Wednesday’s events are what all that arrant, hypocritical, virtue-signaling bullshit really amounts to. A white fascist mob incited by a Republican president announced for weeks its intention to overturn the results of the 2020 election by armed violence. True to their word, they invaded the Capitol in broad daylight. The police–despite all their “blue line” valor and all their “real time intelligence”–were taken by surprise by a bunch of half-assed thugs, running away as a mob took over and occupied the heart of the United States government.*
Law enforcement then mounted a decidedly rearguard action to take back what they had previously surrendered. Had the attack been better organized and its participants more strategically competent, we’d have had a hostage situation mimicking Waco and rivaling 9/11. Indeed, Trump’s followers came in order to complete what Al Qaeda had hoped to bring about on 9/11–the destruction, by armed force, of American democracy. Twenty years into a “War on Terror,” and retreat is the best we can do when an actual invasion reaches the doorsteps of the country’s center of gravity: after bombing the shit out of everyone all around the globe in the name of “national security,” and “taking the fight to the enemy,” the “troops” trained to keep democracy safe ran away, and surrendered it directly to the enemy.**
Let’s not sugarcoat it. It’s long, long past time to face the fact that Trump and his supporters are fascists, no matter now nice and neighborly some of them can be in person, that fascism can happen here—that it has happened, and that a Biden presidency doesn’t immunize us against a further descent into fascism, any more than the Weimar Republic saved Germany from that fate. It’s time to stop being afraid to use this supposedly “incendiary” word, time to start fearing the thing it names, and time to start resisting it for the danger it represents.
* Afterthought, added January 10, 2021: In retrospect, my blanket assertion that the police fled strikes me as unfair. Some did flee, ignominiously, in my view. Some allowed the protesters into the Capitol. But some fought hard. What’s indisputable is that the insurrectionists’ success at gaining entry to the Capitol was an abject, embarrassing failure on the part of law enforcement.
At a time when respect is widely touted as an attitude of central moral importance, contempt is often derided as a thoroughly nasty emotion inimical to the respect we owe all persons. But while contempt is regularly dismissed as completely disvaluable, ethicists have had very little to say about what contempt is or whether it deserves its ugly reputation. Macalester Bell argues that we must reconsider contempt’s role in our moral lives. While contempt can be experienced in inapt and disvaluable ways, it may also be a perfectly appropriate response that provides the best way of answering a range of neglected faults.