Most important story of our times continues
American flags blow in the wind on a bright sunny day in Malibu, California. (Getty Images)
Note: That’s news in the mainstream sense, not a million takes on social media or the latest from unclebob.com from the pajama-ed Uncle Bob in his basement.
Among the crowded field of flashes vying for our attention, however, only one story continues to be more than simply news: the one about how close we came to ending this thing we call America. Confusing it with accounts of lesser import runs the risk of media malpractice.
I’m burying the lead, but here is some of that other news:
Alex Jones, the conspiracy theory connoisseur, finally caught his fabricator in the ringer. Jones is now on the hook for nearly a billion dollars in damages for insisting on his radio show that the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults was staged. The price of being despicable has gone up. Inflation? We can only hope.
Speaking of despicability, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, former coach of many Black athletes at Auburn University, unloaded a racist rant about Black Americans and crime at a recent Donald Trump rally. Tuberville’s comments were a curious turn, even for someone who, after being elected, misidentified the three branches of government and the reason the U.S fought World War II.
Tuberville — and Senate candidate Herschel Walker from Georgia, whose campaign is awash in various forms of lies and lunacy — reminds me of comedian and philosopher George Carlin’s observation: “In America anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”
Los Angeles is looking for a city council president after the current one resigned over her racist characterization of the son of a fellow council member. Calls for the resignation of two other political leaders heard on the same tape continue in the City of Angels, my former home.
Nebraskans are watching the unfolding drama ignited after Sen. Ben Sasse signaled his intention to leave the U.S. Senate and take the corner office at the University of Florida. His quitting has been anything but quiet, given the secrecy of the process there and the volume of voices insisting a GOP fix-is-in here.
While those headlines are certainly newsworthy and affect Americans’ lives, none matches the significance of the ongoing story of our time: the search for truth and accountability surrounding the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
The House committee investigating the attack on our nation’s capitol held what is probably its final public hearing on Oct. 13, revealing several new pieces of disturbing information and video. The committee has consistently showed how close we were to a mob undoing a free and fair election, undermining our democracy and, in the process, overthrowing our government.
As polling indicates, people are paying attention to the work of the committee in roughly the same numbers as those trafficking in the lie that the election was stolen — despite a multitude of evidence and common sense to the contrary. According to that math, the impact of the Jan. 6 committee’s findings may be minimal on next month’s midterm elections.
None of which changes the importance of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and the committee’s efforts to find the truth. We ignore or are indifferent to its findings at our own peril … and, if we so choose, have plenty of help doing it.
From members of Congress to Facebook to coffee klatches everywhere, gaslighting the American people into thinking the armed insurrection was just one more minor political dust-up is afoot. One congressman famously described the mayhem and violence, which led to six deaths, as “a normal tourist visit.” See George Carlin above for further details.
Twenty-one years ago, terrorists from afar came for us, raining down hell from the bright blue morning that was Sept. 11, 2001. In response we mourned, changed how we see the world and vowed never for it to happen again.
They came for us again, on the cold and cloudy afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, but this time from the inside. Our response should never simply be one more news story.
Finally, as journalists, we need not make Jan. 6, 2021, our daily centerpiece, but we must never minimize the insurrection into some kind of mindless false equivalence. Alex Jones, Tommy Tuberville and Ben Sasse are indeed news. But the Jan. 6 committee’s findings, whether we believe them or not, are more than that.
They are the story of whether or not we’ll have an America.
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