Jacobin - January 11, 2021

Poised to capitalize on this emerging liberal-conservative alliance is President-elect Joe Biden, whose vaunted ability to work with Republicans has been almost exclusively limited to increasing the size and power of the national security state. Biden has played major roles in at least three Republican-led assaults on civil liberties over his career, all justified initially by national security and terrorism, and all ultimately directed at nonviolent Americans for unrelated activities.

ou may remember Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-MO) op-ed. Surveying the chaos, carnage, and “mob rule” that had engulfed the country, Cotton asserted that “strong leaders maintain order not only to protect their people from criminal violence but also to preserve confidence in civilization,” and called for protesters and rioters to be put down with military force if need be.

“No quarter for insurrectionists,” he insisted, meaning the military and law enforcement were to kill, not capture, the protesters, an order that is unambiguously barred by both US and international law.

You may remember this. Or you may not. Because this wasn’t the infamous, unhinged op-ed Cotton published in the New York Times back in June 2020 in response to the George Floyd protests, which sparked widespread outrage and internal revolt within the paper that published it, leading to the resignation of an editor, and a retraction and apology, with Times management acknowledging that the piece was “incendiary,” “needlessly harsh, and falls short of the thoughtful approach that advances useful debate.”

No, this was a Wall Street Journal op-ed Cotton published just last week in response to the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters. The new piece makes virtually the same arguments, and about virtually the same group of protesters. (Like the first op-ed, this one was heavily focused on the anti-police brutality movement of last year). What’s different is the accepting silence and lack of outrage that has greeted the more recent op-ed.

These very different responses to what are in essence identical op-eds calling for police and military violence against protesters aren’t a coincidence. They reflect an alarming and swiftly emerging consensus within the political and media elite in the wake of last week’s events, that the mass of Trump supporters who rushed the Capitol — not just the small number who came armed and appeared ready to carry out some sort of organized violence, but even those who merely walked around and took selfies — must be treated as terrorists and dealt with exactly as Cotton has fantasized about dealing with all civil unrest. ...
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