring charges against them. “It took a series of extraordinary events to force the system to regard their deaths as crimes worth investigating.”

Kevin Strickland was freed yesterday. But the Kansas City Star reports that he will receive no compensation from the state for more than 40 years of wrongful imprisonment.

That’s because Missouri’s compensation law only allows for payments to prisoners who prove their innocence through a specific DNA testing statute. That was not the case for Strickland, or most exonerees across America. Unlike guilty prisoners, a parole officer will not help Strickland find counseling, housing or work. And unlike exonerees in some other states, he will not be eligible through a compensation package for social services, such as participating in the state’s healthcare program.

Surely, he can sue for damages. I hope so. Meanwhile, his gofundme page appears to be getting some attention.

And the white supremacists who organized the 2017 Charlottesville hate fest must pay $26 million in damages. I’m sorry the jury couldn’t agree to convict on federal conspiracy charges, but the liability has got to hurt.

So, some positive things have happened over the past few hours. But not enough.

Three guilty men.

Arbery Trial Down to the Final Dog Whistles

The Ahmaud Arbery jury has begun deliberations. Yesterday the defense gave closing arguments for the Jim Crow ages. I half expected the ghost of Lester Maddox to show up and hand out ax handles. Newsweek:

In the closing arguments of the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, Greg McMichael’s defense attorney suggested that the 25-year-old Black jogger’s actions were also to blame for his death.

On Monday, Laura Hogue took direct aim at Arbery, saying that he wasn’t “an innocent victim,” but rather a “recurring nighttime intruder.”

“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made, does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts, with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” Hogue said.

At this point, Arbery’s distraught mother got up and left the room.

Seriously, you have to listen to the attorney’s tone of voice to get the full picture.

Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim — he was murdered. That kind of makes him a victim.

The defense attorneys also had wanted black pastors banned from the courthouse.

But Mr. Gough — who earlier this week said, “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here” — took his provocative language to new heights on Friday.

Mr. Gough noted the large crowd of Black pastors and other civil rights demonstrators who gathered on Thursday outside the county courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. “This is what a public lynching looks like in the 21st century, with all due respect,” he said.

… Mr. Gough appeared to be speaking figuratively, since there have been no reports of violence or threats from the people who have gathered outside the courthouse.

The defense had a difficult role to play. They had to downplay the idea that racism had anything to do with the defendants’ stopping a black man jogging in their neighborhood and threatening him with firearms, while at the same time they’ve been dog-whistling up a storm to the mostly white jury. I’m wondering if they haven’t overplayed the dog whistles, even for Georgia.

In other news — true to form, righties wasted no time claiming that Darrell Brooks, the guy who drove through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, was a leftie with ties to Black Lives Matter. The lefties killed those people! BLM! Antifa! This seems to always happen after some random act of violence. See, for example, Insanity Nation (2011, Gabby Giffords shooter) and Labeling Stephen Paddock (2017, the Las Vegas shooter) from the Mahablog archives. See also Steve M, who documents that some people are fibbing.