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This New and Awful Normal: The Pelosi Assassination Attempt and the Culture War
We're on a quickening path to disaster and the attempt on Nancy Pelosi's life is yet another warning we must heed
If you haven’t already, take a minute to watch the first episode of The Midnight Kingdom Lecture Series (“The Great Chain of Being”) which digs into exactly what the GOP and the authoritarian Right are looking to accomplish. And, if you aren’t already subscribed, please take a moment to do so. This is an independent media venture that relies on your support. Analysis like this can’t be found anywhere else and I need your help to keep it going.
The attempted assassination of the Speaker of the House by a Right Wing zealot was treated like a Friday news dump. On CNN it was sandwiched between Tom Brady’s divorce and footage of a damaged plane making an emergency landing. The New York Times printed it below the fold.
This is the America that many of us warned was coming. An attention-less dystopia unable to reckon with itself and filled with people so radicalized by Republican conspiracy theories they’re willing to pick up a hammer and attempt to brain the husband of Nancy Pelosi in order to get to her.
It is all so farcical, so deeply, deeply unsettling, that to really attempt to understand how we’ve arrived here - much less what motivated the assassin - is to fold your mind so many times over, to swallow the ugly truth like so much drain cleaner, that it becomes crazy-making in and of itself. In analyzing his “writings,” all of it laced through with exactly the same things you might hear at a GOP campaign rally or communicated out through any number of Right Wing personalities’ social media accounts, or even just an afternoon spent binging Fox News, is to swim through a fetid cesspool representing the current disturbed subconscious of the American mind.
Because we must be clear, I have never been Nancy Pelosi’s biggest fan. Her leadership in the Democratic Party has been historical for its longevity and scope. She has managed to maintain a semblance of party discipline in a legendarily dysfunctional era and has overseen the creation of a fundraising apparatus the likes of which have never been seen. Personally, I think her politics have held the party back. The guardianship of the status quo, her protection of Congressional insider trading, and her cozy, uninterrupted relationship with special interests have all been corrosive. And I think Pelosi has been very well reluctant to recognize the very radicalization that helped birth her wannabe assassin.
But to break into her home, beat her husband nearly to death with a hammer, and plan to wait for her arrival in order to kill her, too? And to blame it on wild conspiracy theories like Replacement Theory or, and this is a bizarre component found in the assassin’s writings, for “wokeness” and “communist conspiracies” infringing on comic book movies like Black Adam?
Which is what this is. Returning to my earlier dive into the “Myth of the Left,” so much of this strange situation rests on consumer expressions of “politics,” or rather commercialized pseudo-ideology. Rather than having functioning representative politics, we now see our ideas and espoused principles play out on screens. We reinforce these ideas through our purchases, our memberships, our traffic. And, because ideology is merely a story we tell ourselves, we must somehow accept an additional narrative to justify what we believe about what we see.
For example, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem before NFL games, critics saw this as the league itself becoming “woke” despite the NFL remaining one of the most exploitative corporations in the nation. That story drove some fans away while other corporations like Nike then bought Kaepernick’s services to appeal to supporters in convincing them of their “wokeness” while remaking, again, an incredibly exploitative corporation.
Here, with Pelosi, is another example of this in action. The Internet is awash with young white men who have, to some extent, been targeted by corporations through the proliferation of comic book movies, action franchises, and similar massive intellectual properties that actively appeal to them through power fantasies capitalizing off their insecurities which are inherent in these “masculine” circles. But because corporations are interested in A. projecting “acceptable” politics as to not scare off consumers with disposable income and B. growing their market appeals, what has resulted is a slight change in the properties in order to gain public relation points and possibly attract a larger, more diverse audience.
None of this has anything to do with Nancy Pelosi. Or the Democratic Party. Or actual politics. This is market and profit-driven and a result of an economic system obsessed with unsustainable growth. And yet, social media is flooded with MCU/DCU fans absolutely convinced it’s part of a larger conspiracy to brainwash Americans and carry out insidious plans. It’s not coincidence that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are absolutely flourishing as authoritarians are using this consumer frustration to recruit and radicalize.
And, the Republican Party, as a white supremacist driven, aggrievement-powered project that turns shallow anger into actual political victories for their wealthy backers, recognizes this as absolutely fertile ground.
This is the essence of our crisis. Representative politics have been destroyed, leaving us more and more isolated from actual power and control with every cycle. As a result, we are growing more angry and disillusioned, leaving us with little more than the illusion of “politics” in our cultural and consumer choices. We seek refuge in the products that will temporarily distract us from our suffering and seek solace and reinforcement in our entertainments provided by corporations that have absolutely no ideological purpose beyond taking our ideology and processing it into a product for profit.
But for those who cannot anesthetize the pain or who are being targeted by the GOP, they still seek some solution beyond the product, especially as their product changes in order to grow its appeal. Rather than see market forces, they see conspiracies. They see masterminds and villains. And they blame people like Nancy Pelosi, because the GOP, as anger-director, has told them to blame her. Entire networks exist to redirect this rage from corporations and markets to political enemies like Pelosi while also using that anger to hawk pills, gold, security systems, and any number of associated fear-based products.
And that isn’t going to stop. This socioeconomic death-spiral is sprinting forward despite climate change, despite a crisis of liberal democracy, and despite its own obvious groaning and failing. After all, it knows nothing else. And so its benefactors - the same wealth class profiting off the apparatuses that radicalize these people and make their lives terrible in the first place - are going to continue to direct them to pick up a hammer, liker their beloved superhero, and take fate into their own hands.
This song and dance will continue as long as this cycle continues. This isn’t the first attempt on Nancy Pelosi’s life and it won’t be the last. That is troubling to realize, but it’s also so much to witness the quickening acceptance of this. As our conditions deteriorate, as the exploitation worsens, and as these illusory culture wars escalate, there will be a choice: either reform our system or simply accept these morbid and murderous consequences.
We’re getting a firsthand glimpse of what many will choose in these coming, awful days.