CSotD: Living in an Exceptional Nation

I’m writing this a few hours before the second of the Jan 6 Committee public hearings goes on the air, but there’s already plenty to be said, and Pearls Before Swine (AMS) sets things up nicely.

The Watergate Hearings happened during the day but managed to gain a wide viewership in large part because, back then, we generally agreed that good government mattered and we generally agreed on how it was supposed to look.

Today, we’ve got Tivo and other ways to time-shift the hearings for our convenience, but we’ve also got a hundred or so other things to watch, including coverage by major news sources that will be deflecting and denying, so I guess we’ll see who watches and what they learn.


Bob Gorrell (Creators) explains that the hearings are a partisan witch hunt, deviously set up to be comprehensible for the average viewer.

He may have been out of the room when the GOP first nominated right-fringe denialists to serve on the committee and then, when asked to propose more reasonable members, refused to participate at all, except for Adam Kinzinger, who is retiring, and Lynn Cheney, who will likely lose her seat while retaining her honor.

This partisan witch hunt approach is apparently the favored explanation: Elise Stefanik explained on Fox that real hearings don’t happen in prime time, and so this was obviously an attempt to influence voters by scheduling things so they could hear the evidence and see what happened.

She didn’t quite phrase it that way.


Bill Bramhall notes the Republicans who reportedly approached the Trump White House for pardons in the wake of the insurrection/tourist visit, and others have expressed significant interest in finding out just who made those requests, because, while everyone is innocent until proven guilty, it sure seems like an indication of something or other.

The public has short memories, and a lot of people were horrified all over again by the video of the attack and the testimony of Caroline Edwards in the first public hearing. Should they have forgotten? Well, human nature is human nature, and people can be disappointing.

However, while it may be natural that they didn’t retain that sense of shock, they certainly should remember facts, including the fact that, when some of Hilary Clinton’s staffers took the Fifth during the Great Email Kerfuffle of 2016, Trump declared that only mobsters do that.

So why have so many of his staff decided to take the Fifth or to defy the committee’s subpoenas entirely?

Taking the Fifth is not an admission of guilt, but it’s certainly inconsistent with what they expected people to do during their fishing expedition, in which, they also seem to have forgotten, Clinton sat for some 11 hours testifying.

Nor do they seem to remember how offended they were by calls to “defund the police” and by public demonstrations against police brutality, when it’s time to discuss their own fans brutally assaulting and even causing the deaths of police at the Capitol.

The point being that, as Goat says, “I feel like we get our news from different sources.”

And that it’s getting hard for cartoonists to come up with parodies in which their comical characters are more batshit crazy than the people who are really out there.

And that we’ve always had paranoid lunatics but we didn’t have major news organizations and political parties exploiting their madness.

Whatever emerges from the hearings, I don’t think it’s going to end in a group hug.


The Whole World is Watching

Dave Brown‘s take on the investigations suggests a couple of things, besides that he spends a fair amount of time studying other artists’ work.

One is that the British press is a lot less chickenshit that the American press, given that we’ve just seen a major chain decide not to run opinions for fear of offending its remaining readers. I promise you that a cartoon featuring a naked president and variations on the F-bomb would not see the light of day in this country, while grotesqueries are a vital part of political cartooning in Britain.

Which may be why their vibrant, opinionated newspapers seem to be doing better than the flavorless pablum served over here.


But the other matter is that we don’t seem to be fooling anyone, either in the UK or, given David Rowe‘s view of the matter, in Australia.

I’m holding out a glimmer of hope that maybe we just can’t fool people named “David.”

On a Bulwark podcast this past week, Dispatch editor David French observed that, while we think of “American Exceptionalism” as meaning we’re better than anyone else, the rest of the world may well see “exceptional” in its actual definition of “really different,” and not in a particularly good way.

And if the David-factor seems unlikely, it’s equally vain to hope that it’s only the January 6 thing that has other countries failing to adequately admire us.


While Brown riffs on Goya, Peter Brookes borrows from Tenniel to make the accusation that our attitude towards good government is all but indistinguishable from Putin’s.

For those who don’t follow international news closely, this is not a compliment.

Though, going back to Pearls, I realize that there’s a significant element among our fellow citizens that admires both men and is beyond the reach of sarcasm.

Howsoever, even the most brainwashed partisan would have to be incredibly thick not to catch Alan Moir‘s accusation that the most powerful nuclear power on the planet — capable of wiping out the rest of the world — is terrified and unable to protect its own children because of a pissant domestic lobbying group.

As David French suggested at the Bulwark, the “exceptional” factor here is not necessarily that Moir’s nation, Australia, took immediate steps to limit gun possession in the wake of a mass shooting, but that Americans are simply by nature more violent than other people and have been from the start.

Which analysis gains particular significance given that Australia began as a penal colony and yet is currently less murderous than we are.


Whether we can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind our backs.


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