The January 6th Co-Conspirators Who Have Yet To Be Named.

They likely won’t be charged for their role in the insurrection. But the people most responsible for the attack on the Capitol and on the world’s longest-running democracy were not the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, etc. or even Donald J. Trump. They didn’t use pepper spray, flag poles, spears, and riot shields to assault police officers.

They used microphones, cameras, and websites instead.

You see, the insurrection began long before January 6, 2021. It actually began in 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, when the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy that originated in 1949 requiring broadcasters to present information in a fair and truthful manner that clearly distinguished news from opinion.

Once freed from the shackles of truth and fairness, broadcast media owners more concerned with politics, ratings, and money than journalistic integrity unleashed the likes of Rush Limbaugh to relentlessly attack the government and the so-called “pointy-headed liberals.” News and truth were replaced by opinion and lies based on fear, anger, and hate. And listeners who had long been conditioned to believe what they heard over the airwaves accepted those lies as fact.

Farmers and laborers were particularly vulnerable to the fiction that Rush was pedaling. Since they spent hours working alone, the radio was a welcome companion on their tractors and at their worksites. Already angry that prices of commodities had tanked in the 1970s and that worker’s salaries had not kept pace with inflation, they were easy prey for a radio host who blamed their problems on immigrants, inner city “thugs” and government bureaucrats.

And things soon got worse. Other unscrupulous actors, attracted by Rush’s booming ratings, joined him on the airwaves to denounce liberals and government under the guise of presenting the “real truth.” The “truth” mainstream media – aka responsible journalists – won’t tell you.

Then Rupert Murdoch and his conservative lapdog, Roger Ailes, entered the picture with Fox News. Though it claimed to be “Fair and Balanced”, it was neither. Certainly, it built a sizeable news gathering operation to fill its 24/7 programming schedule. But it constantly combined news with opinion making it all but impossible to distinguish one from the other. And, instead of hiring respected journalists to present the information, Ailes hired a team of carnival barkers, such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, to feed viewers a constant stream of far-right ideas and falsehoods.

Around the same time, there was tremendous growth in websites and social media where anyone with a computer or cellphone could make their opinions known. The more outrageous and sensational the opinions and the lies, the more clicks and money to be gained.

All of this combined to create a rightwing politician’s wet dream – a propaganda network that would be the envy of Nazi Germany’s Josef Goebbels. It was the perfect environment for an accomplished con man like Donald J. Trump.

Rush, Fox, and others used Trump to increase their ratings by further sensationalizing their racist anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist, anti-government, anti-Democrat agenda. And he used them to give credibility to his lies and to grow his poll numbers. Even after entering the White House, Trump relied on them as his unofficial advisors.

It was this same cult of rightwing media bullies and buffoons who amplified and perpetuated Trump’s Big Lie. They decried the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. They encouraged attacks on state and county election officials. They advertised and promoted the January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally. And they reveled in the notion that rightwing extremists in Congress along with Vice-President Mike Pence could stop the certification of Biden’s win and reassign the selection of electoral votes to Republican-dominated state legislators.

They deserve every bit as much of the credit for the attempt to violently overthrow our government as any of the extremist militias and politicians whose shameful actions almost succeeded in destroying our democracy.

They must be held accountable. If the courts of law can’t do it, the courts of public opinion must.

The Failure Of Language In The Age Of Trump.

As a professional writer who has a journalism degree and as someone who taught writing at the collegiate level, I believe words matter. Unfortunately, I feel too many journalists, politicians, and elected officials failed us during the administration of Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, I believe their choice of words to describe his outrageous behavior have both encouraged and enabled him.

For example, in the era of Trump, empathy, politeness and humility have been labeled as “political correctness.” Right-wing propagandists are dismissed as “conservatives.” Domestic terrorists are labeled as “extremists.” Violent militias and hate groups are labeled as “radicals.” Seditionists are known as “patriots.” And insurrectionist politicians are part of “the freedom caucus.”

Voter suppression is “enforcing voter ID laws.” Voter disenfranchisement is “updating voter registration.” Civil rights marches and protests are “riots” while threatening gatherings of armed militias are “demonstrations.”

When Trump bombarded us with lies and disinformation, far too many reporters referred to the lies as “factually incorrect” or “untrue.” When he made racist statements and encouraged violence, reporters called them “an attack on political norms.” Even when he called journalists enemies of the people, few reporters were willing to acknowledge his behavior as that of an autocrat.

When Trump ordered children to be ripped from their parents’ arms, too many reported that he had increased “border security,” instead of calling his order what it really was: child torture. When he refused asylum to political and economic refugees, he was “tough on immigration.” But, by sending them back to almost certain death, he was acting as an accomplice to mass murder. And both the Russia investigation and Trump’s first impeachment were labeled by some as “witch hunts.”

Yet, never has the issue become more obvious than in aftermath of Trump’s attempted coup.

Though the assault on Congress was clearly an effort to kidnap and murder those elected representatives who refused to do Trump’s bidding by overturning the election, the language was quickly softened. Instead of calling it a coup, an insurrection, or even domestic terrorism, many described it merely as an “attack,” a “riot,” or a mere “demonstration.” Some of the buffoons on Fox News even said, “America had it coming.”

Let’s be clear. We can never heal this nation until we have a shared truth. That requires precision of language – language that accurately describes what we have collectively seen and experienced. We must do better.

An Act Of Sedition.

After watching videos of the armed confrontation between Cliven Bundy and federal agents executing a legal court order, I realized that I was watching more than a political demonstration or civil disobenience. When Bundy’s crowd of armed milita threatened government officials by drawing their weapons and taking aim from sniper positions, they crossed a very clear line into the realm of sedition. Incredibly, they were supported by Nevada Governor Sandoval, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and dozens of state legislators from Arizona and Nevada.

Look up the definition of sedition yourself.

To save you the trouble, 18 U.S. Code 2384 reads, “If two or more persons…conspire to oppose by force the authority…or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States…they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.” Not only were the actions of Bundy and his friends in violation of that code, so, too, were the actions of the conservative media hosts and politicians who applauded and encouraged them.

Imagine if a group of drug dealers challenged federal authority to interrupt a smuggling operation. Imagine if a city neighborhood took up arms to prevent the arrest of a suspected murderer. Would anyone support and encourage them? If not, where do we draw the line?

I’d suggest that the line is crossed when someone, anyone, takes aim at government officials or incites someone else to do so.