What the Hell is Going On? (Part1?) From Backing The Blue to Murdering Officers.
On January 6th, 2021, a pro-Trump anti-government White supremacist terrorist insurrection rioted through the Capitol. Fifty police officers were injured, over a dozen hospitalized, and one was bludgeoned to death. To many, this was an apparent 180 by the rioters. Back the Blue and Blue Lives Matter have been constant and highly visible messages endorsed by the same people storming the Capitol. A cop was literally beaten with an American flag by these people. How on Earth did this happen and how did it happen so quickly?
This violent betrayal is not an isolated incident and was not as random and illogical as it may have appeared. In fact, Far Right extremists venerating, recruiting from, and murdering law enforcement has a ton of historical precedent. I am going to explain how that’s possible.
Far Right anti-gov’t extremism has spawned a self-serving interpretation of how law enforcement is supposed to work, who is legitimate law enforcement, and the penalty for illegitimate law enforcement. The particulars may differ a bit between Far Right groups and schools of thought, but here is a basic rundown of the logic:
Legitimate law enforcement must be obeyed > Law enforcement must uphold the US constitution to be legitimate, ergo law enforcement that does not uphold the constitution is not legitimate > Illegitimately acting as law enforcement is treason > The penalty for treason is death > True patriots punish treason
In other words, in the eyes of some Far Right actors, the second a police officer acts in a way that violates their interpretation of the Constitution, it is right, justified, and moral to use violence against that officer. Some groups include additional limits on who can be legitimate (e.g. only state police, only police of certain rank), but this does not protect qualifying individuals from having their status revoked. The county sheriff is considered the highest legitimate law enforcement position possible by some anti-gov’t groups. Even those people will tell you that county sheriffs should be executed if they act in ways deemed unconstitutional.
This leads us to ask, what is unconstitutional? As many of you have noticed, violent Far Right anti-gov’t extremists use the Constitution the way violent Christian extremists use the Bible. They have their worldviews and beliefs already and they use the text to amplify and justify the worst and most self-enhancing aspects of them. You will reliably find that what qualifies as constitutional to the Far Right asserts or enhances their power, whereas the unconstitutional is whatever angers, inconveniences, or humbles them. It will be dressed up in language about the founding fathers and patriotism and fake legalese, but that’s the functional purpose of their beliefs about the Constitution. This language is also used to frame the petty fears and anxieties of majority members as heroic struggles.
You’re not a crusty bigot who is terrified that a shift in the status quo will take everything society has handed to you! You’re a patriot working to uphold the Constitution, just like George Washington and Ronald Reagan and (insert name of martyr of the week)!
Keep in mind, Far Right culture is hyper-focused on a very narrow, traditional, and violent ideal of masculinity. To balk at committing violence in the name of the cause is to invite shame and risk being branded a traitor. This creates pressure to act violently and even outdo the violence of others.
This leaves us with three key points:
- These people are participating in a cultural movement that venerates and perpetuates violence.
- They are being told that their pain is that of patriots and that the Constitution will not survive unless they get their way.
- They believe that any law enforcement that opposes them is illegitimate and therefore treasonous.
BONUS: They feel personally encouraged by the president of the United States.
So the angry people believe that their angst means the Constitution is crying, and the president is telling them that they are totally right and should do something about it. Thinking that this is what patriotism is, the angry people go to the building to make the bad people stop giving them angst. Law enforcement stops the angry people from getting to the bad people, making them traitors in the eyes of the angry people. The angry people respond to this betrayal the way they’ve been encouraged to respond for probably some time now. Legitimate law enforcement does not stop the traitors’ obstruction, thereby also losing their legitimacy in the eyes of the angry people.
The people who felt entitled to attack and verbally abuse the police for enforcing the law while wearing Thin Blue Line merch are, I assure you, not going to lose any sleep over the ethics of their actions. Not any time soon, at least. Their loyalty is not to the police, it is to authoritarian rule over groups that they don’t like. They will exploit the legitimacy of law enforcement as much as possible and turn on them the second they stop providing the supply with sufficient affection.
And if some of these same terrorists are cops themselves? Well, who better to put down an illegitimate officer of the law than a legitimate one?