This tactic should be pretty familiar by now. It’s usually just a form of whataboutism, trying to compare what the rioters did that day as they sought to block the finalization of Trump’s election defeat to such things as pro forma objections from lawmakers in the previous years. We saw the same pattern with the investigation into Russian interference and Trump’s baseless insistence on voter fraud: Whatabout hillary clinton and Russia! What about the democrats rejection of the election results!
Shortly after Politico released a draft Supreme Court opinion that reflected an intention to strike down Roe vs. Wadehowever, the right had a new in regards to for what. The leak of this document, according to them, was a real insurrection.
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It is certainly easy at times like this to find a few isolated examples of a phenomenon and elevate them as unfairly representative. And it is certainly true that not all Republicans or members of the political right present the moment as a new kind of insurrection. But it’s sturdier than you think.
One of the earliest examples comes from Fox News. Politico’s report came out in prime time, and Fox host Sean Hannity quickly got into conversation with his guests. Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, was the first to use the term “insurgency”.
“Don’t get me wrong, Sean, this is an insurrection against the Supreme Court. I’ve seen people on the left celebrate this funder before, calling him brave, trying to throw a Hail Mary, to stop the decision from being made,” Fleischer said. “…This is an insurrection against the court and who did it must be found and all legal means that can be taken against him must be taken.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (right) agreed it was an insurgency ‘not some type of a state that got hot under the collar and went to DC and heated up at a rally. This is an insurrection of a person who is paid by the taxpayers and who has a duty, by virtue of his work and employment, to be silent, and he did not do it.
He added that he hopes “everyone will use this term”. In the hours that followed, his hope was largely realized.
Before proceeding, however, it should be noted that “insurgency” is a rather nebulous term. Writing about right-wing efforts to dismiss the use of the term as it relates to the Capitol Riot, my colleague Aaron Blake summarized some definitions:
“Merriam-Webster defines insurrection as ‘an act or instance of revolt against civil authority or established government.’ The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and gain control of their country, usually by violence”. West’s Encyclopedia of American Law defines it as “an uprising or rebellion of citizens against their government, usually manifested in acts of violence”. ”
What constitutes a “revolt”? How essential is violence? How many people are needed for the standard to be met? It’s not clear.
Some on the right, like provocateur Matt Walsh, have offered a definition. The leak was ‘a real insurrection’, he said. wrote: “An attempt to completely subvert and delegitimize the rule of law, incite violence and chaos, and potentially plunge the nation into civil war.” By comparison, he said, the Capitol riot “was a walk in the park.”
More than 100 law enforcement officers were injured during this “walk in the park”, part of an effort to immediately derail the mandated transfer of political power. A police officer and four other people died.
When a protest quickly emerged outside the Supreme Court building, some on the right seemed to think violence was imminent. Megyn Kelly, former Fox News host fretted that the lessor failed to take into account “judges who were undoubtedly unprepared for tonight’s release”, suggesting they were in danger. A journalist as The Washington Times speculated that the term “insurrection” would not be used “when leftists began attacking the Supreme Court”, which did not happen. ‘They better not come up the stairs,’ conservative radio host says mentioned demonstrators: “It would be an insurrection, wouldn’t it?
Hundreds of pro-baby killer thugs gather outside the Supreme Court building. Looks like the start of an insurrection.
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) May 3, 2022
The mayhem continued on Tuesday. On the Fox News morning show, commentator Tomi Lahren insisted that the purpose was to “annoy people” and “distract people from anything that’s wrong”. What would follow, she said, was another summer of 2020-like protests — “and, dare I say, insurrection.” On Newsmax, the “insurrection” claim was made by none other than former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, who worked feverishly in the weeks following the 2020 election to secure Trump another term despite his loss.
The Twitchy site, which serves as a clearinghouse for partisan praise or condemnation, has compiled a number of examples of right-wingers saying the real insurrection is underway, whatever that means. Praise from a Vox columnist for the lessor’s decision to ‘burn this place down’ was cited by both Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and right-wing YouTube character Tim’s Pool as a mark of “insurrection,” Twitchy commentary included in his journalistic effort.
I’ve been covering politics for 20 years and *never* heard of a leaked draft SCOTUS advisory.
It is an insurrection against the legal system and the rule of law.
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) May 3, 2022
Much of the commentary on “insurrection” was, in fact, a response not only to the broad description of the Capitol Riot using that term, but was specifically aimed at criticizing members of the left perceived as insurgents. On the right-wing blog Federalist, writers put together two different arguments about the alleged insurrection. One quoted the Vox writer and a former Clinton staffer as praising the leak, then alleging that Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation sparked a leftist protest equivalent to the Capitol Riot. (It doesn’t.) The other blog post simply picked up much of the online debate, including a quote from Merriam-Webster’s definition of the term — helpfully one that doesn’t imply any mention of violence.
What’s important to note, of course, is that we don’t know who leaked the opinion – if someone! – or why. New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak presented a compelling case that the leak did not come from someone affiliated with the political left, but rather from the right. He noted a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was trying to remove some justices from the majority.
“As to who leaked it and why, it seems to me much more likely that it came from the right in response to an actual or threatened defection by one of the five who voted to unseat Roe,” he said. said Kermit Roosevelt, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Liptak said. “The leak of this first draft makes it more costly for a defector, as people will now think they changed their vote after the leak in response to public outrage.”
Perhaps there is broader knowledge about the funder than is publicly understood, which lends some confidence to those making these “insurgency” claims. Or maybe a lot of people will have spent a lot of time calling something an insurrection only to once again wish people would stop using that term.