Hunter

The county-by-county map of COVID-19 vaccinations shows both successes — and some big holes

The Washington Post has compiled a county-by-county map of COVID-19 vaccination rates that's worth a look. At minimum, it's a tidy way to compare your own county's vaccination success to those around it. More to the point, the Post's reporters were able to crunch the numbers to check up on a few of our previous conclusions. There's some good, some bad.

In the states where sufficient information was available, the Post reports a total vaccination rate of 14.3%, or 18.2% of all adults. But 45% of Americans aged 65+ have now been fully vaccinated, as states prioritize that higher-risk population for the first vaccines. That's progress.

A cursory scan of the map, however, shows just how variable vaccination rates continue to be. While the Post that they could find no "large differences between urban and rural areas," meaning vaccination success does not appear to vary with population density—that might be a little surprising, given the presumed distribution challenges in low-population areas—there are notable gaps in some regions. Lower Missouri and much of Arkansas continues to lag behind, along with central Alabama, western Louisiana, and the South in general.

The Post calls out two patterns in specific. Predominantly Black counties have a vaccination rate roughly three points lower than the overall population, a continuation of a pattern of neglect towards Black communities throughout the pandemic. The Biden administration has signaled it would target those communities with additional vaccine awareness programs, but promoting the vaccine's efficacy and actually getting it into those communities for use are two efforts, not one.

Vaccination rates are even lower, however, in counties that voted for Trump in the last election by 80% or more. Vaccination rates there have only reached 15%, compared to the national 18.2%. That's only for the 80% case: drop down to the counties that voted for Trump by 60%, there's no longer much of a gap.

We can speculate on reasons why, but it would be reasonable to assume not only that diehard Trump voters are continuing to scoff at pandemic safety measures as they have been instructed to do by the Orange Incompetent, but that the elected officials in hard-hard-right American counties are themselves supporting vaccination campaigns less robustly than, well, anyone else.

In a bit of good news, vaccination efforts in majority-Native American counties are going rather spectacularly in comparison. Thanks to targeted efforts through the Department of Health and Human Services' Indian Health Service, vaccination rates are on average a whopping fourteen points above the national average, at over 32% of all adults.

The short of it, then, is that we're getting there. Slowly, at only 18.2% of all adults, but getting there. Now to push on the regions falling behind, and on the states not releasing enough data to even track how things are going (looking at you, Texas), and as for the dark red Trump-voting areas? Yeah, that one's going to be a puzzler.

The New York Times cuts to the heart of Ron Johnson's behavior: A 'foremost amplifier' of disinformation

This New York Times report on the continuing antics of Wisconsin's Sen. Ron Johnson is actually ... good? As in, very good?

As unsettling as that is, after the paper's four-year treatment of Donald Trump's blatant lying and propaganda campaigns as political curiosities to be analyzed for effectiveness and technique, in running down the laundry list of Johnson's recent and oft-contradictory false claims, reporters Trip Gabriel and Reid J. Epstein do an effective job of contextualizing Johnson's behavior and conveying the what of the story that more rote daily reporting regularly (and sometimes pedantically, and usually proudly) ignores.

Gabriel and Epstein do not merely repeat Johnson's latest claims, nor do they brush responsibility off with parenthetical fact checks of each. They interview Johnson, but do not allow him to run their reporting off its rails by treating him with unwarranted deference. Instead, they find the story behind the story—the information that the public most needs to know, defended in detail and with its conclusions intact.

Sen. Ron Johnson "has become the Republican Party's foremost amplifier of conspiracy theories and disinformation," report Gabriel and Epstein. An "all-access purveyor of misinformation on serious issues," one who uses his powerful perch to mislead the American public on critical subjects and in dire ways.

He is a propagandist. He is a liar. The what that the public most needs to know and that journalism has the most responsibility to convey is not the occurrence of each individual lie, set apart from the others and rebutted by fact in whatever detail a journalist or editor believes it necessary to muster. The what is that a powerful senator who acted as chair of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee is a serial propagandist, a habitual if not compulsive liar who engages in fraud against the public with regularity and with clearly political intent.

The what is not that Ron Johnson has told lies. The what is that Ron Johnson's willingness to pass on hoax after hoax to American voters is a threat to the nation's democracy. Such propaganda seeks to nullify the voice of voters by so muddling the information available to them that they cannot make judgments about the successes or failures of their representatives at all. It is all noise, and voting becomes not an exercise of public will but of the effectiveness of competing strategies for gaslighting them.

Johnson's lies are all to a purpose. He lies to boost his party's ideological stances—even when those stances were merely blundered upon, as with his continued boosting of hydroxychloroquine as anti-COVID treatment, still repeating a damaging Trump claim from the early days that Trump himself only latched onto as one of a list of supposed quick-fix cures Trump vowed would end the pandemic in short order. Johnson's efforts to fuel skepticism as to the efficacy of the vaccines now available, by contrast, are part of a brickheaded campaign to sow distrust in all things non-Republican, be they in science or in government. It is the same for climate change, and for his backing of Russian-backed conspiracy theories about Ukraine and the Biden family; there is no invented fiction that he will not endorse in service to a long-term partisan campaign demonizing non-conservative, non-Republican figures as something close to vampires.

Similarly, he lies to absolve his own party and ideological tent from even proven violent acts, as with his incessant new explanations as to how the violent insurrection that targeted lawmakers inside the Capitol—which resulted in well over 100 injured police officers, multiple deaths, and chants about what the crowd intended to do to those it was hunting—was not violent, or that the violence was caused by non-conservatives who had secretly infiltrated the conservative crowd, or take-your-pick. It does not seem to matter to him that each of these lies is provably false on their face. He continues, undaunted, even as profiles of those arrested for the violence paint each as rabid far-right partisan.

There was a point when it seemed possible that Johnson was lying so prolifically because he was genuinely stupid. The current pattern seems to put such thoughts to rest, however; he is lying about things that he himself has seen with his own eyes, and about things that have been so prolifically debunked that he, an alleged United States senator with his own dedicated staff, could not possibly still be confused about in good faith. The man is a liar and a provocateur, nothing more.

That the Times piece makes a comparison to professional propagandist Sen. Joe McCarthy, who made a brief career out of defrauding the nation as means of self-promotional and authoritarian-premised warfare, is also of note. Indeed, Ron Johnson is of the same mold. His methodology is to accuse his enemies of all manner of things, using the weight of his office and committee positions to give merit to constant flights of conspiratorial fancy, and to bellow about oppression when called out. Like McCarthy, Johnson has also gone so far in his fictions that he is no longer known primarily as ideological zealot, but for his insufferable dishonesty.

So yes, then, this is indeed a big news story. A sitting U.S. senator is a serial propagandist, an eager liar who incessantly spreads misinformation as his political weapon. It is a story that the daily tit-for-tat sniping about each individual lie dodges, if only for expediency. Note that it still makes no value judgment about the morality of Johnson's pattern of lies—but it does identify them as a pattern, and factually conveys the man's status as a "purveyor of misinformation on serious subjects."

This is not editorializing. It's identifying the true story behind the partisan sniping. A CNN story from a day prior identified Johnson's latest false claims about the supposed peacefulness of violent insurrectionists and was willing to identify Johnson's motive—to "downplay the seriousness" of the pro-Trump insurrection—but went no further, even allowing Johnson to get the last word in with still more false claims aimed at Black Lives Matter protests. But it did not identify Johnson as a serial fabricator, despite that being the most vital information to convey.

If Johnson is spreading false information with one claim on one day, it is of middling value at best to broadcast that falsehood even with fact checking. Was he misinformed, or was it intentional? We have no way to know, because that vital context has been carved out and tossed into a bucket of other entrails deemed unfit for presentation. If Johnson has put forward enormous quantities of disinformation not only in his claims about the insurrection, but in myriad other partisan battles, then it becomes impossible to believe he is merely mistaken this time around, in these specific statements.

The good news is that Ron Johnson's reputation for pushing malevolent misinformation is now impossible to ignore, and each of his most recent attempts at propaganda-peddling has proven considerably less successful than it would have been if—again, reminiscent of Joe McCarthy—the bellowing balloon was able to muster a few scraps of self-control. In a Washington Post piece, Greg Sargent uses the Times report to further delve into the grotesquery of Johnson's insurrection denialisms and the need to remove him as part of the "deradicalization" of propaganda-reliant Republicanism.

That is where the divide between journalism and editorial belongs, or at least far closer to it. Whether Johnson should be removed from office by voters for being a pustule of misinformation and falsehoods is up for editorial judgment, but reporting that he is a serial liar who uses propaganda to advance false narratives is on firm journalistic ground.

If an elected official, or a dozen of them, or 100 of them, have engaged in a years-long pattern to misinform the public, gaslighting them about some of the most vital issues of the day until even the integrity of our elections themselves is seen by ideologues as a truth that can be successfully challenged if only enough misinformation and enough violence can be brought to bear against it, it is front-page news. The Trump White House operated from its first day to its last day as a source of constant, relentless propaganda, but the national press ignored the ramifications of such behavior as if they had been put under a spell. It is catastrophic to democracy. It is inherently authoritarian. It is a behavior a free country cannot possibly abide, not as measure of morality but as matter of structural integrity.

Ron Johnson is a propagandist who manufactures false claims against his enemies and distorts plain truths in order to paper over the errors or corruption of his allies. It is a form of corruption that strikes at the nation's very heart, and it deserves more press attention as something more than filler or sideshow.

'You'll have to impeach me': New York's top legislative leaders call on Andrew Cuomo to resign

Earlier today, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a conference call with reporters in which he categorically refused to resign over sexual harassment charges leveled at him by multiple past aides and staffers. "There is no way I resign," he told the assembled reporters.

That statement will be tested. Soon after Cuomo made the remarks, New York state Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins issued a statement demanding Cuomo step down.

Sunday, Mar 7, 2021 · 5:29:29 PM Eastern Standard Time · Hunter

In a phone call prior to the release of Stewart-Cousin's statement, Cuomo reportedly told Stewart-Cousins "I'm not going anywhere, you'll have to impeach me."

"Everyday there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government. We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the Covid-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project.

"New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health, and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign."

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie backed Stewart-Cousins with a statement of his own, calling the allegations "deeply disturbing."

"I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor's ability to continue to lead this state. We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York."

While Cuomo continues to resist calls to step down, instead demanding the investigation into the claims of his behavior be allowed to run its course, the involvement of Heastie and Stewart Cousins represent a new escalation. The State Legislature passed a bill Friday to shrink Cuomo's pandemic emergency powers in response to a still-burgeoning scandal over the state's nursing home deaths, and new charges leveled against Cuomo by two more ex-staffers this weekend appear to have drained all remaining patience from legislative leaders.

Manchin suggests he is willing to 'look at' Senate filibuster reforms

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin made the rounds of the Sunday shows (four of them, in fact) for reasons we will not speculate on, but a bit of news did come out of it. On "Meet the Press," while speaking to the unpainted plaster wall that is Chuck Todd, Manchin added as aside that while he still supports the Senate filibuster, he might be willing to look at rule changes to make filibustering a more "painful" process for would-be saboteurs. Perhaps.

"If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make them stand there and talk, I'm willing to look at any way we can," Manchin told Todd.

What Manchin is talking about is a proposed reversal of filibuster rules, in which (currently) 60 votes are required to end Senate "debate" and move most Senate bills forward, to require senators demanding more debate to actually do the debating. Called the "Talking Filibuster," that's the sort of filibuster depicted in the famous Jimmy Stewart film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; a lone senator or a group of like-minded senators talk for as long as they can physically muster, blocking all other Senate business and grinding work to a halt in an attempt to prevent a vote from being taken. But that's not what the current incarnation of Senate filibuster rules are. In the current Senate, what is called a "filibuster" is use of Senate rules that require 60 votes to move to each new stage of a bill, from the motion to proceed to amendments to the reconciliation process. Each invocation requires a cloture vote scheduled two days later, plus 30 additional hours of debate after that, making it a simple way for the minority to turn proposed legislation into a semi-infinite process that threatens to consume vast portions of the legislative calendar.

That's the version that's in use today, but it doesn't have to be. The Senate has repeatedly changed filibuster rules in the past, each time in response to perceived abuses to the system, and can change them again with a simple majority vote. In the last few decades the use of the 60-vote rule to stonewall legislation has turned from relative oddity to daily occurrence, and may once again muster the Senate into tweaking the rule to prevent its now-constant abuse.

That Manchin is hinting (during multiple interviews) that filibuster rules could indeed be tweaked to "make it a little bit more painful," and especially his suggestion that a reversion to the talking filibuster could be the pain required, is a change from Manchin's usual unwavering support for the filibuster as necessary tool of the Senate minority, but Manchin also insisted he would continue to defend the 60-vote threshold.

That leaves Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as the sole Democrat expressing opposition to all filibuster changes—though many of the other Democratic senators are themselves cautious in their theoretical support. Killing the modern "filibuster" outright would still be a heavy lift, but a use of the filibuster by Republicans to block new planned voting rights protections as a wave of state bills seeks to recharge old Jim Crow laws intended to criminalize Black voter turnout efforts would put enormous pressure on Democratic senators to follow through.

Republicans formalize their embrace of American fascism with Trump's acquittal

The full malevolence of this new Republican Party nullification of consequences for political corruption—this time, in the form of a president sending a mob to block the certification of the U.S. election that would remove him from power, a president responding to the resulting violence by singling out to the mob his own specific enemies, then sitting back to watch the violence unfold on his television while taking no action to either contain the mob or protect the Congress, is difficult to even grasp.

The ultimate irony of the Republican sabotage, however, is that impeachment was unquestionably the most appropriate remedy for Trump's actions. It was an absolute necessity, and now the entire nation will suffer the consequences. Yet again.

Whether or not what Trump did was criminal is as yet undetermined, but even Sen. Mitch McConnell himself honed in on the central sin of Trump's actions. It was, at the very least, an unforgivable dereliction of duty. When faced with a clear and present need to defend the country, Trump did not. He betrayed his oath. He proved himself not just unfit for office, but a malevolent figure willing to use even violence against lawmakers as avenue for further political power.

Even if it could be argued that Trump did not intend for violence or threats to transpire, in the minutes after a speech in which he urged the crowd to march to the Capitol and intimidate the assembled Congress, it was unquestionable that Trump sought to use the violence for his advantage as it unfolded. He singled out Mike Pence after learning that Pence was still present in the building, upon which the mob went hunting for Mike Pence. He mocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy, as rioters attempted to break through McCarthy's office door.

Trump knew that violence was occurring, and still used that violence to intimidate his enemies rather than swiftly demand reinforcements to protect Congress.

There is no question of this. It is not in dispute. To say it was dereliction of duty is, to be sure, an understatement.

The only remedy requested through impeachment, however, was one both practical and essential. Trump may have left office the two weeks between coup and inauguration of his successor, but his dereliction was so severe that Congress was asked to offer up its only available constitutional remedy: barring him from future office. That was all. The Senate was not debating whether to jail Trump, or to exile him. The Senate was debating whether or not to bar Donald Trump, proven to be incompetent or malicious, from ever returning to an office he in all probability will never again inhabit. After multiple deaths inside the U.S. Capitol, it was a political wrist slap.

But by refusing to do it, Republican senators offered up a technicality-laced defense of insurrection as political act. By immunizing him from the only credible consequence for his dereliction, Republican lawmakers have granted him an authority to try again. They have asserted to his base, their own Republican base, a white supremacist froth of the conspiracy-riddled far-right, that Trump did no wrong in asking them to block the certification of an American election. Oh, it may have been wrong. But, according to the speeches and declarations of those who have protected Trump's most malevolent acts time and time again, not consequences-worthy wrong.

Trump's rally that day, and his months of hoax-based propaganda before it, were all premised around a demand to nullify a United States presidential election he did not win. It was called Stop the Steal, and Trump and his allies demanded as remedy the overturning of the election, either by individual states that voted for the opposition candidate or through the United States Congress erasing those electoral votes outright.

It was, from the outset, an attempted coup. The very premise was to nullify an election so that he might be reappointed leader despite losing it. It was an insurrection before the crowd on January 6 ever turned violent; it was an insurrection when Trump asked the assembled crowd, in the precise minutes timed to coincide with the counting of electoral votes, to march to the Capitol building to demand the Senate overturn the elections results.

It had help. Multiple Republican senators were themselves eager to support Trump's attempted coup using their own tools of office. Even the supposed institutionalists, if the word even has meaning at this point, kept their silence and refrained from acknowledging the Democratic opponent as the election's winner. It was a tactical silence, meant to measure out whether Trump's team of bumbling lawyers and organized propaganda could produce results before coming down cleanly on the side of democracy or of insurrection. While Trump's most fervent allies embraced his claims and poked away at the election, looking for weaknesses, the party at large remained silent. Trump's actions may have been deplorable, but they were not out of party bounds. There were precious few condemnations, and elections officials in Georgia and elsewhere were left to defend themselves against outrageous lies to whatever extent they were able.

Among those they had to defend themselves to: Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, themselves inquiring as to the possible methods of simply erasing enough votes as to find Donald Trump the "true" winner.

Trump intended to overturn an election. Trump went so far as to finance and schedule a mass rally of supporters to appear at the Capitol with instructions to let those inside know that the election must be overturned. Trump sat back and watched as violence quickly followed, and responded by goading the crowd to go after an enemy, by refusing congressional pleas for intervention, and by sneering at lawmakers fearing for their lives.

By evading the question before them, Trump's Republican allies have established the toppling of democratic government and the nullification of American elections as, along with using elected office as profit center and extorting an at-war foreign nation into falsely smearing an election opponent, political tools allowed to those that would pursue political power. Demanding the nullification of an election may be unseemly, when done by movement leaders. But it is allowed. It will be backed by Republican lawmakers, and those same Republican lawmakers will brush aside whatever consequences the attempter may face if the attempt ends in failure.

This weekend saw what is perhaps the most consequential new recognition of the American fascist movement as quasi-legitimized political entity. Perhaps Trump's Republican protectors intended such, and perhaps they did not, but the outcome will be the same.

The contrary position here was, by comparison, effortless. Republican senators could have detached Trump from his position as would-be autocratic "leader" with a simple acknowledgement that his actions, during a time of true national crisis, were so horrific as to render him unfit for future office. That is all. Trump could fume, Trump could raise money against enemies, Trump could grift his pissant little life away all he likes, but he, personally, could never take office again. His authoritarian cult would be deprived of the precise and only goal of its insurrection: re-installing him as leader.

The message would have been clear: Violence as political tool is disqualifying. Forever.

Not violence as political tool is unfortunate. Not violence as political tool is unseemly, but due to various technicalities and the current schedule cannot be responded to. Violence as political tool is an unforgivable act, whether such support is tacit or explicit, whether it was planned or it was spontaneous, and we will all stand united to declare that no matter what your political ambitions may be you are not allowed to do that. You are not allowed to incite an already-violent crowd with a new message singling out a specific fleeing enemy. You are not allowed to respond to multiple calls for urgent assistance by telling a lawmaker that perhaps the rioting crowd were right to be angry, rather than sending that help. You are not allowed to spend months propagating fraudulent, malevolent hoaxes intended to delegitimize democracy itself rather than accept an election loss, culminating in a financed and organized effort to threaten the United States Congress with a mob of now-unhinged supporters demanding your reinstallation by force.

If that was a bridge too far, on the part of the same Republican senators who coddled Trump's attempts to nullify an American election and spread democracy-eroding hoaxes in their own speeches, we can all imagine why.

Fox News's decision to ignore a fallen Capitol officer's ceremony was deeply revealing

On Tuesday, the body of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed by pro-Trump insurrectionists during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, was laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived that evening to pay their respects. Americans were able to watch the ceremony on multiple news channels—but not on Fox News. On Fox News, Sicknick's ceremony was barely mentioned.

Instead, Fox News' ever-frothing opinion hosts did what they do best: stoke audience panic over all number of bizarre side issues, from a barrage of far-right conspiracy theories promoted by the fascist Laura Ingraham to Sean Hannity's important report that somebody got ejected from a Lakers game "FOR HECKLING LEBRON."

Fox's attempt to mostly pretend Sicknick's ceremony was not happening did not go without notice. In fact, it seems pretty much everybody noticed it, to the point that both blasting and mocking Fox for their silence became the evening's hot Twitter pastime.

Most of the criticism noted that Fox News had long pretended that "Blue Lives Matter," only to have it not matter at all when it came to an officer murdered by a Trump-devoted mob. The Washington Post even put some numbers to it with an analysis of how often the network even bothered to mention Sicknick compared to competing networks, even after the network ran "thousands" of segments about other police deaths during the previous four years.

Accusing Fox News of hypocrisy over the death of police officers, however, is giving them far too much credit. Fox News is not minimizing the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick because they wish to downplay the violence of Trump supporters toward police. Fox News is minimizing Sicknick's death because they are accessories to his death.

Sean Hannity and other Fox hosts bear direct responsibility for Brian Sicknick's death, because Sean Hannity and other Fox hosts were a primary avenue of conspiracy claims theorizing that Trump was the true winner of the election, cheated out of the presidency through widespread fraud. It was a hoax each and every time network hosts said it; Fox may soon be forced to pay out gargantuan sums to two voting machine manufacturers targeted by network hosts with known false claims, but each of the network's conspiracy claims was known to be false at the time the hosts made them. Though literally dozens of lawsuits were filed by Trump's allies and other Republicans, not one was able to identify any of the supposed subterfuge Fox's barrage of conspiracy-minded guests were claiming. It was a propaganda push intended to justify a proposed nullification of a United States election. It was a plot to topple democratic government based on false claims and overt propaganda.

On Jan. 6, it was acted upon by Americans who used the same claims promoted by Fox News as justification for violent insurrection and the attempted assassination of Trump-critical lawmakers.

Fox News did not avoid coverage of the honors being given to Sicknick merely because his death failed to conform to their usual propaganda slant. Fox News kept its silence about Sicknick's death because the network's promotion of an anti-democracy hoax was the direct cause of his death.

Every police injury that day is due to Fox News' legitimization of anti-democracy conspiracy claims that were known to be false each time Fox propagandists said them. Every public injury, every bit of damage. The National Guard now guards the Capitol because Fox's so-called "opinion" programs lied to America, repeatedly, in an intentional campaign to delegitimize the results of the United States elections. Every victim should join in lawsuits against the network and its hosts, and take them for every penny. That would still not address the clear and present danger Fox's hoax promotion represents to our very democracy; now that the propagandism of the network was a significant factor in an attempted violent coup against the government, the Murdoch family's cesspool of disinformation has transformed from a political nuisance to a significant domestic terror threat.

This is not the first time Fox has sent killers to their political enemies, nor the first time they have done so via a relentless stream of conspiracy segments targeting specific Americans and groups with false claims intended specifically to demonize their targets. Former host Bill O'Reilly targeted an abortion-providing Kansas doctor with false claims, repeatedly calling him a "baby killer" responsible for infanticide, after which that doctor was shot and killed outside his church by a far-right activist. Former host Glenn Beck began spouting increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories naming all manner of Democratic and liberal groups in chalkboard scribbles that supposed inscrutable connections between each; one of those named, the Tides Foundation, soon became the intended target of a far-right mass shooter.

It is a pattern. Fox News hosts manufacture false claims to demonize particular, named enemies. The far right targets those enemies with death threats or actual assassination. The network then shifts to radio silence, mentioning the violence only in passing or to deny responsibility.

It is a matter mostly of luck that that network's multi-year campaign against George Soros, claimed to be behind nearly every world event in asinine conspiracies elevated from far-right and neo-Nazi groups, has not yet resulted in his death. But they continue to promote the conspiracies, relentlessly, nonetheless.

Like Republican lawmakers who continued to peddle the same hoaxes, and for the same reasons, Fox News is a co-conspirator in the death of Officer Brian Sicknick. Its executives are culpable, because it was evident that the claims, if believed, would inspire allegedly "justified" violence. The network's most dishonest hosts chose to pursue anti-democratic sedition rather than acknowledge that Trump-led claims of invisible fraud were fraudulent, and they chose to entertain repeated claims suggesting the Biden presidency was illegitimate because it served their ideological purposes to claim so. This death is their responsibility—if they had spoken up against the conspiracies the mob used to justify their violence, the mob would have been a fraction of its Jan. 6 size. If the Republican Party was not at this point a fully fascist and anti-democratic force, they would have not engaged in conspiracy hoaxes as means of erasing an election loss that was not even particularly close.

Not all propaganda is treason, but propaganda intended to provide legitimacy for an attempted overthrow of this nation's government certainly should be counted as such. Hannity and other hosts crossed that line in service to a buffoonish and delusional con man—and in service to an ideology that no longer recognizes elections themselves as legitimate, if the outcome is not to their liking. The network is attempting to tap-dance through a failed violent insurrection they helped deliver to the door of the Capitol, and are minimizing the consequences of the violence so as to protect themselves from blame.

They could reform, but do not intend to. The Murdochs even issued a post-coup order doubling down on talking-head programs and slashing news coverage yet again; we can presume from that move that they believe catering to the fascist far-right will be profitable enough to offset whatever violence their disinformation and hoaxes fuel next.


Los Angeles mass vaccination site closed for an hour due to anti-vaccine protests

In yet another act of insanity, or just the new conservative nihilism, a COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles, had to be temporarily closed Saturday afternoon after dozens of far-right extremists showed up to protest the very existence of the vaccination program, shout at those arriving for vaccination, and provide living examples of what this nation will become once conservatives have gotten rid of all the public schools and successfully convinced a majority of Americans that their imaginations are more authoritative than all of history and science combined, because a Facebook post or swollen-headed conservative television host told them so.

How do we know that it was far-right extremists leading this anti-vaccination group, which resulted in the closure of the site for roughly an hour by on-site officials? Because they left a handy trail of breadcrumbs. The Los Angeles Times reports that in a social media post organizing the event, participants asked to "please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only."

Ah, yes. Very clever. So instead of the usual pro-Trump flags, we were treated to anti-lockdown signs, calls for the state's Democratic governor to resign, claims that "CNN IS LYING TO YOU," and the other frequent staples of far-right anti-lockdown rallies around the nation. Oh, and the usual QAnon-isms, as with a sign proclaiming "Tell Bill Gates To Go VACCINATE HIMSELF!"

The site was reopened, and according to the Times all those who had reservations were able to get vaccinated after all. But it's yet another demonstration of how anti-factual conspiracy nonsense is now a bigger danger to the United States than all terrorists and all hostile nations combined. We came very near to having an entire presidential election undone by an intentionally pursued hoax, these last few months. It is a certainty that hoaxes will continue to undermine this nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that millions of Americans will throw themselves at efforts to make sure their neighborhoods are disease hotspots.

The theory that a deadly global pandemic is not real, or at least not consequential, was adapted into conservative orthodoxy purely because it was in the interests of a gaslighting, incompetent Donald Trump to downplay the severity of the virus so that he could justify his own inaction and lack of interest. Conservatives could just as easily have proclaimed that the conservative, family-centric, and God-fearing response to the pandemic should be aggressive measures to save lives even at the price of personal inconvenience, but since the movement is contemptuous of those nodded-at things it did not happen.

I Do What I Want, You Do What I Want is the only conservative mantra that the movement can still rally around. It's not enough that they do not want to curb virus transmission or to be vaccinated in an effort to reach herd immunity without millions of new deaths. The protesters are infuriated that you might do those things despite them not wanting you to.

Anti-vaccination rhetoric is, of course, not limited to one movement. It is one of the most common anti-science tropes of recent decades, fueled by a collective loss of memory of what life was like before key vaccines were invented and a society-wide distrust of expertise in favor of one weird trick discovered by a mom-styled hucksterism. Facebook and other platforms have turned the usual social silos into something of a pyramid scheme, in which the purveyors of counterfactual gibberish are rewarded with greater and greater support based on the infectiousness of their claims.

This time around, the key mover of these conspiracy claims are the now-metastasized cancer of Trump supporters, whether they are instructed to show up with Dear Leader's flags or are told to hide them. And the pandemic-denying rhetoric being spouted started out solely as an incompetent and corrupt administration's defense for doing little to nothing, as nearly half a million Americans died.

For a conservative movement that has spent decades indoctrinating their base with more and more outlandish false claims, on Fox News and in other outlets, it is something of a given that it would end up like this—and that conservatism, itself, would be supplanted by this. The party has relentlessly disposed of anyone not eager to wallow in convenient hoaxes over inconvenient truths; the only adherents left are the people willing to believe that Bill Gates is conspiring with Jewish space-laser operators to limit our freedoms, using the faked deaths of a half-million Americans as cover.

State Republicans across the country are scrambling to enact new restrictions on voting

Republican attempts to undermine democracy are continuing. The party's crackpot wing may have failed in their plans to reinstall Donald Trump as president by simply nullifying the electoral votes of multiple Biden-won states, and a clumsy but still earnest assassination attempt against Trump's own vice president, among others, may have been thwarted by luck and a handful of law enforcement officers, but the central tenet of Republicanism's fascist push remains the same: Only government by Republican loyalists is legitimate, and only votes by the Republican base are legitimate votes.

After premising a nonviolent-turned-violent coup on false claims and hoaxes claiming unspecified and undiscovered "fraud" centered, according to them, primarily in cities with large nonwhite populations, we move on to the predictable next phase: a Republican redoubling of efforts to keep Americans from voting in the states that swung away from their party after four years of abject disaster.

The problem Republicans face, according to party leaders themselves, is that too many Democrats took advantage of vote by mail during a freaking deadly pandemic, compared to Republicans who were dissuaded from voting by mail by Republican leaders bent on pretending the deadly pandemic was a hoax. Now that the party is freed from having to pretend their concerns revolve around anything other than an attempt to cling to power despite shedding voters, they are saying so outright: "They've got to change the major parts of [voting rules] so that we at least have a shot at winning," burped a Georgia Republican elections official last week.

The plan, then: End absentee voting, pandemic or no pandemic. Either make it so onerous that most voters cannot stomach it (as with an Arizona lawmaker's proposal requiring absentee ballots to be notarized), or simply outlaw it except in narrow cases. Again, we're in the midst of a deadly pandemic. People are choosing to vote by mail so as to ... not die.

Georgia may turn out to be the epicenter of these new restrictions, if only because the state's Republicans have largely unfettered power to enact them. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been trying to make amends with his party after refusing to end democracy outright in his state by suggesting that the state's vote-by-mail system be eliminated. It was originally adopted by Republicans as a way to boost Republican turnout, since Republican voters tend to be, ahem, older, but having the common rabble use the same laws to Not Die during a pandemic has infuriated party leaders, many of whom believe it to have caused Donald Trump's loss in the state.

But similar bills are being proposed or have already passed in Arizona, which intends to strip the vast majority of voters from its early voting lists; Kentucky, where Republicans are looking to strip the Democratic governor's authority to implement "emergency" election changes and instead give it to, well, themselves; Montana, where Republicans are looking to end same-day registration for no apparent reason other than, again, to screw with voters; and New Hampshire, looking to do the same.

With any luck, we will not still be in the midst of a pandemic emergency two years from now, or four, but what Republicans appear to have taken as the central lesson of emergency voting procedures during the last election is that vote by mail is inherently dangerous to Republicanism. States like Georgia, which have long relied on manipulations such as closing polling places in non-Republican counties while expanding them in Republican ones, saw those previous efforts rendered useless when voters could return their ballots by mail. Long lines at polling places due to understaffing? Also circumvented.

Voting by mail, in other words, short-circuits many of the party's most popular methods of minority disenfranchisement. It was fine as a means of boosting Republican turnout; now that it has turned into a more general-purpose tool, the party now believes it's got to go.

We'll be seeing a lot of this in the next two years. The Republican push toward fascism—the notion that only Republican rule is legitimate, and that votes against Republican power are inherently not—will continue with aggressive moves to sabotage American elections one way or another. Limiting who can vote has been the go-to method since Reconstruction, and with a Supreme Court majority now itching for excuses to undo whatever civil rights legislation they can, will now become the party's signature issue.

State Republican parties are lurching even farther rightward after failure of violent coup

The attempted Republican coup against our democracy is not over. It is changing form, now that Joe Biden has been formally sworn in as the nation's new president, but not abating. State Republican parties, in particular, are continuing to aggressively embrace the hoaxes, conspiracy theories and cult notions justifying the attempted violent insurrection to reinstall Donald Trump as an illegitimate leader. They are also retaliating against those Republicans who refused to abet those efforts.

Long a extremist hub, the Arizona Republican Party has been moving the swiftest to dole out consequences to anti-fascist Republicans. The party voted yesterday to censure Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and ex-Sen. Jeff Flake, while reelecting far-right crackpot Kelli Ward as their state party leader. (All three censured Arizonans attended Joe Biden's inauguration just days before in a show of support for our continuing democracy, which may or may not be coincidental.)

Ducey was condemned for his imposition of pandemic-battling restrictions, as the party continues its obsessions with anti-science, anti-book-learning contrarianism even as the pandemic death toll inches towards a half million souls. McCain, however, was called out not only for her insufficient Trump support but for supporting "globalist policies," a reference to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory supposing that global "elites" are working behind the scenes to undermine national identity. To her credit, McCain responded by telling her state party to pound sand.

Lurching farther rightward still, the Texas Republican Party encouraged its allies to travel to neo-Nazi friendly site Gab while identifying itself with a pro-"Q" conspiracy trope.


"We are the STORM" is, if the symbolism did not give it away already, a Q-ism borrowed directly from the neo-Nazi movement. The "storm" refers to a violent revolution to murder the enemies of the far-right, from antifa to Democratic and social leaders to insufficiently pure neighbors, under the premise that those enemies are secretly murdering children to harvest their blood. Once again, it is the thinnest possible veneer on fringe-right anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have animated neo-Nazi justifications for violence since before they were neo-.

Donald Trump may be gone, left to stew for the moment on his loss and whether he truly wants to form a new far-right party or simply blow it off and go golfing, but the party that chose him as its incompetent, dishonest, blustering, and criminal figurehead has, if anything, only solidified its embrace of fascist techniques and principles. They are redoubling their efforts to radicalize their base, battle truths with hoaxes and to further impede the ability of non-white, non-conservative Americans to cast votes at all.

That they are doing so even after stoking a genuine violent insurrection is not surprising; the intent of the hoaxes to begin with was to overturn the election by any means necessary through the promulgation of hoaxes intended to so inflame the base that the citizenry itself would rise up to demand it. It remains the intent now. Violence is not a side effect of these efforts, but a tool. They will use it when they can.

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