Yesterday’s mass shooting was in Chattanooga. Saturday’s was in Philadelphia. We seem to be in an epidemic. I’ve read several times over the past few days that one highly publicized mass shooting seems to trigger several more. And here we are.
The January 6 televised hearings begin this week, on Thursday. A question I’ve heard recently is whether the January 6 insurrection still has political importance.
Nearly everything going on in politics right now is tethered to right-wing extremism, so yeah. January 6 didn’t happen in a vaccuum. Our mass shooting epidemic isn’t happening in a vaccuum, either. It’s all of a piece. But seeing this may be a heavy lift for a lot of people.
The Bulwark’s William Kristol and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait each posit that a fundamental shift is taking place within the Republican Party and conservative establishments. This shift means new reigning orthodoxies are taking hold at the highest levels, and dictating that the insurrection attempt simply did not amount to a serious offense against the country.
This shift also means new institutions are developing in the GOP and on the right that are expressly organized to promote a more militant refusal to accept election losses in the future. As Chait notes, we’re witnessing the “institutionalization of an insurrectionary movement.”
All this may sound very dramatic. But it can’t be dismissed, given that a large swath of the party will respond to the Jan. 6 hearings with a full-fledged propaganda effort to bury a serious political crime against the country — and to substitute a new story in which the true victims related to Jan. 6 are Trump and his supporters.
The gun craziness is feeding into this same institutionalism of insurrection, especially the fervently held false belief that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to be eternally prepared to overthrow the government. And not excepting election results one doesn’t like sounds like a good excuse.
Today Greg Sargent pointed to surging AR-15 sales in Georgia. The good ol’ boys are lining up around the blocks to buy one.
“Folks were waiting at the door to purchase AR-15s,” a store manager says in the report, which was first flagged by Ron Filipkowski, a lawyer who closely tracks the right.
The manager also says customers should consider AR-15s precisely because they are semiautomatic. “If you deal with a mob of people possibly trying to take over your home,” he says, “to protect your family, you’ll want as much firepower as you can get.”
We are not, in fact, experiencing a great surge in mobs attacking private homes that I’ve noticed. But the firearm industry wants you to be prepared.
Our current moment is in part the result of the gun industry’s radicalization. It has marketed guns in a way designed to target younger demographics and to encourage the militarization of our culture, the increasing introduction of military-style weaponry into civil society.
But another component of the industry’s radicalization, as former gun company executive Ryan Busse argues, is its push toward ever-increasing firepower, toward a kind of fully armed society and the deliberate exploitation of social antagonisms to jet-fuel this trend.
You hear echoes of this in the customer’s suggestion that the AR-15 has become “America’s rifle,” and in the gun store manager urging the purchase of ever more firepower, on the idea that “mobs,” as opposed to lone intruders, will soon invade your home. You see, the threat can always be inflated further.
And, of course, talk of restricting gun sales even a little bit has ’em out stocking up. Sargent quotes one gun owner as saying “The way this president is driving this country, everybody needs to be carrying at this point.”
The perpetual stoking of fear of big, scary mobs — of whom? Criminals? Black Lives Matter? Antifa? Unitarians? — and the fear that government is going to take something away from white male people somehow keeps them buying those guns.
Whatever is presented in the January 6 hearings, we can bet that the hard-core MAGA heads and right-wing true believers will not believe it, not understand why it’s a problem, and possibly never even hear it because they won’t watch. So we’re not likely to have the kind of bipartisan “ha-HAH” moment some of us may remember from the Watergate hearings of long ago. But maybe the hearings will wake up some people. We’ll see.