Inching Ever Closer

Rosa Brooks at Moyers & Co
Here’s how lynch mobs form, in the age of the alt-right and “alternative facts.”
First, you inadvertently wave a red flag at an arena full of bulls. Then you sit back and wait for the internet to do its dark magic.
In my case, the red flag was a few paragraphs at the end of a recent column, speculating on what would happen if Donald Trump truly and dangerously lost his marbles. I wondered about one “possibility … that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders”:
The principle of civilian control of the military has been deeply internalized by the US military, which prides itself on its nonpartisan professionalism.… But Trump … [is] thin-skinned, erratic, and unconstrained — and his unexpected, self-indulgent pronouncements are reportedly sending shivers through even his closest aides.
What would top US military leaders do if given an order that struck them as not merely ill-advised, but dangerously unhinged? An order that wasn’t along the lines of “Prepare a plan to invade Iraq if Congress authorizes it based on questionable intelligence,” but “Prepare to invade Mexico tomorrow!” or “Start rounding up Muslim Americans and sending them to Guantanamo!” or “I’m going to teach China a lesson — with nukes!”
It’s impossible to say, of course. The prospect of American military leaders responding to a presidential order with open defiance is frightening — but so, too, is the prospect of military obedience to an insane order. After all, military officers swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president. For the first time in my life, I can imagine plausible scenarios in which senior military officials might simply tell the president: “No, sir. We’re not doing that,” to thunderous applause from the New York Times editorial board.
- and -
...a few days passed quietly by after the column’s publication. Then, on Thursday morning, Breitbart — the “news” site previously run by Steve Bannon, now Donald Trump’s top political adviser — ran a story about my column, headlined “Ex-Obama Official Suggests ‘Military Coup’ Against Trump.”
By mid-afternoon, I was getting death threats.
Within a few hours, the alt-right internet was on fire. The trickle of critical email messages turned into a gush, then a geyser, and the polite emails of the first few days were quickly displaced by obscenity-laced screeds, many in all capital letters. My Twitter feed filled up with trolls.
The Alt-Right can be whipped into a rich creamy lather with a few triggering bumper sticker phrases, and then it moves, almost automatically, with surprising speed and accuracy. As long as it's more or less confined to the "dark corners of the internet", it's an occasional law enforcement issue. But when the thing is installed as an arm of a Daddy State Federal Government, we've got a big fuckin' problem that so far has never ended well.

Like Blue Gal and driftglass said - we have to fight this fight as best we can, understanding that it's likely to be a long slog that could take more time than some of us have left. Teach your children well.



You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick's the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.
And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick's the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

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