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.

Moral Rot at Liberty University

David French is a conservative writer and a “theologically conservative traditional Christian,” Wikipedia says. But he’s also been known to think about things, which must be disorienting for him sometimes.

In The Moral Collapse of America’s Largest Christian University, French appears genuinely to be surprised at the moral rot at Liberty University. He begins by citing a report at Pro Publica documenting that women students were discouraged from reporting rape. Rape victims, in fact, were threatened with punishment for violating the university’s moral code if they reported being raped.

One young woman went to the school’s designated office for investigating sexual harassment and violence with all kinds of evidence — a hospital report, photographs of her injuries, emails from friends discussing what they saw. Liberty took all this material and lost most of it (the photos were “too explicit” to be kept in a file, as were some of the witness statements). At the hearing, all Liberty cared about was grilling the young woman on how much she’d had to drink before the incident. The investigation couldn’t continue until she had signed a form acknowledging she had violated the school’s code of conduct. And then the school exonerated the rapist. Some of the students who testified on behalf of the woman said that their testimony was misquoted in the final report. See also ‘Weaponization of the Liberty Way:’ LU punishes women reporting sex assaults, lawsuit says.

David French may have been surprised at this. I am not. This is what happens — what has always happened — in rigidly patriarchal institutions, religious and nonreligious.

As far as religion is concerned, one of the most common traits found in very conservative religious institutions, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or anything else, is the subjugation of women. In particular, women are seen as “unclean” and impure by nature, so if they are violated it is their own fault. Liberty University may not condone stoning rape victims as “fornicators,” but the difference between Liberty and extremist Muslims is one of degree, not kind.

In the political realm, you might have noticed that right-wingers are opposed to rape, in theory. But when confronted by an actual flesh-and-blood rape victim bringing accusations against an actual flesh-and-blood man — well, a white man — somehow the woman is never convincing. She’s probably filing a false complaint. What was she doing in a bar, anyway? What was she wearing? Is this worth destroying a man’s life? You know the drill. And while the Liberty student might have been better off if she’d gone straight to police rather than report through university channels, there’s no guarantee the local LEOs wouldn’t have been just as sexist as the university.

David French points out that while Liberty’s women students were being blamed for being raped, “their own school president was an open and notorious drunk. His wife was accused of affairs with younger men, and one of those men claimed that Falwell liked to watch.” Yes, Jerry Falwell, Jr., never met a corruption he didn’t like. He was so thoroughly debauched the university had to cut him lose to save itself.

David French, bless his heart, wants you to know that Jesus doesn’t approve of Falwell’s, and Liberty’s, behavior. He also has a pretty candid analysis of Christian influence in U.S. history.

Historically, one could arguably locate the apex of Protestant power in the United States as somewhere around the time of Prohibition. After all, Christians were powerful enough to pass a constitutional amendment banning alcohol, all as part of an effort to improve public morals and public health.

Yet what was the state of American righteousness at that time of apex Christian power? Lynch mobs roamed the South. The entire region was an oppressive nation-within-a-nation, largely cut off from the rule of law. Anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments proliferated across the United States. Not even religious liberty was safe when Christians ruled.

And what about the present? Its largest institutions reel from scandal. A great mass of its members have succumbed to conspiracy theories. Its “religious” anti-vaxxism is claiming lives by the thousands.

He doesn’t mention Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. But it’s safe to say the influrence of Christianity has been a very mixed bag.

Religious institutions often prioritize protecting the institution over practicing the religion. We’ve seen that recently in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, both found to have covered up sexual predation and to protect the clergy-predators rather than deal with the problem. In patriarchal cultures, it’s second nature for the menfolk in any organization to close ranks and protect other men who are predators, especially if the predator is the boss. A high-ranking church official who also has political connections and influence is practically untouchable.

I don’t see this as a religion problem as much as a problem of human cultures and institutions.

“Success often becomes its own suit of armor,” French writes, “degrading character requirements in leaders until the sin and abuse become too overwhelming to ignore. Then everyone wonders (once again), ‘How did this go on so long?'”

None of this is new. I have a hard time understanding people being shocked by it.

In other dirtbag news: The New York State Assembly has issued a report saying that Andrew Cuomo’s conduct while in office was “extremely disturbing.” And I doubt there isn’t anything in that report that most of the assembly members haven’t known for a long time.

Gun Culture and Civilization Don’t Mix

I wrote about Kyle Rittenhouse a couple of days ago. See also:

Put together, all of these commentaries tell a story of how a perfect storm of political and cultural factors have come together to make it perfectly legal for some people to shoot and kill other people. Here are the major points:

One, many states now allow open carry of firearms by just about anybody.

Two, there has long been a pattern of “reforming” self-defense laws to favor “defenders” over the slain. Stand-your-ground laws are just one example. See also:

Additionally, some states (including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have replaced the common law “reasonable person” standard, which placed the burden on the defendant to show that their defensive action were reasonable, with a “presumption of reasonableness,” or “presumption of fear,” which shifts the burden of proof to the prosecutor to prove a negative.

Of course, it appears white men somehow get away with a lot more “presumptions” than other people.

A lot of this favoring of self-defenders stems from the long-standing fantasy that law-abiding citizens routinely defend themselves from criminals with guns. Self-defense shootings happen all the time, it’s believed, but in fact genuine self-defense shootings are very rare. “Victims use guns in less than 1% of contact crimes,” the Harvard School of Public Health says, and there is absolutely no honest data showing that widespread gun-carrying either reduces crime or makes people safer from criminals. But proclaiming otherwise sells a lot of guns.

But if you’ve been listening closely, you might notice that the gun cultists don’t talk about crime as much as they used to. Ten and more years ago, people arguing for laxer gun laws talked about crime, crime, crime, and then maybe about “freedom” and telling jokes about shooting lefties. Now they’ve escalated to talking about “freedom” and “tyranny” and shooting the lefties more than about crime, and they aren’t joking. See Proud Boys call for ‘stacking up’ bodies ‘like cord wood’ after Rittenhouse verdict at RawStory.

As Adam Serwer wrote, “Right-wing gun culture is not unlike the wellness industry, in that it requires the cultivation of a sustained insecurity in its audience in order to facilitate the endless purchase of its products. You can never be too skinny, and you can never have too many guns to stop the impending communist takeover.”

So far: Lax gun laws, permissive self-defense laws, lots of hysterical political demagoguery, and white supremacy increasingly backed into a corner. What could go wrong?

Do the Republicans Have a God Problem?

I was thinking of the old trope from a few years ago that Democrats don’t know how to talk about religion. See, for example, Do the Democrats Have a ’God Problem’? (Pew Research, 2006) and In Politics, the ‘God Gap’ Overshadows Other Differences (New York Times, 2006). See also The God Gap, Revisited (Mahablog, 2008). The theory was that if Democrats could speak as naturally and effusively about God as Republicans do, they would pick up a lot of voters. Democrats just needed to be more pious.

And then the Right got behind an areligious con man with no observable moral compass who bragged that he never asked God for forgiveness and can’t even site Bible verses correctly.

Let’s see who’s talking about God now. Last weekend Michael Flynn made news when he declared the United States must unite under one religion. “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God,” he said.

Much commentary of this remark assumes Flynn meant Christianity would be the “one religion.” I haven’t seen a transcript of Flynn’s entire remarks, and I don’t know if he referenced Christianity specifically. Also, nothing in Flynn’s online biographies suggests he is all that religious.

He was speaking at a QAnon rally; QAnoners in the past have accused Flynn of worshiping Satan. Perhaps Flynn was just trying to assure people he does not. And I don’t know why the QAnoners would have picked on Trump-supporting Flynn to be in league with Satan. QAnoners are not famous for logic, whether internal or external.

Flynn’s utterly unconstitutional suggestion also smacks of authoritarianism. Throughouth most of human history governments have assumed power by claiming a connection to divine authority of some sort — i.e., the Chinese tianming, or mandate of heaven; the European “divine right of kings.” In the West, democracy didn’t become possible until philosophers began to challenge the assumption of a divine mandate for monarchs. Genuine democracy, government of the people, can’t very well happen if the government speaks for God.

In the 20th century, totalitarian governments lurched away from theocracy and, instead, claimed control over religious institutions or banned religious instutitons outright (see: Mao Zedong, Cultural Revolution). Today, churches or temples in China that wish to remain open must be subservient to government authority. The Chinese Communist Party can censor sermons, decide which rituals can be performed, regulate the publication and distribution of Bibles, appoint Catholic bishops, and identify reborn lamas. The Third Reich came to power in Germany in part by reassuring Christians the Reich was pro-Christian, but in truth ministers who did not support the Führer (i.e., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller) tended to come to a bad end. And no, Hitler was not a Christian. The long-term plan of the Reich, never carried out, was to destroy German Christianity.

Religious authority has power; a totalitarian state must either absorb and control that power or destroy it.

This takes us to the Christian Nationalist movement. The basic ideas behind Christian Nationalism — that Christianity must be recognized as the state religion and inform all government policies — have been with us from the beginning of the nation. What fuels its most fanatical elements is not piety, however, but a desire to maintain cultural and racial hegemony. And that’s not new, either.


I’ve read the Gospels; Jesus didn’t say a word about white supremacy. Or abortion. Or capitalism. Or homosexual wedding cakes.

See The Growing Anti-Democratic Threat of Christian Nationalism in the U.S. by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry in Time:

As a political theology that co-opts Christian narratives and symbolism, Christian nationalism has its own version of the “elect,” those chosen by God. They are “people like us,” meaning conservative Christian, but also white, natural-born citizens. Moreover, in a prosperous nation, only “the elect” should control the political process while others must be closely scrutinized, discouraged, or even denied access. This ideology is fundamentally a threat to a pluralistic, democratic society. …

… The threat of Christian nationalism is buried within the seemingly harmless language of “heritage,” “culture,” and “values.” But within this language is an implicit understanding of civic belonging and relative worth. Study after study shows Christian nationalism is strongly associated with attitudes concerning proper social hierarchies by religionrace, and nativity. These views naturally extend to whom Americans think should have the right to participate in the political process and whether everyone should have equal access to voting.

What I hope people understand is that those attitudes concerning proper social hierarchies by religion, race, and nativity are deeply ingrained social and cultural biases that are not supported by Jesus’ teaching. The problem with any religion is that  churches and temples are planted in cultures with deep and long-abiding biases, and the people who are ordained into religious institutions bring those biases with them. After a few centuries it gets hard to separate wheat from chaff, so to speak. (Maybe Jesus never explicitly said white people were superior, they think, but it’s just common sense that they are. So Jesus must have thought so, too.) And eliminating religion doesn’t get rid of the biases.

And it came to pass that many of the January 6 insurrectionists displayed Christian symbols and slogans along with political ones while they were trying to overturn democracy.

Yeah, nothing demonstrates love of Jesus and country better than breaking into the Capitol and terrorizing the lawmakers.

We now have a Democratic president who is Catholic to the hilt and speaks reverently of God as easily and naturally as he can breathe. The Republican Party, on the other hand, is now being led by the Golden Calf. See also Donald Trump and Uses and Misuses of the Bible (Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, June 2020).

What this tells me is that this God Gap thing was never about religion. It was just an extension of the Culture War, with righties presuming that Jesus was on their side. Hell, they aren’t just presuming. They are clinging frantically, with all their being, to the certainty that Jesus shares their biases.

The great theologians of Christian history would be appalled.

Update: Rittenhouse acquitted. Damn. This country won’t be safe for anybody to live in.

We Must Stop Gun-Carrier Privilege

Every now and then, somebody cuts through all the crap and gets to the heart of the problem. Today it’s Robin Givhan at the Washington Post, Identifying Danger in the Rittenhouse Case. (You can read this entire article without a firewall.)

“As the state wrapped up its case, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told the jury, ‘You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.’

“This would seem obvious. But all too often, White men with guns do not see themselves as a danger. They cannot fathom that their actions are suspect. They cannot envision themselves as anything but patriotic and godly. Their moral certitude has been so deeply embedded into the collective mind-set that what they choose to protect, whether a nondescript auto center or a vulnerable human being, is quickly presumed to be valuable and worthy of protection. What White men choose to disregard comes to bear the taint of effluvium. As a culture, we are only now disentangling ourselves from this web. The process has been painful and exhausting.”

The issue of “privilege” is hard to grasp for a lot of us, but much has happened lately that makes it visble.

“Rittenhouse, with his youth, is a reminder that this sense of favor and privilege is not just embedded in an older generation. This belief in one’s infallibility, this certainty, has been inherited. It isn’t some relic of the past. It’s alive and vibrant in a generation that is only just coming of age, one that still has the chubby-cheeked roundness of childhood. One that was supposed to be so, so much better. Rittenhouse is a slayer of optimism about the human condition.

“The defendant seemed incapable of stepping outside of himself and considering how he might have appeared to others. On a chaotic and unnerving night, he wore no uniform to announce his affiliation or to make plain to whom he was accountable. He falsely identified himself as an emergency medical technician, according to Binger. He called himself an EMT, but one whose medical bag was a mere speck compared with the size of his gun. He was not a Kenosha business owner. He was a random guy with a gun. He was a loose cannon, a wild card. A danger in the eyes of others.”

I choose to assume Rittenhouse did not go to Kenosha with the intention of shooting someone. He appears to think that it was not his fault he shot three people. They made him do it. They were scary. He can’t fathom that he was scary; he was the one brandishing an assault weapon.

“If people remember any moment from the trial, it may well be when Rittenhouse cried during his testimony. His face contorted with emotion; he gasped for air as he spoke, until the judge called for a brief recess so Rittenhouse could compose himself. But it’s also important to remember that Rittenhouse wept as he described the risk he perceived to his own life. He was crying over the danger that he saw in others. He wasn’t shedding tears over the danger that he posed.”

Firearms are intimidating. When you are walking around carrying an assult weapon in your arms, you are intimidating. Nobody’s going to notice you also have a first aid kit at your side. If you wave the firearm around and point it at people, you are threatening. You are dangerous. People should have a right to protect themselves from you.

“White male Midwestern teenagers have inherited the luxury of not having to step outside of themselves. They don’t have to consciously consider whether their comportment might be viewed as threatening, their carriage suspicious or their demeanor cause for alerting the police. They have the psychic freedom to roam widely, to claim any space as their own. Until, all of a sudden, they don’t.”

It’s not just Midwestern teenagers. Look at the three men on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. There are many similarities to the Rittenhouse case.

In both cases, the defendants claim they were entitled to start shooting because the victims were trying to take their guns.

“In other words, their own decision to carry a gun became a justification to use it, lest it be wrested away from them,” said Eric Ruben, an expert on the Second Amendment at the S.M.U. Dedman School of Law in Dallas.

Ahmaud Arbery was out jogging. He was pursued and trapped by white men in pickup trucks who assumed he must be a burglar trying to get away, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t carrying anything resembling stolen loot. Arbery was “trapped like a rat,” one of the men told police. Arbery was not armed; the men who trapped him were.

“He was trapped like a rat,” Greg McMichael said, according to a transcript of their recorded interview Nohilly read in court. “I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away.”

Defense attorneys say the McMichaels and Bryan were legally justified in chasing and trying to detain Arbery because they reasonably thought he was a burglar. Greg McMichael told police Travis McMichael, 35, fired in self-defense as Arbery attacked with his fists and tried to grab his son’s shotgun.

Arbery had a reasonable expectation that these yahoos were about to kill him. This was Georgia, after all. Instead of placing himself at the mercy of his assailants, Arbery attempted to defend himself and was killed. This much is plainly obvious.

That was February 23, 2020. The local criminal justice system felt no apparent urgency to treat this killing as a crime. The case was passed around to three different prosecutors. One of the prosecutors wrote a memo saying that the shooting was “perfectly legal,” and that there were no grounds for making arrests. But then on May 5, a video of the shooting went viral on the Internet. The three white suspects were arrested on May 7. Funny how that works sometimes.

Obviously, gun-carrying is privileged. Gun-carriers may point guns and threaten unarmed people. But if those people attempt self-defense with their hands or bodies, it’s okay to shoot and kill them, because gun-carriers are entitled to self-defense. Maybe in theory unarmed people who are shot by gun-carriers have a right to self-defense, too, but since they are dead they can’t speak up for themselves.

And let us not forget Trayvon Martin. Exactly the same thing. George Zimmerman assumed the privilege to judge that a black boy didn’t belong in his neighborhood. And he stalked and threatened Martin until Martin contronted him. And that gave Zimmerman the authority to kill Martin. It was self-defense, see. And the bleeping criminal justice system agreed.

When those assuming the authority and privilege to set agendas, to brandish guns, and to occupy moral high grounds find themselves surrounded by carnage and criminal liability of their own making, that must be really disorienting for them. That’s not how the story in their heads was supposed to end. They were supposed to be heroes. They were supposed to be the ones who set the world right.

Josh Marshall wrote recently,

“Self-defense laws exist because we as a society believe you are entitled to defend yourself with what would ordinarily be criminal violence if you face imminent, grave bodily harm or death. If someone breaks into your home and is threatening to kill you you have the right to kill them first. But if you created the dangerous or deadly situation the calculus changes. Or at least it should. Rittenhouse likely broke some laws being there with the gun in the first place. He was under 18 for instance. But the basic argument here is that Rittenhouse wasn’t doing anything wrong by just carrying around an AR-15. Wisconsin’s an open carry state. The inherent aggression and menace of carrying around high caliber weapons, which we’re told is only a problem for squeamish libs, becomes a path for the person carrying the fire arm to themselves feel threatened and decide they need to use the gun.

“The aggression carries the seeds of justification within it. You show up looking for trouble on yet another of these right wing murder safaris like Rittenhouse, with his mother chaperoning, was taking part in. You’re looking for trouble and when you find it that’s your justification for taking the next step. That’s not how self-defense is supposed to work. But we can see in this case how the interplay of open carry and permissive self-defense statutes do just that.”

This just in:

Kyle Rittenhouse’s attorneys asked the judge on Wednesday to declare a mistrial, saying they received an inferior copy of a key video from prosecutors and would have approached things differently if they had received the higher quality video earlier.

Judge Bruce Schroeder did not immediately rule on the request, which came after jurors deliberating for a second day at Rittenhouse’s murder trial asked to review video evidence.

That was the video showing sweet little Kyle pointing his assault weapon at protesters before being chased by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he killed. The jurors, in deliberation, asked to review the video, which must have made the defense nervous.

The nation needs a conviction. The message needs to be sent that being white and well-armed is no longer privileged. Is there a chance the jury will convict? I have little hope of that. It may be the best we can hope for is a hung jury and another trial with a new judge. But we’ll see.

Also, too: A note on the recent fundraiser. The goal has been met, and I won’t nag you again. Thank you so much.

All Righties Get to Be Victims!

The Rittenhouse case has gone to the jury. Basically, it’s up to the jury to decide who gets to be the victim(s) — Kyle Rittenhouse, or the people he killed and maimed.

The closing arguments of defense attorney Mark Richards were just plain creepy. For example, he said of the first man killed by Rittenhouse, “Kyle shot Joseph Rosenbaum to stop a threat to this person. And I`m glad he shot him, because if Joseph Rosenbaum had got that gun, I don`t for a minute believe he wouldn`t have used it against somebody else. He was irrational and crazy. Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle.”

There was conflicting testimony about how much of a threat the unarmed Rosenbaum really was to Rittenhouse. I haven’t found any testimony about how far apart Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum were when Rosenbaum was killed. Rittenhouse said that Rosenbaum was reaching for his AR-15. That might have been because Rittenhouse had pointed it at Rosenbaum. The prosecutor, Thomas Binger, said,

Binger repeatedly showed the jury drone video that he said depicted Rittenhouse pointing the AR-style weapon at demonstrators.

“This is the provocation. This is what starts this incident,” the prosecutor declared.

He told the jury: “You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you are the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people.”

Defense attorney Richards denied that pointing a gun at people was provocative.

The two other men who were shot by Rittenhouse were “attacking” Kyle because they knew he had killed a man and considered the teenager to be an active shooter and dangerous to others, the prosecutor said.  Which he pretty much was. But Mark Richards said that Rittenhouse couldn’t have been an “active shooter” because he killed only two people.

Further, the defense lawyer said of the shooting of Rosenbaum, “Ladies and gentlemen, other people in this community have shot somebody seven times — and it’s been found to be OK. My client did it four times.” The “seven times” was a reference to Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer. That act of violence was what people in Kenosha were protesting. As Charles Pierce said, “This was a Holy God moment to end all Holy God moments.”

Yet there’s more. Another famous pair of self-proclaimed victims, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, turned up at the Rittenhouse trial. They told reporters at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Monday that Rittenhouse is a victim of “cancel culture.” Seriously, that term was always stupid, but what the bleep?

Victims abound. Yesterday Alex Jones was held liable by default in a suit brought against him by families of children massacred at Sandy Hook. Naturally, Jones sees himself as a victim now. I am not going to link to it, but he’s over at InfoWars screaming about tyranny and how he’s been deprived of his right to free speech.

You might remember that Jones called the December 2012 massacre of 20 small children and 6 adults a hoax. This set his thuggish followers on a mission to harass the grieving families of the victims. One father of a slaughtered six-year-old who was singled out by Jones is still in hiding. Families eventually sued Jones to get him to back off.

Two years ago, a judge ordered Jones to turn over financial, business, and marketing documents related to InfoWars’ operations. As I  understand it, one reason for this was to determine how much money Jones was making from his “Sandy Hook was a hoax” crusade. Jones failed to provide these documents, and after two years of waiting the judge declared that Jones is “liable by default.” The families will be allowed to tell a jury how much harm Alex Jones has done to them, and I assume the jury will then decide how much Jones owes them for their suffering.

I hope he’s cleaned out. I am sure Jones’s fans will believe Jones is the victim. Note that among the things Jones is claiming now is that he was denied a right to trial by jury.

Steve Bannon turned himself in yesterday after being indicted for contempt of Congress. Bannon was so thrilled to be victimized that he live-streamed his own surrender. He may be blasting right past victim and claiming martyrdom, in fact.

There’s no end to the victims, according to wingnuts. Critical Race Theory is bad because it victimizes white people, for example. The Kingpin of all victims is, of course, Donald Trump, still whining like a spoiled toddler because he lost the 2020 election. Not fair! They should have let him have another term! He wanted it a lot!

I’m so tired of these people.

Which reminds me; the Rittenhouse trial judge would not allow Rittenhouse’s victims to be referred to as, you know, victims. Lest we forget, here they are. Rosenbaum and Huber died that night; Grosskreutz was permanently disabled in one arm.

News About Steele Dossier Isn’t New

The Steele Dossier is in the news again. Last week we learned that Igor Danchenko, described as “the dossier’s primary intelligence collector” by Erik Wemple, has been indicted for lying to the FBI. This has set off many accusations of wrongdoing by mainstream media. For example, Sarah Fischer writes at Axios:

A reckoning is hitting news organizations for years-old coverage of the 2017 Steele dossier, after the document’s primary source was charged with lying to the FBI.

Why it matters: It’s one of the most egregious journalistic errors in modern history, and the media’s response to its own mistakes has so far been tepid.

Outsized coverage of the unvetted document drove a media frenzy at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency that helped drive a narrative of collusion between former President Trump and Russia.

It also helped drive an even bigger wedge between former President Trump and the press at the very beginning of his presidency.

As far as egregious journalistic errors of modern history go, seems to me it pales in comparision to the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails and George W. Bush’s alleged National Guard service. I’m sure some of you can think of more egregious journalistic errors of modern history.

And as I remember, there were plenty of other factors driving a wedge between Trump and the press at the very beginning of his presidency. That well had already been poisoned before Sean Spicer trotted out and lied about the crowds at Trump’s inauguration. See, for example, Partisan Crowds at Trump Rallies Menace and Frighten News Media, New York Times, October 14, 2016. I doubt the dossier made any difference.

But here is why I am confused.

First, I thought it was understood back in 2017 that the dossier consisted of raw and unvetted information that may or may not be true. That’s how I remember it, anyway.

Further, there’s been a lot of reporting since 2017 that pretty much discredited the dossier.  For example, Wemple wrote in August 2020,

The Mueller report, released in April 2019, failed to corroborate key dossier contentions. The report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, released in December 2019, destroyed it with venomous bureaucratese. The Intelligence Committee report relies extensively on Horowitz’s conclusions and lands in essentially the same neighborhood: The FBI, concludes the report, gave Steele’s reporting “unjustified credence” and failed to “adjust its approach to Steele’s reporting once one of Steele’s subsources provided information that raised serious concerns about the source descriptions in the Steele Dossier. The Committee further found that Steele’s reporting lacked rigor and transparency about the quality of the sourcing.” The FBI erred in relying on the dossier in seeking FISA surveillance authorization for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign operative.

I hadn’t noticed anyone taking the dossier seriously, or even talking about it much, for quite a while. I don’t believe Danchenko’s indictment is showing us anything new.

Second, allegedly the dossier was important because it was the chief reason Trump was being investigated for possible collusion with Russia. But I don’t believe that’s true, either. Right-wing media kept making that claim, but I was reading in other sources that the warrants obtained by investigators were based on other information, and that the dossier was just incidental. I wrote in 2018,

The Senate Judiciary Committee behaves as if the Steele Dossier is the lynchpin against all the anti-Trump allegations, and if it were discredited all would be resolved in Trump’s favor. But it seems to me the Steele Dossier is nearly irrelevant at this point. It wasn’t even the first clue of possible collusion that caught the FBI’s interest, as was once believed. We now know the first clue was Trump foreign policy adviser/coffee boy George Papadopoulos’s drunken bragging to an Australian ambassador that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. … Seems to me that if the Steele Dossier had never been written, we’d still be in about the same place regarding the several investigations.

So, if the Steele Dossier evaporates, that doesn’t exonerate Trump and doesn’t prove that the entire investigation was just a political stunt. It doesn’t change anything, really. Although if I were given to conspiracy theories, I might wonder if Igor Danchenko — under indictment, but not yet convicted — wasn’t working for the Trump campaign all along.

See also At last, Beltway introspection! by Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice. A hoot.

And if you’re still reading this, I do hope you check out my fundraiser to keep Mahablog online. I really do need some help.

Igor Danchenko