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“Vermin” and Violence
Incitement to violence is what the MAGA base craves. Americans deserve better.
Paul Pelosi was violently assaulted in his own home just over a year ago. Pelosi’s attacker, David DePape, broke into his home with an intent to kidnap Pelosi’s wife, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It was a shocking incident of violence from an assailant targeting the person second in line for the US presidency. It also occurred just a couple of weeks before the midterm elections.
This week was DePape’s criminal trial. Both DePape and Paul Pelosi testified, giving the public new insight into what happened that night. On the stand, Pelosi described the harrowing incident: waking up to find a stranger [DePape] looking for his wife in his home, how he’d had to remain calm and try not to escalate the situation, his brutal assault, and the trauma of that night. Pelosi testified that he hadn’t spoken to anyone about his attack and had encouraged members of his family not to either “because it has been too traumatic.”
David DePape testified on his own behalf, which surprised me, but then I was surprised that this case ever went to trial since the attack was caught on video. DePape’s defense attorneys attempted to get him off on a technicality, arguing that the defendant never actually interfered with Nancy Pelosi’s role in Congress when he broke into the Pelosi’s home and that since DePape subscribed to conspiracy theories and believed in an alternative view of reality, Nancy Pelosi’s role as Speaker of the House didn’t factor into his thinking. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. The jury found David DePape guilty of attempted kidnapping and assault.)
DePape’s testimony made more news than Paul Pelosi’s, which made me sad. Partly, none of what DePape said on the stand or what we learned about how he came to develop conspiratorial views was much of a surprise. He got into politics through #GamerGate. He consumed right-wing podcasts and videos on YouTube, namechecking Tim Pool, Glenn Beck, James Lindsay, and QAnon. His plan to kidnap Nancy Pelosi was built around creating online virality and notoriety for himself, with him wearing a unicorn costume to interrogate her and posting the video online. How many versions of this story have we heard before? I’ve lost count.
Meanwhile, Paul Pelosi is traumatized, as is his entire family. Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra, has suggested that the attack played a role in her mother’s decision to step away from leadership. Alexandra also spoke about how she won’t ever forgive those who made jokes about her mother just after the attack and found herself questioning whether her mother’s public service was at all worth it.
The trauma doesn’t stop there, however. DePape had a list of targets that was entered into evidence. Most of the targets were prominent people, but included along with them was a college professor identified during the trial as Target 1, whose work makes her a frequent target of the MAGA Right. DePape had at one point considered breaking into Target 1’s home instead of Pelosi’s because he believed Target 1 to be a “pedo activist who wants to turn all the schools into pedo factories.” but determined that Pelosi’s home would be easier to break into. Target 1, who already deals with threats from the Right, testified that her workplace had to take even more security measures to protect them once it was revealed that they were at the top of DePape’s target list.
As I wrote last year, incitement to violence is a staple tactic of the Republican party. I remain shocked at just how high America’s tolerance is for living with it. This is no way to live or govern, yet here we continue to do it. From election workers to marginalized communities to school children -- no community or group is safe.
Even right-wing politicians deal with incitement. GOP members of Congress and their families received death threats as the Republican Caucus attempted to elect a new speaker. Senator Mitt Romney made news for claims that GOP electeds in the House and Senate wanted to impeach or convict Trump after January 6 but chose not to, citing fear for their personal safety or their family’s safety as a concern.
Violence is, of course, what the MAGA base craves. As they’re not currently in power, inciting violence (or stochastic terrorism, if you prefer that term) is the tool they’re using, and it’s a powerful one. Capable of intimidating Americans into silence, fearing for our safety, and opting out of the public sphere entirely.
But the ultimate goal is to seize power and wield violence as a systemic weapon. No one knows this better than Donald Trump. This week, Trump allies “leaked” plans for a complete authoritarian takeover of the U.S. under a second Trump Presidency. Trump followed this up with a Veterans Day speech and shareable social media post referring to his political enemies as “vermin” and promising to root them out. Just in case there was any ambiguity left.
Most Americans don’t want to live in a fascist hellscape, but I think it’s worth saying: Americans deserve better than this. I’m relieved that a jury found Paul Pelosi’s attacker guilty. Still, it’s maddening that none of the politicians or media figures who demonized her or encouraged violence against her have been held accountable. There’s been no reckoning, and all indications are that we’ll see even more incitement and violence over the next year.
When talking to Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow explained this even more succinctly when she was asked about Trump’s speech and the strategy behind it. The clip is a good explainer for anyone trying to get a handle on *gestures* all of this and what Americans can do to fight back against it. Maddow also reminds viewers that Americans have beaten back fascism before, and we can do it again. A hopeful fact that’s always worth remembering.
Antisemitic and Anti-Muslim Hate Speech Surges Across the Internet (New York Times)
A reminder that politics aside, everything happening in Israel and Palestine makes Jews and Muslims around the world less safe. It’s always a good time to check in on your friends, colleagues, and neighbors who are affected by current events because they’re having a difficult time right now.
Because of course he is. Leave it to Elon to turn Shadowbanning, something that once only existed in the fever dreams of the MAGA Right, into an actual thing. You’ll also be shocked to learn that Mr. Free Speech is shadowbanning journalists.
Meta Allows Ads Claiming Rigged 2020 Election on Facebook, Instagram (Wall Street Journal).
Apologies because this one is paywalled, but the headline at least tells you the news. Meta is letting political campaigns run ads claiming the 2020 election was rigged on Facebook and Instagram. Let's be honest about why. Meta expects Trump and GOP Super PACs to have huge digital ad budgets, and the company wants that $$$.
Courier Newsroom officially launched its national political vertical this week, and Semafor’s Max Tani has all the details. I’m proud to be a national contributor for this new effort and proud to have Ctrl Alt-Right Delete take part. Be sure to check out the new COURIER Newsroom front page. In addition to newsletters that I think CARD readers would love, there’s video content, op-eds, and reporting from Courier’s state and local news sites as well.
Do you have questions or feedback? Reply directly to this email. I read everything you send and respond to most messages. You can also hit me up on Bluesky and Threads. (I’m still on Twitter, too, but I use it less and less every week.)
No newsletter next week as I’m taking time off for the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll resume publication on Sunday, December 3.
To close us out, please enjoy this video of Leslie Jones, who guest-hosted The Daily Show this week.