The last vestiges of pro-democracy journalism in the U.S.

While most of the corporate media seek to outdo one another in normalizing seditionists, fascists, insurrectionists, died-in-the-wool racists, and anti-public health conspiracy zealots, the last vestiges of a once-vibrant press in the United States refuse to go quietly into the night. On November 28, the Editorial Board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch launched a scathing blast at two Senate Republicans, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, for supporting the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The editorial, titled “It’s long past time for the Senate ethics panel to address Hawley’s Jan. 6 actions,” stated: “Ten months after a group of Senate Democrats lodged ethics complaints into the conduct of Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas regarding their roles in sparking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee has shown no sign of movement.”

The editorial continued: “Jan. 6 wasn’t a fantasy; it was real, and the culpability of these two senators must be determined. Hawley and Cruz were the first two senators to object to certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election results, citing (with zero evidence) supposed concerns about the election’s integrity. That was the same baseless, toxic nonsense then-President Donald Trump had been spewing since before the election. Such talk whipped up the mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reminded its readers that it called for Hawley’s resignation on January 7, pointing out that “Hawley even had the nerve to give a glowering Senate floor speech later that night condemning the violence — an arsonist standing among the ashes. If he had an ounce of honor, he’d have heeded our Jan. 7 call for his resignation (we certainly weren’t alone on that). But at this point, why even talk about honor?”

The St. Louis paper concluded by faulting the Senate Ethics Committee for failure to take necessary action against Hawley, Cruz, and the other Republican senators who objected to the election certification.

The day after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial, the Denver Post published a broadside against Colorado Republican Representative Lauren Boebert for her anti-Muslim comments about Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia. The paper’s editorial board lashed out at Boebert and her failure to apologize to Omar for calling her a terrorist and the member of the “Jihad Squad.”

The editorial, titled “Since Boebert seems incapable, we’ll apologize to Omar for her,” stated: “The Denver Post editorial board has mostly tried to ignore U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s antics because they add so little to the public discourse . . . last week, Boebert crossed a line and now we must stand up for common decency. Boebert is intentionally using her platform to peddle a gross and false narrative about Muslim Americans. We cannot fathom what evil intent drives this behavior, but after first apologizing, Boebert now has made matters worse . . . Boebert told supporters a story about getting on an elevator and seeing a security guard rush toward her as the doors were closing: ‘I look to my left and there she is: Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,’’ Boebert said in the video to cheers from the audience. ‘I looked over and I said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.’’

Making a joke about suicide bombers and suggesting that a congresswoman is a threat to safety and security because she is a Muslim is both racist and a form of religious bigotry . . . We are embarrassed a Colorado representative is engaged in widening this divide, and we are sorry we didn’t call her out the first time she used a derogatory reference toward you and other members of Congress who are women and minorities.”

The Buffalo News got the ball rolling on condemning the goose-stepping wing of the GOP on November 20, when it editorial board published the following editorial, titled, “As threats of political violence grow on the right, zero tolerance is the only answer”:

“Just two Republicans joined Democrats in the House of Representatives on Wednesday in voting to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona. The congressman was disciplined for posting on Twitter an anime video that showed him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.

“The 208 Republican members of Congress who voted against censure apparently decided the Gosar video was a case of no harm, no foul. That includes Reps. Chris Jacobs and Tom Reed. Jacobs is known for sticking to the party line, but Reed’s vote is disappointing because he has experienced the threat of violence in the political arena.

“Reed was one of 13 Republicans in the House who joined the Democratic majority in voting for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, signed into law last week by President Biden. After the vote, Reed said he received numerous threats, some of which he reported to the Capitol Police. In October 2020, Reed said that someone threatened him by putting a dead animal in his Corning home, along with a brick bearing a family member’s name.

“The threats made against Reed and his colleagues who voted for the infrastructure bill, as well as the Gosar video, are symptoms of today’s overheated political climate and the rising threat of violence from unhinged extremists . . . And it continues. At a political rally in Idaho last month, a man rose to ask, ‘How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?’ The reference was to Trump’s lies about a stolen election . . . In Trump’s inauguration speech in 2017, he declared that ‘this American carnage stops right here and stops right now.’ We saw on Jan. 6 what happens when his loyalists emerge from the fever swamps of the internet, put on military garb and take up arms against their own government.

“The Democratic-controlled house removed first-term Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, from congressional committees earlier this year for social media posts she made before being elected. Greene’s posts endorsed killing top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and repeated anti-Semitic and Islamophobic conspiracy theories. Only 11 Republicans voted in favor of Greene losing her committee seats.”

The Charlotte News-Observer has repeatedly called for the House to censure Adolf Hitler fanboy Madison Cawthorn, who represents a congressional district in the greater Charlotte metropolitcan area. The San Antonio Express-News editorial board wrote that Paul Gosar “deserves to be expelled after he tweeted a video of an altered animation showing him killing congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.”

Considering right-wing endorsement of or silence on political violence, these editorial boards are taking a great risk in going after the fascist wing of the Republican Party. The recent trashing of the Dearborn, Michigan, office of Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell is a case in point. Not only was the office ransacked by vandals, but irreplaceable memorabilia belonging to Dingell’s late husband, veteran Representative John Dingell, was damaged. Other members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, have been subjected to death threats and Democratic Party offices in Austin and Houston, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Louisville, Kentucky; Charleston and Anderson, South Carolina; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; San Diego, Eureka, and Orange, California; and Xenia, Ohio have been firebombed or vandalized. The FBI, which has been infiltrated by Trump loyalists, as has been the case with the rest of the Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department, has taken no action to apprehend the leaders of what appears to be coordinated political vandalism and terrorism.

At least a few newspaper editorial boards are sounding the alarm bells about the Nazification of American politics and the streets of the nation even as many newspapers across the country have already closed up shop or are in the process of doing so. Future historians will ponder how a once vibrant press could allow flat-out Nazis and fascists threaten the very foundations of America’s democracy. The candles of the First Amendment and support for democracy still flicker in a few editorial board rooms in St. Louis, Denver, and Buffalo.

As Edward R. Murrow once told an audience after he bemoaned a faltering American press, “Good night and good luck.”

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2021

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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